August Insights for September 2015

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Landing pages; Flash is dead (but is it haunting your web presence?); A data geek’s guide to fantasy football.

Summer’s coming to an end. I hope yours has been a good one.

This month’s August Insights focuses on the practical – two topics that are applicable to many (if not all) businesses, and one that may help you crush everyone in your fantasy football league. First, landing pages are often underutilized, or built to fail. I’ll discuss their use, and share a checklist for landing page success. Second, Adobe Flash is dead. However, it’s still haunting the web – perhaps your web site – and it’s our job to finish it off once and for all. Finally, there’s a site that might help you make more informed choices about your fantasy football lineup.

Cheers,
Ian Joyce
Principal, August Communication Consultants
@augcomm

Landing Pages

Web landing pages are first and foremost, transactional. They might sell a specific product, solicit information from prospects, or assist customers with registering for services or an event. In each case, they prompt a specific action that is often referred to as a conversion.

Landing pages are destinations for links from pay per click (PPC) campaigns, emails, and other channels. Done right, they provide a seamless user experience across channels, focus users’ attention on a specific call to action, and provide enough information to support a decision. They tend to be used for limited duration campaigns, and may or may not be considered part of a “main” web site.

Content management systems support the easy creation of landing pages. But before building landing pages it’s important to consider these questions:

Who are you trying to reach? If you have a single audience, one landing page might make sense. If you are trying to convert disparate audiences, consider building a landing page for each, with calls to action that match their interests.

What is the right call to action? Consider the stage at which you’re encountering each audience. Are they already aware of your company or product? Have you done business with them before? Are they lapsed customers you’re trying to lure back? Their knowledge of you and their intent will influence your choice of a call to action.

How will you direct those audiences to your landing page? Again, this depends on the audience. PPC campaigns and social media are effective for lead generation, while email is significantly more effective for creating sales conversions.

Search Engine Watch offers a useful checklist for PPC landing pages, though much of the information also applies to landing pages for use in social and email-driven campaigns.

Flash is Dead

Adobe Flash has been on life support since the introduction of Apple’s iOS operating system. Ever since, there has been a loud chorus of voices demanding it die. And now, Google, Facebook, Mozilla and other major players on the web are making that a reality. Flash is a closed system in an environment where open standards rule; it’s a security risk, to the point that Facebook’s security chief suggested that it’s time to set its expiration date; and, it’s no longer necessary for the delivery of video. Other, better tools exist. Practically speaking, Flash is dead.

True, browse the web and you’re going to encounter Flash, but that doesn’t mean that anyone should try to revive it. It’s still out there because some site owners don’t understand that Flash-only videos aren’t playable on the mobile devices that make up the majority of the market. Or because those site owners don’t realize a growing number of Internet users are actively blocking Flash on the desktop. Or worst of all, because site owners aren’t interested in providing users with a better, more secure browsing experience.

Here’s my plea to anyone still delivering video content using Flash: Stop. Update your content so that it’s delivered using standards (like HTML5) that make it accessible on all devices and platforms. Not for my sake, of course. For users – customers, prospects and others who are interested in learning about organizations without having to unblock a video player or update a plugin.

This WIRED article is a gold mine for anyone who wants to learn more about the case against Flash or how to rid browsers of it.

Fantasy Football for Data Geeks

Bayesian Fantasy Football is for people who don’t go with their gut, or make choices based on arbitrary factors like player numbers or helmet colors. It’s an approach to understanding the probability of player performance based on accumulated data. It is not a guarantee of success, but a tool to help fantasy football team owners understand the difference between player skill and luck.

Don’t understand Bayesian probability, as it applies to fantasy football? Start here.

Or are you ready to jump straight to the weekly player rankings?

Go forth, compete, and if you use these tools feel free to share how they helped (or didn’t). I’ll update my readers on any noteworthy stories of fantasy football success.

August Insights for July 2015

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The Content Conundrum; Internet Traffic Mysteries; Business Travel Etiquette

We’re all publishers. Or we should be if we want to establish credibility or expertise, or simply be found on the Internet. But creating content to publish takes time, and that’s where a lot of organizations stumble. Read on for tips about how to get your content efforts back on track.

We know how much traffic our web sites get, right? No, we only think we do. Years of measuring Internet traffic has yielded an important truth: Our measurements are wrong, and even experts disagree about how wrong they are.

Finally, I came across a handy infographic that will take the guesswork out of business travel etiquette. You might find it useful.

Cheers,
Ian Joyce
Principal, August Communication Consultants
@augcomm

Jumpstart Your Content Development

I’ll repeat: We are all publishers. In the digital world, our credibility, expertise and visibility depend on the quality, quantity and frequency of the content we create and publish.

Search engine algorithms are strongly weighted toward content that is recent, relevant, authoritative, original and socially engaging. To break through the clutter and get noticed, marketers have to think like publishers.

Yet, a lot of marketers hesitate to do this because they lack budget for content marketing or staff to create content, or simply believe they don’t have anything beyond their products to talk about. Or, the idea of becoming a publisher, on top of all they already do, is overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Here’s how to jumpstart your content development.

First, don’t worry about what you haven’t done

So you haven’t published anything on your web site in the past 24 months? Put that out of your mind. We’re talking about the future, and changing old habits.

Second, create an editorial calendar

How you do it doesn’t matter. Just make sure that you can share it with anyone on your editorial team (You don’t have a team? That’s step three.) A lot of organizations use an Excel file.

Make a list of story ideas. Here’s the litmus test you should apply to each story idea: Does it connect a reader or viewer with a person or idea that they care about? If the idea matters to you but not to them, discard it.

For each idea you keep, outline the following: An expert who can supply necessary detail, the content creator (or team) who can bring it to life, the channel where it should be published (blog, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc. – and it’s okay if there are several for each story), and – and this is vitally important – the publication date.

Don’t get overly ambitious. One story every one to two weeks is okay. But you need deadlines.

Third, assemble your team

Who you pick for your content team depends on 1) the content, and 2) where it will be published.

Great content reflects authority, expertise and a unique voice. Use what you already have, and outsource the rest.

Where you publish matters, because you may need people with specialized skills. If you have a great idea for a video interview, you might need to hire a video crew and editor. If you’re focused on posts for the corporate blog, you’ll want a writer who can connect with the audiences you care about.

Fourth, have a plan for engagement

Publishing an article or video is only the first step. You need to engage audiences, and this is where social media matters. Think through how you will promote your content on Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest or other relevant social media, and consider the right questions to ask to prompt responses.

Fifth, streamline the editorial process

For each story, decide who has final approval. Look for the path of least resistance. Be prudent about fact-checking and approvals – particularly if you’re in a public company – but own and clearly articulate the process.

Sixth, get to work (but be flexible)

Now, your goal is to produce the first piece of content on your list. Give your content team a dedicated chunk of time so they can do their work. If you are the content team set aside time each day, turn off your phone, ignore email, and get to work. Meet that deadline.

Changing priorities, or newsworthy events in your organization are going to make you change your editorial calendar. That’s okay. Once a month, revise it, and brainstorm new story ideas. Now that you have a team, involve them.

Remember, content creation is a habit. The more you do it, the more disciplined you become, and the easier it gets. You’ll also get positive reinforcement from the results you see. Good content properly promoted will lift your organization above the noise that holds so many businesses back.

The Mysteries of Web Traffic

FiveThirtyEight is best known for their analysis of political polling data, but recently they turned their attention to why it’s so difficult to accurately measure web site traffic:

“In an age when we assume our phones and laptops are tracking our every move, taking an actual head count of how many people go to a website is still almost impossible. There’s a blind spot at the center of the panopticon, and it’s roughly the size and shape of a cookie.”

I strongly recommending reading the entire article, which enumerates the problems with cookie-based tracking, and looks at alternative methodologies that rely on both site tagging and user panels and those that use persistent logins (think Facebook) or device IDs. The bottom line: Promises of true one-to-one marketing are still running far ahead of the reality, though more invasive methods of tracking may change this in the coming years.

A Useful Infographic for International Business Travelers

CT Business Travel has published a wonderful infographic designed to help travelers navigate proper business etiquette in 100 countries. Before you go, pop over to CT Travel, download the complete graphic, and travel with confidence.

business-etiquette

 

Image: CT Business Travel

August Insights for June 2015

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One audience directly influences company productivity but is missing from many marketing plans; speed matters; Google, the carrot and stick; tools and tactics for non-profits

Marketing plans often prioritize awareness, brand building and lead generation. Those are important, but internal marketing – focusing on the people within your business – can have a significant impact on many areas of the enterprise.

Web sites are getting bloated, but it’s speed that really matters. Meanwhile, Google is employing a carrot and stick strategy for improving online content.

Cheers,
Ian Joyce
Principal, August Communication Consultants

Marketing for Employee Engagement

Employee engagement has a profound impact on organizations’ bottom lines. Gallup’s research has found that organizations with 9.3 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee had 147% higher earnings per share compared to competitors. Disengaged employees cost the US economy $450-550B per year. (Source: State of the American Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for US Business Leaders.) Engaged employees positively affect customer experience, profitability, turnover, healthcare costs, safety and quality.

Hiring and management practices play a significant role in engaging employees. Marketing can help, but too often is limited to training employees, delivering news or educating staff about workplace policies.

A more expansive role for internal marketing can support managers and the enterprise in several ways that create and enhance employee engagement:

Communicate an organization’s mission and vision clearly and coherently. Employees who know where an organization is going, and why, are more likely to be engaged.

Articulate the brand, and connect it with employees. As Gallup points out, organizations can and should turn employees into brand ambassadors. This can only happen if employees truly understand the brand and their role in delivering the brand promise.

Build a compelling narrative that includes employees and delivers a vision for their development and the opportunities the organization offers. Incentives buy short-term performance and loyalty; showing employees how they fit into the organization’s future puts them on the path to engagement.

Is your organization effectively using internal marketing to create engaged employees? Share your thoughts.

Web Site Speed Matters

A growing chorus is warning that the web has become too slow to deliver the experience users deserve. No, the web itself isn’t inherently slow, but site owners aren’t prioritizing performance. They’re filling growing bandwidth with over-designed interfaces with a greater volume of images, web fonts, JavaScript and CSS. Meanwhile, developers view their work on large monitors via T3 connections – not smartphones on a 3G network.

The good news is that there doesn’t have to be a tradeoff between performance and beauty. Fast sites can be immersive and satisfying. But that only happens when organizations make performance a priority.

Google’s Carrot and Stick

Google’s 2011 Panda update to their search algorithm is the stick that forces site owners to create better content. Panda negatively impacts poor quality or duplicate content. Now, there’s evidence Google is working on a carrot approach that will reward high quality content with increased visibility.

Search Engine Watch is tracking activity that suggests that real-time social signals are being incorporated into Google’s core search algorithm. Google plus-ones and Facebook engagement are the key signals; Twitter will also be a factor at some point.

The precise implications for this aren’t clear, but the high level message is that content quality is the key factor in search visibility, and organizations ignore this at their peril.

Social Media for Non-Profits – It’s All About Donations

For all the talk of likes, retweets and other social metrics, the real goal of non-profits that use social media is generating donations.

Best-marketing-channels-for-non-profits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit: https://blog.bufferapp.com/social-media-non-profits

Learn about social channels non-profits use, what they measure, where they fall short, and tools and tactics that can move your organization toward its goals. Best of all, there are 29 no-cost strategies non-profits can implement. It’s all here.

August Insights for May 2015

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Internet trends; useful distractions

I threw out my planned editorial for this month once I read Mary Meeker’s annual Internet trends report. It came out yesterday and offers plenty of think about. Below is a synopsis of key ideas.

And, I have a few useful distractions for this summer.

Cheers,
Ian Joyce
Principal, August Communication Consultants
@augcomm

Internet trends

For good reason, Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report is a must read. This year’s report is a 197 slide deep dive into data about Internet use and trends. Here are my key takeaways:

Outside of the consumer segment of the US economy, the Internet is just getting started (slide 8). Education, healthcare and government/policy/regulation sectors are ripe for digital transformation.

Global Internet growth is powered by video and mobile (slide 13). I’ve said it before: If you aren’t focusing efforts on video content and worrying about mobile accessibility, you’re behind the curve.

Advertisers are spending too much on print media (slide 16). Time spent on digital media, as well as engagement, makes it a smart buy.

Vertical video is gaining momentum (slide 25). This is a case where the device is overcoming established conventions. Vertical videos are viewed to completion more often is some channels.

Enterprise software entrepreneurs aren’t focused on their passions. They’re removing real pain points associated with key business processes, and displacing entrenched incumbents in the bargain (slides 31-44).

There’s a new killer app, and it’s in the messaging sector (slide 47). Six of the ten most used apps are for messaging. Leading messaging apps deliver billions of messages per day and are rerouting discussions away from legacy email systems. However, messaging doesn’t offer a single solution for all users–app selections are specific to individual needs.

Moreover, messaging platforms are focused on more than communications and aim to become hubs for a broad range of services–including those from governments (slides 56, 153).

What sectors generate innovation? High spend markets, high engagement markets, and weak user experience markets (slides 78-80).

Drones are here, their use is expanding, and the market for them could be far larger than anyone expects (slide 86). That is, if regulators allow it.

We’re accustomed to buying goods on the Internet but mobile-enabled millennials want everything delivered when and where they want (slide 122).

Chapter one of explosive Internet adoption featured the USA. The second chapter was China. Chapter three is likely to be India, and it will heavily feature mobile (slides 165, 169-170).

View the slide deck  or download a PDF of the full report. Like any trends report, this is only relevant to the degree it affects your work and business. Are you seeing any of these trends impact your work? If so, how? Drop me a note and let me know.

Useful distractions

In my opinion, most business books just aren’t that good. But if you want summer reading that says something useful and relevant about how to approach your work, start with The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. There’s no pretense of offering an easy solution or secret that will catapult you ahead of your peers. Instead, it focuses on the idea of creativity as the product of habits, discipline and persistence.

“I need to buy a ____________. What do you recommend?” I hear this a lot, and these days I point anyone who asks toward thewirecutter.com. Whether you need to buy a shovel or laptop, you’ll find comprehensive, well-reasoned recommendations that almost always hit the mark.

I tend to focus on the digital world, but I love good writing instruments. A couple of weeks ago I lingered in Books Kinokuniya for far too long, testing a variety of pencils that don’t show up in Office Depot. Others share my interest; here’s a fascinating look at a pencil shop in New York.

August Insights for March 2015

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Two ideas to save you time and money; an important question about customer service; and, one more thing (from Apple).

Every agency and brand I work with is careful about how they use their resources. This issue of August Insights offers a couple of useful tips: One to test product ideas, the other to reduce the frustrations of capturing and processing all the data that confronts us.

I’ve also included a link to a worthwhile examination of customer service and its alignment (or lack of) with brands. It’s great reading.

Plus, I can’t get away from news about the Apple Watch. I’m curious about whether you plan to buy one, and will include your perspectives next time when I look at where the growth of wearable technology is taking us.

Ian Joyce
Principal, August Communication Consultants
@augcomm

The simple way to test your product idea

There are a lot of product ideas in search of customers. That’s backwards; good products start with a need, even if customers haven’t yet identified it. But too often designers, engineers and others start with what seems to be a can’t miss idea and then they wonder why it never gains traction.

There’s a simple way to help your idea avoid that fate. It’s not new or original and it’s not guaranteed. Amazon uses this technique, and they have their share of product misses. But the cost is low and there’s high probability you’ll recognize problems before you invest even more time and resources in something that’s destined to land on the market with a thud.

Start with a press release that names your product and describes the customers, how they benefit, the problem it is designed to address, and how the product elegantly solves it. An Amazon manager provides a terrific template for this press release.

The beauty of starting with a product announcement–the last stage in some product development cycles–is that it puts the product manager in the customer’s position and demands answers to basic but sometimes difficult questions. It takes the pride in having a (seemingly) great idea out of the equation and tests the idea against real world needs. It does it without focus groups, prototyping or other steps that cost money. Best of all, it’s a powerful counterweight to the fantasy of the idea person.

Can analog note taking compete with digital tools?

Meetings, discussions, rare moments devoted to thinking–those generate a lot of data. How we capture data and make it useful is an ongoing challenge. Technology has promised to improve things, but it can add another layer of complexity to an already tough task. There’s no one right way, but for those who want to keep it simple and don’t need to integrate note taking into their smartphones/digital brains the Bullet Journal just might be the answer.

The Bullet Journal requires pen or pencil and a notebook, and the adoption of simple techniques that help users manage tasks, information and the contexts in which those live. I’m not saying it will change your life, but it might make it a little easier.

Are you married to your smartphone but tempted to try this, once you’ve seen the detailed video and online presentation of the process?

“What is customer service for?”

Seth Godin, who has created an industry out of penning smart thoughts about marketing, asked this very relevant question. These days, products or services are the centerpieces of brands. It stands to reason that customer service better be aligned with the brand. Often it isn’t, but sometimes it is in wonderful ways.

…and one more thing

I’m curious. Are you planning to buy an Apple Watch when it drops next month? Why or why not?

I invite your thoughts, because next month I’ll look at wearable technology and what it truly offers.

August Insights for February 2015

If you find August Insights helpful please take a moment to subscribe. You’ll receive it once a month, and we will never, ever share your email address with others.

Three ideas worth adopting; (cost) effective video; valuable distractions

You might have received August Insights, my email newsletter, a few years ago. Back then I found myself spending more time blogging, tweeting and experimenting with new kinds of media. Email fell by the wayside.

But here we are in 2015 and email is still with us and perhaps more important than ever. For all the talk of something better someday, email still rules our business lives. It has a reach, immediacy, and ability to spark discussions that other channels haven’t been able to completely displace. So, August Insights is back.

And if you’re new here, welcome.

Ian Joyce
Principal, August Communication Consultants
@augcomm

Three ideas that are long overdue

Show, don’t tell. In the battle for attention a lot of marketers are still using using text and photos to tell their stories. Better devices, greater bandwidth and short attention spans make video a powerful alternative. Ever used the phrase, “You had to be there to understand”? Video can put the people there, and show them what they need to know. Focused, targeted videos don’t have to break the bank, and can be distributed through multiple channels to extend your reach.

Value and originality matter more than SEO. SEO is, more or less, gaming a system in order to gain an advantage. The more sophisticated the tricks, the smarter search engines have gotten in response. The evolution of tactics has brought us to this: If you want to rank high in search engines, create original, relevant, valuable content and distribute in multiple ways. There’s more about this here.

We’re all social. I know this will make some cringe, but social media matters for every organization. Your organization’s social presence influences its visibility, credibility and relevance. Now is the time to create and grow that presence; when you really need it – during a crisis, for example – it’s too late.

Simple, clever…and effective

Early this year I got an email from the organizer of a film festival in Portland, OR asking if I’d consider entering a short film I’d made. The film was the product of me spending a few hours at an event, in the rain, testing some equipment then turning the footage into a video postcard. It was low budget. But not low quality.

Fast forward a bit–the film was selected by the festival jury to play at the Hollywood Theatre Memorial Day weekend.

My point: If you have an interesting story to show (repeat: show, don’t tell) and you know how to relate to your audience, it’s possible to do it in an interesting, professional way without relying on a large production. My non-profit clients regularly leverage the power of brief, simple videos to boost participation and fundraising. I’ll be happy to talk with you about how we do it.

A few valuable distractions

Why the customer voice can be more persuasive than research.

Two authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto, which I still consider the most important book written about Internet marketing, are back with New Clues.

One underdog isn’t scared of going up against two tech giants.

The value of content matters more than quantity.