Tag Archive | business

9 Tips For Managing Your Business’ Online Reputation

Like - Thumb UpInternet usage is at an all-time high: the average American spends 30 hours online every week. (For Millennials, the average is 40 hours!) Another key data point? More than half of mobile-web users interact with companies on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Do you know what people are saying about your brand on the web?

Because the internet offers so many chances for brand interaction, reputation management is more important than ever before. Here are nine best practices for monitoring and managing your business’ online reputation:

1. Optimize your website for Google search
You want Google to treat your website as the ultimate authority on your product (and, ideally, on the market segment in which you compete). Why? If Google ranks your site favorably, it will appear at or near the top of a search for your company name and terms specific to your industry.

KissMetrics provides a great guide on getting your website indexed by Google.

2. Establish a strong social media presence
By creating a Facebook page, Twitter profile and blog – and posting relevant content to those channels – you will both improve your search-engine rankings and improve how you interact with customers and prospects.

The RingCentral Social Team has written about social-media tips and tricks in the past, so for reference, check out the RingCentral Connect archive.

3. Set up Google alerts
There are a bevy of expensive tools available to monitor your online presence, but you don’t need to spend a lot to see what people are saying about you across the web. We use Google alerts to let us know when the term “RingCentral” is mentioned – they show up every day in a short email.

Here’s what the notification looks like:

Google alert

4. Monitor social networks and reply promptly
The simple fact is, people want companies to be available on social networks. According to Arnold Worldwide, close to 60 percent of consumers expect brands to respond to their social-media comments and queries.

It’s generally good to aim for a social response of no more than an hour or two. (Most businesses aren’t nearly this vigilant, so you can really stand out by striving to be responsive!)

5. Respond to reviews and comments
The last time you bought something online, did you read any reviews before clicking “Confirm Purchase”? You probably did! Product reviews are invaluable when you’re shopping online, and they can be hugely valuable to companies, too.

Not only can reviews help a business learn what people do and don’t like about its offerings – they offer an opportunity for the business to turn unsatisfied customers into raving fans.

6. Turn frowns upside down
Segueing from tip number five: the holy grail of customer support is satisfying an unhappy customer. If you can make this happen on the web, so much the better: successfully turning a negative experience around will leave evidence for customers and prospects to see. That, in turn, will help you demonstrate that you care about doing right by your customers.

7. Blog communications
Social networks are great for pushing out short communiques and providing customer support. For “long-form” communications, though – things like new-product announcements or market forecasts – a blog is ideal.

You shouldn’t expect your business blog to succeed beyond measure, or yourself to become the next Tim Ferriss. Rather, look at blogging as a way to share inside information on your company and engage with your most enthusiastic fans. It’s well worth the effort.

8. Ask happy customers to post reviews
It’s bad form to incent positive reviews with gifts or in-kind compensation. But there’s nothing wrong with simply suggesting that your happy customers say something nice about you on sites like Yelp, LinkedIn or Google Places. The worst that can happen is that they’ll refuse.

9. Feature positive reviews on your website/blog
If you have some positive reviews in hand, great work. They’re a marketing asset as strong (or stronger!) than anything else (whitepapers, datasheets, etc.) you may have put together. Why? Two words: social proof. We’re wired to look favorably on things other people view favorably – restaurants, cars, clothes or just about anything else.

Plus, third-party reviews’ objectivity is inherently valuable. When we say we have a great phone system, you may think, “Of course they’re going to say that.” But when an outlet like PC Magazine awards RingCentral Office an Editors’ Choice award – well, it means a little more coming from them.

Hope these tips are helpful. Let us know if you have any more to share!

Featured photo courtesy of: SalFalko via photopin cc.

5 Public-Relations Best Practices from Corporate PR Pros

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Expert Panelists at the PR Summit.

As a member of the Media Team at RingCentral I know just how important press can be. We’re no strangers when it comes to receiving great press mentions, such as the ones we recently received from a PC Magazine Editors’ Choice award to positive coverage at Laptop.com. But still, we’re always looking to step-up our public-relations game. That’s why I recently attended the PR Summit in San Francisco. The annual event, organized for start-up companies, focuses on the impact that powerful creative campaigns can have in burnishing a company’s image.

Dozens of ideas, suggestions and strategies were presented. Here are the five that impressed me the most!

1) Learn to spin your story

“It’s not enough to have a good product: you have to romanticize it,” said Noel Lee, the founder of Monster Cable. In other words, how you spin your story – and educate your target market – really matters.

“It’s better to be the big company in a niche market than to try to get everyone’s attention,” Lee added.

2) Take the Facebook test

When you are creating new content, run it through a “Facebook test”. Would you want to see your content on your own Facebook News Feed? If the answer is no, the content probably isn’t worth sharing, emphasized BuzzFeed‘s Chief Revenue Officer, Andy Wiedlin.

To create the best PR content, be strategic in your efforts: focus on those who will be more likely than the average person to embrace your message.

Consider the relevance and timeliness of what you’re saying, too. Strive to keep the conversation going and engage your audience – just as you’d do on Facebook.

3) Trade in share-able, snack-size bites

“In social advertising, you don’t create one thing and see how it goes,” BuzzFeed’s Wiedlin noted. “You create 12 and see what catches your audience’s attention.”

The lesson for PR professionals? Keep your message short and simple. And don’t be afraid to re-iterate.

4) Show me! Don’t tell me!

In PR, as in art, what is depicted is less important than how it is interpreted.

“Emotional engagement with your audience is the only thing that is going to drive your product forward, and get people to come back,” stated Kym McNicholas from PandoDaily.

Your company should come off as transparent and candid as possible so your audience can create their own opinions.

5) Write content for a person, not all people

“The ultimate moment of truth is the next person’s zero moment of truth,” Altimeter’s Brian Solis (author of The End of Business As Usual and  What’s the Future of Business?) observed.

Translation: there is no way to reach multitudes with one message, so you must narrow down your target audience. Once you have reached a single person and established a connection, your message will be able to take root and spread.

Ultimately, PR is about creating stories. Narratives that touch people at a personal level are what separate superb PR campaigns from less-effective ones.

Do you have additional pointers on how to build a strong PR campaign? Share your experiences with readers below!

4 Points to Keep in Mind When Trademarking a Brand

The RingCentral legal team would like to offer a friendly reminder that the following should not be construed as legal advice.

Trademark signSpoiler alert: We at RingCentral are getting ready to introduce some very cool new products and features. These offerings are so awesome, in fact, that we have to trademark their names. It was with this in mind that our external counsel, Lisa Greenwald-Swire of Fish & Richardson, spoke to us recently about the trademark process. Here are four of the lessons we learned at Lisa’s presentation:

1) Know the different categories of brand mark.

Greenwald-Swire_Lisa

Lisa Greenwald-Swire

There are five brand mark types. Fanciful brand names, like Google, are the easiest kind to protect legally – a “coined” name (e.g., Verizon) is best from an ease-of-trademarking standpoint. Next-easiest are arbitrary trademarks, like Apple. Arbitrary marks use real words, but they do so in an unconventional way. Suggestive brand marks fall in the middle of the pack. Suggestive names, like Coppertone, hint at what the product in question provides but don’t state it outright. Descriptive marks, on the other hand, are less vague (and therefore tougher to trademark). Think Chap Stick. Finally, there are generic marks, which are impossible to trademark. (Try bringing “aspirin” to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for proof.)

2) Think about real-world use.

Ease of pronunciation is a key consideration when picking a brand name, particularly if you’re taking the “fanciful” route. It may also be good to employ stems from Greek or Latin, which can confer upon your brand a certain familiarity. And make Google Translate (or a real-life translator) your friend: you don’t want a mark that could be transliterated into something ridiculous.

3) Start the trademark-search process early.

Lisa counsels (pun unfortunately intended) that businesses begin searching for trademarks long before starting to use them commercially. Why? Quite simply, it’s good to cover your bases. Be proactive about making sure your target trademark isn’t in use already (and hasn’t been claimed on social channels like Facebook and Twitter). In addition, filing an intent-of-use application with the U.S.P.T.O. will position you well to defend your mark, should the need arise. When the mark registers, you will get presumptive nationwide trademark rights dating back to the day on which you filed.

4) Put yourself in consumers’ shoes.

The single most important question to ask when trademarking relates to consumer perception. With a trademark, is there a likelihood of consumers confusing your brand with another (existing) one? This question forms the basis of all trademark law, Lisa noted. So think about your desired trademark from the perspective of a disinterested consumer. If bewilderment is a distinct possibility, you should probably pursue a different mark.

Featured image courtesy of: Steve Snodgrass via photopin cc.

10 Tips For Managing a Successful Trade Show Booth

RingCentral Booth at Dreamforce 2012

Even in our digitally connected world, nothing trumps the value of in-person meetings. That’s why RingCentral exhibits at various trade shows throughout the year. It’s a great opportunity to talk about our cloud-based communications platform to prospective and existing customers.

But managing a trade show booth is no easy task. As an event coordinator for RingCentral, I can tell you that organizing an exhibition is a huge effort that requires careful planning, attention to detail, persistence, and endurance.

Recently, I managed our trade show booth at Salesforce.com’s annual Dreamforce event. I’m happy to report that the conference was hugely successful for RingCentral. So I thought I’d share several tips on what we did right.

1. Make a master to-do list 
As elementary as it sounds, making a master list of to-do items and deliverables is a necessary starting point for event planning. Once you have all the requirements, it’s easier to organize items  into categories such as booth, staff, or demo. Be sure to check the event website for checklists and deadlines.

2. Become best friends with the event organizer
As an exhibitor at Dreamforce, we had a point of contact whom we consulted for guidance and advice on everything from choosing the booth’s location on the floor to obtaining permission for having a giant inflatable phone included in our display. Our event contact was an excellent and responsive resource — all the more so since she served multiple exhibitors.  So even when things got stressful, I always made sure to be gracious and grateful to our Dreamforce contact. When I met her in person at the event, I gave her a thank-you gift.

3. Keep the signage simple
To state the obvious, you want your signage and booth displays to be interesting and inviting. Think of your booth from a passerby’s perspective, i.e., someone who knows nothing about your product or service. Ask yourself whether the messaging conveys a meaningful description, something that leaves an impression in as few words as possible. You’re not likely to attract or stop people in their tracks with wordy signage, so keep it simple. Less is more.

4. Have a lead retrieval process
It’s no secret that trade shows can be a fount for sales leads, so be sure to establish a lead retrieval process. We recommend renting the portable scanners that are often offered through the organization hosting the event (or via a contracted service). If you expect a steady stream of traffic, rent more than one scanner — or else your staff will be scrambling constantly for the one device. Then, when the show is over, be sure to upload all contacts into your CRM system and mark them as leads from the specific show.

5. Follow up on leads
Leads are worth nothing without follow-up. Define the process for reaching out to contacts: who is responsible for  following up, and how will leads be divided among team members? The best time to reach out to leads is the week following an event, when conversations are still fresh on everyone’s mind. Therefore, establish a deadline for follow-up, e.g., no later than one full week after an event.

6. Offer a promotion and giveaway
Like with any marketing effort, you need to offer an incentive for attendees to stop by the booth to learn about your offering. At Dreamforce, we offered a 30-day free trial of RingCentral and gave away RingCentral-branded orange retro handsets to folks who watched a demo. Inevitably, you’ll encounter people who want your tchotchkes but have no interest in your product. That’s why it’s helpful to have a “hurdle,” such as requiring a demo, in order to net out the  tchotchke hounds from the folks who are truly interested.

7. Choose the right booth staff
In general, staff your booth with employees who are outgoing, articulate, and knowledgeable about your product. Note: be sure to provide training and talking points, even for company veterans. Staffers should be motivated and attentive — they should engage with customers and prospectives straightaway. I’ve observed plenty of booth staffers at other companies who continue chatting amongst themselves, even when there is a visitor present. Another no-no? Eating in the booth — it doesn’t project a professional image. Finally, make sure the booth staff consists of a combination of product experts, as well as salespeople.

8. Consider eye-catching attire
Logo-inscribed polo shirts are unremarkable. If you really want to stand out, consider spicing up the staff attire, whether it’s a splash of color or an unusual accessory. For Dreamforce, we ordered t-shirts with a vivid branded design and dressed up the look with orange leis and fedora hats. Between our signage, our giant inflatable phone, and our colorful attire, we were impossible to miss.

9. Build a demo and script
Seeing is believing, which is why it’s important that you demonstrate how your product or service works. This can be achieved with a simple but engaging powerpoint. Even more ideal are live demos. At Dreamforce, we showed RingCentral integrated with Salesforce.com through the actual user experience of activating different features. The product team built the demo and wrote the talking points, which were communicated during staff training.

10. Create a booth staff schedule
Last but certainly not least:  create a booth schedule that explicitly indicates when and where your staff is supposed to show up. Circulate the schedule several times prior to the actual event to give people a chance to request modifications. Set a deadline for when no further changes can be made. And be sure to include everyone’s contact information (mobile phone number) on the schedule, which you should widely distribute.

Did I miss something that you find critical in the exhibition process? Tell me in the comments section below.

How to Build and Manage a Brand Superfan Program {Video}

The RingCentral Superfan program is our way of giving thanks to our biggest customer advocates. At the recent Social Media Strategies Summit, our director of social strategy, Baochi Nguyen, presented tips on how to create and grow a brand ambassador program. Watch the video above to learn our strategy and tactics for customer Superfans.

RingCentral at Dreamforce 2012 {Video}

If you work in the Silicon Valley, or in the tech industry in general, then you’ve heard of Salesforce.com, and you’ve definitely heard of their biggest event – Dreamforce.

Well this year the conference was bigger and better than ever. From amazing speakers and sessions, to an expo hall full of all the hottest and latest tech companies, to the after parties, to the epic Red Hot Chili Peppers concert on the streets of downtown San Francisco there was no shortage of excitement and buzz about Dreamforce this year.

Lucky for me, as a member of the RingCentral Social Team, and the one responsible for event coordination, I was able to participate in all the fun! So, check out the video of the amazing RingCentral Dreamforce Dream Team in action at the 2012 event!

For more info on Dreamforce click here.

And a special thank you to everyone who helped me organize and put on the event, I couldn’t have done it without you!!

Me, working the RingCentral booth at Dreamforce 2012.

What Makes unSEXY Technology Sexy? {Video}

Earlier this month, my co-worker, Ben, and I attended the unSEXY Conference; which is “a 1-day conference about tech startups and companies who are actually doing something incredibly sexy…[by] building scalable, sustainable businesses.” The Mountain View, CA event was sponsored by 500 Startups and hosted by founder Dave McClure.

In general,  technology companies aren’t considered “sexy” compared to companies offering more tangible consumer goods like shiny gadgets and designer handbags.  But we tech folks, especially here in Silicon Valley, know better. Some of the most disruptive, innovative and successful products derive from seemingly unsexy technology. Thus the the main premise of the unSexy conference was to highlight the efforts of tech companies currently offering cutting-edge solutions.

As part of the RingCental team we were inspired to ask a few unSexy attendees about qualities that make an unSexy tech company interesting. Watch the video above to hear how various folks define sexy tech.

RingCentral Social Media Team Members Ben and Carolyn

unSexy Theme: “Bringing home the bacon.”

RingCentral Social Media Associate Ben Foster