Being Found on Google, digital marketing agency, direct mail, Google Analytics, keywords, marketing consultant, Nonprofit Marketing & Communications, online advertising, organic SEO, paid search, pull marketing, push marketing, Results Analysis, Search Engine Optimization, search terms, SEM, SEO, target audiences, technical SEO, User experience, website

Why "If You Build It, They Will Come" Doesn't Always Hold True

Over the past six years, as a digital marketing agency owner and marketing consultant, I’ve had so many prospective clients approach me with a specific marketing tactic/activity that they’d like me to implement on their behalf. As I’ve repeatedly expressed on social media, in other blog posts, and in my website’s content, I never encourage clients to implement or continue with a marketing activity that doesn’t make sense for them. So, as part of discussing the particular tactic for which they’d like my help, I do a “preliminary check” to see if their website is “optimized for search,” and, therefore, likely to be found by individuals searching on relevant terms for the products, services, and solutions to problems the client in-question provides. Instead of a costly advertising campaign or direct mailer, the client might be better served investing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which could have longer-lasting impact.

You would be amazed by the number of organizations — both large and small — who have spent significant $$ and time to launch a comprehensive, user-friendly, informative website, but didn’t realize they needed to implement off-page (behind-the-scenes tags) and on-page (content) SEO tactics in order for their site to be found on Google. Some website developers and designers are well-versed in SEO, others aren’t, and don’t offer the service automatically, or as an add-on when launching a new site.

The above means that a for-profit or non-profit organization may have invested in a beautiful, effective website as far as design, user experience, functionality (interactive tools) and content goes, but they won’t likely benefit from it to the degree to which they could/should. Their site becomes like a pretty little unknown island that no-one knows is there, and therefore, no-one visits. In sum, building their new site, didn’t mean people would come.

Another factor related to lack of visitors may be this. If the products, services, or solutions to problems an organization offers are not ones that individuals are aware of, and therefore, aren’t actively searching on, even the most-optimized-for-search website isn’t going to get a lot of visits that stem from search engine inquiries. If your product or service is a brand new one — think something you’d see on Shark Tank — your target audience may not even realize a product or service like yours exists. Or, particularly, if you’re a B2B (business-to-business) organization, prospective clients may identify an organization like yours by asking one of their contacts or colleagues for a referral.

Both of the scenarios outlined in the paragraph above equate to your organization not being able to rely on “organic search” to drive traffic to your website. But, if you want and need to confirm that individuals aren’t actively searching to find an organization like yours, read our recent post that explains how keyword research can help you figure out whether or not individuals are searching to find an organization with your capabilities.

So, what are the takeaways from everything we’ve shared so far in this post, i.e., how do you ensure “if you build it they will come?

  1. Don’t assume that searchers are searching to find you and/or what you offer. Take the following steps to determine if they are searching to find you, and how.
    • use your Google Analytics data to see what percentage of your traffic is organic (comes to your site as the result of a visitor clicking on a search engine results listing)
    • use your Google Search Console data to see for what search terms, if any, Google is presenting a listing with a link to your website in search engine results, and the # of individuals who are clicking-thru to your site as a result of it being presented
    • conduct keyword research for the specific geographies you serve to determine whether or not a significant volume of individuals is searching to identify an organization likes yours
  2. If the above exercises reveal that the percentage of organic traffic to your site is low (less than 30%), and your website isn’t being presented in search engine results for relevant search terms (keywords), but keyword research indicates a large number of individuals in your geography are searching for the solutions, products and services you offer, then you should optimize your website for search, i.e., implement organic/technical SEO tactics
  3. If keyword research indicates that only a small number of individuals in your geography are searching for an organization with your capabilities, it’s time to consider “push” vs. “pull” marketing. Push marketing is all about putting the idea of your product/service in individuals’ heads and making them aware that a your solution to their problem exists. Display vs. search advertising is just one form of this and this blog post explains the push vs. pull dynamic, but there are many other forms of push marketing, such as an e-mail campaign, print or broadcast advertising, or a direct mail campaign.

Results Communications & Research is always here to make sure your website isn’t an island onto itself, so reach out to make sure it gets the admiring visitors it deserves.

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.

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!

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

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

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

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

 

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

Defining Your Differentiator With Detail

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

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

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

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

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

STEPS FOR DETAILING YOUR DIFFERENTIATOR

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

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

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

Ask and be honest with yourself about the following:

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

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

Step Three: Build Out The Details of Your Differentiator

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

keywords, SEO, target audiences, Target Marketing, Uncategorized, Understanding Your Environment, User experience, website

Are You Hurting Your Organization By Using “Internal Speak” With External Audiences?

During the past couple of months, I’ve had quite a few opportunities to discuss and help prospective and existing clients with their SEO (search engine optimization). SEO is a must for any organization that hangs a shingle. Unless your business is strictly a referral-based organization, and that’s the only way you tend to generate sales, you need to do all you can to make sure listings with links to various pages of your website appear at the top of search engine results for terms you deem relevant and desirable. That way, online “searchers” for your particular product or service can easily find you, and find you before your competitors.

Are You or Your Marketing & Sales Team Wearing Blinders?

blinders on related to seo

A critical SEO error I’ve been seeing organizations make is this — they don’t walk in the shoes of one or several of their target audiences. Sometimes, individuals responsible for sales and awareness-generation get so caught up in their organization’s inner/internal world (and in the case of this blog post, “internal” can mean internal to both your organization and your industry), they get blinders on, and are guilty of the following SEO blunders:

  • Overuse of Acronyms and Industry Terms — using acronyms or industry terms on their website that some or all of their external audiences likely won’t understand. Regardless of whether acronyms or terms you are considering using are used in a particularly industry vs. only used within your organization, before you use them, give great thought to whether any of your target audiences widely uses or would understand them, and be sure to explain what they mean to audiences who don’t — as I did with the acronym “SEO” in my first paragraph. You can do this by adding a brief explanation in parentheses after the acronym or industry term in-question, or linking to a definition or explanation elsewhere on your site or on another credible external site.
  • Creative Phrase/Name For Common Product or Service — to differentiate themselves from a competitor, coming up with a creative phrase to replace the normal or common term used for that same product or service. Organizations must keep in mind that just because they want to be known for/by this differentiating phrase, that doesn’t mean target audiences will be searching on that term, which could have a very negative impact on driving traffic to your site. Let’s say a firm offers financial planning services, but wants to refer to those services via a catchy, memorable phrase like “milestone money maximization”. If they only use the “milestone…” phrase throughout their website, searchers looking for “financial planning services” aren’t going to learn of them via a search engine search, as the search engine won’t find and index that phrase on their website.
  • Ignoring Needs of Certain Audiences — not addressing all of their audiences. As discussed above, while “internal speak”, such as acronyms and industry terms, may work for one audience, they may not work for all. For example, an organization may get client referrals from professionals such as healthcare providers, CPAs, lawyers, etc., but individuals may also come directly to the organization vs. being referred by a professional. That organization needs to make sure they use language that is understood by and resonates with both professionals and direct users of the service aka “lay people.”

One of the SEO services we offer, and with 30 years of marketing experience we’re experts in doing so, is review of websites with an objective, external eye, while wearing the shoes of each of a client’s audiences. We can fairly quickly identify where and how you might be negatively impacting your organic SEO, and ultimately, limiting sales and awareness among desired external populations, through “internal speak.”