marketing

The Weirdest Places We’ve Worked From

One of the cool aspects of our work is that it can be done remotely (I’ve talked about this a bit before).

While 90% of the time you can find Nicole or I in the office, occasionally we are working from…elsewhere. And with John and Alilia on board, we have an eclectic combined work history. You’ve seen our posts about working effectively on the road or from home, but today, we’re going to share the weirdest places we’ve worked from (so far).

In compiling this list, I feel like I’ve learned some interesting things about my coworkers here at Breaking Even… maybe you will too

Weird Places Where We’ve Worked

Nicole worked on a houseboat in Amsterdam. Let's say the house across the way was much nicer than the one she was in but hey, still cozy with coffee and WiFi.

Nicole worked on a houseboat in Amsterdam. Let’s say the house across the way was much nicer than the one she was in but hey, still cozy with coffee and WiFi.



Nicole

When I was in Europe two years ago for ten days. Because it was in July (our busiest time), the two hours daily of checking email wasn’t cutting it so I decided to have one work day while I was there to get a chunk of work done. My travel friend Sarah and I had rented this houseboat in Amsterdam on AirBnB. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the houseboat but it had better internet than any cafe… so I parked it at the kitchen table and left the screen door open while I watched the boats go by. There were also some very friendly ducks and a coffee maker that was relatively large for the size kitchen it was in, so I was pretty content.

On a different European trip, I actually went to Bosnia to visit a friend who started a web development company there. I worked from his company’s office and had a great time. When I work I need it 1) quiet and 2) some place where I can really settle in (get snacks freely, leave my stuff set up for a few hours)… maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to the idea of coworking spaces?

Alilia

I once was in California visiting my grandparents’ house where my mom and sisters also live, and I was in the middle of a software conversion project, so for one of the status call meetings, I was prancing around on my sister’s trampoline while on the project call. That was my best working remotely experience.

My worse  working remotely experience was on the same California trip. I had set my desk phone in Colorado to forward to my cell phone, and I had asked the front desk to please not transfer any customers to me without letting me know first. They clearly disregarded my request as evidenced by the customer call I received while shopping at Costco with my relatives. I had to take the customer’s name and number and get back to them when I could get in front of my work laptop back at my grandparents’ house.



John
I once tried working remotely from a hospital waiting room while my son was in surgery. This isn’t as callous as it sounds—-I was desperate to keep my mind off what was happening in the operating room, and working was as good a way as any to do that. It was either that or watch the Fox News program that was blaring in the waiting room. Everything turned out well in the end and the operation was a success, and I took a few days off to be with my son and watch our daughter at home.
Kassie
This past fall, I experienced a lot of unfortunate car problems. During one such incident, I worked from a VIP Auto while waiting for cylinders in my car to be replaced. It was actually awesome- no one else was there, so I got a lot done, until a lady came in with her dog who clearly didn’t want to be there.
One of the coolest places I’ve gotten to work was Gillette Stadium (also this fall). I was trying to write a blog post before a Monday night football game in a hotel room with my parents, brother, and brother’s girlfriend. The lobby downstairs was packed with fellow Pats fans, so I was stuck writing on a cot in the hotel room while The Godfather was playing in the background (which John will appreciate, I am sure). It wasn’t a great writing experience- fortunately I’m highly skilled when it comes to tuning out my family- but then again, I was getting ready to watch a Pat’s Game. You win some, you lose some (also…the Pat’s lost that game).
gillette
The internet lets us work weird places… and if you work online, I’m sure you have some fun stories too.
Out of curiosity, do you have any weird/interesting remote working experiences? Let us know!



Non-Profits And Live Video

This month’s upcoming email newsletter is going to be all about live video. Click here to subscribe if you want to learn more!

As non-profits increasingly use video to tell their story (or have individuals try to tell another story as in the Planned Parenthood controversy), live video is going to play an increasingly important role.

Live videos have a couple things going for them:

  1. They are not expected to be highly edited or scripted, meaning production takes less time.
  2. They are transparent, as the people in live videos are not only off the cuff but responding to online or real life commenters as the comments are made.



Live Video For Donors

So I’ll admit it, I couldn’t find any non-profits using Periscope to solicit donations. There are certainly ideas out there of how it could work but no compelling example.

Sometimes though, innovation starts in the business world. And while you may be thinking that you could broadcast a live event or founder question and answer or someone/something your donations have helped, you may be thinking “Building goodwill makes sense, but where does the money come in?”

This:

cash-me

Since people are watching from their phone, they are also paying from their phone. Services like Cash.me were the missing link for me to ‘get it’ in terms of how people can make actual money on Periscope. So why couldn’t someone, live watching you rescue a whale or give a child a pair of shoes, send you money while watching your non-profit doing real work in real time?



Live Video For Colleagues

It’s, of course, easy for non-profits to go right to the donors as a first audience. As a money grubbing capitalist (something I say mostly jokingly), it is certainly where my mind goes first!

But lots of non-profits work with other organizations or have an occasion to get colleagues together. It made me think of how the City of Vancouver, despite being large, can have citizens involved in it’s initiatives via live video on Periscope. They used Twitter to talk about it:

twitter-periscope

They used Instagram to talk about it:

instagram-periscope-vancover

And I’m sure they used other social media to talk about it. If you missed talking about it and wanted to, I dare say it was your fault. 🙂 So Periscope could be used to get all your colleagues in the ‘same room’ in a way that’s both easier for everyone.



Live Video For Who You Serve

As a non-profit, you also have a group of people who benefit from your work. And while we saved this important group for last, I am sure you can also see opportunities with educating those you serve about the work you’re doing with them so you can do it better.

The Mayo Clinic has a lot of informational videos (I missed the live #colonoscopy- ‘bum’mer). They get major points for educational content and hashtag usage.

mayo-clinic-periscope

Interestingly, they videotape their radio show as well, showing how you can have the same content be in multiple formats to ensure it reaches a large audience.

(In putting out these blog posts, I don’t want you to read this and think “Sigh, one more thing we have to do.” Instead, this is meant to inspire you to think “Oh, this would help us solve X issue” or “We’d do Y better with Periscope”.) Like everything online, Periscope is a tool in the giant hardware store that is the internet. And with that in mind, we’re working on a series of these posts about live video so stay tuned! In the meantime, are you brave enough for live video? Let us know!

This month’s latest email newsletter will be all about live video. Click here to subscribe to it!



Marketing Leaps With Leap Day

The internet may be freaking out about the Oscars last night (yay Leo!), but it’s also freaking out about the fact that today is Leap Day. For instance, Google changed it’s homepage to this rather adorable animation of leaping bunnies:

LeapDayGoogle

Why does February 29th cause such a commotion in the online world? Part of it is probably loosely related to the scarcity principle. To oversimplify, something feeling more attractive because it is rare and doesn’t occur often (in this case, once every four years). It’s not like other holidays that mark tradition or the anniversary of a significant event, it’s simply a day that doesn’t happen very often. As a result, many organizations use it as an opportunity for customer engagement. You might have noticed Facebook trying to encourage you to post a status update about Leap Day (below) or that a trending topic on Twitter is #LeapDay. I can’t put my finger on why it causes such a buzz besides being the double rainbow of the calendar year.

FBLeapDay

Some businesses are taking the “You have a whole EXTRA day to do things!” approach to Leap Day (which works if you don’t try to get existential about it). This article from a marketing firm in Pittsburgh used this approach to create a list of 29 Ways to Use Leap Day to Improve Small Business Marketing, including things like order business cards, update content on your website, clean out your inbox, and so on. Others are simply using it as an opportunity for customer engagement on social media- there have been many a “We’re curious- how are you planning on spending your extra day?” posts. The “Extra Day” posts seem to be more popular among businesses that offer services rather than products.



Other businesses are using Leap Day as a day to offer discounts or special contests. Some are creating 29% off discounts, like this sponsored ad from my Instagram, or this tweet from Old Navy. The “29% off” approach works better for businesses based in products. This 29% flash sale creates also plays on the idea of scarcity, since there’s a limited window to make a purchase and sometimes it’s “While supplies last.”

FullSizeRender (1)

LeapDayON

My favorite ad that I’ve seen today came from Skydive New England (because…”leap”). I did not enter this year, because I’m still lukewarm about the idea. Perhaps I’ll be ready by next February 29th…

Skydive

Some restaurants, like the Hard Rock Cafe, offer free birthday meals to Leap Year babies (like my aunt, who has yet to hit adolescence). Many restaurants offer special Leap Day deals in general, if you’re inclined to go out and celebrate. In the meantime, I’ll be mourning the death of Leonardo DiCaprio memes.

RIP, Leo-Oscar Memes.

RIP, Leo-Oscar Memes.

So if you are presented with a unique opportunity, like you have too much cheese pizza on hand, you have a special visitor coming in for ‘one night only’ or simply you got an extra day in February, take advantage and have some fun.

And if you want to offer something semi regularly but not quite yearly, consider using a leap year or an Olympic year or other event at a set once-every-full-year interval and commit to it like these businesses have done… and your marketing may help you leap ahead. 

Google+ Communities

gettingingoodwithgoogle-buttonIn an effort to make Google+ a more “social” network, Communities were formed in 2013.

Communities are similar to Facebook or LinkedIn Groups: they are organized by topics or general interests. From a marketing perspective, Google+ Communities are an underutilized tool for starting and participating in conversations that matter.

What are the benefits of being an active community member on Google?

One thing I’ve noticed about Communities is the global exposure. When you look at any given page, it’s unusual not to see at least one post in a foreign language that isn’t spam). It’s an interesting reminder that social media is far-reaching and that we really do have a unique opportunity in front of us.



Wait a second, my business doesn’t need to market globally. True, but the point of a community isn’t to sell- it’s to exchange information.  This article from Social Media Examiner suggests “As you discover communities where your target market is located, join them and listen in on what they are saying.” In doing so, you discover what your target market has to say about your industry. There may be trends in questions or concerns, which makes great blog post or newsletter material. In other words, it’s a chance for you to research potential customers, and even help them out from time to time.

By contributing to conversations that are related to your industry, you show others that you’re knowledgeable and ideally trustworthy/helpful. Occasionally this does translate into sharing your own material if it’s relevant and can help solve a problem. For instance, if someone posts a question asking about finding the right hashtag for a Twitter post, I could respond with a link to this blog post on that very subject.

googlecommunitiesexample

A screenshot of Communities that Google thinks I would enjoy. This is just a small slice of the topics available- you can even join one of several communities about Grumpy Cat.



What if the community you want/need doesn’t exist?

If you want to start your own community, the steps are pretty straightforward. You get to set up the rules and facilitate conversations among community members, but aside from that, it’s relatively hands-off.

Below is an example from The Marketing+ Community Page is full of people sharing articles and other helpful information about social media marketing (new features, tips they have found to be helpful, etc).

When you set up a community, you have a few decisions to make. Will it be public or private? If it’s private, will it still appear in searches? What are the rules for participating in this community? The description and rules will be displayed on the left sidebar of the community page.

exampleabout

You can post in your own community from time to time to start a conversation (if you have some questions for followers, this is a great way to get them answered), but the ultimate goal is to create a community built around user-generated content. Below is an example post from the Marketing+ Community from KeyMedia Solutions. You may notice that this is an article from their own website, but a) it’s relevant to other community members and b) isn’t overtly selling anything.

examplepost

Communities are another one of those online resources that may inspire new ideas or ways to connect with your businesses. You may also forge some new connections with people you would never have met without this tool. Whether you decide to use communities for business or for fun, they’re unique educational and networking opportunities.

grumpycatcommunity

And, just for fun…here’s Grumpy Cat.

If reading this has made you realize you need help with Google+, click below to learn about a service we think may be a great way for you and your business to start on Google+:

giwg_more



A Simple Guide to Customer Loyalty Programs

As businesses, one of our goals is to increase our number of customers, right? As this number grows, retention also becomes a point of concern.

How do you strike the balance between gaining new customers and encouraging repeat customers? One common method is a loyalty program. If done well, these are win-win situations that encourage people coming back to your business time and time again.

Dandelion with seeds blowing away in the wind across a clear blue sky with copy space

Implementing a loyalty program can seem complicated but it honestly isn’t. It just requires thinking about how you’d like to reward your customers and deciding on how to deploy the idea in your business. Here’s a few examples to get you thinking in the loyalty direction:

Loyalty = Current Customers Getting First Dibs

An easy thing that all businesses can do- when you launch a new product or service, offer it to your already loyal customers first (it’s like a “right of first refusal”). You can even take it a step further and offer it to them at a discounted price (usually the discount price has an expiration date). This isn’t so much a “program” as a “best practice” to show appreciation for the people who already support you.

Loyalty = Rewarding (Financially) Frequent Purchasers

Probably the most common type of loyalty program is some type of number system, like a punch card. A person has to come into your store a set number of times before receiving the reward. A common example is a punch card, like a “Buy 10 get the 11th free” deal. Service-based businesses can also use this type of reward system (i.e. get five haircuts at this salon and get a free manicure). It works because customers view the reward as either something they would purchase anyway, or something of value that they are interested in but haven’t purchased for themselves.



Loyalty = Letting Frequent Purchasers Play A Game

Games are another way to reward (or create) loyalty. McDonalds is a pro at encouraging repeat customers through games. One prime example is their Monopoly game. The contest only runs for a couple months out of the year. To play, you just have to buy food at McDonalds (I think it has to be a certain size in order to get stickers). Customers are encouraged to play for the bigger prizes (which require more stickers/purchases), but there are also smaller scale prizes as an incentive (like a free Double Cheeseburger). Irving had a similar contest a few summers ago involving Monopoly (I think the prize was a lifetime supply of fuel). I won a lot of free soda that year.

Loyalty = Giving A Freebie (Bonus Points If Unexpected)

Another easy way to reward loyalty is giving your customers something they already want. Sometimes when you go grocery shopping, you get some coupons with your receipt. Frustratingly, these are usually items that you’ve just purchased. That’s because you’re not getting these coupons at random. The machines assume you purchase the items on a regular basis (which may or may not necessarily be the case), and offer an incentive to return to the same store to purchase those items again.

Online stores have a unique advantage here- they can keep track of purchases and send follow up emails to encourage customers to “buy it again.” There’s a risk of appearing intrusive if you consistently offer specific rewards- there’s actually an entire episode in the last season of Parks & Recreation involving the ethics of data mining (all the citizens in Pawnee received unique gifts that were eerily specific and pointed back to information on their phones). In other words, your loyal customers want to feel like you know them, but not like you’re spying on them.



Loyalty = Letting Customers Purchase Membership For VIP Treatment

Some of the more successful customer loyalty programs actually require a membership fee. It seems a bit counter-intuitive to make people pay to be loyal customers, but in practice it makes sense. Amazon Prime is a great example of this- customers pay an annual fee, and as a result, they get certain products free or discounted, automatic 2-day shipping, and audio/video streaming. Another example is Dunkin Donuts Perks program. This past football season, whenever the Pats won a game, DD Perks members would receive a free medium coffee the next day (I almost signed up for that very reason).

In terms of services offering memberships, at some airports, you can even purchase a pass to the “Admiral’s Club”, a lounge where you can wait in the relative abundance of electrical outlets and free snacks (and relative quiet).

Customer Loyalty Programs not only give your current customers a reason to keep coming back- they can provide incentive for new customers to jump on board.  Think about rewarding the one you’re with and you may find your customers are even more loyal than you realized.



How to Get Theyuh from Heyuh: Making Sure Customers Can Find You

My friends and family already know this about me, but I’m a bit of a disaster when it comes to navigation. Getting lost is part of my routine at this point, but there are a few occasions where the process turns from “Aw shucks, I’ve done it again” to “I’m late, cold, hungry, and utterly lost. This is no longer funny.” As a business, when you’re trying to direct traffic to your store (online or offline), the last thing you want to do is lose customers. I mean really lose them. As an authority on getting lost, here’s a guide on how to not lose customers (and people like me).

For online businesses/anyone with a website

Check Website Links: Have you ever clicked on a link in a website, expecting to go to a particular page, only to be taken somewhere totally different? No, I don’t want to see men’s watches, I wanted to find that pair of boots…Usually this is an honest linking mistake (other times it’s intentional and shady), but it’s still frustrating from a potential customer standpoint. They might feel a bit misled and betrayed (ok, that’s a little strong, but you get my point). When linking content on your website, check and double check that things are taking you where you’re supposed to go.

Check Website Navigation: Linked to that idea (…heh), does your website’s internal navigation make sense? Meaning, if a person were to start on your homepage, will it be easy for them to get from A to B, or even C and D? Menus and sidebars are your friends here. Speaking of friends, if you need an outside opinion or second set of eyes on your work, ask a friend to go through the ordering process (or whatever it is you need help with). Everyone’s brain works differently, so just because something is laid out in a way that makes sense to you, it may still be confusing for visitors.



For businesses with a website & physical location

Embed a Map: Most business websites have a map embedded somewhere on their site- if not on the homepage, then it’s usually on a Contact/Directions page. Google maps makes it easy to create and embed a map on your website. It’s free, and all you need is a Google account.

embedmap

Directions and Pictures: A map is a fantastic starting point, but you can also take things a step further and offer written directions somewhere on your website (we have them on ours). If you’re part of a larger group of buildings, have a weird entrance, or a tricky parking situation, adding these directions will help people make it through the home stretch. Displaying pictures of your storefront/office (exterior, interior, whatever you think will be most helpful) means that when people actually get to your business, they’ll have a vague sense of familiarity. It may seem a bit hand-holdy

writtendirections

Directions in writing…

...and a picture of the building!

…and a picture of the building!

 

Make sure the address is correct in other places: Remember Apple maps? They were useless as a resource because they said they were taking you somewhere, but you always ended up somewhere else. Well, if your business is listed incorrectly on Google (or another online service), you’re setting customers up for a similar ride. If your business has moved, or you’re opening a new business in an old business’s location, take a few minutes to look at the Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, or other places the address may be listed online and make sure the information is up to date. Our friend Jim Leclair helps businesses do this, so if you have any questions about data maps, he’s the man to talk to!

 

Don’t lose a potential customer on the way from A to B, leading them down a rabbit hole into an Alice in Wonderland type adventure when they just wanted to buy shoes (…it happens to the best of us). Make sure the path is clear for people to reach you on and off line!

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