Smart Choices: Do an Internet Marketing Audit

Digital Marketing Audits – Ask The Right Questions

If  your company’s not meeting your performance expectations, there’s 2 things you can do: 1) pare down your expectations or , 2) prepare a strategy to excel online.  Doing an audit can actually be a pleasant exploration of the business you love but have lost sight of.

You need a digital marketing audit. An audit is not frivolous. It’s a process or system that leads to the best questions about what you need to do.  It should incorporate a traditional SWOT analysis so you get an objective, intelligent understanding before you plan your online marketing strategy and begin spending. One advantage to doing it this way, is that you stay away from old school perspectives and solutions. After all you’re planning for the future.

This is Not 1980, and it’s not 2010 Either

The content in this blog is more less straight talk about how business and marketing are changing along with some ideas on establishing your niche and keeping ahead of the competition. At first, you might be a little disoriented. But it won’t be long before you build the confidence to adopt modern strategies, techniques, tactics, and software systems (software is on the verge of becoming useful) to gain a significant advantage on your competition.

If you’ve been approached by some web marketing companies, they probably offered you the common web site audit or SEO friendliness audit, but these aren’t sufficient. A 10 thousand foot level view of your business will discover the real problems – to optimize your digital marketing performance.  Below is a description of the 4 pillars of a digital marketing audit.

Before a consultant or agency can give you an intelligent audit, they will need some specific information. So here’s some food for thought!

The whole point of, and process of investigation, discovery and learning, is to find the right questions

If there are serious flaws in your business model or unique value proposition or you don’t understand your target market, better to deal with that now instead of auditing granular items that really don’t address the important things.

strategyAny advice you get regarding digital business strategies has to be considered suspect if the expert doesn’t have a good high level view of your business.  Be happy when your consultant asks nosy, annoying questions, because it means he or she is getting to the root of your situation.  If you can’t answer these questions below, you definitely need a marketing consultant or at least speak with a quality digital marketing agency.

Business Model Questions:

How you Do What you Do:

  1. Describe how your business makes money?
  2. Describe your target market; what is their pain and need?
  3. What is your unique value proposition?
  4. Who are your best competitors and general competition? How do they win?
  5. What are your products/services specifically and which are vital?
  6. Where are your leads/customers/sales coming from?
  7. How do you convert visitors to customers?
  8. What is your cost per acquisition?
  9. What is your current marketing budget?
  10. Do you have anyone creating content in-house?
  11. How do you manage your content development and social media?
  12. How much traffic do you have and how much do you need?

Site Assessment Questions

Content Strategy:

  1. What content is needed and how well is your UVP being communicated?
  2. Describe your brand image and what are your key messages?
  3. What is your impression of the copywriting and topic choices?
  4. Does your content capture attention, captivate, build desire, engage, and make prospects contact you? What do you think is wrong with your site and its content?
  5. Are you active in social media? Where? Are customers engaged with you on your blog, Twitter and Facebook pages? Are you using your Linkedin page to promote yourself? Have you had a social media audit?

Web Site Structure and Design: 

  1. Does your website/blog support your UVP? Is it responsive designed?
  2. Where do you think your current website fails: Design, colours, style, content pages?
  3. Have you done a website audit and SEO audit?
  4. Do you have reports from Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics?

Promotion and Conversion:

  1. How do you promote online right now? Which online channels do you use and how do they connect together?
  2. Have you done SEO? Was it successful? What is your commitment to this?
  3. Do you do PPC campaigns? Why not?
  4. What incentives do you use to sweeten the deal and seal the sale?
  5. Describe your content marketing efforts.

Would you like a digital marketing assessment?

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Shortage of Good Content Writers is Hurting Businesses

Copywriting Heavily Influences Sales

According to a study by the Content Marketing Institute, good content creators are in short supply. 1/3 of companies can’t find anyone talented enough to write for their brands and websites.

Some may have tried to push their top print copywriters into the web sphere only to find their prose unappealing to web readers. The result is a crisis in their ability to speak to their target audience.

Content strategy, creative development, and copywriting go hand in hand, but strategy won’t do much for you if you don’t have the talent to carry it out. Without content writers of sufficient skill, imagination, experience, and productivity, they’ll need to find talent with potential and train them.

deliciouscopy
My recent trip to California highlighted the meaning of good content. In this case, a delicious surf and turf dinner at the best seaside restaurant. The restaurant delivered an unparalleled taste experience with an amazing oceanview backdrop. There’s no restaurant better than the Chart House in Cardiff. Good copywriters  similarly create compelling experiences with only a sequence of well chosen words.

So What is it that Makes a Good Copywriter?

Well, I might be a tad biased in this regard, but take a look at what Sonia Simone of copyblogger says.  Why don’t we explore what a productive, effective copywriter is required to do.

The end goal of copywriting is to capture attention, inform, persuade, and convince. Before that can happen, the writer needs to establish the goals of the writing projects, the company’s brand positioning and unique value proposition, and what the marketing/brand manager’s expectations and demands are.  There’s plenty of room for misinterpretation and conflict and only good communication will bridge the gaps.

The content writer is often left to determine the company’s brand, marketing strategy, and tactics to make the content generate leads and sales. Good copywriters like this challenge and get right to doing the best they can for their boss/client. Copywriters who lack knowledge of marketing concepts, markets, media, branding will be pressed to the limit to produce copy that fulfills all obligations.

Web copy is even tougher since it must capture attention fast, achieve high search rankings, and convince visitors to act right away.  Print writing is tough too, especially advertising copy where the demand for creativity and imagination is very high. Writers skilled in all media such as web, print, packaging, video, and social media is extremely unlikely. The mental dexerity and gymnastics required is enough to humble any so called star.

Let’s focus on Web Copywriting  

In no particular order, your copy must:

  • capture attention and look good visually (It does this using headings, quotes, lists/bullets, and images)
  • be scannable and easy to follow visually (it does this through blocks of text that are easy to see)
  • possess the right voice and tone (subtle or direct style discovered through research of audience culture and preferences)
  • be strategic and tactical (a good overall plan for the role of pages, the unique value proposition, and how information and links fill in details for readers so they can act)
  • be persuasive and convincing (it needs a compelling hook and angle to catch readers minds and hearts)
  • differentiate points of difference to introduce the brand and strengthen it (features, benefits, and viewpoints all make your product more desirable and valuable than competitor’s)
  • use a call to action to get results (link text, copy, headings, and buttons let the visitor make the right decision)
  • make the brand/product likable and desirable (words, symbolism, and stories that fits with customers beliefs, hopes and values)
  • be credible and trustworthy (using wording that creates transparency and proof of value)
  • be well-edited as this is where excellent writing is created (sequence, purpose and points all must be clarified, made coherent and more persuasive)
  • be search engine optimized to create visits from Google users (see post on SEO)
  • be reviewed with analytics reports (see what worked and use A/B testing and reasoning to create further improvement)

I hope you got the picture that copywriters can make a significant contribution to any web-based business. Work with a good copywriter who is strong on research, aware of the market, and able to help you discover your unique value proposition.

As a copywriter, I need to add value continuously.  That might be to create new ways to express the company’s brand image, sharply focus the brand message, and use words and phrases that make products/services appear much better than they really are.

We’ve all been seduced by the copy in advertising. It is effective and when done well, can generate millions in sales. And it can also leave millions on the table. As a CEO, entrepreneur, or marketing manager, your decisions about acquiring a top notch content strategist, content developer, or copywriter could determine your company’s profitability.

Your copywriter reaches the audience, captures their heart and mind, and convinces them to buy your product.  Get your target audience as close to good copy and content as you can.

Whether it’s validation, information, support, or simply enablement, the messages on your website or social media pages are what customers are hungry for.  Give them as much as they can eat. They’ll give you their money and loyalty.

 

 

SEO – Fast, Easy Track to Big Revenue?

SEO can be an amazing source of traffic, leads and sales. It’s still looked upon as a guaranteed win but hold on, Google rankings and traffic are very competitive and challenging.

Although SEO is considered simple and FREE, climbing up the ranking mountain takes time, effort, and smarts, and that translates to money.  The gap between reality and expectations is a point of conflict/misunderstanding and patience and perseverance are vital.  Rather than seeing relationships rupture because of unmet expectations, perhaps you should review the quality of your SEO strategy and the amount of effort and resources you’re putting into it? Like anything in life, you get out of it what you put into it.

Today, SEO is all about social media, outreach, and content quality. These are time intensive activities and a good deal of optimism, confidence, and energy are required. SEO is an underappreciated activity too as you can see from the ultimate measurement stick.  People who create good quality unique content and do link building/outreach are paid poorly. All round, this sets up a negative atmosphere for SEO success.

In this Whiteboard Friday video, Rand Fishkin offers some tips on how to manage SEO and client relations.

How is your overall new business development strategy? Your SEO campaign and social media visibility will be a struggle if you haven’t worked on your unique value proposition and brand image. Whether you’re a business coach or entrepreneur, a well thought out UVP is the foundation of clarity and getting 100% from your efforts.

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Business Opportunities: Home Solar Power

Exciting Trends and Business Opportunities: Solar Power

What’s so exciting about residential solar power right now is not that solar panels are becoming inexpensive. It’s that homeowners can generate their own electrical power. As you’ll see in the video below, this wise entrpreneur is making a good amount of income from his installation ($5000 from 7000 kw produced).

Do you like earning more money? I’ve pointed out some of the hottest trends going: digital marketing agencies, Keurig coffee distribution, wineries, art, health and wellness, and organic foods. Solar power is a legitimate, sustainable business. Take it seriously.

solarhouse3
Solar power installation by a Canadian Solar Installation Company

Those who own a system can sell their excess power back into the electrical grid at 80 cents per kilowatt. With so few ways for the average person to make extra income, this idea of passive income is appealing to retiring babyboomers, entrepreneurs, or young couples wanting to ease up on their growing mortgage payment.

Solar power installation companies could be entering a very profitable decade ahead. Take a look at Pure Energies Inc. of Toronto (who rank well in Google. Nice work). That’s because materials and systems are inexpensive and ROI is improving, yet companies actually make most of their money on the installation.  These startup companies could be worth a fortune.

Not many homes have solar systems, but you’ve probably seen them around. Where I work in Markham, they are appearing on a number of office buildings. Solar is going to be huge.

Money Making Potential

With homeowners switching to gas clothes dryers, gas kitchen ranges, gas furnaces, and LED lighting, traditional demand for electricity will drop. Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy? However, another source of demand (electric cars) will keep demand for electricity high. Electricity is expensive and homeowners want to cut their bills anyway possible.

When natural gas prices return to normal levels they’ll have even more cost added to their outrageous cable bills, internet bills, and cell phone bills.  Solar panel systems may be the only way homeowners can cut their costs and get a sense of relief from all the economic vultures prey on them.

It’s Cool to Be Eco-Conscious – And Solar is Really Sexy

solarhouse2
Solar panels on roof of home in Aurora Ontario

Home solar power systems make homeowners look modern, eco-conscious, and it’s one way they have of feeling unique and special in their community.  People like the feeling that they’re getting attention. And the solar system is a great conversation starter. Now they can throw away the old 62 Chevy that’s been taking up space in their garage. Solar power is much more interesting to most people, especially millenials.

microfitprogramsolar
Ontario’s Microfit Program – See How it Works here.

How Here’s someone in London who has a good sized solar power installation and no hydro bills..

Will governments support home based power generation? In most cases they will. They’ll have to. Increasingly, voters don’t want to agree to billion dollar nuclear or coal fired power generation. It’s dirty and potentially lethal to human beings.  The introduction of LED lighting and LED displays will reduce power demand by 20%. Taxpayers will breathe easier when governments give up on billion dollar power plant debt projects. This article discusses the solar power situation in the US.

solarhouse
Directional solar panel units on ranch home near Stouffville Ontario
Battery technology has grown faster than anyone dreamed of. Here's another business opportunity for smart entrepreneurs.
Battery technology has grown faster than anyone dreamed of. Here’s another business opportunity for smart entrepreneurs.

The eco-conscious consumer segment is rising. As more homeowners and property owners recognize the potential in solar power, they’ll jump on the bandwagon. The economic spinoff of this homegrown industry is staggering.

There are batteries, transformers, panels, electronic controllers and many more accessories that will create jobs.

solarpanelfarm
A great use of scrubland near Keswick, Ontario, is a solar farm which produces 10 Megawatts of power.

Although the price of oil and natural gas has dropped recently, it’s expected to rise back up in a couple of years. The electric powered car is coming into vogue and they will require huge amounts of electricity — creating demand for homegrown electrical power generation.

solar_home_system_en

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How to Guarantee You’ll Win in Business

Being True to Your UVP

We all have to compete to get what we want in life. Competition is natural and should be enjoyed, not vilified.

Winning in business is fun.  To win, you want to be true to your unique value proposition. The better you match the best you can offer to your target customer’s pain, the less likely someone else will beat you. As I wrote about in previous posts, clearly knowing your passion, letting that natural energy flow freely, and building your skill sets will make you quite a formidable producer.

Your less committed, less enthused, less adventuresome, and less creative competitors won’t be in your league. Make your uniqueness compelling, engaging, and solve your customer’s core pain, and you won’t have competition. You will the ultimate business goal: Monopoly.

To the Top of YOUR Game

To get you to the top of your game, you need clarity, and means knowing your passions and your unique value proposition. These two are associated and provide the foundation of extreme competitiveness — the kind that makes you a stellar producer.

This is the cornerstone of a winning, sustainable, and profitable business. So before you establish your business development strategy, or work on your personal brand, you’d better have the basics down pat, and that means a full 360 view of your UVP.

Yes, the usual requirements of strategy, skill, persistence, followthrough, and energy still apply. Winners often have a lot of character,  determination, charisma, and likability. But not always.  In the end, whether you win will depend on how powerful your UVP is. Let’s get rid of the wishful thinking and get at the essence of how we can be the best we can be.

bigfoot
Don’t compete with market leaders unless you’re sure your UVP has the right advantage

Competition is Good, not Demeaning

Competition can bring out some very positive outcomes. Improvement, growth, sociability, and satisfaction all increase because we’re trying to get all we can out of ourselves.

Our culture gives competition a bad name. You can compete and enjoy the experience.

There’s so much bad attitude that’s a compensation for something sorely lacking in sports teams – a soul that says they’re being themselves and going with their strengths as opposed to being something they’re not.  Bad attitude is about being a sore loser. Good sportsmen enjoy competition and yet do not diminish their competitors or themselves if they lose.

Consider the most respected athletes in sports. They honed their talents and were fortunate enough that their teams were dedicated to building and improving their individual talents. Their coaches said “Just be the best you can be.”  That has to be wisest  advice anyone could offer.

Your most formidable weapon in your arsenal is your unique value proposition. Compare it to your competition and learn about what it says about you and your company.

The biggest failing of most companies and executives is they don’t spend enough time studying and getting to know their UVP.  But it’s what customers are buying. As the market changes, and your personnel get older, pick up new skills, become more motivated, your company’s UVP and your brand will also change. You’ve gotten better.

The ultimate source of winning is in your UVP. It’s the fount of wisdom and power. High profit, sustainable advantage, unlimited vacation days, sustainable customers, market leadership and enjoyable work are all in your hands. All you have to do is really know your UVP. Study it.

Burgeoning Confidence and Productivity

When you find your UVP, it makes you very confident, enthusiastic, and optimistic. Those are the kind of traits your customers want to see.  It frees all stress, conflicts, waste, false goals, and pride blocks. It’s like sliding down a hill on toboggan. All you have to do is really enjoy the ride. It’s like zip lining too where enjoying the experience amplifies the success — customers pick up that you’re enjoying things and even celebrating. It’s evidence that you’re living your UVP.

Here’s how to be more competitive naturally by asking yourself questions to generate an unbeatable positioning in the marketplace:

  1. Discover customer’s 3 most specific pains – be very detailed
  2. List your 3 top business strengths – what is the essence of why you’re in business right now?
  3. List the 3 things customers aren’t getting currently
  4. List your top 3 competitors – what is it specifically their customers like about them?
  5. List the top 3 things have changed about your company in the last 3 years
  6. List the top 3 things that have changed in your industry in the last 3 years
  7. List the top 3 things that have changed in your marketplace in the last 3 years
  8. List the last 3 adjustments you’ve made to your business activities in the last 3 years
  9. List your top 3 impressions of your business in the last 3 years
  10. List your top 3 passions.

The point of the exercise is to get a 3 dimensional view of you and your business.

Come back for my next post on how to win competitive battles by honing the details of your unbeatable UVP!

Have you conducted a marketing audit? You’ll want to before you tackle SEO, Link Building OutreachContent Development, and plan your business development strategy.

Active Interviewing – Taking Control of Your Career

Well, just when I said I don’t really want to read books anymore (I’ve read 2000+, that’s enough), I discovered another great one you need to read. It’s called Active Interviewing, written by Eric P Kramer.

This could be a game changer for your career and happiness.

No one book can tame such a complex topic, yet Active Interviewing offers strategies and tactics that will differentiate you and help you win at job interviews (interviews are where all the bad stuff happens unless you do something to change that).

Immense Dollar Value over Your Lifetime Too

Over the next 3 decades, this book could represent hundreds of thousands of dollars more in income for you and a much happier career. I strongly advise buying this book.

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Pinned by Robyn

It actually has more value as a client interviewing aid. You’ve likely read books on consultative selling and relationship selling. Well, this book digs deeper with techniques to discover why your prospect needs to hire you.

If you apply even 10% of the techniques and insights he offers, you’ll be very successful selling yourself and your product/service.

Can these techniques help us with our Linkedin and blog content strategy to build our personal brand online? I believe so.

Being Confident and Taking Control

The general premise of Active Interviewing is to radically improve your approach by taking control of an interview and discovering the right solution — hopefully you getting the job or a new client.  The book will help you achieve expert level preparation that leads to the confidence to achieve the right solution/agreement.

You will:

  1. identify your USP and your strengths and weaknesses
  2. learn how to eliminate the interviewer’s bias and subjectivity
  3. get your unique value proposition across clearly
  4. ask questions that lead to the right insights

Start off by establishing the right attitude.

Insisting on the Right Mindset

Successful interviews come from an initial mindset:

  • positivity
  • open-mindedness and curiosity
  • confidence
  • honesty
  • desire to find the best solution
  • willingness to grow and learn
  • respect for the other person

Once you have the right mindset, you’ll be more effective.  That leads to asking better and better questions to improve insight. It’s a discovery process that makes it more exciting and as a result, you may exceed your greatest expectations (and your new employer/client’s expectations).

Is it the end of fixed notions and the beginning of unbridled success? Isn’t unbridled success the goal of every healthy relationship?

Research and Questions

Interviews and sales are very difficult without information.  And in real life, information about the company, your interviewer, and the industry may be very limited.  It’s difficult to keep anchored in the correct mindset without insight.  And if your interviewer is uncooperative and has fixed notions, it’ll be your ultimate test of moving someone’s mind with questions.

That’s what persuasion is — moving people’s minds from sales resistant to open-mindedness toward the best solution.  And Active Interviewing just might give you the ability to break open those information doors.

Success is 90% Preparation

Any business/job interview is loaded with preconceptions, rules, bad practices, and expectations.  That’s what Kramer alludes to.  The only way to overcome that problem is intense preparation and lots of interviewing experience.

Kramer says the job interview process is full of flaws.  His approach helps you prepare expertly, take control of the interview, overcoming their mistakes and ineptitude, so you can discover what’s needed and then get the best opportunity to present yourself ( your professional brand and your presentation).

Kramer mentions the importance of personal branding, finding your personal success factors and what he calls your significant selling proposition.  I’m impressed. That’s a good addition to your basic personalized unique value proposition.

Kramer talks about being prepared, and how it eases fears, boosts confidence, and helps you focus on the process.  The interview will then lead to where it is supposed to.  It’s a launch pad for a great relationship.  He advises keeping interviews brief, with well thought out questions, focused on the value you can provide, and discovering their need and matching your skills/assets to their needs.

One of the key assets Kramer advises is to create a presentation — a visual communication aid that makes an impact.  The presentation helps you clarify your value, differentiates you from others, and helps cut through the confusion to get your selling proposition across clearly.

There’s excellent tips on creating engaging success stories, relevant vocabulary, finding your strengths/weaknesses, understanding your value, applying a sales process, handling objections, focusing on the company, and explaining why hiring you is a good idea.

You’ll find out more on his website such as closing and the follow-through letter.

 

Business Development – Looking for Expansion

Business Smarts – Exporting Key to Big Revenue

We’re well into an era where we have to stop thinking locally and grow beyond our borders. The fact is, there simply isn’t enough business to be done in a local market, and since businesses must specialize to compete, there won’t enough demand for specialized products and services locally for us to survive.

If we stop being timid, target new markets and deliberately innovate, there are big wins possible. It looks like innovation is a huge challenge for Canadians and there’s cause to be concerned. We have to change our thinking.

The gap in competitiveness has widened in mining, oil and gas, and financial services. It also has been significant in the manufacturing sector where, since 2000, U.S. productivity has grown six times faster than in Canada. — quote from Design Engineering 

If we take a look at exports and productivity reports, and competitiveness, we know there’s something wrong. Reports say Canadian companies don’t realize they have a problem, so perhaps the first step is: assess current situation which is a lack of confidence, lack of investment, diminishing productivity (weak value proposition) and business stagnancy. Then we turn our attention to new markets for services. Services are our future.

Deloitte Report on Competitiveness
Deloite Report: Our non-energy exports are probably still very low, even with the dollar plummeting. But the trend is alarming in that Canadian businesses have given up on anything but oil, potash, and wood exports.

How do we convince Canadian businesses to solve a problem they don’t know exists? Make sure they have timely, accurate information about their competitive environment – and how they really compare.

Focusing on Foreign Markets

I was just revisiting the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service website which is purportedly for encouraging an entrepreneurial export mindset. But as the above graphic shows, manufacturing and product exports are a diminishing reality for Canada (other than natural resources).  Sorry EDC and CTCS but that has to be recorded as a major failure.

The report says Canadian companies need to invest in themselves in order to boost Canadian productivity. D&T says most Canadian companies don't know they are stagnant, overconfident and neglect to invest in themselves.
The  Deloitte report says Canadian companies need to invest in themselves in order to boost  productivity. D&T says most Canadian companies don’t know they are stagnant, overconfident and neglect to invest in themselves. They undervalue the pursuit of excellence  and creating greater  non-price value for customers.

The future for us is the services around manufacturing such as research and design. But investing in intellectual capital isn’t a strong suit for such programs.  The CTCS and export development corporation need to evolve to better support Canadian companies that can export services. Software design is obviously a big possibility however services related to the health and medical field is huge opportunity. Marketing services is especially ripe given our 78 cent loonie.

Foreign Export Interests Will Grow

There seems to be a growing number of service businesses in the Toronto area (I’ve mentioned digital marketing agencies) but they’re all underfunded with no real value proposition to become competitive internationally, or even in the US.  A big tax break would be just the boost needed to get our service export potential activated.

Service industry growth won’t happen unless Ontario business people really put an emphasis on doing business in the US. It has to be a grass roots thing, not driven by government (who just want to spend billions on importing mass transit systems).  It should be a priority for Ontario businesses and it sure will be for Alberta now. I might add that Germany and the UK are becoming excellent markets as well so we need to get over our inferiority complexes and see this as it is — a golden opportunity for major revenue successes.

Nationally, we need a strategy and positioning that will ensure Asian copycats can’t duplicate or prey on us. We need to commit to first class marketing strategies. That means innovation/evolution in how we think about business opportunities and problems. And it means innovation in marketing practices, not mediocre copycat, “best practices” malarky. We need to be bold and insistent on being leaders, not followers.

In my next posts, I’m going to look deeper into such service export strategies. Stay tuned!