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Archive for January, 2009

AMA Boston launches Buzz Award

Friday, January 30th, 2009

The Boston chapter has launched a Buzz Award for the top contributor to the Chapter’s blog. The award will be announced in July 2009. We will also recognize the top contributor of each quarter. We are pleased to announce that the winner for the fourth-quarter of 2008 is Bev Freeman. She has posted a number of excellent entries throughout the year. Be sure to read her latest: Don’t retrench. Self-assess and The crisis continues – Funding the “gap” and redeploying. Those who are interested in contacting me about the blog can send me an email at rinarub@amaboston.org.

How an Organization is Using Social Media to Increase Awareness and Significantly Impact Lives

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

On-line networks are filled with information about social media and how companies are using it as a way to increase brand awareness and form closer, more meaningful relationships with their customers.  However, the skepticism among B2B marketers remains.  You can Google dozens of blog comments and articles where marketers still don’t associate social marketing with bottom line results.  Marketers are demanding more quantitative data on social marketing.  As a B2B marketer, I am continuously looking for examples of how social media has created an impact, whether financially or socially, and have provided one for my January post.I had the pleasure of chatting with fellow marketer Danny Brown about social media and how he’s using it to get the word out on his latest project www.12for12K.org, a charity organization that focuses on helping 12 charities, a different one each month, for 12 months.  January’s charity, War Child, provides relief for children of war torn countries like Gaza and Afghanistan. 

Q.     What sparked your desire to start the 12for12K initiative, what it is, and why use social media to do it?

A.      I’ve been involved with charities for a while. I don’t know when it was that the idea for 12for12k came to me – maybe it was an epiphany? I guess it started as “What can I do for 12 months?” and then the numbers came – 12 months, 12 charities, 1200 people, $10 per person per charity, $12,000 per charity.Once the idea was in place, I knew social media was the way to go. The outreach you have on places like Twitter and Facebook, as well as the connections that you make and that they make in return, made social media an obvious channel for the 12for12k project. The first week has been slow as people come back from the holidays, but we have some big plans for promotional pushes over the next couple of weeks.

Q.   With all the mixed press out there about social media (i.e., it’s a fad, doesn’t deliver ROI, etc.).  Describe two ways you think social media will endure the test of time and provide value for organizations.

A.    I think the main reason for organizations to get involved and use it is the cost factor. For example, instead of spending $50,000 on a PR campaign, why not spend $5,000 on a coordinated social media PR campaign instead? Use the tools that are available and spread the word that way? Of course, still have some form of traditional PR working alongside it, but nowhere near $50,000 worth.

The other real benefit is the connection social media can offer between businesses and their customers. With the unsure economy and reduced consumer spending, you need to keep your customers – connecting with them via the likes of Twitter and blogging and actually interacting with them will reap its own rewards. I always liken social media ROI to “Risk of Ignoring” – that’s where the value comes in.

Q.  How has social media benefited your own business and how do you measure its value?

A.  From a business point of view, it’s allowed me to get my brand and services in front of people I may have otherwise struggled to (from a logistical point of view). I can have a short bio on Twitter, people know what I do and how I do it, and that’s on view 24/7 to potentially 4 million people. Just the other day I met with a potential new client who found me on Twitter, liked what I was saying and set up a meeting.

Of course, it’s not just Twitter – there’s LinkedIn and FastPitch and many others, as well as using my blog to offer views on something that might help people. As far as measuring its value, it’s a waiting game, and I always advise my clients of this. It won’t be an overnight success; it won’t happen within a few short weeks.

But if you can build solid relationships with people through social media and offer as much of your service as you do promoting it, you’ll build a link that’s hard to break. People will come to you first and that kind of connection and trust is where the real value lies.

Danny Brown is a long-time corporate communications, marketing and promotions professional who has been involved in social media for six years.  He owns PressReleasePR, a boutique agency specializing in search engine optimized press releases and social media PR.   He has guest authored at Web Analytics World , is a blog partner of WebProNews and iEntry, and regular contributor to the  Dad-o-Matic project.

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Anna Barcelos is an AMA member and monthly blog contributor with 15 years of B2B/B2C marketing experience.  She is constantly on the look-out for best practices in both traditional and on-line marketing and likes to share it with fellow marketers through her blog and social media sites like Twitter (@ableo2).  Currently she’s the Director of Marketing & Business Development for a RI-based messaging (email/voice/surveys/SMS/fax) technology company.

Conducting an Effective Online Survey

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Kicking off the New Year right might mean conducting a customer survey to gain a better idea of how your company can improve their products and services, identify new markets, and hone its message. If you’re conducting the survey in-house, you will want to make it a speedy, yet professional exercise, one that produces immediate actionable insights. Conducted right, an effective survey can have a wide-ranging reach, so here are three tips on how to create, deploy, and analyze a customer survey:

1. Emphasize in your email cover letter why responding to your survey is a good idea. In her 2-part  series Getting a Good Response to Your Surveys, Constant Contact’s Caroline Shahar notes two key ways of demonstrating the benefits of answering a survey to potential respondents. These tips are echoed in Zoomerang’s 10 Tips to Improve Your Surveys:

     a. offer an incentive and
     b. assure customers that responding will have an impact.

For incentives, the standard is to enter respondents in a drawing to win something, but Shahar notes that sharing a report on survey responses can also be a valuable incentive (I know I’ve responded to surveys where the results were the only incentive). I would add that it also makes sense to use the incentive as a way to drive conversions (I was going to write sales, but this advice applies even when you are not selling something).

For instance, offer respondents 10% off their next purchase, an exclusive online seminar, or an upgrade to a higher level of service, if the cost is not too high. This will not only encourage customers to respond to the survey, but will also realize the additional, ultimately more essential, benefit of more sales and/or conversions. If possible, include a link at the end of the survey to a landing page where respondents can immediately complete the desired conversion. Send an email reminder to survey respondents who arrive at the landing page and don’t complete the conversion.

As for assuring customers that responding will have an impact, clearly state what you intend to use survey responses for, rather than using a generic statement that survey responses help serve customers better. For instance, if you will use the information to improve products, say so specifically. Which brings up tip number 2:

2. Respond to the feedback–and make sure customers know how you’re responding. Using a multi-step process is the best way to demonstrate your commitment to listening to your customers. As noted above, start with your email cover letter requesting participation in the survey.

But don’t just stop at the cover letter–indeed, don’t just stop when the survey is finished. Follow up in a few months or weeks with concrete information about how you have put the survey results into action: release the survey results in a report made available on your site, or mention in your newsletter that a specific product revision came about as a result of feedback from the survey. This kind of concrete assurance that you are listening to customers via your survey, and acting on their feedback, will help boost response rates to future surveys, as well as the quality of responses.

Most importantly, it will help demonstrate that your organization is responsive to customer needs. Of course, this kind of utilization of survey results requires buy-in from many departments, which can be a challenge. But ultimately, the rewards are significant in terms of expanding market reach, increasing customer retention, and growing revenue.

3. Make the survey as easy, and as unambiguous as possible. Avoid respondent fatigue by asking a maximum of 15 questions. If you have more than that number of questions you really want to ask of your customers, consider segmenting your list, and creating two surveys, each with questions most relevant to that segment; Shahar offers excellent tips on sending out surveys to segments of your customers. For instance, she suggests targeting only retail store customers, or only online customers. Zoomerang’s 10 Tips offers a basic roundup of survey best practices for marketers, including several ways to reduce respondent fatigue, such as using closed-ended questions, logical ordering, and pre-testing.

Related to making a survey easy to complete is eliminating ambiguity. Responses can drop off when respondents get frustrated by confusing questions. In addition, if a statistically significant number of respondents misunderstands a question, the survey’s validity can be called into question. To make sure that ambiguity is reduced to a minimum, make sure that not only the questions themselves, but also the available answers that respondents can choose from are clear: eliminate open-ended questions, offer a reasonably large number of options for multiple-choice questions, and err on the side of writing somewhat longer items (for instance, writing “Once a Week” for a frequency question, rather than just “Once.”)

Conducting a survey can provide a host of benefits, not just for the marketing department, but for the entire organization. Implementing a survey well can make a big difference to your marketing efforts, providing a wealth of insights. Take steps to ensure a robust response rate, maximize utilization of results, and make the survey itself an effective vehicle of communication with customers. This will greatly enhance the usefulness of your survey.

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Christina Inge is a marketing consultant, and serves as Marketing and PR Coordinator for the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA. She has over 10 year’s experience in communicating with both B2B and B2C audiences. 

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The views and opinions on this blog are solely those of the contributors and do NOT necessarily reflect the official opinions of the Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association.