Friday, June 24, 2011

Let's Talk Blogs

Let’s talk blogs today………

Years ago the idea of individuals publishing regular articles on the internet was crazy.  Today, the number of personal blogs is estimated to have exceeded 100 million.  WordPress alone has more than 47 million blogs and counting.  There are more than 300,000 new posts written per day and more than 250,000 comments generated.
There are some simple tips to starting and maintaining a successful blog.  First step is to select a hosting platform for your efforts. is a popular choice but there are many others to choose from.  Spend some time “Google-ing” free blogs hosts and you’ll find a vast selection to choose from.
Next, you need to decide on a topic niche.  You’ll want to stay pretty focused on a particular topic so you can engage your readers and develop a following.  It’s ok to stray once in a while if you have an issue of great interest.  I wrote one about Derek Jeter joining the Red Sox when the Yankees were have contract trouble with him last winter.
Here’s a tip I highly recommend you follow.  The blog host you choose will have an option for you to compose your post directly within their software.  Don’t even think about doing it this way. After learning the hard way, I now write my posts in Microsoft Word and then copy and paste into the blogging software.  You’ll understand why if you ever have lost your internet connection.  You lose all of your previous work and have to start all over.

Next, you have to be sure to keep your information relative and accurate.  Use links where possible to support your statements and try to use hyperlinks rather than shortened url’s.  It gives your posts a cleaner look.  You can find it under the insert menu in Microsoft Word. (another free tip……hyperlinks work great in emails too!)
Start distributing your blog posts to your close friends via email.  If they like your writings, ask them to share with their friends.  You’ll start building a distribution list which will grow as you become more active.
It is essential you use social media to advertise and promote your writings or it will be nearly impossible to grow your following and get the visibility you’re looking for. Post new entries on Facebook and Twitter.  There are also lots of free publishing sites you can use like and
Follow these simple steps to get started on your blog and remember to have fun with it.  It can be an enjoyable pastime once you get started.  If you’re doing it for business purposes, remember to stay focused on your readers interests and don’t make your blog a constant sales pitch.  Delivering useful information is the key to developing a successful blog.
Let’s hear about your tips for a successful blog program and see if we can get some great ideas going forward…..

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Business Growth Promoted Through Consumer Conversations

A lot of companies today have realized that their brand is an important thing to protect. They’ve developed SEO strategies to push their names higher on Google and Bing searches. Executives have come to realize they need to monitor and respond to the conversations taking place on line about their products. Some businesses have even taken to scrutinize the discussions taking place about their key employees.

But the one thing most firms have neglected to include in their social programs is perhaps the most important capability: sales lead generation.

Yes, social media programs can actually be tailored to produce high quality, readily available sales leads. The key questions here is “How could you possibly get real revenue producing leads from social media?”

Simple. A high quality social intelligence program goes much further than keeping an eye on Facebook and Twitter for people talking about your company. The provider will “listen” for the conversations taking place across all sources, including among others personal & business blogs, news media, consumer boards, and traditional ad campaigns. The key component of the program requires real human interaction at this point to streamline the conversations into useful data. Without the human factor, the program will produce so many “hits” that the information becomes muddled. An expert analyst will filter through the conversations and aggregate the relative discussions to present to your staff.

A key information topic many companies neglect is to follow their competition. By following your competitors closely, you'll be able to respond to new ads and products, react to changes in the market, and most importantly, find out who your competitors’ customers are. By following a competitor’s brand, you can listen for consumer sentiment on their offerings. Opportunity often develops when a consumer has been disappointed in their expectations for some reason.

As an example of what I’m referring to here, if a person is complaining on Facebook about their Kia (nothing personal here folks at Kia, just an example; it could be easily switched around the other way) being in the shop all the time, it would be a great time for a Chevrolet dealer to send some information to the consumer. Maybe a friendly post on their wall or a quick “tweet” on an upcoming sales event could generate a new customer.

By finding out your competitor is holding an event like a webinar or luncheon with a keynote speaker, it gives your marketing staff a chance to monitor the program and respond accordingly. If you look deep enough, it may even be possible to find an attendee list or program agenda. 

Acquiring new business and keeping satisfied clients are the long term keys to any successful business plan. We have emerged today into an information rich society with millions of people talking and tweeting and posting on a daily basis. It is imperative business don’t ignore the conversations and they must react accordingly. The only way you can react accordingly is to know what is being said.

I ‘d enjoy hearing how all of you are handling your on-line listening and what types of programs you’ve put in place to respond to what you’re hearing.

If you want some direction on launching your listening and reacting program, please contact me directly on Twitter @DaveHanron or via email at

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Is Your Business Engaged with the Consumer?

How engaged is your company?  Have you added an interactive component to your web site so Consumers can share their sentiments?  Do you have a full time staff whose function it is to listen and react to your Customers’ comments and concerns?

The explosive growth of today’s social channels like Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, Digg, Linkedin, Consumer Complaints, and many, many more has created an instant need for businesses to respond publicly to the conversations and topics brought forth through social channels.
Only a few short years ago, the typical business website would contain non “click-able” pages of information for a Consumer to review. There’d be pages for product descriptions, the dreaded  “About Us” page that is only read by sales people, and usually some legal stuff like privacy disclosures. The leading edge companies might have had a video of some sort but the with the dial up internet connections of years ago, many Consumers couldn’t realize the true benefits of video.  All this has changed with the readily available high speed connections most of us have today.
These days if your company doesn’t have a “page” on Facebook, a “username” on Twitter and Digg, or a “profile” on Linkedin, you’re business is not involved in the social conversation and may be doing tremendous harm to your business name and brand.  By not participating, you are taking one of the biggest risks of your professional career :  not knowing what is being said about you! 
Years ago, it was pretty difficult for a single Consumer to cause any harm or add any significant value to a business reputation.  Methods of communication were pretty limited.  Maybe the Consumer could file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, or write an editorial in your local paper, maybe even call in to a local radio station and get 30 seconds of air time, but ultimately, there weren’t a lot of options and the audience was very limited. 
Same problem with a recommendation.  If a Consumer had a great meal at a restaurant or received excellent service from their cable company (I know, that’s highly unlikely) options for praise were just as limited. Maybe a call to the owner of the business or a letter of praise about the specific employees involved, but again, unless someone saw the letter of praise hanging on a wall somewhere, there was not a great deal of benefit for the company to be derived from this type of positive feedback.
Today’s social media channels have changed all this.  A Consumer actively involved with Twitter or Facebook can literally have millions of “Followers” or “Fans” they can reach out to instantly and either positive or negative feedback can have a dramatic impact on a business or brand.  Comments can spread like wildfire, allowing a single point of view to go viral and become known worldwide almost instantly.  If not handled appropriately, the results could be catastrophic for a business.  For example, the data breach Sony experienced with their Playstation 3 online was publicized worldwide only moments after it happened.  It involved up to 77 million Consumers!  Think of how many X-Boxes must have been sold in the following weeks because people were afraid to be compromised using a Sony Playstation?  Sony has been trying to repair their reputation ever since.
In order to effectively protect your business name and brand, you need to develop a social strategy to gather information, and engage your Customers and potential Customers.  Add a blog to your web page, create a “feedback” page for your Customers to use, consider a “live chat” feature to interact immediately, and add video sessions to your site and if possible, use different employees when you film them.  We all like to see fresh faces and it creates a picture of a more diverse company if you have more faces in front of the public.
How many people remember the auto attendant “Claire” from Sprint PCS?........A big pet peeve of mine is on the “Contact Us” pages where you click on it and it goes to an email address like  I always recommend to businesses that they make this piece more personal, and have it go to a person of some sort.  It doesn’t have to be a real person, but it can be made to appear as one.  Many companies have created “People” to engage Consumers.  Just create an email that goes to something like and you’ll get a lot better feedback.  You can still route it to a group of support reps if that’s your plan but it definitely gives a better personal presentation that the Consumers' experience with your brand matters to your business.
And lastly and most importantly, you must monitor the social conversations about your company and brand.  You need to develop a staff to listen and react to any publicity, either negative or positive about your products.  If you respond quickly to negative discussions, you will limit the impact of them.  If you respond to positive praise, you will gain tremendous benefits from the good publicity.  You’ll need to contract with a company to provide the monitoring capabilities for your business and then create a plan to deal with what you uncover.  If you search within your existing staff and don’t have the required skill set to handle this task internally, don’t ignore it as it will not be going away any time soon…….Outsource the process to a professional.
Contact me @DaveHanron on Twitter or leave me a comment and I’ll be happy to assist in your selection of a supplier for your social media research or development.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Buttons, Buttons, & More Buttons --Where Does It Stop?

Buttons, buttons, and more buttons……..
First we had the “Follow Me” button from Twitter.  Originally, this button would link a reader to a Twitter account and you would have to manually follow the individual or business.  This button did allow readers to easily link an individual to their personal Twitter account and follow their tweets. It simply was a two step process.  You see this button on virtually everything these days, from blogs, to news articles, to corporate websites, to TV shows and movies.
Shortly after the “Follow Me” button, Twitter announced a new “Follow” button which eliminated the two step process and automatically starts following the individual or business without ever leaving the web page.
Then there is the “Tweet” button.  On August 12, 2010, Twitter launched the “Tweet” button.  This button allows you to share links directly from the page you’re on. When you click on the Tweet Button, a Tweet box will appear -- pre-populated with a shortened url link that points to the item that you’re sharing.  This made the act of tweeting something much more simple.
The buttons don’t end with Twitter.  Facebook has gotten into the act with their “Like” and “Share” buttons.  On April 21, 2010, Facebook announced the new “Like” button which allows users to show their approval of any piece of content on these sites with one click. You can also include a little note saying why you like the item.   The “Like” button has basically replaced the “Share” button.

On June 1st, 2011, the social media company Klout launched it’s “+Klout” button which allows people logging into their dashboard to add “Klout” to any of their peers spheres of influence like social media, technology, music, films, sports, etc.  Each day, Klout users get 5 “+Klout’s” to add to whomever they wish.
Google has jumped into the fray with it’s “+1” button.  This allows users the add their support to any article or website they visit, helping to push the site up in Google’s SEO ranking.  As Google’s web crawlers scour the web, they  will see the “+1’s” on sites and place them higher on their credibility scale.

Don’t forget Linkedin.  They don’t want to be left out of the button craze.  Linkedin has the “Linkedin Share”, “Login with Linkedin” and “View My Profile on Linkedin” buttons.

Digg, the social news website, has the “Digg This” button where you vote for the content of an article, pushing it up higher on the distribution pages.

Bottom line here is every social media type site we have been exposed to is trying to find ways to get it’s presence included on as many sites as possible.  It’s too early to tell if there is any type of underlying data mining going on with these buttons.  Are they recording topics we “Like” and “Digg” for future marketing purposes?  The official responses to this may be “no” but do we believe it?  I really want to as I enjoy the social media world and find the more social intelligence I’m able to gather, the better off I am.
But remember, the use of these buttons is exploding in volumes.  According to a May 24, 2011 interview with Techcrunch Disrupt, Carolyn Everson, Vice President of Global Advertising Sales at Facebook, revealed that 50 million likes are clicked for brands each day.
I’m sure I’ve missed lots of buttons and would love to hear from my readers on any I’ve missed…I’d like to see how many we can actually come up with.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Looking To Cut Operating Costs?

Looking to cut operating costs?   Monthly Real estate bills taking a bite out of your receivables?  Insurance premiums on the rise?  Payroll costs soaring?

These are all major concerns for today’s small and mid-sized businesses.  These day to day incidentals are necessary evils to stay in business and keep your company operating.  Or are they?
These escalating expenses are perhaps the largest concern of business owners and operators today.  Many product lines require a certain number of staff and inventory in order to keep the operation running effectively.  Over the last 5 years, a new class of businesses has been developed to address just this area of concern.
Business Process Outsourcing” or “BPO” companies have sprouted across the country.  These BPO companies have made it their business to offer the back office services that many of today’s smaller businesses require to operate.  BPO companies can provide the staffing necessary to service, maintain, connect, deliver, invoice, and collect for the services your company may offer today.  All of these services are available without the overhead of real estate costs for the call center or warehouse facility.  No insurance premiums to cover health, dental, or life insurance for the employees.   No lost or down time because of short staff during the summer months when vacation time is at a premium.
Outsourcing has been around for many years.  I’m sure all of us have heard the commercials featuring

Bob, from Account Temps”

where an employee is attempting to disguise his voice, calling in sick to his manager, only to be told

“Not to worry, Bob’s here.  Bob from Account Temps.  Bob has finished the reports you’ve had on your desk and reorganized the President’s files.   Why don’t you take the rest of the week off?  We’ll be fine.  Bob’s here!”. 

Well, you know the rest of the storyline but you understand where I’m heading.

Outsourcing for back office business needs has become a big business in and of itself.  The BPO companies are able to take advantage of the “demand” for staffing and services by providing the “supply” of labor and IT products to fulfill the needs of their customers, the small and mid-sized business owner.   Need a new phone switch for your call center?  Don’t spend $300k to $600k on new switch and phones.  Consider “Outsourcing” it to a BPO company and let them do the work for you.  Maybe outsource the call center function as well?  (and don’t be concerned about shipping jobs “overseas”….. There are plenty of BPO companies operating 100% within the United States).  
We all know the best way to grow any business is to add new  revenue producing customers.  Improving back office equipment is great when times are good but in today's tight economic situation why not consider an alternative?  In exchange for reasonable pay as you go fees, you can take the capital saved on the asset purchase and put it towards marketing and sales, which will help grow your business, not simply keep it operating in place.
In earlier years, outsourcing was limited to on site replacement labor of temporary workers.  Today’s BPO companies have taken it a step further and moved to providing off-site labor and IT services, covering a wide variety of on-demand business services as needed.  All benefits and salaries, real estate fees, insurance premiums, and operating licenses are the responsibility of the BPO companies.

If you are interested in outsourcing some or all of your business needs, or have any questions or comments,  please leave a comment here on the blog or you can reach out to me directly at @DaveHanron on Twitter or you can email me at
If I don’t have a product to meet your needs, I have lots of business contacts I can get you in touch with to help……