Uncategorized

One Digital Marketing Agency’s Story: Five Years By The Numbers

Since it will be five years next month that Results C & R hung its digital marketing agency shingle, via the launch of this website, I thought it would be a fun and interesting exercise to do a deep dive into the types of clients our organization has served to-date,  as well as the nature of the work we’ve done for them. I mean, we’re always slicing ‘n dicing our clients’ data, why not slice our own?

The graphics below should readily tell our story of the 42 clients we’ve helped (as of the date of this blog post) over the past five years, and how we’ve helped them (with ongoing or one-off/project marketing strategy development or tactic execution work). But, just to preview and reinforce what you’ll see…we’ve served a very diverse group of clients with a very diverse set of digital marketing — and even some traditional marketing — challenges and objectives.

And, while our specialties since the launch of our digital marketing consultancy have been technical SEO; paid SEO (SEM/pay-per-click ads); website revisions, revamps, and launches; and Google Analytics account set-up and data analysis, we enjoy and can help clients with a variety of marketing and market research needs!

Nature of Client Work.png

size of clients

Nature of Client Work

 

fundraising/development, lead generation, Nonprofit Marketing & Communications, Objectives Setting, target audiences

Nonprofit 411: Driving Diverse, Desired Target-Audience Actions With Online Advertising

Check out this blog post we authored for the MA Nonprofit Network about how nonprofit organizations can use online advertising, such as Google Search or Google Display, to drive a diverse set of desired actions (known as conversions) by target-audience members who visit their website.

http://massnonprofitnet.org/blog/nonprofit-411-driving-diverse-desired-target-audience-actions-online-advertising/

 

brand promise, competitive advantage, differentiation, Memorability, sales, taglines, target audiences, Understanding Your Environment

Defining Your Differentiator With Detail

I was prompted to write this post because of recent exercises and discussions in which I engaged related to how an organization differentiates itself from competitors. Earlier in the week, related to an opportunity I was pursuing, I needed to express in writing what makes me and my organization different from (well, really better than) other marketing consultants. I also had a discussion yesterday with a prospective new client — one in the very initial stages of creating a brand/identity — about the importance of calling out in marketing activities, including branding, what made his shop different from competitors.

Q: Why Should Your Target Audience(s) Choose Your Product or Service Over That of A Competitor?

Answering the above question is no easy feat! In certain industries, and with particular product and service offerings, it can be extremely difficult to identify a differentiator, particularly if your organization operates in a highly regulated industry where certain product and service features are limited or mandated by state or federal regulations. I’ll give an example from my corporate marketing days. I worked for two health plans who served individuals qualifying for state-funded health care coverage, such as Medicaid. The states in which the health plans operated had very specific guidelines regarding what plans could and couldn’t offer members related to the various healthcare coverage programs for which they were contracted. This made it very difficult to create and execute program benefits, features, services, etc. that stood out from competitors. For example, on the customer service and coverage front, state-contracted health plans were required to achieve a mandated level of customer service and coverage. One of the ways plans attempted to stand out was to offer tangible wellness benefits such as free car seats, bike helmets, etc.

Despite the type of challenge described above, I believe each and every organization can and should identify what makes them unique/special/different (in a positive way!) from competitors. To aid you in landing on a “differentiator with details”, i.e., an explanation that has some “meat” to it and isn’t vague or general, I’ve outlined steps and questions to use as you brainstorm individually or with others at your organization about how and why your products and services outshine your competitors, i.e., why your organization rocks!

Stand out from the crowd and different concept , One red balloon flying away from other white balloons on light green pastel color wall background with reflections and shadows . 3D rendering

STEPS FOR DETAILING YOUR DIFFERENTIATOR

Step One: Identify Broad Differentiation Categories In Which Your Organization Falls

  • Determine the broader categories on which your organization can differentiate its products & services. Note that there will likely be some overlap and your organization will fall into several categories.
    • convenience (location, online/website user-friendly tools & apps, hours of operation, portability of service/product; ease of use of product or service)
    • product features (consider how they speak to the various senses: taste, feel, appearance, sound, smell)
    •  less tangible benefits, such as free assistance on certain topics or activities or ongoing e-communications that educate client on topics of importance to them
    • customer service (hours, days, quality, free vs. cost – does client have to buy service package?)
    • speed (how much turnaround time to receive service or product post-order/engagement?)
    • depth of expertise (# of years in business, in a particular industry, on a particular topic, background of organization leadership, etc.)
    • price/value (this can be tricky to promote, and often isn’t the best way to differentiate yourself, unless you know you are the lowest-cost provider, and that “low cost” won’t be associated by your target audiences with being low quality)
    • quality & durability of work, services, or product (materials used, how long something will last/be valuable)
    • breadth of offerings (can your organization meet several needs or pain points of clients immediately, or if needed in the future?; do you offer one-stop shopping or connections to experts when needed?)
    • organization size (what does your size allow for — more personal attention, less overhead equating to lower cost, more services and diverse staff experience?)

Step Two: Evaluate Which of Your Broad Categories of Differentiation Matter to Your Target Audience(s)

Ask and be honest with yourself about the following:

  1. “Does/do my target audience(s) value what makes me different/is my differentiator important to a prospective customer?”
  2. “Does my differentiator speak to a particular pain point or several pain points that a prospective client is likely experiencing?”
  3. “Are you able to communicate your differentiator quickly/efficiently in a language your audiences will understand?”

At a minimum, you must be able to answer “yes” to #1 and #3 above if you plan to market your differentiator and have it resonate with target audiences, and ultimately support sales and lead generation.

Step Three: Build Out The Details of Your Differentiator

Hopefully, the above exercise landed you on one or two broad categories of differentiation that will be meaningful to prospective clients. Now, it’s time to build out the details. Let’s use size as an example. The “About” page of my site includes the following reference “Our small size means our Principal, Gail Snow Moraski, will be directly involved with your account, providing the experience and attention ALL clients deserve.” If your organization is a large shop, and you believe prospective clients will benefit from that, elaborate on why being large is beneficial. Your details around your large-size differentiator might reference the diverse, extensive experience of staff, the one-stop shopping you offer, the many, varied services you offer, or even the stability of your firm and the likelihood it will be around for a while.

Another differentiator example from our my own organization. Our tagline is “Maximizing Results Through Research-Supported Marketing.” I hope and believe that it expresses to prospective client audiences that I won’t encourage them to execute or continue any marketing activities that don’t generate leads or sales for them. And, that our tagline conveys that we are a data-driven, analytical shop. I consider my research and analysis skills a differentiator from some fellow marketing consultants who offer certain marketing & communications services, particularly writing- or creative-related ones, but don’t necessarily know how to determine in advance what marketing vehicles or activities (employing content or images/graphics they’ve created) should work as far as generating sales go, or how to go about analyzing what worked in the past. On the other hand, some marketing consultants have differentiators or skills that I don’t have, such as an artistic background/eye or experience creating and laying out sizable documents, such as annual reports.

In sum, the key to identifying and promoting your differentiator(s) is knowing which of your strengths a prospective customer will value most, and then, making it clear through understandable, concise statements what that differentiator is and how your target audiences will benefit.

We always welcome a good marketing brainstorm, so if your organization is struggling with determining your differentiators, which to promote, and how to effectively communicate them, we hope you’ll reach out.

 

 

 

Acceptance of Circumstances, Consulting, Enjoying What You Do, integrated marketing, lead generation, Making Connections and Introductions, marketing consultant, staying current

What I’ve Learned From 5 Years of Running a Consulting Firm

comfortzone

Ninety percent of my blog posts cover marketing topics and trends, particularly digital ones. This, of course, makes sense as I want to be a resource for “all things marketing” for my existing and prospective clients, as well as demonstrate my expertise, and remind folks, in need of marketing help, that I’m here to assist them with both marketing strategy development, and hands-on, day-to-day execution of marketing tactics. That said, for a while now, I’ve been wanting to share with friends, colleagues, and particularly those considering starting a consultancy of any nature, the great, the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a consultant.

I know already I’ll be commenting on or editing this post as pros and cons of consulting come to mind that I neglected to include!

Let’s start with the GREAT!

  • New People, Partners, Connections: You meet so many interesting, knowledgeable, passionate and creative individuals — whether they be fellow small business owners/entrepreneurs/consultants or employees of small, medium, or large for-profit and non-profit client organizations. And, on certain client work, you get to partner and collaborate with fellow consultants who are experts in their particular field.
  • New Industries, Products and Services: You learn about so many different industries, and unique products and services, and you get skilled at getting up-to-speed quickly on various industries. You know the types of questions to ask and the information you want and need to hunt down.
  • Diverse Service and Solution Provision: No two clients’ challenges and opportunities are the same, so with each engagement, you are required to step back and think about which of the solutions and services you offer would most benefit a client and have the most immediate impact on whatever pain point they are struggling with. In my case, because of my line of work, this means I have the opportunity to oversee or assist with a large, diverse set of marketing activities and analytics.
  • Money and Time Savings: If you’re a consultant who works out of a home office — like me — or a local, shared work space, you save time and $$ commuting to an office. You also can spend far less money on work clothes and lunches.
  • Pajamas and Sweat Pants: I don’t do it very often, but yes, you can work in your pajamas and sweats and even attend phone meetings wearing the aforementioned. Before I hit my home office and computer, I prefer to get dressed for the day in something a little less comfortable than sweats or pajamas, so I don’t feel too relaxed and feel more professional and in “work mode.”
  • Flexible Schedule: For someone like me, where past cancer treatment left me with some chronic health issues, it’s nice to have the flexibility to take care of my health and work at a slower pace, if and when required, and to be able to go to doctors’ appointments when I need to. I can also take a longer break to meet up with a friend or colleague for lunch or coffee, knowing that I can make up the lost work time at night or on the weekend.
  • No Difficult Office Politics or Managers: I don’t think the former really needs explaining…keep in mind, though, you can end up with difficult clients, or clients with difficult office politics.

Now, the GOOD!

  • You Are the Boss of You — I’ve always been driven and self-disciplined, so I treat every week day as a work day and rarely run personal errands and/or do personal chores during that time,  but for some being their own boss and not having someone tell them how to use their time or what their deliverables should be, doesn’t suit them. That’s why I listed this as “good” vs. “great”, even though I personally love being my own boss.
  • Nobody Rains (or Snows) on Your Parade — Literally and figuratively. If you don’t have face-to-face or in-person meetings scheduled, you can stay warm and dry on cold or wet days, and you don’t have to deal with negative co-workers dragging you down.

And, the BAD!

  • You Have to Look Good in Hats — You’ll be wearing a variety of them — CEO/President, junior- or entry-level staff person, bookkeeper, business development/sales manager, and marketing person, to name a few.
  • Friends & Family Think You Don’t Work — Friends, family, colleagues, etc. will think they can call or visit you anytime on a workday or you’ll drop everything to meet up with them because “you aren’t working” – hah!
  • Support May be Lacking — No matter how long your consultancy has been up and running, you’ll still frequently get asked by contacts, including friends and family, when you plan to return to a “corporate” job. Your circle may struggle with the fact that running a successful consultancy isn’t a temporary or short-term choice, it’s an active, long-term decision you made.

Boo hoo for the UGLY!

  • Client Work Gets Pulled — Promised work doesn’t come to fruition or projects for which you’ve officially been engaged or you’ve even started get put-on-hold or shut-down completely for a variety of reasons, such as:
    • your contact at your client’s office leaves
    • your contact’s manager or manager’s manager isn’t on board with proceeding with a project even if your contact is/was
    • your client has budget cuts
    • your client has new senior leadership or your contact at your client has a new manager
    • your client’s priorities shift — something unanticipated happens at their firm, in their industry, etc. that makes your work for them less of a priority
    • your client gets bought out by or merges with another firm

One of the most painful and expensive, but also beneficial lessons I’ve learned in the past five years of consulting is never leave “capacity” for a particular client unless you have documented approval of engagement for the work in-question.

  • The 50/50 Rule — At most, you will only be able to spend 50% of your work time, actually completing “paid” work for clients, this includes attending client meetings or participating in client phone calls. The remaining 50% of your time will be allocated something along these lines, unless, of course, you out-source some of this work:
    • Creating and issuing invoices, tracking expenses in an accounting system, such as QuickBooks — 2.5%
    • Posting to social media — 7.5%
    • Staying educated in your particular area of expertise through reading, webinars, and other trainings — 7.5%
    • Responding to RFPs/Creating Proposals – 10%
    • Phone or In-person meetings with prospective clients — 10%
    • Following up with individuals and organizations in your sales pipeline — 5%
    • Reaching out to individuals via LinkedIn, e-mail, etc. for the first time to see if they are open to a meeting — 5%
    • Attending short phone calls or responding to e-mails for which you can’t charge a client, since you don’t want to be viewed as “nickel & dime-ing” them. It’s just expected that a consultant will provide some “pro bono” hours – 2.5%

In sum, if you’re going to run a consultancy, you have to accept that about 50% of the work you do, will be “unpaid” work, i.e., work for which you won’t be able to bill someone.

  • If You Don’t Work, You Don’t Get Paid — enough said, and as I described above, even when you do work, much of it is work you can’t bill for.
  • No Employee/Employer Perks and Benefits (Both Tangible and Intangible) — when you are self-employed, you don’t have access to the following perks and benefits of a “corporate” employer:
    • true “paid”/”employee” benefits like health, dental, and life insurance, 401K contributions and matching, paid vacation time and time-off, short-term disability
    • office parties and celebrations
    • friendships and socialization that an office provides
    • support of and ability to brainstorm with co-workers, plus the ability to delegate work if you’re a manager
    • coverage of training and travel expenses
    • in-house training opportunities
    • and more!
  • You Work 60+ Hours, So You Don’t Have to Work 40 — So, I revamped this phrase that I snagged from Shark Tank, “entrepreneurs work 90 hours, so they don’t have to work 40”. But, basically, when you own and run your own business, it’s very unusual to have a week where you only work 35 or 40. Even if you’re not actively doing client work, you’re constantly checking your work e-mail at night and on the weekends, and quite honestly, often you you do have to work nights and/or weekends to stay on top of your accounting, proposals you need to create and send, blog posts like this one that you want to write, and client work that needs to be completed. And, yes, most consultants I know are thinking about their business 24/7 — while they are lying in bed at night, taking a shower, going for a walk, etc. It’s hard to turn your consultant brain off, particularly the part that knows that you need to constantly be creating new leads for your business.

One factor that both a corporate job and consulting have in common — workloads fluctuates. There will be times when you have far too much work, and times, when you have too little.

Despite some of the more difficult consequences and challenges of being a consultant, there is so much upside, and I wouldn’t change my work situation right now. I so enjoy where I’m at in my career — serving as an advisor and extra-hand to both clients and fellow consultants and marketing agencies — and I enjoy the challenges that come along with it. They’ve pushed and continue to push me to step outside my comfort zone and develop or enhance skills like sales and public speaking. I so look forward to what lies ahead for me in the next five years as a consultant!

A special shout-out to my niece, Angelique Snow, who alerted me to the expression in the image at the top of this post — one that is particularly fitting to my situation and that of other consultants — and to Angelique, who lives her life fully by stepping outside her comfort zone.

 

 

 

 

good will creation, integrated marketing, lead generation, sales, SEO, social media

A 10-Year Look-back: Observations on Social Media Use by Businesses

Social media is no longer a new and innovative marketing tactic. So, I thought it might benefit my readers to look back at the 10+ years this tactic has been used by organizations and share what I’ve observed and learned.

Roughly 10 years ago, as a contractor, who eventually assumed permanent marketing manager and director roles at a large New England health plan, I was a big champion of social media. At that time, social media use by organizations for business purposes vs. by individuals for social purposes was starting to gain momentum, but there were still a good number of business organizations who had yet to launch a social media presence. I worked diligently to educate senior leadership in the marketing and communications department where I worked, as well as across the entire organization, about why we needed to dip our toes in the social media pool. I’m sure my reasons at the time for pushing my employer to establish a social media presence on one or several social media platforms included several, if not all, of the following:

  • by not having a social media presence, our organization looked dated and irrelevant
  • our competitors were taking advantage of this new marketing tool known as “social media” and we were missing out on the opportunities they were having to connect and communicate with our mutual target audiences: 1) direct users of our services aka members (individuals who qualified for state-funded healthcare coverage programs); 2) healthcare providers who served our members, and 3) nonprofit organizations serving our members who could refer them to us
  • other than employee time to create and share posts, social media was “free” and could help us make the most of our marketing budget
  • through the sharing of thought-provoking and informational posts, my employer could establish itself as a subject matter expert
  • we could drive traffic to our website via posts that contained links to various website content
  • we could create goodwill with other organizations by sharing their posts
  • we could speak to our members and prospective members via one of their preferred vehicles of communications; therefore, not only could we market ourselves using social media, we could keep our members informed

I eventually got buy-in to launch a social media presence for my employer and how we used the platforms and which platforms we used evolved during my time at the health plan. And, five years post my departure, I’m sure the health plan’s use of social media to promote itself, create goodwill, and communicate with its members, providers and the community continues to evolve.

Based on my approximately 10 years’ experience overseeing the social media presence of corporate employers, clients, and my own organization, Results Communications and Research, here’s what I’ve learned about social media use by businesses to create awareness and generate leads and sales. I call out these last two objectives, because ultimately those are the biggest desired end results of organizations who develop and implement a social media strategy.

  • Organizations should never put all of their marketing & communications $$ and efforts into their social media basket. Regardless of an organization’s nature and the nature of the products and services offered, some members of one or all of an organization’s target audiences may not be active on social media; therefore, you need to leave some $$ and time to reach those individuals who aren’t fans or users of social media via another form of communication that may be preferred by them, such as e-mail marketing, search engine advertising, or print advertising.
  • Even if it’s limited, organizations should maintain a social media presence to establish and maintain relevancy. Organizations don’t want potential clients or existing customers to make the assumption you won’t be up-to-speed on other issues because you’re viewed as “behind-the-times” by not having a social media presence.
  • More is not always more. Sure there’s a large # of social media networks/platforms out there: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and others. That doesn’t mean your organization should have a presence on all of them. It’s hard to maintain a strong, effective presence on one or several platforms if you dilute your social media energies too much across too large a range of social media networks.
  • Each platform has distinct audiences, benefits and limitations. Here’s our observations on the platforms we’ve used most to promote our own organization as well as others’:
    • LinkedIn – because it was built for business and professional networking purposes, each & every organization should have a profile page on LinkedIn; a lot of really great conversations happen on LinkedIn via post comments and LinkedIn’s messaging capability
    • Twitter — as with LinkedIn, this is where we see business conversations happening most, regardless of the nature of an organization, but particularly when it comes to business-to-business conversations and services
    • Facebook and Instagram – based on our experience, business Facebook and Instagram profiles work best for organizations offering business-to-consumer services or products vs. business-to-business services or products. A restaurant or hair salon may benefit from having a business Facebook or Instagram page, but a business offering services to another business, like insurance, likely won’t benefit as much. And, if you’re not an organization who wants to or can regularly take and post new photos, you shouldn’t bother with an Instagram account since Instagram is all about serving up a steady stream of interesting photos
    • Pinterest – consumer goods companies, such as food or other retailers will benefit from having a presence here, but there don’t seem to be any applications for organizations offering services. As with Instagram, if you’re going to maintain an effective presence on Pinterest, you need to be able to constantly take and post new photos or graphic images
    • YouTube – organizations need to think of YouTube as a search engine — since the YouTube search tool receives the second largest search volume after Google. Regardless of its nature, any organization should benefit from establishing a channel and sharing videos here
    • Google My Business – while some may not view this as a social media network/platform, I believe each and every organization should have such a profile, keep it current and regularly post to it, the way you would any other social media platform. This will greatly improve your SEO — where you fall in search engine results listings for search terms relevant to your products and services
  • In isolation, social media profiles and posts don’t often directly lead to sales or generate leads. In general, social media strategy and tactics need to be supported by other marketing tactics as part of a much larger, integrated marketing plan. We highlighted this in red to really call out the danger associated with believing that a social media presence will directly promote sales and leads, or suffice as a stand-alone marketing activity to create awareness of your organization and its products and services. In rare instances, social media posts may generate sales and leads, but those are the exceptions. For example, these types of social media behavior may generate a lead or a sale
    • Posts that promote sales or special offers for whatever consumer goods are currently most popular or the “it” thing
    • Posts that promote upcoming events, such as concerts by popular performers
    • Commenting on another organization’s or professional’s post, particularly on LinkedIn or Twitter
  • Organizations should use Google Analytics to determine where to put their social media $$ and energies. I always suggest giving equal attention — in the form of posting your own content and sharing, liking and commenting on others’ — to two or three social media platforms that make sense for your organization (for several months), based on what I shared about about the platforms’ benefits and limitations. Then, use Google Analytics to determine which of these social media platforms are referring the most traffic to your site. That will help inform where you’ll likely want to put most of your social media energies going forward.
  • Businesses shouldn’t “go dark” on certain social media platforms without acknowledging it or explaining why. Whenever I’m preparing for a meeting with a prospective client, I check out all their digital/online marketing activities, including their social media presence. I’m always surprised by the number of organizations that have social media icons on their websites that link to profiles on social media platforms that they don’t maintain, e.g., haven’t posted to in the last 3 to 6 months or longer. If you don’t have the capacity to maintain an effective social media presence on a particular platform, i.e., can’t post at least weekly to the platform, consider the following:
    • removing the social media icon link to the platform, in question, until you can give the social media network the attention it deserves
    •  posting to the “neglected” social media platform that you won’t be posting to the platform in the foreseeable future, but that you hope your followers will join you on x,y,z platform instead and include a link to your presence(s) there (assumes you are more effectively maintaining a presence on one or several other platforms)
  • If you’re going to put time & energy into social media, be sure to capitalize on it. Be sure to put social media icons on each page of your website that link to the various social media platforms on which you have a presence. Also, place such icon links in e-mail signatures, and e-newletters. I’ve seen so many organizations neglect to do the aforementioned, and therefore, miss out the opportunity to build stronger bonds and share additional information with customers and prospective clients.

To summarize our observations, in general, social media shouldn’t be used in isolation by organizations to generate leads and sales. It should be one tactic that is part of a much bigger integrated marketing plan. Organizations should maintain a social media presence to be seen as relevant and to create goodwill with customers, prospective customers, and organizations who might be good business referral sources, but it isn’t necessary to have a presence on each and every social media platform. If you’re going to have a presence on a certain form of social media, be sure to post, comment, like, share, etc. regularly, and don’t just “go dark.” Use Google Analytics data to determine which forms of social media drive the most traffic to your website and focus your energies there, and make sure your website and e-communications share links to and promote your social media presence.

Need help creating or evaluating your social media strategy? Contact us to learn about our social media “audit” and strategy development and “voice” services.

 

 

 

landing pages, Uncategorized, website

Three Key Benefits of Offering Visitors a Website “Contact” or “Inquiry” Form

I was recently asked by a prospective client if “contact” or “inquiry” smart forms — you know forms that an individual can complete and submit online — made a website look dated. I polled a couple of website developer/designer expert connections, and the answer was “no.” I was very pleased to hear that because I think such forms afford both the visitor to and the owner of a website the following three key benefits:

1. Website visitors can share and website owners can learn how a visitor found out about their organization or website via a question such as the following with drop-down-menu answer options like the ones shown below (and in our form at the bottom of this post):

Q:  How did you learn about us?

newspaper advertisement, link to your site from a social media post, search engine search, online advertisement, word-of-mouth, billboard, radio advertisement, TV ad, bus advertisement, train advertisement (note: when relevant, you should allow visitors to select more than one vs. forcing one answer)

Obviously, answer options should only include those marketing vehicles and tactics you are employing to drive traffic to your site. You can also gather more information about the effectiveness of certain marketing activities by including additional questions that would only be presented if a particular response was selected (known as skip patterns). For example, let’s suppose you were running several types of online ads or ads with several different messages, you could pose questions to gather more detail about the messaging or form of online advertising a visitor saw.

Before launching any kind of advertising campaign, it’s a best and critical practice to make sure you always have means, such as the above, to track which of the marketing tactics you employed as part of the campaign are most effective.

2. Visitors won’t abandon the process of reaching out to you because they get the message below when they click on a link to e-mail or contact you. Already having an Outlook program on my computer or that I access via an online e-mail service, I never know what to do when this message which encourages me to configure an Outlook e-mail account appears as a pop-up when I click on someone’s e-mail address. I’m guessing most website visitors don’t either, and likely just end up “cancelling out” of the process.

email link message

To make matters worse, some e-mail links don’t even contain the e-mail address that you can snag and then type into your mail service yourself after you initiate creating/ sending a new e-mail. Instead of a link that’s hyperlinked and labeled with an e-mail address, such as gail.moraski@allintheresults.com, the link may be labeled “contact us” or “e-mail us” and take one directly to the Outlook message above. The average site visitor is unlikely to know that they may be able to “right click” on that link to see what the e-mail address is behind the link.

Why wonder if your site visitors are going to be patient enough to figure out how to e-mail you or figure out your e-mail address? Eliminate that concern with an online form.

3. Avoid Phone Calls That Can Be Awkward For Both Parties. Some people aren’t phone people. Instead of gathering information from you via a phone call — which may seem like it requires or indicates some kind of commitment to buy your product or use your services, or may simply feel awkward or cumbersome — some members of your target audience may prefer getting feedback from you via an online inquiry about your product or service. The ability to submit an online inquiry simplifies the process of their conducting initial research before they invest in a product or service — allowing for answers to questions they might have about the product or service itself and figuring out whether your product or service is the right fit for them.

Having an online contact/inquiry form doesn’t mean you still can’t include a link to an e-mail address, it just means your making it easier for prospective customers to communicate with you in a way that might be more comfortable and/or less mentally or technically cumbersome — a win-win because you’re able to gather beneficial data from your visitors to help optimize future marketing budgets and activities.

Need help setting up an online inquiry form? Use our form to reach out for help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Uncategorized

Nonprofit 411: Achieving Fundraising Success

I was honored to have the privilege of co-authoring a three-part series with two fellow MA Nonprofit Network affiliate members related to nonprofit fundraising leading and best practices.

Enjoy the series and please reach out if we can help. And, nonprofits, as you finalize marketing and development/fundraising plans and strategies for 2019, don’t forget about the great opportunity that a Google Nonprofit Ad Grant may afford you.

Part I:  http://massnonprofitnet.org/blog/nonprofit-411-special-series-achieving-fundraising-gold-part-laying-groundwork-successful-campaign/

Part II:  http://massnonprofitnet.org/blog/nonprofit-411-achieving-fundraising-gold-part-ii-building-momentum/

Part III:  http://massnonprofitnet.org/blog/nonprofit-411-achieving-fundraising-success-part-iii-concluding-campaign/

SEO, website

All Backlinks Aren’t Created Equal: Some Hurt, Some Help SEO

Through Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Google Analytics work I recently completed for a client, I was reminded, and prompted to share via this blog post, that all backlinks (links to your website from another website or blog) aren’t created equal when it comes to SEO. For years, I and most fellow marketers, have known that having links to one’s website on the websites of other creditable, highly regarded websites was a good thing as far as Google’s SEO algorithm goes. Such backlinks cause Google to view your site as also being creditable and trustworthy, and therefore, improves where your website appears in Google search engine results for search terms relevant to your organization’s products and services. But, many marketers lose sight of or are not aware of the fact that all backlinks are not “good.”

Like Anyone Else, Google Judges You By the Company You Keep

The bad backlink news is that if your website is receiving a lot of referral traffic from non-creditable and “spammy” websites, i,e., “bad” sites, it can really harm how Google treats your site from an SEO standpoint. As it should, Google has never been one to reward websites and their owners for trying to “play” or “game” them. They recognize spammy backlinks for what they often are, an attempt to improve SEO by purchasing or placing links to one’s website on low-quality sites, and Google will be less likely vs. more likely to present listings with a link to your website in its search engine results for your desired search terms. (A quick, but relevant digression: A past blog post called out how Google is more likely to reward authentic sites, and that includes sites that have “mutual admiration” relationships with organizations who respect their work, products, and services, and are willing to share links to their website.)

Based on my review of many clients’ Google Analytics data, it’s not uncommon to have a few “spammy” sites referring traffic to your website, and it’s unlikely that having a half dozen or less such sites driving traffic will cause Google to ding you significantly related to where you appear in search engine results. Of course, the aforementioned assumes that your website is reputable and relevant and meets other SEO best practices and standards, not just backlink ones.

While the purpose of this post is really to alert readers of this potential SEO danger and to explain how you can identify if your backlinks may be hurting vs. helping you, at the end of my post, I will share some experts’ thoughts on how to fix this bad SEO equation. If your site has close to 10, or many more than 10, “bad” sites referring traffic, you should take immediate steps to remedy this.

A Google Analytics data review allows you to see how visitors are finding your website. Once logged into your Google Analytics account, you can view this data by accessing the “Channels” report under the “Acquisition” left-hand menu tab as shown below.

Website Acquisition Channels - Google Analytics.png

  • direct = someone entered your website’s domain/URL directly into their browser or they had your website bookmarked
  • organic search = someone entered relevant terms in a search engine and then clicked on a link included in a search results listing
  • paid search = someone clicked on an online ad as part of a online advertising campaign you ran on a search engine advertising platform, like Google Ads
  • social = someone clicked on a link to a page on your website included in a social media post on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
  • referral = someone clicked on a link to your site found on a website or blog

An immediate red flag — one I saw with the client that I referenced at the top of this post — is, in most cases, when too large of a percentage of your website traffic is “referral” traffic. Ideally, your two largest traffic channels would be “direct” and “organic search.” If the percentage of traffic associated with these two latter channels, individually, is lower than the % of traffic from “referrals”, that’s an indication that you could be driving a lot of traffic to your website from “spammy” sites. Let’s face it, the folks you most want visiting your site are quality visitors, i.e., current/returning customers and individuals who have found your site because of a relevant search engine search.

Your next step in assessing whether your SEO is likely being negatively impacted by “bad” backlinks is to click on “Referral” where it is listed under the “Default Channel Grouping” in Google Analytics, as shown in the image above. A list will immediately be generated showing you the various websites and blogs that are referring traffic to your site. It should be pretty obvious to you by the names of the referral sources which ones aren’t reputable blogs and websites with which you want your own website and your organization to be associated.

Bottom line is this — whether you intentionally had an organization who claimed they could improve your SEO purchase/provide/set up such backlinks on your behalf, or such backlinks were established by someone your organization did not engage for SEO help or who is not affiliated with your organization and who was/is looking to negatively impact your organization and SEO results, you’ll want to eliminate spammy backlinks since they’ll harm you in the long run.

Learn more from experts, including Google themselves, about backlinks and get advice on how to resolve “bad” backlink scenarios, or reach out to us for assistance.

https://prowly.com/magazine/stop-spam-backlinks-ruining-google-reputation/

https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2648487?hl=en

 

 

 

 

lead generation, sales, Uncategorized, website

Two Tools To Identify What Businesses Are Visiting Your Website

If your organization is offering business-to-business (B2B) services, you’d be thrilled to know what businesses are visiting your website, even though you likely believe that there’s no way of obtaining such data. But, particularly if you are an organization that serves larger businesses — think ones with 100+ employees — there’s ways to get at that data, and we think you’ll likely benefit from using both of the two distinct tools discussed in this blog post. And, the great news is that your organization is likely already using one of these tools on a regular basis!

GOOGLE ANALYTICS:

It’s a digital marketing best practice and no-brainer to have your website linked to a Google Analytics account. That way, you can take advantage of all the rich website visitor demographics and behavior data tracked there, including data related to which businesses are visiting your website. If you don’t have a Google Analytics account set up, you can set one up for free and it only takes about 15 minutes (if you need help, e-mail us).

So where do you go to access business visitor data? Once you’ve signed into your Google Analytics account, access “Audience” from the left-hand menu bar, then “Overview”, and then scroll down the Overview page to the “System” section, and click on the “Service Provider” link. This will call up a list such as the one below Google Analytics generated for our own website.

ISP listing from Google Analytics.png

The service providers referenced are also known as ISPs or “Internet Service Providers.” Wikipedia does a great job of explaining the roles of ISPs and who can operate one: “An Internet service provider (ISP) is an organization that provides services for accessing, using, or participating in the Internet. Internet service providers may be organized in various forms, such as commercial, community-ownednon-profit, or otherwise privately owned.”

When organizations are large enough, such as colleges or universities, they often create their own ISP to meet their internet needs — so voila, searching through your full report of ISPs for the names of businesses that aren’t your standard ISPs (AT & T, Comcast, Verizon, local electric companies, etc.) providing internet services to consumers or smaller businesses — might give you a bunch of new leads to add to your sales pipeline.

If you check this Service Provider/ISP list regularly, you’ll be discovering on a timely basis which large organizations have been visiting your site, and can reach out to them while they are still a “warm” or “hot” lead, and therefore, likely still in research and procurement mode for the particular services you offer.

LEAD FORENSICS:  

Similar tools to Lead Forensics may exist, but since we’ve held phone and e-mail discussions with Lead Forensics, and believe their tool and customer service to be good, we will speak to their capabilities related to tracking which businesses visit your website. Their solution allows you to add tracking code to your website that ultimately will allow you to learn the names of business organizations associated with individual device IP addresses that visit your website. In keeping with GRPR data privacy guidelines, no business organizations should be attempting to capture and share the full IP address of an individual/individual’s device who visits their website, but the code that Lead Forensics will provide you with, when you sign up for their services, does not track or reveal a distinct individual’s IP address. Instead, it provides the name of the business and the office location associated with that IP address.

In sum, by using a tool like Lead Forensics, you’ll have access to a new source of business leads — organizations who have demonstrated at least some level of interest in your services. You can follow up with them in whatever fashion feels most comfortable — whether it be calling that business organization’s office and saying that someone at their organization had expressed interest in learning more about your services, or saying that you are able to track what business organizations visit your website and you saw that someone from their organization had visited your site. Hopefully, whomever you phone chat or e-chat with at a particular prospective client organization will be willing to connect you with the right individual with whom you should discuss your services.

Let us know how we can help you take advantage of the two lead-generating tools discussed above. We can’t wait to hear if and how you used them to grow both your sales pipeline and actual sales.

 

integrated marketing, landing pages, Memorability, online advertising, remarketing, Uncategorized, website

Reminding with Remarketing

If you’ve ever visited a website, particularly a consumer goods/retail one, and then, had ads presented to you on another website or web property related to the products you  looked at on that original site, you’ve been remarketed to or retargeted. Last Friday, I was looking at some home furnishing stores’ websites for some new bar stools. I spent a fair amount of time on Wayfair’s site, looking at various stool options, and now the below ads are regularly being served up to me. This is as I go about my various day-to-day work activities on my computer, not because I revisited the Wayfair site.

Like many savvy marketers, Wayfair knows that remarketing advertising is an easy, and quite effective way, to remind individuals who have already shown an interest in certain products and services you offer about those particular products and services. And, Wayfair surely knows that click-thrus rates and sales generated through remarketing display ads are higher than for non-remarketing/general display advertising.

bar stools

Remarketing isn’t just for large retailers and consumer goods companies, though, and you don’t need to have the ample marketing budget they likely have to take advantage of remarketing. Whether you sell services vs. products, or whether your target audience is businesses vs. consumers, what I consider to be reasonably priced and fairly easy-to-set-up display advertising (think an ad with an image that appears on a variety of websites, including YouTube) is available through Google Ads (formerly known as Google AdWords) and their associated Google Display Network (GDN).

Using your Google Analytics account (this is also very easy to set up if you don’t already have such an account), you can create very targeted remarketing lists to whom you want your Google Ads display ad presented.  At the broadest, more general levels, you can remind individuals who visited your site of your product and service offerings by having your ads presented to all site visitors, new site visitors (visitors who came to your site for the first time), or returning site visitors (visitors who came to your site for the second time or more).  You can also target your remarketing advertising based on:

  • the page(s) individuals visited on your site
  • actions individuals did or did not take on your site, such as completing and submitting an inquiry form or making a purchase

While this post’s focus is about display advertising remarketing, since that is most well-known, most-used, and best-understood, advertisers can also remarket to individuals using what’s known as Remarketing Lists for Search Advertising (RLSA) in conjunction with Google Ads search advertising.  This latter form of advertising allows for ads to be shown to individuals who enter search terms (keywords) into a search engine. Google Ads search remarketing allows an advertiser to only have their ads presented to individuals who both type appropriate search terms into their browser AND who have visited the advertiser’s website in the past. It also allows you to set up your search advertising to indicate to Google Ads your willingness to pay (bid) more to have your search ad shown to individuals searching on appropriate terms who have visited your site before vs. to individuals who haven’t.

Whether you are already running Google Ads display and/or search advertising, or you are in the planning process for launching your very first Google campaign, you should consider adding one or both of the above-mentioned forms of remarketing to your online advertising campaigns. You’ll be reminding visitors who land on your site because of display or search advertising, as well as individuals who visit your site from non-advertising sources/channels, about how the outstanding products and services you offer are just what they are looking for!