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Social Media Won’t Fix A Product That Sucks

In Inbound Marketing, SEO, Social Media, Strategy on October 20, 2009 at 11:55 pm

Using Social Media, SEO or any other form of Internet marketing cannot fix a product that sucks. But of course, we must be talking about other products: yours couldn’t possibly suck with the numbers you sell. “The advertising investment and distribution channels are creating plenty of healthy sales. The economic downturn has affected us but it will pass.”

Or is it just another economic downturn? What if this economic downturn is combined with a shift to a new age – a whole new mindset in business. At no other time in the history of our world have we seen a Company go from zero to the largest in the world within 10 years. I was in awe when I recently read that Facebook had 200 Million users (April 14, 2009), absolutely shocked on July 10 when they announced 250 Million and scratching my head when on September 19,2009 they announced 300 million! They increased 50 Million users in 75 days, which means they added 670,000 users every single day!

These numbers are unlike the numbers we have been used to dealing with in business. Google is indexing over a trillion URLs.  We have indeed entered The Google Age.

All this to say now that customers can HUNT for our product (as opposed to us spending millions in advertising & promotion HUNTING for customers and hoping they remember us when it comes time to buy), we might want to stop and think about who has the power in the current consumer-to-business relationship. In the past, the only feedback the consumer had access to was how he spent his dollar. And most felt it made no difference so apathy was the order of the day.  Big business dominated and big media profited.

In The Google Age they can vote with their dollar AND they can influence millions of their peers online. That is good news and bad. Now they know they can make a difference. Now, in order to do business a brand must learn a whole new marketing mindset: they must learn to be found – at the right time, saying the right thing. They must deal with individuals rather than demographic target groups. It is tempting to treat this medium (the web) like it is just another advertising medium, but early results have been, at best, all over the map. The Internet is dynamic so our marketing strategies and tactics must also be dynamic. They must be based on sound principles and objectives but we must talk with and listen to our customers. Joshua Porter makes a great point about expectations of Social Media Marketing in his blog, reinforcing the need to look at the Internet with fresh eyes.

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Left-handed Monkey Wrenches for Left-handed Plumbers

In Inbound Marketing, Strategy on October 6, 2009 at 5:00 am

straight_pipe_wrench_3c_sm98Co-founder of Hub Spot, Dharmesh Shah says, the internet is great at connecting makers of left-handed monkey wrenches with left-handed plumbers around the world.

But the makers of left-handed monkey wrenches must:

  1. be very clear that they make left-handed monkeys wrenches
  2. not tell everyone about their full line of wrenches, hammers, screwdrivers and saws
  3. talk directly to left-handed plumbers and not be tempted to include right-handed plumbers, general contractors, the owners of hardware stores, the local handymen across America and anyone else interested in buying any household or industrial tool.

Inbound Marketing is, like the internet itself, far more efficient. Shah’s partner, Brian Halligan uses the example of eBay. Apparently the Founder started it because he wanted to expand the number of people to trade PEZ dispensers with, after he had traded with his entire rolodex. The internet offered free access to a lot of other people interested in his unusual hobby. Now eBay is the ultimate connector of buyer and seller in the world. Like Brian said – a very efficient system.

A more efficient marketplace truly allows for specialization amongst small business. So now the average small business does not have to be everything to everybody in order to survive. Due to the long tail effect ( see Chris Anderson’s Blog ) one could build a solid business making left-handed monkey wrenches for left-handed plumbers. And they can reach them all over the world.

In the old SPEND, HUNT and HOPE model, (spend lots of money, hunt for customers and hope they remember you when it comes time to buy) using mass media that was expensive and played to the large Company’s advantage, many small business owners believed they had to supplement their main offering with additional products and services, just to make ends meet. They had to add right handed wrenches and small saws, hammers and screwdrivers. The more products they offered, the more potential audiences they could identify to sell to so they forgot about the left-handed plumber and their left-handed wrenches. They lost themselves – but even worse, they collapsed sales and marketing into one big mess. In this state they want (believe they need to) tell everybody about all of the things they sell. Their ads lose focus. Their promotions are at best desperate grabs at low hanging fruit and they spend a lot of money on a lot of things. In other words marketing goes down the toilet. In this world they must sell hard and often to survive.

We conduct inbound marketing campaigns and as a professional marketer I see the Internet as the savior of marketing. The Google Era will put marketing back in the corner office. I will explain.

If a small business takes their traditional marketing mentality to inbound marketing it will fail. No ifs ands or buts. The keys to inbound marketing are:

  1. be very clear about what you sell.
  2. be very clear who your ideal buyer is
  3. put out content that educates that buyer about that product

If the business also has other things for sale, they need to run separate campaigns. That’s marketing. In this model customers buy and because they are in control of the transaction, they often enjoy it. So that left-handed plumber can easily find a left-handed wrench online.

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Check Out Who Is Eating Your Lunch

In PPC, SEO, Social Media, Strategy on October 5, 2009 at 2:47 am

Business is good for some of us. And awful for others. We can blame it on the economy or the changing market, but the fact is, we all have choices about what we do and how we conduct our business.

Those of us engaged in online marketing have repeatedly tried to show traditional marketers just how effective inbound marketing can be. And how inexpensive it is relative to the results you can produce with a good strategy. We are not talking about “using Twitter” or “being on Facebook”. It serves no one for your staff to be online without a sound strategy that integrates with the rest of your marketing. Yes – it is early in the game, but our experience to date indicates it will be a lot easier to defend a top 3 organic ranking for a relevant keyword than to try to take it from a competitor who is defending it effectively. Creativity and innovation will beat big time spending in this marketplace.

We are talking about engaging in an honest open conversation with the people you believe should buy your product. But obviously, as bad as things are, most traditional marketers are happy with the current SPEND (lots of advertising and promotional dollars), HUNT (go out looking for customers) and HOPE (they remember you when it comes time to buy) model that has been dictated by the mass media marketplace we have all grown up in. This model is more about selling people than letting them buy.

We have done our best to convince businesses that the average consumer (B2B or B2C) just Googles what they are looking for and even if they do not actually purchase online (although Marketing Sherpa reports that over 34% do), they do make their buying decision based on their online research. Sure they still talk to friends and get advice. Sure they still shop in retail stores. But the strongest influence by far is the combined results of their Google search.

So, bottom line: take a 10 minute break today and type in the keywords or search terms that you think people would use to find your product or service. Not your Company name – the product or service you sell. See if you can be found when your prospects are looking to buy. And pay special attention to the firms that do show up on page 1 of the search. They’re most likely the ones your potential buyers are buying from.

What Do We Want To read Online?

In Social Media, Strategy on October 4, 2009 at 3:05 pm

Andrew Davis of Tipping Point Labs writes a great article on Defining Valuable Content in which he thoughtfully goes through the elements of valuable content on the internet. We are all seeing too much mindless ramblings and cheeky quotes. It makes me think that a well written, thought through point of view is the key. Andrew talks about a balance between relevance, quality and frequency. I for one, am far less concerned about frequency if a perspective is well written, informed and thought through. In fact, even points of view I don’t agree with are welcome under these circumstances. If you are passing content on or sending clever quotes, please pay attention to frequency. Less is better. None is perfect.

Fish Where The Fish Are

In Strategy on September 26, 2009 at 3:30 am

onlineadvOh how slow we are to change our habits! Jupiter Research documented – in 2007 – a clear picture of how consumer behavior has shifted, indicating the gap between consumer habits and ad spending. Here we are 2 years later and the gap is still very present. In fact, if the difficult economy had not set in, I would bet many businesses who have changed their habits to match, would not have.

Consumers report watching less than 11 hours of TV per week, yet advertisers still spend 22% of their budgets on TV ads! Newspaper is worse – consumers spend 1 hour a week reading newspapers, yet, through force of habit, advertisers still spend 15% of their budgets advertising in newspapers. Hello.

The fish have moved. Come on marketers – fish where the fish are.

The Importance of Your Bounce Rate

In 1 on September 25, 2009 at 2:20 am

If you are attracting visitors and they leave without investigating your site, they are sending you a clear communication: your site is not relevant or is not easily communicating what they were looking for. So either your meta tags need to change to align with the content of the page or the content of the page needs to change.

Dimitris Zotos recently published an excellent article called The 8 Ways to Lower Your Bounce Rate that we would recommend to everyone looking to improve their website. It’s a good read and doing what he recommends will make a difference.

Social Media: Don’t Throw The Baby Out With The Bathwater.

In 1 on September 14, 2009 at 3:09 pm

A good friend, Andrew Jenkins, just posted a thought provoking article Social Media is So 1999 on the Community Marketing Blog, basically questioning the frenzy around Social Media applications.   While I agree with several of his key points, (people can easily jump on a bandwagon and ride it into the ground), I offer a caution to his request to be cautious.

This is no dot com bust. Google has proven that FREE is indeed a viable business model. But it is a business model that requires incredible discipline. They have worked out, without question and PRECISELY, what their “reason for being” is. They understand that a business needs to align behind a single, relevant idea. In their case, it is “that every individual can find what she/he wants, when he/she wants it”. It is so simple it is very complex. What I mean is the idea is simple, the execution is complex. In a business world that was all about the almighty dollar, Google knew that if they made all of their decisions such that  “every individual can find what she/he wants, when he/she wants it”, the rest would all work out. We have watched them become the largest Company in the world in less than 10 years, yet they don’t make the smallest or the biggest decisions based on “how much revenue will it produce”, like most businesses we grew up admiring. They make their decisions based on “will that help every individual can find what she/he wants, when he/she wants it”. Most businesses spend a lot of time focusing on quarterly reports and doing whatever it takes to drive the stock price up. They spend a lot of time and effort working on the wrong things. Google knows that the best way to affect their stock price is to ensure that ” every individual can find what she/he wants, when he/she wants it”. Again, very simple, yet incredibly difficult to execute. They take a long term view that’s in the best interest of their constituents.

But back to Andrew’s comments, there are other factors at work here as well. Competition in every business sector has permantly changed. In 2007 Marketing Sherpa posted a statistic that hit me right between the eyes: “83% of a B2B purchases found their Vendor online”. Most brands’ prospects (potential customers) have completly changed the way they find what they need. So it stands to reason that marketers would completely change the way they reach them. But alas, most Company’s marketing practices have not changed enough to make the difference. I think we have a lot of half-pregnant marketing plans.

Lets think about the context for a moment, rather than looking at each Social Media site individually. Social media is to the Internet what the Internet was to the Personal Computer. The first stage of personal computing featured games, while the second stage featured word processing and tremendous time-saving number crunching applications in the form of spreadsheets. But the third stage – the addition of the Internet attracted a whole new personal computer user. A similar phenomenom is at work regarding the Internet. On the World Wide Web you could send email and look up information on almost any subject. The second stage was most businesses have posted “brochureware” – they have a minimal presence online. And now the third stage –  Social Media or Web 2.0 has been introduced.  Collectively, it is the catalyst – the reason for people (by the billions) to be online. When billions of people are online, engaged and participating, it creates a medium that we have little to no experience with – one that actually talks back. Sure some applications will come and some will go, but the genre (Social Media) is here to stay and it’s impact on the way we do business will be profound.

For example, early in this game, we have noticed that when you combine Social Media with PPC and SEO you can generate new business at previously unknown rates. For less cost than we could ever imagine. That levels the playing field in many industry sectors: if I am looking for new windows for my home, I would likely Google “new windows oakville”. The little guys are on page one. With the right presentation, the “big guys” in the business will never even make my short list, if they are not there when I am looking. People are calling this “Inbound Marketing”. Now we can distinguish what we have been doing as “Outbound Marketing” (we had never distinguished it as that was our only option.)

The Google Era (of which Social Media is an honoured guest) hails a fundamental change in the marketing mindset of every business. And the Marketing Strategists are only now beginning to understand the power of the medium, working with the SEO fanatics to produce business results. After many years of every business spending huge amounts of advertising and promotion dollars, as well as cold calling and investing a tremendous amount of sales effort (what we call HUNTING for customers – or the SPEND, HUNT and HOPE model), we have now entered The Google Era – a period when you must make the fundamental shift to learning to BE HUNTED – to be found when people are looking for your product or service. It requires a whole different approach to marketing. In fact, it actually forces Companies to return to the basics of sound marketing. No longer will business be able to “throw enough &^%#$&^ against the wall and be satisfied with what sticks” (AKA: half my ad budget is a waste – I just don’t know which half.

And the part I  love the most – I am predicting a serious comeback of marketing. It will be back in the corner office. The Google Era will force brands to know exactly who their ideal customer is and precisely what they are selling. Or die. Getting crystal clear and then being easy to be found for exactly THAT is the key to doing business in The Google Era. Every marketer will be able to LISTEN so they can stop telling people what they think they need to hear in order to buy their product. Without direct feedback, the best we could ever do was guess. Now we can “talk with” our ideal prospects rather than “talk at” them.

So call me a zealot – not for social media, but for The Google Era and the impact it will have on the way we do business: worldwide.

Online Marketing – Use At Your Own Risk

In 1 on September 5, 2009 at 8:00 pm

None of us will miss the irony in the acronym L.E.A.P. when we speak of how your Enterprise should approach the Internet in terms of marketing. Many have indeed jumped with with little forethought, only to be sent packing by the Communities they offended. L.E.A.P. allows you to ease yourself into a conversation that is already underway. Would you arrive at a party and just burst in a room full of people who are already in the midst of many conversations, expecting them all to acknowledge your “arrival”? or would you…

Listen for awhile? Would you park yourself in a small group and listen long enough to get the drift of the discussion, form an opinion that supports your Corporate point of view and then…

Engage. Offer up ideas and counsel. Give away wisdom and authentically offer up information that will make a difference for others. People only do business with people they perceive to be experts or friends. And if you’re not a friend…

Assimilate yourself into their conversation and offer up solutions and assistance. Protecting Intellectual Property is old-school thinking. If you hide your primary contribution under a bushel, nobody knows you have one. Other online participants who offer it up, will be more likely to make the short list when it comes time to buy – even if it is not as good as yours. And then there is consistency. You must…

Participate on a regular basis. You cannot jump in, disappear for a few months and then come strolling back in. Ongoing participation, engaging with online communities in a respectful manner, listen and contributing – in other words, play by “sandbox rules” and all will turn out well.

Derek Lackey is a eMarketing professional based in Toronto, Ontario. A 25+ year background in major brand advertising and sales management combined with a passion for the internet and the impact it  has on marketing results fuels his passion for Online Marketing.

Is Cold Calling Dead?

In PPC, SEO, Social Media, Strategy on September 4, 2009 at 1:02 am

world-wide-web.jpgFor many years we in business have sharpened our skills and tactics for going out and finding customers. We work hard to impress them (embed our brand) so when they are ready to buy, they remember us and purchase our product or service. Most of us are pretty good at HUNTING for customers. But by the time we pay the gatekeepers (the Media Barons who control access to the highly sought eyeballs) and all of the costs to distribute materials, we end up investing a lot of dollars in the name of marketing. In a “Mass Media Market” that’s the best we have available to us. We SPEND, HUNT and HOPE (they remember us when it comes time to buy). No wonder the Finance guys hate marketing!

Things have changed in the past 2 years. So much so, those same Finance guys are going to love the new marketer. Web 2.0 has combined with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and PPC (Pay Per Click Advertising) tactics to create a whole new marketing mindset. A new context if you will. Today, when a customer wants to buy, are they just as likely to Google words and phrases that suit what they are looking for? Are they open to suggestions from Social media sites and recommendations from their peers? In most cases they will find what they are looking for on the first page of the search results, or at least have their short list? How easily can you BE FOUND when your prospects are looking to buy? Are you making extra effort to BE HUNTED online? Have you adjusted your marketing thinking to suit the market? We call this eMarketing Management – a blend of strong, integrated strategy and aggressive online tactics. Most marketers are approaching emarketing from a mass media context and are left wondering why the online communities are not responding. For example, we think that placing banner ads on busy sites should bring results. That is merely an extension of mass marketing tactics. There are better ways to engage with the World Wide Web and the millions of INDIVIDUALS who are online.

We have also seen a rapid decline in response to telemarketing – no matter the tactics used. It seems that we used to accept some cold calls just in case we might need that service or product in the foreseeable future. We would take the call, ask questions, understand the key issues and file the information away so we could lay our hands on it when we need it. In 2007 Marketing Sherpa published a study that revealed that 83% of business purchases were found online. Not all purchased online, but sourced and researched. So now we know that whatever we want we can Google it and find everything we need to know quickly and relatively painlessly. There is no need to entertain cold calls that have nothing to do with the priorities that dominate us today. So cold calling dies. The only thing that kept it alive was it always produced just enough to justify the investment. Not any more.


It is far less expensive to set our products and services up to be easily found when our prospects are searching for them. But we have to make the mental shift from marketing in a mass media world and mastering our HUNTING skills, to interacting with millions of individuals and learning to BE HUNTED. Learning to make ourselves easy to be found. And make no mistake – it is a completely different context.

As consumers change their habits, we have to adjust our efforts to reach them effectively. There’s a great example of context shaping actions – from a mass marketing world that is exactly what we would do – REACH OUR CUSTOMER EFFECTIVELY. In this Internet based world, we want to listen, engage and have a conversation with people who are interested in what we produce. new context allows for new actions. New actions have the possibility of new results. And the early indications are impressive. We are working smarter instead of harder and producing unprecedented results using:
An eMarketing Planning Process
Competitive Online Research
In-depth Site Analysis / Audit
Pay Per Click Campaign Management
Search Engine Optimization
Link Building & Exchanges
Blog Marketing
Content Writing

Social Media Marketing
Code Restructuring
Titles/Descriptions/Tags
Bots / Texts / Sitemaps
Submissions
E-Mail Marketing Campaigns
eReporting
And More…

Rankings Change! Deal With It.

In SEO, Strategy on August 30, 2009 at 12:19 pm

For those of us who keep a steady watch on organic search engine rankings, we see them change frequently, apparently inexplicably. Expert Stoney deGeyter, on Search Engine Guide says “A site may gain or lose rankings on a daily bases due to algorithm changes, a dropped or added link, or a site is added or removed from the search engine’s index. Some ranking changes can be traced to a particular event while others occur for what seems like no particular reason. In essence, rankings change because change happens.”

That is certainly not good news for a business owner who is trying to manage his/her own organic rankings. We recently had a client’s relevancy score drop right across the board – for no apparent reason. Due to the fact that we have 12 Senior Geeks, they were able to figure it out, but not without some turmoil and lots of discussion. And not to forget trying 20 different things before we got to the bottom of it. Stoney goes on to say “But understanding what causes typical loss of rankings can give us a better insight into sea of search engine ranking fluctuations. This insight can help you prevent serious long-term effects caused by a sudden drop in search engine rankings. While we can never prevent all losses of search engine rankings, understanding the reasons why changes occur can, at least, help you make your presence in search results more stable.

Reasons for ranking changes can be boiled down to three basic events: 1) Your site changes, 2) a competitor’s site change, or 3) the search engine algorithm changes.”

In this case it was a change of algorithm, specifically from Google. Seems they have been quite busy since Bing! launched. Even for a Company like Google, whom I think most of us have a great deal of respect for, I guess there’s nothing like a good competitor to drive change.

But the key point that Stoney makes is to have an SEO expert on your team at all times. We must all decide what the key role of our websites are, but they should always have an organic ranking priority. In other words, no matter your strategy, SEO is crucial in today’s marketplace. It has been a misunderstood “ugly sister” to web development, yet it is at the core of every site. Since Wen 2.0 hit, it has consistently forced itself upon every website owner – like it or not. But give the rest of Stoney’s Blog a good read. He talks about stuff we all need to know.