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design & marketing blog

Marketing, design, and technical resources for making your digital and print communications more effective.

How long do you want to be in business?

August 14th, 2012

How many business leaders plan on sacrificing so much of their life for a business that sticks around for a decade or two? Assuming the answer to this rhetorical question to be “few if any,” then another question is begged: Why is the shelf life of most companies so short?

The best place to look is on the opposite end of the spectrum, to those companies who have created a legacy. I’ve been fascinated by this topic especially since recently becoming an adoring fan of Fiskars, a company founded in 1649 and on the cutting edge today of customer evangelism marketing utilizing social media.

Weihenstephan Brewery

Founded 1040

So maybe a better question to ask is, “Why  are old companies are still around?” Starting with the extreme relics like Kongo Gumi, (the Japanese construction company who was in continual operation from the year 578 until January of 2006) there is a treasure of insight available that we can directly apply to the business environment today. I’m no business history expert, but I am smart enough to deduce that most of these companies are going to be found very strong in two important suits: 1)Exploiting environmental change, and 2)Exemplifying the marketing concept.  Inversely we can deduce that most companies, the ones with short shelf lives, are probably vulnerable to environmental change and don’t adequately embrace the marketing concept.

Here’s what makes this topic so provocative todayas you may be aware we’ve just stepped into a period of radical revolution that will be destroying the status quo of how business interacts with society through social media and  mobile devices.

So what’s the average business to do? Fight the trend?  Stick to the old ways that have worked (or at least kept one’s head above water) and hope it all goes away? It all depends on how you answered the question of “How long do you want to be in business?”  My brash prediction is that companies, large and small, who do not undergo an extreme
makeover and embrace the paradigm shifts of customer facing social media and mobile marketing platforms will cease to exist, sooner or later within the 21st century. For context to my position please see our perfect storm analogy.

As we continue to progress this new era, it’s a prudent tactic to take some time and study those organizations that have weathered and prospered from these storms of change time and time againa truly fascinating  and timely study.  Here’s a list of the world’s oldest companies for those interested.

The “Secrets” of SEO

May 23rd, 2012

I get a kick out of all the spam I receive from those claiming to be SEO experts saying they have the secret to make your site jump to the top of Google and generate untold thousands of new customers.

The question that begs asking is if these jokers are really so good at SEO, why then are they then spamming you?  Shouldn’t they be overwhelmed with all the search engine traffic they’ve generated form themselves?

The truth is, there is no “secret” to SEO, there are no special or secret tactics you’ll want to employ on your site (in fact, such tactics can actually get you in trouble with Google).

While there is no secret knowledge or esoteric coding skills required to achieve success, long-term SEO takes a lot of thoughtful work and dedication to achieve.

Here are the basics of how to do that:

  1. Focus on developing a site that offers consistent valuable content that is relevant for your target audience.
  2. Make pages for users, not for search engines.
  3. Use Google’s keyword tool to carefully research the keywords you should optimize your site for and make sure they’re included naturally within the content. Don’t forget to include “long tail” SEO terms in the appropriate information level of your site. For example instead of saying you sell “widgets” include more information about the specific widget you sell, such as “blue X100 Widgets”.
  4. Implement on-site search engine optimization by ensuring your chosen keywords are included in the appropriate densities within your site, within certain code tags, and that your site code is valid and fully indexable by Google.
  5. Develop a blog and social media publishing routing and offer practical “how to” content related to those keywords that appeals to your target audience. People (and search engines) aren’t interested in your sales pitches.
  6. Understand and initiate a plan for developing your off-site search engine optimization. In essence, this is establishing hyperlinks back to your site from other sites that are as high of quality as possible and related to your keywords. This is ultimately the most important part of your SEO process and not coincidentally, also the hardest.

For a more in depth version of this list, see our main Search Engine Optimization page.

The Customer Evangelism Manifesto | Review

April 11th, 2012

This article will change your life as a business person. It’s a radical departure from the “conventional wisdom” of advertising and promotion, but like many great movements, its strength lies its simplicity and focus on core values. Customer Evangelism is the pure essence of marketing again. Remember, the definition of marketing that that we read in the first week of marketing 101? Something to the effect that marketing is defined as discovering and meeting the needs of your customers? It seems to have been promptly forgotten or defiled by many executives, product managers, and advertising firms upon graduation from business school. Customer Evangelism is a popular uprising that has the potential to bring marketing back to reality.

“The Customer Evangelism Manifesto” by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba takes us to the core essence of marketing and beyond. It’s about providing the highest quality solution and then providing even more to a special class of customer: the encouragement and empowerment to become an active advocate, or evangelist, and a de facto member of your organization. It’s a charter to breed a special kind of super customer who not only purchases from you regularly, but feels compelled to tell others.

There is so much gold in this article, you’ve just got to read it, print it, share it, and forward it. If 50% of the businesses in the U.S. today were focused on creating customer evangelists our society would be radically changed for the better. (See how persuasive a customer evangelist appeal can be? How motivated would you be to read their article if you saw “Customer Evangelism Manifesto” advertised in a magazine?)

Here’s just a teaser to get you started: some clues to how a customer evangelist behaves:

  • They passionately recommend your company to friends, neighbors and colleagues.
  • They believe in the company and its people.
  • They purchase your product as gifts.
  • They provide unsolicited praise and suggestions.
  • They forgive occasional dips in performance or quality.
  • They do not want to be bought; they extol your virtues freely.
  • They feel part of something bigger than themselves.

LinkRead or download the Customer Evangelism Manifesto

A Great Lesson in Communication

March 13th, 2012

This presentation from Colin Robertson at TED is one of the best demonstrations of concise and effective communication that I’ve ever seen.   It has great object lessons that can be applied to Web design and marketing communication in general.

Here are the main takeaways I got from the presentation:

  • He uses very few words, but the words he does use are the key messages of his presentation. So much of Web and print design would be much more effective with fewer but better chosen words.
  • It’s out of the ordinary (way out of the ordinary) and creates a unique memorable experience. How long will you remember this presentation?  How long would you have remembered it if he would of taken up the three minutes talking?
  • The nonverbal communication which comprised 99% of the message is “quality” in the sense that it’s professionally orchestrated. The effect would not of been nearly as powerful or long lasting if that level of effort wasn’t put into the production.  It’s the cumulative effect of many small details being done correctly. Same applies to Web design, overall quality is achieved by paying attention to many details which result in the cumulative effect of providing credibility to the message.
  • I think this is a very important point–a significant portion of the content was provided with collaboration from the audience.

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