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Getting Technology Out of the Way

April 17th, 2011 No comments

You hear this a lot lately. It’s a philosophy that Apple has successfully employed since 1984. Get the technology out of the way and empower the user to imagine and create.

The truth is that hiding the nuts and bolts of advanced technology from the user reduces intimidation and allows a wider variety of people to use the gadgets we take for granted.

The same is true of your online marketing. When the technology behind your marketing tools is complicated or too time-consuming, they are not used to their full capacity. You end up getting a lot less value for your investment of time and money.

At MHMSM.com, we have always promoted a 1-2-3 Online Marketing Strategy™:

  1. Your website
  2. Your email marketing campaign
  3. Your social media strategy

Each of these three parts needs to be carefully planned in order to come up with an overall solution that allows the client (you) to manage their online marketing with maximum effectiveness and minimal expenditure of time and money.

A simple interface that is no harder to use than a word processor, use of automation wherever possible and integration of functionality allows even a non-techie to manage the day-to-day necessities of a powerful marketing system is essential to the success of any online marketing program.

Creating an online marketing strategy that accommodates these requirements takes some planning and is at the heart of the MHMSM.com 1-2-3 Online Marketing Program™. This plan didn’t come into existence full-blown, but has evolved over the years from our beginnings in the web marketing business in 1996.

Let’s take them one at a time.

1-Website and/or BlogYour website
Using the popular (with good reason) and easy-to-use WordPress platform to deploy your website enables you to have a traditional page-based website with the ability to place fresh content on your site on a regular basis. This is important to achieve and maintain good ranking in he search engines for your keywords.

If you can use Word, you can use WordPress to create or update content, insert or change images and manage an interactive website that truly incorporates social media.

The WordPress platform is Open Source (free to use) and the self-hosted version is extendable by the use of plugins to do much more than the core version does right out of the box.

This is currently the world’s best platform for developing a new website or for refreshing older, static websites.

Automation possibilities include automated backup, search engine updating, discussion management, connection with social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter and much more.

2-Email MarketingYour email marketing campaign
An effective email campaign is still the best way of maintaining regular contact with your current and prospective customers. With an average Return on Investment (ROI) of over $45 for each $1 invested, email marketing in projected to be a major play in marketing for many years to come.

You need a solid platform to run your email marketing program, one that allows you to create multiple mailing lists, design and send an email as easily as WordPress allows a post to be created and supplies you with the tools to monitor the effectiveness of your Email Marketing Campaign simply and accurately.

I have used and tested all sorts of email marketing programs, applications and providers and I have to say that there is no better than Aweber.

Aweber is the granddaddy of Email Marketing Service Providers. Economical and easy-to-use, Aweber pioneered many of the services that emailers take for granted these days.

Offering over 150 templates to make your emails look their best and videos to guide you through the process, Aweber is as easy as it gets.

You schedule emails to go at any time you like so you can set up emails to go while you on vacation or a business trip and the system handles them automatically.

A completely automated autoresponder system lets to send a series of emails at predetermined times after a subscriber signs up.

You can even set it up so that the application sends an automated email every time to post to your blog.

Your first month’s service is only $1 and you only pay for the number of subscribers you actually have. Only at Aweber.

3-Social MediaYour social media strategy
Having a great social media strategy gets more important every day regardless of the demographic your customers fit into. For example, the age segment showing the fastest growth of Facebook users are the “over 55s.”

Once more, using available automation techniques and plugins can make your life easier. They can’t do ALL of the work for you, but they can make many functions fully automatic.

When we set up a 1-2-3 Online Marketing Program™ for our clients, we use WordPress plugins to not only allow visitors to easily “like” your Facebook Fan Page and quickly send your post to their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Tumblr accounts, we also set it up so that every new post is sent to Google, Bing, Yahoo, About.com, Facebook and Twitter – and you don’t have to do a thing to accomplish it.

And we offer ongoing training to make sure you always get the most out of your online marketing investment. Things change fast in this business and keeping you on top of those changes is what we do.

For more information on MHMSM.com services, visit the MHMSM.com.com website.

Mad as Hell and Manufactured Housing? Why and what can you do about it?

March 21st, 2011 No comments
There's more than one kind of 'mad'

There's more than one kind of 'mad'

Since our own Tony Kovach wrote his blog post “‘Madder than Hell!’ and Manufactured Housing” it has sparked a lively debate from readers, mostly with the question, “What are we supposed to be ‘madder than hell’ about and what do you propose we do about it?”

The first question is “What are we supposed to be madder than hell about?”

How about HUD, “for their failure to comply with the good laws that Congress has put in place for the industry and its consumers…”?

In it’s most recent Washington Update, the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) points out three important areas in which HUD has failed the industry and it’s consumers beginning with the need for chattel financing to be included in the FHA Title 1 Program, through proposed sprinkler standards to HUD clamping a tighter grip on the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC) just to name a few.

Do a little exploring of articles and blog posts (and the attached comments) here at MHMSM.com and you’ll have a pretty good idea of just what should make you “madder than hell.” Read and comment on the Daily Business News posts and you’ll see plenty more. You’ll also see a lot of good things going on with and in the industry – more on that later.

The second question is “What are we supposed to do about it?”

As we’ve watched the events of past few weeks unfold in North Africa and the Middle East, it has been the power of people that ruled the day. Yes, they have often been subjected to savage crackdown to the shame of their leaders, but they have removed tyrants in Egypt and Tunisia, threaten to topple more autocrats or force compromise in other countries and even have the Communist Party leadership in Beijing looking over their shoulders.

A huge part of those movements has been the peaceful motivation of large numbers of people in those countries to express their anger at conditions and their lack of a voice in their future. And they have relied extensively on New Media, such as Twitter and Facebook to communicate not just the when and where’s of demonstrations, but also to spread their ideas of what should be done to affect change.

That is just what this industry needs to snap out of the lethargic state it has fallen into and to make it’s will known to the Administration, Congress, state legislators and anyone in position to do something about it.

The public has to made aware of the threat to real, unsubsidized affordable housing that the depression of the Manufactured Housing industry represents. If we can motivate ourselves and motivate the masses with the idea that real American-made affordable housing in the U.S. is under threat of extinction, I believe they will respond.

A by-product of “popular engagement” would be that large numbers of the industry’s future market would be made aware of the high-quality, affordable housing opportunity that Manufactured Housing offers.

How would we do this?

How do you move a mountain? One shovel at a time. It takes an effort to make a difference. But we can begin right now. The tools provided by the proliferation of Social Media is not just for starting revolutions in far off lands.

If we truly want to engage the public in a battle for survival of the industry in a manner that the “powers that be” will observe and understand, we need to put aside luddite suspicions and join the places where our customers can be found and our leaders take notice. In other words:

and to a lesser extent, LinkedIn and Tumblr.

You’ll notice I’ve linked to every one of them. It’s time to put Social Media to work for us. Here’s what you do:

Go to each of the four main sites: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. Signup for an account. In the case of Facebook, you may want to start a “fan page” for your business once you have established a personal account.

Specifics:

Facebook: Friend your customers, friend your friends, friend anyone you know online that has a Facebook account. Friend me. Go the the MHMSM.com fan page and click the “Like” button. Aside from personal news, be sure to post everything positive that you or your business does or comes in contact with. Link to every article and blog post (start with this one) you like at MHMSM.com and every positive MH news story you run across on news and information sites as well as industry sites such as manufacturers and associations. Post pictures of new homes you install or homes you have for sale. Take every opportunity you can find to link back to your own website. Remember, you don’t sell houses on Facebook – you present yourself and your product in a positive light, build relationships and then sell them when they are ready.

Twitter: Once your Twitter account is established, go to SocialOomph.com and set up an account there. Set it to automatically follow those who follow you. To see how that works, follow me and MHMSM.com on Twitter and we will automatically follow you. Whenever you are on an MH website that has a Twitter button, follow them. And post (tweet) with links back to articles on MHMSM.com or anywhere else positive information about Manufactured Housing is available. Tag every tweet (post) with “#mfdhousing” to help the world find our tweets.

YouTube: Placing videos on YouTube is a great way to get noticed. But even if you are not a budding James Cameron, you should join YouTube and search for videos that shed positive light on the industry, it’s leaders and it’s products. Subscribe to them on YouTube, comment on and rate their videos and link to their videos from your Facebook and Twitter account. If you do post video, make sure you tag it with keywords that indicate the industry, the manufacturer, your dealership or community and your and surrounding locales. And be sure to subscribe to the MHMSM.com YouTube Channel.

Flickr: Similar to YouTube, but mostly for still images. Don’t just post photos of your family trip to see the World’s Largest Ball of Twine. Post photos of your homes, your retail center, your community, etc. etc. Flickr photos rank surprisingly well in Search Engines for the keywords they are tagged with. Hint: Watermark them with your business and website URL and release them to Creative Commons and let others spread the word for you. There’s a real shortage of quality MH photos for use by websites like ours – take advantage of that.

What we have here folks, is the makings of a revolution. Don’t let it slip through your fingers. Yeah, it entails a little bit of work, but it can be real fun, too.

And just think, in our revolution you don’t have to face down guns and thugs in the streets of Cairo, Tunis or Manama. But the change you can bring could be phenomenal.

As soon as I can, I’ll make some short videos that show you how to do all of this stuff. Just don’t be afraid of it. It’s simple once you get the hang of it.

Facebook vs. Twitter – which should you choose to promote your business?

September 19th, 2010 No comments

In Friday’s News at Noon podcast, we reported on a report eMarketer. The report stated that “daily Twitter users who followed a brand were more than twice as likely as daily Facebook users who ‘liked’ a brand to say they were more likely to purchase from the brand after becoming a social media follower.”

News at Noon further reported that ‘a February 2010 survey by Chadwick Martin Bailey also found that Twitter followers were more likely than Facebook fans to say they had an increased chance of buying or recommending the brands they connected with in social media.’

While awaiting the inevitable breathless “Death of Facebook” report from some well-known blogger with an out-sized imagination and well-developed ability to channel P.T. Barnum, it came to me that I had heard the Facebook vs. Twitter question before on forums, blogs and even from the lips of more than one of my own clients.

I’ve heard it more than once… “I’d like to get my company more involved in social marketing. Which should I use: Facebook or Twitter?” For me, that is a very easy question to answer and the answer is the obvious, if not always stated one. Use both. They appeals to different audiences and different levels of engagement.

In fact, use all of the social networking tools that you can. The days of advertising – usually expensively – in a geographic silo are long over. We are in Central Kentucky. In recent years we have sold homes to many buyers – almost half of them to buyers moving to the Bluegrass from out-of-state.

Whether they are natives returning home after careers took them elsewhere, retirees looking for lower cost of living, snowbirds the North Country looking for a more temperate winter or any number of other reasons, ignoring the “out-of-town” market is at your own peril.

And social networking is part of your overall marketing strategy whether local, national or global. Yes, even housing is a global market as people move between countries seeking new opportunities or adventure.

A good social networking strategy will include a presence on these networks at the very least:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • YouTube
  • Flickr

So it isn’t a question of one social network over another – it’s a question of how effectively you use all of the tools you have at your disposal.

Start today to put these services to work for you and you’ll notice a difference before too long.

Taking the REVOLUTION Online

August 4th, 2010 No comments

The Manufactured Housing REVOLUTION Book CoverI was sitting in my office, thumbing through MHMSM’s The Manufactured Housing REVOLUTION for about the 5th time when it suddenly occurred to me: Just how many businesses believe that just having a website is the be-all and end-all of a revolutionary marketing process?

It was revolutionary in 1995, but now it is commonplace. How many of you still have the same website you did 5 years ago? Are TV and movies still marketed the same way they were when you built that website?

Is your marketing keeping up with current trends?

A few years ago, having audio or a video on your website placed you among the “early adopters” of a new form of communication. Now, a website without audio/video is sadly out-of-step. Podcasting and videocasting have made themselves essential elements of the online experience.

How many hours per day do you think your customers spend in front of their TV? Radio? Newspaper or magazine? A few hours at most, I’ll bet. Now how many hours of the day do they have their cell phone with them? Every waking minute for most of us.

What do your company’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages look like? Don’t have them? You need them. How about your employee’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. Do they reflect well on your employee and by proxy on your company?

How about new trends? Right now there is a decided move to a service called Tumblr. Sort of a hybrid somewhere between Facebook and Twitter, Fortune 500 companies are starting to reserve their Tumblr presence and many experts believe Tumblr will soon be a force to be reckoned with in the Social Networking arena. Are you ready?

What about your email marketing program? One of the original Internet marketing methods, email still holds it’s own against the newer online marketing methods – IF it is done right. If you’re still using the same old tools and strategies for your email program as you did five years ago, it’s time to take another look.

A new generation of buyers is poised to enter the marketplace. This new generation has never owned a CD or used a VCR or DVR. In a few years, they will be looking for their first homes. Will you be ready?

In the pages of the book, the first steps are outlined for those bold enough to take them. In this Revolution, you don’t need to take to the mountains or jungle and live a life of deprivation to earn your ticket to the promised land.

You just need to read this book, follow the MHMSM.com website and open your mind to change.

The Manufactured Housing REVOLUTION has begun. Will you be a part of it – or will you be on sidelines, watching it unfold?