The Marketing Essentials Toolkit

by: Charles Gaiennie on

If you build or repair anything, you know the value of having just the right tool. And while having a fancy specialty tool is cool, there is simply no replacement for the requisite hammer, saw and wrench. It's the same with marketing. We love the cool tools but there are some things that no company can do without.

Have a look ...

1. A logo. Whether it is basic text such as in Sears, Home Depot or Microsoft, or designed symbol such as in Nike, Starbucks or Volkswagen, you simply must have a logo. In creating the logo, please - for our sake and the sake of the world at large - make it high contrast, easy-to-read in two seconds or less and reasonably uncomplicated. Once you've created it, leave it alone for a very long time so the market can actually begin to associate the logo with you and what you do. Finally, use it consistently and persistently in everything you do.

2. A website. Whether it's a single page or whether it allows the world to know everything there is to know about you, you simply must have a website. And while we understand that a website is a very techie-feeling thing, please do not seek out an IT person or company to build or maintain it. With apologies to our technical friends, a website should be open and easy for you to manage. After all, the user could care less about Java script or CSS. They really just want to hear from and about you. Content is what they care about, not technology.

3. Email. You simply have to have one. And please use your web address (called a domain) rather than yourname@msn.com or yourname@yahoo.com. Sure they work, but they just aren't as professional as using your own name. By not communicating using your own domain, you give up the opportunity to keep your name in front of people. Keep in mind, however, that a domain and a website, while related, are two separate processes.

4. Business cards.  Once you have your logo, your website and your email using your own domain, get some business cards. And avoid cheesy at all cost. As with any design, less is more. Don't cram the card with every possible bit of information. Make your logo dominant, add your name, possibly your title, definitely your office phone number and even your cell phone number, your email address and your website address. Unless it's critical information, you can often leave off the address and the fax number. Get at least 100 cards and give them away at every opportunity.

5. A basic brochure. Avoid writing a book. Give enough information for the reader to understand what you do but set it up so they call you or go to your website to get the details. Make it visually strong with great images and minimal text. Please stay away from tri-folds. They are so ordinary and boring and are easily hidden in the average stack of mail. We love oversize pieces, custom cuts or custom folds.  Even a double-sided, non-folding brochure can be effective. Give it a try.

Converting marketing into emergency communications

by: Charles Gaiennie on

Convert marketing tools into emergency response tools.

Website - if you have one of our content management based websites, use the News/Announcement tool to post updates on whether you are open, services you may have relating to the emergency, etc.  

If you have a secure section of one of our sites, use it to post employee advisories, whether to report to work, special assignments, etc

If you use Constant Contact, use it to post advisories and updates and be sure to re post to your web and to Facebook. 

Call us if you need help on any of these techniques

Flashing your customers

by: Charles Gaiennie on

Everyone loves a pretty picture. The same is true with websites. Everyone loves a web that moves and rotates and does interesting things when the mouse hovers over something on the site. Sites in this category typically are built with a technology called Flash. Flash sites are especially popular with creative types like bands and photographers where image is everything. And while they are very pretty, we never recommend a total Flash site for any serious business application of a website. Here's why...

Flash is essentially a picture, not text. Why should you care? The reasons are many but the primary ones are these: indexing or the ability of search engines to find your site, the need to have Flash player installed on the computer that is viewing the site, troubles rendering the site where the viewer has slow bandwidth and the technical expertise required to update a Flash site. Let’s take each one in turn.

Building a site is one thing. Having your site found and viewed is another matter entirely. Other than someone knowing your exact website URL, most people who are looking for something on the web will Google a name or keyword to find what they are looking for. What this means is that if you are ever to be found by a keyword search, you must have – get ready for it – WORDS on your site. Flash, you’ll recall, is not words but a picture and while there are ways to add captions and tags to a picture, you are creating a barrier to viewers who are trying to find you by creating a picture-based website.

Also, if you’ve ever been to a site and been greeted with a blank page but for a message such as “download Flash plugin” or something similar, what you are seeing is evidence that Flash requires that something be installed on the viewer’s computer. While most up-to-date PCs will have it already installed, that is not always the case. Downloading the plugin is easy and free but in our opinion, why create one more barrier between you and your clients and prospects?

Another rub with Flash is the inherent issue of pictures requiring more internet bandwidth and computing horsepower to view than text. Again, many current configurations of internet and PCs blow right through this to allow nearly any size image to be viewed, but this is not always the case. Also, if the viewer is in a business setting, the company may prohibit images from coming through their firewalls or create other barriers to the images being rendered.

The final trick of Flash is that in order for you to update a Flash-based site, you must own and know how to use Adobe Flash – not the freeware reader but the actual fully-licensed program. Not that it’s impossible to learn, but just to let you know that we have college-trained professionals using Flash and they spend a good deal of time keeping up with the changes and evolution of the product. Again, one more layer of complexity that really does not have to exist.

Are we saying don’t build a Flash-based site? Absolutely not. What we are saying is consider deeply the purpose of creating your website. For most of us, our websites are places where we encourage interaction with our markets. They are places where information is ideally updated frequently. The more barriers and risks we build into our sites, the less likely it is that they will yield good things for our companies.

So before you expose yourself to flashing your customers, consider all that is involved.

Why A Website is NOT an IT Project

by: Charles Gaiennie on

Let me start with apologies to our wonderful friends and colleagues who are experts in the underlying technologies of websites.  We love these folks and couldn't do what we do without them however...

Look.  Here's the deal.  Although it is clearly technology that enables us to reach the world through our websites, emails, cell phones and Facebook pages, who really do you think the customer wants to hear from?  You, or your IT guy?  Again, no disrespect intended to the IT folks, however if someone is talking to you, it’s because they are interested in the flowers you sell, or your creative lunch menu or your one day guaranteed car repairs or whatever you do and could generally care less about whether you are using XML or HTML.  You are infinitely more interesting.  You are the holder of the information they desperately seek and you are the reason they are at your website to begin with.  What this means is that (there's a pattern here) YOU are the one that should be in direct control of your website with little or no barrier or filtering by anyone with IT in their job description.

The great news is that this is very do-able these days.  When we select technologies for our web projects, one of our top criteria is that the technology be powerful, impactful and have low to no technical barriers.   What we are describing is what is known as content management system that is accessed by simply logging onto your own website.  Properly done, a content management website allows you to; change text with no more effort than using a word processor like Microsoft Word, add new images to a page by simply clicking a browse button similar to the way you attach something to an email or adding or deleting pages and having the results automatically reflected in the menu structure – and all without one call or email to the IT guy.  Not only can it be done, it is being done and is the only way we develop and manage websites.

Interested in knowing more?  Why not give us a call at 985-446-6088 or go onto our content-management-driven website at www.wlgaiennie.com to learn more.  DISCLAIMER.  Our site is under revision as we speak so bear with us as we tweak some things out. 

Until next time…

 

 

 

Get Out of the Board Room and Into the Chat Room

by: Charles Gaiennie on

This week's marketing minute goes out to all of the big shots - you know who you are - who have pretty much written off this social media thing as a passing fad, not worthy of their attention, the realm of their teenage daughter whose main focus is growing virtual crops and creating polls about which "Twilight" vampire she's most like. But alas, oh Great Ones, be cautious in your judgments since the truth is that social media, in the right hands, is a very powerful and relevant business tool that even grownups like yourself can learn to use.

We made the statement in last week’s Marketing Minute that success in social media is all about quality content. So the question becomes then, from whence doth quality content come? To answer that question, let’s visualize a scenario that we think will make the point.

Let’s all go to an imaginary meeting of some board of directors. In your mind’s eye, scan the boardroom table and who do you see? Is it the administrative assistants? No. (Even though we all know that without the AAs no one at the table could have found anything they needed to get ready for the meeting.) Is it the delivery drivers? No. (They’re out making money for the company right now.) It’s the big cheeses, the CEO, top managers, key investors, owners and founders of the company, and so on. And why, we playfully ask, are these particular people at the table? It’s because it is these people who have the insights and knowledge that is most relevant to the company, and, by extension, to the market in which they operate. Stated differently, it is these people who are the owners of QUALITY CONTENT.

These people are also often the public face of your company, and are the persons customers most want a relationship with. Why not consider giving them a voice through a company blog? A blog that is written with true personality makes readers feel like they know and trust you. It is, after all, these people who are assumed to have the greatest knowledge and the credibility. For example, when you get sick, whose advice do you seek, the doctor or the receptionist?

But don't just assign the blog to the secretary or the student intern. In many cases it should be the CEO writing the blog. Yes, we know the CEO's time is valuable, but so is that of your readers so don't waste it with insights that are just veneer. An enthusiastic and personable CEO bursting with insights into your industry is better advertising than you can buy.

When the CEO Shouldn't Blog
Not every CEO should have a blog. A good blog is based on candor, urgency, timeliness, pithiness and controversy. If your CEO can't commit to regular blogs that include at least four of those items, try another medium or choose another employee, or, better yet, hire an insightful and innovative PR firm. (We just happen to know of a great one right here in town.) The point is casual interaction with customers/readers, so your blog must be written in your voice and not in that of a press release or annual report!

May we have your permission, please?

by: Charles Gaiennie on

In this week’s Marketing Minute, we address the issue of permission-based marketing and why it is so important to gain permission from your customers and prospects before you communicate with them. It is an important process since permission is often the difference between growing a relationship or abruptly and permanently closing that relationship off.

Let’s start with a definition of permission. For marketing purposes it means that someone has either explicitly asked you to communicate with them or it can be reasonably presumed that they are open to communicating with you.

Explicit permission comes in many forms but here are a few of the more common ones. A customer completes a satisfaction survey, signs up for your newsletter on your website or calls or emails you directly for a brochure, a quote or for information about your products or services. The common thread here is that they have initiated the contact from their side with the expectation that you will follow up. The second form of permission is where it can be reasonably implied that contact is OK. This also comes in many forms, such as someone hands you their business card at a meeting or trade show, the person has done business with you in the past or is actively using your products or services now, there is some established relationship between you and the person such as you serve on committee together or know each other in a way where they clearly know you and what you do. Basically, this is a group of permission givers that while they have not explicitly asked for you to send them information, they at least know who you are and can easily identify who you are when you reach out to them.

With this understanding of permission in hand, let’s move on to why this permission thing is so important.

Many people assume that marketing seems to be all about them, what they sell and do. In reality, however, marketing done well is all about someone else – your customers and prospects and what they want and what they need. When you’ve grasped this concept, you begin to understand where this permission thing fits in. In gaining permission before you communicate, you immediately make the statement that your message, and by extension your products and services, are all about fulfilling someone else’s need, not just your own. And, WOW, what a powerful message that can be. In fact, marketing that does not follow these rules is generally tagged by the market with phrases such as “junk mail” or “spam,” not descriptions you want applied to your message, we’d guess.

The Marketing Minute is actually an example of permission-based marketing. Everyone who receives this fits into at least one of the two categories we mentioned. But even with the permission in place, we still respect the right of all our contacts to not receive this message by immediately presenting the option to unsubscribe.

If you are interested in learning more about permission-based marketing, give us a call at 985.446.6088 or complete our contact form now. There is also a great summary of permission-based marketing you can download now free from our email technology partner, Constant Contact. Oh, and by the way, when you call or complete the form, we’d like to thank you for giving us permission to contact you.

There's a strong Brees blowing

by: Charles Gaiennie on

Are the Saints the new America's Team?  Some say they are. And it’s more than just a title; it’s potentially the greatest windfall of attention and focus ever to blow into our state. With their fame comes an almost irresistible urge for businesses to find some way to associate themselves with the Saints' success. 

In this issue of the Marketing Minute, we take a look at the question of should you, can you, and if so, how do you “be in that number”?


In the weeks between the AFC Championship game and the Super Bowl, there was quite the controversy as the NFL sought to flex its licensing muscle to claim the rights to, and hence the money from, the use of the phrase, “Who Dat.” Under extreme pressure from everyone from Congress to Tom Benson, the NFL attorney-types finally backed off and let the licensing rights issue fade quietly away, but for you, chances are pretty good that they won’t be quite as generous.

So what’s an enterprising, Saints-minded business to do? One option is to employ the roll-the-dice method. Black and gold, that’s pretty straight forward. Fleur de lis stencils – easy cheesy. All you need now is a coat hanger and a street corner. But wait…is it worth it?

Basically, here’s the deal: The NFL and the Saints actually WANT you to sell things using their name. They encourage it. They want their name on pretty much everything. The thing is, they just want you to PAY for it first. It’s something called a trademark and guess what, the Saints identity, in all of its forms, is trademarked by the Saints and by extension, the NFL. So if you want a Saints association with your company, you can either buy all of the already officially NFL-licensed items you can handle, or you can approach the NFL for permission to have your products licensed. It’s not easy but if you really want to give it a shot, here’s where to start: https://www.nfl.info/NFLConsProd/Welcome/index.html. Sorry, sometimes it really is all about the money.

Since I have this vision of a disappointed groan after reading this, let me end with a little hope brought on by a couple of ideas of marketing finesse. Try this: While you probably can’t lay claim to a Drew Brees endorsement of your company, you can perhaps remind the market how the leadership, hard work and perseverance needed to win a National Champion has been a part of your business since <<Insert Date>>. You can also lay claim to being from the state that produced the Super Bowl Champions, which by association, makes you a part of a winning team. You get the idea.

So with full acceptance of the risks of violating NFL trademarks, we join with you all as we shout out loud, “Who Dat?! Who Dat?! Who Dat Say Dey Gonna Beat Dem Saints?! Who Dat?!”

The Power of the People

by: Charles Gaiennie on

In marketing and communications, alot has changed from the golden days of marketing where some slick message, crafted by some high-powered ad agency was fed to the mass market via television, radio and print. While this still is a big part of getting the message out, more common now is information posted by the market who have a real one-on-one experience with the product or service. This phenomenon is made possible by the democratizaton of the message through technology. With blogs, text message, Google and the I Phone, there is not much that cannot be found out about nearly any product, service, company or individual.

So what's a company to do in crafting a message to promote?

The answer is simple. Participate. By participate we mean first of all get your information out into the world wide web. If you cannot be found online you are missing the best opportunity out there to tell your story and get found. Be careful though. Having an online presence is important but it is equally as important to have a web presence that is well organized, clear and of value to those who find it. This takes a bit of thought in how you organize and display information. Less is better and clarity is a stronger draw than a bunch of spinning icons. Keep it clear and keep it simple to have any hope of keeping anyone's attention. More later...

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