Thursday, November 23, 2017

How Online Companies Can Feel More Like Part of the Local Business Community

Just because you run an online business, may work from your home, and likely work unconventional hours, doesn't mean that you have to be isolated from other local business owners. Here some ideas to make you feel better connected to the community in which you work.

Join your local chamber of commerce (or attend some of their activities as a non-member): Chamber events often attract hundreds of business people, last on.y a few hours, and are created to foster networking. Attendees are often given lists of other attendees. Don't just file it for later use: the quicker you act, the more likely you are to be remembered from the event.

Volunteer to teach a class or seminar in your areas of expertise. We believe strongly that everyone benefits when they share their strengths. Classes are also a great place to pass out print literature about your company to the attendees.

Do your work in public. Take your computer to the coffee shop or bookstore for a change of scenery. And don't just use their free WIFI and occupy a table for hours: give them a little business, too.

Donate products and services to local fundraisers to help get your company name out. Who doesn't want to help support their neighbors, while gaining a reputation for being generous?

ID five local businesses that complement yours, then make coffee dates with their owners. Even better if you can target someone who's already done what you're trying to accomplish.

Everything is an opportunity to get your company name out. Go to the gym? Wear a t-shirt with your company logo on it. Depending on your business, you may also want to use a vehicle as a "moving billboard". And always have a supply of business cards on hand to give to people you meet.

Join an entrepreneurs network, but only after attending a few times first as a guest. Gauge the feeling in the room. Re the other attendees enthusiastic, positive-thinking and well-connected or do they use the meeting to lament about "woulda/coulda/shouldas"? What past events have they run? Are meetings cancelled last-minute? Is there a revolving door of members? Who are the leaders and do they monopolize the meetings? Be wary of any group who wants your membership fees before welcoming you as a guest.

Hold volunteer positions in local organizations. This will help you stay visible in the community while giving back to groups in which you believe.

If anything looks familiar about this list, you're probably right. This advice is very similar to that which we give businesses who also have bricks and mortar presences. That's because the real differentiator is between marketing-savvy organizations and those which are not, not between online-only businesses and those which also have a physical presence.

What other tips and ideas have helped you, as an online business owner, network locally? Leave us a message below.

- Lynne Sabean

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Have You Reorganized Your Pinterest Boards Into Sections Yet?

A few weeks ago, Pinterest, the leading online scrapboarding social media service, announced its new Sections functionality. It essentially allows users to better organize their boards by organizing them into subgroups that make individual pins easier to find. We love it, because one of our pet peeves about Pinterest was not being able to easily organize boards in anything other than chronological order of posting. Sections, like boards, can be either public or private.

We quickly set about updating our boards. The process was easy: just tap "new section" on the board, then name and populate it. You may add an unlimited number of sections to a board. During this housekeeping process, we also tested links and were surprised how many of them were broken or out of date (including some of our own!) We deleted pins that didn't resonate with us any more or those which didn't fit the boards' themes once reorganized. We kept everything public, as we share Pinterest's desire to keep people on the site and interacting with boards for a longer period of time.

So why utilize sections instead of just creating new boards? First, we didn't want to lose the followers on our existing boards. Next, sections, if used properly, are subordinate to the main board. For instance, we added "Our Designs and Products" sections to several of our themed boards. These would not work as standalone boards.

On the other hand, there are times where it makes more sense to split up a large board that's grown too large. For example, an "Outdoor Activities" board might be split into "Hiking","Bicycling", etc. ones. Each board could be broken up into sections like "Tips and Techniques", "Destinations", and "Equipment."

Have you reorganized your Pinterest boards into sections yet? What worked well for you? Leave us a comment below.

- Lynne Sabean

Instagram Got a Whole Lot More Engaging Recently

Instagram now offers nested replies to individual comments. This makes it easier for users to engage with individual commenters, especially on popular posts with lots of comments.

So how can business owners harness this new functionality? Here are a few ideas to make the most of your Instagram presence:

Start the flow of online conversation yourself. Write the first comment to your Instagram post, to start the dialogue. Ask for opinions or insight. Be sure to respond to replies. Yes, we know you may already be doing this, but the new nested comment feature makes it easier to engage with your audience and make sure you don't miss any responses.

Use your Instagram posts to advise, inform, and yes, even entertain your followers on a regular basis and talk about your products and services tangentially in the comments. We know that this might not always be possible and we do use our own Instagram feed for product announces. But the occasional post about a new product or service that is similar to other costing products and services in which followers are already interested is still giving those people something of value in exchange for their time. On the other hand, turning your Instagram feed into a relentless and redundant sales pitch is a misuse of social media technology... and a lost engagement opportunity.

The appropriate use of nested comments shows your other Instagram followers that you will actively engage with them, too if given the chance. When you authentically engage with people online, you build and retain an intimate, emotional connection with them. The loyal fans you cultivate are not only more likely to convert into buyers of your products and services, but are also more likely to become your advocates / evangelists.

Use nested comments to help your followers engage with each other, not just with you. After all, community is based on interactions between multiple people, not just a series of one-to-one dialogues.

Let's Get Personal. One of the best ways to create an emotional relationship with your followers is to introduce them to the people behind the company. Use names of individuals and teams in your Instagram posts and nested comments. Get multiple staff involved in the conversation.

We'd love to hear about your Instagram success stories. Leave us a comment below.

- Lynne Sabean

Monday, November 20, 2017

How to Create Great Customer Experiences When Service and Fulfillment are in Someone Else's Hands

This post originally appeared on the Janusian Gallery blog. Minor text changes have been made.

Running an online business? We do lots of research on why people buy online vs at brick and mortar businesses. Most of the numbers we've seen indicate that 90-95 percent of retail shopping is done at a physical location. (Not as surprising as it may seem given that big ticket items like cars, boats, major appliances, etc. are things you definitely want to experience in person (not to mention items that can be extremely difficult and/or costly to ship.) But regardless of ***where*** someone buys, the ***how*** of what someone buys makes a world of difference.

Our sister company Janusian Gallery designs for several print-on-demand vendors, including Zazzle, RedBubble, Society6, FineArtAmerica, Curioos, Merch by Amazon, and ImageKind. (See links at right.) Each company was carefully vetted at the time we joined to make sure their fulfillment standards were acceptable. We know firsthand that it can occasionally be scary to rely on someone else to help manage our brand. Following are some tips and techniques for creating an optimal customer experience.

1. Only work with companies with a great reputation for customer service. This can be hard to ascertain, because people who are dissatisfied with a particular vendor / manufacturer are more likely to leave feedback than those who are satisfied. Visit the web site and navigate around it the way a prospective customer would. Is the interface intuitive? Can you easily get to information and information you need? Ask Customer Service questions about a particular product and see if you get a prompt response. You get the idea.

2. Create great designs and content. One thing you can control is the quality of your designs and the accompanying text. While search engine optimization (SEO) best practices seem to change daily, the concept behind them hasn't: search engines reward web pages that deliver useful information and penalize zen those that don't. So use meaningful tags /keywords. Write product copy that makes site visitors comfortable, willing, and happy to buy your product.

3. Put your designs on the right products. Your customers want to feel that you really understand them and their wants and needs. We use personae (target customer "characters") to help predict what designs will attract which audiences and which products are most appropriate for those designs. For example, we'd never put a cartoon targeting toddlers on a cigarette lighter or a grownup-themed design on a baby bib. We also create sets of items to facilitate one-stop shopping.

4. Leverage all that technology has to offer. We love our print-on-demand vendors because they make it easy for buyers to order just the right item, in the right size, and customized to be truly one-of-a-kind. Help your customers create unique products by designing templates that are easy to use. Worried that computer technology makes it too easy for buyers to find someone else's product? Make your own pages so compelling that there's no reason to look elsewhere. Remind shoppers to pin or bookmark your pages to make them easy to find again. Be responsive to emails and text messages.

5. Buy samples of your own work occasionally. Odds are, the company won't treat your order any differently than anyone else's. (Which is just what you want if you're measuring the customer experience.)

6. Bring manufacturing issues to the manufacturer's attention. Got a bad review or a refund request? Our customers don't differentiate between us and our P.O.D. manufacturers. Nor should they. Ultimately, it's our responsibility to ensure a quality buying experiences from start to finish.

Does your company face similar challenges maintaining the integrity of the customer experience? What's worked for you? Leave us a comment below.

- Lynne Sabean

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Monday, May 22, 2017

NH Governor's Council on Volunteerism

We're very pleased to be speaking at the Governor's Council on Volunteerism tomorrow at NHTI in Concord, NH on using Facebook and Twitter "Without Tears." This presentation includes practical advice and real-world examples on how to use social media effectively and is geared towards small businesses and non-profits. There'll be plenty of time for Q&A. Attendees will leave with hands-on experience in creating personae and on creating social media plans.

Would you like us to provide a similar interactive lecture to YOUR group? Contact us at

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Importance of Having a Social Media Strategy

Essentially, a social media strategy is a statement on how your organization will use social media to achieve a certain goal. It is part of a company's overall business and communications plans and is something that can be realistically implemented.

To create one, keep these things in mind:

  • your ultimate aim (what do you want to do and why?)
  • your community/audience
  • the resources at your disposal to reach these people (staffing, budget, etc.)
  • the platforms you intend to utilize (not all are appropriate for every one and you don't want to spread yourself out too thin)li>
  • the time you're willing to invest
  • how you intend to measure results

You should also include a crisis management component for negative feedback, since reputation management is vital to social media marketing success.

Note that a strategy (the big picture) is not the same as a social media plan (the steps you will take to execute your strategy.

What's YOUR social media strategy? Leave us a comment below.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Why Use Social Media?

There are several reasons why you should consider using social media to promote your business. Here are just a few:

  • to manage and enhance your brand's reputation
  • to educate, inform, and communicate
  • because key decisions are being made online
  • since your target audience is most likely online.. and expects you to be, too
  • it's a great way to let new audiences/prospects find you
  • to round out and complement your other communications activities
  • to increase traffic to your web site (and perhaps improve your search engine ranking)
  • it ***can*** be cost-effective

What else should be on this list? Leave us a comment below.