Tag Archives: online community

Creating Sales vs Creating Connections

There’s a constant dilemma that comes up when you’re working with marketing and sales: how do you do business and sell your product or service without coming across as a smarmy salesman? In this age of online research and savvy consumers, you’ll get called out for inauthenticity in a heartbeat. It seems like there’s always someone goofing up with their online properties – from promoting their own irrelevant book during remembrance holidays to the latest social media meltdown. The internet never forgets, and it rarely forgives.

It comes down to this: in order to run a successful business, sales are part of the package, and you can’t make sales without, you know, trying to make sales. But what do you do when potential customers hate your ads, no matter what you try? How do you make your way into conversation without it being about how horrible your marketing is? What can you do to help people view your business in a positive light?

Connect With Customers
Photo Credit: brad montgomery via Compfight cc

This is often where we see a lot of disconnect in marketing, particularly social media marketing. Many business owners expect to pump out marketing and watch the sales roll in with minimal effort and no additional attention paid to ad creative or strategy. For small and medium-sized businesses that can’t afford their own advertising department, it can be extraordinarily difficult to create campaigns that hit on the right level. It’s simpler and more affordable to throw up copies of the print ads on Facebook and hope someone sees it.

A key factor in breaking out of the mold of yet-another-business-on-Facebook is the ability to give your company a human voice. This is so much easier said than done. You hear the advice over and over again – talk like a person, not a robot. Connect with your users. Incorporate personality. But that advice can be frustratingly vague and unhelpful.

Really, what all of these recommendations are aiming at is to try and get you to find that humanity in your business. Don’t tell people they should buy the thing. Show them why the thing is useful to their life. Connect on the human level. Will this make their life better? Improve their relationships? Connect them to loved ones?

We don’t want to say “find your angle,” because this shouldn’t be about finding an angle. This should be about discovering the heart of your business in a way that people can respond to.

So think about it. It’s okay to try to make sales, but also try to make connections. Consider what makes YOU want to purchase a product and apply it to your own marketing. Remember that many of the best businesses don’t forget their humanity.

Stephanie Wargin is the Social Media Strategist at Zenergy Works, a web design and SEO company located in Santa Rosa, California. Her friends like to brush her hair into her eyes whenever she talks about Facebook.

Old School Technique in a New School World

In the digital age, many people are condemning old school ways of thinking in favor of new school lines of thought. Insist on paper and radio advertising instead of internet marketing? Refuse to touch social media with a ten foot pole? Not paying attention to your online sentiment? Old school thinking! Kill it with fire!

For the most part, people have a point. The internet has become a huge source of commerce and information exchange, and ignoring it will be detrimental to your business. More and more consumers are going online to research and check reviews before making important purchasing decisions, or even choosing a restaurant to try.

Still, there are some elements of “old school business” that are worth keeping around. Providing high-quality service with a smile, for instance. How do you bring these tried-and-true good business tactics to the modern world? You keep the focus on the customer.

Old School Business

Be neighborly. When they talk about the golden old days, everyone waxes poetic about how you could leave your doors unlocked because you knew all your neighbors, and one of those neighbors was the local butcher who always had the best steaks. Bring that sense of community back to your business dealings by creating a friendly, genuine online persona who answers questions and remembers names.

Be authentic. No one likes a phony (especially teenagers named Holden). In the digital landscape, it is very easy to fact-check and gauge someone’s authenticity. If you’re putting a fake smile on your Facebook page but all of your Yelp reviews say that store experiences involved a rude manager, that’s going to harm you. The easiest way to avoid this? Don’t fake it.

The customer is always right. We all know that this bit of advice is taken with a healthy dose of salt, but the idea behind it isn’t wrong. It’s less about the customer being literally correct and more about the way you respond. Don’t blow up online. Say it again with us: don’t blow up online. If you keep a cool head, remain responsive, and make it clear you’re listening and taking comments to heart, you’ll come out ahead. You can’t please everyone, but you can avoid ending up on Mashable as the next big brand meltdown.

Your service should reflect your marketing. If your marketing is selling a product or service that just doesn’t match up, consumers are going to grow wise quickly. Never promise what you can’t deliver. At the end of the day, successful business is all about the product or service, so make sure yours is fantastic.

As you can see, not all of the “old school” rules have to be abandoned. In fact, some are reflective of the kind of business practices that have always appealed to customers. All you have to do is adapt them for the modern world and you’re good to go!

Stephanie Wargin is the Social Media Strategist at Zenergy Works, a web design and SEO company located in Santa Rosa, California. Her friends like to brush her hair into her eyes whenever she talks about Facebook.

Creating Your Online Tribe

There’s always a lot of talk about building your online community, but what does that actually mean? How do you do it? What exactly IS an online community, and why do you need one?

Think of your current and potential customers as a sort of fan base. For big music and movie stars, fans will follow their work, look for information about them, even share stories and pictures of them online. They do this because they get something out of their “relationship” with the star… entertainment, usually. Having the inside scoop makes them feel special. They develop an attachment. Once the attachment is there, the star can expect those fans to support them via word of mouth and purchasing their products – movies, music, books, and more.

How the heck do you create the same sort of feeling about your business?

Online Community

It’s not easy, and it doesn’t work the same way for every business. An auto repair shop is going to have to utilize a different approach than an energy drink company. The first step is to provide your customers with something they can care about. There are a few ways to do this:

• Information
• Entertainment
• Common Cause
• Free Stuff

Which works for your business? If you’re a more buttoned-up company that can serve as an authority in your field, providing unique information in an easy-to-digest format can go a long way. More laid-back and “fun” businesses can go with something irreverent and entertaining. Energizing your base with something you all care about is another option (Childhood hunger? AIDS prevention? Local community?). Of course, free stuff through contests and sweepstakes will always attract a crowd, but make sure you give them a reason to stick around. Prizes always make better rewards for loyalty than incentives for joining.

Most importantly, you need to listen to your online community. Talk to them and pay attention to what they care about. They’ll almost always tell you what you should be doing if you’re willing to listen. Note that we don’t mean they’ll literally TELL you, just that their actions and responses will guide you in the right direction.

Don’t necessarily pay too much mind to what huge businesses are doing online. They have capital that you don’t have, and they have dedicated teams figuring out their stuff… but they also have massive ready-made followings. They could do pretty much anything and still have some sort of fan base to fall back on. When you’re starting from the beginning, you have to forge your own path. Make a note of the good ideas you see, but figure out how to scale them for your audience.

Now you need a rallying point. What’s something you know your audience can get behind that also ties in to your business? Maybe it’s a passion for fashion, or a desire to help people in need. Give them a platform to discuss, geek out, or otherwise fan the flames.

Finally, you need to create a plan. Communities aren’t built by accident. Keep your content fresh and updated. Respond in a timely manner. Block out time to dedicate to your online community building efforts. If you feel the need, attend a conference or consult with a professional.

And for goodness’ sake, have fun!

Stephanie Wargin is the Social Media Strategist at Zenergy Works, a web design and SEO company located in Santa Rosa, California. Her friends like to brush her hair into her eyes whenever she talks about Facebook.

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