Archive for the ‘Strategy’ Category

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.


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.

emarketing toronto

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.

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
Bots / Texts / Sitemaps
E-Mail Marketing Campaigns
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.

L.E.A.P. – The Basic Principles of Online Marketing

In Strategy on August 22, 2009 at 3:07 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.

Reduce Marketing Costs While Growing Your Business

In Strategy on August 20, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Marketing and Innovation are the keys to business success. Lowering your marketing costs without screwing up your ability to grow may sound like an oxymoron, but if you follow these 5 steps, it can be done:

1. Outsource Your Marketing

To execute successful marketing program today requires skills in multiple disciplines – both online and off. Chances are, if your staff are strong with media and production, they are weak in SEO/PPC and Social Media. There is far more to learn in today’s marketing world, mainly due to the dynamic, ever-changing New Media and it’s impact on traditional promotional options. It really is challenging to understand where your marketing dollars are best invested, yet it is critical to the success of your business.

Most small to mid-sized firms simply cannot have all of those skills in-house. Especially when there are hundreds of marketing/communication agencies who have specialists with experience managing effective marketing and emarketing programs, usually across many industries, using all media. Their staff and freelance network provide all of the skills, creativity and proven experience you require.

And you only pay for what you use, rather than having a fixed marketing cost all year round.

2. Find The Right People For The Job

Too many business owners like to play with marketing. It is often considered a “fun” part of business. By hiring professionals you are delegating to someone with the expertise to do it well. Promotion has changed a lot in the past few years. It is far more complex today. You have learned to hunt customers and now you have to learn to be good at being hunted by customers. And thats a whole new ball game. One that you absolutely must play, just to keep up with your competitors. eMarketing Management is the way of the future.

While we applaud the “get it done” attitude of those business owners who try to handle advertising and promotion themselves, it does waste time and often leads to mistakes that professionals know to avoid.

A good marketing/communications firm should save you a lot of wasted time and money and should be held accountable for specific measurable results.

3. If You Cannot Measure It – Cut It

We’ve seen hundreds of campaigns executed, and we’ve yet to see one that was 100% accountable. That is, every aspect of the campaign was measurable and designed to do a specific task. Have a good hard look at every element of your plan. Be sure they all have a clearly stated, measurable result so you can objectively assess their success. Learn from every marketing action you take.

The reason for marketing is sales. Did every element of every campaign result in more sales opportunities? None of us have money to waste on programs that do not drive qualified leads, impact the loyalty of a customer or move a prospect closer to buying.

All marketing worth doing, can and should be measured.

4. Follow Up Every Lead

We’ve also seen a lot of firms work hard, invest smart and generate a ton of qualified leads – with no system for follow-up. Even the hottest of leads go cold. Worse – they go to competitors. If you are not prepared to follow up, please don’t invest the dollars to generate the leads.

Not only are you helping your competitors, you are damaging your own brand. You want to have a reputation for professional, prompt service, not the reverse. Ignoring leads sends a clear message to your prospect.

Even cool leads can be nurtured and developed into qualified, warm leads with a little time and attention. Have a plan for following up every lead and stick to it.

5. Quality Over Quantity

When designing your marketing plans, aim for leads that have a good possibility of conversion to sales. The more you can qualify the lead, the better your return on investment.

We have seen firms hold draws for valuable prizes, adding those names to the database and considering them leads. They did not sign up for more information on your product – they just wanted a chance to win the prize. Measure your marketing success on conversions, not on quantity of leads. Put a premium on quality, not quantity.

If you consistently question everything about your marketing, expect every dollar invested to create a specific, measurable return, and learn to Hunt AND Be Hunted™, you can actually reduce your costs and increase your business.

3 Online Lead Killers

In PPC, Strategy on August 20, 2009 at 3:23 pm

“Sometimes when you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s hard to remember the original objective was to drain the swamp”. This applies to eMarketing Management as well.

The objective is not to get someone to click on something, or to capture another email address. That’s not a lead. When we trick them into giving us their email address, any further communication is at best SPAM Light. Our objective is to convert visitors into customers. Remember, we are doing all this work to increase sales. We must be sure that everything is relevant to the statement they clicked on.

So we must optimize our Sequence of Thoughts, not a landing page. Our landing page should always try to find the money.

When generating our great ideas and clever solutions, we must continually check our thinking against The 3 Lead Killers. This means we must always make our choices from our visitor’s point of view. The 3 things they are thinking about when they land on our landing page are:

1)  Where Am I? – if our visitor is looking for X, they are likely on a bit of a mission. It’s not really complex – they are looking for X. How we know that for sure, is they found us when they were looking for X. So if our landing page does not deliver on the promise we made to get them to click, they will likely bounce. We should just give them X on the landing page. We don’t have to give them the whole book, just the first paragraph. Info that is so good, they will want more.

2)  What Can I Do Here? – we have to make it clear and make it obvious what we want them to do next. Keep it simple. Make it clear.

3)  Why Should I Do It? – all 3 of these rules are lead-killers, but this one is the one we see broken most often. People only take action if there is a clear benefit. They arrived at where they are because we said something that made them think we have a solution to their problem. Ideally we should give them something that educates or informs, bringing them closer to that solution. The rules of engagement are simple – you value something from me (even my email address), give me something I value (more valuable information about why I visited you in the first place).

So much of this comes back to what we promised in the first place. Our headline and first sentence (all that appears in a Google search line) must perfectly match our landing page content.

Maybe be the best way to manage the 3 Online Lead Killers is to adopt a strict NO SURPRISE policy to your online communications.