The Best-Case-Scenario for Social Media

August 19, 2011

A few humor blogs are passing around a story today about a hungry businessman who received a free porterhouse for taking the time to tweet a joke. In case you missed it, the short version is that businessman and Twitter icon, Peter Shankman, posted a tweet to Morton’s restaurant before getting on a flight that would delay his dinner. Shankman said he was starving, and asked Morton’s to meet him at the destination airport with a steak. For almost any other restaurant, that would be the end of the story, but Morton’s was different.

Looking for my driver, I saw my name, waved to him, and started walking to the door of EWR [Newark Airport], like I’d done hundreds of times before.

“Um, Mr. Shankman,” he said.

I turned around.

“There’s a surprise for you here.”

I turned to see that the driver was standing next to someone else, who I just assumed was another driver he was talking to. Then I noticed the “someone else” was in a tuxedo.

And he was carrying a Morton’s bag.

Someone at Morton’s had seen Shankman’s tweet, and sent a driver 24 miles to Newark Airport to deliver a porterhouse steak, colossal shrimp, potatoes, bread, and silverware.

A few minutes late, and the whole thing would have been a waste of time, but as it happened, Morton’s walked away with huge publicity…..for the cost of a single dinner.

This is the way that social media should work, but the reality is often very different. It was only a happy set of coincidences that led to the “miraculous” story above. Someone managing Morton’s social media happened to notice Shankman’s tweet, and a restaurant happened to be within driving distance of the airport. Unless you are willing to pay someone to monitor your incoming tweets 24-hours-a-day, your business will not likely see a similar event, and in any case, it is too late to be the viral sensation Morton’s was.

However, it isn’t too late to make sure that your social media efforts are designed for the purpose of listening to your customers, and responding to them. Social media is as much about responses as it is about marketing, and too many brands seem to forget that. Think simple: post a poll asking for your followers’ favorite menu items, and then put those on special the following week. Ask what coupons your customers want to see, and then deliver them. Showing your customers that you care about what they are saying will do wonders for your brand, and you don’t even need to drive thirty minutes to hand-deliver a porterhouse steak.

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Founded in 1989, WebbMason is one of the fastest-growing print and brand management service companies in the United States, helping marketing departments and their internal and external partners save money and streamline processes through a winning combination of industry expertise, exceptional print supply chain partners and technological innovation. Headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, WebbMason has 20 sales offices throughout the United States.

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Internet Tracking (Again): What’s the Big Deal?

July 29, 2011

When we last wrote about Internet Tracking about 5 weeks ago, we figured it would be our last word on the subject. Legislation was being passed to require online data-farmers to provide clear “opt-out” options, consumer awareness was growing, and things seemed to be improving.

Since then, absolutely nothing has changed. Actually, that isn’t really true, they have gotten worse.

News sites continue to write sensationalist stories suggesting that internet marketers are waiting like ravenous dogs for every scrap of information you leave online. Buzz words like “Threat,” “Invasive,” and “No Privacy,” crop up over and over again. People are desperate to find any way they can to surf the internet anonymously, leaving behind no trace of their habits. We think it is time to be a little more realistic.

1. What is Internet Tracking Really Doing to Harm You?

When you click onto a site – any site – you leave behind a cookie, which is simply a piece of data equivalent to scratching your name on the wall of a building. Companies that make money off of data like this are only interested in one thing: what do you click on, and why? Trackers want to follow you from one site to the next, trying to find a pattern in your browsing. That information helps them build and sell models for better online advertising; essentially they want to find a way to make their clients’ products more interesting to you.

In general, people using cookies aren’t hunting for your specific home address, phone number or daughter’s Facebook profile. They just want to know where you are shopping, and what got you there. Have you ever taken a survey where you told a store or website how you found out about them? It’s quite literally the exact same information. True, these companies are not asking for your permission, so you could argue that this is an invasion of privacy, but surely there is some exaggeration going on. If a marketer were sitting outside of a public mall, making note of which stores people went into, would you file a lawsuit against them?

2. By Going Online, You May Soon Waive the Freedom to Privacy.

On July 28th, the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation requiring all Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) to track and store data of every single thing you do online for at least one year. Any word you type, link you click, image or video that passes over your monitor will be tracked, saved, and analyzed by your ISP. Honestly, the vote wasn’t even close, with 19 out of 29 representatives in favor of the bill. In truth though, even without this bill, ISP’s still monitor data usage and addresses frequently visited by users.

Internet trackers and internet users are both trying to accomplish the same thing. Trackers want to make advertising that is less irritation and more inviting, and users want to easily find things they are interested in and want to buy. We can’t see a loser anywhere in this equation.

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Founded in 1989, WebbMason is one of the fastest-growing print and brand management service companies in the United States, helping marketing departments and their internal and external partners save money and streamline processes through a winning combination of industry expertise, exceptional print supply chain partners and technological innovation. Headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, WebbMason has 20 sales offices throughout the United States.


Are We In a Direct Mail Renaissance?

July 22, 2011

With all of the attention paid to social media, mobile technology, and advancing tech integration, it is easy to forget the power and success of a simple direct mail campaign. That isn’t to say that print numbers have dropped – they have been rising slightly thanks to efforts by the USPS to simplify and internalize the process – but they have become something of an invisible entity.

For many marketers, direct mail is simply another step to be ticked off on their strategy checklist. Consumers, meanwhile, are still skilled in the art of blindly tossing out those half-hearted attempts at mail advertising. Now, a few enterprising companies are making an effort to return to the kind of eye-catching direct mail pieces that can turn a faltering campaign around.

This blog, describing the Birthday-like joy of an unexpected package from Hendrick’s Gin, is a testament to the power of tactile response. For many consumers, physical objects contain a level of sentimentalism that no electronic mailing list can ever reach. Something as cheap and easy to produce as a notepad can endear a customer to your company for life. Most of us hate junk mail, but everyone likes presents.

But, what about younger generations?

It is easy to dismiss the youth of our culture as tech-obsessed kids who will scarcely recognize a stamp in ten years, but that is perhaps an unfair judgment. A new online service, Snail Mail My Email, has been widely popular with everyone from teens to boomers. In fact, the free, volunteer-run service has had to stop taking orders due to a massive response. Snail Mail will take any email, and handwrite it on nice stationary, before putting it in a custom envelope and dropping it in the mail box. Of course, there is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek sense of antiquity to the whole thing, but still, the service shows that paper letters will never go out of style.

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Founded in 1989, WebbMason is one of the fastest-growing print and brand management service companies in the United States, helping marketing departments and their internal and external partners save money and streamline processes through a winning combination of industry expertise, exceptional print supply chain partners and technological innovation. Headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, WebbMason has 20 sales offices throughout the United States.


MarketingBench™ Webinar Recap

July 15, 2011

Over the past few weeks, we have been pointing out some of the problems unique to marketing in the franchise industry. Some of the worst of these are:

  • Little to no control over corporate brand
  • No central database for franchisees to access marketing collateral as a ‘self service’ tool
  • Level of knowledge on the franchisee side of how to execute a integrated direct mail campaign
  • Tracking capabilities and ROI measurement to the franchisee level
  • Marketing vs. Customer Service – little time to market
  • Consistency & Repeatability vs. Localization & Customization
  • Marketing comes in many shapes & forms

These problems are all compounded by the fact that any marketing for a franchise is divided into three conflicting groups of problems.

Three Factors of Franchise Marketing

So how do you resolve this conflict?

WebbMason MarketingBench™

Marketing technology is designed to meet a specific set of needs. This technology automates and organizes the system, offers opportunity for self service, allows for collection of information, allows marketing process to be done online, allows for control of access, speeds time to market of your message, and allows for targeted communication and better execution. WebbMason’s MarketingBench™ is a proprietary single-source marketing platform to manage all aspects of your marketing strategy online. It adapts to any sales channel model, and gives you more control over your inventory and brand.

WebbMason MarketingBench™

For more information on MarketingBench™, click here.

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Founded in 1989, WebbMason is one of the fastest-growing print and brand management service companies in the United States, helping marketing departments and their internal and external partners save money and streamline processes through a winning combination of industry expertise, exceptional print supply chain partners and technological innovation. Headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, WebbMason has 20 sales offices throughout the United States.


Franchise Marketing Wrap-Up

July 8, 2011

WebbMason will be hosting a FREE Webinar on Franchise Marketing Automation on July 12th. To register, click here.

Leading up to our Franchise Marketing Webinar on Tuesday, we’ve been writing about some of the most basic concepts in the field. This entry will summarize that knowledge, and provide a good primer before the official webinar.

We began by describing some of the perks and benefits that franchisees can take advantage of when launching a new store in a corporate chain. The large corporate advertising budgets and existing brand awareness can be blessings for a store in a new area, even if that structure can limit a store’s individuality.

The following week, we explained how you can take advantage of social media, the new word of mouth, to build a local following. Sites like Facebook, Foursquare, and SCVNGR can establish corporate chains, individual stores, and brand new franchises. We also described how the concept of word-of-mouth-marketing has transitioned into these new tech platforms, and how the prevalence of smartphones can impact sales. We ended the week by pointing out the fact that extracting an individual store from the chain may not be the best move.

Maintaining a conceptual image of the industry as a whole is crucial for any business. We helped build that image last week, with a retrospective on the Top 500 Franchise Restaurants. These can be beneficial examples of what works – and what doesn’t work – in the restaurant industry.

Finally, we suggested that trendy marketing strategies like social media, QR codes, and mobile blasts can be very effective in the right hands, but aren’t the best choice for every business. We also addressed the controversy surrounding Groupon and other similar coupon sites. It is up to each owner to decide whether or not risky coupon ventures are worthwhile, but the payoffs can be big under perfect circumstances.

Our free webinar on franchise marketing automation takes place on Tuesday, July 12th. There is still time to register, and with nothing to lose, there is no reason to miss it. Click here to register, and join us on Tuesday for more information!

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Founded in 1989, WebbMason is one of the fastest-growing print and brand management service companies in the United States, helping marketing departments and their internal and external partners save money and streamline processes through a winning combination of industry expertise, exceptional print supply chain partners and technological innovation. Headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, WebbMason has 20 sales offices throughout the United States.


Franchise Marketing: Social Solutions

July 6, 2011

WebbMason will be hosting a FREE Webinar on Franchise Marketing Automation on July 12th. To register, click here.

Last time, we mentioned that in franchise marketing, you are sometimes better off gravitating toward less mainstream social media solutions. Now we are going to explain why.

Quantity vs Quality:

It is not difficult to find companies that can sell you Facebook fans, or Twitter followers. For many businesses, the appeal of instantly gaining three thousand fans overnight is tempting. What these owners forget is that a fan count is a meaningless number.

We will grant that a high fan count is one way to improve your search results within Facebook, but it is a marginal boost. What you will really be gaining is a very full, but very boring fan page. What you really want in social media is conversation, and if people are only on your page because they are being paid to be there, conversation is unlikely. As we have said before, social media is the new avenue for word-of-mouth marketing, and nothing is going to give a bad impression faster than a group of 3,000 people that have nothing good to say about your business.

Try to find a niche that compliments your business. Franchise restaurants can gain a lot of traction with social review sites like UrbanSpoon and Yelp!, both of which we have written about with some frequency. These sites have smaller fanbases, but they are populated by foodies and townies, the people that you want to be talking about your restaurant.

Weighing Pros and Cons:

A major trend for franchises and small businesses alike is making deals on coupon sites. Groupon, and its less-hipster-friendly counterpart LivingSocial, both promise heavy returns for sites that participate. Like a Vegas Casino, most of those guarantees are so much neon and marketing. Your odds of saving a faltering business with Groupon are slim-to-none. In fact, many experts now warn that signing a Groupon contract could easily be the last decision your business ever makes.

“Businesses are being sold incredibly expensive advertising campaigns that are disguised as “no risk” ways to acquire new customers. In reality, there’s a lot of risk. With a newspaper ad, the maximum you can lose is the amount you paid for the ad. With Groupon, your potential losses can increase with every Groupon customer who walks through the door and puts the existence of your business at risk.”

There are plenty of alternative options that will allow you to capitalize on the popularity of couponing without risking a five-figure marketing disaster. Local newspapers, fliers, and magazines like Money Pages are excellent examples. Online, look for smaller, more locally-focused websites, ideally, something that functions more like a community bulletin board. Of course, you also have to consider the fact that giving out coupons cheapens your brand’s image to consumers. Is a possible increase in walk-in sales worth risking your existing following? Maybe it is. These questions are going to have different answers for every franchise.

Marketing a franchise will always have different challenges than other businesses, but there are ways to make it easier.

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Founded in 1989, WebbMason is one of the fastest-growing print and brand management service companies in the United States, helping marketing departments and their internal and external partners save money and streamline processes through a winning combination of industry expertise, exceptional print supply chain partners and technological innovation. Headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, WebbMason has 20 sales offices throughout the United States.


Social Marketing and Franchises Are Not Always Friends.

June 29, 2011

WebbMason will be hosting a FREE Webinar on Franchise Marketing Automation on July 12th. To register, click here.

Contrary to what the hype implies, Social Media is not a magic profit button. Like any marketing campaign, social requires thought, planning, consistency, and strategy. In addition, it also requires speed, wit, and the ability to react and adapt. There are many so-called social media experts who will happily throw your company’s logo up on Twitter or Facebook and call it a day. In some cases, that is enough. Franchises, unfortunately, often require a bit more effort.

Despite the increased activity and budget allocation focused on social media, only a small percentage of franchisors who utilize social media to attract franchise buyers can actually attribute franchise sales directly back to their social media efforts.

The key, according to iFranchise Group executives, is knowing how to best implement and use social media across multiple platforms for multiple audiences, and ensuring that proper policies and monitoring functions are in place.

That bombshell, from a June 20th PR newswire article, sums up the whole problem. When people think of social media, Facebook and Twitter are likely the first – if not only – examples that come to mind. Franchises may find that these two options are not the best choices for their business. Alternative social platforms, like Foursquare, Google Maps, Yelp!, and Urban Spoon may be far more successful, even if they have smaller user bases.

As franchise operators know, getting customers isn’t always the hard part. Recruiting new franchisees can be a much larger challenge, and a week’s worth of Groupon offers isn’t going to do you any good there. PR Newswire provides a few more suggestions for recruiting on social media, but you can see all of our ideas in our next blog.

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Founded in 1989, WebbMason is one of the fastest-growing print and brand management service companies in the United States, helping marketing departments and their internal and external partners save money and streamline processes through a winning combination of industry expertise, exceptional print supply chain partners and technological innovation. Headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, WebbMason has 20 sales offices throughout the United States.


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