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.


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.

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.

Make it Easy for Customers to See Your Marketing Content

When marketing your small business, keep in mind that customers are naturally less interested in seeing your marketing messages than you are in sharing them. One simple way to make it easier for customers to engage with your marketing content is to always think about removing barriers to accessing the content.

Let’s say you have a beautiful and effective direct mail piece that you want to share with your email marketing list and social media audiences.

Many small businesses will share a PDF or picture of the direct mail piece, inserting this image into an email or sharing a link to it on social media. But posting or emailing a PDF actually creates a barrier to seeing the content.

How do you remove the barriers and make your marketing more accessible?

When translating a printed piece for web marketing use, follow these tips:

  1. Reduce the number of clicks required to view the content. Whenever possible, include the marketing message directly in the media. For example, instead of including a “Read More” link, put the entire message in the email or social media post.
  2. Optimize loading speed. Build email marketing messages in HTML instead of embedding an image or PDF containing the entire communication. It will load faster, and if there’s a loading error, most of the message will still make it to the customer.
  3. Consider the media you are using and how customers interact with that media. On a printed direct mail piece, customers expect all the information they need to call you or to buy. However, on Facebook or Twitter it’s easy to put a customer into information overload. Consider more frequent, shorter messages.

Make it easier for customers to interact with your marketing content, and you will enjoy improved results and happier customers!

Email Marketing is So Cheap

But it’s Not So Easy.

For $50/month, you can send marketing emails to 5,000 customers. If you send one message each month, it costs a mere cent per contact. Compare that to direct mail, which might be up to $1 per customer, if the volume is only 5,000 mailers.

Email marketing is so cheap that several of my clients have stopped direct mail marketing altogether. It requires careful planning to be able to do this, but the cost savings are enormous if you can.

Tips for Successful Email Marketing

  1. Lots of businesses engage in email marketing– which is why sending meaningful messages to relevant customers is critical to email marketing success.
  2. Know if your customers prefer video, picture, written or interactive content. Test different content formats to learn what works.
  3. It requires discipline to grow a great contact list. Everyone in your business should understand the value of getting a customer’s permission to add them to your contact list. Your information-gathering processes and tools must make it easy to gather email addresses.
  4. Your website should have easy-to-use forms for people to sign up for your newsletter or updates.
  5. Analyze your send reports and tweak your marketing messages based on customer response. No marketing campaign is perfect from the start. Watch the results and make improvements.

These are just a few tips to get you started with email marketing. Have questions? Reach out to me at

How NOT to Use Video in Your Marketing

These days, video content is a powerful marketing tool. Each month, 45.4% of internet users view at least one video. Each day, 100 million internet users watch video content. And Video Brewery reports that 90% of one online retailer’s customers report that video helps them make purchase decisions.

But anything can be taken too far. Take, for instance, AT&T’s brand new campaign: the video bill.

How Not to Use Video in Your Marketing

A personalized video explanation of my bill? Are you kidding me? It’s ludicrous to expect customers to watch a video just to see how much they owe you. Consider: you can either watch this 4-minute video or glance at your statement. Which would you rather do?

This campaign is a case of AT&T’s content team becoming enamored of a new capability like personalized video and ignoring if implementing it makes strategic sense. A video bill is clearly not an effective marketing tool that customers will value.

Video needs to be used with purpose. If you can’t enhance your customer’s experience with video, it’s the wrong medium.

Now you know what NOT to do. Here are some tips for creating effective video marketing: How Videos Boost Your Small Business Marketing.

Many Kinds of Marketing

Marketers are a creative bunch, and we like to create new things. But sometimes the pursuit of the “new” can go overboard. I started thinking about all the different kinds of “marketing” I’ve experienced, and the list began to get a bit ridiculous. Below are the kinds of marketing I thought of in the last few minutes. Have you heard of them all? Are there any others I forgot?

  • Affiliate Marketing
  • B2B Marketing
  • B2C Marketing
  • Buzz Marketing
  • Cross-Marketing
  • Door-to-Door Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Grassroots Marketing
  • Guerilla Marketing
  • Internal Marketing
  • Long-Tail Marketing
  • Loyalty Marketing
  • Niche Marketing
  • Permission Marketing
  • Viral Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Telemarketing
  • Traditional Marketing
  • Viral Marketing
  • Web Marketing
  • Word-of-mouth Marketing

The problem is that marketing doesn’t really work when it’s so highly segmented. Customers don’t care about the differences between a business’s loyalty marketing efforts and social media marketing strategy. And a customer doesn’t know when they’re being targeted by the web marketing team or the traditional marketing team.

To the customer, it’s all just marketing… even the activities that the marketing team aren’t responsible for, like billing.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what you call your marketing, as long as it all works together to help you customer have a great experience.

Marketing Jargon Defined

For many small businesses, one of the most confusing things about marketing is the jargon.When talking with marketing professionals and vendors, sometimes these words get tossed out without any definition. Here’s a quick list of some of the most common  marketing jargon:

  • Marketing Mix – The marketing activities that make up your marketing plan. For instance, e-mail marketing, pay-per-click advertising and promotional events.
  • Target – The customers you are trying to reach with your marketing efforts (You’ve probably noticed that many marketing terms have militaristic origins. I think this is a terrible way to think about marketing, as I wrote in this article – “Marketing isn’t war on your customers“).
  • Copy – The written content on a business’s website, blog, brochures, advertisements, etc.
  • SEO – Search Engine Optimization. The ongoing process of making a website attractive to search engines like Google.
  • SEM – Search Engine Marketing. This encompasses the marketing mix a business uses to market to users of search engines, both SEO and advertising.
  • CPM – Cost Per Mille. In the advertising world, this is the cost per one thousand showings of your ad. Sometimes, it’s also referred to as Cost Per Impression.
  • Impression – An impression is when your ad is visible to view. For instance, each time a banner ad loads on a web page it counts as an impression. But just because the ad is visible doesn’t guarantee a person is actually looking at it!
  • PPC – Pay Per Click. This is the type of internet advertising made popular by Google and is used by all the search engines, along with Facebook. It means you pay for the advertising when someone clicks on your ad.
  • CPC – Cost Per Click. How much each click costs in a PPC advertising campaign.
  • Viral Marketing – Marketing efforts that are started by a business but grow and become controlled by groups of customers. For instance, you’ve probably heard of a video that has “gone viral.”

Have any other marketing jargon you’d like defined? Just post a comment, and I’ll be glad to help!

Marketing Podcast: Email Marketing

In this marketing podcast, I continue the subject of email marketing (with a dash of search engine marketing thrown in). Listen for some great email marketing ideas from both Dave Weatherholt and me.

Listen or download below:

Email Marketing

Download the Email Marketing MP3 file here. (7.4 MB)

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

Email Marketing: How to do it right

Email marketing should be alive and well in your marketing plan. You may ask, “What about Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn? All the marketing buzz is about social media!” It’s true that social media is growing in popularity and marketing potential, as 61% of all Internet users visit these sites. But the same 2010 Pew Internet Research Poll shows that 92% of all Internet users send or receive email. With a great email marketing campaign, you can reach practically the entire Internet population.

Some assert that younger consumers are eschewing email, but Pew Internet research shows that’s not the case. No matter which generation your customers are, 80-90% of the ones using the Internet are using email. Considering that Older Boomers spend more than their younger counterparts, this knowledge could be particularly profitable.

Since email marketing is such an important marketing tool, I want to give you some tips for doing it right. Businesses can’t just blast coupons to all their past customers and expect success. Let’s use this Pillar to Post marketing email I received as an example of how to run a successful email marketing campaign:

See the full size Pillar to Post email here.

Pillar to Post is a home inspection company. Home inspection not a service customers often need to purchase. The company’s email marketing strategy does a great job of keeping in touch with past customers and helping them remember who to call if they (or their friends and family) need a home inspection.

I’ve analyzed the Pillar to Post email to help you learn how they did it. Following are some email marketing tips you can start using today in your own marketing:

Send emails that fortify your brand and your customers will care about. Share information that will be useful, interesting or funny. Coupons or other promotions can be great, but they can’t be your sole strategy. For customers to be eager to open your emails, you need to give them something to be excited about.

The first day of summer was June 21, and most homeowners perform their home maintenance on a seasonal schedule. Knowing this, Pillar to Post shared a fairly thorough Summer Maintenance Checklist with their customers. This information is not only helpful to homeowners, but it establishes Pillar to Post as an expert in the field of home maintenance as well.

Mind your timing. Communicate with customers too often, and they will unsubscribe from your list or mark your emails as spam. Pillar to Post sends quarterly emails, each with season-specific advice. They recognized their customers’ natural home maintenance patterns and customized their approach for them.

Keep your content fresh. Avoid sending duplicate emails, even if they are months apart. Customers have a knack for remembering when they’ve read something before and will unsubscribe if they believe a company is putting forth a lackluster effort to engage them.

Design a clean, easy-to-use template. The Pillar to Post example email isn’t the most beautiful or effective design the company could have developed, but it is simple and easy to read. It has the added benefit of using as few images as necessary- images don’t always load in your customers’ email inboxes, so avoid placing text in an image.

Depending on your type of business, your email marketing strategy could be markedly different from Pillar to Post’s. Pillar to Post has a long sales cycle- a customer likely will go years before needing a home inspection. A retailer, on the other hand, might expect customers to make purchases seasonally, monthly or even every single day. Your sales cycle determines your messages and frequency.

Take inspiration from this great email marketing example to refresh and revitalize your email marketing (or to start email marketing, if you haven’t already!).