Measuring Your Marketing Strategy

I understand that as a small business owner or startup founder you want all of your money to go into making the most perfect amazing product. It makes sense. However, creating something amazing is a waste if no one knows about it. Marketing is key to your success, so plan for it – both time and money.

Small Business Marketing Basics

So you own a small business and you want to tell the masses that you exist. Here are the things you most likely already know to do:

  1. TELL PEOPLE: Attend networking events and social gatherings around town, armed with business cards. Know a succinct way to explain what your business is and why it’s unique.
  2. LOOK PROFESSIONAL: Have a website. It should be easy to navigate, simple to read, and mobile-friendly. Avoid getting too fancy, especially in the early stages.
  3. BE ACCESSIBLE: Have a social media / online presence beyond your website. Depending upon your industry, this may have different levels of importance and live in different places.

It will take some time and effort for you to plan and work on marketing your business. And you may need outside help for building your website or designing business cards. Set aside money and time for these efforts.


Your First Digital Marketing Strategy

Once you are beyond the basics, you will want to start measuring and planning your marketing. This requires a little extra time and some more targeted planning. Hopefully, you have Google Analytics and Webmaster tools already plugged into your website so that you are tracking the activity.

Before You Plan, You Must Measure 

Watch a few videos on Google Analytics and how to read your reports. The areas that you should consider focusing on at first are Audience (Overview, Geo and Mobile), Acquisition (All Traffic-Channels), and Behavior (Site Content-All Pages). Make some notes to yourself about what you see in these reports. How long are visitors staying on your website? What pages are they visiting? Where are they coming from?

Google Analytics, Small Business, Digital Marketing

 

 

When you have a general idea of what your website visitors are doing, set out some goals. What do you want website visitors to do? Make a purchase, sign-up for a newsletter, fill out your contact form, call you, etc. If you do not feel totally overwhelmed by Google Analytics, then your next step is to setup a goal.

Google Analytics lets you define 4 different types of goals:

  • Destination: the user reaches a specified web page or app screen.
  • Duration: the user spends a specified minimum amount of time on your site or app.
  • Pages/Screens per session: the user views a specified minimum number of pages or screens.
  • Event: the user conducts a specified action, like viewing a video.
Social Media Engagement Matters Too

To draw a complete picture of your digital footprint, you are likely to use social media channels. The most popular of them are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram. Do not base your social channel choice on where your friends and family are most active.

Think about your customers.

  • Who are they?
  • Where would they be talking about your product?
  • What are the kinds of things they like that are similar to your product or service?

Then look at how existing followers are interacting with you on social media. 
Putting content out into the world for the sake of doing so is a poor use of your time, so look closely at the posts that get the most engagement. Make sure you have at least 1 month of activity before reviewing any reports – 3 months would be better.

  • How many people are you reaching with your content?
  • Are they interacting with your posts (likes, comments, shares)?
  • What times of day and days of the week are you posting content? Is that when your people are online?

Every 2-3 weeks, check your reports, learn from what you’re reading, and apply it to your digital presence. Make notes, look for trends, ask yourself questions.


Coming Up Next Time:
What do I do with all of these reports? How can I apply what I see to my marketing?

Tell Me a Story vs Sell Me a Product

You can shout from the hills all day long about how amazing your product or service is, but there is so much competition out there that it is difficult (even rare) for you to stand out from the crowd.

There is no meaning in a product description, but there IS in the story behind it or the company that developed said product. Our brains process information in story-like patterns and words into meanings. So when someone tells us a story, it reaches more than just the language center of our brain – it activates other senses.

Invite People to Experience Your Product Through a Story

This isn’t a “Once Upon a Time” scenario, but more of a mini-documentary or biography. Remember the VH1 show Behind the Music? That show brought so much attention to artists who were long forgotten and it triggered huge music sales. Why? Because we (the viewers) engaged on a deeper level with that musician or band, felt connected, and wanted to be part of their story somehow.

Brand Story, Marketing, Company Story, Marketing story, storytelling

Yes, there are absolutely instances of huge companies that do not tell their story in the way that I’m describing. They simply have a tagline that includes sensory words to trigger your interest. Then they repeat the phrase everywhere you go so that you can’t forget.

“Mmm Mmm Good”

Melts in your mouth, not in your hands”

“The Happiest Place on Earth”

Customers want to hear about why the company or product exists, the way the founder feels about the product, the first-ever store opening or sale made. Those small moments in time will take people from liking a quality product or service to connecting with it and becoming loyal.

 

Your History Does Not Decide Your Future

You do.

Life pitches curve balls and we cannot always predict it. But you can be flexible and open to what the next step is for you and your business.

My Curve Ball

Walking the streets of midtown Manhattan and Astoria, Queens brings back memories – both good and bad. If you know the real New York, it’s hard not to love this city.

Because I am from New York, it’s easy to assume that my destiny was to live here, have a family here, and die here. Nope, not me. I woke up day after day feeling mundane. The city started to look dirty and uninspiring. The shouting homeless guy and constant sirens began to bother me. Opportunities to take big risks and gain life experience didn’t appear to be tangible in New York.

There was a pit in my stomach, and I was feeling completely split in half. One part of me knew the importance of having family and friends close by – my support system. But my future was filled with innovation and making a positive impact. Soon I realized that the entrepreneurs in New York face bigger challenges than those in smaller cities like Austin or Denver. After months of consideration and research, I decided that my history could not hold me back any longer. It was time to take that leap of faith that so many talk about.

history, business, future, evolution

History Does Not Need to Define Your Business

We are the innovators of tomorrow – we create the game changing ideas that will make our world different (and hopefully better). Just as you must be open and recognize your failures and growth opportunities in business, the same applies to the way you communicate with your end customer.  The ideas we share, as well as the processes, must reflect exactly the openness to change.

IDEAS

The old idea was to send all direct marketing communications through the mail. Then email showed up. And then social media and targeted digital ads. Now SMS and mobile apps are leveraged for direct marketing. Direct marketing has evolved from a “I hope they don’t throw this piece in the garbage” experience to a “we can see that the customer viewed this message and replied” engagement.  Print mailers may still be effective for your business, but SMS may also work. It’s easy to fall back on the things you know, but don’t be afraid to take a risk and try something new – it might even take a bit of a fight to make it happen.

PROCESS

Just because it worked last year, doesn’t mean it’s working this year. I know you don’t want to hear that, but it’s true. You may have always included news announcements and product updates in your blog, and that’s worked really well for the past 2 years. Now you have planned content each week that is around a specific marketing campaign. Your blog is going to start looking cluttered and become overwhelming if you’re still including all of that other stuff. It might not happen right away, but readers will be deterred by the experience. It may be time to re-evaluate the way you get different kinds of messages out to different audiences.

In business, as in life, it is important to recognize history, but one should never let it determine what the future holds. So what is holding you back?

Why I Love Content Marketing

Content Marketing aka “Corporate Storytelling”

Many people are buzzing about content marketing as if it is a brand new concept. Really, it is just a new title to a long running concept of telling your company or brand story through your marketing campaigns.  Some people have called it Corporate Storytelling or “Old-School Marketing” content. This is the oldest form of marketing after all.

In 1900, Michelin Tires released the first Michelin Guide, which is now the oldest European hotel and restaurant reference guide. It includes the Michelin stars – the awards given to select establishments for excellence – as well as some car-focused tips and tricks. When they launched the Michelin Guide, it was intended to boost the demand for cars (and thus for car tires). The content they were delivering was for a specific and targeted audience – French Motorists. The company was providing valuable information that is of high caliber and a reflection of the company’s brand value – this is great content marketing.

Why Content Marketing is Great

There are so many ad agencies out there that preach about repetition of the brand message being the key to success, but I genuinely believe that the greatest value a company can get from marketing is when there is strong content for it to sit upon (and repeated in different ways, of course). The information you offer provides value in several ways:

To Customers

Companies that offer useful content such as a restaurant guide (like Michelin), tips, how-to videos, and other information that is related and complementary to what the company does represent a brand that I want to be loyal to. A company that cares enough to know what I want and need is one that I will associate with trust and comfort. Great marketing content can naturally create loyalty and brand trust.

For SEO

When the content of your website is consistent and repeating similar/related concepts through the words you choose in blog posts, news releases, social media, and metadata, then search engines can trust your website is not a spammer. If done right, great content marketing can have a very positive impact on your website’s SEO.

For Social Good

Even those people who have no need for your product are likely to come across your company at some point. If your content is valuable, and perhaps offers ancillary information, then you are providing a sort of social good to the world. As a marketer writing about ways for small businesses to do marketing for themselves, you are offering a free service of sorts.  As a software company, you may provide some how-to videos that help people better understand the technology that you offer and its impact on the world.

I implore you to take the time and really think about your company’s story. Ask yourself about the solutions you offer to customers and how that impacts their lives. Your story lives in there somewhere. Or ask me! I’m always open for a meeting or chat to support businesses in writing their corporate story.

 

Enjoy this cool infographic showing a history of Content Marketing

Content Marketing, Corporate Storytelling, Marketing strategy

From the Content Marketing Institute

Marketing Campaigns

For many small and medium sized companies, the hardest part of marketing is simply managing all of the different pieces of the marketing mix. The first step toward organizing the potential chaos is to plan and schedule specific marketing campaigns.

Definition: A marketing campaign is a sustained effort to promote your product or service through a defined series of activities. 

What Makes a Good Marketing Campaign?

Marketing campaign, Amex, Marketing strategy

American Express – Small Business Saturday

A good marketing campaign follows a theme, and it includes a series of touch points through each channel. I wish that a single email or text marketing campaign was enough for someone to take action, but the average consumer can take anywhere from 3 to 10 touch points (or more) before actually making a purchase. Since there is so much noise in the marketplace, repetition of a message in different channels is important.

The American Express campaign of Small Business Saturday utilized several channels and message styles before it became a huge success. However, they understood some key things about running a successful campaign: Goal (positive branding with small businesses), Personas who support small business, Multiple Channels (digital ads, emails, partner communications, posters, etc) and the Virality of the concept.

What are some things that your company can leverage to make a great campaign?

  • Goal
    What is the goal of your campaign? You may want to increase sales for a specific product, drive traffic to your new website, simply create buzz about what your company is up to, or something else.
  • Persona(s)
    Who are your target customers? Identify the personas who are the most likely to be interested in this product, service, or topic. You may want to create a few demographic profiles to get started.
  • Channels
    How are you getting the message out to your target customers? This is a labor-intensive part of the planning process. If you are going to hit the customer with your message at least 3 times, then which channels will it be pushed through and when? (ie Email, Website, Blog, Social Media, Print, Radio, TV, PPC)
  • Virality of Content
    Understand what causes people to share information. Is the content of your message aimed to pique someone’s curiosity, cause a debate, get people excited?

The Minimalist Marketing Campaign Plan

If all of this sounds like gobbly-gook to you and you just want a fast way to get things going, then make a calendar in a spreadsheet. At minimum, you should have a plan for each month for what communications you are putting out to your customers (and the world).

Here’s a Sample Content Calendar

Marketing Communications, Content Calendar, Communications Calendar

Key Items in your content calendar:

  • Content Type
  • Title or Description of that content (blog post title or a description such as Monthly Newsletter)
  • Key dates (draft due, review by, publish on, etc)
  • Target Audience / Personas
  • Distribution Channels
  • Promotions tied to it
  • The Keywords or Metadata being used
  • Metrics for reporting on the success

Defining User Experience

For Technology. For Marketing. For the Experience of Your Product or Service.

User Experience (UX) and User Experience Design (UXD or UED) are terms used to refer to user-centered design practices.  The aim is to produce something that meets the user’s (the customer) own goals – his measures of success and ease of use – while fulfilling the objectives of the company. The term was coined by Don Norman while he was Vice President of the Advanced Technology Group at Apple.

“I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow. I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with the system including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual. Since then the term has spread widely, so much so that it is starting to lose it’s meaning… user experience, human centered design, usability; all those things, even affordances. They just sort of entered the vocabulary and no longer have any special meaning. People use them often without having any idea why, what the word means, its origin, history, or what it’s about.” (source)

UX Goes Beyond Technology

People often associate User Experience exclusively with web design and related areas of technology. However, we are now applying the concept to several areas of business. Here are just a few that come to mind:

Case Study for User Experience

Many executives view User Experience as a low-priority and an unnecessary way to spend budget. Ironically, it is a key way that many organizations end up saving money and improving their business. Let’s take a look at this somewhat fictional case study.

Software UX

The Special Software Company offers a SaaS solution directly to small businesses and re-sellers. Their software is a CRM tool with email built in. For the past 2 quarters, the company has been slowing down and profits are lower than expected. They have tried lowering the cost, up-selling account services, and even expanding their technology to make it work better with an email service provider. Nothing is working.

Finally, the CTO of the company suggests bringing in a User Experience Specialist to help the company identify the problem and address it. She creates organizes some focus groups of current customers and anther focus group of potential customers (based on the company’s profile of an ideal customer). During these focus groups, she discovers that the UI of the software is functional, but not logical to everyone. Even current customers explain that they had to learn how to change their own logic to use it. She also discovers that potential customers feel uneducated about the application of using this software – how will it really work for their business to save time and money?

Everything is complied into documents that show the user experience flow, touching upon the psychology around the interactions, and identifying the pain points for current and potential customers. The entire process took a couple of weeks, and now the company has clear actionable tasks toward improving the business.

Marketing to Your Users

Looking more closely at this software company, we discovered that one of the pain points for potential customers was the marketing message. It was unclear and was not answering the most important questions for the end user (the customer).

Marketing Personas, UX, User Experience

 

 

 

As marketers, we all too often are holding the megaphone up and shouting out the message rather than listening. The best marketing strategies, however, address user experience. It can be difficult, because unlike a product or service we need to keep testing the marketing messages and delivery until we know what is working.  Take these steps to create the most effective marketing message:

  • Listen, Watch and Analyze. If your company has online reviews, read them and make detailed notes about what people are saying. Check your website’s analytics to learn about how people are using your website. If you have a physical location, watch how they interact in the store and interview store staff about the experiences. Really pay attention to body language, because it tells a whole other story than the words people share.
  • Identify Personas. I prefer calling these people your tribes, but in the industry they are called personas. Each unique group shares common goals, background and experiences. This can also help you identify the triggers that lead your customers to purchase your product or service – the steps they took before getting into the store or onto your website.
  • Customer Flow. Follow the steps of the entire process it takes for a customer to be first introduced to your company all the way through the purchasing path and on-going customer service. Based on this flow, you can properly structure your customer communications (both marketing and otherwise) and it should be shaped around his/her persona.

Marketing – Strategic Thinking and Planning

Marketing Strategist

For ease of understanding, I have often explained my job as being a Strategic Marketer or a Marketing Strategist. The reality is that I do several small tasks that feed into the ultimate goal of helping companies communicate their goals and visions in the best possible light. I didn’t study marketing or strategy in college. Yet, I’m pretty darn good at seeing the goals of each company. The article below made me reflect on my style and methodology.

 Are You A Strategic Thinking Marketer?

Excerpt from Branding Strategy Insider 

Strategic thinking is a natural inclination – something I think you’re born with. In many business schools you can learn principles of strategic thinking, but like learning to play the piano, you won’t be very good at it unless you have the innate talent to see things strategically. Are you a strategic thinker?

I spend most of my time consulting with marketers on brand strategy – helping them to see useful patterns across the competitive landscape where everyone else sees complexity. In my experience, most marketers and brand managers just want to know HOW to get to their goal as fast and efficiently as possible. That’s tactics not strategy.

Strategic thinking requires you know WHY you are intent on pursuing any particular course of action. When you are clear about your why, the how to get there seemingly takes care of itself. Like gravity I don’t know how this principle works, I just know it does.

Interestingly enough, those with the gift of strategic thinking hardly see it as such. Like all natural systems – like breathing – your gifts operate effortlessly mostly under your awareness. You may be a brilliant strategic thinker but because it’s so natural to you, you may not acknowledge it and self apply it to your conscious behavior.

To help you connect with your gift for strategic thinking and the power it has to strengthen your resolve to achieve your marketing goals, here are several attributes and themes that may seem familiar to you and are shared by all strategic thinkers.Strategic Thinking - CEO Candi

Strategic thinkers see through the clutter.
They have an extraordinary perspective on how the world works. They “see” pathways hidden inside complexity. These pathways or insights often result in uncanny and creative solutions rich in their obvious simplicity.

Strategic thinkers are naturally curious always asking “what-if” questions.
They link “what if “scenarios together like pearls in a necklace. They are always a few moves ahead of where their competitors happen to be on the chessboard of the brandscape. They’re relentless in their questions, which usually enables them to spot trends that have lucrative opportunities embedded within them.

Strategic thinkers think about the important and not so much on the urgent.
While others focus on navel gazing their immediate circumstances, strategic thinkers find it incredibly obvious that if you look down the road and decide what you want to have happen when you get there, you won’t be a victim of your current circumstances anymore.

Strategic thinkers evaluate risks and obstacles.
They see repercussions more clearly than others. They don’t pursue any course of action without careful consideration of the downside. Then they systematically assess “if this or that happens, can we live with that outcome?”  They are usually more prepared and ready for where events may lead them.

Strategic thinkers are not attached to their own preconceived ideas. 
They use their insight and intuition to cull through and discard the potential pathways that lead to resistance and confusion. In groups they are always open to consider the crazy ideas out of left field.

Determined Strategic Thinking CEO Candi

Strategic thinkers take determined action.
They don’t procrastinate and wring their hands in worry and fret. They strike forward confidently armed with their strategy.  Through their action they keep their vivid vision from becoming a pipe dream.

There’s an old saying “it takes one to know one” Hopefully that’s the case for you! Our natural inclinations always reveal our gifts and strengths. If you have the awareness and application of your inner strengths, you’ll spend less time thinking about your shortcomings.