Friday, December 9, 2011

Why SEO is Not Enough

All of you SEO junkies out there, pay attention. It is great that your website has made it to the first page of Google. I am very happy for you.

But high search engine rankings don't mean anything unless they generate a click through to your website.

A visit to your website doesn't mean anything unless it generates a sale or captures a sales lead.

A sales lead doesn't mean anything unless you follow it up within 72 hours, after which it is dead and gone.

My point is this:  You can't focus on a single aspect of Internet marketing to the exclusion of other, equally important parts of the equation. All of them have to be working together in order to create action that matters.

Good keywords, on-site/off-site SEO and a strong AdWords campaign all lead to site visits. Valuable information and good conversion tools on your website leads to the capture of actionable data. Prompt and targeted follow up leads to an opportunity to create a customer.

Shortcuts and half measures will only cost you time, money and credibility. With 8 out of every 10 consumers using the web to search for information and resources before making a purchase, you can't afford to get it wrong.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Why Talbot's is Destined to Fail.

For those of you who have no contact at all with females, Talbot's is an upscale women's clothing retailer that markets a "classic" look through stores and on-line.

Very tasteful. Very elegant. Very much in trouble in today's marketplace.

A report in today's Boston Globe cites yet another decline in third quarter sales at Talbot's, which is especially damaging leading into the critical holiday shopping season. In response to this news, Talbot's president Trudy Sullivan took the bold step of suspending all advertising immediately.

Huh? People are not coming into your stores or shopping you on-line, and your bright idea to fix the situation is to pull your head in like a turtle ducking into its shell? Sorry, Trudy, but that is not enlightened leadership.  As cookie baron Wally Amos once said, "Cutting advertising to save money is like slashing your wrists to relieve high blood pressure."

If the only expense remaining to be slashed is marketing and advertising, your company is beyond saving. Call Gordon Brothers and organize the going-out-of-business sale right away.

Maybe if you had better advertising you would not be in the deep trench you currently occupy. For a retailer it is not enough to simply put a message out and hope for the best. You need immediate response to make the cash registers ring. Clearly your ad campaign has not delivered.

Obviously, advertising alone did not sink Talbot's, nor can you reasonably expect it to rescue the company. A toxic combination of changing styles, the poor economy, a confusing marketing message, and over reliance on discounting is what poisoned the well. I think Talbot's simply could not decide what it wanted to be when it grew up, and as a result you alienated loyal customers while never pulling in the younger buyers you wanted.

So go ahead and cut all the advertising. Save up that money to pay for the big, bold "Final Clearance" posters that will soon be showing up in your otherwise tastefully decorated windows. I know many well dressed women who will miss Talbot's.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Content, content, content!

A new article by Mikal Belicove posted to the Entrepreneur magazine website provides a concise description of and case for "content marketing." You can read it here:

Content marketing is nothing new. For more than 20 years I have been urging clients to "share what you know" through newsletters, interviews and by-line articles.  Newer channels such as blogs, Twitter and LinkedIn simply make the delivery process more direct and immediate.

If you don't have content to share with your customers and prospects, it may be time to step back from "empty" marketing and reassess what you have to offer and how you can beef up the validity of your marketing message.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Speaking with Conviction

Why don't we say what we mean? Speak our mind? Tell it like it is?

This clip set to the words of poet Taylor Mali (and put into type by Ronnie Bruce) is an interesting and compelling call to action. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Advertising Fights Crime!

Why did it take the FBI 16 years to discover that advertising actually works? All the power of the country's leading criminal investigative apparatus was unable to locate Whitey Bulger, one of the most notorious crime bosses of our time. Yet a few days of television ads led to the tip that brought police right to Whitey's California door.

(All of this assumes, of course, that the FBI was REALLY looking for Mr. Bulger. The Feds may have had a great deal of incentive to keep Whitey on the "missing" list. But that is a story for another time.)

Chalk this one up as a victory for the power of an appealing advertising message!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Delta's Black Eye

Delta Air Lines got caught charging active duty military personnel steep fees for checked bags that contained their "work" gear and equipment. This is wrong on a couple of levels.

(Full disclosure: I have a son in the U.S. Army who, to my knowledge, has not been subject to a Delta bag fee. But he could have been.)

First, what is going on when the U.S. military forces its personnel to schlep their combat gear around on a civilian air line? What happened to the Air Force and military flights? When I last checked we were paying north of $300 billion per year to fund the military. Not enough to keep a few planes in the air? C'mon.

But the more immediate problem is Delta's. Their gaffe was a case of somebody following the rules to the letter, at the cost of causing embarrassment for the entire company. Are the bag fees posted? Yes. Did the soldiers' bag fall under the fee rules? Yes.

Was it a good idea for Delta to shake down a soldier who was tired, dusty and desperately trying to get home after a year in the war zone? No.

After they got caught, Delta did the right thing and changed their bag fee policy for active duty military personnel. And, hopefully, squared things with those who had been charged.

I sincerely hope that Delta's slip up was a case of an overzealous manager who was afraid to break the rules. If so, Delta needs to spend a little more time training their people on presenting a good company image at all times. And that goes beyond a neat uniform and winning smile. A ticketing agent with a little intelligence and some leeway could have easily prevented the PR problem by waiving the excessive bag fee for a soldier, sailor or airman.

However, if it turns out that Delta knew about the problem and condoned it in order to make a few bucks, that would trouble me deeply. I think the military's travel planning arm should look into this incident more thoroughly. If Delta was cashing in on military travelers, the government should look to other carriers in the future.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Speed Thrills

One of the influences that the explosion of social media has generated is the speed at which information is disseminated. If you are a marketer you cannot ignore this new paradigm.

Those of us old enough to remember when printed communications were a marketing staple may fondly recall that developing, producing and distributing a brochure, advertisement or direct mail piece was a process that took weeks or months. It required advanced planning and coordination, significant resources and lots of patience.

That's gone. Now you can have an idea over breakfast, craft the message by lunch, distribute in the afternoon and start measuring results before the evening meal is on the table. In fact, customers are coming to expect this sort of instant communication.

This incredible acceleration in the process is wonderful for marketers. Or is it?

With such a short cycle to work with, there is no time for consideration or deliberation. There is barely time for editing. Which means that, from time to time, the message that goes out is going to be less than compelling, misdirected, or perhaps even damaging.

Speed must not be a substitute for effectiveness. Just look at the news media professionals and politicians who rushed to announce that they had viewed the "real" photos of Osama Bin Laden after he was killed; only to find out that the photos were fake. In their rush to be first, the talking heads and eager pols allowed themselves to be duped - willingly so, it seems.

So when you get that great idea at breakfast, make sure you stand back and assess it with a critical eye. If it passes muster, take the time to craft the message so that it will be accurate, compelling and effective. Only then should it be released. It may take a little longer to enter the communications stream, but the end result should be more to your liking.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Coffee Heaven! Dunkin Donuts Coming to K-Cups

My work is fueled by fear and coffee, so I was particularly excited to read about plans to make Dunkin Donuts coffee available for the Keurig home brewing system, as appeared in today's Boston Globe.

Even though I love my Keurig and invest heavily in a healthy supply of K-cups, I still find myself regularly pulling into the Dunkin Donuts drive through for a cup of the "good stuff." Now I can reduce my carbon footprint by cutting back all that driving time, while sitting back with a steaming cup of Dunkin coffee in the comfort of my own perpetually messy office.

The question is, will the Dunkin Donuts K-Cups ship complete with glazed donuts? And where can I find a supply of styrofoam cups and plastic lids?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Rhetoric, But in a Good Way

I am reading a new book and, even though I am not even halfway through, I wanted to share my excitement with you. The book is "Farnsworth's Classic English Rhetoric," by Ward Farnsworth, a law professor at Boston University (

Rhetoric has taken a lot of abuse in recent years. The term "political rhetoric" has taken on a slanderous meaning that has tainted the true meaning of the word. Merriam-Webster defines rhetoric as, "the art of speaking or writing effectively." Previous generations learned rhetoric as an important part of a liberal arts education. But the "art of rhetoric" seems to be slipping away in an age of 140 character tweets and microscopic attention spans.

Which is why I am so enjoying Farnsworth's book. I make my living with words, and have great admiration for those writers and speakers who have the ability to make words, phrases and sentences bend and dance to their desired purposes. "Classic English Rhetoric" is filled with sparkling examples of the English language at its best.

There are passages from Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, G.K. Chesterton -- the list goes on. Each drafted to inspire, entice and encourage action. The kind of writing that is all too rare today, but to which I constantly aspire.

I know it is not the latest Harry Potter, or Stephen King, or John Grisham. But if you get a chance to pick up a copy of "Farnsworth's Classic English Rhetoric" I think you may enjoy it as much as I am. All while learning something old that is new again.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Yellow Pages, RIP?

The Seattle City Council has passed an ordinance creating a “Yellow Pages Opt-Out System.” Once put into operation, this system will give city residents the option of declining delivery of once-ubiquitous telephone directories. No more phone books crammed into the mailbox or piled at the end of the driveway.

While the aim of the ordinance may have been to reduce environmental impact and clutter, there is a much deeper message here: the people of Seattle don’t need their phone books anymore.

Remember Steve Martin’s character in The Jerk,who danced about wildly shouting, “The new phone books are here!”? We really did used to get excited when the thick yellow books were dropped off. That’s how large a part of everybody’s life the Yellow Pages were. No more.

This does not bode well for those stubborn traditionalist businesses that dedicate large chunks of their marketing budget to phone book ads. I have been in the marketing game long enough to remember ad agencies that worked exclusively on phone book campaigns.

Why do the residents of Seattle feel comfortable in rejecting this traditional part of every home’s informational system? Think about it. When was the last time you reached for a phone book to look up information on a business? The first option now is to simply Google the company or conduct an on-line search for similar providers.

I have long argued with clients who continued to sink money into Yellow Pages that the only businesses that needed to advertise there were auto glass companies, plumbers, pizza parlors and personal injury attorneys. Today, even those stalwarts are better served investing in a website with strong SEO.

As has happened with so many trends that sweep across the nation, I believe that Seattle is leading the way. I think the days are numbered for Yellow Page directories across the country. Don’t forget, Starbucks got its start in Seattle, too.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Think of Social Media as "Networking by Remote Control"

Despite the fact that Facebook recently surpassed Google in number of users, many business people are still reluctant to embrace social media. I believe that, for many, it is simply a case of unfamiliarity and a fear of the unknown. Others dismiss Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels as frivolous. After all, how serious could these tools be if a teenager can use them?

Let me try to frame this in a way that "slow to adapt" business professionals might understand.

Everybody knows that networking is an important part of marketing, particularly for those in professional services or sales occupations. You may not enjoy it, but you attend Chamber of Commerce meetings, participate in monthly lead sharing groups, show up for industry conferences and exhibit at trade shows; all in an attempt to connect with prospects and referral sources. You've probably developed a pretty good "30-second pitch," and always carry plenty of business cards.

Now imagine if you could do your networking from the comfort and safety of your office. If you could connect with colleagues, prospects and those all-important "key influencers" as often as you wanted. And if those connections could spread farther and faster than ever.

That's what social media allows you to do. Take LinkedIn, for example. A profile on LinkedIn is like your 30-second pitch, a brief overview of who you are, what you do, and what you are looking for. With very little effort, in the space of a few hours, you can quickly build a network of known colleagues, which can then spread farther and wider through shared connections. You've just "worked the room" with hundreds, even thousands, of people.

Facebook, Twitter and blogging offer similar possibilities, but with the added benefit of being able to share new and interesting information with your broad network of connections, all at the same time. And if you are smart about it, you'll take advantage of all social media channels and link them together, so that a new blog post instantly finds its way to all your LinkedIn connections.

Inexpensive. Instantaneous. Incredibly effective. What is not to love about social media marketing? Get with the program.