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2 Want to Get More Referrals?

The Referral Engine BookI’ve written about the topic of referrals a bunch this year, but you get that, right – I mean, I wrote an entire book on the subject called The Referral Engine. (Hint: It fits in most small business owners stockings!)

I’ve also posted some ideas on the subject over at American Express OPENForum and thought I would share the entire series with you here?

Want to learn more about building a referral engine? Read these articles:

8 5 Steps To the Perfect Client

ideal client

Image credit: Photofinish 2009 via Flickr

One of the foundational elements of any marketing strategy is a narrowly defined target client. For the small business I take that a step deeper to something I call the ideal, or for the sake of this post, perfect client. That one perfect kind of client is what all business should understand and I think it’s unique to each and every business.

You can’t simply define a set of demographics to find the ideal client – the ideal client finds you, but then you’ve got to build your entire business around that understanding.

The 5 steps below, applied to your current client base and worked in order, will tell you more about your true ideal client than any marketing class or book ever will.

  1. Find your most profitable clients
  2. From the above group identify those that refer
  3. From that even smaller group find common demographic characteristics
  4. Take the time now to understand the behavior that makes them ideal
  5. Draw a fully developed biographical sketch to use as your marketing guide

I explain each of these steps in great detail is this week’s column at AMEX OPENForum.

11 Mining Twitter with Google Turns Up Some Interesting Stuff

As a marketing tool the Twitterverse gets so much more useful when you can filter out all the noise and drill down to people and communities that might very much want to know what you’ve got to offer.

twitter search with GoogleA bit of bloom has gone off the Twitter hype, but make no mistake, there’s still plenty of powerful ways to tap what’s going on there.

A great deal of information out there centers around searching the Twitter stream for related content, but that only allows you to focus on what’s being said. In this week’s post for AMEX OPENForum I explain 7 Insanely Useful Ways to Search Twitter that focus much more on who’s saying it. For some this is a much more interesting way to look at doing business on Twitter. Most of my tips rely on blending Google’s passion for real time search and search syntax to slice and dice Twitter in new ways.

21 Social Media Infecting Every Aspect of Business

For this week’s post at AMEX OPENForum I outlined 5 Ways That Sales People Can Benefit From Using Social Media

Social media tools are incredible for engagement, amplification, nurturing and deepening relationships – all the stuff that sales is supposed to do. In fact, social media tools are probably more useful in the hands of the right salesperson than the entire marketing department.

8 CES Coverage and a Few Finds

As many of you may have noted by some posts here and on Twitter I attended the recent CES show in Las Vegas as a participant in the AMEX OPENForum booth. I gave presentations on social media and was joined by Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends, Guy Kawasaki of Alltop, Adam Ostrow , Barb Dybwad and Ben Parr of Mashable and Tony Hsieh of Zappos.

I thoroughly enjoy working in a live environment with small business owners and loved getting a chance to work with and hear what this great group of speakers had to say. For those who could not attend the event, the presentations were recorded and will be available at OPENForum’s CES page.

I walked the floor a bit, although it’s total sensory overload, and wanted to share two of my favorite finds.

Bing Application overlays on Bing Maps.

Melissa Powell, Senior Product Manager, Microsoft explains Bing Map Apps

You have to download Silverlight, Microsoft’s Video tool, but it makes for a much richer experience than other mapping tools. Here’s the link to the Bing Maps beta.

I also found a nice option for recording live interviews on the iPhone from Blue Microphones. The iPhone built in mic works pretty well up close but the Mikey has settings that make it much more sensitive when conducting an interview in the field. I use a Blue Snowball USB mic to do my podcasts and really love their design.

11 Small Business Speaker Series at CES

Las VegasIf you are planning to attend the Consumer Electronics Show (CES ) in Las Vegas Jan 7-10 make sure you check out the American Express OPEN Booth in the South Hall. They are sponsoring a central hang out hub for small business folks to network, share small office electronics ideas and a speaker series featuring Tony Hsieh (Zappos), Anita Campbell (Small Business Trends), Guy Kawasaki (Alltop), Ben Parr and Barbara Dybwad (Mashable) and myself.

Here are the presentations/discussions I’ll be leading: South Hall: Booth 20925

  • Fri Jan 8th – 1pm – The Simple Truths of Social Media for Small Business – Yes, it’s a bit of work, and yes, it’s worth it.
  • Sat Jan 9th – 1pm – How to Use Social Media for a Local Business – Leverage online tools for offline business building

I’ll be around the booth chatting with other small business owners on Friday and Saturday so I hope to see you there.

Image credit: Post 14

Made to Stick Podcast

Marketing podcast with Chip Heath (Click to listen, right click and Save As to download – subscribe now via iTunes

For this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast I reached back into the archives and grabbed a greatest hits session with Chip Heath, co-author, with his brother Dan, of the mega hit Made to Stick.

Chip, Stanford Professor and Dan, Duke Professor, also write a terribly smart column for Fast Company.

Also, check out this AMEX Open Forum video with Dan Heath – How to Stand Out in a Crowd – “It’s not enough to be 3% better and 2% cheaper.”

32 Blogging – It's Not Just For Breakfast Anymore

You know I’m a huge fan of blogs for small business and an equally big supporter of the WordPress blogging platform.

The wide adoption of WordPress is aided greatly by the fact that its open source architecture means that outside developers can create add-ons to extend the basic functionality.

So, now you can think outside of the blog. WordPress, developed as blog software, is, through various plugins, capable of supporting full web sites, membership sites, e commerce premium content management and multi-author publications with ease.

For this week’s AMEX Open Forum column I introduce 10 Ways to Make WordPress More Useful – go check it out.

55 7 Simple Truths of Social Media Marketing

social mediaThe first truth I need to reveal is that the idea for this post is a bit of a response to a post by Sonia Simone of copyblogger titled – The 7 Harsh Realities of Social Media Marketing. Sonia and I sparred a bit over the fact that “harsh realities” and making all this sound hard is something that keeps some small biz folks from diving in the way they should. Yes, it’s work, but what about marketing isn’t?

First, understand that I think Sonia is brilliant and copyblogger gets a daily visit from me, but – using social media to grow your business just isn’t that harsh and it doesn’t need to be that hard. Okay, it’s new and there are some new names to learn, cultures to understand and lingo to get comfortable with, but the fundamentals of marketing are the same, only the platforms have changed.

Here’s my 7 Simple Truths of Social Media Marketing

1) Listening is the best way to develop strategy

Everyone knows they should develop a social media strategy before diving into to every network they can. The problem is, few can tell you how to do this because any real marketing strategy is highly personal and involves your customers, market, competitors, suppliers, products and services. The best way to approach discovering a strategy for your social media participation, and perhaps all of your communications, is to listen really, really well. Social media is one of the greatest listening tools on the planet. Your customers are telling you about their fears and hopes, they’re telling about what they like about your products and dislike about the competition, they’re telling you what they wish someone would make – and now you can hear it. If you do nothing but set-up listening stations, using free tools like Google Alerts and Twitter Search, you can get an enormous return on your time invested.

Once you spend time listening to your market, understanding how people use blogs and just what seems to work and not work on LinkedIn you may be more prepared to develop a marketing strategy, once that based on achieving marketing objectives, than ever. Don’t skip this step for tactics!

2) Nobody really wants to read another blog

I’m fond of telling anyone that will listen that every small business should have a blog. I don’t say that because I think your customers are itching to grab a cup of green tea and fire up what you wrote in your blog today. In fact, if you polled most of your customers and inquired as to whether you should write a blog, most would tell you no. But, those same customers go to search engines like Google and Bing every second of every day looking for answers to questions, suppliers in their town, and ways to solve pressing problems. And when they do, guess what most of them find, that’s right, blog content!

I’m not saying you shouldn’t write incredible stuff, with a long term goal of attracting lots of readers – when these readers start linking back to that content your search results will soar – what I am saying is, write what people search in your market and your town, educate with your posts and you blog will pay off faster than any other online play.

And it that weren’t enough blog software, like WordPress, is so user simple and feature rich that it’s the best way to run your entire web presence.

3) It’s kind of a real estate game

While I started this post off talking about the virtues of a solid strategy, there is a bit of a real estate grab that comes on the front end of getting value from social media. There are many profiles that you can claim and optimize, even if you don’t quite yet know what your development strategy is, and you should claim them. Creating spokes of branded and optimized content in sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, Slideshare and YouTube has become standard SEO practice, but don’t forget about taking the time to build very rich profiles on sites like Biznik, BusinessWeek’s Exchange, OPENForum, and BizSugar. (Disclosure: I write for OpenForum)

Your profiles in these outposts will serve as content real estate that you control and can help fill in the gaps when someone Google’s You.

4) Sell awareness and the money will follow

A lot of people will tell you, and perhaps you’ve experienced it first hand, that you can’t sell using social media sites. Let me ask you this, have you ever really have much luck selling anything to anyone just because they happened to be standing in front of you. The only difference is social media makes it easier to stand in front of someone. You can’t really sell anything to anyone until you’ve built trust. The most effective way to build trust in any setting is to show someone how to get what they want and allow them to come to the conclusion that you have something they might want to buy.

Social media, just like the most effective advertising, is a great place to build awareness about your content: blog, white paper, seminar, workbook. If you do that, and your content builds trust, social media is a great place to make money – think of it as another version of 2-step advertising.

5) Networking hasn’t really changed

I really believe that effective networking on social media sites like Biznik, Facebook, or LinkedIn greatly resembles that of effective networking at in person Chamber or Association events. The key difference being one of a style of engagement and perhaps a different set of follow-up steps.

Before you do, act, or respond in any manner on a social media site, ask yourself if it would be an effective response to a prospect you’ve just met at an business event? You know, you wouldn’t go shirtless, with beer in hand to an association meet and greet, why would you post the same on your Facebook profile? This varies to some degree, but not that much.

6) It makes your offline play stronger

One of the things I don’t hear enough people talking about is how much social media can impact your offline efforts. Most business is still done across a desk, but starting relationships on LinkedIn and then building them much deeper over lunch is the killerest combination.

Social media also allows you to more easily and more consistently stay on top of what’s going on in your customer’s world. A growing number of CRM tools, such as ACT2010! and BatchBook make social media activity a part of a contact’s record.

7) A system is the solution

A well run business is a collection of systems. Marketing is a system and one of the best ways to keep social media participation from becoming your full time job is to create systems and process for how you participate.

I know you see people that spend their entire day on Twitter, but you must understand that they fall into two camps a) people who make a living teaching people how to use Twitter, b) people getting ready to go out of business.

It may seem a bit robotic to talk about social media and engagement as a process, but scheduling routines for your blog posting, commenting, tweeting, fanning and friending is a must, just as scheduling the appropriate time for selling, training employees and meeting strategic partners. Here’s a look at what an example social media routine might look like

Image credit: viralbus

5 Referrals Are Always Cool

If you’re doing good work, have products that people enjoy, and provide a service and experience that exceeds expectation, chances are, your business is benefiting from word of mouth referrals.

While this occasional lead generation windfall may be great, there are things you can do to shine a light on referral generation and generate significantly more referrals.

This week I shared five of my favorite ways to get more referrals in my article for OpenForum – Read 5 Ways to Get More Referrals