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Link love or lazy links?

October 7, 2006

I’ve noticed that one of the prevailing types of posts in the blogosphere are link lists.  You know what I’m talking about — where a blogger will simply list 2-5 links to other blog site’s blog posts.  So here’s the question of the day — smart or lazy?

Here’s my general philosophy about marketing messages.  Don’t make your consumers work any harder than they have to.  Keep in mind, they are only marginally interested in what you have to say.  All along, they are wondering "what’s in this for me?" and if you don’t answer the question pretty quickly, they will move on. Images

So my answer to the question posed above is it all depends.  Some link lists are great.  The author tells you why they think you’d find value in the link they are providing.  Check out how Church of the Customer bloggers handle their links list.  By reading the brief description, I know whether or not it’s worth my time to check it out.  Genuine link love.

But, I’ve also stumbled upon plenty of lazy linkers out there.  A laundry list of links with no explanation serves no purpose to your readers.  If anything, it seems to me that the poster is simply either too lazy to actually write something and feels pressure to post or…even worse, they are trying to fake link love to get link backs.  (We all know you shouldn’t fake it!)

Either way, your consumers are too smart.   If you are linking for your own benefit — knock it off.  If you’re linking to share great posts or give someone a well deserved shout out — then be sure to put a little meat on the bone for your readers so they can decide if its of interest.

Long term, if you don’t — they’ll self select you right out of the mix.

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Who is your posse?

October 5, 2006

Like many of you, I own my own business.  I have employees, clients, vendors, peers.  Love them all.  But there are times when I still feel a bit like the lighthouse operator — out there all alone, trying to shine my light in the right places.

That’s why I have a posse.  They keep my passion at full tilt, they keep me sane, they offer me comfort, support or a kick in the pants — depending on what I need.  Each owns a marketing agency like I do…so they know the road I travel.  Each is brilliant and each one has helped me build and grow my business.

Twice a year, we physically gather (the picture is us in Jackson Hole, WY a couple weeks agoCimg3345) to spend two days sharing best practices, learning and laughing together.  In between our gatherings, we connect through a list serv, the phone and shared projects.  We’ve been together for 6+ years now.  They’re not just my business advisors and sounding board — they’re my friends.  They all own marketing agencies throughout the country.  You’ll find them in San Diego (Market Design Group), San Francisco (Gumas Advertising), Denver (AOR), Philly (Altus and 2010 Design), New Hampshire (Bedford Granite) and Washington DC (Fixation).  And of course, there’s us in Des Moines, IA.  If you need an agency in one of these geographical areas, you will find none better.

But here’s my real point.  I’ve got mine, do you?

Who do you surround yourself with?  Who pushes you to be better?  Who can you share everything (including financials) with and know you’re safe?

If you don’t have a posse, you need to find one.  If you want to create one from scratch, I highly recommend the book Meet & Grow Rich by Joe Vitale and Bill Hibbler.  It’s about creating what they call MasterMind groups.  Posse…MasterMind.  Potato…Potato.  I don’t care what you call it.  I just care that you think about getting one.

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ASS+U+ME

October 3, 2006

L.L.Bean retail store in Freeport, Maine.Image via Wikipedia

I think we all know happens when we assume something, eh?

Here’s a lesson oft learned the hard way.  When proofreading, do not assume.

Overzealous proofreading can create a catastrophe no different than doing a poor job or not doing it at all.  Recently mail order giant L.L. Bean barely averted disaster because they have a culture that puts great value on diligent proofreading.  An employee was 100% certain (always be wary…) that the toll-free number in the catalog proof was incorrect.  It was listed as an 877 number and the employee knew it was really supposed to be an 800 number.  So, he changed it.

Yes, you guessed it. The number was correct as it originated in the proof.  Had he not proudly mentioned his "catch" to a fellow employee, L.L. Bean would have had about 500,000 catalogs in their recycle bin.  Ouch.

Whenever you proof phone numbers, it’s always a good idea to take the extra second or two and dial the number.  Remember the rule — before you correct, check!

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Blogtipping. Friend or foe?

October 2, 2006

Cowtip_1

I fully admit I am still a neophyte in the blogosphere.  I aspire to be a seasoned vet and no doubt will get there one day.  But I’m still learning.

I spotted an interesting trend over the past few days that has been given the moniker of blogtipping.  The premise is a simple one.  On the first of every month, bloggers introduce their community to 2-3 new blogs.  With each introduction is a shout out for a few things that make the blog good and the author then offers one tip on how the blog could be even better.

Easton Ellsworth gets the nod for starting this new custom.  Ann Michael, Mike Sansone, Phil Gerbyshak and Liz Strauss took blogtipping to a hilarious turn by creating a 4-part ode to the notion.  Cute…you bet.  But does it make marketing sense?

Traditional views in marketing is that the world is a competitive place. Does it make sense to tell your “customers” about something they might like better than what you have to sell?   Shouldn’t you do  everything in your power to keep them enamored with you and their eyes off any potential competitor?

Nope.  Have you ever tried to hold a puppy who didn’t want to be held?  They squirm, wiggle and whimper until you let go.  Customers are the same way.  No one wants to feel bound against their will.  You will earn their loyalty and respect (and repeat business) by demonstrating that you know them well enough to point them in the direction of other products, services and in this case, blogs that they will benefit from discovering.

The benefits to you?  Clients love referrals.  If you introduce them to something/one they love, they’ll love you even more!  The other benefit?  If you scratch my back, I might scratch yours.  It’s human nature to learn more about someone who makes a referral to you.  If you’re a good fit for their audience, those you have tipped will probably return the favor.

Is there a downside?  I don’t think so.  I highly doubt that anyone unsubscribes from a blog which has successfully blogtipped them to another great blog.  After all, you’ve just demonstrated that you know your customer well enough to know what else they’ll enjoy.

So blogtipping is a great marketing strategy!  And I will be joining the fray of tippers come November 1st!  Hats off to Easton and everyone else who embraces the blogosphere by recognizing that believing in abundance is a much smarter strategy than clinging to the poor puppies!

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Window dressing for your blog?

September 30, 2006

Want to add a little window dressing to your blog?  Why not add a favicon?  A what?  Yup, A favicon.  Short for "favorite icon" it’s a small icon that appears in the address bar of browsers when they are visiting or have bookmarked your blog.  If you’d like to learn more about it, check out typepad’s support page on the topic.

I noticed when using my NetNewsWire (an amazingly easy reader if you don’t already have one) that some people had little icons next to their blog name and others just had more generic google or typepad icons.  So I did a little legwork…and stumbled upon a post at Pajama Market.  If you don’t know this blog — you’ll want to.

It a favicon necessary?  Of course not.  But, it’s a little window dressing.  And that makes good marketing sense.

Remember, whether we are talking a blog, a deli, a dry cleaner or a tech support services company, you have a lot of competition.  Your potential buyers are looking for clues as to how you might be different from the others.  They want to have a sense of you. Your window dressings (elements that are more style than substance) can tell them a lot about your organization’s personality.

It’s human nature to seek out people/companies that feel comfortable. Birds of a feather an all.  So by giving your potential customers a peek into your attitude, it allows them to make a better choice.  It’s the difference in choosing Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby ice cream versus Kemp’s Old Fashioned Maple Nut.

Any time we can help a consumer decide to choose us OR not choose us, we win.  We earn customers who are a good fit and avoid those that aren’t.  Isn’t that what branding is all about?  Helping people know whether or not you’re a good fit?

So what will your favicon say about you or your blog?

As for this blog’s favicon?  Considering the name, I opted for this visual.  I found lots of stopwatches, but I liked how this one was looking at the watch from a different angle and looking more closely at the watch’s details.  That description felt like a good fit for my posts and thoughts.  What do you think?

Watch

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Get the referrals that are best for you!

September 30, 2006

A roll of shiny grey duct tape.Image via Wikipedia

John Jantsch over at Duct Tape Marketing had an interesting post about referrals and being wiser about who you ask to be a referral source.  He makes a very valid point — some clients are better referrals than others.  I could not agree more.

But I think it goes beyond that. Before you can know which clients are best suited to help you grow your business, you’d better know what you are best suited to deliver.   As we’ve talked about before, branding is for the bold.  When you have the courage to define your organization’s brand, by default you are also saying that you’re not going to try to be everything to everyone.  Branding is about narrowing your focus and your reach.  You will not cast your net as wide.  But you will drill down a lot deeper.

So let’s say that you are a healthcare copywriter who’s passion is for making complicated medical information accessible to the lay person.  Your best referral sources are going to be clients that have hired you to do that sort of work.  Sure, you’ve taken generalist copywriting jobs.  And those clients probably love you too.  If they happen to refer you — great.  But concentrate your energy in terms of actively soliciting referrals within your area of expertise.  Honor your brand.  Actively grow your business within your brand.  Drill deeper.  And ask your best clients to help!

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Want to be the Supreme Bean?

September 27, 2006

A couple posts from the always insightful Phil Gerbyshak and the beautiful and passionate Kammie Kobyleski (sorry Phil, you just don’t quite make it to beautiful!) have me thinking about how critical it is to bring our passion and positive attitude to work every day.  How you celebrate doing that says a great deal about your organization’s culture…and your brand.

At McLellan Marketing Group, we embrace our sense of teamwork with a bit of proverbial tongue in cheek.  Everyone is assigned a different kind of bean.  Because of my habitual kidney stones, yes…you guessed it, I got kidney beans.  There are lima, coffee, pinto and a variety of others.

Beans

We also printed up index sized cards that say "You’ve been beaned" and have some room to write a note.  The premise is simple.  When one of your teammates goes out of their way to be helpful or supportive — you bean them.  You write a little note, thanking them for what they did and leave the note and one of your beans on their desk.

At the end of every month, we tally the beans.  Whoever received the most beans is declared the "Supreme Bean" and heralded by everyone. They also receive a $10 gift card.

Over the years, many of the employees have created quite a collection of beans that they proudly display on their desks in a variety of creative containers.

Easy.  Cheap.  Fun.  And a great way to declare our absolute intent to be passionate about the work we do, our clients and perhaps most of all, each other.  Do you suppose when we add a team member and explain the whole bean thing, they get a sense that team focused is one of our core values?

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Don’t let your technology embarrass you!

September 26, 2006

As a blogger on TypePad, I access my account by going to their home page and entering my userID and password.  Simple and efficient.  The TypePad home page is clean and well organized.  It has plenty of links and concise bits of information.  All what you would expect from people who use technology to make a living.

Typewriter

Here’s the odd thing.  Every time I go to their home page, the exact same quote appears.  Now, wouldn’t you think someone as sophisticated as the TypePad folks would use the power of their own technology and have quotes rotate?  If that was the case, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed.

Although it isn’t really fair, we consumers tend to notice things that seem deficient or out of place.  Don’t let your use of technology suggest that perhaps you haven’t thought it through, or even worse yet, don’t quite have a handle on it.

What does your technology say about you?

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Put me in coach, I’m ready to play!

September 24, 2006

Even if you don’t like baseball (which, btw is sick and wrong) you have to like the song Centerfield by John Fogerty.  Great melody and a great message.

The song is about passion for the game and a hunger to play it.  That’s sort of how I’ve been feeling about blogging of late.

Once my blog coach, Mike Sansone, turned me onto the power of blogging, I’ve been hooked.  Images_1

Mike’s an amazing combination of coach, cheerleader, and play coordinator.  He’s helped me with the technology, the culture and the nuts and bolts of blogging.  The generosity of his spirit is only eclipsed by his vast knowledge on the subject.  That’s what makes a player or a coach great.  Anyone can understand the rules of the game or even the mechanics of it.  But, when something ignites your passion and you can’t wait to step up to the plate again — that’s what makes a champion.  And in the world of blogging, Mike is just that — a champion.

So, if in the infancy of my blog I am doing anything right — clearly it is a credit to Mike.  I am pretty darn sure that any of the mistakes I have or will make along the way are all mine!

Thanks coach for helping me get into the game!

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Be bold or go home!

September 22, 2006

Yesterday I talked a little about apathy and that I believe it is the #1 killer in business today.  I believe employees are apathetic today because they have no idea what their company stands for.  Either the company has not made a brand promise or even worse yet — they have made a "safe" brand promise.  You know the ones I mean:

~ The difference is our people
~ Your success is our success
~ Quality is job #1

My translation of those kinds of brand promises is:  We have no idea why or how we’re different from our competitors so we’re going to say something safe.  Who can argue with good service or quality?  The problem is the business owner or marketing manager’s flawed assumption that either the competition has only hired morons and boobs or that the potential customer can actually tell the difference between an A- product/service and an A product or service.

At my shop we call those types of taglines or brand statements — weasel words.  Why?  Because they are so vague that they mean absolutely nothing to the consumer.  So why bother?

Branding is for the bold.  If you aren’t willing to stand for something concrete and make a substantial promise that makes you a little nervous — then don’t bother.  Be bold or go home.

How’s that for being direct?

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