Blog Archives

Bowling for Business: Pushing Past the Papaya

(This column first appeared on RIMOFTHEWORLD.net on January 17, 2011.

I couldn’t have been better prepared for our stint on Supermarket Sweep than I was on the morning the cable game show taped in 1991. My teammate, Donna, and I had brushed up on trivia and even memorized the layout of the studio grocery store so we would be able to quickly fill our carts with high-ticket items so we would make it to the all important Big Sweep. Then, inexplicably, when the cameras started to roll, I choked. Like a deer in headlights, in the first round, I stared blankly at the host and then proceeded to do everything in my power to embarrass my unborn children.

Question: What fruit has a green rind, red flesh and black seeds?

I was the first to buzz in with my incorrect answer: Papaya.

Question: Which melon features orange flesh and tan seeds?

My Answer: Papaya.

Question: In what month do most Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?

My Answer: Papaya.

To this day, I have no idea why I had papaya on the brain. I don’t even really care for papaya. I also have no idea how, despite my mistakes, Donna and I emerged victorious, taking home a grand total $1,103 for our efforts. But I appreciate the relevance of making sure Mountain Marketing Group clients push past this type of brain freeze when it comes to advertising.

For many, the ability to seize the potential of using social media for lead generation is stifled by one thing and one thing alone: an outdated mindset. Somehow, most of us still think that advertising is advertising and social media is something else. But, in truth, advertising and social media are the same thing. They are both content.

The moment we realize that all marketing equals content, we will finally be able to break through the brain freeze and find new ways to fuel powerful brand interactions so they will lead to sales transactions and charitable donations. And we can do this regardless of budget.

For Free—

The first step to creating valuable content is to understand the shared interests and motivations of your target market. Once you recognize what they need, you can start crafting content to fill those needs. And that content can be created for free. For instance, if your product is hairspray, the most obvious shared trait of your target market is that most people who use it have hair. And while your endgame is to get them to buy your product, first, you must provide them with interesting information.

Content for people with hair might include Facebook posts about healthy hair care tips or hair styling trends. Once you have proven yourself knowledgeable and helpful regarding everything hair, your client base will learn to associate your brand with their haircare-related needs. Just don’t make the mistake of using your voice to hard-sell from the start. In an age where people actively search for content instead of passively listening to whatever you have to say, share-of-voice has to be earned.

On a Limited Budget—

Develop an email newsletter. You can either create the publication in-house using a free or low-cost service such as Constant Contact, RatePoint or MailChimp, or hire a professional to produce content-rich information to distribute on a regular basis. But beware of the most common pitfall to this practice—believing you will have time to do this chore yourself, in addition to running your business or nonprofit organization. The road to social media success is paved with good intentions.

Another budget-friendly, content-heavy idea is to blog. Don’t be intimidated by the thought of writing 300-500 word articles and then pointing to the posts via social media websites. If your tweets and status updates are content-rich and optimized, you will be well on your way to establishing yourself as a trusted leader in your field. And trust is the foundation for establishing lifetime relationships with customers, donors and friends.

The Sky’s the Limit—

Don’t forget about the real world. As reliant on technology as we have become, most people still prefer the warmth of a handshake to the cool touch of a keyboard.

In fact, according to MSNBC New.com, “People prefer colonoscopies to computer upkeep.” So don’t relegate all of your marketing efforts to the Internet.

Here are some real world ideas:

  1. Sponsor a workshop, conference or industry event.
  2. Accept invitations to speak in public about your area of expertise.
  3. Produce an informational brochure. But resist the urge to use the piece to promote your product. Instead, simply provide content along with your logo, slogan and contact information.
  4. Papaya.

Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.

Bowling for Business: Top 11 Marketing Tips for 2011

How to Market Your Business in 2011

This column first appeared on RIMOFTHEWORLD.net on December 20, 2010.

I have to admit my personal New Year’s resolutions for 2011 are the same as they were in 2010—lose weight; save money; be a better wife, mother, daughter, grandmother, neighbor and friend. I long for the day when I achieve my nebulous goals so I can draft a fresh, new list.

When it comes to business, I find it easier to establish innovative objectives. So please allow me a departure from my usual column-format to share what I believe to be the top 11 marketing strategies for the New Year:

1. Public Relations

Admittedly, I might be prejudiced, since this is my field. But I maintain the single most important tool in any entrepreneurial chest is public relations. After all, PR is about projecting a positive image, so it is universally applicable.

But how should you approach PR in 2011? Perhaps counter-intuitively, to market in the modern era, you need to return to an old business stand-by: the press release. Retooled as a Social Media Release, this approach remains the single most effective way to boost Search Engine Optimization. Because you can select keywords for each release and post to an online newsroom, Social Media Releases are far superior to the standard press release model.

2. Email Marketing

Although some pundits predicted that social media marketing would replace the use of this time-tested tool, don’t expect email marketing to go away. It is still the best way to reach your target market. In 2011, make sure you’re using the new tools provided through most email marketing companies, such as surveys, bounce-reports and social media tie-ins.

3. Social Media

For those of you who were waiting for the demise of social media, it’s time to give up the ghost. We’re living in a brave new world where Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are as much a part of the landscape as business cards and email addresses. So, if you have somehow managed to avoid setting up a social media account for your business up til now, do so in 2011.

4. Videos

My family and I finally caved in and purchased the new TiVo Premiere. I am blown away by our newfound ability to watch YouTube videos on our living room television set. We no longer have to crowd around a PC to access music videos, podcasts and MP3 files. The drawback to this type of technology is that the inferior quality of amateur videos now stands in sharp contrast to professionally-produced commercials and short films. So hire a professional to write, direct and post videos that have the potential to go viral.

5. Promotional Marketing Items

Everyone loves gifts…even you. So don’t underestimate the value of providing people with nifty trinkets that show you care while promoting your brand. Unless you’re rolling in the dough, think simple and cheap. Favors can be very inexpensive—something as simple as pen with your logo on it, a pin or sticker, or an individually wrapped chocolate. For just a few pennies per item, you will make a great impression.

6. Branding

Don’t stop at giveaways. Use every available opportunity to build your brand online and in the real world. Make sure your logo and slogan appear on everything from your email signature to the sign outside of your shop.

7. Website Strategies

If you haven’t already done so, convert your website so it no longer functions merely as an electronic brochure. Shoot for an update that encourages website visitors to interact instead of passively peruse.

8. Direct Marketing- Knock on More Doors in the New Year

The shine is off the penny for teleconferencing and Go-to-Meetings. Since, by now, most businessmen and women understand how to navigate the world of the webinar, to stand out in 2011, you will need to abandon all things electronic and at least offer to give your clients some face-time.

9. Support your Community

This topic is so important that it actually merits its own column. So we’ll cover it more in detail in time. But suffice to say it is imperative you support the businesses located adjacent to your own. Buy local and encourage others to do so. Join the Chamber of Commerce. Volunteer to serve in leadership positions wherever you are able.

10. Do Pro-Bono Work

Again, this is critical. So we’ll discuss the topic more in future posts. Demonstrate your personal commitment to support causes that matter. Pro-bono work shows that you care about more than your own bottom line.

11. Have Fun

Try not to take yourself too seriously. Try to remember why you went into business for yourself in the first place. If you aren’t having any fun, it will show in your product or service. And if you take steps to make changes in 2011, you might be able to come up with a new list of business resolutions for 2012. Happy New Year!

Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.

Bowling for Business: Follow the Money

Follow the Money

This column first appeared on RimoftheWorld.net on December 6, 2009 and in the Business Press on December 16, 2009.

Just before Christmas when I was seven years old, my father walked with me to a small curiosity shop/drug store in our town called Rotolo’s. I was eager to spend the $5 I had earned raking leaves and doing odd jobs around the house. This was in the 70s. So he was able to wait outside the store while I walked safely up and down the aisles, searching for Christmas gifts.

I finally settled on a glossy ceramic piggy bank for my mother and a box of Little Debbie Swiss Rolls for my father. I was so excited when I exited the store, I could barely contain myself. Since I loved piggy banks and chocolate, I was certain I had found the perfect presents.

And, on Christmas morning, when they opened their packages, my parents’ reactions confirmed my assessment. They praised my taste and thoughtfulness. My mom immediately placed change into her bank and displayed it on her dresser, where it remains to this day. My father shared his treats and kept the empty package. We found it among his treasured possessions many years later, after he had died.

Only later did it occur to me that two thirty-year-old adults might not have chosen a piggy bank and packaged snack cakes had they shopped for themselves. My naïve gesture succeeded because my parents understood and appreciated my frame of reference.

However, when it comes to promoting your product or service, you can’t expect your customers to respond in kind. While it is natural to lean toward logos, colors, slogans and advertisements that appeal to your own tastes and preferences, the only way this strategy will work is if you just want to sell to yourself. If you would rather extend your customer base, you’ll have to broaden your advertising horizons.

Oddly enough, when it comes to selecting a target, many entrepreneurs take whoever they can get, however and whenever they can get them, without figuring out who they actually want to attract in the first place. If your product or service is worthwhile (and I certainly hope that it is), then you do prospective customers a service by figuring out who they are and properly communicating your message to them.

To hone in on their ideal markets, we counsel Mountain Marketing Group clients to follow the money. And you can do this regardless of the size of your marketing budget.

For Free—

Use your existing client list to get a handle on your ideal target. Create a simple spreadsheet that answers the following questions:

  1. Who buys the largest quantity?
  2. Who purchases the highest ticket items?
  3. Who frequents your store most often?
  4. What do the above have in common?

After you import all pertinent information, go straight to the source. Call or email your best customers. Thank them for their business and ask them how you managed to land their accounts. Inquire about which publications they read, programs they watch, and websites they frequent. Focus your promotional efforts on the most frequent mentions.

On a Budget—

In many marketing circles, the shine is off the penny for email marketing campaigns. In fact, some pundits say that email marketing results have declined by 10 to 40 percent over the past five years. On the other hand, email survey campaigns are all the rage. If you have more than a handful of customers, the most efficient way to find out about their preferences is to write a customer survey email.

Perhaps anticipating the winds of change, email newsletter services such as Rate Point and Constant Contact offer user-friendly tools to create and distribute brief surveys. Since most people appreciate knowing that their opinions count, you probably won’t offend anyone by starting the practice.

The Sky’s the Limit—

When your firm can afford it, I recommend you hire someone to conduct market research. Ironically, although this is a crucial step for effective advertising, it is the tool most often overlooked by business owners. This is a shame, since good market research eliminates the unnecessary outlay of ill-spent ad dollars. And, as we all know, a penny saved is a penny earned…and sometimes stored in a high-gloss piggy bank.

Until next week, I’ll be Bowling for Business.

Bowling for Business: Click it Good

Giving a card

Click it Good: A guide to Internet Advertising

This column first appeared on RimoftheWorld.net on October 19, 2009

How to use pay per click, banner ads and email marketing to sell widgets

Several people have asked me if the ads that appear in orange boxes throughout my weekly ROTW columns have anything to do with my business and/or blogs.

The simple answer is, “No!”

The ads you see weaving in and out of my text are placed there by affiliate advertisers who want to capitalize on RIMOFTHEWORLD.net traffic to sell their products and services.

I take particular offense to the ad that so often pops up in my pieces, that says, “Lose embarrassing belly fat now.” Since advertisers generally try to place their online ads in places that make sense, I wonder if they checked out my head shot and figured, naturally, the best advertising marriage is weight loss.

Whatever their reasons for associating my writing with an intense desire to lose weight, promoters advertise on websites, search engines and blogs because they know that, despite all of the buzz about free advertising with social networking, in the final analysis, it still makes sense to ante up for business leads.

But what exactly is the payoff and how much do you have to invest in order to secure actual paying customers? The answer is as individual as your business budget. Before we get into specifics about costs and strategies, let’s discuss the three most popular forms of paid electronic advertising.

1. Pay Per Click

Advertisers pay their host only when words and word combinations they successfully bid for, are clicked. Internet searches produce two very different types of results:

Natural or organic results are determined by closely guarded algorithms that match Internet content with search terms.

Sponsored search engine services like Google Ad Words or Yahoo Search Marketing are results that advertisers pay for. These are included in the top two or three search results, as well as to the right of the search screen, inside a light pink box, or noted as “sponsored links.”

2. Display Advertising

This type of advertising is paid per click, per impression or per term. Display ads typically contain text, logos, photographs or other images, maps, and similar items, which appear on the same page as, or on the page adjacent to, general editorial content.

The text boxes that appear inside my columns fall into this category as does the http://mountainmarketinggroup.net ad at the top of the RIMOFTHEWORLD.net masthead. Display ads allow sponsors to effectively target their audience based on publication and website user-profiles.

Banner advertisers efficiently track and measure which websites, blogs or publications result in the highest number of direct responses, known as “click-through-rates.”

Affiliate marketers gain Internet real estate by offering click-through revenue to blog authors and webmasters. Successful Internet writers earn money by allowing affiliate advertising to run on their sites.

One of the reasons we advertise our agency on ROTW.net is because they charge by the month, which is easy on the budget, instead of by-impression, which is a bit unpredictable.

3. Email Marketing

Despite being considered a bit passé in web 2.0, emails remain popular for targeting prospective customers.

At the risk of being blocked as “spammers,” email marketers continue to advertise using this method because it is inexpensive and targeted. Emailing to people who have voluntarily surrendered their email addresses assumes at least a passing interest in whatever product or service an advertiser wishes to promote.

So which method should you pursue? I suggest you choose a strategy based on which budget, below, reflects the amount you can afford to spend on advertising. Remember, before you decide, that most experts agree you should invest at least 4-8 percent of your previous year’s gross sales on marketing.

Tight (I can’t even afford to pay attention.)

When funds are scarce, the bottom line is that you have to advertise. Don’t wait until you no longer have a business to promote. Email marketing is probably your best bet.

  • Gather business cards you collect at chamber mixers and networking events and enter email addresses into your contact list.
  • Create a brief, straight-forward email, with an attention-grabbing subject line, that does not promote your product or service so much as it provides an answer to your end-users point of pain. Focus on what your customers need to hear, instead of on what you want to say.
  • Give your recipients a reason to reply. The best way to do this is to offer a discount or giveaway.
  • Send the emails.
  • Measure your results.
  • If your campaign didn’t work, change it up. Don’t give up until you find the secret sauce.

Limited (I have a few bucks to spend. But I have to be careful.)

  • Find a website whose users match the profile of your customer-base and which provides banner advertising payable by term instead of by impression.
  • Hire someone to design an ad that will produce a direct-response.
  • Commit to the strategy for at least three months.
  • Measure your results.
  • If your ad doesn’t bring in revenue, alter one element of the ad, or its location, at a time.
  • Use the revenue generated from your campaign to pursue a second form of Internet advertising.

The Sky’s the Limit (Money is no object. And, yes, believe it or not, some business owners fall into this category, even in this economy).

Experts agree that people need five touches with your organization or product before they will make the move from prospect to client. Since your advertising budget affords you the luxury to pursue all five at once, results will be swift. I suggest the following:

  • Hire someone to develop an effective ad campaign.
  • Buy associated ad words on Google or Yahoo.
  • Send an email blast to introduce the campaign.
  • Invest in Pay per Click display ads.
  • Run banner ads on high-trafficked websites and blogs.
  • Watch the money roll in.