Before launching Content Talks Business Blog in June 2011, I published articles on the Simple Marketing Blog. An article there that has generated considerable traffic is one titled Urban Outfitters: Be Where Customers Are which offers sound online marketing advice.
I find retail fascinating [hence Flooring The Consumer Blog on Simple Marketing Now]: it's the closest to a pure market environment and offers endless lessons and ideas for other businesses including B2B.
What I like so much about Urban Outfitters is that they are intensely focused on the customer and do so consistently regardless of the media used. At the same time, they are willing to experiment.
As their executive director of marketing, Dmitri Siegel, explained at Fashion140 [see my article Urban Outfitters at Fashion140: Dmitri Siegel on Social Media Strategy], their social media strategy is based on Think, Connect, Listen, Party and Measure. Pretty sound online marketing advice!
In Urban Outfitters: Be Where Customers Are you hear firsthand from Urban Outfitters' director of marketing Theresa Lee. She offers a history of how the company became immersed online and with social media. She shares learnings from the process. She offers intense advice. Namely, "Customers aren't siloed and you can't operate that way either."
Here are other articles relating to Urban Outfitters that I've come across and shared via #retailexp on Flooring The Consumer:
Are you a fan of Urban Outfitters? What do you think of their online marketing? What might you apply to your business?
Thanks for reading.
I wish you a wonderful 2012!
In September 2011, I took part in Business Growth Summit, a free online event featuring leading business strategy experts. As described in Business Marketing Strategies Addressed During Business Growth Summit, my video presentation addressed 7 Steps to Get Found Online.
[Click on this link to watch the 11:40 minute video of Business Growth Summit: Whittemore on VIMEO.]
Here are highlights from the 7 Steps to Get Found Online that I detail in my presentation:
1. The Get Found Online basics: what makes your business different? What are your customer search terms?
How is your business different from others and what are the keywords or search terms that customers use to search for what you offer? What are the issues potential customers have with your product category or industry?
2. Strengthen your website so you get found: assess your website and make sure your site is optimized.
I recommend Google's Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.
- Beware of bad SEO practices [e.g., keyword stuffing, buying links] and of people who promise the impossible. Don’t cheat. If you do this right, you build a quality site that will benefit you in search long term.
- What do you want visitors to do? Where you want them to go next on your site?
- Not all visitors are created equal. Some want information about you and what you can do for them. Others want to call you immediately. Some just want to learn what this is all about. Relate this to your conversations with customers off line, in the real world.
- Create calls to action around offers that can help visitors with their questions.
3. Create 'glorious' online content to get found!
Publish memorable, relevant content that your customers will value on your website and on a blog associated with your domain name. The benefit: you will keep your website fresh with new content to attract more visitors.
- Rather than focus only on hard core sales and promotion messages, consider how you might elevate the conversation and address topics relevant to your audience and industry that relate to your expertise, business and passion. Establish yourself as a thought leader, as someone knowledgeable and helpful.
- Your content communicates how well you understand potential customers. It also enables you to build trust, establish credibility and develop online visibility.
- Your content signals that you understand where customers are in the buying process. It allows you to create effective offers that generate leads that you can nurture over time into customers.
4. Share your content via social networks to get found online
Social networks represent a source of fresh content ideas to share with your constituents. They can help get the word out about your passion for a topic and the value you share. Networks can drive traffic to your site. Without valued content you’ll have a hard time creating social networks and developing them into resources.
5. Follow Up to get found online!
- On your site, nurture your leads.
- In your networks, acknowledge comments and respond to questions.
- Be consistent about sharing information as opposed to issuing traditional shout sales messages.
- Publish a regular newsletter to highlight your content, success stories, visitor feedback, etc.
- Include calls to action in all of your communications.
6. Analyze to get found online
The digital world offers access to limitless data. This allows you to analyze and measure what you do online. Do more of what works and change what doesn’t. Know your objectives so you measure the right information.
7. Find the time so you get found online
Lack of time is the single biggest objection I hear from an organization considering inbound marketing, social media or content marketing. Although - as with learning any new discipline - you will need to find time, particularly at the beginning of the process, I find that online marketing allows you to become more efficient overall.
It's an opportunity to step back and think about customers, the business, the competitive situation and the marketplace. Based on that knowledge, you multi-purpose the business planning and your marketing. You become more efficient with the customer-focused content you create - e.g., making FAQs available online instead of individual email messages that take 20 minutes to create. You also ensure that your marketing works 24/7 on your behalf.
Use Outlook or Google calendar reminders. Plan ahead and publish deliberately. Analyze. Stay focused on what matters to your business. But also get found online and have your digital presence work on your behalf.
I welcome your reactions and additions to these 7 steps. What have you found most effective for getting found online?
When you come across a website Home Page, what is your immediate reaction? In part 3 of my interview series with TalkFloor's Dave Foster about website evaluations, we explore flooring retailer Home Pages and focus specifically on seven.
By the way, this radio interview segment is 15:20 minutes long and can be accessed by clicking on this link to TalkFloor's FloorRadio for Part 3.
What is the purpose of a website Home Page?
It communicates what a business is about to a first time visitor.
It does so succinctly, without confusing or overwhelming.
It provides answers to questions a visitor has about your product or category.
It focuses on real and meaningful content and information rather than superficialities.
It directs a visitor to other parts of your website for more information.
Recommendation: go visit your own website, look at it as a customer might. What do you notice?
Flooring Retailer Websites: Home Page Reactions
I looked at 7 flooring retailer websites. Based on each's Home Page, I detailed what I believed each's value proposition to be.
Great American Floors: in-home flooring service
Columbus Flooring & More: large selection of flooring. The Home Page includes lots of good information, and calls to action [e.g., How To information, see showroom, product mages].
Cap Carpet & Flooring: carpet and flooring. The Home Page features an engaging photo of three store representatives. These are real people! I love seeing real people. However, the focus in on the Cap Experience. What is that? [Note: the website for Cap Carpet, Inc. in Wichita, KS is no longer available.]
Beckler's: intensely focused on discount carpet. The Home Page is price-focused, and busy. It's so busy, I'd be concerned that visitors might bounce off quickly. I liked the focus on educational rugs. Do teachers come in often? I'd include more information about that segment. The page includes a picture of the Beckler's store, which is beautiful. To me, there's a disconnect between the beautiful store and the discounted look of the site. [Note: Beckler's introduced a new website after this interview. Sadly, I couldn't find the educational rugs. However, the site is more in-tune with the look of the store.]
Reinhart Carpet Outlet: large carpet outlet. This is a busy page with a jingle and visual elements with moving images as well as captions all in caps. The result is a noisy page. I caution against jingles that play automatically. Let visitors make the decision. Allow them to opt in and engage. [According to Dave, Reinhart owns the rights to this hit single song from the 50s. I recommend telling that story in the About Us section and include a link from the Home Page to learn more.]
Big Bob's Outlet: good value and service. Effective site for organization with lots of information presented in a clean format.
Great Floors: design + floor value [supported by beautiful physical store]. The layout is similar to that of Big Bob's. Clean and organized format.
Do you agree? What is your assessment of these Home Pages?
As you examine website home pages with a fresh set of eyes, think about how you welcome visitors and what you communicate to them. How does your home page help you accomplish that?
What website home pages have you come across that you find effective? Let me know in the comments.
The Content Marketing Institute has been sharing wisdom from its contributors in a wonderful series of crowd-sourced posts about content marketing. Have you had a chance to read them?
This one - Must-See Content Marketing Examples from 2011 - is a goldmine! It details favorite content marketing examples from:
Joe Chernov - Hunch.com's series of mini-graphics
Darryl Praill - Protus
Clare McDermott - Whole Foods
Russ Henneberry - Urban Martial Arts blog and Arch City Homes
Amanda Maksymiw - AtTask
Ahava Leibtag - Amazon Kindle Fire introduction
Jason Falls - University of Louisville Hospital
Doug Kessler - GE Show
Scott Aughtmon - American Pickers
Joe Pulizzi - Openview Labs, LEGO
Anna Ritchie - the Social Network Decision Tree
Arnie Kuenn - Orabrush
Sarah Mitchell - the Australian Mines and Metals Association
Nenad Senic - Financial Advice by NLB, the biggest Slovenian bank
Toby Murdock - fashion and beauty sector examples
Gilad de Vries - examples from GE, Unilever, P&G, Liberty Mutual and General Mills
Tracy Gold - Nightmares Fear Factory [a haunted house!]
Jon Thomas - Endless Vacation
James Gross - Redbull's Art of the Flight
Here is the Content Marketing Example I shared:
I particularly love data that tells a story. FastCompany does a beautiful job via its “Infographic of the Day” showcasing data while telling a story. Here’s a recent example that features interactive maps created by Trulia and featured on theTrulia blog. [Trulia, by the way, is another example of a company that has radically reinvented a category - real estate - by making data meaningful for home buyers through content.] From FastCoDesign: Infographic Of The Day: How Men And Women Differ When Making Big Sales [i.e., real estate]. Note how the FastCompany article provides context and meaning so the reader can’t help but want to explore the interactive charts… and share it with others. Do you think the data reflects how you buy real estate?
- CB Whittemore (@cbwhittemore)
What is your favorite Content Marketing Example of 2011? What do you think of the examples captured in CMI's blog article?
In part 2 of my latest interview series with TalkFloor's Dave Foster, we continue the discussion about evaluating retailer websites from a consumer's perspective.
This segment is 10:26 minutes long and can be accessed by clicking on this link to TalkFloor's Floor Radio for Part 2.
A website home page is equivalent to the welcome experience when a visitor enters your physical store. In this case, they arrive at your site based on a keyword they've entered into a search engine. Here is what to keep in mind for the home page:
- Welcome visitors
- Explain succintly what you are about
- Be ready to answer their questions and direct them deeper into your site for more information
- Tell them where to go next
Evaluating Websites Mistakes:
Don't do too much on your homepage. If you present too much - i.e., a jumble of stuff - visitors will bounce off and quickly leave your site. Better to be very focused, with each web page focused on one specific keyword phrase, and description. Make sure each page is unique from every perspective.
Beware of noisiness! Don't use capital letters [that is the equivalent of shouting] and make sure, if you have a video or jingle, NOT to have it automatically launch!
Don't assume that fancy is better. For example, Flash based websites may be beautiful, but search engines cannot read the content contained in the file. In other words, that's a lost opportunity to get found online and connect with potential customers! Better to focus on the basics, on the website content and the words that communicate what a business is about, and how to help visitors along the purchase cycle.
Don't focus only on selling. Many website visitors arrive at the top of the sales funnel and aren't ready to buy immediately. Be ready with content that answers their questions, offers them ideas and encourages them to trust you and your expertise so they eventually become customers.
Don't forget to integrate into your online content all of the knowledge and insights gained from interacting with customers in real life [IRL]. There's nothing quite like interacting with customers over a customer service issue, or a design challenge to gain an insight that can benefit other customers.
Words of Advice for Evaluating Websites
- Know your goals for your website. Figure out what you want to achieve.
- Focus on one key word or phrase per each page of your website
- Plan ahead. Be sure to use tools such as Google or Outlook Calendar to stay on track.
What do you find most important in evaluating the success of your website? What advice would you offer?
How do you respond to 'why get found online with blogs vs. Facebook or Twitter?' I say because blogs consistently deliver business results. They generate traffic - assuming regular publishing of quality content - for websites. They show up in search engine results. Blog articles also make for great content to share on Facebook and Twitter [and LinkedIn, too]...
That's not to say that Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn should be ignored. Oh, no. Social Networks play an important role in improving a business' online visibility!
However, they are most effective when integrated into an overall online marketing plan centered on a website and blog, and focused on generating remarkable content that potential online visitors want to engage with because of its value to them. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn - thanks to the networks you have developed there - help get the word out about your remarkable content. Without that integration, though, they don't work as hard on your behalf as a blog does.
• Tweets, although searchable, only last approximately 2 weeks and are not sources of long-term digital visibility.
• Facebook is a third-party application; its fan visibility algorithm changes frequently. Furthermore, Facebook owns all content published. [To be monitored is Facebook Commerce.]
• LinkedIn reflects the professional existence of individuals and organizations. Despite Group interactions, Answers, and the new company profile options, it is not an end in itself.
Finally, think of the online search process. How does it begin? With a search term at a search window - for the most part. The more content is indexed by Google search, the more likely prospects are to come across a company's freshly published and hugely relevant [blog] content. Why? Because the best tool for creating indexable content is a blog that is professionally optimized for discovery, and which makes timely and permanently searchable information available.
Interestingly, according to Blogging wins - again..!, although blogging is the most effective means to getting found online and attracting new business leads, "only one in three businesses take part in blogging" and 15 Fascinating Statistics from Marketing Grader Data shares that only 14% of companies having graded themselves using the new marketing grader have a blog.
Do you have a company blog? How has it helped you get found online?
What about Facebook and Twitter? How are you using them vs. blogs?
Have you come across examples that support a Facebook or Twitter only approach for getting found online?
Dave Foster on TalkFloor.com has invited me to participate in a new interview series about evaluating retail websites on FloorRadio. For the series, we are referring to existing flooring retailer websites and highlighting the good, the bad, the interesting and offer lots of suggestions.
The first segment is 9:30 minutes long and can be accessed by clicking on this FloorRadio link [note: I'll summarize the other segments in separate articles].
In this introduction, Dave gives me the opportunity to highlight how websites have evolved from static brochure-like sites to living, breathing, dynamic ones that - in my mind - resemble IRL [in real life] retail stores. Websites today truly extend the presence of a business, especially a retail business, to suit the needs and time constraints of our customers. If the only time she can search is at 2:00 in the morning, isn't it wonderful that she can still interact with us even though the physical store is closed and staff asleep?
The flip side of that convenience and accessibility is that the web site needs to be up-to-date, neat and alive - just as a store does when it is open.
Interestingly, there's a point I make that Manny Llerena made in his blog interview with me: "Begin by truly defining what you want your business to be and the customer segment you want to focus on." Think about your customers and visitors: how is your business unique? How can you connect with them? How can you draw visitors into your space so they become leads and eventually customers?
[In many ways, don't you think your website dynamics teach you more about patience and respecting a visitor's buying cycle than store dynamics do? The physical environment often seems to encourage hard selling techniques...]
Four Tips To Keep In Mind:
- Check that your website has no 'cobwebs'. Is everything up to date? What about promotions? Are they current? Out-of-date content communicates that no one is paying attention. Does that imply that you aren't paying attention to other more important details?
- Consider developing a calendar for refreshing both your website and your retail showroom. They should support one another and be coordinated in look, feel and communications. The online world is intensely dynamic and search engines love fresh content. Maximize your opportunity to get found online by ensuring that your website is frequently and regularly updated.
- Take advantage of online tools such as blogs that allow you to not only publish on an ongoing basis, but also offer the means to be human and interactive online. You get to express who you are and your passion for the business.
What do you consider important when you go about evaluating websites?
There's more ahead with this series. Stay tuned!
Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO of Pure Performance Communications, continues her conversation with me about Social Media and Public Relations. If you missed Part 1, simply click on Social Media and Public Relations: Deirdre Breakenridge Interview.
[You also have the opportunity to listen to her upcoming webinar with Vocus on December 7, 2011 about the 8 Techniques of the New PR Champion.]
Deirdre has recently announced her latest book, “Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional,” due out in early 2012.
In this segment of my interview with Deirdre Breakenridge, we explore PR + Social Media Transformation and #PRStudChat.
C.B.: Deirdre, which companies do you see doing the best job marrying communications and technology?
I’ll give two examples that immediately come to mind.
On the consumer side, Starbucks has done a terrific job marrying communications and technology. The company created an online community, MyStarbucksIdea, where their loyal brand enthusiasts crowdsource ideas, evaluate the ideas of their peers and they are heard by their favorite coffee brand. It’s also a collaborative network where Starbucks fans can also review recent and the most popular ideas from other enthusiasts, and to see what ideas are “in action.” As of this writing, there were over 27,000 product ideas for Starbuck’s coffee and expresso drinks. The size of this number illustrates how Starbucks has an extremely active network of passionates; people who are a great source of information and idea generation for the Starbucks brand.
On the B2B side, IBM did a terrific job empowering their own employee workforce to use social media and to participate in communities with their peers globally. IBM’s social media business model provides trust, empowerment and the right tools from the top down to meet the enthusiasm of employees who have interest in social media, want to participate and have the right tool selection. IBM’s social media model also relies on social media policies and governance to guide employee participation. Through the use of great communication and technology, IBM has successfully created many collaborative social networks for employees and alumni. They also created a community exclusively for bringing together different minds and varying perspectives to discover new solutions to long-standing problems across industries and geographical borders.
C.B.: What are the biggest objections you encounter to transforming PR and embracing PR + social media?
Most objections are due to time constraints and a lack of resources within an organization.
However, as more consumers embrace social media and it increasingly becomes mainstream, PR professionals and their brands will have to provide communication that’s for the people and about the people. Consumers want to be in control of their news and information and they want to gather, organize and share it as they see fit. It’s not what a brand wants to say, and the canned broadcast messages carry very little meaning.
Rather, communication must be customized and highly meaningful for its recipients. There’s an opportunity to capture not only your audience, but also your audience’s audience. Therefore, PR professionals have to put aside their concerns about change and embrace a new approach. Of course, with any new approach comes a new mindset and changes to an old process, which is definitely a big obstacle with respect to rooted culture in many organizations.
C.B.: What advice would you offer professionals wanting to make PR + social media happen in their organizations?
My advice to professionals who want to make social media happen in their organization is not to immediately abandon the traditional and what’s working. Take the best of traditional and move it forward to forge new paths that lead to deeper interactions and better relationships with customers.
Be a champion of PR and social media and don’t let the company obstacles stop you from creating a winning PR and social media program. Show executives just what social media can do for the organization, if it’s done the right way.
If you need a grass roots approach to adapt social media in your organization then find some other social media enthusiasts and start showing your executives the best practices that lead to positive results.
Get some small benchmark wins to prove social media success. And, always remember that you can crawl, walk and then run when it comes to integrating social media into your company’s communications initiatives.
C.B.: You have been heavily involved in #PRStudChat. How did that get started? How has it evolved?
#PRStudChat is a wonderful community effort joining PR professionals, students and educators across the country and worldwide. It began with a simple question, “Is PR Right for Me?” asked by Angela Hernandez, then President of PRSSA at Central Michigan University (CMU). A follow-up blog post with me inspired a series of direct messages on Twitter between myself, and fellow PR industry pro, Valerie Simon.
This was an important question and one that we thought should be explored beyond one student or one blog post. Valerie and I decided to help students across the country, and even the globe, learn from the experience and perspective of industry professionals. As a result, #PRStudChat grew into a community where everyone can learn and grow together.
Our community has evolved over the past 2+ years. We’ve had some very dynamic chat sessions with thought leaders including, Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, the former CMO of Kodak, Jeffrey Hayzlett, and other well-known personalities. The community on Twitter has grown to over 3,000 followers and our monthly Twitter discussion have turned to daily hashtag discussions. We’ve also enjoyed physical Tweetups where community members have met in person for #PRStudChat events.
C.B.: How has #PRStudChat affected how you see PR evolving?
#PRStudChat shows the natural evolution of different types of communication for learning and PR education; in this case it’s in 140 characters or less.
PR evolves successfully when industry peers can share stories, advice, articles and great information. In addition, having the #PRStudChat community is a wonderful example of the power of mentoring and giving back to the profession. I see professionals helping peers and students, and vice versa, as students teach professionals a few things about technology, and what PR means to them in the 21st century.
#PRStudChat is a great way to learn and to take our natural passion for PR and mentoring into a collaborative platform, so we can grow together as an industry.
C.B.: Thank you, Deirdre!
For more information, visit #PRStudChat. Here is the link to the LinkedIn Group for #PRStudChat.
What do you think about Public Relations and Social Media? Do you consider them inextricably linked? How are you transforming the two?
If you're thinking about starting a blog for business, have you considered your purpose for doing so?
Are you starting a blog for thought-leadership? To build community? To drive traffic to your website and generate leads?
Your purpose will help you determine what kind of content - think stories, information, resources, predictions, observations, etc. - you will want to publish on your blog. Your content, and its quality, are critical.
Regardless of your reason for starting a business blog, you'll want think about these realities:
- Your blog will require fresh content on an ongoing basis. Think consistent effort.
- You'll need to develop content for your blog that someone - beyond your mom and your best friend - will actually want to read and share with others. Think engaging content.
- You'll want to publish content that potential readers will be able to find when they start their online research at a search engine window or explore through social channels. Think findable content.
What that means is that you'll need to think intensely about your audience and figure out what matters to them, what words they use, what value you can offer them... and how to connect with them as people.
If you don't, no matter how many blog articles - or tweets or Facebook updates - you produce, you won't be successful delivering on the purpose of your blog. Unless you figure out how to connect with your audience, your thought-leadership, community building and website traffic generating efforts will be pointless. Your blog will remain a lonely, standalone digital entity that search engines and visitors will ignore.
Think about your own reactions as you explore business blogs [check out Evaluating Blogs For Business: 10 Tips]. I bet you've had strong reactions to what you've come across. Some you would be willing to subscribe to, return to repeatedly and share with others. Some not. Think why.
[By the way, I've just reviewed the Formica Share The Love Blog.]