How To Create a Thief-free Mission Zone on Empire Avenue.

Do you play Empire Avenue (EAv), the social media stock market game? If not, this post will not mean much to you. However, for those who do play but are frustrated by the number of “mission thieves” they have met there, here is my solution for shutting out mission thieves.

1. Remove required actions.

No one can steal what you give freely without expectation of return. This paradigm shift will allow you to use missions to get eyeballs on your content and generate signals that help you improve your marketing. By marketing, I mean any promotional action you take on Empire Avenue to advance your goals.

I could go on and on about how paid click actions can backfire and will yield false signals for you to analyze. That is another post in itself. Just trust me, you can end thievery on your EAv missions today by removing required actions. Let the mission be complete with a click whenever feasible for your goals.

 2. Add a gateway instead.

Of course, Empire Avenue mission thieves do exist whether you acknowledge them or not. To run a truly thief-free mission zone, you need a gateway you can close.

Some players build communities for their missions that allow them to exclude anyone who does not honor community ethics.

My mission gateway is usually a shareholder requirement. In my experience, most thieves don’t bother becoming shareholders. From time to time, I run “buy me” or “buy XXX” missions. As these missions have a stated requirement, I do occasionally run across a thief, and I will block this player. However, I try not to get hung up on police work, and as you will see below, on the rare occasion that I do investigate every player’s actions, I am satisfied I am getting 100 percent engagement in my 5000e Shareholder Bonus missions.

100 Percent Engagement? How?

I ran a mission on Monday. I gave away 5000e to shareholders who own at least 20 shares.

These were the instructions:

Simple enough:

1. Click thumbs up if you like the mission.
2. Collect the eaves.

BONUS:

Comment below for positive feedback.

The link takes you to a tweet you can see below. If you are willing to retweet it, I am very grateful. If not, that is cool too.

Thanks for being a valued shareholder!

Results

So far, this mission has 35 completions, 17 retweets and 7 favorites on Twitter. As promised, I went through the list and gave positive feedback to everyone (27 of 35) who left a comment. When I looked at Twitter, I saw some people had retweeted who had not commented, so I gave them positive feedback too. Then I checked my notifications and found a few more players who did not comment on the mission, but instead bought shares and commented on my timeline, so I gave them positive feedback too.

At that point, I had two players left without positive feedback. I checked the list of players who liked my mission (34 of 35). Those two players who had not performed any other action had both liked the mission–perhaps the lowest degree of engagement in a mission, but still, this means that 100 percent of the players who completed my mission engaged with me further in some way.

I also picked up three new investors, and at least eight new followers on Twitter. I presume I received a lot of positive feedback as well.

 What’s In It For Me?

I find it much more satisfying to hunt down the ways people did complete my missions, rather than feel robbed by ways they did not.

I also hope I minimize any ill will. If someone judges my sales page a bit too spammy for his taste, he does not have to feel like he wasted his time vetting the page, he can pick up the eaves and move on.

Meanwhile, I get signals related to the quality and relevance of my content. I know that the better my content is and the more it resonates with the audience I am building, the higher my response rate will grow. So I have something to strive for besides buying more fake signals.

Side effects include new followers and players who take their free eaves and invest in more of my shares.

Ultimately, I hope my shareholders see my avatar/screenname and experience a positive association with my brand. I understand that not everybody will like everything I create, but I believe my shareholder bonus missions help me expand rather than contract my networks by fostering goodwill and promoting my content.

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Facebook for Business: How To Control Posts on Your Page

image of text - To FB or not to FB?
A client recently raised several concerns about using Facebook for business. Specifically, she questioned using a Facebook page to promote her B2B blog. Her main concern was whether a disgruntled former employee could spam the page with negative comments that her clients would see. Of course, behind this worry lurked the possibility that competitors could also wreak havoc with a company’s reputation on its Facebook business page.

Facebook for Business

Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms have given the individual a better chance to be heard than ever before. While a boon for small businesses trying to reach a bigger audience, this ability can become a small business nightmare when one bad apple’s complaints go viral.

However, it is important to keep in mind that your business does not need a Facebook page or Twitter persona to become the subject of someone’s viral smear campaign. In fact, a strong social media presence helps protect your brand in two ways:

1. By attracting comments, your Facebook page can draw your attention to rising reputation crises.

2. Your social media audience can become allies in your efforts to defend your company’s good name.

Facebook Page Controls

Facebook provides several controls you can use to manage the posts on your page. You might choose not to let anyone but company page administrators post on your page. You may allow others to post on your page but require admin approval before said posts go live. You can establish spam filters to funnel posts and comments directly to spam based on particular words in the message, and you can always delete offensive posts after the fact to provide damage control. Finally, you can permanently ban a user from your page if the posts are defamatory or unrelated to your business.

image of Facebook post controls

Manage Facebook Page Permissions

You access most of these controls from the Manage Permissions option on the Edit Page drop-down menu located in the upper right of your Facebook page. Clicking on Manage Permissions brings up a page where you can set who is allowed to post, what level of profanity is permitted, and whether posts must be approved before they are public.

Removing Posts or Comments

Hovering over a post or comment on your Facebook business page will bring up a gray X in the upper right corner of the post. Click on that X to remove the post. Facebook uses the language Hide as Spam for this action, which may or may not describe the reason your company has chosen to suppress the post.

Blocking Users

In order to block particular users from your page, click on See All in the New Likes pane on your Facebook page. This will bring up a list of all the people who like your page. You can click on the X to remove a user from your page, and you can also permanently block this user if you choose.

This power to remove comments and block users should be used carefully. Social media succeeds when a company leverages it to make new connections. Blocking people and refusing to address their concerns will simply encourage them to take their conversation elsewhere, most likely where your business has less control of the message and may find it harder to respond. Strive for openness on your Facebook business page where the interactions increase your company’s visibility and demonstrate commitment to your clients.

Like Tammi Kibler on Facebook for tips on using Facebook for business and connecting with new clients via content marketing.

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Ideal Customer Targeting Is More Inclusive Than You Think

image of target bullseyeMy biggest challenge when working with a new client often lies in the ideal customer conversation. When I ask who we will target in a campaign, I invariably hear that every person is a potential customer.

Even those clients who claim they understand the need for a specific customer to target will balk when I probe for details. If I ask about gender, a client will tell me he is not sexist. If I ask about socioeconomic status, another will tell me she is not in a position to be choosy about her clientele.

True enough, but in trying to be all things to all people, you miss an opportunity to connect on a deeper level and tell a story no one can forget.

Target a Specific Customer

This Prince Spaghetti commercial from the seventies is a great example of targeting a specific customer to reach a universal audience. It ran for thirteen years starting in 1969.

While I have met many my age from outside New England who are not familiar with this commercial, those of us who grew up in Massachusetts and New Hampshire in those years will never forget that for Anthony, Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day.

This commercial targets a very specific customer by telling a story about her son. In one minute, you learn her last name, her son’s age, where they live. The video reveals further details about economic status and family size. It appeals to an Italian-American woman’s concerns for family, nutrition, and great-tasting meals.

Authentic Stories Have Universal Appeal

However, in being that specific, the story becomes universal. You get it even if you are not an Italian-American housewife trying to feed a large family on a blue collar budget. You can empathize with Mrs. Martignetti needing Anthony to come home right now, even if you would never let your children run loose in the streets of Boston.

Because the ad includes so many concrete details, the story feels real, and you respect Mrs. Martignetti’s choice of Prince spaghetti. In fact, the less you identify with her, the more you might consider her a better judge of quality Italian pasta than yourself or any of your neighbors and friends.

Find Your Ideal Customer

Not every product will have such an obvious ideal customer to target. But when you drill down and find that perfect person whose gender, age, and family situation allow you to craft a personal and authentic story for your products and services, your campaign will be more inclusive than you might have thought.

In a world of avatars, text messages, and robot tweets, consumers seek authenticity. An ideal customer profile builds credibility by virtue of being specific. It also simplifies the process of finding the right words and imagery to touch this particular audience.

Let’s give it a try. Contact me today to learn more about an ideal customer profile and how it can improve all of your marketing messages.

photo courtesy of vizzzual.com

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Twitter Is Not a Radio Station: How You Miss the Point and Drive Followers Away

Twitter not radio stationI know Twitter can be tough at first. You may not know what to tweet, and your early Twitter connections may set horrible examples for you. The temptation to share your latest blog post or other promotion every time you log on may feel overwhelming.

Trumpeting your message over and over on Twitter fails. It fails because Twitter is not a radio station and because true followers, the ones that interact with you and may someday become customers, will not respond well to a continually self-promotional stream.

Consider the broadcast radio model.

Radio stations broadcast news and entertainment that listeners want to hear. Every now and then, the station interjects its advertising in the form of station identification, sponsorship acknowledgement, and commercials.

On the one hand you have your content, and on the other, you have your repetitive brand messages.

Those brand messages repeat so that listeners absorb them and the brand becomes part of their consciousness.

Striking a Balance

Every radio station strives to provide the right balance of content and brand messaging. More brand messages can lead to more revenue only when those messages do not overpower the content that draws listeners in the first place.

If they dilute the content with too many commercials, the listeners go away and the ad revenue soon dries up as well.

Tweets Are Not Commercials

What happens when businesses get on Twitter is that they manage their tweets like they are managing a radio ad campaign. They will tweet the same message over and over, periodically, like they are running ads on the radio.

A tweet is not a commercial though, a tweet is the foundation of the content on Twitter.

Remember, your tweet itself is the news, information, or entertainment that will or will not attract people to pay attention.

The commercial message is right there too, in every single tweet, in the thumbnail and the Twitter handle. This message brands your content and cements your business in the customer’s mind.

Keenonquinoa tweet about keenwah
Your challenge is to offer tweets so useful or fun, that followers recognize your brand in their Twitter stream as something they want to read and share.

If you would like to learn more about how a freelance writer can help you manage your Twitter and other social media streams, contact me today.

radio photo courtesy of S. Diddy

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Positioning, Price, and Perception

image of Quality Ice Cream mural and positioning statement

Do you struggle to strike the right balance between the high quality and low price your customers demand? You are not alone. Many businesses are feeling the squeeze as our economy continues to stagnate and customers are looking for low cost alternatives.

You Can’t Be Both

Let’s be clear on one thing. You cannot occupy both positions in the market – highest quality and lowest price – with the same product, unless you are willing to lose money. You have to choose a position and then work out how to present that position to your customers.

Low Price Race to the Bottom

If you decide to compete on price, you face two challenges: you have to sell more units to make the same revenue, and you remain vulnerable to competitors willing to undercut your pricing.

I hear about this all the time from those who are looking for freelance work. No matter where you set your rate it seems there is always somebody else willing to work for a little less, especially given the prolonged unemployment situation many face in the US. Those who get caught up in that race to the bottom end up sacrificing their reputation with low quality work. Many simply go broke a little more slowly than if they had just given up altogether.

Perception Is Reality

If you are among those who refuse to accept a price that does not turn a profit, you must position your products and services so customers understand why they have to pay more than the rock bottom prices others are offering.

You need to turn conversations about price into explanations of value. You need to create a desire in your clients for your minimum standard of excellence. Then you will find that they will gladly pay for the value you add.

So, whether you are an insurance inspection service based in Lowell or an appliance store in Bedford, the onus is on you to make sure your customer perceives that your offering costs more because it should, and it is worth every penny.

6 Word Positioning Statement

I like the example in the photo above. With just six words, the advertiser creates a perception of exceptional flavor. Using Quality as the brand name sets the consumer up to believe that all other ice creams have a non-Quality taste.

Would you like to learn how a freelance writer can help you communicate your value to prospects and clients? Contact Tammi Kibler today to learn more about marketing communication pieces that lead to better positioning in the marketplace.

photo courtesy of KB35

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Permission Marketing for Handmade Soap

permission marketing handmade soap imageDeep in a comment stream several months ago, blogger Murray Lunn asked me, Why should a company that sells handmade soap bother with email marketing?

I thought a question like that deserved a whole post to answer, so here goes.

Seth Godin explained the allure of fancy soap stores in All Marketers Are Liars. He wrote about the story customers buy into when they purchase expensive soap in a boutique setting.

Whatever your product or service, permission marketing gives you all the time and space you need to tell your story. This communication strengthens brand awareness, increases repeat sales, and vastly extends the reach of each physical location.

If you are only telling your story to your shop’s visitors, then your reach is limited by:

  • Your store’s capacity,
  • The size of your staff,
  • Your ability to attract customers,
  • The time a shopper is willing to spend.

Your website does not have these limitations. Your rent does not double when you add new pages, nor do your utility expenses. Any emails you send will scale easily from a dozen to thousands of subscribers without skyrocketing in price.

Soap Stories

A permission marketing stream is easily begun by requesting email addresses at the point of sale. Some stores also tuck a card or flyer in with each purchase inviting customers to visit a website. That website continues the soap story told in the store. An email opt in on the website then promises to share information about specials or events.

Along with the specials and events, a store will tell the story of its soaps. Some soaps are designed to treat specific ailments. Others use aromatherapy to affect mood. Some have ingredients sourced in alignment with a customer’s worldview. Each soap has a collection of stories that will better acquaint the reader with the product and ignite the reader’s desire to own it.

Soap Surveys

New soap fragrances can be introduced in emails. Not through scratch-n-sniff technology, of course, but good copywriting will excite the senses and create a desire in the readers for new products.

With regular email contact, a store can learn in advance what fragrances interest customers. Many brands let subscribers vote on new products or recall discontinued scents they would like to see return to the shelves. This is almost-free market research.

Pulling In Repeat Customers

If a store is located in a mall or downtown district that hosts events, emails inviting subscribers to the events would serve to remind customers where the shop is located and drive repeat foot traffic. At any rate, every email reminds customers of the brand and strengthens their association with it.

If there is interest, a store can branch out to online sales.

Or not.

When you work a good permission stream, you can set some of the rules.

If your business moves enough capacity via stores, email can help increase the attraction and keep driving foot traffic while you steadfastly refuse to go global.

Online Case Study

After I wrote the first part of this post, I decided to see if there was an example of a handmade soap store using permission marketing techniques. I found an in-depth case study about Rocky Mountain Soap. It details the company’s position and marketing strategy in 2006. It’s a good read if you are in the business of selling soap.

The description of their brand positioning is similar to that which Lunn suggested. They were relying on their store personnel to sell the story of their 100% natural soap. In fact, they once discontinued a distribution plan with a store chain that couldn’t “provide customers with knowledgeable service and information about the products.”

Permission Marketing Sells Soap

However, according to this case study, Rocky Mountain Soap already understood the importance of permission marketing for selling their soap. They allocated only 3% of sales to advertising in 2006, and they “relied heavily on the Internet” for promotion. They were sending a monthly email newsletter and birthday promotions to customers. Apparently, they believed that a website and email marketing strategy gave them the same opportunity they would get in the storefronts to tell their brand story.

image of Rocky Mountain Soap header

They even committed to charging more for their products online to preserve the integrity of the store and wholesale pricing. (I think that’s a great example of a rule you can make when you are attracting customers.)

Growing In a Shrinking Economy

At that time, they had three stores and were planning an aggressive growth strategy that would be adding seven stores a year by 2008.

A visit to the Rocky Mountain Soap website today reveals that although growth hasn’t been as expansive as planned five years ago, they have grown from three to ten locations. Not bad for a bricks-and-mortar business these days.

What do you think? Is there a business model that you believe would not benefit from permission marketing?

handmade soap photo courtesy of necrocake

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Blogging for Business Benefit #8: Inspire New Marketing Pieces

A successful blog with regular updates will generate a lot of content. Think about it. Two posts a week at about 500 words each will yield over 50,000 words per year. Yes, this is wonderful for your search engine optimization strategy, but this also means you will accumulate a lot of raw content you can mine for future projects.

Mining for Gold

Once you have the words, you will find many ways to reuse your business blog content, especially if you have assigned categories and keywords to filter posts by topic. For example, at the bottom of this blog, you could click on Marketing to see all the other posts on this blog in this category. Alternatively, you could click on Blogs in you wanted to see those posts instead.

You can gather together topical posts and create:

  • An e-book you use as a giveaway for growing your email list;
  • A webinar for prospects or colleagues;
  • Educational materials for new employees.

The next time you need copy for a brochure or video, you can review what has struck a chord on your blog and use that content to shape your copy.

Evergreen Is Easier to Recycle

If your blog publishes a lot of news instead of evergreen content, you might find it takes a little more effort to recycle content. Still, when you report news, you are likely to have a lot of useful source links that give you a jump on researching a subject in depth, and in the right hands your news content can be shaped into something fresh and informative.

No matter what type of content you have on your blog, you can find ways to reuse your posts and make your blog work even harder for you.

Contact Tammi Kibler today to learn how a professional freelance writer can help you manage your blog and connect with your customers.

This is the eighth in a series of 10 benefits of blogging for business.

 

 

 

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Blogging for Business Benefit #7: Share Customer Testimonials

blogging for business testimonials imageYou may have a page on your website where you have posted customer testimonials. Potential clients can go there when they want to learn more about you.

Many sites also include testimonials on sales or products pages so interested prospects do not have to simply take their word for it.

However, these are rather passive places to leave positive buzz waiting for readers to find it. Your blog is the perfect place to pat yourself on the back from time to time and share the nice things people are saying about you and your company.

When someone thanks you for a successful transaction, a well-written blog post can include a reference to the customer’s appreciation without sounding like one long hooray for me horn toot.

Perhaps you can provide a case study or simply work the compliment into an explanation of what prospects can expect from doing business with you.

Depending on your business, testimonials may inspire other customers to share their success stories on your blog as well.

Even if you do not write testimonials into your posts, creating a friendly climate on your blog will prompt some customers to thank you in the comments. Just as your blog can attract unhappy customers, it can also draw praise that persists.

Contact Tammi Kibler today to learn how a professional freelance writer can help you create a blog that connects with your customers and promotes your business.

This is the seventh in a series of 10 benefits of blogging for business.

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Blogging for Business Benefit #6: Create Buzz

Blogging for Business Create Buzz imageBusiness blogs are a great way to introduce new products and services. You can even get valuable feedback to ensure your offerings are in line with customer expectations.

Customers who follow the conversation and contribute to the choices you make will feel invested in your products when they are released. They will feel like co-creators and will promote your offering.

Yes, you can get all that from your blog.

Instead of wasting money on focus groups and dubious marketing polls, you can go straight to the source and find out what your customers want most.

Involve Customers From the Start

As soon as your company starts considering a new product or service, drop some hints on the blog. Not only will you sow the seeds of interest with your readers, you will also leave breadcrumbs that people can go back and find when they wish to trace the genesis of your creation. Along with the steps you take to bring a new product or service to market, you write the story that will sell it.

Give the People What They Want

Poll your following for insights into their needs. Let them tell you what they want, so you can tailor your creation to meet an actual gap in the market. Launches fail to live up their promises when they satisfy the creative urges of their makers rather than the actual needs and desires of potential buyers.

They Will Put Words in Your Mouth

If you can get customers to share their deepest desires, some of their requests will inspire the copy you will use to sell your new product or service.

Imagine, you ask your customer what he wants, and he tells you exactly what he wishes someone would create. When you create that something, his original request will be a good description of your product. Furthermore, his words will sound completely authentic.

I know, it’s pretty cool.

Telling the Whole Story

Once you start creating, you will want to offer updates from time to time to keep readers aware of your progress. Take advantage of any opportunity to include them in decisions. Are you creating a product that will come in three colors? You could involve your readers in choosing one of the colors. Remember, the more involved they feel in the creation process, the more invested they will be in the success of your launch.

Heading for a Happy Ending

As I said, the entire process, from conception, to surveys that refine the creation, to the launch and success of the product or service, will become one of the stories that you tell on your blog. Your creation will be a narrative that blog readers will feel like they lived along with you, about a product they will feel they helped design.

Here’s a little ninja trick for your blog – when you launch your product, go back to all those early breadcrumbs and link them forward to your sales page. The search engines love when your pages are interlinked, and you will give every new reader a short cut to the product page.

Contact Tammi Kibler today to learn how a professional freelance writer can help you create a blog that connects with your customers and promotes your business.

This is the sixth in a series of ten benefits of blogging for business.

Posted in Blogs, Marketing | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Marketing Funnel Begins with a Website

marketing funnel website mansion imageThe first peg in an attraction marketing sequence is your online real estate or website. When people want to know more about you or your company, this is the place you will send them so they can opt in to everything else you develop.

Your website is like your switchboard years ago, only now customers can navigate themselves. You can fill your site with resources that are available 24/7,  and which do not require a live person to be immediately available to answer questions.

Let’s get a few objections out of the way:

I’m not big enough to need a website.

Everyone is big enough. You are clipping your own wings from the outset if you do not allow your enterprise to market online from your self-hosted domain.

I have a free blog on Blogspot.com or WordPress.com

Oh, I know. It’s so tempting to launch a site on a free platform. I did it myself last year. I had a great idea and I launched on Blogspot. Two months later, I knew I had a good thing going and I made the move to self-hosting.

I exported all the content to my new domain, but I couldn’t transfer the search engine juice. I had to start all over with a fresh domain, and suddenly, I was competing with myself. To this day, some of my crappy-looking Blogspot posts still outrank their counterparts on my optimized site.

image of marketing funnel website blog

Sure, I thought about killing the old posts, but each page carries a link to my domain, so they are not a total loss. I just wish I’d had the courage to commit from the start. Everything could have grown so much faster, and I would never have suffered the loss of momentum you get when you hit the reset button.

Who Makes the Rules?

Besides, there are limits on WordPress.com and Blogspot.com as explained in the terms of use. They decide when you cross the line and leave you without recourse to a third party. You can be cruising along thinking everything is fine, and one day, someone decides your activity violates their terms of service, and it is gone.

Seriously, it happened to Problogger, Darrin Rowse. In June 2011, YouTube (a Google property, as is Blogspot) decided to discontinue videos in the “make money online” niche and shut them all down, including the blogger that many consider the authority on building profitable blog businesses. Of course, he found recourse, he wields that power. For you or I, that channel would have been lost permanently.

I have a Facebook Fan Page

Please, do not believe your Facebook fan page supplants your need for a website. Your Facebook fan page has a lot of the limitations of an old fashioned ad in a phone book.

Yes, the phone book was great for getting your ad in front of 20th century customers and urging them to pick up the phone and call a number for more information. In the same way, a Facebook fan page can be great for getting your message in front of your customers, as long as you use it to direct them to take the next step and visit your website.

Changing the Lingo

Facebook frustrates when they change their format. From time to time, Facebook makes a change to their fan pages that requires page owners to redesign their pages. Remember when the “Become a Fan” button changed to “Like”? Every company that had invested in ads that said “become a fan” had to change to “like us.” Television ads, billboards, and landing pages had to be changed to reflect the new wording. And there’s nothing preventing Facebook from changing it again in the future.

No platform is free once you invest your time or money designing your presence on it, and nothing on Facebook guarantees you will not someday be asked to pay to keep your page.

As long as you are on Facebook, you have to put up and shut up, and be prepared to redesign as often as they choose to upgrade.

Which is fine, I suppose, as long Facebook sends traffic to your website, and it is not the basket that holds all your eggs.

Who Owns the Content?

Did I mention content issues too? No? Well, we don’t have time for that today. Suffice it to say that you want to put as much content as possible on real estate you own outright – your self-hosted domain.

If you need help setting up a website, shoot me an email message (tammi at tammikibler dot com) and let me know where you stand. I can help you set up your first website and get you started on the WordPress content management system. Your site can be the first stop on your prospects’ journeys to becoming paying customers.

mansion image courtesy of Doug Wertman

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