Uncategorized

Capitalizing on Now-Even-More-Effective Free Advertising From Google

I considered titling this piece, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Recent Google Nonprofit Ad Grant Changes”, but ultimately, I believe the revisions will cause non-profit Grant recipients to achieve better ad campaign results. So, really, it’s all good.

If you’re not familiar with the Grant Program, whether you’re responsible for creating awareness or causing service use among populations you serve – or for growing donations or volunteers – you may be missing out on a free, extremely-effective means of accomplishing these objectives. Incredibly, Google awards non-profit organizations world-wide, who meet its eligibility requirements, with $120,000 in FREE annual Google Adwords “search” advertising. And, the advertising Grant is indefinite and simply requires recipients to complete an annual survey.

Based on my own and other marketing experts’ experiences, Grants ARE being regularly awarded to eligible non-profits who follow the slightly complex application procedures – Grants aren’t unicorns or pipedreams! You can learn more about minimum eligibility requirements at https://www.google.com/grants/.

The type of advertising awarded is “text” vs. “image.”  Ads appear at the top or bottom of Google search engine results pages when an individual enters terms relevant to a non-profit’s services and mission in the search engine. In the case below, ads are being presented to searchers entering terms such as “help coping with sudden illness.”

Ad Grants sample ad

HOW YOU’LL BENEFIT FROM 2018 PROGRAM CHANGES

While the $ amount associated with the annual advertising budget awarded remains the same, Google made a significant policy change to make 2018 Grants more valuable. With Google AdWords, advertisers bid against each other to have their text ads shown for terms they believe their audiences will be searching on, known as “keywords.” Grant recipients used to be restricted by how much they could bid to have their ads shown for desirable keywords, which often meant that for-profit or non-profit organizations with deeper financial pockets had their ads shown far more frequently than Grant recipients’. The great news is that the cap has been removed related to how much a non-profit can bid, using their free advertising $ pool.

WHY YOU’LL NEED AN IN-HOUSE OR EXTERNAL ADWORDS EXPERT

While Google has made it easier for non-profits to have their ads shown more often to appropriate “searchers”, to take advantage of this opportunity, Grant recipients now must:

  • Achieve a minimum of a 5% click-thru rate on their ads, i.e., at least 5% of the individuals to whom a Grant recipient presents ads must click on the ad to land on the recipient’s website.
  • Use more advanced AdWords features and results tracking, such as “site links” (links that appear below ad copy that reference and point to unique Grant recipient website pages) and conversion tracking that tallies when desired outcomes, such as clicking on a certain link within a page, occurs.
  • Complete additional Grant application steps, such as registering with TechSoup.

Awardees must have a staff member or engage a marketing consultant who:

  • knows the “ins and outs” of Google AdWords and how to employ and optimize advanced features and tracking
  • can both interpret the Grant application process and has the capacity to deal with some of the hiccups that will likely occur

As alluded to in my intro, despite recent Grant changes, I believe using expert staff or consultant time to apply for and maintain a Grant will still render a very positive ROI. Given that ad click-thru costs often range from $0.30 – $5.00, a $120,000 budget goes a long way toward creating awareness or causing other desired outcomes such as service use, and event ticket sales. Thus, ongoing, annual financial benefits should far outweigh the costs associated with obtaining and effectively employing a Grant.

integrated marketing, landing pages, online advertising, User experience, website

Ensuring a Smooth Landing for Ad and Link Clickers

aircraft-holiday-sun-tourism-104826.jpeg

A “landing page” is simply the Web site page that ad and link viewers arrive at when they they click on an ad or link presented to them. A leader at a former corporate marketing job of mine used to say, “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them.” This provides a good framework for thinking about the content and/or images that should reside on your landing page. Clickers expect to land on a page that is relevant to the content and/or images found in the ad on which they clicked or to the content that introduced a link you shared.

In keeping with the above, whether the advertiser’s objective for sharing a link or presenting an ad is to cause a sale or other desired action, or to simply create awareness of their organization or products and services among prospective customers/target audiences, it’s critical that the advertiser provide a cohesive, effective, thoughtful experience to link and ad clickers by:

  • ensuring that the Web site page on which a clicker lands contains information about the specific product, service, or topic promoted in an ad or link
  • repeating on the landing page verbiage used in an ad or in introducing a link
  • if images and branding elements such as specific colors, designs, and logos are included in an ad or link introduction, including them on the landing page as well
  • if clickers land on a Web site page from what’s known as a “search” ad, i.e., an ad that was presented to them because they entered search terms relevant to the advertiser’s product or service in a search engine, such as Google or Bing, employing those identical search terms or synonymous ones in landing page content
  • not “bait and switching” or surprising ad or link clickers. There’s no easier or better way to create ill will among prospective customers/your target audience than promoting “red wool coats” and then presenting them with information on “green rubber boots.” It’s deceptive marketing and, even if search engine advertising vehicles will approve such a misleading, non-cohesive set up with your ads and landing pages, the advertising platforms will surely ding you by charging you more to have your ads presented and by presenting your ads far less frequently than your competitors for relevant search terms. Search engines who offer advertising want to present searchers with the best possible match for their search terms. They don’t want to tarnish their own reputation.
  • creating landing pages that are clean, concise and not too busy. Ideally, landing pages would be dedicated to the product, service, or topic promoted in the ad or link and not contain information on other products, services, or topics. However, if an advertiser has time and budget constraints related to creating a focused landing page for a promotion, at a minimum, the landing page should be uncluttered enough for the ad or link clicker to easily identify the information promised via the ad or link-accompanying content — therefore, readily find what he is she was looking for.
  • making “calls-to-action” highly visible and obvious. If an advertiser’s objective behind an ad or link promotion is to cause the clicker to take a desired action on their site, whether it be purchasing a product, signing up for an e-newsletter, or completing an inquiry form, then buttons or text that call out how and where to take those desired actions should contain clear direction and be prominent.

We loved to hear what else you think makes for a smooth landing for clickers, so please do share! And, we always welcome a discussion with you about your Web site landing page challenges and opportunities.

 

good will creation, public relations, social media

Top 3 Reasons You Should Consider Outsourcing Your Organization’s Social Media Presence in 2018

I’m sure most individuals’ immediate reaction to reading this post will be, “of course, Gail’s recommending that organizations outsource their social media presence since that’s part of the digital marketing services she offers.” But, as someone who has pledged to never encourage prospective or existing clients to invest time and energy in marketing activities that don’t make sense for them — economic, business, sales, or logistical — I do believe, per the reasons outlined below, that there is great value to many organizations in outsourcing their social media presence to a contractor/freelancer or small marketing agency/consultancy, such as mine.

  • Top Reason #1: Priceless General & Local Social Media Landscape KnowledgeContractors or agencies who have been serving as the social media voice for their own and client organizations for any length of time get to know the following:
    • what hashtags (#s) are used by your peers, competitors, and target audiences, so they can naturally include those #’s in your posts to ensure they are easily found and read by appropriate audiences
    • subject matter experts (SMEs) for the services and products you offer, so they can capitalize on SME content for your social media posting/sharing
    • who you should follow in your particular marketplace. If you hire a local contractor/agency, they should know what community/civic, business, and other organizations to follow, particularly, ones that will provide a good source of social media content for or create goodwill for you
    • what topics are trending on a daily, weekly or monthly basis on which your organization might capitalize
    • best overall practices related to social media use and voice, regardless of an organization’s physical location
  • Top Reason #2: Cost Savings – To have an effective social media presence, an organization should be posting/sharing its own and other appropriate organizations’ information very regularly. Because of wanting and needing to make sure that any and all information-sharing that occurs on behalf of your organization is thoughtful, appropriate, and relevant, this will likely require the time-consuming involvement of a more senior leader/manager at your organization. But, does it really make sense to have a high-salaried individual spending so many of their working hours and associated paycheck on a task you likely could outsource to an individual or agency who knows the ins, outs, benefits, and pitfalls of social media? Outsourcing your social media is a cost-effective way to protect your organization from any liabilities that could occur while also optimizing awareness of your organization among prospective customers and their opinions of you.
  • Top Reason #3: Client Synergies – When and where appropriate, a contractor or marketing agency who serves as the social media “voice” for several or many organizations of all shapes and sizes can tweet, post, retweet, and share one client’s social media posts via another client’s presence. Let’s say the marketing contractor or agency has one client who offers services to small businesses, and a second client who offers non-competing, different services to small businesses. Often, the target audiences of both clients would be interested in the information shared by both, so why not let a contractor or agency capitalize on that scenario on your organization’s behalf?

Wondering if outsourcing your social media presence makes sense for your organization? We’re glad to have a complimentary, open, and honest discussion with you about your particular organization’s social media situation to help you determine if social media outsourcing makes sense for you in 2018.

brand promise, good will creation, Memorability, staying current, traditional marketing, Understanding Your Environment

LL Bean: A Role Model For Delivering the Right Message at The Right Time

I’ve shared my thoughts briefly about this on social media, but promised myself and others that, once time permitted, I would elaborate on the reasoning behind my belief that LL Bean’s current advertising is some of the best I’ve seen from a big brand in a long time. Being based in Massachusetts and aware that an LL Bean representative recently spoke at a Boston business event, I knew I could easily snag information about this well-known advertiser’s reasoning and objectives behind their new campaign. But, I chose to avoid reading others’ thoughts, including those of the brand itself, so that I could share what is one marketing consultant’s reaction and pure joy related to LL Bean’s recent advertising — both their “Outsider” and “Holiday” ads.

As alluded to in my blog title, it’s been a year, or a series of years, really, where individuals,  discouraged by difficult world and local events and on sensory overload from hand-held and desktop devices, want and need simple, positive things to feel happy about. And, what’s more simple than Mother Nature and the Great Outdoors? LL Bean ads remind viewers about the remarkable, free gift we have at our fingertips all year-long, including the holidays, and how easy it is to access that gift. I never, ever tire of hearing the following two lines from LL Bean’s “Outsider” ads — “Because on the Inside, We’re All Outsiders”, and “If It’s Outside, We’re All In.” Every time I hear them, they make me smile, remind me of the wonderful treasure we all have waiting for us outside our front doors, and how I’m my happiest when I’m in nature. I’m hoping and thinking that the ads resonate as strongly with most individuals.

Sure, maybe we shouldn’t need reminders that we all have easy access to this entry-fee-free adventure and should be taking advantage of the euphoria nature provides. But, I believe the high-tech nature and pace of first-world life has caused us all to lose sight of this incredible endowment. So, bravo to LL Bean for recognizing that folks are yearning to find peace and happiness in simple pleasures and capitalizing on that to sell their products! By creating messaging and images that remind us to celebrate and enjoy the simple pleasures of the outdoors, and to be true to our “outsider” natures, LL Bean may be improving their bottom line. But, they are also giving us a great gift at a time when many of us could really use one.

landing pages, online advertising, SEO

Why Paid Search Advertising Isn’t For Everyone

Over the past 3.5 years, we’ve helped a number of clients, in a variety of industries, of various profit status, and of different sizes, develop, launch, and analyze online advertising campaigns. The objectives of these clients were also quite diverse. Some simply wanted to create awareness of a new brand, product, or product line. Others, wanted to generate what’s known in the online advertising world as “conversions.” Conversions occur when an individual who is presented with an online ad, clicks on the ad, lands on the advertiser’s web site and then takes a desired action such as making a purchase or donation, signing up for a newsletter, or completing and submitting a contact or inquiry form.

Regardless of an advertiser’s campaign objectives, one of the very first questions that needs to be answered when laying out plans for a campaign and deciding what advertising vehicles to use is, “at the time my campaign launches, will my target audiences be actively searching (via a search engine query) for information related to my product or service?” For example, if a non-profit organization wants to sell tickets to a holiday fundraising event, but doesn’t believe individuals residing in the right geography and who have interests related to the nature of event are aware of the event or would be searching for information on it, then a paid search campaign — a campaign where you pay to have your ad presented to searchers entering appropriate terms into a search engine — to generate event ticket sales is unlikely to be effective or a good use of marketing/promotional $$$.

The same theory described above applies to promoting a product or service that is brand new — not just to the advertiser’s own product and service line-up, we mean one that neither the advertiser nor a competitor has offered in the past. If a product or service is a new offering for an advertiser, but a competitor has offered a similar product or service in the past, then likely the advertiser’s target audience is aware of the product or service and will be searching on it via a search engine like Google or Bing. But, if a product or service has never been available to the desired target audience before from either the advertiser or the advertiser’s competitors, a paid search campaign shouldn’t be expected to yield strong results. In this case, a “display” campaign where you get your ad in front of audiences who are either reading online content related to your product or service, have interests related to your product or service, or who visit Web sites that are relevant to your product or service, makes a lot more sense.

image of text ads

A caveat to the above thinking about paid search being an appropriate means of advertising a product or service that has been available to target audiences in the past because of an advertiser or a competitor of the advertiser offering it, is the following. Particularly with B2B products and services — those sold by one business to another business — the choice regarding from whom to buy products and services is often based on existing relationships and professional networks/networking. CEOs, CFOS, CIOs, and other corporate senior management, as well as small business owners, looking to engage other businesses for products and services may simply look to their existing professional relationships, or reach out to their professional network for referrals. Therefore, before launching a paid search campaign, the advertiser should also give thought to whether or not they think their target audience would be looking to identify a vendor for their particular product or service via a search engine query, or if sales are more likely to be relationship-driven.

Advertisers should also be cautious about running paid search campaigns just because they see their competitors doing so. Unfortunately, there is no way to know if a competitor’s paid search ads are generating good results for them. They may be running ads and their sales results may simultaneously be impressive, but there could be one or several other marketing activities responsible for generating sales vs. paid search generating them.

If you’ve read our other blog or social media posts related to the topics of paid search and online advertising, in general, you know that we believe that paid search is an excellent opportunity to get in front of target audiences who are actively searching for relevant product or service information. And, we love the fact that advertisers only pay for advertising when individuals click on their ad and end up on their Web site vs. paying for ad “impressions” each time their ad is shown. Plus, certainly, paid search can improve where an advertiser falls in the list of search results presented by a search engine in response to an appropriate search query.  Nonetheless, as we’ve outlined above, paid search isn’t for everyone. Banner advertising where you purchase advertising directly from one or several Web sites that your target audience is likely to visit, or display advertising, described above, might be your best online advertising options. We’d welcome helping you decide whether paid search advertising, display advertising, banner advertising, all three of them, or none of them, are the right fit for your marketing campaign objectives, so reach out to us any time for a complimentary discussion.

 

landing pages, online advertising, SEO

Why Keyword Planning Is Key to SEO Success

We’re starting this post with the basics for those who are new to SEO, the acronym for Search Engine Optimization. What SEO really means is developing and implementing effective strategies to ensure your brand and organization appear at the top of search engine results/listings when someone types search terms appropriate to your organization into a search engine, particularly Google.

There are two broad means of ensuring your organization appears above your competitors in search engine results for relevant terms, or at a minimum, appears on the first page of search engine results (let’s face it, many searchers don’t scroll past the first or second page of search engine results, so if your organization doesn’t appear on the first two pages — and ideally the first one — your firm is not well-positioned to create awareness, sales or other conversion activities, such as soliciting donations or newsletter sign-up.) As the below image shows, these two broad means that determine where a listing of your organization appears in search engine results are: 1) where your organization falls organically in the results listing a search engine, like Google or Bing, serves up naturally, based on their complex algorithms, and 2) where any “paid search” advertising appears that you run in hopes of causing your organization/brand to appear at the top of and/or on the first page of search engine results listings.

SEO Equation Detail

Now that the SEO basics/refreshers are behind us, on to the key topic for this post and that is “keywords!” Keywords relate to and influence both organic search engine results ranking and paid search engine results ranking. Keywords are the single words or combination of words you should use in your Web site content and employ in any SEO-related tagging capability available through your Web site Content Management System (CMS). Keywords should be words that your target audience(s) will understand and use when reading about or investigating your product or service. They need to speak your target audience’s language.

As discussed in our “SEO Is Not For Sissies” blog post, while you want to make sure your Web site contains appropriate keywords for cataloging/sweeping/tagging by various search engines, you need to be authentic to be viewed as creditable by both your target audience(s) and search engines. So, be sure not to sprinkle keywords that are irrelevant to the products or services you offer throughout your site or include them on an irrelevant page on your site in a misguided attempt to improve where your organization appears in search engine results for what you believe are desirable keywords. Search engines will recognize an organization who is being disingenuous and “ding you” for such practices. So tell your story truthfully.

The above practice of only employing keywords on your site that are relevant and appropriate to both your organization and the Web site page in-question holds true for any paid search advertising you purchase. When assigning what’s known as a “quality score” to each keyword, paid search advertising providers, such as Google, look at the relevancy between the keyword (aka search terms you want to provoke your advertising/have it presented), your advertising copy, and the content found on the “landing page” to which your ad will take someone who clicks on it. The higher your quality score, the more likely your ad vs. your competitor’s will be presented to an individual searching on appropriate search terms, and the less your advertising will cost you.

One final, but critical reminder about keywords. Keywords can be as short as one word or as long as ten, but regardless of whether they are used to prompt paid search advertising or organic search results via their use on your Web site, they need to be long and descriptive enough to avoid having your site or advertising presented in search engine results to the wrong individuals or in the wrong situation. Let’s say you are selling “Boston Red Sox hats”. Then, an important and the appropriate keyword for use on your Web site or in paid search advertising would be “Boston Red Sox hats” vs. the shorter keyword “Boston hats”. Keywords that are longer in nature are known as long-tail keywords and long-tail keywords ensure that you drive the right target audiences to your Web site via organic and paid search engine results listings.

Results Communications and Research is a Yoast-SEO-certified shop.We’re always here and glad to discuss and help with SEO and keyword planning, so please reach out when you need our expertise.

diverse experience, diverse skills, diversity

An Anniversary Message on The Value of Diversity

This month marks three years since Results Communications and Research, and I as its Principal, hung our marketing & communications and market research shingle. As I mentally reviewed the past several years, I thought about common themes that might capture both the nature of the work we’ve completed for our beloved clients and the type of clients and prospective clients with which we’ve worked. The word that immediately came to mind is “diverse.”

As far as diversity of work goes, we’ve helped clients issue RFPs for Web site design & development and assisted them in selecting vendors; used client content management systems (CMS) – such as WordPress and Hubspot – to revise existing client sites; and launched new Web sites for clients using WIX. We’ve developed, implemented, monitored, and reported on brand new online advertising campaigns, but have also assumed management and optimization of a client’s existing Google AdWords online campaigns. We’ve conducted research of both internal and external audiences, and of a client’s customers, prospective customers, and competitors. We’ve served as our clients’ blog writer and social media voice. And, we’ve developed integrated marketing plans, executed PR campaigns, and assisted with internal communications needs.

Despite detailing above some of the diverse client work with which we’ve been involved, the emphasis of this post is more related to the diversity of our client base. Our clients have been of all shapes and sizes – one-to-three-employee business-service consultancies to organizations with 500+ employees; of all profit statuses – for- and not-for-profit; and from a very diverse set of industries: food, healthcare, financial services, employee benefits, private investigation, non-profits with a local scope and ones with an international scope, higher education, religious denominations, and the list goes on… One of my biggest takeaways from consulting work completed under the Results umbrella and from other consulting roles is this: when developing a marketing plan, there is great value and learning to be had from exposure to and consideration of the marketing challenges and opportunities of leading organizations outside one’s own industry or niche.

From years of working in both corporate and consultant marketing roles, I can attest that it’s a very common practice for organizations to want to or to actually mimic the marketing, and other general business practices, of the one or several competitor organizations they most wish to be like. Often, a key driver of this “mimicking” behavior is the strong tendency and temptation by an organization’s leadership to look for inspiration in the marketing activities employed by competitors in their industry/niche — organizations whom leadership believes is doing the best job of converting prospective customers into sales customers or at causing a desired set of individuals to complete whatever the next desired step is, such as signing up to receive e-mails. This, in turn, frequently causes the individuals who are responsible for developing comprehensive, integrated marketing and communications plans for a new product, new service, or an entire fiscal year to feel pressured to follow in competitors’ footsteps.

ID-100259999 (1)

(Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)

While we do think there is value in reviewing the marketing tactics competitors are using to identify a key lead- or sales-generating vehicle or a marketing activity that might resonate best with one or several of your target audiences – for example, your competition may be employing a Google AdWords Display campaign to create awareness of a product or service that is less-well-known and not actively searched on, or pay-per-click advertising for a product or service on which your target audience(s) regularly enters search engine queries – some of the best marketing ideas and opportunities come from focusing on what other successful, world-class organizations, regardless of industry, are doing from a marketing standpoint. Many of those marketing activities may still be applicable and transferable to your organization. And, yes, even if your organization is a non-profit vs. for-profit one, there’s still great value in considering marketing tactics used by corporate organizations.

What are the implications and practical applications of the above?

  • If you’re in the planning stages for a new fiscal year, or new product or service launch, and have a large enough marketing team with the bandwidth to do so, hold a brainstorming session where each member of your team (and if appropriate, other internal staff who aren’t on the marketing team, but who interact with your customers) bring examples of their favorite brands that DON’T compete for your target audience, but whom they think are doing marketing right and/or differently (and we mean positively different :)).
  • The next time your organization is in hiring mode for permanent or contract marketing staff, interview and hire candidates who HAVE NOT worked in your industry and who can bring an objective, new outlook to your marketing challenges and opportunities. We find marketing skills are very transferable, and good marketers know how to effectively educate themselves quickly on the challenges and opportunities associated with any industry.
  • If you’re a business-owner who wears many hats, including a marketing one, or a one-person marketing team, consider hiring a consultant or marketing agency like ours who has helped a diverse group of organizations meet their sales and awareness objectives, and who can share some best or new marketing practices from other industries and niches that might be applicable to yours.

We’re always up for a non-obligatory, complimentary discussion of your marketing and communications challenges and opportunities. As we begin year four of our marketing consultancy, we look forward to continuing to work with a diverse group of clients on diverse work, and we say “thank you” to all our clients for the opportunities they’ve afforded us to help them achieve their objectives. We also want to thank those prospective clients with whom we’ve held engaging and informative discussions.

 

 

Uncategorized

In Memoriam

Results Communications, and more importantly, I, who had the good fortune of being her sister-in-law for many years, lost a family member, friend, and team member, with the recent passing of Sharon Marie Conlin to that lousy, silent thief known as “cancer.”

For more than 20 years, Sharon was the beloved life partner and partner-in-crime to my eldest brother, Sean. They spent so many great times together, just enjoying the simple things in life. The first time my brother brought her around to my condo in Brookline, I could see why he liked her so much. She was super-intelligent and witty, but had a very simple, nice and quiet demeanor.

thumbnail_sharon_work

Sharon was known and adored for her great wit and intelligence – entertaining family, friends, and co-workers with her low-key humor. For many years, Sharon was employed as a systems analyst at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) where she and Sean met. After retiring from her role at DEC, she and Sean worked together to restore several old New England homes. For the past several years, Sharon worked remotely with me as a Research Associate at Results Communications and Research — contributing greatly to the launch and growth of the firm.

Sharon truly appreciated and enjoyed the “best things in life are free” things that life offered. Favorite pastimes included antiquing, reading, doing crossword puzzles and going out to breakfast any time of the day with friends and family — particularly to Reins Deli in Vernon, CT. Her Catholic faith was very important to her and a great source of comfort to her at the end of her life.

Sharon passed away peacefully at Connecticut Hospice in Brandford, CT, at the age of 63, after a very brief battle with non-smokers non-small-cell-lung cancer (NSCLC). Sharon was a devoted friend and family member and her friends and family will greatly miss her sweet, gentle smile and presence.

In honor of Sharon, and so that her death will not be in vain, I am taking the liberty of sharing information about NSCLC, which has seen a great increase among women in the past decade. Because it often does not reveal its presence until it has created painful metastases in bones, such as the shoulder and hip, in many cases by the time it is found, it is far advanced. If you or a loved one are in doubt about the source of bone or other pain, why not ask your doctor for a CT scan of the lungs?

Because radon is thought to be one possible source of NSCLC, have your home checked for it.

Thanks for all of your great friendship, camaraderie, work, and humor, Sharon! You will always be an important part of my life and Results Communications!

 

 

 

direct mail, traditional marketing

Testing a New, Old Marketing Vehicle in a New Year: Direct Mail

Like all businesses, Results Communications and Research must regularly engage in diverse, but integrated, marketing and business development activities to develop new and grow existing client relationships. Asking for referrals from current or former clients or other business connections — particularly, former co-workers who have witnessed first-hand the quality of our work — far exceeds other activities in generating new work for our marketing consulting firm/agency. Nonetheless, we can’t rely solely on our connections to keep our work plate full. Most organizations can’t. So, what better time than the start of a new year to implement a new marketing campaign that employs and centers around direct mail — a marketing vehicle much less used in the past 10 years, but one that is regaining popularity because of its demonstrated effectiveness.

direct-mail-image

A key reason behind our very recently “dropping” a direct mail piece (in this case, an over-sized postcard) to a targeted list of New England organizations was to witness first-hand how effective at generating inquiries and discussions about our services this “traditional” marketing activity would be in this digital era — when supported by follow-up activities, such as phone calls and e-mails, of course. While our Principal has significant experience with implementing, managing, and analyzing direct mail campaigns from past corporate roles in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, the majority of the prospecting campaigns we’ve run for our own and client businesses in the past few years has had one or a series of e-mail blasts as their focal point vs. a printed piece delivered by U.S. mail.

Other motivators for testing and revisiting the direct mail waters were:

  • We personally welcome receiving “snail mail” vs. e-mail for the following reasons:
    • It’s a nice break from viewing everything on the computer screen for our eyes
    • Holding a sturdy postcard or direct mailer in our hands brings back fond memories of the old and simpler way of doing business
    • We can file this printed piece in a relevant tangible vs. virtual folder and easily retrieve it. Sure, you can file an HTML e-newsletter/e-blast in an appropriate in-box folder, but when it’s particularly busy, most people don’t have the time to do that, and in this fast-pace world, it always seems to be particularly busy.
  • We’ve read/heard that others like to receive snail mail for the same reasons we do.
  • Direct mail won’t get relegated to a spam or junk folder by your intended recipients’ e-mail services’ filtering mechanism.
  • Individuals receive far less postal mail these days, so, unlike e-newsletters and e-blasts, a direct mail piece is not one of a hundred (or much more!) communication pieces received each day competing for attention in the e-mail sea.

direct-mail-backWe look forward to sharing our experience with testing this new, old marketing vehicle with you in 2Q2017! May you have the opportunity to pilot both brand new and old new forms of marketing and development activities in the new year to determine what is most effective in generating new customers and clients for the particular products and services your organization offers.

competitive advantage, keeping up with trends, mission statement, SEO, social media, staying current, Uncategorized

SEO Is Not for Sissies

With the increase in the number of forms of social media and the use, by both consumer and business professionals, of mobile devices to access Web sites, search engine optimization (SEO) has become a more complex task than ever for marketers. Since 90+% of individuals conduct internet searches via Google, and Google regularly changes its algorithm for organically ranking Web sites, individuals charged with keeping their organization’s Web site at the top of search engine listings must regularly take courses, like the Basic SEO course from Yoast that we just completed, as well as read everything they can get their hands on, to ensure they are up-to-speed on optimizing their site for search.

We like how Yoast encourages marketers to take a “holistic approach” to SEO. Marketers need to keep in mind that both “on-site” and “off-site” activities influence results ranking. To help you in your quest to have your site appear before your key competitors in search engine results, and preferably on the first or second pages of listings, we’re sharing some of the less-complex-to-implement and less-technical takeaways from the recent “refresher” we underwent to ensure both our own and our clients’ Web sites are well-positioned for SEO.

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  • Link internally – Google’s “spiders” that search the internet and your site hop from link to link to link to index information and to determine the credibility of your site. Help the spiders take their journey by posting links throughout your site pages to appropriate content on other pages of the site. Share links frequently throughout your site to your most valuable internal content – what you want site visitors to be most aware of/know most about your organization, its services, and mission.
  • Link externally – Share links to relevant external sites via your site, and most importantly, where appropriate, ask those external sites to share a link to your site on their site. This will reinforce the trustworthiness of your site with Google, and help improve both organizations’ rankings.
  • Don’t overthink – Google recognizes when sites are overusing certain “keywords” (phrases or individual words) throughout their site because they are the search terms which they hope or think searchers will use to find their site. Google will actually penalize you if it believes you are trying to “game” them in this fashion, and it will take some time, even after you make adjustments to reduce the overuse of certain terms, for Google to re-index your site. Don’t try to beat Google at its own game.
  • Do tag and title appropriatelyWhile we mentioned above to not overuse “keywords”, you do want to make sure your pages are appropriately titled and tagged with relevant keywords. Just don’t tag a page with certain keywords if your page doesn’t contain content relevant to those keywords. Also, be cognizant to not “over-tag” or “under-tag”.
  • Aim for the best site and user experience – By focusing on having the best Web site possible – one that makes it obvious to visitors what you do and why you do it – and on providing the best user experience (UX), your site should be well-positioned to receive higher search results rankings than competitors. Google wants internet searchers to land on the sites that best meet their needs and provide for the best possible experience. As Yoast shares, just make an “awesome” Web site, one with high-quality writing/content, and good, intuitive site structure and navigation.
  • Be socialBe sure to have a strong presence on social media platforms like Twitter and Google+; while Google can’t “read” a lot of Facebook content, it can read the aforementioned social media sites, and does take your social media presence and content into consideration when indexing and ranking your site.
  • Be responsive – “Responsive” sites respond to the vehicle on which they are being viewed, e.g., desktop, tablet, mobile phone, etc. If your site isn’t “mobile-ready” or “mobile-friendly”, Google isn’t going to rank it high in search results that it presents to a user entering relevant search terms on a mobile phone.
  • Be authentic – In keeping with not “overthinking” and providing the best UX, be real and be honest about who your organization is and the services your offer. While, as mentioned, you want external organizations to link to your site, don’t offer compensation for sites to do so. Google recognizes when the connection between organizations is forced vs. real and natural. In addition, don’t just write for SEO. Tell a good story, get people talking about you, be newsworthy, etc. Write about the things that matter most to you and your customers.
  • Be strong and be well – Regularly review your site to check for and fix “broken” links. “404” error messages that visitors receive when clicking on non-functional links to internal or external content send a red flag to visitors that your organization is not minding their Web site shop and/or doesn’t care enough or have the manpower to regularly make sure any site links still point to appropriate pages. Don’t let something so small and unnecessary as a broken link influence visitors’ first, second or tenth impression of you! In keeping with being viewed as “strong and well”, make sure the speed with which your site loads does not cause visitors to abandon it. If you need to eliminate large images or other media that may be contributing to slow site load, do so. Faster site load is more important to Google and your visitors than a pretty picture.
  • Look outward – As you title and tag pages and content, and even write content, use terminology you believe prospective clients and clients would use and understand. That may differ significantly from the terms and acronyms you use within your organization.

We’ll continue to stay abreast of what’s new and different on the SEO front and provide our thoughts about how to improve your site’s ranking. We’re always welcome and ready for a conversation on immediate and longer-term steps to improve your site’s SEO.