Category Archives: Marketing & SEO

David Shulman PT's workshop

Making Beautiful Music

David Shulman is a professional musician turned physical therapist. And his training in both worlds led him to a revelation: “Practice, practice, practice” may not—as the old saying goes—be the sure-fire route to Carnegie Hall.

Pain without Gain

In fact, 70 percent of professional musicians will be forced to stop playing—sometimes permanently—due to injury caused by repetitive overuse. For years, Shulman worked one-on-one with musicians, treating their injuries and showing them how to avoid future injuries without sacrificing proficiency. As the demand for his specialized knowledge grew, Shulman created an interactive workshop that combined treatment with education. Participants raved: “You need to get this workshop to more people. You are the music profession’s best-kept secret.”

At a Loss for Words

But Shulman was a physical therapist, not a marketer. He didn’t have time to talk up his workshop. And he wasn’t sure how else to get the word out.

David Shulman PT's workshop

Hands-on marketing for the Injury Prevention workshop

Singing Their Song

We created a flyer to do the talking for him. In an age of electronic communication, a printed flyer was a refreshingly personal way to reach the music world’s gatekeepers at symphonies, music schools, jazz ensembles, and beyond. 

The flyer features a photo-illustration of a violinist’s hand with pain points highlighted as in a clinical diagram. Classical music meets high-tech medicine. The message stresses the workshop’s uniqueness—prevention, hands-on demonstrations, and participants’ enthusiasm.

Creating in Tune

When clients, designers, and writers function as an ensemble, they make beautiful music together, with a message that’s in tune with the intended audience.

wine bottle in bag

Nobody Cares About Your Brand

Some marketing consultants want you to obsess about your brand. I think that’s a mistake.

What a Brand Can Do

A brand is fundamentally what people think of your business—your reputation, your promise. A brand serves a purpose—it’s a mental image of who your company is, what makes you different, what value you offer. It’s meaningful to customers because it helps them make decisions about when to hire you for one of the many jobs to be done (Jobs to be Done, Clayton Christensen). But customers care more about getting their job done than they care about your brand.

What a Brand Cannot Do

The problem with spending time and energy on your brand/reputation is that you don’t have direct control over it. Your reputation is the sum of what you deliver—what you do, what you make, how you interact with your customers.

How to Succeed in Business

Instead of focusing on your brand, focus on delighting customers. Find out what job they hire your product or service for and get busy improving that. Make them so happy they want to talk about you. And create good marketing materials that help them do that.

Let your customers handle your brand.

And get back to work.

Complete Story at Six

Legend has it that Hemingway once livened up lunch at the famous Algonquin Round Table by claiming he could write a story in just six words. Not a jingle, not a headline, not a summary, but a story with a beginning, middle, and end. He challenged the other writers at the table to ante up ten dollars each and, if he was wrong, he would match their wagers. The words he quickly penned on a napkin were “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Presumably, Hemingway made some money that day.

The Hemingway story may be literary legend, but the six-word story stuck. In 2006, the online magazine Smith resurrected Hemingway’s challenge and asked its readers for six-word memoirs. The challenge soon exploded into books, websitescompetitions, and six-second videos. This month NPR invited listeners to submit their thoughts on race and cultural identity as six-word stories. And also this month, the Accent Interactive team took on its own six-word story challenge.

Play with a Purpose

Our first team Creativity Date took us to the flamboyant American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

Our first team Creativity Date took us to the flamboyant American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

We were on our first Creativity Date (our version of an Artist Date but for teams). Our destination: Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum, which was featuring an exhibit on storytelling.

Enroute to the museum, we’d identified four essential elements of a story:

  1. Life gets knocked out of whack.
  2. A protagonist tries to set things straight.
  3. An antagonist tries to obstruct him.
  4. Things get resolved (completely or incompletely, favorably or unfavorably).

Now we were on a treasure hunt of sorts, looking for those elements in the visual stories before us.

Tucked in a corner of the exhibit was a sign about six-word stories and a painting one woman created from her story. The challenge was irresistible: Could we possibly capture all four elements of a story in six words? We paired off, found a quiet cranny, and studied two photographs on our iPads. We had five minutes to come up with the six-word story unfolding in each of the photos before us. Click each image to see what happened.

Our team’s six-word stories for this photo included: Worm in apple cuts proposal short. / Picking apple and leaving you. / The problem with dating a fairy.This photograph inspired the following six-word stories: Dancer needs second job to survive. / Ballerina buries competitor in vacant lot. / Dirty job, holey jeans, dancing dreams.

 

Down to Business

Our six-word story challenge was a blast, but it wasn’t only that. It was a smart business move.

Jay Conger, the Henry R. Kravis Research Chair in Leadership Studies at Claremont McKenna College and consultant on business leadership, is an advocate of storytelling as a business tool:

“Stories have enormous power in terms of recall. If you look at statistics, or at PowerPoint, or at documents, what you discover from all the research is that there is almost no recall. What will be remembered are a few compelling stories that you share with your organization and with your team. And those will guide them when they are far away from you—which, by the way, is much of the day.”

So how might you bring freshness to your typical business functions through six-word stories?

1. Departmental reports

Imagine your department managers giving their reports in the form of six-word stories. OK, so you may want to augment those stories with P&L statements and pie charts. But a month later, the story is what will still be sticky.

2. Employee Orientation

How could you tell the story of your company in six words? Even more intriguing, what six-word story would your employees tell about your company?

3. Debriefs

What do you remember from that three-hour debriefing about last year’s product launch? What would the impact be on your team if you distilled the lessons learned into six-word stories?

No Way!

If you asked your team members to come up with six-word stories, what kind of responses might you get? Expect resistance, maybe even panic! But also expect surprisingly entertaining and effective results. 

Expect, too, to be surprised by who tells the most compelling stories. Our man-of-few-words, tech wizard Tait, was crowned King of the Six-Word Story by the end of our Creativity Date. His steel-trap mind could look at a photo and capture its essence before the writerly types among us had settled on the name of the protagonist. Enjoy discovering the storytellers on your team. 

Worth the Effort

It’s pretty easy to write six-word slogans or six-word goals. But stories are another matter. Incorporating the elements of story—life out of whack, protagonist, antagonist, resolution—forces you to explore meaning in what’s occurring in your business. Your gut tells you that even though the protagonist got life back in balance this time, it’s gonna get knocked out of whack again soon. And then what? What will motivate you to fight another day? Pie charts? Or stories about how you weathered that mess back in 2009?

Walking the Talk

A week after our Creative Date, our team members wrote their own six-word stories about the day. Here’s a sampling. How did we do? Can you find the essential elements of a story in them? 

  • Kitschy store. Dynamic duos. Eloquent storytelling.
  • Art, food, fun fueled storytelling. Next?
  • Art invited Storytelling. A first date.
  • First date jitters—creative duos victorious.
  • Paired storymakers conquer spangled storyville—super!

Analytics: What To Do With Your Hits

5 things analytics teach you and what to do about them.

If you have a website, you have probably wondered how many people have visited your site, where they are coming from, and what pages are most popular. How do you find out? The answer is analytics. This article tells you what kind of information is available to you and what strategic marketing decisions you can make as a result. Click the graphics to enlarge.

Analytics Overview

1. Hits: Is this place popular?

Analytics tell you how many visitors came to your website, how many pages they visited, and how long they stayed on the site.

By themselves, these numbers are just useful for stroking your ego, but in comparison to other numbers, they can have strategic value.

What to do:

  • Look for patterns over time. Growing popularity of a site can indicate success in other marketing efforts like a newsletter, networking, and linking from other sites.
  • Look for relative popularity among websites. Knowing which of your websites is getting more visitors can help you determine your content strategy. Which sites need which kind of content? How can you leverage the popularity of one site to benefit another (generate some referral traffic)?
Analytics USA
Analytics Maryland

2. Demographics: Where are y’all from?

Demographics data reveal how much web traffic comes from where. This data can be analyzed by country, region, and city.

What to do:

  • Look for places with lots of visitors. Ask if there is any strategic advantage to catering more to this geographic area. Could you develop content specifically for this area?
  • Does popularity in an area indicate demand for more of a presence there? How can you best serve this expressed desire for the value your business brings?

Beware of false conclusions: One client recently noted a large amount of traffic coming from a distant state. This led to a discussion about catering more to this market until we discovered that the traffic was coming from visitors searching for a company with a similar name in that region. Before jumping to conclusions, check this data against other analytic measurements.

3. Content: So what’s good here?

Analytics tell you which pages are getting the most user attention. Most business owners are surprised how few pages get most of the traffic. In a recent sampling of our customers, we found that on a typical site about 50% of the traffic was generated by just 4–5 pages.

Analytics Content

Knowing which pages are popular can also shape your content strategy. In a recent sampling of our customer websites, we discovered that certain types of pages are more popular than others. This chart shows that beyond the home page, most users want information about the people behind the company. This is good to know when you are deciding what content to develop and how prominently to feature certain navigation elements.

The Hidden Team

Recently a client told us they didn’t really want a page for the people at the company. They only had a few staff members, and they reasoned that revealing this would give the impression that they had very limited capacity. After discovering that users cared a lot about the people, they changed their strategy and included other ways of showing capacity, including linking to partners and affiliates.

What to do:

  • A popular section of your website indicates user interest. Make sure your content actually answers user questions. Explore what other information you can provide them. And make a clear path from these pages to the desired action step.
Analytics Flow
Analytics Goals

4. Goals: Paving the desired path

Every web visit is a journey through the content. Some people just visit one page and leave (this is called a “bounce”). Others visit many pages before exiting, even spending a long time absorbing the material. And not everyone enters the site on the home page—many come to an interior page from a search engine link.

But the visit that pays the bills is the one that results in users taking a desired action step (called a “goal”).

What to do:

  • Create Goals
: Setup clear goals for your website. Examples include signing up for an email series, ordering a product, downloading a free sample, etc.
  • Develop Content: 
Create words and graphics that make the goal look like the obvious path to take.
  • Measure Results
: Check analytics to find out how many users are reaching the goal.
  • Refine the Process
: Test changes to the content to improve the success rate.

5. Technology: What’s everyone using these days?

Analytics Technology

Analytics provide a boat-load of data on user technology, including operating system, browser, screen resolution, service provider, and so on. This information can be helpful when deciding what technology to employ in your website.

Beware: Business Owner Bias

It’s common for business owners to want their website to look good on the devices they use themselves. IT folks often report getting a request to support a burgeoning technology or device as soon as the CEO gets a new toy. But just because the CEO has a device doesn’t mean that most users do. Analytics can neutralize the bias and help the team focus on what users are actually using.

What to do:

  • Notice trends in user behavior and anticipate what the users will want in the near future. Then optimize the site for them. In the last few years, the biggest trend we’ve seen is the rise of smart phones and tablets (primarily the iPad). We anticipate that these devices will soon be more popular for browsing the web than person computers—in fact in some markets they already are.
  • If your website doesn’t look good or work well on a popular platform then you might be shutting down that segment of the market from easily growing your business. Fix this by hiring someone to make your website work well on every device that’s important to users.

More Help with Analytics

These are just the first steps in using analytics. If this interests you, contact us to help you grow your business.

Easy Content Development

help for business owners who need to develop website content

The biggest task in creating a website is not the strategy, design, or technology: it’s the content. Most business owners put it off and hate to do it because it demands focus, requires precision, and exercises a muscle that may not have been used in quite a while.

If you’re not a natural writer, here’s how to get it done faster with less frustration.

1. Get a Writer

Partner with a detail-oriented person who likes turning ideas into the right words.

When we create websites with clients, often we often play the role of writer for hire. It’s fun to bring clarity and focus to big ideas. But if a client already has an in-house writer, we act as the editor to make sure the content has a second or third pair of eyes before publishing.

Tip: Don’t stop here. You can’t just throw money at this and expect it to work. I remember working with a client who shopped around and found a cheap writer to do his content development for him. I checked back after several weeks to see how it was going. “She’s a good writer,” he said, “but she gets a lot of the facts wrong. I end up having to redo her work.” No wonder. The poor girl had no insight into the company, and little knowledge of the material. So…

2. Set the Vision

In a single meeting you can set the vision for what you are trying to accomplish with the content. Decide on the audience, the scope of the information (how detailed), and look at some references of what’s already out there.

We’ve found that this is what business owners do best. Spend your time in this space. Nobody else can do this better than you can, so dig in.

Tip: Don’t get caught up in the design. When checking websites or browsing brochures, it’s easy (and fun) to get distracted by the visual design, the technology, the images, etc. To avoid this, just copy the content into a text document and discuss it in that context. Remember, you’re after words here, not design. Separating the two makes your task much easier. Design comes later.

3. Generate Ideas

Your job is generating ideas, not selecting the right words. Make an outline and generate a bulleted list of ideas that need to go on each page.

Tip: We’ve created a worksheet to help clients with this. If you’d like a copy, email us and ask for the Web Content Worksheet.

4. Test It Out

Once the writer has a draft, read it as if you were a prospective customer. Show it around the office. How does it feel? Where is it too detailed? Where is it too vague? Where does it over-promise? Where does it make you want to roll your eyes? It is really you?

Tip: Most early drafts suffer from too many words about the obvious. Work with the writer to get right to the point so readers have less to wade through.

Stay Up High

The nice thing about running your business is that you can decide when to stay at the high level and when to dive into the details. If words are not your thing, no worries. Stay focused on the big picture and we’ll help you with the rest. You’ve got a business to run. Do the fun part and leave the rest to others you trust.

Focus on the Right People

Focus 50

The Mantra

I talk to business owners every day. “How do you market your business?” I ask. “Word-of-mouth is the most cost effective form of marketing,” they say. And I agree.

The Squirm

So I ask them what their strategy is for developing referrals. That’s when they start to squirm. Usually they talk about a networking event they attended, or the value of good customer service, or maybe a rewards program for customer referrals. Some are even pretty disciplined about attending a weekly networking group. But rarely do they seem confident about their strategy.

It’s Complicated

Strategy can be hard because of the many possibilities—so many ways to connect with people. You can get friends on Facebook. You can acquire Twitter followers. You can link with colleagues on LinkedIn. Feels like so much progress. But then what?

Making thousands of acquaintances doesn’t always pay the bills, especially if a referral to your kind of business requires a high degree of trust. Trust takes time. You have to earn it. And you need lots of touches, lots of little risks that pay off, lots of relational dimensions.

Stretched Too Thin

How many close relationships can a person’s network have? After about 100 or so, it gets difficult to maintain a relationship of any strength. (I have trouble even remembering that many names.) So let’s see if we can turn this truth into an effective marketing strategy.

Focus 50

Take a look at your database of networking contacts. Include clients, friends, consultants, coaches, and family. Pick your Top 50 and put them in a list. (Use your intuition here.) This is the core of your network. This is where you will focus your energy.

[You may want to experiment with this number. Some business thrive on a few strong relationships. Others make a living from many connections where the strength of each one is not so important. Knowing your business really helps make this decision. A pizza shop may benefit from a large loose network, but an attorney, accountant or psychologist may benefit more from a small concentrated core.]

The Work of Networking

Now that you have your Focus 50, your job is to:

  • Listen
    Find out what’s going on in their world and what problems they are facing right now.
  • Help
    Help them by offering your expertise, referring someone in your network, or suggesting a resource that can solve their business problems.
  • Inform
    Educate them on what’s going on in your business, who receives the most value from your expertise, and what challenges you are experiencing. Invite them to follow you online and subscribe to your newsletter.
  • Ask
    Let them know that you work by referrals. Ask who they know that might be a good fit for you.
  • Thank
    Warmly thank them for supporting you and your business. Find a creative way to let them know they really matter to you.

The key is that you are helping them. When they experience you as a good resource, they do your marketing for you.

Eliminate and Concentrate

The strategy works because you concentrate your time and energy on the relationships that matter most. At the end of 2012 you could have 50 people who see you as a valuable person to help them grow in 2013.

Listening

Most business consultants will tell you how important it is to listen to customers (as a recent example, note how much “listening” is mentioned into this article on what makes a great entrepreneur).

We’ve all heard that before. This week Peter Francis, principal of Clinical Laboratory Sales Training is setting an example for us by doing it.

One of Peter’s customers loves reading his articles on laboratory sales techniques, but he spends a lot of time in the car and wishes he could listen to them instead of just read them. “Maybe you could send me an audio version?” he asked. Peter took the suggestion to heart and sat down in the recording studio. Now he’s starting to offer free audio versions on his website. How generous is that?

In our next quarterly web marketing review, we’ll be tracking the analytics to see how popular they are. From there we can determine what kind of next steps to take with digital audio.

Ideas for Further Development

  • Sell CDs: maybe it’s valuable to package several articles and sell them on disc?
  • Podcast: if they like articles maybe they would like other kinds of recorded conversations?
  • Promotion: use the recordings to promote other business offerings, such as seminars, coaching, or the newsletter.

Do Something: Lessons from Peter

  1. Care about your customers more today than you did yesterday.
  2. Listen to their words and the desires behind the words.
  3. Play with options for how to give them what they want.
  4. Become a responsive, dynamic resource for customers and they will reward you.