This presentation is adapted from one I created for a client. To view the sample images you’ll need to expand the slide show. Just click on the arrows icon to expand the screen. To return to this page, hit the Escape key.
Google AdWords auctions, with their use of quality score and ad rank, can seem more difficult to understand than they really are. There is a logical to it. It doesn’t take an economist to explain how it all works, but let’s listen to and watch one anyway. Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, is featured in this video that explains how quality score and the auction works.
I find it rather charming to see an economist at a white board again. (I used to work for the Federal Reserve Bank.) No CGI here.
Learn why you could be bidding $4 for a keyword, but paying only $2.
People are often nervous about posting a real email address on their website. I want to encourage you to do just exactly that. And not only that. I want you to also include a name to go with that email address. Why?
Why do you want people to email you?
You almost always want people to have the option of emailing you. Or calling you. Or chatting via IM. It depends on your business and on your customers. Offering your visitors options; love having choices. It’s a way to set yourself apart from your competitors. If you have any visitors with language, motor control, or sight limitations, they will be delighted to have the choice of communication method that works best for them.
I have one client who knows that if she talks to a potential buyer on the phone, she can sell them more product and create a better relationship with that client than if the client used only her online order form. She can answer questions using the caller’s own terms and immediately address their needs and interests. She can make sure they get the product they need and that they will know how to use it. Responding to an email is not as immediately profitable, but it still allows a deeper relationship to develop. It’s more likely that if she sends another email later, the client will recognize the sender name and read her message.
I have another client whose domain hosting service made a change that caused her forms to break. If she hadn’t had her email available on her form page, she would have lost multiple buyers who took the extra effort to send her an email after receiving an error message from her form. Several customers sent her emails to place their order or to let her know of the error. She avoided lost sales and the additional stress and embarrassment she would have suffered if it she had had to discover and diagnose the problem herself.
An easily located email address can be very useful for you and your visitors if an error occurs on your site. I’ve had people take the effort of sending me a screen shot of the error they received which I could then forward to my IT colleagues. There are helpful people out there who will even let you know when you have a small typo on your site. Make it easy for them. They are like friends who will tell you about the spinach in your teeth.
People appreciate the accessibility of a human even if they are sitting at a computer.
Use a real name
I always encourage clients to post a real name to associate with an email address. My experience many years ago was that I’d get about 15 to 25 percent more comments if I was listed as Kristeen instead of as webmaster. People know how to communicate with other people and feel competent doing so. People are not sure how to deal with webmaster or sales or service. They wonder if they will reach a real person of if their email will go into the ether. With a real name, they know how to begin their email: “Dear Kristeen.”
What about complaints? Just between you and me, if I’m angry, my tone will be much harsher if I’m complaining to service rather than to JoAnne. Even if I’ve never met JoAnne, I want JoAnne to think well of me. So if you’re reading incoming complaints or questions, your job will be easier if you’re being addressed as JoAnne even your name is José.
Even if your service staff of four all accept email from a single address, there’s no reason your site can’t state something like “If you have a question regarding product performance, please contact email@example.com. One of our certified technicians, Kamiko, James, Guy, or Drew, will respond within 24 hours.”
People trust other people more than they trust automation. Seeing a name associated with your site tells the reader that someone is taking responsibility for that site and what it offers.
What about spam?
There are good spam filters available, but you can’t avoid spam if you publish an email address. I’ve just found that it’s easier to delete spam than it is to re-capture visitors who left your site without providing you with the opportunities for a better relationship with them.
I’d love to hear from you if you’ve tried publishing your email and found it problematic.
Your search logs provide great information for developing new content, clarifying and improving current content, and refining your pay per click campaigns. This is true for a blog or a website.
Where to find your search logs
Any analytics program will have a report on terms visitors used to find your site. In Google Analytics you’ll find the terms people used to find your site under Traffic Sources | Keywords. Some programs will also report on terms searched using your site search tool. If you’re using the Google site search engine on your site, uou’ll find those queries under Content | Site Search. Google Webmaster Tools will also give you a list of search queries. Bing Webmaster Center does not (although it provides information on backlinks, which is nice.)
Google Webmaster Tool provides this helpful summary of what it finds to be your top keywords. You’ll want to pay attention to it, too.
If you’re in a large organization you might have to speak with someone in IT to get access to search reports for your site. If your subdomain or section of the larger site has its own search function, be sure to ask for searches on your section of the site and for any section related to yours. You want to know if people in a related section are actually wanting your content and just got lost. For example, if you’re a college within a university, you might want to see searches on the admissions or library sites.
If you write a blog, you need as many content ideas as possible and you’re bound to find a few in your logs. Look for the longer set of terms. These are often long tail searches that don’t produce a lot of search results. I found an odd one on my personal blog site: age 32 eyelashes growing gray. I’m not sure why my site turned up for those terms, but if I wrote on topics about health or aging I’d know I could write a post about premature graying (or perceived premature graying.)
Search queries are also often written as complete questions to which you can respond. An example: does cutting holes in a shipping container weaken them. You might want to watch for these type of question queries if you’re creating or editing an FAQ.
The next step is to look at how people using these search terms behaved. For the eyelash example above I see a 100% bounce rate. I know that the searcher didn’t find anything of interest on my site. I’m a little concerned that the searcher for amount 0f liquid morphine to overdose did stay on my site. I might want to go back and re-read my postings on outdated medical advice to be sure I don’t have anything posted that would assist with a suicide.
Look at search terms where you have low bounce rates, high pages per visit, and high time on site numbers. This can give you a sense of what content is sticky enough to engage your visitors. You might want to expand on the concepts that surround these search terms.
It will also give you an idea of terms bringing you visitors, but where you don’t have the quality of content to keep them on your site. In the example above, if I wanted to sell videos featuring children’s rhymes, I might want to consider writing new copy. But first I’d run that search myself, locate the page that comes up in results, and then check on the overall performance of that page. It could be that people searching for choosing rhymes just wanted the words to “One Potato Two.” In that case I might want to consider adding a new section to my site that features words or lyrics to common children’s poems and rhymes. Or adding something similar to my Facebook page or adding a space where people could vote for favorite rhymes they sang as a child.
Look for interesting topics showing up. You can use these insights to guide your social media discussions. If people are searching for something unexpected, ask your community for their thoughts. Are the searches you’re seeing for pink outdoor paint reflecting a trend among designers, for example?
Site search terms are a great place to locate synonyms you might want to use in your copy. They might even give you an idea of what type of people are not seeing the terms they expect. For example, someone might be searching for plantain lily when you always refer to that plant as a hosta.
You have a few choices to make when you see synonyms you’re not using in your content turn up in your logs.
- If you have access to the search appliance, add that term and your preferred synonym to the thesaurus or create a keymatch term. Or ask your IT staff if they can make this update to your search tool for you. You want to be sure that someone searching for plantain lily sees search results as if they searched for hosta.
- Review your navigation. If people are using your site search to find pages that should be easily accessible from your navigation, you know you need to do some user testing. If you’re in an industry which uses a lot of jargon and you might find these synonyms to be worth testing with your desired audiences to see if they are better recognized or understood. Using your audience’s language is always preferred.
- Look at your page headings and titles in terms of terms that are showing up. Are you using these same terms or keywords? How about in your meta descriptions?
Search engine marketing
If you are seeing terms in a search query report that have absolutely nothing to do with your product or service, add them to your keywords as negative keywords. That way you won’t be paying for clicks on hickory switch when you only sell hickory nuts.
Check your keyword reports to see which keywords are showing good conversions and consider expanding your content around those terms. Again, look at those long search phrases for the long tail keywords to exploit.
You might also spot a few keywords in your logs that you’ll want to add to the keywords you bid on in your advertising.
You might even find a clue to a small niche market under-served by you or your competitors.
Plus, looking through these logs can be entertaining. You might be surprised by the odd things people search for. Just remember that if you’re looking at your own site’s search logs, there will always be a few searches by people thinking they are searching the entire web universe. They didn’t really think you’d have world cup soccer scores on your farm equipment sales site. But the search for bunny fur hair dye remover might be legitimate.
Here are a few examples of what I’ve been reading.
A great reminder of the importance of keyword research—ongoing keyword research. Ongoing keyword research that drives online marketing strategy and activity. Also reminders about the importance of writing effective calls to action (one I seem to find much easier to create for my clients than for myself) and measuring the source of your leads.
Content strategy is, in fact, the next big thing, Brain Traffic
Content strategy takes planning and, well, a strategy. I’ve worked where every content contributor had their own specific goal and nothing was reviewed against a larger plan. The result was disjointed content and confused readers. I’ve worked where the strategy was rather self-serving and personality-based, and while that was not a strategy I really believed in, our readers had a good experience and it was easy to judge when we were successful. Content has been king for a long time and now expects more from his subjects than just random offerings. He wants infrastructure to support it. He wants proof that it’s working.
This article is for the serious blogger and the dabbler, too, if the dabbler wants to grow his or her readership. I find that blogging is the hardest thing I ask of my clients. Number 11 seems written just for them. Oh, and for me.
New site hierarchies display in search results, Official Google Blog
Breadcrumbs seem to go in and out of fashion. Now there’s another reason to use them.
4 Ways To Monitor Your Facebook Page Traffic, All Facebook
This helpful article shows how to track traffic in addition to the page insights tool provided by Facebook. It covers WebTrends, Google Analytics and Core Metrics tools.
There are many statistics you can track for your website and it can be confusing as to which ones really matter. And while the answer for you is probably “it depends on your needs” there are certainly some stats that everyone should watch. Some of these are stats you can easily be glanced at for reassurance that there are no new big problems on your site. Others answers questions about the effectiveness of your marketing and content.
1. Trend lines
Analytics data is most reliable when you’re looking at trends. If you see any number taking a big jump up or down you know that you have something you need to investigate. For example, if visits from your best lead generating site take a sudden dive, you need to look again at that site and the link they have given you. Perhaps the site has gone down or been redesigned.
2. Inbound links/traffic sources
This stat answers the following simple questions: Where are people coming from when they visit your site? Is that link you just requested from your professional association providing you with any traffic or leads? Are the ads you’re paying for bringing you any traffic? Are links in your tweets sending viewers your way? How about your LinkedIn profile and business page? Is there someone you should thank for their new link to your site?
What keywords are people using to find your site? Are they the keywords you optimized your site for? Are they the keywords you’re bidding on for your ad campaign? Are there keywords you didn’t expect and around which more content could be created? If you’re a new business you’ll certainly want to see an increasing number of searches for your company name. If you’ve been around for a bit, you’ll be interested in seeing what the more atypical, but accurate, keywords are. Those are clues to new terms you could be optimizing for or bidding for in your PPC campaign.
What’s your most popular content? What pages might be acting as your home page? Is it time to update some of your more popular pages? Is that great new page you added to your site getting any traffic? Are your landing pages getting high numbers? Is there a page drawing a lot of traffic that needs a new call to action on it to make it pay off even more? Is there a page that you just threw up in a hurry that’s getting a lot of traffic and should be re-written and updated? Did your last email generate the traffic you expected to your new offer page?
5. Bounce rate
I want you to spend some real time with this stat. This tells you what pages are drawing visitors that then immediately flee from your site. Don’t panic if you have a high bounce rate for repeat visitors to your blog entries because you can expect those visitors to come, read your latest entry, and then leave without viewing the content they read last week. But if the landing page for your ad has a 50 percent bounce rate you know you’re in trouble. That’s when you dig a little deeper to see if the keywords and ad copy bringing people to that site are appropriate. You look at the content on your landing page and look at your call to action to see if it’s good enough to draw people deeper into the site. You look at your content and design and navigation. You ask someone else to look at your landing page. You look at the time people spent on that page to try to determine if they might have read it or not. You add related links to pages deeper in your site or change your offer or do something else to draw visitors further into your site.
6. Number of page views
This can be a confusing stat. If you’ve just redesigned your site it can be very hard to know if a higher number of page views is a good or bad sign. It might be that visitors are being drawn deeper into your site or they could be clicking around because they are hopelessly lost. I’d recommend some usability testing to be sure your visitors are leaving your site informed rather than frustrated. This stat might be most important to site owners who are moving visitors through a sales funnel on their site or who have a goal of educating their visitors. You might know that the more interaction someone has with your site, the more likely you will make a sale, get them to take another action, or change their opinion.
7. New visitors
This number won’t be exact, but you’ll want to look at trends again. Any big drop is a reason for concern and investigation. If you have new site you definitely want to see this number trending upwards. If you’re looking for visitor loyalty or you know that your buyers tend to do a lot of research before they buy, then you may be happier with higher return visitor numbers. But for those trying to grow a business, you’ll want plenty of new visitors. And you’re going to want to know what content is drawing them in.
Note: Absolute unique visitors is a more accurate metric than new visitors. But since we’re looking at trends at this point, don’t worry too much about that.
8. Internal search terms
If you have search on your site, this report can be full of insights for you. You can find terms you didn’t expect people to be using, you can get an idea of what areas of your site are hard to locate through navigation, you can discover content your visitors are expecting to see but aren’t finding. It can be fun to discover who the stars in your company are by looking at the number of searches for them by name. Are there search terms that you should turn into keywords for optimizing your site?
9. Time on page/time on site
Reporting tools can’t compute the time a visitor spent on the last page they viewed (because there is no subsequent page visit to measure against) but this is still a useful metric. You’ll get an idea of which pages capture a reader’s interest and which ones they skip right past. Do the numbers match your expectations? How about the expectations of your sales team? Time on site can be a measure of how engaging your site is, but it can also indicate people coming to your site and confidently selecting links only to be confused by them and less confidently moving to another link until they give up.
10. Goals and conversions
I saved the best for number ten. You have goals for your site, right? All these stats mean very little if no one coming to your site actually makes a purchase, a call, a comment or whatever action it is you want readers to take. Google Analytics and other tools allow you to track many of your goals. So you’ll want to look at goals such as number of people seeing the thank you page for signing up for your newsletter or the confirmation page for a purchase. Or you might want to track the number of downloads of your most recent report or the number of people who viewed a video past the 2 minute mark. You can usually take a look at conversion funnels from analytic packages, too, and discover if there are any places where you have too many people abandoning that funnel.
11. Social media posts
I haven’t found any tool that tracks this as well as I would like so this is a metric you should track but might have trouble tracking. You’ll want to know if you’re being talked about and what people are saying. You should have specific social media goals that you can measure and track. Are you looking for referrals, links, positive mentions, leads or an additional method of service? You can also get a few clues as to what sites/media you should be tracking after investigating your traffic sources. If you’re seeing a lot of traffic from one social source then you certainly want to monitor it carefully. Most social media sites have tools for that. Feedburner can be helpful in tracking RSS feeds. Your blogging tool most likely has some reporting feature that will let you track the number of comments per blog entry, at least. Facebook provides stats for fan pages. Socialmention.com is another tool you might try to follow the social media world’s interest in your site or your product.
There are other stats you can track and which provider you with more specific and deeper insights. But these should give you a good overview of how your site is performing.
A critical element to any SEO or online marketing strategy is obtaining links to your site. You want people to talk about you and to send their friends and viewers your way. Here are a few ways to entice those links. Think content, content, content and types of content. And consider all the ways you can let people know that the content is available.
Content worth sharing
No matter what type of content you’re creating it has to make the person or site linking to it look good. Otherwise why should they provide the link? It has to address your audience and their needs and interests. Ask yourself these questions as you write:
- Is this relevant to my target audience? Is this something they care about? Does this answer a concern that keeps them awake at night?
- Does this help build relationships?
- Is this immediately useful?
- Does this build upon the common interests of my readers?
- Is this novel and unique? A “wow” factor really helps to get your content forwarded and talked about.
- Is it funny?
- Is it emotional? Can the reader feel your passion? Can you tell a good story?
- Is it positive and optimistic?
- Is this something I feel strongly about?
Articles, white papers, DIY guides, product specifications
Many people are online because they have a problem and are looking for an answer. Some will want a quick and dirty answer. Others will want a thorough and detailed answer. Often it will be appropriate for you to write in both styles for the same content. You may want to create one type of article for submission to another site as a guest blog entry, for example, and have a more detailed article on your own site. Then include a link for more information to your own site (but check on the rules of the publishing site first.)
These are the easiest links to obtain because you are creating them. There are plenty of places for you to create profiles for you or the public faces of your company. Be sure LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social site profiles include links to your website. They can be links to your home page, or to the company blog, or to the profile you keep on your website. If someone in your company has a speaking engagement then be sure to have a profile of them on your site and give that link to the people working on the publicity for the event.
The press release may or not be dying, but if you’re doing or announcing something worthy of a press release be sure you’re including relevant links for the press to use on their own sites. Include the URL for a relevant photo essay on your site, or for a page of additional resources, or for a video. If the press doesn’t pick up your story, try presenting it to your industry association.
You probably have a standard signature file you use when sending email. But do you have one to use when you’re posting to forums or discussion groups? Do you rethink the link you provide before you send the email or post the comment? You might want to customize the link depending on the content of your message.
Your local listings
You may sell your product or service throughout the nation, but that doesn’t mean that the folks at home don’t deserve to see your listing in local directories. Obtain listings from wherever you have a physical address.
Most professional or industry associations have a listing for their members. Be sure to use it. For both search engines and potential buyers/clients, a link from an association implies your trustworthiness.
If you post content to a site focused on media type, like a video to YouTube or a presentation to SlideShare, there’s usually an opportunity for you to include a link in the description or in the media itself.
All these links appearing in numerous places and which keep appearing over time inform search engines that your content is valued. It also means that your links are more likely to appear in different types of searches. People aren’t just searching on Google any longer. Sometimes your potential customers are searching on Twitter or a review site. You want your links to appear anywhere your intended audience might be.
One more piece of advice: Pay attention to your keywords when you are writing your own links or suggesting links for others. You want those keywords in your links. In other words, try for “hand-painted, customized sinks from Sinks-R-Us.com” rather than just “Sinks-R-Us.com.”
And keep at it. You’ll see results.
We all want positive attention and we want it for our websites, too. We all turn to search engines for answers and direction these days. Search engine optimization (SEO) provides a competitive advantage in attracting visitors and customers. In addition, SEO produces clear and measurable returns in terms of number of visitors, their activity on the site and purchases made.
If you’re a small business just starting out or a large company with a strong brand, the need for ongoing SEO is still there. You want to show up in searches for your company name, for your product or service, for your locality, for specialty markets—however your potential or loyal customers might look for you.
When you start or rebrand a business or non-profit
The SEO process can begin as soon as you know what your company will deliver and who you want for customers. Even before you have a web site, you should have some thoughts on this. Communicate them to the designer of your new or redesigned web site. And when you’re interviewing designers or programmers, ask them what they will do to make sure their design does not harm or hamper SEO. Even if you’re not sure if the answer you get is correct, you’ll know if you hear any hemming and hawing on the issue. If your designer wants to do everything in Flash and can’t tell you how he or she will make it SEO friendly, then move on to the next designer. Your programmer should be able to tell you how she or he will create pages that can be easily read and understood by both humans and search engines.
Having a plan for your SEO early will allow you to use that plan in your site’s architecture. For instance, if you’ll be selling an entire selection of door knobs, you should know what term you’ll be using for SEO. Will you be optimizing for “door levers,” “door knobs” or “lock sets”? Name your directory and files with the most appropriate term(s).
Writers for your site’s content will want to know your SEO strategy. If you’re going to optimize for an industry term instead of a general term (like cardiomyopathy instead of heart disease), your content producers need to know. They need to know what terms to use in headlines and photo captions. Conversely, your subject experts need to keep your SEO adviser informed of current jargon and interest trends.
SEO insights often generate ideas for new site content. A good SEO adviser can also provide statistics that show how successful different pieces of content or different writers have been. Your SEO adviser can often help turn a poorly performing piece of content into one more frequently visited and read.
Community of sites
Obtaining well-worded inbound links to your site is crucial to good SEO. Identifying sites that could and should link to yours is something that can be researched even before your site is completed. Knowing your marketing strategy will help with this and with the timing of requesting those links. Identification of your major competitors and their strategies can also begin this early. While much of this research was conducted when you produced your first business plan, competitive research should be an on-going process that continually informs business decisions, including SEO.
When you’re considering a new CMS
A new CMS can and will cause a lot of stress in your office. Keep some of it to a minimum by making sure that page templates facilitate content optimization. In other words, you should be able to control title and heading tags, meta tags, and alt tags. Make sure you have options for including user generated content and social media, keeping in mind that new social media tools and sites will be coming in the future.
When sales and sales leads are being evaluated
Data from your site’s analytics program, from your SEO adviser, and from your sales team will all help target phrases to generate more visits and inquiries from the people most likely to convert into a sale. Providing a positive experience before and after purchase, creating and fostering conversations around your brand, and getting coverage on trusted websites can contribute to improved search engine rankings and sales.
SEO isn’t an isolated marketing tactic. It’s an ongoing process to be reviewed, updated, and evaluated regularly in collaboration with other business functions when possible.
You know that keywords are critical, but how do you select the best ones?
There are several tools out there which can help you, thankfully, because optimizing your site and managing your advertising and linking campaigns are ongoing processes.
Just who are you and what do you do?
Before you start looking at tools, begin with a simple description like this one: My company provides online learning products for the insurance industry. Keywords = my name (or another’s name that is, or should be, recognized in your market), company name, online learning (and synonyms like e-learning, Internet training, just-in-time education), insurance (and related market segments like agents, independent agents, adjusters, casualty, health, etc.) You don’t have to be exhaustive with your list at this point.
Next identify your major online competitors. They might not be the same organizations you compete with in the physical world.
Tools to expand or focus your keyword list
- Your competitors. Often you can find use their own website’s source code to learn what keywords they see as important. Go to their home page and then use your browser’s tools to view the page source. You’ll often find something like this:
<meta name="keywords" content="Online Continuing Education Classes, Claims Adjuster Training, Insurance Claims Adjuster Online Training" />
Now you can add keywords like “continuing education” to your list.
Tools like Keyword Spy can give you even greater insight into your competition. Not only does this tool give you an idea of what keywords each of your competitors are paying for, they also let you see a selection of their text ads.
- Google’s Search-based Keyword Tool provides great insight. Google knows what people search for and they share this information for free. Put in your competitor’s URL and see their keywords, what the competition for those keywords looks like in terms of paying for that keyword through AdWords, and what pages of theirs Google extracted those keywords from. This can give you ideas for website and blog content as well as keywords.
- Keyword suggestion tools. You can go to a site like WordTracker or keep using Google. If you enter keywords without a website address in the Google tool, you’ll see related terms.
- Your own search log. If you have a search function on your site, you have a priceless tool for finding keywords that you’re failing with. You may be failing in terms of keywords used in your navigation, or in terms of not making your keywords prominent enough in your copy, or in terms of an overlooked audience that uses a slightly different term than you are using.
- Your PPC account. Whether you use AdWords or something else, you should be able to find a listing in their tool of more keywords they’d really like you to purchase.
Watch for keyword suggestions that don’t relate to your product or service. If you decide to run an AdWords or other PPC campaign, those words will come in handy because you’ll want to exclude them from your broad keyword lists.
The best of these tools will allow you to export suggested keywords to a CSV or Excel file.
Keywords and trigger words
Keywords are useful for SEO and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. They aren’t necessarily as helpful for choosing the subject line of an email, or selecting a new topic for discussion on a social media site. They will tell you that “online learning” is a much more popular search than “e-learning” but it tells you nothing about anyone’s emotional response to the term, nor about their understanding of the term.
I think of trigger words as words that make me take action. So “free” and “new” and “exclusive offer” are good trigger words for me. Trigger words are what you want to use when you want someone to click. They are what you use in your PPC text ad, in your calls to action on your website, and in your email subject lines. Your keyword list won’t tell you that “Ten ways to save money with Brand X” will get more people clicking than “Brand X is your best choice.”
Your keyword list can help you with navigation and other web copy, however. If you know that people are coming to your site using the keywords “online learning for insurance agents” then you know that you need a web page that highlights that string of words. If people search, find your site, click on it and don’t see the terms they searched for, they are going to bounce right out of your site and onto the next.
You want to use the most common terms from your keyword list as your navigation. If people don’t search for e-learning, then don’t use that term in your navigation. It might be an inexpensive keyword for your ad campaign, but it’s not a good choice for your navigation. People won’t even notice it. They might know what it means once you point it out to them, but they won’t be looking for it on their own. They want to see their own words, not yours.
Testing, testing, testing.
Whether you’re looking at ad copy or a navigational link, the best insights will come from testing options out with your audience. This can be through multivariate testing of an ad campaign’s landing page, or by prototyping or field testing a new navigational structure and asking real people to use it and tell you what they think. If you write an ad and get a high click through rate but a low conversion, you know you’ve just lost money. The same is really true if you write a link and no one clicks on it because they don’t know where it will take them (like “click here”) or because it takes them somewhere unexpected and they leave frustrated.
Experts can help you discover opportunities and provide great ideas to try, the CEO can enforce his or her own opinions, but it’s the marketplace and your audience that have the last word. If you listen, they will tell you what you need to know.
Acquisition, retention, referral
These are three of the big challenges for businesses. How do you get people interested enough in your product or service that they buy? Once they do buy, how do you keep them engaged and interested? Now that you’ve impressed them with your quality, how can you encourage them to talk about it and bring you new customers?
Catch their attention
Even before you try to get someone’s attention you have to know where they are. Do the people you want to reach naturally congregate anywhere either online of off? What do they all share in common? You might know that over 100 people in the U.S. view YouTube, but does that matter for you? It certainly makes it worth checking to find out. You might think that no one will go to YouTube to learn anything about carpet cleaning, but there are over 6000 videos posted—many with over 5,000 views.
If you know where to find your potential customers (readers, buyers, contributors, benefactors), how do you earn their attention? Teachers know the answer to this. You do the unexpected. You use humor. You get the students (or your customers) involved. Find something they are already interested in and build on that.You make yourself and your product relevant and timely. You make things personal and emotional. You engage every sense you can. (See Sonic Branding for adding sound to your brand attributes.)
You can apply these lessons to writing headlines, producing videos, hosting events, or to any engaging marketing effort. For example, a carpet cleaning company might use a headline like “Carousing with your carpet cleaner,” post a video of a burlesque dancer performing with a vacuum, and follow up by asking for submissions of home videos of people imitating that performance in their own homes. Then you can follow up with message about how your product is the best for after-party cleanup chores. (I know I’d vacuum a lot more if I could pretend it was fun and sexy.)
If you want a real world example, see Burberry’s latest trenchcoat campaign.
Be where you customers are now and where they might be in the future. You don’t foresee anyone searching on Flickr your product? Perhaps you don’t need to be there. But you do need to own your own brand name there. Don’t let someone else grab it. (I also suggest posting a few images there anyway for use by journalists and bloggers who want an image to print or post. )
Don’t forget the basics either. You’re networking face-to-face in your industry, right? You have a great signature line for your email. And, of course, you’ve invested in SEO so people can find you. You haven’t hidden your contact information: phone, email, Twitter, etc.
Create or join the flock
You’ve created that first inexpensive, fun, rewarding or flattering experience with your brand. Now how do you keep folks interested?
First let’s consider if this even a marketing issue. Couldn’t it be left up to customer service and sales staff? They certainly have their leadership role, but marketing is still important.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who lives with someone who doesn’t stop researching his purchase after it’s been made. I married a guy who wants continued reassurance that he made the best choice. He wants plenty of reasons why he can keep bragging to his friends. He wants his purchases to support his sense of himself as smart, cutting edge, and elite. Your customers want that, too.
Offering an upgrade discount, adding another testimonial or white paper to your website, hosting a group or a forum for people who buy your product, or just sending a thank-you are all examples of how marketing can stay involved in the customer relationship. The sales staff will know what keeps your customers interested, what problems they might still need to solve, and what might offend them. They might even have a few great stories that could be shared with other customers. Together you evaluate the entire sales funnel and how each group can contribute to and evaluate it.
Of course, both your marketing and sales staff is listening to your customers. But that becomes a lot easier if you can drop by their hang outs and talk with them regularly and directly. Your customers want to know that you are taking their needs and wants into consideration when making decisions, so they often welcome a short poll or simple question to answer and discuss. Each time you add value to a conversation started by your customers, or put them in touch with each other, you are adding value to that community and that community will notice. You can make them feel special by providing a special offer just for them. People respond really well to stories and to getting something special.
Maybe there isn’t a community of users yet so you can try to create one. You just have to locate fertile territory. For example, a casual search on Twitter provided me with a lead for one of my clients—a lead who had already expressed a desire to buy but just didn’t know how. She couldn’t find a community who could tell her where to find suppliers or give her any advice. This probably means that we won’t be able to build a community around my client’s company, but will have to build one that will educate people about her product instead. Even though that might mean creating a community open to her competitors, hers will be the company identified with creating and supporting this new community. Her company can aspire to the role of hostess whom everyone looks to to lead the conversation and make introductions. (You might not remember everyone at a party, but you’ll certainly remember your host.)
Encourage a missionary fervor
Regular engagement of your customers can encourage them and give them the language and tools to keep on talking—about you and about your product or services. If you add more content to your website, blog, or fan page that builds on what you’ve learned from listening, you’ve made a start. The next step is to simple make it easy for them to share that content by adding social bookmarking tools or asking readers to email a friend.
You can also provide your customers with ways to self identify as fans of yours. A Facebook fan page is one way, but t-shirts also still work for some markets. You probably won’t get anyone to tattoo your brand on their arm, but you can give them graphics, icons, tools, videos and great content they will want to share.
Take advantage of discussions you already know are happening and host a comfortable space to continue and enlarge that discussion. For example Hershey created the Cookie Exchange network. Discussions are not exclusively about Hershey but you can bet that the participants feel more warmly toward its brand and keep it top of mind while they’re there. Hershey gave their customers a great reason to reach out to their friends and welcome them to the party. You, too can make more of whatever it is that your customers enjoy, respect, or use.
Hershey is providing an experience along with their product. They have proven that they are still interested even after they’ve made their sale. If you show you care, you’ll be encouraging people to talk. We all love it when people pay attention to us and make us feel special.
Don’t be afraid to join in discussions that you didn’t start, but that you can spice up. You don’t have to be the life of the party if that’s not your style. You simply have to be interested and interesting. You have to provide value to your customers’ communities. You might want to start just by answering questions at LinkedIn’s Questions and Answers section, or Yahoo’s Answers or wherever you’ve found your customers hang out.
Just keep surprising your customers with good service, respect, your interest, your understanding and with the unexpected.