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Not Invented Here Syndrome - Web Site Development Roadblock

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Of all possible marketing projects, updating a website is the hardest. I simply cringe when faced with this request. The main reason? I've found that most (not all) web developers suffer from a syndrome coined as "NIH" (Not Invented Here).

Not Invented Here Syndrome for Webmasters and DevelopersWhatever your career, we all start off learning many different programs and ways of doing things, but as we gain success, we develop very structured and almost rigid processes for accomplishing our work. It’s the same story for developers… Wordpress, HTML, Drupal, whatever the platform, the best use of their time is to stick with what they know. But even when a request to update a website in their most proficient code comes in, my frustration comes with the way the developer (from my experience) immediately recommends a complete rework... as if the existing website was programmed horribly and we need to start over.

In my early years, I would buy into the NIH complaint and pitch to build an entirely new site. While that was always exciting, I’ve found it to be very expensive, and the results rarely penciled out. In hindsight, it would have been better to get a developer proficient in cleaning up code and finding ways to make the existing site more efficient.

There is a moral to this story that we can apply to almost any project. NIH syndrome is not limited to websites. Look at the way most managers and leaders approach their new role in an organization. Typically they come into their new position, are quick to point blame at the lousy manager before them, and begin to tell people how to get things done the “right” (their) way. The reality is that a company doesn’t get successful by doing things wrong. So if you are new to an organization, consider spending most of your time finding what is working well and provide guidance based on the talents and experience of the team you have. People who suffer from NIH syndrome can really kill the spirit of a company culture and waste a lot of time and money. As with websites, it’s best to dig into what exists, clean it up a bit, and then integrate new directions.

If you have an "old" (2-years + for our industry) site that you think needs updating, take a deep look at it. Chances are, most of the site accomplishes what your visitors need (content, images, downloads, forms, etc.) and you can probably just make some tweaks to achieve your current goals. Find a UX Designer (graphics) that can update the look and feel. Or work with a Content Specialist (writer) to help update the page names and words on the pages to help you optimize your site for Search Engines (Search Engine Optimization or SEO). The key to long-term success though, is to establish a strong relationship with a developer who does not suffer from NIH and is dedicated to keeping the site clean. When you find one that you feel is a true partner that continuously looks for ways to build on the existing site while keeping the code clean, then pay that person well, count yourself as truly lucky and please get me in contact with them!


The Brand of the American Soldier

As we approach Memorial Day in America, I have been overwhelmed by the power of the American Soldier brand. You see, for over a year now, my daughter’s friend Maggie has been missing her dad who was deployed to Afghanistan. To serve his country, he had to leave his wife, a high school principal, with four girls under the age of ten including twin baby girls. But this weekend our community lined the streets with American flags and got to welcome Maggie’s dad home! The experience has sparked a great deal of reverence, excitement and joy for our soldiers.

When we consider our own brand, we think about capturing strong thoughts and feelings about our company and its products and services in order to grow market share. Often people mistakenly assume that their brand is a logo or package but brand is actually the emotion and thoughts about the company or product. In fact, until those thoughts are developed in others, you have no brand at all!

The brand of the American Soldier has even more responsibilities in terms of developing emotion. In order to recruit talent and inspire support among the families and communities that send their young people away to serve our country, the military has to focus on promoting strong thoughts and feelings to inspire taking action. Here are the latest examples the Army and Air Force have launched to promote the desire to support their brands. There is no greater intensity of emotion that must be developed about a brand than that of the Soldier because the cost of ‘purchasing’ the brand is so high… putting a life on the line to protect our freedom.

So as we welcome home one of our own this weekend, I’d like to thank those who have served our country and encourage others to show gratitude both in small ways (offer your preferred seats on flights, purchase a coffee for them, simply thank them, etc.) as well as big ways. And as I personally experience joy and pride for what Maggie’s family has sacrificed, I am just pleased as punch that Maggie finally got her daddy back!


Presenting Your Big Idea is Easy As Pie

PRESENTATION TIP FOR COMMUNICATING YOUR BIG IDEA 


Presentations can be easy as pieLast weekend we celebrated Pi Day, which happens to also be Albert Einstein’s birthday. I took this picture of our Pi/Birthday celebration pie last Saturday at 9:00pm as the time/date numbers lined up to be 3.14159, which is the first part of the intriguing, never-ending number . Though Einstein was not the one who developed Pi, he was brilliant about translating complex theories into simple statements that others could understand. His thoughts on communications and presenting information are summed up in this famous quote of his.

“If you don’t understand it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.

Einstein’s point is spot on. If you have an opportunity to prepare a presentation, whether to a small group or a large audience, make sure you can communicate your message simply. If you find that you struggle to get your point across within the timeframe that has been provided, then chances are you do not have a strong enough understanding of your message. I have found many presenters in our industry show up to conferences or product reviews with 30-50 slides for a one-hour presentation and spray their audience with data; forcing them to make sense of a large amount of information. What the audience needs is not a lot of data, but for the presenter to boil down the data to meaningful ideas and recommend something we can do with the idea. If you have an opportunity to present, whether to a small group or large audience, start by doing the following.

Ask yourself,

“What is the big idea?” The answer to this question is your point of view and your presentation’s Primary Message. It is the single biggest thing you want them to remember when they walk away from your presentation.

“What am I asking the audience to do?” This is your Call-To-Action. It is what you are asking your audience to do or change. If possible, make your request specific by assigning a deadline and a way of measuring their success in taking action.

Once you can clearly explain your message in a simple, concise way, then building your supporting points, benefits and examples will be easy. Get your point of view clear before you start developing the visuals of how to present (for example, storyboard for a small group, Power Point slides, hand-outs, posters and pictures for larger groups).

When you are asked to present, please be respectful to your audience and to yourself. Take a moment to make sure you can explain your big idea simply and know what you are asking from the audience before you take the steps to develop the presentation. Imagine how challenging it was for Einstein to boil down his point of view and explain complex ideas like E=MC2!

And now back to pie, because my flaky-crust apple cinnamon variety is very simple to understand!


Technology "and Stuff"

Kudo’s to General Motors for doing the right thing for what could have been a disastrous moment for their Chevrolet brand. After the San Francisco Giants won baseball’s World Series last month, Regional Zone Manager Rikk Wilde was on hand to present the latest Chevrolet truck to MVP winner Madison Bumgarner. It was obvious that Mr. Wilde was either not prepared for his speech or that the magnitude of the number of eyeballs on him at one time took him by surprise because he really messed up! It was so shocking that someone called to handle such an important presentation for this company did not have his “game on.” Personally, it was an incredibly painful thing to watch. You can see the clip in the video on the right.


Technology and Stuff in USA Today AdvertisementThe next morning, the story of his speech received higher billing with the press than the announcement of the Giant’s win! Not only that, but when I read the USA Today newspaper, I found a full-page advertisement for the truck with the header, “Technology and Stuff.” I’m sure the marketing team for the brand scurried after his presentation to figure out how to offset his mistake. The ad was a brilliant play and I commend the leader of their product line for approving the decision. Most managers wouldn’t approve it for fear of “looking stupid,” but instead they leveraged it. The ad helped the incident become a “human” event and probably pulled even more people into feeling good about the Chevrolet brand.

So what have we learned? Consider these two things;

1. Preparation is key. Not only does the speaker have to be well practiced and prepared, but pick the speaker who is right for the audience. This is brand representation, and not only does the content of the speech need to support the personality of your brand, but also the person standing in front of the audience (whether your audience is two people or tens of thousands of people) needs to be right.

2. Be on the offense when something bad happens. Most companies with a challenge like this point to the speaker as if he/she was the problem, but instead GM owned it and made light of it. Media, customers, and competitors… they all come after you when you are not being forthright, so own your mistakes, apologize, and move forward. It will give you and your company a stronger brand presence.

One last comment… I’m thinking the stock price and sales revenue for Chevy will go up. What do you think?


How To Kill A Great Campaign

Who owns your packaging and advertising content in your company? When it comes to packaging, advertising and promotional material, most managers involved can agree that a single-focused message would be most effective. Apple, for example is BRILLIANT at executing effective clear and simple marketing pieces. But watch this short video and you’ll see an example of what happens in many organizations.

This example is a dramatization, but often the people involved in finalizing a marketing piece will get into heated disagreements on content and design as the deadline nears. The result becomes a massive compromise that will sometimes do more damage than good. For example, an advertisement may have a single-focused message of “speed”, as the machine cranks out the most widgets per minute. The ad design reflects a captivating tie to speed and the simple content tickles interest and leads the viewer to engage in learning more about the fast machine. That’s a pretty straightforward process, but then more stakeholders get involved… Management insists an ad promote the company with its “years of experience” using words to show the industry that we are “leaders” and “innovators”. Engineering becomes adamant that if you don’t show the gear that makes the machine so fast, the viewer won’t be interested and Product Management won’t approve the ad unless you change the words on the tagline and add 4 bullet points so that readers can understand why the product is fast. Does this scenario sound familiar? Is it painful? It’s painful to everyone and it is common scenario.

The challenge comes from leadership not integrating “brand presence and marketing communications” into their long-term or even annual strategy and then having the backbone to back it up when executed. The reason various messages get piggybacked onto one marketing piece is because the stakeholders don’t feel their messages are coming across. With a long-term plan that is backed by company leadership, the individual marketing materials can tie to an overarching strategy. Each communication item can maintain its own effective single-focused message and serve its purpose. Leaders need to have a solid, well-communicated strategy and be steadfast in sticking to it.


3 Final Tips for Effective Online Ads


A/B Split Test Results for an Online Marketing Campaign Marketing has changed more in the last 2 years than in the past 50, 76 percent of marketers surveyed said in a recent Adobe study. And while my personal journey with developing online advertising strategies started over 15 years ago, the trick to success is still trial and error. As this blog discussion of Online Advertising comes to a close, I would like to leave you with some final tips for your own success.

  • Test at Least Two Concepts; initially run two or more creative concepts in your first test to understand the relative performance between them.
  • Show Brand Prominently on all Frames. Always remember your primary purpose of advertisement; a common primary objective is to elevate your brand awareness and secondary to drive interest in the form of contact information for leads.
  • Consider What Happens After the First Click. This tip is probably the biggest offense in online display advertisement. Think about being the viewer… becoming enticed enough to click on a display ad and then merely land on a home page of a company with no direction. What happens is a feeling about your brand that YOU are lost or not smart enough to lead the viewer to the next step of product or service information to capture your prospect.
  • And a bonus tip - make sure you stand for something. Don’t be tempted to tell all, stick to single-focused messages on your ads.

So move forward bravely and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Luckily, online advertisement is fairly inexpensive, easily changeable and extremely measureable. So change it up and keep on top of the progress.

May success in online advertisement be in your future!


Words Matter - Online Advertising Copy

Once you’ve nailed the visual part of your ad, the text or “copy” becomes the key to success for your online advertising investment. The text commonly has two objectives.

  1. Provide a clear direction telling the customer what will happen if they click on your ad.
  2. Give the potential customer a take away from your message if they choose not to click on it.

Just remember to focus on one benefit and get your offer/brand message across. Messages with multiple ideas, benefits or features lists may confuse the consumer or make them work too hard to get your concept.

If you’ve accomplished the creative design part of the online ad correctly, then you have the opportunity to pull your viewer in with the copy. Sell them on your product or service with few words and earn their click (or time in reading your message). To write effective ad copy, I recommend using the famous copywriting formula AIDA.

(A)ttention: While your image/design will grab initial attention, you need an attention-grabbing headline to pull them in. A strong headline or provocative question will capture attention and boost response.

(I)nterest: Use your primary benefit to get the user interested. It takes a lot of time to write only a few words that pull potential customers into your ad. The text you write should be very authentic, clear and targeted to the demographic of the website that is displaying your ad. ?

(D)esire: The copy is where you create a desire for the viewer to have an immediate interest in learning more so provide a discount or offer (case study download, extended warranty). Be straightforward and clear about what you are offering… While vague copy may increase your response rate, it could negatively impact both your conversion rates and your brand.

?(A)ction: If you have created the correct desire, the user will want to take action. This is your big opportunity to provide them with a path to take action… a click to provide their information, a phone number to call, a website to visit. Please, please, please create a special web/landing page for your viewer to land on. So many companies simply direct their ads to their homepage and completely lose the opportunity to capture a new prospect. It’s disappointing to the potential customer and tragic for your ROI of your ad!

You probably have a lot that you want to fit into the small space of an ad, but keep writing it out until you find a succinct message that ties with the imagery. Just remember to focus on one benefit and get your offer/brand message across. Messages with multiple ideas, benefits or features lists may confuse the consumer or make them work too hard to get your concept. Keep it simple, be clear and lead them to action.


Online Advertising Design

To continue our series on effective online advertising, let’s talk about creative. In the manufacturing industry, this is an oft-overlooked (and undervalued) part of the equation. Get it right, and you get even more leverage out of your marketing investment. Get it wrong, and you may as well not run the ad at all.

Before we begin, it’s important to note that there are very few marketing communications designers in our industry so it is highly recommended that you outsource your creative, but provide strong guidance. Unless you can collaborate on this effectively, you will either have a great message and content without captivating imagery OR have a beautifully designed ad that does nothing to connect the reader to your message (both scenarios will undermine your attempts to capture more business).

Here are some quick tips you can use for your creative.

Images - Use bright, clear images. Be careful when using stock photography as it could be used too often online and not be unique to you. Or worse, be so bland that it’s not meaningful at all (cue the photo of a nice man answering the phone or shaking a hand at a trade show). Also, make sure you have the copyright authorization for any photos or artwork you use. The images you select will represent you and your brand so make sure the they connect with what you are trying to accomplish and is cohesive with other visuals in your current campaigns.

Text - Your text should be large enough to quickly read and to the point. We’ll cover this in more detail next month, but here’s a quick tip: Use the great advice of Mark Twain who said “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Take the time to make sure you are saying what you need to, then cut the available words in half and rewrite.

Color - As for color and animation, please always consider the environment. A little animation is great but if there are a lot of other ads on the same page with animation, the page becomes irritating for the viewer and all of the messages become ‘noise’ (think Las Vegas slot machines). In this case, a simple, solid ad could be the difference that sets you apart from the other ads begging for your prospects attention.

Size - The size of your ad is very important as the more advertising space you take, the more likely it will be seen but you can still get a lot of exposure by placing small ads. Even a well-designed thumbnail ad placed in a strategic location on a web page that your target audience reads is going to get good exposure for your brand. One big warning though is to make sure your ad is designed for the space in which it will be placed. Have you ever seen an ad that is not centered or has text that ‘disappears’ at the bottom?

Ideally your campaign should have two or three ads with similar messages targeting your audience. Don’t run them all at the same time in the same environment but filter them through and then track your results and evaluate which ones provide the most impressions or clicks (depending on what you are measuring). If you are measuring clicks and have a captivating image with a powerful message and enticing call-to-action then you should aim for around 0.05% of impressions.

Stay tuned for the next online advertising topic about how to write the text for your online ads.


How To Get More Clicks With Online Advertising

More clicks with effective online advertisingSome businesses are not getting strong results with online advertising because either their message is not a good fit for the audience visiting the webpage OR the design and content of the ad is not connecting with the reader. A solid advertising strategy considers both the environment of the ads placed as well as what is being displaying in each of those ads. For example, you wouldn’t want to advertise your process machine products on a machine builder association website, but a well-designed ad presenting a newly launched machine in a trade publication (such as the one you are reading) would be an excellent message in a well-matched environment.

 

I need to back up on this topic of online advertising before getting into the details on how to get better results. You see, most businesses should be using online ads as part of their marketing strategy, but I have seen a very big disconnect in what their expectations are and the effort they put into getting the anticipated results. First, most online ads should be viewed more like display ads. They should be used to generate interest and grow brand awareness, not create an immediate sales lead to place an order. Readers to most online content are there to find news and trends in their industry, not necessarily to find products to buy at that moment.

 

In moving forward, I recommend that you first align your expectations with your executive staff after you have done the research with your online advertising vendors. In doing your research, garner audience information and extract data about other advertisers expectations and results. Will your expectation be to get eyeballs on your message (branding) or to get clicks on the ad (direct marketing)? Next, think through the entire advertising campaign with the end-in-mind (expected outcome). I recommend having more than one ad for your campaign to cycle through different pages and test what connects with the reader. Your ads should be creative enough to draw attention to your message without annoying the reader. You also need to reflect your campaign in other messages to customers. I suggest having similar design elements and messages on your website, at trade shows, inserted into invoices and on the footers of your emails.

 

If your expectation is to measure online advertising based on clicks, then you will need to engage the reader enough to interact with your ad by providing an enticing offer in exchange for their click/effort. Most online users want low-risk interactions, so stick to simple conversions like signing up for your newsletter, sampling a trial service of yours, watching an educational video or offering their email to be first on the list for a new product launch.

 

It takes time to not only develop a strategy for online advertising but also to execute the design, offer, and message in a way that connects with the readers. There will be two additional posts about this topic. The next one will be on how to develop the design (online ad creative) and the third will be about creating the content (online ad copy). But first take the time upfront to define your realistic expectations by doing the research and collaborating with the website company to set goals and establish a thorough campaign that will properly represent your brand and connect with your prospects.


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