Archives for April 2012

BIG or small – Brands That Stand Out, Drive Sales!

#brandingBranding is critical in understanding where your company fits into the grand scheme of things. In the public domain, discussions on branding are almost exclusively focused on multi-national brands. Brands we see in our daily lives. Brands such as Apple, General Motors, Google and McDonald’s. In discussing these powerful brands it becomes hard for small and medium size enterprises to recognize the value of branding. To these entrepreneurs, branding is the domain of world companies. Not so.

Small to medium size businesses are the main employers in our marketplace. From my experience a great majority of them do not take any control over the management of their brands nor do they claim any resonating position in their marketing. Re-branding to a large number of them is simply putting on a new face. i.e.: new logo and marketing materials. SME’s are a demographic who could stand to benefit immensely once they got a handle on how branding can position them as a leader in their category, invigorate sales staff and control perceptions on the street. Understanding just what their brand stands for allows them a greater opportunity to consistently tell their story, build relationships and drive sales.

With each passing step in my branding process I facilitate with companies, I observe a growing excitement with each participating company. Step-by-step, I see the branding team starting to get it. From discovering their governing brand values to discovering their brand personality. Each reveals truths good and bad that guides them forward to an improved understanding of their brand. As SME’s start gaining control and recognizing how they can differentiate themselves as a leader do they begin to realize just how much the exercise will benefit them. It is inspiring to see their management and stakeholders excited in how they are going to bring this newly acquired brand awareness to their customers. They begin to recognize that they can definitely have an impact on how their brand is perceived and what measures are needed to nurture it.

What’s fascinating is that the unique positioning is typically not something we have to invent, but more pulling from their existing experiences. Buried in their work flow are gems (or seeds) that need feeding. My job is to pull these forward and get the brand to see their unique benefit as a bridge to satisfying the customers needs. This discovery of their new positioning strategy, absolutely empowers everyone. It shows that if you take a bold position, you can stand for something greater than simply a clever slogan. Branding in totality changes a business. In most cases it encourages management to take a harder and critical look at themselves and make changes that make your brand authentic in your customers and other stakeholders eyes.

Managing this understanding is where the control of your brand comes into play. Ignoring branding, leaves you exposed to an unforgiving marketplace, where customers don’t understand or care what you stand for and your competition takes great joy in defining your brand for you. You have to step up if you want to become the leader, if you want to own your colour and if you want your brand to stand for something that gets prospects to your doorstep allowing sales to welcome them in. Once past your threshold can you then build a mutually profitable relationship that you both can grow on.

Customers want to work with strong brands and strong brands want to satisfy customers through exceptional relationships. Branding delivers on this in a memorable way.

Top 5 Reasons Marketing Doesn’t Produce Sales

Your marketing is working. You are running an effective Google Adwords campaign. Your social media efforts are generating leads. Your Google Pagerank is increasing. And, you are attending tradeshows and utilizing local SEO.

You are a medium-sized business and these advertising methods are generating 30 – 40 BtoB leads a day. Each of these prospects filled out a form asking for a product demo, more information or free content. They contacted you first.

Sounds great doesn’t it?

But here’s the problem: your revenue is not increasing. Your sales numbers are not going up. Why? There are only five possible reasons your great marketing is not producing great sales numbers.

Possible Problems

  1. Bait and Switch – One of the most obvious reasons leads don’t convert into sales is because the ads promise something different than what you actually offer.
  2. You are ignoring the phone – Perhaps you didn’t know this (or perhaps you did), but conversion rates are 70% higher for a prospect that calls your business, than one who fills out an internet form. Translation: you are much more likely to make the sale when someone calls you on the phone.

With that stunning statistic in mind, here’s a question: why don’t you integrate phone numbers into Google Adwords, social media, tradeshows and local SEO? It seems like a reasonable question, right? If someone is more likely to buy from you when they call…why wouldn’t you want them to call?

  1. Your process is poor – What happens to the leads when you get them? Are they assigned to someone? Are they easily organized and accessible in a CRM like Zoho or SalesForce? Or, on the other hand, are they lost in the process somewhere? Do your leads escape?
  2. Your sales reps are wussies – Far too many sales reps are simply afraid to contact leads that are not ‘golden.’ For example: leads that signed up for a free eBook, White Paper or newsletter should be contacted by a sales rep. Too often sales reps overlook leads that aren’t ‘hot.’ They overlook these leads because they view them as a waste of time, or because they are scared of calling a ‘cool’ lead. They are wussies.
  3. Your reps stink on the phone – This is the most common reason leads don’t turn into sales. Prospects call your business. They inquire about pricing or ask about additional information. Or maybe they even view a product demo. But they never buy.

This is bad. Why does this happen? Because most businesses expend resources creating leads and then fail to effectively field leads. They fail to adequately train their reps to sell effectively. And they fail to hold them accountable using tools like call recording and call scoring.

In short: companies spend money to get the phone to ring but then fail to effectively sell when it does.

Don’t Forget the Phone

Businesses that forget the phone will find that improved marketing results do not necessarily result in improved sales performance. Don’t forget to market phone numbers and don’t forget to track, record and improve phone selling performance.

Quotes in Press Releases Make Marketing Mix Magic

Quotes are incredibly useful and powerful. This simple truth applies to the press releases incorporated in your marketing mix.

In addition to having an interesting news angle or memorable title, a key element of a press release is the quote. Quotes that support the focus of a press release enhance its message. Whether quotes are from people in the industry, others who have experienced what the piece is about or even those from famous individuals that inspire action, these personal touches can drive a message home. When press releases are included in their marketing mix, businesses can use quotes to their advantage in the form of statements from CEOs, testimonials from satisfied customers and more.

In other words, quotes are the added texture that anchors the facts in a press release in a reader’s mind.  In fact, if your audience doesn’t remember the majority of the information in your release, chances are, they will remember the message of the quote – especially if it’s compelling.

Check out these five reasons why quotes should be included in press releases:

  1. Quotation marks and quotes catch readers’ attention, particularly if they are skimming instead of reading thoroughly.  One powerful way to take advantage of this eye-catching element – give quotes their own paragraphs for greater impact.
  2. Direct quotes draw attention to something interesting or drive an important point home better than objective text.  An expert’s quote can cut to the chase and give a unique viewpoint to information.  Would you rather read an instructional manual about calf roping or get tips from an actual cowboy?
  3. Including quotes puts the vivid language people use when they speak freely into what might otherwise be a dull story.  Quotes provide a flavor to content that objective language can’t.  A passionate spokesperson can give your message added magnetism.
  4. From the writer’s standpoint, using direct quotes reduces the risk of misreporting what was said through an indirect quote.  The easiest way to present information correctly is to attribute facts to the best source.  Direct quotes also let readers know you aren’t reconfiguring someone’s words.
  5. Direct quotes let the reader know precisely how the ideas and thoughts were presented by the original speaker, allowing the reader to make up their own mind about the speaker’s tone.  The language of quotes are spotlights on how not just how the speaker feels about the topic but also how well he knows it.  An informed source adds credibility to your content.

Quotes are very important for press releases. They enhance the message and can communicate points that might have otherwise been lost or overlooked by the reader. Quotes should be included in press releases whenever possible because they have great power to persuade.

Top 5 Reasons Why I Blog…

Let’s just get right to it…

ONE: I can’t think of a better way to increase my ‘expert profile’.
Putting your opinion out there through blogging is a terrific way to show your audience what you’re made from. It allows to to control the conversation about you. Teaching your audience by providing valuable content shows your confidence and willingness to reach out. It also proves that you do indeed know what you’re talking about.

TWO: I love the publicity I get.
One of the benefits of blogging that took me by surprise 7 years ago when I started blogging was the way it attracted publicity to me. Major news sources as well as niche sources have sought out my opinion. This exposure increases my audience. (It’s also a major ego rub) I especially enjoy e-interviews – I don’t know why – I just find them fun.

THREE: Blogging attracts leads for new business.
Blogging has been the vehicle online that has garnered me some pretty significant leads for new business. I have attracted great new consulting clients from around the world as a result of my blogging efforts. Pushing your brand out into the world market, draws back this result. As your readership grows, and they in turn take your link and push it out to their audiences – your chance for business opportunities just increases with each link.

FOUR: SEO as a side benefit.
Because search engine spiders love the fresh content of blogs, even without basic SEO you can get pretty respectable search results. From time to time I Google my name and industry key words and am amazed at the rankings I get as I only do ‘basic’ SEO. It also helps that I, like you frequent other blogs and leave comments. All of these efforts favour search activities.

FIVE: Blogging helps my attitude.
We all get in funks from time-to-time. When I am in a gloomy mood, I turn to writing blog posts to boost my spirits and get my head into a better place. I guess it’s a form of therapy. While it’s not the only time I write, it is one of the motivators that helps me write. I think part of the reason writing posts puts me in the right direction is the simple fact that it allows me to help people by encouraging them to make their business and personal brands better.

That’s about it. I hope these 5 blogging benefits encourages you to consider blogging as a part of your marketing efforts.

Getting Started with A/B Testing

AB TestingA/B testing created quite a stir when it was first introduced as a viable testing method for optimizing websites or email copy. There is actually a lot to be excited about when it comes to A/B testing because it can get you actual results, even if you don’t have extensive experience in computer programming.

You might not be aware of it, but you’ve probably already visited sites that use A/B testing. You might have even participated in an A/B test already. A lot of big sites are already using this method to optimize their web pages and optimize conversion rates, such as Amazon, eBay, Google, Microsoft, and the BBC.

What A/B Testing Is

So what is A/B testing (also known as multivariate testing)? Basically, it’s a method where you present two versions of one element to your site visitors. For email marketers, it involves the variation of one element in the email copies that you send out to the subscribers in your list.

Generally, A/B testing only calls for the variation of only one element at a time. This is so that the results obtained can be directly and clearly attributed to the modification of that single element.

Variations of A/B Testing

Some people have come up with variations to A/B testing over the years. Instead of testing just one element at a time, several are modified per test. This way, a better design can be implemented by conducting fewer tests and within a shorter amount of time. The downside is that the reason for the results cannot be determined clearly, since it would be difficult to conclude which element caused the resulting success or failure of the design.

How to Conduct A/B Tests

  1. Make a list of possible test elements. In this stage of the process, it would be helpful to have the team work on putting together a list of elements that can be tweaked and modified. For websites, this could include the header, banner images, text formatting, font face and type, image placement, color theme, site logo, and navigation bar location.
  2. Select your test elements. You can simplify the process by ranking the elements you listed down in the first step according to urgency or priority. Once you’ve decided what element to test, you should move on to the next step.
  3. Set up your test. Create two versions of the element that you want to test out. For example, if you’ve chosen to test out banner images, you should create two versions of banners that are distinct and different from the other. Having too similar variations will not get you very good results.
  4. Conduct your test. For websites, you can install a script on your web server so that it will display the two versions of your website simultaneously and randomly to your site visitors. You can also use online tools like Google Webmaster Tools or hire providers to take care of conducting your A/B tests for you.
  5. Interpret the results. Which of the versions showed the best results? Which variation got more clicks, made more sales, or produced better results for you, based on your own metrics? Once you’ve determined which version performed better, it’s time to implement it on your actual website.
  6. Conduct more tests. Move on to the other elements that you’ve listed down in the previous steps. Website design optimization is an ongoing process, so conduct as many tests as it takes to come up with the best version of your website.

In conclusion, A/B testing is imperative from a business perspective. It allows you to determine the best setup for your website. As all successful businessmen know, it is important to test a hypothesis before implementing it. Using the proper steps greatly increases your chances of success. For an entrepreneur, A/B testing is that preparation for success.

How Your Online Brand Can Be Hijacked Overnight And What To Do About It

Let me ask you a question. What do you think, is the cornerstone your brand online? Website design, Your voice, Your product quality and all the other things we talk about here? Well yes, they are of course important and play a part in the make up of your brand but the foundation of all online brands is…

The Domain Name

Photo credit: Sameer Vasta, via Flickr. Some rights reserved.

How credible can Amazon be when every aspect of your marketing from web site to emails and communications said “Amazon” but their web site domain name is “Amazonian.com”? The answer is none. Zero. Instead, they’d look like spammers or people out to steal identities.

It’s the same for small businesses with an online presence. Chances are, you took time choosing the right domain. You spent money and time developing the website, then there are business cards printed, ads run, articles or guest blog posts written that all lead back to your domain. Many of these things send you traffic over time and cannot be stopped even if you wanted it to. We all invest a lot in our web sites so imagine how you’d feel if your domain is hijacked from right under your nose.

It happens. In fact, domain theft is on the rise. There are a variety of ways this is done. The common story is, someone gains control of your domain administrator’s email address. This allows the thief to transfer the domain to their own account. When the transfer is complete, it is pretty much a done deal and a big hassle to get back – that’s if you’re lucky.

At that point, the thief can point the domain to their own web sites and steal everything. Your traffic, your good name, your online presence. It’s devastating.

What can you do about it

Be vigilant. Monitor your own domain names. You can get a free account over at domaintools.com and setup alerts to notify you whenever a change is detected with your domain. Remember, you may not get change notification emails from your own registrar if your email is hijacked so using a third party monitoring tool and having those alerts sent to an alternative address is a good idea.

Watch out for emails that disguise themselves as your registrar. It’s better to log in to your registrar directly instead of clicking links in those emails.

Consider private registration for your bread and butter domains.

Lock your domains. While this alone won’t do the trick when the admin account is compromised but it can help in other types of attempts.

Protect your email accounts. If you use Gmail, turn on two-factor authentication. Make sure you connect to your email accounts securely when using email clients like Outlook, Mail or Thunderbird. Change passwords regularly and it goes without saying, be sure the passwords are different from others and difficult to guess.

When you have a domain online that represents your brand, you have to get serious about this stuff. There’s too much riding on it not to.

Digital Product Marketing: Five More Ways to Promote Web Sales

In a previous article, I provided some of the essentials to promoting a digital product online. If you didn’t take those steps, revisit  Marketing Your Virtual Goods: 5 Essential Practices for Online Content Creators to benefit from low or no-cost methods of getting your product visible. Now that the basics are out of the way, here are 5 more techniques to not only get noticed, but convert prospects to sales.

1.  Samples & Reviews

Find outlets for articles you can write to provide help and advice while stealthily marketing the eBook. You can use article farms like Ezine Articles or Articles Base, but you can also search Technorati for comparable blogs online to your topic that have tons of traffic and accept submitted material from writers. Your submissions may contain text links or an author’s box that links to your eBook landing page(s). You have a couple of strategies here:

  • Submit articles that are no-cost chapters from the eBook. Never give away the whole book, but a great chapter that provides value and tantalizes the reader for more.
  • Write a book review about your book using an author alias, so it isn’t you reviewing your own work in the eyes of the online world. You can find 3rd party evaluators for your book by Google searching or visiting gig-oriented web sites like Fiverr.com.

2.  Purchase Visitors Directly

Using Google Adwords or any other internet ad forum, market your eBook within your permitted daily budget to drive people to your landing page. Facebook Ads, for example, can be very targeted based upon characteristics of the members in their database, segmented by age, region, language and activities. Now your ad is only served up to those who match the requirements, strengthening the odds that any visitors are really potential customer for your eBook and not simply money-wasting curiosity seekers.

3.  Joint Venture Alliances

If you don’t presently have a large email list, it will take a while before you have any reach to make headway with email marketing. That’s OK. Take advantage of business publications (start with the ones you read) that complement your subject to use their large distribution. How?

Contact the publisher or author and provide a commission for the good will of that individual or organization to promote and furnish an ad about your eBook. Learn how big the email list is. You can lease the list too, but may be able to get free access to it using the commission strategy. Don’t be pennywise; give the list operator 50-75 %. It’s a digital book! Your cost of delivery, once written and online, is null.

4.  The Amazon Jungle

Capitalize on the ridiculous amount of traffic that Amazon.com has of folks interested in reading books and sign up as an author. Amazon has a detailed policy for getting your eBooks online and priced on their website, and for this approach you don’t even have to manage the ecommerce. They do. As an Amazon.com affiliate, you can list your eBook alongside any others you are interested in on your website and earn commissions when your eBook is clicked through and purchased.

5.  Affiliate Promotion

Just like the JV example above, offer your book with similar commissions to affiliates who can sell it on their own web pages. Google search “affiliate marketplaces” or simply visit Clickbank, the largest affiliate marketplace for electronically downloadable products, and follow their set-up process to get your eBook listed and accessible for internet marketers, most of whom you will never see. Make the commissions attractive to get affiliates that will get results. To use this strategy like a pro, you’ll wish to produce several static and/or dynamic banner ads in standard sizes that your affiliate partners can retrieve and use on their websites to market your eBook.

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