Monthly Archives: August 2013

3rd Party Social Media Marketing

marketingampI get asked all the time by repair shop owners across the country what should they do to market their business better in Social Media.

 Most are surprised by my first answer: “ I Don’t Know”

In a speech to a room of repairers it’s easy to give some generalizations and tips, but to give advice on how to improve an individuals social marketing without researching their market, business and history is like giving a diagnosis without examining a patient.

If you want to fail, hire a 3rd party to manage your social media marketing.

Let me explain, like many other aspects of technology and marketing the collision repair industry was slow to catch on to the Social Revolution. The real social revolution was in 2007.  So when it did hit our industry a few years back, there was already 100’s of books, websites and newsletter’s dedicated to social media marketing. It made it easy for last weeks parts salesman to be this week’s “Social Media Expert”. It was in fact, the new “Gold Rush” to a number of companies and organizations thinking it was a fast track to revenue.

We’ll build a presentation full of statistics, we’ll convince shops it’s too time consuming and complicated for them to manage and they’ll pay us to make their accounts look like all our other clients???

That’s good right? I get what seems like an endless list of services that I don’t understand and all I have to is give them a credit card to hit every month.

First, let’s understand what social media is.

Well…… It’s Social!

What I mean is, it’s a communication forum that was founded on personal connections of friends. We connected with our friends and family to share pictures, life moments and content that we thought would enrich the lives of those we connected to.  In fact over 60% of people that list their primary job as a ‘Social Media Marketing Manger” responded in a recent survey that their primary use of Social Media is to check status updates from their friends and family. That’s right even the people that do this for a living are not using it as a business tool. Does that mean you shouldn’t use social media as a marketing channel.  NO, it does mean that you need to recognize how consumers use the tools and plan your content accordingly.

Let’s face it no one is dying to follow Collision Repair on Facebook or Twitter. We’re not celebrities that can post or tweet about the their lunch and get 1,000’s of likes. We must make a rationale and compelling case to be followed, liked, +1 and retweeted.

 Simply put, you must be awesome! Average will not do!

We live in an age of information overload. In a response to that we want to consume only content that is relevant to our lives, gives us a sense of community or gives us context to an issue or trend.  Pre-Packaged content from 3rd party managers such as silly laws, bumper stickers, driving tips or links to articles not from your community or website is not compelling, relevant or providing a sense of community to your followers.

Also, what’s good content for Twitter is not for Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and on and on. If a third party is using a mass posting service to send the same content to multiple platforms at the same time and same day then why would people want or need to follow you on multiple channels?

So take a look at your current social media pages and ask yourself:

  • Does the content on these pages prove I am the best collision repairer in my town?
  • Does it show that I understand my community and the needs of my customers?
  • Am I adding value or just “noise” to the followers of my page?
  • By the post on my pages, can the followers clearly determine the type of character and business we are in THIS community?
  • Do I like what I’m seeing or reading?

Then take the next step:

Find two people you trust in your community that are not in the collision repair industry. It could be your pastor, member of the rotary club, president of the chamber of commerce or the door greater at Walmart. Ask them to review your pages.  Then ask them: Did any of my content add value for you?

You’ll either pass the test or it’s time to re-evaluate your current marketing plan and have some serious conversations.

 

So here’s were most shops tell me that they understand all the negatives of hiring a third party, but they just can’t do it on their own.

If you must bring in help, know that your involvement and supervision will be required. If you can’t dedicate one hour a week to review content and one day a month for strategy meetings, then don’t even think about hiring a 3rd party for your marketing.  If you’re willing to make that commitment, then look for a local marketing or public relations firms in your area. You’re not going to find an agency that is an expert in collision repair, and to be honest you don’t want one. That’s what your for. You’re not talking to yourself in social media your talking to people just like the ones at that local marketing firm. They’ll help your context around your content.

You want an agency that has connections to mutually beneficial organizations in your market. A firm that knows how to make connections and build community around brands. That’s why their local and not national. They need to understand your community and it’s customers in the context of your local events, news and activities. National firms can market national products and local firms market local services.

Ask them how they’ll work with you to see content before it’s posted. Most firms will present you a plan 30 days in advance with all engagement campaign ideas around your business. It’s your chance to review and give input on anything you’d like to see different or added. You’ll have access to a shared calendar to review at any time and make changes at anytime.

That’s were the one hour a week and one day a month comes in.

You’ll need to meet with the firm each month to review your statistics and performance. That means you should be presented with monthly performance reports. What’s working and what’s not. What content do you need more of and what should you cut.

Good Luck and Stay Awesome!

 

 

 

 

Instagram Tips for Business Pages

instagram-logoPeople are visual. Most people think and dream in pictures. So how can you tap into that to effectively market your business? Instagram is a phenomenal tool to connect to an audience through visuals alone. Communication through photos is not only simple but it also makes a huge impact. A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

At it’s most basic level, Instagram is a fun way to share photos (and now video) instantly with the people who follow you. That being said, there are many ways to maximize Instagram for your business.

  •  For starters, visually promote new services and offers creatively. This can be through a graphic coupon available exclusively to your Instagram followers, or a slick picture promoting an event.  You want to give people a reason to follow you on different social media channels, so take advantage of the visual only aspect of Instagram to creatively communicate.
  • Next, remember that your social media accounts are not about you.  I know that sounds weird, but social media is about communicating with others and actively listening to your followers.  Feature your customers and other businesses as much as possible to gain new followers and inspire loyalty to your existing ones. Celebrities and companies that feature other peoples work not only bring exposure to the person featured, but they also give themselves good exposure as well.
  • Also, share behind the scene photos.  Customers like knowing that they have the inside track on your business and there is no better way to give the people what they want then to share as many work photos as possible.  This gives your customers the transparency and intimacy they crave from businesses. Additionally, it personalizes your company and employees, further encouraging customers to do business with you.
  • You can also use hashtags and understand what tags connect to your customer base.  There are many websites that track trending hashtags and Instagram itself allows you to search posts by tag.  This can be a tremendous help when keeping up with the image of your brand or industry on Instagram.
  • Lastly, run photo based contests to get your fan base sharing and talking about your business.  Again, using hashtags and username tags, your customers can interact with you personally and give you exposure for no cost.  Feature your followers photos and give them a shout out for mentioning your business or product.

Remember, customer engagement is your priority and social media is the key, so get out there and propose to your audience today.

 

Google+ for Business

google-plus-1

When you think of social media for business, Google Plus is often overlooked in favor of other sites.  However, Google Plus reached 100 million users faster than Facebook and Twitter. If this isn’t enough to convince you that your business needs to be on Google+, let’s simplify.

 You increase the odds of getting highly targeted visitors from Google’s organic search results if you have a Google Plus account.

Here are a couple of tips that will show you how you can use Google plus effectively for your business:

  • First, start with the about section. This introductory content will also end up being used by Google as your page’s meta description when it shows up in the search results. You can create links within that content that links back to different pages of your site. A couple of smartly used keywords would be nice, but avoid keyword stuffing.
  • If you have any other social media profiles, add them to the links section of your Google+ profile. What better way to get a little more link juice and authority from Google than to have your social profiles included on their page for your business? Remember sharing is caring for your Google+ network.
  • Finally, now that you’re sharing your own content, re-share quality content to your community. Leave valuable comments on what other people are sharing and “+1” other content.

When used correctly, Google Plus could be the most effective social media marketing tool available, so take advantage of it and start expanding your circles today.

Fighting Fire with Marshmallows

marshmallow campfireYou’ve heard the old saying “Fight Fire with Fire”, but the best practitioners of Public Relations will tell you that’s always your worst response. If you want to win the war, fight fire with marshmallows.

You’ve worked hard to grow your business by putting in so much of yourself in every part. The words, actions and advertisements of your competitors are hard not to take personal. When a competitor takes aim at your business or service it seems like a direct attack on you. It’s not uncommon for me to drop-in on a shop or a vendor and find them upset over the latest “attack”. They are quick to pick up the phone to call a local paper or radio station ready with a defense. The hard truth is the more you allow yourself to be drawn into response marketing the weaker your company message becomes.

In Public Relations, it’s not always about your response, but the action you want the consumer to take.

It’s about using the original words of your competition to your advantage with a communication plan that gives you the best consumer buy-in.

No matter what issue your competition uses to start the fire, your job is to grab the marshmallows and invite the customers to join in a relationship building experience instead of a dog fight. Marshmallows are fun, always draw a crowd, and build a great since of community. The options for this type of marketing are endless for repairers.

For example, let’s say a competitor runs an ad that their shop is better trained and equipped for collision repair. You could fire back with how well trained and equipped your shop is, but let’s be honest at some point you are going to end up spending some money. Maybe you buy a new piece of equipment to use in your ad or you rush your technicians off to more training classes. If you can’t generate a return on the investment then you’ll just lower your cash flow, increase your operation expense, and decrease your profit. The best action is to celebrate and promote what you do have. Who’s your most certified technician? Write a blog, make a video and place their picture on your Facebook page.

Allow the customers to celebrate and connect with a person instead of a position statement from your competitor.

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The key is to always remind yourself not to get caught up in a tennis match of response marketing. You always want to be unique and in control of the communications around your company. If you are responding, then your competition is in control of your message. Take a deep breath and develop a communication plan that allows you to use your competition’s efforts to your advantage by building customer connections. These are plans that you will not have at the ready so you’ll need some time to craft the right one for your situation.

 The hardest part of my job is talking a shop owner or marketing manager off that ledge of immediate response.

If you don’t have a Public Relations firm on retainer to talk you down then you will need to control yourself. Take a pause of at least three days and then work with your team to build a communication plan. What mediums will you use? What’s needed for the plan (video, photo)? Be sure to cover all the details and draw out your implementation timeline. In countless situations, this approach has brought companies more loyal customers and increased sales beyond what they ever dreamed possible.

 If you remember to reach for the marshmallows you will have a healthy growing business, while your competition just burns out.

Facebook’s News Feed Algorithm Explained

500x_facebook_macro_0You ever wonder if your posts on Facebook are being seen by all of your followers?

Up until recently Facebook has maintained that all of your friends and followers could see every update you chose to share with them.  Most everyone has had an experience that leads us to believe that this was not the case.  Well now Facebook has finally agreed to be more open with the public on the existence of the news feed algorithm and the updates to it from this point forward.  This is great news for companies and brands that have a presence on the social media site because now you can see how much of your content is reaching your audience.

Facebook has said that no major changes will be coming to effect how the new feed operates but they have been

facebook-edgerankmore clear about how posts are ranked. How often you interact with the friend, Page, or public figure (like an actor or journalist) who posted, the number of likes, shares and comments a post receives from the world at large and from your friends in particular, how much you have interacted with this type of post in the past and whether or not you and other people across Facebook are hiding or reporting a given post determine how visible a post is to the user.

Story bumping is one of the minor new additions Facebook is introducing to help with the problem of post decay.

“When users load up Facebook in the morning, a finite number of stories are shown on screen. They can scroll to view additional stories, but inevitably users leave some unread before clicking elsewhere. Story bumping ensures that when the user logs in to Facebook later in the day, some of these unread stories are brought to the top of their news feed alongside whatever has been posted since they last accessed the social network.”

For business pages, this means that after stories are posted sustained engagement must be encouraged.

facebook-fan-engagement1Gaining comments through effective community management will increase the amount of discussion around a story and optimize it for story bumping, thusly increasing visibility.

Another factor effecting ranking is the Last actor signal that takes into account the last 50 interactions that a user has. People and Pages that are within the last 50 interactions will receive a small bump in ranking value.

Again, encouraging repeated user interaction on a regular basis will give your posts a bump and increase the overall audience.

Lastly, Facebook has mentioned a future plan of attack to compete with the real time edge Twitter has. This update seeks to determine the stories by a specific user that are about a real-time event. It then displays these posts in chronological order at the top of the news feed (like Twitter) but leaves the rest of the feed as it is. It’s not clear what effect this will have on business marketing, but the possibilities could open Facebook up to a more instantaneous dialogue between pages and users.

As Facebook evolves, so must the marketing strategy businesses use to reach a core audience.  Keep the algorithm in mind when posting and your visibility and engagement should increase.

You Can’t Market That!

Marketing business salesEver heard someone tell you that an idea is unmarketable?

Pick up a trade magazine or attend a meeting and everyone seems to have a marketing solution for you. From your paint supplier to your software provider everyone seems to have a low cost solution.

Here’s the thing, there is no such thing as the “most effective” way to market anything. It’s like saying one size fits all in bicycle shorts. Right… that’s a mental image you didn’t want on a Monday.

Right now Social Media is the hot topic, but it’s only a piece of the larger puzzle that is your overall marketing strategy. You can’t do one thing without the other and all forms of your business communication must support each other.

So what do you do? How do you sort through the noise and develop a successful marketing campaign.

All marketing plans must first start with your brand.

Brand isn’t a logo or a location. It’s the emotional connection you offer. What makes you special, unique and exclusive to your market/consumers. Every body shop can repair a car. Every body shop can paint a car. Every body shop says they have satisfied customers.

Find what makes you special, your Beacon. Then follow it!

Let’s face it Starbucks does not make the best coffee in the world and it’s not the cheapest? Why do we flock there for a $5.00 cup of Joe? They found their Beacon points and how to make us feel good and social about coffee from 5 am to 11pm 7 days a week.

Next what’s your budget for the year?

Everyone has one. Sometimes it’s only $500 for the year and sometimes it’s larger but set one now and stick to your guns. There is always going to be a shinny offer that promises you big returns, but you’ll need your budget for unexpected expenses that always seem to pop-up for shop owners.

 Now that you know your Beacon points and How Much you have to spend, your ready to Plan!

Before you an start building your communication plan you need to understand there are 3 categories of communication.

  1. Advertising- brief and repeated communication with an audience that may or may not have an interest in your brand (Radio, TV, Newspaper)
  2. Marketing- Direct Information that targets a specific group. They have expressed an interest in your brand and take steps to learn more (Website, Brochure, Video)
  3. Public Relations- Influencing the influencers of a market. The process of turning key people into market megaphones and lead generators (Agent visits, Business Referral Programs).

You need some activity in each of the categories.

I always recommend that you make a chart and fill in the columns. The best part is there are endless low to no cost options for you to add in the categories and some of your ideas will fit all three.

Now Social Media plays an important role in all of the communication categories and that’s what makes it such a powerful tool and why everyone is talking about it. But it doesn’t stand alone in any marketing plan. It also has to work with any other communication mediums you use, which makes it hard to impossible for a 3rd party to manage it for you.

Remember, the only one that will care about your business the way you do is YOU and marketing is your voice to the customer, take it seriously and enjoy the benefits.