The Creepiest Marketing Strategy

Here’s a cautionary tale and follow-up to last week’s defense of marketing implementation. Be wary of implementing any marketing communication without an effective strategy. Marketing strategy is really important!

Check out this startling example of bad marketing implementation I stumbled across while Googling ‘hallway lighting:’

The Creepiest Marketing Strategy

After reading, “Lighting So You’re Not Clutching the Walls at Night,” I quickly navigated away to the relative safety of Lowe’s and Home Depot’s lighting selections. The big box stores might not be incredibly innovative, but at least they aren’t creepy.

Engaging in marketing tactics without a strategy is dangerous! Understand your customers and understand your business, then launch your marketing campaigns.


‘Tactical’ is Not a Dirty Word

In the world of marketing, strategy development gets all the glory. The role of implementing marketing strategies is often considered a menial task (or at least dreadfully boring). Doing tactical work just isn’t as glamorous as developing the knock-your-socks-off strategy behind the work.

Tactical is Not a Dirty Word

But here’s an important reality. Marketing implementation is critical, and it’s something that needs to happen every day. Marketing strategy without implementation will never make sales, influence customers or grow your business. (Similarly, unplanned tactical marketing not based on a sound marketing strategy won’t work, either!)

I believe marketing professionals need to develop more respect for tactical marketing and realize how much creativity, critical thinking and ingenuity this role requires. Personally, there’s nothing I enjoy more than developing a marketing strategy for a client, then implementing that strategy and creating actual results for clients. This full-service marketing approach is truly needed in the marketplace.

Small Business Marketing: Mobile-Friendly Website vs. App

With somewhere around half of all web traffic originating from people using mobile devices, it’s certain that small businesses need to engage in mobile marketing. Then there’s the question: should you have a mobile-friendly website or an app?

I’ll make that decision easy for you. In almost every case, small businesses should focus on developing mobile-friendly websites instead of apps.

Why Mobile-Friendly Websites are Better than Apps in (Most) Small Business Marketing

  • Customers are more likely to find your website than your app. Search engines like Google search websites, not apps. Apps require marketing campaigns just to build awareness that they exist– let alone to start building your brand.
  • Apps are expensive to develop and maintain. Unless you expect thousands of users, app ROI will be lackluster.
  • A website is more universally accessible. All customers need is the website address and their favorite browser. For accessibility, you’d have to develop both an Android and Apple version of an app, which creates more complexity and expense.

Undoubtedly, there are lots of cool and useful apps available. And there are lots of companies building businesses around apps. But if the goal of your mobile marketing is to communicate information and engage customers, skip the expense and hassle of developing an app. A mobile-friendly website will work better for you.


How’s Your 2016 Marketing Plan Coming Along?

Sometimes, small business marketing can feel rushed and put you under pressure. When business owners first talk to me about their marketing efforts, they usually express a sense of anxiety, asking question like:

  • How do I know I’m doing enough marketing?
  • How much should I be spending?
  • How do I know if my marketing is working?

Take time now to plan for 2016, and eliminate these worries. Here are some elements you should include in your small business marketing plan.

Components of a Small Business Marketing Plan

  • Measurable goals. These might include revenue growth, increases in profit margins, number of new customers or increases in purchase frequency.
  • Brand strategy. A comprehensive brand strategy will make it easier to craft marketing messages that resonate with customers. Great news– a great small business brand strategy will likely last many years and only require small tweaks as your business landscape changes.
  • Marketing budget. Everyone should know approximately how much will be spent over the year.
  • Media and channels. Identify the best places to reach your customers, and develop campaigns for each channel. You should know which channels are proven successes, which to eliminate and which you’re experimenting with.
  • Campaign calendar. Know when you should be doing what and give specific deadlines. A calendar also helps ensure all campaigns complement each other throughout the year.

Once you have your plan in place, share it with your team. Let everyone know what to expect in the upcoming year.

And here’s the most important part: Implement the plan! You don’t have to wait until 2016. Start today!

How to Take a Professional Headshot Photo

Most small businesses feature pictures of their team on their websites, social media platforms or even in their physical location. When customers see pictures of the business owner or your team, they will associate the quality of the picture with the quality of your business. Everything is marketing!

With the popularity of selfies and casual smartphone photography, it can be difficult to get professional headshot photos of your team. Here are some simple tips for taking great headshots:

  • Don’t take a selfie. Even if you can’t hire a professional photographer, ask someone else to take the photo for you.
  • Plan the background. The background of a headshot photograph shouldn’t be distracting. Avoid backgrounds that contain other people or traffic. Easy background choices include brick walls, an interior wall painted a simple color, trees, or other non-distracting natural elements.
  • Think about lighting. For most headshots, it’s fine to use a smartphone or consumer-grade camera, as long as you have good lighting. Ambient daylight will make for the best results, so have fun taking your photo shoot outside.
  • Take the photo straight on. Unless you have an artistic vision that uses unique angles, take the simple approach of having your photograph taken at eye-level, while looking at the camera.
  • Stay focused. Make sure the camera is focused on you and that the picture is clear and sharp.
  • Look the part. Plan your wardrobe, do your hair and smile!
  • It’s great to be quirky, but have a purpose for the composition. Think of settings that are relevant to your brand personality. If you don’t have a lot of time, classic portrait approaches are always great for professional headshot photography.
  • Ideally, the photos of your entire team will complement each other. Using similar angles and backgrounds will reinforce customers’ impressions that you all collaborate.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so take a look at some examples.

Examples of Good Headshot Photos

Good Headshot Photo Example
Incidentally, this is my professional headshot, taken by the amazingly talented Laura Poland of Reflected Spectrum Photography

Good Headshot Example

Good headshot example

Good headshot example

Examples of Bad Headshot Photos

Bad headshot example

Bad headshot example

Bad headshot example

Bad headshot example

By following these tips and putting in a little extra effort, your small business will have team headshots that represent your brand.

Is Your Small Business Tagline Great… or Lackluster?

When a business doesn’t understand its customers or know what’s important to them, it’s tempting to “throw things at the wall to see what sticks.” The result is usually confusing and bland (what a combination!). Check out this supposed tagline on a newsletter I received from an HVAC company:

That's Not a Tagline

More Choices. No Worries. Less Hassle. Time & Money Saved!

That’s not a tagline. That’s an all-you-can-eat buffet. I guarantee this tagline is not an effective marketing tool for Logan Services.

Now it’s your turn. Compare your tagline with my Small Business Tagline Effectiveness Checklist to see how many elements you can check off.

Small Business Tagline Effectiveness Checklist

An effective tagline should be:

  • Memorable
  • Descriptive of what you do
  • Pithy
  • Differentiating
  • Interesting to your customers

If you scored less than three, your tagline definitely needs help. But if you scored a five, congratulations! Your tagline is a great tool in your marketing toolbox.


Why Do Customers Write Reviews?

Who are these people who write reviews on websites like Yelp, Amazon and Angie’s List? And why do they have so much power over your success?

Contrary to some opinions I’ve heard, online reviewers usually aren’t just disgruntled customers or dishonest competitors in disguise. They view themselves as part of a community that plays an important role in helping consumers make wise choices.

Remember that these online review websites are companies, and they have a business interest in encouraging reviewers. The more reputable and helpful their community is, the more successful the company will be.

For instance, Yelp recruits active reviewers to engage in its ‘Elite’ program, offering special free events and perks to this group. You can see from my Yelp profile that I participated in this community for awhile:

Why do customers write reviews?

On a smaller scale, some companies offer sweepstakes giveaways or discounts to customers who write reviews. And we can never neglect the allure some feel of developing a following, being considered a community leader or creating a reputation as an expert (even if it’s just expertise in local restaurants).

Because online review companies develop authentic communities, your customers trust the reviews they read, and they make purchase decisions based on reviewers’ opinions. So be nice to the reviewers and encourage your loyal customers to make their voices heard.

Keep Mobile in Mind: Small Business Marketing Tip

More than 50% of customers view email marketing communications or social media marketing campaigns on a smartphone. This means every message you share must keep mobile in mind or risk being ignored by half of your customers.

Keep Mobile in Mind

Here are some tips for designing mobile-friendly marketing messages:

  • About 500 pixels wide will display beautifully on smart phones. Minimize the amount of horizontal scrolling required to see the content.
  • Try to keep file sizes as small as possible. Smartphones load content more slowly than desktop computers, and customers are ever more impatient. Also, you need to be mindful of how much data you are asking customers to download.
  • If you have fairly sophisticated abilities, design elements using responsive design that adapts with the customer’s screen size. One good option for email marketing are services like Mail Chimp that have responsive templates.
  • If you have to send your content as an image, use a PNG, GIF or JPG format. Avoid PDFs, as that format usually won’t display automatically like other file formats.

Designing mobile-friendly messages can be more challenging than designing for print or desktops, because screen sizes are different among devices. But if you embrace the challenge, you’ll have the marketing advantage over your competitors who stay stuck in the past.

Be Comparatively Better and Absolutely More Successful

Find the Differences that Matter to Beat the Competition

Be comparatively better and absolutely more successfulCustomers will always compare your small business to your competitors. Their frame of reference for evaluating you is often if you are better or worse than what they’ve experienced in the past. If you learn what irks customers about competitors and excel in those areas, you will have a significant competitive advantage.

Not every difference matters. Customers probably don’t care if you’ve been in business 15 years, while your competitor has only been around for three. They might not even care that your certifications are more thorough. You must find the meaningful differences that can set you apart from the competition in the customer’s mind.

Let’s take my experience with construction contractors as an example. What really matters to me in a contractor is that he answers my call or calls me back the same day. I want a schedule that actually means something. When there’s a problem, I want him to tell me about it right away. That seems like basic customer service, doesn’t it? But compared to most contractors, a firm that meets those criteria will win my loyalty and business.

For some industries, being better than competitors is pretty simple. You just have to be aware of the differences that matter. How will you learn what matters? That’s also pretty simple. Ask your customers. They will tell you.

Ten Great Small Business Names

Small businesses benefit from the joy and luxury of being personality-driven. Also, when you’re small, you can more easily choose a focused strategy to serve a niche market. (Large companies usually need to serve large markets, in order to earn enough revenue.)

Here are ten small businesses that embraced these aspects by choosing creative, descriptive and differentiating names that appeal to their customers:

  1. Powell’s City of Books – This Portland-based bookstore is gigantic. The name evokes the quirky atmosphere that is a book lover’s dream.
  2. Grateful Grahams - Consumers today enjoy when a company has a larger purpose than simply selling products. Perfectly tailored for this market is a graham bakery that asks “What are you grateful for?”
  3. Roadtrippers – It’s a website and app that helps you plan road trips. So simple!
  4. Insight to Action – This firm delivers business strategies through the lens of market research. The name quickly and clearly differentiates it from other consultants.
  5. Once Upon a Child - A thrift store that makes buying used children’s clothing sound like a fairy-tale adventure (of savings!). The name is cute and clever. Technically, this is not a small business, but each store is locally-owned by franchisees.
  6. Frameri – Here’s an example of an upscale-boutique name that still clearly implies what they sell. Frameri is an online glasses store, where customers buy one set of lenses that fit into multiple, interchangeable frames.
  7. Sleepy Bee Cafe - Without being blunt, this cafe makes it clear it’s a trendy breakfast and brunch place. Also, they specialize in honey condiments!
  8. Taste of Belgium – This restaurant takes a different approach with its name by specifically letting customers know to expect Belgian food and beverages. The dining experience carries through, as each location feels very Continental European.
  9. King Arthur’s Court Toys – Either Merlin or an amazing marketing strategy have kept this toy store thriving through the Toys ‘r Us and Amazon market invasions. The store’s magical name certainly helps capture both children and family’s imaginations.
  10. Zoo in a Jungle Marketing – Forgive my self-aggragandizement. My company name, which is derived from Peter De Vries’ quote “Life is a zoo in a jungle,” helps prospective clients instantly sense my company’s personality and appeals to small businesses that seek to expand their horizons.

If you’re looking to name a small business or startup, get inspired with my top ten small business names list. And, remember, let your personality shine through!