Category Archives: business strategy

The Rising Tide that Lifts All Boats

Well, as much as I hate to say it. I’ve been around a long time. My first real “career” was in marketing automation at American Airlines back in the 80s. Helping travel companies grow their business using hard-wired computer terminals, later followed by PCs.

When we got into this Internet thing in the early 90s, we were all neophytes…taking a stab at things and seeing how it worked. Google wasn’t even around…the big players were AOL and the newcomer; Yahoo!. I was fortunate to be working for a company with vision that let us make our way by making good and bad choices and learning from them. The most successful online ventures at the time continued to focus on customer service as they grew their websites. Lands’ End carried its “Guaranteed. Period.” and strong customer service model to a successful online shopping experience. We had eAAsy SABRE running on the Compuserve and Prodigy networks, which morphed into Travelocity. In a similar way, we invoked the strong customer service model that helped our customers learn about the wild and wooly practices of booking travel.

With that history in my pocket and Google becoming the prominent search engine, I struggled to learn SEO and all its minutiae. As my boss at the time, Stephan Spencer used to say; “SEO is the rising tide that lifts all boats,” and this is still true. The technical side of SEO broadened to include things like link building, social media, and other best practices…culminating in the practice that’s now called Digital Marketing.

My point in this little trip down memory lane is that learning from mistakes can lead to success, and it’s a game of inches. Google can impose penalties on those online businesses that try to cut corners, but overcoming this using online marketing best practices can lead to stronger results. Spending thousands of dollars on firehose marketing campaigns that produce few results is a learning experience that can result in being receptive to (full circle for me!) marketing automation tools that drive ongoing customer relationships.

One of our clients, TVLiftCabinet.com sells those nifty TV Lift Cabinets that hide the TV when you don’t need it. Back in 2014 when we started working together, they were the target of some spammy links, and were put in penalty situation with Google. The process to fix this took several months of tedious work to identify the offending links and implement the process to disavow them. The result of all this work more than doubled TVLiftCabinet’s natural search traffic and revenue. Since that time, we’ve done some pretty creative things along with the day to day work of SEO, all within the ethical best practices of online marketing, to continue to grow their business.

Finding the solution for your business can be about learning the hard way or finding someone with the experience (and the mistakes under their belt) to lead you in the right direction. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune…and will save you money in the long run.

Talk with us…the first conversation is always free!

 

Do the Work! Get Results.

With all the algorithmic changes happening at Google, a north-star strategy has definitely emerged:

 

But that doesn’t mean your website, text content, images, links, videos and social media presence should be oblivious to Google, either. As Google itself points out with more than 362,000 results, “hope isnot a strategy.”

Don’t try to outsmart Google. That’s pretty good advice. If you’re looking to improve your company’s revenue, build a more competitive presence online, and really nail the whole digital marketing thing, it’s important to understand it takes mindful intent. It’s complex and inter-related—symbiotic relationships abound.

Great results center on good old-fashioned marketing work. It means in-depth looks at competitors, keywords, content and links. It means making digital marketing a priority as a core lifeline. It means doing the homework, investing the time, reaping what you sow. It doesn’t happen by accident, or from an approach that’s mostly “It’ll just take care of itself.” Instead, it comes from careful consideration of what you’re purposefully saying and doing online.

When it’s done well, the results are legitimate, impactful and real—a significant asset for your business.

Continue. Stop. Start.

Consumed by day-to-day operations, it’s amazing sometimes just how many business people forget where the money comes from. In other words, many fail to remember that there are exactly two* ways a dollar can enter most businesses:money

  1. From a new customer
  2. From an existing customer

(*Three, if your company is engaged in its own finance and investments. But let’s assume that’s not a significant portion of income for your business.)

This means that in order to achieve top-line growth, you need to sell stuff to new customers. Or you need to sell more stuff to existing customers. Or, ideally, both. Seems pretty obvious, but yet we tend to overlook its simplicity.

Some basic roadmap questions can help add perspective to driving more sales. They break down to three components: Continue, stop, start. Here’s how that looks:

What should we continue? What’s working well? Can it be even faster, cheaper or better? Can it be expanded and applied to other areas or markets? What do our customers really like?

Conversely, what should we stop doing? What’s NOT working well? Can it be fixed at a reasonable cost? Or should it be discontinued? What are we doing with five people that could be accomplished with two? What’s outdated or unwanted?

Finally, what can we start doing? Where is there a new opportunity that might not have existed even a short time ago? Where do we need to respond to competitive threats or simple market demands? Where can we make fast improvements? Is there a new technology make sense? Where are the long-term opportunities and how do we get there?

These aren’t always easy questions to answer. But they do create a framework for action. And all three directives—continue, stop, start (in that order)—could be significant influences on the ways dollars enter your business.

As always, when it comes to things related to road-mapping, strategic action plans, ecommerce, web marketing and other essential elements of building a business, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We can help you identify and validate the things you should continue, stop and start.

Customer Experience Lessons from the Un-Online

If you haven’t had a chance to look at customer experience (CX) research from the Temkin Group, it’s pretty fascinating. While it largely focuses on big brands and major industry sectors, there’s a lot of insight you can apply directly to your own business. You can grab a free copy of the 2016 Temkin Experience Ratings here, although you will have to register to download the report.smiley

Temkin starts with 10,000 U.S. consumers and asks them basic questions about interacting with 293 different companies. Questions like, “Were you able to accomplish what you wanted to do?” And “How easy was it to interact with this company?” And “How did you feel about these interactions?”

You can probably guess the worst performers: Internet service providers, TV service providers, health plans and car rental agencies. The report doesn’t pull any punches, and it names names.

But you might be surprised to see what industry seems to dominate. In fact, companies from this sector take the top three customer experience spots overall, four of the top seven, and ten of the top 22. Can you guess?

Supermarkets. Yeah, supermarkets!

Isn’t it interesting that perhaps the most un-online sector is apparently killing it in terms of customer experience? And it’s not a fluke: Other un-online sectors like fast food chains and retailers are next in the rankings.

Think about your own shopping habits: When was the last time a technical glitch caused you to stop your grocery shopping and leave the store without a purchase? Probably never. Yet online, this experience happens more than it should.

Or when was the last time you simply abandoned your cart while shopping in a physical store because you were confused, annoyed or disrupted by something the store did? Again, probably never. But online, it’s one of the biggest challenges businesses face.

We can take three things from all this:

  1. Clarity and ease of navigation are paramount to CX. Conversely, confusion and ambiguity destroy customer experience. Period.
  2. Everything needs to work. Technical glitches are becoming increasingly unforgivable.
  3. Customers aren’t expecting a life-changing experience. Instead, they have reasonable and pragmatic hopes for a simple, conventional and straightforward encounter. Start there.

Chances are, you’ve never thought that solid customer experience should aspire to be the next Publix or Aldi. But perhaps a look at the un-online is a good place to start.

Through this lens, does your customer experience measure up?

 

 

 

 

A Case of the Shoulds

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About this time of year as we finally emerge from short days and cold nights, many of us suffer from a sudden onset of the shoulds. You’ve probably experienced them.

Bordering the fine line between healthy obsession and mental illness, the shoulds usually look like this:

“My website should be updated. It should have some new content. Maybe I should be updating more often. I should do a bunch of videos. Or at least I should make overdue fixes to existing stuff. I should really look at ways to make it faster.”

“I should tweak my SEO strategy. Or maybe I should try that A/B testing program I’ve been thinking about. Should I re-strategize my email campaigns? Actually, I should spend more time on analysis. Yeah, but first I should fix that technical glitch.”

“I should fix that service issue right away though—that should get the most attention. Maybe I should entirely rework the way we think about customer experience. I should really drink more water and get more sleep. I should eat better.”

Before you know it, you should all over yourself. You sit there, practically paralyzed, overwhelmed, exhausted. The optimistic attitudes usually associated with spring cleaning and renewal are suddenly sour. What could be a healthy and productive time now looks like ten pounds of junk in a five-pound bag.

But at the risk of adding a few more shoulds, here are two things you should remember:

  1. Perfect is the enemy of progress.
  2. A good plan now is better than a great plan next week

Getting started with a slow and steady strategy will move you in the right direction.  Websites are never “done.”  SEO is never “done.”  Good nutrition is never “done.”  But, as you make small changes, and measure them, you will be working toward a continuous improvement for your customers, your business, and your life.

In your business, if you need help sorting it out and turning the most important shoulds into a prioritized strategic action plan, we’re here to help.

Six things you can check right now to improve your site

Whether it’s a defined goal, aspirational resolution or just a subconscious want, “Make the website better” is a common theme this time of year. The first quarter is kicking in, so it’s time to get started. images

But before you do—and this is important—step back and adopt a neutral perspective. Don’t automatically hate your website, but don’t fall in love with it either. Instead, if you look at it through the eyes of an uninterested-but-reasonable shopper, you might see things you can improve.

  • Quick! What’s your site about?  Within a few seconds, your visitors should know what your site is about and have a good idea how to navigate it. Returning visitors should have a feeling of confidence and familiarity. Make sure your visitors know what’s in it for them: a great deal, a new product or a quick path to the information they want. This should happen fast with no ambiguity.
  • Appearance is important. Do your pages look strong and up-to-date?  Does your site appear up to the standards of a professional business, or does it look like it was coded by your nephew in 2007? Is it welcoming and intuitive? Is it ready for a modern and sophisticated user whose expectations of online experiences grow by the day? Would you buy from a website that looks like yours?
  • Are your keywords really hitting?  Sure, the keywords that worked a few years ago might still be working. Or maybe not. Knowing exactly what your target audiences are looking for, what terms they use, and how search optimization evolves can make a big difference in traffic and search rankings. If you haven’t done a keyword analysis in a while, it’s time.
  • Be honest: Are your pages fast enough?  If web pages don’t load in a split second and users have to wait to see them, the propensity to click off is higher than ever. Users aren’t patient. Slow-loading pages not only keep customers away, but search engines don’t like them much either.
  • Do your visitors get lost?  Here’s why good website navigation is so important: Aside from the human experience, usability influences your search engine rankings. Make sure your site’s navigation is intrinsically easy enough to let visitors know where they are, where they came from, what their options are and how to complete the sale or desired action. The easier it is to navigate your website, the higher your conversion rate. Simple as that.
  • Do you offer compelling content and a clear call to action?  Stale and boring content isn’t flattering. And it’s not effective. Make sure your pages are interesting, current, informative and error-free. Answer the visitor’s inherent question, “What’s in it for me?” as clearly as possible. Do some periodic refreshes. Update some photos. And most of all, make sure each page features a clear call to action.

Not sure where to start?

Hey, we get it—it can be a little overwhelming. That’s why we’re here to help. Drop us a line and we’ll walk through these things together. Soon, that tuned-up site will be hummin’ right along for 2016.

Skip the resolutions. Instead, send a message to your future self.

the futureWhile the rest of the world makes resolutions that probably won’t last more than a few weeks, I invite you to try something different this year.

Instead of vague promises, you’re going to communicate with your future self. For real. I’m not kidding.

How? With this: https://www.futureme.org/

Yep, you’re going to send an email into the future, and I urge you to try it.

It’ll be delivered in a few days, weeks, months, even years—it’s up to you. As a good starting point, try three months. (It’s totally free and you can write as many as you want. Note that your email address will be verified so that your future email will actually arrive. Don’t worry… no registration is required and it’s not an email address collection site. It’s legit.)

Maybe ask your future self if you’ve reached an important milestone and what it looks like from the other side. Or remind your future self about the skills you want to develop this year. Or ask about the trip you want to take. Or how a great idea seems exciting and bursting with energy. Or how you’re progressing on building your business. Maybe make a bold prediction and see if it comes true. Or just scribble a few thoughts about whatever’s on your mind at this exact moment.

This simple-but-powerful tool is both useful and fascinating, and certainly more fun than making typical resolutions. It’s a profound idea: What would you tell your future self?

Just like the new year, there are so many possibilities.

Planting Seeds

Assuming you’re in the northern hemisphere, it’s hard to think about gardening right about now. With the Winter Solstice upon us, the days are the shortest of the year. In fact, in the continental U.S., we’ll dwindle to just nine hours and 32 minutes of daylight on December 22. In Barrow, Alaska, there won’t be a sunrise at all.

Still, in these darkest days, we find reason for optimism. We take a few steps back to reflect, consider and plan. We think about warmer days and planting seeds. And we take hopeful comfort in what they will bring.planting seeds

The continual life cycle of a garden—preparing, planting, nurturing and reaping—is a wonderful, timeless metaphor for our businesses. They work exactly the same way.

During the next few weeks, many of us spend much-needed time away. We decompress and reconnect. Or maybe we steal a few moments of solitude in the midst of holiday madness to think about a new goal or an emerging opportunity. Or maybe we have the chance to finally see the past year as a finished verse rather than a work in progress. We begin to prepare.

Shortly after, it’s time to start planting seeds. In many ways, it’s a conscious acknowledgement that good things usually don’t happen immediately. And that faith, skill and confidence (and maybe even a little luck) are the non-quantifiable ingredients for a thriving garden.

So in the midst of these shorter days, as the year draws to a close, consider your business and the relationships that drive it. Think about your customers and their experiences. Step back and ponder about operational improvements or streamlined processes. Think about things a little outside of your comfort zone. In other words, think about what that garden could look like.

Now’plant-the-seeds the time. Plant some seeds.

Will you see meaningful results in a few weeks or months? Probably not. But soon, you might just see the germination of something that could transform your business.

 

From all of us at InMarket Success, our best wishes for a joyous holiday season and a thriving new year.

Fran-Nahabedian
Fran Nahabedian
kmannbio
Kerry Mann