Think like a customer – developing customer persona’s for online messaging.

A customer or buyer persona is a detailed profile that represents the real target – an exploration of the target buyer that goes beyond simple demographics – persona’s are representations of your target audience based on research and interviews. Imagine how effective we could be if we all stop making stuff up and start aligning our messages and programs with the way real people think.
The first step in improving website or online marketing performance is to understand the needs and areas of interest of your target audience. This may sound obvious, but most Websites are inwardly focused on product and service features (you) instead of engaging interested visitors around their issues.
Can you answer these questions:

  1. Who are your buyers; what do they care about; what are their issues?
  2. What are some of their goals or problems that your products and services can help resolve?
  3. How have your existing clients solved similar problems?

The first step is to conduct interviews with target customers so that you understand their issues, what they read and how they make decisions and what’s important to them?  It is important to also talk to people that don’t or didn’t buy your service…often powerful insight to be gained from people who chose not to buy your products.  It is a good idea to ad some research based on the initial finding to help at quantitative data into the mix. When we truly understand the needs of the target audience, we are in much stronger position to engage the customer in conversations about their issues, which in turn enables us to differentiate the company or products in the mind of the buyer.  I’ve attached an edited down version of a  Buyer Persona example for an eBay User product.
Focusing your online marketing strategy and efforts by creating “buyer-relevant messaging” to elevate the effectiveness of your efforts.

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Online marketing and sales are a lot like dating.

You have to say the right things, call back at the right time, and then when you finally meet, try not to get broccoli stuck in your teeth. And if things don’t go well, you have the heartache of rejection…or in this case, the pain of a losing.

The key is to look at what you can do to generate suspects, develop  relationships with prospects, convert leads, create loyal customers, and increase lifetime value.

So lets start by looking at your marketing practices:

  • Are the attributes of the ideal customer identified?
  • Do you tailor your messages? It doesn’t work to well in the dating world (Hey babe, what’s your sign?), why would it work on customers?
  • Do you know what the “real” length of your sales cycle is?
  • Have you identified customer touch points and related messaging. Do you have a follow up process?
  • Are you neglecting your existing customers?

Thinking through these questions can really help you focus developing a good relationship. A good online relationship is a process not an event. Progress is measured in touch points and reasons to connect, just like a successful relationship.

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BEM Part 2: Designing your website for optimization

If your website is like most, it probably began as a mock-up from your design team, with elements like navigation and visual elements. Content is created after the fact and dictated by the design of the site and is less than remarkable (topic for another day). Someone in the company comes up with keywords and descriptive tags that are stuck on top of the pages code and we are surprised when it doesn’t work. Here are two things to think about:

1) While the list of keywords in your Meta Tags were once a key element to optimization, it is now more important to be sure each page includes your keyword, or keyword phrases, up to three times within the page content itself (or at least 3-10% page density). But that it is also readable. Search engines will check for keywords near the top of a web page, such as in the headline or in the first few paragraphs of text of that page. They assume that any page relevant to the topic will mention those words right at the outset. But you also need to consider the viewer also.

This means you need to do keywords or phrases first….

2) I also believe that most companies need to focus on organic searches and a few keyword phrases per page. Most keywords are company-centric rather than relevant to the customer’s needs and terms they would search on. Studies indicate that people click on organic links 75% of the time and PPC (pay per click – the ad words on the side or top) 25% of the time. Since ranking is based on relevance of search terms both more focused phrases and thoughtful integration into site copy will greatly improve your results. I have seen lists of keywords that contain generic words like food, store, job, cat, or plant…I am not sure about you but that’s not how I search.

Also links in and out are important to increase visibility and that everyone can’t be number one. But being relevant, remarkable, and readable can greatly increase you chances of connecting with the right folks. I am including an Many Hats’ Optimization Checklist that you might find helpful.

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Beginning with the End in Mind: Designing your website so it works for you.

We all know the importance of setting objectives and selecting appropriate strategies. Why then do so many smart managers skip this step when they want to update or replace a website? Maybe it’s the lure of the cheap website design firms who make website design seem so fast and easy  — who bothers with a strategy when you only pay $499 for the site design?

Whatever the reason, skipping over the website strategy step is sure to result in an inferior or lower performing website no matter how much you pay for it. So, don’t do it, yet.  In today’s online world your website may be your most important marketing investment.  Take a little bit of time upfront and figure out what you really want and need.  Then build the right website for your business.

There are many more questions you can ask and answer when creating your website strategy. The ones are included here should be considered a good starting point. Please don’t skip this step. You still might be able to get the site done on the cheap, but the performance will be better and you’ll be glad you took the time.

Click to download MHM’s 25 Questions Website Design

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Starting slowly makes sense for business social marketing

Everyone talks about how traditional advertising isn’t effective anymore. Oh good ads still work, but those are few and far between.  Most just seem to be shouting for attention.  As you watch the “best of the best” or ads from companies that don’t mind wasting money on the SuperBowl keep a record of those you thought were good and those you thought were bad,  but also indicate whether you would purchase or use or consume that product.  I don’t purchase or drink Budweiser but I do enjoy their ads.  So they have high brand recognition but if nobody purchases/consumes/uses or experiences a product is it really a brand?  ….but that’s another post.

So as I talk with small business owners, many of whom don’t currently have a website I always mention that this is a new marketing environment.  It’s more like the experience people had in your store, it’s just online.   It’s not about “pushing” your message, but “pulling” in or “engaging” with your customers. Today customers that visit your website, Facebook page or blog are actively looking for something: information, insights or solutions to their problems.  Ask yourself if you understand exactly what your customers need to know and that you can deliver it to them in a relevant and compelling way. And are you willing to participate.  This is no longer a passive activity.

I am a toe in the water kind of gal.  I suggest they spend a little time thinking about a content strategy for their online marketing plan.  Do they have the time or resources to become actively involved.  It is about a conversation rather than a monologue.

I suggest that they think about what their customers that want or need…what they have that can help them….how can they package what they have and how can they make it attractive to their customer. I suggest that starting small, do what makes sense, that they can keep current and what will be beneficial to their customer.

Then measure where you can.  Adjust. Publish.  Measure. Adjust. Publish frequently and regularly.

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