“I Want to Go Back” Is Not a Solution

If you’re a baby boomer-aged marketer, there may be a good chance that you want to “go back.” That is, go back just a few years when we didn’t have to juggle so many marketing channels. In the past, as direct marketers, we relied on direct mail and catalogs mostly. We used print advertising, inserts, direct response television or radio, and other alternate media as well. And we’d have an in-house mailing list of customers.

I’ve too often heard a phrase from news commentators during interviews and politicians in recent debates that puts me off. The commentator or politician chirps, “I want to go back” after a point had been made minutes earlier, after the flow the conversation had moved on. “I want to go back,” is often not a solution that serves anyone.

There is no going back. Once the genie is out of the bottle, an attempt to “go back” is usually futile.

If you’re a baby boomer-aged marketer, there may be a good chance that you want to “go back.” That is, go back just a few years when we didn’t have to juggle so many marketing channels. In the past, as direct marketers, we relied on direct mail and catalogs mostly. We used print advertising, inserts, direct response television or radio, and other alternate media as well. And we’d have an in-house mailing list of customers.

Today, mailing list ownership gets fuzzy. We need to build more than a direct mail list. We need to entice customers to opt-in for email or SMS. If you get a lot of spam, you see, first-hand, the abuse of lists. Marketers build social media followers, but those followers aren’t like a customer a list, and they are never ours to own. They are merely rented, so to speak, and who’s to say that someday the big social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others won’t suddenly start to charge us for the use of the list (or somehow otherwise hold us hostage to access our followers)? Already, if you want your social media content to appear to your followers before sinking to oblivion at the bottom of the news feed, you have to pay.

Then there is the need to have a presence in multiple new channels to meet your prospects where they are in the world. Websites, landing pages, email, social media, video, remarketing, search engine marketing — the list of channel opportunities grows every season.

With concepts like nurture marketing and content marketing, sometimes we ask ourselves “is this different, or the same as, direct marketing as we knew it?” or “is this a subset of direct marketing?” So we ask: where do we, as direct marketers, fit in the mix with so many buzz phrases?

The speed of change and new channels is dizzying. As marketers we must prioritize what channels we’ll use. It’s tempting to boil it down to the numbers. But I don’t think it’s always that easy. Social media, for example, based on my experience and what I hear from others, generally doesn’t provide great conversion. It’s a glance-and-forget channel. It may be low-cost, but there is a real commitment to using effective content marketing and social media. Many organizations, depending upon the category, must have a social media presence to be considered relevant. If you’re going to play in that game, you must have a plan to bring those individuals into your sales funnel so you can monetize all of that time and effort.

Having a strong working knowledge of all these marketing channel choices is challenging, but I don’t want to go back to limited channel options. I want to look forward and embrace what’s new and coming on the horizon. Channel choices that better identify where to find, and how to serve prospects and customers, makes us more effective marketers.

“I want to go back” is the problem. “I want to look forward” is the solution.

Setting SEO Strategies and Priorities for 2015

As you turn the calendar to 2015, it is time once again to revisit the SEO successes or unmet challenges from the previous year and set priorities for what must get done during this year. Setting priorities for SEO is difficult. SEO is fast-moving, constantly changing and highly tactical marketing. There is always the temptation to chase the changes in search algorithms and ranking factors, for these changes require tactical solutions. It is easy to focus so intently on tactics to meet these immediate changes in the search that the overarching goals can get lost in the details, deep in the weeds. Good tactical execution done without real strategies and clearly set priorities is like driving fast with no directions or destination.

As you turn the calendar to 2015, it is time once again to revisit the SEO successes or unmet challenges from the previous year and set priorities for what must get done during this year. Setting priorities for SEO is difficult. SEO is fast-moving, constantly changing and highly tactical marketing. There is always the temptation to chase the changes in search algorithms and ranking factors, for these changes require tactical solutions. It is easy to focus so intently on tactics to meet these immediate changes in the search that the overarching goals can get lost in the details, deep in the weeds. Good tactical execution done without real strategies and clearly set priorities is like driving fast with no directions or destination.

Here are three things to consider as you go about setting your SEO strategies and priorities for 2015. How have your customers changed in their use of search? What are your business goals for 2015? Are you looking to grow, introduce new products or services, or regain lost business or traction in your industry? Does your site reflect your business? Does it offer anything of value to the customer or is it a static billboard or catalog? How and when will you be changing it? Finally, look at your SEO program and set the goals and priorities.

What About the Consumer?
There is a clear trend toward consumers using mobile devices for their search. Are you ahead or behind your customers? Review your analytics and consider what devices your customers are using. If you have not seen a clear uptake in mobile, don’t simply rationalize that your customers are different and haven’t moved to mobile yet. If your mobile traffic is not growing in relation to other Web devices, you may be losing ground already.

Another clear trend is that consumers are using social media to vet businesses and products. Social media today are clearly interlinked with search results. In setting 2015 priorities, you must look at how consumers are using social media relative to your business. Also, don’t forget to look at which social media sites are their favorites.

Are Your Business Goals Realistic?
If your business is growing, you will need to look at where online growth will come as you move to set your 2015 search directions. Do you expect huge growth from search? If so, you will need to look long and hard at how you will make this happen. Be reasonable in your expectations. In short, curb your optimism. Ground it in real numbers. It is not sensible to expect huge growth from search in a vacuum. Branding is ever more important element in search, so if your brand is weak, so too will be your ability to generate new traffic from search.

If you are introducing new products or adding a new line of business, you will need to make sure that you marketing program supports the product launch in all of the media that search influences. I am constantly surprised at businesses that simply add a page to their existing site and expect traffic. This may have once worked, but it does not work now.

Visit Your Site With Fresh Eyes
Come to your site as if you are a new customer. Do a search for your own products and follow the path. You may be surprised at what you discover. Does your site show up for the keyword searches that best describe your business? Did you turn up an outdated page as the key result of your search? On visiting the site from a search, did you easily find what you wanted? These answers may help set your direction.

Content is key for search success, and customers coming to your site will be looking for content that answers their search quest. Does your content fill the bill? One of my favorite exercises is to pull content from key pages and replace the name with “our company” and replace product and service offerings with “this product/service.” Then look and see if there is anything that can be learned about either the company or the product from the page. This is a quick way to find just how generic your content is. For small businesses, you can frequently trade in a different type of business. For example on the About Us page for an accounting firm swap in veterinarian for accountant and see if the page still makes sense. If it does, the page is virtually worthless for search since it offers nothing of real value.

Based on this high level review, you will be able to set your directions without getting lost in the tactics. You may discover that your first priority is to make the site more mobile friendly. You may also discover that without the addition of more and better content, being mobile friendly is not going to be as important as developing more content, and so it goes. Once the direction is set, you can relatively easily set the priorities and fit together the essential tactics.

Email Marketing: 5 Steps to Better Results

The biggest challenge with email marketing is that it is so easy to be successful marketers don’t reach for the next level. After all, when something isn’t broken, why invest time and energy in making it better? Most marketers don’t make the effort to optimize their strategy because “good enough” serves them well enough. For those who want more, optimizing emails delivers more than additional sales—it turns casual shoppers into long-term loyal customers by creating a better shopping experience.

This post is excerpted from the e-book “31 Ways to Supercharge Your Email Marketing.”

The biggest challenge with email marketing is that it is so easy to be successful marketers don’t reach for the next level. After all, when something isn’t broken, why invest time and energy in making it better? Most marketers don’t make the effort to optimize their strategy because “good enough” serves them well enough. For those who want more, optimizing emails delivers more than additional sales—it turns casual shoppers into long-term loyal customers by creating a better shopping experience.

There are four reasons to send emails to customers and prospects: Acquisition, retention, sales and service. Most companies are very good at generating sales with emails, but fail miserably at the other three objectives. People miss opportunities to acquire new customers, improve relationships and increase satisfaction because email marketing is so good at generating revenue. Simple changes to your email marketing strategy make a big difference in results.

The first step is to complete a mini review of your email marketing program to see how effective it is at acquisition, retention, sales and service. Make a list of the emails sent over the last year and place them into the appropriate category.

What percentage of the emails were designed to acquire new customers? This includes all emails sent to prospects and those that specifically ask customers to share the information with a friend. (Placing a “Tell a Friend” button in the email doesn’t count.) How effective were the acquisition emails at generating new prospects and customers? What changes made them better? How much did it cost to acquire new people?

How many of the emails were specifically designed to keep customers coming back? This question is often met with the response, “our promotional emails keep customers coming back.” If your company is Walmart or you can effectively compete with low price leaders, this response is right. If your company is like most, you don’t have the margins to guarantee the lowest prices and need to create loyalty-based customer relationships.

Do your sales emails consistently generate revenue, or are you seeing peaks and valleys? Email promotional programs are very predictable once you have enough historical data. Peaks and valleys that are not seasonal suggest that there may be underlying issues affecting your revenue. Subscriber fatigue is one such issue. It happens when people receive the same type of emails over an extended period of time.

The first sign of subscriber fatigue is a decline in open rates. If there is nothing new, then why open the email? The second sign is a higher click-through rate on opened emails. When people are ready to make a purchase, they look for a discount. The combination of lower open rates and higher click-throughs indicate that your emails may have become a coupon mecca.

Are your service emails a statement of facts or a conversation with your customers? Order and shipping confirmation emails can be much more than “here’s your information, thank you for your order” notices. They can be entertaining and sharable.

A good email marketing strategy increases sales. A great email marketing strategy increases sales, introduces the company to new people, and keeps customers’ happily coming back for more. The only way to move from good to great is to optimize every email sent to customers and prospects. Tips for making the move include:

  • Partner with non-competitive companies and organizations to connect with new prospects. Selective partnerships help grow your company’s prospect list exponentially. Allies from corporate and non-profit worlds can introduce your business to new people that are highly targeted. In turn, your participation provides reciprocal information or financial support.
  • Customize emails to buying behavior. There are three very good reasons to invest time and effort into modeling emails around buying behavior. They are response, revenue and retention. Carefully crafting individually customized emails improves results. You don’t have to have the analytics chops of a large company to do this well. Even small changes can make a difference.
  • Analyze email customers differently. People who choose to receive your emails are different from other customers. They order more often and spend more money when they buy, but this doesn’t automatically translate into more profitability. If subscribers are primarily buying at discounted prices, they generate higher revenue and lower profits.
  • Use reminders to help customers. Your customers are busy people. They don’t always remember that cars need servicing or they are about to run out of consumable goods. People tend to take the path of least resistance. When your company makes it easy for them to take care of maintenance and replacement issues, they seldom look elsewhere. Pricing is less of an issue because purchasing from your company becomes a habit they don’t want to break.
  • Send people to the right place. The Internet is a wonderland filled with rabbit holes that take people away from your marketing messages. Your customers and prospects will become distracted and venture off to other activities if they do not have a clear path to follow. The emails they receive from your company are the starting point of a map to the final objective. Anything that isn’t easily recognized as the next step or requires the traveler to stop and think is a diversion that needs to be eliminated.

For more, check out the full e-book “31 Ways to Supercharge Your Email Marketing.” The e-book shows how to make simple changes that improve email marketing results with examples of what works and doesn’t.