Friday, October 9, 2015

Need to hire an expert to help with marketing? Read this.

As a small business owner, you are expected to be an "expert" in all aspects of your business. But very few are. If you feel the need for some expert assistance in marketing and PR, be very careful about who you engage. Here are a few good tips.


With so many people professing to help you market better, it’s difficult to tell the genuine from the phony.
A few years ago when my business hit a slump, I hired a sales and marketing coach. While he offered some valid advice, he also provided a few snippets of pure nonsense, such as wandering the streets of NYC networking.
He also advised that I forget about revamping my antiquated website since that would divert me from my key task of finding new clients. Hey, can’t a website be a powerful source of new business?
The problem with this coach was that his head was buried in the past. He was advising for a pre-Internet world that no longer existed.
Unfortunately, he is not the only one out there offering up schlock disguised as wisdom.
So what to do?
To help you sort through the gobs of marketing misinformation out there, here is a checklist of what not to do, along with a list of what to do instead.
Don't follow all the advice of marketing experts. This is not meant to tar all consultants, many of whom offer excellent advice. It’s to remind you that if it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.
Instead weigh up what the marketing coach says. Everyone operates from some bias, and the consultant’s bias may come at your expense. If you're not sure, run a suggestion by a trusted friend or colleague.
Don't try to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. If your product or service is bad, forget about it. No amount of marketing is going to make people buy something that’s lousy.
Instead fine-tune your product or service so that it sets you apart from the competition and provides a benefit. Does it have to be better than anything else on the market? No. But it does have to provide value people will want.
Don't ignore self-promotion. I hear this a lot among baby boomers and sales types, who don't want to appear to be bragging or boasting. This is a misunderstanding of marketing, part of which entails branding yourself. The key is how that's done.
Instead become known as an expert and thought leader. The best way to do this is to provide useful, engaging information that will help people in their lives. No one wants to know how great you are. They do want to do know how to improve their lives. If you can help make someone smarter, give them a chuckle or do something that helps them during the day, you become that much more trusted and respected.
Don'tneglect your website. That’s a little like ignoring leaky pipes. In both cases, you’re looking for trouble.
Instead become a website analytics junkie or hire one. Sniff out how people behave on your site using tools like Google Analytics. Discover where visitors drop off, what they share in social media, what they engage with. Then start improving your site based on your analysis.
Don't spend endless hours going to meetings. While networking is great, it can often be a total waste of time. It’s like hanging out at a bar waiting for the right person to walk in when you might better spend your time seeking out that person online.
Instead be selective in the meetings you attend. Try to obtain a list of attendees ahead of time so you can see if a meeting will be worthwhile. And get a list of attendees after the meeting so you can follow up with people you didn’t have a chance to meet.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Tell your story and keep your clients involved

Here are some useful tips for content marketing - telling your brand's story - from a content marketing expert. Incorporate these tips as the core of your marketing strategy.


Scott Donaton, who's been an chronicler, judge and creator of brand content, shares lessons of downright biblical importance for brands looking to connect with people through stories.
The challenge is clear by now: Intrusive, interruptive, self-centered marketing no longer works the way it once did, and its effectiveness will only continue to diminish in the social age. The question is what will replace the legacy model.
There’s a one-word answer: stories.
It makes sense. Finding--or creating--a narrative thread has always been how we as a species find order in the chaos of life. And it’s how smart brands are defining what’s next in the chaos of modern marketing.
What’s the case for content? There are human reasons. Stories are welcome where ads are resisted. They’re shareable and shapeable, constantly changing based on those they touch and those who touch them. They carve the quickest path to the heart and the mind--there’s literally brain science behind how humans interact with stories.
There are also business reasons. Content marketing moves the brand needle, increasing awareness, changing perception, creating desire and driving to purchase. And as stories spread--carried along by audiences--budgets don’t. Stories work.
Here’s another good reason to believe in the power of stories: You have no choice.
The empowered consumer will bypass or ignore communications that aren’t relevant and don’t add value to their lives. Whether through traditional forms such as 30-second spots, or through social bites or feature-length films, brands that want to be invited into the conversation will have to say something that’s worthy of their audience’s time and attention. It’s a truth brands such as Coca-Cola, BMW and Red Bull know intuitively.
After years of observing, creating and judging brand stories, it’s clear that there are some guiding principles behind great brand storytelling. Call them the 10 Commandments of Content.


In the words of cultural anthropologist Simon Sinek, the best brands focus not on what they do or how they do it, but why they do it. Find your why and you’ve found your story. Transcend category by focusing on your role in people’s lives. Compelling brand stories speak to values, to what your brand stands for and why it exists.


Few people enjoy conversations with people who talk only about themselves. Yet for the last 100-plus years, brands have interrupted consumer conversations to make the points they want to make about their attributes and efficacy. That approach no longer works. Content must provide entertainment, education or utility. Stop focusing on what you want to say and start listening to what your audiences want to talk about.


Know your consumer as well as you know yourself. Data-driven insights and intelligence are fuel for creativity, insuring that ideas aren’t just cool but connected to business challenges and relevant to consumers. Intel & Toshiba’s “The Beauty Inside” won the Branded Content & Entertainment Grand Prix at Cannes this year by mining the intersection of a simple human insight and a brand truth: It’s what’s inside that counts.


Be fearless (not reckless) in your commitment to storytelling. While many have dabbled in content marketing, it often is an experiment or add-on at the end of existing marketing and media processes, setting the stage for disappointment. Stories should be at the heart, not the tail, of your marketing plan. Once the narrative is decided, it should be surrounded and amplified in all communications channels. Think of your media plan as a content syndication plan.


Brands have to think like editors and act as publishers. Lose the campaign mentality. Putting a story in the marketplace is not the end, it’s the beginning. Consumers want a role. They want to be advocates for the brands and products they choose. Branded content can deliver on the promise of a two-way conversation and deeper relationship that can turn customers into loyalists, and evangelists. Make sure your content can be discovered, shared and shaped. Acting at the speed of social requires a new creative mindset that understands how to create experiences that are social by design and can move rapidly from idea to execution. Stay close to the data and refine, optimize, and retarget your efforts along the way. If you’re unsure what this means, Google “Oreo Daily Twist.”


It doesn’t matter how good your content is if no one sees it. Sounds obvious, but when pressed most brands will admit they create content without a putting in place a clear distribution strategy. It’s not just about what you say, but who you say it to, where and when. Understand how you will use owned, paid and earned channels to get your message out. It’s not about content vs. distribution; it’s about getting both right.


Live the stories that you tell. A brand narrative should serve the same role as the product it promotes. Coca-Cola doesn’t just talk about sharing happiness; it delivers experiences that allow people to do that, such as a can that splits in two or a vending machine that allows someone in India to buy a Coke for someone in Pakistan. MasterCard ‘s Priceless Cities brings its brand promise to life. Your brand has a personality and a point of view that goes beyond bragging about how great you are, and your audience knows when you strike a false note. Be transparent and true to your story.


This speaks more to education and utility than entertainment, but is fertile ground for content marketing. Your brand has expertise in a topic that can add value to people’s lives. Think Rogaine and confidence. Nike and physical fitness. L’Oreal Paris and self-esteem. Brands can be trusted information providers to audiences. It’s okay to have an agenda; all storytellers do, from the authors of the Bible to Steven Spielberg, Daft Punk to Macy’s. The audience is okay with that as long as the source of the information is clear, and the content is relevant.


You’re no longer in (sole) control of how your brand is portrayed and perceived. Gone are the days of the 100-page rulebook of what a brand mascot will and won’t do. Whether by creative partners or consumers, your brand image is influenced by multiple sources beyond the brand manager or creative agency. Embrace that reality to build credibility with audiences. Brands still need to look after their interests, but the reality is that a brand is poured through multiple filters, including those of fans and detractors. Jimmy Kimmel’s BMW tie-in, in which the brand bought out all the ad time in an episode and then gave it back to the show’s host to program as he pleased, is a great example of a brand winning by letting go.


Forget the idea of non-working media dollars. Storytelling must be accountable marketing. Define clear business objectives going in so they can be measured coming out. Don't invest in content because it’s cool or opportunistic. Invest in content because you believe it can be a powerful and effective part of the marketing mix and help achieve business goals. UM’s proprietary research shows that custom content is 92% more effective than traditional TV advertising at increasing awareness and 168% more powerful at driving purchase preference. Make sure your approach to storytelling is strategic, disciplined, and connected to real KPIs.
While there’s no one path to success, putting story at the heart of your marketing is your best shot at a happy ending.
Scott Donaton is global chief content officer of UM. The author of the book“Madison & Vine,” Donaton served as president of the Branded Content & Entertainment jury at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity in 2013.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Is Email Marketing Still Effective?

I don't know about you, but I receive too many emails. I have begun taking advantage of the "unsubscribe" option to try to reduce the amount of clutter in my inbox. Does that mean that email as a marketing device has lost its usefulness?

Years ago, when I was just starting my consulting business, I used email to stay in touch with my clients and/or potential clients. I developed a list of email addresses from everyone who attended my seminars or who I met in the course of doing business. Every month (note - month, not day or even week) I would issue a short two or three paragraph tip about marketing, followed by my "signature". I received many compliments about my monthly communiques, and ultimately new business - either from the recipients or from their referrals to others. It was an effective way to establish myself and raise my profile.

I did this email marketing for about two or three years until too many others began to do the same thing. At the point where I felt my messages were getting drowned in a sea of other emails, I stopped. Why? If email is free and the opportunity to be in front of my prospects is very important, why would I abandon it?

First, email is not free. Every month I had to spend time - valuable time - crafting a new message. Email marketing is only as effective as the value of the message. If you don't have the time (or the skill) to send a useful message, don't bother. After a while, your recipients will decide your messages are not worth reading. Even if they do not "opt out", they may remove you from their approved senders list and your messages will go directly to spam. When/if that happens, your ability to communicate on more urgent matters is severely restrained.

Second, once email marketing became THE choice of marketers and small businesses everywhere, the inbox became too crowded. SPAM was born and even legitimate communications could be considered SPAM.

Third, email marketers have become so aggressive that, I think, they ultimately hurt more than help themselves. And that makes it difficult for those of us who tried to use this medium responsibly. I know I have even stopped contributing to causes in which I believe because daily emails asking for more money just became too annoying. If you do not know your recipients, you can not effectively communicate via email and thus are simply wasting your time.

So, here is what I recommend to anyone who wants to try, or continue to use, email marketing.
1. Keep your postings short, entertaining, and helpful.
2. Confine your frequency to no more than once every two weeks. Frequently enough to retain TOMA, yet not so frequent as to become a pest.
3. Encourage responses to engage your audience. Submit a poll, ask a pertinent question, request input on an issue.

Email marketing might be effective again, but only if you use it strategically.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How is your TOMA?

TOMA – Top of Mind Awareness – is an important component of a comprehensive marketing plan.  It always helps if a prospect has heard of you when he/she receives your letter and/or call.  And if your business name is part of a directory, TOMA helps makes someone looking for your type of service think they already know you – and call. 


But how does one achieve effective TOMA on a limited budget?  Here are a few ideas: 

1.      Build a media list and send announcements of every little thing you do!  Got a new client?  Attended a seminar?  Participated in an event? No action is too small!

2.      Write an article for a professional publication.  And if it’s published, be sure to issue a press release and send copies to prospects. 

3.      Write a letter to the editor of a professional publication commenting on some recent article.

4.      Purchase a small display ad with a compelling headline to run regularly in a publication that reaches your target audience.  The compelling headline is more important than your business logo, because that’s what grabs attention and leads the reader to see who you are. 

5.      Send regular postcards with industry-relevant facts of interest to prospects and clients. 

6.      Be a regular on social media.  Tweet, post on Linked In, Facebook, Google +, etc.  Blog.  Use the opportunity to display your expertise by either original posts or by sharing.  Keep your name front and center! 


Remember, everything you do to keep your name and your reputation out front contributes to your TOMA, and helps grow your business.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What to do with that press release

What is the best way to build a media list and issue a press release?  Here are a few tips.

Let’s start with the media list.  If your product, news, or service has a national or regional scope – or you want it to – then sign up for wire service distribution such as that offered by PR Newswire and others.  Fees are reasonable and generally are based on the size of any release.  They will see that your release is distributed to the geographic regions and to the media outlets most likely to be interested in your news.  Many of the wire service’s media outlets will post your story on their web sites, thus enhancing your SEO (search engine optimization).  However, wire services only distribute to their member outlets, so be sure to enhance the visibility of your release by utilizing the wire service e-mail service.  The wire service will maintain a list of specific reporters – and any other recipients of importance to you such as board members, stake-holders, current and prospective clients – and distribute the release to them via e-mail or, where necessary,fax. 

What if your business – and news about it – is strictly local?  Make and maintain a local list.  Develop a comprehensive list of the local media – radio,TV,print.  Phone each outlet and ask to speak to a reporter who covers your news.  If you have time, arrange for a visit to see the operation, get a sense of who is who, who does what, and what types of stories are covered.  You may learn that different reporters receive different types of news.  Some specialize in personnel announcements while others prefer activity and feature news.  In some instances you shouId send releases to more than one reporter/editor in the same newsroom.  Ask about the preferred way – e-mail, fax, or (almost extinct) hard copy. 

Once you have created your lists (e-mail, fax, and other) it’s time to plan distribution strategy.  First, create e-mail groups for those outlets that have noted this mode as preferred.  When you send an e-mail release, paste the copy in the body of the e-mail.  Reporters hate to open attachments – although you can send a related photo as an attachment – and some outlets prohibit attachments.

This all may sound complicated, and it can be time consuming at first.  But once you have established a list and a distribution procedure, it is easy – and very important.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Eight creative marketing tips for your business

Found this blog via and wanted to share because it's spot on for any size business!

It's a boggling year for marketing, isn't it? New social-media platforms seem to be springing up like mushrooms, mobile is exploding. . . it's hard to know where to focus your marketing time and dollars.
Everywhere I turn lately, I've come across tips for how to do innovative marketing this year. So I've collected a short list of my favorite tips.
Here are eight ideas for giving your marketing effort a boost:
1. Ask your customers how to reach out. When is the last time you got some data from your customers about how they'd like to interact with your brand? There's really no excuse when you can run instant polls on your Facebook page.
Related: How the White House Became a Social-Media Powerhouse

2. Triggered emails. Do you send customers an email that makes additional offers after they abandon a shopping cart on your website, or maybe an email that provides free information? If not, you're missing a great opportunity to keep your name in front of a customer who's close to buying.

3. Text marketing. Find out what customers want by texting them a question. Then, send them a coupon for a discount on that item. This one's particularly useful for those Gen-X and -Y customers, many of whom don't seem to use email anymore.

4. What your competition isn't doing. Analyze what marketing methods your competitors are using, and look for the holes. Be somewhere they're not -- maybe on Pinterest, or YouTube, or bus boards.

5. Don't just network -- host an event. Hosting an event is a powerful way to get known by a lot of people at once. Why? Everybody comes over to thank the host. Hold the event at your place of business if you have a physical store, so people learn where you are.

6. Referral rewards. This one's an oldie but goodie that's still around because it works. Let customers know you'll pay them $100 if they send you a customer, and turn your customers into your marketing team on the cheap.

7. Simplify. Remember that too many marketing messages confuse customers, especially as you spread them across various social-media channels. Try to pare down to three choices in all aspects of your marketing, from how many fonts you use to how many times you follow up.
Related: 10 Lessons in Brilliant Marketing

8. Make it musical. Does your company have a theme song? A musical jingle you could share? Use tools such as Spotify to share a musical message with prospects.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pest? Or Persistent?


At least once a month I used to hear from Wally.  Sometimes it was a phone call.  Sometimes it was an email.  Sometimes it was a postcard.  But no matter what the means of communication, it was consistent, friendly, not pushy, and it had the potential to someday pay off – for both of us.

Wally was an advertising sales representative for a national magazine in which I had an article published.  Although at the time I was not ready to commit to advertising on that scale – or in that particular vehicle – I never told Wally it was over.  And, like any good sales representative, he continued to stay in touch until I did tell him to stop.

One of the biggest obstacles to effective sales is our fear that we will be perceived as a pest.  So, in order to avoid that appearance, we err the other way and fail to be persistent enough to close a prospective sale.  I think Wally was persistent, not pesky.  He effectively kept himself in my consciousness in a friendly way.  Yet I never feel bothered or pressured. 

Whether we are the official sales rep, or the business owner, we have an obligation to ourselves, and to the prospects we think will benefit from our product or services, to keep the conversation going until we are asked to stop.  As demonstrated by Wally, this can be done in a variety of easy ways that do not require excess expenditures of time on our part. 

So fire up that data base and make a list of those prospects with whom you have had conversations, but who are not yet ready to avail themselves of your services.  Make a few phone calls, leave a few voice mails, send a postcard or a reprint of an article of interest about your business, send an e-mail.  Keep the message friendly and remind them that you are still interested in helping them when they are ready.

Kathryn Lima, president of Sharon-based Faro Enterprises, is a marketing, public relations, and fund raising consultant.  Send your questions to, or visit