Speaking the Language

If you’ve ever traveled to a foreign land, you know how important it is to “speak the language”.  When I was in college, I spent a winter term in Japan where I not only didn’t speak the language – but I couldn’t even attempt to read the signs that surrounded me.  Fortunately or maybe foolishly, I was young enough and naive enough to not recognize how truly terrifying an experience that SHOULD have been for a 21 year old woman abroad.

In Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox for February 4: Teenage Usability: Designing Teen-Targeted Websites, web developers and marketers alike are warned that “speaking the language” isn’t enough to get the job done when it comes to connecting with teens via the web.

This is why I am a strong advocate of the “tightly targeting your niche market” strategy for my blogging clients so that when you’re blogging you can communicate effectively with your audience.  However, when you “don’t know what you don’t know” – that’s often when the truly EPIC mistakes are made when you don’t speak the language.

I spend most of my time within my practice translating “geek” into “English” for my clients.  Translation is just as much an art as it is science..  If you don’t believe me, just try running phrase you’ve entered into a translation program by a native speaker of the language.  It’s positively alarming how distorted a message can get when it’s run through one of the many “free” translation programs available online.

Case in point, trying to translate English into Hebrew.  There’s a site devoted to just such faux pas called Bad Hebrew.  One of my favorite posts is this one, Bad Hebrew Tattoos.

For all intents and purposes, we have here some kind of pagan male pregnancy totem.

First, there is the writing, a declaration, “He Shall be Pregnant!”, in Hebrew, permanently tattooed on our subject’s limb.

You can also see a bush, obviously representing an invitation to the spot at the local gay cruising park, where this guy conducts his baby making attempts.

Since this isn’t tattooed on myself or a loved on – I can laugh.  However, the point is – translation involves a lot more than simply using the “right words” to convey a message.

Big brands have been making these kinds of mistakes for decades – but now the web affords the same “equal opportunity” to small and medium sized business owners as well.  The lesson to be learned is this: If you don’t know your audience – if you don’t speak the language – nothing beats consulting a “native” to make sure you get the right translation.

Business Building Secret: People are actually pretty smart…

billymaysI think that Billy May’s great success as a pitchman lay in the fact that he truly believed that people are smart.

I had only recently caught an episode of Discovery’s series “Pitchmen“.  The series followed the late legendary pitchman Billy Mays and his British counterpart Anthony Sullivan, giving viewers a “behind the scenes” look at all that is involved in creating a successful marketing campaign.

One of the business building “secrets” to success practiced by Billy and Anthony was that they would only “pitch” great products.  In the episode I saw,  Billy believed a product had potential – but the inventor had to first work out every possible ‘kink’.

In the case of this episode’s  product, the spray on fertilizer which painted brown spots in your lawn green had to be environmentally friendly before Billy would agree to pitch the product.  An early version of the product could make pets and/or children ill if they came in contact with the treated lawn.  May was unwilling to pitch a product that could be harmful to pets or small children – so the product was sent “back to the drawing board.”

Billy Mays knew that his reputation as a “pitchman” was only as good as the products he promoted.   He knew that his reputation was on the line, so he fully vetted each and every product he pitched.  If Billy was pitching it – you could rest assured it worked as promised.  From Oxyclean to Kaboom, I have yet to try a product Billy pitched that didn’t work exactly as promised.

Billy Mays knew his ability to sell product lay in his ability to communicate with a vast audience – and repeat sales to that audience meant he had to continually to earn that audience’s trust. His distinctive delivery style – combined with his dedication to only pitching products he knew were worthy – made him one of the greatest pitchmen of our time.

If Billy Mays didn’t believe people were smart – he would have pitched any product – as long as the sponsor was willing to pay his fees.

Contrast that with the “people are idiots” business style of a self proclaimed “internet marketing guru.”  I subscribed to this lesser known “pitchman’s” newsletter a few years ago.  The reason I  subscribed  (using my “real” email no less)  is that I had purchased a book he had written.  His book was wealth of information and I was anxious to discover any other nuggets of wisdom this marketing expert had to offer.

I began to start doubting his great marketing wisdom when he shared some “complaints” that he had been receiving from newsletter subscribers in one of the early issues.

In essence, the letters he shared were from people who expressed disappointment at the content of his newsletters.  Instead of sharing ‘behind the scenes stories,” each newsletter was simply a long copy sales letter – with a “buy now to learn more” call to action at the end.  His readers were obviously asking for more…. more reasons to “trust” him before they bought from him.

His published response to the complaints was simple and along the lines of “I’m here to make money – not share free information.”

I continued to subscribe because – quite honestly – his newsletters were truly brilliant examples of effective sales copy.

It’s not surprising that one day, I fell victim to the master’s skillfully written marketing copy.  I purchased one of the reports he was selling.  I paid $39.90 for the report.  Because I had been so happy with the content in his published books, I was fairly certain I would be equally happy with the report.

Because his books had been previously published with a national publisher, he had to include a “disclaimer” at the beginning of the report.  In essence, the disclaimer shared that the information contained in the report was originally published as part of one of the author’s previously published books.

OUCH!!!!   Fool me once – shame on you.  Fool me twice – shame on me.

I have never unsubscribed from this newsletter because I will continue to keep his brilliant sales letters in my “swap” file.  However, I will NEVER make the mistake of paying $39.90 for one of his “reports” again when  I can just as easily pick up one of his books (new) on Amazon containing five times the material at half the price.

He made a one time to sale to me – but I will NEVER be his customer.

There’s an old customer service axiom  which says, “the customer is always right.” Maybe the marketing mantra should read:

“The customer is always smart.”

Ditech aired an ad a few years ago championing the concept that people are smart…

The commercial is more than a bit ironic given the state of the current mortgage markets.  However, I have to disagree with the vast wisdom contained in the YouTube comments and side with the commercial’s message – that people really ARE smart.  They will frequently make the absolute BEST choice – as they see it.

It’s your marketing materials job to show them that your product or service is the “smart” choice.

In my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results I suggest that you create your marketing copy with your ideal customer in mind… and to think of such “conversations” in the same way you would think of a conventional conversation at a dinner party or networking function.

You wouldn’t approach someone at a dinner party and strike up a conversation using a tone that implies that they’re an idiot – so why in the world would you adopt such a tone in your marketing copy?

Of course, in the end, it doesn’t matter how brilliant your marketing copy – if you truly believe that your customers are idiots – then that thinking is going to show up throughout your business.

If you think your customers are idiots, don’t expect to find long term success online – especially in the world where social media rules.

In an age of Facebook Fan Pages which can easily be created by your customers and which can operate beyond your control, you had better hope and pray the supposed “idiots” you call customers aren’t smart enough to figure out how to create a Facebook account – let alone a Facebook Fan Page.

See, there’s a difference between “idiots” and the “uniformed.”  The former are unable and unwilling to learn.  The latter are willing and able to be informed – and are open to enlightenment.  Check out Blogs and the Art of Deception for an example of the kind of “enlightenment” that happens online and you’ll see why it’s best to assume that people are smart – and ready to be enlightened.

After all – your audience won’t remain “uniformed” forever.  At some point in time, some blogger somewhere will eventually shed light on the subject during a Social Media Marketing Reality Check

“The Internet is VERY PUBLIC and it never forgets.”

Reach your customers before they start searching

One of the most important elements in web site management and marketing is to think strategically about what your customers are doing BEFORE they start searching for solutions to their problems.

So often, business owners tend to  view the whole “web site management and marketing” game as just that – a game.  We engage in SWOT analysis because we want to analysis our strengths and weaknesses as well as the strengths and weaknesses of our competitors.  Our web site management and marketing plans are all focused on what happens in the the “end zone” – what words are our customers using to find our products and services.  We want to fool ourselves into thinking that our customers are rational.  We want to tell ourselves that our customers are approaching the buying decision with a checklist – and the first company to successfully meet the criteria will “win” the sale.   This mindset is a sure fire way to make sure you settle for less than success in your business.

Instead, the smart business owner’s web site management and marketing strategy will focus on the journey your prospective customers are taking as they meander along life’s path.

For example, let’s say you’re a a registered dietitian who wants to start a offering your services as a nutritional coach.  It’s a great “marriage” of services so to speak – because motivation is a HUGE part of encouraging good nutritional habits.   Your role as a dietitian is to provide information meanwhile your role as coach is to provide motivation.  I mean, no one is going to eat hemp bagels because they are so tasty!  No, you eat hemp bagels because they are NUTRITIOUS!  A coach is going to help you find the motivation to eat hemp bagels after you discover they won’t get you “high”.

So, you’re a nutrition coach who wants to find clients for your practice. A blog is a GREAT marketing tool for you to use to build your practice.    It’s a great tool in the authentic pursuit of making money.  However, you have to blog with your prospective customers or clients in mind.

For example,  in the case of the nutritional coach – trust me, if you focus on targeting people who are searching for hemp bagels – well, you’ve missed the boat.  If you’re blogging to reach those people for your practice, blogging may not be the best use of your time.  Anyone searching for hemp bagels already POSSESSES the necessary “motivation” – no, you need to find customers or clients who are struggling.  You need people who want to believe that Fiber Pop-Tarts are the answer to better nutrition.

See, there’s a wake up call in the future of the “dietary deluded”.  In some cases, it’s going to be handed to them at a doctor’s office with the results of their blood work.  In others, it’s going to be delivered in the cardiac care unit.

Your goal, as the nutritional coach should be to reach those prospective clients before the wake up call is issued.  If you – as the nutritional coach- had a web site management and marketing plan in place (a.k.a. a blog) where you were capturing the attention of the “dietary deluded” you could do just that.

That’s why I spend most of my time “pounding” the never ending beat on the “target your audience” drum.  When you know who your target audience is, it’s easier to reach them BEFORE they begin searching.  As a matter of fact, there’s no possible way to reach them before they start searching if you don’t know what they’re doing BEFORE they start searching!

Reaching your customers before they begin searching for solutions is the high road.  Learn more about how to do that by picking up a copy of my book, Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results.

Strategic Marketing Is Like Planning a Vacation

Strategic marketing is like planning a vacation and begins by creating a marketing strategy.   This may sound simple, but like most things creating a marketing strategy is easier said than done!

Chasing marketing tactics without a marketing strategy in place is a waste of time and effort!  Part of Focus to Plan Your Business is creating a marketing strategy.

There’s a huge difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing tactic!

Creating a marketing strategy is as simple as setting a marketing goal and determining how you’re going to achieve it.  Knowing what you’re selling and who you’re selling it to is a great place to start!

Once you know what it is you’re selling, the next step is to define who wants or needs what you’re selling.  The act of marketing is really just about letting people know about the products and services you offer.  The way you let others know about what you’ve got to offer are  the marketing tactics you’ll use to achieve your marketing strategy!

Here’s a word picture to help you “wrap your brain” around the whole marketing strategy vs marketing tactic discussion.

Let’s say you’re living in New York City.  It’s October, and the weather is getting cold and you start thinking, “You know – I could use some sun and fun.  I want to go to Miami!”

The first step of creating your marketing strategy is deciding where you are and where you want to ultimately be.   In this case, its as simple as you’re in NYC and you want to get to Miami.

Creating a marketing strategy CAN be just that easy.  However, creating a marketing strategy gets VERY difficult if you don’t know where you are (NYC) or where you want to go (Miami).

Notice how more more difficult planning your vacation becomes when you change the scenario above to read, “I live where it’s cold and I want to go somewhere that’s warm!”

A critical element to crafting a marketing strategy involves defining the SPECIFICS!!!!  “I’m cold and I wanna get warm” can mean you live in Alaska and want to travel to Africa as easily as it can mean you live in NYC and I wanna go to Miami.

Once you know where you are and where you want to be,  you then need to decide HOW you’re going to get there.

So the first step to creating a marketing strategy is to define where you are and where you want to go.   This is the essential first step and it’s the biggest obstacle you may have to overcome to find business success.

In my work with clients, this is the place where most people get bogged down in trying to market and promote their business.

Stay tuned – there’s a LOT more to be said about creating a marketing strategy!

Best Kept Internet Marketing Strategies Secrets

One of the best kept internet marketing strategies is cross promotion and one of the best ways to illustrate this best kept internet marketing strategy secret is to illustrate it  in a case study.

The basics of cross promotion are really quite simple. First, you determine your target audience. In this case study, the company in the spotlight is iThemes, founded by Cory Miller.

Cory’s company sells WordPress Themes to bloggers. A WordPress Theme allows a blog owner to quickly and easily change the appearance of a blog with the click of a mouse. To make something that EASY for the user takes a LOT of work behind the scenes.

Now, you might be wondering why ANYONE would PAY for a WordPress theme when there are hundreds of thousands of FREE WordPress Themes floating around.

Remember when I said that to make something easy takes a lot of behind the scenes work – well, a lot of times those “free” themes are full of “bugs”. Some of those “bugs” will make it so the theme doesn’t display properly. I had a case with one free theme where the pages wouldn’t display properly. The client loved the look, but the code was such a mess it wasn’t usable. There are other cases where the “bugs” on those free themes means an outbound link from your blog to a blog in a less than desirable neighborhood on the internet.

After a typical blogger tires of fighting the good fight of trying to find a well coded, non-spam free theme, the next logical step is to is to move into the realm of PAID themes a.k.a PREMIUM themes.

This is the arena within which iThemes competes.

So, iThemes target customer is someone who is already a blogger. In many cases, they’re bloggers who have done the free theme route and are ready to make an small financial investment in their blog. (All of iThemes single use themes cost less than $100 which makes them very affordable.)  Most of these customers are familiar with the concept of FTP AND the basics of blogging.

The best kept internet marketing strategies secret for iThemes is to cross promote their business with a popular blog that writes about issues related to blogging.

This is the point where most people will stop reading and run off to find a blog to use for a cross promotion strategy.  This is the virtual equivalent of a small child running into heavy traffic.

STOP! LOOK! LISTEN!!!

This best kept internet marketing strategy is not quite that simple. If it were, then THIS wouldn’t be a BEST KEPT internet marketing strategies secret.  Here’s the SECRET part of the equation – and Daniel over at Daily Blog Tips delivers the secret in his post Drop A Comment if You Want to Win an iThemes Premium Theme

Pretty much every week someone emails me to offer some kind of free product or service. Most of the times, however, you can see that it is a blatant promotional effort, where the other side is just interested in getting some exposure for his stuff. On those cases I just ignore it. (emphasis is mine)

Sometimes, however, the freebies do have a good value for my readers, and on those occasions I am glad to cover them.

Did you catch that?   He told you the best kept internet marketing strategy secret of all time.  Did you see it?  It’s right there in the last line in the quote above,

Sometimes, however, the freebies do have a good value for my readers, and on those occasions I am glad to cover them.

Daniel knows his readers.   He knows who they are and what the need from him.  That’s why his blog is so successful.   (If you don’t know who yours are or who you want them to be, then pick up a copy of the 8 Week Power Blog Launch)  Daniel’s readers are ESTABLISHED bloggers seeking information on promoting and improving their blogs.

The secret is, when someone contacts him with a win/win/win proposition, Daniel – like every other successful blogger- is happy to oblige. In this case, offering a free WordPress iThemes theme is truly a win/win/win situation.

  • Daniel wins – he’s decided to use the freebie to increase comments on his blog post.
  • Daniel’s readers win – they get a chance to win a free premium  theme which is something many of them want.
  • Cory wins – Daniel’s readers have to say WHICH iThemes theme they want to win.  In order to do so, they must VISIT THE iThemes SITE!!!  They visit the site, see the tasty selection of beautiful themes and are asked to “fall in love” with one and post that preference within their comment.

Oh, Daniel and Cory both score additional “wins” on this promotion.  Cory wins AGAIn in the fact that not everyone who comments will be a lucky winner. Those who aren’t lucky winners are now classified as “hot prospects”.

Daniel wins again as well -because when new readers find this post after the promotion is over, they are likely to subscribe to the RSS so they’re sure to be ready for the next big give away!  So promotions like these help to build Daniel’s blog and help him attract new readers.   Oh, and Daniel wins a THIRD time on this -because other bloggers – like me – will write about his brilliant internet marketing strategy, which means more incoming links.

So the best kept internet marketing strategy secret begins with knowing your target customer.  Once you know who your target customer is, then you can find win/win/win cross promotional opportunities for your product or service.