The average journalist receives hundreds of pitches every day, all the while facing constant deadlines. Safe to say, the odds of getting through to a writer aren’t generally in your favor. Most of them are just too darn busy, but there are a few things you can do to increase the likelihood of getting their attention. Below are nine best practices to add to your pitching repertoire:

Come up with something actually interesting

First and foremost, your story should be both interesting and relevant to the reporter or publication you’re pitching. Good stories include brand-new product announcements, big-name business wins with customers who are willing to go on record, funding acquisitions and new industry data and insights.

Things you typically shouldn’t pitch are incremental product updates, new hires and offices, your app that’s essentially a clone of Gmail/Facebook/Snapchat, and/or anything that’s self-promotional or salesy.

Email first, call if you must

Long gone are the days of Rolodexes. Join 2016 and stick to email for most of your pitches. Its non-intrusive and provides a good record and reference point for conversations. Plus, most journalists hate calls. Don’t believe me? Read here, here and here. And definitely don’t call their private mobile numbers that you dug up from the internet if you don’t have a prior relationship. That’s just creepy.

Of course, there are certain circumstances when a phone call is required – for instance, an interview with your client – but most of the time calls aren’t necessary.

Keep your pitch short and to the point

Don’t send journalists your full press release or life story – they most likely won’t have time to read it. Send them a very quick intro sentence about your story, followed by a few key bullet points and call to action.

A few sentences will make a bigger impact than a long wall of text. It’s okay to be terse – if reporters need more information, they’ll ask.

Personalize your pitch

Always include the reporter’s name in your pitch and do not misspell it – that’s almost the worst thing you can do. Just the first name is fine, and also include the name of the publication somewhere.

If you and the reporter have something in common, feel free to bring it up in your introduction, but be honest and sincere about it.

The key here is to be personable – don’t just blast an email to 1,000 random journalists. They hate that.

Use teh proper grammarz

This is PR 101. Follow it or suffer potentially embarrassing consequences (like a call out on Twitter).

Use links, not attachments

Journalists don’t typically like to open attachments they haven’t requested, since attachments can contain malware and other viruses. If you need to send an external source or media with your initial pitch, use a link to avoid looking suspicious.

Pitch at the right time

Traditionally, most PR professionals are told to pitch journalists in the wee hours of the morning and early on in the week. But that’s also the time when journalists’ email inboxes become flooded. Why not try pitching during off-hours when you can have their full attention?

Be flexible and prepared

When a journalist responds to you, don’t expect them to publish your exact story. They may be interested in something completely different, so be prepared and open to other ideas as long as they aren’t completely off topic.

React quickly

Be timely in your responses and prepared to send any additional information or assets that are requested. Don’t wait two days to get back to a journalist, as they’re most likely on a strict deadline. Help them help you.

Ben Higgins. Does this name cause you to roll your eyes, smile with glee, or are you like me and go “who”? Ben Higgins is THE Bachelor on ABC’s series The Bachelor, now in its 20th season.

I’ve followed the Bachelor and Bachelorette here and there, but there’s something to be said on the obsessiveness people develop in root for their favorite contestants. And there’s an important lesson for marketers from the hit TV show: first impressions really do matter.

The Power of the First Impression

The first episode of each season is the pivotal moment of the series. Fans are created or lost based on the limo entrances of each contestant. Did they try too hard? Were they too boring? Did they come off as fake? Were they on the show for the wrong reasons? In a snap second, we form opinions that last the entire season.

Take a minute and think about your marketing. When people come to your website are they wowed, or bored? Are you getting across your value proposition in a clear and concise way?

For many marketers, the website is not the first interaction with prospects – their content is. People are drawn towards content, though many content pieces fail to impress. After all, how many 30-page white papers can one person read?

Instead, confident marketers are choosing interactive content to capture the attention of their prospects and give them more snackable content that creates a value exchange. Quizzes, assessments, calculators, surveys, brackets, and more allow marketers to customize follow-ups based on what the prospect says. You know, like an actual conversation! Maybe that’s something the Bachelor and Bachelorette could have more of ;)

Marketing First Impressions Are a Team Effort

Marketing is definitely not a solo sport. Even if you are a team of just one, you rely on other parts of your web and IT team, sales team, and business development to present and deliver a message.

Within a bigger marketing department, the team is even more diverse – supported by the number of team members you have, your marketing automation capabilities, and even what role each person plays specifically.

To make a good first impression and start building that positive relationship, marketers needs to know where they stand in terms of style, goals (future and present), strengths, weaknesses, and capabilities.

answer dash customer questions

Think about the last time you visited the FAQ section on a website.

Why must the map on how to navigate the site be sequestered away from the site itself?

Users are often forced to leave whichever page they are looking at in order to track down information somewhere else on your website. And this puts all the burden on your customers, rather than on your website where it should be. Not only must customers leave the page they are looking at to find the information they want. They are often met with pages of gray print that take time to sift through.

AnswerDash has provided an answer to this predicament. The company has eliminated the use of ‘help islands’; or separate, standalone pages that are often slapped onto sites with little to no integration into the flow of the information . Rather than being redirected to a separate page, users are able to access a tab on the page itself and search from there.

This is the exact opposite of the standard help island formula. As AnswerDash representative Morgan Moretz said in an email interview with Small Business Trends, “AnswerDash is the next generation of website self-service that gives users the right answers, at the right place, at the right time.

“With AnswerDash, digging through knowledge base articles is avoided. Lengthy typing sessions back-and-forth in a live chat window, whether with a bot or a human, are avoided. Phone calls are avoided. Although this type of ‘in-context’ help has been a concept known to computer scientists for decades, AnswerDash is the first company ever to provide it as a SaaS-based answer layer that can grow over time as Web visitors ask new questions.”

AnswerDash also makes use of analytics, providing the site with data about which questions are asked most often. This data, in turn, provides insights into what is causing potential customers to unsubscribe, abandon carts, or just leave, so that the issues can be addressed and fixed. “Our data shows that 5 to 15 percent of customers on a website will use AnswerDash to get answers to their questions,” Moretz mentions, “That’s 50 to 150 times as much usage as most online businesses that rely on help islands to provide answers.”

According to AnswerDash’s own case study (PDF), its tool helps to reduce customer support volumes by up to 50 percent, which means customers are spending more time looking at your product, not an FAQ. Not only do they spend less time searching for answers, but they also spend less time contacting support phone lines, live chat options, or email. (These solutions can be costly or inconvenient for both parties anyway.) By simply accessing a small tab at the top of the page, users are able to access a list of questions and issues giving them information as quickly as possible.

Creating a streamlined system is critical to retaining customers on your site. When users encounter problems, they often become frustrated, and negative experiences do not bring about repeat customers. Instead, AnswerDash tried to design its system to minimize reliance on huge Q&A sections or frustrating  customer support.

Moretz says, “In recognition of most people’s desire to solve their own problems rather than contacting customer support, AnswerDash makes getting self-service answers easy — much easier than FAQs or other help islands. In fact, most customers never need to type a single word when getting answers with AnswerDash since it’s based on the power of point-and-click.

Image: AnswerDash

This article, "AnswerDash: Provide Predictive Answers Before Your Customers Even Ask Them" was first published on Small Business Trends

In this competitive industry environment, it is extremely important to maintain high levels of customer satisfaction. If your company falters and develops a reputation for poor ratings, it almost certainly translates into poor performance and declining sales. Improving customer satisfaction is very different than improving customer ratings. Customer satisfaction goes far deeper than just having positive reviews, it means the customer is sharing their experience with friends and is more likely to become loyal. This article provides the top five ways that you can improve customer satisfaction starting right now.

1. Compensate Staff Based on Customer Satisfaction Levels

Many companies compensate staff based on the revenue generated or other performance metrics that may result in a high turnover of customers. If you are experiencing low customer satisfaction levels, try integrating customer satisfaction rates into the compensation structure. For lower level staff, such as food services workers, this may mean purchasing gift cards if the team receives positive reviews. Some companies only focus on threatening staff if customer satisfaction is inadequate. This fear will always be present and reinforcing it constantly creates an ominous environment where staff are intimated to serve customers. Therefore, a compensation plan that encourages customer satisfaction benefits the employer, employee, and the customers.

2. Ask Customers to Complete a Survey

The success of this is not necessarily acquired intrinsically. For instance, customers asked to complete a survey may be especially inclined to leave positive feedback if it is provided by the employee and it is not anonymous. Surveys that are heavily incentivized such as those that offer a free food or beverage product are also likely to receive many careless responses due to the incentive structure. Encouraging a follow-up review is likely to receive a disproportionately large amount of dissatisfied customers, but this means that they are also providing insights about how you can improve.

3. Have a Support Line to Resolve Complaints

Many companies actually lose customer satisfaction by failing to address the initial round of complaints. Some studies have demonstrated that customer loyalty can actually be enhanced if the company has a system to effectively resolve customer complaints. In fact, many customers will attempt to resolve the issue through the company before writing a negative review online and companies can even enhance loyalty levels by efficiently resolving customer complaints.

4. Have Monthly Employee Reviews

Holding your companies liable for customer satisfaction across the board is a key determinant for staff performance. Many companies see any downtime for employee meetings as having little impact on success. However, employees must be constantly reminded that their most important objective should be the satisfaction of their customers.

This is most likely to be accomplished when your employees have group meetings to discuss key complaints and establish strategies to resolve them. One company that employs writers holds weekly meetings to discuss the satisfaction level of the customer and key issues they have addressed. In many cases, consumers will be quicker to share positive information, which may also be recorded and analyzed in order to understand what characteristics are retaining users.

5. Hire Friendly Staff

In many customer-facing industries, the extent of customer satisfaction is dictated by the friendliness of your staff. Hiring a staff that reflects a negative emotion to customers is likely to decrease their perception of your company as a whole. Staff that appear disinterested communicate that your company lacks enthusiasm about creating value for them, so they are likely to easily go elsewhere to a company that employs more friendly staff. This is largely done by cross-checking references and asking former employers about the demeanor of each employee when interacting with customers.

At the end of the day, it is up to your customers whether or not to be satisfied and there are many things that will impact their overall satisfaction levels that are out of your control. However, it should be a core focus of your daily activities to ensure that your customers are satisfied or they will easily switch to your competitors. With a plethora or review websites and increasing competition, customer satisfaction has never been more important. By implementing the five key points within this article, your company can more effectively grow within the market by ensuring the customers are more satisfied and more likely to do business with you in the future.

Market issues:A steep sell-off in stocks got a little less bad by the end of the day, but it still left indexes down sharply for the second day in a row, the Associated Press reports. Banks and technology shares fell sharply Monday. Facebook sank 4 percent and Amazon, which more than doubled last year, lost 3 percent. The losses brought the Nasdaq composite index down almost 20 percent from its record high last year. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 177, or 1.1 percent, to 16,027. It was down as much as 401 earlier.The Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 26 points, or 1.4 percent, to 1,853. The Nasdaq sank 79 points, or 1.8 percent, to 4,283.Gold jumped 4 percent, and bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.75 percent.

Inspections: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced today it has begun a special inspection at the River Bend Station nuclear power plant in St. Francisville. The NRC will review events surrounding an unplanned reactor shutdown Jan. 9, the commission says in a news release. According to the NRC, the Entergy-owned plant was operating at full power when lightning struck it last month, causing a momentary surge in its offsite power supply and triggering the shutdown. Operators placed the plant in a safe shutdown condition, the release says. The following day, operational errors led to a one hour loss of shutdown cooling. “The purpose of this special inspection is to better understand the circumstances surrounding the loss of shutdown cooling,” NRC Region IV Administrator Marc Dapas says. Inspectors will spend about a week at the site. A report documenting their finding will be available 45 days after the inspection.

On the line: Money managers may not agree where oil prices are headed, but they are increasingly eager to place their bets. Bloomberg reports total wagers on the price of crude climbed to the highest since the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission began tracking the data in 2006. Speculators’ combined short and long positions in West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. benchmark, rose to 497,280 futures and options contracts in the week ended Feb. 2. WTI moved more than 1% each day in the past three weeks. U.S. crude stockpiles climbed to the highest level in more than 85 years, and Venezuela called for cooperation between OPEC and other oil-exporting countries to stem the protracted drop in prices. Read the full story.

The post News roundup: US inspectors visit St. Francisville plant after unplanned shutdown … Stocks fall sharply midday … Record number of investors betting on oil appeared first on Baton Rouge Business Report.

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