Transparency Is Key When Handling A PR Crisis

The following article is a guest post by Josaline Cuesta.

At a time when government is disappointing its constituents and big corporations are losing trust, you may wonder how businesses can overcome the negative views of the public. How does one prove to the public that they are a trustworthy company, or have a dependable product worth buying? Transparency may be one answer.

Social Media Tools

Transparency is often improved when companies become active in Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets. These tools can be effective in building trust, loyalty and forming lasting relationships with consumers. For example, a company can provide its consumers with up to date information on its products and address negative press as soon as it happens. Responding to a crisis through social media tools can also help companies respond to rumors that may be damaging to a company reputation.

Toyota is a recent example of a corporation taking advantage of Twitter to manage a crisis and provide transparency. During the recent recall of Toyota vehicles, Toyota took to Twitter to provide up to date information on their progress of the situation and to answer consumer questions. The company also helped their cause by having their CEO answer questions from consumers on Digg. This exchange helped reduce the damage the company’s reputation was receiving from negative press.

Johnson and Johnson

Another example of transparency during a crisis was Johnson & Johnson, after eight people in the US died from taking Tylenol in the eighties. Tylenol’s crisis management strategy was one of full transparency through the entire process. They took the product off the shelves immediately and the head of the company held press conferences and interviews to keep the public informed. Through the whole ordeal news crews were allowed into the factories, which demonstrated that Tylenol had nothing to hide. Instead of hiding or retreating into the shadows, they took full responsibility and were able to restore public confidence.

3 Tips From Harvard Business Review

When faced with a crisis there are three tips to follow according to Harvard Business Review:

Figure out what happened. Do not leap into action without evaluating the situation.

Act quickly. Act with deliberateness and speed.

Adapt. Be prepared to alter the course if necessary.

Josaline Cuesta is a writer for Resource Nation, a service that provides advice for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

5 Reasons “America’s Got Talent” for Marketing

It’s shallow, silly, self-serving and at times, just plain tasteless. No wonder TV fans can’t get enough of America’s Got Talent. And with 15 million viewers tuning in to watch this year’s season premiere of “AGT” —it’s clear that advertisers are equally enthralled. How did an overblown talent show garner this kind of clout and recognition? Through a brilliant marketing strategy, that’s how. Let’s tune in to the 5 biggest reasons America’s Got Talent for marketing.

1. AGT Fills a Huge Gap

If television truly is the barren wasteland that critics purport it to be, then the gap in new programming between Memorial Day and Labor Day could be likened to the lunar landscape. Recognizing an opportunity, and riding upon the success of AGT’s wildly popular British predecessor, the producers of America’s Got Talent proceeded to fill in the gap. And so, as the traditional TV season signs off for the summer, AGT takes center stage. But the smart marketing ploy doesn’t stop there. Ignoring the predictable, one episode per week format of prime time TV, AGT producers chose to mix things up by airing episodes once, twice, even three or more times per week if you count the reruns, many of which are still better than most summer fare. Starting out with pre-taped audition shows filmed in cities all across the country, AGT then ups the ante by airing key episodes live, to the dismay of contestants and the delight of the home viewers.

2. AGT is America

From senior citizen sword swallowers to child opera singers to transgender trampoline acts to, well, you name it, AGT welcomes all comers— any age, any gender, any race, any species, from any part of the good ol’ USA. With a melting pot message like that, it’s little wonder why AGT appeals to pretty much every marketing demographic there is. Plain and simple, America likes to watch itself, and this year 17% more American adults are doing just that by tuning in to AGT. While most TV shows eventually lose market share over time, so far AGT is grabbing a bigger slice of the multi-flavored pie with each new season.

3. AGT is Entertaining

Love it or hate it, the one thing you have to admit is that AGT is flat out entertaining. The genius stroke is in the concept, a talent show packaged as reality television… with America as the final judge. Aside from the vast array of acts, when you watch AGT, you’re rooting for that part of you who would like to be up on that stage, with the guts to put whatever “talent” you may have, not just up for all to see, but up to a vote. And in the safety of your living room you can indulge freely in the guilty little pleasures that come with anonymity, delighting in both triumphs and downfalls, all the while knowing that, given the chance, you or the pet beside you could be the next Million-dollar act.

4. AGT is Unpredictable

Aside from the antics of the folks onstage, on any given night, Sharon, Howie, and Piers can hit us with more “surprise pies” than Larry, Curly and Moe. “Howie’s gonna love this group,” you say to yourself. And then he gives them the buzzer. “Piers is gonna send this bird act packing,” yeah right, packing for Vegas. Even the always charming and radiant Sharon can render decisions, based on logic, emotion, or the curious combination of both, that we just didn’t see coming. The bottom line of AGT’s unpredictably is that it keeps things fresh, keeps us tuned in, and that’s always good for the other bottom line.

5. AGT is Viral

In this age of Social Media, an age that allows and encourages us all to post and promote our opinions about pretty much anything, nobody mines the collective gold of an interactive audience as well as AGT. And the show’s innate ability to deliver up “Tweetable”, “Likeable”, made for Youtube content will continue to keep it the ratings juggernaut that it is. Sure, it’s a glorified talent show. But it’s a “sticky” talent show. A show that, at the end of the day and the end of the episode, invites its ever growing fan base to hold their web-enabled cellphones high and say, “I’ll be the judge of that.” And that’s a marketing strategy that America just can’t seem to resist.

Carla Sanchez is a freelance writer for Omniture, the world leader at marketing analytics.

Image source: Wikipedia

Marketing Lessons from the 4-Hour Workweek

The following article is a guest post by Marc McDermott.

The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferris, introduces a whole new concept in time planning and the ways work affects people’s lifestyles. Author Tim Ferris has mastered the art of combining powerful principles for economizing on time with outsourcing to arrive at an extremely short, while at the same time highly lucrative, work week.

This book is a must for anyone who is interested in reducing the amount of time they spend working at a job and increasing their freedom to pursue their creative interests. The book is tailor made for people in the marketing field as well as many other lines of work. In a step by step and easy to understand way, Tim points out both the reasons for going for a much lighter work load and the ways in which this can be accomplished.

Attitude Shifts

The book discusses various attitude shifts that Tim has identified which apply a revolutionary new way of looking at work and time usage. A large part of creating a dream lifestyle is finding out the attitudinal factors that are keeping an individual in the daily grind. People make all kinds of assumptions that make a work filled and moderately productive life seem inevitable. Even individuals that are making enough money from the work they do are not happy in such a lifestyle. Ferris points out that a much realer measure of success is the amount of free time one has after the work is completed. In this sense, someone making a large salary by working long hours is less wealthy than someone working much shorter hours and making only moderately less money, but who has much more free time to pursue their interests.

The 80-20 Ratio

As an example of the types of principles the book discusses, Ferris describes a ratio that can be used to reduce the amount of work an individual has to do to accomplish a certain goal. The basic idea here is that, as a general rule, about 80% of real productivity comes from only about 20% of work that is undertaken by an individual. This means that the other 80% of the work most people are involved in yields little or no result and is essentially wasted time and energy. The key is to eliminate that wasted 80%. It is not hard to see how this frees up huge amounts of time while allowing for the same amount of productivity or accomplishment.

In marketing terms this would translate into time spent making sales efforts toward unresponsive leads and pursuing strategies that do not produce high conversion rates. The 20% of marketing efforts that do work can be singled out and expanded on (without significantly increasing the workload) and the wasted effort minimized or eliminated.

Outsourcing

Another area that Tim deals with extensively in the book is outsourcing. Outsourcing is made even easier these days by the internet. The book goes over a number of different ways in which outsourcing can be used to reduce someone’s workload to almost nothing. For a marketing professional, this might include outsourcing tasks like prospect generation, telemarketing, or web optimization to others to complete. Tim demonstrates just how to do this in a variety of easy ways.

Timothy Ferris’ book is a fascinating and refreshing journey into the possibilities of what he calls lifestyle design. Whether someone is involved in marketing or some other field, this book will open the reader’s eyes to all kinds of potentials and possibilities for achieving financial success while designing a much freer lifestyle. Read it!

Marc McDermott is the Marketing Manager at Merchant Express, a provider of merchant account services and payment processing technologies with a specialized approach to accepting credit cards, merchant bankcard processing and transaction processing services. He is a SEMPO Certified SEM Professional and Google Analytics Certified Individual.

5 Reasons You Should Keep Your Online Marketing Budget Intact

The following article is a guest post by Matt Krautstrunk from Resource Nation.

online marketing budgetWhen faced with budgetary constraints, it seems there are two trains of thought in small business. The first one believes that cutting marketing budgets where ROI isn’t met poses no long term consequences. You may hear a business executive from this company saying, “why don’t we just invest in low-cost high ROI marketing initiatives like email marketing and social media?”. The second school of thought, is that when times get tough, use it as an opportunity to reinvest and capitalize where others are failing.

Both are sound options because, in reality, investing money in business segments that are losing money is highly risky. However, restricting a business segment’s breathing room can be equally detrimental to long term growth. I tend to think that keeping your marketing budget in tact is the best long term strategy, here are 5 reasons you should feel the same

1. Play Where Others Aren’t Playing

One of the most basic business lessons I learned in college is to succeed in business you must play where others aren’t playing. Long term success means differentiating your business from competition to create a virtual monopoly. A down economy gives you the opportunity to play where others aren’t playing. Chances are most companies within your industry have made budget cuts to their marketing. If you find out where they are leveraging success your business can jump on it.

Say for instance you find out your competition lets go of their sales in a certain category – they are no longer trying to grow in that vertical. Jump on it! This knowledge may be hard to come by, but keep tabs on your competition by talking with partners and checking sites like LinkedIn.

2. Don’t Cut The Hand That Feeds

Marketing is the hand that feeds the business. Customer service, sales, accounting and all other departments rely on marketing to bring on those customers. If you want to risk a portion your whole company’s health, by cutting out a portion of your marketing mix you could be making a huge mistake. Many business owners don’t realize how volatile their marketing initiatives are, and sometimes all it takes is a 15% decrease in budget to drag a company to a screeching halt.

3. Long Term Risks

There are many long term risks to cutting a marketing budget. Whether it is consumer facing activities like social media or traditional marketing initiatives like offline advertising, your business could struggle to get back on track after a budget cut. Say for instance your company stops allocating resources to social media claiming, “we have an employee dedicating 20 hours a week, and we don’t even see an ROI!”. Cutting resources there will cause a community that formed around your business to leave and find other places to engage.

4. There is More Opportunity in Down Economies

It’s true; a down economy actually can benefit your business. Besides for internal pressures, down economies will kill off low-end competition and give the opportunity to capture bigger market share. If you can make it a down economy, you will thrive a booming economy!

5. If You Cut Your Brand, It May Never Be The Same

Your brand is a living, breathing vessel. Since the advent of social, we are learning how brands can exhibit human like characters. Cutting off food to these human brands might tarnish its name. Let’s say your company is an online retailer, and your customers value your brand because it offers weekly deals that give them the ability to buy select items a fraction of the cost. If your budget cuts don’t see the value in this, you will not only lose customers but you may tarnish your brand forever.

We all are aware of how difficult the economy is. As business owners the decision is yours to either find new and creative ways to market your product or cut budgets where you aren’t seeing ROI. This is a fundamental decision for many, but if you take these tips into consideration you will find that cutting marketing budgets isn’t always the answer.

Matt Krautstrunk is a writer and social entrepreneur, touching on topics ranging from social media marketing to VoIP business phone systems at Resource Nation.

Context is Everything: The Power of Your Tagline Depends Largely on the Surrounding Wordscape

The following article is a guest post by Jim Morris, aka Tagline Jim.

Context is everything.

The larger point I’m about to argue for applies to communication of all sorts, but, since I write taglines for a living, I’m going to make it in relation to taglines. Let me start out by saying . . .

I disdain one-word taglines. I have long contended that such taglines aren’t capable of expressing a whole thought about a brand. The one-word tagline is an intellectually lazy copout for brands that don’t have the courage or discipline to make a fully formed statement relating to their brand. Or it is the result of the brand being dictated to by designers who prefer a one-word taglines because it’s a cleaner design element to work with, never mind what it means or fails to mean.

Consider:

HP
Invent.

It seems like HP wants to stake some claim to invention or creativity or innovation. Or something. But what? What claim, about what, exactly? A tagline doesn’t necessarily need to be clear or precise or comprehensive. In fact, I would argue that it’s better if the line isn’t any of these things. But it does need to say or convey something, to allude in some interesting way to the brand’s differessence. Invent is so broad and vague as to render it meaningless as a tagline.

I have identified 15 national/global brands that have hung their brand hat on one word or another as their tagline over the past couple of decades.

Acura. Advance.
Ally. Straightforward.
Diners Club. Belong.
EDS. Solved.
Hankook Tires. Driven.
HP. Invent.
Monsanto. Imagine.
Nissan. Driven.
United. Rising.
Coca Cola. Enjoy.
Hyundai. Win.
Xfinity. More.
Siemens. Answers.
Power Bar. Push.
Logitec. Enjoy.

No doubt there are others, along with who knows how many regional and local brands that have taken this same ill-advised path.

Two additional thoughts about one-word taglines:

My own brand’s tagline is Long Story Short. In order to tell any story in one word, it would need to be some special kind of word. I’m not saying I never will, but, so far, I’ve never written a one-word tagline (other than when more than one word is crammed together to form a new compound word.)

One of my favorite exhortations, when a client is considering a tagline, is this . . .

Read between the words.

Between the words is where you’ll find the value in many good taglines. Doing this with a one-word tagline is quite a trick. Should I exhort the client to read between the letters?

I could go on about the myriad issues with these taglines, but I must move on to the larger point.

So, if I disdain one-word taglines so much, why is there one for which I have the highest admiration?

(Finally, we get to my point.)

The answer is context. Cultural/historical/advertising/branding context. Or, if you prefer, we could characterize it as the intellectual/emotional/linguistic environment in which the tagline lives. This environment or context changes constantly and the effectiveness of a tagline depends largely on what environment—or context—it is surrounded by.

What is this singular exception that escapes my disdain? It is IBM’s ancient, iconic slogan, Think.

taglines

Of course, many of you are likely unaware of this tagline, because it held sway in the 1920’s, 30’s and into the 40’s, at least. It was created by IBM founder Thomas J. Watson. (I assume the IBM folks named their line of notebook computers, “ThinkPad”, as a homage to the slogan.)

Back in those particular olden days, it’s my guess there weren’t a whole lot of one-word taglines out there. Probably not any. It was, at the time, a bold, assumptive, leaderly, radical slogan by dint of its one-wordness. That’s a big reason why it gained so much notice globally and became such an icon. For a huge brand like IBM to brandish a one-word tagline was, in the context of that time, an act of courage.

And that word, Think, took on many layers of meaning pertaining to the IBM brand, largely because so much attention was paid to it over many years, which, in turn, was because it was so unique. It was sort of the Just Do It of its time. In a world of no one-word taglines, the first one is powerful and groundbreaking.

It was, in a sense, a demonstration of its own exhortation, and this made it all the more powerful.

Context.

That was then. This is now (last time I checked). These days, if your brand wants to stake out some tagline territory similar to IBM’s in the 20’s, you need, (in addition to a monster media budget), at least two words—one complete thought.

Like Apple’s Think Different, or AT&T’s Rethink Possible.

In today’s context, due to many factors including “word inflation” and the exampledness of one-word taglines, such lines are almost certainly not going to communicate your brand’s differessence or evoke much of a response or emotion. The only way I think a one-word tagline can be effective these days is if the word itself is unusual, provocative, exotic, intriguing. Which none of the 15 “lines” cited above are.

Here are two additional hints that one-word taglines, in today’s context, are not good. First, you won’t find one (other than IBM’s) on anyone’s list of great taglines. Second, what used to be called a “slogan” is now referred to in the industry as a “tagline.” The former implied a phrase or sentence, not one word. The latter makes that requirement explicit. It’s “tagline”, not tagword.”

Context helps determine the value and impact of all taglines, not just the one-word ones. The more that brands resort to familiar, frequently used tagline structures, terms and phrase, the less power such taglines will have. Tagline fads and trends are one dimension of context that very clearly and directly undermine the effectiveness of the taglines that fall victim to such fads and trends, of which the one-word tagline is but one.

Jim Morris, AKA Tagline Jim, is a freelance advertising copywriter who specializes in creating powerful, evocative taglines. He can be reached at jim@taglinejim.com.

Content Marketing in the Digital Age: Six Pixels of Separation Book Review

The following article is a guest post by Brett Alan.

six pixels of separation bookIn a world where Internet marketing advice becomes obsolete in a matter of weeks, it’s rare to find a book with marketing insights and tactics that are as relevant and effective today as when they were first published nearly two years ago. Books about online marketing with this kind of an extraordinarily long shelf life are usually reserved for works that garner lofty descriptions such as “game changer”, “illuminating” and sometimes even “classic”.

In my opinion, Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel is one such book deserving of the praise “classic” as it has helped lay the ground-work for how I market my business online.

If you’re not familiar with the Six Pixels of Separation, I would plainly describe it as a play book for small business owners, entrepreneurs, or professionals that want to understand the why and at a high-level the how of content marketing in an increasingly digital planet.

At the crux of Six Pixels of Separation, Joel weighs in the importance of all the popular permutations of content marketing, including blogging, podcasting, video marketing, and social media. Joel recommends finding the style of content that best matches your individual strengths in the beginning of the process and slowly building a brand over time by attracting an audience through long-tail searches and social media.

Yeah, yeah, I’m sure you’ve probably heard some of these concepts before. Just keep in mind that this was published back in 2009. Some bloggers are still treating the concept content marketing like some shiny new idea. That’s part of the reason I believe Six Pixels of Separation is deserving of classic status.

But if you’re still not convinced you want to spend time reading Joel’s 304-page masterpiece, here are what I consider to be the most important crib notes:

You are the Media

It wasn’t all that long ago you had to either have special access or lots and lots of money to get your message out. Now you can communicate for almost nothing and if you work hard and long enough, build an audience and finally a business all online. You’re lucky to be born when you were.

Attention Does Not Equal Trust

Just because you’ve managed to get 100,000 people to watch a YouTube video because you recorded your 4-year-old son kicked you in the balls doesn’t mean any of these people will ever want to buy anything from you. Keep that concept in mind before when you start envisioning your brand.

More Work, More Opportunities

The harder you work and the longer you publish content the more opportunities your business will have of succeeding. Just make sure you’re working hard on a business that actually makes sense.

The Free Economy

In my opinion, Six Pixels of Separation acts as a nice introduction to the New York Times Best Seller Free by Chris Anderson. If you’re not familiar with the concept in the book Free, Chris Anderson makes the case that it’s in the best interest of some businesses to give their products away at no cost, while focusing on monetization through back-end offers or product upgrades to make money.

Mitch Joel’s beliefs align closely with the concept outlined in Free as he encourages publishing copious amounts of free content to attract, educate, and entertain an audience. Ideally, a small percentage of this audience will eventually convert to paying customers when they’re ready.

Deeper Connections

At some point in your life, you probably wanted more information than traditional media would allow. For me back in high school, I couldn’t get enough factoids about my favorite WWF wrestlers. Developing consistent content allows you to build deeper relationships with your most hardcore fans. Two hours of Monday Night Raw once a week might be good enough for 99% of the population, but for the most passionate 1% of your audience publishing more in-depth content makes sense, especially when the top 1% of your audience could be making up for 80% of your profits.

The author Brett Alan operates an SEO reseller business at StartSEOCompany.com. Visit the website to read his regularly updated blog.

Why You Can Still Learn SEO From A Book

The following article is a guest post by Alan Grainger.

art of seo bookWhen you’re first starting out on a career in SEO there is a plethora of information out there for those who are eager to learn the tips and tricks of the trade. Given the fast moving nature of the SEO world, many resources are available online that will give the budding search engine marketer a whole wealth of information that will steer them in the right direction. So given that the online world moves so quickly, is there still a place for instructional books in SEO?

Far from being out of date, books can be a vital starting point for those looking to delve into search engine optimization, and given the variety of paths that can lead to this career, they can offer the apprentice a vital starting place when sifting through the myriad of information that is available online.

Starting Out

People come into SEO from all walks of life. From computer scientists to conventional marketers, mathematicians to PR gurus, SEO crosses many boundaries making it a viable career choice for those from many backgrounds. That also means that while you may be an expert on algorithms and backlink analysis, there may well be a shortfall in your knowledge when it comes to writing press releases and composing article ideas, so whatever your background there will still be much to learn.

So why should you spend valuable money on buying books when you can dig into the mine of information that is available for free online? It’s all down to theory and structure.

By committing to a book it is like being mentored through the process by someone who knows what they are talking about. This will ensure that you start at the right place to soak up the right information in the right order. Sure, some of the resources that are mentioned in a book might be out of date, but many of the theories and procedures are timeless and are the key to unlocking the strategies that will be most effective in your niche.

It’s All About Theory

Going online might show you the best places to post your articles and how to use Twitter effectively, but why are you doing this in the first place? Blindly following what other people are doing without truly understanding the principals involved will never fully enable you to come up with the strategies you need to succeed in online marketing.

Using books to help get you started will explain why these are important and what it is you are trying to achieve through these practices. It will explain what a link is and why they are important to your rankings, as well as explaining how to drive relevant traffic. It will explain to you what terms such as anchor text actually mean and why this is seen as important by the search engines. It’s all very well doing something because somebody told you, but this is not teaching you why this is important or enabling you to come up with your own strategies to improve your rankings.

Apply What You Learn in Practice

It’s not all about books and reading though, and the only way to truly learn is to put things into practice. No matter what somebody has written, whether it’s in a book or on a blog, the only way you will truly learn is by going out there and doing it for yourself. Learn the theory from textbooks, get the latest industry practices from prominent blogs and then put them into practice to see what really works.

Monitor what you do, record your findings as you go and don’t be afraid to experiment (so long as you’re not risking your company’s website with dodgy practices of course). If in doubt, build your own test site and practice on that, because the biggest trick to SEO is that the only way to really learn what works and what doesn’t is to try it out for yourself.

Here are a few resources that will point you in the right direction:

Books:

Search Engine Optimization All-in-One For Dummies
The popular franchise gives a straight up tutorial that will point even the newest of newbies in the
right direction.

Search Engine Optimization: An Hour a Day
Taking things up a notch, this will give you all the tools you need to hone your burgeoning skills.

The Art of SEO
A book that is repeatedly recommended by the industry experts, this guide will put the finishing touches to your knowledge of SEO theory.

Websites:

Search Engine Land
Industry news coupled with instructional posts by SEO experts. A great resource for those looking to
keep on top of the latest industry practices.

Web Pro News
All the latest industry news with comments from those in the know.

SEOMoz
These guys aren’t afraid of sharing their secrets and this is a great place to go for ideas that you can put into practice.

No matter how fast paced the SEO industry is, books are still a useful resource to learn the all-important theory that will establish your burgeoning skills. But the key takeaway from this is to put everything you learn into practice, as no matter what you read and where you read it, the best way to learn is by doing things yourself. Only then will you truly learn the subtle intricacies involved in successful SEO.

Alan Grainger is an in-house B2B web marketer and manages the SEO for The Corporate Gifts Company, a leading UK specialist in the business gifts sector. He writes articles exploring the issues faced by the B2B web marketer, giving an “in the trenches” view from an in-house SEO department.

10 Top Marketing News Sites

Advertising Age – Hosting a variety of marketing and media news topics, this is the place for marketing professionals to find out what’s happening in the advertising industry. This site offers its readers a variety of blogs, columns, global marketing news, marketing news topics related to Hispanic marketing, CMO strategy, and current trends in media including an Entertainment A-List and comprehensive TV reports.

Search Engine Land – Keep up with the break-neck change in search marketing at this site that covers the major search engine news, and provides SEO tips and commentary.

ClickZ – Known as one of the largest databases of marketing news and resources, this site contains thoroughly researched facts and figures as well as tips and advice from some of the top experts in the industry.

Direct Marketing News – Definitely a top contender when it comes to current marketing news, this site also features marketing resources, marketing events, job opportunities in the industry, and more.

MarketingVox – This site will keep you on top of the latest marketing strategies and trends. Find out about the most current research findings in the industry with just a few clicks, and narrow your own topic searches by browsing featured categories.

BtoB – This popular marketing site is a one-stop-shop for business-minded individuals looking to stay abreast in the world of marketing strategy. Learn about the many avenues of marketing–through the social media, events, e-mail, and by direct or search methods. Marketing headlines are updated daily, and other site features include webcasts, a job board, newsletters, and an online directory of marketing products and services.

Marketing Today – This is an excellent place to find marketing advice from experts in the field as well as news and information on search engine marketing, internet marketing, and trade-show marketing. You will also find valuable legal resources, marketing tools, and career opportunity postings.

MarketingPower – Hosted by the American Marketing Association, this site offers a hefty database of marketing news stories, journals, newsletters, and more. It even features a multimedia gallery including both webcasts and podcasts. Find out about important marketing events, utilize the site’s career resources to look for job openings, get answers to your marketing questions from experts in the field, and take part in the AMA’s growing online community by becoming a member.

Alltop – Although Alltop is a one-stop information station for every possible topic you can think of, its impressive marketing section can hold its own. Collected here are stories from some of the most popular websites and blogs on the web. Alltop also features articles from lesser-known sources that they believe are outstanding or noteworthy. The marketing newsfeed is updated every hour, leaving you with fresh material every time you log on.

Marketing Pilgrim – Recognized by Advertising Age as one of the top 10 marketing and media blogs, this site has built a solid reputation for itself as a marketing news powerhouse. Since 2005, it has been home to up-to-date marketing news and reviews, advertising spots for growing businesses, and a wealth of job opportunity postings.

About the author: Bailey Harris is a writer for InsuranceQuotes.org.

Photo credit: hyku

Marketing Should Be First When Starting a Business

The following article is a guest post by Bryan Cochand, a freelance writer for Adobe.

coke happinessAs an entrepreneur with a risk-taking spirit, you’ve begun the steps to start your own business. However, before you get too far in the process, start to think about and make plans for marketing your business. Going through this process first will help you make sure you have a large enough target market to fit the niche you are trying to fill. Somewhere along the line, you will be trying to raise capital through loans, grants or investments, and you should include the amount of money needed for marketing start up costs in your proposals.

Determine Your Target Market and Niche

Before you even decided to start your own business, you were probably thinking about the niche you wanted to fill and the people that would fill that niche. Below are a few questions to ask yourself as you determine whether your target niche and market are relevant. As much as resources permit, you should conduct formal or informal market research to find the answers.

  • Is my product or service something that people need or want?
  • Is it something they can get from another business?
  • Would people choose my product or service over a similar business? Is it different enough? Is it
    more cost effective? Is it more convenient?
  • What type of people would most likely choose my product or service over a similar business? (This is your target market)
  • What are your target market’ s characteristics? What is their income, location, education, ability to find and buy from my business (technological ability if on the internet, location if a store front), etc.
  • Is my target market large enough and capable of making my business successful?
  • If you can’ t answer yes to the last question with confidence, keep brainstorming for more relevant business ideas; if you can, you’ re likely to have a successful business, so keep the process going.

Find the Perfect Name

Your business name is your number one marketing and branding tool, so choose wisely. It should be something unique but also understandable and memorable. Find a name that fits these characteristics:

  • Clearly depicts what you do. At first glance, people should know what your company does.
    Make sure it is different enough from other companies in your niche that people won’ t confuse
    you with another business, and definitely do your research to be sure you are not copying another
    company’s name.
  • Incites Customer Interest. Cause the customer choose you over competitors by finding a
    name that makes you stand out.
  • Easy to spell, pronounce, and remember. Creative names can be unique and fun, but if noone can spell or pronounce it, they’re most likely not going to remember it either. If you have an idea for a name, test it out. Say it out loud and have others try to spell it. Write it down for other people and ask them to pronounce it. Carry on with your conversation and ask them to recall the name 10 minutes later. Does it pass the test? Avoid using an acronym, as it will be hard for people to remember what it stands for.
  • Universal. Most companies, whether you plan it that way or not, are global because they are on the Internet, so choose a name that people anywhere can relate to and understand.
  • Looks to the future. Naming your business after yourself may seem personal and friendly, but it’s not going to fly if you decide you want to sell the company someday. Be careful not to choose names that follow current trends either, as we all know how quickly trends can change.

Develop a Brand

Once you have identified your niche and how your business will uniquely fill the needs of your target market, you will need to define your brand. Using ideas from your business plan, craft a one-line statement that describes your company. Think specifically about the impression that you want to leave on potential customers. Based on this, create a logo, tagline, and an overall visual identity. Make sure that everything you create and do consistently follows the brand you have created.

Craft a Marketing Plan

By following the above ideas, you have already started your marketing plan. Now, you just need to determine relevant messages to reach your target market and the channels you will use to get those messages to them. These channels include direct mail, media, Internet, phone book, networking, trade shows, and pretty much anything your creative mind and advertising research can come up with. Almost all of these tactics will have some cost involved whether it is paying a professional to design your website, buying online advertisements, or printing direct mail and
brochures. Include marketing expenses in your marketing plan and proposals for loans, grants or
investors.

Bryan Cochand is a freelance writer for Adobe. Adobe services, such as digital signatures and signature validation, revolutionize how the world engages with ideas and information; anytime, anywhere, and through any medium.

Image credit: Arabani

Why Free Stuff is the Key to Customer Satisfaction

Mike Essex is the author of Free Stuff Everyday, a guide on how customers can get free stuff, and a search specialist at Digital Marketing Agency, Impact Media. In the following guest post, he talks about how brands can improve their customer satisfaction simply by giving their products away.

Whether you are working on a new product, or have been in the market for years, it’s possible get a real insight in to the mindset of customers simply by giving away free stuff. They can help build new customer relationships via brand advocates, or repair broken relationships. This article examines how you can integrate freebies throughout the product life cycle and the improved customer satisfaction that will occur as a result.

Initial Research

To ensure your customers are happy with your product when it is released it’s important to start at the very beginning of the new product process. Gather together a collection of your target audience and invite them in for focus groups on your new product. Involve everyone from bloggers in your niche, to past customers of your other products. Make sure everyone signs an NDA, and you’ll ensure all ideas discussed are protected. In return offer them an exclusive preview, and the final product for free.

By doing this you’ll understand product flaws early on, and will have an idea of whether the final product will satisfy customers. Better yet, when you give the product away at the end of the process you’ll have a group of customers who can help spread the word on your product. If you’ve been able to integrate their ideas in to the finished product, then you will have a good set of satisfied customers and brand advocates.

Product Testing

We’re not ready to launch just yet and as with the initial research it’s just as important to test the finished product on another sample group. The same process applies, promise an exclusive look, and let them keep the product when they’re finished.

In addition ask everyone to provide you with a quote on their experience with the product. Gather these quotes in multiple formats (audio, video, text) and when you come to market the product you have a set of satisfied customer opinions that can be used to encourage people to make a purchase. For new customers, seeing other satisfied customers leads to improved sales, and psychologically improves the likelihood the purchaser will be satisfied as they have seen other people who enjoyed the product.

Product Launch

When you are ready to launch in addition to using the previous quotes, you should then provide free
products to key customers in your niche. This includes:

  • People using similar products on video sites
  • Bloggers
  • Industry Experts
  • Your most vocal social media fans
  • Writers in your niche
  • Journalists

This is very much a numbers game. If your product is expensive then you won’t be able to hit every possible source, so choose the customers who are most likely to be satisfied by your product. If your product is very expensive then offer a 30 day free trial, or a product loan as a freebie alternate. Should your product be digital, or have low creation costs, then you should still hold back slightly – as you don’t want you entire customer base to be given a free product.

When products have been sent out, ask for reviews or coverage in return. The more satisfied these customers are the better coverage you will get. Likewise the better a freebie you can provide will help this satisfaction grow.

Encouraging Loyalty

Follow the product launch by searching across social media to find people who have said positive things about your product. Visit review websites, search Twitter and Google for your product name to seek out these positive customer experiences. Each time you find one, add this customer to a spreadsheet and then try to find their email contact details and other contact methods they have listed online.

You can then encourage further loyalty by giving them something for free. As they already own the product this could be – another sample for a friend, merchandise you have, random things from the office or a visit to your office/factory. Even spending time to follow these customers on social media and engage with them can help grow the relationship. You can even use these customers in helping plan your next product, repeating the process again.

Negative Customer Feedback

If a customer simply isn’t satisfied there’s no reason to ignore them, and free stuff can be used as a means of getting them back on your side. If a customer had a bad experience with your product, then offer them a replacement or similar goods. A refund is a great way to apologise, and can lead to their original bad comments being removed, as their satisfaction and trust in your brand is restored.

Summary

By giving something away in return you can get vital customer feedback throughout your entire product process. Customers know what they want, and the more opinions you can gather on your product the better. A stronger overall product will lead to improved satisfaction. From positive customers, to negative experiences there are very few scenarios that can’t be improved with a freebie.

You can learn more about Mike Essex on his website or on Twitter @Impact_Mike. He is more than happy to receive emails from businesses or customers who want to learn more about free stuff.