Using print to further your marketing efforts

print and online marketing convergenceThere is no doubt that the Internet has changed the way small business owners market their business. Digital marketing, like e-newsletters, search engine optimization, social media, and search engine marketing, can be powerful forms of advertising.  Even more powerful, however, is digital marketing with a collaborative print marketing effort.

Here are a few ways print and digital working together can generate leads.

Tip #1: Postcards rule. One of the most powerful marketing strategies today is to promote your website via direct-mail postcards. Postcards serve many purposes. Whether you want to invite people to an upcoming webinar/class or showcase a few of your bestselling products, using a postcard to direct traffic to your website is a great idea. Motivate response with an exclusive offer or personalized URL which will allow you to track your response rate, conversion rate, and ultimate return on investment.

Tip #2: Use in store signage to increase newsletter subscriptions. Whether you run a restaurant, a school, a retail shop or a B2B service-based company, chances are good that you’ll have a client visiting you at your office at some point.  Use in store promotional posters, counter signs, table tents, hang tags, window clings or other signage to encourage customers to visit  your website and sign up for your email newsletter. Include a QR code that links to a mobile optimized page on your site with a short subscription form for a great customer experience. Entice customers to subscribe with an instant money saving coupon that can be emailed directly to them and shown to staff as proof of subscription for redemption.

Tip #3: Use print to connect you socially.  The digital world is cluttered. Every 60 seconds 700,000 Google searches are performed, 60 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube and 168 million emails are sent. Making sure that your fan base sees your posts can be a challenge unless you find other ways to promote your social media accounts. Help people find your social media accounts by including your most used and valuable account on your business cards. If you print a newsletter or brochure, include some of your positive Google, Yelp or Facebook reviews and encourage readers to view your full profile online.

Tip #4: A personalized letter. For a more personal touch and for situations which warrant a more professional approach, there’s still nothing like sending a personal letter; especially when both parties are acquainted with each other on some level. People do business with people and success in sales is about developing relationships. A well-crafted and sincere letter can accomplish this. To be sure, the content and tone should be tailored to your audience and written so as to provide value and not waste the readers’ time. Doing so can open doors, increase acceptance of phone calls, and make your next touch a little warmer.

As with all print, the fundamental keys to success are:

  1. The list: mail to the right audience
  2. The content: with or without a valuable offer, the content must be appropriate for your right audience. Everyone’s time is valuable so give them a reason to read past the salutation.
  3. The creative: whatever you mail, make it eye-appealing and captivating in relation to the right content for your right audience.
  4. Test, and then test some more: we may “think” we know what our audience wants, but often times we don’t know what we don’t know. Testing, like using an A/B split as part of your direct mail campaign, is an excellent way to put your print and mail budget to work for you; providing valuable data that help shape your ongoing marketing direction and budget.

Finding the right marketing mix is less about your business and more about your customers. Thinking about who they are, how they purchase and what influences them will help you determine how to reach customers with a mix of print and digital advertising.

Have you come across a cool marketing campaign played out online and in print? Share all! Let us know about it in the comments section below.

Small business perseverance takes flight!

Plane Profiles CorsairWho doesn’t love a good success story? The kind where some part of human spirit, energy, persistence, and skill all gel to make a happy ending; or more aptly, a happy situation – because the experience is never ending.

Our small and thinly populated state of Vermont is laced with such success stories; some of which evolved into  with some pretty famous brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Phish, Burton Snowboards, VBT (VT Bicycle Tours), Magic Hat, Bag Balm, and Chris Bohjalian, to name a few. In the wings are dozens of other lesser-known brands who are no less creative, innovative, or relevant, just not on the big stage… yet.

One such success story has been unfolding for the past 3 months or so, but in reality, has been building for years. Out of Stowe, Vermont is rising star and local artist whose passions, pursuit, persistence, and skills are now on the runway and cleared for take-off. Tod Gunter and his sole-proprietor Plane Profiles Company is landing his first order of technically detailed and historically accurate prints of select U.S. warplanes at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. These aeronautic enthusiast prints will be for sale in the museum’s gift store and also at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. My own company, Paw Print & Mail, is proud and pleased to be the company printing of these magnificent pieces of technical art. You can read more about Tod’s story in an article and interview with him at Seven Days.

As a fellow entrepreneur myself, these stories serve to both inspire and remind me about the purity of patience, persistence, and the truism that slow and steady wins the race. It’s about becoming really good at something and then honing it further to a place of value for others to enjoy and benefit from. Stories like this abound of course, but they have even more meaning when one is witness to or part of the experience. In an age when more and more of everything is available at our fingertips from our computers, phones, and tablets, we’ve gotten used to having and achieving most everything “now”.

But the reality is that anyone who’s good at something got that way through many hours, months, and years of doing the small things over and over again while working through the trial and errors that build upon themselves to take form into something that works. Malcom Gladwell, in his book Outliers, says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. The Beatles did it, Bill Gates did it, Tiger Woods did it, and now Tod Gunter has done it. Great work is great work no matter what the level of fame.

Now the real work begins. Creators generally love what they do so the many hours devoted to develop their craft, skill, or talent is often not work at all, but a process of discovery and practice. For many, the more challenging work is getting found and defining a relative value in a crowded marketplace. Slow and steady wins this race too. The older I get, the wiser I’ve become if for no other reason than to appreciate the patience, persistence, and evolution that goes into success.

Way to go Tod!

3 SEO Tips that Aren’t Rocket Science (but work!)

Catamount-Marketing-SEO-not-rocket-scienceWinning SEO is not rocket science in its most fundamental and effective form. There are a few basic things even the most non-technical people can do to their website to help the search engines understand what the site is all about. By making the following changes to the text on your site, you can improve the search engine ranking for your selected keywords.

Before you do any page optimization, brainstorm a list of every word or phrase you can think of that someone may use to search for what you sell. This is a great group exercise. Try asking others who are not intimate with your offerings to provide suggestions on what they may type to find what you offer.  Once you have a good list of keywords, narrow the list down to 2 or 3 that you really want to be found for.  We’ll focus on how to optimize your home page for just those top 2 or 3 keywords, however, the steps that we will go through below can be repeated with other keywords on additional pages of your site.

1.    Set your page title.  Many websites come with a built in content management system that gives you the ability to enter in some search engine optimization (SEO) settings. In the title section (location shown below), you should type in the major terms or phrases that you want the page to show up for in a search. Ideally, each page on your website will have a unique title that targets a specific keyword.  Your title should have 8 – 10 words and should be written with the end-user in mind. Your title should not:

  1. Contain more than 2 keywords plus the business name. Any more than this is known as “keyword stuffing;” where you try to stuff as many keywords into the title as possible. Too many words in the title dilutes the value of any one of the words.
  2. Be the URL for the website
  3. Be generic. “About us” or “Page 6” is not a great title for your site.
  4. The title appears in two places that are visible to the user. The first place is at the very top of your site in your browsers tabs.  In the example below, the title of the active tab is “Appliances, Decorative Plumbing…”

Catamount-Marketing-Browser-SEO

The second place the title is shown, is in the search engine results page. When we did a Google search for “Burlington Appliances,” the following site came up on the search engine results page and the area circled in red is the title for the site.

Catamount-Marketing-Search-SEO

Creating and implementing a well written title that includes your primary keywords is a great first step to increase your search engine rankings.

2.    Optimize your text. If, for example, you wanted your website to be found when someone searched for “appliances in Vermont,” then you would want to make sure that the text “appliances in Vermont” actually appeared on the homepage. Try working your keywords into your existing content. If you have little to no content on the page, consider adding a keyword rich paragraph that explains what you do, who you do it for and why you do it better than the competition.  Google and the other major search engines read and index text. If your website is 100% graphic based, adding text to the site will aid in increasing your search engine results.

3.    Optimize your links. Each website we build has a goal in mind. Whether it is increasing sales, decreasing support calls, or something as simple as downloading an e-book, your site should tell the user what you want them to do. Often, we see sites that do this by saying “click here” and the text “click here” is a link to the action they want the user to take. Rather than having the text “click here” be the link, create an action oriented statement like “Download our e-book today” or “Order widgets online now”. By making the links action items, you are helping the search engines understand what will happen with the user clicks on that link and will help them index the page appropriately.

The second way you can optimize your links is by linking the text on your page to other pages on your site. If you have a paragraph on the home page that lists the products and services that you offer, each one of the items in that list should link to a page that describes the product or service in more detail.  This will help you cross link between pages and create keyword rich pages that will be beneficial to both your end user and the search engines.

Making these 3 relatively easy modifications to your site can pay large dividends in your online visibility.  Try making the changes to your homepage first, then continue on to the other pages on your site. If you have any questions, contact us for a quick website review of your modifications.

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 www.ourcompany.com
  • 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.