Marketing Blog

Marketing and Graphic Design Means More than "Pretty" June 25 2014, 0 Comments

As a digital marketer and graphic designer, I often am told, "you just make things pretty."

Communication is Visual

Did you know that 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual and that this information is transmitted 60,000 times faster than text? It’s a pretty strong statement and one that has a lot more significance than you might think.

In this digital age, people are obsessed with moving faster. They flit from one thing to another in the blink of an eye. Attention spans are getting shorter and advertising is getting flashier. What can you do to make an impact in potential clients’ minds if they are hardly paying attention to the product and marketing that’s already out there?

One thing is for certain: it is essential to make the best impression you can make in the shortest amount of time possible. People don’t have the time or the desire to read through long blocks of text anymore. They want instant gratification, and through visual content such as images, videos, and infographics, you can generate some great results.

The Designer Will Make It Pretty

As designers, we consider what we do to be far more important than decorating sloppy content and returning it in a timely fashion. Many of us would argue that our real job is to make content accessible, flexible, easy to use and easy to work with. The real value in design comes from what you can’t see or what you don’t appreciate; it comes from all of the trouble that you don’t have because we fixed it ahead of time. Thank goodness we know better: if we just made things pretty, all of our work would be in vain.

Lead Scoring is the Small Business Marketer's New BFF May 01 2014, 0 Comments

It's safe to say that at least 75% of marketers have not established an effective lead scoring system. That said, it's a trend that, more often that not, is proven to be a marketer's best pal. 

What Exactly is Lead Scoring?

In simple terms, it means to assign a ranking to each sales prospect based on your understanding of their interests and buying intentions.  

Getting Started with Lead Scoring

Lead scoring can’t begin until Marketing and Sales agree on the definition of a qualified lead. Once they’ve reached this point, Marketing can work to generate qualified leads and Sales can work to close them.

The definition of a qualified lead must include two dimensions:

  1. Fit – the explicit information we know about a prospect’s role, company, industry, and revenues – helps us determine whether they’re the ideal person to sell to.
  2. Engagement – the implicit information we know about a prospect’s activities, favorite topics, and level of interest – helps us determine whether they’re ready to begin a conversation with Sales.
    These two dimensions of lead scoring will help Marketing and Sales to create a graph for scoring leads. You might use A, B, C, and D to rate a prospect’s fit along the X axis of your graph, and 1, 2, 3, and 4 to rate their engagement along the Y axis of your graph. You can then define a next action for each square on the graph. A1 leads – those with ideal fit and maximum engagement – can go directly to Sales. A3 and A4 leads, which have the right fit but minimal engagement, should be nurtured over time until you detect signs of engagement. C1 or D1 leads, which have high engagement but low fit, might be worth talking with to see if they’re doing research on behalf of a more senior decision-maker. 

Refining Lead Scoring Over Time

With each action a qualified prospect takes, his or her lead score will change. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure that a re-scoring process will be triggered automatically by each action, and with each day that passes. Keep this requirement in mind as you look for marketing automation software.
Lead scoring allows Marketing and Sales to agree on not just the definition of a qualified lead, but the appropriate next steps for any qualified lead in the pipeline. It’s fair to say that good lead scoring forms the foundation of any successful B2B lead generation operation.

Why is Lead Scoring Important? Who's Doing It?

It's not just for the "big" players. Small business marketers are now starting to rely on lead scoring to help them qualify and prioritize leads that they ultimately pass on to their sales teams. And--it's the small companies that leverage technology that are embracing lead scoring at a faster pace.
Organizations that use lead scoring increase their close rates by 30%, increase their revenues by 18%, and revenue per deal increases by 17%.  These marketers are using buyers’ online behavior coupled with demographic data to determine if a lead is a good fit before they pass it to sales. Because sales only receive leads that are most likely to close, marketers are able to not only improve lead quality but also reduce some of the stress and tension between sales and marketing (If you're in marketing, this probably speaks to you loudly). 

What's Wrong with the Four P's of Marketing February 02 2014, 0 Comments

I recently came across the article below (at I always knew something wasn't quite right with the fundamental "Four P's of Marketing": product, place price promotion. I've studied and worked in marketing since high school, and the Four P's has been top of mind ever since.

According to research published in the Harvard Business Review, a five-year study involving more than 500 managers and customers (in multiple countries) found that the 4 Ps model undercuts entrepreneurs and marketers in three important ways.

  1. It leads marketing and sales teams to focus too much effort on product technology and quality. Even though these factors are important, researchers stressed that they are not significant differentiators; they are just the cost of entry.
  2. The four Ps underemphasizes the importance of building a convincing case to explain the superior value of the solution being sold (I.e., not enough time is spent educating customers on why the offering is needed).
  3. It distracts businesses from leveraging their advantage as a trusted source of problem solving (businesses today can use information outside of FAQs/tutorials to aid customers and increase customer retention). 
If the four Ps is no longer agile enough to work for modern businesses, what framework should entrepreneurs and marketers look toward instead?

According to Eduaro Conrado, Chief Marketing Officer for Motorola and one of the authors of the HBR study, business owners should look to the S.A.V.E framework as they craft and define their unique offering.

The framework advises focusing on the Solution, Access, Value and Education of a product or service. Below we'll discuss the important differences it emphasizes over the old four Ps marketing mix.

1. Focus on Solution instead of Product

"Customers don't care about product features or usability if a product fails to solve their problem. It's not about the features you want your product to have, it's about the problems that customers need to solve. Solve their problem better than anyone else and you'll end up with a product your customers can't live without.”
Ruben Gamez

Too often, businesses get too caught up in the features, functions and technological superiority of their product over the competition.

The harsh reality is that none of that matters to customers because all they care about is solving their problems.

If your products’ features help a customer solve their problems then they will care, but if you're building a product or service based on features and not based on customer needs, you're working backwards.

Don't let your product developers (or even yourself) get caught up with needless features, product additions and "improvements"—if the great new thing is not going to help your customers out in a serious way, it's nothing more than bloat.

2. Focus on Access Instead of Place

"In an age where many businesses operate around always-on, high speed Internet access, "place" is irrelevant. When you can dip into almost the entirety of the world's knowledge from the phone in your pocket, you're always able to research, buy and advocate. It's not about Place any longer. Now, it's about Access. What can a brand give me at this precise moment that I want or need? That's the bar companies now have to clear, and it's not easy."
Jay Baer

The key here is not to disseminate your "home base" (your store or website), but rather to create a cross-channel presence that considers a customers’ entire purchase journey, not just where they seal the deal.

This idea deals with product promotion, but also goes far beyond it; for example, Help Scout’s presence on Twitter has as much to do with providing great customer service through fast answers as is has to do with promoting our articles and resources.

Customers want your business to be accessible. They want to know that your support will have their backs. To achieve this, they need to see you engaging with other customers to get a sense that you'll be there should something go wrong.

  • How available is your team to customers?
  • How attentive are you to customer feedback?
  • How good is your company's support?

3. Focus on Value instead of Price

"We occasionally have customers tell us that our product is too expensive, and they're sure that they can find a similar service on the web for free... but to us, price isn't just a number, it's a strong connotation of brand and value. When we hear customers say that our product is too expensive, before wondering if we should lower the price we are more concerned with whether we should increase our product's value. That orientation is vital in directing the drive toward improving a product without competing against others on bottom-dollar prices."
Walter Chen

Do customers care about your price in relation to your production costs, profit margins and competitor's prices?

We can answer this for you—they don't care.

Sure, customers have concerns about price, but that comes after their concerns about value. Are you clearly articulating the benefits of your offering relative to your prices?

If you’re not, you should be. Research from Stanford University shows that comparative pricing is often a horrible way to frame your prices, and numerous additional studies on "context pricing" reveal that perception of value is far more important to customers when accepting higher price tags.

The old four Ps model doesn't fundamentally encourage this need to build a robust case for showing customers why your business is offering a superior value versus the competition, and it places too much emphasis on the literal price of the product (or service).

4. Focus on Education instead of Promotion

"One of the old truths of marketing is the "law of 7". Someone needs to see or interact with your brand for 7 times until they eventually sign up or buy what you have to offer. Over the past 2 years since we started to heavily focus on content marketing for Buffer, I genuinely believe that we have brought that number down. Simply because providing someone with free, and useful information, creates a much stronger bond and connection than any banner ad or press mention ever could."
Leo Widrich
The old methods of marketing were strictly limited to interruption marketing, but the entrepreneur of today has the opportunity to be involved with customers' needs at each point in the evaluation and purchase cycle.

Businesses today can act as "entreproducers," providing current and potential customers with information relevant to their interests to create a sense of familiarity and trust long before a purchase is even made.

The Final Case for S.A.V.E

Businesses that continue to embrace the outdated 4 Ps model are running a serious risk of involving themselves in a repetitive and increasingly unproductive technological arms race.

The customer of today has far more say in the business-customer relationship, and it's high time for businesses to start embracing frameworks that care more about what the customer wants.
The S.A.V.E. framework allows businesses to keep this mindset at the forefront of their operations, acting as the centerpiece for this new solution-selling strategy.

The businesses who choose to ignore these warnings do so at their own peril!

Your Turn

What do you think of the S.A.V.E model? Is it a needed change from the four Ps way of doing things?

How to Choose a Name for Your Startup February 01 2014, 0 Comments

Recently, I met with a friend who is starting an engineering services firm. We discussed a lot of great ideas for his business model and strategy, and choosing a name has been one of the most fun (and important) tasks of all. I ran across some great advice on how to choose a fabulous name for your business.

Here's the scoop: 

1. Unique and Unforgettable

In the trade, this is called “stickiness.” But the issue of stickiness turns out to be kind of, well, sticky. Every company wants a name that stands out from the crowd, a catchy handle that will remain fresh and memorable over time. That’s a challenge because naming trends change, often year by year, making timeless names hard to find (remember the dot.coms).

2. Avoid Unusual Spellings

When creating a name, stay with words that can easily be spelled by customers. Some startup founders try unusual word spellings to make their business stand out, but this can be trouble when customers "Google’" your business to find you, or try to refer you to others. Stay with traditional word spelling, and avoid those catchy words that you love to explain at cocktail parties.

3. Easy to Pronounce and Remember

Forget made-up words and nonsense phrases. Make your business name one that customers can pronounce and remember easily. Skip the acronyms, which mean nothing to most people. When choosing an identity for a company or a product, simple and straightforward are back in style, and cost less to brand.

4. Keep it simple

The shorter in length, the better. Limit it to two syllables. Avoid using hyphens and other special characters. Since certain algorithms and directory listings work alphabetically, pick a name closer to A than Z. These days, it even helps if the name can easily be turned into a verb, like Google me.

5. Make Some Sense

Occasionally, business owners will choose names that are nonsense words. Quirky words (Yahoo, Google, Fogdog) or trademark-proof names concocted from scratch (Novartis, Aventis, Lycos) are a big risk. Always check the international implications. More than one company has been embarrassed by a new name that had negative and even obscene connotations in another language.

6. Give a Clue

Try to adopt a business name that provides some information about what your business does. Calling your landscaping business “Lawn and Order” is appropriate, but the same name would not do well for a handyman business. Your business name should match your business in order to remind customers what services you provide.

7. Make Sure the Name is Available

This may sound obvious, but a miss here will cost you dearly. Your company name and Internet domain name should probably be the same, so check out your preferred names with your State Incorporation site, Network Solutions for the domain name, and the U.S. Patent Office for Trademarks.

8. Favor Common Suffixes

Everyone will assume that your company name is your domain name minus the suffix “.com” or the standard suffix for your country. If these suffixes are not available for the name you prefer, pick a new name rather than settling for an alternate suffix like “.net” or “.info.” Get all three suffixes if you can.

9. Don't Box Yourself In

Avoid picking names that don't allow your business to move around or add to its product line. This means avoiding geographic locations or product categories to your business name. With these specifics, customers will be confused if you expand your business to different locations or add on to your product line.

10. Sample Potential Customers

Come up with a few different name choices and try them out on potential customers, investors, and co-workers. Skip your family and friends who know too much. Ask questions about the names to see if they give off the impression you desire.

How to Stay Organized for Free - Ode to Google Docs/Google Drive February 01 2014, 0 Comments

As the mobile app world continues to rise, I'm still a fan of Google Docs. They have been the most inexpensive (FREE) way to stay organized and collaborate with others, even if others use a different platform or are not tech savvy. 

Google Docs have been around for years, but the functionality remains valuable. Essentially, anyone who use uses Microsoft Office applications can share their work in real-time. I'm a fan of the spreadsheet feature to share plans and data, while allowing others to edit in real-time with total transparency. 

Stay tuned...I may share one of my marketing calendar templates soon. It's been useful for years. 

Content Marketing--What Is It....and Why? January 31 2014, 0 Comments

Content Marketing isn't really a new concept; however, in the past two years it has grown exponentially as a commonly used marketing buzz phrase. 

Content Marketing is something that we, as marketers, have always done; however, what has changed are:

  1. the channels for implementing and circulating content
  2. the strategy for distributing content
  3. the personal customer relationships that are fostered as a result

As you know, social media has become one of the largest tools for distributing content marketing. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. have become the crux of sharing content. Let's not discredit traditional avenues such as press releases, websites, forums, articles, emails, publications, etc.. 

Marketers are taking a strategic approach to Content Marketing by answering questions that offer valuable information to customers and prospects which ultimately serves a profitable purpose for the organization. 

The Content Marketing Institute (yes, one really exists) offers some very helpful templates to help you get started. These templates help you stay organized, manage content and channels for distribution, help you plan strategically for markets and special audiences, and even measure ROI. Check them out.