A recent post about LinkedIn’s networking power that I placed on Forbes.com struck a nerve in the legal community. My usually small but steady readership leapt up by a factor of five. The trigger? I focused on how hard it is for smaller organizations and solo practitioners to find the time to invest consistently in online networking. Then I gave a short story about an active small-firm lawyers that cemented the learning, which is standard marketing practice. Finally, I offered a value by stepping through how any small businessperson could construct his or her day and evening to take fuller advantage of all that LinkedIn has to offer.
I struggle with the same time constraints other independent practitioners do: Most of my professional time is dedicated to delivering on my value promise to clients. The meagre balance that remains outside of family time (all-important!) does get devoted to my own business development.
So what I shared in the post is applicable to all of us, and I have found that following my own advice (!) has paid dividends just as it has for Mr. Poniatowski (the lawyer I cited in the article.)
So, I recommend this particular Forbes.com post highly, on the recommendation of others!
In my most recent column on Forbes.com, I lamented the tendency of copywriters to bend the rules of grammar in search of “punchiness, pithiness and brevity.” This has led to the writers following rather than leading in protecting the standard of English that is acceptable as proper. The most obvious rule that gets bent or forgotten is the use of adverbs. Example:
“You should shop local” instead of “You should shop locally.”
“Buying direct saves you money” rather than “Buying directly saves you money.”
Much as a teenager might give more credence to the casual English spoken by his or her sports coaches above that of the English teacher (example: “You did good” is far more common on sports fields than “you did well.”), so poor grammar that appears multiple times in marketing materials begins to gain acceptance as “OK.”
In marketing, that can be dangerous for smaller businesses without large media budgets: You never know whether your desired prospect cares about English grammar, and will grade you down if you use casual rather than formal English in your written content (business letters, e-mails, blog posts, direct mailers, ads…). And you can’t spend millions to cement your poor grammar as acceptable.
Why take that risk? Get someone to proofread your written material to check for grammar errors, and correct them.
It only takes a few minutes, and has a lot more upside than downside:
- People who don’t know grammar well will not notice, and not ding you for taking the time to write correctly.
- People who do know grammar will raise and eyebrow and say “Hey, here’s an outfit that appreciates what is important to me.”
You know how hard it is to break through and make a good impression when a prospect is ready to engage with your content. Why risk a bad connection by letting poor grammar slip into your published work?
Click through to the Forbes article for more on this, including stiff rebuke of Hyundai for contributing to the eradication of the adverb from English!
Great movie. Too bad about the ending!
The value of generating links between your site and others still impacts your organic search results (part of a good SEO breakfast). But it takes an enormous amount of time and resources that you may not have, or cannot afford to hire.
Some link-building may still be worth pursuing, however, as it adds value to the reader of your content, and presents you as a more thoughtful content creator.
So I recommend you explore some of the 13 recommended link-building tactics in this column by Robbie Richards, who clearly spend a huge number of hours chasing substantive links for his clients.
By “some” I mean perhaps two. You do not want to overwhelm yourself with tasks and wear yourself out. Our pal Robbie clearly is a high-energy dynamo who doesn’t sleep, and you may not be able to match his pace. So set your own, starting with those tactics that most attract you as interesting activities that will keep your attention and stay on your to-do list.
Set appointments in your calendar with the tactics you choose. And keep those appointments just as if they were appointments will prospective clients (which, in a way, they are)!
You will see that there is a lot of outreach to real opinion/thought leaders in each of the 13 tactics listed. That is the key to creating links that Google and other search engine algorithms will value:
The sites that link to your content share your keyword sets.
Those sites have a lot of other sites linked to them that exhibit similar “real” connections.
Pursue connections with people who have sites that seem to rank highly within your own industry profile.
Bite off only as much as you can safely digest. Add more as each tactic is mastered and bears fruit. Drop tactics that you cannot make work within a few months or so.
Let me know how it all works out!
Now, if you will excuse me, I have to select my own handful of tactics to test.
I focus a lot of client attention on Baby Boomers, because they have the disposible income today, and are still freer spenders than the generations that are succeeding them. If you have a need to make money today, you must focus on those people who have it.
Millennials do not yet have gobs of money to spend, so all the attention paid to them as “the coming thing” is still a bet on the future.
However, it pays to understand the radical differences between generations if you have a product or service that all of them could buy.
So this article by Samantha Sharf on Forbes.com is a useful read, because it nails down what may be an enduring characteristic of Generation Y that anyone selling product over the next decade should keep top-of-mind:
Millennials have been tempered by the Great Recession, and may very well keep that sense of economic “fear” with them all their lives. Whereas Baby Boomers are inveterately optimisitic about the future because their formative years were free of significant economic malaises (Mid-70′s oil shocks being the only significant events), Millennials share with the Greatest Generation the idea that our economic house of cards cannot be entirely trusted.
Millennials are giving indications that they are going to be better savers of money than Baby Boomers, and a bit more risk-averse than Generation X.
This generation will remain less loyal to brands than older generations (partly because there is so much more choice, and information about those choices, instantly available to them through their web of connectivity.)
They will retain a need to have their lives and work tied to a meaningful cause. Intrinsic value of the work being done will matter more to them. Caveat here: Baby Boomers started out with this mindset, too, and it faded as the need to make money and raise families became paramount. So this need for meaninfulness could weaken with Millennials as well.
Ms. Sharf’s article is focused on how to make financial advisory services relevant and accessible to Millennials, who will have wealth to invest sooner in their lives than Baby Boomers did. How can your product or service relate to these emerging Millennial consumer characteristics?
- How does your value proposition help save the world? By this I don’t mean you have to cure cancer of resolve international conflicts, but do you work to save resources, keep carbon out of the air, be a good steward of your environment? Emphasize how you do that in your outreach.
- How practical are you? Why should your brand stay on their radar? What need do you solve for them that proves your worth? Spend less time simply establishing your brand, and relatively more on proving its worth with stories from your actual marketplace.
- How can you help them achieve their balance of social good and personal security? If they are less grandly aspirational than preceeding generations, reflect than sense of future ansgt in your messaging.
Because of their enforced tempering by the Great Recession, Millennials are indeed going to act much more like their grandparents than their parents in the marketplace. This is a characteristic that we all need to track closely as they fully mature into a consumer group with their own resources over the next decade.
I am pleased to annouce that I have been invited to join a fun and productive new venture called Moxie and Pluck, a business consultancy that focuses exclusively on helping smaller businesses grow.
Their motto: Purveyors to the Modest Enterprise
This gives you the sense that this group is interested in the whole health of their client’s business. The focus of our advise and activity is on improving the ability of our clients to perform sales and marketing initiatives, but other partners in the group can provide:
- Legal and business documentation services
- Administrative services
Small enterprises do not need to add employees to grow. They need to add expertise and seasoned hands that can quickly grow revenue and keep costs contained. That means part-time consultancy engagements with folks like Moxie and Pluck can be just the ticket.
And I have the honor of participating with marketing articles on their blog, too.
I very much look forward to seeing how this partnership develops!
I monitor my sons’ activity online, and so I get all the promotional e-mails that come from their accounts. Most of it is harmless (and a lot of it well done!). Some, though, offer me lessons for my own business.
The e-mail I received late last week from World of Tanks took the cake so far for 2014: A Valentine’s Day promotion for online tank battles!
I understand the urge: Businesses work hard to leverage holidays as promotional opportunities. The holiday is top-of-mind with their customers, and they want to hitch a ride on that awareness. But this tie-in makes a (perhaps intentional) joke of the impulse.
I can imagine the strategy discussion in the marketing planning meeting.
- “What holidays are coming up that offer us a neat promotional opportunity?”
- “Well, one of the tanks we have in the game is a Valentine (the British were creative in naming their tanks!). We could riff off of that for Valentines Day.”
- “Excellent! An inside joke that the gamers will get! Let’s cue it up!”
Where was the saner head in the room pointing out the tenuous connection between battlefield mayhem and love?
Here is the explanation that comes with the “Valentanks” promotion (the bolding for emphasis is mine):
“Some of the most important parts of love involve companionship and a deep understanding of one another. We have Happy Valentanks Weekend to celebrate that, and we think it’s done best with the below Crew bonuses and Platoon-themed achievements, the latter having some lovely bonuses for completion. In addition, it wouldn’t be Valentanks without discounts and bonuses on the Valentine vehicles, plus the Matilda. All this and more in this special event!”
And, just to complete the picture, here is the visual:
Not many valentine greetings come with a tank barrel staring you down.
The point is, as a marketer you don’t have to jump on every bandwagon (or halftrack) that rolls by. If there is not a real need to tie in to a particular holiday, do not waste your time and energy creating a promotion that can end up more of a distraction than a help. You may create some amusement, but also some consumer confusion.
I could be wrong about this, of course. It may prove to be one of the most successful holiday promotions World of Tanks has ever run. If someone wants to point out in the comments just what might make that happen, please do!
For over a decade I have been an occasional contributor to Forbes.com. I started as a book reviewer, and made enough of an impression to wheedle my way into a role as a commentator on Small Business Marketing challenges. That ultimately settled into a column the editor dubbed “Marketing Nuts and Bolts.”
My most recent post shared a topline checklist for stress-testing your current marketing mix.
The most popular post I ever wrote remains one about the plusses and minuses of buying ads in printed yellow page books. Written in 2011, it still gets views, so that topic must still resonate with small businesspeople!
I would consider it an honor if you browsed the article list to see if any particular topic could be of value to you in promoting your business. And I love feedback, so if you find anything particularly enlightening, or boneheaded, please leave a comment with your perspective. I never stop learning. I hope you don’t either!
I have been carrying a credit card from CitiBank around in my wallet since 1990, and have lost track of the shifting cardmember values attached to it: It started as an AT&T-branded card that had calling card benefits, and has morphed without me lifting a finger through other iterations to end up as a Citi-branded card with Thank You Rewards attached.
The card has waxed and waned as my primary credit card over two decades, and is currently not stirring much from its slot in my wallet. However, that may change given the new benefit added this year (or at least, noticed by me!)
Exploring a service called “price rewind.”
I do not normally open e-mails from my financial service firms that start like this:
A Personal Message from Citi Cards CEO Jud Linville (Could this be less enticing?)
This time, though, having just received e-mails about security breaches from two other vendors, I felt it in my interest to open this one. They surprised me with a gift rather than a warning, which matched up well with my mantra about e-mails having to be Pinatas rather than Trojan Horses (containing gifts rather than self-promotion, in short.)
- Shop with your Citi Card and register your purchases at citi.com/pricerewind and we will search hundreds of retailers’ web sites for a lower price.
- If the same item is found and the price is at least $25 lower than what you paid within 30 calendar days of your covered purchase, you can be refunded the difference, up to $250 per item.
- We improved the experience and you now have the ability to upload your receipt at anytime making it more convenient to request a refund.
- This year, Citi Price Rewind has refunded customers an average of $80 on qualifying purchases.
All this makes me realize that the service has been around awhile (I do not recall receiving any news about this from Citi before, but I may not have noticed the e-mails – which condemns their past marketing efforts, if any were sent to me!)
And this is pretty neat. I get to buy the item I like at a price I find worthwhile, I register the purchase with this Price Rewind service, and it keeps price shopping for me for 30 more days.
Caveat: I haven’t yet tried this, and the need to manually load up my purchase information into the service is a hurdle I may trip over.
Prediction: I may just try this, which is going to move that old CitiBank card back to the front of the wallet while I do.
And, if they take the next step and put an “add to Price Rewind Register” button next to my purchases in my online account statements, I may become a regular.
We are all in a mad rush to market our goods and services as the Holiday Shopping Season gets revved up. Lost in the shuffle: Veterans Day!
Take the time to honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans any way you can in your business this weekend (or as I say in my recent Forbes article: Make next week Veterans Week.)
You don’t have to remove or delay any of your holiday campaigning, just find spots to inject some Red, White and Blue graphics or materials right in the center for the next few days. You also don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Use all the stuff you put in storage (digital or physical) for other patriotic holidays.
I recommend some tangible value for the veterans with whom you may work: Special deals just for them, such as a 20% discount for the week, or a gift-with-purchase (make it really valuable, please!)
Add your greeting and Veterans’ specials to your upcoming e-mails and social media posts, and ask your audience to share what you post with their friends and family members who may be veterans.
You know what to do. Just go out and do it! It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated. The gesture is the thing. Never forget! Always remember!
I, personally, will be calling all the veterans in my family this weekend. Make sure you do that, too.
It boggles my mind that any company would still NOT take the time to hone their marketing messages to hit customer pain points and priorities. Yet a recent bit of research and calculation by the management consultancy McKinsey has found that B2B companies (at least the larger ones) are still talking about themselves more than they are listening to their customers.
If their algorithms were properly constructed, they found a complete disconnection between what sort of product or corporate position the selling entity found critical to emphasize, and the messaging that the buying entity wanted to hear.
Take a look at how uncorrelated the two parties are on what they want to say/hear:
Clearly some of these attributes, such as “promoting and practicing sustainability” and “promoting diversity” have broader objectives for the B2B firm than just building relationships with prospects. But the fact that six prominent messaging priorities for B2B firms have no resonance with their key prospects cries out for a reassessment before shareholders begin to notice and call into question the priorities of senior management.
And the mismatch between the buyer who places a high value on “honest, open communication” is not hearing that from its prospective vendors. In that one point lies a big potential source of competitive advantage for any B2B firm that puts resources behind that particular bit of positioning!
It is also quite informative that the prospects don’t put a lot of emphasis on “global reach” and “shapes the direction of the market.” Perhaps this isn’t surprising, given that their main concern focuses on whether the specific product or service solves their problem. They don’t really care about the overall success of the firm from which they plan to buy stuff.
It is also interesting to see that “low prices” are less of a factor for the buyer than you might think. Price is clearly always a factor in deciding between sources for solutions, but the factors at the top of the chart clearly are where a company needs to focus its message!
Great guidance for content creators and copywriters around the world!