Tag Archives: Strategic Marketing Plans

Give Up Brand Control?

Major League Soccer logoEver feel like your business is spinning out of control? Too busy, not busy enough, competition pressures, government red tape, taxes, employee issues, the list can go on and on. We love the concept of control because it gives us predictability, something we can count on, something to calm our fears. Yet control can be elusive.

Take, for example, your brand. We marketers refer frequently to the importance of trying to control your brand. Obviously, social media has made this effort much more difficult but consider something as simple as your identity (including the logo). We generally recommend that in your strategic marketing plan, you include a style book which dictates exactly how your logo will be portrayed in various kinds of media. The style book governs how and where your logo can appear and specifies the exact color or colors (generally no more than two) that are allowed. It is how you control that branding element. Consider brands like A.T.&T., Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and UPS. No one is allowed to change the presentation of these logos or their colors. Yet…maybe that has all changed.

Major League Soccer (MLS) announced a new identity and branding with the commencement of its 2015 season this spring. Not to be outdone by other sports like Major League Baseball, the NCAA basketball tournament, or the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the launch of the new campaign came replete with a shiny new logo. The logo comprises a shield outlined with blue, a blue diagonal line extending outside the shield, and the top left half with three stars, the letters MLS and seated in a field of red. Whether you like this logo or not is not what is curious. What blows the mind this marketer is that the MLS has allowed each one of the teams to alter the colors of the logo to match their respective uniforms! This even extends to the goalkeepers’ uniforms that are even different colors than the team colors!

Unheard of, I say. Can you imagine the NFL doing this? What about the NBA or Major League Baseball? These organizations don’t care what color your uniforms are, their logo must be presented exactly the same, even if that color clashes with your team colors.

I would say this is revolutionary, especially for a brand as young as the MLS.

So, is giving up control of your brand and logo the wrong thing to do? I would imagine that the MLS has not given up complete control, but stipulates the options each team has in using the league logo. It will be an interesting study to see how this turns out. No one can deny that the MLS is successful, having two new expansion teams this year and showing every sign of drawing larger and larger viewership and fan base.

Yet, it will be interesting to see if this is a trend that will extend to other industries, associations and non-profits.

I would love to know your thoughts.

Live by the Data or Die by the Data


I know that there are hardly enough hours in the day to take care of your customers and run the business, let alone, study and correlate all the customer-centric information which is now available at your fingertips. But, it’s never been more important than now. As Mr. Dave Frankland, an analyst with Forrester espoused, 2010 and beyond is the “age of the customer.” Customers are in more control than ever, and they are wielding that power by responding to companies that understand them and their needs.


Natalie Zmuda, with Ad Age talks about the obsession with “understanding, delighting, connecting with, and serving customers,” as the only real differentiator that many companies have. I would add to that, the intelligence to predict behavior as well.


Never in history have business owners had such a vast amount of information available to them about their customers’ behavior, which can be a strong predictor of a “potential” customer’s behavior.


Facebook can tell you how many people in your area have expressed interest in what you do based upon specific terms? Google has reams of information available on what people are searching for. There are software companies that have created social media dashboards that provide the ability to see what conversations are taking place about you, whether you “follow” them or not. And just as important, there are your own sales statistics that you keep.


It is not only important to track sales, but also to be able to know the source of the sales lead. Those lead sources should be broken down sufficiently to understand what action the interested party initially took to become a lead. What products were purchased from what lead sources? As an example, if you only track that a sale of product A came from the Internet, what you don’t know is what action was taken. Did the lead fill out a “contact me” form or did they pick up the phone and call you? Did they ask a question through Facebook or were they referred by one of their LinkedIn contacts? Did they click on a QR code that you had on a print advertisement or did they come to you from your YouTube video?


Being able to tie sales back to a very specific lead source allows you to calculate which kind of lead results in the highest likelihood of a sale. Where should you spend precious sales resources to get the highest return? Where should marketing dollars go to stimulate these high value leads? What kind of message is successful in generating quality leads? Would extending that message to other sources for leads generate the same kind of quality lead there? Would it be better to focus on those products that generate the highest margins?


So, your business can prosper by paying attention to the data that’s available or not, it’s up to you. And, if you need some help with this, let us know.


All my best in your “data mining”




Give ‘Em a Mixed Media Message!

Who knows how it began. Did man first begin to communicate over distances by beating a hollow tree trunk or by lighting a torch and standing on the highest ground? Was this just a means of alerting friends to potential danger or were there variable messages governed by the rhythm of the beats or the way a torch was held? Smoke signals by Native Americans or Signal Flags by soldiers were a means of sending variable messages and instructions during war, at least prior to the telegraph and Morse code. And sailors relied heavily upon signal flags and light houses to warn of possible danger.

Regardless how it began, we humans thrive on communication, don’t we? We have created so many ways with which to exchange information and ideas across space and time – radio, TV, CB’s, telephones, email, texting, instant messaging, direct mail, snail mail, webinars, video streaming, YouTube, just to name a few. Whether it’s passive or active forms of communication, it can be pretty mind boggling and the thing is, each of us prefer certain kinds of communication over others. Certain media gets our attention and others don’t.

I have never been big on texting or IM but I use email extensively. Maybe it’s my fat thumbs on my mobile or maybe I just haven’t learned the lingo. I know that probably ages me quite a bit, however I think there’s an important point here. Unless you sell your product or service to a very narrowly defined, niche demographic, you probably need to consider the possibility that it’s going to take a number of different kinds of media to reach everyone in your target market with your marketing message. We all have different preferences for how we would like to be communicated to.

This is why I can really appreciate the concept of asking the question, “How would you like to hear from us?” For customers who have purchased from you or from those who have expressed an interest in your products or services, to ask them how they would prefer to be communicated to, shows that you respect their opinion and their time.

Granted, some of the forms of media cost more. Anyone can tell you that direct mail is not cheap, however if your customer or prospect really wants you hear from you in this way, make sure you comply with that wish.

There are many companies who provide printing and email services who have jumped on the multi-media bandwagon and can provide a cost effective solution to giving your customers their preferences. A sign-up website portal can be an excellent way to be able to respond to individual wishes. The real benefit is that your customers and prospects will appreciate just being asked.

So, in your marketing planning, make sure you are building in the capability to put your marketing message out there in a number of different media. It’s a little harder to manage but well worth the effort.

If there is a concern whether you have the time or abilities in-house to handle this, let us know, we’d be happy to help.


Your CMO Outsource


So How Do Your Customers Show They Love You?

Customer love is the food of business

February is the month for LOVE. I am pretty sick of the constant use of  “I ‘heart’ chocolate” or “I ‘heart’ foreign films” or even “I ‘heart’ you!” Can’t you just say the word, LOVE? Wouldn’t it be great if all of your customers would break into simultaneous voice singing, “I Got That Lovin’ Feeling?” Would make you feel pretty darn good about what you’re doing, right, even though I think if every single one of your customers says they “love” you, maybe you’re not pushing the limits of your offering enough.  Think about that one – although maybe that’s fodder for another blog post.

As a key component of every Strategic Marketing Plan I write, I like to interview several customers of my client to see not only what they thought about the “purchase experience” but also about how they first found my client and if they would recommend their products or services to others.

Recently, as I was contacting customers for my client, I ran across one who literally gushed love for my client’s work. Everything they did was “exceptional” and when I asked if there was anything specific she could say that would have made the experience better she said, “Absolutely not, they did everything I asked plus things I didn’t know to ask. I really believe in these guys!” Wow, nice testimonial huh?

This, of course, got me thinking about how to really leverage this recommendation, make it something special, bring out the human side.  How could I make this even more powerful than just putting her comments in a “Testimonials” section of the website.  Of course, Video!!

There’s no doubt about it, video has come of age and with the technology and software available to everyone, the price has gone down as well.  It is my belief that a marketing strategy which incorporates the use of relevant video, especially on the website, is and will continue to be successful.  Here’s why:

Why Video?

  1. Pictures are worth a thousand words, videos are worth a million
  2. It is a great way to put a human face to an inorganic thing called a “company.”  It is a way to show there are real people that work here.
  3. If your customer is giving a testimonial, they are also real people with real problems that you solved.
  4. It is a perfect way to incorporate storytelling.  Read my blog, “How to Use Storytelling in Your Marketing Message.”
  5. Search engines, in particular Google since they also own YouTube, love video and now incorporate video into their “blended search results.” As Benjamin Wayne says in his article “How To Use Video SEO to Jump To The Top of Google Search Results,” Google will index 100% of all website videos and you are 53 times more likely than traditional web pages to receive an organic first-page ranking.

So, now we’ve determined that video should be something you implement on your web presence, but how can this be executed?

Executing a Website Video Strategy

  1. Why not have a video of that incredible testimonial we mentioned above?  Give your customers a powerful way to show they love you.
  2. Be sure that you are not “selling” but rather educating or providing content that viewers will value and want to come back for more.
  3. Try the method of the interview, where someone off camera is asking questions.  The person on camera will likely be more at ease when providing answers.
  4. Be sure to rehearse what you are going to say so it doesn’t ramble on
  5. Be brief and concise. Keep the videos to 90 to 120 seconds, nothing more because no one has that much time.
  6. Release new videos over time, not all at once, to derive the most search value.
  7. Make sure that the videos utilize proper descriptive titles, proper keywords, a text transcript, links to related material and useful metadata so the video can be indexed by the search engines.

Come on, this is yours or your customer’s chance to be a star, use video to really boost your marketing message and get results.

All my best,


Your outsourced Chief Marketing Officer

Could Your Marketing Budget Lose Some Fat This New Year?

Weighing in on a scale

It never fails.  Right after we ring in the New Year, they start coming out of the woodwork;  every possible kind of solution to the problem of how the holidays forced us to loosen our belt buckles.  Each claim is a “sure thing,” guaranteed to bring back the svelte and lovable you.  As they say, fat is not phat!

What a great analogy to an overweight marketing budget.  Why not use this time of the year to get out the magnifying glass and really analyze whether there’s not some areas of fat in your marketing spend that could be trimmed out?

  1. Start with Yellow Page advertising. If you’re doing it, stop.  Nobody looks at that book anymore and landfills are full of unopened directories.  If you are addicted and are afraid you just can’t do that, then cut it to its minimum and see if your worst fears are realized.  My thinking is, nobody will notice and sales will not be affected.
  2. Take a hard look at any print advertising or direct mail you’re paying for.  I’m not saying it’s not working but these are hard mediums to measure success on.  Consider using a unique telephone number or establishing a PURL for each ad.  What is a PURL you ask?  It stands for Personalized URL or many refer to it as a unique landing page on your website which corresponds exactly to what was in the print ad or direct mail piece.  Using your website analytics, you can then measure actual responses to your ads and can then justify the expenditures there.
  3. Unless you have an incredibly extensive website with a shopping cart of tens of thousands of items, or the security of your website is mission critical, you probably shouldn’t be spending more than a couple of hundred dollars per year for hosting.  I’ve run across small businesses spending $500 per year!  There are some very good hosting solutions out there for under $80 per year.
  4. Speaking of websites, if you are paying a webmaster to make each and every change that is needed to keep your website content fresh, that’s fine but there may be a better solution; it’s called a Content Management System and means that you can make those changes yourself without having to understand programming languages.  Now, this may not be for everyone.  Some business owners just don’t have the time or notion to do this.  But, if you want to save some money, this may be for you.
  5. Pay close attention to the analytics on your email campaigns and websites.  It could be that you are spending a lot of money and time and getting no email opens or a ton of website “bounces.”  These events mean that nobody is paying any attention to what you’re saying.  Some changes and further testing are warranted.
  6. Have a strategic marketing plan.  Lack of a plan is a sure way to end up going in a lot of worthless directions throwing money at anything that is shiny.  If you have a plan there is a purpose for everything you do.  You will have specific objectives associated with each activity and you can make changes quickly as needed based upon measurable results.

It’s time to get that marketing budget fit and trim.  Don’t wait, because just like last year, 2011 will fly by and before you know it, we’ll be looking at 2012.

All my wishes for a prosperous New Year, and if you feel like you could use a “marketing trainer,” let us know, we would love to help.


Your Outsourced CMO