The Stationers Guild

Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Getting Social the Easy Way

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Many stationers I meet complain that their clients have deserted them for the convenience of the Internet.  When I  ask how they are marketing their bricks-and-mortar store on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest, they stare at me as if I were some sort of Poltergeist up to no good.   Indeed, many stationery store owners are reluctant to dive into the online social media scene which appears to be destroying their business.

Presumably, these stationers are more comfortable spending several hundred dollars a year in Yellow Pages advertising because “this is what we have always done” even though no one reads the Yellow Pages anymore.

It may seem surprising, but I have little interest in trolling for friends in social media channels.  In fact, I hate it.  Nevertheless, establishing a credible online social media presence is CRITICAL TO THE SURVIVAL OF A SMALL BUSINESS!

Mind you, I no longer care to harp about this much more, but EVERY STATIONERY STORE OWNER should have the following online marketing channels:

  • a website (you can build one for FREE with WordPress)
  • a Twitter account (also FREE)
  • a Facebook Page (also FREE)
  • a Pinterest account (also FREE)
  • a LinkedIn account if you intend to connect with other industry experts (also FREE) and, most importantly,
  • a Google+ account (requires a Google email account but is FREE)!

Now you can hire someone to set these accounts up for you on Fiverr.com for pocket change, but I would probably invest a long weekend with your daughter and/or son and try and do it yourself.

Now many stationery store owners have already established these accounts, but are simply unable or unwilling to put in the necessary effort (about 30 minutes a day) to help promote their business.  I feel your pain, since it isn’t much fun.  In fact, at times it can be quite frustrating and boring, particularly making silly comments on your social media accounts.  If cyber engagement is beneath your level of tolerance for the inane,  you can hire someone in the Philippines to do it for a song at ODesk.com.

Now, I have discovered one tool called EMPIRE AVENUE which is more like a game to help market your business and give you insights into what serious online marketing people are doing to promote their activities.  It is also FREE (with some paid upgrades) but rather painless to use and easily allows you to track your “social marketing” skills and acquire a lot of knowledge of what others are doing.   I just started tinkering around with EMPIRE AVENUE in December and have learned “buckets” in a very compelling and engaging way.

Give it a go!

Richard W. May
Founding Member Stationers Guild

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New Horizons for Stationery

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

For a variety of well documented reasons previously outlined in this forum, I have been giving a lot of thought to the evolution of the stationery industry.   I suppose that most of you have too!

There is no reason to think that my views are any better than others looking at the same crystal ball, but I am convinced that internet marketing will change radically over the next twelve months.   From my perspective, few vendors fully appreciate the significance of the changes that have taken place in internet marketing strategies following Google’s release of the Penguin and Panda search algorithm.  In fact, many of our vendors are pursuing internet strategies that may have been relevant two to three years ago, but hardly make sense today.   In fact, it may help to explain some of the silly decisions that have occurred recently.

There is no reason why any of this should make sense to you – or be of particular interest – but if you are relying on your vendors to make the “right” decisions to support your business strategy, forget it!   They don’t have a clue.   Their online marketing strategies are likely to be counterproductive and eventually destructive to their brand.

Social engagement has become far more important to promote your brand and business and many new tools are emerging that can help you do so without relying on your vendors for support.  In fact, with a little effort experienced dealers can become an authority spokesperson in their  local market and/or market niche by focusing on quality and excellence and disseminating the message efficiently through proper social channels.

Right now, I do not have the time – or energy – to share all of these great new developments with you, but several things appear evident:

  • Google + will become a far more important marketing platform than Facebook within the next 12 to 18 months;
  • Twitter is no longer a useful platform for social engagement and to promote your brand;
  • Scoop.It and Pinterest are far more relevant – and fun – resources to promote your business;
  • Curated content – which can be automated through RSS feeds – is far more timely and relevant than blogging;
  • Vendors should be paying dealers to promote their brand rather than obliging us to purchase their albums.

In short, brands that want to be perceived as having value to the consumer should work with their existing dealers to encourage them to promote their brands online.  It’s a win-win situation for both parties, but few Vendors realize it today.   I suspect that most won’t wake up until it is too late, but dealers have the time to act.  Will they?

Richard May
Founding Member Stationers Guild

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Don’t be Discouraged: Think Local!

Friday, April 19th, 2013

I realize that there is a lot of  ”gloom and doom” scenarios in the stationery industry, but I remain quite optimistic that the tide is turning.  Sadly, some of the Big Tankers in the industry are slow to recognize the obvious and appear to embracing internet marketing strategies that are no longer fashionable.   Crane’s marriage of convenience with Paperless Post is simply one example of that trend, but I suppose that “Paperless Paper” makes sense to some MBA consultant who is still wet behind the ears.

GPS enabled “Smart Phones” is the current rage.  Why?  Because people are  trying to search locally.  Granted, many are looking for a pizza or perhaps a pair of shoes, but the real point is that they are trying to find businesses in their immediate neighborhood.  In fact, for the past two to three years internet search marketing is focused on local businesses – not online portals.

Google has a huge advantage, but there are many other players scrambling to catch up;  particularly the Yellow Pages which found it difficult to give up their $17 billion in annual autopilot sales to poorly served and hopelessly overcharged local businesses.  This is very good news for the stationery industry and local businesses in general.   Mind you, the devastated retail landscape is still recovering, but business owners who “think local”  and, more importantly, market locally should have a major competitive advantage.

To get an idea of what is going in the area of local search, sign up for one of the many seminars available to explain what you must to to rebuild your local relevancy.  Found below is their sales pitch:

Did you know that 97% of consumers search online when they want to find a local business or service provider? That’s a number worth paying attention to, especially when you consider the many different places they may be looking — sites like Google, Yahoo, and Bing, mobile apps like Apple Maps and Google Maps, directories like Superpages and YP.com, social sites like Yelp and Facebook … the list goes on. As a local business, you can’t afford to be missing from these sites or to have customers directed to the wrong address or phone number.

Now, I have no idea who UBL is (and I won’t be attending the webinar), but I suspect that they want to part you with some of your hard-earned cash.    I have seen many similar webinars.  I suggest that you sign-up for the webinar and listen, but don’t take any action until you have claimed your business on most of the local search registries highlighted on GetListed.org.   Mind you, services like UBL are useful for those who truly don’t want to do anything for themselves, but subscribing to the basic listing services (see below) is always the most cost effective.  FREE is even better if you want to do it yourself.  In this case, a little knowledge is a good thing!

From my perspective, claiming you business on Google and Bing, together with a Facebook Page and a Google+ Page is sufficient to be ahead of 80% of the competition.   If you are a bit adventurous, get a Pinterest account (drop me an email and I will send you an invitation).  Forget about Twitter as most internet marketing people feel that it will fade into oblivion within a couple of years.

Richard W. May
email is rmay@stationersguild.org

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Facebook and Google for Small Business

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

As Guild readers are aware, I have had mixed opinions on the value of social media tools to market local businesses.  Let me correct that:  Marketing your bricks-and-mortar business effectively requires you to use social media tools. The issue is to identify what tools make the most sense given your time constraints, limited budget and technical knowledge.

There are literally thousands of options available, but as far as I am concerned, there are only really three things that you really need to do and none of them require building or maintaining a website:

  1. Setup a Facebook Business Page – It’s Free!
  2. Setup a Google + Local Page – It’s Free!
  3. Develop an effective email strategy to existing clients.  I recommend MailChimp.  Relatively inexpensive and very powerful.
  4. (Optional) Setup a WordPress Blog that effectively works like a Website – It’s almost Free!

Facebook Page

I have been reluctant to embrace Facebook because of it’s apparent superficiality.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Facebook simply has the best set of tools and applications to promote your bricks and mortar business. Furthermore, its local targeting tools are far better and more effective than most any other form of traditional advertising (forget about Yellow Pages and newspapers!).    Better yet, you can market your business effectively without the need of a website.

You simply need to do two things:  Set up a Profile (that is you as a person, i.e. Jane Doe) and then set up your Business Page (i.e. J.D. Fine Stationery).  It is critically important to keep both roles separate (Facebook has a number of security tools to allow you to do this), but you can do much with your Business Page to market your business to your targeted audience.   Because the huge number of options available, Facebook is not easy to master and I would strongly advise hiring someone to help you get it up and running.  For those who prefer the hands-on approach, I would recommend the Lynda Online Training Course or the more expensive Social Media Marketing University (sign up for the SMMU webinar for Facebook and see what I mean).   For those looking for qualified help to setup your Facebook Profile and Page, I recommend ODesk.

Google+ Local

Look, I think Google has been great for local businesses, but has recently lost its way.  Certainly, Google+ Local is an attempt to recoup space that it has lost to Facebook.  With over two-thirds of the search market, you simply can’t ignore the reach of Google.  Click on this link and read the article and download your Free copy on how to setup your Google+ Page.

Email Marketing

Your client list is your most important asset.  Use it wisely and you will reach your clients with useful news that will bring them to your store.  I have used many email marketing platforms like Constant Contact and AWeber, but I have found MailChimp to offer the best value.  Take it out for a spin and/or sign-up for one or their useful webinars.

Have a great holiday season.

Richard W. May
Thérèse Saint Clair

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Who needs Big Brother? We have Amazon

Monday, November 5th, 2012

As readers are aware, I have some rather strong opinions on how the Internet or social media is numbing our ability to make rational decisions.  No less of an authority as the former CEO of Google referred to the Internet as a “cesspool of misinformation.” Who am I to quibble with his opinion.

Now comes a most interesting article from today’s New York Times entitled Booksellers Resisting Amazon’s Disruption. The article describes how major book retailers decided not to market a popular author’s book, because Amazon had effectively wrapped up publishing and distribution rights which made retailers simply a showcase for Amazon.  Found below are some of the salient points in the article:

“At a certain point you have to decide how far you want to nail your own coffin shut,” said Michael Tucker, owner of the Books Inc. chain here. “Amazon wants to completely control the entire book trade. You’re crazy if you want to play that game with them.”

Bill Petrocelli, co-owner of Book Passage, a large store in suburban Marin County, expressed similar reservations. “We don’t think it’s in our best interests to do business with Amazon,” he said.

Indeed, both large and small retail outlets are facing similar decision as vendors decide to interact directly with the public through their own websites.   Messrs. Petrocelli and Tucker are absolutely correct:  It is not a level or even fair battlefield when you decide to embrace Amazon.  They will eat your lunch.

My views about the “right” relationship with online vendors was expressed in an earlier Guild article.    Dancing with Amazon is an abusive relationship.  As retailers, we have a choice to choose our dance partners.  Support those who want to partner fairly and ignore all others.  When it comes to custom and personalized products, the Internet is well,  . . .  a cesspool of misinformation.

Richard W. May
Therese Saint Clair

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Google+ and Facebook

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

I have just participated in a brief interactive tour of Google+ or Google Plus, which is Google’s new social media platform which will be launched shortly to compete with Facebook.    Unfortunately, I was not on the short list to Beta test Google+ so I really can’t comment on how effective it will be in reshaping the social media arena.

Nevertheless, most of the techies seem to think it will be big.  If you are new to the social media game or simply reluctant to jump into the arena, I suggest that  you give Google+ a chance, because it incorporates many other local search features (Google Places) that are critical to the success of small businesses.

Let’s face it, Google has been helping small businesses develop a presence on the internet for FREE for a number of years.  From my perspective, they have done more to encourage local business owners to stake a claim in cyberspace  than any other company.  The addition of the social media component (Google+) to Google Places is a very powerful marketing tool for local store owners.  Doesn’t it make sense to invest a little time and find out how claiming your business can help you?  It’s FREE and well worth your effort.

Mind you, I like Facebook, but Google has a lot more going for it than becoming a fan of Kim Kardashian.    While it’s best to have a foot in both camps, I’d jump into Google+ as soon as it is launched.

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Affiliate Marketing and the Stationery Industry

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

People shop online and most stationery companies have been obliged to provide consumers with an online alternative.  For many years, people thought that Jane or John Doe consumer would either buy online or exclusively at a bricks and mortar store.  As we well know, they are likely to do both depending on circumstances which are not easy to predict.  The industry has been tip-toeing around channels of distribution for quite some time and it is clear that bricks and mortar stores require some level of online presence to engage clients who may wish to visit their store or purchase products online.

I recently picked up the Summer 2011 Instore Magazine that was published for the Dallas Gift Show.  In this magazine, there are several interesting articles that are most useful to store owners getting their feet wet in online marketing:

  • The ABCs of SEO by Cindy Baldhoff
  • Use YouTube to Engage with Your Customers
  • Getting Social with Email Marketing by Ron Cates and,
  • Where’s your ‘Stupid List”?

Now, I have no way of knowing if anyone is going to read these articles, let alone act on them, but they contain plenty of very good advice and suggestions.  I suspect that people’s eyes will glaze over and they will get back to business as usual.  It’s understandable, but a real shame.

Crane and William Arthur now have affiliate marketing programs.  There is no reason why bricks and mortar stores can’t share in the online revenue stream if they do a little work.  Will they?  I suspect not, because they lack the tools and the knowledge to do so successfully and are perhaps frightened that they may end up cannibalizing their existing business.  Is this a reason to stay out of the fray?  No, but most will choose to sit on the sideline and surrender the bounty to professional affiliate marketers.  Let me explain.

Online affiliate marketers will hype anything and many have become quite rich by focusing on key words and building website devoted exclusively to capturing affiliate income.  The acai berry diet (14 million search pages) that is hyped by online marketers is a perfect example of how this works.  In fact, I have attended several online seminars that teach you the techniques to optimize your site for acai berry diet searches so you can capture affiliate income.  Even if you decide not to activate your affiliate program with Crane or William Arthur, someone else will to your detriment.

Let me give you an example of a website I setup over a year ago (no affiliate links as yet) to test various automatic “content-generating” products in the market.  The site is nycweddinginvitations.org.      I have done relatively little to this website, but will soon be adding graphics to make it look attractive and begin to add affiliate links and perhaps add an online store.  This website was FREE and costs about $1.50 a month to run.  I then use several Wordpress tools to skim the Internet to look for articles that use my key words (“nyc invitations,”  “nyc wedding invitations,” nyc wedding stationery,”) and then these articles are automatically “spinned” (term for substituting synonyms and rearranging sentence structure to avoid duplicate content) and then published automatically on the NYC wedding invitations website.  You can establish multiple websites using the same strategy built around different key words but perhaps using the same graphics.   All of this is basically FREE and by using the appropriate Wordpress Plugins, ALL OF THIS IS FULLY AUTOMATED  (i.e. no human intervention).

Now, you may have a much prettier website than I do, but because my website has been optimized for search, it is far more likely that it will appear higher in a Google search result than your store.  The first listing in Google’s Organic Search (not paid!) statistically receives between 30% and 46% of the clicks.  Pretty scary, isn’t it?

This is how professional affiliate marketers work.  Sure, there are a lot more wrinkles using Facebook Fan Pages, YouTube, Landing Pages and other strategies, but I can assure you that just because you decide not to actively and aggressively support the Affiliate Programs kindly provided to you by your Vendors, others will!

Is this good for the industry?  I think not, but this is why Tiny Prints and many other online “printing” companies who wouldn’t be able to pick out an engraving press from a lineup of toilet bowls will eat your lunch and mine too!

Isn’t it time to figure out what we can and should do to preserve the quality standards in our industry?  Together we can do this the “right” way and preserve the integrity of our industry  Rest assured that there are plenty of people out there who will and can sell anything and make a fine living doing so.  They are real pros and I admire their spunk.

Call me at 203-661-2927 or email me at rmay@stationersguild.org with your ideas and suggestions.

Richard W. May
Thérèse Saint Clair

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Wedding Invitations: The Dark Side of Internet Marketing

Monday, February 14th, 2011

As I have reported many times, internet search results are often manipulated by very smart people to the detriment of the consumer and visitors who are looking for information rather than a sales pitch.   As most of you are no doubt aware, Google and most other major search engines segregate their page listings into two areas:  paid search and organic search.  For instance, if you are searching for ”wedding invitations” using the Google search bar, the results page will look something like this:

The search for “wedding invitations” returns more than 14 million pages which Google has found which contains information relevant to wedding invitations.  The three lead paid search results bracketed in RED are paid ads where companies bid for the top placement.  In this particular case, Wedding Paper Divas, bid more than Normans Printery (whoever that is) and Google places them in the top position because of that fact.  Immediately below the top three paid listings are the ORGANIC listings.  These listings are derived from a proprietary algorithm  developed by Google to determine the most relevant websites for that search term, independent of any paid advertising.    They use over 100 factors in determining that ORGANIC relevancy, include key word density, title bars, backlinks from other websites and many other factors.

While the companies on the first page of Google for paid and organic search results can often be radically different, in this particular case Wedding Paper Divas also occupies the Number 1 position in ORGANIC search as highlighted in GREEN.   Why is this important?  Simply stated, the first listing in ORGANIC search will attract somewhere between 36% to 45% of clicks, almost twice the percentage of the next organic listing.   In other words, it pays to the be the number one organic listing for key search terms.   For that reason, many businesses will do most anything to obtain that coveted ranking:  It is big dollars!

In a fascinating article that appeared in the New York Times on Sunday entitled The Dirty Little Secrets of Search, NYT’s investigative reporters discovered that J.C. Penney’s had used “black hat” SEO (search engine optimization) tactics to grab the number one organic listing for key product search terms.  When the information was reported to Google, who conducted their own investigation, J.C. Penney was manually stripped of its number one listing and its search relevancy signficantly altered (in some cases falling to as low as 77 (seventh page of search results).   All this for a company that was listed number 16 of the most influential 500 internet retailers.

While J.C. Penney’s has now fired the SEO firm that was responsible for these questionable marketing strategies, I suspect that its reputation will be permanently damaged by this revelation.  Nevertheless, it raises a number of question for firms that are practicing similar strategies.   The wedding industry in particular is ripe for “black hat” marketing.   For local retailers, it is absolutely imperative that you do everything legitimately possible to boost your online presence.  Google and other search engines try to list “local” providers if they believe that qualified local suppliers exist.  There are a number of simple and inexpensive ways to do so.  Don’t let online marketing companies destroy the stationery industry.

Consumers are waking up to the fact of the deceitful practices of many internet marketing companies.  Congratulations to Google for taking the high road and acting promptly to safeguard the integrity of their search algorithm.

Richard W. May
Thérèse Saint Clair

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Google changes the landscape of Local Search

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

It has been awhile since I have posted articles on the Stationers Guild website. It isn’t for lack of interest, it is simply that I have found that the landscape of SEARCH and INTERNET MARKETING is changing so radically that  it is difficult to know how to position one’s business.  The new search parameters imposed by Google are so impactful that most local business owners need to seriously rethink their overall marketing strategy. 

For the most part, I believe that these changes are “good” (where “good” is a relative term) for local business owners since geo-targeting capabilities in most new cellphones raise the importance of local search results.  The bad news is that if a local business doesn’t have a website or has a website that is not properly configured for local search, they will be left out in the cold.  Found below are – in my estimation - some of the more impactful implications of Google’s emphasis on “Google Place Results”:

  1. In the past, a local business did not need  a website to be listed on the Google 7 or 10-pack list of local businesses.  The Google Lucky 7-pack has now disappeared and has been replaced by Google Place Search.   Don Campbell of Expand2Web describes the impact of these changes on local search.   If you don’t have a website, get one now!
  2. New and growing constraints on AFFILIATE marketing by Google are designed to provide an online  buyer or visitor with improved or more relevant SEARCH results.  Gone are the days when one could throw up an affiliate website designed to generate commissions if one clicks on the embedded link and buys something on a sponsor’s site.   In fact, I have recently discovered many websites designed to link to third-party websites may have already been deindexed by Google and may not even show up in search registries. 
  3. While all of these factors are positive for local businesses over the long term, it does require a greater commitment by local business owners to embrace internet marketing.  Fortunately, there are a number of relatively inexpensive ways to do so.  Nevertheless, it is important to act now.

Because of these changes, I have decided to overhaul the Stationers Guild website.  These changes will occur over the next several months but are designed to enhance the visitor’s website experience and  promote affiliate programs with established vendors who have a commitment to excellence and support their storefront dealers.  I think you will find the Guild website will become increasingly more valuable as it will begin to support your local marketing initiatives.  More on this later. 

For those who wish to learn more about creating a viable online presence, I have established a sister website called www.rite4u.com which will give you the lastest insights into the latest changes in internet marketing and the “best” tools to take advantage of these changes in technology.  Through this website you will be able to access valuable affiliated resources such as Don Campbell’s Expand2Web which builds local search friendly Wordpress websites. More information on Expand2Web will be forthcoming shortly. 

If you value your business and seem confused or concerned about the evolution of the stationery industry, I suggest that you register now at rite4.com and learn how you can protect and grow your investment.

Richard W. May
Thérèse Saint Clair

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If you want traffic, claim your business on Google

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

As most of you are no doubt aware, I have written extensively on how important it is to claim your business on Google.  This service is FREE and THE MOST IMPORTANT ADVERTISING AND PUBLIC RELATIONS INVESTMENT YOU CAN MAKE!   Google has just made it more so, by eliminating other “local” search directories from search queries that contain a local qualifier.   For instance, if one is looking for “wedding invitations Omaha” on Google you will no longer be able to find directories such as local.com or YELP search rersults.  With one deft stroke, Google has killed the competition for local search directories that have been piggy-backing for free on their search network.

Here is what you need to do:

  1. If you have not claimed your business on Google, do so immediately.  It is simple, FREE and the most valuable investment you can make.  Just click on the hyperlink and do it now.  It takes about 15 minutes.
  2. If your store is listed on Google, make sure you spruce it up with photographs and other goodies.  Post a couple of videos of your store  on YouTube and have it linked to your local listing.  YouTube is owned by Google and they love to see you playing the game.
  3. Visit getlisted.org and see how you rank for local search.  It is FREE and simple and I would certainly follow the hyperlinks and get listed on these five local search registeries.

Over the next couple of months, I will be rolling out a few inexpensive and easy business strategies to position your business for online search.

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