Friday, May 30, 2008

Three Factors to Consider Before You Jump on the Social Media Bandwagon

by Lee Erickson

Editor's note: See Lee in person at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum, Driving Sales: What's New + What Works. Catch her session on "Creating a B-to-B Social Media Strategy: A Guide to Defining It and How Your Company Should Take the Social Media Plunge." Sign up for the event and use promo code ESPK08 to save $200 on the registration fee.

If you're like most B2B marketers, you're probably wondering whether you need to jump on the social media bandwagon. You're likely getting asked whether your company should start a blog, open a Facebook account, or be on YouTube.

Every day there's a new hot site, a new viral marketing success (or horror) story, or a new technology to learn about. There's a lot to keep up with, and it's continually evolving.

So how do you decide what to do?

Start by taking a giant step backward and assessing the social media landscape as it relates to your market, your buyers, and your competitors.

Here are three key factors to consider.

1. What's going on in my market?

Identify where your buyers go to learn about new products and services. What are the destination sites and who are the influencers (also known as A-listers) in your market?

How to start:

1. Search the Web:

-Use Google Blog Search and enter the top 5 phrases your prospects would likely use to find information about the issues that your products and services help solve. See
what analyst sites, blogs, online publications, and organizations show up.

-Search Technorati and del.icio.us and look for high-traffic sites.

2. Survey your buyers: Send out a survey asking customers where they go for information about job-related issues. What are their favorite blogs, online publications, organizations, and associations?

3. Ask the experts: Ask industry analysts and leading speakers where they go for information, what sites they write for, provide information to, or blog on.

What to look for:

1. Destination sites: Are there clear destination sites that have active conversations that would appeal to your buyers?

2. Quantity and quality: How many people are joining in? What's the frequency and quality of new posts? Are they talking about things relevant to what you do?

3. Who you should know: Are there respected A-listers or other influencers who you should get to know?

2. What are my competitors doing?

It's important to understand what your competitors are doing in relation to social media. If they're all over the destination sites that your buyers visit, that's a potential competitive threat. If they're not, that could represent a competitive opportunity.

How to start:

1. Search the blogosphere: Use Google Blog Search and enter your competitors' names, products, and company evangelists (if they have any).

2. Review destination sites: Go back to the destination sites that you identified in step one and search for company names, products, and people.

3. Check your competitors' sites: Look for signs that they're engaging visitors in conversation.

What to look for:

1. Activity level: What's your competitors' presence on the Web? Do their names, products/services, or employees show up on destination sites? Are A-listers talking about them in a positive way?

2. Use of social media: What social-media activities are your competitors engaged in? Do they actively engage in blogs, forums, reviews, and critiques—on their sites, on other sites? Do they have a following? Are they engaging their customers in new and different ways?

3. Syndication of content: Are they pushing out or syndicating content to destination sites? Are they educating buyers by providing whitepapers or "how to" guides? Are they establishing a position as a thought leader?

3. What activities do my buyers engage in?

Another critical factor to evaluate is what activities your buyers want to engage in. If your buyer isn't the type to comment on blogs or post ratings or reviews, then it doesn't make sense to put a lot of effort into creating these tools or participation on those types of sites.

On the other hand, if your buyer is already actively engaged in blogs, social-networking sites, or social-bookmarking sites, you can accordingly plan the activities you should focus on.

How to start:

1. Ask them:

- Survey your customers to gauge their participation with social media.

- Use free tools like PollDaddy or SurveyMonkey to create and send surveys to your in-house list, or add a survey to your corporate site.

2. Tap into current research: Both Forrester and Pew (pdf) have conducted research to determine the types of activities that people like to participate in online. You can match the demographics of your buyers, in terms of age and gender, to current research and draw some high-level conclusions about what activities they participate in or whether they engage at all.

What to look for:

Preferred activities:

1. What types of activities to they gravitate toward? Are they online or do they prefer traditional media? Do they read blogs? Participate in social networks?

2. Define "sweet spots" (high-participation activities) and "dead ends" (not interested).

What's next?

By focusing on your market, your customers, and your buyers, you'll be better positioned to build a strategy that works for you and the people you're trying to reach. You'll be less likely to get caught up in the latest craze and more likely to select the right tactics to move your company forward.

The final step is assessing your company's readiness to dive in.

Lee Erickson is cofounder and president of Erickson Barnett (ericksonbarnett.com), a B2B technology marketing firm. She can be reached at lee@ericksonbarnett.com.

The Engagement Game

by Martin Lindstrom

If I were to glance through your media plan, I'm sure I'd discover it contained all the usual, well-known media options. The TV and radio ads, the print ads and the outdoor advertising. We've all been going with these options for years, decades in fact.

We've always known we wouldn't be fired for nominating them. Just like an IT guy wouldn't be fired for installing an IBM solution.

But this security is fast disappearing. One day soon, you will be fired for your adherence to these options.

The computer gaming market's revenue is many times greater, and more rapidly growing, than that of the global movie industry. In 2004, Nielsen was already predicting that, by now, the movie industry would be just one-third the size of the computer gaming industry. So where is Hollywood's marketing power drifting? Online.

Are you ready for the brand building potential inherent in this scenario?

It's fascinating to reflect on the fact that almost every medium has a price which, at a click, you can Google and find out about within seconds. These are fixed and well-known prices, except in once case: the computer gaming channel.

What's the price of placing a commercial message in a computer game? I'm sure you haven't got a clue. Is it $1 per user? A million up front? One cent per second? Who knows? No fixed model exists. No media agency has, yet, really specialized in booking space in computer games.

This is new territory for brand-builders. And new territory often means new prices. New low prices.

Let's do the math. Research from my book, BRANDchild, showed that kids now, for good or bad, spend almost the same time in front of computer games as they do in front of a TV. These numbers will soon trend away from each other as computer games take the lead in the way kids allocate their time.

But here's the really crucial difference: Your TV commercial probably secures some 30 seconds with consumers; your potential computer game commercial is very likely to spend hours with them.

No wonder that Red Bull, the energy drink, claimed it had secured its success because of its appearance in one of the first PlayStation games. "Want more energy?" was the message. I don't have to tell you what the answer was.

If you belong to the IBM gang, inclined toward the secure solution, stop reading now. However, if you believe that TV is no longer the one and only path to brand success, you should be already considering your opportunities in the wonderful world of computer games.

The prices are still low as this is currently unexplored territory. The results are still high as branding clutter is limited. But it's full steam ahead in the computer gaming world.

Sims Online, one of the world's best-established computer game creators, no longer operates in a non-branded world but in a world where players buy McDonald's outlets and sell the company's branded food products, earning "simoleans," the game's currency. Eating that food will also improve players' standing in the game.

This is building brands through interaction. In the past, brands haven't interacted with their customers or been able to engage them in their philosophies. Now the relationship between brand and customer is set to change. Brands are learning that to create an engaged consumer, you have to... engage them. Surprise!

The potential for engagement represented by computer games is kick-starting a wave of brand movement from passive relationships with consumers to relationships that demand constant interaction. These relationships demand that brands adopt a role, play to it, and give constant feedback to consumers.

The ever-dawning world of branding has written another new chapter, this time online. I hope you're part of the story.

Update: The CAN-SPAM Act

Since 2003, the CAN-SPAM Act has regulated various aspects of email marketing campaigns. And now—after a three-year period of consideration—the Federal Trade Commission has announced four new rule provisions you should know about.



Following are the four topics that these new provisions address:

1. An email recipient cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than his or her email address and opt-out preferences, or take any steps other than sending a reply email message or visiting a single Internet Web page to opt out of receiving future email from a sender.

2. The definition of "sender" was modified by the FTC to make it easier to determine which of multiple parties advertising in a single email message is responsible for complying with the Act’s opt-out requirements.

3. A "sender" of commercial email can include an accurately registered post office box or private mailbox established under United States Postal Service regulations to satisfy the Act’s requirement that a commercial email display a "valid physical postal address."

4. A definition of the term "person" was added to clarify that CAN-SPAM's obligations are not limited to "natural persons."

The good news: If you're an ethical email marketer, these provisions may well just reinforce what you're already doing for your customers.

The Po!nt: The odds are good you won't need to make major changes to comply with the FTC's revised rules. "From the FTC press release," writes Laura Atkins at the Word to the Wise blog, "it seems that the rules are reasonably sane and any current mailer following best practices will already be in compliance."

Source: Word to the Wise. Read the full post here.

Source: Federal Trade Commission. Read the full press release here.

Optimizing Tactics For Generating Website Traffic‏

By JD Reilly

Internet marketing has been around for as long as there has been the internet. It really took off, though, once the World Wide Web caught fire in the late 1990's.

What many people new to internet marketing lose site of, or perhaps didn't know to begin with, is that internet marketing is based on the fundamental principles of marketing. It just so happens that internet marketers use those principles with a new medium, the web, to reach buyers.

The fundamental principle of marketing is - if you want to sell anything, you need prospective customers.

For many people, knowing how to generate massive amounts of traffic is the "missing link" to internet marketing.

Everyday there are lots of people who struggle to create websites and products, make them look pretty good and then... nothing. Everything was built and nobody showed up!

This is one of the biggest reasons people quit before they are successful.

It doesn't have to be that way. There is no exact strategy that is guaranteed to bring you millions of visitors everyday. However, there are proven techniques for generating huge amounts of traffic, some very quickly and some for free.

Higher traffíc increases the potential for sales and referral commissions. The goal is to boost search engine traffic because this means a wider audience and long-term profit from various sources like ads. That is why there is such a lot of innovation in the field of search engine optimization (SEO).

Long Tails and How They Help

One of the most recent techniques, and a very effective one at that, is the use of LONG TAIL keywords to direct search engine traffic to your website.

The term may sound intimidating, but all it refers to is a new marketing trend. In the past, a few major keywords were identified to pull traffic through search engines. In the new model, websites will be drawing their business from a large variety of low-volume search queries or phrases. So, it's goodbye to all those oft-used, clichéd keywords.

This brings about a paradigm shift in your strategy to identify keywords and phrases. Instead of opting for the most obvious keywords like 'Makíng money online', web marketers now have to identify several keyword phrases that attract streams of low volume traffic. The combined action of several streams of low-volume traffic will eventually add up to high revenue.

To identify Long Tails or multi-word search queries (for that is what they are), you have to pick out the actual phrases that visitors use to arrive at your website. These key phrases are more specific than general. They embody the specific information users are looking for. So, a phrase like "Top 5 SEO techniques to earn money online" will pull in more targeted traffíc than 'makíng money online'. Ultimately, such a strategy leads to an overall jump in web traffíc.

For example, 'Self-hypnosis' is a general keyword. The keyword phrases within this niche would be 'Self-hypnosis to lose weíght' or 'using self-hypnosis techniques to improve memory' or 'benefits of self-hypnosis for controlling anger'.

Methods to Identify Keyword Phrases

Use tracking programs: Certain automated programs generate a number of subject-specific keyword phrases. But you will still have to filter and select specific phrases from a long catalog of results. Further to this, you may have to run your selected phrases through a search volume analyzer, to zero in on the top phrases.

Keyword research tools: Tools like Google's Keywords Tool can help determine the popularity of keywords, thus enabling you to develop a wide variety of secondary keywords to improve web traffíc to your site. Stringing together these words should enable you to identify keyword phrases.

Search boxes: Using on-site search boxes will enable you to monitor specific keyword phrases your visitors are looking for. This way, you get direct feedback from your visitors. This is an amazing method you can use to learn more about the general public's search habits.

Check out your competition: Find out what phrases they are using. Search their meta tags, titles and headers. Here, all the work has been done for you. You only need to fine-tune the words and string them together to make phrases that will pull lots of search engine traffic. Keyword parsing tools help you analyze other websites.

Advantages

By using keyword phrases, you reap a number of benefits:

-High search-engine rankings: Competition will be weaker for the phrases you have identified so you can easily climb to the top of search engine rankings for your particular choice of phrase.

-Higher conversion rates: Since you are using the actual phrase your visitors are looking for, the website traffic you get is highly targeted. People who come to you in this manner are more likely to click the 'Buy Now' button than people who come in out of curiosity.

-Increased inflow: Since you will be using many keyword phrases, you will build up several streams of low-volume customers. These streams will improve your search engine traffic.

-Make more money: Your monetizing potential is high when you pull in search engine traffic because people who come to you are serious about your product, service or information. They are more likely to subscribe to your newsletter or RSS feeds.
Using Long Tails on your websites or Blogs will undoubtedly improve web traffíc to your site.

And of course, more traffíc is always good news!


About The Author
JD Reilly is committed in helping others succeed at marketing online products and implementing strategies for success. The success is built upon-- A focused target market, A product people are hungry for, A marketing strategy, Automation. Learn more Now: Silver Bullet System

Being Green: It Ain't Easy

In a blog post, Beth Ziesenis recalls working at a Colorado dude ranch, and being asked to put placards in guest rooms urging water conservation. They were intended to save on laundry bills and enhance the ranch's image, not to preserve the environment, and the former Peace Corps volunteer took exception to their cynical misrepresentation. "We don't recycle; we don't compost; we don't do anything for the environment," she protested.



Today customers check up on environmental claims. Ziensenis has the following advice for keeping your green credentials honest:

Don't exaggerate. "Buying carbon offsets or wind energy credits can actually give you the 'right' to say your company is powered by alternative energy sources," says Ziesenis, "even if you're plugging your computer into the same power plant you always have."

Put it in writing. Create a green philosophy statement that details how you reuse, reduce and recycle.

Reinforce your commitment. Give tips and keep everyone updated on your green strategies in newsletters and promotions.

The Po!nt: "More consumers are looking for proof of an environmentally conscious agenda by the companies they choose," says Ziesenis. "Before your marketing department wraps your website in a green border, examine your company's policies to make sure you pass the consumer green sniff test."

Source: Life on Avenue Z. Click here for the post.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Be a Shape-Shifter

Did you ever notice how many products or packages are rectangular? Think tissue box. Think cereal box. Think books. Think paper bags! The list is endless.



Apparently, there's a good reason for this focus on the rectangular: the shape appeals to most consumers. But do the size and actual dimensions of the rectangle matter as well? Recent research says yes, they do.

According to design standards, a rectangle's "golden ratio" is reached when the ratio of its long side to its short side is approximately 1.62. Designers use that golden ratio quite a bit.

But researchers have discovered that product preferences and purchasing intentions can change as the ratio of the rectangle is varied. The shape of the rectangle can actually influence purchasing decisions and product perceptions.

The mitigating factor at work here? It's often the relative seriousness of the context in which the product is used. The bigger the fun factor of a product, for instance, the more leeway you may have in its design.

So what's the logical conclusion for marketers? Don't apply a single design rule for rectangles across all product categories. Consider how the product will be used, then test some different dimensions.

The Po!nt: Be a shape-shifter. Pay attention to the shape of products and their packaging to attract consumer attention and approval.

Source: "Ratios In Proportion: What Should the Shape of the Package Be?" by Priva Raghubir and Eric A. Greenleaf. Journal of Marketing, 2006.

Seven Ways To Kill Your Catalog‏

by David Utter

Editor's Note: In our coverage on WebProNews of the ACCM (Annual Conference for Catalog & Multichannel Merchants) Conference, we bring you a look at seven concepts you need to consider for your site. Which ones stand out for you? Drop us a comment and let us know which of these ideas have helped your website the most.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Any dope on the street can make a mistake without exerting any effort. To really wreck an e-commerce site requires effort. Here's how to do it.

(Coverage of the ACCM conference continues at WebProNews Videos. Keep an eye on WebProNews for more notes and videos from the event this week.)

Sure, the session at ACCM 2008 was titled "Maximize Your Web Catalog: Search Optimization, Content & Analytics," but the real value comes from knowing how to completely make your site irrelevant to the engines, and thus to potential customers.

Matt Bailey, founder of SiteLogic, covered several topics where unary webmasters caused themselves and their sites unnecessary grief. Accessibility, for example, became a big deal for retail chain Target's website.

Target made its site in a way that left it less than useful for sight-impaired visitors using screen reader software. Images and image maps lacked any alternative text a screen reader could use. That earned Target an embarrassing lawsuit from the National Federation of the Blind.

Failing to use redirects for changed URLs provides an easy way to send search crawlers into oblivion, taking your site's presence with it. The 301 redirect says this URL doesn't exist any more, Mr. Spider, you want this URL instead, forever afterwards. Temporary URL changes use a 302 redirect.

Then there's inconsistent linking. Optimize those title bars to help avoid the perception that you're presenting duplicate content. If you can hit the same page in different ways, search engines might decide to exclude all of its instances as duplicates.

URLs filled with useless unreadable characters present people with an unmemorable page. Fall out of love with icky URLs and make them something that a regular user recognizes right away, and sees its value. Don't forget a nice favicon, either.

You may have tons of data available for a product or service you sell. Balance is the key. Too much information, like too many different products on one page, dilutes the presentation to the visitor.

If you really want to turn visitors into one-time arrivals, make calls to action obscure and unclear. Navigation that states what it does and does what it states keeps people makes it more likely that online shoppers, who frequently research products over and over before making a buy, will come back to reinforce their wants before making a purchase.

Bailey cited one task e-commerce site publishers need to succeed, and that's analytics. "Number one thing you can do to increase your sales is use analytics," he said, claiming over 70 percent of retailers do not use analytics.

"If you are not doing analytics, you are losing money," said Bailey. You don't really want to leave money on the table. Do you?

About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for SmallBusinessNewz covering technology and business. Follow me on Twitter, and you can reach me via email at dutter @ ientry dot com.

You've Got the Power!

No matter how sophisticated our society becomes, it seems we still can't resist vocabulary that appeals to our basic instincts. As a result, there are certain "power" words that can significantly improve your email response rates.



Here's Karen Talavera's Top Ten List of power words you should be using in your email messages. Post it next to your computer, and don't write another line without it!

Top Ten Email Power Words

10. New. Anything that hints at novelty will spur reader curiosity.
9. Save. Everyone loves to get something for less than it's worth.
8. Safety. Volvo has built an entire brand with this word.
7. Proven. It justifies your claim, and eases fear of the unknown.
6. Love. No matter how cynical we get, we're still in love with love.
5. Guarantee. Says Talavera, "It iron-clads your offer."
4. Immediate (also: Now or Instant). Online shoppers want it now.
3. Results. A word that tends to trigger instant conversions.
2. You. Your audience wants to hear what's in it for them.
1. Free. The Number One most potent motivator in direct response.

The ultimate Power Word. CAUTION: Don't overuse it.

Guarantee: Using these words well could help boost your results.

The Po!nt: These words work, if you respect them. "When it comes to power words, less is more," says Talavera. "Use them sparingly and strategically. Power words are just that—powerful—all on their own."

Source: MarketingProfs. Click to read the article.

Creating a Winning Web Site & Online Strategy: Q&A With Aaron Kahlow

While social media tools such as blogs and Twitter are getting all the buzz these days, we can tend to forget that for many companies, the web site is still the main inroad for customers. As a result, web site performance and usability is critical.

Aaron Kahlow is a partner in Business Online and a leader in the field of web site usability. At the MarketingProfs B2B Forum, Aaron will show B2B marketers how they can improve their site, email campaigns, landing pages and the general online customer experience by applying "The Top 10 Foundational Principals of Website Usability."

All this will be done in a very unique "lab" setting at the B2B Forum. Aaron explains more about the format, and gives some tips on how to improve your web site's usability, in this exclusive interview.

At the Marketing Profs B2B Forum, you are conducting a Lab on "Improving the Customer Experience of Your Web Site." Is the 'lab' format different from the standard session or panel we see at most conferences?

Completely different. The Usability Lab gives one on one advice from the subject matter expert on specifically where your web site is straying from the known best practices of web site usability. Moreover, it gives you insight into how that is affecting your customer experience and overall conversion rates.

One of the areas you'll be covering in your lab is seeing your web site as your customers do. What do you think is the biggest misconception that companies have about how visitors use and interact with their websites?

I'd say the biggest misconception is that their customers think like they do. Much like any good relationship, you need to put yourself in the other persons shoes (i.e. the customer). Most marketing professionals are way too "close" to their offering, corporate vernacular and all things related to their industry. So things like nomenclature and content grouping often fall in line with their corporate focused thinking not the users.

In general, do companies seem to be paying more attention to website design now than they did say 3 years ago? Or are they focusing more in other areas online, such as blogging and social media?

Definitely prioritizing the design and usability of their site a lot more. Many realize how bad their site really is and are now budgeting appropriately. The biggest realization is how central the web site is for all marketing efforts, online or offline in how there is usually at least one touch point on the site in any buying cycle.

Social media is being talked about a lot, but like the [just released] Forrrester research tells us, less than 30% are actually doing anything. So a lot of conjecture, not much concrete steps.

There's been a lot of research in recent years into tracking pattern-usage trends and "eyeball-tracking" with web sites. Where do you see the science behind website design going in the future?

I see their being much more widely adopted standards so web sites start having similar structures. This will make it easier for the user so they do not need to re-learn the navigation of a new site every time they go to one, it will be very similar to their more familiar sites:

I know you can't give all your secrets away, but what are a couple of the main areas of site design that are important to customers, that most companies overlook?

Here are the top 3:

1) It's not about design, it's about information architecture. Place more of your budget on the proper website "blueprint" and then layer a nice design.

2) Researching things we all ready know to be true. I hear companies tell me they did a recent study and found that their users like the search box in the top right corner... well we know that was the case 5 years ago. Research the elements that are very specific to your target audience.

3) Remember the search engine optimization and web site usability go hand and hand and 90% of the time work in line with each other.

Why Bother With "LinkedIn" or "Facebook"?‏

By John Clark

That's what I used to ask myself as numerous acquaintances kept tagging me to be part of their realm of contacts in FaceBook.com or LinkedIn.com. It seemed a nuisance until I sat down with an old contact, Don Tinney from EOS Worldside (EOS=Entrepreneurial Operating Systems). Don is an EOS Implementer whose job is quite simple. He says simply, "We make millionaires out of owners of small to medium size companies". So maybe he has something to say I should know.

I was in both LinkedIn and FaceBook and didn't see the significance. My business was humming along just fine and didn't need the distraction. Don forced my mind open a bit and so I took it upon myself to find out if there was some gold to mine there that I had missed. Like hunting for Morel mushrooms, it went from "none to be found" to being surrounded with all kinds of uses. Here is my quick rundown of uses in the hopes all our business partners can begin to take advantage of these tools.

To begin with, I'm going to concentrate on LinkedIn.com because I find it the most dialed in of the two for "business networking". While I'm in Facebook also my contacts there are almost all personal life related. Sure, we all can use a few friends but the majority of my day is more about business and LinkedIn appears to me to have a larger corner on it.

So if you...

-Are new to LinkedIn and don't know how to use it to help your business and career.


-Have been using LinkedIn yet felt like you haven't really accomplished anything with it.


-Are trying to persuade your friends to join LinkedIn and want / need to communicate the value of it.


-Wondering if LinkedIn type sites can help improve your web site's visibility.


-Think there's no real value in LinkedIn.

... this is for you!

Here is a small amount I've learned about using LinkedIn, understanding there are millions of users who know a whole lot more about it than I do. This still should give you a starter kit on the value. It will also be a great link section to teach you as much as you can possibly know about this.

Off-Site Factors Enhance Your Web Site's Ranking More than On-Site Optimization

The original criteria the creators of Google used to rank web sites is still the same as it is today. It ranked sites according to the value of the web sites that linked to the evaluated web site. If you have dozens of important sites with links to your site and those sites are related in subject matter to what your site is all about, it will out-weigh many of the things you put (or fail to put) in your site for rankings.

When you have links to your web site in your LinkedIn or Facebook listings, those are off-site links. If you make recommendations for other people in your circle of contacts and include your web site address as part of your signature then you have even more. Make dozens of good recommendations and receive them in return. It's truly a "giver's gain" world there.

Add to this some effective Public Relations campaigns and you can really begin to boost your rankings. Write articles like this to online magazines and make links to your web site part of your signature. It takes some real honest to goodness work but the results can be magic in your rankings. There is more on how all this works in one of our blog articles: The Most Important Key to Web Site Traffic!

Business Development - Marketing - Sales

We all know that strength of a warm lead. All the initial hurdles have been jumped. Linked in contacts can help you get to the right people. Interested in doing business with Acme Widgets? Do a search in LinkedIn for current and former employees of the company. Find out if any of them are connected to someone you know in your circle. If so, ask that contact to give you a formal introduction.

Before you meet that contact look over their interests if posted. Going to meet someone who is President of the company you want to work with? Look them up in advance and discover their interests and background. See who they know that you may also know. Create common interests and connections from that information and start the conversation warmly.

Did you know that ALL 500 of the Fortune 500 companies are represented on LinkedIn? Either the CEOs or the upper level management are to be found there. There must be something to it. Those who are active on it may just be looking for you and who you are on LinkedIn. If you're not there, they may wonder why. This is dang near as good as the Mason secret handshake without all the silly rituals or red beanie cap.

For a good article on warm calling using LinkedIn see A Guide To Business Development 2.0 .

When searching for companies, uncheck "current companies only" and find out what former employees have to say about the company. What kind of talent has left the company and how fast? Contact them and find out things the company may not want you to know. Learn their weaknesses and how to market to it. The líst is endless.

Increase Your Credibility

Imagine that before agreeing to see you on a sales call the business owner checks to see if you are on LinkedIn. Not being there could be a strike against you because he feels he's flying a little blind in your regard. If you are there, he or she may want to see your background, your connections, or your recommendations. Finding numerous positive reviews from others who have worked with you can create a positive frame of mind. If they know some of the same people you do, it can get even better.

Here it can get even better - receiving calls from buyers who found you on LinkedIn and want to buy something from you. Shocking? See how all this can work in the real world in Using LinkedIn to Make the Sale .

Career Enhancement and Job Search

Enhance your efforts in searching for a job or finding qualified applicants for positions you need to fill. It should be no stretch to your imagination at this point on how you can take advantage of this when looking for career advancement. Use your LinkedIn link as part of your email signature or refer to it in your resume. A large number of HR people and managers will recognize it. If you've done your homework and have numerous recommendations, it can really work in your behalf. Make friends and get recommendations before you need them. The best way is to start by recommending others first.

For more on this check out "Ten Ways to Use LinkedIn" .

Improve Your Website's Visibility

This will be the subject of my next article because this one's getting a bit long. In short, there are two main things that can positively affect your website ranking and visibility with search engines. The first, and least important are your on-site factors. The most important is your off-site factors. This aspect is mostly ignored by business owners and web developers. It is all part of true professional web development. In this regard you will truly get what you paid for.

If you are a member of LinkedIn - log out and then search for yourself. When you find yourself, copy the address from your browser's address bar. Use it for a link in your signature for emails.

Other Sites for More Education:

-Top Ten Reasons to Use LinkedIn
-How do I use LinkedIn to find a job
-How to use LinkedIn to Create Authoritative Content
-Wall Street Journal - The Right Way to use LinkedIn


About The Author
John Clark is the President of Wow Web Works in Kalamazoo, MI. This and other articles of interest are posted on his blog at wowwebworks.com/community. His profile in LinkedIn. You can also contact us at wowwebworks.com or at 269-321-5041.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Do You Really Want a Logo That Only Costs $100?

In a post at his blog, David Airey discusses the strange phenomenon of companies that think they can get a great logo on the cheap. Among the not-unusual postings he observed in online forums was this gem: "The prize for the winning company logo design is $100 USD payable in your paypal the day the contest ends, and the contest deadline will be the 1st of May. We will wait for your creatives, and wish good luck to all contestants. Let the battle begin!"



According to Airey, someone with $100 shouldn't expect more than two hours from a professional design service. "Yes, you might be on a tight budget, as most people starting a business are, but being in business doesn't come cheap," he says.

The Graphic Design Blog follows up on Airey's observations by explaining why your logo should cost more than lunch:

-It's the first impression people have of your company, and needs to last for many years. A logo is also critical for its influence on the look and feel of other marketing materials.

-A good logo requires substantial effort: Research, brainstorming, sketches, four or five options and final tweaking. With a $100 budget, meanwhile, it's likely the designer will produce something generic, and even resort to non-proprietary clip art that could easily appear in other logos.

The Po!nt: "You have to spend money at the beginning or it will end up costing much more for a re-design/re-brand further down the line," says Airey. "[B]ecause you do get what you pay for and you will come to realise your logo is rubbish."

Sources: David Airey's blog and the Graphic Design Blog.

Sprechen-Vous Italiano?

Most Americans won't win any prizes when it comes to communicating in a second language. We typically grasp at the remnants of our high school French or Spanish, filling in the gaps with English and ad hoc sign language. But in a post at the Influential Marketing blog, Rohit Bhargava highlights a young street merchant called Ravi who flips with ease from one language to the next as he sells fans made of peacock feathers.



In the first video, made by an English-speaking tourist and posted to YouTube, the young Ravi—dubbed the Lingo Kid—rattles off his sales pitch in series of languages: French, Italian, German, Arabic, Russian and Japanese. (If you watch closely, you'll notice that he also alters his tone and body language to mirror those of his customers' cultures.) Ravi might not get the grammar and vocabulary exactly right, but that's beside the point: virtually any tourist who encounters Ravi will get the gist of his meaning.

Three years later, the tourist returned and interviewed Ravi—now a teenager—once again. In the second video, he delivers his pitch with greater polish, and appears to have added Mandarin Chinese to his repertoire. Ravi also explains that he has never been to school; he learned each of these languages by listening to his customers.

This remarkable young linguist is your Marketing Inspiration. Says Bhargava, "Both videos together offer one of the most simple marketing lessons that you can imagine … that sometimes it doesn't matter what you're selling, just that you speak the right language."

Are Your Trainees Ready to Take the Reigns?

By Chris Crum

Don't let finding out cost you customers.


New hires have to get their feet wet sometime, but what steps are you taking to ensure that they are really ready to do so before you turn them loose?

This will be more of a factor in some jobs than in others. If you are going to put the hire out there with the customers, make sure they know what they are doing (at least to a reasonable extent).

If they are out there trying to assist customers and they are completely lost, the repercussions can be quite negative. For example, the story I mentioned about the guy at the phone store. I was playing the role of the by-standing observer as my friend patiently waited through an excruciating 30 minutes of "assistance" at the hands of an apparent new hire.

In this case, it's hard to say just how bad the repercussions were. My friend got his phone. I was left with a less than positive impression of the place, but I am not really in the market for their services, so I wasn't really a potential customer anyway, but they didn't know that. I could've been looking for a new provider, and if I was witness to such a ridiculous waste of time in their actual store, why would I want to chance signing a contract with them for a period of years?

I do not blame the employee who didn't know what he was doing. I blame the management that put him out there to deal with customers and equipment that he was obviously not proficient with during a busy hour of the day.

To be fair, I don't know the whole story of why this guy was assumed to be prepared. This is all just based on the impression that I got. It's speculation. But, it wasn't like they were short-handed. There were quite a few employees there working for such a small store, and when the store was that full, perhaps the new guy would've been better off observing a veteran handling some customers. He has to learn, but it shouldn't be at the customers' expense.

Once again, this is not meant to be taken as a rant, but as a real life example of how a business is making poor choices, that hopefully we can all learn from and you can apply that knowledge to your own business.

Before you throw a trainee into the trenches, find some way to test their abilities and be sure they are ready and familiar with what they need to be familiar with to get the job done efficiently. Especially if they are right out there with the customers (or working with dangerous equipment).

Businesses Planning More Web Investments

By Chris Crum

Are you?


I talked recently about how eCommerce may be a good route to go in an era where gas is nearly $4 a gallon, giving customers the option of not having to drive to your store to purchase your products. I also said that things like web design, SEO and online marketing have probably never been more important.

It appears that many see it the same way, if the results from a recent survey conducted by Register.com are any indication. The survey which polled their small business customers on web strategy trends revealed that most intend to make additional investments in web design, SEO, and email marketing over the next year.

"Having a website has become more than a luxury for small businesses and entrepreneurs, it is a necessity" as Register.com CEO Larry Kutscher puts it.

Interesting stats from the survey include:

- 55% of respondents have registered more than one domain name for their business

- 41% saw more than a quarter of their total revenue from web sales

- 20% don't know how much revenue they are getting through their site

- Approximately 70% of the respondents don't expect their web revenue to decline despite economic conditions. (34.6% expect more revenue / 34.5% expect about the same revenue)

- When asked, "What area of technology are you most likely to invest in over the next year?" The top there answers were: website design (53%), SEO (43%), and email marketing (41%).

Do you plan to make significant investments in your site? Hopefully you're not one of those neglecting it entirely.

Online Sales Look Good For Small Businesses

By Doug Caverly

Survey respondents expect steady or increasing revenue


If you haven't started selling stuff online, now would be a great time to do so. Small business owners seem to feel online sales are going to remain strong regardless of how the rest of the economy sinks.

"Approximately 70% of the respondents don't expect their web revenue to decline despite economic conditions," according to Register.com, which talked to 800 small businesses. Exactly 34.5 percent of its respondents plan on seeing the same level of revenue, and 34.6 percent expect the level to rise.

All of the standard disclaimers apply: conditions may be different according to geographic region or market segment, or Register.com's respondents could just be incorrectly optimistic.

With such a strong response, it appears that online sales may really represent a sort of safe haven, though. Chris Crum looked into some of the customer rationale behind this trend. And even if you have a service that can't be sold online, it's probably wise to establish (or revisit and refine) an online presence.

Register.com CEO Larry Kutscher stated, "Having a website has become more than a luxury for small businesses and entrepreneurs, it is a necessity."

Hat tip to Laura Palotie.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Saved Money Is Spending Money‏

by Chris Crum

As if you haven't heard enough about the economy and gas prices, I'm going to attempt to put a slightly different spin on the subject.

The fact remains that people want to save money. This holds true no matter how the economy is, but right now, it is becoming a higher priority for many consumers. It is of course a priority for businesses as well, but saving your customers money could in turn, bring you more business and make you more money. In other words, you've got to spend money to make money...or something like that.

I'm talking about discounts for your customers. Tell us what you think.

Coupons

Whether you are strictly a brick and mortar business, an online business, or a combination of the two, coupons are big. In an era where people are putting gas in their vehicles at nearly $4 per gallon, they are looking to cut costs wherever they can. This means, the more money you can save them, the more likely you are to get their business.

Make your coupons worth their time. Sometimes, it takes more than 10 cents off of an item to spark enough interest to buy.

Sales

General sales apply with basically the same concept, and perhaps are even more effective, especially with brick and mortars. With offering items at sale prices, you are encouraging customers that might not have your coupons to buy from you also.

Offering good sales is a good way to get them to come back. If you build a reputation in the customers' minds as a place that has good sales, they are more likely to revisit your store just to see what you have.

Promotional Giveaways

Every once in a while, give something away for free. This is also a reason for your customers to come back. This could be in the form of a contest, or simply giving a random customer an unexpected bonus prize upon checkout.

It's another great reputation booster and could inspire future sales. You can really be creative with this kind of thing and make it fun for shoppers. Think Shoe Carnival. They actually make a game out of it. They have a wheel that customers can spin and trivia questions that they can answer to win prizes and discounts. Wouldn't you love to shop at a store where there is a chance you could win something every time you shop there?

When all is said and done though, be smart with your discounts. Profit is still the goal obviously, but you may have to give a little more to get more in an era where half of people's paychecks are going to their gas tanks. What ways are you saving your customers money? Are they effective for your business?

Some Branding Tips from the Queen of Burlesque

Though she might be better known for her marriage to rocker Marilyn Manson and her ubiquitous appearance on best-dressed lists, Dita von Teese has been a driving force in the revival of highbrow burlesque. Good Morning America's Amanda Christine Miller, intrigued by von Teese's accomplished personal branding, decided to ask the style icon how she did it.



Says von Teese, "I think that the most important thing—and the point that a lot of people miss—is they're trying so hard to follow a formula, and to fit in to what's the right thing, and you can see it everywhere. They see success. They say, 'That's how you become successful.' But, to me, I always looked at it a different way. I wanted to fill a void, I wanted to be different. That was going to be the secret to my success. And I looked at the people that I think are very, very successful throughout history, and they all had something different, that was maybe a little bit risqué, and they were very individual. And those are the people that stand the test of time. Not just ordinary beauty, or trying to fit in. You have to have something more. And I was always willing to take a chance and believe in what I did."

Your Marketing Inspiration: Von Teese began with an unusual product, carefully cultivated her brand and has enjoyed tremendous success. "I've been performing burlesque since 1991, and it certainly wasn't chic and popular then," she says. "But it is now, because I believed in it."

Finding Inspiration on the Treadmill

When your job asks you to brainstorm on regular basis, even a marketing wunderkind will hit the creative wall once in a while. To keep those mental blocks to a minimum, Dr. Amantha Imber recommends aerobic exercise, citing a study by David Blanchette that concludes a little workout pays big dividends in creativity:



-Group 1 did no exercise prior to their creative task. "Lucky them, some of you might be thinking," says Imber.

-Group 2 participated in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise—such as walking, biking, swimming and running—before undertaking their creative task.

-Group 3 also took 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, but waited for two hours before digging in to their creative task.

But group 1 wasn't so lucky after all. "The researchers found that groups 2 and 3 performed significantly better on the task than the no-exercise group," says Imber. With this in mind, she suggests:

-Going to the gym—or at least for a brisk walk—ahead of your brainstorming sessions.

-Scheduling lunchtime walking groups to encourage creativity during the afternoon.

-Considering mini-workouts when you're in the middle of extended creative sessions.

The Po!nt: Says Imber, "As well as concluding that aerobic exercise enhances creativity, [researchers] also point out that the positive effects of this activity are somewhat enduring, and certainly last at least up to two hours after completing the exercise."

Source: Article submitted by Amantha Imber.

The Ten Commandments of Search Engine Optimization‏

By Bhaskar Thakur

Most of the time when we pitch to a new client we are asked for SEO guarantees. "Your competition has guaranteed top results and submission to 100,000 Search Engines and Directories". We go all out educating clients that Search Engine Optimization is all about smart work and not just adding random keywords and submittíng to every directory possible. I'm writing this article to reach out to the SEO buyers and help them distinguish the crooks from the genuine SEO cos. I've compiled my Search marketing experience over the years in this article. I hope this helps you in selecting your Search Marketing initiative.

Commandment 1: There are No Rank Guarantees. (Period)

Search Engines alone control their indexing and ranking algorithm. Do not try to trick Search Engines. The only way to improve your search engine rank is by playing by the rules. And the rule is very simple: make it logical. Web content is primarily for the site visitor and not crawlers.

If your Search Engine Optimizer sold you magic "Top rank on Google in 10 days flat". Forget it. There are no short cuts. Top ranking in Search Engine Natural Results will take time. Hard work is imperative especially in developing the content on your website and the links to your site.

Commandment 2: Ranking is Not the End, It's the Means.

Ask yourself what will a top search engine rank get you? Most businesses are interested in increasing sales on a website or at the least driving qualified traffic. Ranking for the right keywords (keywords used by your target audience) is important. There are SEOs who will try to show case results for keywords that occur only on your website. Beware such gimmicks.

Commandment 3: Know Your Competition.

"Rank" is relative position and more so in the Search Engines' natural results. How well you do in the search engine results is a function of how much hard work you have done in relation to your competition. Analyze your competition's keywords, links, keyword density and spread, but be sure not to copy your competition.

Commandment 4: Use Search Engine Friendly Design.

A search and visitor friendly design is a must for any successful website. Your website should be compelling enough for repeat visits by search engines and potential customers. Make sure you have search engine friendly URLs and avoid those long URLs with query strings.

Commandment 5: Select Keywords that are Worthy.

You must research your keywords before targeting. There are tools that give you a good idea of a keyword's search potential for example. It is important to know the number of searches for a keyword in the last month, last 6 months and last year. You should also find out the number of web pages that are targeting the keyword. It is advisable to start a campaign with keywords with moderate competition and a high number of searches.

Commandment 6: Write Great Content.

Even if your website site is technically perfect for search engine robots, it won't do you any good unless you also fill it with great content. Great means it has contextual and editorial value. Great content brings repeat visits and increases the chance of conversion. Great content is factual and appeals to your target audience. Your web page should have your desired action embedded in the content and you must ensure that the content is fresh. Keep adding and editing content regularly.

Commandment 7: Use Good Hyper Linking Strategy.

Hyperlinks make your content accessible and contextual. You must hyperlink in the right context within the website and to other websites. Good links are appreciated by the Search Engines and by visitors. No one likes to be taken to a mall selling "Macintosh" when shopping for "apples".

Commandment 8: Write Relevant and Original Meta Content.

Meta content is like a business card. Just as your business card tells who you are and what you do, Meta content tells the search engines the relevance and context of a web page. Resist the temptation to include everything in the Meta content, but make it detailed. Confused? The idea is to include only what is relevant to the page in the Meta Content but to include everything that is relevant.

Commandment 9: Acquire Relevant Links.

The links you acquire are the roads to your web page for search engine bots and visitors. Good links improve your webpage's equity on the World Wide Web and bad links make a dent in your equity and credibility. Be selective in reciprocal linking. Both reciprocal and one way links work, if you are prudent in selecting the links. Submit your website to the relevant sections in relevant directories.

Commandment 10: Consult Experts, If You Need To.

If you have the competence, there are two ways to learn - learning from your mistakes and learning from others' experience. You can choose either. If you have the time and can wait for the online dollars, do it yourself. If you want to get started now, it may be useful to consult the experts.


About The Author
The author is an expert in Search Marketing with over 10 years Onlëne Marketing experience. He heads www.rankuno.com, the specialist in online marketíng and Search Engine Optimization. RankUno empowers its clients around the world with high ROI onlíne marketing programs. He may be reached at bhaskar@rankuno.com.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Enhancing Web Effectiveness With Audio Sound Design‏

By Jerry Bader

The average person is exposed to an assault of stimuli each and every moment of our waking day. Some of this stimulus catches our attention, but much is filtered out as extraneous, useless, or unimportant. This filtering is our way of handling the constant barrage of information we endure. As marketers it is our job to cut through all the meaningless, random white noise of life and penetrate the consciousness of our targeted audience with our marketing messages.

Mere Subliminal Exposure

One of the weapons, tools if you prefer, professional media producers use to create an impression and influence behavior is something called mere subliminal exposure, the process of communication without explicit notice. It is a process and effect that everyone uses every day without ever thinking about it, and it is a necessity in order to deal with, and make sense of, our over-stimulated lives.

The look your spouse gives you at a dinner party, the tone of a simple comment, or the change in body language communicates a message that says, 'stop what you're doing before I get angry,' or 'let's get the heck out of here before I die of boredom.' But whatever the coded meaning, the communication is clear. We all have the ability to decode these kinds of minimal subliminal messages. In fact the inability of some to properly interpret these kinds of signals has lead to unfortunate consequences.

This process is not to be confused with the discredited work of James Vicary, who in 1957 faked the results of subliminal advertising in movie theaters. He claimed and later recanted that by flashing barely noticeable images of popcorn and soft drinks on the screen that it increased sales of the items by a significant amount. However, this abuse of the phenomenon does not negate the fact that people are sensitive to, learn from, and respond to a variety of subtle visual and auditory experiences that influence their behavior. The same can be said of other senses like smell and touch, but since our main concern is how to use this process on website presentations we will leave the more physical encounters to our offline marketing colleagues.

Audio Sound Design - The Art of Hidden Persuasion

The Signature Voice-over


One of the least used but most effective and economical marketing tools a website business has at its disposal is signature voice-over, or Sonic Personality. It establishes your identity and embeds your brand by giving your site a human voice.

It is the sound of the human voice that conveys all the subtlety and nuance of the message you have to deliver. Major advertisers use familiar sounding actors and actresses to deliver personality and impact. Even when an audience doesn't recognize the voice being used, the positive attributes associated with that voice are transferred to the product or service being offered. It is not by random choice that Ford Motor Company chose Keifer Sutherland's Jack Bauer sonic personae for the voice of their television spots or that Chili's restaurants now employs John Corbett's comfortable, friendly, 'Sex and The City' voice instead of the previously grating and irritable sound of comic Wanda Sikes.

Most website businesses cannot afford to hire Hollywood talent to pitch their products. What is important is that the voice you choose is a signature voice, a distinctive sound that delivers the script with character and style employing timber, cadence, and phrasing like only a professional voice actor can do. Of course, you must also give your voice talent the right words to say, which means you provide them with a professionally written script if you want to maximize the effectiveness of your signature voice-over.

When we think of voice-overs we usually think of commercial presentations, but here again most website businesses truly miss the boat when it comes to utilizing Sonic Personality. We all know that text on your website is important in order to attract search engine indexing, unfortunately from a marketing effectiveness point-of-view, text alone lacks impact.

People are impatient and generally do not want to read volumes of text information, and besides, most people find it difficult to read on a computer screen. Even if they do read your material, how much of it is retained, is it associated with your company, or does it just get confused with all the other stuff people see during their busy, business day?

As a solution why not turn all your website copy, including articles, into audio delivered by a professional signature voice, providing people the option of reading the text or sitting back and listening to your words of wisdom?

Of all the multimedia, marketing techniques available to you, a signature voice is the most economical option whether used as a stand-alone element or as part of a visual or video presentation.

Sound Cue Punctuation & Effects

Voice-over is not the only audio method available to the savvy website marketer. You wouldn't write something without using punctuation: it's what makes the words meaningful by providing the cadence necessary for maximizing the impact, but punctuation does not have to be limited to periods, exclamation marks and semicolons. Punctuation can be added in the form of sound cues and audio effects.

Professional audio engineers know what kind of sound to add to a presentation in order to draw people's attention to certain key phrases, words, or points. In the same way a composer arranges the music score for a movie to enhance mood and build excitement, so too does the commercial audio producer turn a dry read into an authentic, memorable experience.

Sound punctuation and audio effects should not be taken lightly; audio sound design, when done properly, is one of the most complex and technical areas of multimedia, far more sophisticated than video and just as important if not more so. Where and how to use trumpet swells, rim shots, and volume variance is not just art, it's science, and it has a profound psychological and emotional effect on the listener.

Custom Composed Music

If voice-over is the most under-utilized Web-marketing tool we have, then music is probably the most abused. No doubt music like sound design is an enormously powerful method of enhancing mood, and drawing attention to specific points and images. Unfortunately slapping on an over-used royalty-free sound loop that's been used on everything from breakfast cereals to incontinence products is not the answer.

For music to be effective it should be unique enough to be associated with your company and arranged in such a way that it increases the presentation's memorability and enhances its experience. In the silent movie era music was the only method of creating this kind of emotional impact, and despite today's full range of visual presentation techniques and special effects, music scoring is still one of the most crucial elements of memorable movie-making.

When it comes to music, you are dealing with the full arsenal of psychological presentation techniques and failure to use it properly may be counter-productive.

Signature Sound Logos

One of the first things people do when they start a business is to have a logo designed. Even novice entrepreneurs recognize that a company needs some kind of visual identity, a short-form tag that conveys the brand image that can be recognized in an instant.

The advent of visual media like television and commercial TV spots did not obscure the importance of the radio-style jingle and what has become known as the sound logo or audio signature. The Maxwell House coffee percolator beat, Kellogs Rice Krispies' 'Snap, Crackle, Pop,' and Tony The Tiger's 'Grrrrrrrrreat!' are all classic examples of audio signature. Today we have the familiar sound of Intel's sound logo, the powerful swell of the THX movie sound tag, and Vonage's original goofy signature audio branding.

In today's multimedia Web environment, your sound logo is every bit as important as your visual identity.

It's Theater of the Mind

Radio has often been referred to as 'theater of the mind' because the combination of voice, sound cues, effects, music, and audio logos helped paint powerful and memorable mental images for the listener. For those old enough to remember radio dramas, the ringing of 'Johnny Dollar's' telephone or the sound of 'Inner Sanctum's' creaking door are forever permanently etched in the minds to anyone whoever heard them.

In a Web environment populated by millions of websites all competing for audience attention, failure to use every marketing tool at your disposal is simply foolish. If you want to be heard, it's time to say what you have to say out-loud.

Yes, That Dress Makes Your Hips Look Big

On a recent visit to J. Crew, Jackie Huba asked the salesperson if a dress made her hips look big. The frank response, "Yes, it does," was followed with a swift recommendation for a more flattering alternative. In a post at the Church of the Customer blog, Huba lauds the honest—and helpful—feedback on what looked good, and what didn't.


She says it's the kind of personalized service she has come to expect from J. Crew under the leadership of CEO Mickey Drexler. "[He] is clearly driven by a fanatical mission to understand what his customers want," writes Huba. "He spends part of almost every day visiting stores … [and] … chats up customers for feedback and comments."

Among the unusually upscale services that seems to have come from those conversations:

-On the way into her dressing room, a salesperson handed Huba a bottle of chilled water, something you don't expect in a mid-range store.

-Shortly after her visit, Huba received a J. Crew offer inviting her to make a complimentary appointment with a personal shopper, even before or after store hours.

The Po!nt: Says Huba, "By listening to customers (not just once, but continually), J. Crew has learned that some of us who aren't afraid to part with our cash want someone to help style us and do it on our schedule."

Source: Church of the Customer blog. Click here for the post.

Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings

Samples are often touted as effective tools that give customers a taste of what your product will be like, and increase the likelihood of their buying it in the future. But what makes the consumer's experience with samples a positive one? According to researchers, it's nothing more than feelings.


Research shows that two things affect how much consumers like a product sample:

1. Its informational (cognitive) components. What it is made of, where it is made, etc.

2. Its affective (sensory) components. What it tastes like, how it makes consumers feel.

So, why did feelings get the biggest rating by researchers? Because, contrary to popular wisdom, shopper distraction—conversation, other displays nearby, music, or studying a grocery list—actually increased the likelihood that the customer would buy the product in the future. Rather than being a negative, distractions proved to be good predictors of positive future decisions.

Why? When consumers are distracted, their thoughts veer away from the informational elements of the product. This allows their feelings—the sensory components—to have a greater impact on product judgment, and purchase decisions.

The Po!nt: It's party time! Have consumers sample a new, fun or tasty product in a distracting environment; the distraction makes its affective components stand out, and can actually increase its positive impact.

Source: "The Effect of Distractions While Tasting a Food Sample: The Interplay of Informational and Affective Components in Subsequent Choice", Baba Shiv and Stephen M. Nowlis. Journal of Consumer Research, 2004.

This Can Make or Break Your Email Campaign‏

by Chris Crum

I've written a lot about email marketing over the past week or so, covering ways to keep your messages out of spam filters and general tips on having a successful campaign.

One of the factors of a successful campaign that I touched upon briefly in my last article is...

The Subject Line

The subject line is so important to the success or failure of an email marketing campaign, I think it deserves its own article. Tell us what kinds of subject lines make you want to open.

If you want people to open your email, you have to use a subject line that piques their interest. Otherwise, your message will not be read. That is just a fact.

It May Cost You Your Subscribers

Just because the recipient has signed up to receive messages from you does not mean that he/she will care enough to read every one that you send. In fact, if you send enough that are so unappealing that they don't want to open them, they are likely to just unsubscribe.

Are You Worth Their Time?

We live in a time when most email users receive far more spam than messages they asked for, and wading through messages from anybody at all becomes a time consuming task.

I myself am even to the point where I have to be selective of what email I read from my own sister for example. I love my sister, but she forwards me so many jokes and funny pictures and whatnot, that I just don't have time for all of them. I'm just on her list. They're not sent personally to me usually. I doubt that I am the only one in a situation like this, so let's stop and think.

Who are you to them?

If I'm scrutinizing subject lines even from beloved family members to deem which ones I should open (I will always open personal notes from her), what makes you think the people on your list will open every message you send?

That, my friends, is why having an intriguing subject line is so important. If you have inspired the recipient to open your message, you have conquered one of the greatest hurdles to having a successful campaign.

Tips for Good Ones

I'm not going to get into all of the elements of successful subject lines. I think the article from EmaiLabs I referred to recently does that well enough, so if you are looking for tips, I strongly suggest checking that out.

My goal here has just been to emphasize the importance of the subject line. It is only a small part of your email marketing campaign, but it is one of the most important, and can have a huge effect on the outcome. Thoughts?

Subject Lines: Tell, Don't Sell

In an article at MarketingProfs.com, Josh Nason uses actual subject lines to demonstrate what works—and, just as importantly, what doesn't—when you create email campaigns.



Be sure to check out his list of hits and misses. In the meantime, here's a roundup of the lessons we can draw from them:

-NEVER WRITE LIKE THIS. A subject line written entirely in caps not only looks desperate and unprofessional, it's the equivalent of shouting at the recipient in an online context.

-Be intriguing, but accurate. Your content should deliver what the subject line promises. "If you break the reader's trust early, you'll have to work twice as hard to get it back," says Nason. "Never forget the Golden Rule."

-Have a little fun. A subject line doesn't have to be a somber affair—mix it up and show your company's personality.

-Don't forget to choose the right From name. Nason recommends sticking to your company's name, not that of a team member, or a drawn-out term that doesn't mean anything to the reader. When you do so, there's an added bonus: you don't have to repeat the company name in the subject line, which frees up that valuable real estate.

The Po!nt: Follow a few simple rules to make your subject lines zing. "Think of [a] subject line…like a headline of a newspaper article," says Nason. "If it grabs you, you start to read. If the first few paragraphs keep you engaged (similar to an email 'sweet spot'), you keep on going. You're smart marketers…you get the idea."

Source: MarketingProfs. Click to read the article.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Wake Up Your Sleepy Subscribers


If you do online marketing, you no doubt have a list of contacts who exist in a sort of limbo: they don't seem to open their email, but neither have they taken the trouble to unsubscribe. In a post at his blog, Christopher Barnes says revitalizing these inactive subscribers is just as important as acquiring new readers. His play-by-play suggestions for a successful project to awaken—and reactivate—those sleepy subscribers include:

-Ask them what they want to receive. Giving your subscribers the ability to select preferences means they get relevant messages they'll look forward to opening.

-Make an offer they can't refuse. In the B2B arena, white papers, special discounts, and webinars can renew interest; a B2C audience responds well to special discounts, free samples, and free shipping.

-Threaten to break up. Go ahead and let them know if they don't click, they'll get dropped from the list. Barnes notes that many of your recipients might actually read your missives without enabling images—so give them the chance to let you know they're still there.

-Change your format. Long, text-heavy messages won't appeal to people who sift through email on their phones. "Offer a text format to people who read email on alternative platforms," he recommends. "[M]ake it short and sweet."

The Po!nt: Wake up sleepy subscribers to clean up your list. Says Barnes, "A reactivation campaign…[helps]…clean out the dead wood, re-energize your list and reclaim some of the money you spent acquiring and engaging those addresses in the first place."

Source: Best Practices for Email. Read the full post here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Top 10 Reasons A Website Fails To Perform

By Gary Klingsheim

You've taken the time to finally build a website, and now it is online. Months go by. Maybe you get a few visitors now and again. Maybe you land on the search engines. Mostly though, it just sits there. Is the website you paid for pulling its weight?

A website is a tool and can be of significant help to your business. It can cut a lot of time you put into giving information to customers. It can answer questions and perform tasks for you. Find out where websites fail to perform and how you can figure out where to make it better.

1. Undefined Website Objectives

Some sites try to do way too much at once, or worse, they have no definable purpose. Many provide no clear objective. A site can do more than look good and flashy and have your contact information.

Websites can be informational, storing content and articles based on a topic. Sites can run eCommerce solutions that help you with your sales process. It can also generate leads, asking customers to fill out forms with their information and interests. It can also be a hybrid site, with mixed purposes, like offering a free ebook or free access to information (informational) in return for contact information (lead generation).

Defining the purpose of your website gives a clear direction to your customers. Where should customers arrive when they find your website? Where do you want them to end up? Using a clear path and clear objectives, you can lead them through your site, your products, and your information, depending on how you need to sell your products. Not all products or services can be sold directly in an eCommerce situation. Maybe you prefer just getting to know your customer a bit more, and being able to forward marketing materials, so a lead generation type of site might be more suitable.

Assign a secondary objective. Maybe after visitors sign up for free access, or an ebook, they are encourage to ask more by contacting your sales reps, or perhaps they can make a direct purchase online. Use a clearly definable call to action. "Email for more information." "Clíck here to sign up." Tell visitors where to go.

2. Unidentified Target Audience

Demographics have been used in marketing for generations. Marketers use the information because it works. Knowing who your audience is defines the purpose to your website and calls out those who qualify and would be interested in your products. Marketing is the one area where discrimination is actually a good thing! You don't want to waste the marketing dollars that draw people to your site who won't need your products in the first place.

Get to know who your clients are. Are they male or female? How old? Where are they located? What do they do for a living? Habits, income levels, preferences, they can all be discovered with a quick email, phone call or have your current customers take surveys and help you figure out what your clients want.

3. Building for the Wrong Audience

Your site can have a purpose and a select audience, but if it doesn't appeal to audiences, they tend to go elsewhere. Finding preferences is only the first step. Once you figure out what your demographic is, it is time to find out what appeals to them, and use that to your advantage. It could be something as simple as site colors and images, to where and how they prefer to use navigation systems and the type of content presented.

Maybe you need simple content, easy to read and understand for younger audiences. Perhaps you need something a bit more technical for professionals. You can even see if you need to add features for those who are visually impaired. Paying attention to your demographic and their preferences can mean building your website around their likes and getting more responses.

4. Oblivious to Web Traffic Sources

A link on a Harry Potter fan club forum to your website can bring in traffic, but does it really bring in the right customers? If you're not directing traffic from sites relevant to yours or where a matching market exists, you might end up with empty hits to your website. It looks pretty on stat pages but it doesn't really do anything.

Refocus your efforts on search engine optimization and focus on keywords that do fit, not just what might be popular. You can plan the sort of traffic you want and focus your outreach efforts on that. Planning your search engine campaigns can make them more effective, bringing the right customers to you. You don't need 1,000 random visitors a day, when 100 qualified visitors will do.

5. Underestimating the Competition

Who says you can't grab ideas from your competition? Find out what they are lacking and draw customers to your site by adding more features and information. Your target audience is searching the web for your product. Don't let your competition become more appealing.

Understand your competition by observing their sites. Where are your competitors linking? Where aren't they? What designs do they use on their site? Does your target audience like that type of design or do they want something better? Figure out how to improve your site and make it better than your competition.

6. Poor Site Communication and Inconsistency

If you're building a website, is one page orange and another blue? Does one page have your logo and another doesn't? People love consistency.

Does your content and images display the right message? Your website might have pretty pictures of your children, or a fun story about what happened to you last Christmas, but is it really what your customers want to know?

Skip the personal info, unless it's relevant and your audience wants to hear about it. You also need to make sure you present your brand in its best light, and consistently give visitors the same presentation every time and on every page. Let your brand stand out.

7. Outdated and Antiquated Site Features

Out with the old. Check your site for old content and images and delete them. Remove old links that go nowhere too. Forget pop ups and old methods of keeping visitors around. Content is great, but if it's so old that it's irrelevant, you'll lose respectability and your expert status.

Stick to new information. Don't be afraid to get rid of old articles and delete old images. Do an update on your site features, like navigation systems and contact forms.

8. Poor Overall Site Performance

You've plastered all there is to know about you on a few pages. Is this the right way to do it? Maybe not. Yes, you've given them something to look at, but you have to remember, your time to impress people on the Internet is limited to just a few seconds. Long passages of text, lengthy forms, even poorly constructed or confusing navigation can slow people down, which leads to people leaving.

Making your website flow is all about making your site easy to read, easy to browse and easy to find what you're looking for. Include a search function, highlight popular pages, and make it simple for people to give you their information. Start with short forms, only the essentials, and a few simple questions. You can get more info later.

9. Lack of Commitment

When was the last time you updated additional information to your website?

Remember those "Website Under Construction" images from the early years of the Internet? Over time, people have learned those images are pointless. Your website is ever evolving, ever needing updating. Your website is isn't ever finished.

You must make a commitment to update information and to improve interest in your site from visitors. It could be as simple as updating a blog once or twice a week, or updating about sales and special events. Give visitors something to come back to, and let them turn into regular guests.

10. Not using an Experienced Web Firm

You do a good job with what you do, and a good business and website owner knows when to call for help. Maybe you're okay with writing content, but you need help with creating navigation and setting up forms. It's okay to ask someone else for help, either with a few pages, or for the entire site design, and leave it to a professional.

It also saves money and time getting someone else to do the complicated things for you. Are you spending weeks on figuring out a web page design set up when it takes a professional a few hours to produce? When you're in business, you consult with professionals who will help you build a better website, develop methods of search engine marketing strategies, and find out how to appeal to your target audience. You save tíme, money, and plenty of headaches.


About The Author
Gary Klingsheim is the Vice President of Moonrise Design. Moonrise is a San Diego web design company specializing in flash web site design and custom web application development. Visit us online today or call us at 415.887.9240 to discuss how we can help you make the most of your online presence.

How to Sneak Past the Bouncers

"This is a truth of the Internet," writes Seth Godin in a post at his eponymous blog. "When traffic comes to your site without focused intent, it bounces. [Seventy-five percent] of all unfocused visitors leave within three seconds. Any site, anywhere, anytime."


Godin calls it "silly traffic" and says it encourages a few typical reactions. You might, for instance, work on ways to catch a bouncer's interest, fantasizing about conversion rates if only ten percent would stick around and make a purchase. Or maybe you find all that traffic intoxicating and attempt to attract more of the same with link bait like controversial content.

He recommends another approach:

-Ignore the bouncers. Instead, engage your existing users by finding ways to increase their participation, up their devotion and make them more valuable.

-Think of existing users as ambassadors. They're far more likely to bring you the focused traffic you really want.

The Po!nt: There's a reason retailers pay premium rents for high-traffic locations when only a few passersby will cross the threshold. "A long time ago, they realized that the shoppers with focused intent are far more valuable," says Godin. "Smart retailers work hard to get focused people to walk in the door and to keep the riff raff walking on down the sidewalk."

Source: Seth Godin's Blog. Click here for the post.

Senior Makes Site Accessible

If you visit a new site called wowOwow.com —or, formally, The Women on the Web—you'll find a guided tour hosted by none other than venerable gossip columnist Liz Smith.

She begins by explaining why a group of longtime friends—including Candice Bergen, Lily Tomlin and Whoopi Goldberg—decided to launch the site: "We've been sharing with each other. And now we want to share some of our thoughts, and some of our experiences, with you." The 85-year-old Smith then explains that the others nominated her for the video on the grounds that she's wowOwow.com's resident tech guru.

"That's what they think," she notes wryly.

But she acquits herself nicely. Because the site's target audience might not even know what "tech guru" means, Smith uses screenshots and clear explanations to illustrate the purpose of various departments, and to show visitors how to find them. An invitation to join the dialogue follows. "[R]egistering is easy," says Smith, "and it's free. First, click on register, then fill out the fields. You'll create your password right here, and hit the create new account button at the bottom." She also makes a helpful note of something we might taken for granted: "If you ever get lost, or you don't know where you are on our site, then just click on the logo at the top here and you'll come right back to our home page."

Smith—a familiar face and the most senior member of the group—uses a well-crafted script and her natural Texan charm to make wowOwow.com feel accessible to the site's entire audience. And that's Marketing Inspiration.

Going Social With B2B Lead Generation: Q&A With Chris Brogan

Chris Brogan has a well-deserved reputation as being one of social-media's true community-builders. Chris, who is a co-founder of PodCamp co-founder as well as the Vice President of Strategy and Technology for CrossTech Media, presents on Successful Lead Generation in a Social Media World at the Marketing Profs B2B Forum. Chris will pull from his own experience building successful social networks to show companies how they can do the same. He'll also talk about using social networks as lead generation tools to build your customer and client base.

Let's say I am a B2B marketer, and am constantly hearing buzz about social media and how it can help my marketing. Why is social media important to my business and why does it deserve my attention?

First, social media is a set of tools that comes with a notion of how those tools might be used (more personable and less cold, hard business). But once we get past that definition, it's important to realize that social media tools are a great way to build relationships of trust and develop business connections long in advance of needing them. These tools manage reputation, attention, and value chain sharing very well, and these are the tools that build business from trust.

What about using social media in a B2B versus B2C context? Are the approaches different or the same?

I approach B2B almost the same way as B2C, because businesses are still full of people. People do business with other people. The only difference is that in B2B, it's not about "how many," it's about "who." I make more specific relationships when in the B2B space. In B2C, I'm a lot more open-ended.

Blogging is scary. What if readers leave comments that are insulting or incorrect? How do I handle negative feedback?

Negative comments happen on and off the blog. The important difference is whether someone is just being rude and obnoxious or whether there's a complaint. If information is incorrect, it's reasonable to correct it politely. If someone is cursing and acting inappropriately, I'd delete the comment and replace it with a brief statement of your policy around such things. NEVER remove what might be a legitimate complaint, comparison to a competitor, etc. THOSE must be dealt with in the community's eye, or trust will be sacrificed.

I like the idea of using social media to expand my client and customer base. But how difficult is that, and how long would it take?

It hasn't taken me more than six months to double my email contacts organically (from 2,000 to 4,609) without much effort. I'm not out harvesting, but through the use of social media, and some other more old-school tools (email newsletters still work great), my relationship tree has grown very nicely, and I'm finding more and more value in it every day.

From a business perspective, what do you think is the biggest misconception that most marketers have about social media?

When marketers see social media as yet another channel to drive a message down, they're missing the boat. Worse, they're making themselves look insensitive, unpleasant, and not worth the community's time. It's a lose-lose. Take the time to understand the digital natives, and your results will be MUCH better.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Man Bites Giraffe: Some Awesome (and Awful) Email Subject Lines

by Josh Nason

If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: subject lines matter when it comes to email marketing. Think of subject lines like the headline of a newspaper article. If it grabs you, you start to read. If the first few paragraphs keep you engaged (similar to an email sweet spot), you keep on going.

Over the past few months, I collected subject lines from all sorts of senders, all based on how they grabbed me the second I saw them. What you'll see here is an exercise in the Sender name, the subject line and a quick analysis of what I liked or despised. There have been no alterations, no punctuation changes and no edits. What you see is what you get.

My hope is that after perusing this piece, you get a sense of what your fellow marketers are doing and how you can be better, resulting in more opens, more views, and more purchases.

Always remember the Golden Rule of email marketing subject lines: Tell what's inside, don't sell what's inside.

From: Facebook
Subject: Pat Magoon sent you a message on Facebook...


This is about as straightforward as it gets, as I know the sender and I know the immediate reason I'm being contacted. Granted, this is an auto-responder based on a specific action, but there is no such thing as a wasted email.

From: Russell Goldstein
Subject: (none)


This was from the ESPN assistant to Le Anne Schreiber, the sports network's ombudsman. It was another auto-reply, but still... no "Thanks for the email to ESPN" or "Your ESPN comment has been received"?

From: AirTran Airways Net Escapes
Subject: 3 Days of Sale Fares for Your Much Needed Vacation!


If I've ever shopped for vacations, I'm usually going for a set location or region and not just a vague offer. Sell me a bit here, guys. Also, do we need a full four-word descriptor for the From? AirTran Airways isn't good enough?

From: Borders
Subject: 30% Coupon—Limited Time


Direct offer, simple source, timeframe established: nice work. I'd like to see "30% off everything" for future mailings to really nail it down.

From: Domino's Pizza
Subject: A Special Offer from your local Domino's Pizza


Ugh. Why so vague? Pizza chain emails traditionally are terrible and do more to deflect opens than intrigue. To date, I have never been blown away or enticed by one of these offers. Ever.

From: AAA Northern New England
Subject: AAA Newsletter—February 2008


Ah, the dreaded (Company X) Newsletter with the month and date. Fun! When I opened up the newsletter, there were all kinds of great discount offers; but, instead, this subject line reads more "library" than "block party."

From: Bob Marley
Subject: Comedian Bob Marley Returns To Boston!!


It's a direct statement that his fans in that area would likely open. Since "Bob Marley" is already in the From line, there's no need to repeat in the subject line. I'd try "Boston dates coming up soon!" instead. Why waste the valuable real estate?

From: CyberLink eNews
Subject: Crucial Blue-ray update, no more HD DVD, Power2Go update, and more


Misspellings and punctuation issues aside, this is fairly informative about what's inside. If you're interested in any of these subjects, you're likely to open this up.

From: Lisa@Fanscape
Subject: Fanscape's February Newsletter


For an organization that appeals to younger people interested in today's rock, there is just one letter to sum this subject line up: zzzzzzzzzzzz.

From: Red River Theatres
Subject: Flick Flash: Films for 2/22 - 2/28


Quick: how many times can you say Flick Flash Films in a row? Red River is a local indie theater that apparently doesn't want to intrigue you to open up the email. Next time, try "Oscar winners appearing all week long" or something fun.

From: Dunkin' Donuts
Subject: Stop by Tuesday 2/26 for a special treat from 1-10 pm


I've written about this email on our company blog, as I love it. Direct date, direct offer and a little mystery ("special treat"). Dunkin's email practices are a model of what other major chains should be doing.

From: 101.7 FNX Promotions
Subject: FNX E-file 2.13.08


Is this a marketing email or an Excel document? You're a radio station, meaning promotions are extremely important to you. This is the best you can come up with? Trying way too hard to be hip with this one.

From: Cybear Club
Subject: Hub Buzz: P.J. is Having a Pajama Party


I love it. It's from the Boston Bruins' email list (the brand could be better represented) and lays out an interesting reason to open: someone is having a pajama party. A hockey guy? What the...? Just like that, I opened it up and saw that veteran P.J. Axelsson is hosting a charity event. Nice work.

From: Apple
Subject: IPod Shuffle. Now just $49.


Doesn't get much more plain and direct than this. If you're interested in a Shuffle and have $50 kickin' around, this is for you. This is an example of marketing at its most basic level: Tell them what you're offering and at what price.

From: The Jimmy Fund
Subject: Join Dustin Pedroia: Show your Red Sox pride


I'm not of the mindset that putting in a Major League Baseball player's name in an email is good enough to get people to open. What if some of the Jimmy Fund list aren't fans? Something like "Join Red Sox player Dustin Pedroia at a special event this Thursday" would be more fitting.

From: Lake Erie Monsters Insider
Subject: Tune In Tonight


To what? This was the first email I had got from the sender in months, so I guess I'm to assume it was a televised game? A suggestion: "Monsters vs. Devils in your living room tonight!"

From: Warped Tour
Subject: Who do YOU want to see open up for The Used?


Who, ME? This is a good direct line that either gets you to vote in this contest or not. I think the random capitalization is hilarious though. What's the point of that?

From: MLSnet.com
Subject: Watch LIVE on ESPN Classic—Inaugural Pan-Pacific Championship 2008


I'd much rather see the From name as Major League Soccer and not the site URL as a best practice. In general, this line is way too wordy. How about "Pan-Pacific Championship on ESPN Classic tonight"? Taking out words like "watch," "live," and the year eliminate what are unnecessary statements (based on the overall intent of the message." And, again, what's with the random capitalization? We must be looking at two isolated cases from MLS and Warped Tour, right?

From: National Football League
Subject: Watch LIVE Workouts from the 2008 NFL Scouting combine Today


Guess not...

So what did we learn?

-Don't discount the importance of the From name. Keep it your company name and not an individual's name or drawn-out term. In addition, keep your company name out of the subject line: It's redundant—a waste of valuable real estate.

-There is no point to using all caps in a subject line. OK? (Unless it's "OK.")
Write a compelling subject line that won't deceive people. If people aren't opening it, that's OK, as you'll have many more campaigns to intrigue them. If you break the receiver's trust early, you'll have to work twice as hard to get it back. Never forget the Golden Rule.

-Most important, have some fun with subject lines! If you're struggling that much with how to talk to your audience in a single-sentence format, give it to someone else to writes. Just make sure that you don't explain the task in all caps, please.

Google