Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Women and Sports Advertising: Nothin’ But Missed Opportunities

I recently read an article that was a great illustration of how marketers are totally missing the boat when it comes to what I call Marketing 101: Identifying your audience. If you think your product or service is for everyone, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
This article was written by a colleague who did a seminar in our little burb last winter. He’s clearly defined his audience: small sports retailers. He runs sales seminars and workshops, helping them become enlightened marketers and salespeople, creating stakeholders with a heightened customer focus.

Sports advertising is inevitably about and for men

He’s taking a look at the outdoors/sports industry—the stores, ads, trade shows, etc. and virtually all of these are geared toward men. What? The face of the sales force and marketing campaigns is a masculine one. But that’s not an accurate representation of the industry. They’re missing the boat on several fronts.
  • Women are the shoppers; they’re the ones who often do the shopping for the men in their lives.
  • Women are often very engaged in outdoor activities. They’re fishing and hunting, playing tennis, soccer, baseball, and basketball. They’re rock climbing and racing bicycles, running and ice-skating, boxing and fencing, etc. You get the idea. Women have become fiercely competitive; they’re active, aggressive and involved.

Change begins with every retailer along the food chain

So how else can outdoors retailers and manufacturers start recognizing that they’re missing a huge opportunityand a historically loyal market? It starts with every sports retailer on the food chain. Incorporate more inclusive events into their itineraries. Start hosting women-specific clinics. Make the outdoors seem approachable to novices, regardless of gender. Women may have felt excluded from a particular sport, so change that perception; make it approachable.

Manufacturers also need to step up

Like the retailers, manufacturers need to upgrade their products so they’re geared toward women. No neon pink, but not crazy masculine, either. Ad campaigns should feature both men and women. The current model is currently either for men or for women. But since we’re sharing the outdoors, men and women should be equally represented.

Stop qualifying women in the outdoors or in sports

Market to women as members of the group, rather than singling them out. As women integrate into all aspects of industries, their roles and populations will grow. It helps shape the industry for women moving forward. Creating better gear for women, for example, can impact the younger generation, the current generation, the bikes women ride, the opportunities they’re given. We shouldn’t be breaking down roles by gender or ethnic group. No more women CEOs or Latino CEOs. It has to start somewhere. Making sports neutral would go a long way towards leveling the playing field for women. It will also result in increased revenue for retailers and manufacturers.
Do you need help with your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and content marketing experts.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Business Cards: Obsolete or a Great First Impression?

Are business cards on the verge of extinction?

I’ve been at a few recent events or in situations where I hand someone my business card and they tell me that their company has just gone paperless. What? Note that it is generally a company that makes this kind of decision, not an individual consultant or solopreneur.

Never travel or attend a networking event without a handful of cards

What happens to them after they’re exchanged is anyone’s guess. If you’re like most of my clients when I ask what they do with the contacts they make, they pull open a desk drawer and stare at a huge collection of dated cards. A better course of action, of course, is to be discriminating. Get cards from those people who are good potential connections. Add these people to your contact management system and newsletter list, connect with them on social media and schedule a coffee date with those whom you want to see again. Follow up with these people and build strategic relationships.

It’s a physical reminder in a digital world

Of course, one reason business cards are disappearing from both our wallets and radar is our reliance on social platforms. Do we really need business cards when we can quickly pull out our smartphones and instantly follow one another on LinkedIn? Maybe a business card really is superfluous.

But what those who are now going paperless? 

All of a sudden, the ritual of sharing cards has been aborted. That act of shaking hands, making eye contact and exchanging cards has lost some of its impact. It’s not that you were dying to get another business card, but that business card, like your website or any other piece of collateral, says a lot about you.
An attractive, well-designed business card reinforces your personal brand, helps make a favorable first impression and sets you apart. Many people these days are finding ways to individualize their cards without making them—they’re using the backs to include a quote, they’re adding graphics. Terrific logos go a long way towards personalizing your card. More important, if you’re sharing it with someone with whom you genuinely want to follow up, that card has important contact information that they can reference. You never want to make it hard for someone to get in touch with you.
Ultimately, business cards are still useful at keeping you fresh in the minds of the recipient. For those who really do like to take those cards home and follow up with their new connections, an important opportunity to connect has just been lost.

Business cards: inexpensive and still relevant

I gave up on print collateral long ago. It’s expensive and quickly dated. When people ask me if I have a brochure, I have no problem telling them that I’ve gone paperless and direct them to my website. That’s a trend that many small businesses and consultants embrace. But I’m for hanging on to your business card. It helps create connections.
Are you ready to outsource your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We writers and content marketing experts.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Mobile Friendly Just Part of This Website’s Problems



A client recently called me for some help with his website. He was concerned because it wasn’t mobile-friendly and he wanted to know what I could do to help drive traffic to his site. I’d done some work for him a while back when he’d gotten a bunch of bad Yelp reviews. That time he wanted to know how I could get rid of them. I couldn’t but what I did is reach out to his good clients and ask them to write positive reviews on Yelp. The good reviews help drive the bad reviews down the page to counteract them. This required a fair amount of effort, but we were ultimately successful and he was delighted.

An old, dated website with bad navigation and horrible images

That his site wasn’t designed for mobile was simply the tip of the iceberg. His site was old and dated, with bad navigation. He’d written his own content, which was actually quite good, but it didn’t synch with his images, and was too limited; good landing pages should be 300+ words to rank well in search engines. Branding was nonexistent. He’s a contractor, and I’d learned from my previous project that he was conscientious and skilled, but he’d never invested in professional pictures of any of his projects, and the images he used on the site were cramped and terrible, never really showcasing his craftsmanship or the wide range of projects on which he worked.
I tried to explain that even if we were able to drive people to the site, there was nothing that would make them want to pick up the phone and call him. I created a proposal for a new WordPress website that was as lean as I could make it because I genuinely wanted to help him. I would be the project manager, work with my longtime web guy who is very reasonable, and I’d develop the content based on what was on the current site. I would do keyword research, write metadescriptions and do some other SEO efforts that would help his site show up in search engines, which was where this whole conversation had begun.

Making a commitment to photograph projects

I included a photoshoot as a line item, because if he was serious about a new site, he needed to start investing in his work. Project photos can get expensive really quickly, but I suggested we start modestly. Identify one or two projects that turned out well and include these as part of the new website’s portfolio. More important, he needed to commit to photographing his completed projects and adding them to his new site.

A simple, well-conceived site is an investment that will endure

When I told him the approximate cost for development of a new site, he told me that it was ridiculous. He “could get his old web guy to make his existing site mobile-friendly.” He didn’t see any reason to spend that kind of money to get “the kind of clients that he really didn’t want”. I tried to explain that this was the only money he was spending on marketing, and a simple but well-conceived site would last him for a long time. Clearly, I’d wasted my time. Instead, he’ll continue to have the same crappy site that won’t drive traffic and won’t generate leads because he doesn’t recognize the difference between a good site and his own.

A website says a lot about you

For many small business owners, a website is their only marketing spend, so it’s an important investment. When people meet you or hear about you and go to your website, they make an immediate judgment, and first impressions are everything.
  • Does your site load—on both desktops and mobile devices?
  • Is it easy to navigate?
  • Are the images crisp, clear and relevant?
  • Does your About section describe you as an individual as well as the company? People like to know about the people with whom they’re going to be working.
  • Is it easy to find contact information?
  • Are product descriptions well-written and informative? Do they provide enough information to help you make informed buying decisions?

Is your site relevant to your business today? 

  • Have you added new products and services, new members of your team?
  • Are your images out of date?
  • If your site was built in WordPress, there are more than two thousand themes. It’s possible that we can apply a new theme, update content and images and give your site a facelift. Infinitely more appealing than the prospect of creating a whole new site from scratch.

Does your website need to be updated to a mobile-friendly format?

Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Instagram Stories: Connecting with a 24-Hour Sound Bite

One of my pals used to groan about social media. He’s a millennial, but his response was “why do we need another application that does the same thing?” He’s right, of course. They all do the same thing, which is to keep us connected and share stuff that should never be shared. We’re all witnesses to the painful public spectacle of Donald Trump’s Twitter abuse. This is a classic example of how he and the world would be better served if he kept some of his thoughts to himself.

Instagram has captured the imagination of more than 700M users

While these social media companies are all helping us share information, they’re finding interesting new ways to do it. Instagram has become the favorite app among the young and trendy. It’s immediate, it’s visual and it’s on the ubiquitous cellphone, which has become an appendage on many of today’s youth and millennials.

One of the latest features is Instagram Stories

To add Stories to your Instagram account, you may have to update your account, so check your settings and go to the App Store if necessary. With Instagram Stories, you record live video or take photos with your smartphone and add them to a story that lasts for just 24 hours. It’s totally ephemeral.

Instagram Stories: you have two options

You can modify your privacy settings for each individual story you publish or for all of your stories from your main Instagram settings. To do the latter, go to your Instagram profile and click on the settings wheel icon at the top right.
When you’re ready to create your first story, tap on the circled + button at the top left of your Instagram screen. From here, you can use the icons at the bottom of your screen from left to right to configure flash settings, take a photo or video, or switch the camera from front- to rear-facing. If you tap and hold the center button, you can record a 10-second video. Something I learned: You can turn your camera orientation to landscape, but Instagram will still post your photo or video in portrait mode.
Once you’ve created your story, you’ll see your own profile photo at the top of the news feed. Your photo will always appear first so you can easily access your current story at all times. If you want to add to your story, tap on the circled + icon at the top left to record video or take a photo. Each new video or photo you take will be added to the end of your story and lasts for 24 hours.

Note that each of these options applies to each 10-second increment (photo or video) of your story. This means that you can do the following:
  • Delete the part of the story you’re viewing.
  • Save the photo or video portion of the story you’re viewing.
  • Share the photo or video portion of the story you’re viewing as a poston your Instagram profile.
  • Change the story settings for the portion of the story you’re viewing.
As you add more photos and videos to your story, the same applies. You can delete individual photo or video portions of the story, save individual portions of the story, etc.
Once you finish taking your photo or recording your video, you have the option to add text or draw on your photo or video using the options at the top right of the screen. At the bottom of the screen, you have the options to cancel and start over, or download the photo or video to your camera roll.
Once you’re satisfied, tap on the checkmark at the bottom to add the photo or video to your story.

Too much work for something with a limited shelf life?

If this sounds like a lot of fooling around—editing, adding more photos and videos to something that has a very limited shelf-life--it may be. But when it comes to people and their phones and cameras, I’m not sure there are limits. I’m not one of these. I spend a lot of my time in my office on my laptop with a big monitor. I’m not really interested in editing and enhancing images on my smartphone, but I see people doing this all the time.
I am beginning to like Instagram and its application as a business tool. I like its immediacy, its whimsy, but it’s just one more social media app that's emerged in a growing market that's trying to find new ways to connect.
Are you struggling to include social media in your marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We're internet marketing specialists. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Importance—and Evolution–of Keywords in Online Content


Strategically using keyword in your landing pages, blogs and social media posts is important, but just as important is understanding how keywords have changed. In the old days, people could get away with keyword stuffing—filling a page with their keywords, often to the point where the page’s meaning was compromised by repeated use of a number of keywords.
Google’s last few major algorithm changes, including Mobilegeddon, have made good content nonnegotiable. You can no longer fool or trick Google. If you’re filling your pages with nonsense trying to create keyword density for the sake of optimization, forget it. This is a bad strategy and Google will penalize you.  Some experts suggest that your keywords should appear in about 2.5% of your copy. But search has become much more intuitive, so it’s not just about your keywords.
As a general rule, it’s good to work your keyword into your headline and a few of your subheads (do use subheads—it makes it infinitely easier to read your articles), but you shouldn’t distort natural copy to accommodate a keyword. If you’re writing naturally, you’ll tend to use synonyms for your keywords and vary your phrasing, and Google and search engines have begun to recognize this. Here’s what’s really cool—search engines are getting smarter. They’re better at understanding context, and you can help them by using well-written, informative content that includes words they would expect to find within that context.
Semantic search is the concept of a search engine’s applying intent and context to the search results. Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding the searcher’s intent and the contextual meaning of terms as they appear in the searchable dataspace.

Search engines able to identify contextual meaning

Google makes an estimated 500 algorithm changes/year, but some of these have more sweeping impact. With the release of the Hummingbird algorithm in 2013, Google became more able to analyze full questions, rather than relying on word-by-word search analysis. As a result of Hummingbird, any single word could have multiple meanings; it used context to discern which meaning might be accurate, often using a searcher’s own history to provide context. That’s one reason why you and I might get different results for the same search, or you might get different results if you’re using Chrome or Safari—the browser you’re using will affect your search results. It also takes in account what other people click on in search results using the same term.

Optimize everything . . .

Optimizing your content’s title by using H tags and keywords, your images with alt tags and using descriptive metadata are all part of what makes your content SEO-friendly. But creating great content that is meaningful to your online audience is the best way to ensure organic success for the long haul.

Do you need help with your content marketing program?

Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

You Can't Underestimate the Power of Rock-star Headlines

These days, we’re all marketers. We’re all competing for eyeballs, frantically posting to our websites, blogs and social media hoping to build trust, brands and audience loyalty. But let’s be honest--what we’re really hoping to get out of this is new clients.

It’s hard to underestimate the importance of rock-star headlines

Each new social media application and blog platform that hits the marketplace represents new competition. So how do you set yourself apart? It’s difficult to overstate the importance of rockstar headlines. A good headline can entice and engage your audience to click, read, and share your content. Unfortunately, in many cases, headlines are the thing that is shared rather than the article. This is pure clickbait. It’s a scam when there’s no relationship between the headline and the article, and it’s doing a big disservice to your audience and the industry. But do you know what makes an engaging headline?

Listen to this: BuzzSumo analyzed 100 million article headlines. They examined stuff like:

  1. Headline phrases that drive most engagement on Facebook
  2. Worst performing headline phrases on Facebook
  3. Most effective phrases that start or end headlines
  4. Optimum number of words and characters to use in a headline
  5. Numbers to use in headlines that have the most impact
  6. Most engaging Twitter headline phrases
  7. Differences between B2C and B2B headlines
While there is no magic formula for creating a viral headline, by taking a look at what’s successful, we can model our own headlines on these formulas and capitalize on some of these trends.
Note: This research looks at the most shared headlines on Facebook and Twitter which tend to be dominated by major publishers and consumer content. Thus the insights will be particularly interesting for publishers. Business-to-business comes later this year.

Popular phrases in no particular order:

  1. Tears of joy
  2. Is what happens
  3. Are freaking out
  4. The only reason is
  5. Give you goosebumps
  6. Is talking about
  7. This is why
  8. Will make you
  9. Is too cute
As a serious business owner, a few of these phrases would never work for me. It’s clearly important to consider the industry. I’m very aware of the power of headlines and I work hard to make mine and those of my clients compelling and attention-grabbing. But there’s a caveat here. If you’re sending out a newsletter or posting a blog for someone in the legal or financial services industries, for instance, numbers 3, 5 and 9 are probably never going work for you. In fact, they’re wholly inappropriate for a lot of industries.

Data makes you rethink headlines

In the BuzzSumo sample, the most powerful three-word phrase used in a headline was: “Will make you … “ This phrase gained more than twice the number of Facebook engagements as the second most popular headline trigram. So why does this particular trigram or three-word phrase work so well? It’s a linking phrase. There’s a promise of a direct impact on the reader; it’s trying to elicit an emotional response; it’s the start of a relationship, which is what it is all about.

Curiosity and voyeurism also gain Facebook engagement

Headline phrases that provoke curiosity, tension and a sense of voyeurism also gained a high level of engagement on Facebook. For example:
  • What happened next
  • Talking about it
  • Twitter reacts to
  • Are freaking out
  • Top x songs
These days, with the White House in a daily state of meltdown, a lot of the headlines that gained traction are politics-specific. But this is a good example--readers are often curious about what is being talked about by people, what the top items are in a league table, or what is being said by people on Twitter about a topic or event. This type of content appeals to our curiosity and voyeurism. With the Trump administration in Washington, we’re seeing a lot of headlines with “are freaking out” in them, and they’re killing the ratings.
BuzzSumo cautions writers to avoid ‘what happened next’ style headlines. While they have performed well, Facebook now categorizes headlines that withhold information as clickbait and demotes them. I believe this is a good thing. We’re seeing way too much clickbait—headlines that just don’t deliver that shows a clear lack of integrity.

 Other engaging headline phrases are explanations

  • This is why
  • The reason is
We all want to feel that bit smarter after reading a piece of content. Explainer articles promise you an extra nugget of insight. In some ways they are similar to the “will make you” phrase headline as they make a promise about what you’ll gain as a result of reading the article.
We’re all looking for community these days, a sense of belonging to something. A word that has become part of our vernacular is “tribe”. These popular headlines appeal to a sense of tribal belonging. But don’t take these at face value. Model these headlines and make them work for you. Appeal to your own tribe.
  • 25 Things Only Teachers Will Understand
  • 17 Things Only Anglers Understand
  • 9 Things Only Girls Who Grew Up With Older Brothers Will Understand
  • 10 Things Only Night Shift Nurses Understand

Is a subject line important? It's everything.

I just updated the list I keep by my computer—I try to incorporate these phrases into my blog and newsletter headlines and social media posts when they’re appropriate because I know that they’re powerful. I was working with a client one time and we were getting ready to send out her newsletter. I wanted to get her feedback on several subject lines. She was indifferent. “Is it important?” My answer: “It’s everything.”  

Do you need help with your content marketing program? 

Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The State of Internet Marketing: 2017

Mary Meeker, the Kleiner Perkins venture partner who publishes a yearly report on the state of the Internet, released her annual Internet Trends report in June—a total of 355 PowerPoint slides. Her report covers online trends in sectors ranging from media and healthcare to China and India. A few key trends in retail and e-commerce:
  1. A withering brick-and-mortar landscape as Amazon/e-commerce grows. Amazon, in particular, is proving to be a formidable foe, inflicting deep wounds on brick-and-mortar retail chains. “Store closings may break a 20-year record” according to a 2017 estimate by Credit Suisse. The report estimates that more than 8,600 brick-and-mortar stores may close in 2017. “Barely a quarter into 2017, year-to-date retail store closings have already surpassed those of 2008,” according to Credit Suisse. Unless you’re just crawling out of Sleepy Hollow, you know that Macy’s has closed 68 of its stores nationwide, resulting in the loss of 10,000 jobs. In March, Staples announced they were closing another 70 stores. J.C. Penney, Bebe, Target and nearly a dozen other retailers have announced store closings.
  2. Online sales grew again in 2016, rising 15% percent year/year. Retail sales clerks may be losing their jobs, but your UPS driver is keeping busy; parcel deliveries in the US have been steadily increasing over the past six years and rose 9% year/year in 2016.
  3. Walmart is sprinting to catch up online. Brick-and-mortar behemoth Walmart, which has had relatively lackluster impact online despite past investments, rapidly accelerated its e-commerce efforts this past year. It acquired Jet.com in August 2016, and already this year it has bought or invested in Shoebuy, JD.com, Moosejaw and Modcloth.com. Walmart’s e-commerce revenue grew 63% year/year last quarter. Walmart is, of course, trying to unseat Amazon, and the stakes are high.
  4. The new retail is mobile-informed. Retail isn’t really dead; rather, it’s evolving. Warby Parker, Lowe’s augmented-reality experiment with Google to help consumers locate items in-store, and Amazon itself opening up self-checkout retail stores as examples of ways retail is evolving to meet the needs and expectations of mobile-enabled consumers.
  5. Retailers are taking advantage of online-offline feedback loops. Other examples of hybrid online-offline commerce experiences include MM.LaFleur, which offers both online and in-store personal shopping advice and incorporates that information back into its bento-box-style e-commerce operation, and shirt retailer UNTUCKit, which incorporates online and offline feedback into its brand experiences.
  6. Location-driven advertising is becoming more targeted and accountable.Location-targeted ads from Google Nextdoor and xAd and Uber’s in-app ads powered by Foursquare are examples of how ad delivery and the ability to track outcomes are changing the dynamic between online marketing and offline commerce. Google has tracked more than 5 billion in-store visits globally, and just last week introduced its store purchases tracking solution to link ad clicks to physical transactions.

The landscape is changing rapidly

Since Meeker’s report came out, Amazon purchased Whole Foods, and there’s a lot of speculation about how this one’s going to turn out. Jeff Bezos is a pretty smart guy—remember when Amazon used to sell books? That was a lifetime ago. But can he merge his huge online empire with the luxury, high-touch food operation? I rather suspect he will figure it out. He may find a way to completely reengineer it. An editorial in Sunday’s SF Chronicle from Alice Waters was a plea to Bezos to find a way to quit trucking produce cross country and calling it local. To start focusing on fresh and local, building relationships with local farmers to bring the most nutritious and cost-effective food to his new markets. And let’s not forget that Amazon is now building brick and mortar stores—there’s a new one opening soon in Walnut Creek, among other locations.
As we watch a traditional store like Macy’s falter—and if you’ve ventured into one lately, you understand why—another kind of department store is rising. Anthropologie has opened two flagship stores in the Bay Area—one in Walnut Creek, the other in Palo Alto. With many different departments under one roof, these qualify as department stores, but they’re a new-concept store, complete with bridal, home and garden shops and a high-end restaurant. Once their customers come through their doors, they don’t want them to leave.

People still want the personal experience of shopping

They like the first-hand experience of seeing and touching what they’re going to purchase. The new Anthropologie stores are packed with eager shoppers with money to spend. The key ingredient may be that their demographic is millennials. We’re also seeing that there’s a place for the combined online/brick and mortar presence. Savvy online eyeglass provider Warby Parker has two stores here in the Bay Area. They understand that glasses are now an accessory; people want a number of pairs to match their outfits and their moods. Ordering glasses online works, but it’s still a bit of a crapshoot. Being able to actually see what those specs look like is a better experience. There’s still demand for brick and mortar, but retailers have to be clever about how they package their merchandise.

Do you need help with your content marketing program? 

Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.