Nicole Reisberg, originally published on The Social Haven
The headlines are getting more and more serious by the minute. Most businesses have implemented a work-from-home policy, schools are closing, and toilet paper has been placed on the endangered species list.
As a social media lead for many organizations worldwide, I've been faced with the challenge of what my clients should be saying, and not saying, on an organizational level during a pandemic such as COVID-19. After many discussions with clients and colleagues, I thought I would share a few general guidelines that should keep your business relevant, while sensitive to the crisis.
Keep it positive!
Post photos and videos of your team members keeping a positive attitude during this time. Below is a great example of a company post showing a team making the most of the unfortunate situation. Kudos to ARG!
Show that business is still up and running. Don't go dark on social.
If you're on a work-from-home schedule, have team members share photos or videos their virtual workspaces and technology.
Promote virtual events in the absence of in-person. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn now all have Live broadcast features. You can schedule and promote a Live, Virtual event, where attendees can log into and interact in real time.
Continue your usual social media listening practices. Don't ignore the platforms, and respond to questions and comments as quickly as you typically would (same day!).
Offer relevant resources and updates.
Consider how you can help your employees, partners and clients stay connected and working during this time. Some of my clients are offering resources around tips for remote workers, Coronavirus-related threat advisories, etc...
Use social media as a communication tool to update team members of office closures and event cancelations.
Share only credible, relevant, industry news. Be very careful of sharing false information.
Limit promotional activity and opt for sensitivity and compassion.
While it's important to stay positive, do not make light of the situation...i.e. second-guess the Corona beer jokes.
Do not take a side, politically. Keep your voice neutral.
Stop and review all scheduled posts. Be sure that all are appropriate given the current circumstances.
Show support for local businesses that are still open. See below for a great example, courtesy of my local mayor here in Long Beach, CA.
Take advantage of the social media uptick.
People will be more active than ever on social media during this time. Take advantage of their presence by helping them get to know your team. Consider sharing team member features a couple times per week, with a photo and fun fact about each team member.
Keep up with staff birthdays, anniversaries and holidays with dedicated posts on social media.
If you're managing social media for a business, whether internally or as an agency, the above guidelines are important to keep in mind. Stay safe out there!
Nicole Reisberg, originally published on The Social Haven
How to Stay Connected to Customers in the Age of Coronavirus
1. Don’t pause your online advertisements, just shift to a brand awareness objective.
There are more eyes on social media than ever before. Everyone is turning to digital, not only for national and local news, but to stay connected to their family and friends. The opportunity for your ads to reach more people is at an all-time high. Though, don’t hit people with a hard sell. Focus on brand awareness and educational resources. Capture their attention now in a real way, and you’ll have the trusted opportunity to sell to them in the future.
**NEWS: Google just pledged $340 million in Google Ad credits to small businesses, as part of its pandemic relief package. Click here to learn more about taking advantage of this credit.
2. Use email marketing for an added connection point.
Email marketing tools like MailChimp make it easier than ever to connect with your audience through their email boxes. A few things to keep in mind when it comes to marketing via email:
3. Reach out to your customers or clients to offer your support
.If you have the ability to contact your clients directly, do so. Let them know that you are here for them during this time, without selling them anything. A quick call, or card in the mail to show your appreciation, can go a long way when it comes to the client making follow-on buying decisions later on.
4. Make sure all of the online elements of your business are up to date.
As stated above, there are more people turning to the web than ever before. Take this time to check in on all of your business’ online platforms to be sure they are up to date. This includes:
5. Keep creating content and pushing it out to your audience.
Now is not the time to go dark. If you aren’t blogging already, it’s time to start. Your blog is the primary space to offer educational content, and with all the right SEO elements included, blogs can be a major driver of visits to your website.
So, start with creating a list of blog topics that your audience would find interesting, educational or entertaining. You can even poll your clients to ask what they want you to write about! Then, create a schedule to put out new blogs bi-weekly, weekly or even more often. Remember, don’t just post the blog and leave it. Use your email and social media channels to let your audience know that a new blog is live. This will drive traffic to your site, resulting in increased brand awareness and position you as a thought leader in your industry.
Marie Rourke, originally published on SmarterMSP
We have all heard the phrase, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” And the truth is both are equally important. Yet, there’s another question that many ignore, and that’s the why behind the comments we make — not to mention the when, where, and to whom.
The fact is everyone knows someone who loves to hear themselves talk or really only listens to find a break in the conversation so they can start talking (again in many cases) and tell their story. It happens in our personal and professional lives, over drinks, on a conference call, and especially in those infamous “who called this meeting anyway” corporate brain drains.
But—and that’s an intentional use of the word—here’s the thing. Aren’t we all a little guilty of being THAT person sometimes? Maybe we just don’t realize it because it’s not something we do every day. Or maybe we don’t do it verbally, but we do it when we write emails or communicate with our customers or create marketing collateral. Imagine how much more valuable and respected we’d become if we just slowed down and gave our words—and our actions—a bit more thought.
Always Listen, Then Talk and Listen Again
Leadership, Marketing, Sales, and Career 101 typically begins with the advice to “Listen more than you talk.” Although I totally agree, listening alone won’t get you to the relevance we all should seek when engaging with others.
When it’s time to take the lead in a conversation or “weigh in” as we say in Corporate America, don’t just lean in and listen. Breathe and reflect on what’s happening and what’s being said. Take the moment to consider not only what it is you’re about to say, but again:
Don’t Agree With or Be Like Everyone Else
Another piece of advice: When it comes time to talk or write for that matter, don’t sell yourself (or your company) short by agreeing with the last statement or playing off what someone else said or did. Own your words. Make them count.
By leading off your statement with “I agree with Jane,” or even worse “To Jane’s point …” you’ve inadvertently made whatever you say next less important. (Side note: Using the word “but” does the same thing and more. Unless you’re using it with intent, try to replace “but” with “and” where you can.)
This ‘group shared think’ runs rampant in Corporate America and plays out in panels (and debates) where a line of power players will sit on stage and agree with one another on all the great points they are making. The audience and viewers walk away with nothing. And the reporters do too, so they start making up things to write about … oh wait, that’s a PR person’s job. The point is no one wins, except maybe whoever said the same thing everyone else said but a little better. #SoundBite
Don’t be paranoid, and don’t be passive about it either. Stand up and stand out by choosing your words carefully so that no one questions why you’re saying what you saying and everyone —or at least those you care about—see the value in what’s being said, written, or marketed for that matter.
Marie Rourke, originally published for Smarter MSP
As a successful MSP, you look to your peers for validation of a vendor, specific technology, or a new service model. Your customers do the same, and when they’re happy, business is good—and your marketing should be even better!
There are a number of best practices for integrating happy customers into your marketing program and using their voices and experience to more effectively market and sell your services. Here are a handful of our clients’ top picks:
Before the Internet, blogging, and social media, businesses relied heavily on advertising and public relations to build brand awareness. The joke among marketing leaders to clients was, “You either pray for space or pay for space—or both.”
Fast forward from Mad Men to 2018, and advertising still plays an important role in the marketing mix and social media’s relevance is undeniable. Yet for many, it’s the “earned” media placements secured by PR that businesses covet the most. Why? Because it’s not perceived as pay for play.
A feature article or mention of your company in a newspaper or magazine can provide external validation for the products, solutions, and/or services you provide. Furthermore, these earned media placements tend to boost company rankings in popular search engines, such as Google, and Yahoo!, as they carry more weight than paid or placed media, including press releases and company blogs. And last, but not least, when placed properly, these articles and placements are read and seen by customers and prospects, which results in increased relevance and could lead to more business or new relationships.
So, how do you go about engaging the press and getting your name and the company brand out there? My first recommendation, hire an expert. If you can’t afford one now, make it a priority for next year. Whether it’s an in-house hire, an outsourced firm, or a freelancer, the investment should be easy to measure. In the meantime, if you’re going to go DIY, here are a few tips:
Two final considerations, or best practices, before you talk to the press:
Avoid the pass, anticipate the ask, and have a closing statement ready that reiterates what you want to communicate to the readers. Once you’re done, be done. Resist the urge to talk more, and simply say thank you to the reporter and let them know you’ll be on the lookout for the coverage.
Purpose-driven marketing is making headlines, differentiating companies and influencing deals daily. Take a look at the “Helpful Honda” campaign, or the “American Express Small Business” campaign. Both deliver a halo-effect around the respective brands and for good reason. What they are doing is having a positive impact on their target audience.
By definition, purpose-driven marketing connects businesses with their prospects and customers by focusing on shared desires, philosophies, and interests. A great example of building around a shared or desired philosophy is the “Life is Good” brand. Jake, the main stick in the brand, has a half glass full view of the world – something millions of people want and need. The two founders, who happen to be brothers, capitalized on the emotional tie and built a business from inside their van, aka their temporary home for two years. Today, this triple digit million-dollar company and foundation continues to markets its mission, not its products, and has found other ways to elevate its purpose and share its success.
Why am I sharing this? Because marketing your mission, your purpose is what most IT service providers absolutely do not do. By default the IT channel markets the solution, the service or simply what’s for sale. Yes, those are relevant lines of discussion, but nine times out of 10, they do not differentiate one brand from the next.
Successful MSPs market the experience and the energy built around the customers, the community and the culture. It’s a careful game of show and tell that must be genuine to gain traction and resonate with the audiences they serve.
So, here’s the big Q you’ve been waiting for: What’s your purpose?
It’s one of the single most important questions every business must answer in order to effectively market, differentiate and stay relevant in today’s experience-driven, purpose-driven marketplace. Here are a few Qs to noodle on in your next team meeting – throw out the Qs, write down the As on the whiteboard and see what sticks.
– What do we do and why do we do it?
– How does what we do benefit others?
– What is the best way to communicate who we are and what we do to them?
If you want to summarize what you’ve heard, here’s an easy sketch to lift from marketing expert David Mayer of Lippincott, a world-renowned branding company:
Three Ways We Deliver It:
I’ve said it before, but here it goes again… If you are struggling with the answers and want to get to the heart of what makes you unique and why people do business with you – ask! Ask your associates. Ask your partners. And most importantly, ask your customers. They want you to succeed and nine times out of ten will be open to spending a few minutes on the phone to Q&A about what you do and why it is valuable to them.
Finding your purpose is pivotal to differentiating your brand and making connections with people that will have a positive impact on your business.
Marketing isn’t a series of check boxes. It’s a way to engage, empower, and take actions that will create an exceptional experience and exceed business goals. And contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t require hundreds of thousands of dollars to get it done right. What is required, though, is initiative, time, drive, and consistency. Oh, and a solid plan.
A good marketing plan keeps the business focused on achieving its goals and communicating its differentiated value. It uncovers new opportunities, inspires discussion, encourages engagement, and fuels the corporate culture. Marketing also drives sales leads and can help close the deal with the right content and collateral in play.
So what makes for a good MSP marketing plan?
The topic was white hot at ChannelCon and XChange this year and for good reason. The fact is the industry’s most successful MSPs are often the same ones who made the time to invest in marketing. They didn’t go crazy with the plan or break the bank on spend. What they did and continue to do is make marketing a priority throughout the entire company — from the bottom up and the top down.
Invest in planningBlasting out emails, sharing a newsletter, and hosting events are tactics, not a plan. What’s guiding the organization? What makes the business different, not just better? A marketing plan states the business objectives and supports them. It lays out the goals clearly and concisely and includes measurement. It doesn’t guess at the target audience; it defines it in detail.
Segmenting customers by size alone is nearly useless. An MSP is better off focusing the profile on the vertical and business needs. Get granular. Avoid generalities. This will aid in quickly identifying the decision-makers and influencers and what they need to meet their goals.
Next, lay out a plan for reaching these audiences. This is where tactics come into play, but avoid making a to-do list. Focus on building a consistent engagement plan that showcases the experience customers can expect. All roads lead to the website, so ensure that it’s up to par and ready for primetime.
Research shows that prospects and existing customers continue to vet businesses by looking at their website and social media sites. Don’t miss the opportunity to make and maintain a good impression online, as well as in person.
Align with business objectivesOnce the groundwork is laid, make certain the plan aligns with your brand promise:
Similar to business plans, a marketing plan will change over time. Continue to review it for best results, and be sure to measure and share the success achieved within and around the organization. Many of the best marketers for IT service providers are staff members, current customers, and partners, including distributors and vendors.
In the late 1990s, what began as a way for people to keep an online diary of happenings in their personal lives blossomed into what is now referred to as “blogging.” Largely fueled by the decline in print journalism, organizations of all sizes, from Fortune 100 companies to start-ups, saw blogging as a way to harness the power of the online journal to share ideas, promote thought leadership, and communicate with key stakeholders about their businesses in ways they never could before.
Today, while there are thousands of blogs to be found online, organizations of all sizes still struggle when it comes to filling the content funnel, and IT solution providers and MSPs are no exception. While there are those who are very good at providing weekly, or in some cases daily, updates, many are hard-pressed to come up with bi-monthly or even monthly posts. We know that limited time and resources are what keeps organizations from creating timely and relevant blog content, and this is especially true for SMBs.
The fact is, while blogs are a great way to grow your business and communicate with key stakeholders including employees, customers, and vendor partners, without regular updates and fresh content, the blog can quickly become irrelevant and may drive traffic away from your website and to that of your competitors.
Regardless of whether you’re a novice or experienced blogger, or simply strapped for time and resources, there are four simple things you can do to ensure that your blog is dynamic, relevant, and drives interest in your business.
1. Don’t supersize it.The beauty of a blog post is that it doesn’t have to be lengthy. We’re all on information overload, so brevity is always welcome. For example, three to four short paragraphs with your insights on an article you read in a trade magazine, a new development with a vendor, or a trend emerging in your industry is often all it takes to position yourself as a thought leader.
2. Use images when possible.Infographics, for example, are awesome for blogs, and your vendor partners may have images that you can repurpose for your blog. Adding a paragraph or two of your perspective to introduce the infographic helps you to demonstrate your breadth of knowledge and insights on the topic at hand, and shows how the content is relevant to your audience.
3. Repurpose content.Infographics aren’t the only content that can be repurposed for your blog. Many vendors offer syndicated content services or encourage their channel partners to leverage content they provide. Take advantage of materials that are already available to ensure the relevancy and timeliness of your blog.
4. Socialize.Once you’ve created content on your blog, share it on your company and personal Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, or other social media channels. By socializing your blog, you’ll drive more traffic to it and ensure that your key stakeholders are aware of the new content. You can also repurpose blog post to fuel your company newsletter. And, don’t forget to offer a subscription feature on your blog so your audiences are notified right away when new content is available.
Above all else, keep it simple, real, and relevant.
Marie Rourke, originally published for Smarter MSP
Yes, marketing is a pain point for most MSPs. But it doesn’t have to be. If you take the time to assess what you really need to get done, doing it will become that much easier.
The fact is, no one knows your customers and business value better than you do. Sure, an experienced marketing communications pro will help you better articulate your answers and nail your pitch. And if for whatever reason you don’t think you’ve got the right answers, ask your customers this simple question: “Why do you do business with us?”
Get Your Online House in OrderAs you plan for growth in 2016 and beyond, one of the first steps you need to take — outside of developing a relevant, believable, and defendable brand promise — is to make certain your website is worthy. So many partners spend pant-loads of cash on driving customers and prospects to a website that sucks. Not good.
Make an investment and spend your time and your dollars to build a website that works for you, not against you. If you want to attract successful SMBs or Fortune 500 companies, your
Assess What You Want and What You NeedTake a close look at your business and assess where you are today in your MSP marketing efforts. For some that may be the easiest thing you do all day. For others, it may take a little herding to see what is really being done throughout the organization — some of which may surprise you.
For example, when there’s no sign of life around a company’s marketing efforts, associates will often take it upon themselves to market the company. If you’re lucky this effort will uncover a few unsung marketers among your staff with great ideas, or it might point out some rogue cowboys that are doing more harm than good. Either way, an assessment must be made so you aren’t building blindly.
Once you know what you have, think about what you need and, ultimately, what you want. One way to streamline that list is to answer these questions:
It’s OK to Start Small and Keep It SimpleIf you’re new to proactively marketing your business, it’s absolutely OK to stick to the basics. Focus on getting your message right and sharing that message with your team, your partners, your prospects, and your customers. Work on your brand image — the website, the email signatures, the marketing collateral, the T-shirts. And don’t forget to spread the good work about all the great work you do with your associates, partners, press, social media, and of course with your existing customers and targeted lists of prospects.
Keep this in mind: Your marketing efforts don’t have to be massive to be effective. Even the funniest million-dollar Super Bowl ads are just that … funny. Not many people remember what company, product, or service they were promoting, and if they do, it still might not evoke the right call to action.
Be deliberate, consistent, genuine, and professional with your brand and complementary marketing efforts, and the businesses you serve — and are targeting — will take notice.
As an IT service provider, building and communicating your brand effectively should be a top priority every day. It’s not a one-and-done effort. Branding is an integrated and ongoing part of doing business that every IT service provider needs to own.
Many IT service providers and MSPs use press releases to promote their brand and communicate the latest and greatest happenings and viewpoints at their organization. This is a great communication practice that certainly helps drive SEO and, more importantly, builds the company’s brand and credibility.
The challenge, though, is that many channel partners aren’t sure what’s actually press-release worthy, so they simply don’t engage or do so infrequently. Others over-communicate, taking a blanketed approach and promoting anything and everything with a press release.
No matter where you fall on that spectrum, here are some pointers to help you course correct in 2016:
1. Ensure your website is worthyYour press release will drive eyeballs to your website. Does it look professional? Are you clearly communicating how you help businesses use technology to reach their goals? Is there a clear call to action? Are your customer testimonials, industry accolades, and social media sites easy to reference? You don’t want to lose the momentum you gained from a press release simply because people found your website confusing or unprofessional.
2. Determine what is and isn’t press-release worthy Ask this easy qualifying question: Will the “news” matter to people outside of your company? If the answer is “Yes,” ask why and be sure to clearly communicate that when you write the press release. If the answer is “No,” ask why. If you can adjust the message and make it relevant, great! If you can’t, maybe it’s best as an internal announcement or a blog post instead.
Here’s a quick example of what I mean. You’ve just earned a new, advanced networking or security certification. The certification alone checks an important box for your company no doubt, but the news is you are able to “Help SMBs Save Time and Money in 2016” or “Keep SMBs Secure from CryptoWall.” The point is you need to make the news valuable to your reader and the industry you serve.
3. Don’t rely solely on press releasesWith so many communications vehicles to choose from (blogs, social media, direct mail, email, etc.), a press release and pay-for-play newswire should be reserved for your “bigger, better, and broader” news announcements, and you should limit it to one or two press releases per month (some exceptions will apply).
So, what’s newsworthy? A new service. A new specialization. A company milestone. A strategic win or award. Again, always keep in mind what the news means for the reader — the customer, the partner, the prospect, influencers, and press.
But you shouldn’t ignore the other communications tools out there. Use blogs, social media, etc. to connect with both current and potential customers on other topics as well.
Another option to considerPress releases are also a great way to communicate and reinforce a company’s point of view on a popular or particular topic. You can use press releases to share your business value and thought leadership, as well as celebrate end-of-year successes and New Year goals.
For example, if you’re speaking on a panel or headlining an industry event, promote your point of view and the call to action for customers: “XYZ CEO Outlines Top Cybersecurity Threats Impacting SMBs.” Remember, it’s less about the event and more about the takeaways you think people need to know about, whether they attended the event or not.
There is always more to discuss around the topic of PR. If you have a question, please ask. In the meantime, have a Happy New Year!