How To Sabotage Your Marketing Efforts

You can have amazing SEO strategies, great PPC campaigns, and the kind of content on your site that Google loves and still end up with a big marketing problem if your customer service stinks. Seth Godin is of the opinion that many customer service departments are set up to say “Please, go away” instead of actually providing customer service.  He has some good points:

“The current model of big company support is to throw undervalued, undertrained, underpowered human beings at perplexed customers, frustrating and disrespecting them enough that they shrug and give up.”

“Any customer that walks away, disrespected and defeated, represents tens of thousands of dollars out the door, in addition to the failure of a promise the brand made in the first place. You can’t see it but it’s happening, daily.”

These two statements from Seth’s blog highlight the most common way a business will sabotage its marketing efforts: the promise being made in the marketing does not get kept when the customer actually asks for that promise to be fulfilled. 

Marketing Is One Part Of A Non-Divisible Whole

Marketing strategies are an essential part of business, and business will not thrive without marketing. It’s the way the customer finds the product or service you have to offer and without it you don’t have very many customers. But if those customers don’t get any help at the first tiers of customer service, they won’t stick around to be long-term customers no matter how great your marketing strategies are.

This means your website has to be effective in answering questions for the digital natives who prefer to find their own answers and your call center representatives must be well-trained and empowered to do more than simply read what’s on the website when further help is needed. I think it’s like the many parts of an airplane: you have to have both wings, the body, an engine, steering, wheels, and a lot of other essentials all working together as a single machine or it won’t fly.

Should Disaster Planning Be Part Of Your Internet Marketing?

There was recently an interesting post on Practical Ecommerce about disaster planning for small business and it wasn’t about insurance. Richard Stubbings is an experienced IT guy who now is a business owner and his observations about being prepared to continue online activity in different scenarios made good sense.

  • How would your internet activity be affected by loss of power or internet service?
  • What would a major local disaster do to your ability to continue to serve non-local customers?
  • Will you be able to operate from another location?

It doesn’t take much thought to realize that your emergency preparations should include your internet marketing. It doesn’t take much time to figure out what your options are now and what they could be if a disaster strikes. Since business no longer is an exclusively local operation, it makes sense to create alternative ways to continue to operate if local conditions shut your home base down for a while.

Being able to continue to do business in less-than-ideal situations goes a long way toward restoring your life and the life of your enterprise. 

It is a good idea to include disaster planning when you do your (hopefully) annual online marketing check-up. Why? Because this is when you are looking carefully at all the details and what needs to be improved in your online operations, and adding some plans for disaster relief will be easiest when you already are examining what should be done.

Thanks, Richard Stubbings, for this very practical and wise look at how to stay in business when something major threatens your ability to be online at all.

3 Ways To Improve Mobile Email Marketing

Chris Crum recently shared what not to do in mobile email marketing on WebProNews. This is important, because mobile is how many of us read our emails and respond to them. If you are going to use email marketing, and I hope you are, it’s a very good idea to make sure your emails are mobile-friendly along with your website.

If you look at the results of surveys asking mobile users what they don’t like about getting emails, three big categories are frequency, relevancy, and usability. Let’s look at these a bit closer…

Frequency

What’s the difference between helpful reminders and nagging? It usually depends on if you are giving or receiving. Much of the time, the reminder is coming from someone who thinks they are being helpful and the person being reminded views it as nagging. Another problem is the way email piles up so fast you forget what came in, right? Sometimes a friendly reminder is welcome if it reminds you of something you want to take advantage of.

One suggestion that seems to work well is sending a second email, slightly tweaked, to those who never opened your previous email. It seems that waiting about a week is a good balance between reminder and nag. But you need to know your customers and pay attention to feedback. I don’t think anyone can predict when the reminder/nag balance will shift, but if you have a good relationship with someone, it is easier to get past minor irritations.

Relevancy

There are some practical suggestions in Chris Crum’s article, including these basics:

  • count-down timers (easy to add if your template allows)
  • live social feeds
  • context personalization
  • real-time A/B testing
  • embedded video
  • live web content
  • personalized deadlines, etc.
  • location factors

A lot of this depends on what level of technology your business is comfortable utilizing and how much data you control. I think if you have been considering upgrading tech-wise, it’s worth it to consult several experts and plan for the future. But keep in mind that there’s a fine line here, too. The balance between personalization and feeling stalked is different for everybody.

Usability

This is where your investment in responsive website design and development gets big returns. Nobody wants to open an email that excites their interest and get hung up in a website that doesn’t work for mobile devices. There are many factors to usability and it all comes down to one thing: the user’s ability to navigate your site on their device.

If your business is going to be competitive in the coming year, mobile email marketing is going to play a big role. It makes no sense to ignore input from those on your email lists and a lot of sense to make sure the frequency, relevancy, and usability are encouraging recipients to open and respond to your email marketing.

An Online Business Survey and A Good Example

Copyblogger has done it again; giving us the 2015 Cost of Online Business Report by Demian Farnworth and giving us some good examples of how the same basic information can be presented in various ways for maximum impact. The report itself is interesting because it includes the results of a survey conducted on businesses operating online. More than a fourth of those in the survey identify as Small Business Owner, and the biggest challenge is seen as generating traffic.

That’s just a hint of what you will find, but the way the findings are presented is what I want you to notice:

  • There’s an excellent infographic of the findings for the visual types
  • There are five ways to listen to The Lede, for the audio learners
  • There’s a free 58-page e-book with all the results plus analysis and commentary for those who learn best reading

Different Types of Learners Need Different Formats

It isn’t just the visual learners who like pictures, or the audiophiles who like to listen. If you want to access information while sitting on the train, maybe you want the podcast even though you also want the e-book. But there is a definite tendency to prefer a particular format for most of us. It is absolutely brilliant of Copyblogger to put the survey results in this many options because it means they are more likely to get a bigger response.

If the biggest challenge of these business owners is seen as generating traffic, don’t you think following the good example of offering a couple of alternative formats will help? Putting the results of a survey in several formats is a good way to increase traffic.

How Would You Spend 30 Minutes On Social Media?

Most of us spend a lot more than 30 minutes on social media, but many of us wish we could figure out how to do it. All of the different platforms and rabbit trails are a time-sucker if you aren’t careful, but social media is part of the way business operates these days and so I was interested to see Kevan Lee’s look at the best way to spend 30 minutes of your time on social media marketing.

Twelve Things Social Media Managers Do

There are at least a dozen tasks that any good social media manager has to maintain. You can lump some of them together, as Kevan Lee does on Search Engine Journal, but there are distinct responsibilities:

  1. Curating
  2. Crafting
  3. Posting
  4. Scheduling
  5. Measuring
  6. Analyzing
  7. Responding
  8. Listening
  9. Engaging
  10. Helping
  11. Planning
  12. Experimenting

The real challenge is doing these tasks effectively and not getting side-tracked into one of those rabbit trails. He looks at a couple of alternative schedules and a lot of available tools to keep your tasks from being overwhelming. It’s good to see how someone tackles the social media manager challenge and wins — and it’s good to see that you don’t have to do it in one particular way.

Figure Out What Works For You

Social media marketing is a powerful business tool, but it is just a tool. Tools have to be used intelligently and skillfully in order to have the results you are hoping for, so just owning the tool isn’t going to be effective. Whether you do your own social media managing or you invest in a service or you have someone on the payroll, that tool needs to be used intelligently and skillfully.

There are good ideas in the Search Engine Journal article and I hope you find them helpful. What has worked for you? Let’s talk about it.

How To Figure Out Your Sales Funnel

You see the term “sales funnel” many times in marketing. It’s a good analogy in one way because a funnel is used to catch a wide stream of something and narrow the stream to the size of the container. But in another way, a funnel is not really what you are using in marketing because the traditional funnel puts everything into that container and not everyone who hears the message will buy your product. The sales funnel has filters in it so only the right things get through.

Think Backwards

The best way to figure out how to get a particular result is to work back along the process. For instance, if you want to develop loyal customers who buy from you regularly and will buy your most expensive offerings, those customers have to start somewhere. What path will they take to get to the loyal customer point?

Look back along the path and you see what choices you want them to make. Those decision points are the filters that narrow down the stream of potential customers and let the ones you want through your funnel.

A loyal customer makes  multiple purchases and interacts with staff, site, and product repeatedly. What maks them decide to keep coming back?

There was a first time purchase. What triggered that commitment? Why did they choose your store? How did they hear about the product or the business? All these points filtered out those who heard or saw and ignored. The ones who heard or saw and responded went further into the funnel.

A lot of people are active online, so social media may be the first place they become aware of your brand. Others may notice an ad in a newspaper or community board. The only way you find out for sure is by asking — and the people to ask are those who have already become part of your audience. If you can find out how they went from no knowledge of your business to becoming a regular, you have just figured out a sales funnel that worked.

Keep Duplicate Content From Keeping Your SERP Low

You would think that sophisticated search engine algorithms would be able to differentiate between similar URLs like

http://www.example.com/page/

and http://www.example.com/page

and http://www.example.com/page/index.htm.”

You’d be wrong. That example is taken from Google’s Duplicate Content advice, and it would be good to refresh your memory about the subject before starting in on a content audit. The short page is packed with useful advice from the people who know what they will be using to rank your site. What’s not to like about that?

The Problem Is The Perception

Google understands that duplicate content has to exist — one example would be the same content on a page and in a “printer-friendly” version on another page. Instead of blocking crawler access to duplicate content and making it look like you are hiding something spammy, mark those pages as duplicates.

You can do this with the rel="canonical" link element, 301 redirects, or the URL parameter tool. Before you start, look over Google’s advice and decide what is the best option for your site. Then be consistent in applying your duplicate content solution. The goal is to make sure that the search engines (all of them) perceive your content accurately so your site can be presented fairly in the results of a search.

The New Year Is Natural For Evaluating Your Business

You should audit the content on your site regularly, right? It’s part of the maintenance that keeps a business running smoothly, catching potential problems and ensuring optimal operations. I think a well-maintained site helps the user perceive your content accurately so that your business is presented fairly when they visit you online.

How To Tell If The Next Big Thing Will Flop

This is the time of year when the International Consumer Electronics Show gets a lot of media attention, and rightly so. It’s the chance for the world to see what these tech companies have been diligently developing in hopes of being the next big thing. But many of these things don’t make much of a splash in real life. Why is that so, and how can we learn from the next big thing in gizmos when it comes to our marketing strategies?

Underestimating The Market

Many times something that is really exciting to the technophile is confusing to the consumer. If there’s a way to build an interest and realization of how that gizmo is going to meet a need, that should come first. The technophiles have been getting all the hype for a while so they are prepared — bursting into the collective consciousness all of a sudden triggers automatic rejections of the new ideas.

It’s easy to think that everybody is excited about the campaigns that have been taking up your time, but people don’t see things this way. We all are limited to our own perspective until it gets gently expanded.

I see this as a lesson in developing an audience first, by utilizing social media, blog posts, and email to get people thinking about how this new thing will benefit them. 

Another way the next big thing can flop is by underestimating the cost for consumers, in time, effort, or money. If that gizmo is too expensive or too hard to use, it will flop. This is especially true when there’s an easier, cheaper alternative.

If you don’t know the way your customer thinks, you won’t have a clue about what that customer wants and is willing to invest in. If your site is difficult to navigate or slow to respond, it will flop, too.

I see this as a lesson in site development and mobile marketing because people don’t usually push past difficulty unless they see a reward. 

Your online marketing strategy can benefit from observing what flops in other areas, even if you aren’t interested in consumer electronics. I think it’s because the same people who are the eventual targets of the gizmo market are the people you want to reach with your message.

Is Your Site Self-Service?

Looking for romantic things to do in Chicago? Here are three red-hot itineraries to keep you and your main squeeze toasty on even the coldest Chicago nights. Date night in Chicago — solved!

DATE NIGHT OPTION 1: Bubbly Comedy

Nuzzle up in the dazzling dining room or romantic patio at Old Town’s Perennial Virant, where the food is farm-to-table fresh and the drinks are deliciously inventive. Share pillowy potato gnocchi with roasted cauliflower and crispy pork, and a Midwestern Cheeses board with seasonal preserves, candied walnuts and a honeycomb, while sipping a glass of sparkling rosé or a Brown Butter Old Fashioned.

Head to The Second City for the “Best Of” show, featuring some of the top sketches, songs and improv from their 52-year history. The company that brought the world Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell will have you chuckling all the way to post-show drinks.

At The J. Parker, the all-season rooftop lounge’s 360-degree views of Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan set the perfect backdrop.

End the night basking in chic Gold Coast luxury in a Celebrity Suite at the Ian Schrager-designed PUBLIC Chicago Hotel. These 800-1,200-square-foot rooms feature king-size beds with imported linens, separate living spaces and bathrooms with tubs, so you can soak up the romance in style.

DATE NIGHT OPTION 2: Sweets, Sips & Sprited Competition

Let your palates run wild with bold, modern Mexican cuisine from Dos Urban Cantina. Feast on goat albondigas with black mole, kick the night off with a couple of margaritas or palomas (tequila, Aperol and grapefruit), and end on a sweet note by sharing what has been called the “Best Piece of Chocolate Cake”.

Visit Logan Square’s Chicago Distilling Company and see what the DiPrizio family has been up to. Book a tour and learn how the third-generation distillers turn locally farmed grain into vodka, whiskey and award-winning gin. Get in on the beercade trend at Emporium Arcade Bar and challenge your date to a competition among 24 arcade games, 13 pinball machines, six pool tables and more.

Your resting place for the night? Bar-restaurant-inn Longman & Eagle. The six-room hideaway sits above the first-floor, whiskey-focused tavern and features eclectic furnishings and commissioned art.

DATE NIGHT OPTION 3: Romance with a View

Embark on a guided horse and carriage ride through Chicago’s Gold Coast, one of the country’s most affluent neighborhoods. Watch historic mansions go by as you snuggle under a blanket.

Hold hands on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center. The TILT at 360 CHICAGO observation deck serves up breathtaking views of Chicago’s lakefront and skyline from 1,000 feet above Michigan Avenue.

Visit the Streeterville neighborhood for seasonal eats at GreenRiver Chicago. Settle in and order the chef’s tasting menu, an eight-course meal comprised of modern Midwestern fare, and sip from the Chicago On Tap beer menu.

Find ultimate luxury and privacy at Ivy Boutique Hotel, a 16-story gem just off The Magnificent Mile. The 63 guest rooms come with cozy Michigan goose down pillows and Frette bathrobes. For an extra $15 per person, you can keep the romance going with breakfast in bed the next morning.

A Look Inside An SEO Expert’s Head

Did you ever wish you could understand how an expert looks at a problem before developing a strategy to solve it? Alan Bleiweiss is an expert who specializes in forensic site audits, and his recent Moz Case Study: One Site’s Recovery from an Ugly SEO Mess takes us into his thought process and the steps used to analyze what is happening.

This is an invaluable post, because he does give valuable insight and helpful advice. The comments are always good, too, because they further the discussion. I hope you take a look at it after you are done here.

I want to take a closer look at Alan’s QUART mindset.

The QUART Mindset

There are many signals in SEO, but these are what he calls the five super-signals:

  • Quality
  • Uniqueness
  • Authority
  • Relevance
  • Trust

He uses these super-signals to score the various factors, or signals, that make up the SEO of a site. To quote:

Whether it’s a speed issue, a crawl efficiency issue, topical focus, supporting signals on-site or off-site, whatever it is, if that signal does not score well with quality, uniqueness or relevance, it leaves that page, that section of a site, or that site as a whole vulnerable to algorithmic hits.

So you could be strong in some things and still see problems cropping up that you need to track down and solve. It’s not always clear what the problem is though — and that’s why I like this QUART idea. It makes a simple acronym that is easy to remember without being irrelevant.

Tracking and analytics are challenging because they involve so much more than just collecting the data. You have to look at that data and understand what to do with it. When you have an ugly SEO mess on your site, you may have to call in the experts, but this simple acronym is a good way to start evaluating what needs to be done.