Posts Tagged ‘Market research’

What Have You Learned This Year? Five Questions to Help You Improve Your Marketing in 2013

Monday, December 31st, 2012

There’s plenty of advice out there about trends for 2013 and how to plan for the coming year. But before you look forward, it’s a good idea to take stock of the year drawing to a close.

If you’re like me, some of what you tried for your business worked well this year; other strategies were less successful. But mistakes are as valuable as successes. Both provide opportunities to learn and do even better next time.

So here are five questions to ask yourself as you reflect on 2012 and plan ahead:

1. Who is your ideal client—and whom are you actually helping? Are your present clients meeting your expectations?

All too often, especially when you’re starting out and don’t want to turn anyone away, it’s easy to fall into the trap of accepting clients who soak up your time but want to pay the minimum. Not worth it, especially as you’re trying to build your business. Look over your client list and determine who’s worth your time and who isn’t. Then let the sponges go.

2. What was your most successful marketing strategy? What did you do right to gain more qualified clients?

Note the adjective: qualified. You want to focus on the outreach you did that brought you more of those you want to help, not just more inquiries or more people who aren’t your target market. As you evaluate your success, think in terms of return on investment—not simply money spent, but time, as well. How can you expand on this effort during the coming year to build on your success?

3. Which marketing efforts failed to bring you desired results? Why? What went wrong?

Remember, this isn’t about banging your head against the wall. You want to identify what was a waste of time and money, and why. Maybe your concept was good, but the execution failed. Or maybe your execution was perfect, but you misunderstood your ideal client and how she would respond. Analyze your effort to figure out how you missed your target, what’s worth refining and repeating, and what to avoid in 2013.

4. How has your understanding of your work evolved? Is that reflected in your marketing messaging? Do you need to make refinements?

The more clients you help, the more you develop and refine your sense of your own capabilities and what you do best. Take some time to pat yourself on the back, note down your strengths and the words your best clients have used to describe you and how you’ve improved their lives. Look over your web content and other marketing materials to assess whether your content accurately reflects the true nature of your work—from your ideal client’s point of view—and your true abilities. Then make any necessary refinements.

5. Of all the marketing initiatives you tried this year, which one did you enjoy the most? Why?

Chances are that the marketing you enjoyed the most, you did the best. Maybe you discovered a passion for blogging, or you love the challenge of maximizing ROI from a Google AdWords campaign. Perhaps you found that you have a skill for teaching through workshops or webinars. Or maybe you’ve met some of your best customers by shmoozing in professional networking meetings or by helping others through LinkedIn forums.

We all thrive when we’re playing to our strengths. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new approaches that push you out of your comfort zone, but it’s always a good idea to make the most of the strategies you really enjoy. Not only will you excel at what you love, but you’ll learn more about yourself and new directions for your business.

As we enter 2013, use what you’ve learned from this exercise to plan for an even better, more successful year of promoting your great work. Good luck and best wishes for a prosperous, fulfilling New Year!

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.

Keywords v. Brand: How to Choose Your Business URL for Best Search Results

Monday, June 25th, 2012

One of the first question’s I’m asked by clients who are building their first professional website is this:

Should I use myname.com, or a title for my business that includes relevant keywords (primarycaremd.com), or another title that’s my brand but may not have any keywords in it (coolbrandname.com)?

The answer: It all depends on name recognition and whether your brand is memorable. If you have equity in your name—say, you’re a lawyer or doctor with an established local practice and a great reputation—then it’s valuable to put your name in your website url, because people will search for you that way.

Alternatively, you can choose a title for your practice that’s easy to remember (and spell!), and include your name in your title tag (the phrase that shows up on a search engine result page, or SERP ) as well as a keyword-rich description of what you do.

Here’s a good explanation of how title tags work in search by Jill Whalen, CEO if High Rankings in Boston.

If you’re choosing between a keyword-rich domain and a brand domain that’s easy to recall, it’s a toss-up for search rankings—but a memorable brand in a crowded field of experts on the same topic, instead of a keyword-laden domain, probably works best.

Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam Team, explains in this short video:

A strong, memorable domain name and relevant keywords are critical for good search results. But remember—the most important element of effective search is excellent content in your site. And it’s much easier to figure out the right domain name and keywords after you’ve done the research to identify your target market and created client-centered content that speaks to their needs and concerns.

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!