By John Eberhard
In January 2016 I published a 3-part article series on SEO and what I had discovered doing an extensive amount of research on what is effective in search engine optimization (SEO).
I have just completed another major research project on SEO in order to update my service offering to clients, i.e. what I do for clients on SEO.
The point in this series and in this new article is that SEO is constantly changing, largely because Google keeps making significant changes to their search algorithm, that greatly affect SEO.
I started doing an analysis of the SEO of the competitors of one of my top clients. This started by entering our top keywords and see which competitor sites came up high in the search results. I then looked at their links, the number of links they had, and what sites were linking to them.
If these competitors were coming up high in the search results for important keywords, I concluded that that meant that the links they had were important. So I could work to get my client to be linked to from those same sites, thus gaining high quality links in the process.
By researching this further, I found that one SEO expert recommended doing this. He called it “stealing links,” but of course it is not really stealing anything. It is just observing what your competition is doing and copying what works. This expert also advised to make a list of competitor links, evaluating them according to high Page Authority and high Domain Authority. There is a tool available from Moz, a browser plugin that adds a strip at the top that shows Page Authority and Domain Authority for any page you pull up (it works only in Chrome).
So the idea is:
- Take links that your competition has, which have high Page Authority and Domain Authority
- Go to those sites and figure out how the competitor got a link on that site
- Do what is necessary to get that site to link to your site (This may require simply listing your site there if it is a business listing site, posting a press release there if it is a press release site, etc. Basically you have to figure out what to do to get a link, based on the type of link your competitor has.)
This whole action is based on the idea that the quality of links is more important than the quantity of links. So with this type of action we are zeroing in on high quality links that our competition has, and getting our site linked to from those sites as well.
When a site has an https:// at the beginning of its web address, rather than http://, that means that the site is encrypted with something called an SSL certificate. That means that hackers can’t intercept your data. This is something you buy from your hosting company and it typically costs between $60 and $150 per year.
According to an ebook by Hubspot entitled “18 SEO Myths You Should Leave Behind in 2017”:
“In August of 2014, Google announced that it had started using HTTPS as a signal in their ranking algorithms. This means that if your website still relies on standard HTTP, your rankings could suffer as a result.
“This time last year, HTTPS remained a “lightweight” signal, affecting fewer than 1% of global queries (according to Google). It wasn’t time to freak out just yet. But in September 2016, Google announced that Chrome will flag HTTP pages as potentially unsafe starting in January 2017. This is part of a long-term plan to mark all HTTP sites as non-secure. So if you haven’t thought about encrypting your site, now’s the time to get moving.”
So this is now an important thing to consider for your website, especially for e-commerce websites that handle credit card info or other sensitive information.
Part 5 coming soon.
By John Eberhard
As shocking as it is, 2017 is almost upon us. Many (including me) think that the economy will be better in 2017. So what do you need to do with marketing your business in 2017, to get the most benefit from improved conditions? Here is a list of 12 suggestions.
- Get a new website. As I detailed in a recent article, if your website is old and worn out looking, you really need to get a new one. Particularly if your site was designed more than 4-5 years ago, it will look hopelessly out of date. Is this the impression you want to give to your prospects? A great looking website is a necessity, not a luxury today. And it has to be mobile friendly.
- Do SEO (search engine optimization) on your site. This is the best way, long term, to build up traffic to your website. This includes keyword research, putting up unique titles and descriptions on every page of the site, and then doing a monthly link building program. You are losing so much value from having a website if you don’t do SEO for it.
- Get on Yelp (for local businesses). If you have a local business, you NEED to get a free listing on Yelp, and if you already have a listing, you should consider doing paid advertising on Yelp. I have put a number of clients on paid advertising on Yelp and they have all done well with it.
- Get a presence on social media. You should minimally have a Facebook fan page for your business, a Twitter account, and a LinkedIn account. And link to these accounts from your website. Then work those accounts by getting fans, followers and connections. Then post things about your business or industry REGULARLY. Facebook advertising is effective for certain types of businesses (not everyone).
- Get out a newsletter. If you’re not already doing this, you need to start developing an email list of clients and prospects, then get out a regular email newsletter to those people. This is a great way to keep your business in front of people, remind them that you are there, and build relationships with clients and prospects.
- Start blogging. If you’re creating content for a newsletter, you should also post that content to a blog or blogs. This is great for SEO purposes.
- Respond to anything negative about your company online. This is called reputation management. Reviews have become a really important thing online and it is really important to respond to negative ones. Contact our company to work out the appropriate strategy to any problems you may be encountering.
- Pay attention to online security. Hacking of websites has become more of a widespread problem in the last year. You need to do regular backups of your website, and take measures to thwart hackers. Because they are trying to get into your website. I have set up software on client websites that notifies me when someone tries unsuccessfully to hack into one of the websites, and I get hundreds of these notifications each day.
- Do pay per click advertising. This is particularly relevant if you sell a high ticket product or service, and it still works very well.
- Get into doing remarketing. This is where you have code on your website that puts a cookie on the computer of every person who visits your website, and then they will begin to see banner ads for your business on many other websites. This is a great way to hit people again who have already visited your website but didn’t yet respond to you. And you can do it with a modest budget.
- Get on every channel you can. It’s important to promote your business on as many channels as possible, not just one or two.
- Be consistent. It’s most vital to be putting out promotional messages on a regular basis, not just as a one shot deal or every once in a while. You should develop a promotional strategy and a schedule and make sure you keep sending things out on that schedule. I would say this is even more important than what media you use or even what you say (although what you say is important too).
I have decided that 2017 is going to be a great year, the best year ever for my business and for yours. So let’s get going on effective marketing and making it the best year ever.
By John Eberhard
SEO stands for search engine optimization. Basically it is a series of actions you do to drive more traffic to a website, from search engines.
If you have a website and have never done any SEO, then chances are you are not getting much in the way of traffic to that website. And if you are not getting much traffic, then you probably are not getting any responses from that website.
Having a website is not an end in itself. For most companies, the reason you have a website is to present your company to people, and convince them to respond to you. But if you have hardly any visitors to the site, then you will get no one responding.
It IS possible to drive people to come to your website, and thus respond to you. There are several ways to do it. But SEO is one of the best long-term ways to drive website traffic. And you NEED to do it.
SEO has basically two parts, with typical IT mumbo jumbo names: 1) On-Page Optimization, and 2) Off-Page Optimization. Sounds like something you do to a jet engine or something, right?
To make it simple, On-Page Optimization includes things you do directly to your website to make it better able to attract traffic from search engines. Off-Page Optimization is what you do with other sites to create links back to your site.
On-Page Optimization: What’s Done On Your Site
First you do keyword research. You come up with a list of 100-150 or so potential keywords that people might type in when looking for your products or services. Then we do research on those keywords to find which ones have a decent number of people searching for them regularly, but don’t have a million sites competing for them.
The goal is to find keywords with decent traffic but low number of competing sites. Because you might be able to rank well for keywords that have little or no searches, but it won’t do you any good. And if you try to get your site to rank for keywords that have large numbers of sites competing for them, you will never be able to rank well for those keywords.
So the sweet spot is: good number of searches, low competition.
Once those sweet spot keywords are selected, we write titles and descriptions for each page of your website, then input those into the pages in the hidden areas of the pages, called “meta-tags.” These titles and descriptions are what shows up on Google or other search engines when someone searches for something.
So that’s a one-time action, which can be completed fairly quickly. It should be repeated every 2-3 years or so.
Off-Page Optimization: Building Links
Once you have your titles and descriptions entered into the site for every page, you now have to create links coming to your site from other sites. Why? Because Google says that links coming to your site from other sites is one of the most important criteria in their deciding how your site will rank for any given keyword.
So how many links do you need? That depends, to a large extent, on how many links your competition has coming to their websites from other sites. If most of your competition has hundreds of links, then you need hundreds of links. If most of your competition has thousands of links, then you need thousands of links. That’s if you want to really compete in the arena of search engine rankings and website traffic.
So how do you build links to your site from other sites? Well the methods used to do that have changed a lot over time.
First of all, Google says to never do anything to create links to your site. Just put up great content on your site and people will naturally link to it. I have written extensively in the past on why this self-serving advice from Google is not good for YOU. But to summarize, there is so much content on the web now that if you do not actively take steps to get other sites to link to you, no one will. So if you hear someone tell you that you can’t build links because Google says not to, ignore that advice.
I wrote a series of articles last year about what you need to do (and what you can do) for link building these days. Google has taken actions in the past few years to actually stop people from doing certain link building actions. So it is important to know which actions are still working. Here’s what you can and should do:
- Writing a press release about your business, and posting it to multiple free online PR sites, and at least one paid online PR site. The release should have links to your website within it. These online PR sites usually rank well themselves, so a link there counts for something. The paid online PR sites will usually get your release into multiple sites for newspapers and magazines. I have seen no evidence that these links are negative in any way, or that they don’t work anymore.
- Creating online business listings. You can create listings for your business on multiple business listing web sites, such as Google My Business, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, Merchant Circle, Manta, Insider pages, Hotfrog, etc.
- Links to your site on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter now count as links to your site.
- Contacting the owners of blogs and asking to write a guest post for their blog, with a link back to your site, is good. Then you have to write unique content for that blog only. And obviously it has to be a topic you are actually an expert in. The challenge here is that there is a saturation aspect to this activity as well, as a lot of people are trying to do this, and so blog owners are getting a lot of these requests.
- Post your articles, releases or other content to your blog or blogs.
I saw a billboard the other day for the Marines that said “We don’t take applications, only commitments.”
The concept of commitment is relevant to link building. It is not something you do for one month or three. It is something best done for a minimum of 6-12 months. I have clients where I have been doing link building for them each month for 6-7 years. And those are the clients that get the best benefit from SEO, because they know it’s something that they have to do continually. I have doubled, tripled or quadrupled website traffic for clients that have worked with us over a period of time.
So you don’t have to join the Marines. But you do have to do on-page SEO and then commit to an ongoing program of link building. And that’s when the traffic starts coming.
By John Eberhard
If you have an old, out of date, not fully functioning website, it’s time to get it updated. Not only is it absolutely necessary to have a website in the modern business world, it is absolutely necessary that the site looks great. A website is a representative of your company, and also the best tool for attracting new business to your organization.
If your website is old, out-of-date, boring or clunky looking, here are 10 reasons why you need to get a new website now.
- First impressions: Your site is the first exposure that many people will have to your company. If your website is stale and looks like it’s stuck in the 90s, then guess what: everyone will assume your company is too. Or they will assume you just don’t care about your company’s image. You want people to know you’re doing well, staying current, and growing. Get up to date and celebrate your newness with a sharp, current website.
- Customers expect you to be on the web: If you don’t even have a website, that’s an instant hit to your credibility.
- Your competitors have great looking sites: If you’re competition is looking new and you’re not, that’s a problem. In today’s competitive marketplace, having a great looking website is not a luxury, but a necessity. And in most markets today, you need every competitive edge you can get. Check out your competitors’ websites and honestly see how yours compares.
- Answer prospect questions: Your site should be set up to answer prospects’ questions easily, so you don’t have to field all those questions.
- 24-hour access: A great looking site is up and accessible to prospects 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Even when your business is closed or you are on vacation, people can still find out about you and respond to your offers.
- Your site isn’t mobile friendly: Google estimates that over 50% of all searches are now done on a mobile. And as of April 2015, Google is penalizing sites in their rankings that are not mobile friendly. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, you have lost ground in Google’s rankings. And your site will appear tiny on that screen and be unreadable.
- You could be selling products directly on your site: It’s relatively easy today to set up a shopping cart to sell products on your site.
- Your website copy (text) is old, out-of-date, or poorly written: If you have poorly written, stale or incorrect text, then the site is not doing the sales job that it should be and could be doing for you.
- You’re not getting many (or any) responses from the site: Websites are supposed to get people to respond to you. If your site isn’t getting any people to contact you, it’s time for a facelift.
- You can’t make any changes to the site yourself: WordPress format allows you to make changes to the site easily yourself. And most of our clients have been able to get up and running with making content changes themselves.
If you are afflicted with an old, lousy looking website, stop procrastinating. Stop back-burnering. It’s an essential part of your company’s image. Time for a new website.
By John Eberhard
I recently had three client websites get hacked. That means someone managed to log into my client’s hosting account or their WordPress account, and put their own (the hacker’s) content there, or put malware there. According to Google, this is done by people to somehow make money. I’m not sure how they make money from this but apparently they do.
There are several bad effects that can be caused by this:
- The site could now show other content, not your content
- The site could be taken down by your hosting company because they detect malware on it
- When someone searches for your site by company name, Google will put a notice there saying the site is probably hacked
- When someone searches for your site on a search engine, they could see Japanese characters or other content
- Malicious malware hidden inside the files of your website
- Your hosting company taking down your site because of "excessive CPU usage" caused by the hackers
Obviously this is an emergency when this happens, so I had to take fast action to handle the hacking on these sites. Because any benefit the client is getting from their website will be reduced or eliminated while this is happening.
There are several actions one can take to prevent this from happening, or to handle it if it does happen.
The first thing one should do to prevent this is to set up an automated backup of your site. With WordPress sites, there are backup plugins one can install that do an automated backup of the site database, and email it to an email that you specify. I set them up to backup once a week and I have set up a Gmail account for all my client backups.
This way, if the hackers take down your site completely, you can restore it from the backup file. A couple months ago, a client’s site was hacked and all his content taken down and other content put up. My having the backup file allowed me to restore his content to the site.
I have started using the free Sucuri Security Auditing, Malware Scanning and Security Hardening WordPress plugin, and have installed it on all my client sites where they are on a monthly marketing retainer with me.
One of the things that this plugin does is it sends you an email notification when someone tries to log in to your WordPress account and fails. Amazingly, I am getting in the neighborhood of 40-60 of these notifications per day, for all my client websites where I have installed this plugin. That means that hackers are VERY active in trying to hack into sites everywhere. If you don’t have this plugin or a similar service, you could have people trying to hack into your site and not know about it.
One other thing that is important is to keep your version of WordPress and the versions of all your plugins updated to the latest version.
Restoring a Hacked Site
On two recent site hackings, I installed the Sucuri Complete Website Security and Malware Removal service on the sites. Unlike the free plugin this is a paid service – $300 per year. This service includes:
- Malware & Infection Removal
- Website Hack Repairs
- Google Blacklist Removal
- Google Warning Removals
- Brand Reputation Monitoring
- Malware Analysis & Research
- Prevent Future Website Hacks
I don’t usually pitch services in my newsletter but this service totally handled the two recent hacking incidents, including getting rid of the malware, and getting the Google “your site may be hacked” message down. I think this is important enough to let people know about a good solution I have found.
I recommend all website owners take some steps to prevent hacking. If the site is a WordPress site, update versions, set up weekly backups, and install the free Sucuri plugin. If you routinely make money from your site, it is totally worth it to set up the Sucuri paid service.
By John Eberhard
Even before I started working in the marketing field, I worked as a public relations person for my church. I traveled all around New England holding events, and getting newspaper, radio and TV coverage on our activities.
Public relations means to make your works well publicized. In practical terms, one aspect of PR is to get news media to write articles or do broadcast segments on your business or activity.
So how should a small business approach the subject of PR?
One of the first things you can do is to start writing press releases about your activities and sending these out to media outlets and online PR sites.
- The first thing you should think about is that you want to get media coverage on the things your business is already doing. In other words, coverage on the services you offer, what you are doing for clients, on anything unusual your business offers, etc. These could include:
a. Offering a new product or service
b. Releasing some new version or improvement to a product or service
c. I have often written press releases for clients stating that they offer _____ service (not a new service), not stating that it is a new service. Just stating that they offer it
d. Moving to a new location
e. Hiring a new person for an executive position or promoting someone to an executive position
f. You just delivered some noteworthy service or product to a client
g. Opening a new office somewhere
h. Holding some kind of event, such as a client meeting or conference
i. Holding a performance, such as music or dance, or a showing of art
j. Receiving some kind of award or recognition
k. Signing some kind of large service contract with a client
l. Announcing you are going to be exhibiting at an upcoming trade show
m. Announcing a business anniversary
n. Releasing a book or some publication
- Offering Information. Another thing you can do with press releases is to offer some kind of information to the public, giving advice on your topic, warning the public of a danger, alerting the public to something that is happening, etc. Often this will include linking in the release to some kind of information online, such as an article or blog post, or a free report that you offer for people to download. You can link to information you have written, but you can also alert the public to and link to information written by others, such as government agencies, research companies, etc.
- You can do some kind of charity where you give away something or donate money to some cause or create some charity yourself. I personally think this is something that is appropriate for larger businesses, not for small business. Most small businesses cannot afford to donate a lot of money to something. But you can give away some relatively inexpensive service and get some PR coverage on that.
For examples and to see what other people are doing you can go here:
Once you have something you want to promote with a release, then what? Next you have to get the release out, to these types of places:
- Free online PR sites
- Paid online PR sites
- Send to local newspapers
- Send to local radio
- Send to local TV
With 1 and 2, the free sites will either post your release or not. They are kind of arbitrary about it. Paid PR sites will usually take your release. You can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $600 or more, depending on what type of distribution you want.
With 3 through 5, you will have to track down who handles press releases for your type of news at that media outlet. Then you get the release to that person, and you will need to follow up on it to get them to run something on it.
You can see examples of releases we have written for clients here.
By John Eberhard
Pay per click advertising is an umbrella term that applies to any advertising where you pay money every time someone clicks on one of your ads. Some of the programs where you can run pay per click advertising are:
- Google AdWords
- Bing Ad Center
- Facebook advertising
- Yelp paid ad program
I will give some tips and data on each one.
- Google AdWords is probably the oldest of the current programs, and came into prominence around 2005. You pick keywords that you want to advertise on, select what geographical area you want your ads to run, write ads, and create pages on your site for people to land on. And you have to decide on a bid, i.e. what you’re willing to pay every time someone clicks on your ad.
- Since click prices are determined by bids, the click prices are largely determined by the number of advertisers bidding on any given keyword. Because of the number of advertisers running ads on AdWords is pretty high, the bid prices for various keywords can run pretty high. For this reason, I recommend AdWords only for fairly high ticket items, such as home improvement and healthcare companies. I do not recommend it for low ticket items like books or CDs.
- Remarketing is a way to place ads in front of people who have visited your web site. AdWords has a remarketing program and a number of other companies do as well. Basically, special code is placed on your site, so that every time a visitor comes, a cookie gets placed on his computer. Then you can create a bunch of banner ads, different sizes, and those banner ads will appear to that visitor to your site, on various other sites that he visits. It’s a great way to put your message in front of people again who have visited your site, and get them to come back. And the cost of the clicks is generally lower than regular AdWords clicks.
- For the last year or so AdWords has run video ads. You can set up one of your videos to appear before the video someone goes to on YouTube. You have probably seen these, where you can click to skip the ad after a certain number of seconds. If someone watches the whole thing you get charged. Your video can appear in a number of other places, including when people search on YouTube. The cost for this is very small, between 12 and 18 cents per view. But you have to have a video that is appropriate and has a call to action at the end.
- Google AdWords is sufficiently complicated and expensive at this point that I do not advise people to try it on their own. I think it is well worth the money to get a consultant to work with you on it, set it up and manage it.
- Bing Ad Center was formed several years ago combining Bing’s and Yahoo’s PPC programs. It is a valid advertising platform. Unfortunately, it seemed like when the two programs merged, the response level fell down to just what Bing’s program had been before. Yahoo’s traffic just seemed to disappear. I have not had good response from it for my clients’ campaigns and am not running ads there for any of my clients currently.
- Facebook’s pay per click program has changed a lot in the last 1-2 years. They used to just give you these tiny little ads over in the right column. Now you can run ads that appear right in the main news feed, with a large picture, headline and some text. Facebook also has an impressive array of targeting methods, where you can target people by geographical area, age, gender, by professions, by interests, etc. You can even upload an email list that you have and they will find a good number of those people on Facebook and you can target your ads to them.
- There are many “desired actions” that you can have people do in Facebook advertising, such as get people to like your Facebook fan page, download an app, etc., but I think the most valuable thing is to send them to a landing page on your website which will have your offer and a response form.
- Pay per click advertising expert Perry Marshall (who has written several excellent books on AdWords and Facebook) stresses in his book that Facebook advertising is NOT for everyone. He has put up a site where you do a brief survey that will tell you whether Facebook is a good fit for your business. http://isfbforme.com/ Unfortunately this site is often down these days.
- This article on Entrepreneur.com states: “Is yours a local business with a physical location where consumers regularly come to purchase your goods and services? If so, then Facebook is for you. Dentists, doctors, lawyers, veterinarians, physical trainers, gyms, specialty shops, cupcake stores, specialty groceries, beer and wine shops, restaurants, mechanics, theaters and music venues are highly likely to benefit from locally targeted Facebook campaigns.” https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/237959
- Yelp has a paid advertising program. The way it works is, on Yelp you search for a type of business in a specific city. Then you’ll see all these listings come up. If you do one of their paid ads programs, your ad will be one of the ones that appears at the top, a certain number of times per month. Paid programs start at $300 per month. This is most workable for local types of businesses, like restaurants, contractors, health care practices, etc. I have a number of clients who do extremely well with Yelp’s paid programs.
- The goal of any pay per click campaign should be to develop a steady stream of leads coming into the business.
- It is also vital, when doing a pay per click campaign, to have your act together in terms of sales, handling the leads, and converting them to closed sales. If you don’t have this part of the operation nailed, you will waste a lot of money and eventually give up on your pay per click campaign.
Good luck with your pay per click advertising.
By John Eberhard
The essence of marketing, advertising and promotion is and always has been getting people to respond and then buy your product or service. And where the rubber meets the road, and where it has to meet the road, is when someone actually buys something and pays money for it.
One of the most important decisions in marketing has to do with the offer you present, and the desired action you want the person to take. These are kind of two issues but they work together.
With offers, marketing expert Bob Stone says that the offer is one of the most important factors in determining your response rate to a promotional piece. By “offer” we mean, what are you offering to the person? It could be:
- Buy the product now
- A free consultation
- A free estimate
- More info on a product or service
- Some kind of free information product, like a free report, white paper, etc.
- Newsletter subscription
- Free software utility or program
- Free giveaway item like a t-shirt or pen
- Sweepstakes entry
These offers form a scale, from what we call “hard offers” to “soft offers.” The hard offer is more toward having the person reach for a sales interview right now. The soft offer is more geared towards putting a person onto an email or street mailing list where they will receive more sales oriented offers. Often a soft offer is vital with higher ticket (more expensive) items. I have written a white paper on hard and soft offers.
Similar to an offer, we could make a scale of desired actions, or what we want the prospect to do as a result of the promo piece. These could include:
- Buy a product directly online
- Request a consultation or sales appointment
- Call for more information on the product or service
- Fill out of a form for more information
- Subscribe to a newsletter
- Install an app
- Like a Facebook page
- Follow someone on Twitter or some other social media site
- Like or comment on a post on social media sites like Facebook or LinkedIn
- Viewing a video
- Request a free giveaway item such as a t-shirt or pen
- Enter a sweepstakes
So deciding what your offer will be and what desired action you are going for is vital in putting together any marketing campaign. A softer offer will almost always result in a higher percentage of people responding, and the idea is that you are getting people to respond who aren’t necessarily going to buy something right now, but who would be prospects for purchase later.
But the thing is that a soft offer or softer desired action, to be viable, must lead eventually to people expressing interest in the product or service and buying the product or service. So if you go with a softer offer, you have to track how this goes and how well it leads to actual sales.
Years ago I worked as an employee for a home improvement company. Previous to this, I had worked for some other companies where we had used soft offers very successfully. This home improvement company’s offer was basically, “call us or fill out this form to set up an appointment with a rep at your home.”
I thought a soft offer would increase the response level, so I convinced the owner to offer a free DVD which we would mail out to people, showing the company’s products. So we offered the DVD, and responses did increase. But I was embarrassed to discover that very few of those people ended up setting an appointment. And the owner wanted “appointments, right now.” So we of course switched back to offering an appointment.
What I learned coming out of that experience was that 1) a soft offer isn’t necessarily right for every type of business, 2) the bullseye is and needs to be leads and sales, and 3) humility (one of the hardest things to learn if you’re really seeking results).
For home improvement companies especially, a free appointment, or a free consultation, or a free inspection, is most often the best type of offer.
Today, we have many desired actions that marketers are going for, such as video views, engagement on social media, liking a Facebook page, installing an app, or following someone on social media. But two important things to remember amidst all this are:
- Are those desired actions leading to actual leads and/or sales?
- The answer to that question will vary greatly according to what type of product or industry you are dealing with
It is vital to look at what type of business or industry you are dealing with, and vital to track whether your offers lead to actual sales.
By John Eberhard
In my last article “The Age of the Marketing Guru,” I talked about how we have seen a dramatic increase over the last 15-20 years of marketing gurus, basically guys telling us that some new thing is going to change everything in marketing.
Some of these new “marketing miracles” have included branding, inbound marketing, permission marketing, content marketing, blogging, and the idea that mass marketing is dead and we can only communicate one on one with prospects on social media. And the gurus have told us that if we didn’t get on board with these new miracles, we were going to be dead in the water with our marketing efforts and our companies.
A book called “Marketers are from Mars, Consumers are from New Jersey,” by Bob Hoffman, brought home the point to me, which I had already suspected, that most of these marketing gurus were wrong and that marketing has not really changed significantly in the 27 years I have been involved in it.
In my last article I listed some things at the end that I called “The Real Stuff,” which I want to expand on here.
The Real Marketing Tips
- Mass marketing is not dead. It’s important to promote your product or service regularly on as many mass media channels as possible. But not every medium is equal to every other medium. Try new media cautiously. Observe what your successful competitors are doing. Where are they advertising or promoting? Especially if they are promoting via a particular medium on an ongoing basis, you can bet it is working for them. Some of the factors that will impact what type of media will work for your company are: is it local, regional or national, and is it sold to consumers (B2C or business to consumer) or other businesses (B2B or business to business)?
- The essence of marketing is figuring out who will buy your product or service (what demographic, profession, etc.), and then finding out what that specific target public needs and wants from your product or service. This usually requires surveys to find that out. Then you put together promotional campaigns offering what the target public wants. Then you get in leads and then you sell them.
- Hoffman points out that ad agencies used to be based around a creative guy who would find innovative, funny and creative ways to sell things. Now they tend to be based around numbers guys, who do everything by statistics. I tend to think he is right and that marketers need to concentrate more on finding clever ways to sell things.
- The job of a marketer is to get people to actually reach and express an interest in buying the product or service. Sometimes you work to get people to join a mailing list or some other result, other than expressing interest in buying the product or service. But it’s important to determine if that some other result that you are going for, such as getting people to engage on social media for instance, is actually leading to people expressing interest in buying (and actually buying) the product or service. Hoffman says that social media engagement, for example, has failed miserably in terms of leading to actual sales. Not to say you should necessarily drop social media, but look hard at whether it actually works for your type of business, because it won’t for all types.
- Just because some new web site or other medium has come out, and even if lots of people are talking about it, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work in driving leads and sales. I go by this rule. If I see some new medium that I think has promise, I will try it out on a limited basis. If it actually works in driving leads and sales, I will write about it and promote it to my clients. But many writers about online marketing will talk about the latest bleeding edge stuff, with no concern about whether it will actually drive leads and sales. I tend to ignore these types of authors.
- An unfortunate aspect of the marketing guru universe is that often you see a guy who has made a lot of hay himself using some marketing method. And at the tail end of that curve, when he sees that the method is starting to fall off in its workability or effectiveness, he will – create a course on how to do it. I have been suckered into this twice, paying good money for a course, that once I tried it, found it didn’t work anymore.
- Although offline promo media have gone downhill from what they once were, they are not dead by any means. Direct mail especially is still alive and well, especially if you sell to a specific type of target public, and lists of that public can be acquired.
Where the rubber meets the road in marketing, is getting in leads and sales. That’s what pays for everything we do. We can be as innovative or bleeding edge as we want, as long as we keep that in mind and try new things out, in order to see if they work. And keep the majority of our budget in things that work.
By John Eberhard
Perhaps about 15-20 years ago, we entered the age of the marketing guru. Before that, there were a few marketing experts that everyone in the field looked up to, such as David Ogilvy, Al Reis and Jack Trout, and Bob Stone.
But then there was an explosion of so-called marketing gurus, such that I, a marketing specialist in the field for 27 years, could not possibly name them all, or even a dozen.
Many of these gurus have made a lot of hay by telling us that such and such new marketing miracle was “changing everything,” and that if we didn’t pay attention to them and get with the program, we would be left in the dust.
I read an excellent book recently recommended to me by my friend Stan Dubin, called “Marketers are from Mars, Consumers are from New Jersey,” by Bob Hoffman. This book brought home to me, the fact that a) Many of these so-called gurus have been wrong, and b) the basics of marketing have not really changed significantly since I started in the field, despite what all the “sky is falling” gurus have said.
Here are just a few of the “marketing miracle” concepts that have been put forth by gurus:
- The introduction of Inbound marketing, meaning where people search for you and find you on search engines, rather than you putting out ad messages that “interrupt” them (called “outbound marketing” or “interruption marketing”), has been so ground breaking that “outbound marketing” is dead.
- The whole field of marketing is dead, because people don’t like ads and don’t pay attention to them anymore. Instead, you have to abandon the idea of mass marketing and sending your messages out to thousands or millions of people. Instead, you should communicate to prospects on a one-to-one basis on social media, where you can “facilitate conversions.” Because, you know, consumers are just dying to have conversations with brands.
- Content marketing, where you create articles and infographics and videos (usually helpful info and not sales oriented) is all you need to do anymore. People respond better to companies that help them so you just need to create amazing content, no more annoying ads or anything.
- Branding is just so important and you have to work really hard to brand yourself, and that applies to any business of any size or type, anywhere.
- And the grand-daddy of them all: the concept that you have to get “permission” from a prospect before you can communicate to them at all. This came from author Seth Godin and has probably single-handedly destroyed email marketing, making it seem as though it is somehow immoral to send people promotional emails.
All of these concepts have some truth to them. But the problem is, as Bob Hoffman has pointed out in the above mentioned book, that the gurus who have advanced these ideas have tried to get their “big idea” to encompass all aspects of marketing. And many have used the alarming type of message of “this changes everything and you have to know this or you will be out in the cold” to sell their books, courses, or consulting.
I will now comment on each of the above new “miracle” marketing concepts.
Inbound Marketing: Pay per click advertising through search engines has truly revolutionized the marketing field, because you can now reach someone right at the moment they are actually looking for you. But that doesn’t mean by any means that outbound marketing is dead.
Marketing is Dead: As Hoffman points out in his book, consumers are not really dying to have conversations with their brands. I rejected this idea that mass marketing is dead when it first came out, because the mass communications aspect of marketing is one of the things that appealed to me about the field in the first place. Plus I didn’t see how you could have nearly the same amount of reach and power by trying to communicate to people individually. Hoffman also points out that you still see mass advertising flourishing and prospering, on Facebook, and on nearly every free information type site.
Content Marketing is King: The problem with the idea that all you have to do is create wonderful content, is that there is such an overload and saturation of content on the web right now (which will only get worse in the coming years), that if all you do is create content and put it up, no one will see it or care. If you create great content, you still have to promote that content as Mark Schaefer points out in “The Content Code.”
Plus, one of the ideas behind creating informational content is that you are making your company or your brand known as a trusted information source. But people who push the idea that “all you have to do is create great content,” including Google, miss the idea that this is not the best strategy for every type of business. Just as a simple example, take a plumber. What is he going to write about, and who is going to care?
Oh My God Branding is Everything: Hoffman points out that brands are not nearly as important to consumers as marketers seem to think. He says that most brands could disappear tomorrow and consumers would just go to the next brand and be perfectly happy. And he quotes stats to prove this point.
I started thinking about this and realized that there were only a small handful of brands that are truly important to me. I own a Nissan Altima and I love that car, and I like Nissans a lot better than Toyotas and Mitsubishis, both of which I have owned. Also I am a musician and own a set of Yamaha Recording Series drums, which I think are the best drums in the world. I own all HP computers as I have had the best experience with them.
But I don’t have any emotional attachment to brands of shoes, clothes, grocery stores, toilet paper or toothpaste. I asked my wife and she had a hard time listing any brands that she had a strong emotional attachment to.
So that tells you that branding is important in certain cases but not everything. And I have always felt that you can brand a product or company at the same time you are promoting for people to buy it now. So I don’t ever favor the type of advertising that is JUST aimed at branding.
Permission Marketing: Stan Dubin knows I have had unkind words for Seth Godin in the past. Actually it is not true that Godin single-handedly destroyed email marketing. He had a lot of help from guys promoting Viagra and toner cartridges, who basically over-saturated the medium to the point where people tuned out. But Godin did introduce the idea that it was somehow immoral to send promo email.
The truth of Godin’s message was in the fact that if you want to build an email list of clients and prospects for an email newsletter and similar uses, getting someone to opt in is much better, and they will tend to accept your email much better. But he tried to take that concept to the point of infinity where all marketing had to be done with “permission,” a ridiculous concept that would keep you on a small scale forever.
The Real Stuff
- A mix of inbound and outbound marketing is necessary for any company.
- Marketing is not dead. Promote your product on as many channels as you can. Interrupt people. It’s OK. You do not need permission.
- Find out what your prospects need and want and promote that. This may require surveys.
- Content marketing is not necessarily the right way to go for any business.
- I would say that none of these miracle concepts fit ever single situation. Every business and every type of business needs to be handled differently, and the right strategy has to be worked out on a case by case basis.
- Advertising aimed only at branding is a waste of money. Do you know any businesses that can afford to waste money today? If so send them to me, but I will not waste their money.
- Be suspicious of anyone who says that some miracle has “changed everything” in marketing and you have to do XYZ or you will die.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.