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

SEO is free | The truth about Search Engine Optimization (Part 2)

August 23rd, 2006

The systemMy introductory post on the truth about Search Engine Optimization was an indulgence in drama that hopefully got the point across that search engine optimization is not about beating the system just to show up in the top of someone’s search list. The temptation to focus on the means instead of the end is always there and while it can yield some immediate, apparently beneficial gains, in the long run it depreciates the value a site offers to it target visitors. When developing and implementing an SEO strategy, do pay attention to the details but don’t focus on them.

Remember that the ultimate determination of your site showing up on the short list of search engines is when it proves to the world that it offers consistent valuable content that is relevant to your target audience.

It’s a lot like a sales person who doesn’t pay attention to the details of how they dress when they call on customers…they put themselves at a disadvantage for sure, but if their technical knowledge, customer service, and
closing ability are honed, they’ll be successful anyway. Web sites are much the same. It helps to be dressed for the occasion of attracting attention, but you’ve got to have the goods to back it up.

It should be no surprise that some of the best council on search engine optimization comes from those who write the SEO rules, or a good portion of them at least—Google.  Google provides two pages of guidelines for building a web site that will best suited to be indexed and highly ranked.  If you’ve not visited these pages, they are a must for anyone who contributes to the management of a website:

Out of all the content on these two pages, the most important is in this short sentence: “Make pages for users, not for search engines.”

Suomi Finland and Nokia – A Benchmark for European Blogging

August 21st, 2006

As I was visiting some relatives in Finland last month, I noticed that very few Nordic Web sites had incorporated blogging and New Media features at a corporate level. Blogging and podcasting have already become commonplace amongst the general population in Finland, as it has in the United States, however there is a glaring gap between most corporate Web sites and available New Media technology.

Something inherent about the Finnish society is that people adapt to technology very quickly. In fact, it is a country where you find youth text messaging live television talk show hosts from their mobile/cell phones although they’re being charged to do so. Finns, and I’m supposing other Europeans, would most likely embrace companies or organizations that would open up the level of transparency in regards to products, services, and community. For instance, Nokia is Finland’s most influential consumer brand, of which people proudly show off their new model phones amongst friends and family, along the same level as a car, home, or other status symbols. So as to exploit and enhance this brand power, I could certainly envision Nokia providing an interactive community where its customers could go online to chat about new product features, designs, like and dislikes, desires for future technology and so forth. Not only would this create further intimacy amongst Nokia’s customer base, but also it would enhance customer evangelism while at the same time providing in-depth and basically free unsolicited market research. Plus, Nokia has already experimented with the blogosphere by sending bloggers new phone models and had phenomenal response; why shouldn’t Nokia then take blogging to the next level and engage their customers? Nokia also has a few non-employed enthusiasts blogging about their products, the next step would be to envelop this community within the Nokia.com sphere to help shape the content and engage in the discussion.

So as to prove this isn’t a Nokia centric blog, Fazer, Finnair, Hesburger, and Stockmann are four other Finnish companies that come to mind that could leverage new media technology and customer evangelism. In fact, no matter the firm or industry, the main ingredient for success is to identify a loyal customer base and empower enthusiastic individuals with tools like blogs and customer reviews so as to become a participative marketing and sales extension for little to no cost. Although this may appear somewhat iffy in terms of ethics, the truth is that most customer evangelists don’t want to be bought, they’ll proactively solicit the virtues of a company’s products and services simply because they feel an inherent personal emotional identification around the brand. In other words, the brand becomes a reflection on their personality.

In conclusion, I’d like to reiterate the old mantra to those of you who haven’t heard it before … great brands create consumer evangelists by empowering their customers to be a strategic marketing force. Companies that have succeeded, such as Apple Computers, Under Armour, and Southwest Airlines, know what makes their customers tick. If you’re a marketer reading this blog, I highly encourage you to check out some articles under Google keyword search using “Customer Evangelism.” One article in particular that I would recommend is the “Customer Evangelism Manifesto” by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba; it has honestly revolutionized our corporate drive at RisingLine New Media Marketing. Anyway, I hope this blog provided some helpful information. Please feel free to provide feedback or ask questions.

Fiskars: Cutting-Edge Customer Evangelism

August 2nd, 2006

I recently became aware of the inspiring story of Fiskars, you know, the company that makes the orange handled scissors.  When started learning about Fiskars I thought, “What marketing insight could be gleaned from a company that makes such a boring commodity?” I was soon to learn that it’s the commonness of their product that makes the Fiskars story so inspiring.

Imagine being handed the job as the marketing director for Fiskars–a successful international corporation with a legacy dating from 1649. You’ve been given the world wide marketing responsibility for….long pause….scissors.

I’m sure it’s out there, but I can’t imagine a product that would be more dull (not literally of course) and more resigned to the classification of “commodity pumped out of China for a few cents each.”

Just for fun, here’s part of the provocative description of scissors from Wikipedia:

Scissors are a tool used for cutting thin material which requires little force. They are used for cutting, for example, paper, cardboard, metal foil, thin plastic, food, cloth, rope and wire. They are also used for cutting hair and nails.

So, given this bleak scenario what has Fiskars done? They’ve taken one of the toughest products imaginable and perfected the basic essences of marketing by:

  • Identifying the real need behind why their customers buy their product.
  • Branding themselves around those needs (not around their product).
  • Creating strong emotional bonds with their customers.
  • Creating an online community offering real extended value.
  • Embracing Customer Evangelism Marketing.

It’s not necessary for me to explain Fiskars’ near-perfect emotional branding, they’ve done such a great job it’s apparent just by visiting their website.

The story of Fiskars can be a big downer too. When I absorb the marketing masterpiece they’ve created out of such a ubiquitous product, it takes away all excuses for why any other product would be difficult to successfully differentiate. Almost anything, compared to scissors, would be better positioned to achieve marketing success. If you’ve been using that type of excuse, just imagine what the marketing leadership of Fiskars would do if they were at your company selling your product.

Fiskars deserves high honor for their leadership in quality consumer evangelism marketing, and for the inspiration they provide to the rest of us.

Politics and Blogging

August 1st, 2006

As RisingLine continues help the blogosphere grow in acceptance with mainstream organizations, such as corporations and government institutions, I began pondering why our elected officials are not taking advantage of blogging technology. For instance, since elected representatives are typically engaging in dialog with their constituents from a reactive perspective, why not make it proactive? I am familiar with this segment because I used to work in a United States Senator’s office as an intern and I was responsible for fielding inquiries from the public. I quickly learned that most inbound communication to our office was in the form of complaints or grievances against the government or our representative.

That being said, I believe blogging presents a great opportunity for our elected officials since transparency in politics is becoming a huge issue. Statistics from most polling organizations reveal the public at large does not trust the government. In fact, many voters view professional politicians as crooked, greedy, or disengaged – although this might not always be the case, perceptions are critical in politics.

Bringing this back to New Media, blogs are a way for elected representatives, or their staff, to actively engage with constituents via a transparent media. Although there may be fear in opening up a Pandora’s box filled with disinformation, the content within a blog can certainly be contained within a set of content and technological parameters. For instance, should disingenuous visitors post false information or lewd content, the false information can be quickly responded to by either another constituent, or a staffer, and lewd content can be deleted by a site administrator. Plus, with internal prompts, RSS, and XML technology, representatives and staffers can easily keep on top of what is being posted on their blog site.

Finally, from a personal perspective, I would sincerely appreciate the opportunity to respond to and dialog with my elected official to let them know my opinions on issues that they have commented or voted on – such as abortion, taxation, property rights, education, government spending, foreign affairs, etc. I certainly don’t believe that I’m alone in this opinion, since most people I chat with about politics feel the same way. Also, if you’re an elected official or a staffer who is reading this blog, I encourage you to perform a Google search on political blogs to view the energy out there amongst those who desire more transparency in government.

It’s no secret that one of the primary reasons for low voter turnout in the United States is that voters, especially younger voters, feel no connection with their representatives or candidates. Yet these people are voicing their frustrations and concerns online through blogs. I’d like to point out that the conversations about elected officials and politics are already taking place, blogging will afford elected officals the opportunity to participate if they’re willing. For a great example of an elected official utilizing blog technology, I invite you to visit the Anthony A. Williams’ blog. It might be an eye opener.

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