Archive for October, 2009

What Your Company Can Learn From Zappos Shoes

Friday, October 16th, 2009

by Guest Blogger, Doug Stewart

Doug Stewart, author of Power to Fight the Big Boys, was kind enough to guest blog for Sūmèr today. The article below is a reprint of a September 18, 2009, article.

You can buy your shoes at Wal-Mart. You can buy your shoes at Target. You can buy your shoes at a big department store. So why would you ever buy your shoes from an unknown online store?

Back in 1998 Nick Swinmurn had a crazy idea, “I’m going to sell shoes online.” So he called investors asking for financial help. The big money boys just laughed at his plans. But one shrewd investor listened . . .

The Detail Other Investors Overlooked

Excited, Nick Swinmurn’s soon-to-be partner/investor noticed one detail the other investors must’ve overlooked. The retail shoe market was a 40 billion dollar industry back then. And 5 percent of those shoe sales were from mail order businesses.People were already pulling their credit cards out of their wallets and buying shoes – – without ever touching them, smelling them or tying a shoelace. That’s when investor Tony Hsieh realized, “this could work.”

Little did Nick and Tony know just how well their idea would work. Soon their little online store would become an internet marketing legend.

One Secret to their Meteoric Sales Explosion: Buzz, Buzz, Buzz. The Stories of Zappos Legendary Customer Service.

One day a lady orders a pair of shoes from Zappos for her husband. But her husband dies in a car wreck. So the grieving widow calls to return the shoes. The rep politely walks her through the return procedure. So far this isn’t any different from what would happen at any other store. But here’s where legendary customer service kicks in . . . After the rep gets off the phone call, she sends flowers to the lady on behalf of the company. Now that’s great customer service.

This story is shared. First to one friend. Then another and then another. Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.

A customer thought their shoes would arrive in 3-7 days. An e-mail informs them they are upgraded to overnight air because they’re a valued customer.

If you call Zappos and they’re out of stock on a particular style or your size, they will help you find your shoe on up to 3 competitors’ websites. That’s great customer service. That’s creating buzz.

But that’s not the BIG secret. Keep reading. You’ll find it below.

In 2008 Zappos Annual Sales Broke the Billion Dollar Mark. Tony Hsieh Bases their Skyrocketing Growth on These 4 “Things”

#1: Have a Vision (Not Monetary)

#2: Focus on repeat customers

#3: People

#4: Culture – “Committable core values”

Zappos core values:

1. Deliver WOW Through Service
2. Embrace and Drive Change
3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5. Pursue Growth and Learning
6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8. Do More With Less
9. Be Passionate and Determined
10. Be Humble

I wish I had more time to dig into the details of Tony’s “4 Things.” But that’s beyond the scope of this blog post. Maybe another day. Now for the big secret tucked behind it all.

Tucked behind the customer service stories, tucked behind Tony Tsieh’s ”4 Things” is one simple truth . . .

Commit to something bold. Don’t be mamby pamby with some catch phrase like, ”We deliver world class customer service.” Put some real teeth into it.

Think of one demonstrable simple action that’s over the top. Something your competition would scream, “We can’t do that.” Then deliver it.

**Dominos did it and changed the pizza world with . . . “30 Minutes or Less or It’s Free”
**Fedex did it with . . . “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight”

Once you deliver your first over-the-top demonstrable simple action. Add another one. That’s the real hidden secret. Zappos bold over-the-top demonstrable actions are piling up. They add one layer of over-the-top goodness after another. Then they add one more. People are talking about it.

Take that you big box retailers.

Read more articles like this at Power to Fight the Big Boys.

What’s So Great about Viral Marketing?

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

If you’re using the Internet to market your company, than you must have heard the term “viral power.” Does this phrase ring a bell? Do you know what it means? If not, you’re not alone. Many businesses hear the same advice as you may be hearing, such as “use the viral power of the internet,” “viral marketing is the way to go,” and so on.

But, what does viral power mean? Bascially, it is comparing information across the Internet to a virus. A virus can spread extremely easily and rapidly and information online works in the same exact manner. Links from one website bring you to the next, people share information across various online channels, and information is recycled and archived.

One of the greatest ways to take advantage of viral marketing is through videos. YouTube is a primary example of how businesses have used videos to increase online exposure and attract more clients. In the video below, you’ll see just how vital video marketing is in promoting your business online and increasing your client base.

Four Common Mistakes Businesses Make with Their Web Copy

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Message from Michelle

Welcome to this issue of Sumèr’s Secrets. Thanks again to all of you who were on the call Tuesday night. I’m excited about the number of people who’ve already signed up for my four-week bootcamp, “The Secrets to Influencing Your Online Market,” which begins October 27th.

This issue of Sumèr’s Secrets focuses on the common mistakes businesses make with their website copy. It’s often easier to write about something or someone else than it is to write about yourself. It’s no different when writing your company’s marketing materials. When you’re too close to something, it can be difficult to see what isn’t clear and needs revising. What you think makes sense may not make sense to your intended audience.

I’d encourage you to read the article below and take action. Go back over your website copy and see how you can better connect with your target audience.

Stop wasting your time searching for marketing information. Subscribe to my blog and receive free updates via email or RSS.

Connect With Me Online at:


Feature Article: Four Common Mistakes Businesses Make with Their Web Copy

1) Is your website too self-centered?

“We’re so great at this, so great at that. Want to see all the awards we’ve won? No? Well we’re going to tell you about them anyway.” This might seem over-the-top, but too many business websites do just this. I’m sure businesses that do this haven’t stopped caring about the prospective customers and started caring only about how they look to others—it’s human nature to want to showcase strengths and people are attracted to it—but it won’t work on a website.

The key to influencing your market and attracting clients is all in how your website copy speaks to your customers and how it illustrates your company’s goals, values, and, obviously, products and services. Your web copy should work to build relationships with your prospective customers and illustrate a transparent business message.

2) Do prospects understand what services / products you offer?

How many times have you stumbled across a website that describes its services / products and you have no clue what they’re talking about? While many businesses have the intention of trying to stand out and be completely unique from the competition, all they end up doing is stringing together a bunch of fancy words that have no meaning. It’s nearly impossible to express your uniqueness when you say that your “creative services are unique.” (What does that even mean?)

The key is not about saying you’re different from the competition, but rather, it’s about showing your prospective clients that you offer something different from the competition. This is expressed in a clear, result-driven brand message. When you become clear on your brand message, your target audience becomes clear on what you sell.

3) Do you even know what products / services you offer and to whom?

You may think you know what products / services you offer, but how clear are you? Businesses evolve. Services change. And so does the market. Often, what happens is companies add information to their website over a period of time. The result is a smorgasbord of information that can easily confuse prospects.

If you aren’t specific about the product / services you offer and how they benefit your target market, it is extremely difficult for you to convert prospects into customers. Similarly, if you don’t follow shifting markets, how can you expect to sell products to a customer you no longer know?

4) Are you speaking “Greek” to your prospects?

Your business is unique, and this uniqueness sets it apart from the competition. But, there’s a difference between expressing that uniqueness in industry terms, and illustrating it in layman terms. You understand the industry jargon, but do your prospective customers? Probably not, which is why you need to understand who your target market is and how your brand message and language can be written to connect with them. Remember, it’s important to speak to your prospects and not at them because, many times, they are your peers, not others in your industry.


Tip of the Month

According to the new FTC guidelines, which came out Monday, October 5, 2009, “The post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.” And according to WebProNews, bloggers who do not respect these new guidelines can be fined up to $11,000.

If You Think LinkedIn Isn’t Worth Your Time, Think Again

Friday, October 9th, 2009

One of the first pieces of advice Ira Shull gave me when I met him at a networking event was to join LinkedIn.  Since then, I’ve heard him repeat that advice at many events and social gatherings.  According to Ira, in his twenty years of working in publishing, ten of which he’s worked freelance, no other tool has found him more work.  Recently I had the pleasure to interview him about how he uses LinkedIn and what his results have been.

Sūmèr: When did you start using LinkedIn?

Ira: I set up a profile early 2008, but I didn’t really start using it until people started contacting me—including people I went to college with, friends I had at previous publishing companies, and so on.  I quickly realized that this was a valuable resource since people were finding me through it, so I added most of my resume information to my profile, got some recommendations from people I’d worked with as well as former clients, began building my contact list, and started really looking to see what I could use the service for.

Sūmèr: How did you use LinkedIn in the beginning?

Ira: One of my initial steps was to pick fifteen contacts that I thought might be able to lead me to freelance work and I send them a group e-mail saying, “I’m looking for work, does anyone know of anything? Please let me know. ” I didn’t ask them for work directly; I just put out to them that I was looking for work and let them decide how to answer.  Out of the fifteen that I contacted, I got quite a few responses, including a job interview at a major publisher and several leads on freelance work.

Sūmèr: How is this different than other methods you’ve used to find freelance work?

Ira: I’ve tried a lot of different things over the years—professional organizations, job boards, freelance job lists, and so forth—and by far the best results I’ve gotten from anything to this point have been through LinkedIn.  For two years, I paid eighty-five dollars to be a member of a job board in New York, getting their job listings.  The person who got me into it said they got one job a year, and in the two years I was on it, I got one job that I made two hundred dollars from—and that was it. I’ve paid nothing for LinkedIn to this point, and I’ve gotten several thousand dollars worth of work.

I’m basically doing direct marketing, and even to get a response is a small success. No one’s said please don’t contact me anymore.  In many cases I suspect these are people who wouldn’t pick up the phone if you called or wouldn’t e-mail you back.

Sūmèr: How are you using LinkedIn now?

Ira: The big change this year is I’ve started using the groups much more.  I’ve joined a lot of groups related to my field and I’m a member of at least fifteen to twenty groups.  Through these groups you have access to a lot more people.  As long as you’re a member of a group, you can send e-mails to other people in that group directly, unless they indicate they want differently.  So, what I tend to do is look through the groups for interested people, people who might have higher authority, or people who might lead to people with higher authority.  I send them an e-mail introducing myself and ask if they have upcoming projects or know of people who might.  I tend to get a pretty good response.  In most cases people say to send my resume or that they might know someone, and in many cases it’s led to work.

I’ve found clients in different ways.  In one instance someone contacted me—unsolicited—through LinkedIn and asked me to provide samples.  Another I contacted and asked them if they had any upcoming work and got a job from them.

In another case I contacted an individual who was looking for editing services and pitched myself to him, and I’ve worked for him multiple occasions. This year I’ve worked with probably six or seven different major clients, and I would say that at least five are through LinkedIn connections, either directly or indirectly.

Sūmèr: Do you have any advice for people using LinkedIn to find a job?

Ira: It’s a great resource.  You have to be very assertive to use it.  You have to be willing to face rejection.  It’s not a panacea or cure all for what ails freelancers, but if you target people through it, and are clear about what you want and are polite and have a track record—by which I mean experience, recommendations, and samples—I think people will respond to you.  I feel people aren’t using it enough because they’re not really sure how it works and aren’t sure about the technology and they’re afraid to contact strangers, but I think that in this marketplace you kind of have no choice—you have to be assertive.

Sūmèr: Any last words?

Ira: LinkedIn changes things from a national marketplace to a global marketplace.  Two of the clients I’ve gotten from LinkedIn are in Australia and Spain.  It’s clear to me that LinkedIn connects you to people throughout the world.  People who are freelancing need to expand their horizons, and not just think in terms of their town, their city, their state, or even their country, because there is work out there, and with the right tools and attitude you can find it.

About Ira: Ira has worked in publishing for over twenty years, ten years of which has been in publishing.  He’s worked with a number of clients as a writing coach/consultant on projects from Ph.D theses to full-length manuscripts, offering structured feedback and guidance on various stages of the writing/publishing process. Currently, he also works with high school students on the acquisition of writing and reading comprehension skills through a private tutoring agency.

Visit Ira’s LinkedIn Profile at

Michelle Salater Interviewed about the Power of PR 2.0

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Marketing blogger and owner of DSC Web Services, Inc., Doug Stewart, interviewed Michelle Salater about growing a small business using PR 2.0. To listen to the podcast, visit Doug’s blog, Power to Fight the Big Boys.

Building a Unique Brand Message One Pair Of Socks at a Time

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

Oberon Socks, an up-and-coming stylish, men’s sock line, is taking the retail community by storm with its effective and unique brand message and marketing strategies. We’d like to thank owner Chris Clark and partner Maggie Winterfeldt for their willingness to share their struggles with finding the right audience.

The post below is by Maggie Winterfeldt.

In March 2008, Chris came to me with an idea he had for a company. He was going to start a line of men’s dress socks. His reasoning was logical: dress socks had a simple business model, a relatively low price point, and a steady demand. Mostly, however, Chris saw a lack of hip men’s dress socks on the market and believed he could create a superior product to fill that void.

By September 2008, Chris had successfully formed an LLC, settled on a manufacturer, and designed and produced his first batch of Oberon socks. He had also decided that the socks would initially be sold entirely through an ecommerce website, which would eliminate overhead while serving as both a delivery channel and a branding mechanism.

With 2,400 pairs of socks in route to Charleston, SC, and less than a month until the October 1 website launch, we sat down to discuss how we were going to brand Oberon Socks. In questioning Chris about who he felt the Oberon Sock customer was, we discovered that our target market was an educated, young professional, roughly 22-27 years old. He was making money and, while not overly fashionable, was willing to invest in certain status clothing pieces such as designer jeans to impress on the weekends, but during the week he was still learning how to adapt his wardrobe to conservative corporate culture.

Our customer was essentially Chris and his friends. It made perfect sense at the time. We had recently graduated college, and our successful friends had jetted off to NYC and Charlotte after signing inflated offers with finance firms and banks where they made more money than they knew what to do with.

Thus, the initial branding was focused on our customer as a young, successful professional looking to validate his newfound career status with unique, luxury goods that distinguished him in a world of monochromatic suits. We referred to him as a “discriminating client” and described our socks as “upscale.” We aligned our product’s functionality with his lifestyle, boasting that Oberon Socks could take him “from the boardroom to the VIP room with ease” and billed Oberon Socks as “the antidote to the dull corporate wardrobe epidemic.”

We had the Oberon Sock Guy pegged.

Then, two things happened.

First, the economic bubble burst. Our Oberon Sock Guy no longer existed, or at least no longer existed as he once had. Currently unpopular or unemployed, he might still be buying designer jeans, but it now took more than an obvious logo to convince him to purchase them. The jeans had to be perfectly fitted, exceptionally comfortable, and functional enough to wear all week in order for him to spend precious severance dollars on them.

Second, the Oberon Sock Guy we had painted was not the person buying the socks.

The analytics from a small Facebook advertising exercise revealed that the most responsive demographics were 18-22 year olds. Read: college students. Additionally, the socks were being purchased as frequently by women as by men—Oberon Socks were the perfect gift for the difficult-to-shop-for husband, boyfriend, or father. Oberon Socks, we realized, were perceived as a novelty item.

The Oberon Sock Guy was actually an outgoing young man who enjoyed the uniqueness of the product and the attention it garnered in social settings. He wasn’t thinking about work or office appropriate at all. In playing up all of the socks’ upscale qualities, we had missed their most important attribute—they are fun, and that is what customers were responding to.

Since clarifying who our ideal customer is, we have refocused our marketing efforts to better speak to him (and the women who shop for him).

Advertising was the easiest thing to shift. A big change we made here was targeting women, a demographic that was not even on our radar when we began but that became very significant; for example, an advertising campaign aimed at daughters and wives yielded big sales for Father’s Day. Also, we are aiming more marketing efforts at college students whom we discovered to be some of our best customers.

Another huge step we are taking is to rewrite all of our web and promotional copy with a laidback and comedic voice that is better aligned with our customer than the grandiose language we originally used. Looking ahead, our future sock designs will be more about novelty than work wear, since we know now that that is what our customers value.

In the end, what we learned is simple: redirect your efforts toward the people who like the product instead of wasting time and money trying to attract the original group. Defining your product’s target demographic is important, but being able to adapt will ultimately lead to success.

To check out some of Oberon Socks’ great styles visit their website at or contact the team today via email at or by phone at 617.571.7327.

Feel free to share the love and send your friends and family the link to Oberon Socks. Who knows, maybe someone will buy you a pair.

Stop Wasting Your Time Chasing Clients Online

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Whether you’re in retail or real estate, tourism or graphic design, you’ll want to join me for my free telecall Tuesday, October 6, 2009, because I’m going to share with you how you can tap into the new age of PR and achieve exposure and more clients.

If you’re on the fence, if you think you don’t have the time, if you don’t think you need to promote online . . . here are 5 reasons why you should join me on this free call:

  1. You’ll learn proven PR integration tips and strategies that you can easily implement on your own today.
  2. You’ll learn how to save thousands of marketing and promotional dollars while maximizing your online exposure.
  3. You’ll get the tips you need to stand apart from the competition and gain massive online exposure across a variety of channels.
  4. You’ll discover exactly how to interact with your target market online and where to interact with them.
  5. You’ll learn what you can to today to get more online exposure.

Register today for “The Ultimate Strategies to Boost Your Online Presence.”

How NOT to Waste Time Promoting Your Company Online

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

I’m often asked, “How do you have the time to spend on social media? How do you handle client accounts and do all that blog marketing?” Or my personal favorites, the less tactful questions, “Do you ever sleep? Do you have a life?”

The world of 2.0 has created a wealth of free marketing and PR opportunities. It’s leveled the playing field—the smaller companies can compete on the same level as the big boys. PR 2.0’s user-friendly interface makes it simple for anyone to use. The problem is, this wonderful technology has delivered a healthy dose of overwhelm and exhaustion to those who use it to promote their company.

If you are struggling to find the perfect balance between promoting your brand online and spending your time wisely, you’re not alone.

The list is exhaustive: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, Del.ici.ous, YouTube, blog writing, blog commenting, article marketing, ezine writing, and more.

Where does one begin? Where does it end? (Is your head spinning yet?)

There’s a simple remedy to wasting your time promoting your business on social media, Tweeting all day, and commenting on blogs until your fingers ache.

It’s called a strategic plan—one that you can actually implement and stick to.

My team and I are able to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time for our clients and Sūmèr (and, yes, still have a life) because we operate off of a deadline-driven plan. Each week, we have objectives we need to meet, which are broken down into daily tasks.

And we batch our work. It’s amazing how many blogs you can comment on when you have a set list of blogs and do it all in one sitting. Set a timer, and don’t switch tasks until you’re finished.

Another great tip is to track your efforts. Whether you track efforts in a spreadsheet, a planner, or a word document, you’ll be able to see where your time is being spent and refine your efforts weekly.

To recap:

1) Create a plan.
2) Break goals down into easily digestible daily tasks.
3) Batch your work.
4) Track what you do and the results you get from your efforts.

Have any tips to help increase business productivity while decreasing the time you waste promoting your company online? We’d love to hear your feedback in our comments section.