Archive for the ‘Online Marketing’ Category

Marketing is Your Organization’s Future – Invest In It!

I found a recent LinkedIn post with the provocative theme that the “marketing department as a separate department is going to vanish.”

Hmm. The people participating in the comment section of the discussion certainly took the position that this was short-sighted and wrong-headed. But all the people commenting were in the marketing profession, so you could say they were biased.

Marketing is the Future. Neglect it at your Peril.

Still, marketing as a function will never disappear, because companies need customers, and the process through which you find and engage with them is called “Marketing.”

You can argue about the details of marketing programming shifting, and the need for better analytics to better focus marketing investments on programming that actually produces business, but some eternal truths will never change:

  • Marketing is the only part of an organization that is focused on the future: Where will we get business next year? No one else in the company asks this question, or is actively working on it.
  • Marketing represents the customer (however defined) within the organization. It keeps track of changing customer needs, it investigates how your current products or services are meeting those needs. It drives innovation to meet needs that are not being met.
  • Marketing works to ensure that when a prospective customer raises his or her hand and says “I am ready to buy” your value proposition pops up. Great SEO and SEM, brand awareness and testimonials as endorsements to move the buyer in your direction. All this has to be thought about and set up well ahead of the hand-raise!

Who else in the organization is tasked with doing all of this? You cannot succeed in business without marketing, so how could anyone say that the Marketing Department is old-fashioned and fading away?

This graphic from Marshallstanton.com outlines current marketing responsibilities

This graphic from Marshallstanton.com outlines current marketing responsibilities.

What do you think? Is marketing simple enough that its tasks can be parceled out between operations, sales and non-marketing executives?

 

Showrooming Mushrooming – But the News is not All Bad for Bricks and Mortar

In my previous post, I went on about how bricks-and-mortar merchants need to prepare for a future where customers in their store are shopping their products and prices while standing in the aisle (“showrooming”).

Now here comes evidence from ClickIQ that the businesses that are losing business from showroomers (about 24% of the people who use their phones to compare prices), may be picking up some compensating business from people showrooming in their competitors!

This does not detract from the gain Amazon is getting from the massive spread of smartphones: The study found that about half of the people who chose to complete their purchase online placed the order with Amazon.

ClickIQ Showrooming Study ResultsMarketingcharts.com actually had a better write-up than ClickIQ’s press release, and they had this nifty graphic, too.

Most Shoppers Buy Where They Stand – Some good news for off-line retailers.

As you can see from the 24% figure above, a solid 76% bought from the store in which they were standing:

“The ClickIQ study does show that most of the in-store shoppers ended up buying at the retailer where they were shopping, (although) only a few used a retailer’s online site,” noted ClickIQ in their press release.

Here is another insight from the study that could better arm the bricks-and-mortar store owners: “Among the 24% of respondents who ended up buying online, a slight majority said they did not pay sales tax, with 65% of those saying that had some influence on their purchase decision.” (my bolding)

This is actionable data: How easy is it to run “pay the sales tax” promotions in-store? They could even be delivered by mobile phone for those who are opted in to your mobile community.

The bottom line here is that all is not lost: If the retailer in which the surfing shopper is standing can engage with them meaningfully, they have a great chance of capturing the business.

What is your shopping behavior in the age of the smartphone? Do you actively browse options when standing in aisles? What price points drive you to invest the time doing so?

 

Showrooming is a Fact: How to Turn it to Your Advantage?

New data released this week and posted on marketingcharts.com confirms once again that retailers need to actively work on combating showrooming. As smartphones get ever more ubiquitous, using them to check out product reviews and competitive pricing while standing in a store aisle will become par-for-the-course consumer behavior.

How do you as a small businessperson fight against the online retailers like Amazon, who can price aggressively because they take a pass on brick-and-mortar locations? Here are a few ways to think about the challenge of closing the deal with a showrooming customers standing in your store:

Showrooming impacts Retailers

Some retailers are more susceptible to showrooming that others.

Engage with them: Have sales reps be alert for shoppers working their phones. If the shopper is not typing aggressively (texting) or talking (on the phone), offer to help.

Keep your prices close to online retailers: You have the advantage of being able to satisfy the “get it now” urge. No one buying from your store has to wait days or a week for UPS or FedEx to show up with the goods. Plus, your price does not have to be just as low as online, thanks to the time savings (and perhaps even shipping cost savings.)

Offer deals: Instant savings on purchases made that day, by total or by item. Have a coupon dispenser in aisles where you suspect most showrooming occurs.

Offer deals in exchange for signing up for your digital marketing program: Offer a great deal (again using coupons in the aisle) if they sign on for either e-mail or mobile marketing.

Study aisle behavior: You have security cameras trained on all areas of your store. You can use that record to track in-aisle behavior to get anecdotal evidence for which products areas are showroomed most often. Those aisles become your priority for anti-showrooming initiatives! (Disclaimer: You are not tracking specific people using in-store cameras. Read this for a good pro-and-con summary of collecting marketing data using surveillance cameras. )

Promote your easy and no-questions-asked return policies: Nothing beats making a purchase easier than knowing you can reverse the decision easily, too. Try returning an online purchase to see what your advantage is!

Wailing, rending your garments and bemoaning the impact of technology on your business are not options, or at least are not where you should stop: Get cracking figuring out how to make your store the best place to complete a purchase, even when the person in the aisle has the whole internet at their fingertips.

Copyright Infringement is Serious Business – Don’t Do It. Period.

[Programming note: I wrote about this topic just a bit ago, but recent client discoveries motivate me to do so again!]

With the huge demand for fresh, relevant interesting content the key SEO success factor in 2013, the temptation to “re-purpose” the content of others gets quite tempting. The advantages are obvious:

  • You get to choose really good stuff that is well-written
  • You don’t have to spend your precious time creating it yourself

This is especially true with images, which we all use to add visual appeal to our online content, but is still also true with written material. (An online search found an in-depth article about the whole issue, and after snooping around for something pithier, a nice article on LegalZoom.com that focuses on good standard advice to follow.)

Here’s the problem:

  • It’s unethical
  • You can be caught, which increasingly has a fiscal downside

By ‘caught’ I don’t mean by the owner of the original content. I mean by Google, who has decided to make serial copyright infringement (as defined by them) a negative score as part of their ranking algorithm. And by image owners like Getty, which trawls the web looking for unauthorized uses of its images, and sends $600 invoices to those it finds!

So, if you currently re-purpose content, change your ways:

  • Buy images or source them from a site that clearly gives them away for free. Never borrow an image from another site, or use Google’s image search function as your direct source.
  • Write your own articles. Even when you base your article on another person’s article, you must clearly label the parts you used from the other person’s work.
  • Use full quotes with attribution, and a link to the source wherever possible.
  • If you paraphrase, say so, and attribute ideas that you share to the idea owner.
  • Add to the conversation by giving your opinion of their idea. Find ways to disagree with the original author (they got this part right, but not that part. They glossed over this very important caveat, etc.)

I bet, if you are currently generously borrowing content, you don’t have a solid content strategy in place anyway. A good content strategy that clearly defines your value propositions and supporting point leads easily to a keyword/phrase strategy. This underpins your writing assignments for blogging or other social media initiatives, by driving the creation of a good content calendar.

  • If you cannot write well, hire a writer. Good content drives inbound marketing leads, so invest in the proper resources:
  • If you write decently, but don’t have the time to organize a content calendar, hire a research and editor to keep you moving forward.

You get the idea. Resist the temptation to short-cut the creative process by using other people’s creations. It is really going to dent your SEO campaigning now that Google is emphasizing infringement issues as a ranking factor.

 

Facebook Graph Search: Not Quite Ready For Prime Time!

From my Forbes blog, a short take on the true news behind Facebook’s ballyhooed announcement about their efforts to upgrade their internal search functionality:

Click the logo to open my Forbes blog page. And follow me there: Find the "follow" button at the top. Thanks!

Click the logo to open my Forbes blog page. And follow me there: Find the “follow” button at the top. Thanks!

The BIG NEWS in online marketing circles this week has beenFacebook‘s introduction of their Graph Search service. It is still in “beta testing, “ which means it is not fully available; they are still refining the underlying code and winkling out the bugs. Down the road, you will want to know more about Facebook Graph Search. Even then, for most businesses my advice may stay the same:

If you want to make Facebook an effective source of business, invest the time to keep your Facebook page active, interesting and well-liked.

Period. You may now tune out all the furor amongst marketing tradesters about the intriguing subplots that may or may not be underlying this Graph Search introduction.

Read more on Forbes.com.

 

Repurposing Content: OK to Do – But Do It Rightly!

Content marketing has become the foundation of lead generation, as inbound marketing has proven its worth as a lead-generation tool and is grabbing a bigger share of marketing budgets and personnel time.

Not surprisingly, generating good content consistently has become the biggest burden for inbound marketers. To keep it flowing, the temptation inevitably creeps in to “repurpose” content that someone else created that seems relevant to your mission or value proposition. This saves time and energy! And lots of people do it…

Sharing values the creator, and you, if you share properly.

It is OK to borrow stuff, but do it respectfully. This keeps your nose clean, protects your image, and helps out the person who actually did all the work. I use ezinearticles as a publisher on behalf of a client, and their editors have a handy list of cautions that you should review regularly to keep you on the right side of the law:

Paper Airplane

Image Source: ezinearticles.com

Top 7 Repurposing Content SNAFUs to Avoid

I use two definitions of “re-purpose” with clients, because the second requires considerable cautionary attention:

  1. Take an article that you wrote for a newsletter, and also post it on your blog. Convert that article into an e-book for posting on slideshare.com or other sharing services. Or do the reverse of each of these. Moving your own creative content around to hit multiple mediums is completely OK, and highly encouraged. It maximizes the value of each bit of content you create.
  2. Take content someone else created, and use it as a foundation to create your own content.

The second approach is allowable, and useful, if:

  • You attribute the source of the original content, with a link to it.
  • You surround their work with your own take on the original content.
    • Explain why you found it useful or insightful.
    • Add your own thoughts or examples that support your opinion.
    • Disagree with aspects of the original content.

In effect, if you are going to “borrow” content from some other source, it has to be a starting point from which you share your own expertise, in your own words. Never pass off another writer’s work as yours if you want inbound marketing to work for you long-term.

Content marketing is a real boon to smaller businesses who cannot hope to compete on budget with larger competitors. It offers a small businessperson a real chance to present his or her own expertise and personality, and connect with prospects in meaningful ways.

Just don’t steal stuff from other people to save time. Dedicate the energy to do it correctly, create your own online presence and personality, and the benefits (leads!) will flow that justify such a big investment of time.

 

Holiday Marketing – Sprint to the Finish!

Christmas Shopping Cart

Help your customers finish the gift-buying chore with less stress and more joy!

I am pleased to share a link to my most recent Forbes.com article, which offers brainstorming advice on how a small-business person should make the most of the remaining days of the holiday season. Here’s why:

As of Dec. 12, Rasmussen Reports released these two data points:

  • 32% of Americans have not yet begun to shop for Christmas/Holiday gifts.
  • 64% have started, but two-thirds of those have not finished.

Upshot: Two-thirds of your customers are still out there shopping!

Get creative with your holiday deal-making and get your messages and promotions in front of them! Digital marketing makes last-minute marketing easy and effective.

Click here for some ideas. Then go out and make some holiday noise in your marketplace!

 

Vertical Response Plays a Game With Social Media Offer – Unnecessarily

I have been using Vertical Response recently on behalf of a couple of clients, and have found their e-mail engine as robust as other similar vendors.

During my recent work on the site, I had been solicited multiple times to try their new social media marketing tools. The notable offer was “try it for $9 (half price)”.

Now that I am a client, I also get their promotional e-mails, and I caught VR in a bit of tomfoolery with the offer I received this week:

Here are my issues, as a marketing guy:

  • This isn’t a new offer. It has been presented to me every time I have logged in over the last few weeks, which means this “48-hour deal” is not quite true. It may expire on All Hallow’s Eve, but it has been around for a month.
  • It went to the same audience (current customers) who have probably been seeing the $9 offer elsewhere, so there is a good chance I am not the only recipient who spotted the inconsistency.

This was avoidable, with just a bit of deeper thought:

  • It doesn’t cheapen the offer to refer to its true age and looming expiration date.
  • Make it newsworthy by extending the offer to honor the Giants’ win and Sandoval’s MVP award.

Finally, I have to address the e-mail’s subject line:

“Save Like a MVP – Use Code GIANTS48″

Given that people read as they speak, I would have used “an MVP” rather than “a MVP.” The latter is technically correct, but is more jarring to read, and does not match speech patterns! A small thing, but a detail that could leave a poor impression.

For more detailed thoughts on crafting great e-mail subject lines, click here to view a Forbes column on the subject.

What do you think? Am I being too picky here?

Quantity Does Rule in the Content Wars – HubSpot

HubSpot Benchmarks 7000When exploring content marketing with clients, I always stress quality as a starting point: You have to be relevant and interesting to the reader if you want to engage them.

That said, one great article gets you nowhere. Lots of great content (however defined) is what get you attention online. And one of the leading “inbound marketing” vendors has just released a batch of data that gives you an idea about just how big that quantity has to be.

Be interesting over and over again to attract opted-in leads

HubSpot has aggregated the results of the 7,000 businesses that use its analytics software, and present strong evidence about how frequency does make a big difference in getting content marketing (they call it “inbound marketing”) to generate leads. This isn’t surprising, but the actual quantities are. Check these out:

  • Websites with less than 50 pages got a lot less traffic than larger sites, especially those over 1,000 pages in size. Such large sites got close to 10x the traffic of a 50-page site.
  • The large-site advantage was more pronounced for small companies, perhaps because building such a large site was probably a big percentage of their total marketing budget.
  • B2C companies had more to gain from creating large batches of website page than B2B companies.
  • Inbound leads rose significantly once 200 pages were amassed, and dramatically once 400 were passed.
  • Regular use of landing pages (which count towards total pages, I assume) really start to have a positive impact on lead generation once their inventory reaches and passes 20, with a huge jump for B2B over 40. Worth dedicating time to having a fresh landing page for each online campaign!
  • Blogging seems to have steady incremental value, with two or more each week a real goal to achieve to convert visitors to leads. (Larger companies seem to get more bang for their buck out of active blogging, unfortunately.)
  • Facebook pages with over 1,000 likes perform significantly better than company pages with under 1,000. That’s a clear goal to shoot for!

Look the material over yourself, but the message is clear. You need to dedicate your organization to creating lots of great content consistently over time if you want to make inbound content marketing work.

 

SEO Taken from Agencies and Handed to Clients – More Work for Us!

As search engines continue to refine their game, their goal (especially Google’s) is becoming quite clear: Get the SEO manipulators out of the game, and put the focus as close to 100% on relevance and quality of CONTENT as possible.

FastCompany LogoA recent article in Fast Company about Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm releases captures the dramatic shift in responsibility for search engine optimization (SEO) back to clients from agencies. Why? Because the search engine owners like Google and Bing are obessed with having actual online CONTENT drive search results for people surfing the web rather than just page structure and keyword tactics.

Less trickery, more content

Ostensibly, creating great content has been the goal of marketers all along, but up to today specialists who studied the way Google, Bing, Yahoo and others produced results could experiment with key words and phrases, and structure pages around a “keyword strategy” to drive their client’s web pages up the rankings to the “Holy Grail of Page One”.

Google in particular doesn’t like being gamed, however, and continually makes it harder to achieve Page One without actually creating fresh, relevant, useful content to engage the site/page visitor.

I post occasional articles for clients on a content publisher called ezinearticles.com, and I remember the reduction in page views for articles posted when Panda went live last year. All such online content publishers had to explain what was going on, and make the case that fewer page views did not mean fewer quality leads. (The hope was that Google’s upgrade actually reduced less interested click-throughs more than quality ones.)

The bottom line: The content you create is more critical than ever.

  • You need a content strategy that keep you focused on those core product or service messages that best promote your value proposition.
  • You need to create a steady stream of this content to stay fresh and relevant to search engines.
  • It has to have immediate informational value for the reader even if they do not click through the content to your site.
  • You must weave social media into your distribution strategy for this excellent content so that it arrives in front of the people you want to engage regularly.

There are fewer easy fixes in SEO anymore. It is the hard work of creating and distributing great content that will consistently drive your online sites and pages to the first page of search engine results.

Caveats:

  • You still need a keyword/phrase strategy, because you need to track and analyze the search terms online searchers are using to find what they seek.
  • Your content still needs to reflect those themes.
  • However, search engines are a lot better at grading your page not just on the keyphrases you include in the copy, but the value of the information the entire page contains, and how the visitor interacts with that page (length of visit, clickthroughs from the page, etc.)

Fast Company Article Link:

http://www.fastcompany.com/3000283/seo-isnt-what-you-think-it