Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

Precise language is one of my joys. It’s exhilarating to find exactly the right word that communicates in the best way possible.

Which is why it pains me to admit that accuracy isn’t all that important if it’s boring. For marketing communications, you must be interesting first and precise second. To catch a customer’s attention, it’s best to spark their curiosity with memorable content.

Words become boring through overuse. When a word is ubiquitous in the culture, customers start to overlook it, like static in the background. Sometimes, these words are useful descriptors of what your company does, but it doesn’t matter if customers have grown accustomed to ignoring them.

Instead, choose words that are easily understood but unique in the context of your business. Compare these two marketing campaign approaches from Mosquito Joe and JH Mosquito Control Services. Mosquito Joe takes a friendly approach that is much more interesting and memorable than JH’s technical description of its service special.

Mosquito Joe – Outside is fun again.

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

JH Mosquito Control Services – Mosquito Control Special!

Sadly, Interesting is More Important than Accurate

Some Terms that Might be Accurate, but are Terribly Boring:

  • Solutions
  • Collaborative
  • Communication
  • Service
  • Special
  • Alignment
  • Outside the box
  • Cutting edge
  • Turnkey
  • Innovative
  • Expert

Perfection is Illusive, but Keep Working on It!

True marketing magic happens when you find precisely the right words that also perfectly describe what you do and why customers should buy from you. I advocate striving for that goal!

In the meantime, though, you have to keep marketing and selling. “Don’t let perfection become the enemy of good,” is a powerful business adage. As you move forward, infuse more interesting and unique language into your marketing. You’ll attract customers’ attention, and they will allow you more time to explain accurately what you do.

Are You a Strong Competitor?

Some small businesses are lucky enough to not have much direct competition. Maybe they’ve identified a previously-unknown niche. Or maybe they are so dominant in their market that others can’t squeeze in. But not even these small businesses are safe from a smart competitor who can sweep in and steal away large swaths of customers.

To be a strong competitor and grow market share, small businesses need to continually improve. Identify your top competitive weakness and fix them– before your competitors do! Give your customers reason to stay loyal to you, and you can reasonably insulate your business from competitive threats.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to find your small business’s competitive weak points.

Competitive Strength Analysis

  • Existing Customers: What do customers complain about? What steps have you taken to improve their experience?
  • New Customers: How many new customers did you get in the last year? The year before? Make sure you have a plan for new customer growth.
  • Product/Service Offerings: When was the last time you improved your product and service offerings? Lack of innovation leaves the door wide open to competitors.
  • Profit Margins: Do you have any “unexpected costs” that occur frequently? How do these affect your margins and what can you do to allay them?
  • Vendors and Partners: Are your partners helping you grow? Or do they promote more-of-the-same?

After answering these questions, you probably see several areas for improvement. Pick the most critical, and start working on them right away!

Why I Love Small Business Marketing

Why I Love Small Business MarketingSmall businesses are my favorite marketing clients. I love them!

With big businesses (and sometimes with medium-sized ones), there are so many considerations outside the actual process of making a product, marketing it and selling it to customers who want it. Petty politics and communication breakdowns prevent departments from working together. Budgeting can get fuzzy, with resources being spent inefficiently. And one person or group can only make so much of an impact in an organization of hundreds or thousands.

In contrast, successful small businesses emphasize results over personalities. Customers take center stage, and every marketing dollar can be spent for maximum impact. Small businesses are nimble and can put smart new marketing strategies into place right away. Working with these clients is incredibly rewarding, because we can see the results of our work together almost immediately.

Small businesses, focus on these strengths. These are the reasons I love small business marketing, and the keys for small business success.

It’s All About the Backups, Baby

We’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled small business marketing article to discuss a necessary condition for all marketing success– backups of your data.

Yesterday, my faithful MacBook Pro went kaput (that’s the technical term). While I wait for word from the Apple repair center, I’m not worried. Everything is backed up, and I have access to all the files needed to keep my clients’ marketing ships afloat.

However, many people live in nervous fear over what would happen if their computer fails. Here’s a secret: computers are machines, and machines will fail. If your business depends heavily on data, you need to have a backup strategy.

To keep your marketing data safe and working for your business, here’s a checklist of what should be backed up.

Marketing Data Backup Checklist

  • Graphic design files – Your small business used significant resources creating graphics for your various marketing campaigns, and hopefully the designs are robust enough to use for future iterations.
  • Video files – Video creation might be one of the most labor-intensive parts of your marketing strategy. Backup the source files, along with the completed videos.
  • Stock purchases – Stock content like photos and video often represent a significant investment.
  • Campaign analysis documents – Those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it. You’ll want to keep your tracking and analysis data safe.
  • Website components – Most websites contain both a design framework and a database for content. Make sure both of these separate elements are regularly backed up.
  • Web services account names and passwords – No one remembers their email marketing provider, analytics service and social media account information. If you lose you browser history, you’ll need a backup of this information.
  • Contacts – For both customers and partners, including email, phone and address information.

Since you probably hire professionals for some of this work, you’ll also want to check with your partners to make sure they have a backup plan for all of your important data.

All of this backing up may seem like an expensive hassle, but the cost of a few external hard drives or monthly off-site storage fee might just save your business someday.

Why Make Big Problems Out of Little Problems?

Here’s some great marketing advice from author P.D. Eastman, in the toddler board book, Big Dog… Little Dog:

Why make big problems out of little problems?

Every small business faces marketing problems. Keep in mind that your problems are probably not big problems. Big problems are literally life and death decisions. If you aren’t facing something that serious, consider yourself blessed and calmly address the little problems that arise.

Like the book’s wise bird, take time to think about and investigate the true source of each problem. Often, the reason will be as simple as, “Big dogs need big beds. Little dogs need little beds.” If your profit margin is too low, perhaps you’ll discover your customer acquisition cost is too high. Or lack of customer loyalty might be traced to poor customer service practices.

Once you identify the facts surrounding your problem, make sure to fix it! Problems never fix themselves, and they only grow bigger. For the problem of high customer acquisition costs, a business might implement a referral program or further optimize its online advertising. A customer service problem likely requires some procedure changes and employee training.

The next time a marketing problem pops up, keep things in perspective. Why make big problems out of little problems?

Well, that was easy to do!

Traditional Website Navigation Isn’t Boring. It’s Easy to Use.

Imagine a car designer saying, “It’s boring to have the brake on the right and the accelerator on the left. We need to stand out! Let’s put the brake next to this cup-holder.” How well would a car like this sell? Can you imagine re-training generations of drivers to drive differently just for the sake of one car design?

Every day, web designers are having the same conversation about website design (admittedly, with less fatal results). They are so bored of putting the “Contact” button on the right side of the menu bar that they forget having these conventions makes websites easy to use.

Sometimes web marketers mistake user habits for boring design. If users are researching dozens or hundreds of websites looking for products and services like yours, they appreciate a site that’s easy to navigate– and they’re only going to visit your site for about three seconds before they decide to stay or move onto the next one.

A website design must show the user what they’re looking for in those first three seconds before any user will take the time to admire beautiful design elements or creative devices. Part of that experience is having traditional elements in expected places. If a user can’t find your contact information, how will he ever call you?

My #1 Web Design Tip

The message this week is short but powerful. It’s my #1 web design tip, which is:

Design your website for what your customers care about.

Don’t design for what your CEO cares about. Don’t design based on your past websites. Don’t guess.

If you’re redesigning your website, ask your customers what they care about. Make that the center of all web design efforts.

Marketing by Design

Design isn’t the veneer that’s slapped on at the end of a project. It isn’t just “pretty” or “nice to have.”

Design doesn’t come from consensus. It’s not something a committee of competing interests can develop.

Design isn’t just for objects. Companies shouldn’t confine design to the “Design Department.” Services, experiences and even marketing strategies should be designed.

True design is the complete, unified whole as envisioned by one person or a small group of cohorts. If you’ve been reading the Steve Job’s biography (and who hasn’t?), these concepts should sound familiar. I’m thrilled such a popular book is championing the key essence of true design. Apple and Pixar’s successes prove that dedication to true design works– more than works. True design results in “insanely great” things.

So, how are you designing your company and your marketing? Who has the vision? Where’s the passion? If you can easily answer these questions, you’re doing design right.

2012 Marketing Planning – It’s Not Too Late

Conventional wisdom says all businesses finished their 2012 marketing plan by November, wrapped it in a bow and are ready to implement come January 1.

I venture to guess that is an overly optimistic perspective for many businesses. In November, most small businesses are striving to finish up the current year in a good state.

In fact, January is a great time to plan for the rest of the year. The previous year’s results are final; holiday vacations are over, and employees are refreshed and ready to dive in.

As you start focusing on the new year, consider these tips in developing your 2012 marketing plan.

Your 2012 Marketing Plan

What do you hope your business will look like in 2012? Understanding your goals is key to developing your marketing plan. If you can answer the following questions, you can plan to succeed:

  • How do you want 2012 to be different from 2011?
  • How do you want it to be the same?
  • Will your market environment change in 2012?
  • Who should be your customers in 2012?
  • Should you offer any new products and services this year to meet those customers’ needs?
  • What are your revenue and profitability goals?

Evaluate your marketing activities from the previous year. Being a spreadsheet fanatic, I make a spreadsheet of all activities, including their cost, metrics and attributable revenue. For instance, with a pay-per-click advertising campaign, your metrics will include how many visits to your website or how many phone calls you received.

Using this information, determine which marketing activities you will stop doing this year. You should stop any activities that don’t help meet your goals or have no hope of being profitable this year. Easy, right?

Now, decide which marketing activities you will continue and if you need any new initiatives or strategies. If you expect 2012 to be quite different from 2011, your marketing activities will very likely change dramatically. Perhaps your goal is to connect more deeply with your local community, so you might change from a strategy of print and TV advertising to sponsoring and developing local events.

Next, consider your marketing “capital improvements”– investments you made last year whose benefits continue into this year. Perhaps you redesigned your website, invested in a CRM system or wrapped your service fleet in new graphics. Based on your goals, are there any large investments you need to make this year?

Taking a look at all the marketing activities that will help you reach your 2012 goals, create a budget and timeframe for implementing them. Determine if you need additional marketing partners or if your current resources are sufficient.

Finally, make sure you actually implement your marketing plan! Get started right away… after all, 2012 is already upon us.

Need help with your 2012 marketing plan? Sometimes an independent assessment can help you prioritize your goals and put things into perspective. I’d be glad to talk with you… just email me at amanda@zooinajungle.com or give me a call at 513.833.4203.

Small Business Strategy Podcast

David Weatherholt of “Getting Down to Business” invited me on the show to talk about small business strategy and planning. Usually, small business owners think of themselves as firefighters, spending their days putting out many small fires and neglecting the important work of developing a future strategy.

But making these everyday decisions doesn’t have to be difficult and time-consuming for small businesses. By developing an effective future strategy, the answers to these dilemmas become clear. I use the example of a fictitious company, SunBurst Coffee, and how they use their “picture of success” to facilitate decision-making.

To hear more advice, listen or download below:

Small Business Strategy

Download the small business strategy MP3 file here. (4.7MB)