Don’t Take Your Marketing Metaphors Too Far

Since I named my small business marketing firm Zoo in a Jungle Marketing, it’s pretty clear that I approve of marketing metaphors. Taken from Peter DeVries’ quote “Life is a zoo in a jungle,” my company name promotes stepping outside the constraining zoo of your immediate business environment into the jungles of possibility.

But some brands take marketing metaphors too far. For instance, Roehr Insurance:

Don't Take Your Marketing Metaphors Too Far

When I first saw this banner, I thought, “Okay, a lion shield for a logo. I get it– lions symbolize strength, wealth and honor. Those are all desirable attributes in an insurance agency.” The lion shield serves as a clear, quickly-understood metaphor for the service you hopefully would receive from this firm.

Then I saw the tagline,”Put the Roehr back in your insurance,” and the pun-inducing groans started. Heavy-handed and silly are NOT desirable attributes for an insurance agency. (Not to mention confusing– what would it mean to have insurance that roars?)

While I certainly encourage the use of well-placed marketing metaphors, watch out for instances that give the impression of amateur efforts instead of well-crafted expertise.

Finding Leads on LinkedIn

Finding Leads on LinkedInLinkedIn is a great prospecting tool for B2B companies. In this article, learn more about finding leads on the platform. (If you’ve already established that you should develop a LinkedIn strategy, based on my article, “Is LinkedIn Right for Marketing my Small Business?“)

The key to finding leads is making connections, both by inviting many people to connect with you and by having memorable interactions with those people.

When you invite someone to connect with you, personalize the message beyond the default, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” My friend and business expert Steve Yastrow‘s biggest pet peeve is when people he barely knows send him the default connection invitation– he just ignores them. If you act like a robot, people will treat you like one.

How Do You Find People to Connect With on LinkedIn?

You know more people than you think you do! Most people can double their number of professional connections in just a few days.

Make connections with employees at your vendor and partner organizations– these contacts will be eager to connect with you and might have access to valuable leads.

Similarly, make an effort to connect with several people at your client organizations, not just your main contact. Developing more relationships will help broaden your involvement with your client.

Reflect on your past for opportunities to make connections. Consider high school classmates, church youth group friends or professors from college. Also, reach out to social contacts that might be professionally relevant, like parents from your kids’ playgroup.

If you’re fairly new in your career or business, consider connecting with friends of your parents who are more established professionally and will probably be glad to help your development.

These are just a few ideas to get you started expanding your LinkedIn network. Remember, “connecting” is not enough! Your lead generation will only be successful if you develop and maintain your relationships over time.

Avoid the ‘Alphabet Soup’ Product Naming Approach

Naming products and services is an incredibly important element to your branding strategy and marketing plan. Ideal product names are clearly descriptive, motivating to customers and memorable.

Or, you could take LG’s example and go with the alphabet soup approach:

Avoid the Alphabet Soup Product Naming Approach

The LG G Pad F 8.0 (don’t forget it’s trademarked!) is a real product. Try to imagine a customer talking about their new LG G Pad F 8.0 to a friend. Do you think they could even remember the full model name? Perhaps this clunky name is partially to blame for LG having to offer this tablet for $0.99– not exactly a high-margin sale.

LG’s product name is a prime example of naming a product from a production team’s perspective instead a customer’s. To the LG engineers, I’m sure this is a perfectly logical model name. But it doesn’t have anywhere near the impact of a simple, clear product name like iPad.

When naming your next product or service, try to be more like Apple and less like LG.

USPS’s Every Door Direct Mail: a Small Business Marketing Tool

Direct mail is expensive, and a large part of that expense is the growing cost of postage. But USPS offers a marketing program that significantly reduces postage costs called Every Door Direct Mail. In my experience, postage costs can be reduced as much as 40%.

USPS EDDM - Marketing Tool

Sounds too good to be true? For some brands and marketing strategies, it certainly is. Generally speaking, EDDM campaigns reduce costs, but often not enough to create a positive ROI. Here are my guidelines for when to consider an EDDM campaign.

When is EDDM Right for My Business?

EDDM could be a useful tool in your small business marketing plan if:

  • There are specific neighborhoods or ZIP codes that contain high concentrations of your customers or prospects.
  • Your product or service is something that almost everyone in a given mailing route could reasonably want or need.
  • The lifetime value of your customer justifies the cost of printing + postage. Lifetime value includes both the initial purchase and subsequent purchases.

Tips for Increasing the Effectiveness of Your EDDM Campaign

If you decide to try out USPS’s EDDM, here are a few tips for success:

  • Personalize the mailer for the neighborhood/ZIP code. EDDM is highly-targeted, so you may as well take the time to create specific messages for specific groups of customers.
  • Consider when customers are most likely to purchase your product and service and time your mailer appropriately. For instance, a retailer who receives most of its sales in November and December may not want to send out a mailer during the slow season when demand is slack.
  • Develop a compelling call-to-action. A campaign-specific call-to-action not only will increase the success of your mailer but will help you track that success, as well.
  • Create a unique design that resonates with your brand. Using an unusual mailer shape or colors can help your piece stand out in a stack of mail. Just make sure the piece also communicates your marketing message clearly.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has tried EDDM, either with success or lackluster results. And just give me a call with questions– this USPS offering can be rather confusing to figure out!

Is an Editorial Calendar Part of Your Small Business Marketing Plan?

Is an Editorial Calendar Part of Your Small Business Marketing Plan?An editorial calendar helps answer the question, “What am I supposed to do next?” It’s a tactical element of your small business marketing plan that lays out the month, quarter or year. With only a few hours of work, you’ll boost marketing productivity and effectiveness.

Start with Effective Small Business Marketing Strategies

As a small business, it’s incredibly important you spend your marketing budget efficiently and effectively. You can’t afford to keep doing the same marketing tactics year after year unless you know they really work. Before implementing any marketing campaigns, make sure your strategy is solid and will help you meet your business goals.

Ensure Marketing Implementation with an Editorial Calendar

One of the toughest challenges for any small business is consistently deploying marketing campaigns on time. When you often spend your day “putting out fires,” it can be hard to remember to grow your audience on Facebook, communicate with customers via your email newsletter or schedule in-person meetings with prospects.

That’s where an editorial calendar comes in. This tool helps build discipline into the timing of your marketing and ensures no channel is neglected.

For each of my small business clients, I typically outline an entire year’s calendar, with goals set for each month. This document becomes our to-do list. It’s fairly simple– take a look at the sample below for 2016 Q1.

Sample Marketing Editorial Calendar

January 2016

  • Film two videos surrounding “Winter” campaign, post second and fourth Tuesdays
  • Write two blog posts surrounding “Winter” campaign, publish first and third Tuesdays
  • Post “Winter” video or link to Facebook every Wednesday
  • Send “Winter” campaign January Email Newsletter
  • Manage “Winter” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Refresh website design template for 2016

February 2016

  • Stop “Winter” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Film two videos surrounding “Love” campaign, post second and fourth Tuesdays
  • Write two blog posts surrounding “Love” campaign, publish first and third Tuesdays
  • Post “Love” video or link to Facebook every Wednesday
  • Send “Love” campaign February Email Newsletter
  • Start and manage “Love” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Design and print “Spring” Every Door Direct Mail USPS mailer

March 2016

  • Stop “Love” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Film two videos surrounding “Spring” campaign, post second and fourth Tuesdays
  • Write two blog posts surrounding “Spring” campaign, publish first and third Tuesdays
  • Post “Spring” video or link to Facebook every Wednesday
  • Send “Spring” campaign March Email Newsletter
  • Start and manage “Spring” Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign
  • Send “Spring” Every Door Direct Mail USPS to target ZIP code

What NOT TO DO on LinkedIn

What Not to Do on LinkedInWe have all seen cringe-inducing social media marketing posts that make us say, “WHY would they share THAT?” I think these mistakes are particularly embarrassing on LinkedIn, because it is a professional network. Businesses, brands and individuals should showcase themselves at their professional best. Here are a few things to avoid:

  • DON’T use an overly personal photo. Your profile picture needs to be friendly and professional.
  • DON’T share updates that are trivial or don’t promote your brand. Save the captioned cat pictures for your personal friends on Facebook, not your customers.
  • DON’T get political. Left or Right? Either way, you’re sure to offend half of your customers.
  • DON’T ask for recommendations from people you don’t know.
  • DON’T post content with typos or misspellings. Proofread and post well-designed content.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for LinkedIn marketing: if you wouldn’t say it in-person to a customer, don’t post it.

Share this list with your employees and colleagues to make sure everyone in your organization avoids embarrassing your brand– and themselves!

Your Marketing Videos are Too Long

It’s true, your marketing videos are too long. Really, they are.

We know that attention spans are seemingly growing shorter. On the popular social network Vine, videos must be six seconds or less. But even in the stodgy world of network television, marketing videos (otherwise known at TV commercials) are limited to 30 seconds.

Fortunately, you can go longer than a Vine, and even a little longer than a TV commercial. Keep your marketing videos to 90 seconds or less. But only if you want people to watch them.

How to Keep Marketing Videos to Only 90 Seconds

Your Marketing Videos are Too LongYou have lots to say about your business, and it’s incredibly interesting to you. But your customers don’t care that much and only have a little bit of interest in your business. Even the Most Interesting Man in the World shot 30-second commercials (and he’s been retired).

Here’s how you keep marketing videos to 90 seconds:

  • Choose incredibly focused topics. Remember in high school or college, when you had to write research papers? When you chose an impossibly broad topic like the Civil War, your teacher made you choose one small facet to focus on. Don’t try to cover a topic that would require an entire documentary. Break it up into many, smaller videos.
  • Consider the one thing you want customers to remember from the video and shoot only that thing.
  • Watch a lot of marketing videos yourself to truly understand what is effective on film and what isn’t.
  • Don’t be afraid to shoot several takes to get the perfect phrasing and timing. Seconds really do matter in marketing videos.

Enjoy these tips and happy shooting!

Small Businesses, Do Your Employees Believe in Your Marketing?

Small Businesses - Do Your Employees Believe in Your Marketing?Employees play an important role in small business marketing– even when they aren’t in the marketing department. Customers’ impressions and beliefs about your business are largely built around interactions they have with your employees.

So, it’s important that employees believe in your marketing and support your brand. All too often, I have seen employees undercut a brand. Fortunately, it’s not very difficult or time consuming to help employees “be the brand.”

How to Gain Employee Support for Your Small Business Marketing

  • Involve employees in marketing meetings. Employees will believe in your brand if they’ve helped create it. In early stage marketing development, involve employees in some of the brainstorming meetings. They will feel ownership of the end result and take pride in that.
  • Ask for marketing ideas from your employees. Because employees are on the front lines with customers, they often have great ideas for improving marketing efforts. They’re just waiting for someone to ask! Consider a physical or online Suggestion Box or quarterly brainstorming sessions. Again, employees will feel ownership of marketing efforts they have helped to create.
  • Introduce marketing campaigns to employees before launching them to customers. Employees are understandably frustrated when customers mention a marketing campaign they’ve never heard of. Give employees advance notice of campaigns and opportunity to understand and ask questions.

Employees are busy, with plenty to do. But investing a small amount of time in building your brand with employees will go a long way towards making your marketing more effective and customers more satisfied.

Overcoming Blog Writer’s Block

Overcoming Blog Writer's BlockHaving a regularly-updated blog is an important part of your small business marketing strategy. Well-written blog posts help your organic SEO rankings and give customers a reason to explore your site. These articles can also be used in your email marketing and social media efforts. Conceptually, almost every small business understands the value.

But then you actually have to write the posts, develop the videos and create the graphics! Publishing a blog requires creativity, imagination and… time.

Here are some tips for overcoming writer’s block and keeping your blog up-to-date.

  • Schedule a brainstorming session. Take 30 minutes to an hour to write out ideas and create skeleton blog post drafts. When you’re stumped, you can rely on your previous creativity.
  • Need a blog post right now, but don’t have any drafts? Let your mind wander over the last week. What problems have you solved? Have customers been asking any particular questions? Did you complete a successful project that customer’s will find meaningful? Usually, by answering these questions, you’ll find a topic just waiting to be discovered.
  • Beyond your actual business, is there anything in your personal life that relates to your business and customer interests? For instance, sometimes I will share effective or ineffective marketing executions I’ve seen.
  • Get creative with using your SEO keywords. Craft a compelling SEO headline and let the story flow from there.

Sometimes, though, small business owners are simply too busy to publish their blog and other marketing content on a regular basis. If that sounds like you, give me a call. I help many businesses with content creation and would love to learn more about your business.

Before Choosing a Business Name, Run it by a Teenage Boy First

Or you might miss unfortunate innuendo. Fallas looks like a perfectly fine name… until you say it out loud.

Before Choosing a Business Name, Run it by a Teenage Boy First

This probably wouldn’t be my first choice when shopping for school uniforms.

The “Teenage Boy” test might seem unconventional, but it could just save your marketing and branding from public ridicule.