The Importance of Being Heard

How do you get your message out? More importantly, how do you get your message out so that it is heard above the cacophony of others struggling to get their message out?

That is the trial of the age in which we live. People are constantly exposed to messaging whether it be via TV, radio, online music, Internet browsing, Facebooking, email campaigns, ads in your favorite apps, or a combination thereof (for example, we just signed up for HuluPlus and one of my kids first questions as we were enjoying reruns of a favorite program was, “How come there are commercials? Aren’t we paying for this?”). Now there is group texting as a targeted way to get your message out – this supposedly requires the end user to opt in but we’ll see how long that lasts.

So what is the best answer? There is no single BEST WAY. But it is very important for you to understand who you are trying to reach and what that particular audience is most likely to respond to. In other words, you should not try the shotgun approach. I recommend, instead the artillery approach: carefully determine where your message needs to go, and then fire away, but don’t stop there. Find out if you were on target and if not, then readjust your settings and fire again.

How does that work?

Well in actual artillery you usually have a forward observer who scouts out the location and communicates the coordinates back. This forward observer is crucial. Without one, the artillery has no idea where to fire. In your campaign, you need to do some forward observing. Where is your target? Where will they be when you begin your campaign? How are they “outfitted”? Do they use smart phones? Do they text a lot? How do they receive news and information? Via the Internet? TV? Radio? How do they interact with various media? All of this information should be gathered as part of your forward observing.

In real artillery the forward observer communicates with the fire direction center which actually computes the distance from the target, the precise direction to the target and handles all the other data calculations. For you this means you need to evaluate the data you discover or receive about how your target actually behaves so you can determine which forms of communication are most effective for your target.

The command post is where the power lies – it is the command post that controls the firing of the guns. For you this means now you get to make the decisions: What venues will be used (provided the input from the fire direction center); when the campaign will start; whether it will be shooting only once or “walking the fire” onto the target with multiple shots.

But the story too often ends there. What you need, just like real artillery, is to go back to the forward observer and make sure you hit the target! For your business, that means you need to measure the results of your campaign. Did you hit your target sales? Did you get the right number of leads? Did the phone ring enough times? Whatever you determine, at the outset you want to measure, you have to actually measure. If need be, now is the time to readjust your sites and fire again. If you scored a direct hit, you can determine whether it makes sense to go after the same target again or whether to shift your sights to another, similar target.

While the goal of an actually artillery campaign is to rain down death and destruction, the goal of a business communication campaign is to grow your business. So in your case, collateral effects aren’t damaging. If you focused on one specific area of communication and got lots of collateral effects such as people close to the target area calling, buying  or otherwise doing business, this is even more data you can take into account with your next artillery campaign.

(Details on artillery taken from



One of the cool things that I see happening again and again is the convergence that happens in Social Media. Personal and Professional lives converge and people make connections that never would have happened otherwise.

This has always happened in Face to Face networks but the obvious limiting factors in such instances are geography and room size. We’re limited to the number of people that are or can fit in the room and to the people who are in the area.

But online those two limiting factors disappear. This first hit me a couple of years ago when my friend Max, who organizes cool tours to exotic places told me how he posted something on his personal facebook page about a trip to Africa. His post wasn’t marketing in nature, it was along the lines of “Looking forward to the upcoming trip to Kenya”. The convergence happened when he booked a couple of spots on the tour by folks who saw his post.

I was conveniently reminded of how this convergence works when I posted, last week, on our corporate Facebook page, about how thrilled we were to be working with two new customers, a Lutheran Church and a Lutheran School. An old friend from Iowa saw that posting and invited me to a Lutheran conference in Florida in January. Seems like a no-brainer. Spend my time and energy networking in cold Colorado in January or spend it in sunny Florida. Hmmm. What should I do?

In the first instance Max’s personal sphere attracted new customers into his professional sphere. In the latter, my professional sphere overlapped into my personal sphere, creating an opportunity that wouldn’t have otherwise been there.

What does this mean? (a very well-known question in the Lutheran Church) It means what I have been telling people for years – don’t forget the SOCIAL part of Social Media Marketing – people want to know you personally, even if they’re doing business with you but also don’t forget the MARKETING part of Social Media Marketing. Often people don’t do business with you because you haven’t asked them to.

So I guess I’ll close this with our pitch – Partner – Engage – Convert. Lots of firms partner with their customers to engage web site visitors. And then stop. We help folks figure out how to convert their visitors into clients. Need help with this? Call Brian at 303 268-2245 to find out what else you can be doing.


The Internet Comes Alive

Well really it is your computer that is getting livelier but it sounds better (scarier?) to say the Internet. I have asserted for years that my kids will be able to reminisce “remember when computers used to be 2D?” That time is quickly drawing near.

In the 70’s and 80’s we heard a lot about how technology built for NASA worked its way into our everyday lives. Now that model has changed – technology built for cutting edge games is working its way into our lives.  I thought it was kind of cool when ESPN set up cameras across the football field so they could give us views almost as though we were in the action – just like many of the video games my kids play.

But late last year Microsoft rolled out a new technology called Kinect that lets you be the game controller. That is pretty cool. Whether you’re driving, dancing or a variety of other activities, your movement is what controls what happens on screen. Seems pretty cool for game technology.

Now pause and think how that could affect your computing experience. If you’re creating a new design, instead of drawing with a mouse, wouldn’t it be cool to draw with your finger – not on the screen but on your desktop? If you’re an architect, wouldn’t it be cool to build a house or building with your hands and have it show up on screen? Med students could perform surgery, rocket scientists could build spacecraft, and the list of possible uses just goes on and on.

Some of the cool things that Tony Stark does in the Iron Man movie as he builds himself a new iron man suit might not be that far off. Add some Kinect-type technology to hologram technology, and you’ll be able to build your own Iron Man suit – well maybe we’re not quite there yet but these technologies are developing.

How does that affect you? You might be done with school but the technology will affect us all. Wouldn’t it be cool to flick your finger through your emails without holding on to a mouse or touching a keyboard? Kiss double-clicking goodbye and greet the finger tap? Be able to dictate (did I mention it also incorporates voice recognition?) a lengthy letter (or chapter of your book) and then edit with your hands instead of having to scroll and click with your mouse and type with your keyboard? The potential impact, on our everyday computing experience, is immense.

And surfing the internet? No more clicking links – just point at them. Marrying Kinect to the Internet could open up some amazing possibilities. Have you heard the stories about people in remote outposts getting sick? Now instead of needing a full time doctor, you could take the right tools and the doctor could operate in Antarctica while sitting in her office in Houston. And being able to operate a robot from afar? Well maybe the movie “Real Steel” is not that far off either but there are all kinds of potential uses.

Learn more about Kinect at the Microsoft Kinect website.


Are You Throwing Money Away?

I often hear comments like “We tried Facebook and it didn’t work” or “I spent $4000 on Google AdWords and didn’t get anything”.  The first question I ask is “What were your goals?” and follow up with “How were you measuring results?” The answer, all too frequently, is a blank stare.

Throwing money at problems is a solution best reserved for government. Well, I’d prefer they not use it either but that is a different discussion. If you are planning to do any kind of online marketing you need to have a plan. Otherwise you can just drive down the highway, open your wallet, and throw the money out the window. You have just as good a chance of someone picking it up and tracking you down as you do getting any kind of results that will help you grow your business.

Here are the important elements to putting together an online marketing plan:

Understand Elements: What are the parts of your online marketing. Often the most important one is the one most overlooked – the website. Often the website is the centerpiece of the marketing because it is the piece you have the most control over. Other elements include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • Paid Search (usually Google AdWords)
  • Paid Advertising (on other web sites)
  • Email campaign(s)
  • Foursquare
  • Landing Pages (usually a part of your website)

Understand Offline Elements:  Usually an effective Internet Marketing campaign is folded into a larger marketing campaign. This might include a direct mail campaign, distributing flyers, newspaper advertising, ads on bus benches, billboards, or a variety of other venues. The important part of bringing these together is understanding how they work. For example QR codes can be an effective way to move people from print to digital. It is also important to maintain consistency in brand and message across media.

Start with the End in Mind: You have to have a clue – that is, it helps to know where you want to go so that you can use your resources wisely. So determine what success will look like:

  1. Will it be an additional $x in revenue each month?
  2. Will it be x number of new customers?
  3. Will it be x number of new leads?
  4. Will it be x number of downloads of a video or file?
  5. Will it be x number of new appointments?

You can add to this list as needed. The important thing is that the end is geared toward helping you grow. Once you know where you are going, you can begin to plan how to get there.

Determine Parts to Include: Now you are ready to figure out what all needs to be included. If the goal is to generate leads for your business, you might determine that paid advertising or paid search aren’t the right venue. But running a contest of some kind on Facebook and Tweeting about it on Twitter might be just right. One of the strengths of Internet Marketing is that you can change your mind pretty quickly. If the paid search yields zero results, you aren’t stuck with it – you can stop within minutes. Or start it nearly as quick.

Determine Integration and Flow: It is still important to keep the big picture in mind. If you’re doing a print campaign as well and using a QR code to get people to your Facebook page, test the code with several different devices to make sure it works. Boy it gets embarrassing (and expensive) to direct people to the wrong (or a non-existent) page. Another thing to consider is steps in the process. While the ultimate goal may be getting them to fill out a form on your site, getting them to first “Like” you on Facebook makes it much easier for you to reach out to them in the future.

Determine Measurement Points: We strongly recommend the adage “What gets measured is what gets done” So determine what all you will measure. A good example of this can be seen in the travel industry.  While a very large percentage of folks research travel online, a much smaller percentage actually book online. So bookings would be one thing to measure but “intent to travel” is also something to try to measure. This can be measured by how many people actually viewed a deal on your web site or Facebook page. Or by how many people checked pricing. Or by how many people liked your page.

A key here is to have several measurement points. If you’re just looking at online bookings for example, you might consider the campaign a failure even though overall bookings are up – an indication that people are researching online and then calling. Without several measurement points, you might miss what is actually happening. Of course you can always build in better tracking by adding text like “mention deal 23 when calling” to your online ads.

Determine Evaluation: Once you’ve got the parts above figured out you can determine how you’ll evaluate success. The most obvious measure will be the one that impacts your bottom line. But you also want to be flexible and look at your results. If your goal was x number of downloads of that whitepaper you worked so hard and you fall short, you could say, “I give up” or you could look and see that you actually got more Facebook “likes” than you anticipated and that once you were liked, it was 25% more likely that someone would do business with you.

So the thrust of this part is to keep an open mind and look at all of your metrics to better understand what is working and what is not. For the parts that are working, see if you can tweak them to make them more effective. For those that aren’t working, determine whether tweaking or tossing is the best course of action. Then start your next campaign, incorporating everything you’ve learned from the one just completed.


Radical Refresh

Is your brand / web site / logo old? Afraid it is getting boring? Sometimes it can be a good thing to radically refresh who you are so a new crop of customers can find you. Take your favorite old comic book characters, for example.  DC Comics has radically refreshed their lineup  of comics, not tossing the colors but making them more relevant to a new generation.

If a company with such well known characters as Superman, Batman, Flash, Aquaman and Wonder Woman can do it, so can you.

Here is what DC seems to be doing right:

  • They are keeping the familiar characters
  • They are delivering their content old style (in comic books in stores) and new style (digital delivery)
  • They’re bringing the stories that were started in the early to mid 1900’s up to date.
  • They’re introducing some new characters along with “refreshing” the old characters.

What does this mean for you? Take a look at your brand. How is it evidenced in your logo? In your print materials? In your web site? In your interactions with customers?

How have your customers’ needs changed? What do they need now that they didn’t when you started your brand / business? How can you meet this new need?

Keep this discussion at a high level and paint in broad brush strokes. Consider how you want people to interact with your brand – should they be buying branded clothing? Downloading your app? Friending you on Facebook? Commenting on your blog?

Take this information and carefully consider whether you can meet the needs of your current consumer by: making small changes, doing a remodel, or doing a radical refresh that will bring out a new vision of what you company does and how it responds to customers.иконииконописikoni


Social Media Engagement Strategies

I often encourage and cajole people to post to social media whether it be blogging, Facebook, Twitter or some other medium. It’s just like when I was a kid back in Nebraska – we had to shower once a year whether we needed it or not. You need to post to your social media regularly – far more than once a year. Yet I often see blogs or Facebook pages that have been orphaned and left to whither. Usually when I see that I can tell someone didn’t have a strategy.

We recommend blogging on a weekly basis or more frequently. For a corporate Facebook account, your blog should feed into it so you have at least one weekly update. Beyond that, it really depends on your strategy and plans for engagement.

So what are some possible engagement strategies?

  1. Post bleeding edge information – this obviously requires you to be on the bleeding edge of your industry.
  2. Share important information about developments in your business that your friends / followers / customers would be interested in. We do this when we finish a big project, for example.
  3. Post video showing you or your people engaged in your industry. You can even try video blog posts although you need to remember that video isn’t as easily indexed by search engines.
  4. You can ask questions or take surveys but you want to make sure that you’ll actually have engagement as you do this. There is nothing more lonely that asking a question only to discover you’re the only one in the room.
  5. Post success stories and other anecdotes about your business that illustrate the excellence of your goods or services.

There are a lot more than these five strategies for success with social media engagement. But starting with these you can get the ball rolling.


Is Groupon Right for Your Business?

иконографияикониI’ve spoken with a couple of different businesses that have used Groupon, with mixed results. As a consultant that businesses to turn for advice on Internet marketing, in most cases I would NOT recommend using Groupon.

A recent imedia article only served to confirm my thoughts that Groupon can cause more harm than good. Most business owners understand the value of incentivizing customers with a coupon or discount. Frequently something like $10 off or even 5% off are the incentives.

But when you use Groupon you are offering a STEEP discount usually 50% or more. And then Groupon gets ½ of that! So instead of giving a small discount to perhaps introduce new customers to your business, you are practically giving away your goods or services. And this is available to your existing customers. As the writer from imedia explains, you are showing your customers, new or old, that what you are selling isn’t really worth as much as you were saying previously.

So what happens after a customer gets your goods or services for 50% off the normal value? They likely enjoyed it and especially at that price. But now they know they can have it at that price, why would they pay twice as much for it? I’ve noticed, for example, that a local paintball place seems to do two to three Groupon specials a year. In their case, they still make money  at a 50% discount so they just keep doing them – which shows that you’re not getting and keeping new customers. It shows that the only way to get those people to come back is to once again go ½ off the price.

Our conclusion: If you are trying to grow your business and set an expectation of high service or high quality, avoid Groupon and look instead towards marketing that accentuates quality.


Design for Usability

икониWe spend a lot of time talking about web site usability with our customers. But the first question we have to answer is “What is web site usability?”

So let’s figure out what it is. As a web design firm we work hard to make our sites visually pleasing but a good web site is far more than pretty. It needs to be usable. In a nutshell, that means that the web visitor needs to be able to EASILY take the next step. A good negative example is, if you are trying to capture more subscribers to your newsletter and the sign up form requires them to give their physical address, your site is not very usable. To add people to your newsletter list, the only thing required is a valid email address. A positive example would be to have a simple form asking only for their email address.

The easily part of the description is very important. I’ve been on web sites where every possible thing you can do is displayed on the front page. With dozens of choices, people likely make the choice to leave to find a site with fewer choices. A good way to remedy that is divide your choices into three groups and then give visitors three choices instead of 40. Once they’ve made that first choice you can then divide up the remaining choices under that group and have them select again or you can present all the remaining choices.

Let’s take a number example to see how people think. Can you imagine remembering dozens of 10 digit numbers? 3,032,682,245 is a long number to remember. But if I tell you it is my phone number (303) 268-2245, I suddenly only have 3 sets of numbers to remember. Fewer choices work better when remembering phone numbers and they also work better when building web sites.

So to make your web site more usable, remember these two points:

  1. Make it easy for visitors to take the next step – give them the information they need and don’t ask for information you don’t need.
  2. Give them only a few choices (2 – 5) or they will be overwhelmed and probably not make the choice you want them to.

Templates and Web Site Design

There are web sites that are built on templates and then there are template web sites. Which would you prefer?

Many of our clients are uneasy with building a web site using a template – seems like anyone could do that, right?

The answer is ‘ You’re absolutely correct.” Templated web sites abound. I live in Wheat Ridge, Colorado and they city just implemented a program where you build your own web site from a template program. Here’s why we don’t build websites using templates:

  1. Templated web sites tend to all look the same
  2. The template programs used to create these sites are generally built without any way to customize the site.
  3. A template website builder limits creativity and options.

Having said that, I will proudly tell you that we build template web sites. What’s the difference?

Simple. We don’t start with a template. We start with a look that is customized to your needs and business goals. Once we’ve got the look designed to your satisfaction, we turn that look into a template. So it is sort of a chicken and egg deal. We design the look first and then create a template based on that look. We don’t start with a template and try to make your ideas fit.

But it is very important to turn the design into a template. We can then manage the look of the site from one or two files rather than having to touch (edit) every page of the site when we make a minor change to the look.

A good template for a good program is very powerful. Last week we converted a client’s site from a non-templated site to a simple template within WordPress. Last week the site wasn’t ranked at all for any of the targeted key words. This week we’ve already got 11 key words that the site is ranked for and one is already ranked 11 in Google. We’ve still got work to do but simply by creating a good template within WordPress, we’re already helping this client be successful.икони


Building a Successful Internet Marketing Campaign

Last week I gave a seminar on how to build an Internet marketing campaign. I received feedback from one company that was represented that the content was “light” – not enough meat. Later on I visited that company to help them with their Internet marketing campaign.

Here is what I learned:

  • The seminar covered a lot of high level things like setting goals, creating a strategy to attain the goal, deciding on tactics to implement the strategy, implementation and measurement.
  • People like activity which for the content of the seminar translates to implementation.
  • Skipping goals, strategies and tactics may seem like a good idea because then you are “busy” doing stuff.
  • “Doing stuff” without having a goal, strategy or tactics usually leads to nothing being measured which then means no value being generated or no understanding of the value being generated.
  • The high level stuff might not be very “sexy” in the realm of Internet marketing but it is absolutely indispensable.
  • Helping people be ready to think about the high level marketing plan is not a good task to tackle in a 90 minute seminar.

Here’s what I hope I can help you understand from our experience:

1.       Don’t skip the important stuff.

2.       Spend time to determine where you are going and what you intend to accomplish BEFORE you start.

3.       Determine how you will measure success.

4.       Pay close attention to your metrics.

5.       And, because it’s so important, let me restate it: Develop a plan. Create a Strategy. Devise Tactics. THEN you’ll be ready to implement.


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