Do you let good leads slip through your hands?

Just for a moment, let’s forget about optimizing your website design for conversions and think about how many times you’ve let a good lead slip through your hands simply because you failed to follow up on an inquiry that came through your “contact us” form. What did you really just miss out on? Let’s think about what we know about this person…

  • They want to learn more.
  • They tried to engage you.
  • They told you how to reach them.
  • They want to be your customer!

And to think you let them slip through the cracks because you were too busy to spend 5 minutes typing out a personalized response email. You, my friend, have just had a serious #OPPORTUNITYFAIL.

It’s important to always look for ways to optimize your website for conversions, but if you don’t take the time to follow up on every legitimate inquiry you receive you might as well pack your bags and go home. You can’t complain about a lack of new business if you fail to follow up with someone who has expressed their interest so clearly, and you never know what opportunity lies behind that email address – it’s quite possible that you might have missed out on a game-changing deal that could take your business to the next level.

The next time you consider archiving that inbound email inquiry without responding, do yourself a favor and repeat this mantra: “I will answer every legitimate inquiry my website receives within 24-48 hours, regardless of the day of the week.” The internet doesn’t observe weekends. If you’re serious about building your business online, neither will you.

If you need more inspiration, take a moment and read what my friend Evan Hamilton had to say over on the Uservoice community blog. They aim to answer inquiries in a hour or less – now that’s what I’d call customer service.

Twitter D.O.A. | The Death of Auto-DM

If you’re reading this, you’re most likely a Twitter user. If you’re a Twitter user, at some point you’ve probably followed someone who sent you a direct message auto-reply after you followed them. Here’s one I recently received:

“Thanks.Will be happy to tweeting with you.Please follow me on facebook <url redacted>”

Yep, that was the exact reply – including the lack of spaces and poor grammar. Suffice it to say, I immediately unfollowed them. Has anyone in the history of social media ever received an auto-DM when they followed someone and thought “wow, this is such a personal connection I’ve just built with this person I don’t really know but follow online that they want me to also connect with them on Facebook and be best friends!” (phew!!)

No, they haven’t, because auto-dm’s are lame, and in my opinion they carry with them the stank of the “social media guru”.

You know the type of person I’m talking about – they follow 72,364 people and have 72,465 followers, they can “help you make money online”, they’re a “social and new media expert”, and they’re on “#TeamFollowBack”. They’re fanatical about #hashtags, and love leaving inane link-bait comments on your blog like “Nice article! We enjoy and use your innovative marketing advice at our e-commerce site <insert link here>.”.

These people pollute Twitter, and contribute to a user experience which drives away many well-intentioned people who see Twitter only as a useless forum for blatant self promotion. Those of us who are experienced Twitter users do our best to steer clear of them, but they’re not going away; in fact it seems that they’re only growing in number. So what are we going to do about it?

I propose an immediate boycott of any Twitter user who sends auto-DM’s upon new follows. If you follow someone and they auto-DM you shortly thereafter, immediately unfollow them. People like this will only change their behavior if they see that it affects their potential to distribute marketing messages, and unfollowing them en masse hits ‘em where it hurts. More importantly, I implore you to stop the practice of auto-DM’ing if you’re a part of it – it reflects badly on your character, and lumps you into a class of individuals which I’m sure you don’t want to be associated with. Do yourself a favor, and do us a favor – give it up. If I followed you it’s because I’m already interested in what you have to say – you don’t need to send me a carbon copy follow-up message to make me feel extra warm and fuzzy on the inside. All you need to do is keep up a useful dialog with your followers, contribute insightful commentary to our discussions, and share interesting, valuable content I might find interesting.

Sound hard? It’s not. Just be yourself. Share this with your friends and let’s make it happen.

This is the death of auto-DM. Shout out to Jay-Z for the inspirational acronym.

Why would we add ApartmentRatings to the TurnSocial bar?

I’ll just come right out and say itApartmentRatings.com is a lightning rod for controversy in the multifamily housing industry, and there are many people who’d prefer to avoid them altogether. At the mere mention of an apartment rating or review site, I’ve seen many property management professionals cringe, hoping to avoid any potentially negative reviews as if they were the plague. However, the fact of the matter is that potential residents are using websites like apartmentratings.com to learn more about what life in a given apartment community might actually be like, and like it or not, review sites are here to stay.  In fact, many property managers are now open to the idea that the best course of action when dealing with potential detractors may just be addressing them head-on. It’s my belief that services like Yelp have opened the door for business owners who realize that you simply can’t please every customer, and that it’s better to show the world that you understand their grievances, even if you disagree with them.  It was in the spirit of this idea (and at the request of a few multifamily companies who shall remain unnamed) that we decided the time was right to offer our customers the ability to add ApartmentRatings data directly to their website. Here’s a sample screen shot of the app displaying a randomly selected apartment review:

As you can see from the post, this community is fairly well liked and 5 of the 6 reviews listed are positive. In this situation, it almost ALWAYS makes sense to include this data on your property website – these are firsthand recommendations that validate the positive experience of living in your community. But what if the reviews were not good?

I’m not gonna lie to you – those reviews are pretty bad, and I removed the name of the company because I didn’t want to unfairly single anyone out in this blog post. If I were the property manager, I probably wouldn’t want to include this app in my TurnSocial bar – it just doesn’t serve much of a purpose to show this to visitors who might not have found it otherwise. Fortunately with TurnSocial, once you’ve installed our code on your website you can add and remove apps without ever touching it again – so if you decide ApartmentRatings isn’t the best fit for you it takes less than a minute to remove it from your website for good. No big deal.

I won’t claim to be a multifamily industry expert, and I’m also not hear to get all “social media guru-ish” with you and propose that you simply must include trollish, negative ApartmentRatings on your website in the noble pursuit of “transparency” and “openness”. It’s simple enough – if you don’t want to add them, don’t add them! However, if you enjoy a positive relationship with ApartmentRatings.com and want to promote what former residents have to say about you, we now offer a simple way to include apartment ratings on every one of your property websites, for free. The choice is yours.

Sometimes it helps to see things from a potential residents perspective: now that they’ve found your website, they’d like to learn a little bit more about what your community has to offer. They like what they see in the photos and floorplans, but are still unconvinced. They know your property is generally in the right neighborhood, but still want to learn more. Unless you’ve loaded your website down with a ton of outbound links to this content, they’re most likely going to “bounce” before they ever fill out a guest card. That is, unless they see your TurnSocial bar sitting unobtrusively down in the left corner and think “what’s that?”

Without ever leaving your website, they get a feel for your company’s personality via your Facebook and Twitter apps; view additional property photos and video on Flickr and YouTube; learn more about the surrounding neighborhood with WalkScore and Rentwiki; check out nearby bars and restaurants on Yelp; see who’s vying for your property mayorship on Foursquare, and last but not least – read glowing reviews about what it’s like to live in your community straight from the mouths of former residents. Isn’t there a better chance they’ll fill out a guest card now that they’ve gotten to know you better?

We decided to add ApartmentRatings to the TurnSocial bar because we feel it will provide needed context for a segment of our customers websites. It won’t be for everyone, but for those of you who would like to promote what your former residents have to say, it’s one more point of contact that may turn a unique visitor into a lead, and hopefully into a resident. As we move forward in 2011, we’re going to be adding a whole new layer to TurnSocial, and we can’t wait to share what we’ve been up to. We’re really excited about where we’re headed, and we hope you’ll continue to stick with us for the ride.

Thanks for stopping by!

Get your TurnSocial bar right now or follow us on Twitter to stay connected.

Using Quora to Promote Your Local Business

I recently answered a question over on Quora entitled “How can Quora help promote local businesses?”, and thought it was worthwhile re-posting here. I’d love to hear what you think in the comments!

Quora is a great forum for demonstrating domain-specific knowledge or expertise. If I were a local business owner, I’d use Quora to expand my influence as a local resource for all things related to my business niche, adding a flavor and perspective which can only come from living in my shoes.

Let’s say you own a small coffee shop in a busy downtown area of a bustling city, and are competing with the ‘bucks of the world. If you’re a decent writer, there’s an almost unlimited amount of topics on Quora which you could contribute to. Answer questions targeted at small business owners. Discuss how you go about conducting local advertising. Share the experience of starting your business on the entrepreneurial threads. Begin to see yourself as more than just a coffee shop owner – you’re an entrepreneur, employer, salesperson, and social media marketer. Share what you’ve learned along the way – I guarantee there are people out there who will appreciate your perspective.

If you use Twitter, Foursquare or Facebook to promote your business, share your experience with others. Have Foursquare promotions worked for you? What tips do you have for other local business owners trying to build a following on Twitter? Ask questions like “what makes a great coffee shop?”, or “which wi-fi setup is best geared for use in a coffee shop environment?”. Make sure you post under your real name while still tying your identity closely to your business – Quora profiles are set up well for this. [As a side benefit, posts made here will also give you some overall link juice with search engines, but please don't make SEO your primary goal.] One question or answer will lend itself to another, and before you know it you’ll have a steady following of people who trust and respect your opinion. Time goes on; your influence grows.

There’s very few people in this world whose personal Venn Diagram looks like yours (business owner/coffee fanatic/living in your geographic area) – use Quora as an opportunity to share your unique experience and expertise with the world, and you’ll implicitly promote your business at the same time.

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