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

The big buzz on Wall Street is today’s planned IPO of Facebook. I hope it will reverse the recent downward trend (11 of the 12 last trading days were losers). Several months ago, a partner and I were discussing Mark Zuckerberg in the context of starting a new business. That discussion lead to a two-part post, which in honor of his IPO, I repeat in its entirety today.

My partner and I concluded that Mark’s phenomenal success with Facebook is the direct result of three “rookie” mistakes, none of which we would have made.

Those mistakes were:

  1. He was not the first to arrive at the social networking party. Rather than come up with an original idea, he improved on other people’s ideas. That never works. Either get to the market first or stay home, right?
  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 each of his mistakes in more detail. It turns out there is historical precedence to support his seemingly illogical behavior in committing Mistake #1.

For example, historians credit German engineer Karl Benz with inventing the automobile. He patented the first gasoline engine powered vehicle in 1885. That was 11 years before a thirty-year-old “techie” at the Edison Illuminating Company began experimenting with his Ford Quadricycle.

Henry Ford’s primary contribution to the automotive industry was to apply “best practices” manufacturing processes including interchangeable parts and a moving assembly line. By combining cost saving efficiencies with a social philosophy that included paying factory workers $5 per day (double the going wage), he transformed the automobile from an expensive curio for the idle rich to an affordable source of transportation for the masses.

Ford put his vision into words. He said, “I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.”

With the benefit of 115 years of hindsight, it is clear his value proposition actually created a market where none previously existed. He sold 15 million Model Ts over its nineteen-year production run.  At one point, half of the cars in the world were “Tin Lizzies.” True to his value statement, he was eventually able to reduce the selling price to $290, a 65% reduction from its introductory price.

O.K., Mark, I’ll concede your first mistake was not a mistake after all. Astute late comers can still profit by improving on an inventor’s ideas and capitalizing on missed opportunities.

What about waiting too long to cash out?

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!

You proved all of your distracters wrong! Good luck in your IPO Mark.

 © 2012 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

WHAT A CPA KNOWS ABOUT MARKETING: MORE SALES AREN’T ALWAYS THE ANSWER

There is an old joke about a marketing executive who bought a truckload of melons from a farmer for $1 each. He advertised them for sale at $0.85. When his CFO asked how he planned make a profit, he proudly replied, “Volume!”

Does that sound absurd to you? Surely, the story must be a throwback to the days before we had MBAs and complex modeling systems to direct our every move.

May I be honest? I have a degree in accounting, and have done graduate work in finance, not marketing. I have never worked in a purely marketing or sales function. Any marketing professional worth his salt has probably forgotten more on the subject then I will ever know. That explains the often-asked question of why a CPA wrote a book called Highly Visible Marketing, and blogs about marketing related topics.

I do not see myself as writing about marketing; at least not as the average person understands the word. I write about a business approach that is foreign to many marketing professionals. It is largely unheard of among small businesses.

I call it marketing accountability.

I focus clients on improving cash flow by growing the bottom line, not the top line. It is that focus that adds value.

Too many business people think like our melon-selling friend. They assume they can make money on any product or service, if they can just sell enough.

As obvious as it may sound, there must be a reasonable and measurable relationship between marketing costs and the expected cash flow and other benefits.

Without that mindset, there is no perceived need to compare costs and benefits. Little or no effort is spent matching expenses and revenues until someone asks why the cash balance is circling the drain or vendors start calling asking where their payment is.

Do you think I might be exaggerating the importance of accountability?

A 2005 study titled Small Business: Causes of Bankruptcy by Don B. Bradley III and Chris Cowdery of the University of Central Arkansas reported that of businesses in their study that filed for bankruptcy, 58% admitted to doing “little to no record keeping.” I assume a business that keeps no records has no ability to compare costs and benefits, let alone manage them.

I encounter this “I’ll make up the difference on volume” mentality with alarming frequency. One of those encounters was the cathartic event that led me to develop my marketing accountability approach.

I had a growing client who had reached $5 million in sales. Unfortunately, losses were growing even faster. They were in desperate straits, virtually out of cash. They thought the answer was to slash expenses and eliminate staff, while continuing to grow sales. In other words, they followed conventional business thinking.

I discovered they were losing money on their largest customer class, where all marketing efforts were directed. Much to their surprise, I did not suggest eliminating a single position. On the contrary, I recommended hiring a marketing person for the profitable customer base. I then directed  procedural improvements to make it easier for those customers to do business with my client. Finally, I suggested an immediate reduction in unprofitable customers.

Even more alarming is how often clients I assume are financially astute fall into the same trap. I worked with a very large company that started a bonus program on their entire product line. The problem was they lost money on some products, primarily because they were underpriced. The bonus structure did not differentiate between products. When sales of already unprofitable products increased, the added cost of bonuses produced a “double whammy” on the bottom line.

An appropriate tactic would have been to reward the sales force for increasing total sales, while also decreasing sales of unprofitable products.

As both examples illustrate, growing sales and increasing profits are not always synonymous. Admittedly, decreasing sales to improve cash flow and profits sounds counter-intuitive to someone lacking a firm grasp of their cost structure.

That is no excuse.

Knowing how to sell something without understanding the economic impact of those sales is a recipe for disaster. Those responsible for a promotion should also be held accountable for its results, good or bad. The ultimate result companies must focus on is how much cash a promotion puts in the bank. It really is that simple!

Does my marketing accountability approach work?

Here is what the client in the first example said, “While many companies are looking to cut back on employees as their first resort to handle cash shortages, CFO America was quick to point out that the right mix of customers was the crucial area of concern. They also were quite helpful in directing us in some marketing improvements that we could make. We are now in the process of implementing changes that are destined to enhance our financial picture.”

I leave you with that quote.

© 2011 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

CFO America: Your Cash Flow Optimization experts

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?

I recently discovered SlideShare.net, a free online slide hosting service. It was love at first sight! I wrote an article and a series of blogs (or love letters if you prefer the romance theme) titled Twelve Things I Learned about SlideShare.

SlideShare returned my affections! They featured the article on their home page, quickly gathering over 3,500 views. The article is at http://slidesha.re/kxG4So and on CFO America’s blog beginning at http://bit.ly/jcE8tu.

Like any true romance, my love for SlideShare has only grown stronger since we first met. Therefore, I decided to write a second article on new ways I have learned to use this powerful tool to increase your Internet footprint.

Today, I will share the first three of ten important things you should know about SlideShare. They address SlideShare’s demographics and norms. Wednesday will explain how to embed YouTube videos and how to access SlideShare remotely. Saving the best for last, on Friday I will reveal the secret of the “60 minute Twitter boost.”

Now, let me count the ways (last time, I promise).

  1. SlideShare has over 100 million page views per month. It has 10,000 new uploads every day. They are one of the top 200 websites in the world. According to web traffic monitor Alexa, users offer some attractive demographics. When compared to the general Internet population, 25 to 34 year olds and people with graduate degrees are over-represented. Their users are also disproportionately childless, Hispanic and visit the site while at work. Approximately 63% live in North and South America, 21% in Europe and 14% in Asia.
  2. SlideShare is primarily for PowerPoint presentations and pdf documents. The average presentation is 7.9 megabytes in size. The average document is 1.5 megabytes. With the exception of PowerPoint presentations saved as pdf documents, my files are all 300 kilobytes or less. They uploaded in seconds. While I have shared a 58 megabyte PowerPoint presentation, it took forever. I now save and upload PowerPoint files as pdf documents.
  3. SlideShare reports that the median number of slides is between 10 and 30 per presentation. Over 75% of presentations are 30 slides or less. Only 8% exceed 50 slides. There are some apparent cultural differences in this area. English based presentations average only 19 slides, Spanish 21. The Japanese lead the pack with 42 slides. Presentations average 24 words per slide and 19 images per file. The most popular fonts are Helvetica, Arial and Times New Roman.

Wednesday’s blog will present some actionable tips and suggestions. I look forward to our further discussions. In the meantime, please continue to post your questions and comments.

© 2011 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

Do You Like Me?

Sally Field’s acceptance of the 1984 Oscar for Places in the Heart is a classic among awards ceremony speeches. It included the emotional proclamation, “You like me, right now, you like me!” In a nutshell, all-grownup Gidget was bemoaning that she “didn’t feel the love” when she won her previous Oscar in 1979. Had Ms. Field given that speech today, at least 750 million of us would immediately assume she was somehow referring to her Facebook Fan page.

A Facebook “like” immediately reflects on that person’s page and exposes your product or service to their contacts. Your Facebook fans are essentially providing free advertising and their personal endorsement.

The  simple act of clicking a button also allows fans to post comments on your site unless blocked by your security settings.

Social media experts pay a lot of attention to Facebook likes and the characteristics of typical Facebook fans. For example, studies show that while the average Facebook user has about 130 friends, “likers” average closer to 300. They are 5 times more likely to click on external links. A study by media consultant Syncapse found that Facebook fans spend $71.84 more per year on brands than non-fans. Additionally, they are 28% more likely to continue using that brand.

The net result of all this is that an entire cottage industry has sprung up around helping small businesses increase their Facebook likes. As an internationally recognized champion of low-cost marketing alternatives (a slight exaggeration, but I sure hate spending money unnecessarily), regular readers know how I feel about that!

Therefore, I thought I would share a simple way of generating likes and page views without spending scarce marketing resources. Here it is:

Using your Facebook business account, like popular national or local Fan pages. Then post supportive comments about their product or service. A little light humor will probably attract additional attention. However, avoid posting a blatant advertisement for your Facebook page.

Let me give you a specific example of this tactic in action. This morning I posted, “We’ll be opening our first Diet Cokes long before Dallas thermometers top 100 for the 26th straight day today!” on Coke-Cola’s Fan page.

For a brief period (until pushed off-screen by newer comments), any of Coke’s 32.9 million fans who visited their site saw my innocuous comment, along with CFO America’s logo. Curious viewers could then click the logo to go to http://www.facebook.com/CFOAmerica, exactly where I want them!

You can find a list of the top Facebook Fan pages at http://statistics.allfacebook.com/pages. There are currently 27 sites with over 25 million fans each. There are almost 2,900 pages with 1 million or more fans. Most will allow you to comment on their posts. Some will allow you to post your own comment. Those Fan pages are marketing gold mines!

Over the past month, I have posted similar comments on Fan pages of local amusement parks, restaurants, hotels and so on. Since I began this tactic, new likes have increased 420% and active users (defined as the number of people who have viewed or interacted with my page) 43%. The following graph shows user activity over a two-week period. Notice the activity on July 19, a day when I was especially active in my posting efforts.

As the 17th century proverb said, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

Have a great weekend, and we’ll meet again on Monday.

The Horse Comes Before the Cart, Part 3

This week I have been emphasizing that the successful implementation of any strategy requires it be executed within the framework of a comprehensive marketing plan. Diving into a marketing campaign without first having a plan of where you are going and what you hope to accomplish is putting the cart before the horse, and makes you vulnerable to “tactical soup.”

Today I will conclude this three-part series by discussing the monitoring and evaluation of your plan.

8. Sadly, the critical step of monitoring results is often omitted by small businesses. Don Bradley and Chris Cowdery of the University of Central Arkansas conducted a study titled Small Business: Causes of Bankruptcy. They found that 58% of businesses that filed for bankruptcy admitted to doing “little to no record keeping.” Without an adequate accounting system, a business cannot fully understand its revenue cycle nor have a true picture of its marketing costs. You cannot manage what you cannot monitor, and you cannot monitor what you do not measure.

Measure, monitor and manage, in that order!

Include hard and soft-dollar components when measuring marketing costs. A $3,000 invoice for a newspaper ad is an obvious cost. However, a portion of the salary and benefits of the employee who spent four days writing and editing the copy is also a marketing cost. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that if a tactic has no hard costs (as with many Internet tools) that it is cost-free. The risk of this mindset is skipping the evaluation phase of the planning process. Time is a scarce resource in business. The opportunity cost (measured by what else you could be doing) of your time has value. It must be examined and justified in light of the marginal revenue it generates.

9. Finally, at the risk of over-simplification, the evaluation stage is largely a matter of comparing actual costs and marginal revenue to the expected numbers. However, knowing things like who responded to your promotion and whether they bought only sale items or made additional purchases are also important. This is a time to be objective and cold-blooded! If a marketing tactic exceeded cost expectations or failed to generate the required sales, cross it off your list. Never fall in love with an idea.

As you construct, implement and fine-tune your marketing plan, remember that it is a management tool. It is a not weapon to punish yourself or your employees. No one succeeds all the time; we often fail the first time! If costs exceed the benefits, take a page out of Thomas Edison’s playbook. When challenged about experimenting with over 10,000 different substances before picking a carbon filament for his light bulb, he replied, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Learning that something will not work is valuable information!

Let’s talk more on Monday. Have a great weekend!

© 2011 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

The Horse Comes Before the Cart, Part 2

This week I am discussing the important topic of determining your marketing strategies within the context of a comprehensive plan. Launching a marketing campaign (even if it does not involve any hard costs) without a plan is “putting the cart before the horse.” On Monday, I presented a framework for constructing your marketing plan. It begins with defining your goals. Today I will share additional thoughts on clarifying your goals and the tactics to accomplish them.

3. Consider financial and non-monetary objectives. Examples of non-monetary objectives include things like closing percentages, page hits and customer traffic patterns. Be specific! A goal of increasing sales is neither constructive nor measurable. A goal of increasing sales 5% per month for the next six months through a combination of a 4% increase in customer count and a $17 increase in average dollars per sale is.

4. Business goals are rarely accomplished in a straight linear fashion. For example, a 24% annual sales increase is not going to come in equal increments of 2% every month. Your marketing strategies are going to take time to produce results. They are affected by existing sales patterns and seasonality that every business experiences. Establish a realistic timeframe for each goal, with appropriate interim benchmarks to measure short-term progress toward long-term goals. That allows you to take timely corrective action or adjust goals as needed.

5. As you define goals and timeframes and the strategies and tactics to accomplish them, be aware of conflicting goals. Here is a simple example. What is the first thing most retailers do when they want to increase revenue? They hold a sale. In other words, they cut prices! Obviously, the hope is that increased customer traffic will more than offset the lower prices. However, it is still a conflict. Here is another example. Assume you want to increase the average customer purchase in your shoe store from $58 to $75. You therefore introduce a new line with a higher price point. Most customers are only going to buy one or two pairs of shoes. Therefore, while revenue from the new line will go up, sales of cheaper lines will probably go down. Conflicts are not necessary bad, and are often unavoidable. My only point is you need to look at the whole picture. Recognize and manage conflicting goals in your market plan.

6. Specify the purpose or desired result of every marketing tactic. In other words, what action do you hope clients or prospects will take because of a marketing initiative? Your definition of purpose establishes the basis of measurement and encourages accountability. The desired result may include multiple objectives, including the following:

  • Business production
  • Generate new leads
  • Brand awareness
  • Introduce a new product or service
  • Advertise a specific sale or promotion
  • Establish your expertise
  • Increase customer traffic
  • Consumer education

7. Tactics rarely operate in a vacuum. You can sometimes leverage one against another. For example, relationships developed online can be taken offline. A social media connection is a far better sales prospect if you subsequently call or meet face-to-face. Similarly, you might precede a direct mail campaign with a subject matter media blitz via article marketing, blogging, email newsletters, press releases and so on.

I will conclude this topic on Friday, when I will discuss step 4 of your market planning process, monitoring costs and results.

© 2011 by Dale R. Schmeltzle

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