Category: online

This may sound strange coming from a company that makes its revenue from digital marketing. But if you read every promo piece on the internet, you’d be led to believe that there is nothing but success with digital marketing. Perhaps you have found out the hard way that is not true.

Feel like you’re not getting your money’s worth?

Facebook ads, Google ads. Linkedin ads. Marketing automation. The list goes on. And which of them can be (and many actually are) fantastic? So why is it they don’t work for some companies?

The number one reason many companies fail is that they use these tools ad hoc without a comprehensive thought-out plan. That may sound simple enough but you would be amazed at how many companies skip this vital step. They just know what they want to sell, they think they know who they’re selling to and they set out to do some simple Facebook ads driving people to their website. That is a program for failure. What is someone supposed to do at the website? Websites by definition have a wide array of information. Where did you want the visitor to go and what did you want them to do? Chances are they will bounce out and that is wasted money because it is a wasted click and that’s how you pay for your ads. Your website must be optimized for your online marketing or better yet, you need a simple dedicated landing page.

One of my clients was spending $1000/month on Google ads and they had no idea if they were working or not. Sure they could track visits to their website but they had no way of knowing if that led to leads or sales or not. And worse, they had no follow up. And follow up is where the money is. Needless to say, we’re doing things differently today.

There is a litany of errors that are more common than we would like to believe. And there is a simple way to mitigate many errors and improve your chances of success. It starts with a well-planned strategy.

Another common mistake people make is assuming that people will buy on their first visit to your landing page or website. Most won’t. Chances are they’ve never heard of you before. But if you capture their email address you will begin to be able to nurture them through email advertising and/or remarketing. There is an art to email and remarketing and it is the art of not annoying the crap out of people so they unsubscribe from your list. You will get unsubscribers but as long as that is a marginal number it is nothing to worry about.

If you don’t feel you’re getting your money’s worth, start by reviewing your strategy. For a free Strategy Planning Guide, download mine here. It’s more than just a template, it’s a step-by-step guide explaining the importance of each step with instructions and examples. There is also an added free bonus for you on the strategy download page. It’s worth your while to look at it.

And here’s to your success.


Terry O’Reilly, of CBC’s Under the Influence, hosted a show with what could have been a very boring topic: The weather.

But when you link weather to marketing it gets down right fascinating.

There are some obvious weather marketing activities that have been going on for ages. When it starts to rain in New York City, somehow an army of street vendors instantly appear on every street corner selling umbrellas to those who either didn’t listen to the day’s forecast or chose to ignore it.

One less obvious example O’Reilly reported was for the crafts and hobby retailer, Michael’s. They knew that on rainy days, people prone to crafts were more likely to be engaged in their craft activity on that rainy day rather than on a sunny one. As a result, whenever it rained, Michael’s increased their media buy. It didn’t dramatically affect sales.  Then the light bulb went off in someone’s head: why not increase the media buy a couple of days ahead when there was a forecast of rain (or snow) to come? The result? A dramatic increase in sales. People got their supplies in anticipation of rainy weather rather than trying to get them and getting soaked at the same time.

Weather can affect much more than the sale of umbrellas or snow blowers. What is more powerful is not just the insights to buying habits based on weather but the speed of digital buys based on entities such as the Weather Network with its algorithms linked to media buying services and their algorithms.

Media buying and placement is now instantaneous, at least in the digital world. The advertising agency pulls the trigger at 2:02 PM and at 2:03PM their ad is turning up on someone’s Facebook feed. Or wherever.

Weather affects the sales of many products and businesses. An early, warm, bright sunny day in spring and it’s hard to find a parking spot in a nursery. During a thunderstorm with lightening bursts it’s hard to find a sane person on a golf course.

Weather predicting is one of the most complicated computing functions there is. If you think about conflicting air masses moving in three dimensional space with variables such as temperature, wind, humidity and air pressure and it’s not hard to understand why weather predictions aren’t always 100% accurate. Aviation weather forecasts are every six hours with special reports in between when there is a sudden change and pending hazards to flight. Long range forecasts? For the most part, pilots ignore them.

But weather reports are getting better and many marketers are benefiting from the speed of digital advertising and the accuracy of weather forecasts. If your business is impacted by weather it might be prudent to re-examine how and when you do a weather-related marketing push.

However, with the exception of meteorologists and some marketers, the weather can be an especially tedious conversation topic.

“It’s going to be a hot one today.”

“Sure is.”

It’s an understandable conversation topic because weather is often the only thing strangers have in common.

For the record, meteorologists do not hold a monopoly on weather forecasting. There was a beautiful pink sky this morning and that concerns me. Pink sky at night, a sailor’s delight. Pink sky in the morning and a sailor takes warning. Those high, wispy, pretty clouds (cirrus) you see? They point to good weather but are usually followed by bad weather in a day or two.  Wind from the east? A storm is on the way (in the northern hemisphere). The sky tells us a lot, yet I doubt I could convince advertisers to base media buying simply by staring up to the sky.

I recognize that the weather can be a very boring topic and this article certainly reflects that. My apologies.

But forecasts says the UV index will be high today so I think I’ll go down to the drug store and buy some sun screen.









My marketing company targets SMEs and I have never met one who wanted to stay the size they were. Without growth, you have stagnation. However, over and over again I have seen SMEs succeed only at making their brand or company confusing while trying to make it look bigger than it is.

The most evident example is these companies’ websites. So many are clock-a-block full of long copy pages and child pages (drop down pages under main pages). While creating these would have been a writer’s dream, they are quite the opposite for the viewer.

Don’t misunderstand me: I am all for resource-laden websites when it is relevant to someone’s business. I have created them myself. For example, Houseboat Holidays, a small client of mine in Gananoque. For them, it was prudent to offer up as much information about tourism in the 1000 Islands area because that, in theory, should keep visitors on the site instead of going elsewhere for information. A bounce rate of 13.78% suggests we were not wrong in our thinking. And that 2015 was their most successful year and this June is ahead of year-ago suggests our thinking and implementation is working.

But when I look at many SME sites, I see a hotchpotch of pages and pretty pixels. I see menu items with not much to offer. In one example, there was a menu item for “Partners” and clicking on it, I found that there were not ‘partners’ but ‘partner’. They only had one. And this is a page?

A department store will require a lot of pages and child pages. Most SME’s do not. And if you think about the amount of time you spend on websites, please justify a crowded menu with a litany of largely irrelevant pages.

In today’s world of parallax structure, the need for multiple pages and child pages is greatly reduced. Most, if not all, of the key information can be presented in a graphically appealing, easy to navigate, single page.

The irony is that a plethora of pages can make you look not big, but in fact, can signal small. And unsophisticated.

I often advise clients to look at Apple’s site. As of this writing, they had $215 billion in cash. They are not a small company. But look at their site. Clean, easy to navigate and not cluttered. Child pages are handled in such a way that the visitor does not get overwhelmed on navigational issues.

Another prime example of small trying to look big and failing is contact forms.

I have some critters in my wall so this morning (long before anyone was open for business) I sent an online ‘contact me for a quote’ form to a company in the pest control business.

At 3 o’clock in the afternoon I had still not heard from them. This is a simple fix. With ANY online submission there should be an automated response mechanism. This way, you can:

  1. Confirm the request was received
  2. Manage expectations
  3. Look capable

If you know it will take someone 24 hours to respond, tell the visitor that. Most just need to know that you are going to contact them. As for my pesky pest control people, I gave up waiting and tried to call. This is a large franchise business. And when I called, they had problems with their telephone lines and I got disconnected.

I then called a competitor.

If you have a franchise, you actually do belong to a large organization, even though you are small. But relying on Mother to look after all your marketing can be a mistake. Yes, you pay handsomely for these marketing services and while I do not wish to stir up that can of worms (I was the Creative Director on Midas in the US and completely understand franchise dynamics. “Nobody beats Midas. Nobody.” Until it comes to franchise pricing), there are affordable actions you can take to promote your business where Mother left off.

In today’s world, customer contact management is critical. That, more than a cluttered website, can make you look, if not big, at least respectable and reliable. And reliability is a benefit of ‘big’. Rightly or wrongly, we have a tendency to trust big companies. No wonder so many companies try to look bigger than they are. I confess: I do too. I am a global company. That’s because my default geek is, by day, a programmer for Skype in Estonia, my IT guy hales from Novi Sad (look it up), my go-to graphic designers are in Europe, my account partner is in Toronto and my back-end web technicians are in India. I usually get my music from London and I get my coffee at Starbucks. You get the picture.

Is my company big? No. Does it offer the capabilities of a large firm? Yes. And then some. We’re more agile, resourceful and accountable than our large competitors. You probably are, too.

Stop trying to look big. Put your energy into looking responsive. That way, who knows, you just might become big. Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. Thomas Watson. They were all once like you: running a small business that didn’t want to stay that way. And who designed Thomas Watson’s logo? A freelancer in Philadelphia. The logo remains today. Just google “IBM”.

by William Lower and Peter Hickey

B2B_Lead_Generation_2016Apparently, getting new business leads is easy. Google the topic and you will find 140,000,000 articles in less time than to took to read this sentence. I guess with this article there will be 140,000,001 responses.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Lead generation is challenging and only becomes more challenging if you set your sites on quality leads.

There are companies that specialize in lead generation. Ka-ching. There is a multitude of software products engineered to help you in your search for leads with a host of up-sell services to help you better/faster/smarter find those leads.

And then there is you.

Some of the tools you can implement yourself are things such as writing an informative eBook. You have the time for that, right? You can write a newsletter, a blog, produce a video, get more involved with Twitter, host a Webinar, get out and do some old-fashioned but effective networking, create a commercial and put it on YouTube, produce an infographic, get some media attention (formerly known as PR) and on and on we can go.

These are nothing more than examples of information distribution.

But before you begin to splash into information distribution, before you layout that newsletter, create that eBook, tweet or re-tweet that message you need to do something that is neither sexy nor easy.  You need a strategy and it’s a fool’s errand to start marketing or acting without one.

At the end of the day, lead generation is fundamentally simple: make sure you are saying/offering the right product/service to the right person/company and use the appropriate distribution channels to reach them. Digital information channels have not changed a core and necessary ingredient found in traditional media channels: Relevance.

But don’t take our word for it. Read the 140,000,000 articles out there promising to help in your quest for lead generation.

Then we should talk.

rabbit hole“The possibilities are endless.” Such are some company claims who provide online marketing ‘tools”. And if you have endless time to devote to harnessing these tools, you might get somewhere. Maybe. Depends on whose tools you buy into.

There is a formula for promoting online expertise. The usual one consists of posting articles with headlines such as “Five things you need to know to INSERT TOPIC HERE.” “The three best tools to help you INSERT FUNCTION HERE.”

You get the idea.

Don’t get me wrong. There are many companies out there providing relevant tools and expertise for those engaged in online marketing. I know. I use some. Not just for myself but for my clients as well.

Therein lies the challenge. Any marketer, including small businesses, can scour the internet looking to tap resources they don’t have and learn marketing tips from the experts.

Anyone can do it. You do not need a marketing agency, you may not even need a marketing or sales director. If you have the time to pursue and evaluate the resources available to you, you can save considerable money. That is, assuming that your time IS NOT money. That assumes your business runs so smoothly, you can put it on auto pilot while you wrestle the online marketing gorilla to the floor.

Many companies do not have that luxury. Their CEOs or Presidents have larger issues to attend to.  Such as growing their business.

The power of internet marketing gives you the ability to target right down to people who wear brown shoes versus those who wear black; to which way a person’s house faces, be it north, south,east or west and whether they are more or less prone to purchase online or off.

But the real power of the internet is captured when a company’s business goals and objectives are clearly defined and milestones for achievements are clearly marked on the internet road to success.

Almost every B2B business wants to generate leads. To do that, you need to capture emails. We can measure that. To legally get those emails you need to get the visitor to your site to opt in. We can easily measure that, too. Oops. Forgot. First we have to get people to the site in the first place. We can measure that, too. We can measure where they came from, where they went, how long they stayed on your site, whether they set sail to other sites after just visiting your landing page.

We can measure what people search for and if that search relates to our business, we can plant our ads when they visit other sites. There is so much we can measure. The rabbit hole of digital measurement has almost endless burrows.  The one with a dead end sign is the one labelled “Why?”

‘Why’ is one of the most potent questions in any strategic exercise including choosing online tools to help marketing efforts

I love online marketing because of its precision, predictability and accountability. I am an ad guy. I get my kicks from helping clients gain market share, grow awareness or change behaviour. And I love what online communications can do to help me do my job. That’s why most of my work now is online. What I don’t like is seeing intelligent management being lured through the digital looking glass and down the rabbit hole. 

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