Focus on Increasing Customer Loyalty to Increase Small Business Revenue (Formic on iMedia Connection)

22 04 2011

Generating brand, product and service advocates is paramount for small businesses seeking to grow company revenue and meet long-term growth goals.  Working with small businesses on a daily basis has given me a deep appreciation for the impact that loyal customers and brand advocates can have on a business.  It is important for small businesses to use their resources and time to keep their loyal customers loyal.

A study conducted by Fred Reicheld of Bain & Company, Inc. stated that “a 5% increase in customer retention produces more than a 25% increase in profit”.  For many companies, this correlation between customer retention and profit could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual revenue gained.  And, not only do loyal customers mean continual revenue, but they can become a powerful source of word-of-mouth marketing and promotion for a company or brand.

Read the full post on iMedia Connection.

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Formic Media Seminar Series: Elements of Sales Success

18 04 2011

If you own or manage a small business in the B2B market and struggle with generating consistent, profitable sales, the Formic “Elements of Sales Success” seminar will help you. With 15 years of experience helping small businesses increase their sales and profits, Andy Blackstone has distilled the lessons he’s learned into a set of small but fundamental changes that have profound effects on sales success. The seminar is organized into sections about changes in focus, changes in process, and changes in tactics, with examples from Andy’s wide range of clients. Andy leads you through a logical sequence of these small changes that will provide big results. Andy’s book, “Small Changes That Help Small Companies Make BIG Increases in Sales” expands the ideas that you will hear in the seminar.

Register now as space is limited.

Cost: Free

Date: May 11th, 2011

Time: 5:30 – Networking; 6:00 – Presentation starts

Where: Formic Media, Inc., 300 NE Failing St., Portland, OR 97212 (503-517-9059)





Google Playing with Hotel Price Ads…Again

14 04 2011

Google is, again, testing hotel prices in the search results. This first surfaced back in June/July of 2010. Google began to include prices in Google Maps/Local search results for hotels. I thought this was cool and interesting back then, but my how my mind has changed since this feature has resurfaced.

So Google tested this feature for a few months, then it disappeared. Well, now they are back again, as was noted in this Search Engine Land article written by Matt McGee. This time, instead of the hotel prices residing just in Google Maps, the pricing is being included in the “7 Pack”, “O Pack” and the OneBox. as seen in the following images (taken from the same Search Engine Land Article).

This is groovy for consumers seeking to find the best hotel prices quickly, without having to visit the multitude of OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) in their initial searches. At first thought, I assumed the OTAs wouldn’t be very happy, but this actually gives several OTAs a nice boost in visibility. I see Expedia, Travelocity, Hotels.com and Priceline popping up the most. A user just simply needs to click on the price and you are whisked away to that hotel’s “profile” page on that particular site. OK, that’s great from a consumer/OTA perspective, but what I’m concerned about is the affect this feature will have on each hotelier if this feature actually moves out of beta and is rolled out.

This feature could potentially cost hoteliers a lot of money. Each hotel that sells rooms through an OTA has to pay a significant “commission” on every room/night booked. These can range from 10%, all the way up to 20%. This is a big chunk of change for hotels to give up. Now, the argument could made that without the OTAs these hotels wouldn’t reach full capacity (marketing themselves), and maybe that’s true, but if the large majority of consumers are purchasing rooms via OTAs, and not direct through the hotel’s website, the hotelier is dropping a lot of cash (and usually at discounted rates) which affects bottom lines and revenue. When searching for hotel rooms the user would generally click through to the hotel’s website from the search results (talking specifically about the local search results), but with this new feature Google is directing users from the search results directly to the OTAs if they click on the price dropdown. The hotelier’s website is included in the dropdowns, but it does not include price, and it’s always listed at the bottom.

If this feature does roll out, I think there are going to be many, many upset hoteliers as they’ll be dishing out lots of cash to the likes of Expedia, Hotels.com, etc. I didn’t even touch on those hotels that don’t participate with the OTAs because it is just too expensive for them. What does this mean for them? If a price dropdown isn’t next to their name, will that hurt credibility and reduce clicks to their sites? I guess we’ll see, but I don’t like this feature if I’m a hotelier.





Protect Yourself from Short URLs

7 04 2011

With the spread of social media on the web came increased sharing of websites and stories among friends.  The popularity of Twitter has only increased the amount of interweb sharing that’s taking place.  However, with the advent of Twitter came an idea that was not a part of more traditional social media – the 140 character limit.

The 140 Character Limit

Twitter has stated many times why there is a 140 character limit.  Originally, when Twitter was created the inventors envisioned it as a way for users to share via SMS (read: mobile phones).  At the time the international limit on text messages by most carriers was 160 characters.  Therefore, as stated by Biz Stone, 140 is the character limit on tweets because the international limit is 160 -20 for the tweet author’s name.”

So What Problems Does the 140 Character Limit Pose?

The 140 character limit hinders the process of effective sharing on Twitter due to the fact that if a URL is shorter than 140 characters, you aren’t left any room to add comments or info about the link you’re posting.  And even then there’s still the URLs all over the web that exceed the limit on their own.

Enter the Short URL

A short URL is a process by which you make a link available on the internet via a short link which enables, among other the things, the ability to share on Twitter and still add value to the link by commenting about it.  The problem arises when someone misleads you by masking the true identity of the destination URL by using a shortened URL and directing users to destinations with malicious intent.

Protect Yourself

Don’t be too scared.  There are ways to protect yourself depending on the browser you use or even 3rd party Twitter applications.  Interclue is a Firefox add-on which once installed allows you to float your mouse over a link and click a bubble for more information about the destination of the short URL.

Another option would be to choose the correct 3rd party application, such as TweetDeck.  TweetDeck allows users to enable the option to see more information about a short URL by clicking on the actual URL in the Tweet.  A pop-up allows you to see more information about the link and then decide if you want to follow it.

If you’re not into installing an add-on for your browser or using a 3rd party application, you can always do things the old-fashioned way and copy & paste the short URL into the tool at LongURL.  Voila – more information.

It’s as simple as that.  Don’t be afraid of the short URL – embrace it, but make sure you’re protecting yourself.  What are your favorite tools for deciphering short URLs?





Advantages of Facebook Advertising

6 04 2011

In February this year, comScore reported that Facebook ads accounted for more than one-third of all US display ad impressions.  eMarketer also reported last month that Facebook would surpass Yahoo! in display ad revenue this year; which means that more than one in five US display dollars will go to Facebook, a staggering YOY increase.  Facebook advertising is no longer just a fun trend to watch, it is becoming an online advertising requisite.

Getting started with Facebook advertising is simple; albeit a manual process that requires basic planning, targeting and creativity.  With Facebook’s 500 million+ active user base, there is a compelling reason to test Facebook advertising for your brand, products or services – your customers are online and on Facebook.

Getting started

  1. Understand goals and objectives for the campaign: In our experience, we’ve seen a higher success rate in driving “likes” and increasing fan engagement vs. taking people to a landing page or website.  The culprit?  Facebook-ers typically don’t like to be taken off of Facebook while they’re in Facebook mode, and thus, taking people off of Facebook results in a high bounce rate and low qualified, less engaged traffic.
  2. Check out Facebook’s guidelines: Provided on their Help Center page, advertisers can learn about creating, targeting, and launching a Facebook ad campaign.
  3. Complete the set-up process: With goals and objectives in mind, choose and upload ad creative or logo, choose your targeting and demographic specifications and set a budget   using Facebook’s manual campaign builder tool.  Creating a single ad will take most newbie advertisers under 10 minutes to build.
  4. Test & Tweak: Because users on Facebook are viewing connections’ photos, perusing status updates and the like, the ad needs to capture the user with a bold image and call-to-action.   Likewise, ads can quickly become less and less effective as users become “fatigued” with seeing the same image or message over and over again.  This will decrease CTR as well as impressions if your ad’s performance drops.  Creating and testing fresh ads continually, will have the biggest impact on maintaining and improving the performance of ad campaigns over time.
  5. Use Facebook Insights & Ad Stats: Utilize the Facebook ad stats dashboard to monitor performance of impressions, clicks and actions, as well as Facebook Insights (for Page driven campaigns) to monitor interaction and engagement.

The Benefits

One of the main advantages of using Facebook ads is the ability to target customers more granularly by their interests, as well as other demographic factors such as age, education, connections, location, etc.  Instead of targeting users based on search intent and bidding on keywords (think Google AdWords), Facebook allows advertisers the ability to hone in on a very qualified, niche audience at a reasonable cost.

Selecting the option to target Facebook users whose friends already “like” that particular page can dramatically help to reinforce the advertising message by utilizing the power and influence of a Facebook user’s connections. With this option selected, the ad will include that users’ friends name next to a thumbs up “Like” icon (see below example), which can boost click through rate and improve the potential for that user to like that particular page; because their decision is being influenced by their friends’ interests and “likes”.  Showing these connection preferences can have a strong influence over the success of an ad and the action the user takes once on the Page in question.

Results

Formic recently ran a Facebook ad campaign for Rasmussen BMW with a minimal daily spend ($5 day) based on a limited test budget. As a result, Facebook “likes” increased by 438%, interactions & engagement increased by 238%, and Facebook referral traffic to the website increased by 2,216.67%.

Facebook Ad

Facebook Ad

Next Steps

Allocate resources to test the Facebook advertising waters.  For small businesses, the self-serve campaign creation model may work well and keep costs down.  However, for larger corporations who need to scale their  campaigns, looking towards specialized agencies may be the key.  As the popularity of display advertising and spend on Facebook increases, it’s unclear whether or not this will have an adverse affect on ad rates.  Regardless, it’s best to strike while the iron is hot, before an influx in advertisers increases advertising fatigue on users and dulls performance or significantly increases ad costs.  Launching, testing and refining your first Facebook campaign may open up a new and effective online advertising medium for your business.





Take that Google, Our +100 Beats Your +1

1 04 2011

The never ending saga between Google and Bing continues…

Back in early February, Danny Sullivan wrote how Google accused Bing of copying its search results. Google likened Bing to the dumb kid sitting next to you in class that leans over to try to cheat off your test. Bing didn’t come out and deny they were stealing the search results either. In a follow up interview with Harry Shum, Corporate Vice President of Bing Development, Danny Sullivan noted that one of Shum’s major concerns with this whole fiasco was his son’s feelings. Awww, ain’t that sweet. He called him at school and told his son that he’d explain more when they got home. Google has Harry, and Bing, running scared.

Well, to add insult to injury, earlier this week Google released a new feature in their search results, the +1. Formic’s own, John Hutchison, blogged about how Google continues to enter into social. Google has said that the +1 may enter into their algorithm in the near future. I’m not huge of incorporating the +1 into the algorithm as I think there are way too many opportunities to game the system, but we’ll see. So, Google wins, right?

Ah, not quite. Bing just launched an even bigger initiative than the +1. How about the +100. Try that on for size Google. Your wimpy little +1 has nothing on our +100. How does it work? Well, I tried to get to the bottom of that by contacting Bing. The only person I could reach was a product manager, and he didn’t have much to say. Here are his thoughts when asked about the +100 initiative. “Well, we aren’t quite sure how it works or what it’s for,” said the Bing representative. “All I know is if you click the +100 then your website will skyrocket to the top of the organic search results.”

Whoa, sweet. You mean anyone can reach the top of the organic rankings with the +100? There’s no catch? The Bing representative didn’t provide any insight into the consequences of using the +100, but could only warn me by saying, “Be careful, it’s dangerous. Don’t abuse it’s powers or else, or else, you might get banned from Bing. Just kidding, we need everyone on Bing that we can get.”

So, the +100 feature is currently in beta, and being tested on a limited number of IE browsers. From what I’ve heard though, the testing isn’t going well as the browsers are continuing to freeze up.  Typical Microsoft.

 








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