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.

 

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.

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.

Blogging is Not Dead. It’s a Vital Marketing Tool.

Blogs increase traffic 77%Blogging has been around since the 1990’s, and the practice has been fairly universally panned ever since. In the early days, detractors sneered that no one wants to read what bloggers ate for lunch (before the rise of foodie blogs proved them wrong). Today, blog belittlers insist that businesses should stop blogging and focus solely on social media.

But the truth is that blogs remain a vital small business marketing tool.

Why Blogs are Great for Marketing Your Small Business

  1. When you write with focused keywords, blogs are great for SEO. Search engines value websites that are regularly updated.
  2. Interesting blog posts provide content for your social media campaigns, while directing customers to pages that promote your brand in the best way.
  3. Packaging one or two interesting blog posts with your promotional emails increase open rates and customer engagement.

HubSpot published a helpful article last year, “21 Essential Strategies for Growing Your Business with Inbound Marketing.” Included is helpful research showing how blogs increase your small business marketing effectiveness, such as:

92% of all online experiences begin with a search engine 61% of people say they prefer content

If you’ve been neglecting your blog, start it up again! Try posting one interesting piece of content each week, including posts, videos or pictures. To keep on schedule, follow my tips for creating an editorial calendar.

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.

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.

Overcoming Blog Writer’s Block

Overcoming Blog Writer's BlockHaving a regularly-updated blog is an important part of your small business marketing strategy. Well-written blog posts help your organic SEO rankings and give customers a reason to explore your site. These articles can also be used in your email marketing and social media efforts. Conceptually, almost every small business understands the value.

But then you actually have to write the posts, develop the videos and create the graphics! Publishing a blog requires creativity, imagination and… time.

Here are some tips for overcoming writer’s block and keeping your blog up-to-date.

  • Schedule a brainstorming session. Take 30 minutes to an hour to write out ideas and create skeleton blog post drafts. When you’re stumped, you can rely on your previous creativity.
  • Need a blog post right now, but don’t have any drafts? Let your mind wander over the last week. What problems have you solved? Have customers been asking any particular questions? Did you complete a successful project that customer’s will find meaningful? Usually, by answering these questions, you’ll find a topic just waiting to be discovered.
  • Beyond your actual business, is there anything in your personal life that relates to your business and customer interests? For instance, sometimes I will share effective or ineffective marketing executions I’ve seen.
  • Get creative with using your SEO keywords. Craft a compelling SEO headline and let the story flow from there.

Sometimes, though, small business owners are simply too busy to publish their blog and other marketing content on a regular basis. If that sounds like you, give me a call. I help many businesses with content creation and would love to learn more about your business.

The Critical Last Step to Launching Your New Website (That Most Small Businesses Forget)

Finishing a significant small business marketing initiative like a website redesign is an exciting time! After possibly months of work and waiting, your new website is ready to be launched and revealed to customers.

Or is it?

The Critical Last Step to Launching Your New Website - TestingThere’s a critical last step to launching your new website that small businesses often overlook: Testing. Before introducing your website redesign to customers, test each and every functionality to make sure it’s behaving as it should. Click every link, fill out every form, watch every video and inspect every picture. Ideally, perform these tests on a variety of devices and web browsers.

Embarrassing mistakes and typos can be avoided simply by taking a fresh look at your completed site. Recently, I found that a client’s social media links were switched. Clicking on LinkedIn took you to YouTube, and clicking on Pinterest took you to Twitter. During a website review for another new client, I found their Google AdWords landing page wasn’t loading, wasting hundreds of dollars in advertising. Attention to detail matters for delivering optimal customer experiences and spending your marketing resources efficiently.

Even if your website isn’t new, take a few minutes this week and check it over. It’s better for you to find any errors than to leave them for your customers.

Why Do Customers Write Reviews?

Who are these people who write reviews on websites like Yelp, Amazon and Angie’s List? And why do they have so much power over your success?

Contrary to some opinions I’ve heard, online reviewers usually aren’t just disgruntled customers or dishonest competitors in disguise. They view themselves as part of a community that plays an important role in helping consumers make wise choices.

Remember that these online review websites are companies, and they have a business interest in encouraging reviewers. The more reputable and helpful their community is, the more successful the company will be.

For instance, Yelp recruits active reviewers to engage in its ‘Elite’ program, offering special free events and perks to this group. You can see from my Yelp profile that I participated in this community for awhile:

Why do customers write reviews?

On a smaller scale, some companies offer sweepstakes giveaways or discounts to customers who write reviews. And we can never neglect the allure some feel of developing a following, being considered a community leader or creating a reputation as an expert (even if it’s just expertise in local restaurants).

Because online review companies develop authentic communities, your customers trust the reviews they read, and they make purchase decisions based on reviewers’ opinions. So be nice to the reviewers and encourage your loyal customers to make their voices heard.

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!