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5. Social Media
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media sites have become the chatrooms of the modern age, but with none of the negative baggage. It can be extremely beneficial -- and indeed becoming increasingly expected -- and indeed becoming increasingly expected -- for companies to have a presence on one or more social sites and to post there regularly.
In fact, large and highly diverse companies might even maintain several Facebook pages. For example, media company NBC Universal has a separate Facebook presence for its Dateline, Sunday Night Football and Olympics programming, and Fox News offers a Facebook page dedicated to video and another page for everything else.
Who has time for all that? Before that decision can be addressed, there’s a bigger issue: What will you post?
That depends on the company, of course. If your products are broken into a few categories, each with a distinct audience or following, it probably makes sense to dedicate separate pages to each. For example, people who read Fisherman’s Digest are not likely to be interested in Quilting Today, despite being published by the same company. Each publication should have its own social media presence.
On the other hand, the Pep Boys auto parts chain has a single corporate presence and leaves its individual franchisees to do their own thing. Pep Boys promotes its site with special discount coupons for visitors who “Like” the page. Offering incentives is a good way to be liked, and being liked is the key to expanding your network. Every time someone clicks the Like button, that activity is visible to all their friends, who then have an opportunity to Like it, and so on. If your presence includes other sites, you can multiply this cascading effect by cross-promoting your other networks. For example, if you’re also on Twitter, people might follow you after they’ve Liked you. Give people a reason to visit. To the extent possible, try to provide some unique content on your social sites beyond what’s found on your own Web site. This can include discussions about new or upcoming specials, features or content, questions or comments from your employees about visitors’ comments, and event feeds from related sites that your site Likes or is friends with.
Once the content for your social media site(s) is known and has been populated adequately, promote that presence to your mailing lists, add links to your Web sites and update all business cards and e-mail signatures. Be sure also to provide incentives to visit and Like your pages to help promote your efforts.
Lots of tools exist to help mine those new leads, funnel them into your CRM and transform your social media efforts into actionable data. One good example is Hoot Suite (hootsuite.com), which manages followers, allows scheduled posts and populates multiple social networks including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter from a single post. An ad-supported free version connects with five social profiles and two RSS/Atom feeds, and includes social analytics. Another useful tool is People Browsr (peoplebrowsr.com), a $149 per month service that specializes in data mining, analytics, and trend and sentiment tracking.
6. Sales Force Automation If your sales force is larger than one person, it can benefit from salesforce automation tools. Usually a part of customer relationship management (CRM) tools such as Salesforce.com, SFA systems record customer contact and buying history and automate functions such as reminders, follow-ups, lead tracking and other sales-related tasks. Market leader Salesforce.com is a cloud-based CRM that imports and tracks accounts, contacts, tasks and events, offers customizable reports and integrates with Outlook, Gmail, Lotus and Google Apps.
Pricing plans start at $2 per user per month. Free trials are available and can usually be extended.
If free is more your cup of tea, there’s a pretty good solution at FreeCRM.com that costs nothing for as many as 50 users. It contains many of the same features as Salesforce, including automated lead generation and tracking, as well as tracking of calls, customers, tasks, opportunities and deals. It also offers group calendaring, management of sales pipelines and the ability to import and export from other systems.
Like most hosted systems, FreeCRM is accessed through a browser and can be used to develop marketing campaigns. A fully featured pro version starts at $15 per user per month and adds technical support and sync with Outlook, PocketPC and BlackBerry. In general, we favor such cloud-based hosted systems for their ease of access from anywhere and carefree maintenance of back-end tasks such as server availability data backup.
Speak with industry thought leaders to gain an understanding of the keywords and phrases used by customers in your target market to search for solutions, and then using those words and phrases to develop your content. Where appropriate, map your content to specific stages of the buying process. Build landing pages and develop attraction and conversion strategies that can be measured and refined using the keywords and phrases throughout. Know which pages work to convert visitors into leads and which do not; refine ineffective pages until all landing pages result in successful leads.
7. Reduce Energy Usage And Expense
Here’s something you can do to save money in your own company, and then offer it as a service to customers to help them save money too. Numerous opportunities exist to minimize power and cooling costs while boosting the bottom line. With a few simple techniques, you can measure power usage of compute and cooling systems in the data center to maximize efficiency and minimize costs.
In the data center or the server closet, sometimes a little common sense is all that’s needed to solve a big problem. Take a quick visual assessment of your equipment’s hot-air output. All equipment should be exhausting hot air in the same direction, and preferably on the opposite side of a wall or equipment row. Just like closing the car windows when the air conditioner is on, it’s best to contain or separate hot and cold areas of the data center with curtains, boxes or partitions of some kind. When racks are used, be sure to close all openings with blanking plates or another insulating material.
The next step is to perform a power audit by totaling the power used by the entire facility and dividing it by the power used by just the compute equipment alone. Energy draws on facilities include overall UPSes, cooling units, lighting, security, fire protection and administrative PCs and supporting systems. Compute equipment is limited to shared servers, storage systems, network routers, switches and other such devices.
Dividing the IT equipment power into the overall facility power results in the Power Usage Efficiency, or PUE. Lower numbers are better. According to the Uptime Institute (www.uptimeinstitute.org), most companies fall somewhere between 2 and 3, depending on a particular company’s annual usage. An industry leader in data center power efficiency is Google, which boasts a PUE of 1.21. The company publishes its efficiency practices at google.com/corporate/green/datacenters.
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