Archive for the ‘Market Research’ Category

Why TV Ads May Not Win Elections, After All

Monday, September 24th, 2012

If you’re able to stomach the hype, dueling punditry and horserace journalism of this year’s bitter presidential campaign, you probably know by now that the Romney campaign has raised millions more than Obama’s, largely through secret private donations to Super PACs. Both campaigns are flooding TV markets in battleground states with commercials; by Election Day on November 6, the contenders will have spent an estimated $1.1 billion on TV ads.

That in itself is a sobering thought (how much of the national debt could have been retired with that money?). But according to James Suroweicki’s financial column in this week’s New Yorker magazine, all that money for all those ads may be an even bigger waste of resources when you consider how campaigns are actually won.

Step One: Target Your Message to Voters You’re Most Likely to Win Over
Citing Sasha Issenberg’s new book, The Victory Lab, Suroweicki explains how sophisticated political campaigns have adopted corporate marketing strategies of micro-targeting their messages to each segment of voters. Focusing on voters who are still undecided or who favor their candidate but need that extra push, campaigns tailor messaging according to detailed demographics, including shopping tastes, voting history and media preferences.

If that approach sounds familiar, it should. Political campaigns are only following best practices for strategic messaging—know your ideal client, understand her issues and explain how you can help solve her problems or help meet her challenges.

Of course, delivering the right message to the right audience segment isn’t enough. You have to follow through on your promises, which, in politics, is not always a guarantee.

Step Two: Persuade Your Won-over Voters in Person to Get Out and Vote
But of greatest importance during the run-up to the election is this: Even if you persuade the right market segment of voters with your expensive, targeted TV commercials and direct mail to vote for your candidate, it doesn’t mean squat unless the people you convince actually get out and vote.

And here, Suroweicki points out, political science researchers have demonstrated that good old fashioned human contact works best. Forget those robo-phone calls with recorded political VIPs urging you to go to the polls (not to mention the pure annoyance factor). Personal calls by real campaign workers and door-to-door stumping, when strategically targeted, are the most effective ways to get your won-over voters to vote.

Which brings us to a common-sense conclusion—market research is essential, targeted messaging is good strategy, but nothing beats the personal touch of one person speaking honestly to another about why your candidate or product or service is worth her time, effort and resources.

And above all, of course, your marketing efforts should promote something or someone of true substance that lives up to your message. Imagine if that were always the case in politics.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Getting Unstuck: What to Do When You Have a Great Website but Nobody’s Buying

Monday, August 13th, 2012

You have a great website for your product or service, but for some reason, nobody’s buying. Potential clients find you online, and you can tell from your web analytics that they’re reading into your site. But not clicking on your call-to-action. What gives?

Before you change any aspect of your marketing message, and especially before you lower your pricing—the obvious target if you’re nervous about customers and cash flow—it’s well worth your time to find out the actual points of resistance.

Research to Discover Points of Resistance
If you’ve been able to capture emails through free downloads of quality content or  subscriptions to your blog or e-newsletter, you can create a survey through tools like Survey Monkey and query your potential client base. How do they make decisions about purchasing a product or service like yours? How much are they willing to spend? What are the key factors they require? What are the deal-breakers?

In addition, or as an alternative if you don’t have a qualified list, attend a networking meeting of people who fit the profile of your potential clients and see what you can learn in conversations (yes, in person!) about their decision process. Your best research prospects are people who show some interest, then back off. Without getting defensive or pressuring, try to draw them out about what may not be working for them.

A third research tactic is to use social media to network with practitioners in your field and find out what points of resistance they experience. LinkedIn, for example, has discussion groups for just about any professional field, and if you don’t find what you need, you can create a group. Fellow professionals, especially beyond your geographic region, are often more than willing to share their experiences and struggles with building a client base.

Anticipate and Address Purchaser Concerns in Your Web Copy
What you discover may surprise you. Price may not be the issue at all. Time can be a key factor, for example. If your product or service appears to demand more time than potential clients have to spare, they’ll search elsewhere. Complexity can be another stumbling block—if the mechanics of your work are too difficult to understand or the benefits too hard to decipher, you’ll lose customers, as well.

Once you’ve determined the true points of resistance, then it’s time to figure out the solution. If you have to rework your product or suffer from lousy customer service, you have a bigger project on your hands. But often it’s just a matter of anticipating and addressing customer purchasing concerns in your web copy. The trick is to answer the concern without raising it directly.

For example, if implementation time is an issue, feature the five easy steps to using your product or how your service saves time in other key aspects of your client’s life. If complexity is a concern, promote your 24/7 help line. And if price is the real stumbling block, but you know your pricing is accurate, then detail all of the true benefits that make your product or service worth the investment.

It all comes down to understanding your ideal client, the steps she goes through in making a purchasing decision and the deal-killers in her mind. As with all good writing, stage your content in a logical sequence that anticipates and answers your reader’s questions. You’ll establish your expertise, build trust in your understanding of your client’s needs and improve your chances of making that sale.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

10 Things You Should Know About Your Ideal Client

Monday, July 9th, 2012

To have an effective marketing strategy, you need to know whom you’re selling to. That seems pretty obvious, but it’s a step all too often missed when we have a product or service we think is really great and put all our effort into talking it up, rather than communicating from the point of view of those we hope to attract.

For a website to work, you need content that solves a problem or answers a pressing question for your ideal client. It’s all about providing useful information that she’s already seeking.

To Understand Your Ideal Client, Get Inside Her Head
So, how do you know what your ideal client wants? Even before doing surveys, focus groups or other research, the first step is to get a clear handle on whom you want to sell to. Here are 10 basic questions (and related details) to ask yourself about your ideal client. You can draw on what you know of your existing client base or imagine whom you’d really like to attract to your business.

Some of these may require you to stretch your imagination, but if you work through this exercise, you’ll have a much better sense of the kind of person you’re actually trying to reach:

  1. How old is your ideal client? What gender? Ethnicity? (For the sake of simplicity, I’m using female pronouns here.)
  2. Is she employed? What’s her annual income?
  3. What’s the highest level of education she’s completed?
  4. What’s her relationship status?
  5. Does she have children? How old? What kind of school do they attend?
  6. What’s her life style? Does she walk, drive or use public transit to get around? If she drives, what kind of car? What kind of home and community does she live in? Where does she buy her clothes? What community organizations doe she volunteer for, if any? What does she do for a vacation? Is she involved in a religious community? Politics?
  7. What does she do for fun?
  8. What’s her news source? What books and magazines does she read? What blogs does she follow?
  9. Is she active on Facebook? Twitter? Other social media? Or does she find the idea of social networking online a waste of time, intimidating or an invasion of privacy?
  10. What wakes her up in the middle of the night? What’s the biggest challenge she’s facing right now?

Your answers will help you to develop an avatar of your ideal client. You can even go so far as to give her a name and find a picture in a magazine that fits her description, to help you visualize.

Keep this profile front and center in your mind whenever you’re developing a new marketing strategy or writing new content for your website or blog. If you can really get inside your ideal client’s head, you’ll better understand her motivations, what’s driving her to seek out your help through your business—and how you can better provide the solutions she needs.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Boost Your Website’s Search with Branded URLs

Monday, June 18th, 2012

An easy way to increase the chances that your website will be found is to brand each page’s URL—the address line that shows up when you click on that page—with keywords relevant to your business.

It’s a step that often gets missed, because web content management systems (CMS) generate URLs automatically, based on the title for each page. With some systems, when you click on a page within the site, you’ll see your website url followed by a slash and a series of numbers, letters and symbols in the address line; in other systems, you’ll typically see your url followed by the title of the page, say “About,” like this: www.yourwebsite.com/about.

But you can make your page urls work harder for you by customizing those addresses to boost search. For example, let’s say you’re a CPA who specializes in tax returns for small businesses. You’ve done some basic keyword research using Google’s free keyword tool and learned a few interesting facts:

Identify Relevant Keywords with Robust Search
The phrase you think people search on, “small business tax accountant,” has a lot of AdWords competition (which means that a lot of CPAs are buying Google ads using that phrase because they think it’s relevant), but surprisingly little actual search—about 390 searches in the U.S. per month!

As you look down the list of related keywords, however, you notice that “accounting for small business” has 40,500 searches nationwide per month. (It’s also a competitive phrase for AdWords, but you don’t need to worry about that for branding your URLs.) And you see that “cpa tax accountant” gets some decent search. You also discover that “small business tax” gets good search, about 33,100 searches nationwide each month, as does “tax savings.”

Integrate Your Best Search Phrases into Your Page Addresses
So, now it’s time to put those phrases to work for your website. Let’s assume your business is called Acme Accounting, so your url is acmeaccounting.com, and you have four basic pages for your website: homepage, about (your bio/credentials), professional services and contact. You want to include your name, Jane Doe, in your branding, because people may search for you by name instead of your business monicker. You also want to include your geographic location, because many people search for local services. For this example, let’s use Worcester, Massachusetts.

Here’s how I would set up the URLs, using the best keywords we’ve identified, above:

  • Homepage: www.acmeaccounting.com
  • About: www.acmeaccounting.com/about-jane-doe-cpa-tax-accountant-worcester-massachusetts
  • Professional Services: www.acmeaccounting.com/jane-doe-cpa-accounting-for-small-businesses-central-massachusetts
  • Contact: www.acmeaccounting.com/contact-jane-doe-cpa-small-business-tax-savings

You can have your web developer customize your URLs for you, or, if you have a user-friendly CMS like WordPress, you can easily set up these branded addresses yourself. In the user interface for each page, you’ll see a line below the page’s title called “Permalink.” Click on the Edit button, and you’ll be able to add your custom url extension for your page.

As you can see, your page addresses are now working much harder for search phrases relevant to your business. In addition, never take search phrases for granted: always check a keyword tool to see how your target audience looks for your line of work. The results, as noted above, are often surprising and always helpful for sharpening your marketing strategy.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

 

The Dale Carnegie Guide to Winning Web Content

Monday, January 9th, 2012

In 1936, Dale Carnegie—a successful Midwestern bacon salesman, failed actor and popular lecturer on public speaking—published How to Win Friends and Influence People. The book, based on Carnegie’s experience in sales and adult education, went through 17 printings in its first year and has since sold more than 15 million copies worldwide.

With good reason. Carnegie’s insightful advice goes to the heart of building quality relationships, and holds as true today as it did just over 75 years ago. What fascinates me is how well his guidelines apply to creating excellent web content.

For starters, Carnegie’s writing style is personal, thoughtful and engaging—a great example of content that draws you in with intriguing, easily skimmed headlines and solid advice.

He understood his target audience and never spoke down, but offered practical, time-tested ways to build a following that easily translate to internet marketing.

Here, for example, are Carnegie’s “Six ways to make people like you”:

1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
This is another way of saying love your market. If you don’t love the people you hope to serve and really care to know everything about them, you’re in the wrong business.

2. Smile.
Maintain a positive, engaging tone in your web content. Your goal is to help, explain, teach and encourage your ideal client to solve her problems, and, in the process, demonstrate how you can be of assistance.

3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
Give outstanding, personal service to your clients. All the rest is commentary.

4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
There’s no other way to develop a clear understanding of your ideal clients’ needs and problems than to spend time listening. A sure-fire way to create a website that bombs is to do the opposite—talk all about your great product or service without bothering to find out what your market wants.

5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
This is the essence of solid web content. Write with your ideal client clearly in mind. What is the problem she’s trying to solve? What are her values? What are her favorite pass-times? What keeps her up at night?

6. Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.
If you’re faking it, because you don’t really care or you don’t really respect your customers, they’ll know. This goes back to the first point: pick a market that you genuinely care about. Write from the heart about what you do and how you can help. Be sincere in your work. Your customers will thank you.

If you’ve never read Carnegie, his advice is well worth your time. And if you have, give the book a second look. While it’s easy to get distracted by all of the new and ever-evolving tools for websites and social media, the basics of good communication and relationship building—what Carnegie describes so well—never really change.

 

Some of the Best, Free Market Research I’ve Found Anywhere

Monday, December 12th, 2011

I’ll admit it. I’m a research wonk. I love finding great resources for thorough, thoughtful research on all kinds of topics, but especially social trends—current and historic.

If you want to understand your market, and you don’t have deep pockets for your own research, and—not to knock the value and immediacy of surveying your “tribe” on Facebook or Twitter, because they are a great, free source of feedback—you want more in-depth, balanced insight into the factors affecting your marketing decisions, here’s a terrific free resource to investigate:

Pew Research Center: Social & Demographic Trends
Staffed by veteran journalists and researchers, this nonpartisan “fact tank,” an independent subsidiary of the Pew Charitable Trusts, offers reports and data analysis on a wide range of social and demographic trends.

Current reports explore topics as varied as the impact of the Recession on U.S. birth rates (more women are postponing pregnancy until the economy brightens), the growing wealth gap between seniors and adults under 35 (seniors are more prosperous than their counterparts 25 years ago, while younger adults are doing worse), and how military injuries impact veterans as they try to adjust to civilian life (physical and emotional consequences of serious war wounds last a lifetime for many).

The Pew Social and Demographic Trends website also includes a comprehensive series on how the Recession has affected spending and borrowing patterns among Americans of all economic and ethnic backgrounds, a close look at the Millennial Generation (teens and twenties), and a series about social shifts over the past 50 years away from marriage toward new family forms.

Any one of those trends suggest a wealth of possibilities for developing new market niches to serve an emerging client base. The research is readable, insightful and balanced. Well worth a couple of hours of reading, whether you’re searching for specific information on a subject relevant to your existing market, or looking for inspiration for a new opportunity. Happy hunting!