Marketing Uncategorized

80/20 Customers

The 80/20 Rule needs to be applied to your customers. Why? Because if 20% of your customers are responsible for 80% of your revenue, you need to spend less money, time, and effort on acquiring new customers that aren’t your best customers. This is a game-changer!

A Kansas City Personal Injury Law Firm had never really analyzed their caseload. They only knew that, on average, a case was worth $8,000 in legal fees.

After analyzing the data for the 20% of cases making 80% of the revenue, the firm was able to identify 1) the geographic regions where these cases came from, 2) the demographics of the injured parties, 3) the type of accident that caused the injuries, and 4) the nature of the injuries the clients had sustained.

Next, the firm compared this information with what could be gleaned from the remaining 80% of cases that only made up 20% of the revenue. It was no shock that there were quite a few differences!

To keep the story short, the caseload grew from 165 cases to more than 650 in just three years, but even better than the growth was the fact that the average case value went from $8,000 to $11,000, a 35 percent improvement!

The moral of the story is: When you really know who your best customers are, you can focus your money, time and effort on getting more customers that are similar. This simply drives profits up; Less waste, better clients.


If you have clout, use it!

Last week I made a couple phone calls to Gail’s Harley-Davidson. Both times a receptionist answered and immediately said, “Can you hold?” As a knee-jerk reaction, I said “Sure.” Next I heard Gail’s voice doing a very well constructed recommendation for a third-party company. The first time I heard it, I didn’t focus on what she was doing. But, hearing the pitch a second time made me really appreciate what a smart business woman she is!

Her motorcycle dealership is a very busy place during the riding season. She employs scores of people and her business gets hundreds, if not more than a thousand calls every day. Due to the volume, nearly everyone gets put on hold.

Gail has a great reputation in this town. If she says another business is one that you can trust to deliver a good value, well you can bet that they are trustworthy!

Gail has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more than a million in advertising and marketing to sell motorcycles. Meanwhile, her own personality is very well integrated with the local biker scene and the growing market for Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Gail, I’m almost certain, is selling her on-hold messaging! Or, maybe it is part of trade agreement with the vendor she is recommending. Either way, I’m impressed that Gail saw this easy-t0-overlook opportunity to leverage the audience she has worked so hard to create.

What about you? Do you have an audience of people that you can influence? Do you have on-hold messaging, events, or advertising where you can share some of the limelight? What about email, your website, or your Facebook page? How can you monetize the audience that you have created?

What I like about Gail’s deal is that the on-hold messaging doesn’t really interrupt the flow of business. I am used to being put on hold. I will wait it out to get to the person I need to reach. Not every communication platform you use will work as well as her on-hold messaging.


Names and Taglines: Working Together

This morning I attended One Million Cups, a great, thought-provoking meeting that features two entrepreneurs who pitch their business for 6 minutes and then take 20 minutes to respond to audience questions or suggestions.

One of the presenters was a woman who is launching a clothing line for women who experience hot flashes. The clothing uses advanced fabric technology developed by NASA that absorbs heat and sweat from the body through a stay-cool layer. She named her business “alvoru” which means “real” in the Icelandic language. “real” and “Ice”landic: real cool. Get it? I didn’t name this business, but I do like the approach she took to conceiving a unique name. Alvoru is pronounced all-vu-roo.

But she also went one step better. She reinforced the name with a complementary tagline that fleshes out what the product is and what it does. The tagline is “real women. real comfort. real cool.”

That tagline speaks to her intention to produce garments for women who are more likely to have figures other than those featured on the runways, on TV or in magazines. It also underscores the unique selling proposition of comfort and cool. I am sure that this will be quickly understood and will be effective with her target audience.


Here’s another example. I met a woman at the Inventors Center of Kansas Citywho has developed a clipped-to-the-waist exterior cellphone pocket for people with active lifestyles. The product is unique, in that the phone is accessible for viewing and texting without removal via a flip-out flap. The original name she conceived was Flip Flap. However her attorney discouraged her from using it. So, she started calling it CaddyFlap, even though she didn’t necessarily like that name as it seemed to be too golf-oriented.

In communicating with her, she shared that she was excited about a tagline that she was using that quickly explained her product. She said the tagline was “Insert Phone. Flip Out.”

Short, but not as sweet as it could be, I thought.

I replied, suggesting she change it to “Phone In. Flip Out.” Phonetically (no pun intended) it works better and it is more memorable as the “In” and “Out” are better aligned.

She loved it.

Next, I suggested that she could consider naming her product “Phone Flip.” It works with the tagline by using the first two words of the two-sentence tagline. It also says what it is for and what it does. I checked, and the domain was available.

She love the name and reserved the URL. Now she is running it by her attorney. Some might say that she should have done that before reserving a URL. I disagree. $14.95 isn’t much money to put at risk. If you find a good URL that you think might work, reserve it ASAP.

If you’d like help with your business/product name and taglines, please get in touch with me. Eric 816-797-9946.


Adwords Tip: Curiosity Clicks Can Cost You

Don't buy "just curious" clicks!
Don’t buy “just curious” clicks!

People don’t read. Or, they don’t read very carefully. If you write an Adwords text ad with a headline that is very enticing, people might click without even understanding what it is that you are offering. That’s a big problem. You just wasted good money advertising to people who had no need or desire for your product. But that’s not all. You also messed up your Adwords metrics, measuring a complete marketing failure that can distort overall performance numbers if it goes on for very long.

But the problem isn’t just a poorly written ad. Sometimes it begins with a poorly defined keyword that virtually sets you up for failure.

For example, I recently set up an Adwords campaign for a merchant account services provider that provides a capability for setting up recurring payments. This is neat functionality for HVAC technicians, lawn care providers and anyone that wants to sell a subscription of services as a package. Every month, the customer’s credit card gets charged the agreed upon price.

Unfortunately, I got a little careless and set up a keyword “subscription payments.” It seemed harmless at the time.

The ad was not great, but not bad, and one of two I was testing:

EZ Subscription Payments
Set up monthly or even weekly
credit card payments by customers

The ad clicked through to a landing page that was about recurring billing. People didn’t read. Instead, they filled out the form and asked that we help them unsubscribe from newspapers and magazines! What?

1) Be sure to use keywords that don’t have an alternate meaning for an audience you don’t want to click your ads.

2) Write text ads that are very clear about what you are offering.

3) Craft a landing page and form that is clear about what you are offering.


Avoid Black Hat SEO

Black-Hat-SEOEvery now and then, I’ll run across a Web page that has content that is OBVIOUSLY created strictly for SEO purposes. Such pages offer little or no value to human readers. But the bots that analyze page content can be tricked into thinking that the page is credible and valuable to readers. It is a trick. More specifically, a Black Hat trick.

In the SEO world, there is White Hat (Good Guy) and Black Hat (Bad Guy) SEO. The reason that Black Hat SEO should be avoided is that Google and other search engines are constantly improving their search algorithms to detect and banish those that try to trick the search engine to show a Web page as a top search result. Another reason, that I like even better, is that not only are you tricking Google, you are tricking your prospective customers. That’s not a good way to start a relationship!

Here is the page I encountered:

It cleverly mentions area attractions and, for the most part, uses real sentences. However, the content is awkward and largely unrelated to what the business offers.

Instead, businesses should focus their SEO efforts around great, relevant and valuable content. Optimize real content and Google and the masses will soon appreciate your Web pages.

I asked James Martin of Studio Mercury what he thought of this example. Here is what he had to say:

What we see in that example may give some boost in Google.  The page is stuffed – right on the edge of overstuffed. It has a lot of links, a lot of “similar content” and a lot of location bait.  It is careful to use real sentences and (for the most part) good grammar.  If you do a search in Google for minutemanpress and hit next, next, next, it’ll blow your mind.

These guys know what they’re doing, but they sacrifice the #1 rule of SEO – content is king.  They’ll miss out on organic results. I see they have also artificially pumped their facebook pages

I don’t really dig the black hat SEO, but their strategy probably does work. A bit dangerous, though, as they could suffer penalties when Google updates its algorithm.

I asked James for clarification of what he means by “organic results” because this example is clearly getting good organic search results. He said that what he meant was that the company will have greater, natural success in making sales, by focusing their energy on creating valuable content. His point is that SEO isn’t the end-goal. The end-goal is to have the site result in sales. Good content gets to that result faster and more efficiently than “tricking Google and potential customers” to visit your site.


Make your name tasty!

I shopped at Price Chopper the other day and pondered the purchase of some sweet potato chips. The bag I picked up declared that a single serving was equal to the daily nutitional value of fruits and vegetables. That was a good pitch! But another bag caught my eye and earned my purchase.

I noticed a rather generic looking bag with an almost unappealing photograph of a sweet potato chip. The name of the company, as it turns out, was emblazoned across the top of the bag.

naming products and companies
Is this a good name, or what?

“Food Should Taste Good” is the name of the company. An explanation of the name is on the backside of the bag.

Is that a good name? I’d like to hear what you think.

Here’s what I think.

I think there is a trend – perhaps a fad – for naming products and companies in unconventional ways. “Life is Good” is another company name that might have started this trend back in 1994.

Maybe it is just an attempt to break through the clutter. A declaritive statement like “Food Should Taste Good” carries with it an inherent promise, “This food tastes good.” It is almost like the company’s short mission statement was adopted as the company name. The explanation on the back of the bag suggests that this might be what happened.

“Why should I care?” This is a question that consumers ask every time they encounter something that is new to them. “Food Should Taste Good” is an attempt to answer the question by appealing to our stomachs and tastebuds. Clever. Very clever.

Is there a simpler explanation? Trademark- and domain-worthy names are hard to come by. Choosing a name like “Food Should Taste Good” enables the company to quickly own their identity with little marketplace confusion.

For contrast, consider another company name I came across today. Apex Energy Soluti0ns. By the name, I figured it might be a natural gas supplier, or a co-generation facility, or a solar panel manufacturer. The point is, I had no idea. The word “apex” is used by thousands of companies and products, and “energy solutions” says practically nothing. It turns out the company is a window manufacturer.

“Food Should Taste Good.” It’s an odd name, but I think it is strategically very strong and well-considered. What do you think?



This can’t be right, can it?

According to recent research, 40% of online search queries are for local businesses, organizations, attractions, and events. (

I’m a little surprised it is that high, but I won’t argue with that stat.

What I find a little weird is that reports that out of 14 million small businesses surveyed in May 2012, 75.2 percent did not have a Web site. I’ve got three problems with this statistic. First, “14 million small businesses were surveyed.” Really? That numbers seems terribly high given what I know about how busy small business owners are. Also, you don’t need a sampling anywhere near that large to be statistically accurate. Secondly, 75.2% sounds crazy high.

My third problem is that even if the actual number is, “50% of small businesses do not have a Web site,” I can’t come up with too many reasons why that would be.

Today, putting up a Web site is super-easy and low cost. In many cases one can now do it for free and have free hosting for a year. After that it might cost you $5-$10 per month, but that is cheap marketing. Why wouldn’t you do it?

I don’t have time. Then ask someone to do it for you!

I don’t want to fuss with it. Then have someone else fuss with it!

I get all my business from referrals. The Web is now a referral-multiplier, so if you do good work, your Web site and related online content can become a loudspeaker of referrals that prospective customers are actually seeking.

The point is, if you are a small business and yet, you don’t have a Web site, you aren’t alone. But not having a Web site is like only being open one day a week. It limits what you can accomplish.


Think about the end, before you begin.

If you focus too much on tactics, or on executing a plan, you might miss out on some opportunities or trouble-spots. Painting yourself into a corner is not something you want to do in business.

Visualize the finish.
Just as pro basketball players visualize the ball going through the hoop, you must visualize your goals and the motions required to reach them.

I loved this picture because it reminded me of various situations I’ve seen where companies failed to anticipate what was going to happen.  For example, I remember a promotion called Free Fridays that Sprint (then just a long distance phone company), was offering to its business customer prospects. It provided free long distance, anywhere in the world, on Fridays, for one year. It was a great promotion, designed around the data that showed that Tuesday was the highest volume business long-distance calling day and that Friday was the lowest. Sure, it would encourage more Friday calls, but Sprint was betting that many of those calls would be repeated or followed up on, the next week (hopefully, not on Friday).

However, Sprint failed to anticipate how its salesforce would execute the promotion. The salesforce was compensated for a combination of revenue and number of sales. This promotion made the number of sales super easy to attain. And, if you got lucky, the volume of sales might help you reach your revenue target. So, what the salesforce did was focus on US-based, small Indian and Pakistan-owned businesses who had family and friends back in their homeland that they would enjoy calling on Friday, a slow business day for many businesses. As a result, Sprint picked up thousand of such customers. The problem was, these businesses often did very little international calling during the week. And, if they did any at all, they could easily reschedule those calls for Friday. Also, because the Friday calls tended to be personal calls, they would sometimes last for hours, not the typical four minutes of a business call. Sprint lost their shirt, while many salespeople earned their President’s Club trip that year.

You have to plan and execute, with the end in mind. Visualizing is a skill I’ve developed, where I can see opportunities, strategic partnerships, tactics and the end goal very quickly. If you can get that visualization communicated to others, it can be very empowering and motivating, generating momentum toward the goal. It can also help people understand the importance of the role they play in achieving the goal.


SEO Search Engine Optimization – Words Matter!

Being a word guy, I’m very pleased that Google’s Penguin algorithm, released last Spring has made the art and science of search engine optimization more focused on the art part of it.

It used to be that you had to hire a computer geek to embed your site with all sorts of links, crazy keywords that had nothing to do with your site, and other tactics that, more often than not, were trying to “trick” Google into listing your Web site prominently on the SERPs Search Engine Results Pages.

Google is smart. It employs very smart people. You can’t outsmart Google. So what can you do?

You can focus on creating great content. Words matter. They always have and always will.

The “old” Internet age phrase, “Content is King” is more and more true, as Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines continue to refine their search algorithms to serve up relevant, current, and pleasing content to those that use their search engines.

Also, your customers have gotten a lot smarter about finding your site. They search differently than they did just five years ago. They use better keywords to generate a more appropriate result. For example, years ago to find a free checking account, one might have entered the words, free checking account, and hit “Search.” Today, that same person might enter “Free checking account” and “Kansas City”, producing a result that is more relevant and focused.

Yes, there are still things you need to do, programming-wise, to ensure that your site has a fighting chance to display prominently in search engine results. I do recommend that you hire competent and ethical SEO help. But I also recommend that you place high value on those people who can wordsmith your site into prominent search results and stronger on-site conversions – people buying things or completing online forms.

Words, it turns out, are what people and search engines trust and value.

The URL, the page title, the H1 headline, and the first paragraph – Make sure that these elements are congruent (aligned for you word-challenged folk!). These are the relatively easy, must-have elements of SEO. There are many other SEO elements that will add value, but they will do little or nothing if these must-haves are not in place.

Your SEO efforts should definitely start with words. I know a great word guy, if you need one. ; )

Email Communications Marketing

Train-wreck Marketing

Is your marketing a train-wreck? You are not alone.

courtesy of Wikipedia

Marketing often gets off-track because companies don’t have a clearly defined marketing strategy that governs how they make decisions.  Notice it is not “what” decisions are made.

If your marketing is a train-wreck, it may be because you have listened to various marketing “experts” over the years.  There are marketing experts, and then there are marketing experts.

In many cases, well-meaning people have been lucky with one or two marketing tactics (SEO, direct mail, email campaigns, printed collateral, etc.) and then they built a marketing consulting business around it, claiming “marketing expertise.”

The problem is that tactics are a very small part of marketing and their effectiveness is very subjective, unless you measure them on a short-term basis and in isolation from what is important to the company as a whole. Well-executed tactics can have short-term success, while actually eroding the brand and harming the long-term success of the company. Marketing is really about the whole business and what matters in the long term. Things like:

  • Your brand
  • Your customer relationships
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer needs
  • Your salesforce
  • Your 4 Ps (Product, Pricing, Place, Promotion)

Tactics are simple – setting up a corporate facebook page, writing keyword-rich content, printing a brochure.

Strategy is harder, but makes all the difference. Great marketers won’t talk you into tactics. Great marketers start by understanding your customers and how your product or service satisfies their needs.

Consider this: when you execute tactics, your competition can see it; they know what your promotions are, they know what keywords you are using. What they don’t know, is your strategy, IF you have one. The point is, if you want to be competitive, you simply must have a strategy that governs how you make decisions about which tactics to employ and how to craft them.

Let’s end this thought-provoking article with some examples of Train-wreck Marketing.

Non-profit – Relies heavily on donated expertise, from multiple parties. There is no governing strategy or authority. As a result, the organization operates in fits and starts, hoping that each tactic makes a positive impact for the organization. Thank God for non-profits. They do great work. But too many of them do not work great.

Small business – Entrepreneurs start small businesses. They may experience early success and think they have all the expertise that is needed. They typically know their customers very well. But when they begin to grow, there is more distance from customers and more demands on their time. Then, either new-hire staff or outside marketing “experts” are utilized to execute tactics that the owner thinks are going to be effective. There is a reason that the vast majority of new businesses fail within four years. Usually, hindsight shows that there was little or no strategy developed. Initial marketing tactics may have worked, but their performance could not be sustained.

Big business – Even very large businesses can fall victim to Train-wreck Marketing. This usually happens when a company becomes myopic about a particular tactic. For example, Sprint made a huge mistake in the mid-1990s when it created a great promotion that its salesforce abused for their own personal gain. I plan to write about this in more detail in a few days. The short story is that the promotion was wildly successful, but cost Sprint dearly.

I humbly consider myself a marketing expert. I don’t profess to have expertise around every kind of marketing tactic. But I do understand what makes tactics successful for the long term, strategy. Your marketing dollars are best spent on strategy, not tactics.

I hope that you will call upon me to ensure that you have an effective strategy in place to guide your decision-making about how to grow your business. Eric 816.797.9946