It’s a media and marketing rich world out there. Your prospects are squeezed for time and know how to use the Internet to get the information they need without having to engage with your sales team.  This means that your job as a business owner doesn’t start with finding leads; it starts with helping leads find you. That’s where inbound marketing comes in.

There are many definitions for inbound marketing. Here’s mine:

Inbound marketing is the process of helping prospects find your company – often before they’re even looking – and then turning that early awareness into brand preference, leads and revenue.

Inbound marketing relies on relevant content to inform your potential customers across multiple online channels, so that you can begin to engage them. This is when their protective, anti-marketing shields are down. At this time you aren’t interrupting them, you’re entertaining them.

Content: An Inbound Marketing Pillar

To succeed at inbound marketing you need to create good content. That means knowing what’s relevant to your future customers and giving it to them in a way that’s easy to digest. The content must be easy to share and not too salesy. It can take many forms, including webinars, whitepapers, ebooks, videos, articles and more, and it can be posted on your site, shared via blogs, social media — wherever your target market might find you.

If you don’t have the time to create such content, you can turn to outside content providers (such as myself), who can put together a plan that’s taylor made for your business. Such plans will take a look at your business, what makes it different, and decide not only what channels you should be creating content for, but also often, and their subject matter.

Improve Inbound Marketing with SEO and Social

At its core inbound marketing is about making it easier for people to find you. Two ways of doing that are with search engine optimization and regular social media posting.

Search engine optimization can be a long process, but it doesn’t have to be. Having a basic keyword strategy in place, and optimizing the pages and images on your site to fit that strategy, can go a long way toward improving your Google search rankings.

Likewise, understanding what you want to get out of social media can help you focus your efforts on platforms that are right for you, and improve your inbound marketing returns in the process.

The higher your site ranks in organic search results, the more likely someone will be to find that rich content and share it via social media outlets. This is why it’s so important to have a steady stream of relevant content.

Traditional job postings, such as those offered on Localwise, provide a very functional and important task when it comes to connecting job candidates with local businesses. Write a great job description and your chances of finding the right employee increase dramatically. (Teaser alert: Localwise will soon be introducing profiles that enable businesses to showcase what it’s like to work for them.

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When I got my start in advertising and marketing fifteen years ago it was as a copywriter, and it was because of Corwin Stone, a creative director who saw something in my writing and decided to take a chance. Corwin and I are still friends to this day, and I’d like to say that he was the first of many African American creatives that I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years, but I can’t.

In fact, over the last 15 years of working on both the agency and client sides in the Bay Area, I’ve encountered very few minority creatives. The question I ask myself is why? Are minorities being pushed away from advertising as a career path? Are they even aware of it to begin with? Are educated individuals being encouraged to pursue more scholarly career paths such as business and medicine? Are veteran creatives within the industry doing their part to offer young minorities the same foot-in-the-door opportunities that whites are receiving? What does Corwin think of all this?

I decided to call him up and find out.

Creative director Corwin Stone
Creative director Corwin Stone has been a positive influence on my life and career.

“In my experience the problem isn’t limited to young African American kids, but to kids in general” said Corwin, who these days helps run the Bay Area design house Christian Takada. “In high school I did a lot of letter press, screen printing and making of bumper stickers, but had absolutely no idea that what I was doing was this thing called graphic design. I knew I was an artist but figured I had to become an architect or a painter to earn a living. It wasn’t until one day my brother’s friend came back from college and said he was redesigning the Lucky Charms cereal box that I had my ah-hah moment.”

My research uncovered a very small group of pioneer African American creative directors. They include Archie Boston, author of Fly In The Buttermilk: Memoirs of an African American in Advertising, Design & Design Education and the late Georg Olden, who is recognized for his contributions to the field of television graphics and advertising. Mr. Olden was also the recipient of the coveted Medal of AIGA.

There are also some recent projects taken on by industry organizations that are designed to address the issue of racial diversity within the advertising and marketing industry. The projects include theMarcus Graham Project, which was started in 2007 by University of Missouri-Columbia grad Lincoln Stephens and named after the Eddie Murphy character in the movie Boomerang. The Marcus Graham Project helps to mentor young, racially diverse professionals “within the advertising, media and marketing industry.”

There is also the film The Pursuit of Passion: Diversity in Advertising, which was funded by VCU Brandcenter and The 4As and includes faces from TBWAChiatDay, Ogilvy & Mather, Young & Rubicam Brands, and more. The film aims to inform and inspire racial diversity within advertising and marketing.

Since Corwin grew up not knowing his options, he’s always looking for ways to help students, people and brands know what their options are. Being left without the proper information, especially for young creatives, can ruin a person’s chances of finding a career path that fulfills them.

“Our agency recently did a pitch for a university located in the desert southwest,” he said, “and it included an interactive tool that would allow students, minorities and otherwise, to enter into the system what they like to do, after which point it will spit out career options that might not have occurred to them. What 16, 17, or 18-year-old kid growing up in Los Angeles, San Francisco or anywhere else knows that they can make a living in graphic design? Very few even know what graphic design is, even though it’s staring them in the face a hundred times a day. That’s what we need to change.”

As a successful creative who’s worked in a lot of shops, I’d love to see an influx of talent, minority and otherwise, in the years to come. Our field is a great one in part because it allows us to influence popular culture. Shouldn’t we then represent that culture by using all the voices and points of view that make it up?

Part of every good SEO strategy includes the search engine marketing (SEM) practice of submitting your website and its individual pages to search engines and directories. When you do you make it easier for them, and your prospects to find you, which will improve your organic search results. You can submit for free and as part of a paid search campaign. I’ll cover both in this post.

If you only do one form of paid promotion for your web site, pay-per-click (PPC), otherwise known as paid search is the way to go. Google AdWords is largely considered today’s number one PPC program, but it’s a matter of debate because premium position costs more on Google than for other search engines. Often times the best ROI can be had elsewhere.

Other PPC alternatives to consider for your SEO and SEM strategies include:

  • Yahoo! Search Advertising: a highly professional, well maintained site
  • adknowledge: a network of partner sites powering over 2 billion queries per month
  • focuses on serving website owners that can not afford to pay over ten cents per visitor
  • a network of smaller search engines that combined produce over 20 billion searches per month
  • Microsoft adCenter: offers a great range of features, including the ability to target your ads to Live Search users who match your optimum target-market criteria

Each of the above paid search alternatives is unique in its own way. Depending on the popularity of the keywords you choose, the amount you’ll pay for a first-page appearance will differ drastically from one to the next. Take some time to research each one to decide what the best fit is for you.

If you have produced an optimized site and have submitted to the pay-for-inclusion engines and directories, then many of the crawler engines will find you even if you never submit to them because you’ll have more incoming links.

Of course the cheapest option of all is organic search, and one thing you can do to make sure your organic search is pulling well for you is to make sure that your site and main navigation pages are submitted to the important search engines and directories.

If you have the autocomplete feature on in your web browser and key in, “Submit your site to…” you’ll see a number of search engine options pop up such as Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Alexa, Lycos… and the list goes on and on. Each search engine has its own submission process, but generally speaking each one only takes a few minutes.

Make sure that you also submit your site to the Open Directory Project. The ODP is the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory on the Web and is constructed and maintained by a community of editors.

Some search engines will list your site almost immediately, while others can take up to two weeks. If after that amount of time your site still has not been listed with them, it’s generally okay to resubmit.

Envision email marketing success

Email marketing still has the potential to offer one of the best marketing ROIs out there, but success doesn’t happen accidentally, or haphazardly. It requires keen insight and attention to detail. Follow the below 5 steps and you’ll be well on your way to achieving email marketing success.

Step 1: Understand Your Audience

How well do you know your audience? It pays, literally, to know what they want, and how they want it. Have you segmented your list into multiple subgroups? The more information you have on your customers and their interests, the more targeted you can be in your communication and offers.

Carefully consider your offer and call to action with each email you prepare to send. It’s easy to fall back on “Sign Up”, “Buy Now” and “Learn More”, but these CTAs might not be as effective as “Start Free Trial”, “Download Whitepaper” or “Read the Blog Post”.

Also, it can often help to have more than one offer, particularly if you haven’t segmented your list due to a lack of information. For example, “Download Whitepaper” could be your primary CTA, but you could follow it up with “Start Free Trial”, or vice versa. Once they’ve clicked through, you’ve established interest and can follow up on the lead.

Step 2: Sweat the Executional Details

Email is a game of elimination that starts with a list and ends with a click – to your site, or to the trash. Step 1 is getting your email to the right inbox. Step two is intriguing them enough to learn more. This happens in their email program, and begins with your subject line.

So, what’s it going to be? Start by reviewing your subject matter, put yourself in their shoes, and do your best to be interesting and honest. Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve communicated anything and you’re looking to get the ball rolling again, “Coming in ice cold but hoping to help.” If you’re offering content for your blog, try inserting a number to drive interest, “X tips for [pain point]”, or maybe you’re working on segmenting your list and want to cut the fat, “Should we stay or should we go?”

Now that you’ve got that subject line that’s so great you just have to hit send, stop, take a deep breath, and consider where you’re sending these prospects. Is your landing page a lean, mean, lead generating machine? Most people don’t actually read web content these days, they scan it, so having the right mixture of headlines and quick, get-to-the-point content is essential. Need help there? Check out sites like Unbounce and Optimizely, which are all about it.

Step 3: Set Clear Goals

You can’t succeed if you don’t know what success looks like. You also need to know how to measure it. So, it’s time to identify your goal. Want to increase awareness for your new line of monitor arms? Great, start by driving X number of clickthroughs to your monitor arms page. Want to straight up drive revenue? Install a unique code to your email and track clicks from email, to landing page, to shopping cart.

A good strategy can actually be starting with these steps and backward engineering your campaign to achieve it. With clear direction, it’s far easier to move forward with confidence.

Step 4: Establish a Timeframe for Your Program

Email can be an extremely effective lead nurturing tool, and one of the ways to use it as such is with a series of automated welcome emails that fire over the course of a week or two.

Here’s a scenario. Someone comes to your site for the first time and clicks on a few pages. They like what they see, but aren’t ready to take action. Luckily you’ve strategically placed your newsletter signup form. They click on it and enter their email address, name, and perhaps their zip code.

Success! They’ve just given you permission to have a conversation with them. Now, how will you go about doing that? My suggestion: set up a series of automated emails that fire over the course of a week, hipping your list newbies to all the wonderful aspects that make your company unique, and worth doing business with. (Need some inspiration? Opt in to the signup form at the bottom of this page. Don’t worry, you can opt out at any time.)

Step 5: Integrate Email with Other Tactics

To keep your email ROI high you need to keep it fresh. By that I mean not only the information you impart, but also your list itself. It can be tempting to lean heavily on email, hitting the same list over and over again with offers to buy buy buy. But you’re better than that, right?

To keep a steady stream of fresh signups feeding into the burgeoning reservoir that is your master email list, open up new channels with other tactics. Those tactics might include a paid a variety of Adwords campaigns, social media offers, regular blogging, coupons and introductory offers, all of which are housed on optimized landing pages with capture forms in place.

Sending uninspired emails to a stale list leads to poor results. To improve the chances of success for your next campaign, follow the above 5 steps. We think you’ll be glad you did.

Word Cloud with Rebranding related tags

The (re)branding process involves establishing a simple, differentiated and relevant meaning for your brand. One that has the power to inspire. Think about who you are as a company and what you stand for. Only after you’ve established that can you begin to think about making changes to your company and product logos, names, images, marketing strategies, and advertising campaigns.

If you suspect the time has come to enter into your own (re)branding you’re probably right, but it can pay dividends to look before you leap. Reach out to your company stakeholders first to see what they think.

Below is my 7-step process for (re)branding your company and/or its products.

Step 1: Identify Your Unique Value

This is your brand promise, the one thing that separates you from your market and makes your organization what it is. Speak to your customers to determine what they like and dislike about your business. Empower your employees to provide their honest assessment of what they feel your strengths and weaknesses are. If there are industry heads or organizations you can tap in to, consider reaching out to them as well.

Step 2: Assess Untapped Avenues

After you’ve identified your uniqueness with your core audience, consider whether or not there are untapped markets you can pursue. With your company’s new direction, this could be an ideal time to target a whole new group of people.

Step 3: Craft a Simple Brand Message

Keeping your audience in mind, create a simple brand message that identifies your audience, your company name and service, and your unique value proposition. You might find that it helps to adopt the format, “For [YOUR MARKET], [YOUR COMPANY NAME] is the [SERVICE YOU PROVIDE] that [PROBLEM YOU SOLVE]”. Here’s mine:

For emerging and changing organizations, Joe Franklin is the marketing consultant that provides customized marcom strategies, enabling them to carve out a unique place in their industry, and chart a clear path to business growth.

Play around with your simple brand message. Revise it as necessary, and once you’ve got it memorize it and say it to everyone you talk to about your organization.

Step 4: Develop a Communication Strategy

How you speak to your customers says a lot about your identity as a company, and reinforces your brand promise. Make sure you adopt the right voice to reach your target audience. This can be a challenging process but also extremely rewarding and fun.

Step 5: Create Internal and External Plans

If your employees aren’t able to connect with your brand, your customers won’t be able to either. On the flip side, employees who understand and are inspired by your brand idea will look for ways to bring it to life. Allow your employees to see how customers interact with your brand and the role they play in the interaction.

External plans include developing marketing and advertising campaigns, communication strategies, and more. Think creatively and practically. Ask yourself: “What will best communicate our message and make people remember it?”

Step 6: Execute

Take the information you’ve gathered and the plans you’ve developed and go create a logo and tagline. Extend it further and design or redesign your website if need be. Keep in mind though that these visual looks are only part of the big picture (albeit an important one). Your new brand image also includes how you present yourself at speaking events, in public, and even how you dress!

Step 7: Measure

Correctly following Steps 1-6 should ensure that you arrive at a relevant, simple and clear brand promise that resonates with your target audience. You can make sure by measuring its effectiveness with your core audience. Measurement ideas can include posting a poll on your website, and simply asking your customers what they think of when they think of you and your new brand image. Your customers are your most important brand ambassadors because they’re the ones that will provide positive or negative word of mouth marketing for your business. Make sure you have your finger on the pulse of what they think of you and fine tune as necessary.

The (re)branding process is a normal part of every organization’s life-cycle. Doing it well will keep you relevant with your audience and help ensure your organization’s continued success.

In today’s marketing world, where doing more with less is the new norm, it can be hard to find time to monitor and contribute to your organization’s social media. Find time you must, however, because social media has become a vital part of the marketing mix.

In fact, according to a recent social media marketing industry report, the overwhelming majority of marketers who use social media boost traffic to their websites and generate new leads for their organization.

Set Clear Goals

But with all you have going on, how do you find time to monitor the conversation, let alone drive it forward? As with anything marketing related, it’s important to set clear social media goals. Are you looking to increase awareness, drive traffic to your website and generate leads? Or maybe you want to increase attendance for an event or promote recent successes? Having a clear idea of your goals at the outset will help keep you on the social made straight path, and save you time.

Identify and Prioritize

From Facebook to Twitter to Yelp! to Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and the list goes on, there are lots of social media channels out there. The more you have, the longer it will take you to monitor them. If you’re a large organization with no bandwidth issues, by all means create a presence on all of them and go for it. This article supposes you are not that kind of organization though, and that you’re crunched for time. Therefore, you’re going to need to identify the most important channels and prioritize which order you tackle them.

I’ll start with Facebook, since you’re probably already there. There are four ways your Likers can interact with you on Facebook that you should be monitoring. They are: 1. wall posts; 2. comments; 3. Likes; and 4. recommendations (a new feature that requires a plug-in). Make sure you scan these areas at least once a day and respond as necessary.

Twitter can also be a great, if disorganized tool. You’ll want to keep an eye out for relevant questions about your company or industry, support requests, complaints, praise, competitor mentions and so on. To do so, it helps to have a tool that enables you to filter tweets with keyword searches, which you can save and run as needed. I use and recommend TweetCaster, but there are others.

Probably the most business-centric social media site out there, LinkedIn is a 900-pound gorilla that deserves your time, but probably not to the extent of Facebook and Twitter. The LinkedIn Answers section can be a great place to post authoritative responses and link to relevant pages of your site. Group discussions are another way to join potentially high profile conversations and increase your brand’s reach.

Social Media Monitoring Tools

There are a number of social media monitoring tools out there that can help one person do the work of many. For example, HootSuite offers a couple of paid options – one designed for small businesses and an enterprise model for large corporations. HootSuite allows you to monitor, filter and message across the leading social media networks including those mentioned above from one intuitive dashboard.

HubSpot provides a complete marketing software package, one element of which is a social media monitoring tool. The tool tracks all of the sites mentioned, plus YouTube, the blogosphere, and more.’s Radian6 is also a good social media monitoring tool that enables you to monitor conversations and create detailed reports to inform others and make wise marketing decisions.

With clear goals and a prioritized plan, you should be able to spend five or less, on each of these sites per day and maintain a still fresh social media presence. Many of the above social media monitoring tools also provide measuring tools that allow you to see how you’re progressing against your defined goals.

As always, I hope this helps.

Viral Marketing

Every marketing manager would love to see their marketing campaigns go viral, and for good reason. Viral marketing (VM) campaigns, also known as guerilla marketing campaigns, can cost a fraction of what regular campaigns cost because the marketing manager is essentially reduced to the role of  mediator. VMs spread like an airborne virus, which make them incredibly powerful marketing tools. Plus they’re great for brand awareness.

How Do You Spread Your Marketing Virus?

The two most common forms of viral marketing are the incentive-based or service-based models. With the incentive-based approach, customers and prospects are rewarded for forwarding your product or service to their network of friends and family, whereas with the service-based approach you provide a valuable service for free, such as email or instant messaging, thereby opening up marketing and communication lines, capturing user information to develop lead gen lists, and so on.

Other viral marketing models include community chat rooms, bulletin boards, online coupons and gift certificates, easily forwarded videos and entertainment with embedded marketing messages, and affiliate programs.

Regardless of which model you choose, successfully implementing them often comes down to including the one or more of the following elements:

  1. Value. People like to forward things that are interesting, entertaining and unique, be it incentive-based or otherwise.
  2. Trust. People open emails that come from other people the know, trust and like. Identify the sharer’s name in the subject line, e.g. “Diane, Jane Doe thinks you’ll be interested in [YOUR INCENTIVE OR SERVICE-BASED OFFER]…”
  3. Measurable. As with all things marketing, success often depends on being able to measure your efforts and make the necessary changes. Click-through and conversion rates are the two most important metrics.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

Because many incentive-based programs rely on email to drive them, spam can become a concern. One way to prevent it from becoming a problem for you and your organization is to limit the number of customers a single consumer can forward your offer to. Five is a good number.

Whether your goal is to drive revenue, create demand, or move product, you also need to concern yourself with maintaining brand value. The more your VM campaign spreads, the more control you’ll lose over who is receiving your message. Therefore, make sure that your message is strong and based on value and a compelling reason for people to click through.

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