An Idea is Only As Good As its Execution

Every idea is only as good as its execution.  It doesn’t matter how great the idea –  for an advertisement, a website, a sales letter, or ad campaign if its execution detracts from the intent or purpose of the idea itself.

Designing an idea

For example, a poorly designed website communicates volumes to the visitor that the owner or designer never intended – or even thought of.  The dated design, the confusing user experience, the encyclopedic copy keeps the visitors focus on the lamentable execution rather than the message or intent of the site itself.

An overly designed or decorated website or advertisement is often an attempt to mask the lack of content or creativity.  Often designers will overuse fonts, colors, and other design elements to try and make their work look more professional, but in reality it only highlights an amateur design.

Effective ideas in design and in writing always come from taking away everything that doesn’t help or add to the communication or purpose of the work itself.  The most effective ideas are those that are reduced to the simplest and most essential elements required to achieve its purpose.

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.Antoine de Saint-Exupery

For Every Hour of Creating, Spend an Hour of Looking and Thinking

This is something I learned from years of working in other people’s businesses.  It’s so easy to take the default path in your marketing, your websites, your advertising.  That’s why so many industries and markets do everything the same.  They watch each other, they follow each other, they copy each other.

Think outisde the box

What results is a never ending cycle of sameness and usually a whole bunch of ventures and campaigns that don’t work.

The default path is the lazy path.  It is the quick and easy – the gamble.

I’ve watched many competitors each doing the same thing (that didn’t work) because everyone else is doing it.  And because each sees their competitors doing it, they persist – even if by their own calculations it is a failure and should be abandoned.

What they see is the appearance of success from the outside.   What they didn’t see was the internal meetings after the fact where the boss says “never do that again!” (more…)

The Temptation of Being Too Commercial

Diluting your business, product, your website, your marketing materials, etc. to make them appear more “commercial” will just make people like them less.

Photographing business owners

It seems to be the “default” mode of doing things for businesses trying to climb to the top. The thought is that “bigger is better”, so tremendous efforts are made to look big by copying the methods and styles of the big guys.

Website designers choose stock photos of professional, unrealistic looking people in a boardroom happily smiling and pointing to graph on the whiteboard that has nothing really to do with the business. They choose a stock photo of  high rise building  to represent their facilities when in reality they’re located somewhere in the suburbs. It goes on and on.

They are confused about the difference between looking professional and looking commercial, contrived, or institutional…

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Do Your Marketing While You’re Busy

Things take time. Opportunities often develop very slowly – it may be weeks or months from the time a contact or connection is made before it develops into business. If you wait until business slows down to begin your marketing efforts it may be too late for it to pull you out of the lull.

The Facts Are No Longer Enough

The speed of life is shortening the window consumers have for analysis.  Nowadays people are so overloaded with information, resources, and options,  they no longer take the time they once did to evaluate every option – especially online.

People are moving so fast that they really don’t have (say- take) the time to think.  They’re so busy clicking, tweeting, sharing, and liking that they are conditioned to move quickly to the next thing for the slightest reason.

We now consume so much information so quickly that we’ve learned how to make snapshot judgments of even the most important things in our lives.  That’s why most marketing material, most advertisements, and most websites just don’t work.  They’re built with the best of intentions – to give the consumer the facts they need to make a good decision.  But what they overlook is the fact that you have about 6 seconds to capture the attention of your audience or they’re gone. (more…)

Social Media Marketing

There are now almost as many social media “experts” as there are people using social media. But how does someone go from being an expert in real estate law, or multilevel marketing, to social media pro? Just because someone is good at using the medium doesn’t mean they’re good at making it work.

Here’s why.  In one key aspect, social media marketing mirrors ever other effort to grow your business that came before it.

It is STILL marketing.

Which means marketing pros will produce the best results.  I’ve seen this in other marketing mediums as well.  Video for example.  There are plenty of people who can create a video. The technical ability to crank out a video isn’t enough. The hard part is knowing how to create it, craft it, and polish it in a way that it achieves something other than taking up space on a page.  All marketing efforts should be able to move people to action.  

Social media is no different.

Too many businesses jump on the band wagon and start spewing stuff out there.  They try and tackle as many social media platforms as they can with the idea that more is better.  The problem is, it’s nearly impossible to really communicate with people when you’re just trying to get something out there.

Inevitably interest dwindles, time is taken by other important matters, and it all just dies.  Then the question you are putting into the minds of those who stumble upon the numerous links to your social media assets is “are they still in business? are they doing ok? what happened?”

Having social media accounts that are old, stale, abandoned and forgotten has exactly the same outcome as an active marketing campaign purposefully designed by your competitors to call into question your ability to do whatever you do.

Even in the best cases, those who do keep up with the demand of social media marketing by regularly posting fresh content and interacting with their followers – end up with uninteresting, forced and robotic sounding interaction which also communicates to their readers a feeling of fakeness and the disconnect of a corporate drone.

But it doesn’t have to be this way at all.

By purposefully planning and carefully choosing which social media avenues makes sense, and most importantly integrating it as just another medium for marketing, businesses can really connect with their fans, readers, and followers in a way that all of their traditional marketing should already do.

I think the most important thing is to look at social media marketing as what it is – marketing, and not give in to the idea that since it’s a “new thing” that somehow the regular old rules of marketing don’t apply.

Avoid the mistake of assigning your social media efforts to someone just because they are Facebook fanatics or Pinterest junkies.

Just by remembering that social media marketing is still marketing will help you put it in it’s proper place in your efforts to grow your business.

Reputation Marketing

They days of looking up a business address or telephone number in phone books are over.  A testament to that fact is the number of phone books left in piles on doorsteps, racks in the free publication section of convenient stores, and the fact that you yourself probably haven’t opened one in ages – unless its to check the advertisement for your own business.

The availability of up to date information online has been a valuable resource for consumers, but for many businesses it can be a killer.  Why? because along with the business listing, name, address, telephone number comes a new friend or foe – reviews.

Reviews are extremely important to business owner because they communicate to the prospective customer how well he does in the consumers eyes compared to his competitors. If your reviews are positive, then great! You’ll want more of them than your competitors.  But, if you have poor reviews or even harsh negative reviews it becomes even more important that your satisfied customers or clients review their experiences online.

Unfortunately it is human nature to take action only when we’re dissatisfied rather than when we’re pleased, thus the bulk of reviews for any given business tend to be of the negative kind – not to mention negative reviews fabricated by your competitors, activists, or disgruntled employees.

bad-reviews

This is where reputation marketing comes in.

Reputation marketing is simply a defined plan and system to market your true reputation online.

The key distinction between reputation marketing and reputation management is that reputation marketing is primarily a plan and system to promote the positive views and reviews of your satisfied customers or clients, whereas reputation management is historically aimed at flooding the internet with your marketing messages and assets to combat the negative results that appear in the search engine results for your name, your company name, or brand.

See the difference?  One is promoting your customer’s views and reviews, while the other is promoting your own marketing messages.

72% of buyers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations

trust-reviews

Since most people who leave reviews will always be the unhappy kind, it’s extremely important to have a system in place to ethically encourage and assist happy customers and clients to share their positive experiences with prospective customers on the internet.

Left to chance, you’ll see a negative to positive ratio of reviews for your company at about 9 to 1 – and that’s just based on those from real customers, not competitors, disgruntled employees or activists who wish to harm your business and reputation.

Google AdWords & Pay-Per-Click Marketing

Pay Per Click is probably the most valuable and effective marketing medium in the history of the world.  Yes, it can be extremely costly if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Google Adwords pay-per-click

Google’s Stupidity Tax

Google has what my friend Perry Marshall calls “a stupidity tax” which means that every way that you misunderstand your customer and their intent costs you money – every way in which you misuse Google’s tools, interface or advertising network costs you money.

Google is not out there to save you money, they’re not your friend, instead they’re out there to give the searcher the best, most relevant information possible.  That means that if you don’t understand your customer Adwords will cost you more and more money until you just go away.  Yes, go away.  That’s exactly what Google is trying to do.  Google is designed to weed out the junk.  Period.

Google is Not Your Friend

For years it was near impossible to get on the phone with someone at Google about your Adwords account.  Only a few advertisers had access to a Google rep. I had one early on and quickly discovered that they were quick to dispense bad advice – always relying on the system’s default settings to figure things out for you.  Bad idea.

Letting Google take care of the details for you, is like paying for valet parking when there’s a space for 50 cents across the street.

The way to compete in Adwords is to know how to avoid the pitfalls that others don’t.  If it costs you less to obtain a customer, a sale, or a conversion – and it costs your competitors more, you’ll be able to outlast them – doing more for less, while at the same time it costs them increasingly more.

2year-conv-vs-cost-conv 2

The chart above is an example of a client campaign that had thousands of keywords lumped together in one campaign when I took it over.  After months of sifting, sorting, testing, and optimizing you can see where the cost per conversion drops dramatically while at the same time the conversions jump up at the same rate.

This kind of optimization shift in cost and conversions enabled the client to reach further into the market for the same cost.  The effect on the competitor is the reverse – it costs him more to compete in the same space.

Capture-changes2

This chart (above) shows two things. First, similar to the first chart the costs and conversion rate invert – then after months of consistent performance there is a huge dip, the conversion rate slowly drops, then suddenly at the end the two invert again.  This is an example of the client relying on Google’s suggested settings.  Starting at the dip.

2year-conv-vs-cost-conv

This chart shows another variation of the same client.  The beginning of the chart you see low conversions and low cost per conversion.  Then after campaign optimization you see the numbers again invert, the cost dropping to almost nothing while the conversions consistently rise (costs staying the same.)  Then at the end you see the hard inversion – cost per conversion spike astronomically, while the conversions plummet to almost zero as the client adjusted Adwords settings to Google’s suggested values.

It will be either profitable for you and devastating to your competitor, or vise-versa.

The longer you’re in the middle of it all, the sooner you’ll get kind of a pulse on your competitors.  It’s easy to see whose paying too much because the rank #1 at the first of the month, then disappear until the beginning of the next. The bottom line, if you don’t know what you’re doing, the system is designed to make you learn or go away.

I’ve managed more than $1M per year in pay-per-click advertising over my career.  I’ve seen the Adwords platform start out as simple as a 1970 Chevy truck and grow to the complexity it has now – the complexity of a space shuttle.  It used to be that you could just jump in and “do” adwords.  Not anymore.  Adwords is so complex, entire businesses are built around the mastery of just parts of what it does.

Why not let just anyone optimize your AdWords campaign?

Because 99% of the time they’ve never learned Google AdWords by having to support a profitable business by spending their own money. And if they haven’t done that, they haven’t learned AdWords.

I find it’s almost impossible for a person to become a great marketer learning entirely on someone else’s dime.  Just like it’s almost impossible for a person to become a great salesman working on straight salary with no commission.

80/20 Sales and Marketing Book Cover

80/20 Sales and Marketing (Entrepreneur Press, 2013)

Perry Marshall

Perry Marshall

I’ve worked with Perry Marshall for a number of years.  We meet together several times a year – I use him as a sounding board for my biggest ideas and toughest problems. I’ve watched the 80/20 principles he covers in his book percolate in his mind and discussions over the years as he was pulling it all together.  He describes how it all came together, some of the surprises and epiphanies he had as he tested and retested the principles of 80/20.  There have been a number of books about 80/20 – the most notable being Richard Koch who wrote the forward to Perry’s book.

One of the most interesting and valuable additions to the 80/20 theory Perry provides is the “skew curve” calculator that lets you analyze visually the relationship between values (costs, customers.. anything) according to the 80/20 distribution.

Several months before the book was completed, Perry and I spent an hour running numbers through the calculator to predict the outcome and effect changing the pricing structure for a client who sells a $60,000 product.  The beauty of 80/20 is that you can actually predict distributions.

Using the calculator we discovered that if I changed the pricing structure from a single level to a three tier level I could almost immediately double the clients income while keeping the same number of customers – and with only a small amount of work to make it happen.

That’s the kind of leverage 80/20 provides.  Perry’s book isn’t the dry, jargon filled text  you might expect from a book dealing in mathematics and probability.  Perry’s writing style is easy to read and understand. His ideas are easy to implement.  This is one of those books I’ve recommended to all of my clients and their staff.

Reputation Management

Everyone’s heard of reputation management.  The anonymous nature of the internet has been a blessing for those who want to express their opinions without fear of retribution, and a curse for individuals and business owners who do wrong in the sight of their customers or clients.

Anyone can post reviews, comments, and even create entire websites to try and manipulate the online reputation of a business or individual.  Some for good (meaning a positive effect to the reputation) and some for bad (a negative affect to the reputation.)

So how does anyone know the truth?  The answer is – you can’t.

When businesses or individuals are hit with negative reviews or negative search results for their names or brands they often turn to reputation management companies for help.  The idea is to have the company create tons of mini-sites, social media assets, blog posts, etc. throughout the internet and link them in a way that will cause them or other “good” pages to rank for the search term or name thereby “pushing down” the negative or harmful content in the search results where it is less likely to be seen.

Does it work? Yes, but isn’t just a bunch of keyword optimized, meaningless mini-sites and fake pages just adding to the “junk” that shows up in the search results?  It isn’t generally good content either – only content favorable to the subject.

It’s just noise, not information.  Trying to do it this way is like trying to yell louder than the opposition – yelling anything, just louder.

There is a better way to do reputation management.

One that not only helps the problem it doesn’t call your credibility into question.

First, if you’ve done something wrong own up to it.  Fix it.  Fix the people, the process, the situation that caused it in the first place.  Hiding behind the noise doesn’t make the problem go away, it only hides it.  If you don’t do this you can count on a never ending cycle of noise generation.

Second, if you want your search results to be positive you are better off showing the world the real version of what’s going on in your business, not a bunch of meaningless pages of noise.   Real photos, real reviews, real interviews, real people – real.

Everyone wants a shortcut so they throw easy junk out there.

Unless you have nothing of merit to show or tell about, it’s much easier to show off the truth about your business than it is to make it up.  Not only that, it’s maintainable.  Do it the other way and you’ll soon run out of combinations of things to post and promote.

If you truly care about your reputation or how you’re percieved online, it’s critical to do it right, do it well, do it consistently, and do it truthfully.  There are no shortcuts that have long term value.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.