It’s Election Day. You Won’t Read this Post.

I VotedExcept you might read my post now that I’ve included a shameless mention of Election Day.

When your customers are universally interested in an event or holiday, don’t change the subject. Work with it. Although cycles of celebration may not correspond with your business cycle, customers will disregard marketing communications that don’t fit with their interests or current needs.

Small business marketing requires strategic use of resources that earn a high level of engagement from customers. We can’t waste time and money on efforts that will be ignored.

Here are some ways I help my clients address the ebbs and flows of the calendar:

  • One B2B client accepts that her clients’ attention is distracted during certain times of the year, including Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We focus our marketing efforts on other times of year and don’t waste resources trying to “cut through the clutter.”
  • Another B2B client tackles the New Year with challenges for his clients to plan for success in the coming months.
  • To tie-in with Thanksgiving, I’m helping one veterinary client promote pet safety during the holiday, for instance with this Fido Friendly Thanksgiving Infographic.
  • With another veterinary client, we typically run seasonally-themed Facebook photo contests for clients to brag about their pets. Last year, we sponsored a Winter Wonderland contest.
  • A landscape services company knows that pre-Thanksgiving is a popular time for customers to install landscape lighting, so we run promotions during that period.
  • This summer, another landscape services client earned customer attention when we suggested ways to create an herb container garden to enhance their outdoor kitchens and barbecues.

So, after you go vote and before the results start coming in, spend some time today considering how to make your marketing communications more seasonally relevant to your customers. It will certainly be more productive than nervously biting your nails as you wait to learn who our next President will be.

 

Think Like a Minimalist to Get Your Marketing Message Across

I’m helping a client design a consumer rewards program, with the goal of increasing our competitive advantage and attracting new customers. Because the product mix has excellent margins, we can offer a program that provides high value to the customer. To give you an idea, joining the rewards program includes ALL THESE GREAT BENEFITS:

  • Minimalist Marketing StrategyFree product for signing up
  • Points on every purchase
  • Free product on your birthday
  • Referral rewards

Our marketing challenge is to motivate customers to sign up for the program through on-site signage and online advertising.

Because customers will only give your marketing messages a glance (if you’re lucky!), what they see needs to be arresting. Our marketing strategy for launching the consumer rewards program is to minimize what we tell customers– only try to communicate what the customer needs to know for the next step.

Marketing Communication Strategy

Step 1: Sign Up – Enjoy a free product today for signing up

Step 2: Repeat Purchases – Earn points on every purchase

Step 3: Feel Delighted by Our Brand – Surprise customers with a free product on their birthday

Step 4: Refer a Friend – Earn referral rewards

Although it’s tempting to tell customers all the great reasons they should sign up for this program and the many ways they will benefit, they may be too busy or distracted to notice a list of features. It’s the marketing communication corollary to Steve Yastrow’s sales tip, Don’t Load the Slingshot.

By sharing one compelling benefit at each stage of the customer lifecycle, we’re offering a reward for taking one specific action right away. Minimalist marketing goes against many companies’ instincts, but it matches customer behavior and attention spans perfectly.

 

Creative and Keepable Business Cards for Your Small Business

Take a look at your business card. If it looks like this, your card is failing at marketing your small business:

Boring Business Card

Custom printing technology has advanced to make many premium elements realistically affordable for small businesses, such as gold foil, rounded corners, double-sided printing and glorious full-color. Take advantage of these possibilities to turn your business card into a marketing asset that customers talk about and keep.

Photographer Laura Northrup of Reflected Spectrum Photography details how her business card design facilitates conversations with prospective clients:

“I use double-sided business cards as a mini-portfolio for my photography business. When I meet a new person who may be interested in my services, I can casually share my photographic style and philosophy through my business cards.  It makes a memorable first impression, yet keeps the conversation fun and friendly.”

Here are samples from three online printers to give you some ideas.

Personalized Pizazz from MOO

With all the design options MOO offers, any small business can craft a meaningful, custom design that speaks to customers. Some of my favorite choices are large-format cards and spot gloss. Find your favorite here.

MOO Business Card

Watercolors and Vintage Style from Zazzle

If MOO has you feeling a bit overwhelmed with choices, here are two interesting styles from Zazzle that draw inspiration from watercolors and vintage designs. View more of their catalog here.

Zazzle Business Card

Zazzle Business Card

Striking Typography and Patterns from Minted

The designs at Minted combine typography and patterns for a modern, artistic effect. Here are two examples (with a little gold foil thrown in). See other designs here.

Minted Business Card

Minted Business Card

Make Your Card Purposefully Creative

Your creative business card design needs to be part of your overall marketing strategy. There are many beautiful designs that won’t encourage customers to buy from you. Be purposefully creative to help customers connect your card with your brand.  Identify these goals before finalizing your business card design:

  • How your business card should be delivered. Do you personally hand it out? Do customers take it from a standalone holder?
  • What you want customers to think when they take your card. Should they think that you’re professional with deep expertise? Maybe a creative problem-solver?
  • What you want customers to do with the card. Hang it on the fridge? Share with a friend? Connect with you on LinkedIn?

Want to improve your business card design? I’d love to hear from you. Reach out to me at amanda@zooinajungle.com.

How to Make a Commodity Product Interesting

Canned vegetables are certainly a commodity product. They’re cheaper than fresh, and often discredited as less nutritious than frozen vegetables. But if you drive through South Carolina, you’ll encounter a marketing campaign by Glory Foods that makes canned vegetables, well, glorious.

Glory Foods, founded in Columbus, OH, has woven Southern soul into its brand. Each can of blackeye peas, collard greens or green beans is “seasoned southern style.” Billboards drive home this message with cheeky Southern sayings that emphasize the convenience of the product. Here are a few I saw recently:

Commodity Marketing

Commodity marketing

Commodity marketing

Other marketing slogans include:

  • Give peas a chance
  • Flavor and spice and everything nice
  • Southern greatness: yes, you can
  • Open up a can of flavor
  • Soul of the South
  • Hail to the kale!

Glory Foods is successful in marketing a commodity because it gave the product a perspective and personality. The marketing team made canned vegetables memorable in a way that was meaningful to customers– and definitely encourages motorists to try the product.

Save Your Marketing Budget with Negative Keywords

Almost every pay-per-click advertising campaign has room for optimization. Today, let’s focus on one simple way to save money with your Google AdWords campaigns: adding negative keywords. A negative keyword prevents your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase.

For instance, it’s incredibly important to list negative keywords for my clients who are professional speakers. Otherwise, our ads would display for searches such as “Sony speakers for sale,” or “Public speaking tips.”

How to Add Negative Keywords to Your Google AdWords Campaigns

First, you’ll need to identify which keywords result in undesirable clicks to your ads. Fortunately, Google has a tool for that. In the Keywords tab, look at the Search Terms sub-tab, shown below:

Save Your Marketing Budget with Negative Keywords

Google describes this report as follows:

“Learn how customers are finding your ad. With the Search terms report, you can see the actual searches people entered on Google Search and other Search Network sites that triggered your ad and led to a click. Depending on your keyword match types, this list might include terms other than exact matches to your keywords.”

When I ran this report for a veterinary hospital, I found a few stray clicks from searches for things like “cat declawing” and “ear cropping” – services my client definitely doesn’t provide!  Also, several searches indicated clicks that might not results in optimal clients, such as “free vet clinic.” And there was a weird “def leppard” result. (Sometimes running this report can be really funny– except your advertising budget isn’t laughing.)

To add the negative keywords, click on the Negative Keywords sub tab, then click the big red +KEYWORDS button:

Save Your Marketing Budget with Negative Keywords

All done! Enjoy your savings.

Suggested Negative Keywords to Get You Started

Different industries usually require different negative keywords, but here are a few general suggestions I use for most of my clients:

  • Cheap
  • Free
  • DIY
  • How to
  • Learn to
  • Profanity and explicit language

Add some negative keywords and watch your AdWords reports to track your results. You should save money and also receive more relevant clicks from potential customers.

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?

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.

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!

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.