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First, Best, or Different

Niche Marketing Matters
By John Bradley Jackson

How to Drive Traffic to Your Website

March 26th, 2008

According to marketing guru Seth Godin, if there are 2 million Google matches for a search, the number one match gets 10,000 times more traffic as the number 40 match in the search. What this means is that if you don’t make it to the first 2 pages of a search, you won’t be found.

Given this challenge how do you drive traffic to your website? Let me count the ways:

Lots of fresh content- Nothing creates traffic better than relevant and new content which is routinely added to a site.

Blogs- One of the best ways to keep a website updated.

Forums- Helps make a site relevant and fresh.

Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) – Also known as Google Adwords, PPC advertisements are short ads listed on the right side of a page of search results. The ad placement is determined by key words which are purchased in a bidding process.

Off-line advertising- Placing your URL on brochures, billboards, signs, direct mailers, etc

Article marketing- Short topic articles submitted to article submission websites which distribute and sell the articles to e-zines.

SEO- Search engine optimization which is the “under hood” use of Meta tags and design elements which create a higher search ranking. Title tags should be 60 or so characters. Header tags are numbered from 1 to 7. These tags function like street addresses for the search engines.

Keywords- Add no more than 10-15 keywords per page to keep the search engines attention; any more and the same search engines will flag your site for keyword spamming. Prioritize your words. Great copy is more important than keywords.

Banner advertising- Online ads purchased on other websites which link to your website.

Sponsored Links- Similar to PPC, but listed at the top of a search result.

Reciprocal links- Shared links between two sites.

Triangulated links- A common third party link shared by two other sites.

Be sure to use multiple methods to drive traffic to your site since individual methods fall in and out of favor. For example, PPC has been the rage for the last 18 months, but recently it has been criticized for increasing click fraud. Don’t put all your clicks in one basket.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

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Product Promotion

March 25th, 2008

Unlike advertising and public relations which create publicity and awareness, product promotion delivers a call to action for a product, service, or event. Typically, the call to action is for the customer to buy now; often there is an incentive offered to encourage the customer to do so.

The goal of product promotion is get the product in front of the customer or channel of distribution. While customer knows the product promotion is overtly sponsored by the offering firm, the call to action can be compelling. Or, at least that is what the sponsoring firm hopes.

Here are some common product promotion techniques:

• Give it away- If the lifetime value of the customer purchases is greater than the cost of the giveaway, then it can make economic sense to give the product away. For example, in the pharmaceutical industry free drugs samples are given to physicians to dispense to patients to demonstrate their benefits. If successful, the patient may be prescribed the drugs.
• Trial- Similar to giving it away, a trial gives the customer a chance to use the product for a short duration of time. If satisfied the customer can keep the product and continue usage. A good example would be trial software; this a common approach for anti-virus software makers.
• Event marketing- Everybody loves a party. Event marketing uses the power of the crowd to entice people to buy now. This could be a sidewalk sale in the retail store or a grand opening for a business.
• Discounting- Offering a special price which is only available for a limited time is a time proven product promotion technique. This discount is frequently offered via a coupon. Delay and the price will go up (i.e. you snooze, you lose).
• Bundling- This means offering a second complimentary product as a part of package. Buy the PC and the printer is free. Or, it could be two for the price of one.
• Contests- Try your luck and you might be a winner. Another tried and true method to get the customer to take action. This is a commonly used by the retail giants.
• White papers- The technology crowd loves the soft sell of the third party authored white paper which tells all about their product versus the competition. Everybody knows that this research is bought and paid for, but it works.
• Chotchkas- Yiddish for a small gift, these branded items demand attention and are the gold standard of trade shows. The best giveaways are evergreen and remain on the customer’s desk or shelf as memorabilia of past shows.

Product promotion works because customers need a reason to buy now. It is up to you give them that reason.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

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Women on the Web

March 24th, 2008

A study by Yahoo! and Starcom/Mediavest Group offers some interesting insights about women and how they interact with the web. The survey interviewed 1199 women about how they use the Internet. Here are a few of the findings:

• The Internet is the preferred media among women and is the 4th most time intensive activity behind work, sleep and time spent with the family.
• The content most popular with women includes subjects relating to news, weather, finance and games – items not found in most popular women’s magazines.
• Women’s online spending habits are increasing and they are also using websites extensively to make decisions before purchasing in the offline world.
• Average time spent actively online each day was 3.3 hours.
• If offered only one choice as to a source of news, information and entertainment, 65% of women surveyed chose the Internet.
• 43% of the women surveyed make regular online purchases.
• 58% stated convenience as the major motivator for shopping online.
• The web is not a spare time activity for the women surveyed and it is accessed at various times of the night and day.

What this means to marketers is that women need to be recognized for the dominant decision maker in consumer and B2B markets that they are. Women outnumber men 51% to 49%. Women make the major decisions in households 75% of the time. Women account for more than 50 percent of stock ownership in the US and by 2010 they will represent 50 percent of the private wealth in America, or about $14 trillion. By 2020 that number is expected to rise to $22 trillion.

Step aside men, women are in charge.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

(Source: Yahoo! Inc.)

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Is Selling Getting Tougher?

March 23rd, 2008

I get this question a lot from sales veterans who remember what selling was like before the Internet. My answer is that things are different with some aspects of selling harder and other parts easier.

The biggest change in selling is the rise of the better informed buyer. Prior to the web, buyers had fewer choices available and relied more heavily on sales people for product information. Today buyers come into sales meetings with significant knowledge of your product along with the competitive offerings including pricing.

The days of the “canned pitch” over—seldom does the customer need to hear about your offering since they already know about it from their website searches which yielded product reviews, pricing tips from other buyers, and product comparisons. The focus of the conversation needs to be on customer needs and concerns. In this respect, this is just like the old days.

Identifying prospects is much easier today since just about any prospect can be found on the web. Social networks provide for a bonanza of information on just about everyone. Getting ahold of them? That is another issue. Caller ID, voice mail, Blackberry devices, etc. have made it much more difficult to have a live conversation. Often selling is reduced to an email game of tag.

Today’s buyers are tougher negotiators. They come with a better knowledge of pricing and product trends; they know a good deal when they see one and the converse is also true. Additionally, buyers have had negotiation training and know how to make sales people squirm. On the flipside, sales people have not had the negotiation training that many professional buyers have had; it is my estimation that pressures to reduce the cost of sales have not allowed sales people to get this type of needed training.

“Cost of sales reductions” have also trimmed the support that old school sales had including administrative assistants and marketing help in the field. Travel and entertainment budgets are greatly reduced. Instead, sales people have productivity tools such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems better known as ACT!, Seibel, and Goldmine. The downside to these tools is that sales people are required to enter ridiculous amounts of data into these CRM systems instead of selling. How stupid is that?

So, is selling harder? I think the answer is a qualified “yes”. At the very least, selling is much different from than the good old days.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

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Click Fraud

March 21st, 2008

Online advertising has been hailed as one of the most effective and economical ways to reach customers in the new millennium. Google Adwords, Google Adsense, and Yahoo! Pay-Per-click are three of the more common publishers of online advertisements. Recently, Click Forensics, a web market researcher, determined that 13.7% of clicks are fraudulent.

Google and Yahoo! both offer online advertising programs that allow website owners and even bloggers the money-making opportunity to show “contextual ads” on their own pages. A contextual ad is advertising on a website that is targeted to the specific individual who is visiting the website; they use a system that scans the text of a website for keywords and returns ads to the web page based on what the user is viewing, either through ads placed on the page or pop-up ads. The search engines then pay the publisher most of the generated revenue.

Click fraud is easy. Here is how. You place an ad and watch the clicks build up and this looks great, at least for a while. Your competitor finds your ad and camps out at the keyboard repeatedly clicking your add. The dollars add up in a hurry. This malicious mischief can also be automated with software robots pushing the clicks through to your website. You get stuck with click fees. The motivation is to make the competitor waste money on online advertising. This is an obvious source of fraud.

But it turns out the publishers (the firms selling the ads) also commit fraud. They know best that volume of clicks is the prevalent indicator of success. Pushing the numbers helps the publishers sell more online programs. The Click Forensics report indicated that the fraud is actually greater (up to 30%) at the smaller publishers of which there are hundreds of firms to numerous to name.

What this means to folks like us (I use Google Adwords) is that we need to carefully monitor our online advertising. Truthfully, clicks are just clicks. Focus on the real measures of online marketing success which could include sales leads, website registrations, online purchases, and sample requests—these are the metrics that really count.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

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Unique Value Proposition

March 19th, 2008

Every successful firm needs a Unique Value Proposition (UVP) which is fancy marketing talk for the reason a customer will choose to buy your offering. If you don’t have a UVP it means that your offering is a pure commodity and you should not be reading this blog—I cannot help you.

A UVP states your product’s difference/s that are valued by the customer. These differences can be almost anything. For example, they can include:

  • Superior service
  • Greater product availability
  • Higher quality
  • Better performance
  • Greater durability
  • Respected image / prestige
  • Technology leadership
  • Satisfaction guarantee
  • Lower cost
  • Faster delivery
  • More customer support

Think of a UVP as your special ingredient your business uses to prevent from becoming a “commodity.” It should leap off the page and demand attention from your buyers since this is why they will buy now. online casino spielonline spielkasinowww online casinoonline slotmaschinen spielenvideo poker regelnonline gewinnenkasino gamecasino tropez bonus codekostenloses freispielcasino roulette spieldas beste online casinoamerikanisches roulettespielen im casinoparty casino bonus,casino tropez bonus,casino bonusbaccarat spielenonline casino geldroulette spielregelonline casinos roulettegluck spielvideo poker strategyonline casino liveglucks spielewww gratis poker detexas holdem splitonline poker mit spielgeldparty poker deposit bonus codefull tilt poker bonus codetexas holdem poker rulespoker gratis geldpoker com bonusbonus für pokerpoker net downloadonline poker deutschparty poker deposit bonustexas holdem wertungparty poker no depositempirepoker bonusparty poker registrierungs bonustexas holdem bottexas holdem downloadparty poker departie poker netonline poker ohne anmeldenbetandwin pokergratis 7 card stud spielenparty poker einzahlungs bonuspoker regeln raise7 card stud strategyholdem poker handsonline poker freerolls The challenge is to find that one thing that makes your offering different—that is all that you need to be chosen by your target market.

You could analyze the competition; generally this is wasted time since they probably don’t have the answer. Your customers know the answer or will help you find it. Determine their pains or unfulfilled needs. Start focusing on what they cannot get but need.

If you have no differentiator, create one. Think about it. When you go to the super market to buy milk, you still have to make a choice whether it is price, packaging, low fat versus whole milk, or soy product. Pick the most unique aspect or benefit of your product and focus your marketing messaging there.

People buy because of your offering’s uniqueness not because it is the same as others. Be different.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

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Sometimes Plans Change

March 18th, 2008

“We are not retreating – we are advancing in another direction.” Douglas MacArthur

A good business plan makes a great compass to guide a firm’s daily decisions but you must be flexible about reviewing the goals and initiatives associated with them. Just because you wrote, sold, and implemented the plan doesn’t make it “right” or everlasting. In fact, most plans are short-lived.

Writing a business plan is easy while implementation is the most challenging part in the strategic planning process. The most common time frame for a strategic plan is one to five years. The first key task is to effectively communicate and get input from your employees as much as possible in the planning process. Monitoring it and taking corrective action is another matter entirely.

Changing markets will mean changing plans. This is when most companies under-react and hold to the plan (since the plan is in writing and everybody is sold on the tactics and goals). This is particularly true for sales goals. With forecasted revenue driving staffing and product decisions, sales goals become “gospel” instead of an estimate or best guess.

When the sales force comes back with customer feedback that the business is “soft”, invariably the sales rep are told to get back out there and sell harder. Seldom are the reps listened to nor are the goals changed. How absurd is that? The sales force which has the best pulse of the customer and the market are told to go back and read the plan. My bet is the reps will go back and update their resumes instead.

Good plans need to be reviewed and changed quarterly. While this might be stressful to the CFO, this is reality. Companies need to monitor key metrics for their industry and at the firm. Internal metrics could include book to bill ratios, customer cancellations, sample requests, email click through rates, etc. External metrics could include interest rates, housing starts, new product announcements at the competition, etc.

When the market changes up or down, plans need to be modified. A good plan is a fluid, living document while a bad plan is a stake in the ground that is static.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

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New Products Need Concept Testing

March 16th, 2008

“In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” – Carl Sagan, Astronomer

Creating new products can be complex but it is not as complicated as the above quote suggests. Rather, I think new products need to withstand a feasibility test, also known as a concept test. This feedback is critical for a new offering.

Sadly, most entrepreneurs don’t properly test their ideas. Former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki joked that at Apple that new products only required a funky name, a few thousand t-shirts, and a media blitz—then they would figure out what the product’s
specifications would be. Apple is greatly admired for innovation, but I wonder if they might even be more successful if they did more concept testing.

Concept testing can use qualitative or quantitative research methods; most commonly, qualitative tools such as in-person interviews and focus groups are chosen for their expediency and live feedback. Essentially, prospective customers are given an early viewing of an offering to assess their reactions before the provider invests more money in the new offering. It forces the entrepreneur to expose the offering to the customer base to solicit real feedback. The test verifies that the benefits of the offering are recognized and valued by the customer. This feedback is essential but sometimes difficult for the entrepreneur to accept, particularly if the feedback is negative.

Sometimes, the test identifies problems such as possible confusion about how the product is positioned with competing products. Often the marketing messages are still in draft form, so this concept test also assists in refining the basic messaging. In fact, concept tests are frequently performed for advertising campaigns to verify that the target customer can understand the benefits of the products.

However, concept testing may not be a good indicator of purchasing behavior. Just because someone understands the benefits of a new product and even admits to liking the product, it does not mean that they will buy it. Additionally, concept testing may identify product attributes that are significant but this type of research can struggle to assess which attribute is more important.

Concept tests typically try to answer the following questions:
1. What is unique about this new product or service concept?
2. How does it compare to competitive offerings?
3. How might it benefit the customer?
4. What are the relative strengths and weaknesses of the new product or service concept?
5. Would the customer buy the product?

Ironically, many startups and entrepreneurs go to market without conducting a concept test; instead, because of their strong belief in the product or service concept they often elect to skip this step. The ramifications are many including failure.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

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Selling With Integrity

March 15th, 2008

Marketing campaigns, sales quotas, and sales awards are soon forgotten. Yet, your reputation seems everlasting—it is the essence of what others remember about you. How will you be remembered?

Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth you won’t have to remember anything”. This adage makes sense to me. I don’t want to have to remember who I’ve told what, or worry about who might find out what I did or did not say. You can see how this applies to selling—telling the truth is an integral part of selling and a critical determinant of your reputation.

Sales people get challenged daily to meet their customers’ expectations or needs. It has been my experience that customer needs don’t always fit your company’s offering. Old school sales training challenged the sales person to push harder on the customer to overcome their “objections”. The customer just needed to be sold or convinced of your product’s fit or superiority. In effect, the customer was ignorant or uninformed.

While this type of persistence may pay off, some sales people have taken this message to the extreme by telling the customer whatever is necessary to get the deal—in other words, they lie. Of course, this behavior is dead wrong.

Besides showing poor self esteem and strong personal insecurity, these inflated claims or half-truths are unethical and will do more damage than good in the long run. Most customers will remember you and the falsehoods—good luck in ever getting their business again.

A half-truth is a whole lie and lies will ultimately damage your reputation. Instead, why not choose to sell with integrity by just telling the truth. You will be remembered as being honest, which is far better than any year-end sales award or commission check.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

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Why Franchises Go Bust

March 13th, 2008

Franchises fail at an alarming rate. Yet, your likelihood of start up success increases when you buy a franchise, but franchise failure rates are higher than you’d think.

Research on franchising in the US by Timothy Bates, a Wayne State University Economist, suggests that a franchise is not a safer haven over raw business start ups. After 4 years, only 62% of franchised businesses had survived, while 68% of independent small businesses were still open for business. And independent businesses are far more profitable. Profitability was actually negative, on average, for franchised firms over the four-year period. This study clearly debunks conventional wisdom that franchises are a better route for entrepreneurship.

Franchises offer the owners a proven method for starting a business. However, a franchise is not a guarantee of success. Many well-intentioned business owners purchase franchises that quickly fail. Knowing the reasons franchises fail can make a big difference in the ultimate success or failure of your franchise.

Below are some of the some reasons for franchise failures:

Bad Franchisors:

It seems that there are two kinds of franchisors. The first are companies that have proven their effectiveness in running a business model and then seek to expand their business by offering franchises to others. The second are companies and individuals who are merely looking to make a quick buck at someone else’s expense. Beware.

Bad Fit With the Franchisee:

Just because you like ice cream does not make you a successful manager of an ice cream parlor. Running a business requires many skills and passion alone won’t make you successful.

Lack of Capital:

Like most small businesses, a franchise will take a few years to build up a customer base and make money. A common error is to count on positive cash flow too soon. Many new franchisees need an income right away—this is not always possible.

Lousy Location:

Location is everything when it comes to a retail franchise success. A well known franchise will still fail if it is in a bad location. Resist the temptation to go cheap on location as a way to offset the cost of the franchise.

Too Much Competition:

Competition is a killer, even in franchising. If the market is saturated with businesses in your industry, then maybe you need to consider to locating to a different area or buying into a franchise in a different industry altogether.

Insufficient Marketing:

Some franchisees mistakenly think that a well known franchise eliminates the need for them to promote their business locally. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Great Expectations:

Like any other small business, it requires hard work, dedication, and some luck. Many franchises fail simply because their owners had unrealistic expectations about franchise ownership

Franchises can be great but they are not for everyone—you might want to keep your day job.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

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