Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Corporate Policy for Social Media

So your company or marketing department is into social media. But you have questions like:

How should we handle negative comments on Blog posts and other social media?
How should we handle comments that go beyond negative and are completely misleading and false?
How should we handle blogs and posts that give misleading and harmful information and we do not control the site?
Internally, how should the company address employees using social media?
Should all sales people have their own blog and Twitter account?
How do we make sure employees are posting information in line with our brand and message?
What happens if employees post something on their Facebook or other social medial sites that is inappropriate or just in poor taste? Can we tell them to take it down?

These questions will be answered tomorrow at the Business Marketing Association. Lunch. Starting at 11:30 you'll hear from the marketing and legal point of view.

Here's the link for more info:

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Marketers Missing the Boat When It Comes to Boardroom Discussions

“Today’s Marketer, Tomorrow’s Growth Leader?” was the topic of the BMA St. Louis luncheon in last week. The speaker was Scott Davis, author of several books including “The Shift, The Transformation of Today’s Marketers into Tomorrow’s Growth Drivers” which was released in May 2009. Scott is an adjunct professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and has over 20 years of brand, marketing strategy and new product development experience.

Scott’s presentation was how marketers are missing the boat when it comes to board room discussions because they don’t talk about what the board is focused on which is mainly increasing profits. Davis explained how marketing is really made up of what most traditionally trained marketers refer to as the “Four P’s of Marketing” which include product, price, promotion and placement (a.k.a. distribution). When it comes to marketing, most only see it in terms of promotion. Even in the promotion area marketing is often split between “marketing departments” and sales.

I agree with Scott. After graduating from the University of Missouri – Columbia with a B.S.B.A. in Marketing I was surprised to see that most “marketers” totally ignored all aspects of marketing and only concerned themselves with promotions. I worked at an advertising agency as an account representative and then in management. The agency only focused on creative and ad placement – hardly ever strategy or how it relates to price, product or placement. But in reality, you have to follow the money. Ad agency’s revenue comes from billing for creative and ad placement. So naturally, they are going to be focused on this rather the big picture.

In my other marketing roles within other industries, I found it to be the same problem: people equate marketing with promotions and only promotions. My theory is that traditionally trained marketers only have themselves to blame. First, they don’t educate others on marketing. Next, as Scott said in last week’s meeting, marketers really don’t talk in terms of revenue and profits.

Many people that I have run into are in marketing positions but don’t have a formal education in marketing. They are trained in communications, journalism, advertising or sales. Others come from disciplines that don't study business such as engineering and graphic arts. When they land in a key marketing position, these marketers need to train themselves on such things as profits, loss, and revenue. They need to know how to calculate gross and net profit and be familiar with a balance sheet, income statement and equate how all aspects of marketing affect these reports.

With the Internet it is much easier to quantify a return on investment. It’s easier to measure key marketing tactics, spending and results. However, integrating your entire online and offline marketing and knowing how it affects PL is critical in proving its value to the bottom line.

However, marketers need to be involved with the other marketing P’s. They should be asking tough questions. What is the pricing strategy and how is it working? Can the product be improved or altered to affect sales? What stage of the product life cycle is your product in and what is the proven strategy for that product stage? How can you improve profits with different distribution channels? Marketers need to know how to ask these questions and be in the forefront of answering the questions.

Will there be a shift so that more marketers become growth leaders? They can only if they fully understand and participate in an organization’s growth in terms of numbers and strategy by utilizing the four P’s of Marketing.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Integrated Marketing Summit

Last week I was a presenter at the Integrated Marketing Summit at the Millennium Hotel in St. Louis. Thirty speakers came from across the US to present and attend seminars and discussions regarding integrated marketing. It was exciting to see so many people interested in learning more about the new dynamics of marketing. Shawn Elledge and Elizabeth Usovic, the organizers of the event, did an excellent job of gathering great speakers and putting together this event.

My presentation was on affordable tools regarding social media, Website conversion and lead management. I reviewed a few tools that would help marketers attract new leads to their Website, convert them into prospects and help manage the lead/prospect and sales process. You can download my presentation on the Integrated Marketing Summit Website.

Talking with various attendees, I found a wide range of knowledge level about these topics. There were the advanced marketers who are engaged in lead scoring and ranking software and doing some interesting things with integrating online and off line marketing tactics. Plus, there were also a number of novice online marketers who are just now getting into an integrated marketing approach.

The summit attendees seemed to me, to be more heavily attended by corporate marketers rather than agencies. I found this extremely interesting since many of the agencies involved with Internet development and strategy in St. Louis are lacking in some of the tools and strategy presented at the Summit.

Everyone seems keenly interested in social media topics. Presentations around social media had the biggest draw. That is not surprising since many are still trying to get their arms around the idea of social networking. Companies today are slowly realizing that the consumer is in charge of the brand. The ways of brand management from several years ago is changing and social media is a big part of the change.

However, social media is really just another attraction and communication tool. But what happens after the click in terms of lead management, customer relationship management, customer retention and leveraging customers. These topics, strategies and tactics are being overlooked again by many who are going after the next shinny object.

Overall, I thought the Summit was great. I don’t know anyone that can’t learn one more thing or look at what they’re doing in a different light. Just being around other great marketers was an energy and creative boost in itself. I plan on continual involvement with the Summit. For those who were not able to attend, be sure to watch for next year’s Summit. It promises to come back bigger and better in 2010.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Get More Out of your 2010 Marketing Budget

It’s that time of year again, next year’s budget. You’ve probably been working on next years budget already and wondering how you are going to squeeze more dollars for marketing to achieve your sales goals. In today’s environment marketing budgets are usually being slashed. However, there are ways you can stretch your media dollars.

First, take a look at what your competitors are spending. Research keywords that your competitors are paying for and track their spending over an extended period of time. This information could confirm your keyword spending direction. Spyfu Kombat is a paid keyword research service that lets you track historical keyword analyses. If keyword spending is major part of your budget this tool may come in handy for you.

It probably goes without saying, but if you can demonstrate the value of marketing dollars spent now it goes a long way when asking for more or validating why you should keep your current budget. Your agency should be helping you with ROI reports through out the year. If you don’t have a way to calculate your current ROI this should be the first thing you do.

Other valuable investments should be made in testing tools and content. These areas will get the best bang for your buck. These two areas are often over looked and under valued.

eMarketer’s October 29th article “Bad Campagin Worse than None at All” illustrates what happens when you have a bad campaign. The same is true for bad landing pages. Invest in either purchasing testing tools or starting with some free tools and learning how to effectively use them. If your budget doesn’t allow you to purchase testing tools start with Google Website Optimizer.

Good content is another great investment. How to articles and press releases with great content can give you long-term return. We are still getting traffic from articles and press releases we posted over three years ago. Invest in getting a professional writer to help generate great content.

Another investment with long-term return is email marketing. Continue to build your email list. Yes, having thousands of followers on Twitter is great, but the best impact we’ve seen is in email marketing. We’ve seen people on email list for several years who finally take action. This is especially true for companies with long sales cycles.

The trend has been lately that budgets from off-line marketing have been going into online marketing. We’ve seen the same thing. However, don’t give up on the off-line. Having a well integrated marketing approach is your best strategy. Using tools wisely, testing and the right measurements will get you the best marketing ROI in 2010.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why being ranked high in Google may hurt your business.

Recently, I was at a networking event, and I ran into several people who were discussing Internet marketing. Some of the people were quite proud about how well their Website was ranked in Google. In further discussion I quickly learned that this seemingly positive accomplishment was actually hurting them and they didn’t even realize it.

Being highly ranked in Google, should be something to boast. However, as the conversation went on they revealed the actual phrases for which they were highly ranked. On learning the phrases, I immediately knew that their accomplishments were not only worthless, they were hurting the company.

One person was a small business owner who was a typical DIY “do it yourself”. If they can “save money” and do it your self they would. Typically, these people place little value on professionals of any type. That is, until they get into trouble. They will never see the difference between the product shot they took and the professional photographer’s beautiful photography. They see no difference between the DIY legal documents for trademarks compared to the experienced trademark attorney. They will always feel that they are ahead of the game for anything they can do themselves and not pay someone else to do.

Here’s a tip for salespeople and service professionals, do not waste your time on the typical DIY. They will never pay you what you’re worth, nor will they appreciate what you do for them. To them, cheap is always better. Some of these people may be successful but they will not go beyond a certain point because they will not hire professionals for key areas. Until they see the value of professional work they will always be stuck at a given plateau.

This guy was no different. He was bragging about how his Website was ranked third in Google. He also bragged about how he did it himself with little effort. The phrase that it was ranked high in was his company name. To make it even more obvious to most marketers, his company name is his last name which is not a common name at all. It wasn’t the time, or the place, to inform this poor man in front of his colleagues, that his Website without much effort should be placed high for his company name. Or educate him on what search terms he should try to achieve high ranking. I suspect that my information on his site rankings would fall on deaf ears.

Next, he was proud of the fact that his site was ranked high for a few product names. But further discussion disclosed too that these names were irrelevant. They were not names people use to search for his product. They were more company specific names.

You might be thinking well at least this site is ranked high in something, so why would it hurt the company? It is hurting the company because this company owner will have a long learning curve on what is really important and why he should pay a professional to do his search engine optimization. This long learning curve is costing him money. What typical DIY people miss is the value of ROI, return on investment. They may understand that term on some level, but what they miss is that professionals, used in the right way, can catapult their company’s revenues and profits. For each dollar they spend with a professional they should see a minimum return of three dollars.

It might take months, even years, before he realizes that his company name and obscure in-house product names are not the search terms people use to find his products. Pride and ego may never allow this Website owner to hire truly professional marketers, but in time he may realize that he is not getting the results he needs. I have often seen people with this mindset then conclude that the Internet just doesn’t work for their industry or product.

The terms he should be ranked high on are the terms his customers use to find his products. He should not pay too much attention to the terms his company uses to describe the products. Industry terminology may be appropriate if you are trying to attract people who are inside your industry. You need to research the keywords and phrases your target audience is using. Plus, understand most people search for the problem they have rather than the solution. Understand your customers first and then develop, modify and optimize your Website accordingly.

Until you understand the terms your customers are using to find your products or service, I wouldn’t waste too much time trying to rank your site for terms you think are important. And if you run across someone who is the typical DIY marketer you can always try to inform them of best practices, but beware that they usually have to find out the hard way.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Increasing Website Conversion – The Missing Step

Time and time again I see business owners, product managers, marketing directors or namely anyone responsible to the profit and loss of their product, division or company miss the boat when it comes to Website conversion. They either don’t know, forget or don’t understand the value of testing.

When I mention the word “testing” to some people I see their eyes roll back, or I get a blank stare. Some have an idea what testing is, but don’t want to spend the money. Others have no idea what I’m referring to and don’t want to admit it.

Let’s start with what testing means. First, of all it doesn’t mean that all your links, forms and functionality work. That’s a programmer’s view point on testing. What I mean about testing is testing your message, text, graphic and layout. What’s the point? Well, it can mean a huge difference in increasing Website conversion. If you’re not sure about the value of Website conversion read how a 1% increase in Website conversion could mean a 160% increase in profits. Without testing you are most likely losing a boat load of money.

Just about everything should be tested, but when talking about Web conversion and testing you are usually dealing with page elements such as your headline, call to action, page layout, price the offer, etc. There are two types of testing we usually conduct and I recommend both. We utilize A/B split testing and multi-variate testing with live target audience tests and Website traffic tests.

A/B split testing means that you are testing two different page elements or pages. Site visitors or testers see either version A or version B. Multi-variate testing means that you are testing, as the name implies, multiple variations. This test could include the header, call to actions, graphics, offers, etc. and these are tested all at once.

One of the fastest ways to get some immediate feedback on your page elements is by conducting a live test with your target audience. The live target audience test consists of testing several members of your target audience one at a time. This can be done in-person or online. We use to use this method exclusively for usability (how easy is the site to use) but with each test we found valuable marketing/conversion information. Unless we test strictly for usability, we refer to this test as live test.

With online or in-person testing you first develop a set of questions. These questions include how the target audience perceives elements of the landing page. With tools like GoToMeeting and Camtasia you can test and record the subject’s moves and voice. Unless you have sophisticated tools, with this method you lack seeing the person’s body language including their facial expressions. However, even without this information online tests can yield valuable information.

The second type of testing is using a tool like Google Website Optimizer. Of course there are expensive programs out there that will yield more information, but don’t over this free tool. Let’s say you think your home page, landing page or shopping cart page is not performing as well as you like. Perhaps your designer wants to use graphic A and you think you should use graphic B. Instead of long discussion about which one to use you let the audience decide. So you run both on your site. One half of your audience will see version A and the other half will see version B. You count which one had the most conversion and that one wins.

With Google Website Optimizer you can also test the headline, call to action, text, layout, price and other page elements. This test will help you put together a super page which can have tremendous effects upon your Website conversion.

Before you spend another dime on advertising you should have your marketing team test. Pay-per-click is getting more and more expensive and search engine optimization takes long and can be costly too. First test your page elements and then turn on the advertising. Test again and advertise more. With the increased conversion rate you’ll be making more money which you can invest in more traffic.

In testing there is one rule to follow: test everything and always be testing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Target Audiences Change

Before we undertake any project we first conduct research and analysis. Skipping this step means that you are basing your project on instinct rather than facts. One of the elements in this step is examining the target audience. Analyzing the target audience and clearly understanding who they are and why they buy is critical in the success of your marketing strategy.

In most cases we ask our client to describe their target audience. What separates us from most companies is that we don’t assume anything. Lately we found that several companies were going after the wrong target audience. Their sales where sluggish at best and the company’s marketing efforts had poor returns.

My previous post on the presentation by Aimee Davis of Solutia, is an excellent example of going after the wrong target audience. The post talked about branding but what made a huge difference in Aimee’s strategy is that they focused on a different target audience. Prior to Ms. Davis’ work at Solutia the target audience was the final consumer of the end product rather than the direct buyer of the material who then produces the final product. Changing the focus to the direct buyer plus changes in the brand strategy resulted in the best quarter ever at Solutia.

Recently, one of our clients hired us to completely re-vamp their entire marketing strategy. This company wanted to reach the top marketing person at large (45 plus million in sales) corporations. However, upon examining the situation including the product, the offer, and the buying cycle, we found that that while they may want to attract large corporations it was not their target. The target audience - on average- no longer had a need for their product. Our client has a great product and there clearly is a need for the product, but the need is within mid-size and smaller companies.

Over ten years ago the target audience to the larger firms worked. However, this audience’s needs were being met with new technology and new players. These changes did not register with the client and sales were slipping. They thought they were keeping up with the times because they added new selling techniques, a new Website and utilized new technology but they never re-examined the need of their target audience. They were getting a few sales and continually thought they didn’t have good sales people and/or their marketing “creative” wasn’t good enough.

Changing the focus from who they wanted the client to be to the target audience that really had a need for their product made all the difference. With a change in the target audience and tweaking the message and offer made a huge difference in the success of their marketing.

Target audiences change and keeping an eye on these changes can make a significant impact on your marketing dollar return on investment.