Friday, August 9, 2019

Kohls, CVS and Marketing Programs that could be Better

Marketing is supposed to deepen customer relationships. Unfortunately, much marketing fails because it is not truly helpful to customers - the lifeblood of any business or organization.

When marketing is grounded in customer service, good things happen.

Do your customer service and operations policies support customer service? They should. And if they don't, they're undermining your marketing message.

Bad Examples: The Brands I Love to Hate

I know quite a few customers who have love-hate relationships with Kohl's and CVS because of those companies' preferred shopper programs. Both companies severely discount products to the point that they decrease value; the unintentional message they send is that customers should never pay the "full" price for anything in the store.

CVS's constant couponing is not only sending the wrong message to customers, it's got to be annoying the heck out of CVS associates. 

The employee - ever cheerful! at least at my local stores -  has to scan the shopper's loyalty card, scan any paper coupons, access coupons online, and then sort it all out. 

In the process, sometimes the line at CVS feels a little like the waning minutes of a garage sale or closing time at the farmer's market stand. As the cashier sorts through various discounts, and associated rules (no, this is on sale so you can't use the coupon...this is the wrong only got one...),  customers sometimes try to negotiate. And who wins? 

This probably sounds familiar to Kohl's shoppers, who know that Kohl's Cash can be used for anything in the store (but those expiration dates are set in stone) (unless the manager says otherwise) while the (constant stream of) 10, 20, and 30% off offers cannot be used on certain brands (Nike, UnderArmor, and about anything I might be shopping for on any given day.).

In other words, it's a game. It's a game to get shoppers to return to the store at least monthly  - and it works. But, I say it doesn't develop customers who are loyal to either brand. Both programs train shoppers to frequent stores and try to best the system...get the lowest price...quite often ending up in a negotiation (or outright argument) with store personnel.

Who really wins that game?

Not the customer.
Not the store employee.
And ultimately, not the brand or the company.

Imagine a company that rewards customers for doing business by being helpful, easy to work with, and offering good customer service and a fair value?

Crazy, right?

If that's how you'd like to build your business, get in touch here or contact Nurture Marketing & Communications

Monday, July 1, 2019

GOOD NEWS - Content Marketing is Getting More Human

GOOD NEWS! "Good" content is increasingly human, as search (and AI) are making it easier to simply talk to your prospects. And as the midsection of this e-clincher article explains, the next step is to give them reason to talk to you.

And as content marketing takes a nice step toward actual communication, it's time to reconsider the much misunderstood user generated content, or UGC.

Aside - but definitely related to content marketing - how do you feel about gated content? The marketing manager in me says "gate it!" but the information/communication-lover says, maybe not. Marketing Sherpa's 2017 article on the subject still stands up, and as of this writing, Health Catalyst, the company profiled, is still offering an unbelievable amount of very meaty, useful content - ungated.

Bottom line about content marketing: to be of value, both the content and the marketing need to be good.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Quality Content, Content Marketing, and Facebook's Changing Algorithms

Content is everywhere; quality content isn't. Content marketing is using content to draw prospects and customers into (or deeper into) your sales funnel. If marketing is like fishing (can you stand another fishing analogy?) then content is your bait. And the pond is littered with bait, good and bad.

Of course, you're not fishing for fish, you're hoping to hook human customers. So you should know that humans now have an attention span of 8 seconds, or 4 seconds less than goldfish (thus muddying the waters of this whole fishing analogy).

Obviously, your content must not only be good enough to attract prospects, it needs to placed properly and used wisely. For the sake of this article, we'll assume you're convinced that using Facebook to attract prospects is a good idea.*

Good Content is Good Content (and Facebook Knows It)

Facebook is always making changes. (<-- File under "Duh.")  Yet another algorithm change this spring focused (yet again) on keeping users happy. No surprise there, because Facebook does what it does in order to keep users happy. User activity (engagement) is the product that Facebook sells.

So changes announced in April 2019 were designed to improve rankings of content that users really want to see and engage with. "You'll see more posts from friends you want to see posts from," Facebook told users. The company also said those changes were not intended to affect Pages in a specific way. But ;) they have and they will.

The good news is that the definition of good content hasn't changed. The better news is that you may not need to make any changes at all, assuming your content is good and relevant to your audience. The tips below are in line with both Facebook's latest changes and good content practices in general.

  1. Be Helpful  -  Good content is good content. Good content is helpful content. Ergo, your goal is to share content that is HELPFUL to your best prospects. That might include sharing a recipe for S'mores when what you're selling has nothing to do with S'mores. Striking a balance in your content mix is the key. 
  2. Share Smart - Speaking of sharing, Facebook announced that it is placing a higher value on original content, but frankly, that's not "new" to the platform or to human behavior in general. Original content should, by definition, be more valuable to your (identified) prospects and set you apart from your competition by highlighting your unique offerings. So, don't be afraid to share (attributed) content from other sources, in keeping with a solid content plan. 
  3. Images AND Video - Video is the best content, except when it isn't.  Images still get better reach than videos on Facebook -  but keep in mind, that's a pretty non-specific statistic. Remember, the best content for your prospects is what they want and need. (<-- Also file under "Duh.") Experiment with video, both original and from other sources. Look for opportunities to schedule Facebook Live events, but don't invent flimsy reasons to do so - remember, quality content is your goal. Watch your responses (you do analyze your Insights, don't you?) and build on those that get good results for you. 

*Should I Really Use Facebook for My Business?

For most businesses and organizations, Facebook is a worthwhile channel. If you're not sure it's good for your business, or you think it is but you'd like to see a better return on your Facebook efforts, get in touch

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Avoid Content Overload & Social Media Burnout

Content overload is real. Content's value is also real - and considerable, especially when it's used well to attract prospects and to turn them into customers.

            On the other hand, can content be counterproductive? On 4/8/19, cosmetic brand Lush announced that it's quitting social media. Time will tell how the company's experiment (or social media ploy) works out. My guess is, at the very least, the company is reevaluating its content management plans.

In the face of "more is better" content marketing strategies, I tell clients to consider their own sanity, budget, and what they know about their business before they commit to a blog or another social media channel. 

The Cold, Hard Truth About Business, Life & Content Marketing

Cold hard truth 1 - We all get the same 24 hours a day to work, shop, eat, sleep, play, and read scintillating blog posts. People who are not in the market for a kitchen sink will not spend a lot of time reading blogs or social media posts  - however witty - about kitchen sinks. 

Cold hard truth 2 - Content sells. It also takes time to deliver on its potential - which is huge, Forbes notes. So while witty writing about kitchen sinks can, in fact, sell kitchen sinks, without a good content marketing plan, those sinks are...sunk.

Content Marketing is important because, when done right, it will: 
  • Build relationships with existing and potential customers at every point in the sales cycle
  • Increase your sales 
  • Highlight new opportunities and 
  • Offer additional insight into your market
In other words, content IS marketing - when it's done well. 

To do it well, you must have a plan. 

As Alli Berry of The Motley Fool explains,  "every single piece of content you create needs to be mapped to a goal." 

I'm not a Lush cosmetics follower (apparently a lot of people can say that today!) but my best guess is Lush didn't follow a good content marketing plan. 

Balancing Your (Time and Money) Investment in Content and Social Media

I don't have any clients with unlimited budgets. (If you know any, please send them my way.) When making a marketing budget, I advise my clients that their content marketing plan needs to take care of three things:
  1. Determine what your prospects want and need to know.
  2. Know how to get that information to them (online and off).
  3. Create and deliver that content to them - and be ready to follow up. 
If you're wondering why I didn't mention keyword research, PPC advertising, or SEO, see step 1. And 2. And 3.

It's all related, folks. But without a good content marketing plan, trust me, you can waste a lot of money on advertising. And without a thorough understanding of your prospects and buying cycle, you can lose a lot of sales.

Content Marketing for Small Businesses: Play to Your Strengths

You need a website. Maybe you need a blog. And a Facebook Page. Or Instagram. Or Pinterest. Or YouTube. Or not. What about Twitter? Instagram? YouTube?

Don't go with a knee-jerk answer. Don't rely on the last study you read on internet shopping habits. Spend some time analyzing your market, your prospects, and your organization. That's how to plan a  marketing content program that will deliver your best results.

If you don't have a marketing/content plan that supports your business plan, or you need help executing and making adjustments, get in touch.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Keywords in Content, or SEO 2019 Style

As search evolves to favor natural language, is it worth your time to select and incorporate keywords in your web content? 

That question came up in a blogging presentation I lead earlier this year. My short answer ("yes") was met, surprisingly, with some resistance from other marketing folks who suggested that the returns were hard to justify. For small businesses, and particularly small local businesses with equally small marketing budgets, I understand a reluctance to spend a lot of money on keyword research. But spending more than a few minutes on it in the content development process is still important - even in 2019.

We agreed to moved the presentation along with a factual and accurate compromise of sorts - "Writing for your readers (prospects) is more important than writing for search engines."  

But this is my blog so let me be clear: yes, keywords still matter in 2019.  Small businesses can and certainly should spend the time necessary to use keywords and phrases (naturally, and helpfully) in their marketing content.

Good Business Copywriting Helps Prospects and Customers

Auto Parts Warehouse provides an excellent example of how keywords (in this case, longtail keywords) can be used in truly useful blog content. Headlines like "Where to Buy Wiper Blades" and "Grinding Noise When Braking" get the attention of humans and search engines alike.

I'm willing to bet Auto Parts Warehouse puts more than a little bit of loose change into advertising, link building and other SEO endeavors, too. But let's focus on the humble human with squeaky breaks.

"Grinding Noise When Braking" strikes the right note with said human. In fact, it's probably exactly what he typed in to search. (Hello, keywords.) And when the reader clicks on that search result, guess what happens? That human with squeaky brakes is rewarded with a legitimate article (not an ad or a screaming landing page) chock-full of helpful information. The format is important, too. The article is easy to read with very scannable subheads, sprinkled with keywords, like:

"Worn out wheel bearing"
"Faulty brake pads"
"Rusty Rotors"

See what Auto Parts Warehouse did there? It's the perfect trick, because it's not a trick. The human gets what the human wants: information on the web. The search engines reward Auto Parts Warehouse because the click delivers on those keyword promises. It meets the EAT guidelines in Google's 2018 Q3 update, providing Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. 

Creating good content that's useful and establishes your business as an authority (thereby making people want to do business with you, and refer other customers to you) isn't rocket science, but it takes a little time and planning.

If you know a blog could help grow your business, but don't have time to do it yourself, step on the brakes long enough to get in touch. I'd love to help drive your business forward.

Want to learn more about Semantic Search? Search Engine Journal's article is a good place to start. Really big on DIY projects? You can learn how to create a natural language search for arbitrary objects with deep learning (in 5 easy steps) on Towards Data Science. Just need a copywriter who can reach your customers? I'm right here.

Photo credit: Auto Parts Warehouse blog January 24, 2019