LinkedIn Publishing Platform Yields Lackluster Results

LinkedIn Pulse Publishing Yields Lackluster ResultsLinkedIn is a critical social media tool for networking, while adding significant value to B2B marketing and sales. I recommend that every individual stay active on the network, along with regularly updating your profile. Many businesses should have a LinkedIn strategy, too.

When LinkedIn launched its publishing platform, I was excited to try it out for my clients. Here are the benefits I was hoping would result from publishing on Pulse:

  • Providing content directly to a member’s network would promote more interaction from relevant audiences.
  • Articles would get an SEO boost from being on LinkedIn.

Several months later, and tests of Pulse have yielded lackluster results. Articles of similar theme and content perform better on my clients’ other platforms than on Pulse.

The Drawbacks of Marketing Your Small Business with LinkedIn Pulse

  • Articles from small business seem to be effective only if your subject matter surrounds networking, career advancement or recruiting.
  • Posts are published live. Without the ability to schedule posts, it’s difficult to publish at optimal times for your audience.
  • SEO appears to be less effective on Pulse than other networks.
  • Only three tags can be assigned to any one article.
  • Image size and placement customization are very limited.

LinkedIn Pulse could become a useful platform for marketing your small business. But first it needs to mature by adding features and giving authors more publicity.

Teaching Children the Value of a Nickel and a Dime

It’s rare that I’m pleased to receive direct mail marketing, but I eagerly opened the nicely-designed piece sent from the Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati. They have some exciting shows this season, including adaptations of Alice in Wonderland and Tarzan.

But I found one aspect of their season ticket pricing off-putting. A “Season Infant Lap Pass” costs $1 per show.

Season Infant Lap Pass - $1

That’s right, if you need to bring an infant along to a performance, you have to pay one dollar for the privilege of holding a squirming baby in your lap.

As it Turns Out, Dollars are More Valuable than Nickels or Dimes. Lesson Learned!

There’s no reasonable business case for this strange charge. The Children’s Theatre might generate up to $20 in revenue per performance from the fee. That hardly seems to offset the risk of annoying customers by making them feel nickel and dimed. If even one family decides not to purchase a season ticket package because of this policy, the theatre loses money. (Also, if the theatre is trying to dissuade families from bringing infants to performances, this seems a heavy-handed approach).

From the theatre’s website FAQ’s, it appears the change is new to this season:

“Starting in the 2016-2017 season, every person, regardless of age, will need a ticket.  Children ages 0-1 year old who do not need a seat and will sit on your lap will be required to have an Infant Lap Pass for $1 for each show in every seating location throughout the theater.”

I suspect this policy will not be popular with customers, and it will be interesting to see how the Children’s Theatre reacts. In the meantime, small businesses should take a lesson from this example. Evaluate your pricing structure to see if customers might have similar reactions to your fees. And remember, a dollar is always more valuable than a dime!

Facebook Marketing Fills the Movie Theatre

Saturday morning, Cincinnati’s Esquire Theatre introduced little-known movie Moonrise Kingdom on Facebook. Saturday evening, from my observation, both showings of Moonrise Kingdom appeared to sell out. As my husband and I, who aren’t particularly ardent film buffs, took our seats in the crowded theatre, we discussed how glad we were that the Esquire’s Facebook page alerted us to this movie we were sure to love (and which we did!). For the Esquire, these sold out shows represented a huge Facebook marketing success.

Kathy Parsanko, PR Director for the Esquire, Mariemont, and Kenwood Theatres, agrees that Facebook marketing played a role in the film’s success:

“We don’t often sell out, so Moonrise Kingdom‘s performance was impressive. I believe its success came from a combination of factors, including our Facebook promotion, trailers playing before our other films, really great reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and word-of-mouth. Many of our Facebook fans responded to the posts with shares, likes and comments.”

For casual film fans, Facebook might have been the only way to learn about the first showings of this movie. If you weren’t at the theatre to see the preview and don’t often check Rotten Tomatoes, a smaller movie like this might pass you by. Without these casual fans, Moonrise Kingdom probably wouldn’t have sold out.

When I ask Kathy what methods she used to get the word out on Facebook, she says:

“I used the ‘Promote This’ feature for this Facebook post. It was a reasonable cost, and many Facebook fans responded. We received 49 Shares for this post– which was extremely unusual.”

Here’s the moral of this story. Facebook marketing of interesting content like this:

Description of Moonrise Kingdom at the Esquire

Can help businesses achieve results like this:

Sold-out crowd at the Esquire

Charity Cross-Promotion FAIL

Often, a good marketing strategy includes teaming up with a charitable organization. It’s a promotion that’s good for everyone– the charity receives donations for its cause; the business gets a great marketing message, and customers feel good about helping out.

When crafting the marketing message, it’s important to be tasteful, use tact, emphasize the cause over your own gain and clearly explain how customers’ actions will help the cause. In other words, the message should be the opposite of this:

This graphic is the header to an email sent out by an insurance company promoting a move to paperless statements. How the marketers failed to see it’s also offensive, I don’t know. Here’s what’s wrong with it (and what all businesses should avoid in charitable cross-promotions):

  1. It’s obviously self-serving and doesn’t name the charity. Getting customers to “Go paperless” is likely one of this company’s goals. The main goal of a charitable cross-promotion should be to promote the charity.
  2. It has overtones of guilt. The implied message is, “If you don’t go paperless, you won’t be helping someone with cancer.” Charitable cross-promotions should never insult or try to coerce customers.
  3. It’s confusing. How can going paperless possibly help someone with cancer? The action should be tied to the cause. We’ve all seen this promotion work when the message is more like, “Save a tree by going paperless.”

For this company, cross-promoting with a charity completely failed. I hope the charity benefits, but the business and customers won’t.

Marketing is easy when you’re awesome

A couple weeks ago, I published a post imploring businesses to be good. Being good is important for your business, though it might not make your marketing any easier. But what if your business is not just good, it’s awesome? Being awesome opens the door to great marketing opportunities that makes your marketing strategy easy.

Here are three ways marketing is easy when you’re awesome:

1. PR and social media are easy

For many businesses, developing a compelling PR and social media strategy is hard– what do we say? who will care? who will spread the message? But for businesses that are awesome, PR is easy.

Grady Veterinary Hospital in Cincinnati, OH accepts animals in need from the SPCA. Right now, they are caring for a kitten that had been set on fire and loosed on a city street. Each day, they provide updates on the little guy’s progress. Because they do awesome things, their public relations and social media strategy is easy: Tell stories about the wonderful animals we help.

2. Word of mouth marketing is easy

It’s pretty obvious that if your business is awesome, your customers will want to talk about you. That’s the essence of word of mouth marketing. Give your customers something to talk about– a charitable initiative, an innovative application of your product or service that goes above and beyond what they could have imagined.

The BonBonerie is an extremely successful confectioner here in Cincinnati. Customer demand is so strong that they have an entire cafe dedicated to wedding cake tastings. Their business has been built mostly on word-of-mouth marketing because their business is amazing. The beautiful cakes, delicious flavors and careful service give customers plenty to rave about. Crafting this business wasn’t easy, but the word of mouth marketing is creating itself.

3. Employee satisfaction is easy

Happy employees make happy customers. When an employee believes in what she does, she wants to help each customer as much as she can. And, no surprise, employees find it easiest to believe in awesome employers.

When I worked at Apple, my fellow employees were 100% dedicated to the company’s way of doing business. Apple has a great employee training program and customer service methodology, and the employees already believe wholeheartedly in the products they sell. Because employees believe the company is awesome, they are able to provide customers with awesome experiences.

Marketing is easy when you’re awesome. “But my business isn’t awesome,” you might reply. So what are you going to do about it?

5 Tips for Writing Great Marketing Copy

Although marketers aren’t typically viewed as writers, every aspect of great marketing requires talented writing and precise editing. If there are any doubters, just observe this example from Starbucks:

Not only is this poster confusing, it has a glaring typo. The main message– Get $1 off any pastry when you buy a beverage– is overshadowed by the “it’s.” I imagine Starbucks patrons are more discerning about grammar than most (which is why one of my friends posted this picture on Facebook).

Of course posters aren’t the only form of marketing writing. Here’s a sampling of the kinds of marketing writing most businesses need:

  • Advertising copy
  • Brochure copy
  • Sign copy
  • Website copy
  • Direct mail copy
  • Blog articles
  • Trade journal articles
  • Press releases
  • Facebook posts
  • Twitter updates
  • Product packaging
  • Radio ad scripts
  • TV ad scripts
  • Telephone scripts
  • YouTube video scripts
  • Proposals and contracts
  • Presentations
  • Speeches
  • User guides and manuals

Writing for marketing is usually termed, “copy,” which is such an uninspiring word. The Online Etymology Dictionary traces the term to its roots:

copy (n.) Look up copy at Dictionary.com
early 14c., “written account or record,” from O.Fr. copie (13c.), from M.L. copia “reproduction, transcript,” from L. copia “plenty, means” (see copious). Sense extended 15c. to any specimen of writing (especially MS for a printer) and any reproduction or imitation. Related: Copyist.

The roots of “copy” are not very exciting. We may be stuck with a word that has connotations of automation and transcripting, but we don’t need to fulfill that history. Marketing copy should be fresh and vibrant, effectively communicating your brand. Following are a few tips for writing great marketing copy:

5 Tips for Writing Great Marketing Copy

1. Cut, cut and cut

Just because marketing copy is important doesn’t mean it should exist in abundance. There’s an inverse correlation between the quality of marketing copy and its length. There’s a simple reason for this equation– customers are confronted with thousands of messages each day and have short attention spans when it comes to your product. So cut out everything that isn’t essential.

2. Communicate one message at a time

Each marketing piece a marketer writes can only communicate one message well, no matter how many messages the marketer may try to cram into the space. A postcard, a landing page, a radio ad– all of these represent a brief opportunity to communicate one message. Try to tell your company’s whole story, and customers will be overwhelmed or bored.

3. Give copy room to breathe

“White space” is the term for the spacing and margins around your copy. Spacing your words nicely and keeping the graphics surrounding the them simple will allow your copy to stand out and increase the chances customers will read it.

4. Practice makes better

Practice doesn’t make perfect. Writing is never perfect, but eventually marketers reach deadlines. Never go with the first attempt at writing copy. Edit and revise until the final product is better than when you started.

5. Let someone else read it before you publish it

Don’t publish or print marketing copy before having someone else proofread it. Your familiarity with the text will cause your brain to skip over any typos, seeing what you intended to write instead of what was actually written. I imagine that’s what happened to the poor Starbucks copywriter in the poster example.

These five marketing copy tips certainly aren’t comprehensive, but they are rules that every writer keeps in mind during each assignment. Using them every day in your marketing efforts will lead to more effective (and more interesting) marketing copy.

Marketing Podcast: Marketing into Headwinds

In Alaska, the Pebble Partnership has been marketing into the headwinds, faced with stiff opposition. This partnership is owned by two mining companies and is investigating the feasibility of mining one of the most significant discoveries in North America of copper, molybdenum and gold.

In this marketing podcast, learn how the Pebble Partnership addresses their opposition with a positive attitude and how it can help your business think about your competition. And get some great tips for growing grassroots marketing supporters, too.

Listen or download below:

Marketing into Headwinds

Download the Marketing into Headwinds MP3 file here. (7.4 MB)

This segment first aired during “Getting Down to Business” on Alaska’s Fox News Talk 1020.

Public Relations has come a long way.

Public relations is a great marketing tool for small businesses and is much more effective at reaching consumers than advertising. People remember stories better than taglines and trust articles more than direct mail.

Local media- newspaper, TV and radio- love covering interest stories that involve local small businesses. Small businesses online can earn similar coverage from special interest blogs, Twitter users and other Internet media outlets. Basically, if a small business can craft a meaningful, intriguing story, they can get really useful PR.

Consumers can learn more about a small business through in-depth coverage than they would from a 30-second spot. Good PR helps consumers make more informed decisions by illuminating what makes businesses interesting, such as involvement in charities or social activism.

As great as PR is for businesses, media and consumers today, the discipline has come a long way since its founding in the early years of the 20th century. Then, it was seen as a way to manipulate consumers into consuming more. The father of public relations, Edward Bernays, said of PR:

If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it?

Bernays also asserted,

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.”

Certainly, Bernays’ tactics were successful in his day. He was instrumental in popularizing cigarette use among women, and he was horrified to learn that a dog-eared copy of his book, Crystallizing Public Opinion, resided on Joseph Goebbels’ shelf.

But his approach to PR no longer works. After years of being manipulated, consumers grew skeptical of marketing claims. Now consumers do their research and often know more about your products and services than your salespeople do. Effective PR in 2010 means being truthful and crafting stories that are of genuine interest to consumers. Businesses must ensure they are ethical and  respectful of consumers’ rights. Because if they aren’t, consumers will find out, and they will learn that there is such a thing as bad press.