Marketing From Your Gut

The nice thing about marketing is that it's both art and science.  I was recently reminded of this while I was cleaning out some of my web browser bookmarks.  As someone who's constantly bookmarking different websites, my list seems to grow daily.

I was reminded of a great site that actually tests different creative and shows you which one produced better results.  In addition to being sucker for data, I know that sometimes marketing is something where you have to go with your gut.  Although I wouldn't recommend that strategy as your full-time credo, there is something to be said for going with what feels right.

Okay, now the moment of truth.  How good is your gut?  Check out Anne Holland's Which Test Won Blog and try your hand at determining which creative outperformed the other.  By way of full disclosure I don't know Ann personally but am a big fan of her blog.  On a regular basis she provides insight into marketing creative and shares performance results.

What this means for you
From my perspective, I believe that I never doing enough testing.  Don't get me wrong, its great fun to see if one can find the "winning" creative but the reality is that a larger message is being communicated here.  How often do you test your creative?  Are you learning from each webpage, every email?  If you're like me the answer is no.  Personally I think I'm getting better with the concept of testing but I'm not there yet.

Each time you plan a campaign, think about doing multiple versions of it.  Printing post cards?  Create version A and version B.  Considering some new web pages?  Use Google Website Optimizer and plan a couple versions of copy or designs to test.  For me, the easiest way to start has always been to simply test a headline or subject line.

This may seem too simple but the reality is that headlines and subject lines account for a large percentage of readership.  Prospects can't read your message if they don't open your email or envelope.  Break down each of your campaigns into specific components and consider which can be versioned or tested.

Take the next step
As is true with an marketing initiative, you must begin by taking action.  I hope this post at least opens your mind to the possibility of doing split testing or multi-variate (testing multiple elements simultaneously) testing.  The goal is to always measure and improve upon your marketing.  This enhances your return on investment and ultimately the profitability of your marketing programs.

Let me know what types of tests you're running and what type of results you're seeing.  I'd be happy to share them with the rest of my blog readers!

Making Friends: Social Media Meets Facebook

I don't know about you but it seems like everywhere you turn someone is talking about Facebook.  Individuals, companies, organizations - just about everybody has a Facebook account or fan page.  From a marketing perspective, Facebook has always fascinated me and I've come to the conclusion that it's all about community.

People like to belong.  When you belong to a group, Like a page, or follow someone, it has meaning.  Many people like to judge their worth by the number of Facebook fans they have or number of Likes they receive to their pages.  This seems to be a good metric.  After all, the more fans or likes you have the more popular you are.  Sounds a little like High School doesn't it?  Well, the fascination with Facebook is here to stay and there are a few ways to use Facebook to your advantage. Begin with the following steps:

1.  Create a Fan Page.  Start with the creation of a fan page.  By developing this virtual real estate, you create a community that allows your prospects, customers, and friends to interact, develop user generated content, and gain access to special offers.

2.  Build Your Community.  Having a fan page is great but the real goal is to build a community.  You want people with common interests to interact with one another. The common interest could be you, your company or products.

3.  Create Unique Offers.  You want those who Like your page or become your fans to have access to special content or offers.  This not only encourages them to take an initial action but to keep coming back for more.

4.  Experiment with New Features.  Facebook is continually adding new features and modules.  Experiment by customizing your pages and adding a variety of features that engage your audience and enhances the community.

5.  Promote your Fan page.  If you want to build your community quickly and leverage your fans, you must promote your fan page.  Use your website, blog, emails, and email signature to let people know that you have a fan page and there are benefits to joining.  The more you promote, the more you'll convert. 

The key with any social media is getting started and to keep contributing.  Once you launch your fan page, don't stop there.  You should continually develop the community through original contributions, moderation, and interactivity.  View other fan pages and see how other companies are creating value.

When focusing on creating value, keep in mind the goal of your fans.  Help them solve a problem or learn more about their needs.  Facebook is a great tool for getting closer to your prospects and customers and is a community you can't afford to be without.

Recovering from a Social Media Mishap

The new year has been here a little over a week, and already we have seen some major social media fails. Pappa John's is currently on the chopping block for an inappropriate comment written on a receipt that later went viral on Twitter, and several large companies including Chrysler, Kenneth Cole, and Domino's all had grand fails in 2011.

And there is no doubt that there will be countless more social media fails by other companies before the year is up. However, while the social media failure may be inevitable for both companies large and small, that doesn't mean that they have to be the end of the line for reputable brands. We all slip up from time to time, your attempt at recovery can be the determinate between whether or not your public will forgive and forget or will crust your business. So if you find yourself with a social media failure on your hands, try to adhere to the following steps to achieve the best recovery possible:

Remain Calm 
Once you click submit, there isn't much that you can do to remove it forever from the internet. So if you find yourself staring at an inappropriate post or Tweet, stay calm. Panicking in this situation will not help you in anyway shape or form.

Acknowledge What You Have Done
One you have realized that you have committed a social media fail, you need to take the time to actually realize and consider what you have done. Have you made an inappropriate comment regarding an event or have you made a derogatory Tweet aimed at a certain group of people? Either way, you need to figure out just what type of social media disaster you have created so you can...

Realize Who You've Offended
Never start blindly apologizing, and certainly don't hand out gimmicks as an apology.  Keep the personalized pens 
for marketing, not apologizing. You always need to figure out what you have done and who you have apologized first. So after you have acknowledged just what you have done, you need to figure out exactly what group or groups of people you have offended.

Start Apologizing
Once you know who you have offended and how you have offended them, it is time to start apologizing, and you want to do so in a very polite and timely manner. Make sure the you come across as sincere, offer time so that those offended can offer insight, and then do anything possible to remedy the situation.

Prepare for the Long Haul
Your battle doesn't end simply because you have apologized. Depending on the severity of your social media mishap, your business could see effects linger for months. If you want to experience a complete recovery, however, you need to expect the going to be slow at first. You most likely lost the trust of your customers and they are going to want to see that you can conduct business as usual before giving you their patronage again.

A social media mishap can definitely be devastating, but it doesn't have to be the end. If you find yourself in the midst of one, simply keep calm and begin the recovery process as quickest as possible to reduce damage.

Today's guest post provided by Jenna Smith.  Jenna is a Saint Louis resident who seeks to travel the world while producing compelling content for the masses. When she isn't writing, you can find Jenna with her nose in a book, or her headphones on to block out the rest of the world.  Thanks for your contribution to the marketing blog Jenna!

Creating An Online Marketing Community

A little over a year ago, I set out to build an online marketing community.  And honestly, a lot of people thought I was nuts.  With social media ruling the day, creating an online community could be considered old-school.  But the reality is that social media has only raised the awareness of the importance of community... even in marketing.

Last year I launched the
Internet Marketing Forum.  The goal was simple, "Give a platform to marketers that allows them to share ideas, contribute, and build a real community."  And I'm happy to say, a year later, The Marketing Forum has just surpassed 4,000 members.  Yeah, I'm pretty pumped.

The Marketing Forum has a number of sub-forums covering everything from Internet marketing to general chat.  You'll find threads and posts covering the following areas:

-Internet Marketing Forum
-Special Offers Forum
-Search Engine Optimization
-Adwords/PPC/SEM Forum
-Social Media Forum
-Affiliate Programs
-Internet Marketing Product Reviews & Ratings
-Marketing Classifieds
-Domains For Sale
-Internet Marketers For Hire
-HTML & Web Design
-Graphics & Multi-Media
-Content Management
-Web Site Programming
-General Chat
-Local Meetings, Mastermind Groups, And Events

As you can see, we cover virtually ever topic you can image and I'm so excited by the dialog that happens each and every day across these forums.  Because the forum is moderated, you'll find only engaging conversations and growing list of contributors.

Help us reach our next goal of 5,000 and then 10,000 members.  Join today!

Changes to the Marketing Blog in 2012

Each new year brings new opportunities and new ideas.  This year is no exception.  In fact, I've been spending quite a bit of time thinking about The Marketing Blog and the changes that can benefit those who read the blog as well as the advertisers that want to reach you.  For those of you who follow my blog, you know that I'm a minimalist when it comes to advertising and I have turned down many advertisers in the past.

Even since the days when I started with online marketing, I've been very careful never to sell names or deal with unscrupulous advertisers.  As a result, people trust me and the content on my blog.  This is important to me and everyone in our community.  I'm always looking for ways to connect audiences with information that may be beneficial though- and this year I'll be updating the blog to bring you more of what you want.

Changes to Design
Overall I'm pretty happy with the design of the Marketing Blog.  What's nice about having your own blog is that you can keep tweaking it until you have something you're really happy with.  I've avoided the "templated" approach as I want something unique that you won't find anywhere else.
My plan is to add some advertising units or take the display ads I currently have for my own services and open them up to more advertisers who provide relevant products and services to the marketing community.  I'm considering some self-service type solutions to provide the flexibility needed to create a win-win situation for everyone.

Additional Content
I'd also like to experiment with additional content.  Whether it's adding access to special reports, marketing magazines, or resources, additional content is important to keep everyone informed about today's marketing landscape.  
I'm also looking for more guest posts this year.  I can sit here and write content everyday all day but no one is an expert on everything.  This is especially true when it comes to marketing.  This year I'll be doing more to attract some of today's leading marketing experts and hope you find the additional content worthwhile.

What's Your Role
I love hearing from all of you - my blog readers.  Let me know what additional content, features, and information you're looking for me to cover this year and I'll find the experts to educate all of us across any marketing related topic.  From mobile marketing to loyalty programs, The Marketing Blog has it covered.

Effective Marketing Strategies For Building Your Business

One frequently overlooked aspect of marketing is the concept of the loyalty program.  There are many different types of loyalty programs but I think the most important aspect is all about generating repeat business. This is essential if you want to win in 2012.

As I was thinking about the new year, and all of the businesses (large and small) that I've helped over the past number years - I couldn't help but think about those businesses that do such a fabulous job of getting people to use their services products again and again.

Let's take a look at a local hotel that just opened it's doors a couple of years ago near my home.  This hotel is part of a chain and is in an ideal location for out of town guests.  As my family plans events we consider and use this hotel for relatives on a pretty regular basis.  This hotel is not the only game in town but they do a decent job at a reasonable price and the location is convenient.

Who is your customer?
There are really two separate audiences this hotel is catering to. The first audience is comprised of people like me who are using the hotel to solve a problem. My issue is simple - relatives are coming and we need the space.  There aren't a whole lot of options to solving this problem and the hotel is in tune with my needs.

The second audience is the guest themselves.  Not only must the hotel recognize my needs as a consumer, but they must ensure that the guest who stays at the hotel has everything they need to guarantee a pleasant stay. 

Now you might be saying that the first audience is more important to the hotel.  And I would agree that your biggest customers - those who purchase often - are definitely important.  I'd also like to suggest that the second audience, the guest, is equally important because by delivering exceptional service there are many additional benefits to be gained.

Businesses will win or lose based on word-of-mouth marketing. 

Whether it's social media or face to face interactions, we like to talk about our experiences.  In this example, the guest, is going to have an experience at the hotel.  If it's okay, they'll move on and probably won't even remember the name of the hotel.  If the experience is good, they may call me at some point in the future and say, "What was the name of that hotel we stayed at when we came to visit?"  If the experience was exceptional, they'll not only remember the name of the hotel but recommend it to others and/or select it as their first choice each time they come to visit.

As you can see, getting new customers is only half the battle.  Once you have a customer, it's important to exceed expectations.  This is the best way to grow your business.  That is, unless you have millions to send on advertising.  Even so, if you want to make the most of your marketing dollars, you must focus on creating an amazing experience to build referrals and repeat business.

The businesses, large and small, who do this on a consistent basis are winning, and winning big.  This is why I frequent the stores I do and I'm sure it's a large reason why you keep going back to many of the same retailers, websites, or other businesses that you interact with on a daily basis.  Sometimes your purchases are driven out of convenience but I would suggest that your repeat purchases are based on a positive user experience.