Eight Secrets from a Serial Blogger

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Have you been thinking about blogging, but are concerned whether your writing skills will translate into effective online communications?

Increase your chances of success in getting your message to the right audience by avoiding the mistakes of others. This article offers eight simple suggestions its authors learned in the preverbal “school of hard knocks”.

Here they are:

1. Stick to a schedule. The correct blogging frequency is whatever connects with your audience. For some blogs that might be daily. For others, once a month is sufficient. The optimal blogging frequency is not critical. What is critical is to decide on a schedule, communicate it to your readers and stick to it! Avoid the temptation to over-commit. While most bloggers enjoy writing, it can be grueling.

2. Expand and enhance. Supplement your usual content by periodically sharing relevant quotes, articles and tips from others. You can also try using guest writers, treating your readers to different areas of expertise and points of view. A generous introduction to your guest author may result in them reciprocating on their blog, further expanding your following.

3. Keep posts short. Readers are looking for tidbits of actionable information, not detailed research. Keep posts short, preferably under 600 words. The average American reads less than 300 words per minute. Studies suggest 65% of visitors spend less than 2 minutes on a website. Therefore, an entry longer than 600 words will not be read in its entirety, if at all.

  • A better alternative to lengthy articles is to split them into multiple parts, posting them in consecutive entries. Begin each post with a review of what was discussed in the previous entry, and end with what to expect in your next post and when it will be shared.

4. Promote your blog. Add your blog’s web address to business cards, print media ads, letterheads, email signatures and so on. Adding a Quick Response Code to business cards and other medium is gaining popularity. A QR code allows Smartphone users to find your blog easily.

5. Use social media. Post summaries of blog posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Exercise care to comply with each platform’s unique character limitations.

  • Since you will always end with a hyperlink to your blog, use a free URL shortener like https://bitly.com/ if pressed for space.
  • Post blog entries on SlideShare or other article marketing sites by uploading a pdf file. The last paragraph should be a brief “About the author” with a hyperlink to your blog.
  • Blog posts can be featured in your monthly newsletter to customers and friends.

6. Support online sharing. Add plug-ins or widgets on your blog to promote article sharing through Facebook, Twitter and other social media vehicles you believe are likely to help capture your target market. Allow readers to bookmark your URL to their list of favorite sites with the click of a button.

7. Encourage feedback. Always thank readers who post comments. Be respectful of opinions and suggestions, even if you disagree with them. While it is perfectly appropriate to delete spam (an inevitable byproduct of successful blogging) or comments with inappropriate language, deleting reader comments simply because you disagree discourages feedback. Periodically end posts by asking readers for comments, suggestions and ideas for future articles.

8. Don’t give up too quickly. Some experts believe it takes about 100 posts before you begin to build a following. Most bloggers become discouraged and give up before reaching that milestone.

© 2013 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

You Can Count on a Guy in a White Hat

whitehatAs an entire generation who grew up watching Gun Smoke, The Lone Ranger and a long list of other television westerns knows, good guys always wore white hats!

One of the greatest Hollywood clichés of all times, it is deeply ingrained within each of us that you could count on a stranger in a white hat! They were sure to be honest, kind, generous, courageous, moral and chivalrous.

That leaves the other guys, the ones in the black hats. Just as good defines evil, they were the anti-hero of every storyline, the exact opposite of guys in white hats. A man in a black hat was surely dishonest, cruel, self-centered, cowardly, immoral and boorish. Good guys and bad guys were always on opposite sides of an issue. Fortunately, good always triumphed in the end.

So it is not surprising that when it came time to pick names for two broad categories of search engine optimization (SEO) practices, a baby boomer somewhere choose white hat and black hat to describe the opposite ends of a long spectrum of internet marketing techniques and philosophies.

The stakes are high in this modern day gunfight. Fair or not, a potential customer who has never heard of your company has no choice but to equate your search engine results and the quality of your content with the prominence of your company among your peers and the value of your products or services!

A study of December 2010 Google searches for B2B and B2C businesses found the top 3 search engine rankings got 60% of all click throughs, with the first position enjoying a click through rate (CTR) of 36.4%. Page one listings got 8 times more clicks than page 2. CTR differences by ranking were even more dramatic for key words with more than 1,000 searches per month.

What then are the distinguishing characteristics of these opposing marketing camps? They hinge on the answer to a single question. Does the marketer play by the largely unwritten and frequently changing rules of the major search engines (Google, Yahoo and Bing control over 95% of the market) or not?

Just like the old Code of the West, white hats follow the rules. They focus on engaging and informing readers rather than manipulating search engine algorisms. Their procedures include writing key word rich text (without meaningless repetition), link building and paid advertising using pay per click ad words.

Black hats still refuse to play by any rules. Their techniques include email spam, keyword stuffing, article spinning (posting substantially similar content in multiple locations) and using hidden text to trick search engines.

What are the rewards for playing by the rules of this 21st century Code of the Internet? White hat marketing can be expected to produce slower but longer lasting organic search rankings. Black hat techniques will likely eventually be penalized by search engines, reducing rankings or eliminating the listing from their database.

What color is your hat?

© 2013 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

“LIKE” IF YOU REMEMBER MYSPACE

MySpaceIs it just me, or has there been an explosion of people posting nostalgic photos on Facebook and asking you to click “Like” if you can remember a black and white picture of some fifties TV icon or a once popular consumer product from your youth? Time has a way of reducing our past to warm, fuzzy memories. Heck, show me a photo of a macho guy enjoying a cigarette on the back of a horse and I might even forget that three of the Marlboro Man actors died of lung cancer!

Digital media has done more than merely provide a medium to share the recollections of our youth. It has greatly diminished the time span during which products and services move from broad acceptance and popularity to distant memories. Allow me to offer two well-known examples.

Gutenberg’s 1440 invention of the printing press revolutionized communication. It made possible the sharing of ideas and information through the mass production of books. It took another 555 years, until 1995, for an upstart company named Amazon to start selling those same books using something that had been introduced just three years earlier. That something was the Internet.

It took another 12 years to popularize eReaders like their famous Kindle. Within four years, Amazon was selling three times as many eBooks as hard covers. Their success obviously does not include a plethora of competitors including the hugely successful Apple iPad. It seems almost certain the paper book will soon be a candidate for Facebook friends to ask you to “Like” if you can remember owning one.

Still, 600 years from invention to impending obsolescence is not a bad run! Now consider a more recent service life span.

MySpace was introduced in August 2003, six months before Facebook. Just two years later, it was the most visited social networking site on the planet. Rupert Murdock was so excited about its prospects that he paid $580 million for it in 2005. In 2006, it reached 100 million accounts, a level that required 1,600 employees to support.

Facebook over took it in April 2008.

In June 2011, Murdoch’s News Corporation sold MySpace for $35 million, a 94% loss on their six-year investment. With uncharacteristic understatement, Murdoch pronounced the purchase a “huge mistake”.

These examples illustrate three critically important points for all 21st century marketers.

  1. Communication trends change faster than businesses can anticipate. Most lack the resources to manage that change.
  2. Faced with a constantly expanding stream of free choices, your target audience no longer uses communications channels popular just a few years ago.
  3. Neither do your successful competitors.

The cost of failure is high. Even the most carefully designed marketing communiqué, be it a press release, an ad campaign, a newsletter, etc., will fail if it is not transmitted in the optimal channel.

The only way to avoid that mistake is to communicate a consistent message and single brand to over-lapping audiences across multiple channels. That is what successful digital media marketing is all about.

© 2013 by CFO America, LLC

Too Foolish To Fail – Part 2

On Friday, I began a two-part post on Mark Zuckerberg’s three mistakes in starting Facebook. Mistake # 1 was not coming up with an original idea, but merely improving on other people’s ideas. It turns out that was not a mistake after all.

Today, I will analyze his other mistakes, namely:

2. He waited too long to “cash out.” He should have jumped at the first opportunity to raise some serious “beer money” like a normal college kid. If only he had, he would be a millionaire today!

3. He failed to exercise basic common sense! Anyone smart enough to get into Harvard should know that a dream of launching a worldwide business to redefine a major facet of society is destined to break your heart. Homer Simpson said it best, “Trying is the first step toward failure!”

Let’s analyze these missteps.

I am frequently surprised at the short-term vision baby boomers adopt in their business planning. I often encounter entrepreneurs who hope to build a successful business and “cash out” in five years or less.

This view is a distraction from your value proposition, the very reason you went into business in the first place. Think about it. Customers are at best indifferent to your retirement plans. Would you pick a new dentist if you knew she planned to sell her practice in two years?

It also introduces a bias that will slant business decisions in favor of maximizing short-term cash flows at the expense of building long-term value. For example, owners will forego investments in customer service and product design if payoffs extend beyond their timeline. This situation is analogous to watching a runner round the bases as you chase a fly ball. There are already plenty of opportunities to falter in business without unnecessary distractions. Do not take your eye off the ball!

It seems counterintuitive that a college student, given the opportunity to finance what would have been a carefree life style, would follow a business plan that extended beyond the next frat party. To his credit, now 27-year-old Mark Zuckerberg has resisted the temptation to monetize his 24% stake in Facebook for 7 years. Instead, he has continued to lead the company according to his vision.

It is hard to argue with his success. Earlier this year, Goldman Sachs valued the private company at $50 billion. Mark kept his eye on the ball, even when faced with what would have been an irresistible temptation for us mere mortals. Cashing out four or five years ago would have cost him billions.

You were right, Zuck. My partner and I were….we were….well any way, you were right. Gloating is so not cool, Mark!

That brings me to his third mistake. Mark should have listened to the voices in his head that are quick to point out all the reasons why his grand plans would surely fail.

Abraham Lincoln once described a general who was unwilling to make decisions under pressure as “acting like a duck that had been hit on the head.” Fear of failure is a powerful motivator. It causes some of us to avoid decision making altogether.

Decision making is a cognitive process involving logic, reasoning and problem solving skills. Unfortunately, each of us enters that process with certain preconceived biases. We are often quick to listen to any voice that supports them. It is normal to exhibit a reluctance to move off those biases, even if faced with new facts, circumstances or opportunities. Therefore, the safe decision (i.e., to spend our career as a corporate wage slave rather than launch a new venture) is often the default decision.

Samuel Clemmons once said, “It’s not what you don’t know that will get you in trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

To his credit, Mark Zuckerberg did not let what he did not know about launching a business get in the way of his success. His vision was inspiring; his execution was courageous.

In the final analysis, my partner and I could take a lesson from him. So can you!

 © 2011 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

It’s Nice to be Lucky

Someone recently asked why I prefer consulting to corporate positions. The truth is I am not sure I do. However, the question got me thinking. That got me writing, so here I go.

A number of years ago, family circumstances forced me to leave the corporate arena, where I had established a 25-year record of success. Consulting offered the only viable opportunity to feed my family.

Back then, the World Wide Web as we called it was still in its infancy. Only large companies had websites. E-commerce was virtually nonexistent. Facebook would not be introduced for another four years. My personal computer provided email access. However, many people still lacked an email address, especially at home. I cannot recall whether I could attach documents. I suspect not. Cell phones typically cost hundreds of dollars per month, largely due to a now antiquated practice of assessing “roaming charges” for long distance calls. Blogging? That sounded more like something my Rottweiler does after she eats grass than a mass communications tool.

I did not have a marketing clue, let alone a marketing plan!

What I did have was a telephone. It attached to the wall with a long wire. You may remember the device, having seen one in your grandmother’s house or perhaps a museum. It could serve as a fax, but only if the recipient also had one. Although it sometimes seemed to weigh 500 pounds, I was occasionally able to muster the strength to use it.

The third phone call I made landed a million dollar client. It also launched what became a 15-person consulting firm. You can choose to characterize the call as pure dumb luck, divine intervention or anything in between. I will find no fault with whatever label you assign. The bottom line is consulting supported a comfortable life style for several years, while allowing me to address challenging family issues.

A decade later, circumstances beyond my control again forced me into consulting. Since then, I have defined my value proposition (I had no idea what that was 12 years ago) by offering cost effect advice to small and medium sized businesses. My advice is usually very specific, lengthy and often somewhat technical.

Today I will depart from my recent path. Instead, I will present two brief and decidedly nontechnical suggestions. I share both from very personal experience.

1. Mr. Tom Lewis, an online marketing consultant from “across the pond” put the whole concept of small business marketing in a rather interesting and concise perspective. He said, “All these new media buzzwords like social networking and technology like LinkedIn are just new ways of complementing (some would say avoiding) personal contact. Get out there and get your face known! Pick up the phone and call some potential clients. Speak at some networking events. Knock on some doors.”

As Mr. Lewis’ quote insinuates, there is a significant difference between merely communicating and actually connecting with customers and prospects. I can instantly communicate with thousands of people with the click of a few buttons. Yet even with the myriad of now common “high tech” options, the only better way of really connecting with someone other than the lowly telephone is in person. Unfortunately, that option is often unavailable.

My first suggestion is therefore quite simple. Include some “low-tech” tactics in your marketing plan. Pick up the phone and start dialing. Your next large client may be waiting at the other end! Mine was.

2. As of July 2011, 13.9 million Americans (9.1% of the civilian workforce) were unemployed. Over 6 million people are deemed long-term unemployed, Washington-speak for out of a job over six months and desperate. Motivated by a lack of alternative employment opportunities, large numbers eventually migrate into their own business or consulting, as I did. Unfortunately, many are fundamentally unprepared for the operational and emotional challenges that line the road to successful self-employed. Nevertheless, they are more in need of a simple word of encouragement than business advice.

I end with a quote by Thomas Edison. He said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” That is as true in today’s difficult economy as it was in 1879 when Edison perfected the light bulb after experimenting with over 10,000 different filaments.

That leads me to the shortest and most basic suggestion I have ever dared offer. Hang in there!

Until next time, I wish you good fortune in all your business endeavors. Let me know if I can be of assistance.

 

© 2011 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

SLIDESHARE, HOW DO I LOVE THEE? (PART 3)

Earlier this week, I began a three-part series on SlideShare, a free online slide hosting service. Part 1 discussed the first three of ten important things you should know about SlideShare, its demographics and norms. Part 2 explained how to embed YouTube videos and how to access SlideShare remotely. As promised, I have saved the best for last.

Here are today’s suggestions.

9. SlideShare provides truly excellent support through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. I have promoted several files through my LinkedIn groups. I have twice received emails saying, “XYZ file is being talked about on LinkedIn more than anything else on SlideShare right now. So we’ve put it on the homepage of SlideShare.net (in the “Hot on LinkedIn” section).” In both cases, view counts increased dramatically, if briefly.

Another benefit of tweeting SlideShare files is the potential of promoting your brand on a worldwide basis through Paper.li. It takes Twitter streams and extracts links to news stories and videos. It then determines which stories are relevant based on criteria the user establishes. It creates themed pages based on specific topics using hashtags. Paper.li subscribers distribute their daily or weekly publication as a unique newspaper, written from a perspective of what is of interest on the Web that day. Every Twitter user is therefore a potential editor. Their followers (including CFO America on several occasions) serve as unpaid journalists. To view a sample of Paper.li, read The CFO America Daily at http://paper.li/CFOAmerica/1300800014.

10. Finally, the number one reason for my love affair with SlideShare is what I call the “60 minute Twitter boost” phenomena. To experience it for yourself, open your file on the “My Uploads” tab and click on the Twitter icon. The following tweet will appear, “Check out this SlideShare document: The Title of Your SlideShare Document” along with a shortened URL. Modify the tweet with a few appropriate hash tags. Without fail, the file experiences a marked increase in views and downloads for about an hour. In my experience, views have jumped up to 35 times their daily average. I have tweeted friends’ documents with identical results. The boost trails off quickly, and totally evaporates within 24 hours. However, it can be extended with multiple tweets over the course of a day. Use different hash tags for each tweet.

In closing, I offer my apologies to Victorian era poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning for the shameless exploitation of her classic poem. Imagine how quickly it would have gone “viral” if only Ms. Browning had the same access to SlideShare.net that you and I now enjoy.

Go forth and share!

SLIDESHARE, HOW DO I LOVE THEE? (PART 2)

On Monday, I began the first of a three-part article. It confesses my undying love for SlideShare, a free online slide hosting service. Part 1 discussed the first three of ten important things you should know about SlideShare, its demographics and norms. Today, Part 2 will explain how to embed YouTube videos and how to access SlideShare remotely.

Here are today’s suggestions.

4. SlideShare allows you to embed YouTube videos into slide presentations. Simply click the “Edit / Delete” button for the appropriate PowerPoint file on your “My Uploads” page. Next, click the “Insert YouTube Videos” tab at the top of the screen. Then paste the URL and select where in the slide sequence the video will appear.  Finally, click the “Insert and Publish” button. You are finished! Repeat the process to insert additional videos into the presentation. If you change your mind, videos are removable. Although I have not experimented with the option, you can also add sound by inserting an MP3 file. Video and sound cannot be inserted into pdf documents.

5. SlideShare is accessible by mobile devices at http://m.slideshare.com. This allows travelers to search, view and download presentations and documents. Bookmark the site for faster access.

6. Item #5 illustrates another endearing characteristic. By uploading Word documents as pdf files, I am using SlideShare as an article marketing service like EzineArticles. Although larger, EzineArticles has some complex rules about including URLs. I have failed their submission approval process on several occasions. The same is true of GoArticles.com. I have never encountered this issue with SlideShare. Furthermore, Twelve Things I Learned about SlideShare has received over 3,700 views on SlideShare compared to eight on EzineArticles and three on GoArticles during comparable timeframes. SlideShare’s marketing tag line should be, “No restrictions, just results!”

7. While I have not seen any definitive statistics, most seem to indicate the average time a viewer spends on an Internet page is only two to three minutes. That has significant implications to the amount of content presented. The average American adult reads between 250 and 300 words per minute. SlideShare viewers average seven to eight minutes per visit. That suggests that users are more likely to read longer files in their entirety.

8. Keyword tags help people quickly find information that interests them. SlideShare searches are keyword driven. They allow you to enter up to 20 tags per file. The top tags in 2010 were forecast, market, statistics, business, trends, industry, research, SWOT (an anachronism for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats), report, company profiles, social media and marketing. Type and spell check your 20 tags in Word. Then paste them into SlideShare when you upload your file.

Saving the best for last, on Friday I will reveal the secret of the “60 minute Twitter boost.”

© 2011 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

Do you really need to be on Facebook?

A friend recently asked me why a small business needs a social media presence. The first question is whether a small business needs a social media presence. The short answer is: it depends! More specifically, it depends on your marketing objectives and target audience. Let’s discuss both.

The ultimate purpose of a marketing initiative is to influence consumer behavior in ways that accomplish your business goals. What exactly do you want to accomplish? Define your goals by listing the results you hope to accomplish. Desired results may include multiple objectives, including:

  • Business production
  • Brand awareness
  • Reduce marketing costs
  • Consumer education
  • Lead generation
  • Establish expertise
  • Specific promotions

New business production is often difficult to achieve using any strategy. I have spoken with many professionals who do not view social media as a source of new customers. That mirrors my experience. To be fair, I have not found the traditional web a meaningful source new business either. I believe that having a website is now a prerequisite for credibility. I suspect it is often true of Facebook and other social media sites as well. On the other hand, I know insurance agents, tax specialists and social media vendors who generate significant business through social media.

Again, business production is only one of many marketing goals. I recently spoke with an account executive at a major brokerage. He wants to increase his Internet footprint. His assumption is that the odds of a prospect becoming a client are proportional to the number of hits when they search his name. The broker wanted to know how many hits “CFO America” generates. The answer was 7.7 million. While nine of the first 10 were my company, many were not. However, if only 1% is, it far exceeds several regional and national competitors. That exposure results from an extensive social media effort. It is also consistent with an April 2010 survey by Michael Stelzner of SocialMediaExaminer.com. He found 85% of participants reported social media generated exposure for their business.

Two other marketing goals supported by social media are search engine results and cost reduction. I spent $10,000 developing a traditional website. I was promised a “top 3” ranking for the phrase “fractional CFO.” While it accomplished its goal, I am still waiting for the phone to ring! Very few people search that phrase, largely because they do not know what it means.

Could I have used social media to boost search rankings and save money? The Stelzner survey found 54% of participants thought social media marketing improved their search rankings. It also found 48% experienced marketing expense reductions. I am now using blogging, Facebook, Twitter and other sites to educate the small business community on what a fractional CFO is and how it can benefit them. Since I cannot afford a national print media campaign, this is the only way I know of to accomplish my goal.

The second area to explore in evaluating the need for a social media presence is your target market. The question to ask is where potential customers turn (Internet, newspaper, Yellow Pages, etc.) to learn about your products or services, and businesses that offer them. The answer is largely dependent on customer demographics like age, education, income level, gender and so on. The statistics are easily summarized. If your marketing “sweet spot” lies in young, educated, and/or high-income consumers, you need social media. Using Facebook’s active U.S. users as a proxy for all of social media, 80% are under age 45, 66% have at least some college education, and 67% have incomes over $50,000. U.S. active Facebook users (like many social media sites) exhibit a bias in favor of women. However, on a worldwide basis, Facebook has slightly more men than women. Visit www.alexa.com to find matches for your target market.

Does your business need a social media presence?

That is a key marketing question, one you must ultimately decide on your own. I hope you will base your decision on an objective analysis of your marketing goals and target audience. I now end by confessing the obvious. I love social media marketing! I am excited about the possibilities it offers small and medium-sized businesses to communicate their message across a wide spectrum of prospects. Having said that, it is difficult to conceive of goals and audience demographics that are not supported by social media marketing. It is impossible to conceive of a more cost-effective strategy.

Creating a Winning Story

We are witnessing an amazing explosion of communication options. Countless telecommunication and Internet-based vehicles that did not exist a few years ago are now the norm. Who, save a small group of billionaire visionaries, foresaw the impact of Facebook, eBay and smart phones on today’s business community?

One thing has not changed. Marketing is still about communicating your message. Businesses must explain their value proposition to ever-widening and geographically dispersed audiences. It logically follows that whether you are drafting a newsletter, placing a newspaper ad or writing a short article, the message itself is the primary determinant of your success.

Everyone recognizes that correct spelling and proper grammar are essential. A few obvious mistakes in the opening paragraph will quickly sacrifice your credibility. The need to write at the level of our target reader is not as widely recognized. A successful author of children’s books does not write like someone presenting a research paper to the New England Journal Medicine. Your audience lies somewhere in between.

Microsoft Word Spell Check includes three tools to determine reading level. The first two are related. They are the Flesch Reading Ease score and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score. Both are formulas driven by the average words per sentence and syllables per word. Note that semicolons are treated as breaks between sentences, just like periods. The U.S. Navy began using these tools to test the readability of forms and manuals in 1975. Some states set readability standards for insurance policies and legal documents.

The higher the Flesch Reading Ease score, the easier it is to read. For example, the sentence “See Spot run'” scores 100. Scores of 60 to 70 are at a 13 to 15 year old level. Scores of 30 or less indicate a college graduate level. Time magazine scores around 50. The Harvard Law Review is in the low 30s.

The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level corresponds directly to the appropriate grade level. An 8.2 indicates comfortable reading for an eighth grader. A score above 12 requires college level reading skills. At the other extreme, Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss is a negative 1.3. I target scores between 9 and 10 in my writing. This article is a 9.1.

Word’s third tool is the Passive Sentences Readability score. This formula is the ratio of passive to active sentences, expressed as a percentage. Low scores indicate high readability. A score above 15% is difficult to read. This article scored 0.0%, very unusual for my writing style.

I’m taking a long weekend, so I’ll see you again on Wednesday. Have a great weekend!

© 2011 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

What to do When Life Hands You Lemmings

Apple introduced the Macintosh personal computer in a third quarter television commercial during Super Bowl XLIII in January 1984. Playing off a George Orwell 1984 theme, it featured rows of uniformed, colorless drones. They sat mesmerized, watching as Big Brother dribbled propaganda on a large movie screen. Suddenly, a female runner chased by storm troopers entered the room. She hurled a sledgehammer against the screen, which explodes. The commercial ended with the statement, “You’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.”

That commercial has been voted the best Super Bowl commercial of all time. Always stick with what works, right?

The following year, Apple decided to use Super Bowl XIX to introduce Macintosh Office. This commercial featured a long line of blindfolded business people marching across a dusty, forbidding terrain. Their only source of guidance is their hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them. One-by-one, they walk off a cliff. It has been dubbed the “Lemmings commercial” and is widely considered the worse commercial in Super Bowl history. Apple did not advertise during the Super Bowl for the next 14 years.

Have you ever had a Lemmings-like marketing experience, one whose cost was exceeded only by its complete failure to accomplish its intended purpose? Sadly, I have! I spent $10,000 developing a traditional website in the hope it would soon have my phone “ringing off the hook” with eager prospects. The vendor guaranteed a “top 3” ranking for the phrase “fractional CFO.” While it accomplished that goal, I am still waiting for the phone to ring! Very few people search that phrase, largely because they do not know what it means.

I gained three things from my personal Lemmings experience. Allow me to now swallow my pride and share the lessons learned.

1. Cut your losses!

Ego has no place in rational business decisions. Admit your mistakes, save what is left of your limited marketing budget and move on! I compounded my mistake by continuing to pay the vendor $60 a month to host the site. They provided no marketing support, no analytical data or anything to justify an additional fee. I eventually moved the site to JustHost.com, a vendor that for a low annual fee provides unlimited email and website hosting. Since I already had an account, I saved $720 per year.

2. Reevaluate your marketing goals and the tactics to achieve them.

My initial hope (it was far too naive to qualify as a goal) was that if I simply created a website, my target market would flock to it and contact me. I now realize it is unlikely businesses will retain executive management consultants solely from online relationships. That is not to say that the website cannot serve a valuable role in my marketing strategy. However, it cannot serve as the primary strategy for new business production. One of my goals is now to move promising online relationships offline. In other words, to make personal connections over a cup of coffee or phone calls. I also learned the need to help educate the business community on the existence, purpose and value of fractional CFOs. My tactics include extensive networking and event-based marketing.

3. Salvage some value from your missteps.

I grew up playing in my family’s auto recycling business (o.k., junkyard if my brother is reading this). I learned the importance of salvaging maximum value from every opportunity. In the case of my misspent marketing funds, I have uploaded the site’s video (half of its cost) to YouTube, where it may increase my Internet footprint and contribute toward my goal of consumer education. As previously mentioned, I also transferred the website to another hosting service. While this may or may not help increase brand awareness and establish my expertise, it is now essentially free!

Let me close with some simple but very practical advice. To err is human. To learn from your mistakes is good business!

© 2011 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

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