Posted on May 20th, 2010 No comments
Posted on April 26th, 2010 No comments
So strike me down if I’m wrong but my prediction is that Kleenex’s brand new product, Kleenex Hand Towels (http://www.kleenex.com/handtowels/), will be off the shelves in less than a year.
I have seen their advertisement on network television frequently over the last week or so and their marketing pitch to convert you from reusing a traditional hand towel (at home) to using their new disposable hand towels is that “hands are only as clean as the towel that dries them.” Well, I probably agree with that but environmentally, they’re bucking the system and my bets are on the system!
I’ll admit it, I’m not the “greenest” person in the world (although working on it) but even the voice in MY head screamed “HELLO???? Isn’t my traditional hand towel that I can wash over and over with my energy star (yes, I do have an energy star) washer/dryer better for the environment? This was my first reaction (and obviously a strong enough one to blog about it).
This entry isn’t about what’s green and what’s not. It’s more about strategic marketing. What is strategic marketing? In the end, it’s about business growth - selling product/services - growing the bottom line. A lot goes into the formula for strategic marketing including environmental influencers of the products and/or services that I’m marketing for my clients.
Environmental influencers are huge and cannot be ignored! Case in point: I have a pharmaceutical client that wanted their sales reps to gain more face time with doctors to increase prescriptions for a particular drug line. After some obvious and not so obvious research, I told them straight up it wasn’t going to happen. Docs are making less and less money and have less and less time and are paying more and more in insurance all while increasing their patient visits to make up for it their losses. And it was only getting worse. These are clearly environmental influencers that are impacting their audience.
Even the best chotsky or incentives (which are highly regulated now) wouldn’t get the reps face time. But what we did find out as result of a survey we distributed to sales reps and docs was that the “best incentive” by far was a medical textbook.
So instead of bucking the environmental influencers in our strategic marketing campaign, like Kleenex is doing against the “green” movement, we embraced it. We invited Docs to attend webinars (on their own time) in return for free drug samples and a medical textbook of their choice. It was a FABULOUS success. So, while we didn’t get what the client originally ordered – face time – we did grow the bottom line and that’s what strategic marketing is!
Kleenex, would love to hear from you! You’re a huge company with super smart marketers. Please tell me how you’re justifying your product that is the opposite of green with your strategic marketing approach that even set off bells and whistles in my “less green/SUV driving” head. Tell me how I’m wrong!
I welcome your comments!
Meg Ferguson, Vision House Marketing
“Extremely smart and effective strategic marketing”small business marketing advertising, Denver Marketing, Denver marketing agency, Denver marketing consultant, Denver strategic marketing, environmental, environmental influencers, Green, green movement, influencers, marketer, marketers, marketing, marketing agency, marketing influencers, marketing strategy, Meg Ferguson, online marketing, philadelphia marketing, Philadelphia marketing company, philadelphia marketing consulting, strategic marketing, Vision House, Vision House Marketing
Posted on February 13th, 2010 No comments
(I preface this blog entry by pointing out how amazing the world of communications is now! I had a very experienced Toyota/car industry expert call me out on my first paragraph stating that it was based on media hype and I humbly admit that I don’t know all the facts of the recall or of the company’s stability. So, he’s absolutely right! I shouldn’t be stating facts that I don’t know are true. I stand corrected and hold myself responsible for my actions. I am leaving my first paragraph in so you can see what I’m referring to but I appreciate his corrections! I guess there are two lessons in this blog entry - starting with how amazing Wed 2.0 is and how not only do we have the power now to hold a company accountable but have the power to hold each other accountable as well.)
[ Just below the surface lays a company in shambles! We've all heard about the Toyota recalls - the largest auto recall in American history. It has devastated the company. Did you know that Toyota knew about the safety issues and had no intentions of fixing them until the US DOT held their feet to the fire? Props to the US DOT for calling them out! ]
My gripe is not necessarily about the cars and the recall but more how Toyota is handling it. I watched the AMAZING Olympic opening ceremonies last night and Toyota ran an ad (which I have seen several times at this point) that carries the message "trust us again; we’re doing everything we can to make this right." As you can tell, I’m less than convinced. Why? Because before you go outward with a message that you’ve changed and are making things right and that you care about us as customers (I own a Toyota 4Runner - not one involved in the recalls but I’m still a customer), you need to sell that idea to your employees - especially your CUSTOMER SERVICE PEOPLE!!!!
So, the millions you’re spending on that ad is in short, a complete waste of money - at least from what I’ve seen firsthand. Unfortunately, my 2004 4Runner’s 4WD died about a month ago. It only has 66,000 miles on it and it’s just out of warranty. I took it to Sloane Toyota in Devon, PA and was confronted with immediate attitude when I asked (kindly, might I add) "why would a truck’s 4WD just die if it has been used according to the user’s manual, maintained to the book and is young in 4Runner/4WD terms?" The "customer service rep" responded (looking at his computer the entire time) that he’s "never seen this happen on a 4Runner with 60,000 miles" but "things just happen - especially if they haven’t been maintained properly." So, as my temperature rose from his complete indifference, I explained that the truck has been well maintained and that I’ve seen many forums online that have users experiencing the same issues. His response - "don’t talk to me about the Internet. There’s all sorts of loons out there gabbing about everything from this to that." I calmly explained that those "loons" are HIS customers!
So, after I left (mad as hell and about $2000 poorer), I called Toyota Corporate to see if they could help absorb some of the cost since the truck was just out of warranty and the service tech at the dealership said "it shouldn’t have gone" and encouraged me to call corporate. After a 45 minute wait on hold, I got yet another indifferent voice on the other side of the phone that tried to poke holes my story. It was like she was waiting for that "gotcha" moment to say "sorry, we can’t do anything for you."
She told me she’d speak with the dealer and call me back (which she did two days later). When she did, she basically said, "nope, there’s nothing we can do…sorry" and tried to end the call as fast as possible. It was like an insurance adjuster doing everything they can do not to pay the claim.
So, here I am, my truck is still not 100% right. I paid over $1800 in parts and labor just to have the 4wd work only some of the time and was treated as if I was trying to pull one over on Toyota - at the dealer AND corporate level.
So I refer you back to the ad I saw last night during the Olympics. The one that they spent millions on to convince me, a Toyota owner, that they’re going to make things right and gain my trust again. Now I know that that doesn’t’ mean they’re going to start paying for every little issue every Toyota owner is having – nor, in my case, did I want them to (I wanted them to absorb only some of the cost). But what I did believe the ad to mean is that at a very minimum, their customer service reps at the dealer and corporate level would be a) professional b) compassionate c) recognize that these are their customers and try to satisfy them even if they can’t provide the solution the customer is requesting. But NOPE! It seems like it’s business as usual at Toyota and dare I say it, maybe they’re even more indifferent due to the flood of angry customers they have to deal with as a result of their negligence.
So, I use this as a case study and you should too! If you’re selling me on the fact that you care about me as customer, you better sell your employees on it first. Because the Toyota employees that I encountered, clearly don’t believe in that ad that corporate is spending millions on it to convince me to believe! If they don’t believe, I certainly don’t believe! I’m actually even more disenfranchised now than ever before!
Okay….so this isn’t just a rant about my bad experience with Toyota, it’s a lessons learned for all business owners and marketing directors! Your great ideas, messaging, well placed and timed ads mean NOTHING if your own people don’t believe it. Sell it internally first then go outwards with the message. Or, you too, will be like Toyota and have an online war of “loons” waged against you as a result.
This to me is a very sad case. I’m disappointed in Toyota and they should be in themselves. Their customer service reps need to be trained or fired.
This is Meg Ferguson, a marketing expert and consumer just like you, encouraging you to use the power of Wed 2.0. Your voices are being heard! While Toyota might not hear my specific story it is just one of the hundreds of thousands if not millions that they’re being bombarded with. There is a groundswell and it is powerful. Embrace it!
Posted on February 10th, 2010 No comments
Mom always said…"you are who you associate with" and she definitely wasn’t wrong. Of course as time went on, you grew up, became wiser, made your own choices and while you still shared interests and maybe even the same group of friends, you probably no longer shared every opinion or thought of theirs anymore. That’s a good thing.
Unfortunately, some companies (and/or marketing agencies, marketing vendors, etc) don’t seem to get the "you are who you associate with" rule which is a very costly and damaging mistake.
Point in case: On a rare evening when I had an hour or so to watch TV I was watching a show on the issues surrounding human trafficking all over Asia. It’s awful. Young girls sold into sex slavery against their will. Horrible living conditions and little education make this lifestyle (for lack of better terms) a vicious cycle for these children and women who grow up under these circumstances.
"Okay, Meg, got it…it’s horrible and all but how does this relate to marketing and business?" Well, as I watched this expose, I viewed two ads during two different commercial breaks. One was for Korean Air and the second paid for by the Travel Commission of Vietnam encouraging tourism. Unfortunately, Korean Air and the Travel Commission of Vietnam didn’t think to ask (or their marketing agency or vendors did think or care) to ensure their ads were aired in a rotation that employed the "negative marketing" tactic.
Negative marketing (just a word I use..nothing official) is when you avoid placing your company in the middle of anything that is relative to your company’s services but is negative. So while I know Korean Air and the Vietnam Travel Commission are in no way promoting human trafficking, my mind is subconsciously (or consciously) associating the two because of the proximity of the two messages. A HUGE MISTAKE! So I ask myself, "Why would I want to go to Vietnam (even if it’s not the country that the expose is focusing on) when human trafficking in Asia is such a huge problem? I have no intentions of supporting that activity."
So business owners, Marketing Directors, TV/Radio/Print/Online marketing vendors, do your clients a favor. They’re hiring you to act on their behalf and produce revenue! Gone are the days when anyone should tolerate vendors that take the client’s money for the sake of making a buck. We need to partner, care, embrace the client’s business and it is our responsibility as marketers to make sure they see a positive return on the money/time they spent with us.
Marketers, be responsible. Business owners and Marketing Executives, be aware. Ask questions!
This is Meg Ferguson from Vision House Marketing and I would love to hear your thoughts/experiences with "negative marketing."
Posted on January 7th, 2010 No comments
I capitalized the subject because yes, I’m fuming mad! Okay…I’ll take a step back. Let me explain.
As a small business, how do you decide how much information to provide to a potential client either in the first exploratory meeting or in responding to a request for proposal (RFP)? This is a question I’ve struggled with for years. While you definitely want to differentiate your company and provide the “edge” that makes you better than your competitors, you also don’t want to give away the shop. It’s a balance but a very important.
A small business has to use every resource and minute wisely. So it’s extremely important to be able to read the potential client - either through the RFP provided or, if you’re lucky enough to have a face to face meeting, by the detail they’re asking you to provide. What I mean by “read” is to determine if the prospect is serious about hiring you/your firm for services or if they’re fishing for free consulting.
Unfortunately, it happens that companies out there use this unscrupulous tactic (and I’ll go as far as saying unprofessional approach) to gaining marketing insight under the guise of an RFP but with no intentions of hiring you or any firm for that matter. This just happened to me and my team. We receive many RFPs and respond to the ones that we feel would be a great win-win relationship if we were awarded the job. We invested hours in the response and were invited in to meet with the company’s team of “professionals.” We spent an hour and a half more than we had scheduled to be there with them, answering questions and having a dialog that we thought would definitely lead to a beneficial and inevitable partnership.
Unfortunately, I have to kick myself one more time as this firm went out of their way to make their attempt for free marketing advice look “legit.” I did see some red flags throughout the process that looking back should have stopped me in my tracks but in this day and age, when you assume you’re dealing with professionals in executive level positions within a well established firm, you can easily justify those flags. So I did only to get a “thanks but no thanks” email.
As a regular part of our process, when we don’t win an award, we follow up with the prospect to learn what we could have done better and what it was that made them decide not to hire us. In this case, the response I got was quite telling that we were taken for a ride. I don’t have proof but when you see it enough, you recognize it.
So here’s my point. As a small business owner who is trying to do everything from manage existing client/customers, grow the business and meet payroll, you really need to be quite cynical when reviewing RFPs. I’m seeing this tactic used more and more and it’s down right “bad business.” You don’t have the time to waste and the example I just shared with you; cost me a lot of money. Be careful. Listen, ask questions, and determine if the prospect’s intentions are genuine. Don’t justify your red flags. Ask more qualifying questions if you have them but don’t give away the shop.
A legitimate prospect should be happy with your track record of success versus having to understand your “process” in order to make a decision to award the contract to you. Your “process” is your edge. Don’t give it away for free.
Has this happened to you? What did you do/would you have done in this case? Would love to hear from you!
Posted on November 24th, 2009 No comments
In the world of online marketing, we thought it was about time to discuss some key metrics, as metrics are the tools we should be using to refine and drive your marketing process.
We discussed in our last post the importance of strategic marketing, and how the knowledge of technology alone doesn’t cut it. This is our short list of metrics we believe “keep it strategic.”
A conversion is simply a way of measuring that your marketing efforts are effective. Conversion code is placed at the bottom of the page you want a user to see, and you can track them from the source activity to the action you wanted them to take on the site. For example, if you wanted someone to sign up for a newsletter, you’d put the code on the “thank you for submitting your info” page, so you can differ from people who actually signed up, versus people who just viewed the sign up page. It is absolutely essential to track conversions. Why? It’s the way to track your marketing ROI. You can see what your best performing activities are, shift budget to better performing activities, and realize potential.
I also spoke briefly about conversions in one of my recent posts: Strategic Marketing: It’s Not Just Making it Look Pretty!. However, I want to offer some examples of how you can create conversions on your website.
- Visit to a key page on your website: In this conversion type, you want to drive a visitor to go to a key page. Maybe this page contains information about a product and you are hoping to provide information on a regular basis, so that, the user comes back to your site to take action again and again and eventually bookmarks your page/site.
- Event registration: This type of conversion requires a visitor to sign up for an event. Keep in mind, an event can be an online event such as a webinar. Regardless of what the event is you still require registration information from the registrant. This builds your in-house database which you can repurpose for other marketing efforts such as direct mail and email marketing. Additionally, you’re gaining valuable insight into the interests of your site visitors/prospectes. Those that attend the event can further be marketed to with the potential of a sales conversion being much higher as they’ve already showed extensive interest.
- Completion of an online form: This is probably the most popular type of conversion. You’ll see examples of this as “contact us’ form, forms required to download white papers, brochures, request more information/quotes, etc. Again, the visitor willingly provides information which helps build your in-house database.
- Online purchase: If you’re selling products directly from your website, this conversion is the holy grail! A good understanding of how the user gets to the purchase page, why they got there, and how we can get them back there again is essential. Also, thinking about up-sell opportunities is very important at this stage. You can gauge all of this through conversion tracking.
When designing (or redesigning) your website, think about the actions you want your visitors to take and funnel them to take those actions. Implement tracking analytics and studying your website’s performance as told by your visitor’s actions and movement around your site. Adjust and refine to increase conversions.
Going forward, make a conscious effort to understand:
- What you want your website visitors to do (Convert!)
- Make it appealing and easy for a visitor to convert
- Track, adjust and refine!
In our next post, we’ll discuss the idea of website traffic – understanding where it comes from, how we understand it, and how we can use it to our benefit.
Posted on November 11th, 2009 No comments
I’ve got a quick test for you,…just one question. Fill in the blank.
Strategic marketing is: ______________.
A) Making stuff look cool
B) Doing 15 activities for “awareness”
C) Building a Facebook page and using Twitter
D) Making the most efficient use of my marketing dollars, time and energy to support my business goals.
You caught me, that was kind of a loaded question, but I figured it was the best way to get my point across. It’s so often that we’re led to think that strategic marketing is something that it’s not. Why waste your resources and time to do things that aren’t going to produce anything for you? Don’t get me wrong, I love creating good-looking websites for my clients, sometimes we do a lot of activities in our campaigns, and yes, sometimes we use social media as part of those campaigns. However, it’s the underlying marketing strategy that is the most important thing that separates successful marketing campaigns from unsuccessful ones.
And what do I mean by this lofty phrase “strategic marketing” that I keep referring to? The idea of understanding why we’re doing what we’re doing, instead of just doing it. Strategic marketing should be #1 and the tools you use should be #2. If someone is telling you it’s the other way around, you should probably search for a new vendor.
Tips for getting results with strategic marketing:
- Ask Questions: “Why?” is generally a good one. Don’t be satisfied just with “doing marketing activities.”
- Get their background: Are you working with someone who has a marketing background?
- Define a Measure of Success: Do you want to increase your sales by 10% in the fourth quarter? Make sure they know that. Use the SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound)
- Ask for Case Studies and Testimonials: Do they have proven results?
Posted on October 12th, 2009 4 comments
So I just came from a sales call and the prospect is a very successful business man who runs a very successful business. He’s tried his hand at online marketing, namely Google Adwords pay-per-click (PPC) and was “soured.” He claimed the leads coming from these two campaigns weren’t converting and the ROI just wasn’t there. I truly believed him. But I was there to change his mind. Don’t get my wrong. I don’t want to sell anyone anything that isn’t right for them but I am a PPC evangelist and to answer my own question, IT DOES WORK!!!! It works well……………if it’s done right!
Everyone from Verizon/Idearc to Yellow Book to ATT are getting into the Google Adwords space (because their products are dying and they have no choice) but I’ve found none of them do it “right.” I’ve also found that very few (okay, I haven’t found one yet) business owners who try their hand at it or have their nephew run it for them do it “right” either. Thus, their budget is quickly exhausted by unqualified clicks. Don’t mistake “clicks” for leads! They’re not the same.
So what does “done right” mean? Here are a few key measurements that I use to deliver a positive ROI to my PPC clients. 1) Track conversions. Conversions are not leads they are actual people who clicked through and took some sort of action (filled out a form, called, requested a quote). 2) Set positions. Your ad shouldn’t appear in a position below #3 on the first search page. 3) Quality score. Drive your traffic to pages on your site that are highly relative to your keywords. 4) Dayparts. With limited PPC budgets, use phone numbers in ads to reduce clicks (this is the only form of marketing where impressions are FREE). Also, turn campaigns on and off to fit the times/days/week/months of your sales cycle as well as when most of your audience is online. 5) Geotarget. I constantly see ads for companies that are in California that clearly don’t service my area. WASTE OF MONEY! 6) Trim the fat. Your keyword list will shrink over time. Eliminate keywords that are not converting and have limited overall traffic. Focus your budget on keywords that convert. This will increase the frequency of your ads and fuel what’s working. In the end, all of these steps will optimize your budget, increase qualified leads and return a positive ROI.
Yes! PPC does work - when done “right!”
Have you run a campaign that was a bust? Let me hear about it. How about those of you out there seeing positive return? What’s the highest return rate you’re seeing?
Posted on September 1st, 2009 9 comments
How do you keep your numbers positive in a downturn economy?
It’s interesting out there right now. Well, interesting isn’t the word. Bad might be more accurate. The reason I used the word “interesting” is the fact that I’m getting more calls than ever from companies who never did marketing before (or have done very little). They feel that starting to market now will help their business. In a way it can’t hurt but in another way, they’re so wrong.
My Dad told me a great anecdote the other day. He was a Coca-Cola stock holder for years and would attend the investor meetings regularly. He remembers clearly this one particular meeting as if it was yesterday. He tells the story of a woman who stood up and hammered the President of Coca-Cola questioning him on why advertising is the largest line item on the books. She exclaimed that Coca-Cola was twice as big as its nearest competitor, Pepsi Co., and nine times bigger than the next five companies combined. She wanted to know why the marketing budget has to be so big and why couldn’t that money be paid out in dividends? The President stood calmly and replied with this.
Marketing and advertising are like the coal that fires the steam engine. You feed it over time and the engine starts chugging along until finally it’s at a good strong pace. Stop feeding it with coal or slow the coal feed down and the steam engine will continue to run at a good clip……for a while. But eventually it will start to slow and ultimately come to a stop.
I encourage small and medium size businesses to consider marketing one of the most important functions of their business plans. Motion stays in motion. Once you get some traction, you must continue with the momentum. If your momentum is currently slowing or stopped, marketing efforts will not be a quick fix. They will need to be a considerable investment with a dedicated approach. If not, motion stays in motion and if you’re going down, it’s damn hard to pull back from a nose dive!
Posted on August 6th, 2009 7 comments
Marketing a is a fast paced business and at the height of the economy any schmuck could call themselves a marketer. Today the economy has tanked and clients want to KNOW what they are getting and more importantly if they can trust you with their hard-earned money. When they are spending money on a marketer they are investing in you and your skill set.
This goes beyond customer service which is important too; but building a relationship with a client means each of you have agreed to put your faith in each other. For example, I was just asked the question, how do you (Vision House) measure success as a company. My answer: We measure success by our client’s success. If our clients invest in us and trust in us to spend their marketing money wisely, we are compelled to turn a positive ROI for them. When we do, the bonds of the relationship strengthen.
It takes a skilled marketer to know what to do with a client and that knowledge grows over time. So get to know your clients, focus on doing more than meeting their expectations—exceed them by demonstrating that you view the relationship as important– business-wise of course– but also because you are a firm of integrity and anything less than quality service to clients you value would be unacceptable.
Clients will know the difference between a firm that provides good customer service and one that builds client relationships. Think about the companies, or organizations that you come in contact with and I’ll bet you can tick off right away those that work harder to let you know your business matters to them in the long term. And in this economy that is the key to keeping business.