Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cheap, Fast, and Green - the Marketing Trifecta

I've been thinking a lot about something my cousin Scott told me years ago. He is a digital illustrator and producer, and he once said, "Remember Ada, in the agency world your clients will have three objectives: Cheap, Fast, and Good. And you will ONLY ever accomplish TWO of the THREE."

Recently I started thinking about this as it relates to Green initiatives. Replace Good with Green and if you follow the logic, you can have:
• Cheap and Green, but not Fast.
• Cheap and Fast, but not Green. .... etc.

This is SO true - firms that want to quickly implement Green initiatives need to be prepared to spend the money. Firms that expect to save money by going Green need to expect that it will take time. Rushing to do things Cheap and Fast will likely sacrifice Green aspects.

Marketing managers take note! You can help manage expectations by applying the rules above. What initiatives do you have that need to address this issue? Can you break the rule and think of examples that satisfy all three?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

SEO PDQ - Review of Rebecca Lieb's Book

As many of you know, I'm involved in a baby products business called CuteyBaby. As an enterprise today, CuteyBaby primarily exists online, so being found in Internet searches is an important part of the marketing strategy for that business. Enter search engine optimization (SEO) - a constantly moving target that for the most part, I have outsourced in my marketing life. Lately I've been wondering what's "behind the curtain" of the great and powerful search marketers out there.

Rebecca Lieb provided me with a very timely and elegant explanation in the form of her recent book: The Truth about Search Engine Optimization (amazon link). I have followed Rebecca's writing on ClickZ and other online sources over the past several years. Frankly, I was thrilled to see she had written this particular book because so many Internet marketing "how-to" volumes seem to lack substance, and I was in need of practical advice.

First, here is my basic definition of SEO:
Working to improve where you appear (higher the better) on major search engines' (Google, Yahoo, MSN) and relevant niche sites' (i.e. Business.com) search results through ongoing, systematic online content improvement.

Here are the things I found most valuable from Lieb's book to understand and/or implement in my SEO strategy now:

1. What women want.
Research what keywords your potential customers are searching on. For example, when people search on "removable wall decals" or "cloth diapers", I would like CuteyBaby to appear in the organic results (typically left side of the page). But there may be a ton of other relevant or related search terms, too. Use a keyword search tool like Wordtracker or Trellian (both have free trials) or Google AdWords keyword suggester (always free).

2. Text is everything.
Whether it's content, titles, tags, or links - everything a search engine sees about your site is text. Write for people reading your site, but understand how it looks to a search engine, too. Flash and lots of images may look exciting to a human, but to a search engine bot, it's just fluff. Be sure to give your images titles and alt text that make sense.

3. Get organized.
Use a content management system (CMS), or at least name your pages intelligently so that URLs make sense to the reader. I use Wordpress, and will probably continue with that for at least the blogging portion of my site, if not the whole thing.

4. A rose by any other name - not so!
Page titles are absolutely critical - make sure they are appropriate and help search engines know when to show your page as a search result.

5. Make friends in high places.
Look for opportunities to link to relevant external content, and get sites to link to you as well (called reciprocal linking). This greatly improves your search rankings, especially if the sites linking to you are well traveled.

6. Write good copy.
Write (or pay someone to write) intelligent copy that contains appropriate keywords and reads well to a human, too. The more quality text content you have on your site, the better chance you will be found.

7. Buyer beware.
Know that any company promising you top ranking in the major engines for category keywords for $500 is probably selling snake oil. No one has the key to instant search success.

There are over 50 tips/truths in the book, so if you are involved in SEO strategy at all, I recommend getting it. The tips above are just what's relevant to me at this moment. Also, if you are building a site, it really helps to consider SEO when mapping out and writing content - rather than retrofitting later.

Thanks Rebecca, for a great resource.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Marketing Book Binge

I must admit, I binge on information. Perhaps it all started while attending college in Iowa at Cornell College - their one-course-at-a-time system is so perfect for learning to process gobs of information very quickly. Now I find it a valuable skill in this information-rich modern world we inhabit.

Lately I've been tearing through books on social media and marketing. My most recent reads are: Twitter Power, The Twitter Revolution, The New Language of Marketing 2.0 and Guerilla Marketing. So if you are looking for the cliff's notes, or want to decide what's relevant for you to read, here's my take on those titles:


Twitter Power by Joel Comm

This book provides a step-by-step method to create follower-worthy tweets and gain attention on Twitter. It also outlines how Twitter can help as a channel for customer service, brand building, and crowdsourcing. Mr. Comm gives practical advice and encourages testing and measurement (near and dear to my heart) in social media marketing efforts. His chapters on setting up your profile & twitter page will be useful to people getting started on Twitter. More experienced folks will find this book less valuable. Most important takeaways - create a plan, measure results, and stick to it. Like many marketing efforts, building a following and converting customers takes time.


Twitter Revolution by Warren Whitlock & Deborah Micek

This was one of the early books about Twitter (back when Chris Brogan only had 8,900 followers). The authors' excitement for the medium definitely comes through. This book answers the question - "Twitter - what's all the fuss?" pretty well. I found it a little disjointed and shallow; kind of like Twitter! Most important takeaways - start a conversation, be genuine, connect with lots of people, and be open to where that takes you.


The New Language of Marketing 2.0 by Sandy Carter

A publisher sent me this book after seeing one of my reviews. Frankly, I was flattered. Once received, I found the subtitle off-putting. My first thoughts - What's with the marketing ANGELS? Is it a religious thing? An ill-chosen acronym?

It took me some time to read this book. It has about 3-4 times the content of any other marketing book I have picked up in the last few months. Kind of textbooky. BUT - I have kept it on my desk and referred to it several times due to its meatiness. There are a lot of case studies from huge companies. The author is an IBM exec. The part I liked the best was the chapter called "Fish where the fish are and use the right bait." Sounds simple, but it's so easy to forget when you are jazzed about your product or service and "like, EVERYONE could use one of these" thinking. This book is an excellent choice for anyone who does marketing for or in a large enterprise. The perspective is mainly from global firms, HQ'd in the U.S.


Guerilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson

This book is in its 4th edition. Definitely worth owning, targeted to small and mid-size business owners & marketers. I like the very hands-on approach from this author. Guerilla Marketing is focused on outreach. What you can do to get your message out there to the right audience...understanding your product and market, then communicating with them as cheaply as possible. There is not a lot about what I'd call "pull" marketing like online search and social media. But this is good, get-down-to-business and get local marketing strategy. This book is great for small to medium sized business owners that sell products or services to a niche, or local audience. Key takeaways - read chapter 7 on saving marketing money.

At the risk of lengthening an already-long blog post, I'll give my 2 cents as a marketer. Consistency is hard, but it wins. Just look at the number of abandoned Twitter accounts, or in-progress online shopping carts, or direct mail in recycle bins. Regardless of the channel you choose, you have to be consistently there - talking, listening, informing - reaching out to people who are likely to buy what you sell. Be passionate. Remind people of how your product or service will make their life better. Then tell them again.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Twitter does not make you cool.

Lately I've been talking to clients, prospects, and colleagues about social media. Reading books and articles; really diving in to it. So many marketers are trying to get their brain around how to leverage this new channel. So many folks are writing articles about how social media is a game-changing paradigm shift for marketing. Here's my take: it's not.

What's really different about social media (sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or LinkedIn)? To some extent, you can't buy your way in. People have to WANT to listen to you - or they don't. Most any company with the cash can get lots of eyeballs with 30 seconds at Superbowl halftime. But which commercials actually realize benefit to that investment? The ones that have something interesting to SAY!

So, unless you're Ashton Kutcher, you better have a solid strategy going in to this social media world. Or your "tweets" (on any platform) will be falling on deaf ears. Here are some tips on what to put in your social media strategy:

1. Personality.
Your social media presence should have a real person (or people) attached to it. People have to care about and connect to the voice of your company.

2. Consistency.
You have to be there consistently, and be patient - it takes time to build credibility and presence in the social world. It's like dating. Don't make a marriage proposal on the first date.

3. Authenticity.
Be honest. People will instantly recognize if you're not.

4. Remarkability.
Do something that is unusual in your business - or unusual in general. Be incredibly funny, or candid, or opinionated, or generous. Then talk about it. This is the way to go "viral" and get broad-based attention.

I'm reading several books about social media marketing right now. Stay tuned to my blog for an overview of Twitter Power, The Twitter Revolution, The New Language of Marketing 2.0 and Guerilla Marketing next month.

Want marketing advice? Email me at ada@allegrolink.com - I'd love to help you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Book review: The Big Moo by Godin

What caught my eye about this little book (in the airport book store, natch) was the subtitle: "Stop Trying to be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable." This collection of ideas from 33 business and thought leaders was edited by Seth Godin. It builds on his idea of having a Purple Cow in your organization - a product/idea/way of doing things that is so unusual it cannot be ignored. buy on amazon link

There are 33 ideas in the book. I encourage you to read it for inspiration in your own business. Here are a few learnings that really struck a chord for me:

1. Name that ______.
Give something in your business/space a powerful name. Naming something brings focus and positions you as expert. (from p.17-18)

2. Stand for something or stand for nothing.
Businesses that genuinely put time, energy, and resources into a worthwhile cause will rise above the pack. (from p.19-21)

3. Eliminate your fear.
You may think you (or your company) is not creative, when what you really are is afraid. Most creativity is fostered by risk-taking and putting seemingly unrelated ideas together. Go ahead, try it! (from p.94-95)

4. Be nimble.
Access to assets or even distribution is not necessarily the way to win in this economy. Big businesses have big overhead and move slowly. If you are a smaller player, the ability to move, test, and get to market quickly gives you an edge. (from p.165)

5. You are ready.
The best time to start being remarkable is NOW! Once you focus on a path of doing something remarkable, it will enlighten and engergize you. You will wonder why you waited so long. At the end of the book (begins p.175) is a great checklist to get you moving.

The Big Moo's own Big Moo is that none of the authors were paid to contribute, AND 100% - that's right 100% - of author proceeds go directly to charity. They also encourage the sharing and even reprinting of ideas in the book. Moo, indeed!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Get out your bikini!

I just returned from a wonderful family trip to Cancun, Mexico. The incredible sun, sand, and turquoise water was so inspiring and beautiful. We were a big group. My husband, daughter (18 mos), brother, sister-in-law, and sister were all on vacation together. What fun!

Last year - or maybe longer ago - my sister-in-law gave me a new bathing suit. She is somewhat of a collector (dozens of suits on hand at all times). This particular one was a green bikini. I thanked her for the gift, and promptly crammed said suit deep in a drawer. 1) it was October in Chicago 2) I had no intention of putting on a 2-piece anytime soon.

I started thinking about that suit, and I packed it on the trip to Mexico. In fact, I realized that I could not recall even one time in my adult life when I had sported a bikini. This was not one of those "tankini" type things that shows 1" of midriff. We're talking the real deal - teeny, by my standards.

As you probably guessed by now, I put that little green thing on in Cancun. I thought - why not? Just because I am neither thin nor tan, and haven't shown my bare belly since giving birth - why should this stop me? And you know what - nothing happened. No one recoiled in horror, fainted, or even pointed! Turns out, everyone must be worried about their own cellulite instead of mine. Neat!

So what on earth does this have to do with marketing, anyway? Well, Dorothy (said the cowardly lion) - sometimes when you are vulnerable, take risks, and show a little of yourself, you get unexpected benefits. I walked a little sexier, felt a bit stronger after wearing that suit. Strange, but true.

Today I talked to a prospective financial services client on the phone for a while. His firm had recently been downgraded by a major ratings agency, and they were on the defensive. Seems like the marketing approach will be "go down to the bomb shelter and wait it out," or something to that effect. So to this guy (and others in his position) I say, "Maybe you ought to whip out that bikini and see what happens?"

And call me when you're ready to show some skin.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Chris Brogan's Picnic Etiquette

Just finished reading an excellent article by Chris Brogan about social media marketing, and "bringing wine to the public picnic" we know as Twitter. The picnic analogy is credited to someone at IBM, but Chris does an excellent job of expanding the idea. Read his article.

The reason I'm blogging about it is that the comments at the bottom of that article are VERY interesting! Many people agree, yah yah yah. There's some talk about authenticity in social media - an intriguing topic. But there are a number of comments saying essentially - whoa - don't give away our secrets. "you're handing out the playbook" to non-genuine scammer types... I think this is pretty funny. And frankly, wrong.

Because here's what I learned from my 17-month old daughter. If you pretend to be polite and respectful and interested in another person, you actually are! Especially when I want to yell - QUIT PLAYING WITH THE TOILET SEAT! - and instead I walk over and say "come out of the bathroom please, little one" and guide her out of the room. Then I realize that on the whole, she doesn't yell much either. Which is really really nice.

What I'm saying is that if everyone took Chris Brogan's advice and paid more attention to each other, were polite and interested, and generally kind - we'd have a fantastic Twitter picnic. Plus, all that wine!


Want to stay in touch?
Follow me on Twitter

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Twittering for a cause last night

For those of you who read yesterday's column about entering the room-full-of-millions-of-people called Twitter, this is an interesting continuation of the story.

What if someone you respected walked up to you in that very crowded room and asked you for 10 bucks for charity? This happened to me last night.

On Twitter I've been following Chris Brogan out of Boston. Anyone in social media knows this guy, and he's considered an expert. He has over 10,000 people "following" him, and yesterday happened to be his birthday. Last night Chris sent out an inconspicuous Tweet saying basically, "if you were wondering what to get for my birthday, give $10 at http://www.momitforward.com and let's get $1K to this charity in the next few hours" - I thought, cool!

So I went over to the site and gave $10 - then I messaged Chris to say Happy Birthday and cool idea! And then I Tweeted a message to my (much smaller group of) followers saying here's a neat charity - with the link - and I just gave $10.

Does anyone else see the power here?

I was really excited to see the MomItForward.com donation "thermometer" go up to $400, then $500, then over $1,000 within about 30 minutes on the site. Awesome.

In an ironic twist, this non-profit is involved in aid and microfinance for Moms in Africa. So that got me thinking about small sums of money that have a big impact. Here's the big idea - and it may not be a new one. What if legitimate charities had a "click to donate a buck" button on Facebook - or something like that? What if you could Paypal one dollar out of your bank account, in a single click - and do good?

I would do it. And I'd tell my friends. I bet there are thousands of people who would.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Combing through the Twitter chatter

What if you walked in to a room of say, a million or so people? What would you say? What conversation would you listen to?

Here's the thing - there's no microphone, there's no powerpoint, and everyone is talking at once. There's an odd thrill to having a conversation in a room that big, where anyone might pop in and listen - or talk.

But what if that room were a virtual room - not a room at all. And what if all those people were doing different things, living their lives and just giving random updates about what they are doing, reading, eating, whatever. - Now you have Twitter.

I've spent the last week or so trying to understand the value of this stream of Tweets (the short messages people enter on Twitter). What exactly can you do with it all?

1. Open an account (it's free) - it's the first step. Decide if it is a personal/professional/corporate "you" out there. This will effect your username and bio information.

2. Start searching. Go to http://search.twitter.com and enter some terms specific to your business - see what comes up. If you find a series of terms that work well, save them as a search so you can repeat - you can even send them to an RSS reader so they'll come up for you in Google or similar site.

3. See if people are talking about your company or product. What are they saying? Here is your chance to be a fly on the wall. Forget focus groups - these are real customers and prospects.

4. Start following people that interest you - see what they have to say. Don't be afraid to "unfollow" someone, it's not a "dis" like unfriending on Facebook.

5. Find items of interest and respond to the person's post. This will likely get you a few followers who are interested in what you have to say. Be honest, answer a question, give your opinion.

Congratulations - you've entered the world of Twitter. I'll see you there.
Follow me on Twitter if you like.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Getting started with Social Media

It's been a while since I did a "tips" column on the blog, and everyone seems to be talking (or tweeting) about social media (SM) these days. So I thought it would be a good time to publish some tips for companies that are getting ready to go Social.

1. Understand online personae - keep in mind that your customers may not find it appropriate to connect with you on Facebook. Perhaps following your Twitter feed or subscribing to a newsletter/blog makes more sense. People, especially in business, frequently maintain multiple online personalities. If active in social media, they understand the value of keeping personal and work, or even corporate and independent interests separate. Example: profile on LinkedIn versus Facebook

2. Go where your customers and prospects are - remember, the Internet is a searcher/buyer medium. Your strategy should include ways to "be found", rather than to reach out and find people proactively. Examples: SEO for google/yahoo, topic-driven searches, robust search-friendly online content.

3. Use humor when you can - nearly every viral campaign with outstanding results includes some element of humor. Find ways to poke fun at yourself. Examples: Blendtec's Will it Blend, and other YouTube phenomena

4. Open a channel to listen - chances are, people are talking about your product and/or company. Listen and respond to those people, or your competitors will. Examples: follow a group of customers/prospects on Twitter (passive), Salesforce.com "ideas" function (community building)

5. Devote time and resources to a social media plan. Even if it is a small scale effort, it will take attention from a marketing manager to implement and adapt. If you don't have the internal expertise, get advice or help from outside. Make sure your plan clearly articulates your objective for using social media. It will come in handy when you need to explain it to others, and helps you stay focused on why you're entering the SM space. Example: contact me (link at right) with your info and I'll email you a one-pager.

Want to hear brief but pithy commentary about the life of an agency gal on the move?
Follow me on Twitter

Monday, February 23, 2009

Marketing by type?

This week I watched a film on DVD called The Women (amazon link). As the opening credits were rolling, my husband said, "are there any men in this movie?" The answer - nope. Not even one. Of course there were references to men in these characters' lives - the cheating husband, the insensitive boss, overwhelmed father, etc. This movie was made for, about, and by... women.

It made me think about targeting. Marketing to women is not a new idea. Chick flicks have been around for a long time. But this film did something interesting. It played out some individual types of women that marketers could differentiate. If I were to define the main characters as consumer groups, here is what you would get:

The powerful professional (Annette Bening):
Extremely affluent, makes her own decisions, consumes high-end products and services, travels frequently, works long hours, connected 24/7 via blackberry, unmarried urban dweller.

The wealthy suburban mom (Meg Ryan):
Married, teen or tweens at home, may or may not work outside the home, active volunteer, socially and environmentally conscious, maintains a LOT of personal relationships, makes purchase decisions for her family.

The struggling boho mom (Debra Messing):
Separated, raising several children, lives in the city, has bohemian/hippie tendencies, creative, chaotic home life, will do anything to save money.

The literary lesbian (Jada Pinkett):
Outspoken, highly educated, looking for a good time, single/dating, travels in a lot of different social circles, technically savvy.

Note: I've excluded the "hot mistress" (Eva Mendes) and other supporting characters from the list because we really don't learn much about them in the story.

From a marketing perspective, it is interesting to note that (in the film) these different types of women are closely connected, although very different. In "real life" we (perhaps erroneously) assume more similarities among social groups of women. Still, it's hard to imagine a product or service that could appeal to all of these archetypes. So all women may be created equal - but they probably don't all shop together. :)

Monday, January 19, 2009

A great book for anyone interested in Social Media - Groundswell

I read this book in December and it's still on my mind. Groundswell (amazon link) by Li and Bernoff provides a framework for understanding social media (wikipedia definition). The main idea is that instead of the marketing models of the early broadcast radio and TV days - push advertising out to mass markets, get response, make money - that we must modify our approach to suit the advent of demand-driven consumerism.

The concept of the "Groundswell" is a product of our current level of connectedness via the Internet. Like word-of-mouth on steroids. This is an interesting extension of the writings of Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell. I'm intrigued by the idea of demand bubbling up from groups of vocal consumers - shaping products and even companies over time. This represents a fundamental change in the typical opinion of market demand (and research) for my industry. Most direct marketers will tell you "focus groups are crap" and "customers will tell you what you already know." On one point most marketers agree: the proof is in the purchase decision. But the Groundswell may very well give us a completely new way of genuinely listening and learning about the marketplace.

The most important and practical things to take away from this book are 1) doing an accurate assessment of your customers and prospects' online behaviors, 2) understanding the importance of responsiveness in Internet communications, and 3) how powerful honesty and transparency can be online.

1.) Figuring out whether your customers and prospects are active Internet users is key - you have to go where they are. Also, identifying key customers (i.e. product evangelists) who might generate online content about your products (good or bad) can be a powerful first step.

2.) Create a workflow that responds to online inquiries in a timely and logical way. Auto-responders do not count (these are merely a receipt of transaction, not a response). Respond to complaints honestly, quickly, and respectfully. You will be surprised how word "gets around" online about customer experiences.

3.) Be honest and show your customers what you are doing to improve or enhance their experience with your company. Share information and ideas using internal and external fora - yours or an existing one.

For Business-to-consumer marketers, Groundswell has particular relevance. I found the book very meaty. Even if you don't need the complex analysis and framework (thank you Harvard Business School) presented, you'll find this book worth reading.