X-Ray Vision For Web Marketing

Seeing what others miss
How many small business owners really have an accurate description of their web market?

The reason this question comes up is because the vast majority of business web sites do not even speak to their market. In fact, the only people the web site speaks to are company people such as owners and managers.

We can all see the company clearly in any business design, but our market is not interested in our company. They have their problems and they have no need, right now, to know what wonderful people make up this business web site.

If our market cannot see how the web site is trying to help them then help is not there. If our intention is to build a relationship with our market then the help we offer needs to be the first thing our market sees. They love this and they want this and it is the best part of our marketing.

How do small business designs block their own market?
A good analogy is found when we meet someone that only talks about themselves. We get bored instantly when we realize they have nothing of interest to offer us.

I remember growing up as a young kid and with friends we would sometimes run into this older character that bragged about his rich uncle that had a Cadillac a block long and he had to take it to the airport to turn it around.

We weren’t fooled but we got a good laugh. At least he was entertaining even if he wasn’t helpful. And after the second time there was nothing new and we got bored by his bragging because this guy didn’t care who he talked to as he just kept telling the same stories.

Isn’t this just like a typical small business web site?
Not once on the page is there any recognition of who the web market is. Not once does the web site mention a problem their market experiences and the causes for the problem. Not once is there a sense that the web site cares about the market and wants to serve that market.

No, all that the web site shows is that the only interest is in selling us something whether we need it or not. That’s their story being told over and over.

The bottom line about customer relations
As small business owners we get in our own way and totally block any communication with our own market when we focus on our product or service. Nobody is interested in us talking about ourselves and what we have to sell.

Read any business home page and it tells you about the company and why you should be impressed with the company, but you cannot find a clue as to the market. Not even with X-ray vision can you find who the market is.

Our market wants to know how we can solve their problems and we totally ignore the issue while we talk about product features and benefits. We actually think that a product description is real content – but no one cares about our product description, in fact, no one even cares about our product until they know it really has a solution to their biggest problem.

How does it feel?
How does it feel when someone ignores you?
How does it feel when someone asks you to buy?
How does it feel when someone asks us how they can help?

The last of those 3 questions is what attracts us the most. It captures our interest and our curiosity. It is just like getting a free gift because that is what it is, and we are going to benefit by learning something we never knew before.

How did we get here in the first place?
How did we come to build such poor marketing web sites? We got here by listening to web designers instead of thinking with a business mind. Web designers paid a lot of attention to us and our business and it all felt good and so we thought we were on the right track. The end result is that our web site pays a lot of attention to our business and zero to our web market.

Lesson learned
We cannot let our web designer be the one to design our web site. All we want our designer for is to do the technical aspects of building a web site. It is our job as small business owners to figure out what our web market wants and how to serve them best.

Okay, so you want ideas on how to display your helpful information and a web designer could help if they forgot all about their trendy design packages. It is going to take something different in web design to put your helpful information first, but in bite size chunks.

Navigation for information is going to take some thinking. Hypertext lists may work. Paragraph intro with hide and click drop down information may work. Hover text with slide in info may work. The real job of a web designer is to help you find and use the best means of providing information to your market.

Seeing your market
I challenge you to go look at your home page, or any other business, and see if you can figure out who the market is. Almost all small business web sites fail to identify their market and you can’t build a relationship by saying, “Hey you, look at what we have!” But you might sell if your web site said, “Hey farmer Jones, would you like a fence post that lasts 100 years?”

How do you get X-Ray eyes?
To acquire x-ray eyes you just need to look inward, that’s where you find all your insight. It’s not difficult at all and if you’ve ever been caught daydreaming then you are using insight.

We need to pretend that we are the market. We are the homeowner with a leaky pipe, or the guy with a hole in his shoe. Whatever we sell we need to be that market and wrap ourselves up in the problem that this market has. If we don’t feel the pain then we can’t talk about it, and we want to talk about that pain and how we are going to solve the problem that creates the pain.

When we then put our eyes back on our own web site we can see through the filler we thought was real web content. We can see as our market sees and we will find lots of things in need of change.

Using logic and foresight
Analysis and logic can confirm, or it can contradict the feelings and insight you have about your market. I recommend using insight and if logic doesn’t back it up then toss out the logic.

Why toss out the logic?
The web does not work with factual data like demographics. Instead, web marketing works best with psycho-graphics where beliefs, habits, Likes & dislikes, and shared values play a big role in defining a market. These are intangible and emotional values that are difficult to back up with logic.

We need to go with our emotions and intuition because they are the same tools we use when developing social skills, and our web site is sorely lacking in social skills.

Before we even think about connecting with social networks we need our web site to express its own social attitudes.

Tactics To Improve Nonprofit Marketing – Your Anniversary And A Marketing Communications Audit

With revenues at nonprofit organizations increasing by only 0.9 percent, to $298 billion in 2011, according to Giving USA, it is no secret how difficult fundraising has become in today’s environment. Add to that the possibilities of an upcoming fiscal cliff and the loss of tax deductions for charitable contributions and you wind up with a very daunting picture.

Your advisory board, committee members and staff all want to help, and look to organization leadership for direction. Now, more than ever, is the time to focus on the development of a meaningful marketing communications plan to profitably improve your fundraising efforts.

As you develop your plan, and evaluate various directions and opportunities, I suggest you consider two tactics that have proven successful for improving marketing ROI.

Market Your Anniversary
Your anniversary offers a unique opportunity to rekindle enthusiasm and galvanize all of your constituents to the relevance, importance and needs of the organization. It gives you the chance to tell your story, not just about your past, but more importantly, about your plans and goals for the future. And don’t think that an anniversary has to be only in multiples of 25 years. Your 33rd, properly marketed, can be as meaningful as your 50th.

Some communications tactics to consider in marketing your anniversary include creating:

  • An event or events to provide the maximum amount of interaction among existing and potential donors, volunteers, staff, foundations and the local community. But make sure your event doesn’t isolate your various constituencies. They want to talk to one another, not be lectured. Interaction leads to engagement.
  • A special theme and logo. But also consider a historical book and CD, or a one of a kind commemorative piece of artwork (that can also be used on your website). And employ a meaningful mix of both traditional and new media to create excitement.
  • A corporate – nonprofit partnership. Your anniversary can provide the trigger point for new collaborations with business partners, bringing in real rewards for both organizations. And these new relationships can last for many years.

These examples are just a start. But we encourage you to start thinking of your anniversary as a 12 to 18 month marketing communications program and branding tool to improve your ROI.

Conduct A Marketing Communications Audit
As was recently pointed out by Tom Buday, head of marketing and communications at Nestle, the best source of marketing communications leverage in the for profit world is the quality of the messaging. It’s not the media vehicle that does or does not deliver, rather it’s the quality of the messaging.

Applying this to nonprofits means that it is imperative for you to evaluate your program and its elements. Invariably, nonprofits employ a media mix of direct mail, events, newsletters, public relations, social media, emailing and advertising in some combination. A marketing communications audit can help you determine how your program is working as a whole, while also evaluating how each message is performing against your established objectives.

This type of audit will help you determine whether the elements of your creative approach – graphics, tone and manner, and subject manner – are working together with one clear and meaningful message. Ultimately, the results of an audit will not only improve the quality and integration of your messaging but also help you determine how your media mix and budgets should be tailored.

Whether or not you take advantage of marketing your anniversary, a marketing communications audit can make a significant difference to your programs and ROI. Doesn’t it make a lot of sense to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your programs before your commit significant dollars and time behind them?

Marketing Consultants Can Help
If you’re like most nonprofits, the majority of your time, talent and treasury is devoted to your passion for the people, programs and services you provide. The same is probably true of many of your most committed volunteers.

Given that, does your organization have the marketing and marketing communications talent and experience to develop the strategies, plans and tactics that are necessary to help you succeed in today’s environment? Trying to find this among your already overworked and underfunded staff or your volunteers doesn’t make much sense.

Your budgets are tight but can you really afford not to bring in outside help? Look for marketing communications consulting partners to help you and your team develop and execute these programs. Above all, select consultants with broad scope and extensive senior level experience across industries and brands, in both the for profit and nonprofit arenas.

Importantly, they should be media neutral, not selling one particular marketing solution, and willing to “tell it like it is” so candor will flourish. Their fresh eyes will go a long way when it comes to improving your ROI.

Discover Your Web Market From the Inside Out

For you to see web marketing in a different light I first need to introduce a new picture of the web, and then a different understanding of web marketing can emerge. Following that introduction this article can then talk about what is important about social media, along with beliefs and values, as they pertain to search engines and web marketing.

In the mid 90’s a lot of media pundits were trying to say what the Internet, and more specifically the web, was all about – but no one really knew. Some compared it to television and some compared it to newspapers and others said it was most like the telephone because it behaved like a one-to- one communication media.

It looked like television because of the screen similarity, and it looked like newspapers because of the text content, and it acted like a phone conversation in how it behaved as a one-to- one communication media.

All of these different metaphors missed the primary difference that the web brought into being and that was the search engine. Without a search engine the web would be as useless as a library without index cards. It would be a tangled mess of invisible and unsorted web sites, and the great pool of information would largely be invisible.

Search engines ground the web into a usable reality through the written word when a search is conducted, and then search engines became the eyes of web users for finding their way around in the depths and darkness of billions of web pages.

Search engines give us social media

In the same way that you and I search for information others search for other people and find their groups to belong to. Just as the search engines make finding specific information a reality they also make it possible for groups to form and for people to find the group they have affinity with.

How do people find their groups? How do they search? And why do we need to know how this works in order to develop a web marketing strategy?

Deep Pockets

If your business has deep pockets then you can use contemporary marketing research methods by conducting expensive testing with market research firms. But what if you don’t have deep pockets? And what if your market is anonymous like the web market is? What options do you have?

As you are probably aware, a web market does not provide you with demographic data to help you target a market. Until a visitor to your web site has decided to contact you they remain anonymous and you do not know a thing about them in terms of marketing information. How could you even conduct a proper test if you do not have any boundaries to work within?

Your web market is an intangible, yet very real market. Your web site is simply on a fishing expedition with your keyword signals that you are using for bait. What does your market feed on and what should your keywords be?

Who is your market and where are they?

Are you going to throw your line into the big pond with all your competition and fish with popular keywords for bait? You have to wonder if your market is really in the big pond, especially if you are looking for a niche market. How can you possibly find your market without very deep pockets? And what if you are fishing in the wrong pond with the wrong bait?

I suppose, with enough time and experience, you will find out which pond to fish in and what keywords your market feeds on, but this could take years of gathering information and hours of analysis. And even then you may still be guessing.

Turn the focus inward

So far I have asked external questions and the answers you would get back are not the answers you want to hear. What keywords to use? Where to find your market? Who are they and where are they? The answers are all the same… more testing and keyword research.

What if you turned the questions inward instead? What if you asked questions you already have the answers for? Suppose you asked yourself what you value the most about your business? What is your attitude toward your market? What gives you the greatest sense of reward in running your business?

Answer those questions and you’ve got the beginnings of a marketing strategy to send signals to your market – and let them find you.

On the web, this makes finding your market easier than by using demographics because the search engines do the work for you. For those that have difficulty leaving factual data behind they could use demographic keywords and try to signal income levels, for example, but your business values will cover more ground and work better.

Why do values work on the web?

On the web people find their groups. News Groups were one of the first social networks long before they were called social networks, and people found their groups by the values they shared. The same is true for Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. Add to this list other web connections like blogs and article sources and you see that the web is a unique media for sharing values.

If you prefer to market yourself in true fashion to who you are then you would need to look on the inside of who you are and the values you hold. This sounds easier than it is, and yet it is all about integrity in marketing. In either method you need to play with psychological values, or you need to hire a marketing shrink to sort it out for you.

You can see why most web marketers are sticking to the demographic style of marketing because it feels more tangible even though the web as a medium is anything but tangible.

We’ve discussed briefly why demographic marketing has difficulty dealing with anonymous web users, and why looking inward can provide a marketing strategy to target anonymous market segments.