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Learn how to expand your brand from CrossFit’s cult success

(EDITORIAL) CrossFit has been criticized heavily, but perhaps this spotlight of negativity makes fans even stronger in their resolve that they’ve made the right choice. Your brand can do the same.

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Once upon a time, three of the top 10 posts on publishing platform, Medium.com were about CrossFit – much of it negative, some positive, but more importantly than the popular topic is the fascination behind the brand.

Noting that nearly one third of all popular posts were focused on the camps for and against CrossFit, I wondered to myself what lessons businesses could learn and how they can build their own bulletproof cult? Dedication, shaking off haters, and empowering consumers appears from the outside to be their success formula in expanding from one “CrossFit box” to an international sensation.

When this editorial was first published in October 2013, the following three posts on Medium were in the top 10 most popular (you should take some time to read all three for the best level of insight on the topic):

  1. Why I Quit CrossFit Jason Kessler, which spawned…
  2. CrossFit’s Dirty Little Secret by Eric Robertson (the #1 post), which appears to have inspired…
  3. Why Do People Hate CrossFit? Kevin Lavelle

I read every single one of them in fascination. In full disclosure, I’m not into CrossFit, but friends who are CrossFit loyalists ask me all the time why I’m not involved, and the answer is simple – I have extensive joint damage from various injuries, and I already use the foam roller every day just so I can do a normal workout. In short, my body can’t take it. Sure, I’m on the same Gold Standard Whey Protein as the CrossFit folks, and I have a nutritionist and personal trainer, so I’m not against working out at all – I have no horse in the CrossFit race.

So why even write about CrossFit?

Because from the outside, it looks like a cult, and my friends in CrossFit all think I’m a moron for not giving it a shot. It’s not a cult, it’s just something people are excited about. We’re all that way.

For example, at the grocery store, I play Tetris on the conveyor belt with grass fed beef, organic berries, and raw almonds, but I silently plead for the person in front of me to change their ways as they load up on Doritos, Hi-C, and hormone-filled ground chuck (“don’t they know what they’re doing to their bodies!?” my brain screams, “don’t they know they can eat well on nearly the same budget!?!”).

But it’s not just fitness, it’s any industry.

If your favorite designer is Chanel and you’re obsessed with high fashion, you’re going to judge the girl wearing KMart garb – that doesn’t make you a fashion cult member. If you are a productivity junkie, who has streamlined every second of your day, you’re probably judging the guy in your office who has a 1984 dayplanner with post-it notes falling on the ground when he opens it (the same guy that’s always late). Alternatively, if you’re a couponer, you probably cringe that someone in a retail store is spending full price – what an idiot, right?

See? We all have affinities that we’re willing to judge others on.

Your brand is no different.

Regardless of the professed dangers of CrossFit (and I’m not endorsing it by any means – I’m pretty sure I’d literally die if I did CrossFit, and you might too, according to the founder), the brand has spread like wildfire with hundreds of thousands of loyalists, and even a major competition covered by ESPN with hundreds of major sponsors.

So how does your brand emulate CrossFit?

Maybe there’s something about your brand that others (competitors?) criticize publicly. Maybe your fans are bored and unwilling to go to bat for you. Perhaps no one has a reason to care about your brand.

It doesn’t matter what your brand is, you can get people as enthusiastic as the CrossFit enthusiasts. Seriously. I know you’re thinking in your head “but I’m a real estate agent, what’s exciting about that?” Tons!

First things first, you need to circle the wagons. Know who your fans are, or create them. How? While there are thousands of articles on this topic, the easiest way to explain is to find who is interacting with you most frequently, either online or offline.

CrossFit circles the wagons not only through building a tight-knit team environment at their facilities, but their main website is jam packed full of resources for anyone interested in CrossFit all the way to those who are veteran CrossFit competitors. Forums, online journals, blogs, videos, and more are available to help people to learn, and with that information, they are armed with what it takes to defend their being a fan of CrossFit. They’ve built a strong community, both digitally and offline.

Is your website filled with materials that people can learn from, and does any of it give consumers a reason to circle the wagons around your brand? Have you built a community worthy of people getting excited about, interacting with, and committing to memory so that they understand how your brand works better than any other?

I challenge you to try this.

Evaluate your website, your social media presence, and all of your marketing. Does your marketing say, “we sell things and stuff,” or does it explain why you’re disruptive, and why you’re rocking harder than anyone else? Is your language enthusiastic and fan-worthy, or is it dry and boring? I would speculate that 99 percent of all business rhetoric isn’t worthy of the fandom CrossFit has created.

Just because you’re in real estate doesn’t mean your offering has to be dry and outdated or look exactly like every other real estate website on the planet.

After evaluating your brand, step it up a notch. Try something new. But above all, I want to issue a challenge to you – anywhere in your company that you witness complacency, snuff it out, whether it is in print marketing, the appearance of your desk, or your assistant’s attitude.

Give people a reason to judge others for not choosing your brand – it’s human nature, as people naturally defend their choices by criticizing anything opposite that choice. It’s the secret ingredient of loyalty.

Complacency is your enemy, and it is what will sink you. With a tremendous amount of effort, perhaps someday, your brand will elicit as strong of a response as CrossFit has.

Real Estate Marketing

This new “no-fuss” customer support tool focuses on privacy

(MARKETING) Letterbase’s website widget lets customers send a quick email to businesses without worrying about who’s looking at or selling their info.

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Letterbase is a contact form widget to help customer support

Giving your website users a timely, low-friction way to talk to your business is essential, yes? Live chat can be cool for customer support, but do you really need it? If it feels like overkill, check out Letterbase’s email-based tool.

The website widget for facilitating customer feedback was designed to be “simple, fast, and privacy-friendly.”

Through a branding-friendly, customizable box that can appear on each page, customers can quickly send an email initiating a conversation. They don’t have to wait around for a chat reply before clicking off the site; they get a response in their inbox. Businesses don’t have to use a separate tool to respond and log conversations; the person monitoring email does that. Hence, the “simple.”

The “fast” comes with what they promise is lightweight script installed with a quick copy and paste.

It’s that “privacy-friendly” part that maker Richard Chu says prompted the idea for the product. After combing through messaging apps’ privacy policies, Chu says, he found the “spying” and data sharing to be intrusive.

You might not be aware of how much data collecting some website messaging and chat apps do – and that they sell that data to third parties. Capturing users’ IP addresses, monitoring their browser history, setting cookies, collecting personal information such as drivers license numbers, even tracking users’ location, can all come with a site’s chat or messaging platform – unbeknownst to users.

Having a chat or messenger widget prominently on a website shows that a company cares about customer support and service, but there are things to consider with Letterbase and similar apps.

Some good points:

  • Privacy friendly: Letterbase’s privacy guarantee should allow website owners to assure users that their data is not being collected or sold – a potentially huge trust-builder with customers.
  • Data ownership: Website owners own the data and Letterbase doesn’t store any user conversations.
  • Easy to use: Letterbase should be an affordable customer support tool for small businesses and groups who don’t have dedicated IT people or a high knowledge of tech.
  • Simplicity over analytics: There are no frustrating chat bots that don’t really understand customer questions, and no paying for complicated analytics bells and whistles like sentiment analysis, which requires a team of people just to understand.
  • Trust: Sending an email directly feels better than contact forms, which are often perceived as a communication “black hole.” Users need to trust that they will get a quick reply.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Data collection: If users are being tracked, website owners can assume at least some of their own data is being tracked, too. Read any tool’s privacy policy and contract carefully.
  • Privacy policies: Do you need to alert users that you have an app that is collecting, sharing and/or selling their data? It’s not clear, but being transparent about privacy assures users that their data is safe is a huge potential trust builder. If a company is selling their data, it could quickly become obvious when a user starts to see targeted ads based on your conversation – a potentially huge trust-buster.
  • Security: If conversations might contain any sensitive information, like phone or credit card numbers, make sure your email client offers end-to-end encryption. This also can protect your company network from malware.
  • Response time: You need a crack email monitoring person who will be conscientious about timely responses and categorizing, analyzing and storing conversations. Consider auto-generated responses if that person can’t monitor all the time.

Currently, Letterbase has a 14-day free trial, then an early adopter price of $9 per month.

According to their public roadmap, they plan to eventually integrate with Slack.

It’s clear Letterbase could work for small businesses or groups that care about privacy and want a simple, no frills way for customers to ask questions or request support. Privacy is a the top of mind now, so lack of tracking could be a real benefit.

Sure, understanding and targeting customers through tracking what they do online is pretty much the foundation of digital marketing. For many businesses, though, simple email conversations could be all they need. Plus, it shows they care about privacy by not adding another layer of data surveillance in messaging, which could be the nudge that pushes a prospect to the next step in the customer journey.

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Real Estate Marketing

Old SEO myth busted: Google dev confirms there is no max length on title tag

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) The title tag has been a hard and fast rule for a long time according to many SEO experts, but this Google dev recently busted this hard-n-fast rule.

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Picture of a screen with HTML code written on it, showing the title tag and a sign up button.

The SEO industry and SEO websites have long recommended your title tag length be approximately 50 to 70 characters long. But during a Google Off the Record podcast, Google’s Gary Illyes says there’s no limit on a title tag length and those numbers are “externally made-up metrics.”

The 50 to 70 character limit is something the SEO community created as a standard because it’s the length of text that a search engine results pages (SERPs) on Google will display. Also, the character limits are based on how the titles appear on desktop and mobile devices. By keeping the title within that range, it prevents the full title tag from being cut off.

But, Illyes says a title’s tag length doesn’t have anything to do with indexing purposes. And when asked if there is value in having longer title tags than what can be displayed, Illyes’ response was “Yes”.

“The reason why I try to steer people away from thinking about concrete numbers is it’s not even about how we display titles, but rather, how we construct our serving index and how we tokenize the page itself,” said Illyes. As with anything, he says there is a limit, but it isn’t a small number.

Illyes’ advice to people is to “try to keep [the title tag] precise to the page.”

“I would not think too much about how long it is and whether it’s long enough or way too long,” he said. “If it fills up your screen, then probably it’s too long, but if it just one sentence that fits on one line or two lines, you’re not going to get a manual action for it.”

While, according to Illyes, Google has no title tag length, Google does have some guidelines to help you create good titles. According to the company’s tag developer support page, titles should be descriptive and give users a “quick insight into the content of a result and why it’s relevant to their query.”

If you’re worried about creating the “right” title for your page, you can visit Google’s tag developer support page for more information. And, remember, there is no need to worry about the title tag length.

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Real Estate Marketing

Houston company pays out $50K+ to settle age discrimination lawsuit

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) This latest age discrimination lawsuit offers an important lesson for businesses to consider in their employee management and care

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A diverse range of employees sit at a table, with learning about how to avoid age discrimination.

Burrow Global Services, LLC, a Houston based company specializing in engineering, construction and plant safety, will pay a former employee $50,960 to resolve an age discrimination claim. In addition, Burrow Global will be required to update its policies regarding the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, provide training to its employees and regularly report to the EEOC concerning discrimination.

The EEOC’s suit against Burrow Global

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, in 2017, a new manager was hired over a division of Burrow employees who were working in Baytown, Texas. The new manager was in his 30s. Within a few weeks of starting, this manager began making comments about retirement to a design coordinator who was in his 60s. The design coordinator had no plans to retire and had worked with Burrow since 2014.

The manager made the decision to terminate the employee, stating a “lack of work,” but not long after the employee was fired, a significantly younger person was hired. This person had no formal education beyond high school, while the original employee had a 4-year college degree. With all these pieces together, it’s understandable that the employee in question would be frustrated and upset and the EEOC had to follow up.

The ADEA prohibits age discrimination against employees older than 40

The EEOC attempted to resolve the situation through its administrative conciliation process, but filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in 2020. “The ADEA protects workers age 40 and over from adverse actions taken by employers on the basis of age,” stated Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Houston District Office. “We will continue to bring lawsuits to enforce the law in instances where age was a cause of an adverse employment action.”

The lesson for businesses: Train your management staff about age discrimination and don’t make decisions based on age. The EEOC will hold your business accountable.

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