Do Better in Google with WordPress

wordpress_logo_buttonThroughout the year, I’ve been using WordPress more and more to build a variety of Web sites and have been super impressed with it.

Not only is WordPress easy to use for non-programmers, but it is so search engine friendly that my clients have easily realized double and triple digit increases in Web traffic.

I’m always on the lookout for new Web technologies and in the world of Content Management Systems, I just researched WordPress a bit more to see if it was too good to be true because there are so many out there (see list here).

My concerns were put to rest after I caught this video of Matt Cutts who works for the Search Quality group in Google, specializing in search engine optimization issues.

“Straight From Google: What You Need To Know”
WordCamp San Francisco – May 30, 2009, by Matt Cutts

In this video (see about 3:10 minutes in), Matt states that if you want to do better in Google, “WordPress automatically solves a ton of SEO issues.” and that it is such a fantastic piece of software that, “WordPress takes care of 80-90% of your Search Engine Optimization mechanics.”

Matt’s word is good enough for me and I encourage you to watch this video for additional SEO tips. I’ve been a big Google fan since its birth and it’s quality people like Matt Cutts that keep me loyal.

Check out Matt Cutts’ Gadgets, Google, and SEO Blog too – good stuff.

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The Fast Eat the Slow

cheetah-gazelleAs a follow-up to my recent “Darwinian Marketing” post, I want to emphasize that successful people will not only be the ones who can most easily adapt to change, but they will most likely be faster than their competitors. That’s right.  In today’s economy and for as far as I can see into the future, it’s not about the strong beating or eating the weak, it’s all about the fast eating the slow for lunch!

At the top of my 2010 goals is to streamline processes, work smarter and faster and enjoy life more.  We’re all being tasked to do more with less, but there are ways to do it, make money and enjoy your life.

So, how can you become faster in business today? Here is my list to 25 ways you can work faster and position yourself to survive and thrive!

  1. Read and embrace Stephen Covey’s best-seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People” and work to excel in Quadrant II living
  2. Be flexible and adaptable to new ideas and processes (think Darwin)
  3. Work to rid yourself of distractions such as email, instant messaging, turn of the TV, turn your phone/s off and turn your music off (although I work quickly and calmly listening to classical and piano instrumental music)
  4. Get rid of things that slow you down (clients, employees, suppliers)
  5. Set up power hours of work blocks and prioritize on job at a time
  6. In your email inbox, tag all emails with a project ID so you can resort your emails by subject or client and stay focused and fly through them.  For example, for a book I’m working on, I simply tag these emails “Book” first followed by related copy
  7. Batch your email work – only respond at specific intervals 2-3 times per day
  8. Batch your phone calls too – never answer unidentified calls
  9. Get the fastest computer set-up you can afford
  10. Set earlier deadlines – if a client’s expectation is 7 days, deliver it in 6.
  11. Get up earlier and take good care of yourself to stay sharp
  12. Outsource most anything that costs you below your hourly rate
  13. Focus on the 20% of activities that reap 80% of the most rewards for you
  14. Cut things to the core bare necessities and essentials and key features
  15. Keep features, processes simple
  16. Focus on those things that help you gain or keep a customer
  17. Anticipate trends and act on them.  For example, mobile marketing is starting to smoke. Are you studying it, using it, putting together a skunkworks operation, looking into strategic alliances etc.?
  18. Phase things in to keep customers happy and moving business forward
  19. Create processing rules (see Tim Ferris’ stuff here – awesome read – love virtual assistant idea too – actually all of his stuff is brilliant – great book)
  20. Create templates of your work to easily repeat efforts
  21. Create processes
  22. Create life and decision-based rules (see Marcus Aerilius’ Meditations)
  23. Begin with and end goal in mind and then focus on all of the processes of everything you do to achieve the end, list all the steps and key critical path and look for ways to take wasted steps and time out of the process.  Rinse and repeat.
  24. Look to eliminate all busy work that takes time away from building your business
  25. Take one information day off per week – no phone, Blackberry, email etc. – rest and recharge your battery

I’m sure there are a ton more ideas – feel free to add!

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50 Ways to Overcome Marketing Changes

Changes_next_exitNaturalist Charles Darwin’s famous quote regarding stronger species and survival rates has been misrepresented for years.

What Darwin actually said was, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

Believing his truism, Darwin would be a fantastic marketer in these changing times! Will you?

So how do you cope with marketing changes?

Well, while I was pounding down my 3rd cup of coffee this morning (my Keurig coffee maker rocks), I came up with 50 ways to cope with all of the marketing changes swirling around you and to help you survive and thrive in marketing:

  1. Face the facts – change will always be a constant throughout your life
  2. Pay attention to warning signs, study trends and read a tea leaf or two
  3. Strive to remain calm at all times
  4. Anticipate change – learn to take advantage of it
  5. Accept control – control your controllables – that means controlling YOU
  6. Read, study, put a plan of study in process, chart your course
  7. Think more
  8. Worry less
  9. Do more
  10. Create a “to don’t” list
  11. Clear your mind
  12. Clear your desk
  13. Work out
  14. Go for long walks
  15. Meditate
  16. Take long baths
  17. Sit in steam room
  18. Do deep breathing exercises
  19. Do progressive muscle relation techniques
  20. Embrace Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People
  21. Create good, positive reasons for change for your business (believe them)
  22. Create good, positive reasons for change for yourself (believe them)
  23. Think of yourself as an independent marketing assassin and that all of the changes taking place will only make you stronger and more valuable with more arrows in your quiver to deliver more success for your firm, your family and for yourself
  24. Get together with like-minded people to enable the changes you or management seeks
  25. Provide financial and emotional benefits when successful change goals are met
  26. Monitor your progress and celebrate achieving key milestones – small and large ones
  27. Make sure the people on your team share the same values
  28. Recognize that to get “there from here,” everyone may not get a seat on the bus
  29. Understand that your career and life is a marathon, not a sprint
  30. Understand that if you do not evolve you will dissolve
  31. Listen more
  32. Discuss more
  33. Be more open
  34. Join groups, chat rooms
  35. Read more
  36. Study more
  37. Create a plan of educational achievement
  38. Be a student of your profession
  39. Subscribe to online educational webinars, newsletters
  40. Be more in the present – don’t be so consumed with the future
  41. Don’t be consumed with having all of the right answers
  42. Be consumed with having all of the right questions
  43. Have fun discovering the answers
  44. Realize that you’re not perfect – you’ll never be
  45. Realize that you’re not an expert – you’ll never be
  46. Don’t give yourself unrealistic time periods to achieve your goals
  47. Don’t be unrealistic and give yourself too many goals to reach
  48. Focus on your desired outcomes, not just timelines and constraints
  49. Don’t be so hard on yourself
  50. Enjoy the ride realizing you’ve overcome past changes and you’ll succeed again

I’m sure there are more ways to cope with marketing changes, but I’m too busy to think of any more because of all of the changes going on around me!

Seriously, this list helps keep me grounded.

Hope it helps you too.

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You Can’t Win By Benchmarking

rolling_benchOr, you’ll always be sitting on the bench and never be able to play to win.

You need to be your own brand.

There are all types of benchmarking such as: best-in-class, financial, function, operations, performance, pricing, process, product, strategy and more. However, if you only work on ways to catch up to market leaders, you’ll struggle to compete and never lead. By the time, you think you’re catching up, leaders who are more concerned with their own strategies will always leave you in the dust.

Certainly some benchmarking is needed to determine where you’re strong, weak, underserved and where niches worth exploiting exist.

Today, you need to think more originally tha ever to succeed.  You need to be real, authentic and emotional appeals work wonders. Create “what if” scenarios for yourself and see what amazing ideas you come up with.

Do you really think that the iPod, Red Bull, Zappos and others came up with their idea and business model by just benchmarking?

rolling bench top viewLove this creative idea about a rolling bench that you can crank on the side to always have a clean, dry space to sit!

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Average Today Loser Tomorrow

loserDuring recessionary times, the first place people cut back is with their eating and drinking out dollars.

Sure, there is a progression. First, white table cloth restaurants are the first to feel the pinch, then casual, fast casual and then fast food.

After a scorching sales tear for some time, McDonald’s is now considering a $1.00 breakfast menu nationwide.

With unemployment at 10.2%, no one is safe.

Now it appears that people are buying less at the supermarket.

More are using shopping lists, feel prices are to high, hate the experience and nearly 8 out of 10 would flip brands on a deal! Loyalty be damned.

The restaurant and hospitality industry isn’t the only one suffering – every industry is suffering and only the smart, speedy and strong will survive. So, what can you do to succeed in these tough times?

Here are five marketing ideas to put on your shopping list that will help you survive and thrive in these tough times.

1. Do remarkable things that add value and drive word-of-mouth. Pretty simple statement, easy to understand, but so few do it. So, you do it. Positive word-of-mouth drives customer referrals, online reviews and media coverage while keeping your marketing costs low. Do something remarkably well.

Value offerings for specific reasons make sense (e.g., Anniversaries), but you need to watch it because deals are so easily copied and it’s difficult to move to higher prices when times get better.

You need to work on creating unique value priced offerings. People are re-thinking all of their purchases, so if you’re not truly giving value or a exceptional experience you better start. This requires packaging creativity and more customer focus.

List all the possible value-added services and amenities you offer and then look for ways to improve your customer’s experience for little or no cost to you.

If you’re in hospitality you could offer things such as free parking, free upgrades, late check-outs, drink certificates etc., and look to your marketing partenrs to help defray the costs.

Deliver value in creative unique packaged experiences.

If you’re average player in a today’s recessionary economy, you’re running backwards and you’re a loser.

2. Keep the Heat On. If you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind. Don’t just arbitrarily cut your advertising, but look for ways to more effectively spend or not spend it.  Get into social media marketing, improve  the search results of your web site, network.  Create stronger, more emotional appeals for your goods and services.

3. Strengthen Your Customer Relationships. Strengthen your sales force and put together win-back and retention strategies. Work to maximize the lifetime value of your key customers and integrate all of your communication messages into relevant targeted appeals.

4. Build a Centralized Segmented Marketing Database. The bedrock of all customer relationship management strategies is a unified, centralized and segmented marketing database. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to set up and manage a CRM system today.

5. Become a Direct Marketing Master. Direct marketing needs to take a greater role in your business plan whether it be direct sales, email, mail, phone etc., The most effective weapon is email marketing to current customers (but smartly segment them).

This is a good list to follow, but make sure you do not skip the first step!

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Operation USO Care Package

uso-operation-care-packageI’ve posted several times about the benefits of cause related marketing and the fact that far beyond good business sense, it simply makes good sense to try to leave the world a bit better off because you have lived.

It’s great to support charitable causes that tie-in with your brand and in the communities in which you do business. However, it’s also great to add a two-prong strategy to not only support a local calling, but to answer a higher national calling as well.

A lot of my clients (especially hospitality and restaurant clients) supported veteran based initiatives this past week in honor of Veterans Day on November 11th.  If you thought about doing something similar, but couldn’t pull it together because of a lack of time, money or people power, it’s never too late.

If you’re looking for a great ways “how to” help nationally, consider supporting our hero veterans via the USO (United Service Organizations). I’d bet your clients and team members would embrace this effort too.

The USO lists several ways you can help support our troops such as:

  • Gillette’s Operation USO Phone Home® Program
  • NECCO’s “Red White and You”
  • GivAClick
  • MyBoneYard Recycling
  • E-Bay Mission Fish
  • Car Donations
  • United Through Reading® Military Program

A really cool way to easily involve your team members is through Operation USO Care Package where care packages are distributed to deploying service members. Care packages may include snacks, entertainment items, toiletries, sunscreen and other basic bare essential requested by troops. With a donation of $25 you can sponsor a USO care package and include a personal message of support and encouragement. To support Operation USO Care Package, click here.

And, to support the Ft. Hood Community click here.

This could be your Holiday gift to yourselves too!

Here’s a great example how the World Wrestling Entertainment supports our troops and veterans causes.

The WWE approaches their veteran marketing support efforts the right way in that it’s part of their Brand DNA and not just “another program” or “promotion.”

P.S.: You got to love the USO’s tagline – mission statement – “Until Every One Comes Home.” Isn’t that the truth!

P.S.S.: The care package strategy could be a great tool for you to consider too. What about care packages to Children’s Hospital patients, retired homes, VFWs, American Legions, Freshmen in College from your local high school, elderly homes etc.,

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Starbucks Gold Dusted

starbucks rewards_logoI caught this Chicago Tribune story about how Starbucks is combining its Gold Card program, and its Starbucks Card Rewards, into a new program called My Starbucks Rewards (MSR) on December 26th!

Merry Christmas to me?   Nope…don’t think so!

MSR replaces the Gold Card’s 10% discount and $25 annual fee with a tiered rewards program that offers free birthday drinks, free refills and free Wi-Fi.

Starbucks is hoping to drive brand loyalty with the new program, but I doubt it will work.

Driving performance with incentive programs is one thing (e.g., limited time offer to drive consumer trial on a new product etc.), but loyalty programs are a whole different matter.

I’m not a fan of loyalty programs.

Think about people and businesses and other things you are loyal to and ask yourself, “Why?”

For me it’s family, friends, clients, my BrandMill team – Stephanie, Sam and Angie my dry cleaner, Jackie who cuts my hair and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Penguins.

Why?

They all deliver on their promises which show care, concern and respect for me, my time and y investment in them. In addition, they all deliver remarkable, consistent favorable experiences.

Aren’t these the same kinds of reasons you’re loyal to someone or something?

You can’t buy or extort loyalty with MSR cards, Gold cards or any other card.

You earn loyalty by showing customers care and concern and delivering on your promises.

As for Starbucks, for them to earn my loyalty, I don’t need a card. I’m sure a great deal of other people don’t need another card as well. For me, they can drop prices on a straight cup of coffee or tea speed up their drive-through. I love Starbucks bold black coffee and teas with no frills, but I don’t love it THAT much to put up with slow service and high prices.

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Multicultural Marketing Matters

Painted handprintsIn the early 80’s, I was working with GM dealer marketing groups throughout the country. In those days, multicultural or ethnic marketing was rarely discussed with my GM, Oldsmobile or Cadillac marketing counterparts or even car dealer clients.

In fact, even targeted marketing to females was rarely discussed and at the time they were moving fast into the workforce.  Female sales people were rare as well. The best in the country was Donna Dunnivan at Bendik Olds in Pittsburgh. Even though Donna’s success was well known nationally, dealers were slow to hire female sales people and cater to them as customers.

To build my product knowledge of the cars I was marketing, I frequently attended classes at a local GM Training Center.  I once asked a GM engineer why their cars didn’t have vanity mirrors on the driver’s side visor – most Japanese cars did – and he said it would take about three years! The funny thing was a lot of my dealers sold extra mirrors with rubber bands that you could affix to the driver’s side visors.

In those days in the car business, when you lost a sale, you lost it for about seven years minimum and maybe more if the customer was happy with her purchase.

Isn’t it amazing how marketing opportunities are all around you if you only paid attention and worked hard to maximize them!

McDonald’s has been paying attention for a long time.  Sure, they may have stumbled a bit over the years (who hasn’t?), but I’ll take their track record any day.

My first real exposure to extreme targeted marketing (seniors, moms, kids, teens, tweens, seniors etc.) and multicultural, ethnic marketing was during my McDonald’s days in the 80’s and 90’s.

I don’t profess to be an expert (does one ever truly arrive at anything to be considered and expert?), but I gained valuable insights that I bring with me to every marketing engagement and I work hard to expand my knowledge base.

Naturally, I was proud to see my old friend McDonald’s CMO Neil Golden rock the house with his “Leading with Ethnic Insights” presentation at the recent ANA Masters of Marketing Conference (see AdAge coverage of his speech here – here’s another report – take time to read both – good stuff!).

Note: McDonald’s marketing is in good hands with Neil Golden!

McDonald’s estimates that about 40% of its core loyal U.S. business comes from the Hispanic, Asian and African-American markets, and 50% of consumers under the age of 13 are from those segments too.

A few questions for you:

  • Do you know what your ethnic population base in your core market/s?
  • Do you know how your ethnic sales mix breaks down?
  • Is your management team ethnically balanced?
  • Do you have ethnic marketing practices? Hiring practices?
  • Do you know how to manage cultural differences?

Today, with more targeted media and the internet, it’s a bit easier to market to specific groups, to communicate relevant messages, make them feel welcome, and to treat different people differently and with respect to their uniqueness.

Get out from your desk and start a multicultural marketing plan today.  I’m sure you’re leaving money on the table. Great Multicultural Marketing isn’t black and white, but it certainly is GREEN – that is, it will ring your cash register and you can take it to the bank!

P.S.: Remember Neil’s sage advice that there are, “No malls in the ghetto!” I’m lovin’ it!

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Begin With an End in Mind

begin_with_the_end_in_mindYears ago, I became a disciple of Stephen Covey’s teachings in 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.

In his Blog, Dr. Covey reveals that if he had to choose one habit that’s more important that all of the rest – recognizing that all of the habits are inter-related –  he would choose being proactive since it serves as the foundation of his entire philosophy.

I agree, but then again, how can you possibly disagree with the Master?

“Begin with the end in mind” is based on the principle that all things
are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical
or second creation to all things.”
~ Stephen R. Covey

One thing, however I’d add is that people do not place enough time/emphasis/thought/work on the second step which is Beginning with an End in Mind.

And, most people do not think big enough!

7_habits_modelFor example, when crafting your marketing plans, how big and how detailed are your plans?

I’ll bet you have an acquisition, new business plan. I’d also bet you lack a strong retention, winback, lead generation and nurturing plan.  Plus, I’ll bet your marketing measurement plan is weak.

Ok then. Let’s say you’re a restaurant marketer.  Based on your stated comp sales increase, do you know all of the combined metrics you need to hit to realize your goals?  Do you know how many transactions you need per hour, per day to achieve your goals? Do you know what your different daypart sales and transaction goals are? Do you have specific plans to reach each one?

Heck, I even believe using the step, Beginning with an End in Mind could be a great step to ending wars!

Here’s my POV with a brief backgrounder.

  • When I turned 16, gasoline was about $1.50 a gallon and gas lines were crazy long in the 1970’s
  • I’m just coming off a 30 year high school class reunion
  • I’m increasingly troubled about our U.S. economy and throughout the world, sick about the government bailouts of the auto industry and others, and sad about the state of poverty, hunger, hatred and troubles throughout the world
  • I’m heartbroken about the recent Ft. Hood tragedy
  • Veteran’s Day was yesterday

Recognizing that oil (or lack thereof) is a chief cause of wars my thought is this, “If we had strong, visionary political leadership 30 years ago would we be in the state we’re in today”

Here’s what we should have done 30 years ago and what we should do now.

  1. Take a 10-20-30 year view (begin with and end in mind)
  2. Project the cost of an average war – see here the cost of wars since 2001 – and recognize that if our dependence on oil doesn’t change, we’d always be battling one and never as safe as we would hope to be.
  3. Take a mere percentage of the average cost of one war and give it to GM, Ford, Chrysler (among other manufacturer’s who produce oil required products and services) and incentivize them to produce a car that runs on corn oil etc., (something we Americans make and have a ton of capacity).
  4. From the increased sales, profits we realize and government defense spending savings we earn, invest it all back into our economy and into domestic and global aid initiatives.

Certainly there’s a lot more to this strategy, but it clearly demonstrates how beginning with an end in mind can lead to powerful strategies, tactics, effective use of resources and accomplishing amazing things!

P.S.: Make sure you take into account key projections in your marketing planning.  Check out the trade offs my hometown of Pittsburgh has made since the Iraqi war started. We could certainly use the $508 million. More importantly we’d certainly welcome the priceless happiness of not losing one local man or woman in another senseless war. Wouldn’t you?

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Do Better by Doing Good

veteransday2009Check out what restaurant’s like Applebee’s, Golden Corral and McCormick & Schmicks, Outback Steakhouse and others are doing to honor our awesome Veterans on Veterans Day.

A few weeks ago, one of my clients, The Priory Hospitality Group honored veterans of the Afghan and Iraqi wars a FREE Winter White Wedding! And, another one, 1902 Tavern in Pittsburgh’s Market Square is doing its part too.

There are a ton of examples of brands who give back to the communities in which it does its business such as Campbell’s Labels for Education and McDonald’s  Ronald McDonald House and more. In fact, U.S sponsorship spending on cause marketing is estimated to reach $1.57 billion in 2009, per the IEG Sponsorship Report, Chicago.

But can you do better by doing good? Absolutely.

While I first believe that everyone should do his part in helping others without expecting anything in return – pure charity – it’s best to strategically think of your cause marketing in terms of how it best connects with your brand’s cause and concerns of your constituents.

For example, a local restaurant may provide a benefit to Veterans today because everyone at that restaurant benefits from the freedom our Vets have protected for them.  Digging deeper, providing for a local school, emergency workers in the restaurant’s local trade area makes just as much sense because those people are likely current and potential customers and everyone is part of the same community.

As you’re planning for 2010 put a cause marketing initiative (make it part of your corporate DNA) on your calendar and you’ll find that you’ll do better in business when you’re doing good things and being a good corporate citizen.

You’ll also discover that:

  • Your staff will feel better working for you – corporate pride will rise
  • You’ll attract people because most prefer to work for caring companies
  • You’ll be more welcome and respected in your community
  • People will more readily recommend your company’s products and services to friends and family
  • People’s trust and favorability ratings for you will rise

Being a better corporate citizen is a key business strategy today and it will set your brand apart from your competitors. However, keep in mind that doing good doesn’t simply begin and end with promotional tie-ins. You also need to focus on:

  • Demonstrating how you value and care for your employees
  • Following ethical, open, honest and responsible business practices
  • Delivering over and above required safety and industry performance standards
  • Ensuring that your advertising is accurate and true
  • Treating your environment well
  • Having open channels of communication
  • Being an active member in your community
  • Embracing diversity
  • And more…

Certainly, one cause may not be enough of a rallying cry for all of your employees since everyone has personal pet charities that are only special to them. So, get your folks to contribute their thoughts in the planning stages. One end solution could be a corporate matching fund initiative.

In the same way, a single cause cannot possibly impact all customers equally (i.e., improve their emotional experience).

Also, you’ll find differences between public and private companies.  For example, some people do not believe that publicly traded companies should be using corporate profits for social causes, but you can stll be a good corporate citizen by being ethical, environmentally responsible, honest etc.

When you first undergo a cause marketing planning process it can seem daunting and you’ll have difficulty figuring out where to start with so many worthwhile charitable causes.

When this happens, remember these words from Mother Theresa, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

Just get started and do something.

Believe me, you do reap what you sow in life.

When you do good, others will do good by and for you too.

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