Tag Archives: Marketing

Better Ways for Marketing People to Get Paid

As Tim Williams, author of TAKE A STAND FOR YOUR BRAND explains on this week’s episode of BRANDING BUSINESS (hosted by Ryan Rieches of OC’s biggest branding firm RiechesBaird here on www.OCTalkRadio.net), “for people who are supposedly creative, we don’t spend much time considering alternative ways to get paid beyond some hourly rate….as if creative work and manual labor were somehow both the same”.

Hear his ideas on alternative ways in which ad agencies, marketing people and other creative talent can get paid that more closely matches their corporate contribution and the true value of their work.  Definitely a conversation starter.

How to you pay for creative ideas in your company?

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We’re All Marketers Now

Courtesy of McKinsey Quarterly

For the past decade, marketers have been adjusting to a new era of deep customer engagement. They’ve tacked on new functions, such as social-media management; altered processes to better integrate advertising campaigns online, on television, and in print; and added staff with Web expertise to manage the explosion of digital customer data. Yet in our experience, that’s not enough. To truly engage customers for whom “push” advertising is increasingly irrelevant, companies must do more outside the confines of the traditional marketing organization. At the end of the day, customers no longer separate marketing from the product—it is the product. They don’t separate marketing from their in-store or online experience—it is the experience. In the era of engagement, marketing is the company.

This shift presents an obvious challenge: if everyone’s responsible for marketing, who’s accountable? And what does this new reality imply for the structure and charter of the marketing organization? It’s a problem that parallels the one that emerged in the early days of the quality movement, before it became embedded in the fabric of general management. In a memorable anecdote, one of former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca’s key hires, Hal Sperlich, arrived at the automaker in 1977 as the new vice president of product planning. His first question: “Who is in charge of quality?”

“Everybody,” a confident executive replied.

“But who do you hold responsible when there are problems in quality?” Sperlich pressed.

“Nobody.”

“Oh, shoot,” Sperlich thought. “We are in for it now.”1

To avoid being “in for it,” companies of all stripes must not only recognize that everyone is responsible for marketing but also impose accountability by establishing a new set of relationships between the function and the rest of the organization. In essence, companies need to become marketing vehicles, and the marketing organization itself needs to become the customer-engagement engine, responsible for establishing priorities and stimulating dialogue throughout the enterprise as it seeks to design, build, operate, and renew cutting-edge customer-engagement approaches.

As that transformation happens, the marketing organization will look different: there will be a greater distribution of existing marketing tasks to other functions; more councils and informal alliances that coordinate marketing activities across the company; deeper partnerships with external vendors, customers, and perhaps even competitors; and a bigger role for data-driven customer insights. This article provides some real-life examples of these kinds of changes.

Marketing’s cutting edge is being redefined every day. While there’s no definitive map showing how companies can successfully navigate the era of engagement, we hope to help senior executives—not just marketers—start to draw one.

The evolution of engagement
More than two years ago, our colleagues David Court, Dave Elzinga, Susan Mulder, and Ole Jørgen Vetvik unveiled the results of a research effort involving 20,000 customers across five industries and three continents.2 Their work showed how collaborative the buying process has become and how difficult it is to influence customers by relying solely on one-way, push advertising. In the words of American Express chief marketing officer John Hayes, “We went from a monologue to a dialogue. Mass media will continue to play a role. But its role has changed.”

Over the past two years, that evolution has only accelerated. More and more consumers are using digital video recorders to fast-forward through TV commercials and are consuming video content on Web sites such as YouTube and on mobile devices. Billboards alongside train lines and bus routes struggle to capture the attention of people absorbed by the screens of their smartphones. Meanwhile, today’s more empowered, critical, demanding, and price-sensitive customers are turning in ever-growing numbers to social networks, blogs, online review forums, and other channels to quench their thirst for objective advice about products and to identify brands that seem to care about forming relationships with them. Individuals even are posting their own commercials on YouTube. In short, the avenues (or touch points) customers use to interact with companies have continued to multiply.

The problem for many companies is that the very things that make push marketing effective—tight, relatively centralized operational control over a well-defined set of channels and touch points—hold it back in the era of engagement. Many touch points, such as calls to customer service centers and interactions between the sales force and customers, sit outside the traditional marketing organization, which has little or no permission to reach into other business functions or units. Companies have traditionally divided responsibility for touch points among functions. But a comprehensive strategy for engaging customers across them rarely emerges and, if one does, there’s often no system for executing it or measuring its performance.

More pervasive marketing
To engage customers whenever and wherever they interact with a company—in a store; on the phone; responding to an e-mail, a blog post, or an online review—marketing must pervade the entire organization. Companies such as Starbucks and Zappos, for which superior engagement has been a critical source of competitive advantage from the beginning, already exhibit some of these traits. But these companies aren’t our focus, which instead is the kinds of actions everyone else can take as they strive for world-class customer engagement.

The starting point is a mind-set shift around customer interaction touch points. Companies typically think of them as being “owned” by a given function: for instance, marketing owns brand management; sales owns customer relationships; merchandising or retail operations own the in-store experience. In today’s marketing environment, companies will be better off if they stop viewing customer engagement as a series of discrete interactions and instead think about it as customers do: a set of related interactions that, added together, make up the customer experience. That perspective should stimulate fresh dialogue among members of the senior team about who should design the overall system of touch points to create compelling customer engagement, and who then builds, operates, and renews each touch point consistent with that overall vision. There’s no need to worry about traditional functional or business unit ownership: whoever is best placed to tackle an activity should do so.

Design
Designing a great customer-engagement strategy and experience depends on understanding exactly how people interact with a company throughout their decision journey. That interaction could be with the product itself or with service, marketing, sales, public relations, or any other element of the business.

When the hotel group Starwood sought to enhance its engagement with customers, for example, the company pored through data about them and identified clear demographic groups staying at its more than 1,000 properties. In 2006, the company unveiled a specific new positioning for each part of its brand portfolio, ranging in affordability from Four Points by Sheraton to its Luxury Collection and St. Regis properties.

Each brand seeks to deliver a different customer experience, on dimensions ranging from how guests are greeted by staff to the kind of toiletries offered in rooms. Crucially, for each type of property, Starwood sought to design not only the desired experience but also how it would actually be delivered. It therefore had to decide what coordination would be necessary across functions, who would operationally control different touch points, and even what content customers wanted in the company’s Web site, in loyalty program mailings, and other forms of communication.

Starwood’s experience underscores the fact that, despite the growing impact of digital touch points such as social media, effective customer engagement must go beyond pure communication to include the product or service experience itself. “At the end of the day,” says Virgin Atlantic Airways chief executive Steve Ridgway, “we fly exactly the same planes as everybody else. If we get our customers off the plane happy, and they go on to talk about that and get others to come and then come back again themselves—that’s a huge marketing tool.”

Build
Once a company designs how it will engage with customers, it needs the organizational capabilities to deliver: adding staff, building a social-media network infrastructure, retooling customer care operations, or altering reporting structures. Functions far removed from marketing often have important roles to play, so one or more marketing teams at the center may have to build skills in other parts of a company. A global energy company took that approach and then largely dissolved the group when those capabilities were in place.

Allocating responsibility for building touch points is increasingly important because of the degree to which Web-based engagement is requiring companies to create “broadcast” media.3 Some have built publishing divisions to feed the ever-increasing demand for content required by company Web sites, social media, internal and external publications, multimedia sites, and coupons and other promotions. Many luxury-goods companies, for example, have built editorial teams to “socialize” their brands: they are transforming the customer relationship by producing blogs, digital magazines, and other content that can dramatically intensify both the frequency and depth of interactions.

Last year, LVMH Moët Hennessy–Louis Vuitton, for example, launched an online magazine, NOWNESS, that offers what the company calls “information reference” about its luxury brands. The site presents a daily multimedia story with little pure advertising and (in conjunction with LVMH’s efforts on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube) seeks to deepen the engagement customers have with the company’s brands. British luxury brand Burberry has undertaken a similar venture with its Art of the Trench site. France’s Chanel has for years used its own creative and artistic directors to develop content, without any need for help from external agencies.

Content-oriented strategies like these require creative employees who can feed the customer’s ever-increasing need for timely, relevant, and compelling content across a variety of media. They also provide an opportunity for productive dialogue within companies about the role of marketing versus other functions in building critical touch points that drive engagement.

Operate and renew
For companies in industries as diverse as consumer packaged goods and financial services, digital technology has upended the engagement expectations of customers, who, for example, want one Web site to visit and a relationship seamlessly integrated across touch points. Meeting such expectations requires extraordinary operational coordination and responsiveness in activities ranging from providing on-the-ground service delivery to generating online content to staying on top of a customer care issue blowing up on YouTube.

Behind the scenes, that new reality creates a need for coordination and conflict resolution mechanisms within and across functions, as well as budget procedures that allow flexibility and rapid action should the need arise. PepsiCo, for example, has sought to provide a single point of contact for its digital-marketing efforts by creating the role of chief digital officer: an executive without line responsibility who drives the application of best practices across the beverage group’s global digital efforts.

Companies also need a clear approach for monitoring touch points and renewing them as needed. At one major hotel chain, for example, a single group circumnavigates the globe acting as a “monitor and fix” SWAT team. It meets with hotel licensees, educates them about the company’s customer-engagement approach and management of key touch points, demonstrates new behavior, and trains the staff in new operational processes. Given the speed of information sharing today, constant monitoring and adaptation—indeed, continuous improvement of the sort that came to the operations world long ago—is bound to infiltrate marketing and grow in importance.

The marketing organization’s new look
As the chief marketing officer collaborates with the chief executive and other senior-team members to nail down a shared approach for designing, building, operating, and renewing customer touch points, he or she also will require a new kind of marketing organization. For marketing to truly become the customer-engagement engine that orchestrates the delivery of the end-to-end customer experience, it must evolve along four critical dimensions.

Distribute more activities
As marketing becomes more pervasive, the marketing organization will increasingly be defined by a core set of tightly held responsibilities, such as branding and agency relationships, and a set of responsibilities distributed among the functions and groups best placed to manage and use the information generated by customer interactions. Procter & Gamble, for instance, has created a group within the purchasing function to buy digital-media advertising space. The group spans geographic boundaries, reflecting the global nature of the medium, and while it sits within purchasing, it is staffed by people with marketing experience.

At companies where the marketing organization’s responsibilities will be split between core and distributed activities, CMOs will increasingly be held accountable for the performance of groups that don’t report solely to them. When CEOs ask for the marketing-org chart, they will see a complex web of solid- and dotted-line relationships showing the roles that marketing plays in designing, building, or operating touch points across the whole organization.

The chart will also show where marketing activities have been embedded in other functions. One major logistics company, for example, puts marketing resources within each sales district to adapt corporate-level marketing initiatives to local circumstances. This approach mutes complaints from sales reps who feel bombarded with marketing pushes from the head office by giving them simple, customized ideas for driving sales within their regions.

More councils and partnerships
While leading companies have long used marketing councils to boost management coordination, the new marketing organization will require many more of them, with greater representation from other functions. One global financial institution, for example, has created a digital-governance council with representatives from all customer-facing business units. The company’s goal was to ensure that data and analytics are shared, that customers receive the same experience regardless of channel (such as Web sites, branches, call centers, or automated teller machines), and that IT systems meet the customer’s digital-engagement needs.

More robust formal and informal external partnerships will be critical too. Customer forums, such as the one Virgin Atlantic Airways used to create a taxi-sharing app for smartphones, are one example. More structured relationships with distribution partners also can enhance engagement. The consumer-packaged-goods company Nestlé, for example, manages its relationship with retailer Wal-Mart Stores via what it calls the Nestlé–Wal-Mart Team. This unified cross-business, cross-functional group is responsible for everything from in-store activity to promotion, logistics, innovation, and product design. As a result, Wal-Mart has a single point of contact with one of its largest suppliers, Nestlé enjoys a stronger relationship with the retailer, and, critically, both companies gain a better understanding of, and engagement with, packaged-goods consumers.

Elevate the role of customer insights
Generating rich customer insights, always central to effective marketing efforts, is more challenging and important in today’s environment. Companies must listen constantly to consumers across all touch points, analyze and deduce patterns from their behavior, and respond quickly to signs of changing needs.

One implication is that the types of talent required to derive such insights will change. A premium will be placed on problem-solving and strategic-marketing skills, rather than on traditional market research capabilities such as designing surveys and commissioning focus groups. Some organizations also may need help from external partners, a pattern that’s already apparent at several insurers and health care payers that have neither the time nor the budgets to build the necessary data-gathering and -analysis capabilities in-house and at scale.

The insights group’s position in a company could even change. At one high-end hospitality business, for example, responsibility for generating customer insights has moved out of the marketing function entirely. The group now reports directly to the head of strategy, who uses information from it to redesign core business elements such as pricing, sales targeting, and the selection of properties for development.

More data rich and analytically intense
Reinforcing the importance of all these changes is an exponential increase in the volume of customer data and the intensity of the analysis required to process and act on it effectively. Without cross-functional collaboration and a clear delineation of roles, it will be impossible to gather, collate, gain insights from, and disseminate data that streams in from every customer interaction. The sheer volume of data is extraordinary: social-media gaming company Zynga, for example, generates five terabytes (the equivalent of about 1.5 million song files) of data on customer clicks every day.4 What’s more, “Marketing is going to become a much more science-driven activity,” says Duncan Watts of Yahoo! Research. In the trenches, this change suggests a shift toward sophisticated data analytics similar to the revolution that has already taken place in industries such as financial services, as well as in airlines and other industries where yield management is important. Some marketing organizations are already making their moves: to send targeted e-mails to customers, retailer Williams-Sonoma, for example, analyzes an integrated database that tracks some 60 million households on metrics including income, housing values, and number of children. These e-mails obtain response rates 10 to 18 times as high as those sent randomly.5 Such capabilities don’t necessarily have to be built in-house: many companies will enter into creative arrangements with outside parties to exchange data and run joint tests of alternative marketing tactics.

The major barrier to engagement is organizational rather than conceptual: given the growing number of touch points where customers now interact with companies, marketing often can’t do what’s needed all on its own. CMOs and their C-suite colleagues must collaborate intensively to adapt their organizations to the way customers now behave and, in the process, redefine the traditional marketing organization. If companies don’t make the transition, they run the risk of being overtaken by competitors that have mastered the new era of engagement

Bare Naked Brand Names

Courtesy of Internet Business Law Journal  by Naseem Javed

Last century business names were colorfully dressed with uniquely stylized lettering, colorful logos, slogans and contextual support. This century, such ‘stylized dependency’ has been pushed over the cliff by neo-socio-mobile-media-lingo. They’re stripped and typed in black and white text as soundbite-sized ‘bare naked words’, blending into chat lines alongside abbreviations and numbing-mumbo-jumbo. The majority of big name brands are losing their luster. Powerful imagery from the old newspaper era of double sized full page ads are replaced by typed words on small portable devices.

Can you identify the high maintenance big brand names on the following social media chats?

…just checked the wind at the mall, grand service but tag too high…

…I have no option but united, they would know where my real goodies are…

… no matter what, for me prime is the way to go before I try orange or wave…

…and then she gave me a rolex…

Highly distinct brand names like ‘Rolex’ or Panasonic are identifiable in any typed conversation while diluted names like ‘United’ ‘Premier’ ‘Orange’, ‘Wave’ ‘Wind’ disappear in the bursts of text making no sense, causing confusion and least building any distinct name identity. Camouflaged brand names are only going to end up invisible.

Today, the socio-mobile-lingo-depository is the fastest growing and the largest communication pool in the world. Tweeting, Facebooking, MySpacing, YouSmiling, MeWatching, YouListening or Linkedining, alike have transformed name brands into ‘typed lingo’.

The largest majority of the last century names do not fit the next generation digital platforms. If global socio-mobile marketing is mandatory for high level results, names must pass a ‘nudity-test’: a name must be inserted into an everyday social media conversation and checked to see if it’s still identifiable or lost within the text. If it doesn’t, it provides instant proof why cash registers aren’t ringing and what’s killing all the potential sales.

Last century, when names with special styles of lettering appeared in full page ads, there was no need to clarify the meaning or connection of the name with the subject. ‘United Furniture’ with furniture arranged in shape of the letters, ‘United Logistics’ stylized with a large cargo ship or ‘United Bank’ with a monetary symbol and logo to create distinction. Everybody understood what was what.

Today, with some 250,000 different businesses around the world already using ‘United’ as a name brand, the typed word has to appear lost in the depths of the English dictionary. The name values and visibility for such style dependent names are dying on upstream and downstream social media.

In this socio-mobile-marketplace only the very small percentage of highly distinct names has a clear competitive advantage. Microsoft, Rolex and Panasonic are easily identifiable in any sentence, in any format without question.

Corporations are shy to face the nakedness of their own names. When the management of ‘United Logistics’ sees their name brand, they are so conditioned to first see the stylized logo, the slogan and the whole package, with a globe replacing the ‘o’ in the ‘logistics’, a tiny plane forming a circular line arching over the name and bold italic letters telling the fast dynamics of the logistic trade. Now try searching ‘united’ as an example on social media; it will demonstrate the instant erosion of a branded name identity.

Currently, studies show that the largest majority of business names are based on dictionary or geographic words followed by surnames and acronyms or initials. Less than 1% of business names are distinct and unique. While global ad expenditures are touching $700 Billion, why is this aspect of global naming complexity not on any syllabus at any of the MBA programs in the world? The question remains; what is the reason for this waste, and more importantly, who benefits from it?

After the massive success of social media, new domain name management platforms will further kindle huge fires up the major global branding and marketing services. A new stage is being set by ICANN the International Corporation of Assigned names & Numbers and their gTLD global top level domain name program, where name-centricity will drive the digital branding explosion. What should the brand owners do? Strip their business name clean of every support, attachment, and gimmick and assess the risk of them being lost in the crowd of common language. Without a professional name evaluation report the entire marketing and branding budget may be questionable.
A distinct name identity is what separates a name from a word; the stripped down identity test will prove this.

Naseem Javed, founder of ABC Namebank, is a globally recognized authority on corporate nomenclature and related issues of global naming complexities and especially market domination via name identity. He is a lecturer, syndicated columnist, and the author of Naming for Power.  www.abcnamebank.com

When Your Brand Message Doesn’t Match How People Search

Courtesy of SEARCH ENGINE LAND.

SEO is all about words. Which words people search with; how to use them; and where to put them. Choosing the right keywords is imperative to the success of any SEO campaign.

Unfortunately, selecting these keywords isn’t always as simple as it would seem. Many B2B companies have very specific marketing and messaging philosophies that may not always line up exactly with the way prospects search.

What? We Can’t Use Those Words!

This is not a new problem. It is often said that SEO is the art of compromise. There are times when a B2B company is presented with SEO recommendations and the response is, “we don’t want to use that word/phrase on our website”.

While the keyword or phrase may be highly relevant and have great search volume, the phrase itself may not be appealing from a brand message perspective.

For example, your marketing team may refer to your service as “demand creation”, but the vast majority of your prospects are searching for “lead generation.”

Your CEO may be in love with the term “enterprise telecomm services”, but most buyers search for “call center.”

What should a B2B marketer do if their company’s brand messaging does not align with the way prospects search?

Six Factors To Consider

Here are six factors to consider when evaluating whether or not to include keywords in your SEO strategy:

  1. Keyword relevance
  2. Search volume
  3. Competition
  4. Searcher Intent
  5. Market Position
  6. Internal vs External Industry Jargon

Relevance & Volume

First, does this word or phrase describe your business or your products/services? Is it highly-relevant to your business? If yes, the keyword should at least be considered for inclusion in your SEO program.

Second, does research indicate that this keyword or phrase is commonly used?

Look at total search volume as well as the amount of variations of the keyword or phrase. If volume is high for both of these metrics, this phrase is most likely often used by prospects in relation to your business.

Competition

A third data point to consider is whether your direct competitors are using the phrase.

If a majority of competitors use these words on their websites – there’s probably a very good reason why! Be cautious about going against market trends when it comes to common search phrases and the way people describe your products and services.

Searcher Intent

Can you tell if the person conducting the search with this keyword or phrase is looking for your product or service offerings? Or does this word/phase have a variety of meanings and uses?

For example, acronyms often have high search volume, but searcher intent can be hard to determine due to different meanings.  ”ERP ” usually means Enterprise Resource Planning, but it can also mean Effective Radiated Power, and Electronic Road Pricing!

In order for a keyword to be an effective element of your SEO campaign, the intent of the searcher must be to find the exact service your firm offers.

Market Position

The next factor to consider is market position.

If you incorporate a keyword/phrase into your website, will it negatively impact your company’s position in the market? This may be the case if the keyword describes only a small part of your overall service offering or is not entirely reflective of your company.

Overall, if it is not likely that having this keyword (or phrase) on your website will negatively impact market position or audience perception then the risk associated with including this keyword or phrase in your SEO program is low.

Industry Jargon

Finally, the issue of industry jargon must be addressed.

It can be hard to remember that a word doesn’t always carry the same meaning to the whole world that it does within your company. B2B marketers often create a new description for products or services that they believe sounds better than the common name or search phrase.

While it is important to have a unique selling proposition, the new description may not match the way your target audience would describe your product or service.

Remember, successful SEO is dependent upon speaking the same language! Beware of building your SEO strategy around internal marketing jargon – rather than the words prospects actually use to search.

SEO Benefit vs. Market Position & Perception

In my opinion, an effective SEO program requires that a company stand behind all of the keywords and phrases they are targeting. These six considerations can help you evaluate the pros and cons of including keywords in your SEO strategy.

There are times when a B2B company must adapt their brand message and times they should stay the course.

SEO agencies and B2B companies alike must thoughtfully consider the potential impact a keyword can have on SEO results and how this keyword may influence the market’s perception of your firm.

3 Simple Steps to Increase Time on Your Website

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Courtesy of Website Magazine

Most online marketers and website owners tend to measure the success of their online business by the amount of traffic they are able to generate (and, of course, revenue).

While increasing the number of unique visitors is most definitely important (and something that everyone should be concerned with), it is arguably only half the battle. Unique visitors and visits alone should not be the only means by which you are measuring success.

It is easy to understand that there is little in the way of benefit from attracting a visitor to your website that quickly clicks the back button and leaves. Often, website owners and online marketers spend more time thinking about how to attract people to a site and less on how to encourage those visitors to spend considerably more time on your website. Take heed – there is a a direct correlation between the amount of time spent on a website and its success. So how can you increase time on site (and profits)? Follow these three simple strategies.

– Design Smarter (and Write Longer) –

Of all the different site types, it is the content marketers that either have the best or the worst time-on-site averages. While one suggestion might be to simply write longer-form content, another option would be to take the longer-form content you have or will develop in the future and commit to splitting it into multiple sections. This is a common approach that has been used on sites like About.com and many newspaper sites for years. For example, a 1,000 word article could be split into four sections of 250 words each. Some content management systems have this functionality built in, so explore that feature if available to you. Another benefit of splitting content is that it gives publishers the ability to generate more advertising impressions – a big draw particularly for those selling on a CPM basis.

– Create More Relevant Jump Points for Content Showcasing –

Would you rather feature content that is timely or timeless? There are arguments for and against both, but those publishers that concentrate on identifying areas where they can showcase their best information are those that often have the highest time-on-site averages. These jump points are areas where publishers can profile/push the most popular pages, the most heavily commented upon content items or most linked-to items. There are, of course, many places to do this, including at the end of articles/posts, within sidebars, and within the content itself. There is actually some SEO benefit to creating links to this type of content on your site as the number and relevance of links to internal pages is (arguably) an important factor in search engine ranking.

– Introduce Supplemental Formats: Multimedia & Applications –

Many content publishers, to their own detriment, opt to stay with the content format most familiar to them – whatever that may be. Consumers, however, often have very different demands when it comes to their consumption preferences – offering just one only gives you one chance for one type of visitor. Start introducing supplemental formats and you’ll be surprised about the positive effect it has on time on site. For example, if you’ve got a long-form article, why not fire up the webcam and produce a short-form video about that article’s key points or takeaways. If you publish a list of events, why not introduce a calendar application which is a terrific way to increase the number of clicks on your site as well.

When it comes to increasing time on site, remember the following: your website visitors are willing to be engaged with your site (and spend more time on it), but content publishers absolutely must commit to repurposing content into new design formats, providing jump points wherever necessary to expose them to content that should be showcased, and they should introduce supplemental formats to satisfy the Web’s diverse content consumption needs and wants.

Make no mistake – increasing time on site is no easy task. Keep these three simple strategies in mind and you will not only see significant percentage increases in time on site, but revenue as well.

Most online marketers and website owners tend to measure the success of their online business by the amount of traffic they are able to generate (and, of course, revenue).

While increasing the number of unique visitors is most definitely important (and something that everyone should be concerned with), it is arguably only half the battle. Unique visitors and visits alone should not be the only means by which you are measuring success.

It is easy to understand that there is little in the way of benefit from attracting a visitor to your website that quickly clicks the back button and leaves. Often, website owners and online marketers spend more time thinking about how to attract people to a site and less on how to encourage those visitors to spend considerably more time on your website. Take heed – there is a a direct correlation between the amount of time spent on a website and its success. So how can you increase time on site (and profits)? Follow these three simple strategies.

– Design Smarter (and Write Longer) –

Of all the different site types, it is the content marketers that either have the best or the worst time-on-site averages. While one suggestion might be to simply write longer-form content, another option would be to take the longer-form content you have or will develop in the future and commit to splitting it into multiple sections. This is a common approach that has been used on sites like About.com and many newspaper sites for years. For example, a 1,000 word article could be split into four sections of 250 words each. Some content management systems have this functionality built in, so explore that feature if available to you. Another benefit of splitting content is that it gives publishers the ability to generate more advertising impressions – a big draw particularly for those selling on a CPM basis.

– Create More Relevant Jump Points for Content Showcasing –

Would you rather feature content that is timely or timeless? There are arguments for and against both, but those publishers that concentrate on identifying areas where they can showcase their best information are those that often have the highest time-on-site averages. These jump points are areas where publishers can profile/push the most popular pages, the most heavily commented upon content items or most linked-to items. There are, of course, many places to do this, including at the end of articles/posts, within sidebars, and within the content itself. There is actually some SEO benefit to creating links to this type of content on your site as the number and relevance of links to internal pages is (arguably) an important factor in search engine ranking.

– Introduce Supplemental Formats: Multimedia & Applications –

Many content publishers, to their own detriment, opt to stay with the content format most familiar to them – whatever that may be. Consumers, however, often have very different demands when it comes to their consumption preferences – offering just one only gives you one chance for one type of visitor. Start introducing supplemental formats and you’ll be surprised about the positive effect it has on time on site. For example, if you’ve got a long-form article, why not fire up the webcam and produce a short-form video about that article’s key points or takeaways. If you publish a list of events, why not introduce a calendar application which is a terrific way to increase the number of clicks on your site as well.

When it comes to increasing time on site, remember the following: your website visitors are willing to be engaged with your site (and spend more time on it), but content publishers absolutely must commit to repurposing content into new design formats, providing jump points wherever necessary to expose them to content that should be showcased, and they should introduce supplemental formats to satisfy the Web’s diverse content consumption needs and wants.

Make no mistake – increasing time on site is no easy task. Keep these three simple strategies in mind and you will not only see significant percentage increases in time on site, but revenue as well.

Internet Talk Radio:The Newest Social Medium

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“Social media is not an ad. People don’t see your post, tweet or LinkedIn profile and buy. The purpose (and promise) of all social mediums is simply to start a conversation with someone you’d like to meet.”

I belong to a group called CRITICAL MASS FOR BUSINESS. It’s a facilitated CEO PEER GROUP that meets once a month for 4 hours. The group is limited to 12 members, all of whom own similarly sized businesses in non-competeing industries.

Our typical agenda starts with a recap of what happened to all of us over the prior month including reports on whatever we did (or didn’t do) to implement the suggestions, ideas and “action plans” from our last meeting. For many of us (me included) this “accountability to someone other than yourself” may be one of the most important features of this group. We’re all entrepreneurs, not used to reporting to anyone but ourselves. The problem with that approach (however) is that it’s far too easy to make excuses or put off painful decisions when there is no one looking over your shoulder, prodding you to improve and move forward. “I’ll do it tomorrow” too often means it never gets done.

Then comes the truly transformative part of the meeting: the “round table discussions”. Here is where the rubber meets the road and people really get to the heart of their issues. Using a strictly controlled “question and answer process” (guided by our professional facilitators) we probe, distill and digest whatever issues each member wishes to bring forward. It’s not always a pleasant experience to be on “the hot seat” but it’s always informative and often illuminating. This is the only true “no spin zone” I know. You’re in a confidential setting with 11 other struggling entrepreneurs, many of whom are wrestling with the same issues and obstacles you are. And it s the only place I know where you get really honest, no bs feed back. Who else is gonna tell you such truth? Your friends and family (who don’t want to hurt your feelings?) Your employees (who don’t want to lose their jobs?) Or some consultant (who really wants to please you and keep getting paid and whose narrow expertise may not allow them to see the whole picture?)

This is the magical “mastermind” part of the meeting: 12 individual minds coming together as one urging, adding to and otherwise improving upon each previous thought. Organized brainstorming, proving once again that the sum is greater than the individual parts. How can this help? Well, it’s hard to describe unless you’ve experienced it. But let me say that (in my own case) it gave birth to a whole new business.

I was a long time PR person whose core clients (billiards, hot tubs and other home improvement products) had seen a dramatic decline during the recent “Great Recession”. Hot tub sales alone fell by over 70%. So, one by one, my clients were either going out of business or cutting back dramatically on their overall marketing services (including me). I entered the group to find a way to revitalize my business. Instead, the group opened my eyes to a whole new business opportunity.

As I recanted my problems to the group and discussed how foolishly I’d put all my “eggs in one basket” (by narrowly focusing on just one niche), how “fat and happy” and complacent I’d become in the process and how I’d generally stopped learning, growing and aggressively marketing my services to others, it became clear that I needed a new fire or passion to prod me in a new direction and a distinctive service to offer. Then, after casually mentioning that PR companies were being asked (more and more) to take on the role and responsibilities of “social media strategist” for their clients (since ad agencies-used to making ads–and marketing people-used to collecting and analyzing data–neither knew how nor wanted to explore this new aspect of marketing), the group started prodding me to explore this subject and educate myself on this opportunity. That led to long discussions about “what is social media”, “how is it different than traditional advertising, PR and marketing” and what is its fundamental purpose?

That, in turn, led me to some remarkble insights such as “social media isn’t an ad on the Internet”. People don’t just read your blog or “tweets” and buy. Instead, its something we’ve never seen before. The purpose (and promise) of social media is that it allows you to start a conversation with anyone you want to meet, from which you can learn, explain, explore and otherwise engage them in a meaningful dialog in which (hopefully) both sides receive some benefit. That means you can’t just “ask for the order” anymore. You have to be willing to offer some ideas and information for free, upfront, before you start the sales process. Information that your audience (hopefully) will find so interesting and informative that they pass it onto others in their network and community (creating “brand advocates” or “viral marketing” for your goods or services in the process). Then you have to respond to their questions and comments and keep them coming back for more. In other words, you have to have something interesting to say and then keep saying it regularly and often.

That’s why most social media programs fail. Most companies aren’t prepared to become their own media production companies. They run of out meaningful things to say and they don’t regularly keep at it, primarly because it takes time and discipline and it may not show immediate ROI. And quite often, no one in the company is prepared to take on the additional role of “social media spokesman”, which is why it defaults to the traditional PR people (who are used to regularly speaking for their clients).

And that’s when it occurred to me. This is what I should be doing, particularly since I originally started off in radio broadcasting and communication right after college (as a traditional DJ on WMYK, “K94”, in Norfolk,Virginia). Then came the even bigger insight that “I think I know a simpler and more powerful way to do this!” For if the purpose of social media is simply to start a conversation with someone you want to meet, then what could be easier than simply calling them up, interviewing them over the phone and then streaming that conversation live to the world? You could even record, archive and store it on some server, making it available 24/7 as a download for others to listen to and enjoy later as a “podcast” on ITunes and elsewhere.

Wouldn’t that be much easier to produce than trying to research and write a new blog or mini-article each week? And (ultimately) wouldn’t it be much easier for your audience on the Internet to consume (given the fact that most people would rather watch or listen to something on the Internet than read it?) And wouldn’t these weekly live conversations be more interesting and stimulating than just talking to yourself ? (a problem that plagues most other social mediums like blogs, tweets and traditional podcasts) And wouldn’t a live, weekly broadcast, at a regular time and place, be more likely to engage your audience, particularly if they could call-in their questions (just like any traditional talk show) or log-on, in real time, and tweet their comments ? And wouldn’t your guests immediately tell all their friends, customers and clients to listen? And wouldn’t they put a link to that recorded interview up on their site after the fact (which would help drive traffic and links to your site, thereby raising your search engine rankings and giving you a free ad on their website forever?) The answer to all this was “yes”.

Thus was born a new “social medium” and the business to go with it: OC TALK RADIO, Orange County’s only community radio station giving local businesses a voice on the Internet. For more information, check us out at http://www.OCTalkRadio.net.

Brand, Tell Me a Story, Please

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Courtesy of MediaPost.

These are challenging times to work in marketing communications. The “big advertising idea” is no longer the be-all or end-all. Instead, designing stories around brands is crucial to “social selling” to customers who are media-savvy and increasingly suspicious of traditional marketing techniques.

Social media requires compelling storytelling to thrive. As businesses struggle to break through the marketing noise, brand stewards are finding it effective to craft stories that focus on achieving brand goals while giving customers a sense of what a brand stands for. Brand storytellers who embrace social media recognize that emotion is the currency their communities trade-in. For a brand to connect with its communities, it must tell captivating stories that allow fans to become emotionally invested.

A brand must define itself clearly, articulate its core values, and communicate consistently, but that can happen only when a brand defines its narrative. Content strategy doesn’t just apply to copy but to visual media as well. Storytelling is an important part of the user experience and, at the end of the day, if a brand’s stories are not tailored to audience needs and organizational goals, you are wasting time and money.

Commitment Comes First

To implement successful campaigns, senior management must commit to building storytelling into its overall communications strategy. This sounds obvious, but is too often the missing link. Storytelling can help organizations stand out by fostering emotional connections that provide the building blocks of long-lasting relationships. Hearing stories about your company’s work gives your audiences another reason to care about the brand, and why they should support its initiatives.

Once a storytelling plan is green-lighted, a strategic approach to content development tactics is required. Enter content strategy, which provides a framework to plan content, its delivery and management. So let’s get started:

Prioritize target audiences, concentrating messaging around groups with the most influence. Learn what those audiences want (research and analytics), then focus brand stories around the content that delivers the most hits. Deliver content in the form that your audiences want, whether it’s YouTube, Facebook or Twitter, etc. And, don’t forget to consider traditional media, which are always looking for the next great story. Plan your stories to supplement content on your Web site, then create an editorial calendar to manage the campaign over time.

Develop stories that emotionally convey your message, compel action, and have viral potential. Empower your audiences to support the relationship by giving them something to do! Provide the means to donate, volunteer, share stories, etc. Make it worth their while by showing how they will personally gain by leveraging incentives that benefit your organization and brand community.

Stories are formulaic, so try techniques that journalists use. The 5Ws: who, what, when, where and why/how remain the basic building blocks of any good story. Try to fit in as many as possible when building your marketing materials.

1. Meaning Why is this important? Why should customers care?

2. Importance What’s the big picture? How does your product/service fit in?

3. Human Interest What are the customer goals, achievements

4. Prominence Add credibility – name partners/experts

5. Timeliness Is this a product launch or an thought leadership campaign?

6. Proximity What does the campaign target?

Always keep in mind the key elements of what it means to be human. In every campaign, design the elements to elicit an emotional response, to share knowledge or address a customer need. Your brand community should feel they are getting something of value from the time they spend interacting with your marketing campaign.

Finally, be honest in everything your brand says. There are countless examples of fudged facts, outright lies and omissions that have damaged brand reputations from Enron to Walmart, J&J to BP, and require substantial expenditures of corporate capital and energy to repair.

Winning brands tell great stories that connect emotionally to key stakeholders. To develop your storytelling skills, study the classics, strive to understand their structure, form and the ingredients that make a great story.