Google+ Will Grow Your Business, If You Believe

Do You Believe?

As you might have heard, Google+ has launched over the past week. You can find me here.

Clients are beginning to ask me is it worth it? My answer is yes. If you believe.

If you believe that the social web moves the needle for your business. If you believe that conversation and relationships are what drive sales. If you believe that interacting with human beings – using social platforms – move people to action.

Most don’t believe.

In fact, a majority of small business people still need to be convinced of the value of blogging. Of Twitter. Of using Facebook for business. Of podcasting. Heck, some still need to believe that LinkedIn can drive business opportunity.

So my recommendation is this: if you are still futzin’ around with and learning the value of blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc…it probably isn’t worth your time diving into Google+. Yet.

How will I use Google+? I will use it as a better way to keep in touch with close friends. I will use it as a way to deepen relationships with people I want to get to know better. And of course, I will use it for prospecting…both for new business and to recruit guests for all my radio shows.

Google+ does two things that change the game, in my opinion. One, they have a feature called Hangouts, where you can have a group video chat with up to ten people. Think of the collaborative opportunities with that… Two-way skyping is so 2010. Ten-way collaboration, learning, sharing…now that’s social, and that’s powerful…

And two, you can very easily group your connections into small, organized groups, called Circles.

Why does Circles matter? On Twitter, for instance, when I share a news article, my entire following of 5,100+ sees it. On Circles, if I only want my close friends to see something, I can opt for that. If I build a circle for prospects, which I’ve done, then I can choose to only share content with my prospects.

Circles makes it very easy to target specific content with a specific audience. You can do this on Facebook, but it isn’t easy and it is very cumbersome. And you can’t do it on Twitter.

For me, I will be very strict in who I let into my Google+ world. I am only connecting with people I know, and very specific people that I want to get to know. I am NOT blindly following anyone who wants to connect. My Twitter and Facebook worlds are too big. With Google+, I will closely monitor who I let into my little world.

So, Google+ is a game changer, in my opinion. But don’t join in just to half-ass it. If you believe that social connection matters, if building and cultivating human relationships matter, Google+ might be the best social network yet.

But don’t engage anywhere on the social web until you believe…

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[Todd Schnick is a marketing strategist, helping entrepreneurs become intrepid marketers...]
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My Social Media Paradox

There is a battle that rages in my head…

It is the conflict between these two realities:

The frustration I feel that more people (including some very close to me) simply don’t understand the social web (and all that that implies)…nor how to use it to build relationships with people, relationships that can lead to new business opportunities…

…versus the competitor in me secretly hoping that people (read: competition) won’t understand the social web, so that clients I am helping continue to hold a competitive advantage in their market.

Does this make me an evil man?

Am I really alone in this? Now obviously, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I do my best to share what I know with my audience. But…

I have to be honest, I sometimes worry that I am handing my client’s competition the very bullets to fire back at us…

But here’s the thing — I’ve learned that most small businesses who initially “embrace” the concept behind the social web don’t necessarily fully adapt it, wholeheartedly believe in it, and certainly most don’t execute on it…

And this certainly applies to my client’s competition…

Why does this lack of adoption happen? I think most don’t dive in fully for two simple reasons. It requires work (which they aren’t willing to do) and they don’t see immediate, overnight results (it takes time for the seeds to grow).

In fact, the battle with my clients and prospects isn’t necessarily to convince them the social web is worth adopting. Rather, my toughest challenge is getting them to execute once they agree with its merits.

And what I know is this: Most of the competition in my client’s varied markets are fighting the same demons. So…my victories come in helping my clients get over their commitment (belief and time) issues with the social web. And if we accomplish this, the social web can – WILL – directly and positively impact their business.

I was on a conference call with a client last week, a client who is launching a new company blog. Someone on the team asked if the “competition” is doing their own blogging. My reaction was that I hope not. That’s good for us if they are not. But I fear the question was asked in the context of “if they aren’t, then why are we?” I hope this isn’t the case…

There are tons of blogs out there, but still not a lot of wide adaptation of blogging into serious business and organizational marketing and business development strategies. Said another way, there are still a lot of trails to be blazed.

I will go on educating my audience because I believe a rising tide lifts all ships. I will go on helping my clients get committed to this process. And yes, I will secretly hope that my client’s competition continue to battle their adoption demons. For a long, long time…

What do you think? What about you? Do you battle this secret paradox too?

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[cartoon by @gapingvoid]

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30 Questions To Ask Yourself When Drafting Your 2011 Marketing Plan

It is 2011. Do you know where your marketing plan is? Here are 30 questions to ask yourself as you mull over the process of drafting or modifying your marketing plan.

This isn’t one of those posts you can blast through in sixty seconds. This requires a cup of coffee (or a cocktail), a moleskine notebook, and a lot of careful, thorough deep thinking. Let’s get started:

1. What are you really selling? Can you articulate simply – and exactly – what you sell? Or do you offer too much stuff? Does your market know what you sell? Does your market need what you sell? Is it obvious to the people who might buy from you? I mean OBVIOUS? Don’t EVER assume that your market knows exactly what you do, and how you can help them. They don’t lay awake at night wondering how to buy from you…

2. Have you solved your prospecting problem? Who are you selling to? Do you really know? Or are you just casting a large net hoping to snag a few hopefuls?

Is your marketing effort making it easy to capture new prospects? Is it easy for them to take action to inform you they are interested? Or have you neglected to really think carefully about how you identify — and capture — your business prospects?

And are you finding enough prospects to ultimately meet your profit goals?

3. What is your market niche? Yesterday, I asked if you are getting enough prospects to run a profitable business. The more important question is “are you getting enough QUALIFIED prospects?” If you are not, you might need to narrow your market niche. (And yes, narrowing your niche will provide MORE prospects…)

Classic case of the auto mechanic asking for referrals from anyone you know who owns a car… This is too broad, there is no way to help this guy. But if he asks for names of Jaguar owners to reach out to, this request is much easier to handle, and you probably know a few of those…

4. Is Your Sales Process Nailed Down Tight? Hopefully you’re thinking through how to solve your prospecting problem, and can find enough qualified prospects. But can you close ‘em?

If your sales process sucks, it will just suck faster if you simply feed more prospects into it.

How do you track and monitor your prospects? How do you communicate value? How do you answer objections? How do you foster trust and grow the opportunity in your sales incubator? How do you move them to make the final buying decision?

5. What Is Your Marketing Story? So, what do you do? How do you help people? What makes you different? Why are you memorable? Is your story transferable…meaning is it easy for others to share your story with others?

And do you have one simple story/message? Instead of multiple, conflicting, confusing stories that result in the market place not really sure what it is that you do?

6. Do you have an actual strategy behind all your marketing tactics? We’ve talked about what you sell, how you sell, to whom you sell, and what story you tell when you are selling. Now, how do you deliver that message? What tactics are you employing to deliver that message? Social media? Direct mail? Email marketing? Networking? Advertising? Trade shows?

Do you chase the latest shiny “tactical” object? Or do you know what message delivery vehicle works? Is there an actual strategy behind what you do? Or do you throw the proverbial spaghetti against the wall?

7. Is Social Media Right For You? The answer is yes.

Problem is, most people don’t do it right.

They blast messaging one-way. They don’t engage. They don’t build relationships. They don’t educate. And most importantly, most don’t give the process time to take root, and give up before the time investment bears fruit.

Have you identified where your prospects/referral sources are spending time (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter)? Have you grasped the concept of using the tools to make meaningful connections? Are you helping others?

8. Is Blogging Right For You? I have yet to find an organization that couldn’t benefit from blogging. None. But I am becoming more careful in recommending it to people, because most people I know aren’t good bloggers.

Blogging is necessary because it educates your market, demonstrates skill and knowledge, strengthens SEO for your online presence, and is a great sales tool.

But most people fail because they struggle to generate meaningful content, and quit after not closing a big deal even though they published two whole posts… [sarcasm intended] In other words, they quit too soon.

9. Is Your Website Converting? You blog. You’ve invested in fancy schmancy design. You try to focus on keywords. You try your hand at – or invest in – search engine optimization…

And you don’t get many website conversations – which means people aren’t taking the action on the website you want (not signing up for newsletters, not buying products or your services, not subscribing to your RSS feeds…

Are you doing enough to focus on why? What can you change? Is it too hard for the visitor to do? Is your content not compelling? Do you plan to figure it out?

10. Is Your Collateral Working For You? You have tri-fold brochures. Various sell sheets on products and services. Rack cards. Company calendars. Business cards.

But is any of this stuff really working for you? I mean, can’t most business prospects get what they need from your website and/or social web presence? Do you really need to spend the money on this print stuff?

That’s what you need to find out. Maybe your target market NEEDS printed material. But you’ve got to know…

And how important is design? Are using Word templates and printing at home hurting your business?

11. What is your networking strategy? How significant a role does networking play in your prospecting efforts? Attend too many events? Attend too few events? Attend all the wrong events? Go to the same groups week after week, seeing the same people?

Are you going to events that are populated with your actual target market? And how effective is your follow-up strategy?

And how do you see social media playing a role in your online networking? Are you employing the same “networking” tactics on Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn?

12. Will geolocation move the needle? Do geolocation applications like Foursquare and Gowalla make sense for your business? To be honest, if you are a retail establishment, and you are not experimenting with these apps, then you are potentially missing a big opportunity…sort of the modern day loyalty card. And an OBVIOUS way to more deeply connect with real customers…

But what about B2B sales? What about large organizations? What about selling consulting services? Does it make sense for you?

Foursquare just passed 5 million users. Now while that doesn’t compare to Twitter’s 160 million or Facebook’s 600 million, it is still worth reviewing.

13. Will QR codes matter? You might first ask, what the heck is a QR code?

Although these quick response codes have been around a while, they are only beginning to seep into daily conversation. You simply scan the code with some type of reader, usually on your smart phone. This present bits of information, which hopefully results in someone taking action.

How does this relate to you? You can place QR codes in magazine advertisements, on collateral, promotional items – the code could offer a specialized discount for the people who take the time to scan the code.

You’ve got to ask…is there a place for this unique message delivery method in my marketing?

14. Are hosting events worth your while? Is there marketing utility for you – or your company – to bring people together by hosting events? Should you create your own networking group? Should you organize large events around product launches or new service offerings? Can the effort increase your brand awareness?

Hosting an event gives you an easy excuse to reach out to people, provides content and story lines for your social web apps and website, and can give your PR a boost.

15. Is your bounce rate too high? Do you even know what the hell I am talking about?

A “bounce rate” is essentially the percentage of initial visitors to a site who “bounce” away to a different site, rather than continue on to other pages within the same site (Wikipedia).

In other words, you need to know what the bounce rate is for the common landing pages on your site. A landing page bounce rate over 50% is cause for concern. You want visitors to check out other pages.

E-commerce sites need LOW bounce rates. Blogs and other informational sites have higher bounce rates. You need to get a sense for what your industry standard is to measure and compare, so that you can make appropriate adjustments.

16. Is e-mail marketing working for you? If done right, e-mail marketing remains one of the most powerful ways to go to market…

Problem is, most of us are doing it wrong. Not a day passes that some organization sends me their e-newsletter…UNSOLICITED.

I wish people understood how poorly this reflects on their brand…

You really need to rethink how you build your lists. Don’t buy them…and just because you met someone at a function and they give you a business card doesn’t mean they want your newsletter.

And careful on your message. Make it unique – not just regurgitated blog posts. And it must provide value to people!

17. Is your SEO strategy working? Search engine optimization, the process of optimizing search results when people search certain keywords and phrases…in order that your content is more likely found on search engines like Google.

Is your strategy working? Do you have a strategy?

Are you optimizing your keywords? Do you know what your keywords are?

Is your SEO vendor producing results? Do you even need one?

Is your website properly optimized for search? Do you even know?

Are you tracking the numbers via Google Analytics? Do you know what those even mean?

Are you aware that this SEO “science” is constantly evolving?

18. Will cause marketing work for you? We admire people/organizations that go above and beyond to give back to the community.

I’ve always believed that “giving back” is good marketing. Our society allows us freedom to live the lives we want, to achieve the things we want. It certainly can strengthen your brand to align you and your company with causes and organizations doing good things for those in need, and making the community a better place.

Not to mention (selfishly), doing this will expose you and your brand to a whole new reach of people. Good networking!

What will you do?

19. Do you practice blazespotting? If you follow this blog, you’ve seen me write a lot about “shining a light.” I am now in the process of evolving my thinking on this concept – and taking it to the next level. I now call it “Blazespotting.”

I take it from trainspotting, which is defined as the hobby of watching trains and noting their serial numbers, usually for long periods of time. In our case, “Blaze” is defined as “flash of light.”

Blazespotting – the hobby and discipline of watching people + organizations and noting/broadcasting their good works, usually for long periods of time.

Proactively showcasing the good works/good deeds/thought leadership/innovation of others reflects strongly on your own brand, builds trust with you, and strengthens your position in the marketplace.

The social web makes this process even easier. But it all comes down to making a conscious decision to showcase others!

20. Are you focused on your customer experience? Running a business, we are tasked with a lot of day-to-day responsibilities, but I sometimes wonder, do we focus too much on all but the one thing that truly matters…how our customer interacts with our business??

I recently wrote a post called 33 Questions To Ask Customers. The purpose here was to help us ask the right questions to better understand if we are providing a meaningful experience for our customers…

Are you doing enough of that? Do you understand how EVERY employee in your organization interacts with customers? Do you study how your customers interface with every facet of your business…from the telephone, to the website, to your twitter handle?

21. Is Your Company Culture Fostering Success?

Do you foster a work environment where people can be creative?
Do you empower your people to creatively solve customer problems?
Do you reward your people for making mistakes?
Do you encourage innovative thinking?
Do you waste their time in pointless meetings?
Do you encourage continuous learning?
Do you seek employee input on all things?
Do you engage them in discussions about the company culture too?
Do you make it clear that ALL employees are a part of the marketing team?

And do you recognize that you never stop improving these elements in your business?

22. Are you providing enough value to your readers? And by value, I mean more than just distributing good, helpful content, I also mean engaging with them too…

If all you are doing is broadcasting one-way messaging about how good you and your products are via email, blogging, social media, and print…then you are wasting my time and your prospects time.

You need to not only put out educational and engaging content that provides solutions to your audience – you need to connect with that audience and engage in conversation about these topics too…

Is your content conversational and helpful? Or are you just broadcasting and telling?

23. Do you do the little things? Like NOT charging me for air at the gas station…

Like bringing me a FULL, LARGE coffee to-go cup when I get my check…

These little gems happened to me…just in the last 24 hours… And the real power in them? Not expecting them…

And that’s what you have to think about. Analyze all the little elements of how your customer interfaces with your business, and identify where you can implement little memorable gems.

Sometimes you just need to listen to your existing customers, because they will give you plenty of ideas if you let them…

And sometimes you need to empower your own employees to create their own little gems…let them create their own meaningful experiences… DON’T make them follow a strict script where little gems die in the ether…

24. Are you doing enough learning? Most people are not. And that is why they fail, or labor in a job they detest, or wonder why they have no creativity.

And it is your own fault.

Why aren’t you focused on learning all that you can? Why don’t you dedicate time to this process? Why aren’t you encouraging your employees to keep learning, or at least providing them with material they can learn from?

I believe continuing education is the most important thing you can do to become better…

Better at life, better at creativity, better at marketing, better at business, etc…

Why aren’t you living in bookstores, searching the internet, talking to mentors – to become better?

25. Does your workspace work? Is your working environment conducive to productive work? Creative work? Interruption-free work?

I am amazed at how many people are forced to work (or try to work) in places they HATE to be in. And you can imagine what that does for their work ethic, morale, and not to mention creativity!

You must create a workspace for yourself or your company that allows you – and your people – to be at their best. And the hard part? It is different for each employee.

Workspace design is something that is often overlooked, or designed in such a way to minimize office expenses, with NO consideration for the employees.

26. Is day-to-day admin dragging you down? If you are like me, you lose dramatic amounts of time fiddling with the day-to-day admin of your business. Invoicing, chasing down accounts receivable, inventory, paying bills, payroll, health insurance paperwork, etc.

Marketing, selling, and doing the creative work you are hired to do in the first place gets put aside because the “running the actual business” stuff gets in the way…

But yet, this is vital to the operation of the business, right?

Have you thought about adopting new processes? Thought about buying software that makes your life much easier? Or have you thought about biting the bullet and hiring professional help to get this work done?

It may be time to shake things up.

27. What are your revenue goals? Do you even know?

Seriously.

A lot of the small business people I speak with don’t really know. Which boggles my mind. To be honest, without this goal, you CANNOT create a marketing plan. And without a marketing plan, you are far more likely to not have a good year with your business.

What are your revenue goals? Do you even know what you made in 2010? 2009? Are you growing? Are you declining? Are you all over the place?

Until you determine what your revenue goal is for 2011, you can’t do a thing to draft a plan, or make proper strategic marketing and business decisions for the coming year…

28. Do you have cash flow? Unlike the last question (Day 27), you probably know the answer to this one. And yeah, you either have cash flow…or you do not.

You can’t operate a business without it. You just can’t. To put it simply, you need it to do stuff: Marketing. Prospecting. Equipment. Experimenting. Learning, etc.

Cash flow helps determine a company’s value, liquidity, risk factors, and can judge past or future prospects of the business. But yet, most small business people don’t think enough about it, or don’t have any cash flow (however you define it, whatever your context).

At the end of the day, your cash flow must remain net positive for your business to remain solvent!

29. Do you have a big enough marketing budget? I think the answer is no, since most people tell me “I am marketing on a shoestring” or “Business has been slow, so I cut my marketing” or “How much did you say?”

So how in the hell are you going to build your business? Or get new members? Or get people to vote for you? Or get people to support your cause?

Follow along here: You need to make enough sales to meet your revenue goals. You sell to your prospects. You have to have enough prospects to close enough deals, assuming you won’t close every opportunity. Thus, you need to spend enough on your marketing budget to talk to enough prospects.

Simple.

I ask again: do you have a big enough marketing budget?

30. Have you created your seven-step marketing plan yet? So here we are on Day 30 of this marketing plan development post series. How is your progress coming along?

Your marketing plan should consist of basically seven components:

1. Understand market and competition – is there a need for what you sell?

2. Understand your customer – who are they, where are they, why will they buy, how do they buy?

3. Determine your precise target market / your niche. Where is your focus?

4. Develop your message. What’s your story?

5. How will you deliver the message? Networking? Direct mail? Paid advertising? Social media? Blogging? Others?

6. Goals – How many prospects do you need to touch? What is your close rate? How many sales do you need to meet your financial goals?

7. How will you pay for it? Setting your marketing budget high enough to reach enough viable prospects…

Pretty simple, yeah? Don’t over think your marketing plan. And the key to success? Process the plan in order from number one to seven. This is critical. One steps builds on the former…

What about you? Get started now.

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[cartoon by @gapingvoid]

Note: This article is based on a month long series of marketing plan posts that can be found here.

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Your 2011 Marketing Plan: Is Social Media Right For You?

Day Seven (of Thirty-One):

Question To Ask Yourself: Is Social Media Right For You?

The answer is yes.

Problem is, most people don’t do it right.

They blast messaging one-way. They don’t engage. They don’t build relationships. They don’t educate. And most importantly, most don’t give the process time to take root, and give up before the time investment bears fruit.

Have you identified where your prospects/referral sources are spending time (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter)? Have you grasped the concept of using the tools to make meaningful connections? Are you helping others?

What I am doing: Social media continues to be an integral piece of my marketing strategy, and is working well for me. Of course, I will continue to seek improvements, and work harder at setting up more effective “listening posts” to better identify and capture more business opportunities.

My more difficult challenge is to continue learning how to better educate and equip my clients and partners on the power of the medium.

I believe in this. My bigger challenge is more effectively inspiring others to believe too.

What about you?

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Todd is planning his 2011 marketing attack. He is asking himself a series of hard questions, questions that will fine tune his go-to-market strategy. This December, Todd will share one question per day, hoping these questions help you too…

Click HERE to follow the entire series on what questions to ask as you draft your 2011 marketing plan!

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65th Check-In | The Publix Foursquare Watch

Using Foursquare, Todd has checked-in to his local Publix 65 times, without hearing so much as a peep. He will blog after every check-in until he gets recognized as a loyal customer. In the meantime, he will offer some ideas free of charge on how they might use Foursquare. Join the Watch!

[Read the entire fourteen-piece series!]

I’ve had a lousy 24 hours, so I am a little more cranky than usual…

I’ve been at this Publix Foursquare Watch for a while now. 35 total check-ins (since the watch started)…14 blog posts. And, I am not proud to report, a growing list of people and blogs that are talking about this little crusade of mine. Just yesterday, I had a gentleman retweet the link to the whole series, which resulted in a handful of further retweets.

And…nothing. Either Publix sees me as a gnat and not worth the trouble, or they just aren’t listening. Which, to be honest, boggles my mind.

Now, I am not saying this because I want Publix to kiss my ass. To be honest, all I want is for my local store to send me a note that says, “Hey Todd, thanks for being a great customer. We appreciate you.”

That’s all I am looking for. I don’t care about specials. Or discounts. Or special mayoral privileges.

A friend of mine, who is in a constant battle to be Mayor of her local Publix with her own husband, told me that the manager of her local store did actually acknowledge them when they were in the store one day. So, it can happen. And don’t tell me it has to be a decision/policy that comes down from corporate. It’s a decision to care.

Foursquare causes conversation to happen on the social web. In two ways. From bloggers like me who stir up dust like I am doing on a blog series such as this one. Or two, because people are talking – and buzzing – about a real cool, innovative, clever, action-provoking campaign to reward your Foursquare users and evangelists.

Either way, you, as a company (read: Publix) ought to be listening. Technology and the social web makes it silly easy to set up listening posts and monitoring stations to listen for – and respond to – dialog about your company and brand (good or bad).

Honestly, I just can’t believe no one is listening. What an amazing opportunity lost. [well, not for me. I am learning a heck of lot to teach and educate my clients on what NOT to do]

Todd’s FREE Foursquare Tip For Publix!: Just frickin’ say thanks. Foursquare builds a list of real people that have been to your store. You probably see hundreds, heck, maybe even thousands, of people come through your doors each day. But Foursquare creates a list of bunch of them. Use it to say hello…

What other Foursquare/geolocation ideas do YOU have for Publix?

[back to our regularly scheduled programming - and fun Publix Foursquare tips - with the next post.]

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60th Check-In | The Publix Foursquare Watch

Using Foursquare, Todd has checked-in to his local Publix 60 times, without hearing so much as a peep. He will blog after every check-in until he gets recognized as a loyal customer. In the meantime, he will offer some ideas free of charge on how they might use Foursquare. Join the Watch!

[Read the entire thirteen-piece series!]

Thirty check-ins after it started, and still no word. But no worries…the watch will continue!

By now, most people seriously wonder about my whacked grocery shopping habits. As you are probably aware, I go multiple times a week, and only purchase a few items on a given trip (instead of going once a week, and filling two shopping carts with stuff).

It is the shopper who runs into the store for a few items that I am thinking about now…

I wish there was a section in the front of the store containing the most popular items, such as milk, eggs, bread, or in my case, wine.

Something similar to the section of my local store pictured here (I took this shot from the check-out line). You can create a mini-convenient store section, coupled with a simple check-in station for all your geolocation users…

Todd’s FREE Foursquare Tip For Publix!: Why not incent people who make these quick trips into a grocery store to come to Publix? By checking-in on Foursquare, you can reward them by giving them a discount on their purchase, a free cup of coffee or soft drink, or by giving them a special coupon only provided to Foursquare users.

As in, “Hey honey, I stopped at Publix to get the milk, and I got a coupon for $15 off for any purchases over $75!” Or something like that?

Make it easy for your customers to get the common standard items they need quickly, but also reward them for being loyal customers and checking-in on Foursquare!

What other Foursquare/geolocation ideas do YOU have for Publix?

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50th Check-In | The Publix Foursquare Watch

Using Foursquare, Todd has checked-in to his local Publix 50 times, without hearing so much as a peep. He will blog after every check-in until he gets recognized as a loyal customer. In the meantime, he will offer some ideas free of charge on how they might use Foursquare. Join the Watch!

[Read the entire eleven-piece series!]

Mission Accomplished!

I have successfully reclaimed my Mayor-ship on my 50th check-in! [How appropriate that it occur on the 50th...]

But like George Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech, this celebration is probably a bit premature as well…

Because I still haven’t received any kind of acknowledgment from my local Publix. You will recall I started my Foursquare watch following my 30th check-in. And. still. nothing.

20 check-ins later…

Sad thing is, I actually had to compete pretty hard to get my title back. Took me six check-ins – after I all but guaranteed getting it back. So, the gentlemen with whom I am competing gave me a good run.

Can you imagine what would happen if Publix actually cared about people like us? And being Mayor actually meant something? Publix had the scenario originally envisioned by Foursquare…heated competition for Mayor.

As I reflect on this, I am left to wonder…why isn’t Publix doing anything about this, let alone responding to someone like me?

1. Does the local store manager not care?

2. Does corporate control and dictate all marketing outreach like this?

3. Does Publix not care about the social web?

4. Does Publix not understand the social web?

5. Does Publix take crazy customers like me for granted?

I hope not. And that’s the point of this watch: to bring awareness of the possibilities to large organizations like Publix…

Todd’s FREE Publix Foursquare Tip: Simple lesson for large organizations with multiple locations: Empower each individual store to take the initiative and get creative with outreach with their most important customers. Don’t let headquarters dictate actions from far, far away…

What other Foursquare/geolocation ideas do YOU have for Publix?

j j j

Does Your “YES TO ALL” Social Media Mentality Really Serve You Well?

I feed the status stream of all my LinkedIn connections into my RSS reader. It is a great way to monitor what’s going on with the people I care about on LinkedIn.

Scanning it this morning, I noticed one of my connections was newly connected to about 25 people. As in, there was a repeated batch of “[insert name] is now connected to [insert name].”

I have to assume that my connection got into LinkedIn last night, saw that he had a bunch of connection invites, and accepted the invitations all at once…

Let me preface this by saying that the social web, and all that that implies, is utilized differently by EACH PERSON. What works for one, may not be comfortable, or effective, for another… And that’s ok.

But I don’t think the example I cited above is the most effective way. Did my connection really even know who he was accepting into his LinkedIn network? Or was he just trying to drive up his numbers and/or not be rude to those who invited him? How many of you [I know I have] have accepted invitations to large batches of invites, and then immediately looked at your follower count to see what the new number was?

[whatever. you know you have...]

This is the mentality that I think gets people in trouble. And by trouble I mean, they invest time and work into the social web, but don’t ever really see any meaningful value from it…other than driving up raw numbers of connections on various networks that at the end of the day doesn’t mean anything.

See, I think you should think through every one of those invites. Who is this person? Why are they trying to connect to me? What do they want/need from me? What can I benefit from connecting to them? Who do they know? How are THEIR connections relevant to me? How can I serve these people today? How can I bring value into their world?

The social web and all its various tools are simply means to collect information. Information that you can then use to take a meaningful action. That action could be simply to say “hello” and “how can I help you today?” But that’s a meaningful and important action…

Now, combine these deliberate actions, and apply them steadily over time! [and I don't mean 30 days, I mean years] That’s when you begin to see where this can have meaning in forging deeper connections with real people, increasing prospects to your business, strengthening your personal brand, etc…

So, the next time you log into LinkedIn or Facebook or Foursquare and see a pile of invites waiting for action, don’t just blindly click yes to all. Go through them slowly, carefully, deliberately, and think about what the connection means, and how you can take an immediate action that benefits the both of you…

What do you think?

[subscribe to my RSS feed]
[cartoon by @gapingvoid]

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Minimalist Marketing: Beware The Evil Of Cool New Stuff

[399 words]

If you’re paying attention, you know new hardware and software debuts every day. New social web sites seem to launch just as often.

And it seems popular social websites and technology are upgraded monthly, rendering the smart phone you purchased just yesterday obsolete…

What to do?

Well, for one thing, it is easy to allow oneself to be distracted by all this new stuff. Trust me, I know. I have this deep fear that I am missing out by not immediately adopting the latest thing, and that my business marketing will suffer as a result.

Problem is, a lot of us get swept up in the fervor, and we spend all our time trying everything.

The fear of the unknown makes us do silly and unproductive things, cluttering our marketing world.

And what we end up losing is time…time to do good work, to serve clients, to learn, to teach, to engage with our network.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting you bury your head in the sand and ignore the latest developments. I named my company Intrepid because I want people to be bold and fearless in trying new things…

I just want you to be smart about it. And initiate tests and experiments with new technologies that actually are in alignment with your marketing strategy.

You know your niche. You know your target market. You know your customer. If there are four new technologies you want to try – I’d select one. And focus like a laser beam on that one concept – and invest enough time to effectively determine if there is merit to incorporating it into your program.

Spreading yourself too thin – by coupling too many experiments with executing your regular program – you risk flubbing ALL of it – and injuring your main marketing strategy and not ascertaining a true test of the new idea.

You should be curious about new ideas, new tactics…but it doesn’t mean you have to TRY all of them. Use your RSS reader to keep an eye on what the blogs are saying. Monitor LinkedIn groups on the subject. Engage your Twitter stream and see what that crowd has to say about it.

If at some point you legitimately determine there is merit to testing – then do it. Just don’t needlessly distract yourself.

What do you think?

[subscribe to my RSS feed]
[photo from zephyrance on flickr]

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Look For The Off Broadway Gems…

OK. I am like you. I subscribe to all the A-List bloggers too. You know, the ones who get 4,000 retweets for every post they publish. And for the most part, it is well deserved.

The content you find there is often stellar material. And worth reading. These are the people headlining most conferences, getting published, featured in all the hot interviews…

Like I said, well deserved.

But what is the really cool part about the social web? Finding thousands of blogs that are mostly under the radar. Trust me, there is great content out there. Pure gold. Thought-provoking content. New angles on well-discussed subjects. Humor. Sass. And yeah, world-changing ideas too…

It just seems most of us aren’t finding it.

Funny thing is, I scan about 250 blogs per day on my RSS reader, and a heavy majority of those are blogs flying under the radar. On average, most of them get about five retweets per post. This is a shame. I sometimes think we believe that content without a lot of retweets isn’t worthy of sharing.

Or, do we perhaps NOT share great a post because we don’t want to be one of just a small handful of folks sharing the content? I wonder if this happens. I sometimes catch myself thinking that. I promise to stop.

I also wonder if we are more likely to share the content of people NOT in our direct geographical space. Most of my retweets come from people who live far away from me. Or does it just seem that way? Do you observe this? Are locals less likely to share content because they perceive fellow locals as competition? I don’t know. I wonder about it though.

But I promise to make a much more concerted effort to share the little gems that don’t get much attention. Some believe the best art produced on Broadway is OFF of it. And that’s true. I have seen some “Off Broadway” plays – and they are in fact, outstanding.

Sure, it is cool to see the big famous productions. Those rarely disappoint. And it is fun to see the stars.

But sometimes “Off Broadway” gives you that fresh, new perspective you need. And there can be a lot of joy in discovering new talent, the future stars.

They can change the world too…

So join me. Make it a goal to share one new “Off Broadway” blog each week. Help bring fresh content, new ideas, new talent, to the front of the stage. We will all benefit!

[cartoon by @gapingvoid]

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