Social Media: In It for the Money

Posted by Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth is Vice President of Marketing for Comparz.com and founder and Director of eMatrix Media Comm...
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on Friday, 09 December 2011
in Social Media

Nimble, which has been a free social CRM tool, is about to begin charging $15 per month for business users. Said Nimble CEO Jon Ferrara in an e-mail: “It would be wonderful if we could offer Nimble for free for everyone forever; however, I know you can understand that to continue to grow and meet the needs of our users, and to continue providing super cool new technologies, it is necessary to monetize our platform.”

This is the reality of business of course.  Most companies cannot do business for free.

If the movie “The Social Network” is an accurate illustration, the driving force behind Mark Zuckerberg and his cohorts in creating Facebook was not to delight their users, but to make a billion dollars.

Ditto for companies like Microsoft, whose many trials, fines, and sanctions showed how the company was more obsessed with controlling the market and killing competitors than delighting customers. In the process, Microsoft often was taken to task for bundling, tying, undermining standards, and putting out immature, insecure, and buggy products to gain an edge or establish a foothold in a market sector. Microsoft's marketing, meanwhile, had a very cheery, friendly, "where do want to go today" demeanor.

Money and control continue to be the main concern of Facebook, Twitter, and Google as they engage in an escalating race to out-monetize one another, embedding more and more advertising in their services and exploiting user data, often at the expense of pleasing their users.

The commotion engulfing Klout also centers on this theme—Klout’s seeming indifference to its users and the willingness to exploit their data.

While companies may talk about delighting their customers, this is usually recognized as a means to an end, rather than the end itself. 

Consultants like Peppers & Rogers, meanwhile, have made an entire career out of telling companies that the way to succeed is to care about your customers—which shows that this is something companies need to learn.

The saccharine façade that pervades many organizations and their “About Us” and mission statements is another story.

To truly please their customers would require many companies to scrap or completely overhaul their products, services, and cultures. This is rarely done. More often the modus operandi is to “perfume the pig” and “sell what’s on the truck.” Ever heard of cloud washing?

This same mentality is seen in the treatment of workers in today’s economy. Recall IBM CEO Sam Palmisano in the news with President Obama, smiling and pledging to support Obama’s effort to act responsibly to help stimulate jobs and end the recession, while the next day IBM secretly laid off thousands of workers and denied it to the media, while raking in billions in profits that quarter.

In the movie “Assassination of a High School President” the voice on the phone says, “Let me give you a freebie, kid. Money's got something to do with everything.”

Current movies like “Inside Job,” Margin Call,” and “The Ides of March” offer an accurate reflection of where we are.

The joke here is that “transparency” is the wisdom so often prescribed for succeeding in social media.

Along these lines, Olivier Blanchard wrote an excellent blog in which he says, “You already know what’s right. And by ‘right,’ I don’t just mean ‘ethical’ or what you can get away with. I mean ‘right.’ Do that.” 

Great advice.

There are, of course, companies that care about their customers, employees, and society at large (and Nimble may be one of them). But so many seem not to be.

 

Comparz provides user reviews and rankings of software services and tools for small and mid-sized businesses. Click here to view Comparz' business software reviews and rankings.

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Adding Video to Your Website: Easier Said Than Done

Posted by Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth is Vice President of Marketing for Comparz.com and founder and Director of eMatrix Media Comm...
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on Thursday, 08 December 2011
in Video

Putting videos on your website, or on external sites like YouTube, is a way to add pizzazz to your online marketing and be on the leading edge. 

A video can boost your SEO ranking and the popularity of your company and products, which is why so many marketers hope to score a hit by going viral on YouTube.

As Daryn Zack of Total Traffic Source relates, “Video marketing is one of the hottest marketing tools on the net right now. If you don’t have a video working for you on some of the most popular video sites out there, you are missing major traffic and exposure.”

What types of video might you post or circulate? Tutorials, product demos, engaging commentary on issues in your field, either serious or humorous, are possibilities.

Video, however, is an order of magnitude more difficult than posting an image or blog to your website.  While some small businesses may have that rare employee with a knack for recording, converting, editing, and posting a video, most small businesses lack the necessary technical and artistic ability.

For those willing to try, tutorials abound on how to create and post videos.  However, the tutorials only seem to highlight the complexity of creating online video, which involves digesting and choosing among a bevy of tools, techniques, and formats—then mastering those tools and techniques.

The alternative to rolling your own is to engage a professional video service. These can be found by searching online under “video services,” “corporate video services,” etc., and locating firms in your area. Some video agencies require you to call to discuss pricing, while others freely publish their pricing. The cost of a 60-second video typically ranges from $300 to $400, with a 90-second video in the $600 to $700 range.

These prices are certainly affordable, and for many resource-challenged small businesses will be the best way to go.

 

Comparz provides user reviews and rankings of software services and tools for small and mid-sized businesses. Click here to view Comparz' business software reviews and rankings.

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HubSpot Debuts Marketing Grader, a Cool New Assessment Tool

Posted by Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth is Vice President of Marketing for Comparz.com and founder and Director of eMatrix Media Comm...
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 07 December 2011
in Online Marketing

HubSpot just made available a new free tool called Marketing Grader that offers a detailed assessment of your online marketing efforts. The tool is an upgrade for HubSpot's five-year-old Website Grader and is more comprehensive. 

Marketing Grader is fast and easy. Simply plug in your website’s address, and if you like, the urls of two of your competitors, and Marketing Grader will generate a score from 0 to 100, like a Klout score for your online marketing efforts.

Scroll down the results page, and Marketing Grader will provide a fairly detailed analysis of what is working and lacking in three key areas: Top of the Funnel, Middle of the Funnel, and Analytics, including assessments of your SEO, mobile, social media efforts, and more.

Marketing Grader offers tidbits like how often your company was mentioned on Twitter in the last 24 hours, how many fans your business page has, and how many of your last 10 tweets were replies to somebody else.

Your results will include tips and suggestions on how to improve your marketing, such as a list of Top 3 Things To Do, with suggestions like:

  1. Get more inbound links to your website.
  2. Tweet more frequently.
  3. Reply to individuals on Twitter to be more conversational.

Marketing Grader’s results mix general marketing observations with a sprinkling of survey data. For example it tells you that “Creating, optimizing, and promoting content are keys to filling the top of your sales and marketing funnel with more website traffic and leads” and complements this bit of advice with, “The good news is that companies who create, optimize and promote their blogs get 55% more traffic and 70% more leads than those who don't.”

Using Marketing Grader is fascinating and fun, although its assessments may miss the mark in certain areas (for example, telling you to work on converting leads to sales, even if you don’t sell anything on your site), and you may take issue with any number of the results you receive. Overall, Marketing Grader provides a general barometer of your marketing that you should find interesting and useful.

 

Comparz provides user reviews and rankings of software services and tools for small and mid-sized businesses. Click here to view Comparz' business software reviews and rankings.

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Master Tips for Selecting a Marketing Automation System

Posted by Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth is Vice President of Marketing for Comparz.com and founder and Director of eMatrix Media Comm...
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 06 December 2011
in All-in-One Marketing Solutions

Marketing automation consultant David Raab has compiled a nice set of advisory tips and gotcha’s for selecting a marketing automation system.

The current state of the art in vendor selection, Raab says, is abysmal, with 50% of organizations considering only one vendor, and 66% relying primarily on internal meetings. Only 19% perform a formal needs assessment and only 25% set up a pilot test.

In a nutshell, Raab’s “Seven Deadly Sins of Marketing System Selection” are:

  1.  Ignoring users
  2.  Lack of purpose
  3.  Not defining requirements
  4.  Only considering industry leaders
  5.  Letting the vendor drive the discussion
  6.  Focusing on functions
  7.  Working without experts

Raab warns against buying without concrete objectives; choosing systems based on who has the most, best, or coolest features; not using scenarios to test systems against your needs; ignoring the information you can gather from references; and not investing in training, planning, program design, content, and other resources for successful deployment.

Defining your organization’s needs and setting goals is critical and is worth the effort, says Raab. Most vendors will give you a trial license if they believe you are seriously considering their product, and this gives you a chance to test the system thoroughly against all the demands you have defined. “If that sounds like too much work,” says Raab, “bear in mind that you’ll need those programs after deployment anyway.”

Raab also warns against relying on social media queries as a replacement for checking references. Why is social media product research unreliable? “Apart from dedicated grudge-holders,” he says, “few businesspeople will volunteer negative feedback in social media: they can only get in trouble and there’s nothing in it for them.”

If you do rely on the social media, Raab advises, “contact the people who respond and have an in-depth conversation asking the same questions you would ask the vendor’s own references.”

 

Comparz provides user reviews and rankings of software services and tools for small and mid-sized businesses. Click here to view Comparz' business software reviews and rankings.

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    Daniel says #
    Great post – this is actually why we came up with http://www.oktopost.com...

SEO for Small Business: Tips, Traps, and Costs

Posted by Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth is Vice President of Marketing for Comparz.com and founder and Director of eMatrix Media Comm...
User is currently offline
on Monday, 05 December 2011
in Online Marketing

SEO, along with social media, is the marketing tactic small businesses said they would pursue most and spend the most money on in 2011 and 2012, according to surveys.

When asked by MarketingSherpa what they found to be the most effective SEO tactics, all businesses responded with the following top five:

  • Keyword research
  • On-page content optimization
  • Title tag optimization
  • Link building
  • Meta tag and meta description

Small businesses ranked content optimization slightly higher than keyword search, a result MarketingSherpa said was surprising but could be an indication that this group is the most eager to get results fast. However,  MarketingSherpa warns, if you implement an SEO plan without thorough keyword research, “you’re setting yourself up to get poor results.”

Overall, MarketingSherpa found that “Marketing departments that truly understand SEO want to spend more on it.”

However, therein lies the rub. As Laurie Sullivan pointed out in “Small Business Owners Still Don’t Get Search Marketing,” SEO “isn't the easiest online marketing tactic to learn…Nor is it easy for small companies to find a reputable small agency to outsource the work.”

Which leads to the question, how much does outside SEO help cost for a small business? BrightLocal’s 2011 Local SEO Industry Survey of more than 1,150 SEO providers showed that 59% of full local SEO campaign pricing fell into the $500 to $5,000 range and that most local SEO firms charge from $500 to $1,000 for a full local SEO campaign. 

In seeking outside SEO help, as Rachel Blankstein warned, an uneducated small business risks being sold a bill of goods. This warning is echoed by Chris Nielsen of Domain Incubation, who writes that, “Small businesses that are scared off from search marketing are the lucky ones. Most that try it wind up spending a lot of money and getting very little in return.”

As Sullivan notes, “There is a dizzying array of strategies, knowledge and tactics required to plan, budget and execute” an SEO campaign.

Before plunging into SEO, small businesses should do their homework and learn all the elements and tactics that comprise an SEO campaign, then check the reputation and references of potential SEO providers before handing them their business.

 

Comparz provides user reviews and rankings of software services and tools for small and mid-sized businesses. Click here to view Comparz' business software reviews and rankings.

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What You Need to Know Before Hiring an SEO Firm or Service

Posted by Rachel Blankstein
Rachel Blankstein
Rachel is a serial entrepreneur with a successful track record in launching businesses. Rachel launched and gr...
User is currently offline
on Friday, 02 December 2011
in Online Marketing

While increasing numbers of SMBs recognize the importance of SEO, it is a very broad term, which means many different things and of which many of us have little knowledge.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say “I need to hire someone to do SEO,” but they are clueless as to what that actually means.  The result is that some SEO service providers will take advantage of that lack of knowledge. 

The first thing to realize is that SEO is a confluence of different skill sets, all of which you may not receive from one provider, even though they provide SEO services.  In addition, SEO is not a one-shot development effort, but a constant, ongoing process for your business. Thus, you cannot hire someone to “do SEO” for two weeks and think that you are done.

SEO in large part has to do with having highly relevant, highly interesting content.  That is what the search engines are seeking, and if you provide it they will reward you by placing you well in their organic results.

So you need to make sure you are covered across all the basic SEO components, which include:

  • URL Construction—Ensuring that your URLs are constructed properly so that the search engines can read them properly. HTML/CSS coders generally handle this SEO component.
  • Page Titles, Meta Tags and Image Tags—This is another way of telling the search engines what is on your page.  Page titling, meta tags and image tags can be done within a Content Management System by a non-technical type.  If you do not have a Content Management system (which is not a good idea), you will need an HTML/CSS coder to put in the terms.  However, the page titles and other words need to be highly relevant to the content on the page and then also highly relevant to the keywords you are targeting.
  • Content—The most critical part of SEO is having relevant, regular, timely content.  The more of this you have, the more the search engines will like your site and the more that others will mention links to your site on their sites or via social media.  Content generation and dissemination is a writer/marketer’s job and is of course a completely different skill set than the person ensuring that your URLS are being created properly.
  • Keywords—Choosing keywords that match the terms that users type into search engines is critical for your pages to achieve a high ranking. You should research the appropriate keywords and make sure they are embedded in your content, titles, link descriptions, etc.
  • Links—The quality of the links that link to your site are considered in search engine rankings.  The general rule is to not to have too many (more than 10 to 20) links per page. 
  • Site Map Submissions—This can be done by anyone but is usually done by a technical person.  This ensures that a continuous feed of your site map (what your site is about) is being given to the search engines.  That way when they crawl your site they have a “map” to understanding what is there.

SEO experts will employ a number of techniques to optimize your site for search engines—such as configuring your robots.txt file to direct crawlers in the most optimal way, and performing practices such as canonicalization, the art of making duplicate content appear as one item to a search engine crawler, using technique such as 301 redirects.

To properly "do SEO" you need to have all these bases covered. It can be different people or firms doing the work since it involves different skill sets. Your web development shop may be able to handle the HTML component but not be able to create compelling content. A good SEO firm should have all of the right skill sets in house. Without knowing everything that comprises SEO, you risk paying a lot of money without receiving the results you seek.

 

Comparz provides user reviews and rankings of software services and tools for small and mid-sized businesses. Click here to view Comparz' business software reviews and rankings.

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Google Search Gets Fresh, Finally

Posted by Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth is Vice President of Marketing for Comparz.com and founder and Director of eMatrix Media Comm...
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 01 December 2011
in Online Marketing

One of the most annoying, and unproductive, aspects of Google has been to search for recent news or information and receive results that are years or decades old.

Anyone who has used Goggle as a serious search tool has encountered this frustrating problem. Searches for company financials or product areas would yield results from five or 10 years ago. Even searches for TV and movie schedules would bring up stale results.

Google finally has addressed the issue, announcing a major overhaul in its ranking algorithm that will be geared towards producing fresh results.

Google Fellow Amit Singhal announced the change using the homey analogy, “Search results, like warm cookies right out of the oven or cool refreshing fruit on a hot summer’s day, are best when they’re fresh.”

Singhal likened the significance of the freshness upgrade to last year’s Caffeine web indexing change that added a jolt of speed to Google's search results, and said the new change would impact from 6% to 35% of searches, depending on the topic.

When you search for information about a presidential election or annual conference, noted Singhal, “it’s implied that you expect to see the most recent event, and not one from 50 years ago.”

Now when you search for current events like “occupy oakland protest” or “nba lockout, he said, “you’ll see more high-quality pages that might only be minutes old.” 

How will the change affect companies’ online marketing and SEO efforts? It’s too early to tell, but as James A. Martin on Social Media Today says, “it's pretty safe to say that being topical whenever possible—in your social media updates, blog posts, press releases, and other content—may help that content rank well in Google searches.”

 

Comparz provides user reviews and rankings of software services and tools for small and mid-sized businesses. Click here to view Comparz' business software reviews and rankings.

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Death Knell Sounds for Google+ Business Pages

Posted by Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth is Vice President of Marketing for Comparz.com and founder and Director of eMatrix Media Comm...
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 30 November 2011
in Online Marketing

It is too early to call Google+ Pages for business a complete bust. However, based on a lackluster start, critics are beginning to pronounce the service dead.

“Evidence That Google Plus Business Pages Are Dying A Slow Death Already,” writes Niall Harbison, who has been monitoring the activity of Google+ Pages by major brands such as Coca Cola, Pepsi, Volkswagen, McDonalds, and Adidas.

While these brands have bustling Facebook pages, she finds that the activity on their Goggle+ Pages has been anemic, with few posts and weak engagement levels.  

Looking at Pepsi’s Google+ Page, for example, she notes that “they have not posted an update in nearly three weeks, showing that they may already have lost interest in Google+ as a platform.”

Similarly, for Volkswagen she finds that, “Their main page has a paltry 1,600 people following it and their latest status update has no comments or reshares at all.”

Harbison’s findings jibe with those of BrightEdge, which in its November 2011 “Tracking Social Adoption and Trends,” reports that while 61% of the top 100 brands have established Google+ Pages, no brand other than Google had more than 50,000 Google+ fans, and more than two dozen of the top 100 brands had zero Google+ fans.

The BrightEdge findings prompted Seth Fiegerman to write that “Google+ Pages Are Officially a Failure (So Far).”  Relating the disappointing stats, Fiegerman writes that “two dozen companies had no fans whatsoever and others such as McDonalds and Verizon were stuck in the dozens, despite the fact that many have hundreds of thousands if not millions of fans on Facebook.”

BrightEdge found that only 12% of the top brands on Google+ mentioned those pages on their company website, which Fiegerman says may suggest a deeper problem, that “businesses may have created a page just to do it but have little interest in promoting it.”  

Although he believes Google+ Pages have promise if they can be integrated in Google searches, “at the moment,” he writes, “it’s hard enough to find a company’s page when searching on Google+, let alone to stumble onto a page while browsing elsewhere online. If that doesn’t change, Google+ Pages will stay dead.”

It looks like Google+ Pages have a steep hill to climb to pose a threat to Facebook. As Bill Gates used to say during the browser share wars, we’ll be watching the metrics.

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  • Mantis
    Mantis says #
    Ok, i know this is WAAAAAAY later, but here goes(might have written a new article about this, i dont know, just found this 1) The...

Head to Head: MailChimp vs. AWeber for E-Mail Marketing

Posted by Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth is Vice President of Marketing for Comparz.com and founder and Director of eMatrix Media Comm...
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 29 November 2011
in Email Marketing

E-mail marketing is growing in importance and spending among SMBs. Two of the top e-mail marketing services to consider are MailChimp and AWeber.

How do they compare? As usual, their appeal depends on your size, budget, and sophistication. Each has a devoted following that values particular features and capabilities.

MailChimp is low-cost and easy to use and has a strong reputation among small businesses and startups. AWeber has more powerful tracking and autorespond features and has a strong reputation among more sophisticated e-mail marketers. AWeber reportedly has forged close relationships with ISPs to ensure delivery, and users attest to its 99% to 100% delivery rates.

MailChimp has more basic autorespond and tracking features, but excellent spam filters that boost its deliverability rates. As our user reviews show, SMB customers value MailChimp’s ease of use and pricing.

Users also tend to find MailChimp to be more “fun” and cite its clean and modern user interface and quick learning curve. MailChimp has a host of modern features (merge tags, comments, inbox inspector, A/B split testing), and users find its social media features, API, and overall integration capabilities to be richer.

AWeber offers more support options, including phone support, which MailChimp lacks. MailChimp provides mobile support (iPhone and Android), which AWeber lacks.

With its service free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 1,200 e-mails per month, MailChimp has the edge in cost for a startup or small business with smaller e-mail lists and transmission requirements.  

Beyond 2,000 subscribers and for unlimited e-mails, the pricing of MailChimp and AWeber is fairly close.

AWeber’s pricing starts at $19 per month, with a $1 special price for the first month, for up to 500 subscribers and unlimited e-mails. Beyond 500 subscribers, you pay extra per month, from $10 per month for up to 2,500 subscribers, to $130 per month for up to 25,000 subscribers.

Bottom Line: MailChimp and AWeber have solid reputations and devoted followers who appreciate the strengths of each product—MailChimp for ease of use, customization, “fun” factor, host of modern features, and free entry-level cost, and AWeber for more sophisticated management, tracking, and deliverability capabilities. Try both for virtually free, and choose the one that matches your needs and tastes.   

 

 

Comparz provides user reviews and rankings of software services and tools for small and mid-sized businesses. Click here to view Comparz' business software reviews and rankings.

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  • Ronald Earl Wilsher
    Ronald Earl Wilsher says #
    I’ve tried both and much prefer MailChimp for it’s ease of use because many of my clients are entry level. Having said that, I’ve ...

How to Save Money on Google AdWords

Posted by Rachel Blankstein
Rachel Blankstein
Rachel is a serial entrepreneur with a successful track record in launching businesses. Rachel launched and gr...
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 29 November 2011
in Online Marketing

Check your AdWords account or ask your AdWords firm about how they are handling a concept called “broad match.”  Yes, this is a detail that you may not know about that could be costing you A LOT of money.  We all know AdWords can be a very effective method of obtaining relevant traffic and leads for your business.  But it also tends to be a very costly method for customer acquisition, and as such, it is important to understand the details in order to optimize your results.

All AdWords campaigns are automatically defaulted to “broad match.”  What this means is that if you selected the term “payroll solutions” to be one of your search terms, your ad will show on Google’s paid results for keywords that include both “payroll” or “solutions.”  This means that your keyword will be displayed in a lot of search results that are not very relevant, and any clicks are likely to be a waste of money. 

To turn off “broad match” you click on the checkbox to the left of a particular keyword.  Then you click on “edit” which is on the grey menu bar just above the keywords.  Then you select “edit in table” where you can change it to “exact match.”  You need to manually perform this operation for every keyword in your campaign.  While having your keyword on “exact match” will decrease your clicks, it will increase your quality and therefore your cost per acquisition.

Now, why does Google require you to manually turn on exact match for every keyword?  It’s clearly a way for them to make more money and provide you with more clicks, but not necessarily the right choice for your business.  For some companies with very large budgets, the broad match may make sense, but it would still need to be evaluated on a keyword-by-keyword basis…

 

Comparz provides user reviews and rankings of software services and tools for small and mid-sized businesses. Click here to view Comparz' business software reviews and rankings.

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  • Danielle MacInnis
    Danielle MacInnis says #
    Great information. Exact match and value for dollar is information that small businesses need to consider. Also is the call to act...

The Thin Line Between Love and Spam in Email Marketing

Posted by Corey Babka
Corey Babka
As a consultant, assist over 300 clients nationwide to better use their CRM software, making them more product...
User is currently offline
on Monday, 28 November 2011
in Email Marketing

As email marketing services have become more prevalent in today's marketing efforts, so has the ability for the common email newbie to become the next spammer.  Email clients intercept your well-intentioned emails for garbage, folks delete others based solely on the images, and junk folders continue to get filled, leaving you unable to successfully deliver your promotion or newsletter on which you have worked so hard.

So how do we battle this?  How do we make sure that our messages get to their intended recipient?   There are a few things that I will lay out here, but keep in mind this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to getting those messages mailed out and read.  Email marketing has become a science in itself, but it's a heck of a time to get involved if you're not already.

  • Watch your language — Avoid words that spam killers look for like "free" and "money." While you mean well, if your email contains these words, it may well end up in a junk folder, or even worse, eliminated at the mail server where no one will ever see it.  Some of the email services like ConstantContact.com actually have an "anti-spam checker" to give you an idea of whether your email will be seen as legit or spam by most filters.
  • Avoid too many images —  Let's face it, pictures are usually worth more than the words on the page.  That's who we are, we love pictures.  However, the tendency is to have way too many images, which then become "marketing noise." Remember, you want to tease the reader, making them want more.  That's where you make those images hyperlinks to your web page or links to your product pages, really reeling them in.  Oh, and before I forget—NO TEXT AS IMAGES!  Keep in mind that many email clients (Outlook for example) do not download any images until the reader gives it permission.  If you have very little text and all images (including text banners that are images), your email will just look like a bunch of empty boxes with red X's prompting for download—at that point, the tendency is to just delete it because there's nothing to attract the reader. 

 

  • Always use the KISS method — Remember, the objective of your email is to lead your reader to your website, drop you an email, or even give a call.  Keeping that in mind, don't put too much on your email so they won't read it.  As readers, we tend to be lazy—get to the point or end up in the trash in many cases.  You want to drop hints for promotions or articles, using the phrase "click here for more" as much as possible.  In a newsletter for instance, a few well-placed paragraphs with "click for more" at the end of each allows the reader to pick and choose which articles pertain to them.  The click through is the real success factor in email marketing as getting them to visit and spend time on your website is time that they did NOT spend at your competitor.  Back to keeping it simple, just don't put too much on the page.  Like the point about images, too much text, side bar menus, links, etc. can turn off your reader, which is the worse-case scenario.

This may sound a little overwhelming; jumping into a new area of technology always is.  However, this is not meant to scare you off, just encourage you to move slowly and surely into email marketing.  It's a wide open field and quickly becoming the most popular way of getting your message out.  It's more cost effective than direct mail, and reports that show who's reading it, who's forwarding it, and who's not getting it are more readily available to you.  With all email services you can get these reports, which are available almost immediately, unlike direct mail campaigns.  Just be sure you're careful before you jump into email marketing, or you'll end up in the trash. 

Corey Babka is a Comparz contributor and CRM Consultant at the Marks Group, Customer Relationship, Service and Financial Management Experts.

Comparz provides user reviews and rankings of software services and tools for small and mid-sized businesses. Click here to view Comparz' business software reviews and rankings.


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Selling Black Friday: Slanted Stats and Fuzzy Math

Posted by Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth is Vice President of Marketing for Comparz.com and founder and Director of eMatrix Media Comm...
User is currently offline
on Monday, 28 November 2011
in Research

The media has been breathlessly trumpeting record Black Friday sales as a welcome indicator of economic well-being.

“Shopping’s Hot Again, Holiday Sales Soar,” said the Plain Dealer.  “Black Friday sales hit record, giving season hope,” said MarketWatch. 

But hold on...

According to economics expert Barry Ritholtz, the two surveys on which these reports are based, and the media’s echoing their story lines, is an annual rite of deception.  

“Every year around this time,” says Ritholtz, ”we get a series of loose reports coincident with Black Friday and the holiday weekend. Each year, they are wildly optimistic. And like clockwork, the media idiotically repeats these trade organizations spin like its gospel.” 

Ritholtz, who is CEO of FusionIQ  and a regular contributor to The Street.com, The Washington Post, CNBC, Kudlow & Company, Bloomberg, PBS, and many other news outlets, has been tracking and discrediting the Black Friday survey numbers for years.

He argues that the National Retail Federation (NRF) and ShopperTrak reports are based on shopper questionnaires and measurements of store traffic, and that these methodologies do not yield accurate results. The real sales data, he says, has yet to be tallied.

“When the data finally comes in,” says Rithollz, “we learn that the early reports were pure hokum, put out by trade groups to create shopping hype.”

Ritholtz dismisses the NRF’s questionnaire survey technique, arguing that, “Surveys in which people forecast their own future spending are, as we have seen repeatedly in the past, pretty much worthless.”

Also unreliable, he says, is the ShopperTrak system, which uses equipment to measure store traffic. This is a very poor system for forecasting actual sales, says Ritholz, because it “does not measure changes in window shoppers vs. buyers from year to year, how much money and/or credit people have, how large their holiday budgets are, or how much they are willing to spend.”

The fact that NRF and ShopperTrak data vary so widely means that at least one of their methodologies is suspect, says Ritholtz, adding that, “In my opinion, both are mostly meaningless.”

More reliable data will come from sources like Master Card’s SpendingPulse and ComScore data, says Ritholtz, which track actual retail sales.

So let’s see what those numbers say and how they compare to the jubilant reports we have been receiving.

 

Comparz provides user reviews and rankings of software services and tools for small and mid-sized businesses. Click here to view Comparz' business software reviews and rankings.

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What to Make of Black Friday?

Posted by Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth is Vice President of Marketing for Comparz.com and founder and Director of eMatrix Media Comm...
User is currently offline
on Friday, 25 November 2011
in Research

It’s Black Friday, the bargain shopping day watched closely by every economist, analyst, and business person hoping to gauge the health of the economy.

What were the prognostications leading up to Black Friday?

“Survey of Retail Executives Shows Bleak Black Friday Outlook,” said The New York Post, citing BDO survey data that showed that retail sales were expected to rise a “paltry” 1.6% this year, less than one-half last year’s gain of 3.8%.

“Black Friday Retail Sales Outlook Dims,” said 24/7 Wallstreet.com, citing the same BDO data.

“A Bleak Forecast For Black Friday,” said smartmoney.com, citing a phone survey of 1,000 adults by Offers.com that found that only 18% of consumers planned to go shopping on Black Friday. That would be a steep decline from the 27% of consumers the National Retail Federation estimated hit the stores last Black Friday, noted smartmoney.com.

The National Retail Federation, however, had a rosier view, with its survey results showing that 152 million shoppers would be shopping on Black Friday, up 10.1 percent from 138 million people last year.

Is this accurate pulse reading or wishful thinking?

Meanwhile, new online resources have cropped up to help us track Black Friday and find bargains, including the official Black Friday 2011 website. Also new is Media Logic’s Retail Social Juice Index, a sort of retailer’s Klout, which invites you to “Compare top retailers and see how your company stacks up” by monitoring the social trends of more than 500 leading retailers.

With stores like Target and Wal-Mart opening on Thanksgiving night, many indignant critics are lambasting retailers for their greed, gluttony, and insensitivity to employees, referencing the unseemly stampedes that have killed people. (For an exploration of this phenomenon, see “Crush Point” by John Seabrook.

Anti-Black Friday advocates, including the Occupy Wall Street movement, are promoting Small Business Saturday, a Festivus-like alternative created by American Express, as a more politically correct alternative to Black Friday and urging people to shop local.

Among them is Marie Graham, who on Yorktown Patch.com writes:

“Folks-take a look at your downtown. See the empty storefronts?

Think about your own circle. Know anyone who is out of work, or had their hours cut back?

Money spent in the community puts dollars in the pockets of your neighbors, and strengthens us all. It is really that simple.”  

All us wired peeps, of course, and all those averse to wading through mobs at malls, will wait for Cyber Monday to do their bargain shopping online.

However, even these may not be the best bargains, according to Professor Oren Etzioni, who teaches computer science at the University of Washington. His research, examining billions of prices of consumer electronics, showed that prices are likely to be the lowest for electronics on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

“The bottom line is, Black Friday is for the retailers to go from the red into the black,” he said. “It’s not really for people to get great deals on the most popular products.”

Professor Etzioni’s findings jibe with Marie Graham’s personal observations, who on Yorktown Patch.com, writes:

“Look, I've been in retail 25 years. Trust me when I say big-box store management likens the American buying public to a gang of rats in a maze, looking for the cheese (in this case, cheap consumer electronics).  With a few cheap TVs they manufacture drama, and attempt to re-train the consumer to think of shopping as a competition sport. I say THEY need to be re-trained.”


Comparz provides user reviews and rankings of software services and tools for small and mid-sized businesses. Click here to view Comparz' business software reviews and rankings.


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  • Michael Dortch
    Michael Dortch says #
    When retailers run advertisements that position shoppers as competing with Santa Claus to deliver the best Christmas gifts, is the...

Small Businesses are Frozen by Fear on Social Media

Posted by Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth is Vice President of Marketing for Comparz.com and founder and Director of eMatrix Media Comm...
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 23 November 2011
in Social Media

For SMBs and social media, it seems the spirit is willing but the flesh unable.

A new survey by Social Strategy1 and OfficeArrow found that 67% of small business owners are not engaging in social media because of fear and a sense of inadequacy in their social media skills, resources, and ability to handle social media.

The findings show that while 60% of small business owners say they want to engage in social media, they just don’t know how to proceed.

What’s holding them back, said the study, “is a sense of overload, in particular fear of the resources required to meet the expectations of social media users.” The survey found that 51% of small businesses fear sharing sensitive information; 50% say there is too much social media to manage; and 44% fear “information overload.”

Small business owners find the prospect of social media market overwhelming and need more guidance, said Steve Ennen, President of Social Strategy1, adding that they need a "playbook" to proceed.

The study found that most small businesses do not plan to invest in social media until they understand the practices and payoffs. They also need to acquire more experienced staffing and expertise. “The prospect of building it is daunting, Few have hired anyone who knows social media to do it for them,” said Mike Lewis, Chairman of Social Strategy1.

Ennen advises small businesses to start by just listening rather than talking. “The most important resource is a specialist in monitoring social media,” said Ennen, who sees social media monitoring and analysis as a way to learn what customers like and dislike about your business and competitors.  Then, based on that information, you can automate tasks to address their needs and serve them better, and communicate with them about the issues in meaningful ways.

 

Comparz provides user reviews and rankings of software services and tools for small and mid-sized businesses. Click here to view Comparz' business software reviews and rankings.

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  • Michael Dortch
    Michael Dortch says #
    Great post, Michael. The key take-away here is listening. You can’t manage what you can’t measure, and you can’t measure what you ...

Facebook's New Disguised Ads Draw Ire

Posted by Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth is Vice President of Marketing for Comparz.com and founder and Director of eMatrix Media Comm...
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 22 November 2011
in Social Media

Adding insult to injury for many users, Facebook has introduced a new form of sponsored advertising to its already besieged news ticker feature.

 

As Peter Pachal wrote on mashable.com: “If you’re annoyed by the Facebook news ticker already, just you wait. Facebook confirmed that it has introduced sponsored stories, or ads, to the ticker.”

Facebook is allowing sponsored ads to be placed by advertisers via a self-service form.  The ads appear within the Ticker’s news feed of events posted by friends, and although they are labeled “Sponsored,” the ads have the appearance of regular user content. 

The Ticker appears to have been planted with the aim of introducing a more covert and subtle form of advertising.  As Lauren Fisher reported on TheNextWeb.com, “This is the first time that we have seen Facebook integrate advertising so seamless into the organically created content on the site.”

The move, said Fisher, “is clearly an attempt to get more people clicking on ads, by ‘disguising’ them.”

A report on dailydot.com called the approach "sneaky," while Emil Protalinski on ZDnet.com wrote that, “while Facebook will undoubtedly argue that the Sponsored label is there, the placement is still questionable.”

Many users already had a strong dislike for the news ticker, which was introduced in August. As Mashable’s Pachal wrote: “The new approach, and the ticker specifically, received tepid reviews from Facebook users, and some reacted with outright anger.”

Likewise, David Pogue in The New York Times wrote that the Facebook changes “have done more than ruffle a few feathers; they’ve practically plucked the chickens.”

Surveys by Mashable, Sodahead, and others showed that a large majority of Facebook’s user base, as high as 75% to 86%, strongly disliked the news ticker and other new features.

By introducing ads disguised as content to the news ticker, Facebook may be pouring gasoline on the fire. As Emil Protalinski remarked on ZDnet.com, “Facebook is playing a dangerous game. It could start to lose the trust of its users as its ads are increasingly integrated into the service.”

 

Comparz provides user reviews and rankings of software services and tools for small and mid-sized businesses. Click here to view Comparz' business software reviews and rankings.

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Local + Mobile Is the Next Big Thing for Small Businesses

Posted by Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth is Vice President of Marketing for Comparz.com and founder and Director of eMatrix Media Comm...
User is currently offline
on Monday, 21 November 2011
in Social Media

It’s looking more and more like local mobile search will be the next major trend for SMBs.

Based on survey findings and key indicators, the local mobile advertising and search market is exploding, and analysts and experts are advising SMBs to gear up for mobile local search—including mobile advertising networks and mobile search engine optimization (SEO)—so that prospects searching for goods and services on their smartphones will find their stores, visit them, and purchase their wares. 

ComScore’s most recent State of Local Search study showed mobile search skyrocketing, with 77.1 million mobile subscribers accessing local content on a mobile device, up 34% from last year. Local content users accounted for 33% of mobile subscribers, with 87% owning a GPS-capable handset.

As the mobile advertising arena heats up, new companies are announcing mobile advertising and search services. Facebook recently entered the arena, announcing a new mobile ad network and joining a bevy of vendors that includes Google, Apple, AT&T, RIM, T-Mobile, Yahoo!, AOL, and numerous others.  

Also joining the fray was Bing, which launched a new mobile search service to challenge Google, which has about a 99% share of the mobile search market. 

Google, meanwhile, announced that it was on course to take in $2.5 billion from mobile advertising, compared with $1 billion a year ago. Google continues to expand and enhance its mobile ad service with new ad formats and capabilities.

BIA/Kelsey, which specializes in local media and advertising, sees local mobile advertising as a huge burgeoning opportunity for SMBs.  At the DMS 11 Summit for Small-Business Advertising Solutions, Mike Boland, Senior Analyst and Program Director at BIA/Kelsey, described his firm's research that showed on-the-go users as highly motivated buyers, with 89% searching because they have an immediate need. Of these mobile searchers, he said, 7 out of 10 contact the business, 61% call, 59% visit the store, and more than 50% make a purchase.

For SMBs, the message is clear: Position your business to pop up on those mobile users’ smartphone screens. 

 

Comparz provides user reviews and rankings of software services and tools for small and mid-sized businesses. Click here to view Comparz' business software reviews and rankings.

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Is Social Media Marketing Right for Small Business?

Posted by Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth is Vice President of Marketing for Comparz.com and founder and Director of eMatrix Media Comm...
User is currently offline
on Friday, 18 November 2011
in Social Media

The general feeling has been that social media marketing is beneficial for SMBs. And indeed, marketing gurus have been prescribing social media engagement to SMBs as an obvious no-brainer.

Nielsen’s recent Social Media Report, however, has some marketers questioning the value of social media marketing for SMBs.

Nielsen's survey found that, besides connecting with family and friends, 68% of social media users go to social networking sites to read product reviews, and more than 50% use the sites to provide product feedback.  Other top purposes were entertainment (67%), as a creative outlet (64%), to learn about products (58%), and to get coupons or promotions (54%).

These findings caused Greg Sterling to ask whether SMBs were wasting their time on social media. As Sterling wrote, “The rush by SMBs into Facebook and, to a lesser degree, other social media sites (e.g., Twitter) is well documented by me and others. But is it misplaced?”

The Nielsen data, Sterling argued, shows that creating a showcase of customer reviews/responses and offering deals are things most aligned with consumer usage of social media sites. Everything else, he said, “may be misplaced effort.”  The survey data, he said, casts doubt on the efficacy of social media for lead-generation and customer acquisition for local merchants.

Erin Iwata supports Sterling’s view, arguing that social media may not be appropriate for many SMBs. Although the Facebook “Like” button is ubiquitous, she says, “it doesn’t necessarily follow that Faceboook is right for your business.” The decision factors should include your audience, budget, and business objectives.  

Nielsen's findings may indicate a need to overturn our thinking, said Sterling. “I believe that social media can be effectively used as a CRM tool; however the current expectations may be too great vs. what it can deliver — especially for SMBs.”

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Small Business Social Media Backlash: Not So Cheap, Not So Easy

Posted by Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth is Vice President of Marketing for Comparz.com and founder and Director of eMatrix Media Comm...
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 17 November 2011
in Social Media

Many marketing gurus have been encouraging SMBs to engage in social media marketing, touting social media as cheap and easy.

Spencer Belkofer, for example, writes on dreamgrow.com that more and more small businesses are engaging in social media marketing. Why, he asks? “Because it’s cheap and easy to use.” 

However, an increasing numbers of critics are attacking this idea, pointing out that social media requires an investment of time and money that many small businesses do not have.  

For example, the author of the SMEBS blog writes that “It’s not all unicorns and rainbows like the industry likes to portray,” adding that, “The cold hard facts are that social media takes time and money despite the industry push to present it as free and easy.”

Similarly, Erin Iwata on the Heinrich Report blog writes that while opening a Facebook or Twitter account may be free, “maintaining these accounts requires a huge investment of time and resources…”

Coming up with compelling tweets and posts is time-consuming and requires creativity. Read Larry Carlat’s “Confessions of a Tweeter” in The New York Times in which he tells how he became burnt out in his effort to stay continually brilliant on Twitter.

A good number of midsize and larger companies employ PR and communications agencies to groom and tend their Facebook and Twitter pages. They also hire professional writers to write blogs, tweets, articles, and other social media content. Many small businesses cannot afford these types of services.

What about all the surveys portraying SMBs as enamored with social media? Just because surveys may show that SMBs like the idea of social media marketing, or recognize its potential, does not mean that SMBs will actually engage in social media marketing, or have the ability to do so successfully.

As the SMEBS blogger observes, SMBs “love to talk about stuff but when it gets to doing it the walk rarely lives up to the talk.”

 

Comparz provides user reviews and rankings of software services and tools for small and mid-sized businesses. Click here to view Comparz' business software reviews and rankings.

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BatchBlue's Batchbook vs. SugarCRM: Getting Social

Posted by Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth is Vice President of Marketing for Comparz.com and founder and Director of eMatrix Media Comm...
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 16 November 2011
in Contact & Lead Management

With the meteoric rise of social networking and the huge emphasis being placed on businesses to pursue social media marketing, CRM vendors are scrambling to incorporate social media into their solutions.

Among them is SugarCRM, which is now touting its solution as “CRM made social” and “fully Social CRM ready.”

In the Comparz rankings, BatchBlue’s Batchbook is #1 and stands out as the most social solution, with social media support a central feature of its design. Indeed, BatchBlue bills itself as “Your social CRM.”

To keep pace, SugarCRM in its latest release has added social capability, but in a limited form, essentially allowing you to include “Activity Streams” to monitor Twitter and Facebook feeds.

This, however, is only a portion of the social networking integration that Batchbook provides. For example, its social media SuperTags allow you to display a contact’s blog posts, tweets, and other feed items alongside their contact history.  

As our user reviews show, customers appreciate Batchbook’s unique social media integration and organization features, including its dashboard and SuperTags.

Another differentiator is each vendor’s focus on small business. As its “About Us” statement tells us, “BatchBlue was created with one goal in mind: to create useful, user-friendly software for small businesses.” As users attest, BatchBlue is devoted to the customer experience and offers extremely easy setup and use, as well as exceptional support. 

SugarCRM is a more complex product, encouraging customers to tweak its open source code. As our expert reviewer noted, SugarCRM is “a comprehensive, feature-packed solution that may overwhelm the novice.”

For many small businesses, price is the key criteria. While SugarCRM takes pains to beat Saleforce.com’s pricing by 50%, Batchbook blows away SugarCRM's pricing by a wider margin.  Batchbook’s price for up to 5 users is $29.95 per month, or $6 per user, and pricing for up to 50 users is $149 per month, or $3 per user per month. SugarCRM’s lowest pricing is $30 per user per month, with a 5-user minimum.

As reported previously, SugarCRM has a 5-user minimum requirement, which makes its $360 per user per year license actually five times that amount, at $1,800, regardless of whether you have one or five users.

Bottom Line: SugarCRM is an excellent product with a full array of CRM features that has been augmented by a limited degree of social media support. For small businesses looking for the most extensive social media integration, plus ease of use, exceptional support, and the lowest cost, Batchbook seems the clear choice. Try both for free and decide.

 

Comparz provides user reviews and rankings of software services and tools for small and mid-sized businesses. Click here to view Comparz' business software reviews and rankings.

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Should I Delete My Klout Account? Both Sides of the Argument

Posted by Steve Weir
Steve Weir
Steve Weir has been in product management and marketing for over 15 years and brings a wide range of experienc...
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 15 November 2011
in Social Media

Comparz vistors are continually looking for advice and ideas about products that could help manage their social marketing and trying to stay on top of the latest news.  Last week we published a brief post about the problem with Klout.  The online discussion of Klout has heated up this week, and now there is a movement asking users to delete their Klout accounts.

 

The “Delete Klout” movement stems in part from a recent article that portrayed the company in a negative fashion and in part from some of the negative publicity from a recent change in the Klout product.  In an article in Social Media Today, Rohn Jay Miller argues that Klout provides very little benefit to the users that they measure, and that Klout the company gets a very large benefit by being able to sell access to Klout scores of their users.  Miller says:

The fundamental evil of Klout is that it’s a venture capital-backed company looking to leverage into a big IPO payday and the only value proposition they offer is their ability to identify, train and exploit people they can sell to advertisers as “key influencers,” in a taxonomy of business interests.

What do these “key influencers” get for their efforts?  Pennies.  Swag. Chocolate bars. Little discounts.  These people are the entire sum of the Klout value proposition.  Klout exists for the benefit of advertisers, not for the people Klout measures and then chooses to engage.

Miller is not the only one to complain about Klout.  As we mentioned last week, Pam Moore critiqued Klout, by pointing out that Klout is just one single metric that can’t really track real influence and credibility – it can only estimate your influence by tracking online activity.  This doesn’t count any panel visits you may have been on, the startups you have advised, or the quality of your advice.

Unfortunately, this is not the only front where Klout is fighting a PR battle (in fact, they are getting PR about their bad PR).  There is outrage about their recent algorithm change, and concerns about privacy.

Ultimately, the stated reasons for the Klout hate are:

  • The Klout business model is unfair
  • The recent algorithm change was unfair
  • What Klout measures isn’t really influence
  • Klout is invading privacy by tracking Klout of users who never opted in (which Klout changed on Friday)

In Defense of Klout


The anti-Klout movement already has traversed the social world, and I don’t think the Klout defenders have yet to have their voices heard.  Klout responded to the privacy concerns with a policy change on Friday.  The greatest defense of Klout right now is that it is so heavily used, that so many people have adopted the product and have worked hard to get their Klout scores so high. 

Influencers are important, and a service that can help marketers home in on the key influencers of their market has a real value. The tools to manage social media will continue to proliferate.  We will keep you up to date on the changes and continue to provide you with user reviews.

 

Comparz provides user reviews and rankings of software services and tools for small and mid-sized businesses. Click here to view Comparz' business software reviews and rankings.

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