Simple Math: Direct Mail + Email = Better Response

The job of direct mail is specific. You can’t ask direct mail to do too much; just like you can’t ask Facebook ads or Instagram to do too much. Each channel has a job to do, and they all do different jobs.

Direct mail is a strong channel by itself for nonprofits, but like I’ve written before, the job of direct mail is specific. You can’t ask direct mail to do too much; just like you can’t ask Facebook ads or Instagram to do too much. Each channel has a job to do, and they all do different jobs.

And knowing this, you have numerous opportunities to parlay multiple channels to create a stronger response. Let’s dive into a combo that’s an easy one: direct mail and email.

Think of it like shortstop and second-base position players: They each have a distinct job on the field, but when a double-play is available, they work as a tight combination and move as a duo.

The reason direct mail and email is a natural pairing is because their jobs and strengths are so different, but they’re united by data and personalization.

Direct mail is great at storytelling and using its leave-in-the-basket physicality to just simply hang around until your donor acts. Email is great for peppering your donor with reminders and moving them through an easy click-to-donation experience. And both of these channels reference the donor’s name and drop their message right into that person’s life space — mailbox or inbox. It’s a personal outreach.

Plus, the data shows this works: All the studies from the ANA (formerly the Data & Marketing Association) reveal that combining digital and direct mail increases response about 20%.

Use the Strengths

Direct mail is strong with storytelling. Use direct mail to tell a longer story via a letter, and drop in some visual assets that linger as a reminder. Most folks don’t want to or have the basket space to keep a letter, but if you have an insert slip, sticker, bookmark or postcard as a visual leave-behind, it lets the user recycle the letter without feeling like they’re going to forget you. They can put the asset on the fridge, keep in the basket, etc. as a lingering reminder to get back to you with that donation.

Emails are strong in visual frequency. Since emails can be designed lots of ways, and with high frequency, reference a direct mail asset in the email. Visually connect the inserts of the direct mail package in the emails. And use snippets from the letter in the shorter form email, telling the story of the letter in multiple touches. Also, you can use the email as a preview for a letter package coming in the mail. If your open rates are 30%, then those folks may be on the lookout for the upcoming letter and be more inclined to open the letter, too.

Judo-Block Weaknesses

One of direct mail’s weaknesses is that postage is a necessary expense and the frequency needs to be paced based on your budget. It’s rare for a business or nonprofit to mail more than once per month to their own customer base, and letter rate postage varies widely (from as low at $0.18 up to $0.42). As you plan the project, ask your mailing services provider for postage prices.

Judo Block: Use different formats for mailing that may be less expensive. Postcard rates — especially for nonprofits — are less than letter rates and could be an alternative. The postcard postage usually runs about $0.24 per piece, and some mailing services co-mingle to get even lower rates (for a full rate sheet, see the USPS calculator).

One of email’s weaknesses is that the donor data is incomplete. To make the subscription process easier and have lower barriers, many nonprofits just have name and email in their opt-in forms. That makes it faster to subscribe, but it doesn’t give you their home address, which limits your ability to do multichannel touches.

Judo Block: Do reverse-append to get a mailing list of your email subscribers. Usually a good partner can get 60% to 80% of your emails matched to a home address. Next to your house file of donors, this is the best mailing list you can get. And since they’ve opted in with their email, appending address data is privacy compliant (including GDPR and the upcoming California Consumer Privacy Act).

In the end, you want your direct mail and email to work together to tell your story to your donors and move them along the next-step action. Cross-referencing, using images, pacing the story between the two, are all good ways to get the combo working together.

As you move into your 2020 marketing plan, pair these channels up in new and creative ways, as two players in an integrated double-play.

As always, I look forward to hearing your comments.

How to Talk About Healthcare Marketing Strategy, Not Just ‘The Thing’

For many in healthcare, “marketing” is the department that produces fun stuff like brochures and giveaways, and not a strategic enterprise. The problem is that expertise is hard to see, while a brochure is in plain sight. How do you respond?

Does this seem familiar? A chief of service has been difficult to reach but then suddenly calls and wants to sit down to talk about “marketing.” At the meeting, it quickly becomes clear that all she wants is a brochure or an ad or a give-away item, not a marketing strategy. How do you respond?

Is Marketing Just for the ‘Fun Stuff’

For many in healthcare, “marketing” is the department that produces fun stuff. This reputation was well-deserved because healthcare marketers had been slow to pivot to data-driven, consumer-oriented methodologies used in other industries.

Once, a senior leader remarked I had “the best damn job in the whole place” because of all the fun he imagined we must be having in the department. He went on to describe a commercial where people avoided meetings with finance and operations but looked forward to going to marketing meetings because of the music and dancing. At the time I laughed outwardly and grimaced inside.

This legacy lives on. It persists despite the remarkable shift in healthcare marketing to research, strategy, technology, audience-based messaging, consumer journeys and understanding the operational and financial elements needed to generate ROI.

The problem is that expertise is hard to see, while a brochure is in plain sight. So internal customers will still call you for “the thing.” You can choose to view “the thing” as an albatross or an opportunity.

3 Ways to Change the Conversation

Now you’re seated around the table and realize they are using the term “marketing” very loosely. All they want is a specific type of deliverable. Do you fulfill the request? Do you interject a more accurate description, “oh so you are looking for a promotional piece”? Or do you try to steer them toward a bigger picture perspective? Ideally, the answer is all three.

Mentally you need to frame your approach as “yes, and…”

  • “Yes, we can do the brochure. And this gives us an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of your audience and their concerns, so we can address them here and on the website. That would help increase the number of new patient appointments.”
  • “Yes, we can produce the give-away item for the conference. And we can also put together a nurture program that communicates with your audiences before and after the conference, so they keep you in mind for referrals.”
  • “Yes, we would be happy to do a promotional plan for your department, and if we included that as part of a broader marketing plan, we could help grow service line volume and show a positive Return on Investment.”

These responses can open the door to market research, audience cultivation strategies and less comfortable discussions about appointment wait time, revenue and contribution margin, and the patient experience. It may not work every time, but it conveys the actual value you can bring and positions your team as more than the ‘department of stuff.’

Integrating Local SEO Into Your Existing Marketing Plan

Local SEO is Google’s gift to small businesses, yet many are ignoring it. Some marketers who’ve been doing SEO for years are too entrenched to see the benefits of shifting their strategies; others might be stuck in the past, thinking that earning a difference-making search engine ranking is nothing more than a pipe dream.

Local SEO is Google’s gift to small businesses, yet many are ignoring it.

Some marketers who’ve been doing SEO for years are too entrenched to see the benefits of shifting their strategies; others might be stuck in the past, thinking that earning a difference-making search engine ranking is nothing more than a pipe dream. With local SEO, though, anything is possible. Local SEO levels the playing field, letting small businesses get ranked by leveraging their relevance to nearby customers. Thanks to local SEO, the auto shop 30 miles away can’t outmuscle the one that’s just down the street.

Most small businesses already engage in both digital and traditional marketing. Here, we’ll review how you can integrate local SEO into your existing marketing plan.

Google My Business

Before going further, we must stress the importance of Google My Business. This is Google’s business directory where business owners can list their establishments for free. After signing up, Google sends a postcard with a PIN to your business to verify its legitimacy. Once you log into GMB with your pin, then you can optimize your business page with photos, your contact information, your hours of operation and more.

Once you’ve verified and optimized your GMB page, your website will be eligible to appear in Google’s “Local 3 Pack” above all the other organic results. Businesses in this grouping are shown on a locator map along with star ratings, phone call buttons, and other useful information. These elements are highly engaging, especially for smartphone users.

But why does this matter for small businesses that already have top-ranked organic placements? Think of it this way – if you owned a cabin next to a beautiful mountain lake, would it matter if someone built a bigger cabin between yours and the shoreline? The Local 3 Pack takes up a hefty amount of prime real estate atop Google’s search results pages, requiring users to scroll down for everything else. As a result, click-through rates on organic listings have decreased by up to 40 percent.

Sorry, old-school SEOs. Top-ranked organic results are still nice, but optimized local SEO is better for small businesses that focus on local customers.

5 Things to Start Doing Right Now

Ready to make local SEO a priority? To make it as easy as possible, we’ll focus on optimizing five popular marketing tools that might already be included in your overall marketing strategy.

1. Leverage Online Citations

When your business name, address, and phone number is listed on a website, that’s called a citation. Yelp, Angie’s List and Facebook are three examples of popular, highly ranked websites where any business owner can easily get citations. Building citations not only helps customers find your business, but it also increases the likelihood of your business information displaying higher up in Google’s search results, potentially giving Google users more than one listing to click on.

Additionally, some people skip Google entirely and favor sites like Yelp when seeking local goods and services. Optimizing your citations on these sites will instantly raise your profile among local shoppers.

One thing to remember — make sure all information in your citations exactly matches your Google My Business profile.

2. Flex Your Local Muscles on Your Website

Your website is your most powerful digital marketing tool. When someone clicks on a search result and lands on your site, that’s when the real sales pitch begins. However, your website is also important in a different way – it’s where you can prove your value to your community and local customers.

Infuse your website content with as much local content as possible. Include mentions of your city, your neighborhood and even your street. Start a blog and help people solve their local-specific problems. Post photographs of your business, your employees and your customers. Post locator maps, service areas, hours of operation, accurate phone and address information and anything else that establishes your place.

3. More Mileage from Local Outreach

Link-building has always been a foundational element of SEO. With local SEO, there is increased value from getting inbound links from local movers and shakers. Engaging with your local media is a great way to optimize your local link network – pitch story ideas and offer to be quoted in exchange for links on each story’s web version. You can also offer to contribute blog posts to regional websites, blogs and trade associations that carry weight in your community. Not only is this good for your link network, but you’ll also build brand awareness as more people see and recognize your business.

4. Be Local-Centric on Social Media

Most businesses are already active on social media, but too often this activity is focused upon promoting sales or new products. You should also be using social media to establish your local presence and connect with local customers. Optimize your social media pages in the same way you should your website, engaging visitors with as much local-specific content as possible.

5. Encourage Customers to Leave Online Reviews

Like it or not, your customers are already talking about you online — you just might not be aware of it. These online discussions can be the deciding factors in whether people give your business the time of day.

Take control of the situation and encourage your satisfied customers to leave online reviews. This is even easier once you’ve created and optimized your citations! Chances are you’re already engaging your customers on a regular basis — they’re either coming into your store, or you’re connecting with them via social media, follow-up emails, follow-up appointments or other means. To start inviting reviews, simply embed Yelp or other business directory buttons on your digital marketing materials. For the best results, simply ask your customers face-to-face, on calls, and via email whether they’d leave a quick review of your business.

Conclusion

Local SEO is a game changer for small businesses. More people are using smartphones with the goal of visiting restaurants, bookstores, clothing retailers and other establishments in their immediate vicinities.

With local SEO, even old-school mom-and-pop businesses can be seen along with big-budget companies.

This doesn’t happen automatically. Business owners and marketers must integrate local SEO with every phase of their marketing plans. Make local SEO a priority, though, and the results will be well worth the effort.

Want more SEO tips to improve your Google rankings?  Click here to grab a copy of our Ultimate SEO Checklist.

Your Job Search Is Like a Marketing Plan

The modern-day job search is not like it used to be. Long gone are the days of applying for jobs online and getting calls for interviews. Depending who you ask, there’s only a 2 to 4 percent response rate for posted positions. Yet, so many people start their job search this way because that is what they know. Essentially, what they are doing is marketing without a plan.

Job SearchA client recently came to me frustrated.  He had been applying for jobs for about a month and was not getting any traction/response. In the past he had never had a problem, and he couldn’t figure out what might be going wrong. From my experience, I know he is not alone in his thinking.

The modern-day job search is not like it used to be. Long gone are the days of applying for jobs online and getting calls for interviews. Depending who you ask, there’s only a 2 to 4 percent response rate for posted positions. Yet, so many people start their job search this way because that is what they know. Essentially, what they are doing is marketing without a plan.

When I first got introduced to direct mail 15-plus years ago, I was told, “Direct mail is like the salesman that lands in your mailbox.” Well, this scared the heck out of me, because I was coming from a graphic design job and knew nothing about sales. Yet, those words always resonate with me whenever I plan marketing campaigns. In job search, it’s really no different. Your LinkedIn profile, resume and cover letter are your sales team. And they are going to help your ideal employer find you.

So, you really need to run your job search like a marketing campaign. Let’s walk through the critical components of a campaign. Then I’ll show you how it translates to job search.

1. The Target = Your Ideal Company and Position
You would never go to market without knowing who your target audience is. So why would you launch a job search without knowing where you want to end up? Everyday I see people launch their job searches by updating their resumes and then blasting them everywhere. In reality, it pays to take the time to figure out where you want to be.

Just like you have buyer personas for your company’s products, you need a company persona for your job search. With your company persona in mind, it will be easier to write your career marketing materials. Answer questions like these when creating your company persona:

  • What industry?
  • What size company (staff and revenue)?
  • Agency or Corporate?
  • B-to-B or B-to-C?
  • What type of culture are you looking for?

Once you have your company persona, start researching companies that fit your description. Find out what their pains are and how you can solve those pains.

If you want to go a step further, write out your ideal job description. It can serve as a guide when you’re wondering if you should apply for a posted position.

  • What title do you want?
  • Who do you want to report to?
  • What type of projects do you want to work on?
  • Do you want to manage or be an individual contributor?

Now, you truly have your target defined. Then instead of searching for a job, you’ll search for companies with specific challenges you know you can solve!

Building Your Brand Religion

Even with the most finicky of customers in an increasingly chaotic and complicated world, lifetime value and brand loyalty can still be achieved. But not how you might think. It’s not the loyalty programs, frequent purchaser points (only 35 percent enrolled redeem these, per Forrester Research), and free gifts that stack up the purchase orders for a given customer. And it’s not the great service that can be matched by your competitors, either. It’s something much deeper. The same something that keeps the church pews warm, tithing coffers full and baptismal fonts busy.

Even with the most finicky of customers in an increasingly chaotic and complicated world, lifetime value and brand loyalty can still be achieved. But not how you might think.

It’s not the loyalty programs, frequent purchaser points (only 35 percent enrolled redeem these, per Forrester Research), and free gifts that stack up the purchase orders for a given customer. And it’s not the great service that can be matched by your competitors, either. It’s something much deeper. The same something that keeps the church pews warm, tithing coffers full and baptismal fonts busy.

The secret to lifetime value and referrals from your customers is really no secret at all. It’s simply the psychology of hope, loss and rewards, and trust that has made religion the biggest industry worldwide. Without question.

Consider:

If loyalty were dead, all of this money could not be generated from the millions of loyal believers who give up, on average, nearly 3 percent of their annual incomes to their religious faiths. If you take just U.S. wage earners with an annual income of $40,000, that comes up to about $93 billion a year in tithing—the equivalent in revenue for the worldwide video game industry in 2013, according to Gartner Research. And you wouldn’t have nearly 44,000 people attending a single group’s service on Sunday where the only product being sold is hope.

While we direct marketers are clearly selling more than hope as we peddle tangible products and services to millions of customers each year, our marketing ROI could truly become divine if we follow even just a few of the tenets from religious psychology. The primary tenets or cornerstones of all successful religions are:

1. Hope or faith in a better life (in this case, an afterlife);

2. Trust in your leaders to guide you with integrity;

3. A sense of community, or like-minded souls who have the same values, ideals and beliefs; and finally,

4. A fervor so strong about your beliefs that you are willing to spend much of your time on this earth spreading your faith’s gospel and bringing others into the fold—all on your own time, at your own expense and without any pay (besides the joy of knowing you brought eternal joy to others).

These are the same four cornerstones that make for successful branding and must be present in any brand’s marketing programs today.

Hope: All products are emotional purchases—your car, life insurance, clothing, furnishings and even food. Each time you swipe that payment card, you are doing so with the unconscious hope of gaining some intangible value associated with that product. Be it status, safety, reliability, an image that will attract romance or job opportunities for you, or a break from the fear of failing your children, spouse or job. What is the hope associated with your products? And yes, this applies to both B-to-B and B-to-C.

Trust: I’m not sure if there has even been a lower level of consumer trust for big brands as there has been in the past decade. Regardless of what industry you are in, trust is fleeting and hard to get, even for a small moment in your customers’ lifetime. Consumers are eager to find brands they can truly trust to stand behind their promises and products, and to actually put consumers’ interests, and those of the community at large, ahead of their own. There a few who do that well. Tom’s shoes is a great example. Even though the company sells a pair of shoes for around $65 which costs it $9 to make—earning it a profit of around $56 a pair—people love and trust Tom’s, because it promises to donate one pair to a needy child for every pair sold. And Tom’s produces evidence that it really fulfills this promise. The leaders of Tom’s shoes are right up there with the rich pastors of the world for selling hope that the world can be a better place, providing people with a means to make it that way, operating with integrity and cashing in on millions at the same time.

Community: Also known as “congregations,” we flock toward people with like values to feel safe, validated and empowered. Many people lose their faith at some point in their lives and question the religion of their childhood, and a large number of these fallen-from-faith adults stay true to their religion at the cost of losing a community of support, friends and a trusted network to be there when they are in need. Leaving is too high a price. The same applies to brand communities. Brands that bring consumers together for events or group discounts like “Family and Friends” create unbreakable equity as consumers pay a price to switch that is far higher than money, in many cases.

Evangelism: We love telling friends about a great purchase and then getting great satisfaction (really, decision validation) when they buy the same thing. It is our innate need to know we are making wise choices that others believe are wise, as well. This is particularly strong when it comes to our faith. The Mormons are famous, partially due to the recent Broadway musical, “Book of Mormon,” for their aggressive missionary program—whereby they have 80,000 missionaries evangelizing all over the world paying their own expenses, and working for free to build the church’s membership base. Why do they do it? Because they truly believe they have found the secret to a happy life and an even better afterlife, and they are compelled to bring others into their joy. This same need to share sources of personal joy with others applies to customers. Like religions, brands just need to create the tools to make it easy to do. Religions like Mormonism and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church have a book that members share with others. Religious-like brands have discounts and free trials for loyal customers to share freely.

When you find the right tools and provide the right incentives to your loyal customers, you can engage free marketers for your brand who will work on their own time, at their own expense and for the reward of knowing someone else loves your products, too! Seriously, what more can a brand want? (Other than a tax exempt status!)

As you start a crafting a new marketing plan, throw out the four Ps and starting focusing on the above “Four Cs”—the cornerstones of your brand’s religion—and see how quickly you reap the rewards in this lifetime (and the next!).

Cross-Device Is the Cornerstone of Your Marketing Plan

As smartphones and tablets evolve, the bright lines that previously separated digital, print, TV, mobile and PC are now beginning to fade away. Advertising, now more than ever, needs to be wherever and whenever the consumer wants it be, and “mobile” is not so much a device-type as it is a behavior or state of mind

As smartphones and tablets evolve, the bright lines that previously separated digital, print, TV, mobile and PC are now beginning to fade away. Advertising, now more than ever, needs to be wherever and whenever the consumer wants it be, and “mobile” is not so much a device-type as it is a behavior or state of mind.

The spend on cross-device campaigns that target the same users across smartphone, tablet and laptop devices is growing as marketers discover their effectiveness. In a recent survey, 75 percent of marketers said they have seen increased effectiveness with cross-device campaigns.

Marketers are already investing quite a bit in cross-device campaigns as they follow consumer behavior, but now they want to better quantify the results. The rush to develop mobile advertising campaigns is coupled with the desire for better measurement and understanding.

More than 50 percent of marketers surveyed by ValueClick Media and Greystripe reported that cross-device campaigns expand the overall reach and help optimize the performance of the campaign. But marketers point to the time and money needed to track, build and maintain a mobile experience as the main reasons why mobile campaigns are underperforming.

Marketers want to move deeper into cross-device marketing, but they also want more from their campaigns. Specifically, they want to better understand the impact of each medium and the path to purchase.

While cross-screen advertising is becoming increasingly commonplace, it still presents a range of challenges for brands—challenges that are holding back spending growth. The key challenges are:

  • Difficulty tracking audiences across multiple devices and a lack of common performance metrics were cited as the largest issues facing agencies and marketers when deploying and measuring cross-screen campaigns. Research shows that one in four marketers are yet to execute campaigns across multiple screens. For 59 percent of marketers and 68 percent of agencies, difficulty with tracking audiences across multiple devices is what’s holding them back.
  • Media planning and execution often take precedence over the creative. To successfully launch a cross-screen campaign, creative cannot be an afterthought. It’s clear why reaching consumers across multiple screens and devices is appealing, but brands need to reevaluate how they resource creative and technical production to ensure they have the assets needed to run effective cross-screen campaigns.
  • Cross-device advertising budgets typically are managed separately, making it difficult to keep the consumer at the forefront of planning silos. It’s time to start thinking about how to remove the silos and have a more holistic approach to mobile advertising campaigns.

If brands and agencies can come together to unlock the promise of consistent and rich ad experiences across different device screens at scale that many long for, the future of mobile advertising will undoubtedly be cross-device and creative will be able to adjust to the context in which it appears—whether that’s a phone, tablet, desktop, wearables, connected TV, or an automobile.

What Social Sites Should YOU Be Using?

Most people know about mega-popular social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. However, I get a lot of questions about other, underutilized sites that are on the tipping point of mass popularity—specifically, how these sites can be leveraged for marketing purposes.

Most people know about mega-popular social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. However, I get a lot of questions about other, underutilized sites that are on the tipping point of mass popularity—specifically, how these sites can be leveraged for marketing purposes.

But before I go into that, I’d like to clarify the differences between various “social”-type sites:

Social bookmarking, news and tagging are sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Delicious and Pinterest. These websites allow users to “bookmark” things they like—content, images, videos, websites—and allow others in the community to see what’s been bookmarked and “follow,” if they wish. This is the epitome of viral marketing and community interaction. When groups of people are like-minded, it’s fun and easy to share feedback of things of common interest. For business purposes, it’s also a strong way to bond with your audience through content, news and images that are synergistic and leverage those interests for increased website traffic and more.

Social networking sites are communities like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus. It’s a way for groups of people to meet and stay in touch with each other, for personal and professional purposes. People can friend, follow or fan someone based on affiliation or interest. Another new site is Quora.com, which is a social question and answer site. Users can view by category and post questions or answers on virtually any business-related topic.

Social media refers to sites like Youtube, Flicker or Tumblr, where groups of users share media content such as video, audio or pictures (photos). There’s also new sites like Spotify.com, which are social music sharing sites, where users can listen to mp3 files themselves, as well as with friends, via Facebook.

The following are some social sites that you may want to include in your online marketing mix as well as some other tactical tidbits:

  • Pinterest.com is a social community where users “pin” (think of a bulletin board) things that they like. Quite simply, it’s a virtual pin board. Users can re-pin (which promotes viral marketing) or follow someone with the same interest. Pinterest is a fun site because it focuses on the visual element. You can leverage your keyword-rich content when you add your descriptive text to your “pin.” In addition, Pinterest asks for your URL, which will be a back-link to that webpage. This will encourage search engine marketing, branding and webpage traffic. Pinterest uses graphics, images (pics) and video pictures. And that’s what will grab community members’ attention, along with well-written descriptive text.

Important Tip! For marketing purposes, you can use Pinterest to promote your business or websites related to your business, such as landing pages, squeeze pages, product pages and more. What’s important to know is that if your website, or the webpages you’re thinking of pinning are flash (dynamic) webpages, you will be unable to “pin” it, as there’s no static images on a flash page for Pinterest to “grab” for posting.

So if you’re thinking about using testing Pinterest in your social marketing plan, make sure to pick websites or modify your own webpages to be graphic-, image- or video-rich. Also, like any marketing tactics you’re testing, make sure it’s in sync with your overall marketing plan and target audience.

If you’re target audience is an older crowd, then this may not be the best website, or channel, to reach them.

  • Quora.com is a great online resource community of questions and answers. If you want to reinforce yourself as an expert, you can search questions related to your area of expertise and post responses that are useful, valuable and actionable. If you have a legitimate question about any topic, you can post by category and view replies from others who may be versed in that field. Quora is a great way to create visibility for yourself. As well, it allows you to upload relevant back-links which encourage website traffic and linkbuilding.

Important Tip! It’s important to keep a steady presence on Quora. Stick to your areas of expertise (categories and topics). Make sure you have a keyword rich descriptive bio about yourself and include back-links to relevant websites. As with most all search, social and content marketing strategies—relevance and usefulness is key. All of these things help with credibility and branding. In addition, Quora’s pages are indexed by search engines and do appear in organic search engine results pages (SERPs). That, in and of itself, can expand your reach and visibility, which can lead to increased website traffic, which can then be parlayed into leads or sales.

  • Digg.com.com is one of my favorite content bookmarking sites. You can upload content “snippets” or news nuggets. The site will also pull in any images and well as back-links appearing on the same page as your content. Content can be given a “category,” so that the right readers will find it. The more popular your content (number of “digs”), the more people in the community it gets exposed to. Viral marketing and traffic generation (to the source website in the “digg”) are typical outcomes from this website. Reddit.com is a similar site, which allows users to upload a content excerpts (article, video, picture) and link to the full version. This is a great site to increase your market visibility and extend reach. It’s also a powerful platform to drive website traffic.

Important Tip! Use content that is “UVA”—useful, valuable and actionable, something newsworthy and/or interesting to your target reader. It’s very important to have a strong, eye-catching or persuasive headline that people in the community will want to read. There’s so much background noise on Digg that you want your content/headline to jump out at the reader. Also, include a back-link in the body copy you are uploading. This will help with branding, link-building and traffic generation. With Reddit, your content excerpt space is limited, so make sure to pick content that will not only resonate with the target audience, but also screams out to the reader to “click here” to read more. Then link to your full article, which should be posted on an inside page of your website.

  • Google+. Google Plus is Google’s attempt at social networking. It’s not as popular … yet … as behemoth Facebook (900 million users as of April 2012), but it’s got “teeth,” at around 90 million users. And because it’s Google, there’s some great search-friendly benefits built right in. For example, it’s indexed by Google, so your messages can get found faster. This helps with search engine visibility and website traffic.

Important Tip! For business purposes, you can share relevant information and personalize your “social” circles; thereby, targeting your message better for each group. It’s easy to share and rank (a combination of Digg and Facebook) content such as posts and messages. And there’s also a variety of sharing options like content, video, photos (similar to Pinterest, Flickr and YouTube).

With social marketing, it’s a matter of matching the content type to the most synergistic platform and audience. Social marketing may not be for every business. But I believe it’s certainly worth a strategic test. Just remember an old copywriting rule of thumb, which is “know your audience.” If you know who your target reader (prospect) is, then you can craft enticing messages and pick social platforms where those prospects are likely to congregate.

Most any social marketing site can be leveraged for marketing and business purposes. But make sure to keep your messages fun, entertaining, engaging and interactive. Because, after all, that’s what the “social” in “social marketing” is all about.

13 Things You Must Do This Year To Boost Your Biz! Part One

OK, so 2011 was a tough year for a lot of business owners. Perhaps you got caught in the maelstrom of economic uncertainty and your business paid the price. Maybe you neglected your business by cutting down or eliminating marketing efforts. Or maybe you got duped by so-called “online gurus” who promise the world with their wonder products, all to fall short of their promises.

[Editor’s note: This is Part One of a two-part series.]

OK, so 2011 was a tough year for a lot of business owners. Perhaps you got caught in the maelstrom of economic uncertainty and your business paid the price. Maybe you neglected your business by cutting down or eliminating marketing efforts. Or maybe you got duped by so-called “online gurus” who promise the world with their wonder products, all to fall short of their promises.

Boosting your business doesn’t have to take a lot of time, or money. Certain marketing tactics are tried and true because they work year after year, decade after decade. They’re proven. And they get results. Best of all, I’m going to reveal them to you … all for free.

Today, I going to go over some proven winners to help create visibility, drive website traffic, increase sales, generate leads and produce buzz. These are low-to-no cost tactics that fit most any budget and most any business niche. All you really need is the manpower to implement them. And the few that do involve a budget are extremely cost effective. So, without further ado, here’s numbers one through six:

1. Affiliate Partnerships/Affiliate Marketing Plan. (Includes joint ventures, also known as ‘JVs). This tactic is having other people market (promote) for you in exchange for a commission. It’s extremely effective and cost efficient. On the JV site, the key is having some kind of leverage when approaching publishers with a similar list size and interest as your own list. In exchange for content or revenue share efforts, you and the other publisher agree to reciprocate either e-news ads or solo emails to each other’s lists for cross-marketing purposes. You have an agreed upon, competitive affiliate split (net commission on each sale) and forward payment either monthly or quarterly. Or, you can agree to reciprocate efforts and both agree to promote to each others’ lists and keep whatever sales (or leads) you each get from the efforts. It’s also a best practice to advise deliverability and performance stats. On the affiliate marketing side, many online affiliate programs are robust and offer real-time access to a control panel where affiliates can download creatives, check status of payments, and view campaign stats. Creating an affiliate program and marketing plan for that program can be turn-key. There are several off-the-shelf programs and softwares, such as DirectTrack and WordPress; as well as online networks such as CJ.com (Commission Junction), Clickbank.com, Linkshare.com. What’s most important as with any affiliate marketing plan is the PR. That is, getting the news out and marketing the program itself to as many targeted locations as possible. If you have a product to sell, not having an affiliate program is simply leaving money on the table.

2. Content Syndication Plus. A recent article by Forbes, which was actually featured here on TargetMarketingMag.com, mentioned 2012 was going to be the year of content and social marketing. Content is king and you can leverage it via the SONAR Content Distribution Model:

  • (S) Syndicate partners, content syndication networks, and user generate content sites;
  • (O) Online press releases;
  • (N) Network (social) communities;
  • (A) Article directories;
  • (R) Relevant posts to blogs, forums, and bulletin boards.

SONAR works hand-in-hand with your existing search engine marketing (SEM), social media marketing (SMM), and search engine optimization (SEO) tactics. If you have original content … you can do SONAR marketing!

3. Search Engine Optimization. In order to drive as much organic traffic as possible to your website, you need to make sure your site is optimized for the correct keywords and your target audience. Once you optimize your site with title tags, meta descriptions, meta keywords, and alt attributes/alt tags, you need to make sure you enhanced your site to harness the traffic that will be coming. That means adding eye-catching email collection boxes to the home page; relevant cross-marketing banners; obvious links to get to product pages; keyword-dense, search-friendly and consumer-friendly content pages; a site map; and more. You don’t want to downplay the importance of SEO. Site already optimized? Great. But remember that you need to review your analytics and visitor usage patterns and keywords on a timely basis, as algorithms and search behavior are always changing.

4. Online Lead Generation Polls. Incorporating a lead gen poll on your website, or having a poll on another site or e-newsletter (via a media buy or ad swap) is a great way to build your list. It’s important to spend time thinking about your poll question—something that is a hot topic, controversial, and relevant to the locations where you’re placing your poll. You want to pull people in with your headline and make the poll entertaining. Your answers should be multiple choice and have an “other” field which encourages participants to engage with your question. I’ve found this “other” field as a fantastic way to make the poll interactive. Many people are passionate about certain subject matters and won’t mind giving you their two cents. Then, to show appreciation for talking the poll, tell participants they are getting a bonus report and free e-newsletter subscription (which they can opt out of at any time). And of course, make sure to mention—and link to—your privacy/anti-spam policy. After you kick off your list-building efforts, make sure you start tracking them so you can quantify the time and resources spent. This involves working with your webmaster on setting up tracking URLs specific to each website you’re advertising on. It also means looking at Google Analytics for your website and corresponding landing pages to see traffic and referring page sources.

5. Viral Marketing. Make sure you have a “forward to friend” feature in your e-newsletter to encourage viral marketing. It’s also important to have what I call a “content syndication blurb”—both on your website and in your e-newsletter. This blurb simply states that anyone can republish your free content, as long as they give attribution to the author and publication, as well as provide a back-link to the original article. This encourages other websites, publishers, editors and bloggers to republish—creating buzz and back-links, both of which help SEO. You can set Google Alerts for your articles (buy using keywords of article title, author, topic) and then see when the article has been picked up by another site. You can also look at your site’s back-links, as well as referring traffic sources, to see which sites you didn’t push the article out to, but republished it from a viral standpoint.

6. Cost-Effective Media Buying. To complement your “free” online efforts, you may want to consider targeted, low-cost media buys (paid online advertising) in the form of text ads, banner ads, blog networks/ads, or list rentals (i.e. e-news sponsorships or solo emails). You’re paying for the placement in these locations, so you must make sure you have strong promotional copy and offers for the best results possible. Blog ad networks and online ad networks are a great, cheap alternative and they have a wider reach. Networks to consider: BlogAds.com, Advertising.com, ValueClick.com, BurstMedia.com, and FastClick.com. You can also find a full list of sites. Make sure you’re savvy as to what comparable rates are (CPMs, CPCs) and try never to pay rate card. It’s all about the power of negotiation.

Stay tuned for the next article which will feature more tips (#7—#13!)