Acceptance of Circumstances, Being Found on Google, blog, Blog, Blogging, competitive advantage, content marketing, differentiation, digital marketing agency, good will creation, keeping up with trends, keywords, marketing best practices, marketing consultant, Marketing Planning, online presence, organic SEO, Post-COVID-19 Marketing, post-pandemic marketing, pull marketing, Search Engine Optimization, search terms, SEM, SEO, strategic planning, target audiences, Target Marketing, User experience, website

Understanding Google’s New Emphasis On “Helpful Content” Related To SEO

As we’ve shared on social media and with our SEO company’s clients, Google announced in September 2022 a key revision to their search algorithm (the algorithm they use to decide which websites to serve up, and in which order, for search terms entered in their search engine) to which each and every website owner should pay close attention. And, that is that they, as the #1 search engine used by individuals (92% or more of individuals use Google as their primary search engine), will be paying greater consideration to whether or not a website’s content is “helpful” or “unhelpful” when making search engine results listing ranking decisions. As you would expect, sites with “helpful content” are more likely to be served up and rank well in search results for relevant terms.

Impact of Google’s September 2022 “Helpful Content” Algorithm Change

We know first-hand how much of a shift in ranking can take place when Google views your site as one that shares “helpful content.” Our site now rank approx. 50 spots higher in Google search results for a high-volume, relevant keyword and that shift happened almost overnight. We believe that the positive shift was due to Google recognizing that our Boston digital marketing agency consistently publishes blog posts that are easily understood by a “lay person,” but also provide enough instruction to implement some of the marketing tactics we describe and recommend in our posts.

Shared below in Google’s “own words” is information from Google’s Search Central blog about how to ensure your website content is “helpful.” We’ve highlighted (via bold italics) what we consider to be the most critical policies to apply when making decisions about what topics to write about — and how to write about them — to make sure your content is beneficial to the various audiences who visit your site. All of their recommendations should improve your website’s “bounce rate,” i.e., the percentage of people who land/start on your site without interacting it in any way, such as clicking on a link or call-out, or visiting another page of your site. When prospective clients or clients are bouncing too quickly from your site, it’s an opportunity for a competitor to win them over on their site, right?

Unhelpful Website Content And How It Impacts SEO

The flip side of the positive practice of regular production and posting of “helpful content” is to eliminate content that Google may deem as “unhelpful (which could negatively impact how your website ranks for “desirable” search terms).” Such “unhelpful” content includes:

  • Short content that is “stuffed” with keywords and was primarily loaded to your site to support your site being found on Google for those keywords.
  • Content that is outdated — think events that have already passed or information that is no longer relevant or accurate, particularly pre-pandemic information since the pandemic greatly changed both business and consumer behavior.
  • Content that is all “about you,”, i.e., too focused on selling your products and singing your praises or sharing your differentiators without explaining how your prospective clients or clients would benefit from your products, services, and solutions, i.e., explaining what pain points of clients they would address.

Our team is here to help you interpret this most recent Google algorithm change, and put the right steps in place to make sure you respond to, and take advantage of, this recent Google algorithm change appropriately, promptly, and effectively. It’s very much in keeping with what we shared years ago in one of our very first SEO blog posts about making sure your website is “authentic.” So, please reach out if we can help you effectively navigation this change in algorithm — one we think makes is warranted, was a long-time-in-coming, and will provide for a far better user experience on all websites.

Google’s Explanation Of What “Helpful Content” Is

Source of information below: https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2022/08/helpful-content-update#:~:text=The%20helpful%20content%20update%20aims,successful%20with%20our%20new%20update%3F

Focus on people-first content

The helpful content update aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well.

How can you ensure you’re creating content that will be successful with our new update? By following our long-standing advice and guidelines to create content for people, not for search engines. People-first content creators focus first on creating satisfying content, while also utilizing SEO best practices to bring searchers additional value. Answering yes to the questions below means you’re probably on the right track with a people-first approach:

  • Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
  • Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
  • Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
  • After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
  • Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
  • Are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?

Avoid creating content for search engines first

Our advice about having a people-first approach does not invalidate following SEO best practices, such as those covered in Google’s own SEO guide. SEO is a helpful activity when it’s applied to people-first content. However, content created primarily for search engine traffic is strongly correlated with content that searchers find unsatisfying.

How do you avoid taking a search engine-first approach? Answering yes to some or all of the questions is a warning sign that you should reevaluate how you’re creating content across your site:

  • Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans?
  • Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
  • Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
  • Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
  • Are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you’d write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
  • Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
  • Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don’t).
  • Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?
  • Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed?

community involvement, good will creation, Importance of taking break, internships and volunteering, keeping a balance, Making Connections, making time for things you value, mission statement, Passion, walking, warriors, fighters, doing good, giving back, paying it forward

Why I’m A Jimmy Fund Walk Walker and Team Captain

The following blog post is dedicated to my friend, Susan Clawson, who lost her hard-fought battle with stomach cancer earlier this month. Susan was an incredible woman. Despite her own battles with both thyroid and stomach cancer, she helped raise both awareness of cancer and funds for research through her Relay For Life leadership roles — roles to which she brought great passion & energy. I know I and other friends are committed to keeping her cancer-awareness and research-funds-generation goals alive!

This morning, I met with my lovely contact at The Jimmy Fund. Such a caring and kind individual and so passionate about her role in helping Jimmy Fund Walk teams generate funds for cancer research. We talked about a number of things — fundraising ideas for my “Mission Possible” walking team, and how I could share with local reporters both my reasons for walking, as well as a cute story about how I met a good friend and current cancer patient thru the walk — all to create awareness for the walk and it’s important mission. We also chatted about my own cancer journey and how treatment for abdominal sarcoma has had a lasting impact on my health, as well as my unending desire to provide ongoing support to friends and family who are battling cancer, so they never feel alone or forgotten during their cancer journey.

I also shared with my Jimmy Fund contact a “fun fact” I hadn’t thought about in a while. How Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) — the organization that receives and employs the funds generated thru the Jimmy Fund Walk to conduct innovative, life-saving research — was one of the very first places I worked when I moved to Boston after graduating from UCONN. Back then, the beautiful, state-of-the-art Yawkey Center owned and run by DFCI did not exist. I worked out of the Dana Building, which is still used today. As a temporary employee in DFCI’s HR Department, each morning as I came to work, I walked by a children’s play area set up in the back of the lobby. While seeing kids battling cancer made me teary-eyed, it also gave great meaning to working at DFCI — to help these kids and others win their cancer battles.

Little did I know — and I’m tearing up as I write this — that 23 years later, I’d be a patient myself and receiving care in the exact same building!

This October, I’ll walk in the Jimmy Fund Walk — so happy it is in-person again this year — for the fifth year!

It’s been another very busy year for me on both the work and personal fronts, but when summer rolls around, I know I need to make the time to start fundraising more for my Jimmy Fund Walk team, “Mission Possible.”

Why I Know and Have Supported So Many Other “Cancer Warriors”

There’s just not enough “real estate” on my Jimmy Fund walk page to explain why I continue to walk and raise funds for the Jimmy Fund, so that’s why I’ve taken to my blog to share my countless reasons. Friends and family have pointed out to me that, compared to the average person, I seem to have a disproportionate/very large number of loved ones who have battled or lost their battles with cancer. I won’t argue that, and there’s a reason for it — once you’ve been a “cancer warrior” yourself, friends and family members who are diagnosed with cancer tend to reach out to you for advice regarding how to physically and emotionally handle a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Plus, you get to know other cancer patients who are on the same treatment schedule as you, or through virtual cancer support groups and discussion boards. And, a sad actuality of serving on the Braintree Relay For Life Committee for a few years was that I made friends with people who are involved with cancer fundraising because they are “cancer warriors” themselves.

All of the above explains why I have so many names listed next to my number one and number two reasons for why I walk in the Jimmy Fund walk below.

And, lastly, as a cancer patient or cancer survivor, you know what it’s like to feel so darn lonely and out-of-step with the rest of the world. As I shared with my Jimmy Fund liaison this morning, when you are battling cancer, it’s particularly hard to see the world keep spinning and everyone going about their day-to-day/everyday lives when what was previously your normal routine/life has been put “on hold,” — either temporarily or forever.

Reasons Why I Walk In The Jimmy Fund Walk

  1. IN MEMORY of family members and friends I’ve lost to a variety of forms of cancer, including lung, bladder, prostate, breast, stomach, brain and pancreatic cancer: Sue M., Felice E., and Karen T. (my college friends), Susan C., Enid L., and Patty W. (Braintree Relay For Life Committee friends), Jeff P. and Scott R. (high school friends), O.V. S. (my dad), George E. (my grandfather), Hazel S. (my grandmother), and Sharon C. (my sister-in-law), Beth M. and Jen L. (fellow sarcoma patients), Bruce M., Trece M., and Nancy K. (fellow cancer patients I met along my journey), John S. (a close neighbor’s son), Marion H. (work friend.) And, there are many others from cancer support groups I lost along the way.
  2. IN HONOR of family members and friends who have won their cancer battles or who are still fighting, including leiomyosarcoma, neuroendocrine tumor (NET), and prostate cancer, breast cancer, and thyroid cancer: Barbara and Maria S. (my sisters), Jean C., Jeanne M., Francine F., Carolyn Q., Barbara J., Chris M., and Archie S. (life-long/close friends of me and my husband), Pat E. and Dee C. (women who walk with my team), and of course, yours truly.
  3. TO REMIND others that “cancer never takes a holiday” and that, if anything, the number of individuals battling cancer is on the rise vs. on the decline, and that there is not one person among us whose life hasn’t been, or won’t be impacted by cancer in some way, even if it’s thru a loved one’s diagnosis vs. a personal diagnosis.
  4. TO RAISE VERY MUCH-NEEDED FUNDS for cancer research, especially for rare cancers, since no one treatment is likely ever going to be capable of treating each & every form of cancer. And in keeping with the aforementioned, to feel that I’m helping friends & family who are still battling cancer or, who might again battle cancer, due to metastasis or recurrence. Fundraising is a way for me to put my anger and sadness about cancer into something positive and to not feel like the deaths of those who passed from incredibly hard battles with cancer were in vain, and to remind those fallen “cancer warriors” that they will never be forgotten.

How You Can Honor Or Remember The “Cancer Warriors” In Your Life

The above is pretty simple. Donate to my “Mission Possible” team or support another Jimmy Fund walker. Or, join my team by visiting the Jimmy Fund Walk site and registering to be a member of “Mission Possible.”

And, visit this page of my site if you need help and courage to “keep fighting.” E-mail me at gail.moraski@allintheresults.com if there are fighting people, words, or songs I should be adding to this page. Plus, let me know if there is anyone you want me to honor or think of as I walk on October 2 this year!

Thanks for any support you end up giving my team and those who battle cancer!

After we published this post, we received the following coverage about our Jimmy Fund Walk team. Go team “Mission Possible!” https://www.patriotledger.com/story/lifestyle/2022/10/05/braintree-cancer-survivor-steps-up-jimmy-fund-walk/8177164001/

community involvement, COVID-19 marketing, good will creation, keeping up with trends, lead generation, Making Connections, Memorability, Networking, pandemic marketing, Post-COVID-19 Marketing, post-pandemic marketing, promotional items, sales, traditional marketing

Five Promotional Products for Challenging Times

The promotional product world looks very different now than it did in early March. It’s not all gloom and doom, but the way we interact with each other and stay in touch with our prospects and clients has certainly changed. Despite challenging times, you still need to promote your products and services, get in front of your target audience and generate new business.

So, what’s trending lately in the promo world to help companies stay top of mind? Let’s look at some new ideas and all-time favorites.  

Pens

Pens have been my all-time favorite product because they appeal to almost every audience. With the focus on everything being fresh, clean, and sanitized, a new pen is a coveted item. Antimicrobial pens are popular because they help fight off germs – plus, many come individually wrapped in cellophane to avoid any contamination.

Golf

Personalized golf balls are a crowd pleaser and they’re a cinch to customize. Just add your charity or business’ logo, message or photo, and voilà, you’ve got a unique and memorable giveaway. Some may even become collector’s items! Since golf is one of the few team sports that’s ‘open for business,’ many golf events are still on. Yet another reason customized golf ball remains a top choice!

Water Bottles

If you’re like me, you probably want to drink more water, but always forget to pack your water bottle.  Problem solved! Give your prospects and clients branded water bottles that they can’t forget! Water bottles are a health-focused promo gift that your target market can use every day – and the benefit is that your name is always front and center. Want a few ideas? Check out my client’s favorite water bottles.

Mugs

Do you start the day with a cup of joe or look forward to an afternoon tea? If that’s a yes, you know it’s not just part of your daily routine, it’s a time you really love. Chances are you have a handful of favorite mugs; some you’ve owned for years. Branded mugs make a reasonably priced and useful giveaway, and they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. Add mugs to your marketing budget for a promotional item that lasts year after year.

Hand Sanitizer

With everyone going back into the workplace, hand sanitizers are a necessity.  If you thought customized hand sanitizers were a popular handout before COVID-19, they’re now one of my best sellers. Hand washing is serious business, so much in fact that the CDC has an entire section on keeping your hands clean. There’s even a “Life is Better with Clean Hands Campaign”. Piggyback on that for great PR and to do your part to keep America safe.

Why Promotional Products Now?

Business is coming back and the same problems you solved before the pandemic, you’re still solving now. Don’t stop marketing. Let your clients and prospects know you’re well and alive and open for business. Promotional products that are reasonably priced and customized for your business, let the world know – “I’m here. How can I help you?”

Rachel Leone is president of Leone Marketing Solutions, a women-owned promotional product and apparel firm. She helps big brands and small brands stand out, get noticed, and generate leads through her promotional products and services. Thousands of new products are launched every day, and one of them may be just right for you, click here to browse her website. For more information or a complimentary brainstorming session contact her at 781.740.3171 or rachel@leonemarketing.com.

competitive advantage, Customer Service, differentiation, good will creation, Memorability, sales, traditional marketing, User experience

Employing a “Dinosaur” Marketing Practice to Keep From Going Extinct

Last week, I went “in town” (traveled from my office on the South Shore into Boston) to meet with a client. As I often do when I make the 45+- minute commute to meet with a client, or attend an industry or networking event, I ran a few errands after my meeting. There’s always a birthday gift or a new book to be bought, right? I stopped at Copley Place/The Prudential Building to buy a couple of ingredients that Sur La Table and Eataly carry, and also visited Barnes & Noble to purchase “The Secret” (a cool treasure hunt guide with a Boston reference).

Initially, I thought I was just having a lucky or “random acts of kindness” day, because employees in each of the businesses I mentioned above were so welcoming, helpful, or kind — something I hadn’t experienced to such a degree at retailers in a while. But, then it struck me on my journey home, how much retailers must be recognizing the need to step up their customer service game if they want to survive in the next year, never mind the next ten.

I’m likely stating the obvious here, but the plethora of online shopping opportunities, particularly, Amazon.com, is causing retailers across the U.S. to close their physical shops/locations in busy downtown areas and shopping malls. Whether it be filing for bankruptcy or completing closing up shop (literally and figuratively), recent victims of the uptick in online (particularly one-stop) shopping include Papyrus, Payless Shoes, Forever 21, Barneys New York, Gymboree, and more. And, it’s common knowledge, that time-honored retail giant, Macy’s, whom families have visited for generations, will be closing numerous storefronts.

As a marketer, I’ve always felt and known that customer service can make or break you, and if an organization’s service is outstanding or unique enough from that of competitors’ it can be a true differentiator. That’s why I’ve discussed this topic previously in my “In Praise of Praise” and “Why You Should Remind & Require Employees to ‘Do Your Job’ And Do It Well” blog posts.

My aforementioned shopping experience in Boston leads me to believe that many retailers are now coaching and requiring their sales staff to deliver exceptional service in hopes of maintaining a strong physical vs. online consumer following. So what were some of the stepped-up customer service tactics I experienced at the retailers mentioned above?

  • lots of smiles from individuals working on the floor of stores or at the registers
  • being greeted when I walked in the door
  • being asked by more than one employee if they could help me find anything or if I was finding what I was looking for
  • being offered food samples
  • being given double the portion of the food item I was purchasing (but only paying for the original one portion) and being alerted to that by the employee
  • displaying interest in my needs, my life, what problem I was looking to solve, etc.
  • engaging me in a lengthy conversation related to a product I was purchasing and why I was excited about it, and sharing in my enthusiasm

Based on the way I was made to feel noticed, valued, and important, I will definitely revisit all the physical stores of these retailers again. I’m someone who enjoys chatting with salespeople at stores, window-shopping, and being able to feel, test, try on, etc. a product I’m hoping to buy. Part of that may be due to the fact that I work out of my home office and all my co-workers are virtual. I welcome getting away from my office once in a while and excursions that provide opportunities to socialize. I know this does not hold true for all consumers, though — many don’t want to have to socialize with salespeople or leave their home to run an errand after a busy workday.

I’ve shared all of the above as a reminder and warning to anyone who is responsible for sales at their particular organization, regardless of the organization’s nature. Great customer service never grows old or goes out of style! It’s as relevant — in fact, it may be more relevant — than it was in the 1800’s (hence, the exaggerated dinosaur reference in my blog post title) when Brooks Brothers, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Bloomingdale, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Barnes & Noble opened their doors. While I do hope this stepped-up customer service effort will keep the retailers I cited from losing their brick & mortar presence, I wonder if such an effort might have kept them from being where some of them are today — close to closing up shop.

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, 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!

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.

 

 

 

good will creation, public relations, social media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.