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Traditional Marketing Still Rules

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: September 18, 2012

 

Have you all but given up on publicizing your small business to newspapers, TV, magazines and radio, instead focusing all your efforts on social media marketing? You could be making a big mistake. A study done this summer showed that despite the prevalence of social media, blogs and websites, Americans still find traditional media the most trustworthy source of information. Here’s what you need to know to get publicity in traditional media.

1.      Find the right media outlets to target. Determine which magazines, newspapers, radio shows or TV programs attract the largest percentage of your target market. You can get this information by contacting the media outlet and asking for their media kit and/or speaking to someone who can provide the information. Pitching your business to the wrong media will doom your efforts from the start, while finding the right fit increases your chances of success.

2.      Identify contacts within these media outlets. Read the newspaper or magazine, listen to the radio show and watch the TV program to figure out which reporters have what “beats” (areas of focus). Determine which reporter will care most about your press release, whether that’s the business editor of the local newspaper or the New Products editor of your industry’s trade magazine. The more specifically you can target reporters and editors, the better. Develop a spreadsheet listing names, email addresses and phone numbers of key contacts you want to target.

3.      Develop newsworthy angles for your press releases. There are many topics that can work for a press release—a new product or service, a new location of your business, expansion into a new market, or an anniversary are just a few. The key is tying the news you’re promoting in to what the media outlet cares about. For instance, if your company sells a baby product that just won an award from an industry organization, you would focus on different angles of the story depending on the outlet you’re targeting. A press release for a parenting magazine would focus on why the product is so great for children and what features caused you to win the award. A press release for a trade magazine would focus on the business aspect of the story, such as how your company developed the product and how it has increased your sales. If you’re targeting a newspaper, you might send one release to the business editor and a different, more consumer-oriented release to the Lifestyle editor. Search online for free press release templates you can use.

4.      Follow up. Email is generally the preferred method of contact these days. Send an email along with your press release, then follow up a few days to a week later with another email and/or a phone call. Don’t be a pest (reporters are busy), but do be persistent and professional. Realize that it often takes several press releases for your business to make an impression on busy reporters, so don’t give up.

5.      Be ready. When a reporter calls or emails you, respond quickly. If you aren’t available, identify someone else at your business who can respond to PR inquiries. Journalists are busy (and on tight deadlines) so they will move on to someone else if you don’t get back to them. Be prepared and helpful; answer all their questions and offer to provide photos or send additional materials.

Maximize results. When you do get precious publicity, make the most of it! Order reprints of the article to frame for your business establishment; send copies to key clients or prospects or incorporate them into your sales materials; ask the media outlet if you can post a link to the interview on your website (or even embed the actual video or podcast); and generally let everyone know about the positive press you’ve received. Remember, traditional media carries a lot of weight—but only if your customers know about it.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades

Facebook Says “No More” to Fake Likes and Fans

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: September 6, 2012

 

Small businesses and big brands have used a variety of ways to grow their networks on sites like Facebook. Using images and videos to engage followers, running contests, offering discounts in exchange for Liking a page and engaging in active discussion are all some ways that businesses have built their followings on Facebook.

Unfortunately, not all strategies are worthwhile or even permitted.

It’s a dirty little secret that some businesses have resorted to “buying Likes” of their business Pages.  But that could soon be a thing of the past, as Facebook announces it is cracking down on fake fans.

Facebook says it has never allowed businesses (or individuals, for that matter) to purchase fans or likes in order to inflate their apparent popularity. However, underground places where fans and Likes can be bought have cropped up. That underground is not even hidden – ads abound online advertising places where one can buy Facebook fans or Likes. 

Businesses engaging in such risky activities will have to pay the consequences.

In a blog post by its security team at the end of August, Facebook announced a new automated system for detecting and removing fraudulent likes, noting:

“A Like that doesn't come from someone truly interested in connecting with a Page benefits no one. Real identity, for both users and brands on Facebook, is important to not only Facebook’s mission of helping the world share, but also the need for people and customers to authentically connect to the Pages they care about. When a Page and fan connect on Facebook, we want to ensure that connection involves a real person interested in hearing from a specific Page and engaging with that brand’s content. As such, we have recently increased our automated efforts to remove Likes on Pages that may have been gained by means that violate our Facebook Terms.”

This initiative is meant to improve the integrity of the Facebook platform, as well as enhance brands’ engagement with their fans and provide a more accurate platform for measuring demographics and other data from fans and customers. Because a higher percentage of a brand’s likes will now be users who actually want to connect with the page, brands can have a more engaged and relevant fan base as well as a more accurate read about their real customers.

Facebook has already taken some steps to prevent fraudulent Likes. This new crackdown is designed to find and remove Likes that were obtained by malware, hacked accounts, coercion of users, or purchased in bulk by brands that wanted to quickly grow their network on the site, in violation of Facebook’s terms of service. However, Facebook stated that it expects less than 1% of page Likes to be removed as part of the clean up, at least for brands that have been abiding by Facebook’s terms of service.

Facebook also stated that brands should be wary of marketing companies or services that claim to be able to quickly grow your Facebook network. Brands should make sure that these services use legitimate marketing practices that don’t violate Facebook’s terms by purchasing Likes or utilizing fake accounts or spambots. Brands that notice suspicious activity or believe their account may have been compromised can visit facebook.com/hacked.

So what is the lesson? Simple: it’s a bad idea to try to buy Facebook Likes or Fans to make your company Facebook Page look more popular. At best, it may be a waste of money because fraudulent Likes could simply disappear from your account.  Worse, you may find your company’s Facebook page suspended as being in violation of Facebook’s TOS.  And your company could end up with PR egg on its face, such as when “bought Fans” are painfully obvious.

About the Author:

smallbiztrends
Anita Campbell

Guest Blogger

My name is Anita Campbell. I run online communities and information websites reaching over 6 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, including Small Business Trends, a daily publication about small business issues, and BizSugar.com, a small business social media site.

Honoring your Shipping Claims – What the “30-Day Rule” Means to your Online Business

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: August 29, 2012

Do you sell products online or over the phone? Did you know the law requires you to honor any claims you make about your shipping policies and proactively notify customers about delays?

Enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule (also known as the “30-Day Rule” by direct marketers) was prompted by the massive increase in online shopping over the past decade and spells out the ground rules for making promises about shipments, notifying consumers about unexpected delays, and refunding consumers' money.

If you are an online merchant or thinking of becoming one, here’s what you need to know:

What Does the 30-Day Delivery Rule Require?

Complying with the “Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule” will ensure you don’t have the FTC on your case, but it also makes good business sense. Being open and proactive about your delivery policies and problems that arise from depleted inventory and other issues will make for happier customers – which means a greater chance of repeat business.

Here’s what the rule requires of online merchants, as well as any merchants who take orders via the phone or fax:

  • If you commit to a specific shipping timeframe after an order is placed on your website or through marketing materials, then you must have a reasonable basis for making this claim. A “reasonable basis” means that you can show evidence you have anticipated demand and have the inventory, and that you have a fulfillment processes and order records necessary to ensure items are shipped in accordance with your claims (read more about this from the FTC).
  • If you make no shipment statement, you must have a reasonable basis for believing that you can ship within 30 days of receipt of an order. That’s why direct marketers sometimes call this the "30-day Rule."
  • If you can't ship within the promised time (or within 30 days if you made no promise), say for example, if demand was unexpectedly high or your suppliers have let your down, you must notify the customer of the delay, provide a revised shipment date and explain their right to cancel and get a full and prompt refund.
  • If within the 30-day window you have notified the customer of a “definite delay” (i.e. you can state when the item is expected to ship) but have not heard back from that customer with a refund or cancellation request, then you can treat the customer’s silence as consenting to the delay.
  • For “indefinite delays” and any subsequent delays after the 30-day period you must get the customer’s written, electronic or verbal consent to the delay. If that isn’t given then you must issue a refund, even if the customer didn’t ask for one.
  • You also have the right to cancel an order you can’t fulfill in a timely manner. However, you must notify the customer of this decision and make a prompt refund.

Dealing with Unexpected Demand? 

If demand for a product is greater than anticipated and it’s impacting your shipping claims, the Rule does offer some leeway:

  • If you are proactive and see that demand is creating a problem, you can change your shipment promises up to the point that a consumer places an order – if you are confident you can honor that new shipping date/claim. This will override any previous promises and reduce your need to send delay notices – although you must alert customers of the new shipment date(s) before you take their orders.
  • As stated above, if you can’t ship within the originally promised timeframe you must let your customers know with a delay option notice – this can be sent via email, phone or fax.

More Information

The FTC website provides more information about the “30-Day Rule” including FAQs, advice about good record keeping, and where to go for help if you have additional questions.

Related Blogs

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Give Your Blog a Boost – How to Find and Work with Guest Bloggers

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: August 16, 2012 Updated: September 27, 2016

If you have a business blog, then you are probably aware of the challenges of coming up with topic ideas, finding time to write, and – let’s face it – keeping that blog alive. This explains why blogs on the subject of blogging are ranked as the most popular articles here on the SBA.gov Community. Here:

If you read the third blog, you’ll notice that one of the recommendations for keeping your blog fresh and useful is to set up a guest blogger program. If you haven’t already done so, you’re missing out on a valuable source of content.

With guest bloggers everyone wins – you, the guest blogger, and your readers. A guest blogger opens doors to new ideas and perspectives, while taking pressure off you. It gives the guest an opportunity to reach new readers and drive traffic back to their website. For readers, it brings new voices, angles and insights they may otherwise not have read.

How to Find Guest Bloggers

1. Hit up your networks – Whether it’s folks in affiliated businesses, suppliers or thought leaders, it helps to approach those who are already actively blogging. These individuals will be more open to requests, and likely to have the writing skills. Bloggers are also notorious networkers; they need to be. If social media is your thing, look to Twitter (use the Advanced Search tool to search for key words and hashtags relevant to your business, find out who’s using them), LinkedIn groups, Google+ and Facebook, and start interacting and engaging with other bloggers.

2. If that doesn’t work – You can try stepping back and approaching those who are just starting out or who have never blogged, but would have great things to say. Experts in particular niches often don’t have time to start their own blog, but potentially have great content to share. You could look to others within your business or even your family.

3. Look for complementary bloggers – Look for bloggers who can write about topics that complement your business, while bringing a fresh approach or school of thought. This will help liven things up while staying relevant to your readers. For example, if you run a veterinary business, consider asking a supplier or local pet store owner to blog about pet nutrition. 

4. Ask your readers – Bloggers read blogs. Believe me, we are always looking for new ideas and perspectives. Where do you find your readers? Look to your comments field – these readers have already gone beyond reading your blog; they are engaged and actively participating. Do any stand out? What about social media – are there active posters who follow you on Facebook who have useful contributions to make?

5. Make blogging as unintimidating as possible – Potential writers often worry that they will have to write a thesis, or simply think they have nothing useful to say. But blogs don’t have to be that way. To make it easy for your guest bloggers, give them as much direction as possible. Pose a question and have them answer it. Take our veterinary clinic example again – try soliciting the views of guest bloggers by posing a topical question, something like: “How do you choose the right pet foods for your dog?” 

If you are lucky enough to have a “rock star” guest blogger, use their contribution as an opportunity for your readers to find out more about them. Newspapers and magazines do this all the time – otherwise known as a “5-Minute Interview with…” or “10 Things you Didn’t Know About…” Start with 5-10 questions in an email to your guest blogger. Questions could range from “If I weren’t talking to you right now, I’d be…” to “The most interesting project I’ve worked on is…”

This format makes it easy on the blogger and opens the door to future guest blogs.

Working with Guest Bloggers

Guest bloggers need parameters, however well-seasoned they are. Here are a few that can make the relationship work for you both:

  • Agree on a topic – Be prepared to discuss the angle you want their topic to take. It’s your blog, after all.
  • Set deadlines – Be sure to give them plenty of advance notice and always set a deadline you can both agree on. Otherwise, it just won’t get done.
  • Have a linking policy – You don’t want the guest blog to be a gratuitous piece of self-promotion that’s heavy on promotional or other links back to the author’s website or blog. Most guest blog policies limit links to a bio, where authors can freely include links to their own content.
  • Don’t be afraid to edit – To subtly ensure your quality is maintained, don’t be afraid to edit the guest post. Just be sure to share the edits with the blogger. Most guest bloggers welcome a second pair of eyes to review and polish up their work.
  • Include a bio – Include a bio and head shot of guest bloggers at the end of the post, and credit them as the author on the page and in all promotion you do for that blog.
  • Keep the blogger in the loop – Let the blogger know when the blog will be posted and send them the link once it’s live. Also let them know what promotion you will be doing for their post – and credit them as the author if you use social media using their Twitter handle, Facebook page, and so on.

Have you used guest bloggers for your business blog? What tips can you share? Leave a comment below.

 

 

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Do Your Email Marketing Activities Comply with the Law?

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: August 15, 2012 Updated: September 26, 2016

Do you use or are you thinking of using email to connect with your prospects and customers?

If so, then the payoffs can be fruitful. For every $1 spent on email marketing in 2011, the estimated return on investment was an astonishing $44.25 (source: Pingdom).

But did you know that every email you send to your customers, whether it’s your monthly e-newsletter or a one-to-one email sent to promote your products or services, must comply with the law? Here’s what you need to know:

The CAN-SPAM Act – What It Means to Your Commercial Email Efforts

The CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) Act became a must-read for all email marketers when it was enacted in 2003. More than just a regulation to prevent and discourage junk mail, the CAN-SPAM Act regulates all commercial email messages. In the eyes of the law, “commercial messages” include “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email promoting content on commercial websites. 

The requirements of the Act are fairly straightforward, yet easily overlooked. For example, did you know that if you fail to include your postal address on a commercial email, then the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) could fine you? In fact, each separate email that violates the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $16,000. There are no exceptions for business-to-business email. All email – even messages to former customers announcing a new product line – must comply with the law.

Non-compliance is clearly costly, but the good news is that the CAN-SPAM Act is one of the simplest forms of government regulation to comply with quickly and easily.

How to Determine if the CAN-SPAM Act Applies to your Business Email

According to the FTC, the deciding factor is the “primary purpose” of the email. The government defines emails as containing three different types of information:

  • Commercial content – Anything that advertises or promotes a commercial product/service.  These messages must comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
  • Transactional or relationship content – These are usually receipts of payment, shipping notifications and so on and facilitate or provide updates about an already agreed-upon transaction. These are exempt from most of the requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act, although they cannot contain any misleading or inaccurate routing information (i.e. the “To” and “From” fields, plus the email address and domain name must clearly show who the email is from.)
  • Other content – Considered as any other email that is neither commercial nor transactional (such as a response to a customer query) need not comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.

Steps You Can Take to Ensure Your Email Marketing Complies

If you’ve determined that you must comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, then there are a few simple steps that you can take to comply with the law. For example:

  • Email headers, domain names, and subject lines must be accurate and not deceptive.
  • You must disclose if your message is an advertisement.
  • You must include a valid postal address in the mail body.
  • Disclose and clearly state how recipients can opt-out or unsubscribe from your message.
  • Honor unsubscribe requests within 10 business days. Any unsubscribe mechanism must be able to process these requests for at least 30 days after the email was sent.
  • If you use a third-party email marketing service, make sure they follow the requirements of the law – for example, are opt-outs being handled correctly? The law doesn’t differentiate from the company that sends the email and the company whose product is being promoted. 

To read more about the requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act and get answers to FAQs, check out this brief (and plain English) guide from the FTC: The CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business.

Don’t Be a Spammer - Build Your Own In-House Email Marketing List

To ensure your email doesn’t get flagged as SPAM or junk by readers, consider implementing a permission-based approach. Permission marketing is essentially when a recipients have provided explicit consent that they want to receive your email communications – whether by sign-up or other opt-in mechanism. There are a number of things you can do to build an organic, opt-in marketing list. Read about these in my earlier blogs:

 

 

 

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

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