Laptop showing viral spread of ideas
branding, marketing

How to Get Your Ideas to Spread

Here’s Seth Godin‘s TEDtalk about a world of too many options and too little time. Godin is the author of Purple Cow, as well as other de rigueur marketing guides that address marketing in the digital age.

While the video is from 2003, it is still, and maybe even more relevant relevant in a world marketplace overwrought with social media.

Godin expresses the importance of marketing mixes and consumer outreach, and emphasizes the  need to stand out in the crowd. But the main point, and what I like best, is the idea that it’s not what we produce (product or service) that has to be remarkable. WE must be remarkable. That other stuff will follow.

The Brand Gap book

The Brand Gap

I once again have turned to Marty Neumeier’s The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance Between Business Strategy and Design (here it is on Amazon) when doing research for an upcoming appointment and thought I’d take a minute to mention it here.

I like this little book so much that I have actually bought two copies. Not exactly on purpose, though. My first copy, which had a whole bunch of loving notes I’d scribbled into the margins, was loaned to a neighbor I met at a block party. As it turned out she worked at a local ad agency and we got talking about marketing, design and the usual. To my complete shock, she admitted that she had never even heard of Marty Neumeier! While I don’t consider myself a name-dropping, marketing prima donna, I can’t imagine anyone in the field that hasn’t at least heard of The Brand Gap. I immediately sang the book’s praises, went home and got my copy for her, and promptly never saw it again. Needless to say, some nights when I was walking the dog by her house I thought almost seriously about slipping in a window and taking my book back. I imagined it discarded on a dusty shelf. Then I began to envision her cherishing it, like I did, and that made my little book’s journey out of my life a bit more tolerable. So, instead of stealing it back, I broke down and bought another copy, and began to fill the margins of the new book with all my notes.

What I really like about The Brand Gap is that it takes into account both the strategic and creative approaches to brand building — and clearly shows us that when a disconnect exists between the two, between “logic and magic,” it can cause an even brilliant strategy to fail where it counts most — at the point of contact with the customer. That is the brand gap.

Neumeier goes on to present a pared-down strategy for constructing a unified theory of branding—a set of five disciplines to help companies bridge the gap between brand strategy and customer experience. He also gives us:

  • The new definition of brand
  • How branding is changing the dynamics of competition
  • The three most powerful questions to ask about any brand
  • Why collaboration is the key to brand-building
  • How design determines a customer’s experience
  • How to test brand concepts quickly and cheaply
  • The importance of managing brands from the inside
  • and a really nice 220-word brand glossary
All of that, packed into 180 pages!
I truly recommend it for brand novices and professionals alike. I know I return to it often. And it always gives me something to mull over.
Tablet with charts and graphs
adwords, digital

Adwords: Click-Through vs Conversion

Once you have your Google Adwords campaign up and running, it’s really easy to get excited when you start to see your click-through-rate on the rise. It reaffirms your ad is worded well and has proven to be good bait for traffic. Plus, a high click-through-rate will always translate to a low cost-per-click as Google serves a well-performing ad more frequently.

But, is the click-through-rate really the thing you should be focused on?

Let’s take a look at a couple of example ads and the data behind them. But first, and to make this example work, we need to set the stage:

We sell green tennis shoes and nothing else.

Now, the ads:

AD #1

Green Tennis Shoe Sale
Cool green tennis shoes!
Now on sale for just $50

AD #2

We sell Tennis Shoes
We have awesome tennis shoes!
Great prices!

As you can imagine, Ad #2 with it’s overall ambiguity will have a much higher click-through-rate and, subsequently, a much lower cost-per-click.

Ad #1, on the other hand, will do a great job eliminating clicks from people who may not actually be looking for green tennis shoes and don’t want to pay $50. Of course we’d also find that Ad #1, while having less clicks, had a much higher cost-per-click. That means the ad was more expensive to run.

Statistically, Ad #2 is the winner. It was cheaper to run and brought a ton of people to the website. Your executive management will be thrilled!

But, how do conversion rates figure into it?

Let’s look at the numbers in detail:

AD #1   

Clicks: 4,763
Impressions: 33,026
CTR: 14.42%
Conversions: 37
Average CPC: $0.14
Conversion Rate: 0.78%
Cost per Conv: $1.62

Ad #2

Clicks: 25,468
Impressions: 72,398
CTR: 35.18%
Conversions: 28
Average CPC: $0.03
Conversion Rate: 0.11%
Cost per Conv: $3.39

The data clearly shows that Ad #1, while generating fewer clicks, had a higher conversion rate and an overall lower cost-per-conversion.

That isn’t to say that Ad #1 is ultimately the better choice. After all, we can clearly see driving a lot of traffic for the least amount of money would be best accomplished with a more generic ad, like #2 above.

Conversion Rate vs Click-Through Rate

The choice will be yours based on your goals and online marketing budget. The main point I want to get across is, there are a variety of factors and outcomes that should be taken into consideration when starting an Adwords campaign. Make sure you’ve thought them through so you don’t have any surprises in the end that turn out to be disappointing or financially frustrating.

Happy hunting!

branding, marketing

Branding a Lifestyle of Engagement

Christopher Erb, VP of Brand Marketing for EA SPORTS, is responsible for driving strategy and marketing for the EA SPORTS brand and oversees a cross-functional team that focuses on consumer marketing, licensing, brand identity, and brand partnerships.

Speaking here at TEDxCincy, he explains the way EA SPORTS markets to their consumers by elevating video game releases to be bigger than highly anticipated film premieres. He pioneered applying the theatrical model of partnership and collaboration to video games which is now standard protocol within the industry.

It’s a strategy of engaging the consumer and giving them the power or choice and ownership. To be completely effective, it requires the proper deployment of social interaction in a way that creates a sense of collaboration. The personalization of a product or service, and even the marketing of these goods, breeds passion (and, ultimately, loyalty).

Anyway, enough of my summarizing and interpreting. Watch for yourself and see what you think.

Woman on laptop examining SEO results
blogging, seo

SEO For a Business Blog

One excellent way to increase both brand awareness and traffic to a site is deploying a business blog. It allows a company to demonstrate expertise in a field, engage existing and potential customers in thought provoking discussions and serves as an avenue for traffic to find your business website.

Probably the biggest challenge any company has with a blog is keeping it loaded with fresh content. I can say from experience, the only real way to succeed at that is to include blogging in employee job descriptions. Make sure they are not only responsible for producing content, but are also incentivized to produce a lot of (good) content.

Once you’ve taken that approach…BAM!…you have your content and everything should be looking up.

However, an equally challenging aspect of successful blogging is getting traffic. And that means being search engine optimized (SEO) with bait that Google should be eager to gobble up.

Here’s a couple quick tips and tricks that will help you optimize your business blog for search:

1. Don’t Forget Keywords

This is the first failure point of a business blog. Everyone is so happy to have content, they forget to include appropriate keywords, and every post is an opportunity to get noticed by Google for a new group of keywords.

Choosing the right keywords could be a whole discussion unto itself, but the easiest way to approach this is thinking long-tail. Long-tail means using keywords and keyword phrases that are less vague and more specific. For example, if I am a law office, I will get more (ready to convert) traffic if I utilize keyword phrases like “choosing a family lawyer” or “family law legal services.”   While this approach may bring in less traffic in general, the traffic I do get will be looking for a family law firm–my area of expertise.

2. Backlinks – the Seal of Approval

Google loves backlinks. It’s like people writing a letter of recommendation for your site and having a whole bunch of high quality, relevant sites linking back to your page telling Google that your blog is also high quality. The key here is, high quality. You don’t want miscellaneous and irrelevant sites linking to your blog. You want, as the saying goes, “to marry up.”

One way to easily accomplish this backlink challenge is to visit relevant blogs and websites and post something in their forum or comments section. Make sure you can include a link to your blog, and make sure to post a useful comment. If you just write any old thing or post garbage your comment will most likely never get approved or caught up in a comment filter (like the one used on this site).

3. Include the Social Buttons

Don’t forget to include the Facebook and Twitter buttons. It makes it super easy for people to share (or like) your page and those links from Facebook back to your site actually play a big role in how sites are prioritized by Google.

Make sure to read up on how to write posts that get noticed…and shared. Here are a couple resources on that topic:

The Key to Writing Blog Posts That Get Noticed

5 Tips to Write Blog Posts

4. Design with Clicks in Mind

People don’t think the design of their site will have a direct impact on SEO, but it does. Multi-layer sites with deep dig navigation are going to perform much worse than sites where content is limited to three levels or less. Always think of the 3 click rule — from the home page it should be 3 clicks or less to get to the lowest content. It is also extremely important to use a lot of internal links, that is, links to other pages within your site. This not only creates a better customer experience, as they can easily navigate to additional relevant information or similar topics, but it helps Google find pages on your site that might have been overlooked.

5. Clean House and Keep it Clean

Never post duplicate content on your blog. When your site has duplicate content there’s a giant risk that Google may not only display one page of similar content, but might even skip your content altogether. For best results, rewrite duplicate content to make pages truly different from each other. And keep it that way. Always.

6. Don’t Worry…Be Happy

If you are reading this before starting a business blog, you’re in a good position. Follow these tips and you will be on good footing for business blogging success.

If you already have a blog, and it has a ton of content, then you have some work ahead of you. Take it a day at a time as it’s just not possible to employ all of these tactics at once. Start with step #5 and work backwards. Clean up the duplicates, redesign and get those social buttons on there. Then, if it’s feasible, edit your content for proper keyword placement.

Following these tips for your business blog will take time and some concentrated effort, but if you include SEO in your overall blogging strategy it’ll become second nature after awhile. Plus, you should soon see a jump in traffic from Google (or the other search engines).


Saul Bass: The Master of Title Sequence Design

Check out this cool video showcasing amazing title sequence designs by the great Saul Bass.

For those who don’t know, Saul Bass was an incredible graphic designer. His career spanned 40 years and he was responsible for some of the most iconic designs on the mid-century, including the AT&T globe logo.

But, once he began working in film, title sequences would never be the same (as you can see!).

If you are interested in learning more, there’s a new book out about Saul called Saul Bass: A life in Film and Design by Jennifer Bass and Pat Kirkham.

By the way, the video was put together by Ian Albinson.

Google website on laptop
advertising, adwords, digital

4 Quick Google Ad Strategies

Google Ads are a great way to reach your potential customers and make up for the deficit you may be encountering with search engine optimization. But, it’s also an easy way to blow through your online marketing budget if you are not careful.

Here are a few quick strategies that will help you get the most from your Adwords campaign:

Target Languages

One of the simplest things you can do to focus your ads is to make sure you have selected a language preference. It really comes down to the languages you are ready to support through your website.

There’s no sense in having ads that will drive German-speaking consumers to your site if your site is strictly in English. Similarly, it isn’t very practical to have ads in English displaying in people’s browsers who speak German.

I’d venture to guess you won’t get a whole lot of clicks, so you may not be wasting money in a direct way, but you’ll be missing out on valuable ad impressions that could bring business your direction.

Target Regions

Along the exact same lines is choosing a region for you ads to display. You might think that setting English as your target language would take care of everything else.

What if someone in Kazakhstan who speaks English, and has his or her browser set to display English, comes across one of your ads. They click through to your website and attempt to buy what you are selling. If you aren’t prepared to ship to or provide your service to Kazakhstan, you just spent money on an ad and click through without getting a conversion.

Make sure your ads are targeted to a region where you are fully capable of doing business. Google is great at letting you drill down not just into a continent or country, but you can even select a state or city.

Depending on the nature and targeted reach of your ads, you may want to split them into different ad campaigns according to region. This will allow you to track click through and conversion rates for each, which can prove especially useful when budgeting for future campaigns. I mention this because it is actually quite remarkable how different online shopping conversions can be for different regions of the world. People in the USA are, for example, much more likely to convert quickly as opposed to shoppers in the UK.

Graphic Ads

Most people assume that Google Ads are just word ads. But, the fact is, Google serves up a huge amount of graphic or image ads through its Adsense program and the Google Display Network.

Anyone with a blog or website can sign up to be part of the Display Network and Google pays them to run ads, both text and graphic, on their website. You can actually choose to have your text ads included with those served in the Adsense program.

But, not all websites participating in the Adsense program allocate space for text ads, or the space in which they do is likely to be anything optimal (crammed with a bunch of other ads in a side column).

Graphic or image ads will be displayed through the Display Network at a higher rate than text ads and normally have a much lower cost-per-click and outperform text ads with clicks by a huge margin. In some cases, I have seen graphic ads get 300-400% more clicks than text ads, at 50% cost-per-click.

Google also makes it very easy for you to see the websites where your Display Network  ads are being displayed. Make sure you look through the list on a regular basis and if any seem unlikely to bring good, quality traffic, move them to the Exclusions list.

Quality Score

Another thing Google provides is a Quality Score warning. You’ll see this appear when it has been determined the ad and landing page are not in sync to make for a good conversion.

In other words, Google has scanned the ad and the landing page and found the keywords you’ve used in the ad are not relevant or found in the page where you are directing the traffic. It’s like having an ad that says “Sweaters Now On Sale” driving people to a page featuring running shoes.

Make sure to pay attention when Google gives a Quality Score warning, since you’d likely be wasting money on people who make clicks on that particular ad.

That’s it for now. The tips I have outlined above should help you to refine your ad campaigns and reduce unnecessary clicks (and expense).

Happy hunting!

personal branding, seo

Why & How to SEO Your Resume

Did you know that in a majority of cases where you are applying for a job online that your resume is being stored into a searchable database…and it’s not being sent to a human being for perusal? That’s right. Things are different now. Instead of sifting through hundreds or thousands of resumes, recruiters search the database…for relevant keywords…and pluck out the best matches. They are keyword searching resumes.

Just the same as how you use Google to find a website, recruiters are using search tools to find the most qualified applicants in their database. What that could mean for you is lost opportunities, even if you have a great resume, excellence skills, and the exact experience they are seeking. You still run the risk of failing to float to the top of the pile.

While search engine optimizing (SEO) your resume is easy, it’s not as simple as loading it up with a whole bunch of keywords from the job description. There’s a big difference between general search engines and specialized search engines. What recruiters use on the backend of applications like Oracle’s PeopleSoft Enterprise Human Resources or SaaS solutions like Taleo is a specialized search engine, and specialized search engines look for keywords that show up in the right places…not just anywhere.

Think of it this way: If a recruiter is looking for an experienced marketing professional, she is probably going to search the pool of resumes for something like “Marketing Director.” The results will include those resumes where “marketing” and “director” appear in job titles for recently held positions. Resumes where both words appear, but are not together or in job titles, are not going to end up in top search results.

What that means is, optimizing your resume for searches is not about throwing in every keyword you can think of, but about creating relevant copy, with relevant keywords, that address relevant experience. It goes back to the golden rule of SEO, whether for a website or a resume, Relevancy Is King. If you use applicable keywords in a relevant fashion, there’s no reason why your resume shouldn’t pop to the top.

Therefore, selecting keywords is extremely important, and rewriting your resume to be more applicable to each job or job type is assuredly de rigueur.

If you are submitting your resume as a PDF there’s an additional step you can take to optimize for SEO and it’s making sure not to overlook the file’s metadata.

Metadata is just another way to say “descriptive” data that is embedded into the file that helps explain the contents further for proper classification. It’s not unlike the cataloging data used in your college library that allowed you to easily find Plato’s Republic for your poli sci term paper (is that an exaggerated example or what?!), comprised of author’s name, book title, subject matter and synopsis.

You can easily add metadata to your resume PDF.

Go to File > Properties and fill in the following fields:

  1. Title – This could be the single most important element of your PDF document properties. In almost every case, the title is used on the search engine results page. If you don’t write a title the file name is used by default, and that isn’t going to make anyone very interested in you.
  2. Author – You can use your name here.
  3. Subject – The subject serves as the meta description for your PDF document. This is the second most important element. Write something that is relevant and descriptive. Use your keywords, but do over do it.
  4. Keywords –  Use your relevant keywords here. Filling this space up with all sorts of trash is only going to hurt you.
There is an Additional Metadata button, but it really just allows you the opportunity to enter copyright information. That is not necessary when it comes to a resume.
I hope that helps. Don’t forget the golden rule of SEO (see above if you have already) and happy job hunting.
People meeting in conference room
PR, strategy

5 Tips to Successfully Using a PR Firm

There’s no real question, a concentrated public relations (PR) effort can benefit any company.  PR not only builds recognition but can increase sales, strengthen customer loyalty and set companies apart from their competitor in crowded and oversaturated markets.

A successfully deployed PR business-building strategy can yield significant and lasting results. “Two of our clients measured [return on investment] from PR and calculated it at $4 in new business to every $1 spent,” says Amy Bermar, president of Corporate Ink in Newton, Mass.

It all sounds great, but a good deal of success lie on the management of the PR agency. Otherwise you can find the focus of the effort shifting to their vision and your company suddenly redefined by their goals and expectations.

Here are a few guidelines that I recommend you consider when hiring a PR firm:

Make Sure There’s a Good Fit

Don’t get sucked in by fancy pitches and exquisitely furnished offices. If they don’t get the essence of your company or understand your market and its challenges, you are in for a wild ride. At the end of the contract you may feel like someone tried to force you into a tutu and turned you into a ballerina. Everything you’ve come to love and believe in your company will be redefined into something you can’t recognize and your budget will be blown.

There are a zillion agencies out there specializing in as many industries. Take the time to find the right one for you. Do your homework and interview carefully. It doesn’t hurt to visit their offices to get a feel for who they are and how they view themselves. And, don’t hesitate asking them to detail specific successes, then ask if you can call those companies for a reference.

It’s probably a good idea to make sure they have accreditation from the industry’s largest association, the Public Relations Society of America. Plus, you’ll want to make sure they have specific and comprehensive journalistic experience. PR is, after all, primarily about dealing with writers, editors and publications.

Finally, ask who in the agency you will be working with. It’s not uncommon to sign a contract with a big, well-known firm only to find you’re working entirely with junior staffers.

Phase in the Fees

Just about every agency is going to want to set up a retainer, and in most cases they’ll want a one-year contract at a minimum.

It will be to your advantage to start on project with a fixed price tag. That’ll allow you to, as the saying goes, date them before marrying them. It provides you with the opportunity to evaluate both the relationship and results.

You can always try the paying for customized services option. This allows you to use the cafeteria approach and only buy what you need/want. For example, you could hire a publicist to write as-needed press releases on an hourly basis.

Here are red flags to watch out for that usually indicate you’re in for trouble and won’t get what you pay for:

  1. A firm promises guaranteed results. Seriously, who can really guarantee anything?
  2. A firm spends too much time doing research. This is an easy way to build up the charges while staying away from the actual doing (where the real results can be measured).
  3. They don’t go into specifics. You should know exactly what is planned and how they intend to make things happen.
  4. You continuously get status reports, but they never seem to show ongoing results.
  5. You find a typo in anything they present to you.

Define and Measure Results

In many cases, agencies will promise a specific number of media placements over a given period of time. Normally it’s over a month. If they don’t, you’ll want to either hammer that into the contract or look for a different firm.

Tell them what you expect, such as:

  • A certain number of column inches, air-time, sound bites or web hits.
  • A feature in an influential journal.
  • An measurable increase in customer awareness of your brand.
  • A specific number of sales leads within a designated timeframe.
  • Invitations for your executives or thought leaders to speak at events or seminars.
  • Specific industry awards.

“Develop a survey before the publicist starts to set a milestone,” says Vince McMorrow at RMD Pubic Relations in Albany, Ohio. “After their work has had a chance to be absorbed by your market, re-survey to find if the needle has moved.” This will allow you to gauge and measure results.

Manage the Process

Managing the firm will be a big part of the overall success. Ask for regular reports, status memos and update presentations. All of them will be happy to send over progress reports but getting them back into your office, or scheduling meet-ups at theirs, forces a deeper back and forth, and allows for a more comprehensive discussion of tactics and results. It’s also smart because it gives you and the firm an opportunity to consider adjustments as you move through your initial strategy.

Be Realistic

And, finally, it is incredibly important to have a realistic outlook for your intended goals. Lea Conner, at Conner Dudley Communications in Spokane, Wash., has the perfect example of a client who lost touch with reality, a self-published author who wanted to appear on TV talk shows to publicize her book. The two agreed to build up to major media over several months by creating marketing materials and having the author gain local media experience. A month later, the author grew impatient, wondering why she hadn’t yet been booked on The View or Oprah. “It’s easy for clients to get so caught up in their own dreams,” Connor says. “They fail to realize the amount of work it takes to achieve major results.”

I hope these guidelines will help you charter the sometimes murky waters of public relations and build a great relationship with the perfect agency.

Happy hunting!

branding, personal branding

"Exit Through the Gift Shop" – A Study in Personal Branding

I can’t believe it has taken me this long to see Exit Through the Gift Shop, the 2010 documentary that tells the story of Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant in Los Angeles, and his obsession with street art. After all, the film was nominated for an Academy Award (Best Documentary Feature) and was directed by the mysterious Bansky, one of the most famous and contemptous street artists in the world (along with Shepard Fairey, who gained worldwide fame with his Barack Obama “Hope” poster).

Normally I see all the nominated films and I find street art to be absolutely enthralling. But, until this past weekend, I had somehow missed ETTGS and I am now recommending that if you missed it too…you’ve got to see it!

This film is not only interesting, exciting and well made, it is a compelling study on two levels.

One, I found it to very creatively inspirational. Sure, some people might be put off because street art to some is actually graffiti to others. But this graffiti isn’t like the stuff you find spray painted on your garage one morning. It’s a variety of things and can include sculpture, stencil graffiti, sticker art, wheat pasting and poster art, video projection, art intervention, guerrilla art and flash mobbing — among other things.

Its messages arise from currents in activism and subversion and can serve as a powerful platform for reaching the public with themes that include adbusting, subvertising and other culture jamming techniques. Some street artists use what could be called “smart vandalism” as a way to raise awareness of social and political issues. Others do it solely for the fun, artist nature.

My interest in street art and street activity most likely comes from the fact that my father, a retired Denver policeman, was truly intrigued with flash mobs. Not as an opponent — but a participant! In the early days of flash mobbing, and on more than one occasion, he left the office of his new job as an investigator for the State of Colorado to participate in flash mobs. He found them to be energetic and fresh and loved to be part of the sponaneity.

On a second level, the movie is an enlightening example of how a person can totally take charge of their own personal brand. Without going into details that may ruin the movie for you, it shows how one man can reinvent himself, develop a unique personal brand and build that brand into a wholly successful opportunity. This individual uses all the basic elements of marketing/branding to capitalize on a unique situation. It is there that the film becomes a remarkable study in Branding 101. I would be surprised if it wasn’t currently being shown in college business classes around the country.

Therefore, from a creative, marketing and branding perspective, I definitely recommend the film. As a purely entertaining experience I also recommend. It’s just good fun.

Now all I need to do is decide on a street artist name for myself (*wink*).