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

Don’t Be So Negative – Leveraging White Space

Leveraging White Space While I was attending the Digital Summit Detroit last week, the topic of white space came up in a few presentations. Meanwhile in some projects at the agency we had some discussions with clients who wanted to fill every available square inch.

Early in my career, I was taught that white space wasn’t what was left over after all the visual elements were used – it was a design element just like type or photos. Every day I see examples that illustrate the “cover every square inch” mantra. Like trade show booths with copy down at foot level. Or billboards with 20-word headlines, four URLs, and social media icons for every channel. Sometimes, quite simply:

Less is more.

See how I did that? You read that line because it was all on its own. It had impact, power, and simplicity. Three simple words. With space around them. A few other key benefits of white space:

  • It helps the reader prioritize – when the entire space is filled, the brain can’t process what to pay attention to first. So, your primary benefit could get overlooked entirely.
  • It improves readability – by making elements stand out, they are easily and quickly read and grasped.
  •  It separates and groups elements – keeping copy associated with the relevant visual is a key benefit of leaving some white space.
  • It creates balance – the reader’s eye likes order and balance, thus attracting greater readership.
  • It invokes imagination – by leaving some white space, the readers mind becomes freed to process what you’re saying and engages them to explore the possibilities.

An additional thought – “white space” doesn’t have to be white. When the term is used, it’s simply negative space. The color doesn’t matter, what does is the fact that it’s not filled by other elements.

So the next time you’re tempted to cram in just one more graphic to occupy that “empty” space, consider this:

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

-Sean-

Does Your Content Have Superpowers?

Content marketing | Content Superpowers | PWB MarketingA few years ago, while serving on a social media panel during a presentation to a local entrepreneurial group, I casually remarked that, “Content is everything; social media is just plumbing.” In the years since then, I’ve seen this proven over and over both with clients and with brands I follow. In order to succeed, your content marketing needs superpowers.

This post examines some of the content marketing your brand needs to succeed.

Exceptional Audience Relevance

Social – more than any other medium – has to connect with what your customers and prospects want to learn. If it doesn’t, they’re on to the next thing. Too many marketers are pushing content that THEY want to tell customers, as opposed to information that customers are seeking.

Powerful Stickiness

Remember the old days of “sticky” web content? Where your reason for existence was to get customers to return to your web site? Sticky content and content marketing are essentially the same concept. According to a study by DDB Worldwide and Opinionway, 84% of a company’s fans are already customers.  Only relevant, interesting, and fresh content keeps people coming back.

Incredible Engagement

In his book SocialnomicsEric Qualman observes that social media marketing is, “More like Dale Carnegie than Mad Men. Less about selling and more about listening.” Social is a unique channel because of its allowance for real-time dialogue. Harness this ability with content that asks questions, solicits opinions, and takes other actions to encourage audience response.

Robust Adaptability

Successful content marketers generate content for use across multiple channels. A LinkedIn post might lead to a white paper on your web site, expanding on the post topic. A targeted Facebook ad might direct users to a a topic-specific landing page. Great content is great content – just be sure to recognize the unique nature of each channel and modify appropriately. For example, text on a web page won’t make a dynamic Pinterest post without adaptation.

Brand Power

What does your brand stand for? How are you positioned? What is your unique value proposition? Content marketing should clearly and consistently support your brand and values. If you don’t have a clearly defined set of brand values, we can help you with that.

These are but a few of the content marketing superpowers your brand needs. Want to know the others? Or put this to work? We should chat.

-Sean-

Get Your Story Straight

PWB is in the midst of creating several storytelling videos, and we’re finding some common themes and issues emerging. Here are a few recommendations for crafting a successful storytelling video.

  1. Get your story straight – if you haven’t really figured out the messaging for your product, service, or company, you can spend a lot of wasted time wandering in the wilderness.
  2. Understand how it will be used – storytelling videos are an excellent asset in an integrated demand generation program. Taking a step back to see where your video(s) will fit in the buyer’s journey is always helpful. This helps you stay on-message and focused on the viewers felt needs.
  3. Keep it simple – the goal here is simple; to help people quickly “get it” – emphasis on “quickly”. A good storytelling video should be less than two minutes long. Stay focused on that goal.
  4. Bite-sized chunks – two minutes is a surprisingly short amount of time. More complex stories may need more than one video. One of the projects we’re working on is a three-part series. This really enables us to tell the story in meaningful increments. It also gives our client more assets for their demand generation program.
  5. Picture = 1,000 words – use both the visual and narration elements to say more than you could by using just the narration. Some concepts are easier to see than talk about.

At PWB, these are all key elements in our process as we craft your story. Have a complex concept that you want to quickly, simply, and effectively communicate to key audiences? Let’s talk!

-Sean-

Own Your Assets: Avoid Domain Transfer

domain transfer

Avoid needing a domain transfer. Be sure to buy your URL from the start!

I’ve been meaning to write this blog for quite some time. A recent painful experience reminded me that I really needed to get it out there so others can learn.

Over the past year or so PWB has moved to STRONGLY recommending to our clients that they own their URLs. We’ve seen far too many situations where a third-party purchased a URL on behalf of a client. Then the client and the third party part ways, or they go out of business, or something else changes.

Avoiding Domain Transfer

Now the client needs a domain transfer. On the surface, this seems like a simple enough process. And generally, it is. Except when it’s not. We’ve had a few go badly. Generally it’s when moving a URL from a re-seller to a more mainstream registrar. So far we’ve only lost one – a back-up URL that wasn’t key. But we’ve certainly had more than a few hair-pulling moments.

Buying a URL is simple, it puts you in control, and it ensures that you retain control over a key marketing asset. We recommend consolidating all of your URLs with a single registrar to simplify renewals and management. If possible, we like to take it a step further and suggest consolidating your URL registration with your hosting provider. This way everything’s in one convenient place. We like GoDaddy for their simplicity, uptime, and top-notch on-phone customer support – but there are certainly others.

While we’re on the topic, if you’re considering an acquisition, make sure the rights to the URL are included in your terms. While this may seem obvious, it’s an easy detail to overlook in a complex transaction.

We’ve even gone so far as to stop purchasing URLs on our client’s behalf. Own your assets. If you do, the potential risks of losing a URL go down significantly. We hope this helps even one marketer avoid a difficult situation.

 

-Sean-

2015 in Review – Recap on Cyber Attacks

In January we predicted that website hacking would up-tick in 2015. That really was not much of a prediction for the year, since cyber attacks have been trending for some time. There has been much more hacking than we would have liked to have seen though.

“Here we are a year later, and looking back it’s one prediction that I wish I was not right about.” says Keith Kopinski, our quasi IT guy and Senior Art Director, “Hacking web sites is out there and we’ve seen a definite uptick like I thought we would. The best thing I can say, is at least there are steps and procedures out there that help combat some of the shenanigans.”

website hacking predictions 2015Sadly, cyber hacking is here to stay, and hackers have gotten much more direct with their “just because” cyber attacks. Check out a few of these statistics on cyber hacking.

This year, we have directed several of our WordPress clients to consider using a tool called SiteLock, a website security tool to help in the prevention of hacking and cyber attacks. Having it installed may protect your site from the damage one hacker can unleash on your website.

What are our predictions for 2016? Look for some insight on our blog in January!

 

Tangled Web – Website Trends

website trends

In case you’ve been living under a rock, a lot changed this year in website trends. We’ve seen some interesting tactics and tendencies. What’s next? Who knows – but I think everyone should consider catching up with what is. Here are a few of my observations from 2015:

  • Web sites are getting simpler; this one seems obvious to our team, but nearly everyone I share this with seems surprised. Reality is that as mobile traffic increases, sites will need to be simpler to be impactful. Ever tried browsing a complex site on an iPhone 4? Yeah, you get it.
  • WordPress is here to stay; think of WordPress vs. Drupal as VHS versus BetaMax. WordPress won. Even hardcore Drupal developers seem to be making the shift. According to W3Techs, WordPress is used by over 58% of all web sites using a known CMS – or roughly 25% of all web sites. Read the survey highlights here.
  • WordPress is vulnerable; with its rise as a leading CMS, WordPress has attracted the attention of the hacker community. This year we saw our first attacks on two sites. Protect your site – fixing it after you’ve been hacked is a pain. We’re recommending a solution like SiteLock. Easy to deploy and configure, affordable, and seems pretty robust.
  • Analytics matter; although we’ve preached this for years, it’s been surprising to me how few web site owners understand how visitors use sites. But this year I’m starting to see a change; site owners are looking at traffic, learning, and adapting content to reflect what they’ve learned.
  • Responsive got real; you can thank Google on this one. With the announcement that sites that didn’t meet its standards for mobile responsiveness would be downgraded, Google kicked off a firestorm. Every site we’ve build since April 1, 2015 has had full responsiveness as a key performance requirement. If you don’t know where your site stands, Google offers a mobile-friendly test tool that you can use to check your URL.
  • Mobile arrived for real; most of the sites we work with seem to have an inflection point where mobile traffic suddenly goes from being relatively insignificant to playing a key role. We saw one client’s site do a complete flip-flop from predominantly desktop to overwhelmingly smartphones during a fairly brief period. These trends seem to vary by industry, but it’s definitely happening. Ignore mobile visitors at your own peril.
  • Google is a mystery; while the search side of Google has always been a challenge to keep up with, additional elements are coming into play as the algorithm accounts for other factors. Because of acquisitions and changes (for example the Google Places), many of our clients have found themselves with multiple legacy Google identities. Cleaning these up is a complex, and sometimes impossible challenge. The lesson? As you add new services, consolidate as many as possible to a single account. Merging them later is a giant headache.

Beware of the Vultures: Is Your Site Mobile-Friendly?

Being a marketer can sometimes be frustrating. As an example, frustrations increase dramatically with every reported Google algorithm change – Like the change happening April 21. Certainly these algorithm changes can improve search, but they also release the search vultures. Those predators who create a feeding frenzy in an effort to scare businesses into buying their services. We have received a plethora of messages promising that without website improvements, our company will experience the end of the world as we know it.

Google-Vultures-PWB

Before you buy into the hype though, let’s understand a few things. Most websites built within the last few years are mobile friendly. To a certain level. The trouble is, mobile has changed dramatically within the last few years. Responsive design and even how devices are used when searching has changed. So let’s take a step back and look objectively at the coming change.

The Google mobile algorithm change promises this – that mobile-friendly websites will appear in search results.

“Starting April 21, Google will be expanding the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

What does that mean exactly? It means this, how your website appears on a variety of mobile devices (iPhones, Android devices, tablets, etc.) may affect how your website is found to those searching for your products or services when they use something other than a laptop or desktop computer. That means that those sites that incorporate responsive design are likely to appear higher in mobile search engine results. In other words, this algorithm change might only affect a portion of those searching your website using mobile devices. To get a better idea of how your website will be affected, run a website analytics report; A very small portion of your website traffic may be affected.

Any time these changes are announced though, I get client calls and emails. To say that anyone can make promises though is foolish. One can ever truly know how a website will be affected due to Google algorithms being proprietary. For this next Google Algorithm change though, I suggest clients use the Google tools to run a mobile-friendly test.

If your site is not as mobile-friendly as it should be, then perhaps it is time to consider updates to change that. Web sites once had a shelf life of several years before needing updates, now however the ideal website needs to have constant improvements at some level. If you need help with making your website more mobile-friendly, PWB can help. Please contact us at dialogue@pwb.com or 734-995-5000.