Open Your Mind

“Do what you’ve always done and you’ll get what you’ve always got.” I wish this hackneyed quote was even still true. The reality is that in the new economy even this perspective doesn’t work anymore. I’ve heard far too many business people tell me they’re working twice as hard for half as much money.

But I’ve heard lots of interesting stories, too. A friend owns a fly fishing/hunting outfitter here in town. He was telling me he’s doing OK this year. But he’s doing it by adding a speaker’s series, working his e-mail list harder, going to shows he’s never attended, and more. All of these things are outside the norm and require an extra investment of time and effort, but they’re paying off.

One of my client’s markets industrial machinery – not exactly the most solid of markets in these risk-averse times. But they’re having a solid year. How? By recognizing that telling their story of expertise and systems solutions in developing economies affords great opportunity.

The point is simple – try new things. Take risks. Now more than ever they may pay off. But don’t dump your whole marketing program on these experiments. Go slow, measure your results, and do more of what works.

Measure and Learn with Analytics

I Recently attended a Google presentation and learned more about their free Analytics offering. We’ve had Analytics on our site for a while, but hadn’t really ever utilized it very much. Due to some shifts in hosting and redirects and other IT mysteries, we weren’t even tracking the right pages. But fixing it was really simple.

Coupled with our recent increased e-mail push, and our organic SEO efforts, Google Analytics has been an excellent way to measure what drives traffic. And the tool is so easy to incorporate and use. I even added it to my personal blog (www.getout1.blogspot.com) to learn more about behaviors of my visitors.

The spikes when we blast an e-mail, add a white paper, or change content are direct and measurable. This is a good example of some our philosophy on Demand Generation – tie the pieces together BEFORE you go in-market. And give some thought to what success would look like, so you can figure out what metrics will matter to you. We set some goals – to balance our traffic sources, and to increase our Google search traffic  – and we’ve been able to attain them.

If you’re not using this FANTASTIC and FREE tool, I strongly recommend you look into it.

Focus

I participated in a panel presentation last night at Ann Arbor SPARK – the Marketing Roundtable, highly recommended – on developing a marketing communications plan. There was some discussion on the elements of a plan, but the real issue focused on having a plan that was aligned to your business objectives.

Years ago I worked with a career sales guy who taught me, “Plan your work, and then work your plan”. Perhaps some of the greatest advice I’ve ever received and one I see more companies fall down on in these trying economic times. Without a plan, you’ll never know what success looks like, or have the knowledge to adjust for changing environmental variables –  and in most cases you’ll squander money like a drunken sailor.

One key is clear objectives with metrics tied to them. At PWB we decided we needed to increase our web traffic to get more folks to sign up for our e-newsletter series. So Keith and I spent some time with the search marketing folks at Pure Visibility. Learned a lot –  key was that search success is all about focus and targeting. Pick the terrain you want to own, then work at taking it. We picked a key phrase we wanted to own, tuned up our site content, navigation, and structure to support that term. The results? We moved from being buried in Google to PAGE ONE. In about a week. All with organic search optimization. The benefit of focus. The ironic part is that most of the changes we made were things we already knew about. We just hadn’t taken the time and discipline to think them through for ourselves in a focused way.

My advice? Don’t panic. Think. Then do.

Study Dubiously Says Social Media Has Little Impact on Online Retail Purchases

A joint study by leading market research firm Forrester Research and GSI Commerce concludes social media has almost no impact on online purchases. Their data shows less than 2% of online purchases were the result of people coming from social networks. Mashable says of the study, “All those marketers who are rushing to increase their social media spend take note: social media has almost no influence on online purchasing behavior.”

Okay. Let’s examine this carefully and see if the headline and researchers are jumping to a conclusion. Mashable’s review of the report doesn’t get into what Forrester’s methodology was, or the limitations of their methodology. I believe the study is looking at the wrong metric to measure the effectiveness of social media. The report says only 2% of people making purchases online arrived from a social network. Sure, but how about the people that were exposed to a business’s social media activity and then at a later date made a purchase online? Or, how about the fans that had a favorable impression of the business because of their social media presence and then purchased offline?

Businesses use social media for different objectives – not always about an immediate sale. And using social media as a direct sales channel is ineffective. People don’t want to be pitched to. Businesses should use social media for customer service, build loyalty, be a resource and offer information. Direct online sales is not the metric to use to gauge the ROI of social media.

If a business wants direct online sales, there are more effective online strategies for that. Paid search, for one.

Creativity Comes in Many Forms

Just wanted to take a moment to give props to PWB Sr. Art Director Keith Kopinski. Over the past few years, Keith’s taken to sculpting professionally on the side. With some training from some long-time industry folks, he’s been able to break into crafting sculptures under license of comic book super heroes and villains. These sculptures are then transformed into limited-run collectible resin statues and sold through specialty dealers.

We’ve seen Keith’s talents grow as he pushed himself to learn and get better. He’s continually tackling new and more complex challenges. Plus, seeing these things take shape as he sculpts at lunch is just COOL. Everyone here is always enjoying what he’s up to next.

Why do I mention this? Well, I’m a firm believer that you can’t get good creative from people who aren’t diverse and interesting. That’s why at PWB we encourage passions. I find we use those passions to get re-charged, inspire us on client projects, and help us learn as creators. See more of Keith’s work on his blog: http://thedawgpound59.blogspot.com

Camo – the new Black?

Sometimes the blog will be professionally relevant, sometimes it won’t. Part of our goal is to give our viewers a little peek inside the heads of PWBers –  scary though that can be. We hope you find it fun, interesting, and educational. Sometimes even all three.

Have you noticed how camo seems to be the new black? It’s everywhere – not just Cabela’s. Roll into the back-to-school section of your local Target, and there it is. Once the province of the military and the hook-and-bullet crowd, now it’s trendy high fashion. And it’s just been an organic process as the camo “brand” expanded into everyday life.

Personally, as a fan of camo since my junior high school skate punk days, I applaud this trend. Camo goes with everything, makes a statement, and is just a little more interesting than khakis. Sadly, I can’t seem to fit it into my workplace wardrobe – the Henry Rollins look just doesn’t work for me.

Next time something brilliant and insightful. I promise.

Is Creativity on the clock?

We get out of bed, wipe our eyes, and head to work every day. We fume at the same intersections, get stuck in the same traffic jams – our daily routine. Once at the office, we attempt to unleash our creative fury during the five day work week . Yet what makes us unique is that after the 5:00 pm whistle blows, seeds of ideas often explode into powerhouse campaigns.

It’s in these times between work and sleep that creative genius flows from the right side of the brain. The ideas that aren’t forced and come from outside experiences are some of the best. Creativity is in these experiences unique only to you. The thirty seconds before you sit down to bench-press, when your focus should be on protecting your sternum from being crushed. It’s while you are peddling your bicycle from Ann Arbor to Dexter in ninety-five degree heat. Or while you are half asleep and strapped in a tree stand hoping that some antler will wander beneath you. It is in these spaces that genius is born.

The point is that creativity is not something you can turn on and off between eight and five. It is with you twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Time spent at work is 90% experimentation, and execution of ideas into a format that will dazzle your clients and deliver results.

People always say don’t take your work home with you. The fact is — we can’t help it. What’s more — we welcome it. We all like the fact that our next big idea could be one mile down the road to the soundtrack of roaring motorcycle pipes, or on the slopes of a double black diamond.

Content is King

Redone your website lately? Did you get held up when it was time to build out as all that content you thought you had wasn’t really there? Or it wasn’t in a form that was appropriate for the web?

We’re routinely finding that clients underestimate the amount of time and effort it takes to generate good quality copy that’s useful for branding online marketing. And most clients I talk to about this are quick to agree that it’s a problem in their organization.

We’re currently running a program on mechatronics (the integration of electrical, mechanical, and software design in a single device like a cell phone or a car) with a major industry publication’s website. Over the course of the year, we quickly discovered that having fresh content fuels tremendous increases in traffic and click-thru’s. And, that consistently getting this content is harder than anyone thought it would be.

There’s no magic bullet for solving this problem, but we find that the organizations who take the difficulty of generating good, web-friendly content seriously have fewer problems. We suggest designating an “owner” who’s responsible for ensuring that content is gathered and is consistent with company branding. Of course, if you need help with generating content, we can help you. But to simply figure, “Ah, I’ve got it in my brochures‚” is probably not going to result in the best outcome.

Be Safe

If you’re like most of us, you probably take the security of your office (and other places) for granted. PWB had a break-in over a recent weekend. Through some good luck, nothing of much value was taken –  a couple of decade-old laptops and $15 in petty cash. But it was a good reminder.

It’s not uncommon for people’s personal property –  an iPod here, a digital camera there – to be out on our desks. Fortunately, it was a weekend and none were. And our hard-working staff with laptops had taken them all home.

The Ann Arbor police department has been chasing this guy for some time. He’s broken into several companies on the south side of town over the past year (including others in our building on the same day). But, so far no luck in apprehending him.

This incident was a good reminder for us – periodically take time to have a look around your office and stow your valuables. You never know, and a few moments could prevent a loss.