Does Your Website Have the Strength to Be a Hero? Supercharge with Analytics!

Originally posted at Stickboy Creative, but written by me.

A bullet train is speeding quickly across the terrain, unknown to the dangers only a few miles ahead. In the middle of a long bridge lies Lois Lane, tightly tied to the tracks. At the end of the river span lays a case full of dynamite meant to throw the train and all its passengers down the chasm. Suddenly, with a flash, a red and blue blur zaps past the watchers-by on the train. Superman unties Lois and lands her safely in the plain, then blasts back to toss the dynamite into outer space. The day is saved!

Superman references are fun, and we are a creative design firm with a specialty in web design and development, so I’m going to launch this with a classic. Look in the sky! It’s a bird; it’s a plane; I don’t know what it is and it’s headed this way! Run! Ok, so that’s not the way it happened in the comics. Everybody automatically trusted Superman and the heroes, allowing them whatever freedom they needed to save the day. If only comic books were real life (of course, there might be a world-wide shortage of spandex if that were the case).

Just like the nice, neat wrap-ups that happen in every comic book story, we trust that our marketing pieces are ultimately going to win the day. But do they? Can you trust that? We believe in our heroes not because of spandex outfits and golden lassos, but because data tells us so. Case in point: would you trust a man dressed in a giant black bat costume walking through the shadows of the dark alleyway downtown? If your answer is yes, then I worry you may be under a spell from one of Scarecrow’s poisons.

Of course not! It’s our human nature to mistrust a person or a company until they’ve proven themselves. Building trust takes evidence; data is the answer. Thus, let me ask you this: are you collecting and interpreting data on your website’s success? Do you know how many visitors frequent your website? Where did they come from? How did they find you? Are they bouncing away from your site faster than Mr. Freeze could blanket Gotham City in ice?

If you do not know how to find the answer to these questions, then you cannot turn that data into solutions. All of a sudden you’ve loaded yourself down with kryptonite and don’t have the power to change anything. If you are aware there is no lead shield protecting you, then install Google Analytics for free (http://analytics.google.com) on your site and get yourself saved from the unknown. With knowledge comes power, and with great power comes great responsibility (thanks for the cross-over, Spiderman!). Make your website responsible, even responsive through actively listening to your customers. This is information your website itself can provide.

With this kind of information you will be able to change or adapt to best fit your target base. Do they prefer clicking on organic searches as opposed to paid ads? What should you invest in? Are people spending all of their time on your pricing page researching, but never contacting you? Maybe that means you are being shopped. With the proper information, you can make the changes necessary to ensure your success, both now and down the line.

We all long for that green ring of power, turning every desired thought into reality, but we are not Green Lanterns. There is no guarantee of success, no magical fairy dust that will fill your store to capacity each week. We must collect, analyze, and interpret the data so an informed, powerful decision can be made. We suggest Google Analytics due to the site being free and there being access and help through the site to get yours installed, though there are many services out there. And, as always, if you find yourself surrounded by enemies of confusion with no help in sight, we will be there to rescue you. Just don’t expect me to wear a cape.

Posted from http://www.superman-picture.com/

New Marketing vs. Old Marketing | What Does that Mean?

For a 32 year old man, I may be a bit old fashioned in my practices, but I believe strongly in honesty in marketing. Sometimes I like to take a light-hearted and fun stance on it, such as my last post, Spies Like Me. Today, I am frustrated. Quick story before I get to the point of this blog post.

I called a prospect this afternoon to check in on the proposal I sent out last week. After a minute or so of him fumbling around for an apology (he promised to contact me once he heard the final decision), he informed me that they had chosen another company. My usual response at that point is to find out why, so I can learn from the experience. What I found out is the reason for my current frustration. The very thing he told me to do last week (to give me the best chance of winning the proposal) was the very thing that caused me to lose it. Even though he was on the board that chose the proposal, he gave me information to help in my quote that sabotaged my chances. He lied. I wish I knew why. People, no matter what side of the sales process you are on, being honest is VITAL. When sales people lie, they push the stereotype of the snake-suited used car salesman. When purchasers lie, they destroy any motivation of the sales person to be honest. Honesty builds; lies tear down. Please treat people on both sides of the situation with respect and honesty.

Sorry for the side note, but I had to throw that in, because this specific image below ties in with the honesty issue, but in a slightly different context. Here is the image from Contently Marketing:

The image places “new marketing” vs. “old marketing” in a comparison to determine which style is better. There are a few problems with the picture. First, the difference between one-way and two-way communication is the desire to listen. Just because a company uses social media does NOT mean they are actually listening and forming a dialogue with their customers.

Second, “new marketing” is not only made up of certain tools. The accurate definition of “new marketing” has to do with TRACKABILITY; or how easy it is to measure it success. The new marketing paradigm is all about saber-metrics (coined in the baseball world by Billy Beane). It is about taking away all subjective issues and making decisions purely based on numbers. “New marketing” has plenty of room for TV commercials, as long as they are acutely tracked for ROI.

Third, providing value is not only subscribed by the “new marketing” as suggested in this image. Companies have been striving to provide value since the first corporation formed. Quality marketing from those companies have been able to provide value to their customers long before social media and SEO was invented.

Lastly, quality marketing does NOT seek to just educate or entertain. A good marketing strategy is defined by its ability to earn revenue. Education and Entertainment are both good ways to build revenue streams, but not the only ones, and TV commercials have been seeking to entertain for decades.

Please do not fall for uneducated propaganda such as this. Make good decisions for your business based on data, numbers, and research. “New marketing” as I would define it, means just that. It means doing what it takes to earn revenue from your prospects through honest and targeted campaigns, reaching them where they are at. (Hulu seems to think there is still a good place for commercials in this world). The one thing they are correct about is the vital importance of dialogue in your marketing. If you are not listening to your consumer audience, then you cannot succeed – it’s as simple as that. People will not buy today if they do not feel that they are heard; that’s the postmodern version of building trust.

By the way, inbound vs. outbound? Inbound marketing is about encouraging leads to “come in” to buy from you. TV, media, etc… all fit that description. Outbound means the company is going outside to directly make the sale (such as door-to-door sales or cold calling). Thanks for allowing my rant. Have a great day!

 

Spies Like Me | The Importance of Being Known in Marketing

My name is Stalnaker. Phil Stalnaker. Being as I have written a fictional short story before that was about a private detective, I feel overly qualified to write about being a spy. Not sure you believe me? Just ask Chuck Bartowski. That’s right. You don’t know how to find him…because he’s a spy too. You may try telling me that Chuck himself is a purely fictional character created by Chris Fedak and enjoyed five wonderful, spy filled years on television. That’s just what the government wants you to think. He is real. And so am I.

Ok, so in the spy since I am not real (word is still out on Chuck, though). While I admit that I have a penchant for vodka martinis (you know the rest), I do not live in the world of international espionage. Here’s why: the very things that make me successful in marketing make it impossible for me to be a spy. Simply put, I am too known. While I am positive the comment section will be filled with jokes about me for that line, the statement still holds true.

Even as far back as 2004, Gallup was publishing the importance of a truly relational, or emotional, connection with consumers. “Recent Gallup research has shown that the process of forming emotional connections doesn’t begin when consumers try the brand. Instead, emotional connections start to take shape with every brand encounter that leads up to trial.”1 This concept has become especially prevalent with the growth of social media, as it provides companies and brands the opportunity to be known on a personal level with their customers – or at least that is what the customers believe. Basically, if they don’t know you, they can’t like you. If they don’t like you, they can’t trust you. If they can’t trust you, they won’t buy from you. This has become as true for Nike today as it always has for the corner coffee shop. Your customers must know you.

This creates a problem. The idea of getting to know a person does not allow for pieces of the story to be missing; knowledge and trust are built on complete information. “If you try to fake who you are, it will show and it will work against you.”2 That’s not cool. That means gone are the days of polished, shiny, mistake-free commercials. When potential customers see your advertisement (whether it be in a magazine, direct mail piece, television commercial, online ad, or networking event) they must see an accurate portrait of you. “What they see in your marketing is ultimately what they get from your goods and services and that builds trust and rapport.”3 If their experience is inconsistent with the message they were presented, you could be in a heap of trouble, and this is where social media can really hurt. If one customer isn’t happy, they now have a mouthpiece to the entire world through their connections. Negative reviews will fly through cyberspace faster than the rage virus infected the whole of London.4

This is why a good marketer cannot be a spy (and vice versa). No matter how nice and good intentioned Austin Millbarge was, he still had to lie. A spy has to lie. A marketer, and entire company culture on that end, cannot. There will be no opportunity for redemption after filing bankruptcy. Thankfully, Jason Bourne figured it out before it was too late. Your company may be completely honest and forthright, giving your customers the ability to put their trust in you. If that’s the case, it is because your company has allowed itself to live in a glass hut and be seen in the true light of how it really is. Maybe, as a marketer (either personally or professionally), you are as well. Maybe not. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap. If you are open and honest with who you are, there is no need to withhold information. Transparency buys trust. Trust buys customers.

That is, unless you really are on a secret mission to stop SPECTRE’s plans for world domination by destroying the value of gold. Hopefully, your headquarters is not in Burbank.

(Image used from DeviantArt)

1 http://businessjournal.gallup.com/content/11209/building-a-brand-relationship.aspx
2 http://fullbleedartsmarketing.com/honesty-value-1-of-a-winning-personal-brand
3 http://www.gmarketingcoach.com
4 http://www.foxsearchlight.com/28dayslater/

The Birds or Giant Eagles? | Social Media’s Prevalence in Business

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore –

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door –

“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door –

Only this and nothing more.” 1

I doubt I’m the first person to make a reference to Twitter being The Raven from Edgar Allen Poe. While I could draw many similarities to the constant updating and blast of a normal users feed, that is not the point of this article. Twitter was not the first, nor is it the most pervasive. It is just one of the many…which is the point.

I have a hard time not finding this amusing. We are literally bombarded by social media in our daily lives; Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram are only a small few. If I chose to write up the name of every outlet I would run out of digital paper. The second largest search engine in the world is YouTube after all – a social media video site! 2 The question is no longer “Do we accept social media into our lives?”, but how do we keep it under control so that we can manage its use in our lives and business while not letting it control us.   As a business professional, I have spent a lot of my time out in the community attending events, seminars, trade shows, etc… Social media is by far the most prevalent thought, most discussed topic, and most misunderstood tool in the business realm. Everybody wants to hear speeches when the topic is social media; everyone wants help figuring out how to incorporate it into their business. But is it worth it?

I think we’re in real trouble. I don’t know how this started or why, but I know it’s here and we’d be crazy to ignore it… The bird war, the bird attack, plague – call it what you like. They’re amassing out there someplace and they’ll be back. You can count on it…3

People start and run businesses to make money. We are told by everyone that every business has to be on social media because everyone is on social media. GM stopped using paid Facebook ads in May because they weren’t generating the desired revenue,4 but that’s just one example. We also know that social media drives a lot of revenue across the board. “Social media has a bigger influence in decision-making and is now considered as the new (and probably more effective) word of mouth channel,” general manager, Sam Shetty says. “Netregistry, which helps businesses get online, says businesses operating in the fashion and baby products sector have seen a better response compared to B2B providers. Return on investment should not only be measured on revenue, but also in brand recognition and popularity,” Shetty says.5 Shetty’s vision of social media is reminiscent of Frodo’s while being carried out of Mordor by the Giant Eagles.

Why are they doing this? Why are they doing this? They said when you got here, the whole thing started. Who are you? What are you? Where did you come from? I think you’re the cause of all this.3

This is where the hair on my neck stands up. Should return on investment (ROI) be measured in more than revenue? I am pretty sure most people did not get into business to generate good will and feeling. While many people work for that, it is all because they are means to a profitable end. While there are many things that lead to higher revenues, such as good will, popularity and brand recognition, those are means, not ends. Measuring ROI based on subjective content will not fly in a standard business plan (or a business loan, especially in these days). Hard numbers are what count.

This leads me to the crux of my point. The most useful thing about online marketing, whether it be websites, SEO, or social media to name a few, is that anything done online is easily track-able and measurable. How many people saw your ad? Easy. How many people clicked on your ad? Easy. How many people bought because of your ad? Easy. How much revenue did that generate? Easy.

Traditional marketing (rightly so) has been slammed for years because the nature of it makes it much harder to track and calculate a detailed ROI. Thus marketing over time developed the reputation of being the part of the business that is just a necessary expense. Now, because the business world is experiencing its infatuation with social media, it has apparently relaxed its standards of measurement. This is not right. Social media is and can be a great tool for your business, but it must be treated like all the other tools in your belt. Measure it. Test it. Figure out how much time and expense actually leads to a profitable ROI and then stick to it. I know too many people that spend all day playing on social media, call it a job, and end up flipping burgers on the side.

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;

And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,

And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

Shall be lifted – nevermore!1

(Image courtesy of Elisa Vegliante)

1 http://www.shmoop.com/the-raven/poem-text.html

2 http://www.melaclaro.com/2010/10/05/youtube-the-second-largest-search-engine-so-what/

3 http://www.finestquotes.com/movie_quotes/movie/The%20Birds/page/0.htm#ixzz24OW5Ob1k

4 http://money.cnn.com/2012/05/15/autos/gm_facebook/index.htm

5 http://www.smartcompany.com.au/internet/051372-is-social-media-advertising-really-worth-the-time-and-money.html

Referral Based Marketing | Why it Pays to Have Trusted Business Relationships

Could this post BE any more about pop culture placement? As much as I would love to spend the entire article making sly references to New Zealand’s 4th most popular folk parody duo, this is about marketing your business through referrals. Simply put, there is no better or cheaper way to market than to utilize referral marketing.

Case in point: I have a networking friend, Albi (names have been changed to protect the guilty) with whom I am also a customer. He runs a real estate office of multiple agents. Because of our networking relationship, whenever someone would mention to me that they were either buying or selling a house, I would give them Albi’s name as an option and suggest they contact him to see if he would be a good fit. Since I knew him, I liked him, and I trusted him, it was a fairly easy referral to give.

The reason for that is not because I used him for my own house purchase first (in fact, that will come later), but because as responsible business marketers and networkers, we understood one KEY principle. People do business with people they like and trust. Albi and I spent time building a trusted business relationship. It starts small, with easy ways to try out a person’s trust level. We met for coffee, lunches, and even brought our wives in for an evening out. We decided for both of us it was important enough to know the quality level of the person, so that we could speak with honesty and integrity. After all, whenever you refer someone, you are ultimately putting your name on the line for them. Trust is HUGE.

When it became “Business Time” and my wife and I decided to buy a house, we chose to give him the opportunity. When we personally experienced his level of service and quality, we were even more blown away than we could imagine. I already knew and trusted that Albi would do a great job, and my expectations were fulfilled – even more than I thought they would be. Not only do I have a long term, trusted relationship with him, but it was tested with personal experience. Now he can’t keep me from talking about him. Who would not want to gain new customers this way?

Do people in your local area know you? Do they like you? Do they trust you? I encourage you to take a moment to think and see what you might be able to do to develop trusted relationships with business around you; think of the advantages it would bring you. Just don’t use too much tape.

(Image from www.gawker.com/flightoftheconchords)

What is Wrong with the World Today? | The Four Reasons People Do Anything

Originally posted at Pro/Vision Coaching.

It seems that the issues we deal with are so ever-present and ever-encompassing that no one has any time for things that don’t require tissues. But what are the issues? What is it that keeps everyone paying “the man”? The video below is a beautiful look into those issues and brings up some interesting points from a business perspective.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=4g8TF1uYa50

In the world of business coaching, we often deal with issues that different business owners and professionals face, and many of those issues can easily boil down to areas of motivation. Why do people act? Why do people buy? Why do people participate in reality TV? The topic of motivation can answer many questions along this line. Understanding why people change can make a drastic difference in the sales meeting, board room, and international sweat shop. After all (as the video points out), why does the price of sneakers keep rising when production keeps their overhead so low?

Here it is: no one will ever make a change of any kind until the pain of changing becomes LESS than the pain of staying the same. At the base of every decision, there is an underlying reason. No one will go to the effort of picking up a glass of water until the thirst for that water becomes greater than the effort it would take to pick up that glass. No one will buy a $1000 pain relieving pill unless the pain they were feeling was greater than the pain of spending that $1000.

Listed below are the four main reasons that people change—do anything. They are general but powerful, and can revolutionize the way you talk with people and motivate someone to listen to what you have to say.

The 4 Reasons People Change

1. Pleasure in the Future | You’ve been saving up for years to buy a cruise and it’s only six months away. You cannot wait and are totally excited, to the point that time crawls slower than Congress’ ability to get anything done. While waiting, you come across a sale for the super-powered computer of your dreams, and with your cash, you can have it today! Which one do you choose?

2. Pleasure in the Present | That computer is awesome. It actually has real intelligence and can do more than just follow programs. It’s going to take every penny that you have saved (and considering it was made by SkyNet you are slightly worried), but it’s worth it! That is until you consider the fact that you already have a computer, and though it’s no Arnold Schwarzenegger, you force yourself to debate the necessity. Does your money go to the early edition Terminator, or do you hold onto the cash knowing that your 1987 jalopy probably only has a few more years left?

3. Pain in the Future | An old Jalopy is an ugly nemesis, and as any good financial steward, you sacrifice the computer so you can be prepared to replace “Clancy” (the name you gave your car after having too many White Castle burgers one late night). Thus, you’ve decided to put that money back in the bank, so it will be available when it’s needed. Satisfied with your financial willpower, you decide to do a dance in your living room while listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. After all, that group is the reason for your super long hair. Turning the music up loud enough to head bang properly, you forget about the screeches that come from Flea. When they hit, your living room windows literally jumped outside and ran away. Since you’d rather not air condition the entire neighborhood, do you use the money to replace your busted windows, or hold on to it for the car at some point down the road?

4. Pain in the Present | Coming to terms with your ability get more money later, you go ahead and fix the windows. After an exhausting afternoon watching the handyman replace the windows, you decide two things: 1) it’s time to cut your hair, and 2) you are really thirsty. Even though you would need to run to the grocery store, your senses can already feel the fresh, cold fizz of a tasty Coke. Do you take your leftover pennies and splurge on that Coke, or do you risk one last head bang?

We are faced with choices every day, and those decisions are affected by the above motivations.  Test time: who will be the first person to comment on this post with the answer to this question – what is the most important reason for changing and why does that reason trump the other three? Keep it funky, my friends!

Business Networking 101 | Why High School Games Never End

Originally posted at Pro/Vision Coaching.

Everyone has had the dream at some point. You know what I’m referring to…the original nightmare. You slowly awake to the annoying sound of your alarm clock squawking at you like a chicken only to realize that this was the eighth time you’ve hit the snooze button and have already missed the bus for school. Hurrying as fast as possible, you skip breakfast, managing only to swallow the toothpaste as you crazily brush your teeth, forgo even talking to your parents in an effort to save thirty seconds, then hightail it to school running as fast as you can. Your heart racing, you make it as the bell rings and everyone is pouring out of homeroom, heading off to first period. That’s when you notice that something is different – something that is, for the first time, causing people at the school to notice your existence. But it’s not what you hoped – it’s far worse. You’re naked.

That’s when the real alarm clock goes off and you make sure to get dressed FIRST before even getting out of bed just to make sure that this day goes by just like every other day; with no one noticing. Regardless of your adolescent social status, everyone in high school wanted to blend in, mainly because everyone was dealing with the horror of adolescence itself. If you stuck out from the crowd, you were noticed, which, in our fantasies was a great thing, but the risk that your flaws would be broadcast was too strong; therefore, you chose to blend in, despite the true desire burning a hole in your heart.

We all long for acceptance – in high school it was called popularity. If we were popular, we would be in charge, get invited to all the parties, and soak in the warmth and love you would receive if everyone liked you. The problem was that you could not reach popularity without working your way through the gauntlet of judgment. All the eyes were on you, and many of them looking for ways to bring you down. You had to have the right friends, the right clothes, the right car, the right…everything. The basis for judgment was purely external, and that exterior expectation meant that there were only a few who could afford the trip to the top. I was certainly NOT one of the “lucky” few.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=yksOJ29LZvk

The mercy of it all is that high school is temporary (unless you are Drew Barrymore). We all grow up, and even the gearheads learn that there is more to life than what is on the outside. You don’t have to be the craziest or wear the trendiest outfit to be accepted as an adult. The rules, thankfully, have changed – at least in some circles (GQ probably won’t repost this article, and I suspect neither would US Weekly).

Business networking works eerily similar to high school popularity. The most well-known, or the most popular, often achieve the highest levels of success, because in this world, as we all know, it’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know. That’s why networking is ultimately just like the high school game, but with one major difference. The judgments have changed. While there certainly are a few people who still live by the old rules, you will learn very quickly that they don’t generally succeed in the business world (that’s why you usually run into them at used car lots). Instead of your acceptance in the group being based on outward appearance, you are judged by internal worth.

Your ability to be friendly to people, your willingness to give before receiving, and your efforts in helping other people be successful (and to some extent, decent personal hygiene) are the benchmarks by which you are now judged in the networking world. Can you be my friend regardless of whether or not I buy from you? Can you earnestly seek to help a fellow networker with a referral? Will you try to develop a personal friendship before pushing for business?

Simply put, if you become popular in the world of networking, you can very easily write your ticket for future success, but it won’t happen because of your Armani suit or your stage dancing ability. As Martin Luther King Jr. once dreamed, you will be judged on the content of your character. If you expect to succeed, you better live up to it.