A Really Limited-Time Offer

The department that writes marketing campaign headlines at Walmart clearly isn’t the same department that designs the automated app marketing:

A Really Limited-Time Offer

Make Mom Happy! Until Saturday, that is. After Saturday, Mom will have to fend for herself.

Consider this weekly ad from Walmart a friendly reminder to always test your automated marketing, mail merge settings and other customer communications before they reach your audiences.

The Case Against Bing Advertising

The Case Against Bing AdvertisingBing Ads serve the Bing, Yahoo! and MSN search networks. According to most statistics, these networks account for around 36% of web searches. Basic math indicates that to reach a third more potential customers, you should advertise on the network.

But “searches” don’t equal “individual searchers,” and evidence suggests Bing may have significantly fewer users than searches. I recently discovered that Bing doesn’t throttle search traffic from automated bots that scrape websites for mass amounts of information. Google does. Bing may be becoming popular with firms that deploy search bots. There’s no way to know how many searches are initiated by people and how many are initiated by bots.

Which means there’s no way to be certain if your advertising is being clicked on by a customer or a computer. Small business marketing budgets aren’t limitless, and you don’t want to risk wasting advertising dollars on robots.

So…

Should You Advertise on Bing?

My answer to this question may seem frustratingly obvious: Advertise on Bing Ads if they work, and stop advertising on the network if it’s not working.

Identifying success metrics are critical to determine if Bing Ads are “working” for your small business (or if any other marketing campaign is working, for that matter). Without measurable results, you could be wasting a significant amount of money. Here are some examples of success metrics you can measure from your online advertising:

  • Number of visits from Bing Ads that directly result in sales
  • Length of time Bing Ads visitors spend on your website (indicates if a visit is automated or a real person)
  • Phone calls received from customers who located you with Bing Ads
  • Engagement with interactive elements of your website, like quizzes or polls

For instance, I tested eliminating Bing Ads with one of my clients, and our success metrics didn’t change. We simply spent less of our marketing budget. That’s merely one anecdote, but it serves to show that all small business marketing professionals should scrutinize Bing Ads’ effectiveness.

If you try out Bing Ads, let me know about your experience. Are there any major small business Bing Ads success stories out there?

For Better Marketing, Get to Know Your Customers

Marketing can be simply defined as the ways you influence customers to buy from you. And to influence effectively, you should understand your customers. Knowing your customers will help you communicate with them in meaningful ways and choose media channels they will actually see.

For better marketing, get to know your customers

Here are checklists of the kinds of demographic and characteristic knowledge you should have about your customers.

Customer Demographic Checklist

Understanding facts and figures about your customers is the first step to designing marketing campaigns that will appeal to them. You should know:

  • Size of your target market
  • Your current share of this market
  • Geography – where your customers live and work
  • Percentage of your customers who are men vs. women
  • Percentage of your customers at various ages/stages of their lives
  • Which media channels they find most compelling, i.e., radio, Facebook, Yelp, magazines, etc.

Customer Characteristic Checklist

Demographics are only the start, though. They can help you choose where to place your messages, and give some guidance on where to start with message development. For instance, a Boomer woman near retirement will generally require a different marketing approach from a Millennial man who just started a business.

To truly influence and persuade customers, you need a knowledge of their personalities, preferences and characteristics. Things like:

  • How do products/services like yours affect their lives?
  • What do they love about your industry?
  • What do they hate?
  • When do they make purchasing decisions?
  • How much research do customers complete before they buy?
  • What makes you special to your customers and differentiates you from competition
  • Who is your indirect competition? What different products/services might a customer buy instead of yours?

If you know less than half of the items on my checklists, your marketing strategy needs more research! Start talking to customers, and let them tell you how to persuade them.

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!