Tuesday, January 29, 2013

You can always spend more money...

Let's face it - in marketing, more money is always wanted, no matter the size of your budget.

The 'Shop a docket' founder was recently quoted in this interview when he was asked this question:

"If someone gave you $100,000 and said, “Invest this in your business by the end of the week – or lose it” what would you do?

His response was:  
"I’m sure I could use it, particularly as we have a bottomless marketing budget."

It struck me that the immediate response to the $100k question was (mentally) allocating it to his marketing budget...rather than his marketing team.

Funnily enough, $100k doesn't go that far in marketing - unless you spend it on PEOPLE or course.

$100k could THEN get you two great part time, marketing-related people that have some specialist skills - they could action everything from social media to list generation to great articles to lead generation events to fostering partnerships. I'm sure you have a LOT of things you'd like to get done, if only you had the resources.

So whilst it's pretty rare that a lump of $$ drops in your lap, if spare funds do come your way, don't just spend it in the obvious way. Really think about the BEST possible investment of your funds, which will be, more often than not, people over advertising. 

Don't ask if you're not going to action

Market research is a funny beast. We feel like we SHOULD be doing it - keeping in touch with our customers, checking how we're performing, working out what we should change, learning what's important to prospects. Yet the research is a waste of time if you don't do anything with it.In fact, it can even be damaging to your business if you ask but don't action.

Many times I've worked with clients who've done research - either one off, or ongoing - with little changing subsequently. I was browsing the web today looking for wall paper when I came across this site as an example. I saw they had a little poll about whether visitors to the site would like to buy wallpaper online or not. So I clicked yes, as I would like to buy it online. You'll see from the screenshot, so would about 80% of other people.

Yet this poll has been active three years and you still CAN'T buy wallpaper online at this site. Which is made just a little more frustrating because YOU KNOW that THEY KNOW that is what people want...which doesn't provide for a great first impression.

So the moral of this story - if you're not going to do anything about it, don't ask the question. Spend the time and resources elsewhere.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

First: Make sure it works before you launch

What we saw
What we should have seen
You can put in all the love and effort and creative beauty into an online magazine, organise the best possible publicity on Australia's most-read design blog - but it all comes to naught if you don't check that it's working first.

This is a situation I came across recently when a new mag was launched via The Design Files.

I'm an avid reader of The Design Files (along with 20,000 other people) and it is very supportive of the Australian creative community, regularly featuring new projects and businesses. Due to the targeted nature of the readership, being featured on the Blog would be a huge (and free) marketing opportunity for a venture, tapping right into a perfect target market.

So this temporary fail of a new magazine launch (not being "live" when the blog story went live) was also a great reminder that your marketing work doesn't stop at the creative side. The best way not to WASTE money or an opportunity (as all zero budget marketers must know) is check all the details - and get it right the first time.

I felt bad for them, I really did. It was up later in the day - but not a 7am which is when The Design Files sends their email EVERY weekday. Always.

In this case,  I can't help wondering how many more people they would have reached if they'd just made sure their mag was live/published a few hours earlier? I'm sure they will always wonder the same thing.

So here's a checklist for any new launch / campaign/ initiative - these are all things that will trip you up (I've speaking from painful experience) so it's worth checking them every time.


- Emails and web addresses - type them in, even if you think you know them, and make sure they're live or go where you expect them to. Oh, and make sure they're actually ON there.

- Call any phone numbers - again, just in case. One misplaced digit is all it takes.

- Test - if it's anything technical, try and break it. If it's online, click on links and go to every page. It's boring but essential.

- Get it sub-edited - If you can afford a professional, invest in one - they are so worth it. (One that I use for a particular client ALWAYS finds something, even when I'm sure it's perfect!) If you dont have the budget, then ask a friend or colleague removed from the project that's good at grammar and spelling. Just have SOMEONE "sanity check" it. If there's no-one, re-read EVERYTHING carefully. Don't rely on spell check.

-  Call to action - even if it's not an advertisement, you always want people to DO something. That's the whole point of marketing. So is it clear what you want them to do, and how they should do it? For example: In the case of an online magazine, you want someone to READ but, more important initially, you want them to SUBSCRIBE.

- Is everyone informed? - Do all the people that this project impact on know that it's happening? For example, if you're running a promotion, do the people who answer the phones know all about it?

- Are all your marketing asset in sync? - If you're running a new offer, is it on your website, your Facebook page, your email signature.

- Have a  promotional calendar with everything on it - so you make sure you don't forget what is happening when. Check it regularly, to ensure a roll out is occurring in the right order, like a site being live before the PR program kicks off.

Do you have anything else on your "launch checklist"?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

'How To' Tuesday: How to write a great subject line for your email marketing

Source Bottle always has fully descriptive subject lines
So what makes a good subject line for an email? And more importantly - why should you care?

I'm a BIG believer of the power of email, which gets lost these days in the hype of social media. That's not to say social media isn't important, but you OWN your email database (or at least the permission to email them whilst they remain subscribed) and so you have much more control over when you speak to them.

So back to subject lines. These little puppies are the MOST IMPORTANT part of your email. Why? Because we are all so busy, all we do is SCAN our emails - and wait for something to grab our attention or we simply delete it. And when it comes to our email inbox, where we routinely get 50+ emails a day, we are very picky about what we read. And how do we decide what to read? The email subject line.

A scan of your own inbox will show you that a LOT of email subject lines tell you nothing about what's in the email - the fatal flaw, in my opinion. The are either overly promotional, boring or completely uninformative.

A GOOD subject line is:

- Descriptive
- Enticing or intriguing
- Long enough to tell you something
- One that is appealing to YOUR target market

There is this odd perception with many people that "short is always good" in marketing - but in email subject lines, it can go either way. Some research says "the longer the better" and other research says "no difference".

I have found that it's much more about being relevant and interesting rather than long or short for the sake of it.

A good thing to remember is that an email subject line is your HEADLINE - so to help work out what works, consider what makes YOU read a news article...what "sucks you in" to read more?

A quick look at today's Herald Sun (which has the highest readership in Victoria) has the following headlines:

'Lance admits "tour drug use" to Oprah'

'Scam takes punters on $800 ride'

'Mum on drugs killed son, court told'

These headlines give you a lot of information in just a few words - and make you want to know more. You need to apply the same thinking to your email marketing.

Often you have more than one story to share - but don't feel you can only mention one. Why? Because different stories appeal to different people.

A fantastic example of this is the SourceBottle emails that come out twice daily, matching marketers and business people with call outs from journalists and writers.

Here's an example from a recent one:

"Personality types and health | New products to feature within TrailerBoat Magazine | How has motherhood changed you? | Small Business Pinterest Lovers | Unusual proposals, themed weddings, bizarre hook-ups | Back to school | Homework - agree/disagree"

A subject line this length - without knowing the context - would scare the pants off most marketers. Yet it's perfect for this market. I ALWAYS check the subject line to see if there's something relevant to me, and I must be one of many as their subscribers numbers are constantly growing.

A hard working subject line is worth the hard work it takes in coming up with it - don't just write anything and hope for the best. You have likely spent many HOURS (or dollars) on your email content - so don't throw it away with a barely considered subject line.

Put in the effort, test the results - and watch your email marketing performance improve.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Web Design Review: Single page web design - what's to like, what's not

If you're a business that uses the web to attract business or convey key information, your website is a vital asset: I'd argue - your most important online asset. Yet we often put a LOT of time into a website when we're building it - then forget to review it regularly to:

(a) ensures it's up to date
(b) that everything still works and
(c) that it's keeping up with current web trends.

(And as good zero budget marketers know, it's about optimising what you're already doing, rather than continually starting from scratch.)

In terms of current web trends, one trend is "single page" style sites - I'm seeing more of these lately, particularly in the bar and restaurant space. They feel a bit "old school" and "new school" all at the same time.

The style has some benefits - primarily that all the information is in front of you with virtually no clicking required. So I think it can work well EXCEPT when web designers forget that a BIG chunk of people access the web from mobile devices - largely, Smartphones (particularly to look for bars and restaurants). So if you're ever going to invest in a mobile version of your site, now is the time. But I digress...back to the single page site.

I thought it would be helpful to look at a specific example: the site for Hanoi Hannah, a newish restaurant in Windsor. It's a spot that we were planning on trying for dinner, so I looked it up to get their details and make a booking.

First impressions: I love the design - it immediately "brands" it as funky and let's you know the style of dining you can expect. It has a real "fresh" feel. You can also find what you want fairly easily -  when what you want is location, phone number and opening hours.

Challenges: You actually want to read all the cool stuff on the right - but when you zoom in it becomes pixelated so you can't read it...I suspect a bad case of "print design incorrectly applied to the web".

It also suffers from not incorporating a newsfeed - which matters when you're trying to call and book for dinner on the 7th January but after several "sorry, no-one is here to take your call" phone answering machine responses I checked the facebook page and find they're closed till 14th Jan. Unhelpful! A newsfeed from their facebook page would have been an easy way to ensure the message they put on that page showed up on their website.

Finally, they haven't made a mobile version, so it becomes very hard to navigate on my iphone. I've included a screenshot below.

Finally - when I was looking for the site on my iphone (and subsequently on my computer), I noticed their web design company hasn't done the best job with the meta tags and page descriptions as the automatically generated google snippet that displays in search results is just generating image names.

Wrap up: This site is a great start - and all the "challenges" can be addressed. So if you're pondering a web update to a streamlined "single page" site, learn from what works and doesn't work in this example.