Don’t Chase the Extremes

My great aunt loves Mountain Dew. Let me clarify: my soon-to-be 100-year-old great aunt LOVES Mountain Dew. Do you remember that one commercial Mountain Dew had that really zeroed in on the 90+ crowd? Nope. You don’t. Why not? Because it never happened. Mountain Dew has their target demographic and they don’t chase the extremes.

Is Mountain Dew upset that Auntie Stella drinks their soda? Not likely. Their target demographic is likely males ages 34 and under. A 99 year old drinking their soda would be considered an extreme, far removed from their target demographic. Every now and then I’ll see a local company we work with that is chasing after those extremes. They’ll rationalize it by saying, “You know that one time we had this one person who was well outside our target demographic buy our product – let’s go after more of them!” If it was more than a one-off purchase from non-targeted demographic and had some regularity to it, then maybe we could justify marketing to that extreme. But for a one-off purchase, or even just a few of them, it’s not wise to take your focus off your target demographic.

Think of it in another way: when you go to a concert, you might love that one rare, unreleased song off of an earlier album. You might be just one of three people in the crowd who loves that song. Chances are slim that the band will play that song for three people and jeopardize losing the rest of the masses. (I’m still hoping that one of these times I see Def Leppard I’ll get to hear, ‘When the Walls Came Tumbling Down’ from their first album, but being as I’m one of probably 2 people in a crowd of 10,000 that wants to hear that song, I’m not holding my breath.)

Your target demographic, your core group of consumers and purchasers, are the ones who helped build your company up to what it is and will help you build it into everything it can be. Focus on that core group; send them well-crafted messages and promotions tailored to their desires, and specific to their needs. Market to that group; don’t chase the extremes.

Customer Service is Not a Selling Point

There are a few things that really drive me bonkers: people talking in movies, ordering a regular large coffee at Starbucks, decaf coffee, and businesses boasting about how great their customer service is.

Just like decaf coffee isn’t really coffee, customer service isn’t really a marketing point for your business. Providing excellent customer service isn’t a marketing angle; offering your customers great service is simply something every business needs to do in order to be successful. The only way people will know if your customer service is really all that great is if they call several times – and that usually means your product or service wasn’t that great!

If you own a plumbing company and you can get a plumber out to a house or business in one hour or less, your selling point isn’t customer service – it’s your ability to have a plumber on the scene to get the problem fixed in an hour or less.

There is a coffee shop I like to frequent in Green Bay that does a great job with this. They don’t market that they have the best customer service. They market that they have the best baristas who are always happy to help you find the drink you are looking for.

Customer service is important for any business, but it isn’t a marketing point. Should you spend time, money, and other resources on developing great customer service? YES! Absolutely – but customer service isn’t your selling point. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find an actually unique selling point that you can easily market and turn into sales.

Need More Readable Content?

Writing content can be a bit of a laborious chore. For many readers, reading the content we write can also be a laborious chore. If you simply write paragraph after paragraph of content, odds are your site users aren’t going to eagerly read through it all. However, there are a couple of things you can do to make your text more readable.

Hire a Copywriter

One of the obvious things is to have a skilled writer proofread your writing. When a professional copywriter proofreads your content, they’ll check for the big issues – spelling and grammar – but they can also identify ways to make your writing easier to read. For example, keep your sentences simple. Short, uncomplicated sentences are easier to read. The same principle applies to your words. You could say, “The region of the atmosphere and outer space seen from earth is sky is azure…” – or you can say, “The sky is blue.” Which one gets your point across in the most clear, concise way? That’s the one to use.

In addition, there are some great free tools out there that can help you improve your writing. Grammarly, Grammar Girl, and Virtual Writing Tutor are three that come to mind. You can go to most of these for writing tips as well as just to get an answer for a specific issue, like the differences between the words “there”, “their” and “they’re”, or “your” and “you’re”.

Use Images

If you don’t have access to a copywriter, there are a few other tricks that can help make your content easy to read. One thing you’ll find with just about every human being is that they’re visual beings. They would prefer to see something rather than read it. Even if it’s something as simple as including a photo to break up the content, the image can provide your user with something different to focus on for a moment. Images don’t have to mean strictly photos, either – charts and graphs are also a great way to reiterate the message you’re trying to get across.

Use Headings

Line after line of text can get a bit long. Doing something as simple as adding in headings with a larger or different font can be enough to break up content and make it more readable. Keep in mind that search engines tend to put greater significance on the words in a heading. Because of this, headings can be a great spot to add in some of your keywords for the given page as well.

On some pages, there might be certain portions of text that a user is looking for. By having specific headings set up, you can help those users more easily find exactly what they’re looking for on the page.

Some pages on your site might end up having a lot of content. If that content doesn’t need to be all on one page, it can be broken up to create additional pages, which helps visually and that can help, but sometimes it does need to all be on one page. Especially when you have pages with more information on them, working with a copywriter, using images, and using headings can help make your content more readable. More readable content tends to lead to higher conversion rates.

Repetition Repetition Repetition

Let’s see how you can do on a simple little quiz! Fill in the blanks below.

Bye, bye Miss American _____
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was _____
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and _____
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I _____

Did you answer pie, dry, rye, die? I’m guessing you can recognize the song pretty easily as, “American Pie” by Don McLean. When was the last time you heard that song on the radio? When was the last time you had “American Pie” come up on your iPod? I’m guessing it’s been a while. Even though you probably haven’t heard it recently, you likely knew the missing words to the song. Why? Because of repetition. You’ve simply heard the song over and over again, countless times. Repetition helps your brain hold onto the words of a famous song that charted in 1972. Repetition is also key to the marketing messages of your business.

I’ve heard a few business owners complain that their radio or TV commercial didn’t generate any interest for their business. Sure, sometimes it’s a poorly worded or structured ad, but more often it’s because the ad wasn’t allowed to run long enough to generate any repetition. I’m not saying all of your commercials need to stick in your audience’s head like a hit song will, but it does takes more than a few exposures to an ad for it to “click” with a user.

The same principle applies to online ads that you might run. Whether it is a Google AdWords campaign or a Facebook post, it is repetition that will make your message stick. I’m by no means saying to make the same post on Facebook every day, but on the other hand, don’t think that making a few random posts will provide you with a successful social media presence.

Ensuring that your marketing message gets through to potential customers requires more than just thorough ads. Using a consistent tagline through your business cards, brochures, flyers, letterhead, email signatures, and anywhere else it can be used, is a big help as well.

If you see that your marketing message doesn’t seem to be catching on, before you scrap the message you are sending, look at how often you are sending out that message. Very few consumers will catch on to marketing messages at their first exposure. Keep delivering that message over and over again through a wide variety of different delivery methods.

Everyone Is In Sales

Whichever company someone works for, whatever position they hold: everyone works in sales. Whether directly or indirectly, the actions of any member of a company will lead to increased or decreased business transactions. No matter the role, from barista to a janitor, everyone is in sales. Let me give you a couple of examples of both good and bad sales people.

Let’s start with an example of someone in sales who didn’t do such a great job. I stopped at a well known nationwide coffee shop, one of the supposed stars of the industry. After waiting for what seemed like 3 hours in line I finally got up front to the barista to place my order. Problem was, I really didn’t know what I wanted. Simple solution: I asked the salesperson (the barista) what she recommended. Her response was not what I was looking for. She awkwardly replied, “The menu is on the board…” as she pointed to the 100,000,000 (probably an exaggeration) options they had for drinks. She could have recommended something liked the a grande vanilla latte with soy milk with caramel drizzle and I would have ordered it. Instead, I simply took a small coffee to go. I realize that not too many people go to a coffee shop and don’t know what they want, but they missed a chance to sell me a $7.00 drink; instead, I took a $1.50 coffee to go

So what does a good sales person (that isn’t really a salesperson) look like? I’m in California right now for a training program, and the hotel has a continental breakfast. Here in the hotel, I met an employee, a janitor/maintenance worker who is an amazing salesperson. Sitting at a table across from me was a group of people that didn’t push their chairs back in as nicely as some of the other tables’ customers did. The maintenance guy came and moved the chairs to how they should be. When I was getting up to put my plate in the collection bin and throw my trash away, he very quickly said, “No no, please, let me.” and took the plate. Is he in sales? Nope. I saw him earlier in the morning doing some work on a piece of trim on the wall that wasn’t quite right. I’ve since then seen him doing other maintenance and repair projects around the hotel, and while his job title might not say it, his actions gave an excellent example of someone being a great salesperson. Based, in part, on his actions, if I’m back in Ontario, California at some point int he future, I would have no problem staying at the Azure Hotel, and would recommend it to anyone.

The lesson here is that even if your title or your business card doesn’t say that you are in sales, you are! Whether it’s directly involved with calling customers or knocking on doors, everyone is in sales.

Branding Through Facebook Alone

Most of us have used Facebook at one point or another, and it’s great for a lot of things. For personal use, it’s great for keeping in touch with friends and family and/or sharing photos of a grumpy cat. For business, it’s a great way to showcase your products and services, provide helpful and useful information, and establish yourself as an industry leader. One thing it’s not particularly good for is establishing and showcasing your business brand.

There are many things that go into establishing your business brand and brand image. Too often, we still see businesses that opt to have Facebook as the only online face of their business – and as I mentioned earlier, Facebook is pretty horrible at establishing a brand. There are several reasons for this.

One of the obvious issues with having Facebook as the only online existence for your company is that the posts you make on Facebook have a rather short lifetime. Within a few hours, that post is irrelevant. Even if someone marks your page to have it show first, if the content is too old (merely a few hours), that post won’t show up. Plus, when your followers do see your post, they are very possibly seeing another post from a competitor right away.

The biggest issue with attempting to brand your business through Facebook alone is that you have very little control over the presentation. Yes, you can add in your own photos, but you’re oftentimes only adding one photo per post. Additionally, you’re probably only posting once or twice a day. You have no control over things like background colors, font selection, font color or slideshow images, and only limited options for a strong call to action.

I’m by no means arguing against having a Facebook business page or using one on a regular basis. It serves as a great avenue for building a connection with an audience and your page’s followers, but at the end of the day, Facebook alone is a very poor avenue for establishing a company brand and image: there really is no social media platform that will replace your business website for that purpose. Social media platforms can certainly enhance your brand and image, but a dedicated website is needed to help establish that brand in the first place.

KIS Your Banner Stands

Going to trade shows and expos can be a lot of fun for a business owner. They are a great way to introduce your company to potential clients. When you’re in that crowded expo hall and fighting to be noticed by attendees, having a retractable banner stand is a great way to draw attention to your booth. The key, is to “KIS” your business stands – Keep It Simple.

We’ve designed plenty of banner stands at Full Scope Creative. Banner stands provide one more opportunity for you to reach out and grab interest from passers-by. For one client, we used colors not commonly seen in their line of work or industry. In that instance, just one subtle difference – a new color being added to the room – was enough to draw noticeable interest.

While the idea is to catch the eye and draw attention to your booth, many clients want to add too much text to their banners. A banner stand functions like a small billboard: more of a simple hello and less of a sales pitch. They can provide something for the attendee to look at if you’re busy talking to someone else, but they should not function as a large brochure.

Once a potential customer walks into your booth, the focus should come off the banner stand and be directed to a knowledgeable company representative armed with detailed marketing materials. We can fit much more content into those pieces than we possibly could on the banner stand, and really, take-home brochures, flyers or swag work much better as selling tools – the attendee can take them home.

There are no defined rules for how much text to put on a banner stand, but it is certainly a “less is more” sort of situation. Images work great. Icons work great. Splashes of color that will grab an attendee’s attention work great. Numerous lines of text will not be seen, much less grab anyone’s attention, from across the expo hall.

Banner stands are a great item to have as part of your trade show or business expo booth, but they need to be kept simple. We may live in a “social media” world, but at these events, people are looking to interact with another person – not a banner stand. “KIS” your banner stands by remembering to “Keep It Simple,” and have a knowledgeable person with plenty of takeaway printed materials do the selling.

Social Media Isn’t Just for “Marketing”

Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial rock, you’ve heard about how social media can be used for marketing your business. One side of marketing that is often overlooked is taking action to maintain your clientele. Social media is not just about marketing; it’s about building and maintaining relationships.

Most business owners know that it’s about 10 times more expensive to find a new client than to maintain a current client. There’s no perfect method to keep a client forever, but a great way is to build a strong relationship with them. Social media is a great way to build and maintain that relationship. By effectively using social media, we can do so much more than just advertise different aspects of business – we can have a full conversation and interaction with clients.

One of the leading reasons many clients take their business somewhere else isn’t because of price changes, but rather because they no longer feel appreciated – or perhaps they simply forget about the business. Many businesses score great reviews from clients for the work they do. The problem is that for some companies, it could be years between business transactions. While the client might be happy with the product or service they received, they could very easily forget about their experience, especially if there is no relationship.

With social media, that relationship can be built and developed. Social media isn’t just about promoting your business, it’s about having conversations between your business and your existing clients. By utilizing social media, you can build a strong relationship between your business and clients, therefore avoiding the added expense of needing to find a new client.

Is the Meta Description Still Important?

One of the rules I often tell people about SEO (search engine optimization) is to do things for human users only – NOT for search engines. One of the most important things to do to help a user find your site actually does very little for a search engine perspective. Years ago, search engines such as Google and Yahoo, used to read through a web page’s Meta description. Today, however, search engines pay little to no attention to Meta descriptions. That said, they are still a very important part of any site’s SEO.

So if a search engine pays such little attention to the Meta description, why is it so important? Simple – we humans read it when we do search. When someone does a search on any of the leading search engines, the sentence or short paragraph description of the site is the Meta description. It’s those 150 or so characters that describe what the page is about and give us a quick snapshot of what we’re going to find on that particular page.

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In the above image, the text inside the red boxes is the Meta description. In the second listing, you’ll notice the ellipsis (“…”) at the end. That particular page’s Meta description went over the 150 – 160 character recommendation so anything after that is simply left off.

People like to know immediately what they’re going to be seeing on the page they’re about to click. Due to that, the Meta description is an excellent chance to convince the user that your page is in fact the page they are looking for. No cheesy sales pitch, no Ron Popeil, “But wait, there’s more!” type of gimmicks. Simply explain in approximately 150 – 160 words what the page is about. You don’t really need to worry about using the keywords. Though it will help, the big goal of the Meta description is to convince the user to click the link and visit the page.

While the search engines themselves pay very little attention to the Meta description, they are still a very important part of any SEO program. Optimizing the Meta description for each page will provide a much greater chance of that link being clicked on by the end user. At the end of the day, that is the goal of SEO.

Benefits Make the Sale

When I meet with clients and we discuss what they want to include in their marketing about their product or service, they often start telling me about all the features of what they offer. It doesn’t really matter what the product or service is; the features normally aren’t all that marketable. What is marketable and what consumers respond to are the benefits.

When Apple first released the iPod, they didn’t make a big deal about how the device had a 5GB hard drive: they boasted about how it could store 1,000 songs. I remember a family trip to Florida when I was in high school and I had to decide which precious few CDs would make the trip. With an iPod, that struggle would be obsolete! I didn’t care about the feature (5GB storage space), I cared about the benefit and how I’d never again have to decide which CDs to bring and which to leave home on a trip.

When Xerox first introduced the Xerox 9200 Duplicating System (one of the first commercial printers to be able to print on both sides of the paper), the successful sales teams didn’t talk about how fast the printer was or how it could print on both sides of the paper, they talked about how much time and money the printer would save a business. Printing fast and on both sides of the page is a feature and really not something that a consumer can buy into. However, by stating, “Our printer will save you time and money,” the salesperson is now communicating in a way consumers can really connect with.

The benefits of your product or service might not be blatantly obvious to you. If you have questions about this, ask your customers. Simply invite some of your best clients out for lunch or coffee and ask them what it is about your offering that they connect with. People love being valued, and when you ask them these questions, you are not only gaining valuable insight but you’re also putting the focus and appreciation on them.

Once you know what the benefits of your products and services are, look over your marketing material. Are you talking about the features or the benefits? Are you selling the feature (5GB of storage space) or are you selling the benefit (bring 1000 songs with you wherever you go)? While the features are important to know, the benefits are what actually build loyalty and success.