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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Competition "Social Network Style"

What is your social strategy? Do you have a social strategy? There are many ways  to start your social campaign, but really only one that will work, yours. There are a few models I have seen lately,

It is said that Burger King does not do extensive location research, and just plops a new Burger King next to a McDonalds. Micky D's does all the work and BK's copies.  Imitation IS the highest form of flattery, and being first to market costs money. But being first, and tailoring your strategy to your end goal is like a custom fit suit. Sure, the guy down the street can buy Armani after you do, but if he doesn't get it tailored, he might as well have gone to the Salvation Army and picked something up there. I have seen many of my competitors copy what we do, for me it's a symbol and alarm to change and find something new to do.  New ideas have a shelf life, and although they do things differently than you do, because they didn't create it, it will not last too long.

I'll just say it now - bad mouthing is a way to compete that is well used. Digs in tweets, back handed status updates, but do they really help?  I am no Pollyanna, and taking the higher road is a tough one some times. People are not always honest, nice and some don't have any good will in their body. It's amazing as a bystander to watch people latch to the dynamic person, constantly flattering them and you know otherwise. I will tell you one thing from my short tenure in a small town. No one cares what your opinion really is, trust me. They want to be fluffed and folded and loved. Keep your slander to a minimum, it's ugly and will bite you in the butt one day.

This is my personal favorite.  It's positive, it's community building, it's good for the local economy.  The one thing you have to keep in mind when you are using this strategy, is making sure that you both (or more) benefit from the marketing program.  If you do, you will see your referrals go straight through the roof.  Think about it, if I always win from a referral to my next door neighbor, then I am very likely to do it, and they will reciprocate - it's a constant reminder that right around your corner, there are businesses to support.

Let's think of some ways to make this work.  I have a wine bar, and there is a bakery across the street. We both do catering, and work with weddings.  Every time I do a quote, I offer the bakery's services and products as add ons to our package. We hope that they do the same, but I am pretty sure that he hasn't thought about it in the same way - it's an unbalanced relationship.  Now down the street, there is a new bar. They have food as well and are the biggest newest thing - they not only give no corkage fee to people who buy wine at our place and bring it there, but they refer people when there is a line.  We in turn take calls when tables are available, and refer people there for after hours.  It's much more reciprocal, and stops the "wars" that people try to start between businesses.  It's like they want us to fight, but we don't. I spend time going there in my off hours.  It's as good as two competitive businesses are going to get, and I think it's the right thing to do. But how can we apply it in Social Media? I check in there every time I go, and share it with our followers. I link to their pages on our town page that I manage, and suggest it to people as a tip when they check in.  I will start working with them for reciprocal ideas.

Can you think of businesses that you can work with on your street? In your area?  Share your experiences - I can always learn more!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Get off my lawn!

This blog entry is more of an etiquette lesson. But I will put it in real terms too. Imagine that the guy painting your house, put a sign in your front yard without telling you.  Or the guy running for office put his bumper sticker on your car without asking you if you supported him, or would even want the sticker.
That's what it's like when someone posts their ad to your pages and accounts without consulting you.  It's an invasion of privacy, and potentially an attack on your brand.

I manage several Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and the whatnot. When someone posts to my page (other than a customer) trying to promote their band, art, business without consulting me - I delete it. Plain and simple, across the board, I delete it (or hide depending on the system). I then message them what they can do to cross brand with us and wait for them to communicate back.  Most of the time, it's spam. It's like when people post their events on the outside of my windows at the wine bar, I take them down.  It's actually even against a public ordinance, so I can't be the only one that feels this way.

So why do I write this? Not to be a nag, but there are ways to cross market that aren't trespassing on others pages. Basically it comes down to figuring out the commonality between your two companies/organizations - For example: If you have an event, and you would like to tell my company's customers about it, see how it can compliment my traffic that evening and maybe get us more customers because your event brings them in town.  Remember, my company worked hard to get that customer base - you are borrowing it. Cross-marketing is an amazing way to get people together from similar backgrounds.  I am on the board of our Village Association, and we constantly are trying to work to get people to the Village to experience all of the businesses and sites.  It's not easy to make it look cohesive, but when it works, it works well.

Short blog today - moral of the story - don't advertise your interest on other people's pages without their nod.  End of message :)

Saturday, December 31, 2011

I call Bull$hit!

Bank of America made a big mistake this year.  They thought they could charge a minor fee to their customers, and it would be ok. People started realizing how much this minor charge would be - and were probably quite offended that their tax dollars were spent to bail this bank out just a few months earlier and posted the cry foul all over Facebook, Twitter - and it made the news.  Some time afterwards (and really not quick enough to be a marketing ploy executed well if you ask me) BoA changed their tune and took that idea of fee away.

Now, this week, Verizon pulls the same crapola. Two to five days after, they change their tune. This my friends in my opinion was a coattails marketing ploy.  They got free press all over the place. Sure it looks bad - but none of us remember half the things on the top 10 events of 2011 - this gets a burst of press energy.  That is priceless.  I still call BS though on this one - it was weak.

Not really a blog today - I need to get the bar all pretty for New Years and watch other people drink and have fun - so thought I would call BS and walk away today! Happy New Year :)

Friday, November 25, 2011


This blog is about human nature.  Everyone wants a bargain. Everyone is looking for a deal.  It's Black Friday and people were camping out, missing dinner with loved ones to get a bargain on a TV or an iPad.

It works though - I saw tents outside of our local Target last night.  We can debate how we should be focusing on one and other, and that the "reason for the season" is being forgotten, but brass tax people, if it wasn't wanted, this marketing tactic would not work.

Since everyone wants a deal, sites like Groupon, Travelzoo, Yelp, Local and Google Offers have all sprung up to save people money and give you a little change back for your trouble.  Yeah, you hear from my tone, that this is not really that supportive of the little guy in most cases.  My first experience with this deal was with a local radio station... they offered me these coupons that would pay for $3000 worth of advertising. It would "benefit" me because it would come in slowly, and would bring in traffic.  This is what happened:
  • No where in the document, did they say they were going to discount my gift certificates and that people would be paying $5 for $10.
  • They sold more than my contract expected
  • These "gift certificates" are still coming in two years later
  • Customers rarely tip the waitresses on what they spent before the gift certificate
  • People constantly try to use them all and dicker
  • New business was not created, because these customers were not our market
So then, I looked at Travelzoo.  They made a deal up from our menu, halved  it and told us we would get 60% of the sale.  So, math people.  Our Food/Wine goods costs are around 50%, add all the wonderful things like rent, lights, heat, employees, insurance... we have a slight margin.  So Travelzoo is asking us to lose money on the deal to get bodies into our restaurant - that is a SHORT TERM GAIN - and an overall loss.  Again, this is what I should be expecting from our Radio Ad:
  • Loss of revenue
  • Customers outside of our target
  • Employee morale hit
So, I decided, it was to big a commitment to too large an audience to experiment.  So I went to Yelp and played with their deals. They are the same commitment (they are all the same, 50% off, and they take a cut), so I wanted one that I could experiment with, turn off, modify, and play with our internal systems. So this is what I did:
  • Made it so it was very clear you could not use more than 2 at a time
  • Modified our POS to add gratuity when the cert is used to cover  the employees
  • Asked for them to be presented at beginning of the meal
The third bullet is super important.  This is why... This whole discount idea, really replaces my print advertising budget.  Unlike the snail-mailed coupons, that look kinda cheap, these sales online feel like a bargain for people to have an extravagant night out.  My servers need to know when someone has these coupons so that they can:
  • Make sure that their experience is so good that they come back (build loyalty)
  • Take the time to share what is great about the menu and the wines, and get them to have a big night out on their savings (upsell, because the majority of couponers that came in, don't spend more than the coupon)
  • Get them to have something that brings them back in a timely manner (we have dated coupons to get them back within 2 weeks)
This seems to be working.  I am working on a training plan for new employees. After my Yelp training, I was ready for Travelzoo ( We started this week - our sale expires soon.  I will give you updates on how we have been working, and the issues we have seen so far.  I think you need to go into this with a plan.  I worked with my Chef on how much traffic we could handle, I am printing special menus from a suggestion from another business that did this.  Overall, we keep repeating the goal:

Get the customer to become a repeat customer.

I warn against the TV and Radio deals. You see no cash come into your business at all.  It's a trade for advertising, and in this economy - cash (even if just covering costs) is king. Take a look at each program closely before you consider them.  They pay in different intervals, and some (Groupon) has not been paying quickly.  Check them out, and ask for local references. That was the best thing we did after our Radio debacle.

Have you worked with these deals?  What's your advice?  Like us on FB at: and get into the conversation!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I can make you rich... really.

Uh huh...

Every day at my bar I get at least two cold calls and at least one walk in that tells me how I am messing up my online presence and how they can bring in hundreds of people into my establishment if I just let them take over my social networking and website. Now, there is always room for improvement, but is that how you were raised to start a conversation, let alone try to make a sale?

My favorite, is when they say, "We ran a report and found TONS of errors on your site, and that they can fix them for you for a nominal fee" or even, "Whoever designed your site didn't know what they were doing."  Um, that person would be me, the person who will be paying for your service as well.  Starting our business relationship off like a bad abusive relationship where the salesmen first tells me that my past decisions sucked, and even that I do, but they are the only can make me better -  is REALLY not the way to motivate me, and I can't think of it working on any other small business owner. Honey, I can spot a snake oil salesman a mile away now, and mostly learning from my mistakes.  Maybe you can learn from some of them too...
  1. Don't be their first customer.
    • Ask for references... pages, quotes, phone numbers.
    • Ask their references... how much time they were saved, how much traffic change did they see,
      how well their vision is being communicated online.
  2. If they promise traffic and increased followers ask them:
    • Twitter
      • What % will be robots and what % high visibility people?
      • What % of followers retweet?
      • What tools do they use (existing or in house created)?
      • Where will they get content for tweeting? How often do they plan to tweet?
      • What are their goals for followers?
      • How will they report updates?
    • Facebook
      • What is their method for getting new followers?
      • Who will be responding and posting
      • Where will they get content for posts? How often do they plan to post?
      • What are their goals for followers?
      • How will they report updates?
  3. How much will this cost me?
    • Seriously, we tout social media as being free all the time, but we know it costs time, and time is money.  It also really needs tools and they cost money too. Lets say it costs minimum wage in California for someone to be maintaining your interests online. That's about $250 a month for 1 hour a day to be spent on Tweeting and FaceBooking.  That's a lot of money for a pretty low hourly wage to be guiding and directing your business strategy online, so what are they doing and how do they work for you?
I have worked in media companies, as well as now owning my own business for two years.   I need to listen to what they are saying in their criticisms, to see if I hear the same thing a lot, and then change things up to make that criticism go away and make room for the next one.  After all, I  let that "horrible" website ( lie dormant for 2 years, and in one week of making changes have made 5x the effort in party scheduling. What I don't need to do though, is spend a lot of money for someone who cannot show me how they will make up the cost with income like I just did.  Most can't.  I know how to run my business, today.  I learn more daily - my opinion is  - most people who cold call my business over the phone or by walking in off the street, should not have my business.

Your thoughts?
    Disclaimer: I worked on a design/ad company for 2 years, and Fortune 500 companies for years before that - vision comes from within.  If you have a company telling (or even yelling at you like I have heard in the past) what you should be doing and that you don't know how to reach your customers, run.  You started your business.  You know who you want for customers, you know what you want to sell, you know what makes you money.  If you don't know that, then an ad guy or social media maven is not going to help you.  At best, they are going to send you a bunch of traffic that you are not going to be able to fulfill, at worst, no one new will come to your door because the vision they communicate is not your business. 
    Assuming you do know your vision for your business, this marketing company should be able to come back with a plan that tells you how to reach the customers you planned your business for. If they can't, you can do this yourself.

    Thursday, July 7, 2011

    A Place for Online SNARK...

    UrbanDictionary -noun Combination of "snide" and "remark". Sarcastic comment(s). Also snarky (adj.) and snarkily (adv.)
    I am sarcastic. I come by it honestly from a long line of New Yorkers that tell it how it is, and when they aren't being straight with you, they say the truth, sarcastically.
    I moved to California 6 years ago. To say it's PC where I live is incorrect.  It's small town.  Sarcasm is lost on many, thought of as mean and unapproachable by some and only appreciated by a few.  Add to that, owning a business in a service industry, and it is a sword that needs to be wielded very carefully if at all. When said in person, one can hear tone, see facial expressions, and has a much better chance of understanding your gist.

    Online... ooh that's another matter.  I thought about having my own personal Facebook page where I could be "me" and be pissy and acerbic if I feel like it, and have a way to vent. I thought about having my own twitter as well... *EPIC FAIL* No one cares. Really. If they do, they will use it against you. They will find you funny and awesome for 5 minutes and then a jerk for the rest of the day. 

    I am not a jerk, I just have jerky moments (yup, I am human). Jerky moments in print are forever.  Have you ever gotten an email that you sent in the past thrown in your face?  I have.  Have you ever print screened someone's status on Facebook?  It's been done...  A post and a delete, is out there somewhere still - trust me.

    My business was founded on buzz. Controlled buzz. I posted construction pictures, I got people excited about me buying their wine and showing it off, I invited them to the party that happens every night.  My business is based on my wine bar being "comfortably elegant" and comfortable comes from my business being an extension of my customer's home.

    Drumming up passion about negative situations or people in my life does not create comfort.  It might create traffic, but if people don't like our wine, our food or feel comfortable, then it's not a marketing win.

    That's the point - it's all marketing.  Know that every part of your life is your business. From going to the grocery store and running into customers, to getting a pedicure and chatting in the chair, to talking in a coffee shop, you are always a representative of your business.  If you have more than your closest 12 friends and followers online, then every account you have is marketing you, and therefore your business.

    There is no place for SNARK online if you have a business.  Belittling the competition, customers, rules will bite you in the butt. Personally, if you think about it, what profiles do you hide? I hide the jerky and pissy ones.  Do you want to be hidden or heard?

    Thursday, April 28, 2011

    The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

    Why does social networking work? Because you are not alone.

    I started a business with a lot of help from friends and family. My vision was singular, but I could not have done it alone.  People painted, built, scrubbed, and sweat to help me achieve my goals.  The best people did it because they saw my dream coming to reality.  They shared the vision.

    It does "take a village" to get things done and there is nothing different in Social Media.  It's not even subtle - they call it "SOCIAL" for a reason.  It's all about relationship building.  I have been told for 17 years that I am a force to reckon with, you don't want to mess with me. My communication style in the business world was, NO first, then MAYBE then NO... In 2 years, I have gotten to pour wine for a living, give hugs as people walk in the door, and make people comfortable - BIG CHANGE in communication. Social media was a way to get a quick makeover of sorts.  I share (sometimes overshare) all the time.  I brag about my staff, my food, my customers, my friends.  I know CLEARLY that all the vision in the world for a business is nothing without all of these people, but I get to share it every day.  I use social media to keep these relationships in tact, even though I have little to no time outside of the four walls of my business.

    What does 2000 followers on Facebook mean?
    • 3000+ page views a day - can't get that from standard media every day
    • Personal interactions whenever I have a moment
    • Ability to target messages to genders, locations
    • To the second advertising of specials
    • Easy tool to show appreciation immediately, instant gratification to the customer
    • Like watching a sitcom or the news, your customers get to know the people who make your business happen, intimately
    Interaction with your clientele is what makes you different from Walmart, chain Coffee Shops and chain Restaurants.  Knowing the owner is important. Being remembered by the owner and staff is your goal and what will separate you from the pack.
    "According to many, George H. W. Bush’s career was advanced by his strong habit of sending thank-you notes (an act ingrained by his mother, no doubt)."
    There is NO WAY ON EARTH, I will be mailing out thank you notes (so if you get one from me, you are truly special).  I have Christmas cards from 2001 with stamps on them waiting to be sent out (several people have died that they would go to, time flies) so I needed something that would allow me to say what I wanted to in an expedited manner. Social Media doesn't just help that, it is the glue to my business relationships.

    My business is a cocktail party every night, without knowing who was invited, and hoping they all show every night.  Social Media is my way of letting everyone know they are always invited, always welcome, and always appreciated.

    How do you use Social Media in your business to build relationships?