Thursday, November 29, 2007

Scientific Research + PR = Healthier Lifestyles?

Everyday, Americans are bombarded with new scientific reports that pertain to the delicate issue of human health and safety. One day a researcher claims to have a cure for preventing breast cancer, the next day there's a study that announces the healthiest foods to eat, and another day we hear how to treat a case of the cold. The updates are seemingly endless, but boy do those scientists know how to get PR!

The news media gobble up these reports to announce to their concerned (though probably confused) audience, since people like to hear about ways to live longer. Frustratingly, however, many of these reports are either discredited later, or the ones that are legit often go unnoticed. For instance, some reports we hear suggest there may be links between cell phone usage and brain tumors, yet other reports find no correlation whatsoever; meanwhile, we ALL know the downsides of obesity, yet obesity rates in America are only just now showing signs of improvement...approximately 33% of Americans are obese, a rate that's held steady since 1999 and may be on a downward trend. Sometimes a big message needs a while and enough time to sink in.

So today I came across an article announcing that salt is the hidden killer in our food. Within the article, it claims, "the American medical association says cutting people's sodium intake in half could save 150,000 lives a year".

Well, now there's a number for you! 150,000 lives could be saved just by cutting salt? How come this number isn't dancing all over the place? Why not put that number in the headline? Why isn't there any uproar about demanding that restaurants and food manufacturers cut salt immediately?

Quite simply, the problem of salt intake is a backseat issue in most Americans' minds. "Salt is just salt... it can't be that harmful," you might say. Or, "I don't care about my salt levels, I'd rather eat tasty food."

Meanwhile, a gunshot kills a pro football player and the entire nation is grieving. Sad, yes, absolutely, but it just goes to show that there's not much in the way of dramatic PR when it comes to a person dying because of heart disease from too much salt intake. "Celebrity Overdoses on Salt During Course of Lifetime, Dies" is not a headline you're likely to see.

So, let me make the segue into marketing here... if you're a marketer, and the story you tell about your product doesn't make the big headlines, what can you do?

Well, welcome to the challenge of marketing. Ultimately if you're like most marketers with a limited budget or without a "big bang" product or service, you've got to use lots of smaller messages and spread the word in more of a grassroots fashion. People will catch on, slowly but surely.

It's kind of like sprinkling your message around like a salt shaker, a few grains at a time. After a while, those grains start adding up and people will take notice.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

How to Improve Online Advertising

According to this article in of the UK, online advertising has not taken hold of online shoppers as more and more people favor reviews written by customers to help them shape their decisions. This probably surprises nobody in the marketing world since online advertising is generally used to help build a brand and awareness by reaching an appropriate audience across multiple sites. So while persuading people to buy one's product via online advertising is important, it's usually more important, traditionally, for online advertising to prime customers over time.

But perhaps we now need to look at online advertising in a new light. Perhaps this study shows that if companies do want people to react to their online ads, then the ads themselves need to be updated to modern standards. What I'm getting at here is-- why not promote your customer reviews in your online ads?

For example... Looking to advertise your latest solar powered toaster?

Well, try building an ad that automatically uploads the latest customer reviews on this magnificent product into the content of the ad. Not only would this encourage people to click on the ad and find out more about the product (since the reviews are what people want to see in the first place), but it would also encourage customers to write up reviews since their message would be displayed in ads across the internet... call it 15 minutes of internet fame. Of course you would have to monitor the comments for appropriateness and regulate the reviewers by only allowing registered shoppers to post a review to avoid spam and other anonymous rants, but it's a small price to pay to enable your biggest fans to support your product.

Call it Online Advertising 2.0 or whatever you fancy, but the fact is that delivering the right message-- in this case customer reviews-- to prospective customers will become more important to generate sales via online ads in the future.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"What's a Roll Fold?" and How You Can Succeed in Search Engines

This morning I read an article in DMNews that referred to a direct mail piece called a "roll fold". I didn't know what this referred to, so, as you might guess, I did a quick Google search for the phrase. The first result that Google listed directed me to International Paper's "Paper Glossary" index, where the page presented me with precise and helpful information, thus answering my question effectively.

I bring this up to you because there is a HUGE opportunity for industrial, scientific, and high-tech companies out there, or really any organization in any market with lots of jargon, complex terms, or unfamiliar phrasings. Any organization that can create a comprehensive glossary online has enormous potential to be listed first in a wide variety of search queries, as International Paper was in this particular one. That's because search engines love accurate and informative content (proof positive being Wikipedia's high rankings in countless searches). It's one of the pillars of search engine optimization (SEO).

The benefit to you is that once a visitor to your site's glossary page gets the information s/he is looking for, it is highly likely that this person will then either explore your site a little more, or at the very least appreciate the authoritative position you have in the industry and associate your company as a leader in your field. To wit:

Knowledge = Expert

Expert = Leader in your field.

Producing a sharp, meaningful glossary is relatively simple marketing project to undertake and the rewards might make you roll in some newfound cash.

By the way, a roll fold is: "A type of fold where the piece is folded inward at one end and then folded inward again one or more times. It is as if you are rolling the piece up."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Marketing Lessons from a Tree Trimmer

In the wooded lot around our agency's building, we have a handful of dead trees that could cause trouble should they come crashing down. Correction, we *had* a handful of dead trees on our property.

Over the past two days a local tree trimming company has been chopping away the dead wood to remove it from the grounds. All the while, I figured there must be some kind of marketing lessons in what they're doing. Well, fear not, I found some lessons, and now I'm sharing them with you! Enjoy...
  • It's a very straightforward process: find a dead tree, cut it down, chop it up, haul it away. So why isn't this a commodity industry? Because there's a certain art to doing it right. Just like any service provider, your style will go a long way in showing how good you are. Do you clean up neatly after you're done cutting? Do you make your best effort to leave the property just as you found it? Do you perform preventative maintenance as needed? These are the types of actions that separate a good tree trimmer from just a hack. (Pun intended!)

  • What's the best way to get new business? Referrals, most definitely. But after time these may dry up like termite-infested wood. So what's a tree trimmer to do? For one, take a page from HVAC contractors and offer yearly service plans. This way, you're locking in customers year after year and taking care of potential problems that landowners might not even see. Or use good ole' fashioned door hangers for any house you drive by where you see problem trees in a landowner's yard. Be proactive.

  • Quantify your business's impact, much like McDonald's counts how many billions of people have been served. Taking tree branches and turning them into mulch? Calculate how many tons of beneficial mulch you make per year. Helping to save houses from potential disasters? Talk about how many houses you've saved. Quantifiable numbers can help prove your value and show how much experience you have.

So while you may (or may not) be involved in the tree trimming business, it's easy to see how the marketing lessons from a tree trimmer can be applied to any marketing situation. It's tree-mendous. (Sorry, just had to say it.)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Peddler on the Reef

Ok, so perhaps the title of this post was a real stretch of a reference to "Fiddler on the Roof" but I would like to talk about a prospective form of advertising that really would get the most out of Sunrise and Sunset: Reef Advertising. It's a concept that may be Florida's answer to offsetting the cost to build new artificial reefs off the state's coastline.

The idea:
St. Lucie County is looking to dump concrete railroad ties, culvert pipes, and other fodder into the ocean, creating artificial reefs for fish to hide in and plants to cling to, and also avoiding having to dump this material into landfills. The burgeoning colony of aquatic life would help improve the underwater environment and perhaps boost the local economy as a rush of more fishing and scuba diving would inevitably follow.

The problem:
For each of the 23 planned artificial reefs to be created, it will cost approximately $20,000 to have the construction material collected and dumped, a cost that the county can't afford.

The solution:
Have local companies pay $20,000 to sponsor the creation of a new reef. This would allow companies to have their names listed on ocean charts marking coral reefs, and then subsequently show off their investment to potential clients.

The analysis:
Sounds like a whale of an idea.

Advertising in the ocean? I say it's time to take the plunge. Where else can people legitimately benefit on a personal level from a company's advertising... from sunrise to sunset?

Hot Tips for Improving Your Spam!

Copywriting for spam e-mails can be a tough gig. Trying to generate sales by writing about the same 3 or 4 topics can be a challenge, so you really have to work hard on perfecting your skills in order to generously inform people of the next hot stock tip, alert people to their substantial lottery winnings halfway across the world, or show your concern by offering suggestions on how to increase the size of your male audience's, ummm, organs. It ain't easy, but someone's gotta do it.

If you're looking to sharpen your spam-writing/marketing skills (and who isn't?), click here for some helpful tips from The Columbus Dispatch on how to perfect that all-important e-mail sales tool.

And if you know of anybody selling Viagra on the cheap, please don't send them my way.

Thursday, November 1, 2007 A Well-Balanced, Engaging Site

It isn't often that I come across a B2B site that is successfully designed to look like an engaging B2C site. But is one of those rare exceptions.

Ohaus Corp. produces balances and scales for a wide array of industries from Laboratory to Jewelry to Education and more. How do I know this? It is clearly displayed in the top navigation bar, thus quickly aiding somebody who is looking for products that serve his/her field. All too often, sadly, companies think that they should put up their web site and make it difficult for visitors to figure out how the products shown relate to them. This site avoids that unfortunate trap.

Additionally the site offers multiple ways to find just the product you're looking for, which increases the chance that you'll get what you want... quickly. That makes the site a great sales tool, rather than just an electronic brochure like sites were designed to be 10 years ago. Many B2B companies still fail to grasp this concept and could very well be leaving money on the table.

Lastly, the overall graphic design of the site is sharp, with bright, clean photos, eye-catching buttons, and an easy navigation. Much better than most dull, outdated, unengaging B2B sites. This is quite refreshing.

I only found two negatives. The first is that the Press Release section is three years out of date, meaning that either the company has abandoned this effective marketing tool or they have forgotten to update this section. Secondly, the home page (both the main home page and the USA home page) has ZERO text on it. By not updating the press release section and by leaving the home page text-less, they may be hurting their search engine results, while also seeming distant to visitors who would be looking for better quality in these areas.

All in all, this site is a great example of breaking the mold of typical B2B sites and becoming a more engaging B2C-type marketing tool. This site has come a long 'weigh' in the B2B realm.