4 Ways to Improve Your Current Website

I had been referred to a consulting company by a mutual print representative who said they wanted some help with their online presence. I reviewed their website, social media accounts and any relevant posts and pages that came up in Google searches. When I met with the President of the firm I explained where I felt their deficiencies were, and what I recommended as a solution; which included a revamp of their current website.

While she concurred with most of what I had to say, she replied that their website did not need to be replaced. However, she went on to say “but, it isn’t really working for us. What can be done to improve our website, short of an actual overhaul or revamp?”

Her response is both understandable and fairly common, which made me think about it further. If you had a website that was developed only two or three years ago, you may feel reticent to invest in a new one. But like this client (yes, she’s a client now), you may not be satisfied with your website’s performance.

If you are happy with the website design and branding, if it is an easy, intuitive site to navigate, if it is responsive (automatically conforms and optimizes for different sized screens) and if it is accessible (people with disabilities can navigate your website) — then you may not need a new website. But, if it isn’t actively promoting your organization or contributing to the sales process then you’re letting it off easy.

In our digital age, a website should do more than say who you are and what you do. It is an opportunity to engage with your audience and impress upon them your ability to satisfy their needs.

Here are four things you can do to help turn your current website from an online brochure, to an online marketing machine.

1. Content Audit

Do you know what content you have and how it fits into your overall marketing and sales goals? Don’t worry, most companies don’t. (This blog will help you get started: Own Your Content) We recently completed a comprehensive content audit ourselves and were surprised to see how many holes we had in our own content and strategy! (A reminder that it needs to be looked at regularly to properly guide your content strategy.)

Having content is good, but in order for it to be strategic it needs to fit into a plan. The plan determines what you need, the audit reveals what you have, you determine how it fits into the overall strategy and what other pieces you need to fill the holes. To make this manageable, we use a spreadsheet with columns for:

  • Source (web page, blog, whitepaper, infographic, etc.)
  • Topic
  • Name/Title
  • Funnel (does it fit top, middle or low in the info/sales cycle)
  • Workflow (what workflow or campaign is it part of)
  • Usability (our own scale on how useful/effective it is for our audience)
  • CTA (is there a relevant/custom call-to-action/ad in the content)

2. Improving SEO

The times of keyword stuffing are long gone, but the importance of keywords is still prevalent. Google’s keen sense of good online content can sniff out the junk to determine what is truly a good resource with many layers and forms of relevant content. And you know what? Your audience is pretty good at it too, so try not to fool either. Provide substantial content that is of interest to your readers, and in different formats, such as video, images, infographics, as well as text.

Meta data is still important as it is used in your search displays, so word your page titles and descriptions carefully, to engage potential readers as they search the web. Check out our 5-Minute SEO Check You Can Do Yourself.

3. Leveraging Social Media

Your website may not offer much engagement or opportunity for dialogue, but your social media accounts do. If social media accounts are relevant to your business, look for ways to integrate them beyond a linked icon on your home page.

Streaming social content on your website is easy and can spur involvement. Inviting dialogue or feedback on topical issues within your industry, requesting and displaying testimonials can be effective, and adding polls or contests can be fun and engaging. Be sure that whatever you do fits with your brand, audience, and is part of an overall engagement strategy. Simply getting clicks, likes, retweets, etc. really doesn’t matter if it isn’t moving your audience along an information or sales cycle.

4. Marketing Automation

Often referred to as Inbound Marketing, automated marketing enables a series of tasks to be automatically completed when triggered. For example, a client clicks on an e-newsletter link to your “Our Widgits” web page, and visits a specific new widget page three more times in a week. That shows some obvious interest, so your website may automatically send an email to the client with more information on that specific widgit, additional shipping information and a link to your delivery schedule. If your client clicks on the delivery link, another more informative email could be sent, and the appropriate sales rep sent a prompt to call said client immediately. II the client doesn’t click on the delivery link, then a different email with other information and an incentive might be appropriate, or links to relevant blog articles, or references from other clients who have ordered that widgit…

Point being, strategic tasks can be set up to happen automatically, accommodating for the receiver’s actions and sending the right information at the right time. It allows you to look after prospects’ and clients’ needs efficiently and effectively. (Read more in Get Personal With Dynamic Emails.)

These four items — a content audit, improving SEO, leveraging social media and marketing automation — can each contribute to making your website far more effective and engaging to your audience. Used in combination, your website will become a veritable marketing machine.

Photo credt: GettyImages

Consistency-in-Branding_PROSAR_image

How Consistency Improves Your Branding – 5 ways to help your brand reach its potential

The purpose of branding is to go beyond simply creating awareness, with the intention of nurturing a trusting and loyal relationship. It’s a comprehensive undertaking that requires consistent use of your branded identity, in all of its forms. It’s no easy task to maintain consistency among myriad print, digital and broadcast touchpoints: letterhead, business cards, ads, billboards, brochures, website, blogs, social media accounts, emails, ebooks, posts, videos, TV, radio… Reputation manifests in everything that represents your organization, including the experience of dealing with your organization.

In our ever-changing digital world and increasing communication channels, consistency is an increasingly critical aspect in successfully establishing a trusted and sought-after product, service or organization. This article focuses on the role that consistency plays in successful branding. Here are five important considerations that relate to your brand consistency, and your ability to build a strong brand.

 

  1. Start from the Heart

It all stems from your mission, vision, value statement unique selling proposition, any guiding principles for your organization. Ensure that they are authentic and aligned. A thorough understanding of what drives your organization and what it has to offer is the starting point. Your brand is the essence of what your market thinks of your organization; so consider what it is destined achieve, and what its brand should represent.

A full appreciation of your target market, their expectations and desires is also key. In order to be successful, you’ll need a receptive market; resonating with your audience paves the way to acceptance. Essentially, your brand should relate directly and explicitly to the belief system of your organization and that of your market.

  1. Set the Foundation

Even small companies can find it difficult to ensure that everyone treats branding aspects in a consistent manner. Add to the mix associates, freelancers, consultants, suppliers, advertisers, etc. and the task of maintaining a common front becomes rather formidable. Create a Branding Style Guide (this is often done when a new Corporate ID is created).

A branding style guide doesn’t need to be a monumental tome with excessive rules and regulations, but should cover all typical print, digital and broadcast uses. It should also be reviewed and updated periodically (at least every 3 years) to ensure it is relevant to the media and technology you and your industry are using.

It identifies all items used in presenting your organization and sets guidelines for their use. Graphic and presentation components typically include logos, icons, colours, fonts, specific photos and illustrations, etc. People have a strong and lasting connection with graphics and colours, which explains the importance placed on logos and their use.

Content components incorporate tagline, slogan, lexicon, tone, etc. What you say and how you say it can provoke tremendous impact and evoke strong emotion. In order for your audience to learn to trust your organization, they need to identify with what you have to say. The vocabulary used and tone of corporate content can help to position your organization as genuine, knowledgeable, caring, expert, as a go-to source that can be relied upon. Note that having a consistent corporate tone doesn’t mean that all your content needs to sound the same. Individual voices and characters within your organization add depth and can help to attract targeted segments or personas.

  1. Plan the Journey

Knowing where you came from and where you want to go makes it more likely that you’ll actually get there. To keep you, and the rest of your team, on track, plan how content and graphic identifiers will be used to build and support your brand. How will it get in front of your target market? What format will it take? When? Use an Editorial Calendar to ensure strategic, relevant and scheduled content.

Content generation provides many options (web pages, blogs, emails, social posts, ebooks, brochures, whitepapers, etc.) and is an influential means of attracting and reaching out to your audience. Consistency in template designs as well as voice/tone help build a strong foundation for your brand (keep that style guide close at hand!).

An editorial calendar maps out what content will be written, by whom, how it will be published, and when. It allows a strategic approach (ensuring consistency in both frequency and focus) and overview to ensure you are creating content that is of value to your audience as well as supporting your brand.

Chose your social media carefully, there are a lot of platforms, and just because they are cool or popular doesn’t mean it is a good fit for your organization. Also, consider the resources required to maintain an active and strategic presence.

  1. All Aboard

Having the components, a guide and a plan put you ahead of most companies. But to make it all work successfully you need buy-in from your organization. Your brand may not be a strong rallying force of motivation (it should be!), but it must be embraced by all. The entire organization needs to understand and support your branding initiatives.

In order for your team to be part of the successful implementation of your branding plan, they’ll need access to info and files. All graphic components, the branding style guide and editorial calendar should be easily accessible to anyone who will be publishing and presenting on behalf of your organization.

  1. Stay the Course

A brand strategy requires ongoing monitoring and attention. It’s part policing and part propping. You need to ensure that your team is adhering to the style guide and maintaining the image and voice to properly position your organization. You’ll also want to identify where the brand is weak and might require additional support.

Don’t be overzealous or near-sighted in your regulation. In these fluid times, acknowledge that things change and your brand strategy and implementation will need to evolve to stay current and relevant.

Do you have any thoughts on brand consistency or other considerations that could be added to this list?

Image Credit: mindscanner / gettyimages

Align your marketing strategy and sales development for greater success.

3 Considerations to Improve Marketing and Sales

Sales is an integral aspect of any organization: manufacturers, service providers, member-driven associations, small business, bureaucratic enterprises… All organizations rely on a steady source of revenue to survive and grow. It is understood that marketing is an important aspect of creating awareness, positioning a brand and essentially creating a positive environment for sales to occur. Unfortunately, how marketing strategy and sales development successfully work together is often not fully considered.

The relationship between marketing and sales has long been a troubled one. Whereas they should be working together in synergy with the common goal of securing relationships to strengthen the organization, they are often actively at odds with each other, oblivious to each other, or embroiled in a cold war of secrecy and subterfuge.

The digitization of the business world and its business development processes has helped bring these two disciplines closer, and many software tools approach the two coherently. However, many organizations still seem to cling to the old ideology that promotes two separate silos with little connection.

To reap the rewards of harmonized marketing and sales efforts, keep the following three aspects in mind.

 

Marketing and Sales are Distinct Functions

Although I am stressing the importance of integrating them, it’s important to appreciate that marketing and sales have different functions. One focuses on creating awareness, positioning a brand and developing interest. The other is tasked with capitalizing on that interest and closing the deal. Some feel that marketing spends money and sales makes money. Admittedly, it takes resources to mount a successful marketing campaign, but marketing should be a strategic investment. (And, it is getting easier to monitor and track your ROI.)

The difference in approach may often be subtle, but worth respecting. Trying to sell to new leads will probably annoy and scare them away; whereas a well nurtured lead may always be a prospect unless you provide a timely and appropriate buying opportunity. Understanding the difference between the two disciplines guides the role each should play and how they can successfully work together to improve your business development efforts.

 

Marketing and Sales Should be Aligned

Although marketing and sales are distinct, they should not be isolated from each other. The old corporate structure had separate departments, often with little communication between the two. Internally it was more of a competition as to which department was most valuable to the organization. Fiefdoms and bureaucracy may have been affordable then, but with leaner teams and higher expectations in today’s fast-paced and cost-efficient business world, it is essential to have an aligned and harmonious process that attracts leads and nurtures them to be satisfied customers.

To align your marketing strategy and sales efforts, it makes sense to work backwards. Determining your sales goals and forecasted breakdown is a good way to start. From their you can better identify your target audiences and flesh out buyer personas. Understanding who you will be selling to provides a good foundation for determining your marketing strategy. Where and how will you engage your audiences, what are they interested in, how will you effectively communicate your advantages and benefits, what aspects of your brand will resonate with them… Key marketing decisions that will guide your content and creative start with considering the final sale.

Structuring how leads transition from marketing to sales, with a communication/feedback loop, will allow a seamless journey for your prospects and returning customers. There are many good software tools that assist you in structuring, implementing and monitoring the process. Many (e.g. SharpSpring) help you to automate the process and identify opportunities — making the process itself an active part of the solution.

 

Integrate Marketing strategy and Sales Plan

You’re no doubt aware that a smart strategy with SMART goals is a smart way to proceed — plan your work, then work your plan. Most companies have a sales plan, it may simply be targets, but they at least have a clear objective to aim for. Many SMEs have a budget for marketing, but fail to have a detailed marketing plan. And I’d wager that an exceptionally small minority actually have an integrated sales and marketing plan. So, how is an organization expected to develop sales and grow with little or no structured guidance?

Sustained growth is achieved and maintained with goals, processes and tactics in place. Defining the strategy and ongoing tactics to reach your goals, and then putting the processes in place is what separates successful companies. Going the extra step to create a joint marketing and sales process will distinguish you even further.

The simple solution to growth is marketing strategy and sales working in harmony with a coherent strategy. The successful implementation is not so simple — it requires a good deal of knowledge and a lot of work, on a consistent and ongoing basis.

Hand-drawn image that says Time to Update

7 Reasons Why You (Probably) Need a New Website

I spoke with the owner of a manufacturing company recently who asked “why should I invest money in a new website when I already have good clients and I don’t deal with the public?”

 

In another discussion, a client stated, “We need to keep our costs as low as possible, so perhaps we’ll look at a revamping the website next year.”

 

As an experienced marketer, I found it incredible that seasoned and capable managers could have these viewpoints. Obviously, if times are tough and you need to choose between a new website and paying your staff and suppliers, marketing should take a back seat while you hunker down and prioritize payments. However, if you are simply waiting until your cash flow is particularly flush before addressing your website, waiting for the “right” time may be your downfall.

 

An effective website is a crucial piece of your marketing arsenal and shouldn’t be put-off or overlooked as an effective conduit for sales. Despite management’s best intentions, very few websites are actually designed to facilitate the sales process. Simply listing what you do and including a map as to where you are, won’t cut it anymore. The real role of a website is to interest and engage those who aren’t already sold. To educate those who don’t know about your product/service or how it can benefit them. To position your company and product/service favourably with customers and prospects. To initiate or nurture strong relationships.

 

Here are seven reasons why your website is important, and deserves your attention:

 

1) Powerful Prospecting

 

Whatever you sell and whoever you sell it to, your market is doing its research online. Prospects are clarifying product info and qualifying your company as a worthy supplier. If your website isn’t designed and edited to engage viewers and facilitate the sales process, you’re losing potential sales.

 

2) Create Caring Customers

 

We all understand the value of our customers and the importance of nurturing those relationships. Websites are an opportunity to always have the porch light on and the welcome mat out. A warm place where customers can be reminded of what you do, as well as learn about services they had no idea that you provide. It’s easy to take existing clients for granted, so review your website every now and then with a customer-centric point of view and ensure you’re addressing their needs and affirming their decision to do business with you.

 

3) Engage Employees

 

Using your online presence to motivate and retain employees is an important aspect that should go beyond a website application form. Featuring your team online, highlighting social outings, participating in blog articles… there are many ways to involve company staff in the website and welcome them as part of the family.

 

4) Build Brand

 

Brand sets the tone and positions your organization in the minds of your audience. Your website should be a hub for your brand. The design, messaging, and functionality combine to deliver a user-experience that will either support or malign your brand. A strong brand will help you gain sales, recruit talent, attract solid suppliers and please the public; so how is your website supporting your brand?

 

5) Supercharge SEO

 

In order for people to do business with you, they have to first of all, find you. Your website is not only your opportunity to tell your story, but it can serve as the magnet to attract viable prospects, too. Properly setting up your site for SEO and having strategically written content will lead to more traffic based on relevant organic searches. This increases your website’s potential to deliver qualified leads.

 

6) Responsive Design

More and more people are searching the web on their smartphones. In fact, this past Christmas season, Amazon shipped over 3 billion packages and 72% of those orders were made on a mobile device. Whether you have an e-commerce site or a blog, making your website easy to navigate and read is critical. A responsive website adapts to the screen size so laptops, tablets and smartphones can all provide an enjoyable user-experience. It also helps with your Google rank, as the search engine giant appreciates sites that adapt to the users’ screen, and penalizes websites that don’t.

 

7) Accessibility

In some states and provinces, having a website that is accessibility by people with a disability is regulated. In Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) outlines how your website must comply (based on WCAG 2.0 criteria). It covers colours and contrast, size of type, consistency and ease of navigation, Alt text for all images… there’s a long list of design and technical considerations to optimize the user-experience for a variety of users with different abilities. Not only is it good sense to make sure your website can be used by the entire populatin, but now it’s the law.

There are more reasons good reasons to look at what your website can be doing better for you; such as providing fresh content, facilitating administrative actions, creating process efficiencies, polling and intelligence gathering… what would you add this list?

Hand-drawn image that says Time to Update

Image Credit:  IvelinRadkov / Getty Images

Guerilla soldier with thumbs up and sign that says Going Guerilla PROSAR.

3 Considerations for Guerilla Marketing

We deal with a lot of small and medium sized businesses, and many are looking for the magic rocket that will quickly propel them to recognition, fame and fortune. They’ve heard of some fantastic event or promotion that made a start-up company a household name and driven 500% growth, and they want that. Who wouldn’t? Here are three important questions to ask when considering guerilla marketing.

 

How Does it Fit Into Your Marketong Plan?

Unfortunately, creating an Internet meme or popular guerilla marketing tactic is not likely; and not a realistic goal on its own. I certainly don’t underestimate the potential power of such a tactic, but the chance of being successful is remote… really, really remote. Before you start playing the marketing lottery, I suggest you invest in a good strategic plan. It sounds boring in comparison to a viral video or flash event, but it will focus your marketing efforts on tactics that will steadily move your company forward.

The advantage of a plan is that, well, its planned. It takes into consideration your current position, resources, your goals and where you want the company to be down the road. Growing your business successfully relies on planning your route to get there, and a strong brand [For more on Branding, check out: I Have a Website, Why Do I Need Branding?; Is Your Brand Relevant?] with structured marketing will accelerate that. True, some wild guerilla marketing would add an octane boost, but without the plan and marketing foundation, you might find yourself out of gas and coasting to the side of the road just as fast.

The benefits of a good marketing plan are numerous:

  • Build or support your brand
  • Clearly communicate what you stand for
  • Expand your market
  • Engage new audiences
  • Support sales goals
  • Improve the user-experience of dealing with your organization
  • Strengthen relationships with customers and leads
  • Provide measurable results to keep you on track

These are all important aspects in building a strong marketing foundation for your company. They allow you to project a professional image and provide targeted, clear communication to engage with your audience. They help customers to feel good about dealing with you and prompts referrals. They position your organization for growth and stability. And, they just might deliver a run-away successful tactic in teh process.

 

How Much Can You Invest in Guerilla Marketing?

It may seem like success just happens miraculously, and all it took was a simple video. That can happen, but when it does it is a fluke. And, since no strategy is built around it, it is quickly forgotten when the next wave of cool videos and memes flow along the Internet current. Hard to ride the wave if you aren’t prepared for it.

On the other hand, companies have wasted large budgets on carefully crafted, wittily worded, and slickly sequenced videos and “impromptu” events that have gone no where. So budget alone does not determine the likelyhood of success. Other than luck, the most important aspects are strategy and understanding. Strategy is main thrust of this article; understanding relates to your audience, social and soietal considerations, the chosen media and communication. It’s a lot to understand and requires a team to gather the intelligence, decipher its relevance, integrate this knowlegde and align it with your strategy and goals, design, develop and implement the magical event/video/meme that goes viral. Fortunately, both strategy and understadning are inherent in a good marketing plan.

It is a significant commitment of people, process and time, so don’t waste resources on trying to develop the rocket that will propel your brand to stardom, until you have your growth planned and a marketing strategy to get you there. It’s certainly possible that one of your planned and measured tactics designed to move you further along your structured marketing plan may go viral. And it makes sense to try to create such a tactic — as long as it is part of comprehensive plan and budget.

 

Besides Popularity, What is the Goal?

So, how would you leverage the popularity garnered from a run-away viral hit? Would it dovetail into your existing plan, or would you need new online workflows (landing pages, forms email campaigns, etc.), sales team strategy, PR campaigns, etc., to take advantage of this boost. If you’re fortunate enough to find success, don’t let it plummet away from you.

Be ready to respond promptly and positively. Popularity is wonderful, but usually fleeting. You’ll need to connect it strategically to your brand, processes and sales pipeline to successfully sustain your growth efforts. Again, it’s that boring plan that truly propels you to success, otherwise you simply have a really cool video that everyone watched for three days.

Planning is the key to business and marketing success. The better prepared you are, the more in-tune you are with your audience, media and environment in which you play, the more likely you will succeed. This gives you a strong foundation for sustainable growth, and makes it even more likely that a guerilla marketing tactic could work for you. But if it doesn’t, your organization is still progressing towards achieving its goals.

Guerilla soldier with thumbs up and sign that says Going Guerilla PROSAR.

Photo Credit: MichealJay/gettyimages.com

PROSAR content marketing graphic on blackboard

5 Reasons to Use Content Marketing

Content Generation and Content Marketing are current buzzwords and part of a leading marketing trend, but the concept has been around since the dawn of commerce. Content marketing is simply using information strategically to communicate with your market. What has changed since the first messaging merchants is the complexity and scope of that communication and its delivery. So buzzwords or not, a more focused and strategic approach to getting your message out is now critical.

Here are five reasons why you should be taking a structured approach to your content marketing.

 

1. Myriad Touchpoints

The ad guys in Mad Men had it comparatively easy; they could focus on a killer ad campaign knowing that a high percentage of their market would absorb their newspaper, TV and radio ads. Since the halcyon days when a campaign brainstorming required a brain-numbing amount of whisky, the Internet has given the information and communication world a whole new environment. This new landscape is vast, cluttered and omnipresent.

A minority of small companies are treating their websites as strategic communication hubs (unfortunately most are still virtual brochures with a link to their dormant Facebook page). And even if you are paying attention to your website, simply keeping it up-to-date isn’t sufficient. Blogs, online communities, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+… there are myriad touchpoints where your existing and potential market could connect with you. A strategic content marketing plan will determine which are best for your company and what needs to be done to properly support them.

 

2. Consumers Want More Info

The Internet has empowered consumers like never before. They now expect to easily find online all required info about any product or service, as well as reviews, user comments, instructions, how-to videos… in essence they want it all and they want it now. A strategic plan helps you to determine how you can most effectively provide that information in a compelling way.

Early advertising guru David Ogilvy understood the importance of content marketing. He maintained that “the more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.” Ogilvy helped the industry to appreciate the value of understanding your market and providing the right information in an appropriate manner. And even in those simpler times, this Mad Man realized that “Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image.” The fact that the communications and marketing world has become all the more complex underlines the importance of Ogilvy’s insight.

 

3. Open Lines of Communication

In addition to providing you with countless ways to connect with your market, social media and blogs also enable a two-way communication. This may seem daunting but it can be an incredible opportunity. A dialogue with consumers is a direct means to learn from your market and gather valuable information.

Ensure that the bulk of information about your organization online is under corporate stewardship.

 

4. Your Brand is Linked to Your Content

While you are putting good content out there, it is important to also listen to what is being said about you. Scanning the web for mentions and responding swiftly and appropriately has become an important aspect of brand stewardship. Whether you are thanking someone for kind words or a helpful suggestion, or addressing a misperception or mistake; dealing with it publicly and honestly helps you earn loyalty.

Essentially, it all reflects on you (or your organization if you really don’t want to take this personally). I believe that a company’s brand is now formed as much by the unofficial and/or unpaid content online as it is by the paid media and carefully crafted PR. Online, everyone hears you scream — the Internet hears everything said about your company and saves it for anyone to read. Your brand is living 24/7 online and you are probably unaware as to how it’s doing.

 

5. Much of the Content Online is Crap

This proliferation of information on the Internet has bred a lot of poorly researched, badly written and pathetically self-serving crap. (Yes, yes, there is also a ton of really good content, but when you research a purchase online, what percentage of the information is both helpful and well-written?)  So users need to sift through the garbage to find what they are looking for. If you’re churning out less than stellar material, you could be doing more harm than good and actually tarnish your brand.

Conversely, if you are actually producing relevant and readable material, you can help to define your brand as trustworthy and a valued online resource. This positioning moves you a whole lot closer to a buying relationship.

Writing compelling content is not easy, heck, just writing good informative content is challenging. With professional guidance, a strategic plan determines what content you should be producing, what you should be writing, what your staff can do, and what professional marketers/writers should create for you, as well as a schedule to make sure it actually happens. And this structured process makes it much easier to deliver good content.

What would you add to my list of reasons to approach content marketing in a professional manner?

Photo Credit: Getty Images : Cacaroot

The ABCs of SEO: A Project Manager’s Perspective

To say that there is a lot to know about SEO is quite an understatement. For not only is there a great deal of knowledge, skill and experience required to be truly competent at planning and managing SEO campaigns, but the rules keep changing. Google is constantly changing the landscape, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically, but each new algorithm can drastically influence the effectiveness of your efforts. Mastering SEO is like going to school, and the class never ends.

That being said — and acknowledging upfront my ignorance to the wild inner-workings of Google’s algorithms and how to tame them — this article deals with a top-level approach to SEO.

Whether you work for an agency, a small enterprise, an international conglomerate, or a non-profit organization, SEO is one of the tools you use to improve your online presence. If it isn’t, it should be. Virtually every organization these days benefits from a strong online presence, and SEO is an integral part of the online marketing mix. But what do you know about SEO and are you confident in how to approach it? Hiring knowledgeable people is an excellent first step, but you still need to be able to manage these people, as well as your company’s expectations.

Businesswoman chase her target for success by flying use balloon
GettyImages-511031061

We’ll start with a quick clarification, SEO can include the following tactics:

– Organic: Writing strategic content (web pages, blogs, white papers, social media, etc.) to help your website rank higher in searches.

– PPC (Pay Per Click): Paying Google (and other search engines) for keywords and ads to drive interested traffic to your website.

– Advertising: Paying other websites and online publications for banners and other online ads to drive interested traffic to your website.

[NB  Paid efforts can also be referred to as Search Engine Marketing or SEM.]

Here are three important criteria for project managers when considering SEO. Your staff, contract workers or agency should be able to explain and address each of these areas to your satisfaction.

 

Accountability

First and foremost is getting results. So what do you need to provide I order for your SEO efforts to be successful? Your agency, or inside team need guidance and information to direct their strategy and tactics. Consider the specific campaign objectives, areas of focus, targeted markets (demographic, geographic, industry), content, keywords and budget.

Then, what should you expect from your agency or staff? They will quantify your objectives (how many leads, submissions, page views, clicks, etc. are required to meet your objectives), perform keyword research and assessment, create/edit targeted content, design/write ads, create an implementation plan, provide ongoing monitoring and reports with recommendations. Working as a team, you will constantly refine and add to the tactics and work closer to your objectives.

Note that SEO is not a quick fix. Attracting new traffic with content is essential and long-term, but may take months to have a measurable effect. Even PPC and ads, which can generate traffic quickly, typically take some time to consistently drive the right audience to your website. Moving the new web traffic through your funnel, or nurturing the desired behaviour (e.g. register for a course, ask for a quote), is also a process that takes time to prefect.

 

Benefits

A marketing rule of thumb is that no-one does anything with receiving some form of benefit. It may more altruistic than “What’s in it for me?,” but there needs to be some form of gratification or reward to encourage action.

Consider how your targeted markets will benefit from engaging with you and articulate that clearly and in a compelling manner. Look at each action you would like your new web traffic to take (e.g. clicking through to website, clicking on a CTA/banner, signing up for your blog or e-newsletter, asking for a quote) and provide some incentive to help them along the path.

 

Congruency

Some see the ultimate objective of SEO to drive more traffic to your website; of course, it’s more sophisticated than that. Increasing traffic is a step towards developing business, so certainly it is important, but you need to attract the key audiences that fit your ideal personas. So, if you’re an organization that is focused on serving parents of elementary school kids, you’ll only be successful if a good portion of that new web traffic fits that demographic.

Beyond the audience you attract, your SEO initiatives must represent, and ideally promote, your brand (which should already take into consideration your mission vision, etc.). Organic, PPC or advertising all revolve around content. Ensure that the tone, vocabulary and information presented all embrace your organizational brand and culture. Even if one of those parents mentioned above does not click through to your website, you’ve had an awareness and branding opportunity to positively position your organization in their mind; maybe next time they will click through.

And, of course, your SEO efforts need to flow with any other marketing and advertising campaigns your organization is running. Not just from a brand perspective, even theme. You may be able to increase the effectiveness by leveraging the theme from an existing campaign.

What would you add to this list of important criteria for a project manager to consider when employing SEO? Add your thoughts to comments below.

Is Guerrilla Marketing Still an Option for Smaller Companies?

Guerrilla marketing can be a surprisingly effective means of gaining awareness and strong brand positioning. The benefits of a successful campaign or event include:

  • Position your brand with impact
  • Gain instant awareness, hopefully even go viral
  • Motivate staff and encourage a cohesive team
  • Strengthen recruitment and attract like-minded candidates

So the allure is obvious, but is guerrilla marketing still within the arsenal of small and medium-sized business?

From Wikipedia: The term “guerrilla marketing” is traced to guerrilla warfare, which employs atypical tactics to achieve an objective. In 1984, the term guerrilla marketing was introduced by Leo Burnett’s creative director Jay Conrad Levinson in his book Guerrilla Advertising.

Levinson was a brilliant marketer, and perhaps his interest in such tactics stems from the late 1960s with John Cleese appearing in a bikini saying “And now for something completely different.” Cleese turned a typical and boring “And now a message from our sponsors” message on its head with drama and comedy. In three seconds he cut through both the noise and monotony to earn your rapt attention. (Marketers can learn a lot from watching Monty Python.)

But guerrilla marketing is not simply shock and/or awe, there needs to be a strategic intent. On YouTube, there is a limitless supply of testosterone addled young males willing to do stupid stunts à la Jackass. Slapping a corporate T-shirt on someone as they ride a bicycle off a 20’ cliff into a children’s pool filled with Jello has limited value. The key consideration is not just being noticed, but associating your brand with a positive experience or outcome. Simply getting people’s attention isn’t branding.

Here is a smart example of positioning a brand or concept; who wouldn’t want to check out the Copenhagen Zoo after seeing this bus in downtown Copenhagen? Check out creativeguerrillamarketing.com for many examples of effective, fun and incredible in-your-face and experiential marketing.

Copenhagen_Zoo_Guerrilla_Marketing.jpg

 

By definition, guerrilla marketing employs atypical tactics. And may seem more difficult to successfully pull off a stunt today, with the public’s sense of awe dulled by years of reality television and YouTube binge watching, but some still rise to the challenge.

Remember when flash mobs were popular? Seemingly, out of nowhere strangers started dancing and joining a choreographed number. The public was typically mesmerized and overcome with joy at having stumbled into a Bollywood moment. Marketers and corporations were quick to see their value and dreamed of long-lasting brand attention with viral video play. Originally associated with low cost and a one-time or short-lived event, once corporations jumped on the band wagon these attributes went by the way-side — big budgets, slick production and involved campaigns replaced sweat equity.

Planning and successfully implementing guerrilla marketing is not easy It requires an out of the box or novel idea, great creative and coordination, superior planning and logistics… a truly talented team is required, and the finances to pay for it. But, if you have the resources and you can pull it off, the effect can be tremendous.

Perhaps Coke launched the biggest guerrilla marketing blitz yet with their campaign for Coke Zero, which (uncharacteristically for guerrilla marketing) uses virtually all forms of advertising (albeit interactively). A very sophisticated, technologically advanced, and expensive marketing campaign that is most definitely unexpected. (Check out their YouTube overview.)

These days, with higher public expectations, and the need to support with a large media buy and significant logistics to navigate, it seems that only large corporations have the financial strength to play with the guerrillas. Perhaps smaller firms can take advantage of social media to even the playing field a bit, and the PROSAR team will explore that in a future blog article. For now, what are your thoughts on the use of guerrilla marketing by smaller companies, or better yet, do you have an example of how it has worked for your company?

The Marketing Process Has Changed – Has Your Content Kept Pace?

It’s old news that customers have changed how they shop and buy. Thanks to the Internet, customers have a massive amount of information, reviews and feedback on virtually anything they want to buy, and they seek it out prior to making a buying a decision. Consumers are more in control of their purchasing behaviour than ever before. This changing dynamic has developed a new approach towards the marketing and sales process.

Companies like HubSpot realized this discrepancy and created software tools to help create, manage and analyse inbound marketing tactics. A new perspective has evolved out of necessity to better address consumers needs. Sales and marketing are starting to work in harmony to provide a seamless experience along the prospect – consumer – brand ambassador journey.

This never-ending process is aptly depicted by Altimeter’s Dynamic Customer Journey (shown below). It’s not so much a marketing funnel or sales cycle, but an ongoing experience controlled by the customer as to how and when they choose to seek information and buy.

PROSAR_Inbound_-_Altimeter_Customer_Journey_graphic.jpg

So what does this shift mean for your organization? How do you attract, convert, close and delight new customers? Radical inbound marketers will tell you that the old ways of marketing (e.g. broadcast media, such as newspapers, television, direct mail, cold calling) are falling on deaf ears and a waste of time. Obviously, that isn’t totally true. But, it is true that consumers are less likely to listen to uninvited messages that tell them why they need something. Consumers are now motivated to seek out the information they want, whenever they feel they need it. The intent and tone of what they seek will be to inform and enlighten, not to sell them.

Your target market may be more interested in a blog, review or rating, than a corporate brochure online. In fact, prospects often seek out information provided by anyone other than the manufacturer/seller of the product/service. They are seeking seemingly unbiased opinion (yes, I realize that is an oxymoron) to help clarify their buying decision.

For this reason, content generation has become one of the primary marketing efforts to inform, educate and subtly persuade. (Yes, marketing is still about persuading.) A mind-numbing plenitude of content is poured into the ether every day in the form of web pages, blogs, reviews, whitepapers, posts, comments, ratings, videos, presentations, animated graphics, photos, emails, texts, podcasts… Realizing that you need a content strategy to help position your information with your target market is the easy part — how do you effectively get your message to the right people at the right time?

There is no quick fix or easy means of successfully reaching out to your desired audience. Being noticed among the clamour of content relies on several skills (strategic marketing, product/service/industry knowledge, editorial strength, creative prowess, online media familiarity, SEO expertise), time (it is largely an organic process) and money (unless you are capable of doing it all yourself). Hence the growth in content marketers, strategists and experts. Taking advantage of such a professional or competent agency is probably a smart marketing investment. Certainly, including content as a central component of your marketing plan will help you to successfully reach your target audience and maintain a relationship with them.

Related Reading:
10 SEO Strategies to Achieve Higher Exposure in Google by Doug McCaffrey

3 Tips on How to Weather the Economic Storm in Your Marketing Plan by Dave Auten

Customer Service Is Social by Alexa Oliver

Planning for 2016: Inbound Trends & Patterns Worth Noticing by Donna Kind