Does Your Brand Speak to Your Customers?

Does Your Brand Speak to Your Customers?

Guest post by Katie Leeman of Leeman Commmunications Collaborative 

Marketing efforts move quickly. Companies seemingly push out new content on Twitter 24 hours a day. An ad campaign that doesn’t hit the targeted consumer right gets rolled back and revised within hours. Completely revising your website several times per year is commonplace, and often necessary. And the opportunity for consumers to give you feedback in real time has changed the face of how, where and when we market.

Your brandWhen communication is this rapid, it’s tempting to just jump in and start marketing. It certainly seems like everyone else is, right? But if you don’t have a strategy and are just throwing money at the latest and greatest methods, you’re not doing yourself any favors. How do you know you’re communicating in the right ways, to the right people, at the right time?

It starts with understanding your customers. Sure, you might think you do, but have you actually asked them what they think of your products, your services? How they talk about you to others (or not)? How they like to interact with you?

Thoughtfully and thoroughly interviewing a subsection of your customer segments, while surveying the broad base of customers is the way you’re going to find out exactly what your customers think. That, along with a thorough competitive analysis, will give you a very clear idea of the kinds of relationships your customers have with you, what they want from you, where you fit in competitively, and whether or not you are truly resonating with the people you care about most.

It also allows you to develop clear and differentiated language that clarifies who you are—including (but not limited to) a brand promise and a positioning statement—and that can be used consistently throughout the organization.

Additionally, customer research gives you a roadmap for your marketing strategy. If your findings point to the fact that a very low percentage of your customers use Facebook, why would you waste money developing a channel that isn’t going to gain you lookalike customers? With a limited budget (and whose marketing budget isn’t “limited?”), you’re better off honing in on a few channels where you can really talk and connect with your customers—and find new ones—rather than spreading that money out over many channels…and never really reaching anyone.

And most importantly, brand research allows you to embrace who you are and how you’re different—and better—than your competition. It’s not uncommon for organizations without a strong marketing strategy tied to their business strategy to scramble around, trying anything and everything that seems like it will work. That’s not a strategy—that’s running scared, trying to stay relevant, and constantly being terrified that your competition is going to outpace you. In reality, you might not be talking to anyone who needs, wants, or believes in what you do.

What will increase your revenue through marketing is a solid understanding of your customers, brand language that positions you accurately, and a smart channel strategy that allows you to connect with the buyers with whom you can grow relationships with over the long term. Want to discover how your brand speaks to your customers? Contact us today, we’re here to help.

YouTube Optimization and Best Practices for Businesses

YouTube Optimization and Best Practices for Businesses

It’s 2019, so your business probably has (or at least wants to have) a digital video strategy. However, you need more than just great content for your videos to be a success. Understanding YouTube optimization and best practices are the keys to getting more views and likes, and hopefully translating that engagement into new or repeat business.

Creating Your Account

youtube optimizationFirst, create a Google Brand account and a YouTube for Business account. Remember, YouTube is owned by Google, and it’s basically a Google search engine for videos. This will be really important when we start talking about SEO, and a big part of why we’re focusing on YouTube as opposed to other video hosting sites such as Vimeo. A Google Brand account will allow you and others in your company to manage your YouTube channel and it will be separate from personal accounts.

Fill out Your About Page to Improve SEO

Start off on the right foot with these tips for your About page:

  • Write a keyword-rich bio.
  • Upload an eye-catching banner image (2560 x 1440 pixels, 2MB max).
  • Link to your website and social media profiles.
  • Include location and contact information to help clients and Google find you.

Tips for Video Creation and Scheduling

Once you have your channel set up, have a few videos ready to go so you can upload them as a batch. You can schedule them to go live on a pre-determined schedule. This minimizes issues if your production schedule gets off track.

  • Choose a schedule and stick to it. This makes your page seem more professional and can improve viewership since fans will know when to expect new content.
  • Be clear about the goal of each video and how you’re measuring its effectiveness. Time is money, so don’t get carried away with ideas that are creative but not necessarily productive.
  • Establish a handful of content goals. This will lead to more diverse videos. For example, your video strategy might include promoting services, establishing personal connections with staff and discussing industry trends. You’ll need to create a variety of videos to meet each of those needs.
  • Go into detail about products or services. Customers love to watch YouTube before purchasing and they want details.
  • Quality, quality, quality. Videos that look good, sound good and are interesting lead to increased watch time. The result? Better SEO, more loyal viewers and a better YouTube ranking.

Analytics

Now that you’ve optimized your channel and you’re making high-quality videos, pay attention to the numbers that will help you fine-tune your strategy and understand what your viewers want. Start with the basics by paying attention to watch times (how long viewers spend watching each video), location and demographics of your viewers. You also need to monitor comments for qualitative data that may not come through in the analytics. Along those lines, make time to watch other companies’ videos. Not only is this a useful way to see what peers and competitors are doing, but it’s equally important to engage on YouTube as on any other social media platform. For example, you may get a mention on someone else’s video and you want to be sure to respond!

Ads
Make sure your competitors are not running ads on your videos. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’ll want to make sure to turn those ads off. This can be blocked using Google Ad Manager.

SEO
Now for the age-old question: If a video was uploaded to YouTube but wasn’t SEO optimized, was it really uploaded at all? The numbers might say “no.” With so much video content available, SEO is the key to getting your videos seen by the people looking for your content. Follow these guidelines for SEO optimization:

  • Use a keyword-rich title.
  • Captions improve SEO and the user experience. There are several services out there that will provide captions, or you can use YouTube’s captioning service. Bonus – captions make video content more accessible!
  • Write an effective description with a minimum of 150 words. Front-load important keywords. If it’s a long video, include timestamps so viewers can easily skip to what they are interested in. Link to other new or relevant videos on your channel.
  • Add up to 15 tags.

Other Tips and Tricks

Keep in mind YouTube’s ranking factors:

  • Video Title, Keywords, and Description
  • Video Quality
  • Viewing Time, Viewer Count, and User Experience

Encourage viewers to subscribe in every video and in the video description.

Utilize playlists to keep your viewers watching your channel and not clicking away.

The first 15 seconds are key! Open with a question, set an expectation, etc. There are many tutorials on creating openers out there.

85% of videos are watched without sound (largely due to mobile) so soundless or captioned videos can get a lot of views. Soundless videos under 3 minutes can be very successful. On the other hand, long form videos are really good for SEO. Longer videos mean more time viewers can watch. Experiment with both.


Enhancing Videos

YouTube offers a variety of tools to make videos more engaging and interactive. For example, you can create a custom thumbnail that appears when the video is listed. This allows you to include a photo, text or a screen shot of your choice rather than the randomized options from YouTube. Try using cards (small, transparent calls to action that expand when clicked). Use them to direct viewers to your website, online store or even other videos on your channel. Since attracting subscribers is critical for increasing views, create video watermarks that function as custom subscribe buttons. To add them to your videos, follow YouTube’s simple instructions. Finally, strategically select other channels your viewers may follow. Participating in the community will benefit you in the long run.

Video can be a fun, personal and direct way to engage with clients, new prospects and your community. It just takes a bit of strategy, patience and creativity. Understanding YouTube optimization and best practices will help achieve the results you’re after. Whether you feel lost when it comes to your YouTube presence, or you’re ready to take your video strategy to the next level, contact me today. I look forward to helping you reach your goals!

Up Your B2B Social Media Game

Up Your B2B Social Media Game

Teens prefer Snapchat, women gravitate to Pinterest and nearly everyone’s on Facebook. Social media is no longer a new phenomenon: it’s a way of life, one that’s been embraced by consumers from all age groups and demographic backgrounds. That’s why social media has become the domain of not just B2C businesses, but B2B businesses too. No matter your industry, the people you’re trying to reach are on Twitter and Instagram, so you have to be there too. Excelling at social media is one of the ways your brand sets itself apart from the competition.

Home in on the Right Sites

brb social mediaThe social media landscape is vast and ever-changing. The sites that are most popular with consumers aren’t necessarily the right sites for B2B marketing. Factors unique to your marketing needs will determine what sites make sense for you to focus on.

Industry comes into play here. A company that sells products to interior designers might benefit from maintaining an active Pinterest account, which might not be as useful for a tax firm. Where your audience is located matters, too. Facebook is a valuable tool for connecting with local businesses, but if you’re hoping to reach an international audience, the strategy might be a little different. Using Facebook won’t help you reach Chinese businesses, since the platform is banned there – WeChat is a hugely popular alternative. And LinkedIn continues to be a powerful resource for B2B marketing.

Identify Brands to Emulate

Because what appeals to decision makers in one industry won’t appeal to decision makers in another industry, there’s not just one way to use social media for B2B marketing. So it’s useful to look at what the social media leaders in your industry are doing, and why it’s working for them. For example, Novartis drives traffic to its Instagram channel not by posting dry or informative facts about pharmaceuticals, but by spotlighting individual employees and its own charitable endeavors.

It can be just as useful to study the ways in which brands less successfully use social media. Check out your competitors’ social media presences and take note of their follower counts and engagement metrics (how many comments/shares/likes posts regularly get). Identifying the things that the low performers have in common – do they post very infrequently, or routinely post typo-laden content? – should help you zero in on some things that you can do differently.

Create Must-See Content

Getting your target companies to land on your LinkedIn or Facebook pages is just one step. Getting them to stay and engage with you instead of scrolling past is a separate challenge. Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this – figuring out exactly what kind of content will appeal to your target audience depends on your business, their tastes and your marketing goals. Infusing posts with humor and using compelling visuals is almost always a good starting point. It’s a crowded field, and providing content that’s more interesting, useful or entertaining than your competitors’ is a way to stand out.

Engage, Engage, Engage

If you’re only using your social media channels to drop new posts, you’re missing out on valuable opportunities. Engaging with other companies on social media helps you build name recognition and a reputation for being dynamic and responsive. It also humanizes your brand and allows you to answer questions and identify new leads. Acknowledging and responding to every post might not be possible, depending on your resources, but it’s something to strive for. Creating a social media response policy is an important step in making sure that all company-posted responses are appropriate and on-brand, especially if multiple employees share this duty.

Measure Your Metrics

There are a lot of ways to measure social media metrics, like looking at engagement stats and tracking conversion rates. Your social media channels give you actionable data every single day. Even if the data you get is grim, it’s useful. For example, if you load five Facebook posts in one week and only one gets any engagement, that tells you something worked about that one post that didn’t work about any of the others. Maybe the others went up in the morning and the successful post went up near the end of the workday, suggesting that your target audience is most active on social media around that time.

Your social media presence is just one part of a complete marketing strategy, but it’s a critically important one. In the golden age of social media, underestimating its power and reach means leaving money on the table. If you would like to take your social media presence to the next level, I’d be happy to help. Reach out today and we can discuss the unique needs of your business.

Did you keep your marketing resolutions?

Did you keep your marketing resolutions?

So…. How’s it going?     With your marketing new year’s resolutions, I mean.  July 1 is half way through the year (hard as it is to believe!) so now is a great time to evaluate your plan and progress to date because there is still time to course-correct and achieve your goals before year-end.  Let’s reflect back on the process:

#1:  What do you want to achieve?

Marketing resolutionsBegin with the end in mind I wrote in my second-ever blog post way back in 2013.  It’s still true today.  If things have gotten off track, perhaps it’s time to evaluate whether your goal was a bit too ambitious.  It can be better to recalibrate and achieve a lesser goal than to give up later in the year as the original goal is clearly going to be out of reach.  Conversely, if you set a low-ball goal, it may be time to ramp-up your effort and get going!

#2: How much time you can commit to marketing?

I said before that 2-3 hours per week is necessary in order to accomplish anything meaningful.  With everyone’s varying vacation travel, I find July and August can be a nice time of year to focus on some self-directed work.  As a bonus, you’ll also be developing a good habit that can be continued through the fall.

#3:  What activities will lead to your highest probability of success?

Networking in the summer tends to be more one-on-one as the Chambers and other groups ramp down their event calendars.  Make a list of the clients, referral sources and other service providers that serve your clients and start sending invites to meet for (iced) coffee.  It’s OK if the date you pick ends up being seven weeks away, the time will pass!

If you want to do more writing but haven’t gotten started because you don’t know what to write about, considering asking your marketing department.  Your website traffic may offer the answer in the form of popular keywords used to find your site.

#4:  What support do you need? 

If you’ve been trying to go it alone, but it’s not happening, it may be time for some external accountability from your marketing team, a fellow partner, or a business coach.

If you’re doing the work but the results are coming, then this summer can be a good time to reevaluate your expectations.  Sometimes marketing takes longer than you’d like it to – and sometimes the activity you’ve chosen isn’t actually aligned with the outcome you’ve selected.   Either way, your marketing team ought to be able to offer some council in this area.

There are six months ahead of us in 2019; plenty of time to reflect, adjust, recommit, and get going with marketing!  Let’s end the DECADE strong!   If I can help you, please reach out!

Answer the question behind the question to win more business

Answer the question behind the question to win more business

To close more business, specialists who are expected to sell (aka – firm partners) should start to listen for the question behind the question when reading RFPs and in prospect meetings.  Often a seemingly simple question has more meaning and by addressing the underlying issue, you’ll allay their concerns, differentiate from the competition and win more business.

EXPERIENCE

Prospect“How many other companies in my industry do you work with?”

This question is perhaps the most common and perhaps commonly not thought through well because it seems “obvious” from the inside.  This issue is why professional services firms market by niche.   By having a tailored description of your services and reinforcing articles and other resources on your website, prospects feel that their company will be well take care for and that your team.  You’ll also pass through the pre-contact filter whereas firms that don’t have niche industry info on their website may never know about the prospect at all.  Believe it or not, this self-investigation process accounts for a large portion of the process and eliminates more than half of the possible service providers!  (I read that somewhere – ask me if you want me to dig up the exact statistics.)

What’s the question behind the question?  This one has a few that you can address.

  • Do you know what issues are specific to my industry so that you’ll be able to give me good guidance?
  • Will your team be learning on the job? (And am I paying for that?)

When addressing this issue in a proposal, it’s important to make mention of how you have addressed issues that the prospect is facing or that you know are coming their way through new regulations.  You can include how many years of experience your team members have (but please don’t add them up – saying your team has an aggregated 52 years of experience is just weird!)   But also consider that if you don’t have direct experience with exactly the type or organization or their needs you can gain their confidence by talking about how you’ve done the same work for different organizations.   I recently helped a CPA firm think through this and to change their thinking from “we haven’t done exactly this before so we won’t win this bid” to “we have great experience in the prospect’s issues, just not applied in this way but I know we can serve this prospect well.”  Changing their thinking gave them confidence and they won a major new client.

 

PRICE

“Why is this service so expensive?”

This question might not always be asked out loud but it’s probably thought almost every time.  A large portion of professional services are “need to have” not “want to have” so there is inherent price sensitivity.   Professional services also tend to be expensive because your services are complicated and because you’re highly educated and highly experienced professionals who (rightfully) command a high billable rate.  And let’s not forget the technology investment and risk you take on by signing-off on the work.

What’s the question behind the question?

Clients don’t understand what goes into your work since they don’t see it happening.  They don’t know how long you’re spending on something or how efficient you are at it or what technology you have so that it’s actually taking less time than it could.  Whatever you can do to help prospects understand the effort, the VALUE, and the IMPACT of your work, will be beneficial to you both.

For example, an estate planning client got this price question because a well-known online provider is considered a viable option in the minds of the general public.  How could the “same” estate planning documents cost more from a local firm than the online provider?  And why bother paying more?   The answer is that the local firm would examine over 150 issues and include the correct legal wording based on the client’s exact circumstances where as the online provider would give the generic response or wouldn’t delve to that level of detail at all.  The significance of this is that if the estate plan documents were ever needed in court or at a hospital, the one from the local firm should help the client in the expected way, whereas the documents from online provider may not.   The answer to the question behind the question is that they’re really not comparable services at all and that “expense” can be paid upfront or at a higher rate to fix or unravel the problem later!  Add to that, a local firm can help you keep your documents updated year-after-year as your life changes whereas the Internet is not going to follow-up.  Outdated documents can be just as harmful as no documents depending on what they say…. You may find yourself relying on an ex for medical decisions if you don’t stay current.

 

Experience and price are two top-of-mind issues for prospects.   Understanding a prospect’s REAL reason for asking these questions will help you to address their concerns at more than the surface level and will help you win more business.   If you want help thinking through these questions or other commonly asked prospect questions, reach out!   Good luck!

Why Professional Services Firms Need a Video Strategy

Why Professional Services Firms Need a Video Strategy

I talk with more lawyers, CPAs, insurance specialists and other professional service leaders than most people.   Not one advisor had ever said they went to law school or studied for the CPA exam so they could write articles or – even worse – get in front of a camera for a website video.  That said, I’m going to take the unpopular stance of trying to convince you that it’s important enough to work on expanding your comfort zone.  Incorporating video into your digital marketing strategy is a powerful way to move your business to the next level. Here are just a handful of the most compelling reasons why your firm should embrace this here-to-stay trend.

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6 Reasons your Current Clients are your Best Prospects

6 Reasons your Current Clients are your Best Prospects

Sometimes you just need to get cashflow, well, flowing.  When that’s the case, I usually recommend turning to your current client base.  Your current clients are your best prospects.  Why?  Because it’s not very likely that 100% of them are receiving 100% of your potential service offerings.   Surely you have good intentions, but cross-selling to current clients isn’t usually done with as much clarity of intention as it could be, which means you’re leaving money – and client satisfaction – on the table.  There is likely some great service that you’ve started offering lately or that you’ve gotten good at and think that more people/companies could benefit from.    Here are six reasons you should get organized, and start selling to current clients. (more…)

What’s your New Year’s Marketing Resolution?

What’s your New Year’s Marketing Resolution?

The New Year’s holiday brings to mind a renewal, a fresh start, a time to reflect and look ahead. New Year’s is known as a time when we set goals for ourselves – “Resolutions” we decide to call them somehow implying that we’re committing – resolving – to make them happen. While the tried-and-true health related resolutions are admirable, are you considering making a New Year’s Marketing Resolution? (more…)

Dora’s Map to Partnership for Rising Stars

Dora’s Map to Partnership for Rising Stars

Have you ever watched Dora the Explorer?  My two year old went through a Dora phase a few months ago… and to my surprise, I had an epiphany!

Dora does an amazing job of making it excruciatingly clear what’s going to happen through repetition and inclusion of the viewer in the story as it is planned and as it unfolds.  This is what leaders in professional services firms should be doing with their rising stars on their path to partnership. (more…)