brand promise, competitive advantage, content marketing, differentiation, digital marketing agency, integrated marketing, lead generation, pull marketing, push marketing, Results Analysis, sales, Setting Marketing Budget, strategic planning, Strong Ad Creative, taglines, target audiences, Target Marketing, traditional marketing

Why It’s A Marketing Must That Your Marketing Activities and Tactics Be Integrated

When I first started drafting this blog post, I thought I’d be mainly talking about traditional marketing and what I miss about it. But, as the post evolved, I realized the traditional marketing tactics/activities were just a piece of something bigger that I miss, sometimes, and that is being aware of, involved with, and/or or having oversight for ALL the marketing activities that a particular brand/organization executes. Often as a consultant, my team and I are working with organizations who have their own internal marketing team, and/or who work with a number of different outsourced marketing vendors or agencies. This means, while we are responsible for one or several pieces of the overall marketing strategic plan – usually digital pieces, we aren’t always aware of, kept informed of, or responsible for other pieces. As you would expect, each and every marketing message or tactic that is put out there in the universe by an organization has an impact – both negative and positive – on the effectiveness of the other marketing tactics.

Regardless of the above, because we strive each and every day to support our clients’ success, and to serve and be viewed as a member of their team, we often make recommendations and suggestions related to overall marketing strategy and various marketing tactics that others are overseeing. Sometimes, we suggest adding a new marketing tactic to the mix, even if we won’t be the ones making it happen, and sometimes, our suggestions are about shaking up how an existing marketing tactic is handled or executed.

Why Every Organization Needs Someone Monitoring and Aware Of All Marketing Tactics

Ultimately, each and every organization needs to have one person – whether it be an outsourced marketing consultant or agency or an in-house marketing director, chief marketing officer, or the business owner themselves – who:

  • Is aware of and tracking and analyzing the results of each and every marketing activity to ensure that marketing dollars and time are spent on those activities that lead to the greatest awareness, and ultimately highest possible number of conversions, such as sales (product purchase or engagement for services), and inquiries.
  • Ensures that marketing creative (messaging and design) is consistent across all marketing activities.

What Is Integrated Marketing and Why Is It So Important?

As hinted at above, integrated marketing means that all the marketing tactics you use to promote your organization and create awareness of it are cohesive, and therefore “mirror” each other. All tactics included in a strategic integrated marketing plan/campaign to promote a particular product or service should:

  • Contain and repeat the same key messages of the campaign
  • Reflect the same product or service promise and your competitive differentiators
  • Have a similar appearance as far as logos, design, color, and graphics go

For centuries, those who have succeeded at growing an organization have known that you have to hit the audiences whom you think will be the best target/users of your product or service numerous times to create both awareness and sales. Target audiences need to hear and see the same message multiple times for it to both stick and resonate. If you shake things up too much across your various marketing tactics and vehicles, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to expose your targeted customers to the same messaging and look and feel and you’ll also CONFUSE them.

Check out this blog post from marketing guru, Neil Patel, to read about integrated marketing campaign examples. And, read our blog post that explains how and why content marketing and integrated marketing are different. Or, use the search tool found on our “Ponderings” blog main page, to search for other posts that contain helpful info. on integrated marketing.

Help For Creating, Executing, and Implementing An Integrated Marketing Plan and Campaign

At Results Communications & Research, we bring more than 30 years of experience of implementing effective, integrated marketing campaigns, including ones that contain both digital and more traditional tactics such as outdoors (billboards), print, transit, movie, mall and broadcast (radio, TV) advertising. We can help you develop a strategic integrated marketing plan that outlines the various marketing vehicles and tactics we believe you should employ in a particular campaign, based on what we learn of your marketing objectives, challenges, and target audiences. Then, we’ll work with you to ensure proper tracking is in place to track the effectiveness of each of the various marketing tactics to help inform what tactics to employ in future campaigns or reallocate existing campaign $$ and/or pivot mid-campaign, based on what results are showing. So, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We love developing, executing, and analyzing the results of integrated marketing campaigns!

Acceptance of Circumstances, brand promise, marketing best practices, Marketing Planning, Objectives Setting, sales, strategic planning, target audiences, Target Marketing

Why Business Success Depends On Knowing Your Primary Target Audience and Catering To Their Needs and Wants

I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for several months now — while folks were still wearing shorts. You’ll learn why shortly (hah, hah, see what we did there?) But, fortunately, it was a very busy summer at Results C & R, and when it’s busy, we always put our clients’ marketing work above our own.

Earlier this summer, I visited my local “Paper Store,” and while perusing and admiring their clothing items for women, I was extremely surprised to see how short their various short offerings were. I had always assumed The Paper Store catered to women of my age, i.e., women aged 40+ and that their “sweet spot” as far as target audience went was women 45 – 65. These assumptions were likely based on the following:

  • What I observed to be the demographic of other shoppers when I visited various Paper Store locations
  • The fact that, despite their rewards/coupons program, their prices for various items like clothing, toiletries, and accessories, are higher than what you would pay at a discount store like TJ Maxx, Home Goods, or Marshalls. And, therefore, younger generations (who in many cases would have lower income than the above middle-aged group) might be less likely to shop or make a purchase at a Paper Store.

I decided to take a poll on LinkedIn (which I also shared with my Facebook connections) a few months back to to see what other consumers believed The Paper Store’s primary target audience to be and to inform my planned blog post.

As shown above, poll results indicated that I am not the only one who believes The Paper Store’s primary target audience is women over 40. If the aforementioned is really true, then why didn’t The Paper Store offer longer shorts — shorts that hit you one, two, or three inches above the knee — to its shoppers this summer? Either The Paper Store overlooked their primary target audience’s needs and missed out on an opportunity to sell them a summer staple, or women 45 – 65 really aren’t their primary target audience (or, at least not their primary target audience for shorts). Or, based on our poll results, there’s a big misperception about who their target audience is. Regardless, one or more of the following seems to be at play:

  • The Paper Store is hoping to reach and sell to a younger demographic/consumer and is moving in that direction by selling clothes that appeal to younger audiences — and perhaps, they are achieving that goal. Only they know the answer to that.
  • The Paper Store isn’t giving enough thought to their primary target audience’s needs and what they will and won’t wear.
  • The Paper Store is targeting numerous target audiences at once as part of their overall target market, but only targeting certain products to particular target audiences, as indicated in part by the fact that they offer:
    • A very large collection of Vera Bradley and Lilly Pulitzer products which I see most used by middle-aged or older women vs. teens or 20- or 30-something women because of the price associated with those products
    • Alex and Ani bracelets or other jewelry items which I’ve seen worn by both younger and middle-aged women, but primarily by women under 30
  • In keeping with the above, there is no pecking order when it comes to the various audiences The Paper Store serves; therefore, there is no one true primary target audience – just lots of smaller target audiences to whom various distinct products are targeted
  • Being a “gift store,” regardless of the age of the actual primary “purchaser/buyer/consumer,” The Paper Store needs to offer gifts that can be bestowed on anyone of any age — baby/toddler, child, young adult, etc.

The Paper Store’s website has been updated for fall and at the time of this post, homepage images showcase women who appear to be aged 40 at most, and who could possibly be and pass for 30-something and younger. So, I’m left thinking my bulleted thoughts above are accurate. Did/do I and others have their primary target audience wrong or is the retailer just trying to move away from that older audience, and attract younger consumers/shoppers? Or, are they just trying to offer something for everyone?

Products, Services and Marketing Creative Must Meet Needs Of And Resonate With Primary Target Audiences

Ultimately, what I hope you will take from this post is this. Whomever your primary target audience is, if you want to maintain them as customers and grow the amount of business they do with you, you have to offer products and services that make their lives better and easier, and your marketing creative (messaging and images) should reflect those audiences and what they hope to accomplish with your products and services, i.e., their reasons for buying them. If, for whatever reason you want your primary target audience to shift, i.e., you want to cause a new audience with different demographics (this could be based on age, location, gender, income level, and more) to become the primary consumers of your products, you need to make sure that products and services resonate with and provide solutions to problems of that new audience and your marketing creative speaks to that new audience and their needs.

Know What You’re Good At And Who You Serve

We’ve always been of the mindset that “you can’t be all things to all men.” You need to know what you’re good at and understand what the demographics of the audience who will be most interested in your particular products and services, i.e., your primary target audience, will look like. That’s usually a best practice when it comes to deciding what products and services to offer and how you market them. But, in the case of The Paper Store maybe trying to be many things to many people is working for them? Regardless, I won’t be visiting The Paper Store again to purchase shorts. I hope that was The Paper Store’s intention/objective.

Being Found on Google, blog, Blog, Blogging, brand promise, content marketing, digital marketing agency, Google Ads, Google Analytics, integrated marketing, keywords, Marketing Planning, online advertising, online presence, organic SEO, paid search, Post-COVID-19 Marketing, pull marketing, push marketing, Results Analysis, sales, Search Engine Optimization, search terms, SEM, SEO, SEO tags, social media, social media strategy, social media voice, staying current, technical SEO, website

Our Favorite Marketing Blogs and E-Newsletters

Note: This post was updated on July 15, 2022 to also incorporate favorite marketing podcasts, and also on November 25, 2022 to incorporate key places to obtain information on the new G4 Google Analytics property type (vs. UA/Universal Google Analytics property type).

Anyone who provides digital marketing services, like our digital marketing agency, or has a role at a organization where they are responsible for the planning, execution, monitoring, and reporting on of digital marketing tactics, knows that the landscape keeps changing. New social media platforms get introduced. The interfaces or management tools you use to execute activities or monitor results change regularly. It can all have your head spinning.

To help you “keep calm and carry on,” we thought we’d share a list of some of the organizations whose websites we go to when we are in need of answers and help or whose e-newsletters we read to stay on top of all things digital marketing and e-commerce. Since Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are two of our Greater-Boston-Area digital marketing agency’s specialties — we love any digital marketing work that is technical or analytical — you’ll see a number of websites that focus on those topics below. Note: use the scroll bar underneath the table below to see right-most columns.

Cheerful, Pretty Woman Reading A Book Related To List Of Best Digital Marketing Blogs and E-newsletters

We hope the below makes your life as a digital marketer easier and welcome ideas for organizations we should add. We expect to continue to update this list as we discover more digital marketing experts to learn from. We’re all in this together as the digisphere continues to evolve! Note: use the scroll bar underneath the table below to see right-most columns.

Best Digital Marketing Blogs and E-newsletters

Publication/URLSearch Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM/Google Ads)Social MediaE-mail MarketingOther
https://searchengineland.com/X
https://www.emarketer.com/XE-commerce, Retail
https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/X
https://www.searchenginewatch.com/X
https://iab.comBranding, Consumer Goods Research
https://thirddoormedia.com/
XIncludes A Variety of Brands That Address Marketing Technology and Conferences
https://www.hootsuite.com/X
https://www.marketingprofs.com/Marketing events and Training
https://corp.smartbrief.com/Industry Updates, Including: Small business, Food, Finance, Healthcare, Education
https://www.smarketingconnect.com/XXXMarketing & Sales Podcasts and Training, Opportunities To Meet and Collaborate With Other Marketing Professionals
https://npdigital.com/XXX
https://www.seoblog.com/
X
https://ahrefs.com/XContent Creation & Marketing
https://seo-hacker.com/X
Favorite Digital Marketing Blogs & E-newsletters

Since we shared the info. above, we’ve come across some other very helpful and informative sites, including the following:

Digital Marketing Podcasts:

https://www.linkedin.com/company/bwg-strategy-llc/

SEO Guide For Lawyers:

G4 Analytics Info. Straight From Google:

Google Analytics Official Blog

https://blog.google/products/marketingplatform/analytics/

Google Analytics Help Center

https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/9164320

blog, Blog, Blogging, brand promise, content marketing, good will creation, Google Analytics, integrated marketing, keeping up with trends, Marketing Planning, organic SEO, Search Engine Optimization, SEO, social media, staying current, strategic planning, target audiences, Target Marketing, technical SEO, traditional marketing

A Semi-New Name for a Centuries-Old Marketing Practice

Because, in the last several months, I’ve had various fellow marketers talk to me about or take jobs in “content marketing,” or seen them post about it on social media, I thought the time was right to explain this term and marketing strategy in a blog post. Even though I’ve been aware of the term for quite some time because much of my work falls under the content marketing umbrella (particularly SEO, blog writing, social media voice, and Google Analytics data reviews), I haven’t tended to use that term with clients and prospective clients, thinking it might not resonate with them. But, perhaps, the time has come for me to do so. 2019 was called the “year of SEO” by some marketers. 2020 may be the “year of content marketing.”

While the term “content marketing” has only been in use for the last decade or so, and some individuals employ it solely related to digital/online/electronic distribution of information, one of its key premises has been around since at least the early 1700’s — when individuals began promoting products and services via the written word vs. the spoken word. And, that premise is that creating informational, helpful, desired content — which can be used across many marketing vehicles and tactics — will garner customers’ and prospective customers’ favor and loyalty.

Even though the focus wasn’t primarily or solely “online” usage at the time (the internet and social media were still somewhat in their infancy), during my tenure as a marketing leader at BMC HealthNet Plan (2008 – 2014), I wrote wellness-related copy that was able to be employed in print ads/advertorials as well as in hard-copy handouts used at events or for other purposes by BMC HealthNet Plan community outreach reps. PDFs of those handouts were then shared on the organization’s wellness section of its website.

The above is a glowing example of content marketing’s basic tenet of sharing information, that target audiences value, across numerous vehicles/tactics in order to retain or acquire audience members as customers. In this case, the target audiences were members or prospective members of the health plan, as well as community organizations or healthcare providers, who might refer them to the health plan.

Integrated Marketing vs. Content Marketing

Related to my initial comment at the top of this post that the key premises and intentions behind content marketing are not new at all, I want and need to speak to the synergies between content marketing and integrated marketing. Both aim to employ similar/the same content across numerous marketing tactics/vehicles to repeatedly expose target audiences to the same, consistent message. But, a key difference to me between the two is that content marketing isn’t just about promoting and creating awareness of a product or services through true “marketing/sales/promotional” messages. It’s about being helpful and creating good will by sharing desirable information that may or may not be directly related to an organization’s products or services (see our discussion of tangential topic blogging).

Loyalty is Priceless

Online/Digital/Electronic Content Marketing Vehicles/Tactics

Since most people who use the term “content marketing” to refer to online/digital/electronic distribution of beneficial content to create brand awareness and loyalty — and ultimately sales or some other desired conversion activity (such as signing up for an e-newsletter, making a donation, or submitting an inquiry about an organization’s products and services) — what are some of the online/digital/electronic vehicles/tactics in which content created for the above purposes can be employed? E-newsletters, downloadable white papers, podcasts, website page content, blog content, social media post content, downloadable e-books, infographics (images that contain helpful, detailed info.) and videos.

Love — Back at You!

The Love-Love Equation

The above list is not exhaustive, but provides a sense of the many primary ways organizations are sharing content electronically/digitally that they believe meets the needs of their various target audiences and demonstrates understanding of those audiences’ challenges and opportunities — all in the hopes of creating a loyal following who will show their “love” back by talking up the organization, purchasing its products, etc.

I, individuals I employ, and my expert connections have extensive experience related to both the creation and distribution of content to support an effective content marketing strategy. I hope you’ll reach out, when and if, you need our help.

brand promise, competitive advantage, differentiation, keywords, organic SEO, Search Engine Optimization, search terms, SEO, technical SEO, website

Why Adjectives & Qualifiers Matter in the Game of SEO

Not that long ago, I wrote about the importance of “differentiating with detail.” The more detailed an organization can be about what makes them the best provider of a particular service or product, and therefore, how they stand out from a competitor, the better.

In somewhat of the same vein, as I help organizations of all shapes & sizes better position themselves to rank well in search engine results for the terms their target audience(s) are most regularly searching on, I’m continually reminded of the importance of detail and the benefits of “unpacking your adjectives” called out in the Schoolhouse Rock piece from my childhood below. What I’m seeing on a fairly consistent basis is this — organizations are not qualifying or describing their services or products in enough detail. They know what product or service they offer, and therefore, expect their target audience(s) will know too. The problem with this is that their target audience may not find them in the first place, through a search engine search, because the organization isn’t sending out appropriate signals via their website content and behind-the-scenes page title tags.

Here’s some examples that demonstrate the issue above:

Let’s say you’re a business-to-business (B2B) organization primarily offering consulting services to a particular industry or related to a particular function/department of an organization. You need to call that out in website page content and page title tags. For example, if your organization primarily works with higher education organizations or individuals in HR roles at an organization, you need to qualify/modify the phrase “consulting” in website page title tags and content, i.e., use terms like “HR consulting services” or “higher education consulting services.”

Only offer your products or services in a particular geography? Well, that’s another reason to break out the adjectives and modifiers like “Greater Boston”, “South Shore MA”, or “New England” in website content and page title tags like “South Shore MA digital marketing agency” or “digital marketing agency serving New England.” You wouldn’t believe the number of organizations I’ve seen with websites that have no “geographic triggers” in website content or page title tags to inform search engines where they operate/who they serve. In this scenario, it’s impossible to rank well in local search or in geographies you serve that are “not local.”

Are your services or products offered on both a wholesale (B2B) and retail (business-to-consumer (B2C)) basis or just one or the other, and is that obvious to search engines who are crawling/indexing your website content and page title tags? For example, if you offer food products that can only be bought retail or wholesale, are you making that clear through using the right modifiers like “hospitality industry food products” or “food products for the hospitality industry?” Or, “consumer food products” or “retail store food products?”

Do both businesses and individuals/homeowners need the type of services you offer, and do you only offer one or both? Make sure you spell that out through language in page title tags, such as “home roofing services”, “residential roofing services”, “commercial roofing services” or “business roofing services.” Or, “residential real estate appraisal services” vs. “commercial real estate appraisal services.”

I think you get the idea, and trust me, you’ll reap great SEO rewards just by keeping the above need to “modify” in mind when you either review an existing website from an SEO standpoint, or are writing page title tags and website content for a brand new site. And, as you go through this exercise, as our blog post reminds, think about how and when to use acronyms, industry jargon, scientific terms, internal speak, etc. to modify/qualify certain services or products you offer. Give great thought to whether your target audience(s) are using the aforementioned in the search terms they enter into a search engine like Google. If you don’t think your audiences are using those terms, forego using them in website content and page title tags, and instead, use the “lay person” terms that they are likely using.

Not sure what search terms/keywords your target audience(s) are most frequently entering in search engines to identify organizations that offer your particular products or services? Reach out. We’re keyword research and planning experts and can help you determine what phrases to focus on in website content and page title tags and how to best modify and qualify the products and services you offer.

 

 

 

 

 

brand promise, competitive advantage, Customer Service, differentiation, good will creation, Memorability, Uncategorized, User experience

Why You Should Remind & Require Employees to “Do Your Job” and Do It Well

In my last blog post, “In Praise of Praise”, I shared my thoughts about how, in this day and age of “digital sharing”, an organization’s success or failure may be very dependent on customers’ online reviews/ratings. The same success-failure relationship holds true for an organization’s customer service quality, which, of course, individuals likely take into consideration when reviewing or rating an organization online. As a marketer, I’ve always believed prompt, effective, exemplary, and customer-satisfying customer service delivery is an organization’s most important marketing tactic and a marketing “no-brainer” along with having an effective website that is optimized for SEO. In very competitive markets, where there is little differentiation between products or services offered, it often is the one and only true differentiator.

I’ve also always been a big stickler when it comes to doing your job and doing it well — this includes having high expectations of myself as well as my co-workers, and thus, my always wanting to deliver outstanding work, both in corporate and consulting roles. I’ll never forget how, while employed at my very first permanent post-college job in a prominent bank’s corporate banking area, it was noted in my review as a criticism that I had too high or unreasonable expectations of co-workers. I couldn’t understand that being a negative trait at the time, and I still don’t comprehend why it was a perceived as a weakness that I would voice a concern to my manager whenever staff in the Bank’s wire transfer area messed up a transfer for the Bank’s biggest corporate customer — whose relationship I and my boss managed.

DO YOUR JOB

Fellow Bostonians and fans of the New England Patriots are sure to be familiar with the “Do Your Job” command associated with Coach Bill Belichick in recent years. I’ve been thinking about this statement a great deal lately, primarily because I have had, or friends and family have shared with me, so many recent experiences where individuals didn’t, had to be pushed to, or refused to do their job. It seems like it’s becoming more and more common for individuals to:

  • deliver slow or no service
  • express through body language or spoken language that they’re annoyed that they have to serve or help you, or that you asked them to serve or help you
  • ask you to self-serve or do their job for them
  • be immersed in their cell phone and not their job
  • continue talking with their co-workers when they see you standing at the counter or in line waiting to be helped

A couple examples of the above. Earlier in the week, my husband and I visited a popular and busy museum in New York City. The individual working at the coat check did not speak to us at all when we came to pick up my coat and bag, despite having chatted quite a bit with us when we dropped them off. Instead, she was very slow to get up out of her chair and get our things for us, and seemed very irritated that she had to do so. The fact that she had spoken with us previously meant there wasn’t any kind of language barrier getting in the way of her communicating with us. Therefore, she could have said “thanks” when we handed her our token and ticket to pick up the items, wished us “a good evening” as it was late in the day, or commented or asked about our visit or about our returning to the Museum. Even a smile would have gone a long way with us.

A family member recently needed help with a technical issue he was having with some software. He couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t able to get the software to function right, despite numerous attempts to use it to accomplish a necessary task. Instead, he was asked to do an extensive amount of trouble-shooting and rework on his end by the software company, when the individual with whom he was interacting could have easily identified the glitch/helped him resolve the issue. Basically, he was being asked to self-serve. And — I know I’m stating the obvious — that’s a common occurrence right now. We’re being asked now to regularly self-serve at checkout lines at the grocery store or pharmacy when we purchase products, and even self-serve related to services we receive.  And, even some smaller shops have implemented such technology.

Sure there are times when it’s helpful or quicker for customers to be able to self-serve, but I don’t believe that individuals should ever be forced to self-serve, and if we have to self-serve, shouldn’t we receive some kind of product or service price discount? Self service should be just one of several service options offered to customers. By offering self-service, organizations may believe their customers will be more satisfied, and in some cases, that may be true, but the organization also misses out on the opportunity for an individual to rave about the exceptional/outstanding/world-class service they received — service that may be the deciding factor in whether they return to a store location or use a particular service again, or the deciding factor among those with whom a client shares information about your organization’s service level.

patriots

So, what are the marketing and management implications of all of the above?

  • Managers of front line staff need to regularly conduct an assessment of how those customer-facing staff are doing their jobs and if they are doing it well via:
    • service surveys conducted of customers — I’m going to give a shout-out to the Lucerne Hotel in NYC — because they recently surveyed me with an online tool at the beginning of my stay and after my stay. Way to stay on top of any possible customer service issues!
    • hiring a mystery shopper to provide customer service experience feedback if your organization has one or several storefronts or locations where individuals receive face-to-face/in-person service from an employee
    • customers reviews posted on Facebook, Yelp, Google, and any other rating/review sites that might be relevant to your particular industry
    • other tactics, such as listening in on a staff member’s phone call with a customer (this should not be done without the staff member being aware of it, of course, or at least aware that, at any point, you might might be listening in on a customer call)
  • Organizations should ask themselves whether ALL of their target audiences/customers will welcome having to self-serve. If the answer is “no,” and there are customer or prospective client audiences who likely won’t welcome self-service, then a service option where an organization’s employees assists or waits on customers is required.

I’d so welcome hearing your thoughts and experiences related to being the victim of someone’s unwillingness to do their job or being forced to self-serve. So, please do share!

Acceptance of Circumstances, brand promise, competitive advantage, keeping up with trends, lead generation, sales, staying current, target audiences, website

The Website-Horse Connection

As I continue to talk and work with clients and prospective clients related to driving target-audience traffic to their website, via a variety of digital marketing activities, I’m regularly reminded of a phrase spoken by the leader of a webinar I attended last year — “your website should be your work horse.” Whether you spell it as one word or two, as shown below, the phrase “work horse” indicates someone or something that consistently, and endlessly, accomplishes a difficult task.

workhorse definition

Now, for the second horse reference — “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Technical SEO, paid search ads, and social media posts & ads are all effective means of driving traffic to your website, but if your website isn’t your work horse, or doesn’t cause a horse to drink, all the other digital marketing tactics in the world won’t help your organization generate more leads and sales. In almost all instances, an organization would serve itself better, from a lead- and sales-generation standpoint, if it invested time and energy to support its website being its workhorse — prior to investing in and launching other traditional or digital marketing activities to increase website traffic.

In many cases, your website will provide the first and only impression an individual or organization has of your organization. Your website should reflect that:

  • you pay attention to detail
  • you care about your organization’s reputation and image
  • you care about accuracy
  • you strive to make your visitors’ life easier and you don’t want to waste their time
  • your clients and customers can expect great things from your products and services because, well, you’re a top-notch, well-pulled-together organization
  • you are relevant and current
  • you are able to make — and do take — the time to ensure your website’s information is current and links and any interactive tools on your site function properly

horse

THINKSTOCK IMAGE

Steps to make sure your website is your work horse, and that will ultimately contribute to your being the “dark horse” in your industry or niche:

  1. Make sure there are no misspellings/typos on your site and your writing adheres to good grammar principles. It’s easy enough to spellcheck and grammar-check content/copy in MS Word or other software before you load it to your site.
  2. Check your site regularly for broken links, particularly links that point to another organization’s website, since these external sites may remove or move content to which you’ve pointed.
  3. Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. I won’t name any names of content management solutions (CMS) or free or inexpensive website creation tools or hosts. You tend to get what you pay for, and sites using cheap or free tools often end up looking cheap too — particularly when they allow for a website that is small and hard to read and not sized to work well on your desktop or laptop computer.
  4. Related to bullet #3 above, be sure to launch your site on a CMS that allows your website to be “responsive”, i.e., respond to the device which accesses it, whether it be a mobile phone, tablet, or desktop or laptop computer.
  5. Be consistent with where and how you use fonts and colors throughout your site. For example, use the same font and color for page headlines throughout your site.
  6. Make sure your site has a “cohesive” feel and certain pages don’t look like they belong on a different planet than other pages.
  7. Make sure your site is secure. Any website should be an https:// site vs. https:// site. Horses can sense danger, and nothing is going to cause a horse to bolt faster in this day and age of identity and privacy theft, than an indication from their browser that your site is “insecure.”
  8. Forego any kind of over-the-top dynamic video, photo, and graphic displays that are going to cause your site to load too slowly. Horses want to keep moving forward. Any kind of roadblock could cause them to take an undesired detour.
  9. Pay attention to current website trends, and when your existing site strays too far from those trends, update your site’s look and feel, so it feels fresh and relevant. Likely, you’ll need to do this at least once every five years.
  10. Include user-friendly navigation that calls out in clear language the topics that visitors would expect and want to find on a site that offers the types of products and services you offer. Related to this, create and include content & interactive tools that will ensure that visitors can accomplish what they want and need to do on your site. This should ultimately lead to sales and lead generation for your organization.
  11. In keeping with bullet #10 above, use clear “call-to-action” buttons (that link to appropriate page of your site) throughout your site that pertain to tasks your target audience(s) will wish and expect to accomplish when visiting your site, such as “subscribe to our e-newsletter” or “schedule a complimentary discussion.”
  12. Make sure any text is properly aligned and there are no extra spaces between words or inappropriate spaces between paragraphs or large blocks of text.
  13. Remove outdated documents and content, such as pdfs with information that is no longer accurate or relevant/timely.
  14. Delete events that have long since passed from your events calendar.
  15. This is Marketing/Branding 101 – but be consistent as to how you refer to your organization throughout the site and with logo use.
  16. Don’t make your site a dumping ground. Less usually is more. On any one particular page, don’t include so many call-outs and links to pdfs or other pages of your site, or so many graphics and images, that it’s impossible for your visitor to know where to focus.

As is obvious from the above, while well worth the effort, making sure your website is your work horse and, therefore, will lead the horse to drink is not for the work-shy. If the tips above, have you saying “hold your horses!”, we’re always ready to “saddle up” and get you moving in the right direction quickly!

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!

A bunch of white balloons with one red balloon standing out and rising above the white ones

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.

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

Note: Since I wrote the piece below the video referenced has been removed from YouTube.

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.