measuring your marketing effort

Like any other tool you use to promote your business, online marketing needs to be accountable so that you can calculate the return on your investments of time and money.

The tools you need to do this are readily available, and many of them are free.Unfortunately, they’re also relatively new, and many organizations are still learning how to take advantage of the technology that tracks online results.

common challenges

Many of my clients who use online marketing are concerned that they’re just proceeding blindly. They feel like they’re doing what they “should” be doing, but aren’t really sure why. Almost every day I hear comments like these:

  • “We don’t know how to measure the results of our online marketing.”
  • “We don’t even know what we should be measuring.”
  • “How can we justify the cost of online marketing if we can’t tie it to a measurable outcome?”
  • “We’ve got reams of analytics data, but we have no idea what it means or what to do with it.”

If these sound like questions you’ve been asking, you’re not alone. Many businesses and other organizations are asking them every day, and are losing patience with fans of all things digital who can’t tie activities to outcomes. Continue reading

how a free download generates business

case study of a successful free download

In the last two months we’ve covered strategies for generating new business with free downloads — everything from digital coupons to white papers. If you need to catch up, use these links to check out what makes a great free download and how to maximize their effectiveness by industry. This month we’ll wrap this three-part series with a closer look at a successful promotion.

the LinkedIn solution

Sometime in late 2013, I started noticing that a lot of my clients were talking about LinkedIn, and commenting that they really didn’t know how to use it. They didn’t understand why they needed to be there, what the advantages were, or what to say about themselves. Continue reading

the best prospects for free downloads

who do free downloads work best for?

Last month we covered what makes a great free download, but their effectiveness varies by industry, and every market handles them a bit differently. Look closely at the top performers and you’ll see they’re essentially doing the same thing, but how you present and package your download matters: Continue reading

what makes a great free download

Late last year I mentioned that a free download is a great way to grow your email list and encourage other forms of customer engagement. But what makes giving something away for free worthwhile? Here’s a quick rundown of traits that make a “free” report compelling to your buyers — and more likely to drive new business.  Continue reading

eliminate guesswork about your buyers

In the last few months, two very different clients of mine discovered unexpected and game-changing insights about their target markets. In both cases, we’ve been working on updates to their visual identity and positioning strategies, and some of the changes we’re contemplating are dramatically different from what they’ve done in the past.

This could be scary, but both client teams are feeling confident about the decisions we’re making because we’re not changing direction blindly. Instead, we’re making conscious shifts in direct response to information obtained from surveys of their best customers and prospects.

The surveys revealed that much of what we thought we knew about our customers was correct. But we also got some very surprising information that uncovered customer needs and desires our current marketing plan wasn’t taking into account. We found that many of our assumptions didn’t match the reality of how we were perceived by our customer base. In some cases, the survey data even identified organizational issues that needed to be addressed.

Both clients had the same reaction. They realized right away that the unexpected information made the entire survey process worthwhile. In response, we were able to re-orient our new positioning and identity changes to take advantage of the opportunities that were revealed.

Continue reading

four ways to grow your email list

Email is still one of the most cost-effective ways to reach new prospects and build loyalty, but it’s not the digital Wild West it used to be. Since 2003 it’s been illegal in the United States for businesses to send unsolicited email to anyone who doesn’t have a prior relationship with the company (see the CAN-SPAM Compliance Guide for full details). More recently, new anti-spam legislation went into effect in Canada on July 1 of 2014.

While the effectiveness of anti-spam legislation is open to debate, the good news is the email practices these laws prohibit are the ones that don’t work well in the first place. The most successful email marketers build their lists using opt-in strategies like these, all of which are still legal throughout North America: Continue reading

inbound marketing—the art of making buyers come to you

I’m at the Inbound conference in Boston this week, learning lots of exciting stuff about how to attract attention and generate new business for my clients. I can’t wait to share some of these insights with you, so here’s a quick bulletin with my first impressions from the event.

Hubspot, the organization behind the conference, defines inbound marketing as follows:

Instead of the old outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists, and praying for leads, inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close and delight over time.

Good examples of inbound marketing include your blog content, online articles, website content, valuable email marketing (in other words, content that helps your reader rather than giving them a sales pitch), social media, and other tools that engage the interest of your prospects by encouraging them to form a closer relationship.

Stated more simply, the key to inbound marketing can be summed up like this: it’s about helping, not selling. Continue reading

what is branding, and why is it important?

Many business owners think branding is little more than a logo design, or at most a style guide. As a result, they’re often surprised to discover how involved a process branding really is.

This confusion is understandable because the term “branding” gets tossed around a lot, to the point many people who offer it as a service can’t really describe what they’re doing. That’s a problem if you want to know exactly what you’re paying for—or why you should even consider doing it in the first place.

so what is branding, and why is it important?

Continue reading

is your presentation puncture-proof?

I recently received a call from a client who needed help with a critical presentation. The stakes were high—they were meeting with a key distributor to negotiate their first price increase in several years.

Initially they asked me for a PowerPoint presentation, plus about an hour of consulting time to “poke holes” in the arguments made in their draft presentation.

The draft presentation included some great data, but also some emotional arguments that the distributor wasn’t going to care about.  Continue reading

do you have a story that sells?

It’s easy to recognize a great company story when you see it. It “grabs” you, inspires you, and—most important from a business perspective—encourages you to support the storyteller.

This kind of storytelling is what makes great branding work. Yet strangely, it’s the most commonly misunderstood component of the process. A brand is not a logo or a tagline (though those are visual manifestations of a brand). A brand is the position a company, organization, or even an individual occupies in the mind of the consumer, and the qualities and attributes that are associated with it—whether they’re real or perceived.

storytelling in action

Growing up, my only association with the word “Shinola” came from one of my granny’s favorite sayings. It’s one that originated during WWII, and referred to an old, old brand name for a dark brown shoe polish that apparently had an uncanny resemblance to something else entirely.

Shinola WatchAbout a year ago, however, I had my first exposure to a new Shinola when I saw an ad in a magazine showing a beautiful, old-school-looking watch. It had a retro face with a tiny lightening bolt icon that suggested some forgotten piece of equipment I might have happened upon in my grandfather’s garage, wonderful typography for the brand name, the mysterious “Argonite” movement, and the word “Detroit.” And it was clear that lovely strap was real leather.

I wasn’t in the market for a watch, but I was intrigued enough to find out more. I went to the website for the new Shinola and read every word, starting with “Our Story.” And I fell in love. Continue reading