4 Biggest Marketing Mistakes and How To Avoid Them

Guest Post!

Marketing your business is an essential part of finding customers. A strong campaign will help connect you with the right people who will get a buzz going about your business. However, not all marketing is created equally. It’s important that you put the right kind of marketing efforts forward if you hope to reap the benefits. 

Above all, it’s important that you avoid some of the most damaging mistakes. Take a look at some of the most important errors that you should steer clear of when marketing your business

Lack Of Research 

A critical part of marketing is knowing exactly who you’re trying to market to. Research and testing don’t just save you money in the long run but also time. You should have a basic understanding of how your products will perform based on your research. Research helps you have an idea of how much you should be investing in your marketing campaign and how the public will respond

No Focus 

Focus is important anytime that you’re trying to stand out from your competitors. Having a clear understanding of your brand helps you stay focused and catch the attention of your audience. A lot of companies miss the mark when it comes to developing a strategy for their brand. 

As a result, they have to start over each time that they start a new campaign.  You can avoid this mistake by staying focused on how you plan to pitch your product to customers. Everything that you do should relate back to your one single focus. 

Not Focusing On Current Customers 

A lot of companies are so focused on trying to acquire new customers that they forget to focus on the ones they already have. Unfortunately, statistics show that a repeat customer is worth significantly more money than a new one. The more that a customer buys from you, the more that they are likely to keep coming back. Make sure that your strategies are directed not only at bringing in new people but also keeping your current customers happy and loyal. 

Not Listening To Customer Feedback 

A lot of businesses forget along the way that the customer is always right. They assume that they know best and forget to listen to their customers’ feedback. However, there is nothing more valuable than what your customers want. In order to understand what they need, you need to take their feedback to heart. Ask for their feedback regularly and implement their suggestions into your business plan. 

When customers feel listened to, they become much more loyal to your brand. Fulfill your customers’ needs better than anyone else can, and you’ll have people lining up out the door. 

Why Sending Cold Emails For New Business Actually Works

Not many things are more controversial in the marketing world than cold email.

"You mean SPAM?!"

“You mean SPAM?!”

No, actually, we have laws like CAN-SPAM, CCPA, CASL and GDPR that are very specific about when and where and how you can email new contacts without it being spam or illegal. In most of the U.S., you can email anyone as long as you include a street address and an unsubscribe option.

"But have they opted in?"

“But have they opted in?”

Right, if it’s an opt-in list, those are people you’ve already done some marketing to (even if they just viewed your website), so that’s not a cold list. Those aren’t net new contacts. And opt-in is not required by law everywhere for every purpose. Including an opt-out method is all you need to do for this in most of the U.S.

"But isn't it just wrong to send email to people who haven't opted in?"

“But isn’t it just wrong to send email to people who haven’t opted in?”

Well, morality is a bigger question… but if it’s not wrong to show ads to people who didn’t ask for ads, then cold emailing isn’t any different. If you do believe advertising is wrong, well, you’re in the minority of business people, and most successful businesses do some kind of advertising somewhere. Some companies rely on door-to-door sales, and you don’t get to opt-in before they knock on your door.

"But don't people just ignore spam anyway?"

“But don’t people just ignore spam anyway?”

Well, again, spam is really just two things: illegal email, and/or email that your email server thinks is spam. Let’s just call it unrequested email. We call a lot of snail mail “junk mail,” but it’s suddenly not junk mail if you decide to use the pizza delivery discount your mailbox got “spammed” with, is it? And this is the most important point:

It’s not spam if it has value to the receiver.

"WHAT?! How can SPAM be valuable?"

“WHAT?! How can SPAM be valuable?”

As in the pizza coupon example, if I send you info about a problem you need solved, and you reply and we get it fixed, then I’ve created value. We’re more likely to call it “spam” if we receive something irrelevant to us. So again, as in much of marketing, relevance is key, and creating value is how we prove relevance.

"How do you write relevant cold emails?"

“How do you write relevant cold emails?”

As with all marketing, you start with the targeting- who fits what you offer, and what are the problems you solve? The more accurately you can target those people, and the more compelling your value message is, the more response you’ll get, and you can do so well that you don’t get ANY spam reports. We have cold email campaigns for ourselves and clients that are getting 44-75% open rates due to high degrees of targeting and deliverability, plus really compelling messaging. Most companies don’t do that well with their warm, opt-in emails.

"But does it really work?"

“But does it really work?”

One company we worked with during COVID-19 got 353 leads (responses to cold emails), setting over 150 sales appointments and capturing 3 new sales. I’m certain we would have had many more sales in normal times, but unfortunately COVID really slashed most people’s budgets. Point being, this process does work very well, and even in difficult times.

"How do you get it to work so well?"

“How do you get it to work so well?”

I can’t reveal all our strategies and tactics here, because we need to keep a competitive advantage! But the keys are targeting (quality list acquisition), ensuring high levels of deliverability, and staying in the inbox (of course staying out of the spam box, but also staying out of Gmail’s categories like updates, social, and promotions. Your cold emails are wasted if most people don’t see them.

And then there are the messaging strategies- most people aren’t great at getting a response with their marketing, and cold emails are even more difficult. Not only “why should I open this?” but also, “who the heck are you?” and “why should I care?” If people’s response to your cold email is, “Not opening that- looks like spam!” or “Some rando salesperson with a lame message not relevant to me,” then you’re not going to get any traction with them.

"Don't some salespeople send cold emails all the time?"

“Don’t some salespeople send cold email all the time?”

Typically, salespeople write bad emails that don’t work. Getting sales appointments is a marketing job and salespeople usually suck at marketing. But salespeople THINK they’re great at marketing. If that’s true why do they have so much trouble getting leads?

Sales and marketing go together like PB&J. We understand sales (because we do it, too), but we’re brilliant at marketing. We’ll get you the leads. You close them. But don’t make us send some salesperson’s crappy emails, because they won’t work.

And most of the decision-makers in sales know about these problems.

"So how do you acquire good emails?"

“So how do you acquire good emails?”

Hopefully it’s not by scraping or guessing! A lot of services out there do scrape, but not everyone’s email is online, obviously, so that won’t work very well, or in every industry, or for every job title. 

Or they guess people’s emails by knowing what formula a company uses for its email addresses. But this isn’t the best way. 

Having a good email database requires a lot of data input, and it needs to be updated regularly, especially in a time like COVID-19 where many people are changing jobs or being fired or furloughed. So, it’s best to get your emails from a really big source, a company that mainly does that, because it’s a big effort with lots of government compliance issues to consider. We work with a partner, Brothers Data, with a database of over 140 million people just in the U.S. 

“How do you maximize deliverability?”

“How do you maximize deliverability?”

There are some key things to avoid doing, like sending way too many cold emails at once from a new account, sending lots of emails to low quality email lists, not validating emails ahead of time, certain keywords you need to avoid putting in your messaging, and of course, sending boring, long, hard to read, or irrelevant emails that people will get annoyed with and mark as spam. 

There are more than blacklists out there you want to avoid getting put on – there’s also sender reputation on various servers. Big email-sending providers like Gmail and Outlook pool all their info together to prevent spam and phishing. If you do it wrong, your email account will get shut down, or, at best, everything you send will go into spam mailboxes that no one reads.

So you can maximize deliverability with good email lists, good sending practices, and good messaging. Again, we have some campaigns where emails are opened at over 70% open rates, and that’s partly because we maintain great deliverability. Without deliverability, you won’t get opens, because people won’t even see the emails.

“Wow, Brian, how can we hire you to do all this?”

“Wow, Brian, how can we hire you to do all this?”

Just reach out.

7 Keys to Adapting Your Business to What’s Happening Right Now

Hi, I hope you and yours are safe and well during this COVID-19 crisis. And that this post helps you!

These are difficult times. While many people are literally risking their lives as front-line medical workers, grocery store employees, first responders and more, many others are out of work, and still others are able to continue work, but have to quickly come to terms with remote work, focusing despite increased distraction, and adapting to a quickly changing market and economy.

It’s the definition of change management. It touches on so many topics I’ve been concerned with the last few years, like safety, teamwork and leadership). And we’ve experienced many changes in our digital advertising clients who are adjusting to changing conditions.

Here are some things we see that are changing:

  • EVENTS: Many live events are postponed or going virtual rather than in-person, at least until June, and possibly longer. Virtual events are a way to bring together a suddenly virtual team, get them focused and increase inspiration and productivity. They might help your employees adjust quicker.
  • FOOD: Restaurants are either closing or switching to take-out and delivery. We’ve seen very good results driving carryout and delivery orders with digital ads, so that’s something to consider. Groceries are the biggest talked about essential other than medical care, and groceries need employees right now.
  • CONSUMER SPENDING: People are spending money mainly on essentials. People are refinancing their mortgages. Unemployment, layoff and furloughs mean that people will be prioritizing survival, not discretionary spending. A lot of companies are offering discounts as a way to both help the economy and induce people to try something new while purse-strings are tight.
  • ESSENTIAL INDUSTRIES: Essential industries that are dealing with COVID-19 are staffing and recruiting more. It’s a good time to be in food, medical, logistics, transportation, and manufacturing. These companies can help us all get through this crisis and they need more people to make it happen.
  • EMPLOYMENT: There are big changes here, obviously. We’ve been helping with digital ads to driving staffing and recruiting for years, and the focus of the jobs needed has definitely shifted. Safety is a big deal for people that have to work in-person right now, and how to be efficient and effective at remote work is important to the rest.
  • MARKETING & SALES: How do you market and sell during COVID-19? Should you? I have struggled with this topic myself, because it can feel especially self-centered right now to try to market or sell anything in such a dire time. However, I just go back to the basics, which are that marketing and sales are just a way to help people get what they need. In a way, they are just communication. If you are helping to make people aware of something that will help them right now, then you’re helping. The only thing you need to watch out for is advertising, marketing or selling something not so essential- I think any company can make the argument that what they offer is essential, but we need to be especially sensitive right now and make sure we are not being selfish, and don’t come off that way.
  • DEMAND GENERATION: It’s a good idea to look at where demand has shifted. Trying to create demand for something not essential right now is especially tough. There are other key industries like web conferencing and entertainment that need to make sure that all their prospects have them top of mind. Companies like Zoom, Webex, and others are going to be fighting (with advertising and marketing) for a larger market right now. The same is true for channels like STAR that are offering bigger discounts than normal right now- but how many people know that? Just because you have something people want does not mean everyone knows it!

That’s just a short brief on some of the changes we’re seeing. What else are you seeing?

It’s a time for major change and adaptation. We need to stay informed and stay healthy. And we can’t neglect our psychological health at this time, either. Constant news and adaptation can be stressful and stress can lower immune resistance- so be nice to yourself and those around you!

I’m confident that we will get through this. We will adapt and create solutions. And things will get better.

10 Critical Items for Your Next Marketing Plan Audit

When’s the last time you had your marketing plan audited by an outside expert?

You do have a marketing plan, right?

Why would you need an audit?

  • Sometimes an organization’s ideas can get a bit stale, over time
  • A company can develop an echo chamber in their own culture, and convince themselves of things that may or may not be true
  • Not everybody has heard of all the latest greatest best practices

And when you’re out of touch, that’s a recipe for

  • Losing business to the competition
  • Losing the interest of your customers
  • People starting to think you’re no longer relevant

Unfortunately, if you aren’t current, people may question everything else about your business.

“If they’re not doing THIS great idea, what other good things are they not doing?”

The marketing plan audit we did for The Perfect Workout led to them discovering a new source of leads and sales, and a 400% ROI.

So, in the spirit of making sure that your marketing plan is up-to-date, here are 10 things you need to have SOMEBODY from the outside take a look at:

  1. Are you 100% sure that your pixels and tracking are installed correctly and that your data is accurate?
  2. According to your website analytics, what marketing source is driving the most conversions? What landing pages drive the most conversions? Is your organic traffic increasing over time?
  3. Are you aware of all the third party performance benchmark reports (on things like advertising, email and landing pages) out there, and is your performance at least average, if not better?
  4. Are you on the most important social platforms for your target customers? Are you advertising there? In your social advertising, are you creating new ad ideas each month? Have you tested new targeting this quarter?
  5. Are your email open rates hitting industry standard levels? Are you split-testing new subject lines? Have you checked on deliverability and blacklist issues to be sure you’re OK?
  6. Do you have someone who loves writing creative copy and is constantly testing new ideas on your audience through ads, emails, and landing pages?
  7. How many people do you need to reach to achieve your lead gen or sales goals, and are you actually reaching that many people?
  8. Are you using all the advanced Google ad technologies that make sense, like responsive ads, site links and other extensions, and call tracking?
  9. Does your website look and function equally well on every mobile device as it does on desktop, and do your analytics support that answer?
  10. Do you have a content plan that fits your platforms and goals? Is your brand flexible enough to allow the creation of diverse and compelling content? Is your content plan informed by SEO research? If you have a content calendar, is it flexible enough to change based on what your analytics insights tell you? Have you found a way to create at least some kind of new video with some frequency for use in social media and ads?

These are a few of the questions that a good marketing plan audit will answer.

And from there, you can revise and improve your marketing plan, and get better results for your business!

10 Reasons You’re Not Getting More Business

Do you want more new business?

Let’s face it- if you’re not getting new business, you’re at risk. The existing customers could dry up. A recession could hit. Who knows what could happen!

So, if your new business growth is not where you’d like it to be, what’s wrong?

Here are 10 things that could be blocking your organization’s customer growth.

BUSINESS BLOCKER #1: You’re not getting enough attention

If not enough people are giving you money, or buying from you, or inquiring, or coming into your store… do they even know you exist? Do they remember you exist?

You need to get people’s attention, then interest, then desire, and only then will they take action.

How many people’s attention does your business have right now?

  • How many ad impressions do you get a month? How many people do you reach?
  • How many emails from you do people open?
  • How many outbound sales calls does your org make?
  • How many leads do you get?

Even more importantly- how much is enough?

A simple rule is that you need to reach 1,000x as many people as you want customers, and you need to get their attention 5x before you can expect anything from them.

BUSINESS BLOCKER #2: You’re not getting enough traffic

Most businesses rely on website, store or phone activity to get new business.

  • How much website traffic are you getting per day?
  • How many people call a day?
  • How many people are visiting your store daily?

You need 100x as much traffic as however many customers you want.

BUSINESS BLOCKER #3: Your website doesn’t convert people to leads or sales

A lot of people have nice looking but ineffective websites. They don’t even know what their website conversion rate is. That’s like driving without knowing how fast you’re going.

And even worse, if you don’t generate enough traffic, you can’t find out if your website is the problem.

BUSINESS BLOCKER #4: Nobody wants what you offer

For newer businesses, if they’ve never sold at volume, they have an unproven product or service.

The first question to answer is- does anybody want this? Will they pay for it?

Then you can answer WHO will pay for it.

And in order to find out if they want it you have to get in front of them or get people to it.

BUSINESS BLOCKER #5: You’re not aggressive enough about promotion

If you build it, and that’s all, they won’t come.

Marketing and sales are about driving attention, interest and desire.

Some people aren’t aggressive enough- they choose only passive strategies like SEO or content creation.

If you’re not doing something outbound like advertising, networking, or outbound SDR, you’re going nowhere fast.

BUSINESS BLOCKER #6: You’re afraid to spend money

You have to spend money to make money. Why do you think all these new businesses want funding? Making money is expensive.

Attention, traffic and leads cost money. You have to spend it.

That can be hardest at the beginning, but even when times are tight, you have to keep investing. Businesses that pull back on promotion when things are down just end up going down even faster.

BUSINESS BLOCKER #7: You don’t have a creative solution

Content marketing is important for a lot of reasons, but it requires creating that content.

Ads and emails are powerful ways to get attention and traffic, but they require creative copywriting.

Ads, websites and landing pages are compelling ways to get new business, but you need to have an eye for graphic art, and an understanding of how creative affects customer psychology.

Creative skills and resources are critical. And they are often missing from many marketing plans and departments.

As a result, organizations show up in the marketplace looking and sounding mediocre, and fail to impress.

BUSINESS BLOCKER #8: You don’t have a scientific mindset

Business used to be a guessing game. But now we have data, especially online.

We get insights and reports that tell us what works and what doesn’t so that we waste less money and get a bigger response from customers.

If you’re not trying a lot of creative, copy, and new ideas, and learning from what the data says about the customer response, you’re stuck in the old paradigm, you won’t be able to be competitive, and eventually you’ll be replaced by newer companies and people.

BUSINESS BLOCKER #9: You don’t put enough time in

Sometimes we don’t have enough resources to do what needs to be done with sales and marketing.

Sometimes things are going well, so we coast.

The most talented people have drive. The best companies have lots of people who have drive. They are internally motivated to keep doing more and getting better everyday.

BUSINESS BLOCKER #10: You’re not continuously learning

The only constant is change.

Even when digital marketing and sales were young 10 years ago, there was a ton to learn in this space. But it doesn’t stop. Things continue to advance and get more complicated.

What worked 10 years ago may not work now- for example, SEO is much, much harder for new companies as a viable traffic source.

And what wasn’t a good idea 10 years ago might be now- for example, so many companies have gone online with lead gen, that fewer people are cold calling, and sometimes it works better than it did in 2000 or 2010.

You and your marketing and sales people must keep learning- must keep getting training, must keep reading, getting mentored, and going to conferences…

But only if you want to get and stay on top.

5 Signs You Need A Digital Marketing Plan Refresh

I hope you have a digital marketing plan.

If you don’t, it’s time….

Even if you do have a digital marketing plan:

  • Is it complete?
  • Is it up-to-date?
  • Is it on par with what your competitors are planning?
  • Have you had any new, outside ideas recently?
  • What are you missing?

Here are 5 signs you might need a refresh on your digital marketing plan:

WARNING SIGN #1: You Haven’t Done Anything Majorly New In Over A Year

Is it business as usual, or do you have new ideas?

Even if your ideas last year hit the ball out of the park, chances are, your competitors are aware and are catching up.

How are you going to stay ahead?

Business is like walking up an escalator the wrong way. When you stop moving, you’re going down.

When was the last time you analyzed all your data for insights?

When’s the last time you tried something new and big?

WARNING SIGN #2: You Aren’t Getting Significant Impact From One Of The Following: Facebook, Google, Email Newsletters, Outbound Email or Retargeting

These are all fundamental strategies for most companies today:

  • Facebook Ads
  • Google Ads
  • Email Newsletters
  • Outbound Email
  • Outbound Phone
  • Retargeting Ads

Every company uses each differently, and to different extents.

But for every one of these strategies, there’s a company that utterly relies on it.

So even if you’re checking the box by doing all of these, it’s time to ask about each one, “What more we could do? What might we be missing?”

For example:

  • Facebook Ads: Are you using them for leads? For online sales? For increased awareness? To get a video message about your brand out? How are you advertising on Instagram? Do you have the right sized images and length of videos to take advantage of all 12 placements?
  • Google Ads: Are you doing responsive ads? Gmail ads? Do you have phone number extensions in place? Sitelinks? Are you using YouTube for Action ads?
  • Email Newsletters: Are you split-testing subject lines? Have you tested text vs. graphic emails for deliverability? Are your open rates beating industry benchmarks? Are you segmenting and personalizing?
  • Outbound Email: How’s your deliverability? Are your lists good enough? Have you optimized send rates and pacing?
  • Outbound Phone: Are you using a web dashboard? Can you listen in to calls easily? Are you optimizing your script based on the calls you review?
  • Retargeting Ads: Are you using them? Are you using video reach ads to grow another type of retargeting audience? Have you analyzed the difference between your most effective retargeting and cold ads for insights? Do you have a full-funnel ad strategy with different creative for each segment?

WARNING SIGN #3: Your Results Are Below Industry Benchmarks

Every year, a bunch of great organizations post benchmarks for advertising, email and outbound sales.

Do you have those benchmarks at your fingertips?

Are you beating them, or falling behind?

WARNING SIGN #4: You’re Doing Well But You Want To Raise The Bar

Everyone gets comfortable.

The bigger your company gets, the more that seems to happen.

But every good organization also has drivers who push everyone to stay current and get further ahead.

If you’re a driver, you may be hearing from within your company, “Things are good!”

But you want them to be great.

You might be told, “Our marketing is competitive,” but you want to destroy the competition.

In cases like this, you sometimes have to go outside your organization for new viewpoints to shake things up.

WARNING SIGN #5: Big Changes Are Happening In Your Industry, Niche Or Area

Life is a story of never-ending adaptation. Change is constant.

We have to keep up, and get ahead.

At any one time, certain industries are going through big changes. Some companies are quicker to respond. Some are slower. Those that are too slow may not survive.

Changes come from many things:

  • Government
  • Economy
  • Culture
  • Technology
  • And more…

Sometimes the change is regulatory. Sometimes it’s globalization or culture. Sometimes tech outsiders disrupt the status quo and change how business is done. It might be something else entirely.

Regardless of the source, we have to adapt, and our marketing, advertising and sales has to adapt with it.

Refresh Your Plan

These are just a few of the reasons that a digital marketing plan can fall out-of-date.

When the plan is wrong, so is execution, and you may end up in the wrong place.

Check on your marketing plan today, and give it a refresh!

go-to market strategy + rocket launching graphic

5 Steps to Create a Killer Go-To-Market Brand For Big Customer Response

I recently walked a small company through creating a new Go-To-Market (GTM) plan. They had struggled for years with multiple marketers and salespeople and had struggled to develop their own pipeline.

They were getting a ho-hum response from prospects because:

  • They hadn’t committed to who they were,
  • Prospects didn’t understand what they did, and
  • They hadn’t proven that there was a market that fit their product!

That’s a pretty serious situation. Fortunately, they had a good revenue source for other reasons.

But the priority was to establish a new pipeline so that they could be more secure and independent, and that all the development work they’d done on their unique offering would pay off. 

The cool thing was that they were a Google Partner and we got to work with some Stanford M.B.A.’s who worked at Google on this new GTM plan.

And, look, I’m no noob…

I’ve helped a lot of new businesses and created a lot of marketing plans before, but this experience helped me hone my process and finally figure out something that had been vexing me for years…

The Problem With Old Ways of Branding

As a digital marketer focused on driving leads and sales (they call that a direct marketing or direct response marketer) I’ve had several run-ins with traditional branding folks that had bugged the hell out of me!

Their brand definitions were too narrow and didn’t allow us to fully leverage modern marketing, social media and advertising. It seemed like such a missed opportunity, and “branding” seemed like this holy priesthood based in who-knows-what. I couldn’t figure out why they had so much power and why they hadn’t gotten in step with digital marketing.

I’d even been through a number of branding exercises with different facilitators that left me feeling confused, like, “OK, but what about the rest of the info and clarity I need to do real, current digital marketing? There’s so much undefined and we have no foundation!”

The Solution

Now, I’ve finally figured out how to create a brand definition that works for digital and social and isn’t stuck in 1995.

Here are my top 5 steps for how to create a digital brand that drives a big customer response.

STEP 1: Start Either With Your Strengths or Your Ideal Customer

You can start one of two places. I’m not going to tell you which. I’ve seen both situations. You may be more certain: 

  1. Who you are as a company and what you do well, what makes you exceptionally valuable to customers, or
  2. Who your customer is. Who do you want to serve?

You’ll notice I don’t talk about “Starting with why,” but if you have a “why,” that’s great! Use it to clarify your strengths and your ideal customer.

STEP 2: Look At The Other Thing From Step 1 That You Didn’t Do Yet

Given what you clarified in the first step, let’s look at the other!

If you have a very clear strength, you need to look at who has the biggest need for that, and who doesn’t.  Who really wants what you have?

Or, as my friend Garrison Wynn likes to say, “Go where people suck.” Who sucks at what you’re great at?  

If you know exactly who you want to serve, what is their biggest pain point? Let’s talk shark bites- what is causing them to bleed in a mortally wounded way? Don’t try to solve mosquito bites. For example, in our business, clients are more motivated to go from no exposure to awareness than to lower their post promotion costs. And many companies are more motivated to improve their revenue than to improve their breakroom. What is keeping your ideal customer up at night?

Or, what is your ideal customer’s biggest goal? What do they want to achieve? Whatever that is, you need to have the ability or strength to make that valuable thing happen for them.

STEP 3: Figure Out Your UNIQUE Value To That Ideal Target Customer

Make sure you got the foregoing down in writing: Who’s your ideal customer? What are your unique strengths that provide a tourniquet to their shark bites or will rocket them to their goals? These absolutely have to match and make sense.

Now, put all of this into a value proposition that’s no more than 2-3 sentences. If you have trouble, use this formula:


STEP 4: Turn Your UNIQUE Strengths Into 5 Brand Words

Now you want to make sure that you have good words for who you are and what you do. You’re not quite writing copy yet with this, but you’re getting close.

What 5 words best describe your company’s strengths? These are things like: professional, bold, agile, creative, plucky, systematic… et cetera. If you have trouble coming up with them, there are many lists of strengths and values online you can start from.

Next, take a look at your competitors and see what words and value propositions they’re using on their websites. By now you should know what keywords people might be searching for what you offer. Google them. When you check out 5 competitors websites, what words do they use to describe themselves? If you’re seeing the same words you just wrote, then chances are, you haven’t found a unique position or strength. You’ll need to go deeper or get more specific or make some tough choices.

It’s OK if 1 or 2 of your words are used by competitors, but try to get 3 that are unique. Use thesaurus.com and see if you can find variations that seem to apply to you even more. The synonyms you see should make a difference- some will look wrong and others right. If they all seem the same to you, you may have the wrong word, or you may not have a clear enough idea of who your are and how you’re unique.

STEP 5: Choose Fonts, Colors, Images, etc. According To Your 5 Brand Words

Take your five brand words:

  1. Check out Google’s fonts, and look for fonts that fit your 5 brand words. You can choose your sample text for the fonts, so I like to type in the 5 words. First choose a possibility list of 10 fonts or so, and then narrow it down – if you used your 5 words as the text, you should see if the font is consistent with them or not. Does each font fit all of the brand words? Keep eliminating fonts until you have the best one.
  2. Use this color-generating website to look for colors that fit your brand words. Keep in mind that even if you have 5 colors, you may mainly use 2 or 3 and the others may just be accents.
  3. Use Google’s image search to find images that fit your brand words. Start putting them into a Powerpoint / Google Slide deck / Keynote deck as examples of what you like.

Relax, Now You Have a Killer Brand

Now you have come a long way. You have:

  • Uniqueness that sets you apart in the marketplace and provides a competitive advantage.
  • A brand core that is directly tied to what your customers need and what will drive you revenue.
  • Basic fonts, colors and images that will make your website and ads more powerful and more aligned with your brand.

You can use this core to hire designers to come up with a new logo, new website, and whatever else you want. And now your brand can be extended in all the ways we need to today with 100’s of social media posts and ads and emails and content pieces.

As long as you keep asking these questions about what you have created, you’ll be fine:

  • Does this fit our brand words?
  • Does this fit our value prop?
  • Does it fit out font and colors?

Rock on!

Facebook ads experts graphic

What Makes a Facebook Ads Expert? Digital Marketing Happy Hour #1

I’m so thrilled to debut a new podcast and youtube channel to you all today!

And that I finally got my wife and partner in our digital marketing agency, Lynda Harvey-Carter, into some content where you can see the kind of thinking and work we do every day for our clients and partner agencies. We have a lot of fun doing the work and getting results- and we just have a lot of fun. Look forward to hearing what you think about it. Hope you enjoy!

We’re calling it The Digital Marketing Happy Hour. It’s fun AND practical.

In this first episode, we talk about what makes a Facebook ads EXPERT vs. someone who’s only been doing it a few years. What’s the difference? We give examples of some of the most critical issues and activities to success and failure.

Here are some of the things we discussed:

  • Facebook ad targeting
  • Facebook ad types
  • Facebook ad metrics and benchmarks
  • Creative assets, design and testing
  • Customer behavior and why it’s often so surprising
  • Mobile (smartphones and tablets) and why it’s the most important thing

Please go subscribe to the channel, and hit that notification bell so you hear about all our future episodes.

For now it’s just the YouTube series, but soon we’ll add the audio podcast as well!


10 Keys to Retail Franchise Success Based On 7 Years Working With 21 Franchises

Working with, marketing for and keynote speaking to 21 retail franchises for the last seven years, I’ve had access to executives, franchisees, agencies and others in the industry. I’ve interviewed them, brainstormed with them and helped solve their problems. We’ve worked on marketing, sales, management and leadership, generational issues and more.

These franchises include McDonald’s, Hand and Stone Massage, The Floor Trader, Atlantic Bedding & Furniture, PrideStaff, Retrofitness and more. Based on that experience, I’ve created a list of some of the most important keys to success I’ve heard and seen work in the franchise space.

I’ve divided them by audience- if you’re on the corporate side (franchisor) or if you’re a franchisee.

5 Keys to Franchise Success for CORPORATE

#1 Get your franchisees to follow your franchise model (your business plan and best practices). This is often one of the biggest obstacles to franchise success: when franchisees want to go rogue to one degree or another, or don’t invest adequate time or money. It’s important to screen franchisees well, set the right expectations, and have clear requirements and policies. The arts of motivation, leadership and influence are also indispensable, and it’s critical for corporate leaders who interact with franchisees to have these skills and continue to develop them.

Social media can be an area where franchisees want to do their own thing, and you need to have very clear parameters on how that can happen. We’ve helped franchisees, for example, deal with 100’s of Facebook pages and getting those under the brand, and then with issues that come up if a franchisee violates policies and has their page taken down.

#2 Base your franchise model on clear values. Make sure when you interview new franchisees that they hold these values. And then in the training and all communications, make sure to repeat those values often. For example, McDonald’s tells leaders three major things: be obsessed with customers, we’re better together and commit to leadership.

#3 Hold conferences, meetings and get-togethers for training and motivation. Meet at least annually. Some groups have quarterly meetings. Franchise owners need to get together to share what works and doesn’t, and for camaraderie. Managers need training and motivation. If salespeople are a big part of your model, annual sales kickoffs and quarterly sales meetings are best practices to ensure you’re hitting targets and raising the bar.

Almost all the franchises I’ve keynoted for are in either the Franchise 500 or the Fastest Growing Franchises categories. And you can tell from the ones that hire speakers and trainers that they really care about their franchisees and their success.

#4 Have a clear marketing (including social media) and sales plan, differentiating what HQ does and what franchisees should and can and can’t do. Some franchises are very corporate-driven, and some rely almost entirely on the franchisees to do their own marketing and sales. A balance of shared responsibility for marketing is best, and consistency is critical. You want customers to have a consistent experience, and you want your customer acquisition and loyalty to be predictable. Corporate-controlled or mediated marketing (including social media) is better for the brand.

#5 Stay up-to-date on the latest techniques, technologies and best-practices for leadership, sales, marketing and analytics. Things change. Stay on top of the trends in areas like intergenerational communication, teamwork, analytics, digital marketing, CRM’s and social media. It’s  a good idea to have a continuous training mindset. You can’t keep up without some kind of training, whether it’s online or at live events.

5 Keys to Franchise Success for FRANCHISEES

#1 Have or GET enough funding. It’s so important to be able to invest in your franchise, and there are so many costs. We’ve seen some franchisees skimp on hiring or marketing, for example, and both can be real bottlenecks for growth. For financing, don’t neglect looking at an SBA loan with a Rollover for Business Startups (ROBS), where you can invest your 401(k) without penalties or paying taxes on a distribution. Even if you have adequate funding, make sure you have a backup funding plan in case anything goes wrong!

#2 Follow the franchise model. The corporate branch of your franchise usually has a very good idea of what works and what doesn’t. There may be some regional/localization for you to customize, but what corporate suggests is often the best practice gathered from seeing the biggest successes, and the biggest failures. Keep in mind that some franchisees fail, and corporate usually knows what they did or didn’t do. If you want to succeed, both corporate and the most successful franchisees can tell you what to do! And make sure you follow every part of the system: if you just pick and choose parts, you may only experience partial success- at best. At worst, it won’t be enough.

#3 Talk to Corporate. If you’re just starting, make sure you’ve asked about their support for your Grand Opening. Tell them what you need and where you’re struggling. If you’re doing well, tell them your growth plans. It’s important not just to learn from them, but also to show them where they need to go. If 50% of all their franchisees are struggling with the same issue, but only 10% of them say it, Corporate can’t see how important it is to help you solve it.

#4 Be aggressive. Regardless of how much support your franchisor does or doesn’t give you, at the end of the day, you are responsible for your success or failure. Have a plan. Have goals. Know your metrics. Get data. Watch everything closely. Drive sales and new customers. Make sure all this is happening. You are the #1 person who should care about it, worry about it and make it happen. Your franchise’s destiny is in your hands. Never stop planning, executing and growing. Continually succeeding at business is like trying to walk up an escalator that’s going down. If you stop moving forward, you go backward.

#5 Stay humble and teachable. Success in life and business requires adaptation and learning. A few people tune everyone out, think they know best, and actually succeed. But most successful people are constantly adapting to the environment, even when pursuing an aggressive vision. Keep learning, take training, and keep and open mind.

Get it Done

When the franchisee and franchisor are on the same page, and both execute, success happens!

Take a look at the keys above and see where you need the most work. You can’t do everything at once, but if you prioritize the most important AND urgent things, if you follow a plan and you delegate to others, together, your franchise will succeed.


5 Recruiting Tips for 2019: How Find and Hire More Candidates and Employees

For the first time in history, there are more jobs than people to fill those jobs!

Recruiters and HR are struggling because traditional approaches aren’t driving in enough job applicants, or the right job candidates, to solve the problem.

Our marketing agency (BCG) has been working with a variety of brands for the last five years to help them reach and attract more ideal job applicants, and I do keynote speeches on recruiting, corporate culture and generational differences.

The good news is: whether you’re a human resources professional or you’re a recruiter, the latest Internet tools and strategies can help you attract more ideal job candidates and get them to apply.

There are search and social tools that can increase your effectiveness at getting more candidates into the right jobs.

There are also some lessons and takeaways we’ve learned that will help you in HOW you approach sourcing and placing job candidates.

In this article, we’ll give you 5 simple tips to get you bigger results.

#1. Become More Likable and Attract More Candidates

I know, you’re already pretty likable!

But how can you make hiring managers and candidates like you more?

If you’re more likable while working with candidates:

  • More people will respond to you
  • They’ll give you more info
  • That info will be more accurate
  • They’ll be less likely to “ghost” you (ghosting is when they suddenly stop contacting you without explanation)
  • You’ll place more of them in the right jobs that will make them happier long-term

That’s why when you’re networking and phoning, you need to be likable.

So how can you be more likable?

Here are a few of the most important things:

  • Smile and be warm
  • Be positive
  • Be interested in others
  • Be reliable
  • Be generous

Likability improves all your relationships. Some people are naturally likable…

The rest of us find our attractiveness increases when we continuously work on it.

Increase your likability every day and you’ll attract more people!

Are you showing how likable your corporate culture is?

Why should people work there? Strive to answer these questions with text and images of your workplace:

  • What are the teams like? How do people work together? Will they include me?
  • Who works there? Are they like me? Will they like me? Will I like them? How diverse is the workforce?
  • How formal or casual is it? How do they dress? Does it fit my personality and lifestyle?
  • What is the leadership like? How do they manage? Do people like them? How do people feel working for them?
  • What are the mission and values of the organization? Are they for real, or just words? How does that play out in everyday work?
  • How are customers treated? How do employees feel about that?
  • What are the hours, flex time, remote work, vacation and benefits like?

Make your company culture visible and you’ll attract the right people to it!

#2. Grab More Attention With Better Content

If can’t get people’s attention, you can’t get anything done!

If you can’t grab candidates’s attention, you have no chance of them getting interested enough in your opportunity for them to desire to work there.

Hiring managers are busy, too… just like everybody.

We all have all kinds of things pulling at our attention all the time.

There’s a global attention deficit.

If you don’t stand out, you don’t stand a chance.

Boring people and companies get ignored.

So, how do you break through the noise and get the attention of hiring managers and candidates?

Depending on how you get in front of people- phone, in person, LinkedIn, Facebook, advertising, search marketing, email- you have different options.

  • If you can use images, use faces, because they attract the eye like a magnet.
  • If you’re fun, that can a nice change of pace. Fun in the right context is a real differentiator.
  • Use the likability techniques mentioned above.
  • Create authority by developing and displaying: education, degrees, experience, testimonials and references, popularity, media mentions and association or work with famous brands or people. The more your “credibility markers” come from the industry of your target person, the more authority you’ll appear to have.
  • Create content that’s helpful and easy to digest. The most popular format are: blogs, videos and whitepapers.

Do something to stand out more today, and you’ll attract more candidates.

#3. Reach More Candidates With Search Marketing

How do you get in front of more candidates?

There are two major ways to reach people online: search engines and social media. In this tip, we’ll talk about search, and we’ll talk about social in the next one.

Many people automatically SEARCH Google or Bing or Yahoo when looking for things. That includes searching for jobs, recruiters and employment.

Are you showing up in the search engine results when they search for that stuff?

If you’re not, you need SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or you should be placing search engine ads via Google and Bing.

Search engine optimization can be a long, challenging adventure. You should definitely work on it, but it’s a long-term investment. Expect for it to take years to pay off big, even if you’re a rock star at it. Here are some of the things you need to think about for SEO:

  • What keywords are job candidates searching for? Are they on your website? Research the keywords with Google Ads’s Keyword Planner tool.
  • Do you create new, useful content frequently? Do you have a blog? Create one and blog at least weekly.
  • Are authoritative websites linking to your website and increasing your authority in Google’s eyes? Share your blog posts via your social networks, and use HARO to get your opinions in blogs and the media, which will get you new links frequently.

If you can afford to spend money on Google Ads, you should.

Showing up for the keywords your candidates are already searching for is critical.

Google Ads are complicated, and you will need training or you should hire an expert freelancer or agency. Try a site like Upwork if you want to find a freelance advertising expert.

Show up when people search for keywords and you’ll attract more candidates!

#4. Reach More Candidates With Social Recruiting Ads

Not all of your ideal candidates are searching the search engines.

To reach many of them, you’ll need to get in front of them even when they’re not looking.

I think of this as interruptive marketing. You’re showing up for the right people with an important message they need to hear.

Maybe it’s a message that will really help them, but they didn’t think to search for it. You’re helping them out by interrupting them.

Interrupting may sound bad, but it’s ok to interrupt if your message is relevant and helpful. It’s being interrupted by irrelevant things that we really dislike. If you’re solving a career or life problem for them, they may love your ad! They’ll be grateful for it.

One of the best ways to do this is to run ads on social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook that can target people by job titles, education, seniority and industry.

Business-to-business social advertising targeting of this sort is very powerful… because you’re getting in front of your ideal job candidate.

Naturally, you need to interrupt them with a compelling message: what’s so great about your job or your corporate culture? Convince them. Use video if you have to.

When you interrupt the ideal candidates with compelling social ads, you attract more ideal employees! 

#5. Learn and Improve Your Approach By Listening To The Data

We’ve all heard about big data and algorithms. You probably have access to some data.

But are you using data to improve your business results?

These days, data is a powerful way to listen to people’s behavior and preferences.

We can look at data to see if people are responding, and how much.

We can find out if our approaches are good enough and if they need to change.

So, ask yourself: What data do you have? Are you using it?

It’s different for everybody…

In recruiting, we frequently find data insights like:

  • How to get more job applications: Website analytics can tell us which web pages and blog posts drive more job applications, and which ones don’t.
  • How to make your workplace sound more compelling to candidates: Advertising analytics can tell us which things about our workplace culture are more attractive to candidates than others.
  • How to understand your candidates and influence them: Social engagement data that tells us which feelings and problems and desires have the biggest emotional charge for candidates.
  • How to know which recruiters are most effective so you can increase your organizational effectiveness: HR CRM data that tells us which recruiters convert the highest percentage of candidates into placed employees.

When you find insights in the data, you increase your power to attract more candidates and employees!

Wrap Up

We’ve covered the five most important things you can do to solve your workforce resource problems. If you:

  1. Increase your likability to attract more candidates
  2. Grab more attention with better content
  3. Reach more candidates with search marketing
  4. Reach more candidates with social recruiting ads
  5. Learn and improve by listening to the data…

Then you’ll attract more job applicants, more ideal candidates and more people who already like the organizational culture. They’ll come in excited and ready to grow it. And that will empower the entire company achieve its mission and goals.