Relationships Drive Business

Strengthening Customer Engagement to Propel Your Business

Four Ways Oprah Uses Email September 21, 2011

Oprah uses email marketing to engage with her fans even now that she’s not on TV.

 

What other media mogul do you know that gave out their personal email address on national TV? She gave it out during the very last show. The one where it was just her on stage for an hour saying goodbye after 25 years. Go ask your girlfriends, I bet they heard it, to.  I emailed her, that put me on her email list. Since then I’ve gotten a few emails from her. They read like Oprah talking, not like Oprah advertising.

 

O uses my email address judiciously. I have the sense she feels privileged to have it. She’s careful not to abuse the relationship.

There are 4 things Oprah does with email.

  1. Takes interest in my world – she asks how things are going.
  2. Updates on her – She tells me what she’s been up to
  3. Asks about 1 thing – She’ll ask my opinion on 1 topic
  4. No sell – She’s never asked me for money.

 

And BTW – she never uses a belittling Subject Line. There’s no “10 things you don’t know about X.” Her typical Subject line is “Happy 4th of July,” or “The next right decision.”  It’s respectful.

 

The opposite is true of another self-made millionaire who has an entrepreneur’s conference coming up in Dallas. I’m registered to go, but honestly I tuned out her emails 6 months ago. So much so, I can’t even tell you who the keynote speaker. Every email she sends is her trying to reach into my pocketbook to pad her own.  “Upgrade your registration for exclusive access” or “advertise my stuff to your friends.” It got old after email #2. She’s clearly only interested in how much money she can get out of me and my network.

 

Oprah has a lot to sell. Can you imagine trying to start a network? That’s a B-I-G job. In her email in August she said flat out it’s 10x harder than she thought it would be. And yet she’s never begged me to watch or asked me to buy an ad. She’s asked me what I think of a show. I mean, I know she’d like me to watch, sure. But she’s using my email the same way a girlfriend would – by asking my opinion and telling me a bit about her life.

 

I don’t have any friends who ask for money every time we talk.

 

Who else do you know who uses email really well?

 

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Oprah knows Engagement September 18, 2011

 

No one knows their audience like Oprah does. Nobody

They were a late start on social platforms and some people have picked on them for that. But, when you already recognize your audience members faces, why dive into “social” just because it’s new.

It struck me while watching O’s interview with MC Hammer, that until then she really wasn’t “getting” how to use social media. There was a moment in the interview when Hammer says to her (talking about Twitter) “If I were you, I’d just tweet “Watch this show, it’s on OWN right now.“”

Oprah put her hand on his arm, looked deep in his eyes and said, “We are going to talk more after the show.”

MC Hammer has his own social media company helping other companies do social well. She must have listened well.

The first weekend in April the Oprah Winfrey team started doing live tweets during “Behind the Scenes” episodes (#OprahLiveTweet). The first tweet I saw from her that day was something like “Ok, #OprahLiveTweet starts in 10 minutes. If nobody shows up by 9:15, I’m going home.”

The live tweets were a hit! And it’s been growing ever since. Twitter wasn’t new to Oprah. She’s been on Twitter for more than 2  years, but she didn’t really use Twitter. She was just there – with millions of followers.

But nobody is as good at relationships as Oprah. She and her team totally get it. My God, what other brand do you know that sent their 300 biggest fans on a trip to the other side of the world with a friend. Seriously. They get engagement, in spades. Actually, what other brand could TELL you who their 300 biggest fans are and why?

OK, back to their tweeting. Now her team is tweeting up a storm. And while some of it promotes specific shows and OWN (The Oprah Winfrey Network), they get that they have to earn the right to promote to people. Their tweets are natural, conversational and show genuine interest in learning from who ever engages with them.

To write this post I needed help remembering when the live tweets started. I tweeted @SheriSalata, executive producer for The Oprah Winfrey Show to ask. She sent me a note back mentioning one of the other staffers @mayawatson, to help her come up with the date. Simple.

 

Back to the tweets. Here’s six Live Tweet habits Oprah does well:

  1. Keep it casual
  2. Learn from who else is tweeting
  3. Be helpful
  4. Recognize people
  5. Don’t go it alone
  6. Have a goal – a classic Oprah thing “have an intention.” It works.

I’d love to know if O hired MC Hammer to help her team. @SheriSalata, if you read this, drop me a tweet and let me know 🙂

 

BTW-you should see how they are using email marketing. Killer good. But that’s another post. See you!

 

3 Things Distinctive Gardens Learned from Big Break Metrics August 10, 2011

 

Publicity does not equal immediate gratification.

 

There’s no doubt AmEx Open’s Facebook Big Break for Small Business gave finalist (and winner 🙂 Distinctive Gardens gobs of publicity. And it was a ball (and a ton of work.) The nuts & bolts and bean-counter question is —  did it grow the business. Let’s take a look.

 

Lisa’s main goal was to use Big Break to drive brand awareness and measure results with some key metrics (read more about that here.)

 

More of the nitty-gritty is below, but first the big picture observations.

 

3 things the metrics taught us:

  1. Watch for changes in untargeted categories
  2. Metrics don’t measure psychological highs
  3. Small business is a marathon

 

OK, numbers chicks

Here are the results. She compared year-to-date numbers during the pre-Big Break period to the 2 weeks of Big Break voting (July 5-19, 2011) in these categories:

  • Foot traffic  – up 4.2%, and 20 people specifically mentioned Facebook
  • Retail Sales (all numbers are year-to-date)
    • Nursery +3%
    • Annuals +.4%
    • Perennials +2.5%
  • Facebook Fan count – + 2027
  • Website traffic – hits were way up
  • Design Inquiry count – 3
  • Newsletter email count – not much change, only a couple new names

 

A couple notes:

  • Foot traffic up 4% doesn’t sound like much. Until you mash-up foot traffic with weather. Dixon was in the midst of that brutal heat wave that crushed most of the country. In fact, July was the 6th warmest month on record for Illinois. Not many people wanted to be outside, let alone plant anything.
  • Overall for 2011, Distinctive Gardens has had a challenging year. On average they’ve been down double digits year-to-date. So the upticks while small, were welcome.
  • Website traffic was not just up, it went global. Typically their site gets hits from IL and the 4 surrounding states. With Big Break hits came from everywhere, including New Zealand. The map up top tells the tale (it’s from July 10.)

The Surprise

In crunching the numbers Lisa found another interesting up-tick — pavilion rentals.  At the beginning of July their pavilion rentals had equaled all bookings for 2010. In the hot, hot month of July they have never booked a pavilion rental.

 

That changed this year. During Big Break they booked 6 pavilion dates. (Revenue gets hit w/ deposit money) So not only are they ahead of last year, they’ve already knocked last year out of the park. It’s not their core business, but it’s a solid revenue stream that’s growing.

 

What’s all this mean long-term? No one knows. But common sense tells me this – when guests come to an event at Distinctive Gardens pavilion, it’s like advertising for the rest of the business.  It’s more eyeballs exposed to what they love – artful plantings.

 

What, dear reader, do you take away from these numbers?

 

 

 

Phone Call of a Lifetime July 25, 2011

They won!!!

 

The waiting and secrecy is over. Distinctive Gardens is a Big Break winner!

At midnight on July 19 voting for AmEx OPEN’s Facebook Big Break for small business closed. Then the waiting began.

And when that ended the secrecy started. And the work for the next phase.  Finalists learned their fate within 24 hours of the last vote. They were sworn to secrecy, actually signed to secrecy.

Here’s some notes from the big phone call, as recalled by Bud:

“We at AmEx and FB were very impressed with all you did to get the votes”….  “We know how hard you have worked”…..   “We’re so very happy you won.   We really really like what you are doing”…..     “Bud you’re a star”  (Bud’s response through the tears). “That’s what the kids say, but I’m just Bud.”

The hard work part is no joke. Here’s a taste of what they did to get out the vote:

  1. Developed 4 sets of web and Facebook Page graphics to keep people interested (the graphic above, for the win is #5)
  2. Created press release, posters and invites  for the Big Surprise Bash, and for the Finalist announcement
  3. Walked the town in Dixon and Sterling before voting started, inviting people to the Big Surprise Bash
  4. Made a Prezi trailer for the Big Surprise Bash
  5. Learned to use Twitter
  6. Created an Our Story Prezi to show at the bash
  7. Passed our “Vote for Us” cards at every bar in town and a local music fest
  8. Thanked every person who fanned their web page, usually a 12 hour/day job
  9. Fed blog content on the experience to SocialPie
  10. Bud’s son and a buddy hit the street to pass out “Vote for Us” cards
  11. The kids also share to all their Facebook friends continually
  12. 13 TV and Radio appearances (either before or after landscape jobs)
  13. Walked town (Dixon, Sterling, Subula) in late afternoon passing out vote cards
  14. Posted every compliment, photo, blog and news mention possible to Distinctive Gardens Facebook Page.
  15. Announced TV and radio appearances to Twitter and Facebook, by now nicknamed DiGgers at the suggestion of a fan.
  16. Created an event on Facebook inviting people to vote and invite their friends to vote. It spawned upwards of 15,000 invitations.
  17. The community was incredibly supportive. There were at least 5 personal friends who posted to their Facebook Pages everyday, the local florist used their sign, “Vote Distinctive Gardens on Facebook;” other businesses supported DG in their ad space and with in-store signage.

Overall it was an incredible experience. Just watching it from 800 miles away I was exhausted and impressed.

They are celebrating today for sure. And I couldn’t be more pleased to have played a tiny role in the whole thing.

BTW – Party at their place Friday night, Ravinia style 🙂

 

Did AmEx Big Break Drive Revenue July 20, 2011

 

 

Well, the voting (for 2011 AmeEx OPEN’s Facebook Big Break for Small Biz) is over. What a ride for all the finalists. Winners are announced on July 25, so we have to wait to see who won. Bummer. BUT…impact long term to the businesses that made the Top 10 is happening anyway. All that effort and all the website hits video view should help the businesses, even if they don’t win the contest.

 

What will the exposure created by the Facebook Big Break do for Distinctive Gardens business? Even if they don’t win, the publicity and exposure from being a finalist is nothing to sneeze at. Lisa and I tried to figure out how to measure the impact.

 

Overall we decided that beyond than winning the contest ($20k is a BIG deal) the goal is to drive brand awareness of Distinctive Gardens which could be leveraged to drive revenue growth long term.

 

The real challenge was deciding what we could track that would measure that.

 

We decided to on revenue, and a group of stats that indicate an increase in interest in the garden center that could be precursors to revenue.

Here’s what we decided to track:
  • Foot traffic
  • Retail Sales * – excluding landscaping and maintenance revenues.
  • Facebook Fan count
  • Website traffic
  • Design Inquiry count
  • Newsletter email count
To get a baseline, Lisa measured the indicators for 2 weeks before the release of the Top 10 Finalist videos. Finalists had all agreed to keep their selection secret until the moment the videos were made public on YouTube, midnight July 5. So she used the 2 weeks before that as the “before” baseline.
*Retail sales numbers – Garden center sales revenues is heavily cyclical. July is typically the 2nd slowest month of the year, planting is done, people are vacationing and it’s blisteringly hot in Illinois. So Lisa is measuring total sales from a 4 week period mid-June through mid-July last year vs. this year. That will measure any short term spike in sales. She’ll take another measurement Mid-June through end Sept to track longer term increases during traditionally busier time periods.

 

“How do we isolate and attribute shifts in foot traffic, sales, design inquiries etc.to the BB (Big Break) exposure?”

This is tough. And it’s tough for any form of advertising or promotion. Does Coors Light really know how many more cases of beer they sell specifically because someone saw a Superbowl commercial? No. The ad team takes credit for any increase in sales, sure. But it could be because they also started distributing in a bunch of new stores, or in a county that had been dry.  Or because it was unusually warm in January so people were in  “warm weather, let’s have a beer” mood. Or maybe they got their tax return arrived and they celebrated. There are always plenty of uncontrollable and uncorroborate-able factors.

 

Can you think of any other factors she could measure? Leave us a note in comments.

 

3 Questions for $20k July 16, 2011

Distinctive Gardens entered American Express OPEN’s Facebook Big Break by answering 3 questions. Here’s what they submitted.

How would you have answered them?

“Tell us about your business.  What makes you excited to come to work every day?”

We love gardening, no two ways around it.  We love gardeners.  They’re the coolest, most open-minded people around.  We love our industry.  These people are honest, enthusiastic, and love sharing knowledge and the joy of their efforts.  We feel lucky doing a job we love. We opened this garden center because it’s a fantastic way to meet like-minded people, and share in our passion for plants, gardening, and community. No gardener (nor garden center) worth their salt is anything if not community-minded. Like our customers, we strive to be good neighbors, seeding our community with the same love it shows us.  We hold benefit festivals, like Gardenstock; teach a slew of first graders on yearly field trips (what a trip); and partner with local businesses and artists expanding art and culture in our town.  We’re a garden lover’s delight growing plants, friendship and community, one seed at a time.

 

“How do you envision Facebook impacting your business?”

Facebook has revolutionized the way we communicate with our customers and community.  In 2009, we started the Distinctive Gardens page, followed by Gardenstock Art & Music Festival, and community project pages: Crystal Cork Art Quarterly, and Second Saturdays Art Happenings.  Seeing results, in 2010, we integrated “like” buttons and “news feeds” into our website to keep fresh and increase connectivity. In our industry, it’s all about creating one on one connection and meaningful experiences.  Facebook offers us “little guys” some “big guy” tools for reaching our audience.  It’s our primary platform for customer conversation outside the physical business.  For community projects its indispensable.  We get the word out and organize large events monthly.  Our little downtown is getting the reputation as an “art town”.  Facebook connections are driving that change.  We want knowledge to further integrate Facebook into communication and online selling activities, customize our page, and enhance community projects.

“How could a Big Break help your business and your customers?”

$20K is an enormous capital influx for our business.  It would take us to the next social media and technological level.  Currently, we are looking into selling online.  We want our website to be a hub of knowledge, selling platform, and social interaction place, a gathering spot bringing people together.  Socially enhanced, we want it to be an extension of our store and community projects.  We want our customers to walk into the greenhouse, click on a QR code, access additional horticultural information, and share it with their Facebook friends.  Last year, we hung posters with QR codes at Gardenstock so concert goers could connect to Gardenstock’s Facebook page and communicate during the festival.  This year we want to extend that by projecting the page live on a big screen.  We want the knowledge to take these ideas further.  A Facebook makeover gives us the information to make that happen.

 

AmEx OPEN Facebook Big Break voting is open until July 19. Vote here.

 

 

 

15 Minutes of Fame for AmEx OPEN Big Break Finalists July 7, 2011

 

Despite the fun and excitement of the American Express OPEN Facebook Big Break finalist announcements, the work of running the business HAS to go on. Take a look at the Facebook newsfeed from Distinctive Gardens.

 

These are the moments you stretch as a business owner. Yeah, that can leave a mark.

 

Lisa typically man’s the Distinctive Garden Facebook page. She is getting a baptism by fire being Social Media Community Manager for a Facebook Page that has grown by 40% in 24 hours. Look at her post, she’s nearly overwhelmed at trying to keep up with the posts.

 

And look at the post about the event invite they did. It invited people to vote for them and to share the invite with their friends.  7000 invites in 3 1/2 hours. Wild.

 

Keeping up and running the business

 

Notice also the post from Laura, her wedding reception is at Distinctive Gardens Pavilion on Saturday. The wheels can’t come off, or Laura gets the day of her life overshadowed by a contest.

 

Correction: It’s not Laura’s wedding reception. She’s a guest. The newlyweds are Trisha and Zach Arquilla.

 

What do you think happens next? What do you think they should do next? Drop you ideas/suggestions in comments.

Carla