Category Archives: Marketing

Your Website – To Rent or To Own

Today’s marketplace has undergone so many changes in the last ten years that the pace of that change can at times seem breathtaking. Strategies for marketing your company and its products and services, while having similarities to the past, require a different approach, an online approach. You still must identify and quantify your target market. You still need to build trust. And the concept of a Unique Selling Proposition (or USP) still applies as it is imperative that you are able to convince people of the “why you.”

What has changed is the how.

Websites have been around for a long time. I remember talking with business owners who said the only reason they built a website was because everyone was doing it and you just had to have one to be legit.

While having to have a website is still the case, its function as a key weapon in your marketing arsenal has grown dramatically, so much so that it is the most important marketing investment that you can make.

Almost every purchase decision, whether an individual consumer, or the purchasing manager of a major corporation, begins with a search online. Whether that search is using the name of a business that you learned of through a referral, or whether you are simply trying to find companies that provide what you’re looking for, it begins by doing a search. Google, having become one of the largest U.S. companies in capitalization, dominates this area of marketing, and it is estimated that there are as many as 4 million searches per second around the globe!

So, when you’re building a website, to forget to take into account its ability to be found by people searching online, is basically throwing your money away.

You have two choices when building a website, you can rent your website or you can own it. Just as any other business asset you invest in, it is important to determine which is best for the future of your company.

Examples of website platforms that you rent are SquareSpace, WIX, Weebly, GoDaddy and others. These offer you the ability to create your own website and have the following features: (this is based on conversations with many entrepreneurs who went this route)

  • Up-front investment is little or nothing
  • There are many templates to choose from
  • Can customize within the template’s framework
  • Monthly hosting fees are generally much higher
  • Must continue to host with them or the site is taken down
  • Shopping cart and e-commerce is available
  • Can make changes, add pages and upload images yourself, through the dashboard
  • The focus is on making it fast and easy to build a website, not on whether the website can be found in an online search
  • Lead generation is also not the most important aspect of these alternatives

Examples of website platforms that you own are WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento and others. These typically require the expertise of a professional developer as there are many options, and hence flexibility, in the design and functionality of the website. The following are the features of these options:

  • The up-front investment can be sizeable
  • Just about anything can be done with respect to design
  • There are hundreds of applications that have been developed to work with these platforms, making website customization easier and with a higher level of functionality
  • Monthly hosting fees are much lower
  • You have the option to host your website wherever you wish because you own your site
  • You can make changes, add pages and upload images yourself without being a programmer. This is done through the dashboard
  • If the template is built correctly, the website should be able to be found in online searches
  • The website should be able to pay for itself through the leads that are generated from it
  • You can actually build “equity” in your website, by adding original and valuable content, and since you own the website, that content remains yours, not your hosting company’s.
  • Social media can be seamlessly integrated into the site
  • You are in charge of your own destiny

The bottom line is, what do you want your website to do? If it is just to be an online brochure, then certainly renting a website can work. If however, you want it to be an asset that provides a return on the investment, to be a key component in your overall marketing, then owning your website is really the only way to go.

Remember this: You can build a beautiful website, but if no one can find it, it’s like having the most impressive billboard in the middle of a desert, it sure looks nice but nobody sees it.

How Mobile Is Your Website?

Our mobile society always on the goYou’ve been there. You’re searching on your mobile phone for a store that has a particular brand of caulk that works well on concrete. You find a website on Google and you click on the link. What comes up is a very tiny version of the store’s regular website, which is impossible to read, let alone click on the Contact Us page to inquire whether they have the caulk you need in stock. So, what do you do? You expand the page to blow it up to where it is legible and then you find yourself scrolling left, right, up, down only to realize that you’re lost on the page. What’s left is to shrink it back down to locate that darned Contact Us link. And, hopefully you haven’t been doing all this while driving.

This is a plain lousy experience and one that makes you want to find somewhere else to shop.

So, does this happen when prospective customers come to your website on their smartphones? Do they have this same kind of bad experience? Are you losing sales because your website is not mobile ready? Did you realize that Google will now start ranking your website lower than your competitors’ sites if it is not mobile ready?

Let’s look at some research from Media Post:

What does this mean today, and what could it mean in six to twelve months?

  • “mobile commerce has surged ahead of desktop in terms of time spent shopping, with mobile accounting for 59% of online shopping time in the first quarter of 2015…”
  • “In the first quarter of this year, mobile’s share of retail spending growth increased 53% year over year, compared with increases of 9% for desktop retail e-commerce…”
  • And according to James Printing of Kansas City (, 42% of brand research is conducted on phones and tablets

The use of smartphones and tablets for shopping and research is expected to grow dramatically in the next year. Although purchases on smartphones and tablets still lags behind desktops, with the primary reasons being security concerns and the ability to see the products in detail, those issues will be resolved quickly with larger phone screens and enhanced mobile security.

Any website development company worth their stripes is creating new sites that are what’s called “mobile responsive.” This means that your site will render differently on mobile devices than it does on desktops, making the experience much better for visitors coming to see what you are all about.

What’s more, you will not be penalized by the major search engines for having a non-responsive website, and all the hard work you’ve done to maintain that search visibility will still be in place.

I would love to know your thoughts, or if you just have questions, let me know.



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.

Do You Understand Your Target Market?

957450_33460069One of the first questions I ask any client that I begin work with is, “who do you think is your target market?” There are many times where this question has never been asked and therefore I’m met with a blank stare. If the answer comes back as “everyone,” then I know we have some work to do. You may have the most amazing product ever invented in humankind but I’m sorry, it’s not for everyone.

It’s always best to start with a definition, no matter how simple we may think a concept is. A target market is a group of customers towards which a business has decided to aim its marketing efforts and ultimately its products and or services.

A target market can be defined by a set of characteristics that the entire group has in common. These characteristics give insight into how we might expect the target market to behave under different circumstances or in reaction to different marketing messages.

I recommend starting with your very best customer, because that’s who we want to find more of. Think in terms of what customer you absolutely love working with? How would you define them? Who are they? Are they male or female? How educated are they? What age are they? How did they learn of your product or service? Do they live in a certain area? How was the buying process? If applicable, have they been a repeat buyer? The more specific you can be here, the better.

Given that you want to clone this kind of customer and find many more just like them, let’s explore more about what was behind their purchase. Ask the question: Why did you buy from my company? I actually like to ask this question in person, through a survey.

On a very fundamental level, people make a decision to purchase something in an effort to increase pleasure or reduce pain. However, the answers you receive to the question above, why did they buy from you, will fall into one of two categories. Either the rational behind their decision was due to the attributes (or features) of your product or service, or your product or service was in sync with their emotional motivation for buying.

Examples of Product Attributes:

  • Price – Your price was competitive or in line with perceived value
  • Quality – Your product or service meets minimum quality requirements
  • Features – Your product has the features that I require
  • Service – You have the capabilities to provide service after the sale
  • Past History – There is a track record of positive experiences from others
  • Popularity/Sexiness – Your product has that “thing”

Examples of Emotional Motivators

  • Trust – I have faith that your product or service will perform as marketed
  • Communication – The sales person answered my questions and explained things to my satisfaction
  • Relationships – Over a period of time I feel I know the human side of your company. I like working with you
  • Fear – I don’t want to make a mistake that will cost me money or my job
  • Confidence – This decision feels right
  • Impatience – I don’t really want to wait any longer or shop more
  • Need – I am strongly compelled to move forward with this purchase
  • Desire for acceptance – I want to be like the people that own this product

As you collect the answers to your survey, you can use these product attributes and emotional motivators to define the kind of marketing message that you communicate. If these resonated with your current best customers, then they will likely resonate with potential best customers.

Happy hunting and I would love to hear your comments.


When Your Phone Rings Does Your Cash Register Ring Too?

TelephoneAre phone calls the life blood of your business?

It’s not true with online-only companies, but brick-and-mortar stores can live & die by the phone call. I have a client who claims that he can close one sale for every four phone calls versus closing one sale for every ten “contact me” forms completed on his website. Wow, that’s a big difference and I learned that he didn’t know exactly how many phone calls he was getting or whether they could be considered legitimate “leads.”

My client uses for managing leads and deals that are in the sales cycle and at various points of closing. Even though his website has a “leads-to-forms” application that automatically puts completed forms into Salesforce, phone calls that turn into leads must be manually entered by the sales people. He was very disappointed that his reports would only show a few phone calls per month. Knowing the difference in close ratios for phone calls, he was desperate to see more calls coming in.

I was introduced to a marvelous service called IfByPhone by a colleague who indicated that it might be very valuable to me. Was he right, or what?

I spent some time researching this service. Essentially, IfByPhone provides, among many services, call forwarding to your main business telephone number. When someone searches on Google for instance, your PPC ad or organic listing is displayed. If the searcher clicks on either, they are taken to your website page, however, and this is pretty cool, IfByPhone presents a unique, dynamic telephone number, which if called, is used to track that searcher’s call all the way through to completion. If the searcher calls within 60 minutes of viewing your webpage (and unique number), IfByPhone can report on the keyword phrase the caller used to find you. In addition, you also receive the caller ID in reports that can be generated “on demand.”

Imagine what you can do. You know who called and when; you know, in most cases, for what they were searching; and you know the length of the call (did they talk with anyone or just leave a voicemail). Not only are you able to see if the salespeople are putting leads into Salesforce, you’re able to accurately determine which keywords and phrases are generating the most calls and can then alter your SEO or PPC strategies accordingly.

I would think that the energetic salesperson could also use the caller ID information to place a “cold” call, knowing in advance where their interest lies. That’s about as warm a “cold” call as you can get.

This has been incredibly helpful for my client. He feels better informed and that he now has a better handle on what kinds of phone calls he’s getting as well as the accuracy of his Salesforce management system. We are also using the keyword data provided to improve conversions through SEO and PPC.

So, does your business rely heavily on the phone call? If it does, you may want to consider IfByPhone.

I’d love to know your thoughts.