What do you think about when hearing of brands seeking online marketing help? The Web has been ‘exploding’ for some time now. Its popularity blindfolds me at times when conjuring images of clients. I usually think about those with businesses well-footed in the online world. But that’s not the case for many. I read an article today about a company having issues stemming from bringing a traditional company online.
It got me thinking about other situations. Then I started thinking of some brick-and-mortar owners who may not see the need for online marketing at all because the online factor has never really been a topic of discussion for the owners. We often don’t think about what is not immediately in front of us.
IF storefront owners wanted to engage in some online marketing to connect with more consumers, they could consider:
I hear debates amongst many brands regarding the usefulness in creating or optimizing mobile sites. What should you do? It depends. For instance, if a store front offers food and resides within a seasonal-vacation locale, optimizing for smart phone users could make a difference in seasonal revenue production.
Ideally, creating more avenues to find your brand is great; but, not all owners have tons of money to invest, warranting an allocation of resources. For storefront owners, the question to ask is, “Is my product or service something searched (particularly) via smart phones?” People will search for places to eat and be entertained via smart phones. Would they search for a third-party shipping company using their phone? Perhaps, but it’s probably not as likely as the first scenario.
I really like seeing brands use social media; there’s so much potential; however, doing a poor job with handles can introduce the opposite influence. I’ve had brief discussions with a number of offline brands regarding social media. A majority of them ‘have heard’ but don’t quite ‘get’ what social media can do for their business. I understand. I do online marketing; so, I know social media. If I was a pizza shop owner, I would know food ingredients. Offline brands thinking about social media should ask, “Do I have the discipline to address a social media account regularly, constantly striving to make solid connections with followers?” If not, lay off the task for now. Otherwise, consider seeking the service of someone who can address the need for you.
Let’s use the pizza shop example. Hmm…maybe you place an ad by the cash register. “Follow, order, and keep in touch with us on Twitter! – Get a free pizza.” Depending on the shop’s setup, you could have people tweeting orders rather than calling. What’s the difference? All of their followers see them ordering from you…might that appeal to the stomachs of others? It just might.
Video blogging has been on my mind recently. I think it has a lot of potential; it really bridges the personable gap a bit. Sure, you can’t replicate the experience of engaging someone in person; yet, video blogs tell viewers a lot about the speakers. Viewers can see body language, facial features, inflection and tone of voice, presenting more of a personality that you can’t always get via textual information.
Many storefront owners are ‘people persons’ by nature or by business necessity. A lot of SEOs will tell you to put content on a Web site to help with optimization. That’s true. Putting content online can also help with people optimization. If you’re an owner thinking about starting a blog, ask yourself, “Do I feel passionate enough about what I do to share something with viewers (engaging my customers) on an ongoing basis?” I say don’t worry so much about ‘keywords.’ Concern yourself with expressing your business and brand to the public. And realize you don’t have to write. We’re not all writers; yet, most business owners feel somewhat comfortable with speaking publicly. Vlogging is not like getting up in front of a room of people; you can edit to your liking as much as possible before posting, just a thought…
Google has been making many updates. Have you heard? Don’t worry; the search engine optimization world closely tracks the search giant’s moves. We must. There’s too much invested in the process. Our consumers depend on us to do a good job for them. Your consumers depend on you too.
One of my jobs as an online marketer is suggesting best practices. Obviously, I follow the evolution of Google closely; it’s both interesting and warranted to intelligently address cohorts and readers. One of the best suggestions I can give (after being in marketing for a while) is minding your target…which is not Google rankings (rank is a means to an end). Rank is only one piece of the puzzle. As far as revenue, nothing’s happening unless consumers do something. The Google rank is just an ad after all.
It’s Sunday; hopefully you have some time to think of the forest through the trees before the busy workweek begins tomorrow. I would like business owners to invest the time in thinking about the following.
Imagine you just met a potential business partner. You would want to know more about them, wouldn’t you? I would. I do. Can consumers get all desired information from your about us page? I’ve seen a number of business sites with sad about us pages, offering no information about executives, brand missions, and employees. That’s a big red flag for me. Why is your brand hiding? Do you have something to hide? Competition is fierce. Why should consumers partner with your brand when you don’t indicate ‘who’ your brand is?
Take time with your about us page. People like to know about executives, employees, and their thoughts on business practices. Consumers want to know more about the brand. More transparency by businesses facilitates feelings of comfort and familiarity for consumers.
Examples of good about us pages:
Notice the About Us experience is multi-faceted. There are pictures, personality exhibited, people smiling and described, etc. You get a clear picture of the business and team members. Get your about us page there.
Page Bounce Rates
It’s quite simple to throw up Web pages. However, each page should have a definitive purpose. I understand all businesses want to make money from the Web; yet, understand the purpose of Web sites. A good Web site is a resource for interested parties. It should be a place of information and ongoing interaction. What are the bounce rates of your pages? Check pages where people spend little time. Why could this be? What orchestration decisions were made that could be bettered, perpetuating a visit? What site pages are most sticky? Why? Would it be wise to engineer pages like that more often?
High bounce rates tell me that a Web property is highly optimized for engines but offer little value or embrace for consumers, as if browsers were captivated by rank or meta tags, heading toward a Web property only to find it ineffectively ‘walking the talk,’ not ‘living up to its preliminary advertisement.’
This bounce rate post offers a ton of resources on the topic.
Please be mindful of best practices. Aligning your search engine optimization campaign with best practices eliminates the worry of Google updates. Do be concerned (always) with customer updates; constantly think about improving your Web site and digital communications for your customers.
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Remember the movie, Hoosiers? Remember the movie, Rocky? Remember the movie, The Revenge of the Nerds? Remember Napoleon Dynamite? Well, perhaps you’re seeing the pattern here. People are emotionally tied to the underdog, the small-time outfit, those who show character in the face of bigger competitors. We often embrace the smaller entities. Why? Maybe because the success of the biggie, the popular, is pretty typical; we’ve seen ‘that one.’
I read a good post this morning by Dr. Pete at SEOmoz, chronicling the ‘breaks’ of bigger brands. In some regards, the breaks of the ‘biggies’ seem unfair. They have more money for advertising, for outbidding for talent, for underselling competitors, and so on.
However, smaller brands have the luxury of less expectation, less anxiety to ‘live up to a name,’ and going at a patient pace, amongst others. Is your brand of the ‘smalls’ variety? Does your present station bother you? Why? Maybe you need to revisit some of the films above.
Have you ever gone on a diet? I’m lucky enough to be the same waist size as myself in my young twenties (must be all that reading). Have you ever witnessed someone on a crash diet? I have; most bite off more than they can chew, creating a very unrealistic weight and time limit. Are they building their project to an appropriate scale? No.
Small-waist brands don’t have to chase the rotund shape of bigger brands in respective verticals. If yours is a brand, so closely related to another, I think scaling is a secondary issue anyway. For those just starting, scaling to realistic proportions is an advantage you have over the bigger brands that often get caught up in the game of investors and popular-kid expectations. Most big brands already passed the point of no return, where it’s ‘do or die,’ ‘post numbers or shut down.’ A smaller brand has the luxury of patiently rising at the pace of its own ‘genetics.’
Maybe you’ve heard, social is a huge modern-day aspect of marketing. ‘Social’ means a lot of things; but, basically it means a brand can directly relate to its consumers. Let’s consider the dynamic for ‘biggies’ and ‘smalls’ brands.
Let’s say I have a Facebook issue. Let’s say it’s a genuine issue, of the un-fanboy variety; I really want to get a genuine answer from Zuckerberg, the brand’s owner. As a consumer, I really don’t think this is a mind-blowing request. However, Facebook has 800 million (or something like that) users. That’s awesome for Zuck; I get it; he can buy and sell me millions of times over; he doesn’t need to respond to me; chances are my question won’t even reach him.
Let’s consider another owner who makes himself more readily available to his consumers. I can (and do) directly email them with concerns, suggestions, questions about their brand, etc. As a consumer, I deeply value that; I really do. I’m likely to never forget that level of service. I’m no Google search engine; but, if someone treats me well, and someone asks me about my experience with a particular product or service, you can bet your bottom dollar I’m going to suggest those who treat me well. That’s a level of engagement, which is difficult or near impossible for ‘biggies’ to achieve. I vote for ‘Pedro,’ and not the only one.
I spent some time thinking about another cohort’s question on Dr. Pete’s post. John is inquiring about how a smaller brand can really compete with a bigger brand. I addressed his question in the comments; I also want you to read it too because I can’t over-emphasize the real power of branding; it transcends rank; it gets consumers to come straight to you, with no need to search for your brand’s offerings. Guess what? I also think it’ much easier for a smaller brand to effectively and consistently brand.
I’m not going to tell you to start a company blog because there are other ways to communicate brand messages and gain online traction. However, if you do have a company blog, you should concentrate on making it better and providing more value to readers.
It’s easy to say, “Start a blog.” I know because I’ve suggested such things before; but, there are as many reasons not to blog as there are to blog. You don’t have to be like anyone else is an immediate suggestion if you do blog. Don’t chase the style of influencers or popular brands; chances are you won’t find the same ‘magic’ during your trials. However, you could make the blogging process your own.
Consider the following ‘normal blogging’ alternatives:
Text is boring
I love reading; but, not everyone agrees. Actually, I bet a lot of people rather view a slide show or watch a video than read lines of text. Think of your days as a student. Not many people retain information from a textual once over anyway. Your blog doesn’t have to be textual at all. Some people enjoy speaking, opting to share information in that format. Are you more of a talker than writer? Begin podcasting your ideas.
I’ve ghost written before for other individuals. I love writing. Like reading above, there are those who would disagree with my choice of passion. It’s understood. If in-house workers are not natural writers, then don’t try to mold them into it; they’re likely to resent the need. I’d love to see someone attempt to make me into a ‘number cruncher.’ Alternatively, think about outsourcing your writing needs to…a writer, someone who enjoys doing it. I would suggest limiting the number of them. I think the more people involved, the less likely all parties can accurately channel the personality of your brand. Perhaps your owner can closely work with one ghostwriter, who can accurately capture the owner’s insight.
Don’t Do It
I know. I’m an online marketer telling you to dismiss an online marketing objective. You don’t have to blog at all, especially if your brand is going to do a poor job of doing it. This is something I wish more brands would realize: doing something poorly can grossly counteract online initiatives, creating poor impressions. For instance, I can’t count how many handles do an awful job of social media participation. Some brands would benefit from retiring their Twitter and Facebook accounts because the accounts are so poorly managed and curated. I hope your blog isn’t poorly managed; but, it’s not an out-of-this-world notion.
Optimization Doesn’t Equal Conversions
If you rank well on major engines for words associated to your services and products, you’re business is in a good place. But how many people ‘fit’ on the first page? Not many. I think an excellent ongoing branding campaign (for some brands) is just as good as great rankings. Good rankings ensure more people notice your brand. Branding does the same, yet ‘optimizes’ your brand toward its target market. Isn’t that who you want to sell to? I’m not saying dismiss all notions of SEO; I’m saying notice the widespread tools of online marketing. You don’t have to be number-one on Google to be successful online; you have to be number-one with your customers to be successful.
Have you ever chatted with someone who presents a story to you that sounds familiar, except for some minor-to-major details, which have been shifted, embellished, and distorted? It’s common in the world of gossip and akin to playing the game, whisper down the lane.
I used to teach in high school, where cliques wax poetic about gossip just as much (or more) as tweed-jacketed English teachers speak Shakespeare. The interests and cliques of teens can be capricious and fickle; yet teachers, those in authority, need to relay consistency. One of the best pieces of advice received from older peers regarded consistency, being ‘who you say you are’ and doing ‘what you said you would.’
The dynamic between a student and teacher is a bit different from that of a consumer and brand; however, the need for consistency remains integral to facilitate good relations. Mixed signals and contradiction, purveyed by a brand, is recognized by consumers. It frustrates and alienates the latter party.
Over the weekend, I read a post on forming a corporate identity manual. A brand does not need to be huge to host a manual; a brand consisting of one employee may benefit from a manual. Why? It addresses a brand’s character; it provides the ‘blue prints’ for a brand’s personality. Secondly, it serves as a graphic reminder (a ‘post-it’ note), mentally nudging all brand players about the importance of the brand’s identity and the consistency of expressing it.
Those practicing online marketing often get perplexed by Google; it must be very intimidating for those outside of the industry. A brief time ago, Google introduced privacy setting changes, creating a mass of confusion, with many expressing their frustration with the brand. Google’s engine is the most popular method of search; a communicative blunder (even of large proportions) is not likely to sink the brand; but, Google champions itself on creating the best user experience; being tongue-tied about mass-rolled-out changes is not consistent with its intended identity. This is not good for consumers and definitely not good for Google.
I own a phone powered by a popular mobile brand. I recently had a billing question, pointing out the disparity between written text on their Web site, what was explained to me while signing a contract, and what was relayed to me by a representative on the phone. My real frustration with the brand culminated in the feeling of helplessness; I can’t find a theme of consistency with the brand’s processes. I shouldn’t have to sleuth and elucidate contradictions. Before the brand takes my money, accepting me as an ongoing consumer, it should definitively engineer its policies, ensuring a consistent identity.
In the first example, Google did a poor job of ‘being who it says’ – a provider of the best user experience. In the second example, the brand did a poor job of ‘doing what it said it would’ in regard to the billing process.
Does This Hit Home?
The way I branded myself as a person of authority in the classroom was important. I needed to ensure a level of consistency; because, if I didn’t, I would be ‘called’ on it.
“Hey, Mr. P, can I have an extension on that project due on Friday?”
“No, sorry, I can’t budge on that.”
“Why did you tell Tommy in 4th period he could have one!?”
See what would happen if I was inconsistent with my branding? I would alienate some consumers.
“Hey class, I know I said I would give all of you some free time to do your homework at the end of class; but, I changed my mind.”
(Chaos and Mr. P voo-doo dolling ensues)
Do you have children? Did they ever ask a question at different times or to different parents, attempting to elicit a different response? High school teens do the same with teachers; they can be crafty. I did it when I was in school. Does your brand respond consistently to its consumers?
Branding myself and my methods was important before I started teaching. In the above article, the branding strategist maintains a graphic organizer with a signed ‘contract’ by the owner, the ‘contract’ enforcing the corporate identity.
Before teaching, I presented a graphic contract, ‘Mr. P’s structural bookends,’ having each student and aligned parent sign it. This way, all consumers and related associates had a clear understanding of my ‘brand,’ who I was, what I expected, and what they could expect regarding my instruction.
The author of the corporate identity article endorses the formation and regular revisiting of a company-wide identity manual. Have you considered such a process? Do all team members act uniformly toward consumers? Is each piece of content, produced by your brand, released with your brand’s intended, consistent message? Ensure all involved with your brand are on the same branding page.
The world of one-sided marketing has faded. It’s more about…engagement (the magical buzzword). Marketing has become more dynamic and personable. It may take a little while for us to fully wrap our heads around what social media did and continues to do to marketing.
Once there was a time when dissatisfied customers only had those within earshot to discuss brand experience with. Now, customers can hop on Twitter and express their distaste in real time, directly to the brand, with the potential of thousands seeing it.
It makes for interesting marketing. It leads me to champion the process of branding more than ever. I think branding is inseparable from reputation management; and, a company that is mindful of branding can make maintaining reputation easier, standing tall, even through times of sporadic consumer dissatisfaction. Obviously, branding requires creating associations and…engagement is one way to create positive ones.
There are a number of brands that do a great job of creating, promoting, and maintaining a community, a fan base. It’s hard to replicate character and unique personalities; but, you don’t have to model others exactly; just be mindful of some options. It’s pretty much the same with all forms of marketing; the process is unique to each brand though many use similar methods and platforms. What I’m saying is you can’t expect to get the exact same engagement results as others; but, through the process of engagement, you can create your own community. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Free/Savings: I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say people enjoy free things as well as saving money on things. Is there a way to offer social media followers immediate savings on your product/services? Is there a chance you can giving something away free, even if just a mug or t-shirt? Maybe a white paper from the industry? Think of creating a reason to ‘get people in the door.’
Attention: If someone is following your brand, they have made positive associations. In short, they like you. However, reciprocity is a factor in real life, which spills over to the Web. Even if people like you, if you continuously neglect giving them attention, they’re likely to start ‘liking’ other brands. In all sincerity, ask your brand this question: Do we donate enough attention to subscribers, social media followers, or regular blog readers? A little attention can go a long way, especially when it’s likely some of your competition is being lax in this department. You could donate more attention by:
-More outbound re-tweeting and tweeting of others’ content
-Ask followers how their day is going. I know crazy, right?
-Feature a customer using your product/service on your site weekly
-Ask questions for feedback and then publicly thank those who participated
-Come up with some theme for the days of the week, asking followers to participate (Example: each Monday, your handle sporadically quotes from movies while followers guess the films.)