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That’s not what I meant

We’ve all been there. Something we write in an email, letter, or casual tweet gets misunderstood. Or perhaps, we’re the ones who have misinterpreted something a friend or colleague wrote. No matter how clear we think we are in our writing, misunderstandings happen. When they do, open communication is vital to resolving the issue as quickly as possible.

But how can we keep misunderstandings to a minimum?

Context is key. When you compose an email or tweet, the recipient can’t see your face or hear the tone and inflection of your voice. They must rely on your words alone to guide them in interpreting what you’re trying to say. If the recipient knows you well, they may be able to infer meaning more easily, based on previous interactions, but even then, misunderstandings can occur.

To minimize miscommunication, keep your writing concise. Stick with the facts, and move on. Use humor cautiously, particularly dry humor that may be seen as being flip, curt, or rude. Save the jokes for face-to-face situations, when your body language and vocal inflections can help in interpreting your words. And try to craft questions that cannot be accidentally read and interpreted in a different way than you intended.

A humorous example of this occurred around the turn of the last century. William Randolph Hearst made a bid to purchase a competing newspaper. He asked his rival for a selling price, to which the man replied, "Three cents daily. Five cents Sunday." Obviously, the rival knew what Hearst meant by his question — and by answering the way he did, basically let Hearst know the paper was not for sale — but this does go to show that the same question can have more than one meaning if interpreted differently.

Of course, it’s not just what you say that matters; it’s how you say it. When communicating in writing, it’s important to know the subtleties of the medium you’re using. For example, most people now know that writing an email or Facebook post in all caps is often equated with yelling. For a medium like Twitter, with its 140 character limit, the challenge often comes in trying to say too much in such a confined space. When composing a tweet, it’s easy to inadvertently gloss over some of the details, in an effort to save space. Make sure you’re not losing meaning — or raising confusion — for brevity’s sake. If you can’t adequately say what you need to say in the space provided, choose a different medium.

Robert Masone

Minuteman Press

L &K Graphics Inc.

1917 Deer Park Ave

Deer Park, NY 11729

631-667-2269 – Fax 667-2346

http://www.deerpark.minutemanpress.com

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Building it is not always enough to make them come

Many businesses work very hard to maximize search engine optimization on their websites. They then sit back and expect increased traffic flow. But SEO alone isn’t enough anymore.

While SEO is a very important part of building a professional website, marketing is also crucial to the success of your site. Emphasize your web address on all your print marketing pieces, ads, giveaway items, email signatures, and the like. Here are a few additional creative ways to entice visitors to your site:

Offer a free, unique tool at your website. For example, a walk-in healthcare clinic could offer a "View Current Wait Times Online" feature.

Promote coupons and special discounts available only through your website. This will encourage prospects and customers to revisit your site frequently.

Create a free local online listing for your business through Google, Bing, and/or Yahoo!

Post informative or creative how-to videos that are relevant to your business on YouTube. This will not only promote your business but also drive traffic to your site.

Publicize a contest or giveaway, with a sign-up on your website. Not only will you draw people to your site, but you can also increase your database for future marketing.

Submit news releases to print and online publications in your industry, and include a link to your site on each release.

Some of the best ideas for drawing visitors to your website might come directly from your coworker team. Consider creating an internal contest to encourage ideas for an innovative website promotion, and reward the winner of the best idea. The more valuable the prize (such as a cash gift or PTO), the more thought your team will put forth.

Robert Masone

Minuteman Press

L &K Graphics Inc.

1917 Deer Park Ave

Deer Park, NY 11729

631-667-2269 – Fax 667-2346

http://www.deerpark.minutemanpress.com

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Chocolate candies, red dye, and the power of perception

In marketing, perception is reality. In the mid-1970s, health concerns arose over the use of the dye amaranth, commonly known as FD&C Red #2. Studies linked the popular food coloring with cancer. Mars Inc., makers of M&M’s, decided in 1976 to replace red M&M candies with orange ones. Did the candy maker eliminate red M&M’s because they contained the dye in question? No. In fact, the candies contained a different (and safe) red dye. Instead, the company decided to remove the red candies to allay the fears of consumers who worried about anything with red dye in it.

Mars understood the power of perception. Although its product was perfectly safe, the company knew that consumers were concerned. Sure, it could have stuck with the red candies and focused its marketing on explaining that the red dye it used was safe. After all, that was the truth, and many people would surely have believed it. But Mars knew that not everyone would feel comfortable with that explanation. The brand might have been hurt by this negative perception. So, even though the truth was on its side, Mars decided to make a fairly significant change. In the process, it generated a lot of goodwill and got the added bonus (and buzz) of introducing a new color to the M&M’s fold.

How do people perceive your products, services, and brand? Are there any misconceptions that could be adversely affecting you? If so, what changes can you make to alleviate those concerns and improve your image? And what extra value can you get from making those changes?

There’s one final chapter to the red M&M’s story worth noting. Eleven years after pulling red M&M’s off the market, Mars reintroduced the color in 1987. It proved a popular addition at the time and remains so today.

Robert Masone

Minuteman Press

L &K Graphics Inc.

1917 Deer Park Ave

Deer Park, NY 11729

631-667-2269 – Fax 667-2346

http://www.deerpark.minutemanpress.com

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The message was checked by ESET NOD32 Antivirus.

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What’s your response time?

In today’s fast-paced business world full of instant technology, most people expect an answer to their email messages in one day or less. This can become challenging when you consider the volume of email many businesses receive.

If checking your email throughout the day isn’t ideal, consider blocking a chunk of time on your calendar each day to respond to email messages. Even if you don’t know the answer or need to find additional information, you should acknowledge the email and let the sender know you are working on it. If you plan to be away from the office, remember to use an auto-responder. Include information such as how long you will be away and when you will return messages. Also provide your contact info or an alternate contact for those who need an immediate response.

If you’re looking for an even faster way for your customer support team to answer questions and interact with online shoppers, you may want to consider a live chat support service. Visitors who receive quick answers and responses are more likely to stay longer and buy more products. The personalized interaction will also help them develop more confidence in your business.

The speed in which you respond can easily affect a potential buyer’s perception of you and your business. Always remember that the sender emailed you for a reason and is expecting your prompt response. Don’t give them time to find the answer, or a faster response, elsewhere.

Robert Masone

Minuteman Press

L &K Graphics Inc.

1917 Deer Park Ave

Deer Park, NY 11729

631-667-2269 – Fax 667-2346

http://www.deerpark.minutemanpress.com

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Is your marketing all about you, or your customer?

I saw this story the other day. I’m not sure if it’s true, but either way, it provides a good allegory for marketing.

One day, Karen Hughes, George W. Bush’s top communications aide, was walking along a beach. She looked up and saw a small plane towing an advertising banner. It read: "Jill come back. I am miserable without you. Love, Jack." Her first thought: "Bad message, Jack. Too much about you, and not enough about her."

What is your message? Is it all about you? Or is it about your (potential) customer? It’s not that having a brochure that tells your customers everything you do is a bad thing, but it’s a lot more attractive and desirable if that brochure comes from the point of view of meeting the customer’s needs.

Which sounds better? "We build 400 kinds of doors." Or: "We strive to understand your exact door needs, and with 400 types of doors in stock, we can usually find you something quickly and at the right price." Given the choice, I’ll take door (pitch) number two every time.

Robert Masone

Minuteman Press

L &K Graphics Inc.

1917 Deer Park Ave

Deer Park, NY 11729

631-667-2269 – Fax 667-2346

http://www.deerpark.minutemanpress.com

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Viral videos, QR codes, and late night connections

As business owners, we’re all looking for new and innovative ways to connect with customers. NBC’s "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" managed to do just that with a well-placed QR code held up during last Friday’s broadcast. On the show, host Jimmy Fallon, guest Stephen Colbert, former "American Idol" Taylor Hicks, and a bevy of others (including house band, The Roots) sang an over-the-top rendition of "Friday," a song which came to fame recently in a viral video by Rebecca Black. Near the end of the performance, a staffer held up a card containing a QR code.

QR (quick response) codes are special barcodes you can print anywhere that "translate" from a simple block pattern to a predetermined website address when photographed (or scanned) and "read" by QR-code-enabled devices, such as many smartphones. They’re kind of like a graphic version of a bit.ly or tinyurl.com link.

Anyway, observant viewers, who photographed the QR code on their smartphones, were treated to a video in which Fallon thanked fans for helping raise money for the charity DonorsChoice.org. But it didn’t end there.

At the beginning of this "hidden" video, Fallon held up a QR code, which he led fans to believe was the same QR code his staffer had held up during the show. However, it wasn’t the same code, and those who photographed that second QR code were treated to another video, in which Fallon provided a quick "tour" of the contents of his desk.

A third QR code (held up by Fallon in the second bonus video) led to a final video, again featuring Fallon at his desk. In this video, Fallon offered a sneak preview of some upcoming features on the show and thanked viewers for their loyalty.

So, could you or I recreate this kind of elaborate media campaign for our own brands or companies? Probably not to the same extent Fallon was able to. After all, we don’t have the funding of a major media company (NBC) at our disposal. But that doesn’t mean we can’t find equally innovative ways to use technology to our own advantage. All of the basic tools Fallon used — QR codes, video, and social media — are available to us, as well. We just need to find ways to use those tools to reach our own "audience" and grow our brands.

Robert Masone

Minuteman Press

L &K Graphics Inc.

1917 Deer Park Ave

Deer Park, NY 11729

631-667-2269 – Fax 667-2346

http://www.deerpark.minutemanpress.com

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The message was checked by ESET NOD32 Antivirus.

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