5 Key Marketing Lessons I Learned from the Baseball Diamond

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By Sue Brady

Sometimes life’s (well, marketing’s) lessons come when you least expect them. I spent the last three Baseballdays attending a number of minor league baseball games. Minor league teams have very little money so they need to be creative to generate revenue. There are lots of games for kids, mid-inning entertainment, and of course, opportunities for attendees to spend money.

While I watched the shtick, I realized that in the minors, the Marketing Department needs to be creative. And they need to be able to stretch the dollar. At the park I was at, they had Marketing 101 down. Specifically, they know how to:

Engage Your Audience

  • This team uses Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to post pics during the game. During one particularly gorgeous sunset, their social media maven took a picture and tweeted it. She noticed that others starting posting their own sunset pics from the ballpark so she encouraged everyone to send in their pics and she tweeted those.
  • They also have a ‘smile cam.’ The roving staff member snaps random photos that not only appear on the big screen in the outfield, but also appear after the game on their Facebook page.
  • They host a sleepover in the outfield once a season. What baseball loving kid wouldn’t jump at the chance? And of course, all those kids, and their parents, have to buy tickets to that night’s game.

Give a human face to Your Organization

During all of the games, the Marketing/Promotions staff gets involved with the fans. They walk the stadium throughout the game, giving high fives, chatting it up with the crowd, and basically, being human. The team mascots also stroll the stands to kiss babies and fist bump the fans.

Know Your Brand Champions and Treat Them Well

This ball club made their season-ticket holders feel special. I saw several season ticket holders come up to staff members just for a chat. And they greeted each other by name. They truly feel a part of the ballpark. Talk about figuring out how to make your best customers continue to spend money with you!

Use Creative <Grass-Roots> Marketing

No surprise that with limited budgets, grass-roots marketing is critical. Being local makes it makes it perhaps a little bit easier.

  • Before the season starts, all staff are given boxes of team schedules. Everyone is expected to visit as many local businesses as possible to drop off handfuls for distribution to their customers.
  • Everyone is responsible for ad sales and ticket sales. That seems to be a rite of passage for baseball staff. And because everyone has quotas, employees are incented to talk to local business owners in their own community, to try to sell ad space in the team roster, a poster for the concourse, an exhibit table for just inside the entrance, or a giveaway during the game. One of the games I attended had a pizza parlor highlighted, a dog treat product giveaway, a burger joint coupon given if the ballplayers hit a certain number of home-runs, and free tacos coupons after the pitcher threw a certain number of strike-outs.
  • They sometimes have guest baseball players from the Majors sign autographs. The adults are as excited as the kids!

Consider non-Typical Forms of Promotion

  • This club hosts events at area schools where they give out some free tickets. Not only does it generate excitement for the kids at the schools, but the kids come home begging mom and dad to take them to a game.
  • I strolled through the on-site retail shop. They had tons of T-shirts, sweatshirts and caps, almost all offered at fairly low prices. The impact of this is that probably 50% of the attendees on most nights I was there, were wearing team logos. And you know that means they wear their shirts, caps etc. when they aren’t at the ballpark too. It’s free advertising! Who doesn’t want that?

All basic marketing techniques, and all effective!

 

Content Goldmines Part 2

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By Sue Brady

Most companies these days post on various social media, or keep a blog as a part of their website. Usually the most difficult part is trying to figure out what to write about. Last year I wrote a post about great places to find inspiration for your content. That article mentions sources like:Idea

  • Talking to your sales team
  • Talking to customer service
  • Talking to other employees in your company

But there are other places to seek inspiration and here are just a few:

Senior Management. Interview senior management at your company and find out if it would add value to write content about something they know will be of interest later in the month/quarter/year.

Press Releases. Check press releases from your company and from your competition to see if there’s anything that would make a good topic for some timely content.

Twitter. Start participating in Twitter chats. You can search by subject for scheduled chats here: http://tweetreports.com/twitter-chat-schedule/. You can actively participate in chats or you can anonymously read the chat as it’s taking place. And most make transcripts available after the chat. Twitter chats are a great way to learn about a particular topic and can also provide great ideas for content.

LinkedIn. LinkedIn groups are another great source for content ideas. By joining groups relevant to your business, you can read conversations taking place and gain insight into questions being asked.

Your competition. Do some web searching to see where your competition is turning up in the press. Perhaps they are participating in a ‘conversation’ where you also should be at the table. Or maybe they do something really well. By writing a post on that topic, you can start to position your own company as the subject matter expert in that area.

The key is to get creative and imagine where you might find inspiration. I’ve overheard conversations in airports that have lead to some interesting blog posts. You just never know where your next idea may come from.

 

 

7 Steps for Using Social Media in Times of Crisis

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By Sue Brady

Ambulance

There will be a time in the life of your company where you may need to manage a ‘situation.’ Thank heavens for social media. Social media has transformed the way companies can talk to their customers quickly and broadly.

One of the many advantages of using social media to manage a crisis, change of event, weather situation alert and the like, is that you can reach a large number of people quickly. Amber Alerts are a great example. You can sign up to follow them on Twitter and Facebook, and even have alerts buzz your cell phone. It’s a powerful way to use social media to have many eyeballs looking for a lost or abducted child fast.

If your company plans to (or might have to) use social media to relay timely information, have a plan. Waiting until you’re in need is NOT the time to create a plan.

Step 1: The first step of course is to know where on social media your audience actually is. This might require some research on your part that goes beyond looking at where you have the most followers (thought that’s critically important as well). Let’s say your customers tend to be active on Twitter. Look up some of your faithful followers that also Tweet, and take a look at the links they tweet out. You may find patterns that will give you some ideas of other websites/social media platforms where you’ll want to have a presence. Marketing tip: you can do this to find new places to advertise and attract new customers!

Step 2: Identify who in your company is going to post. This may be a team of people or just one person. If approvals are required prior to posting, make sure the chain of approvals is clearly spelled out, including who can approve posts if someone is not available.

Step 3: Know who your influencers are, so that they might be able to help you get the word out too. Influencers are consumers who follow you and have a large following themselves. Influencers can be a very effective way to spread your message even further.

Step 4: Craft your messages to be accurate and consistent. When creating messages to serve as notifications, make sure the facts are correct, the phone number you are showing is working, the URL you are providing works.

Step 5: Include a hashtag to make it easy to follow the topic. This also can give you control over where the conversation happens and is critical especially on Twitter.

Step 6: Monitor what’s being said about your situation on social media so that you can respond or change your approach as needed. If a statement you’ve made is being misinterpreted, you’ll want to correct that in a hurry.

Step 7: After the crisis is over, make sure to pull the team together to discuss how well your plan worked and whether or not you should make changes.

Last summer, I was on a train with the hubs headed downtown for an outdoor Lucinda Williams concert. The train was definitely not as crowded as we expected it to be (it was Taste of Chicago weekend, an event that attracts over 1 million people), but it wasn’t until we overheard a passenger tell someone else that The Taste had been flooded out and cancelled for the day, that we realized why. We wanted confirmation so of course pulled out the iPhone, and looked up #tasteofchicago on Twitter where the closing was in fact posted. If we had thought to look, Chicago had done a fine job of letting Chicagoans know of this unusual event cancellation.

Postscript: We thought it would be just like Lucinda to do an impromptu concert in her hotel bar and certainly didn’t want to miss that. We searched twitter to see if we could figure oGuitarut where she was staying. Alas, we could not. We hung out for a while downtown and then headed home. Epic social media fail on our part. The next day we found out that Lucinda in fact DID play an impromptu concert that night. She played at a local bar, and she told fans about it via social media. But we had stopped checking by then and hadn’t heard the news. We missed out on an opportunity for a concert by one of our faves, in a small venue, and at no charge!

#epicsocialmediafail

 

Get Your Twitter On: The Changing World of Customer Service

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It’s no secret that social media is playing a bigger role than ever when it comes to customer service. Customers expect responses fast when they tweet to a brand. A study by Lithium (social software provider), found that 72% of consumers who tweet a complaint expect a response within one hour! Twitter understands the role it plays in enabling Customer Service and  recently removed the 140 character limit for direct messages. Now brands can direct message responses to customers without worrying about how many words they are using.

I recently attended a Content Marketing World (aka @CMIContent) Twitter chat. They cover great marketing topics that I find relevant. If you’re curious about something, it’s a great way to gain insights (and no one needs to know you’re there!).

Last week’s chat was about social media and customer service, with @jaybaer. I thought I’d recap some of the content that was shared because it was so good.

The first question to get us rolling was: How has social media changed the game for customer service? Here are some of the responses:

@mikemyers614: (social media) means the lights are always on and the “phone” must always be answered. We’re all 24/7 now.

@dmboutin: brands are accessible where people are already spending their time, instead of a 800 # in the fine print

@sgoldberger12: Social Media Has Amplified It. Those Who Engage Expect Quick Answers. Customer Service Is Ever More Important.

@ardath421 (social media) means that customer service needs to be served up wherever the customer wants it

@LeadPath (social media) allows us to respond at real time to customer concerns and feedback. It lets us engage with our customers

On the topic of how B2B is different from B2C in social media:

@LeadPath: With both B2B and B2C you need to remember you’re talking to customers.

@mewzikgirl: the advancement and immediacy of response/resolution in B2C has changed expectations, and B2B has to grow and adapt

The key thing to remember is that you are still talking to people, in both B2B and B2C.

On whether you should answer all questions posed to your company in social media:

‏‏@dmboutin: Yes. Look at cost of customer acquisition & retention then tell me addressing all concerns isn’t worth it

@Magnani_Dot_Com: The user doesn’t see all the messages being answered, they simply see theirs going unanswered.

‏@LUCYrk78: It’s 100% realistic. You make the time and team to ensure customers are listened to. It’s today’s expectation.

@netvantage: Realistic, no, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

‏@CTrappe “Thanks for your tweet” is not that great of a #custserv response.

‏@flinds: An effort should be made to address all complaints on (social media), even if just to tell them to email. Being noticed goes a long way.

 There were many suggestions on dealing with negative comments online.

@mikemyers614: Removing or editing is a dangerous thing. Chances are if one person says it, 10 more are experiencing it. Deal with it. Fast.

@Jaybaer : Respond to every hater, both the Offstage Haters (phone, email) and the Onstage Haters (social, review sites, forums).

Jay has a book about to be published on this very topic that I can’t wait to read. It’s called “Hug your Haters: How to Embrace your Complaints and Keep Your Customers.”

He adds: But my best tip is the rule of Two. Never respond more than twice online. Take it offline.

I wrote a post a while back on dealing with trolls. That might help too. You can read it here.

And on handling positive comments, the common answer thread was to turn those commenters into brand advocates by acknowledging them, retweeting them, doing something nice for them, asking them if you can use them as a recommendation. What others say about your business is so important. 90% of customers are influenced by reviews!

My daughter works for a minor league baseball team and sometimes is assigned to tweet during the games. She seriously texted me this just this afternoon, and I swear I did nothing to prompt it!

 

I’m so proud.

Penguin, Panda, Mobilegeddon – So Many Changes!

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By Sue Brady

Penguin

Google makes algorithm changes on a fairly regular basis (I’ve read that they make 500-600 changes per year!) and they can have noticeable impacts to your search rankings. It can be hard to keep up and understand what these changes may mean for your website and SEO strategies. This MOZ article is a great historical perspective on all of these changes, and I’ve pulled out just a few to summarize their impacts. Note that some changes happen once as a general cleanup, while others represent an actual ongoing change to the algorithm.

May, 2015 – Quality Update

This update was not widely discussed by Google and the general opinion is that rather than adding anything to its existing algorithm, Google instead rebalanced some of the existing components. In other words, some factors became more important, moving previously higher ranked factors lower. This update appears to have been a one-time thing, so if you were going to see an impact from the update, you would have by now. If you did see changes to your rankings, particularly negative ones, it’s likely to do with how Google perceives the trustworthiness and authoritativeness of your content. Here are Google’s very own tips for how to make your site higher quality.

April 22, 2015 – Mobilegeddon

This widely hyped update turned out to have a relatively low actual impact. Mobilegeddon was made to encourage websites to be mobile friendly. It impacted organic results shown on mobile devices, giving preference to mobile friendly sites over non-mobile friendly sites in those SERPs (search engine results pages).

September 23, 2014 – Panda 4.1 Update

Those in the know (not me), have seen many Panda updates since 4.0 was launched in May, but this is the first update officially acknowledged, so it gets a .1 designation. This update was aimed de-prioritzing ‘bad’ affiliates, keyword stuffing, doorway pages (pages that don’t really have content, but stuff keywords so that they rank highly), and other deceptive practices.

October, 2014 – Penguin 6 (aka Penguin 3.0, so dubbed by Search Engine Land)

The Penguin updates have all been about linking. This one, though it appeared ‘big’ was said to have impacted less than 1% of total English queries. If your link profiles are good ones, you should have seen an improvement in your rankings as a result of this update. But, just because you weren’t penalized by Google directly, you still may have seen a negative impact from this update. That’s because your site may be getting credit for other sites that link to yours that are now being discounted by Google. Frustratingly, you can’t actually tell if you’ve cured a Penguin problem until the next Penguin update.

I am not an SEO expert by any stretch of the imagination. But there are many out there if you need help. Here are a few I’ve come across over the years:

  • Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) is the news editor of Search Engine News and is hugely knowledgeable on this subject.
  • Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) is an expert in digital marketing, especially as related to SEO.
  • Travis Wright (@teedubya) speaks regularly on the subject of search marketing, and he used to be a stand-up comedian, so he’s funny!
  • Larry Kim (@larrykim) founded wordstream and is a search expert.
  • Tom Pick @tompick) specializes in B2B web marketing.

“Knowledge is a weapon. I intend to be formidably armed.”

Terry Goodkind