Site Search:
    Generic selectors
    Exact matches only
    Search in title
    Search in content
    Search in posts
    Search in pages
    Filter by Categories
    Crowdfunding
    Design
    Designer's Roundtable
    Events
    Featured Clients
    Google
    Google AdWords
    Graphic Design
    Image Ads
    Job openings
    Marketing
    Mobile Marketing
    Optimization
    Reputation Management
    Responsive Web Design
    Sales Experiences
    Security
    SEO
    Social Media
    Uncategorized
    WordPress About
    WordPress Themes

  • design@smsrd.com
  • 800-272-0887
  • 0

Business Personas Types

Tags : 

Marketing-Strategy-TeamMany people want marketing to be simple but the reality is that marketing is where; people, systems, and language collide. The process is messy making content planning complicated with issues that are not right or wrong but simply different. In this article we propose that we have Worker Bees, Technicians, Managers, Connectors, and Entrepreneurs. Each of these personas looks, acts, and reacts differently to marketing messages and what turns one on may turn another off. In this article we are going to explore the people part of the challenge and to keep the scope somewhat manageable we are going to discuss the business to business market. These concepts apply to the consumer market as well but the number of segments is much larger.
In prior articles we talked stages of the audiences with discussion of Suspects, Prospects, Customers, Clients, and Evangelists. Within each of these audiences we have personas that have to be the center of our content creation strategy.

Worker Bees
Worker Bees are about following the rules and filling in the blanks. They are people within the organization that execute the plans and follow the direction of leadership and they are often the first contact in a sales cycle. Because of their role in the organization they follow rules and look for easy to implement guidelines but they are almost never the decision maker however they often control who gets on the short list. So while their decision ability is close to zero they can influence the procurement process. They are often overly concerned with things like price and that tends to be one of the first things they look for. A first contact that is looking for the cost in the first question is often a worker bee. A typical answer to the price first question is to ask “What is the problem we are trying to solve?” I will often equate this to a common or shared purchase decision like buying a car. A worker bee would call a dealer and ask “How much is a car?” Since this question is broad, the dealer would respond with a very wide range of prices and ask for more details. The thing to remember here is that this is not the decision maker but they may control if you get on the list that the decision maker will consider.

Technicians
Technicians are about the work and their perspective is driven by the quality of the product creation. They are often the business founder and hold the leadership role in the early stages of the business development. They are motivated by improvements in production, new tools & gadgets, and other things that they see as improving the product or service provided. They are about making products and production bigger, better, faster, and cheaper.

Managers
Managers are about consistency and they value dependability and repeatability. They are the reason that large business are great at consistent delivery and they tend to be driven by facts that can be validated. If you ever walk into the office of a manager you will see it immediately. Everything has a place and everything is in its place. The files are organized and probably color coded. They have a system for everything and they bring organization to the business.

Connectors
Connectors are about relationships they are often the rainmakers that bring transactions into the business through referrals. They are commonly found in the marketing, sales, and executive staff. Because they value relationships they are often very brand loyal and they create referrals as a reciprocal act because that is how they think. They are typically very easy to discover within the group because they are the first to greet you and find ways to personally connect with you. Connectors in most cases will influence the purchase decision but they rarely make the decision. Connectors belong to lots of networking groups and they are engaged with the community of the business.

Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs are about innovation, creativity, vision, and brand advocacy. They know where they are going and how they want to get there but they need a help from Technicians and Managers make the magic happen. They often serve as the communication bridge the Technicians and Managers. They do not exist in all organizations and the larger the business the less likely there will be an entrepreneur because they require lots of freedom to operate.

Why We Care?
With all of this discussion the big question here is why do we care? Then answer is because each of these types is motivated to a decision based on a different set of values. If you want to sell to the Entrepreneur you need to talk about the future and the next version because they will be bored by what is already in market because they want new and exciting. The Manager on the other hand wants dependability and sees new as risky and not inside the system after all change brings chaos to their orderly world. The Technician is excited by new tools and methods but like the Manager they want to see proof that they are going to make their work better, faster, and cheaper. During this value communication process the Worker Bees will bring coffee to the conference room, fill out forms, and return RFP’s with additional questions that no decision maker will ever see.

Disclosure
This is an opinion article based on my experiences over far too many years working with lots of organizations. My experience is that if you break messaging down and find ways to communicate value to these personas great things can happen. We would love to have you share your perspective on this article.


  • 2

Do you speak Icon?

Tags : 

Hover over the paragraph above to translate icons to text

 

How does one choose the perfect icon?

Properly used icons are a powerful part of any visual experience but just like any other language they have to fit your audience. The experiences and preferences of your audience will drive the icon selection process in your design. The essential icon concepts are message, theme, and testing.

Message

For icons to work the audience has to understand the concept they represent and this is based on the life experiences of the audience. While a person accustomed to an iPhone might understand certain icons an Android user may have a different experience with icons and therefor differ in understanding. This is no different than any other language in that icons can be misunderstood. For functionality you need to look at other interfaces that your audience is likely to have routine contact with. Like any writing you must become one with your audience if you want to create effective communication.

Theme

Icons need to fit together in a theme so they have the same look and feel within the interface. You have to consider them individually but you also have to consider them as a collection and in contrast to each other. If the theme is not consistent your icons can confuse the users. Remember to that color is one important component of icon design and often certain colors denote certain meanings. For example, the color red tends to be associated with warning signs, the color green with the environment, and the color blue with water.

Testing

Rule 1 of icons is test, test, and retest. Make sure that in setting up your test that you get a good random sample of the targeted users and avoid testing with friends and family. A user group of your friends and family are almost never a good representation of the users of your design, even if they are they tend to be nice to you rather than brutally honest. You need people that represent your audience and will be honest in the evaluation. When we conduct user testing on icons we like to get 3-4 icons competing for one function within the interface and then we ask our users to vote for the icon they like best. Asking question like do you like this icon will get you a very different result. When you conduct a user test of your icons give them just the icon and ask them to write down what they think the icon means and avoid leading them to the meaning.

 


  • 0
Two Men writing content

Conversational Design

Tags : 

Next Gen Web Design

Engineering a web experience is about establishing and conducting a conversation with your audience. By this standard most business sites are either rude or inconsiderate because they are based on a presentation model. In the physical world a good conversation has a “Hello” – Dialog – “Goodbye” flow and the same should be true digitally. A digital conversation has the same flow although the delivery does have to be slightly different. If your marketing model is based on building relationships then an exploration of the conversation model is critical.

Hello

This Hello phase in the digital world often starts with a query at a search engine and you can think about this as a “Tell me about X” question. Your response to this would typically be “Hello my name is Bob. Let me tell you about X”. This is followed by an acceptance of the offer, which moves the conversation to the dialog phase.

Dialog

The dialog section of the conversation is a point and counterpoint cycle that passes between the parties. In the physical world we have clues that cause us to pause and invite others in. In the digital design you need to engineer for the same process. A good conversation has balance and flow in the dialog and sometimes you need to take a breath and let the other person react to your comments. One common way to do this is to ask a question and get direction to the next issue in the conversation. Conversations by their nature can go in just about any direction.
In good conversations there is a refining process that helps the members of the conversation learn from each other. If you are on the provider side of the conversation your goal is to communicate the value of what you offer to the other party. If you are the purchaser, your goal is to gain the information you need to justify the decisions you need to make. Identifying with your audience is a key element in creating a relationship and that is ultimately what drives the actions of that audience. Get them to like you and you will find that people do business with those they like and they like those that help them understand.

Goodbye

The goodbye phase of the conversation is where you bring the conversation to a conclusion and often there is a “Call to Action” in this point. If you are selling something, then by all means ask for the order at this point. If this conversation is part of a larger relationship with the customer then invite them back.

Summary

Most sites today are modeled on a presentation not a conversation and the goal of the presentation is to move the relationship to a conversation that ultimately gets to the results your business needs. Simply stated we need to get off our soapboxes and talk with our audience. Our prediction is that the next generation of websites will be conversational and they will allow businesses to reach the scale that they struggle with today. This topic is evolutionary not revolutionary and so our advice is to move toward this model in manageable steps.


  • 0
Marketing-Strategy-Team

Marketing Teams & Operations

Tags : 

Business success or failure is tightly related to the strength of its teams and the marketing team is often on the front edge of that sword. To build an effective marketing team you need a variety of experts that work effectively together. An effective digital marketing team will need at least 5 different skillsets to make the magic happen. So here they are:

  • Strategy
  • Content
  • Advertising
  • Conversation
  • Analytics

Each of these teams requires a different skillset and a person that is great in one might be a failure in another. Let’s explore the roles of these teams and the skills they need.

STRATEGY

This team needs to start with a representative from the Executive Management Group and the higher up the better. In a small business, this is typically the CEO or Owner and even if they know nothing about marketing they HAVE to be on the team. A strategy team without a representative from the executive group is very likely to fail. This does not mean that the executive has to become a marketing expert but they have to engage in the process. Many small businesses are owned and run by technical experts that lack the marketing skills. However, they bring to the team an understanding of and unquestioned loyalty to the business. This team can be subdivided into committees to deal with the detailed planning of specifics.
The strategy needs to answer these broad questions:

  • Audiences – Who are we going to communicate with?
  • Messages – What are we going to say?
  • Campaigns – When are we going to be in market?
  • Channels – Where are we going to be?
  • Performance – Why are we doing this?
  • Budget – How much are we going to invest?

I am sure most will instantly see the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How structure used for building a strategy. The challenge here is that these stages have many relationships that can be very difficult to document and think through.

Audiences – Who are we going to communicate with? This is a more complex question than many think. The simple answer is that you want to talk to customers and prospective customers but it is way more involved. The challenges are that communication is sloppy, messages between audiences can work against each other and channels overlap. Audiences evolve through stages of suspect, prospect, customer, client, and evangelist (aka Brand Advocate) and the communication evolves as the relationship does. The key thing is to know who we are talking to so we know how to talk. For each audience, we recommend building a persona that the planning groups can refer to in the later planning processes. It is much easier to remember a persona if you give them a name, image, and profile. At this stage, you need to gather some basic data on these audiences. At a minimum, get the number of people at each stage because one truth that will shortly be in front of you is that there is always more market to reach than there is budget to reach that market. This means that you are going to have to make priority decisions and the potential of each audience is a critical item in the thought process.

One sign that you have an audience problem is when someone says “Everyone is our customer” and even if this were true – and it never is – you still have to develop messaging that moves the person to action and that requires a defined audience.

Messages – What are we going to say? The marketing messages are independent of the audiences but they are assigned to the audiences. Over the years, we have discovered that many planning groups work better if they focus on an audience and then develop messages for that persona. As you move to subsequent audiences, the pace will pick up because you can assign already developed messages to the new group and discuss only what is different about messaging to that group.
In the old days, messages were largely one direction but social media changed that in a big way. Today messages are part of a two way conversation with the market and that means that all customer facing staff have to know these messages and who they are intended for.

Campaigns – When are we going to be in market? Armed with the audiences we want to communicate with and the messages we want to deliver, the next phase is putting them into campaigns and detailing out the specifics of budgets, content, specific performance goals, and other channel specific details. Campaigns ultimately are what bring audiences, messages, and channels together with performance goals.

Channels – Where are we going to be? This is a simple inventory of the channels that the strategy intends to use and every possible channel needs to be explored. There is no reason to be in every channel or every placement within the channel but you do have to consider it. Much of the research here is use by competitors, audience match to your audiences, and effectiveness of the placements. At a minimum, you need to consider search, display, remarketing, and social placements.

Performance – Why are we doing this? Performance is the reason we do all of this and it is what brings us back to the strategy. Within the strategy, we established goals for the various campaigns and in the performance we are checking to see what really happened and make adjustments as needed. Performance is not without its challenges and the first is that measurements in marketing are never perfect nor are they simple linear processes. We would all like to have an action to reaction relationship but the reality is that there are multiple actions to a reaction and the number of these varies greatly. There are many, including myself, that believe that action to reaction can be as high as 20. This means that for any one specific reaction, there could be 20 contributing actions that were taken.

Budget – How much are we going to invest? This is always one of the tough items in any plan. The answer to this is almost always the same. You want to spend as little as possible but as much as necessary.

CONTENT

Content is king and creating it is magic or so many would like you to think. There is no question that the team in this area has to be insanely creative with the ability to create visual and textual content that communicates the messages to the audience. While this has never been my strength, it is certainly one that I appreciate; when it is done right. The challenge sometimes is keeping the creative in-line with the strategy. One item that is very different in digital marketing (as opposed to print) is that the creative can be tested in the market to see if the message resonates with the audience.

ADVERTISING

Advertising is the blocking and tackling of the process. With the channels and budgets decided on, the goal of this team is to take care of the details. Digital advertising is very different than conventional placement in that the key is to run the system properly and keep the audience on target. This task is about running a fairly complex computer system to get maximum output from it. The team here tends to be strong on math and system process mechanics.

CONVERSATION

Conversations have always been part of marketing but social media has made them much more important and have changed the nature of these conversations. No longer is a conversation between the parties involved in the dialog because it now includes the thousands or even millions that will observe the conversation. An exchange with a prospect on Facebook can easily go viral resulting in millions of impressions for an offhand remark. This part of the team normally will fall to the customer service and sales department, which means getting them on board with the audiences and messages is now critical. Social media can be thought of as the dinner networking meeting of today only with an unlimited audience attending.

ANALYTICS

Analytics is an area that has existed in marketing since the first ad was run and someone wanted to know what it did. What has changed is that the depth of the data has increased and with that came some good things and some new challenges.

  • On the positive side we know a lot more about the interactions of people with our content and placements.
  • On the negative side we know a lot more about the interactions of people with our content and placements.

It is very easy today to bury decision makers in data while they starve for actionable information. The real magic in Analytics is reading the tea leaves and transforming data into information. You have to be very careful today with what you think you know and what specific data actually means. The Analytics team is responsible for transforming this data and feed the information back to the strategy team that can make adjustments in the direction of the business. This is typically done on a regular schedule and we recommend no more than one month between these cycles.

SUMMARY

In closing, you need smart people with different perspectives to the challenges that your business will face. In strategy, you need broad thinkers with a handle on the mission and goals of the organization. In content, you need creative people that can transform detailed messaging into easily understood visual and textual elements. In advertising, you need smart math skills with the discipline to execute. In conversations, you need people that understand how to relate to others using new means of communication like social media. In analytics, you need people that took Stats 450 for the easy A and that can communicate with the strategic thinkers, creatives, advertisers, and customer service.


  • 0
Suspect-to-Evangelist-Pyramid

The Marketing Ecosystem

Tags : 

“A referral happens when the evangelist’s friend has a need that the evangelist believes that your product or service will service their friend’s need.”

This article might not be for you!

If your business model leans more towards the transactional side, clients and evangelists are not in your model and all your resources should be focused on the prospect to customer action. If your business model is transactional, this article does not fit your business. Transactional businesses normally have a product or service that is only sold once. Things like debt relief or diet pills lean toward this model.

A good marketing ecosystem moves people or businesses through various stages of relationship with the business. People flow in both directions based on the on-going experience they have with the business. The job of a marketer is to move the most people in a positive direction in the flow. While often represented as a pyramid, the shape of the data is actually more like the form above. It has a steep angle as it moves up the statuses with a bubble at the end in the most mature companies. Time is like gravity in this process as the status tends to drop if the relationship is not constantly refreshed.

Many business executives will tell you that most of their business comes from referrals. The challenge is that the executive is only looking at one point along the path and typically that is when the order is registered and the prospect becomes a customer. If you follow this farther back, you will find that all business ultimately came from prospects or suspects.

Please note that nowhere in that statement is there anything about the vendor (that’s you) in the process. That’s because while you have to earn the referral, you do not cause the event. It is the need of the friend that starts the process. There are things you can do to influence that but it is very difficult to create need.

It’s about moving people through the communication system

Each stage in the process can be thought of as a segment classification with a barrier to the next class. That barrier is the customer experience and that is within your control. So let’s take this problem apart and discuss the barrier between each classification.

Suspects – People that might do business with you

The first class, and by far the largest, are the suspects. These are people that we suspect could do business with us but so far that’s it. Many times, the problem with this class is the size and the related expense of communicating with that class. The first thing a business has to consider is do they have the budget they need to talk to this class. If they do, the primary barrier to being a prospect is awareness of the product or service. This is especially difficult when you are dealing with a new innovation where people are not aware of the problem or the product. With a well-defined product or service, creating awareness is largely an educational process to a very large group of people. As awareness becomes interest, the person morphs from a suspect to a prospect. So this barrier is the combination of awareness and interest.

Prospects – People who have some indication they might do business with you

Prospects are created by data that indicates that the person is more likely to be a good fit for your product or service.  Creating prospects using data is quick and easy but moving them from prospects to customers is not. This is because as a marketer, you need to transform the qualification of interest into desire and ultimately action. This is where most businesses spend the majority of their marketing resources and their measurement of choice is the ever popular first sale.

Leads aka Sales Pipeline – People that have proactively indicated an interest in your product or service

A prospect or suspect that has proactively reached out to the business is a lead for the time period that it is being followed up on by the sales team. The proactive outreach normally takes the form of a sales lead form completion, phone call inquiry, or other valued event. If the lead goes cold, then the person returns to be a prospect with special history.

The subsystem of leads is often called the “Sales Pipeline” but our position is that the pipeline runs from suspect to evangelist.  Thinking only of this one section of the system results in a myopic view of the process. Since this status starts with expression of interest and ends with a sale, it is an area of focus for many plans but it is no more or less important than the management of the other stages.

Customers – People that have done business with you within one business cycle

Customers happen when a suspect or prospect purchases a product or service. Sounds simple enough but trust me when I tell you it only looks simple.  A customer is not a lifetime status and the customer can easily drop back to being a prospect if they fail to reorder when expected. This is also the time when many organizations stop marketing and that is a huge mistake. The other big mistake made with this classification is thinking of customer as a permanent status. While you can establish any rule you want for the classification, the typical customer status should only hold until the next expected purchase and this is driven by the normal sales cycle of the product or service. If you are not aging the customers out of this status, then you will not see what is truly happening in the business.

Clients – Customers who will continue to do business with you even if you do something wrong

Clients are someone who will continue to do business with you even when you are not the low cost provider. They will also forgive you when you do something stupid because they trust you. Moving a customer to a client requires that you build trust and loyalty.  Normally this transformation happens over time and can be difficult to observe. Most businesses that measure this do so a few times a year.

Evangelists aka Brand Advocates – Customers, Clients, or trusted advisers that recommend your business when their friend has a need

Evangelists are the very lofty goal of the ecosystem but they are exceptionally difficult to create because it requires a client with a specific set of social skills and experiences. I subscribe to the concept of the social connector as described in the book, Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. In every social network, there are people that value the process of connecting others and it is this trait that turns a client into an evangelist. To some degree, there are clues in social media as to who these people might be but there are also lots of posers. The data you want to look at is their connection level and the activity of those connections. Evangelists are a temporary status and can change from product to product. This means that an Evangelist for product A may be a silent client for product B. Mavens (trusted expert) can also become Evangelists if the need of the person is a very specific product. These evangelists are driven by their desire to pass technical information.

It is important to note that not all evangelists are customers or clients. It is entirely possible to create an evangelist that is a trusted adviser to the prospect. Common examples of this are CPA’s or Attorneys that often recommend items to their clients when they see a need. In some cases, campaigns with the goal of communicating to potential evangelist segments make good business sense.

Negative Flow

Referrals can be positive or negative based on the experience they are communicating.  Negative flow can happen when you create an evangelist with a negative experience and they distribute that. Many studies show that the typical negative experience will get distributed to 12 people, while a positive experience will reach one. This is not what you want to hear but referrals do work both ways. If the person involved is an evangelist, great care should be taken.

Time is Like Gravity

Time pulls the person to lower levels within the classification. An example of this is a customer that does not repurchase and drops back to prospect status.  The reason this is important to understand is that while we might want to earn a level and stay there, that is not how it works.

Paying for Referrals

One common idea about referrals is to pay for more of them. This idea almost never works but it often looks like it does. The reason it can look like it works is that when the referral happens and an incentive is available, it is often claimed. It is likely that an incentive to some customers will result in an action but you have to ask yourself how powerful the referral will be if it was motivated by money. Are you in fact paying for what will happen naturally? I would contend that in many cases, paying for referrals does not create a referral but they do create a marketplace for them.

Moving People through the System

From ToHow
SuspectProspectActive: Create awareness that serves a want or need
Passive: Find data that indicates a product want or need fit
ProspectCustomerCreate desire to service a want or need
CustomerClientCreate a trust relationship
ClientEvangelistHave a trust relationship with social connector and get lucky enough that they become aware of a friend’s want or need that is served by your product or service
Customer Client EvangelistProspectMore than one business cycle without a business interaction.

In the marketing plan for the business, each of these areas needs a campaign to serve these movements.

Glossary:

The Market: Everyone
Suspects: Someone who could do business with you
Prospects: Someone who has demonstrated some interest in your product/service
Customers: Someone who has purchased your product or service
Clients: A customer that will continue to do business even if you do something wrong
Evangelist: A person that tells others about you. Can be a customer, client, or other trusted adviser. This is also known as a Brand Advocate in some circles.
Mavens: a trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass knowledge on to others
Social Connectors: people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions


  • -
Mobile Friendly Test

Now is the Time for a Mobile Friendly Site

Google’s updated mobile ranking system, taking effect April 21, 2015, will affect your website’s ranking in mobile search results. If your website is mobile-friendly, your organic ranking in mobile search results could improve. What isn’t clear is if and how this will affect a website’s ranking for desktop searches.

This change could also affect your business if you run AdWords advertising because your organic ranking is similar to your quality score in AdWords. Quality score is driven by ad quality, click through rate, and landing page quality so it can have a big impact on your account. If your page is ranked as not-mobile friendly this could push your quality score down in a hurry. None of us will know for some time but this is a time to watch your quality scores very closely.

If you’re not sure that your website is mobile friendly, Google has provided a tool – the Mobile Friendly Test. To use the test tool, just paste your website URL and click “Analyze”. You’ll either get a green notification that your site is fine or a red warning with recommendations on what you can do to fix it.

A mobile friendly website can be accomplished in 3 ways:

  1. Responsive Web Design (RWD) – recommended by Google, one site that adjusts for different sized devices
  2. Separate Mobile Website – different site/code for mobile, desktop, tablet with different URL’s
  3. Dynamic Serving – different code for device type, same URL

If you do already have a mobile site, you can use Webmaster Tools Mobile Usability to see where your mobile experience can be improved.

Only time will tell the extent of the effects that this will have on your website’s ranking. If you haven’t updated your site for mobile, we highly recommend you start that process as soon as possible – for the sake of both your organic and paid results. If you have any questions about the status of your site, give us a call.

Original announcement from Google on February 26, 2015


  • 0
Color Wheel

Roundtables as a Business Strategy

Tags : 

Ten years ago I started a project in partnership with 2 other businesses and 3 non-profit trade associations to form a Regional CEO Roundtable program in the local area. Today this program serves 5 groups of CEO’s and approximately 60 CEO’s that meet monthly to share ideas and experiences with the other members. The value of this program comes from the relationships and understanding of a diverse set of opinions. I belong to all 5 of these groups and I find them to be extremely valuable to my business. There is no doubt in my mind that diversity creates organizational strength and these groups create a level of diversity that simply is impossible in a single business.

We are now preparing to take this concept to the Creative Design area of our business by building a local Designer’s Roundtable. This will be a group of intermediate to advanced designers that we can exchange ideas with in a confidential peer to peer network. Our goal is to put together 10-12 designers that can meet monthly in a confidential group and share best practices. Having done this with the CEO Roundtables many times I know that getting to the trust level takes time to build. In new CEO Roundtables I have found that trust relationships takes 12-18 months before people become comfortable with the group and the discussion becomes more honest and direct.  What happens is in the early meetings everything is good and they only talk about the things that worked well but as the group matures the failures start to be debated and the real relationships in the group start to form.

I have been a business owner since 1988 and I was first introduced to the Roundtable concept in Milwaukee where the program was part of the regional chamber of commerce. When I first moved to the California Central Coast in 1996 the first thing I did was join the Chamber and ask how to sign up for the CEO Roundtable.  The silence to that question was deafening and it would take almost a decade to fix that.

Roundtables are not the product of a person or even a company. They are a product of a business community and that requires partnerships be built.  In our case the partnerships that had to be created included a couple of leading business. In our case the commercial part of the partnership came from a HR Services Company, Your People Professionals, and a CPA firm, Barbich Longcrier Hooper and King. This had to be partnered with business organizations that included Softec (Technology Trade Association), the EVC (County Economic Development Group), and the Santa Maria Chamber of Commerce. With that partnership it was finally possible to pull together the first 3 groups and stand the program up in the community.

These groups have matured over the year with many strong relationships being developed between different members. I have seen these relationships create value for members many times and the value is typically an understanding of the diverse perspectives that members are exposed to. There have also been cases of members doing business with each other although that is typically kept outside the roundtables.

In a small business we often become consumed by our own little world and we fail to understand the bigger world view. The roundtables can help moderate that challenge and stop ideas from being isolated in a single business.


  • 0

Dealing with the Village Idiot

Tags : 

How To Deal With an Unfair Negative Review

We are fans of social media networks but they can create the challenge of dealing with an unfair negative review. Negative reviews happen all the time because it is a rare week that we do not get a call from a client on this topic. The problem, of course, is that our instant reaction is to lash back at the unfairness and doing this runs the risk of writing the best response you will ever regret. Managed properly, negative reviews can improve your business; but this article is about dealing with the unfair review. Just so we are clear on the scope of our comments, this is where the person irrationally attacks your business for no justified reason.

If you get a negative review for something you did, the best advice is to take responsibility, learn from your mistake, and get better for the next time. Sometimes negative reviews are the best thing that can happen to you but they almost never feel like that when they happen. They hurt and they make us angry, but as a business we have to fight those reactions and deal with the issue at hand.

Step One is to take a deep breath and let out some of the tension. You have been unfairly assaulted but as a business you cannot react with your emotions. Let out the emotions in some other fashion but do not post a response while you are still mad.

Step Two is to assess what really happened. There is a reason that this person went off on you and it may or may not have anything to do with you. They may just be having a horrible day and something you said or did gave them the opportunity to vent. Sometimes the cause of the hostile response is not actually related to your business. We have seen situations when we ask for more details and the person will back off their statements. They were mad when they wrote the posting but after some time to reflect they soften their response.

Step Three is to respond to the complaint and bring it to a close. There is no perfect answer to this and it really depends on how you read the person on the other side of the posting. If the problem is something that you can fix then some consideration of responding in public is worth the time. The advantage is that others will see how you respond to a problem and most will appreciate a professional response. If however you have to deliver bad news to the customer, doing that in private might be the right way to go.

To respond in public or private – that is the question.

We recently had a client that got slammed with negative reviews after just the initial phone call over their service charge for coming out to a client location. This is a perfectly normal, customary charge but the caller really got fired up about it. The caller declined the service from the business and then went into multiple social media sites and posted horrible reviews. Clearly an unreasonable person, but still something the business had to deal with. None of the options for dealing with this are good so it is a lesser of multiple evils situation. The business cannot back off their service charge since that keeps them in business, so the news they need to deliver is bad but responding in private will make it look like they did not respond to the complaint. While there is no good answer to this the lesser evil is to respond in public so people can see that your response if reasonable. There are risks involved with this in that the other party can continue unfair postings but inaction has its problems as well.

We have had more than a few situations of tracking down who the person is and what they are complaining about. For whatever reason the source of this is often a Yelp profile that has been recently created, has no personal information, and has only the one posting. In these cases the contact is often connected to an email that goes nowhere. When you are faced with this your options are more limited and the only response you can make is public. In this case we typically respond with a request for more information about the situation and this almost always goes unanswered but it has the side effect of resolving the complaint in the eyes of the other visitors.

To sum it up, don’t let your emotions guide your actions. Figure out the cause of the negative review. Decide if the situation requires a public or private response and respond professionally.


  • 0

Balanced Marketing

Balanced-Rocks
“What is the best form of marketing?” The challenge with this question is the underlying assumption that one form of advertising is better or worse than another and they are not – they are simply different. We have lots of successful clients and they do share a common theme. They have carefully balanced the different channels available to communicate with their prospects. Everyone wants a simple answer to the marketing challenge but the answer is always complicated.

The common success story is a balanced strategy using all the marketing channels available in the right mix. When you get to the bottom line with this discussion, a good marketing plan is about balancing:

  • Frequency
  • Reach
  • Message
  • Audience
  • Budget
  • Timing; aka luck

The challenge here is these factors are connected to each other and improving one often results in degrading one of the others. Others have a sweet spot that is a balance between quality and quantity. For example, increasing frequency is positive up until the point that it becomes an irritant. If I see your brand once a week it keeps it in the coveted top-of-mind position but if I see it 20 times a day I no longer notice the advertisement.

I was recently working with a Coaching Client who has 17 operations across Midwest and Southern states in the US providing a local service that is a mix of emergency service and quoted work. The different regions are all independently managed with a central AdWords Account. They get radically different results using the same keywords, ads, bids and other settings. The difference in results is directly connected to the other marketing the branches have selected. The bottom line is that when the branch invests in brand building efforts, the PPC results improve. They are not directly connected to each other but they are related and support each other.

The classic example of this is the support that organic and PPC provide to each other. In several studies we have seen that 1+1 is greater than 2. What I mean by this is that if a first organic position gets a 3% click through and a first PPC gets 1% then both of them get a collective rate of 6% or simply stated 3+1=6. The numbers vary depending on the study but the effect is consistent. While nobody can prove what causes this my belief is that two listings lend authority to each other. I will be the first to admit that there could be other things that cause the result but the result is consistent.

The challenge of this part of your plan is finding the right balance. I use a simple spreadsheet to help me think through the problem and it is what I call a zero net sum. I put the channels on the side then the audiences on the top. I then give every cell the same amount – typically 5 points. If I have five channels and four audiences then I have 20 cells and a total budget of 100. I start to move budgets around to the various cells with the rule that the total cannot exceed 100. This way if I have a priority of 18-25 year olds and give them 10 points for display marketing then those points have to come from some other cell. This game is basically to help me understand the priority distribution in my plan. Once I like the result I can then apply that to the real budget and decide how much resource goes to each cell in my marketing plan. I typically like to create the priority of the audiences first then distribute that across the channels but you can play this game anyway you want.

Once you have your distribution you can now start to create campaigns that fit your strategy. Typically, this process should happen on an annual basis to keep up with the constant changes in your business.


  • 0

The Problem with Long Scrolling Design

Long scrolling websites have been trending for the last couple years. If you’re not familiar with the term, a long scrolling website design is basically a one page site that uses scrolling as opposed to clicking to view all the site’s information (Here is an example: foodisforeating.org/). Even though they’ve been around for a while, they are still pretty rare and it’s probably for good reason. The type of site that benefits from a long scrolling design is highly dependent on a user that is looking to peruse, without a particular goal in mind. Long scrolling websites tell a story and they pretty much force the user to read your story. They also present issues related to SEO and website data tracking.

screenshot long scrolling example

SEO

Another problem with long scrolling design is with SEO. Basic SEO teaches you that you get one title tag and that it’s best to use just one h1 tag. Within those tags is your keyword and the content of the page is all about that keyword. Because a long scrolling design is one page, you’re putting your entire websites content on one page. For people who have multiple services described on their website, this is a problem because the more topics you discuss on one page the less likely you are to show up in search results for any one of those. As SEO expert, Bob Dumouchel says, “The more things you’re about, the less you’re about any of those things.” The h1 and title tags drive the topic of your page content and adding any information different than that detracts from your page relevancy, therefore lowering your position in the search results. This is fine for large, well-known companies who don’t depend on search results to get business. But for lesser known businesses, long scrolling is not the best option.

Website Data Tracking

Another area that leads to problems is with accurate data tracking. The traditional method of tracking clicks is made irrelevant by long scrolling because there is nowhere else to click to. You also can’t tell which information is causing your users to leave or convert. There are however, some other options for tracking like analyzing scroll depth. Scroll depth monitors how many people scroll through to a percentage length of your site, like if they scroll 25%, of the way down or get all the way through. There are also heat mapping solutions (like Crazy Egg) that track where people are looking most on the page. Using these metrics from the other tools will likely require more inferring than the traditional click-through.

Unless you’re a well-known company that doesn’t depend on search results or you have a really interesting story to tell and present it in an engaging way, then long scrolling is not a good design option for your website.


Call us to see what's next for your marketing.