What’s Your Position?

Recently during a meeting with a prospective client (who later hired us), I had an interesting run-in with my old friend Positioning. This company makes very high-end components for industrial machinery. When I asked the CEO about competitors, his response was, “We have none…”. As you might guess, this is a German company…

After further discussion, it turned out he was right. These folks had really done their homework on their competitive differentiators. They were tight, clear, and actionable. The result is going to help strengthen the marketing plan we’ll be crafting for them. This was a good reminder of the value of effective positioning. When you have effective positioning you benefit through:

  • Better leveraging your marketing budget by not chasing the wrong people and attracting more of the right people.
  • Improve the stickiness of your communications efforts – when you know who you are and you connect with the target audience, you generate more impact.
  • Enhanced memorability – clear, succinct positioning tends to find a home in people’s heads more readily.
  • Reduced agency fees – if we know who you are, we can execute more efficiently and save you money.
  • Better campaign metrics – with effective positioning, you will be better able to choose metrics that measure these qualities.

So, what’s your position? Is it clear? Brief? Focused? Truly unique? If not, maybe we should talk.

-Sean-

No One Gives a #@$%! About Your Blockchain

Blockchain

Blockchain is all the rage just now.

But your customers don’t care about it. Or your AI. Or your cloud. Or your Internet of Things. Or any of a myriad of other technobabble buzzwords your marketing team is likely to fall in love with (great article summarizing them here). They also didn’t care about last year’s buzzwords. Nor the year before.

This trend has been going on for as long as I’ve been in technology marketing. Tech marketers are suckers for a good buzzword. And they often start to craft their brands around these phrases. But in the end, this ultimately weakens your brand. Particularly if this becomes an annual event. Suddenly the face you present to your key audiences becomes the technology, not your brand value proposition.

Great – What DO They Care About?

What business decision makers do care about is what these technologies can do FOR THEM. An automotive manufacturer isn’t interested in Blockchain. What they want is a way to know where the parts are from ABC Supplier, and when they’ll arrive in the assembly plant in Tennessee. Or, maybe they’re a hospital who wants to ensure perishable medications are stored at the proper temperature and disposed of when needed. Perhaps an aircraft manufacturer wants to find a way to automate payment to a contractor once work is completed.

A Different Perspective on Technology Branding

So, what do I do? You want the brand lift of integrating the latest technologies. And the Google Juice from using a trending keyword. I would encourage you to use technology buzzwords much like spokes in a bicycle wheel. Spokes connect the hub (your brand’s value proposition) to the rim (your customer or prospect’s needs). A wheel with only one spoke (even if it is Blockchain), is a rather weak wheel. Better to have several spokes, including multiple enabling technologies, connecting hub and rim.

Taking this example of multiple connecting spokes further, consider ALL the elements of your solution that connect your value proposition to the customer’s challenges. These spokes might include current technologies like IoT and AI, but also other supporting technologies (like interfaces to legacy systems), along with your reputation, history, and track record. Now that wheel will roll. And, stay round. Throw a tire (let’s call this the benefits of an integrated solution in our analogy) on there and now you’re mowing down obstacles in your path!

Remember – no one gives a #@$%! about your Blockchain. They care what it – and the rest of your brand’s technologies and attributes – can do to help them address current and future problems. Never fall for a buzzword. In the end, they’ll always let you down.

-Sean-

It’s Only Principle if it Costs You Money: Yeti Coolers

Somewhere during my career I picked up the line, “It’s only principle if it costs you money”. As a brand strategist, I have to give Yeti Coolers props for standing up to the NRA. After notifying the organization that Yeti was discontinuing some outdated discounting programs – that included not only the NRA, but several other groups.

Unfortunately, the NRA decided to use this opportunity to grandstand and take a cheap shot (pun NOT intended) at Yeti. Sadly, this is what that NRA seems to have become – a bully. Yeti didn’t single them out. Yeti didn’t “decline to continue helping America’s young people enjoy outdoor activities…”. They ended an old program and offered the NRA a new one.

Yeti posted this statement on its social media channels yesterday:

That took some serious stones. While the NRA has come under criticism, boycott, and other actions since the Parkland school shootings, few have the financial risk that Yeti faces. Unlike Delta Airlines, who dropped its NRA discount program (which according to USA Today only had 13 flyers use the discount), Yeti’s long-time core customers are largely made up of hunters and anglers – traditional NRA strongholds.

Today’s consumer wants an authentic brand. One that stands up to bullies. One that speaks its mind. And, one that uses clear, direct language – not inflammatory rhetoric – to communicate with key audiences. Congratulations, Yeti. You took a big risk here. One I think could just pay off in finding new customers.

-Sean-

Zuckerberg: A Marketers Take

It seemed the nation was glued to coverage of Mark Zuckerberg’s trip to Capitol Hill this week to testify on Facebook’s alleged privacy violations. I listened to some of the testimony, as well both out of personal curiosity, and as a marketing professional who uses Facebook (and other social media advertising). I was struck by one simple observation:

Our grandparents are running this country.

The complete and utter lack of understanding I heard from members of Congress was completely stunning. We have legislators suggesting policy changes who don’t have the slightest clue how social media works for marketers.

One example was questioning from Sen. Doris Matsui, representing the 6th District of California. When Zuckerberg explained that if you didn’t want your data out there, you simply don’t post it, Matsui went on the attack. Repeatedly, she asked questions centering around the theme, “Well, that’s fine, but once the data is out there, then it can be abused going forward…”. Umm, yeah, actually, not.

I can’t “buy” data from Facebook. What I can do is use current data in targeting my campaigns. If your data is currently out there, I can use this information to help focus my ad delivery. When I want to reach left-handed, cat lovers in Central Iowa, I can use Facebook targeting to look for people with those qualities in their profile, feeds, and engagement. AT THAT TIME. Facebook uses real-time data to help me target campaigns. I felt badly for Mr. Zuckerberg as he tried to explain this to a Senator who seemed lost in the era of the flip phone. Facebook does NOT hand me a data file. They understand that this would be a clear violation of privacy standards.

It’s a long-held truth in marketing media planning that eliminating waste is a key to campaign success. The best way to do this is to try to connect with prospects who have qualities that are likely to make them interested in your message. In short, we try to match needs to product attributes. That’s why social media advertising has been such a revolution. People will tell you what they like and value. And I can laser-focus my message to just those people. In all candor, as a consumer it helps ensure you get more of the information you’re interested in, and less of what you don’t care about. Yes, there are those who abuse this, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Also, we’ve been able to acquire information since well before Facebook. Since before Zuckerberg was born, actually. Ever buy an electric razor or other small appliance that came with a warranty card? Of course you did. Are you aware that the data you provided about your hobbies, interests, and income have absolutely zero to do with a warranty? For years, you sent these cards to the Denver address of a division of R.L. Polk called National Demographics and Lifestyles (NDL). The nice folks at NDL would then sell this information to marketers like me so I could append my database to enable me to locate the aforementioned lefty cat lovers in Ames. Remember those nice folks at R.L. Polk? Guess what we used to buy from them? Your driver’s license information. So, when we were marketing weight loss surgery, all we needed was your height and weight. Run a simple algorithm, and PRESTO, we know if you’re morbidly obese. Does Facebook take this to another level? Absolutely. But for Congress to pretend that we couldn’t already get to plenty of information is incredibly naïve. I’m quite certain many of them used this information to get elected. If you’re interested in a brief history of the rise of these lifestyle databases, check out this article.

Facebook – like most other social media – is a for-profit enterprise. Anyone who thinks otherwise is foolhardy. Don’t want your information used? Don’t put it out there. But to try and convince the American people that Cambridge Analytica somehow bought a magic database only shows ignorance.

With all of this said, I do think this week’s testimony and surrounding uproar will bring some much-needed cleanup to the social media industry. Already Facebook and Instagram are locking down third-party developers via the API from being able to access information without your permission. Expect this trend to continue. And, expect the social media networks to make a greater effort to enable you to more transparently see which apps may be using your data. This is a good thing.

-Sean-

P.S. I also enjoyed the uproar over Mr. Zuckerberg’s untailored, ill-fitting suit. This is a guy whose trademark has been t-shirts and hoodies. He only put on the suit to appease a generation that’s lost touch with the current world of technology.

Manage your WordPress site

Manage your WordPress siteWordPress is an amazing and popular tool for web site creation. So popular in fact, that WordPress sites currently make up over 29% of ALL sites on the web. It’s a powerful tool in the hands of capable developers and has allowed us to create sites that have a rich and impactful online presence for our clients. Moreover, our clients get to manage, maintain, and update their own content after hand-off. There’s not a lot of downside to using WordPress honestly, but there are a couple of things to consider if you do decide to manage your WordPress site after we create it for you. These things are often over-looked, but they can prevent a lot of heartache if you integrate them into your site management routine.

Back up your WordPress site regularly. Specifically your database.

What will you do if your site crashes or is hacked? If you have a current backup, the answer is simple – restore it. But if you don’t have a current backup…
There are many free or low-cost plugins and tools to help you do this. You can set your database to be backed up automatically, or you can manually perform this task yourself. This is a very important part of managing your website. We all know what it is like to have the content flow rhythmically from your fingertips onto 50-page proposal document, only to lose most of it when your computer crashes before saving. Backing up your site and database is the equivalent to “save often”. Depending on how often you update your site, we recommend backing it up once a week, or at the very least once a month.

Keep your site current. Update your plugins and WordPress version.

Quite often WordPress will be updated to a newer version. Plugins tend to be updated fairly frequently as well. When you log in to your site you will see what needs to be updated and it’s easy to get your site up to date. Just remember to back your site up first. These updates are important as they eliminate bugs for ever-evolving browsers, fix compatibility issues with other templates and plugins, and make it harder for injection hacks and malware to find their way into your files. Hackers love an outdated WordPress site. Over 70% of the top WordPress sites have shown vulnerability that was due to running outdated versions of WordPress.

Remember to not overlook these simple, yet important items. Your site will continue serve you well and represent your brand in a powerful way on the web.

-Keith-

Help! I Bought the Wrong Web Site!

In recent months, we’ve run into multiple clients who bought poor web sites. Most weren’t very web site savvy (and, really, how many people are?) were approached by a “specialist” who focuses on their industry. These firms promise expertise in and prices that seem too good to be true. Unfortunately, in most cases many of these folks are delivering inferior web sites that are slow to load, questionably responsive, hard to update, or more. Many promise that they’re using WordPress as a development platform, but that’s a nearly meaningless distinction. Even a WordPress web site can be a poor site. One recent site we saw used a multitude of widgets to deliver the home page and had over two dozen plug-ins installed. The site loaded VERY slowly, frustrated users, and made changes and updates nearly impossible.

Fortunately, we’ve got a relatively affordable solution. We’re currently porting two WordPress sites into full responsive, user-friendly, search optimized use of a widely accepted WordPress theme. One site went very smoothly – it would appear that the developer was competent enough, but preferred to do things on a proprietary platform. The second was a complete mess. It had a home page built up of widgets, so Google couldn’t index anything, and had dozens of unnecessary plug-ins installed. It was clearly poorly constructed.
But, the bottom line is that we were able to get both clients into great new web sites that were:

  1.  Fully mobile responsive;
  2. Search engine friendly; and
  3. Easy to update and maintain.

This experience got me thinking, “What questions SHOULD you ask when considering a WordPress web developer?”. Here are our key questions you should ask a potential web developer:

  1. What theme are you using? If the answer is “custom” or anything other than something specific you can go look up on www.themeforest.net, walk away. With WordPress, there’s no reason for custom or proprietary code.
  2. Who owns what? Often developers will either use their development licenses for themes, plug-ins and widgets. If you leave that developer, then you’ll have to buy them again. Some developers even retain ownership of code they developed for you. If you won’t own all of your assets outright, this isn’t the partner for you.
  3. Can I see some of your sites? Then find a web-savvy friend and have them take a look. A lot of sites pass the Google Mobile-Friendly test, but don’t truly behave well on a smartphone or tablet. This should be your first test.
  4. Can you show me the user interface for updates? True WordPress is super-easy and intuitive. If they show you something that doesn’t look a lot like the image below, there may be an issue.web site
  5. Will you install and ensure Google Analytics? We’re shocked by the number of web developers who don’t do this. For most clients, it’s not obvious and they don’t find out that they have no usage data until 6 months or a year has passed.
  1. Can I talk to some customers? Then, make those calls. Ask about ease of updating. About the development process. If they’d use the developer again.

Bought the wrong web site and need a fix? Talk to us. Looking for a web developer who will deliver a top-notch site? Talk to us.

Sean

Have You Hugged Your Salesperson Today?

Sales and Marketing: The Buyer's JourneyIn my first “real” job, my boss (head of sales and marketing) once said, “If you go on a sales call and they buy something, it’s sales. If they don’t, it’s marketing.” I’ve spent much of the balance of my career trying to counter that perception.

Once upon a time, sales and marketing were more discrete disciplines. Now, with marketing automation, demand generation, lead nurturing, and other strategies, the line is blurring. Marketing is now taking on the role that used to be handled by inside sales teams. We’re bringing leads to sales that are further along in the decision-making cycle, generally more qualified, and we can offer more knowledge when sales engages. In fact, we’ve represented this in the model shown below:

As you can see, in the New World Order, marketing engages prospects more fully early on, and then becomes less involved as the sales team ramps up.

Now you’re thinking, “That’s great; so what?”. A valid question indeed. Here are six actions we recommend:

  1.  If you haven’t been a salesperson, talk to some. Living with a number, and having your professional existence hinge on that number changes your perspective. If you haven’t seen the parody “A Few Good Expenses”, I highly recommend it. Cultivate relationships with the top performers in your sales organization. You’ll quickly learn the objections they face, the sales cycle they work in, and more about the subtle nuances that can make or break a deal. I can guarantee that you will learn valuable information for use in your marketing programs.
  2. A marketing-savvy sales force is your best ally. Many sales people I’ve encountered don’t fully grasp what we in marketing do, and how we do it. Make time to educate the sales force on your upcoming campaigns and the strategies that are driving it. Show them how your strategies tie to their objectives. If you have branding campaigns, give them the long-term vision so they understand that while this won’t give them leads tomorrow, it will make their next 3-5 years much more lucrative.
  3. Understand how the sales cycle differs from the marketing cycle. The sales cycle is a common topic. We all spend a lot of time talking about it. But, if you think about it from a sales perspective it starts when that prospect first enters into a sales dialogue. In reality, we should have started a marketing dialogue with them through branding and demand generation efforts months, or even years earlier. As a rule of thumb, I would recommend a marketing cycle that is 2-3x whatever you consider your sales cycle.
  4. Have a good filter. A lot of mediocre sales people become vocal when they’re not hitting their numbers. “The lead quality is poor.” Or, “I need a brochure.” Perhaps, “Google leads are lousy.”. While the top performers are investing that time into exceeding their sales goals. Also, remember that due to its more immediate nature and shorter cycle, sales is inherently more in the moment. Often, a salesperson’s biggest problem is the one they faced today. You don’t have to react to EVERY bit of feedback you receive.
  5. Align your planning. Marketing exists to fuel the selling process. Period. But that doesn’t mean you’re a slave to sales. It means working together. Finding out what sales objectives are, and finding ways to align marketing objectives. But don’t give up complete control and become sales’ lackey. This can quickly lead to a 3,245 fragmented campaigns. And, no marketing organization has the resources to support this effectively. Remember – you’re the Air Force, softening up the beachhead for the invading ground infantry.
  6. Don’t forget enablement. This seems SO simple, but it’s astounding how often it’s overlooked. When you’re planning a marketing campaign, be sure to review it with sales. Generating qualified leads when the sales force is unprepared to deal with them is wasted effort. Several years ago, we built a comprehensive integrated campaign for an industrial processing equipment manufacturer targeting a specific vertical market. Advertising. Direct mail. E-mail. Trade shows. AdWords. A dedicated web landing page. Then we launched it. And, the call center started getting inquiries. Unfortunately, no one on the marketing team had presented the campaign to sales, so they were totally caught unaware. Fortunately, within six months, the company had seen significant growth in this vertical, so there was clear evidence of marketing effectiveness.

All too often, sales and marketing are enemies. Fighting for scarce resources and management attention. The reality is that if we can work as a team, while respecting the inherent differences in our roles, success will almost inevitably follow.

-Sean-

Lifeblood

referrals

Referrals are the headwaters of lifeblood for an agency – new business. We greatly appreciate our solid clients, but to survive and thrive, an agency needs new clients. Agency network Second Wind tells us that most agencies average 15% per year in lost billings due to client turnover.

What this means for us is a continual need to find new clients. And, what’s the best way? Agency development consultant John Heenan recently completed a survey of marketer preferences. In it he found that 51% of marketers prefer to learn about a new agency by way of a referral from a friend, colleague, or peer. The numbers for other methods of contact fall off dramatically.

Another interesting discovery from Heenan’s research is that you are being flooded by agency news business contacts. In this survey, 56% of marketers report receiving 3-10 new business inquiries per week from agencies. And, this was a tremendous reminder of how much we appreciate our loyal clients. Despite being bombarded by agencies promising you the moon, you choose to work with us. Our sincerest thanks for your loyalty!

This is where you come in – we both need and appreciate your help. If you feel you’re getting great work and solid results from PWB, why not tell a friend? We’re not looking only for people who are actively seeking an agency, we love to build solid relationships that grow and evolve. Know a peer at another company who might need our services? Please help us connect. Whether they’re in a marketing role or not (while marketing is best, leaders in other functions are also generally solid), this really helps us cut through the onslaught of agency inquiries.

We appreciate these referrals more than you know, and we’ll definitely show our appreciation in return. We’re not talking “send us a referral and you’ll get a gift card from _______.” We’ll show you in real, thoughtful ways that are personal and indicative of our gratitude.

As a closing thought, those of you who haven’t worked in an agency environment may not fully grasp the challenges of finding and acquiring solid new business. This quote, from one of Heenan’s respondent is both funny, and a bit depressing (if you’re an agency…):

“We do not like receiving unsolicited contact from ad agencies. We do not like them Spam you am. We do not like them in a boat or with a goat. We do not like them while stung with bees or up in a tree. We do not like them Spam you am.”

-anonymous-

How can you help? A conversation with your peer, friend, or colleague would be great. If you’re not comfortable with that, a simple e-mail connecting both parties would be equally awesome. Or we’ll buy you both lunch, or breakfast, or and adult beverage (or two…).

Thanks, in advance for any help you can lend in PWB’s continued success! And, thank you for your loyalty!

-Sean-

Digital – The New Face of Branding?

Is Digital the New Face of Branding?Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion at the Eastern Michigan University Center for Digital Engagement. The topic was “The New Face of Branding” with an emphasis on how digital has changed branding.

As I was considering my remarks, I realized that digital really has changed the face of branding, but that two key tenets from traditional marketing need to drive any effort:

  • 1. You need to know who your target market is. With digital’s increased potential to precisely zero in on prospects, this becomes even more critical to maximize efficiency.
  • 2. Clearly articulated messaging is key to success – you need to know who you are, what your advantage is, and how you’re unique. Life moves fast in the digital space. You have even less time to engage prospects.

Initially, my thoughts centered on the notion that strategy was paramount and how this doesn’t change for digital. In fact, digital makes having a sound strategy even more important as it enables unprecedented targeting and customization of message to audience.

But…

Digital HAS changed a lot of things. Do I think it really is “The New Face of Branding”? No. For most marketers, a balanced, integrated program is still the best solution. However, there are two scenarios where digital has been a game-changer:

The Little Guy
Once upon a time, a small marketing budget really limited what you could do. A full-page ad in the Harvard Business Review (one of my favorites) costs roughly $30,000. Assuming you need to run at least 6x, you’ve already eaten up the better part of $200,000. Ouch. But digital is scalable. Using digital display on HBR.org or LinkedIn, you can target these same prospects. Mix this with a solid program of organic and earned social media and you have the potential to be a giant-killer.

The Niche Market
The Internet has enabled makers of niche markets to reach a global customer base. It started with vehicles like Ebay and Etsy, but it quickly expanded to include social media, remarketing, and networked banner buys. Looking to reach customers for organic alpaca yarn in Northern Canada? Need to connect with left-handed engineers in the ski industry? With digital you can target them effectively without the waste built-in to traditional media.

The New Kid on the Block
Digital has levelled the playing field, enabling new products from emerging companies to compete with established players. Using WordPress you can easily create a site that creates a world-class image. Social media helps you introduce new products to established audiences and even target your established competitors.

In short while digital hasn’t lessened the importance of a sound strategy, it has created tremendous opportunities for many companies.

Sean

Paid advertising on Facebook: the boost your content needs?

Pay us on FacebookIs Facebook marketing – you know, the “free” marketing all businesses should be taking advantage of – becoming a pay-to-play landscape?

In short, yes. But before we start bemoaning our budgets, let’s consider why this shift isn’t really a bad thing.

  1. Facebook realigned its algorithms so that individual newsfeeds focus more on friends and family of the individual, rather than businesses or publishing outlets. While this does make it more difficult to get those organic eyeballs on your business content without coughing up some dough, the move was designed to keep users happy. If the users aren’t happy, or all they see is clickbait, they abandon the platform. In short: we WANT Facebook to keep the users happy so that we have an audience to market to in the first place.
  2. These changes are driven by a desire to cut through clutter and see relevant content – and Facebook advertising has targeting features designed to get you in front of the audience most relevant to you. Not everyone on Facebook wants or needs the product or service you’re selling. As Facebook continues to gather data on its users and adjust newsfeeds to keep them happy, it gives marketers access in the form of targeting tools to make sure we’re reaching the right people.
  3. Social media marketing is only as good as the content behind it. The same few bucks we cough up to target that relevant audience may also make us pause and think “Is this post worth the money?” Does it offer the user something of value or drive an action? Is the wording concise, clear, and spelled/punctuated correctly? Do links point to appropriate areas of your website? No one wants to waste money – we may put more thought into posts we have to pay for.
  4. It’s not THAT expensive. (I know, I know, some of you are probably thinking I should have led with this one, but the three items above are more important.) Facebook offers three different paid advertising levels, starting with the easy-to-deploy and very inexpensive Boost Post. A very minimal investment can greatly increase the number of eyeballs on your content.

No one really likes to spend money, especially on things we’ve been accustomed to thinking of as free. However, it’s worth remembering that your posts may be reaching as little as 2% of your followers organically. A few dollars will not only give you more visibility and increased reach, but could improve your content – and your audience – as well.

-Amy