Lights, Camera, Action! Video Best Practices

Video-SEO-Catamount MarketingMost people know that engaging social media posts and relevant, well-crafted videos are good for helping grow your brand and your bottom line. Unfortunately when it comes to video most people get it wrong. Not that the video is necessarily poor quality or does not provide value, but more often than not, little thought is put forth to optimize the video for search engines spiders which makes it nearly impossible to find.

According to Cisco, 84% of the Internet Traffic may consist of video by 2018. Unfortunately, then as now, most video will be buried too deep in the search results to be of value to most searchers simply because the publishers did not spend time making the video easy to be indexed. If the bots do not know what your video is about, they cannot present the video in the search results high enough to be of value to a searcher.

Here are a few things you can do to ensure your video is properly optimized for indexing:

  • Include relevant keywords (include longer keyword phrases as well).
  • Provide a summary of your video in as few words as possible, but make the summary relevant to the subject of your video.
  • When posting to YouTube or other video platforms, take the time to add search tags, categories and captions.
  • Post your video on YouTube, your website and other video platforms to get the most exposure for all search engines.
  • Do not create pages on your website with multiple videos. Make sure your video and page content are in sync and that you only have 1 video per page. Summarize the video using the page content for better understanding by search bots of what your video is all about.
  • When it makes sense, encourage others to embed your video on their site, blog posts, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter increasing your potential exposure to more people who can benefit from your video.
  • Have a goal. If you want your video to be shared, include instructions for sharing at the end of the video. If you want people to pick up the phone, make sure your phone number is prominently displayed throughout the video. Whatever action you want people to take, make sure it is obvious to the user and encourage the behavior frequently.
  • When creating a video, keep in mind that your video must entertain the audience, solve a problem or answer a question in order to be shared, liked and watched. Make sure the lighting is bright enough and that the audio is clear and loud enough. Your video does not need to be professionally produced or edited; if the message is clear and the audience finds value, your video will be a hit for your audience.

If you’ve shied away from video and are thinking now might be the time to start jump in; you’re right.  Check out these numbers:

  • Videos make up 53% of the internet traffic today
  • After 72 hours, an average human can retain 95% of video as opposed to 10% of text
  • Mobile Video has grown by 5000% in last 3 years
  • 72% of the audience are likely to have a greater understanding when shown a video

Now go get ’em… “lights, camera, action!”

Website Review Checklist – Taking Stock of Your Website

I meet a lot of people at networking and social events. When I talk to them about what I do (help businesses make more money and reach more people), I often get asked to review a piece of their marketing material and then provide my opinion on how it could be improved. Most recently, I was asked by a small business owner to review the website that he had just created with a template based solution.  As I was going through the site, I created a checklist of items to look for when evaluating a website. Below are the items that I look for.

  • Does the site look good? What kind of a first impression does it make?  I know this is subjective as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, however, most people can agree that a cluttered, mismatched website with clashing colors can be offensive to look at and may turn people off.


  • Is the navigation easy to understand and use? Are the page names labeled in a manner that I can easily find what I am looking for. Quite often, I see designers create clever navigation that looks great, but is a usability nightmare. It works in one browser but not in another and isn’t consistent from page to page. Clearly labeled navigation with obvious links make moving from page to page easier for the user.


  • Is the logo a link back to the homepage? This is often overlooked but is a very easy addition to your site and creates a single click back to the homepage from anywhere on your site.


  • Is the company’s contact information easy to find?  Ideally, the contact information should be on each page above the fold (meaning I don’t have to scroll to find the contact information).


  • Do I know what to do next?  When creating a website, you should always start by defining what your goals are for your website. Ask yourself what it would take for you to think of your website as a success. Is it more sales? More phone calls? Less support calls? Whatever that goal is, create a call (or multiple) to action around that goal. If you want more sales, try putting educational material on your site and telling people where to look to find them. Make your call to action obvious so the user knows what to do once they are on your website.


  • Is there a way to search? If a user can’t find what they are looking for, they will often do a keyword search within the site. Adding a search box to your website will allow the users to drill down to the page they are looking for more quickly.


  • Is it mobile optimized? With over 40% of traffic coming to a website from a mobile device, it is a true missed opportunity – if not a disservice – not to have a mobile solution for visitors.


  • Can I quickly scan the website and find out what this company does? And by quickly, I mean within 3 – 5 seconds. Is it obvious to the user what problem you solve?


  • Is there an appropriate amount of text? Again, this one is slightly subjective, however there needs to be enough content on the page to educate the user about your products and services. Content is also very important for search engine optimization. Having unique content that answers questions and clarifies your service offering will help potential customers and the search engines find your products.  If you have a lot of content on a page, try breaking it up with bulleted lists or info-graphics to help explain the text in a more visual manner.


  • Can I access their social accounts from their website? Your website is typically filled with marketing support and sales information. Your facebook page, blog or twitter feed usually shows a lot of the personality behind a company. When making a decision on whether or not to do business with you, looking at your website and your social accounts provides a more complete picture of what the company culture is.


  • Is the website maintained well? Websites are often neglected and not updated as quickly as they should be. If your website has old information on it or broken links or images, you are telling the visitor that you don’t place much value on them. You don’t mind if they are reading an outdated press release or looking at an old address for your company. Treat updating your website as a main priority if and when products or services change at your company.

Making sure your website is easy to use should be a major priority for your business. A website is a relatively inexpensive 24/7 selling machine that can make or break a sale. Use this checklist to review your website? Are you impressed or depressed? Leave your comment below on what you think is the more important part of a business website.

A Case for Mail Chauvinism

I’ll admit up front, I have a strong bias for direct mail. I grew up with it, I use it, and I sell it as part of my business printing and mailing services. If that makes me a mail chauvinist, so be it; I submit my face for the Mail Chauvinism recruiting poster.

But, as you are used to seeing me in your inbox each week, I’m also a proponent of email. What I’m REALLY a big fan of is using both because either one on its own is limiting. Printing and postage make mail more costly than email marketing, and email has become intrusive due to the sheer volume to wade through and manage. It’s the combination of the two, when done well, which deliver the most potential to build brand awareness and generate leads.

Many of our local clients at Paw Print & Mail use direct mail marketing regularly; including Champlain College, Efficiency Vermont, COTS, Creative Habitat, Burlington College, International Coin & Currency, and UVM College of Medicine, to name a few. They believe in direct mail because it generates higher-quality leads. Yes mail costs more than email, but it’s the ROI that determines the true cost; and higher quality leads generally convert to higher returns.

The keys to their success are:

  • Mailing to the right people (the “list”),
  • Connecting with their audience with relevant headlines, content, and sometimes an offer
  • Driving recipients to their website to engage further and ultimately convert
  • Finally, applying an email lead nurturing campaign, triggered by the direct mail piece, can improve results even more.

So what about integrating email with direct mail… what’s the skinny on that? If “data” is Queen (“data” used to be “King” but in my opinion “content” is now King), that makes having it key to marketing success; and for purposes of this discussion, I’m referring to data as someone’s email address (and preferably their name too).

There are multiple ways to acquire valuable contact information and one of the best ways to do so is to publish content that is compelling enough for someone to relinquish their valuable privacy. This can take the form of regular blogging, but also using direct mail. Why? Because each recipient physically lays their eyes and hands on a mail piece before they decide what to do with it.

When executed well, by virtue of an attractive design, relevant content, and an incentive (if/when appropriate), people will willingly and happily submit their email address if the content meets their needs. And THIS is why content is now King; because until I can get someone to know, like, and trust me, my product, or my organization, I’m just spending dollars on printing, mailing, and postage. But if those dollars convert to a genuine lead, then those dollars flip from dollars “spent” to dollars “invested”. Once someone opts-in with their email address, I now have a new connection and person to carry on the conversation with.

And this is just the beginning. Capture a genuine lead and then nurture those folks with continued help and advice; and the business will follow. This works for me and it’ll work for you. Sure beats going door-to-door.

Direct mail can be daunting to the uninitiated, but that’s where mailing professionals like us come in. We’ll process your list for the best postage rate and can handle every detail from planning, to design, to print, to mail drop.

Please contact me to discuss how direct marketing might work for you.

Some Ideas for Driving Traffic to Your Website

drive_traffic_to_your_website_Catamount_MarketingYou may recall the previous article spoke of various tactics to capture email addresses on your website for further marketing purposes.

So the next question becomes… how do I drive visitors to my website in the first place?

Some ideas include:

Direct Mail. Using direct mail to grab attention off-line is a very effective way to drive people on-line, to take the next step. Options include newsletters, postcards, and letters. Whenever possible (easier today than ever), personalizing a mail piece always produces better results. Those next steps could include:

  • an on-line purchase
  • redemption of a coupon
  • an invitation to “visit our website to see more sizes and colors”
  • schedule a free consultation or estimate
  • see our product video at
  • and more

Content Marketing. Publishing blog articles with good content about your business, products, and services, while including a call-to-action (CTA), is not only one of the best ways to improve search ranking, it’s a great way to encourage prospects to visit your website. Compelling content makes you look and sound like an expert, and THAT’S who most people choose to do business with.

PPC. Pay-per-click works, but only until your PPC budget runs out… then you disappear. The better approach, one that’s organic and exists FOREVER, is to publish great content on a blog and social media page(s) that build your lasting authority on the internet.

Broadcast Media. Radio and TV are options and win the “reach” award, but because messages are fleeting, a listener/viewer’s ability to capture what to do or where to go next can be challenging.

I ask myself “what do LL Bean, Dakin Farms, local colleges, Bed Bath & Beyond, local banks and credit unions, and Dick’s Sporting Goods do?” These are all smart marketers, and smart marketers do what they do best… market across multi-channels to drive traffic, collect data, and generate leads.

In case you didn’t know, we’re experts in direct mail and we’re also expanding our content marketing services. Please contact me anytime to continue this discussion for your business.

Some Ideas for Capturing Email Addresses

email-assets-Catamount_MarketingI get asked this question a lot… “How can I acquire email addresses to use for my marketing?” Good question!

This is a good opportunity to put your website to work for you and have it start earning its keep. Having something of value to offer a visitor in exchange for their email address is a great start.

Some ideas include:
·    A whitepaper or e-book produced by your company about a topic relevant to your audience and the related products or services you provide.
·    An offer to provide a professional consultation, inspection, or assessment of a prospect’s current needs that you’re in the business of meeting.
·    A survey (keep it short and sweet).
·    A special product offering or limited-time promotion.
·    An e-commerce transaction.
·    Signing up to receive your online newsletter, email broadcasts, or blog articles.

Any of these mark the initial steps of building an organic list of email addresses as part of your overall marketing plan for establishing new business relationships.

For my next post, I’ll follow up here with some tips on how to drive people to your website to trigger these engagements.

Are half your advertising dollars wasted?

Catamount Marketing cross channel marketing, John WanamakerOver a hundred years ago, advertising and retail pioneer and mogul John Wanamaker famously stated
“half the money I spend on advertising is wasted… the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

While this sentiment still exists amongst many business owners today, one of the biggest differences between then and today is the technology available to better measure one half versus the other.

In their 2014 Digital Marketer: Benchmark and Trend Report, Experian Marketing Services, a global provider of integrated consumer insight, targeting, data quality and cross-channel marketing, examines how marketers around the globe view the roles of 12 different marketing channels in their customers’ journey. As the graph below illustrates, no one channel does it all; whereas a cross-channel approach creates the ability of one channel to pick up where the previous channel left off.

role of channels in buying decision.png

Using this data, one practical scenario of moving a consumer through the conversion cycle might look like this:
1.    Greeter (touch #1): search marketing (43%), online display ads (42%), social display ads (40%)
2.    Influencer (touch #2): email (49%), social media (not paid, 44%), online display ads (35%)
3.    Closer (touch #3): website/ecommerce (42%), email (30%), direct mail (20%)

Data is knowledge, and knowledge is power. Good data that’s combined with great content that’s molded into a thoughtful cross-channel marketing plan would find you, and Mr. Wanamaker, smiling today.

Contact me to learn more about the skills my team and I can bring to your business for some of these channels.

Rethinking traditional advertising and ROI

Catamount Marketing Markeeting ROIIf you are a small business, you are likely paying too much for your advertising, regardless of what medium you use. In 2012, more than 1.8 trillion display ads were paid for but not seen. That is more than 57,000 ads per second every day all day that are not being viewed and cannot have an impact if no one sees them.

The way the industry is set up today, advertisers pay for ads that are served – regardless of whether they are viewed or not. The IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) measures a viewable display as an ad where 50% or more of the ad loads onto a page and is present for at least one second. But view-ability is hard to determine. And even using this standard how much value do you get from a 50% loaded ad displaying for only 1 second?

How about an ad that loads fully but is buried beneath the fold (BTF)? What happens if the site visitor does not scroll down to see it? The ad is displayed and maybe for quite some time, but the site visitor did not see the ad. Doesn’t matter. It was displayed and you as an advertiser still get the “view” you paid for. Ok, so you circumvent that by paying a premium for ATF (above the fold) placement. What happens when the user immediately scrolls down the page? Ad displayed, and counted as a view, but not seen. According to a recent study only 44% of the ATF ads were actually viewable – not necessarily viewed, just viewable.

Though I have been referring mostly to electronically served ads for website, social media, etc. The same applies to other media as well. A radio ad played while no one is listening provides no value to the advertiser. Advertising on a popular time slot on TV where a significant quantity of viewers are not watching live, does not help the advertiser whose audience is away or fast forwards through the commercials.

Why is search engine advertising so valuable? It can be tracked, not just for views, but for actions taken. A paid listing with Google, Bing, etc. will display but you do not pay for the display, you pay for the action a user takes. If they click your ad, you pay. This guarantees that the reader at the very least viewed your ad. Whether or not they took any action is dependent on their current needs, where you directed them once they clicked, and how effective your offer is.

Someday, I expect that most forms of advertising will be judged this way, based on pay for performance. If no action is taken the advertiser is either not charged or is provided a significant break in the cost of the ad. It is time we hold our partners accountable for results in our advertising dollars spent.

The goals of our advertising need to be defined. The strategy put into place and the results measured. Only then can we determine whether or not our advertising is effective, where to advertise and how much to spend. For many companies a 20% net profit is considered a good return. Some have much higher and some much lower depending on industries and volume of revenue generated. But if we assume you are in an industry where a 20% bottom line profit is good, and you could guarantee that for every dollar you spent on advertising you got a 20% net return, how much would you spend?

When I pose this question to most small business owners, they give me their text book answers of I would spend 15% of my revenue on advertising or whatever their industry says is the average. This is because they view advertising as an expense and not an investment. And rightly so; for most businesses advertising is an expense. It does not show much if any return-on-investment (ROI).

The reality is that if I could guarantee that for every dollar of advertising I spent, I would be guaranteed a 20% net profit why would I not invest all the money I could get on advertising until my capacity to deliver was reached?

The reason we do not do this is because advertising is generally broken and media resistant to change. They will not offer guarantees and say it’s because they cannot control the sales process. And I get that. But I am not asking for a guaranteed sale, just a guarantee of action.

And let’s not forget about the consumer. They have changed as well. We can thank the Internet for that. Now, I am no longer restricted to my local suppliers to get products. I can order from almost anywhere at almost any time and have it delivered right to my door. But what the consumer today wants, is no different than what they have always wanted. They want value. They want knowledge. They want to know the provider has their best interests in mind. They want a partner who understands their needs and will do their best to provide solutions to their problems.

The best way to communicate with your customers is one-to-one. An effective email marketing and social media strategy can go a long way in providing relevant and timely information. These tools also allow for easy forwarding and posting to friends and family, encouraging both brand awareness and referral business. These communications should be both informative and targeted with links to more information on your website or blog.

With a bit of foresight and discipline, you can make your advertising go from an expense to an investment paying good dividends.

Direct Mail in the Digital Era

Catamount Marketing direct mail servicesDirect mail is still a viable and critical component in marketing. Direct mail needs to be viewed in a multi-channel environment – tied into your website, landing pages, social media and email marketing, but keep in mind that if you violate the basics you will not get the best possible return.

Know your audience. You can have the most innovatively designed piece imaginable, but it is a waste of money if you send it to the wrong people. Just as in email marketing, you must provide valuable, relevant and timely information in order for someone to act on your offer. So lose the one-size-fits-all mentality; segmentation is the goal. Decide what your ideal customer profiles look like and then go find prospects that look like them. Understand your target’s problems and tailor your message to address the problems with your solutions.

For direct mail, copy is King. For search engines, content is King. What’s the difference? A webpage has a near limitless amount of space to convey the message. A direct mail piece usually has a limited amount of space to capture the reader’s attention, engage them to learn more and lead them to take an action.

Vary your message to your audience. Not all your prospects have the same issues and concerns. Plumbers, electricians, HVAC contractors, roofers and general contractors all may be in the construction industry, but they do not share the same problems. If you have solutions for this broad market, you will need to communicate to each differently. A generic message may get a response across the broad spectrum, but you will not reach as many as you could have if you tailored your messages to each market separately.

Timing. Each recipient may be at a different stage of the buying cycle when your message lands in front of them. A small percentage may need your products/services immediately and will respond. Others may be located on the spectrum of no interest to actively researching. Your piece must provide a way for these buyers to educate themselves about your products/services in a non-threatening manner. Other factors to keep in mind are seasonality and buying cycles. I am more likely to buy a Gas Grill in the spring and summer than in the cold, dark winter months. If I live in the northern part of the country, offers to buy in the winter will likely fall on blind eyes.

Offer. Buy now, steep discount, or additional bonus items are not always the best offers. Whenever possible, it is best to test offers with small samples to see which offers provide the best return. If you are selling a longer buying cycle product or service, offers of more information, how to buy and comparison charts may be the most effective offers. To get someone to respond, the risk must be lower than the reward.

Having a good product or even providing excellent service is not enough today. If your prospect is buying what you sell from someone already, then providing a “me too!” offer will not likely be enough to have them switch. You must know what your competition is providing and then you need to offer more value on the same or similar products and services. Notice I said more value, not lower price. Providing the same products at a lower price can provide more value, but it is difficult to match or provide more when your strategy is to sell for less.

Letters, self-mailers and postcards, oh my! Postcards and self-mailers tend to work better with existing customers who already know you and your services. The old adage is a letter sells, a brochure tells in direct mail. You can say much more in a letter than you can in the space available on a post card or flyer. If your products or services require some education in order to provide a clear reason to consider you, then you should consider the direct mail personalized letter format as your initial introduction or at least as your first serious sales contact.

Sometimes a nice warm, informative and relevant personal letter is the most effective communication in an otherwise overloaded digital world. Kind of nice just to take our eyes off the computer for a moment, sit back and consider a well written introduction. It can be just the differentiator you need to open the door.

The Olympics, Branding, and being a Russian

The 2014 Winter Olympics have come and gone and with them no shortage of compelling stories, entertainment, and feats of athleticism. Much was made of the Russians as hosts of the Games from being the most expensive Olympic Games to date, to the political juxtapositions that are part of everyday life in Russia, to their apparent propensity to do just about everything at the very last minute; from constructing the venues and hotels, to showing up to attend the events themselves. My wife was surprised to find out that apparently I’m not the only one who goes through life this way.

One story that developed was about the snafu in the opening ceremony when only four of the five Olympic rings displayed as intended. When you have the whole world participating in and witnessing an event of this magnitude, “technicalities” are MAGNIFIED!

Now I’m by no means an authority on Russia and its ways, but it didn’t take long before the political inferences and jokes surfaced suggesting this to be a major embarrassment for the host country/homeland; and that the proverbial “someone’s going to Siberia for this” made its way into the Olympic commentary airwaves.

The Games continued on as hoped for with nightly coverage of what appeared to be the generally familiar, safe, friendly, conciliatory, and competitive gamesmanship the Olympics are intended to be. In spite of all the security and terrorism media hype, superb athletes and people competed in honest-to-goodness games.

A surprising and subtle twist occurred as the Games ended during the closing ceremonies. The stereotypical Russian seriousness and zero-tolerance approach to their brand chose the fork in the road less traveled and made fun of their embarrassment of the opening ceremony by mocking themselves with a repeat of the fifth ring snafu. Who knew the Russian authorities could evoke a sense of humor! But they did… for the rest of the world to witness. Nice comeback comrades… these were, after all, the Olympics; the event celebrating our world community.

The time-tested benefits of making mistakes, learning from them, and ending up with a better product in the end was proven once again. Our brands depend on extending ourselves as leaders and marketers and sometimes this means taking chances. Sometimes they work as planned and sometimes they don’t; but when the intended outcome is to do good, feel light, and share some love… the risks are minimal and the gains large.

Good Marketing is Like a Bowl of Chex Mix

Catamount Marketing the value of marketing mixWho doesn’t like Chex Mix? The salty, crunchy snack that’s still going strong today since it was first introduced by Ralston Purina in 1937. What do you think makes it so appealing? Seems everyone has a favorite ingredient in the mix, whether the pretzel sticks, or peanuts, or the assorted Chex cereal pieces themselves.

What makes Chex Mix so appealing and enduring after all these years is the “mix”. The synergistic impact of mixing the ingredients together in one cohesive brand is the Holy Grail of Chex Mix and that which allows General Mills to sell millions of dollars of the stuff in spite of the plethora of individual snack companies selling pretzels, peanuts, and cereal.

What are the three marketing takeaways from this sturdy Chex Mix model?

First, the “mix”. Rarely is a singular marketing medium and approach as powerful as a marketing mix – that which employs making connections and building brand awareness in the variety of places where people hang out and pay attention. Social media, direct mail, email, TV, radio, print, web, and mobile are all used by someone and while each of us may gravitate towards our favorite ingredient (pretzel stick, peanut, cereal), it’s the mix that finds us digging into the bowl in the first place. Identify your audience and how and where they consume media, and then say “hi”.

Second, listen to the audience. Since 1937 Chex Mix has witnessed and been subject to the same social, economic, political, and evolutionary changes their customers have lived through all these years. By all appearances they’ve been able to adapt and remain relevant by “listening”.

Third, trust. The appeal of your mix is defined by the appeal of your brand. After nearly 80 years, Chex Mix has steadily built its brand by consistently delivering a good product. When we tear open a bag of Chex Mix, we know exactly what we’re going to get and we can rely on its taste, crunch, and value. Trust is the operative word here.  As marketer John Jantsch defines it, marketing is getting people with a need to know, like, and trust you.

So next time you open a bag of Chex Mix, enjoy the treat for what it is, and revel in the mix.