MeasuredUp Customer Service and Small Business Marketing Blog

 Wall Street Journal On a Tight Budget? How to Land a Client

August 18th, 2010

By EMILY MALTBY

It’s a common conundrum for business owners when sales aren’t pouring in.

To get more customers, you need to market and advertise. But when cash is sparse, it’s tough to allocate dollars toward promotional efforts, especially when there’s no guarantee of a return.

Amid the economic downturn, nearly half of business owners say they’re straining to find efficient or innovative ways to market their products or services, according to a March survey of 734 entrepreneurs by American Express OPEN, the company’s small-business division.

For many, the outlay of cash is simply too risky. “It’s a Catch-22. When business is slow, entrepreneurs don’t have as much money [but] one of the things you need is more advertising,” says Greg Gould, director of the Maine Small Business Development Center in Portland. “You should be spending more in a slow economy, not less.”

To minimize the potential drain on the budget, some business owners are trying creative or highly targeted means of reaching potential clients, Mr. Gould says. (Please read how numerous entrepreneurs are trying to land clients in the gallery at bottom.)

For example, Mr. Gould is seeing more owners aggressively aiming to reach a specific demographic. A small company selling baby toys, for instance, might comb wedding announcements and send catalogues or brochures to recently married couples, rather than placing a generic ad in a newspaper or a magazine. Otherwise, “you might be paying to reach people you may not want to reach,” he says.

Other business owners are focusing more on niches or specialties within their industry.

Lisa Feierstein, president of Active Healthcare Inc. in Raleigh, N.C., which provides medical equipment to treat a variety of respiratory conditions, directs her marketing efforts toward sleep apnea sufferers. “We were determined to not be a victim of the economy,” says Ms. Feierstein, who used to wait for physicians to refer clients to her.

One day a week last March, which is Sleep Awareness Month, she held free sleep apnea screenings and provided free repairs on sleep apnea equipment, even if purchased from a competitor.

The efforts proved successful. About 150 people came in for screenings, and between 10% and 15% returned as patients, Ms. Feierstein estimates. And of the 50 people who came to get their equipment serviced, about 75% are now repeat customers who get services and supplies through her company.

Mr. Gould says that offering free services can work to entice new customers, but that owners should go a step further, handing out coupons or promotions to encourage customers to come back. Otherwise, the strategy could end up being quite costly.

Other small-business owners less keen on offering freebies are dedicating more time to strengthening their online presence, says Marc Karasu, a marketing consultant in New York who specializes in digital-marketing tools. “You don’t need to be an expert,” he says. “There are resources that didn’t exist even a few years ago that level the playing field.”

Some entrepreneurs are learning more about search engine optimization. Others are providing customers with online newsletters or blog feeds. Owners are also responding and engaging customers on review sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List, Mr. Karasu says.

Owners can also build communities using social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Still, 74% of business owners say they do not use social-networking tools, according to the American Express survey.

Michael Sinkin, a dentist in New York, says he used to be “intimidated” at the thought of developing an online presence. Last year, he was skeptical of the effort required to create a website, “but once the site was launched and I saw it, I realized it was nifty,” he says.

Now, Dr. Sinkin is a regular social-media guru. He regularly writes on his blog, which he then touts on Twitter and Facebook.

This summer, the number of new patients seeking his service has doubled. Part of the success, he says, came from a situation where a British businesswoman, traveling in New York for a short stint, sent out a Twitter message asking for dental help because her tooth had cracked. One of Dr. Sinkin’s Twitter followers replied to her, providing his office details. Dr. Sinkin fixed the dental problem the next day. After the businesswoman left, she turned to Twitter again to rave about the level of care the dentist had provided.

“Virtual word of mouth becomes viral,” says Dr. Sinkin, who has 1,500 Twitter followers and estimates picking up six new patients from the traveler’s tweets. “I used to just give toothbrushes and toothpaste but now I have cards printed up that say ‘Follow me on Twitter.’ “

 Best Consumer Complaint Sites

July 22nd, 2010

From MainStreet.com
By Seth Fiegerman

MeasuredUp.com

Are you not on speaking terms with a particular business? Well, MeasuredUp.com essentially acts as an intermediary between you and the companies you hate. Big name business like Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Orbitz and Best Buy have signed up with MeasuredUp to respond to consumer complaints on the site. Consider it a way to get around talking to representatives on the phone. (It’s also worth noting that there are thousands of posts on this site that are actually positive, which doesn’t seem to be the case on the other sites we mentioned.)

Read entire article: www.mainstreet.com/article/smart-spending/best-customer-complaint-sites

 Importance of Online Customer Service and Reputation Management

June 11th, 2010

Read entire article:

http://www.b2cmarketinginsider.com/online-marketing/importance-of-online-customer-service-and-reputation-management-0496

Whether you are at an established company or at a startup the pressure on you as a marketer to deliver is immense.  To make matters more challenging it is likely that your marketing budget has been cut.  Every dollar you spend is questioned for ROI and in most meetings you are asked about developments in social networking, customer service and online reputation management because it is in the press and tantalizingly promises high return at low cost.

Whatever category your business is in, online customer service and reputation management are marketing tactics you should be employing that compliment almost any brand at very little cost.

Customer Service

In today’s economy no single thing matters as much for your sales and loyalty as building a great customer service brand.  This is an area of marketing often overlooked or muddled with expensive and hard to use tools.   If you are even aware of your customer service problem it is likely you first came across it the way most consumers do by finding a review about your company online on a search engine.

Online reviews are here to stay and many current and potential customers use internet search engines to help guide their online research in deciding where to buy.  You can leverage the world of online consumer reviews in your favor and often have more impact on thousands of active consumers’ purchasing intent then the best TV commercial.

Whether you have a large customer service department or none at all, already have a good customer service reputation or need to build one, many new online customer service tools exist today that are often free or low cost.

What You Can Do Now to Improve Customer Service and Reputation

Start asking your top customers to review you on customer service sites like MeasuredUp.com or angieslist.com.  By confidently asking top customers for customer service reviews you will have dozens of complimentary reviews of your company online in no time.   These will negate most bad reviews, increase your ranking on search engines and help interested potential customers to find and trust you when researching online.  The goal is not to have only good reviews as even the best companies have some bad reviews about them online.  The goal is to have a balance and to demonstrate through association that your brand is focused on improving customer service.

Online Comments

Individuals are talking about you on the Internet whether you like it or not.  On thousands of personal sites, as well as Facebook and Twitter, content that mentions you or a competitor is constantly being added.  You need to join this conversation even if you can’t control it.

What You Can Do Now to Respond to Online Comments

Identify a person on your staff to spend about 5 hours a week searching for unflattering reviews or mentions about your company or articles about something that is relevant to your business.  When there is a comment field have them write some intelligent and helpful content in response.  State that they are an employee of the company and include a URL to your site.  Do not try and pretend to be a consumer as this will likely be found out and create further uncomplimentary content.  This effort will help rebut negative views, show your company cares about its reputation and will help drive traffic to your company website.  If you come across compliments add on a quick “Thank You” comment and that you care about your reputation and appreciate the support of customers.

This tactic is focused totally on trolling Facebook, Twitter and Blogs to “invite” connections with current and potential customers.  This is a hard position to measure effectiveness on but you have to consider this proactive marketing.  The opportunity cost saved is that you don’t have uncontrolled rumors online.  Many PR firms are starting to offer this service but the fact is they don’t really get it and won’t be able to react as quickly as someone in your company culture who understands your brand.

With these two easy and inexpensive marketing tactics you can quickly augment your existing marketing efforts and start to raise your company’s social media presence, customer service and online profile while helping increase sales and build online reputation.

These tactics should be factored into your budget as the cost of doing business if you want to compete in today’s interconnected digital world.

About the author: Marc Karasu is a senior marketing executive and digital marketing expert with 20 years experience.  He is also the founder of Measuredup.com, the leader in online customer service and reputation management. He can be reached at MeasuredUp.com or his marketing consulting website MAKtaste.com.

 MeasuredUp featured in Discoveringstartups.com

June 10th, 2010

Vote for MeasuredUp.com at Discoveringstartups.com

www.discoveringstartups.com/measuredup-com-customer-service-resolutions/

 Manage Your Online Reputation

June 10th, 2010

MeasuredUp featured in article about Customer Service.

Your customers are likely talking about you online. One disgruntled customer can sway your online reputation and the way your company appears on search engine results.

Proactively manage your online reputation and engage good customers to write online reviews on your website by offering discounts, use counter card instore reminders that you value customer service and reach out to authors of unflattering reviews. New good reviews will help counter bad ones and improve your online reputation.

Thanks to: Marc Karasu of MeasuredUp.com.
Read the article here: http://www.toiletpaperentrepreneur.com/blog/how-to-get-reliable-feedback-from-customers

 Marchex Builds On Small Business Marketing Leadership through Multi-year Relationship with Dow Jones Local Media Group to Sell Reputation Management Product; Adds Four New Content Sources

June 10th, 2010

June 09, 2010 09:15 AM Eastern Daylight Time 


New partner to sell Marchex Reputation Management to local business customers; Marchex to receive unique content, increase local business listings data footprint to nearly half-a-billion items

SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Marchex, Inc. (NASDAQ: MCHX), a call advertising and small business marketing company, today announced that it has entered into a relationship with Dow Jones Local Media Group, a Dow Jones company focused on publishing information for local communities. The relationship involves two key elements:

“Companies must be able to ensure the information about them in the digital world is accurate. And they need a product that provides them with an intelligent, dynamic feedback loop so they can be up-to-date regarding customer feedback from reviews, blog mentions and across social media.”

(1) Marchex will provide Dow Jones Local Media Group with a private-labeled version of the Marchex Reputation Management product, which it will sell to its small business customers on a monthly subscription basis and/or bundled with other Dow Jones Local Media Group product offerings; and
(2) Marchex will continue to receive unique content and information from Dow Jones Local Media Group as well as from other new content partners, including CitySquares, Joy of Spa and Measured Up, for inclusion in Marchex Reputation Management, which will benefit users by broadening the local business listing meta-data footprint of the product to nearly half-a-billion items (e.g., user reviews, listings, mentions on blogs and social media).

“Reputation management is a critical tool to help small businesses be more efficient and competitive in business. We strive to offer our advertisers the most cutting-edge and effective solutions for their needs, and as the market leader, Marchex Reputation Management fits that bill,” said Patrick Mullen, product manager for interactive marketing services at Dow Jones Local Media Group. “Companies must be able to ensure the information about them in the digital world is accurate. And they need a product that provides them with an intelligent, dynamic feedback loop so they can be up-to-date regarding customer feedback from reviews, blog mentions and across social media.”

As user-generated reviews continue to become more prevalent with consumers, local businesses are seeking ways to leverage this opportunity to ensure their online reputations are both preserved and enhanced. Marchex’s Reputation Management product enables small businesses to easily understand, manage and improve their online reputation, allowing them to expand product offerings, build loyalty with customers and generate more revenue.

Reputation Management Market:

According to a new BIA/Kelsey local advertising forecast, the E-mail, Reputation and Presence Management (ERPM) category is expected to grow from $460 million in 2008 to $3.1 billion in 2013. Additionally, the number of SMBs using ERPM will increase from approximately 500,000 to nearly 4 million during the forecast period.

Marchex Reputation Management Product

Marchex Reputation Management is the first major extension of Marchex’s small business marketing products, expanding the Marchex footprint beyond full-service search engine marketing to include comprehensive sentiment analytics.

Marchex Reputation Management was built using proprietary local search technology. Covering more than 8,000 sources and containing nearly half-a-billion pieces of local business listings meta-data, the product monitors and reports on a specific business’ online footprint, including its user reviews and news, blog and social media mentions and activities, providing small businesses with an unparalleled information advantage and a 360-degree view of customer sentiment and industry trends. Key product features include:

  • Alerts: E-mail alerts allow business customers to be notified when online information about their company—or competition—is added or changed.
  • Broadcast: Business customers can share positive news and reviews with customers and employees through a variety of sources, including email, Digg, Facebook and Twitter.
  • Competitive Marketing Analysis: Business customers can compare themselves to other local businesses in a variety of ways while including different measures, applying graphs and easy-to-grasp visuals.
  • Reviews and Mentions: Information is provided on positive and negative sentiment from customer reviews, as well as intelligence on sentiment trends.
  • Search Keyword Identification: Top terms and phrases from consumer reviews are identified to differentiate the business.

“For a small business, time is at a huge premium. This reputation management product provides an easy, quick way to find out what people are saying about my company without having to click through to a dozen or more different sites,” said Craig Abplanalp, vice president of Seattle-based custom home theater and audio firm, Definitive Audio. “There’s one dashboard, so you don’t have to do a lot of work to find out the good, the bad and the ugly, and in turn to decide what to do about it from a business perspective.”

“Understanding the digital footprint and customer sentiment is a critical component of local advertising that businesses cannot afford to ignore,” said Brooks McMahon, senior vice president of small business marketing products at Marchex. “Our Reputation Management product gives businesses the opportunity to efficiently monitor these elements and the intelligence to help them prioritize customer-focused activities and marketing efforts to grow their business.”Marche

 5 Steps To Better Small Business Marketing

April 23rd, 2010

From MediaPost.com

by Marc Karasu,





You can give your small business marketing a spring cleaning and burnish your brand without having to spend much money.Leverage the following marketing tactics to raise the profile of your small business, stay a step ahead of your competition and increase revenue:

1. Social networking Many of your customers of all ages are using social networking sites. You don’t need to be a computer expert to use them and for a few minutes investment you can learn how to create a company presence on them that benefits you for years to come with little further effort other then maintenance.

Facebook: Go to www.facebook.com and build a “company” page.

Twitter: Go to www.Twitter.com and make a page for your company.

Share your new online presence with your customers with counter cards at the register or signs in store windows.

2. Customer service As the boss, you see your employees only on their best behavior. In today’s economy, no single thing matters as much for your sales as building a great customer service brand. Whether you already have a good reputation or need to build one, these simple steps can get you on your way fast.

Call your company Anonymously, call your business at several different times of the day and ask some hard customer questions to see how your employees react and interact with a customer. This will allow you to identify problem areas with your customer service and address them with training.

Returns Have a friend try to return something and document the experience to help identify areas of strength and weakness.

Online reputation and reviews You have likely come across some negative reviews about your company on a search engine. Many current and potential customers use search engines to help guide their online research in deciding where to buy. You can leverage the world of online reviews in your favor by asking your customers to review you on customer service sites like ours or business sites like Yelp.com.

By confidently asking customers for customer service reviews, you will in no time have dozens of complimentary reviews of your company online. These will help negate any bad reviews and potential customers will be able to find and trust you when researching online.

3. TV Google.com now offers small businesses the opportunity to produce a TV commercial and buy targeted TV on which to run your ad inexpensively. You could produce your ad for as little as a $250. For a few hundred dollars a week, you could run your new TV commercial in your local market or region on the networks you feel best target your customers.

Smart companies are using TV to build their brand and beat competitors.

Go to www.Google.com/TVads to learn more.

4. Email Start collecting email addresses of every customer. Request their email address politely and explain you will never share it and would like to keep them updated on specials, useful info and new products.

Tell them you will email them once a month and that they can opt out at any time. Explain that this is for special customers and that you will be distributing exclusive promotions through your company email newsletter.

Starting and maintaining a company email newsletter costs almost nothing and allows you to keep track of your customers and build a database. Not every customer will want to give you an email address but many are happy to.

Go to www.verticalresponse.com and start a newsletter today.

5. PR You have more to say about your business then you realize. Regular press releases about important company events, news or upgrades will help local media keep up to date on your business and will often lead to journalists calling you for quotes or more info that can lead to inclusion in articles.

These help raise your company’s credibility, build your reputation and keep your brand in front of customers. Once you get some articles written, you can use those publications logos on your website or on in-store signage, further building you company’s profile.

Go to www.marketwire.com to learn more about creating press releases.

With these five easy and inexpensive marketing tips you can quickly start to raise your small businesses profile, increase sales and build your online reputation while further distancing yourself from your competitors at a fraction of the marketing spend.

 Four areas for improvement in retail online marketing

April 23rd, 2010

From Retailcustomerexperience.com

By Marc Karasu

Being an executive in this economy is tough. Being a marketing executive is almost impossible.

Whether you are at an established company with a well-known brand or at a startup, the pressure on you to deliver is immense. To make matters more challenging, it is likely that your marketing budget has been cut. Every dollar you spend is questioned for ROI and in most meetings you are asked about developments in social networking, customer service and PR because it is all anyone reads about and promises tantalizingly high yield at low cost.

Whatever category your retail business is in, the following tactics will help you build, track and keep up on the buzz about your brand without the need to invest large amounts of money. These ideas compliment almost any brand at any budget.

1. Social networking – You probably already have a Facebook and Twitter page that may or may not be yielding results for you. To help these pages along and to build up your social networking reputation or refute complaints, you should be leveraging these pages further.

What you can do now – Task a junior member of your team to be your “social outreach ambassador.” This role is focused totally on trolling Facebook, Twitter and blogs to “invite,” “reply” and “request” connections with current and potential customers and groups. By spending 20 or so hours a week on this effort you will slowly help along your Facebook and Twitter following, refute untrue online blog statements and reply to customers who have questions. This is a hard position to measure effectiveness on, so it could be hard to justify in your budget. But you have to consider this proactive marketing. The opportunity cost saved is not having uncontrolled rumors online. Many PR firms are starting to offer this service, but they don’t really get it and won’t be able to react as quickly as someone in your company culture who understands your brand.

Start with an intern and scale from there.

2. Customer service – In today’s economy no single thing matters as much for your sales and loyalty as building a great customer service brand. This is an area of marketing often overlooked or muddled with expensive and hard-to-use processes. If you are even aware of your customer service problem it is likely you first came across it the way most consumers find you: You found a review about your company online, via a search engine, and it was probably not flattering.

Online reviews are here to stay and many current and potential customers use them to help guide their online research in deciding where to buy. You can leverage the world of online reviews in your favor and often have more effect on purchase intent than the best TV commercial.

Whether you have a large customer service department, no customer service department, already have a good customer service reputation or need to build one, today many new online customer service tools exist that are often free or low cost.

What you can do now -
Start asking your customers to review you on business sites like Angieslist.com and customer service sites like MeasuredUp.com. By confidently asking customers for business and customer service reviews, you will in no time have dozens of complimentary reviews of your company online. These will negate most bad reviews, increase your positioning on search engines and help interested, potential customers find and trust you when researching online. The goal here is not to have only good reviews as even the best companies have some bad reviews about them online. The goal is to have a balance and to demonstrate through association that your brand is focused on improving.

3. Online comments – The Internet is talking about you whether you like it or not. On thousands of sites, content that mentions you or a competitor is constantly being added. You need to join this conversation, even if you can’t control it.

What you can do now - Take that intern who is working on Facebook, Twitter and blogs and have him also spend five hours a week searching for reviews about your company or articles about something that is relevant to your business. When there is a comment field, have the intern write some intelligent content in response. State that they are an employee of the company and include a URL to your site. Do not try and pretend to be consumer as this will likely be found out and create further uncomplimentary content. This effort will help rebut negative views, show your company cares about its reputation and will help drive traffic to your company Web site. If you come across compliments, add on a quick “Thank You” comment, saying that you care about your reputation and appreciate the support of customers.

4. PR - You have more to say about your business than you realize. Regular press releases about important company events, news or upgrades are often overlooked. Generate interest from journalists by creating content that will interest them.

What you can do now – You know your business and the kinds of things the press wants to cover. Often, the press does not have the resources to generate data for a story. Create a poll on your Web site based on a topic of interest and then pitch the results to your press contacts. This will often lead to an exclusive or inclusion in a larger story about the topic.

If you have good contacts you also can pre-pitch an idea to them to gauge interest and then create the poll customized to their needs. Polls like these help raise your company’s credibility, build your reputation and keep your brand in front of customers.

With these easy and inexpensive marketing tips, you can quickly augment your existing marketing efforts and start to raise your company’s social media, customer service, online and PR profile while helping increase sales and build online reputation.

 Should the 3 million dollars spent on the SuperBowl been spent on customer service

February 7th, 2010

Spending 3 million dollars on :30 seconds of an ad is a scary thing for many companies.  However if you have the right brand for the audience, the right product and the right idea for an ad it can be a great investment in your company leading to increased sales, traffic and brand.

Given the economy this year it is an even more risky bet to run an ad in the Superbowl.

At MeasuredUp we think many companies that advertised in the SuperBowl could have spent their moeny better by investing it in customer service programs, social networking and reputation management.  These efforts in many cases would have increase revenue more then an ad in the SuperBowl.

Having said that we think a few companies spent their money wisely and put together effective ads in the SuperBowl.

Winners:

Hyundai – New products, good prices and an implosion by Toyota could help Hyundai step up to the big time.

Cars.com – Smart ad, good message, well executed.  A great way to take leadership in the category.

Google.com – The first ad from google is distinctive, smart and clear.  Not sure who does not use google already but if they saw the ad they do now.

Why bother:

Bud Light – Keeping your brand top of mind is one thing. Dumb commercials dont sell more beer.  Try creating a quality message.

Sketchers – No idea why this brand is here.

Bridgestone – No message.

Total waste of money:

Boost Mobil – Might have well given phones away to customers with the money to build usership.

GoDaddy.com – Reliably running the worst ad each year.  Too stupid to comment more.

Vizeo – Garbage ad. Totally useless.

Each year advertisers as a group largely miss on this event.  While blame to ad agencies is clear it also takes a supremely stupid client to buy off on many of these ideas.

The shame is that too many of these agencies and clients are trying to win a popularity contest that means nothing.  What they should be doing is creating a smart ad on message that pays off on what their brand does.

 How Search Works With Social CRM

January 28th, 2010

From Media Post

by Laurie Sullivan,

Search technology: Some companies will license it, while others build it from scratch. It depends on the egos of executives working at the company. Real-time search and social media have pushed technology to the forefront. Companies need sophisticated algorithms that can sort and index structured and unstructured data.

A recent Accenture report titled “Social CRM: The New Frontier of Marketing, Sales and Service” ties it all together. Joe Hughes, senior executive from Accenture’s customer service and support business, confirms that enterprise companies have begun to build search engine technology that will integrate into software applications and consumer hardware to help marketers, advertisers, agencies and others sort through the mounds of data created by social media.

Hughes defines social CRM as the conversation data from social media networks. And as marketers continue to try and make sense of the mounds of data flooding in from real-time search, Twitter streams, Facebook status updates, and behavioral targeting tags, they will need a faster method to sort, index and access data. Wow, are you overwhelmed yet?

Marketers need technology that can move feedback from customers and call center agents between channels with as much automation as possible. That will become the only way to analyze the data. Natural language query processing will also become a focus, to search through documents of unstructured and structured data as the mounds of social media data continues to mount.

Last year, tools measuring buzz metrics in social networks emerged. This year, the focus turns toward integrating the social data into traditional CRM platforms from companies like software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider Salesforce, which late last year integrated the feature, allowing people to search on that data in real time.

Until now, CRM packages did not allow marketers to view data collected on Twitter alongside traditional queries. But the real-time search movement has sent companies looking to improve search results back to the drawing board to build engines that can process structured and unstructured data, as well as sentiment analysis, taxonomy, classification and entity extractions, according to Hughes. “The strategy of combining structured and unstructured data will become more important,” he tells me.

Read the rest of the article here: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=121505

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