Marketing Commentary

Google Places Marketing The Wrong Way

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In a competitive market, some companies will do anything to get ahead.  Even forgetting about the moral considerations, however, many underhanded practices will backfire, even if they seem to work in the short run.  Here is an example that stood out to me recently (but for legal reasons I’ll avoid the company names for now):

I have a large painting client in the Chicago area who has a competitor with a name nearly identical to theirs.  They have had several legal battles over the name issue; the guy disappears for a while, and then keeps showing up again!   Today I was doing some research for this client and discovered this competitor on Google Places.  He had 4 reviews, so I took a closer look.  After looking at the reviews, I’m 99% sure that they are mostly or completely bogus.  Here´s why I think so:

  1. The date stamp:  all 4 reviews were written on the same day.  This can be a coincidence, but it’s not very likely that four real clients would happen to write reviews on the same day, and none on any other day.  What is more likely is that one person signed in under four different names.
  2. All four reviews have keywords in them, which I have never seen a customer do.  A customer of any company will not use keywords like, “They were the best house painter Green Bay WI in town. People don’t talk or write that way! That was the clincher for me. I knew then that all were made up.

Why did the competitor do this?  Probably he sat in on a webinar or read an article that said that more reviews on Google Places you have, the better placement you will receive on Google searches.

So, will this trick work?  Probably not.  Google might be the largest search engine in the world, but there are real people (and very, very smart ones) behind the scenes making sure that they keep it the best.  They are constantly monitoring how companies promote themselves online.  If they discover that a website or ranking is using “black hat” techniques, they will quickly remove the company and/or URL from the web for quite some time.  Four different review from a single IP address would alert Google that someone is resorting to “naughty” promotional practices.

What can a company do then to increase their rankings on Google Places?  The way it is currently set up, the best practice is to take your time and build quality reviews from multiple sites—not just Google.  Google wants to see a variety of quality reviews done on different days and at different times.  There is nothing wrong with calling up a customer and asking him or her to write a review.  Spread it out a little bit so they´re not doing it on the same day. Maybe set a goal of 2-3 per week. Ask them to use Google, Yelp, CitySearch, Mojo Pages and more.

Marketing takes time! It’s always been that way. People think that because we live in such a fast-paced society, we can acheive #1 results on the web overnight.  Sometimes being tricky you will get lucky and get good placement. But like most other parts of life and business, dishonesty doesn’t pay off in the long-run.  It might succeed in the present, but it will usually fall apart in time.

How To Get a Response From “Sleeping” Clients

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Which kind of kid were you: the kind who wakes up without an alarm, gets ready for school in an orderly routine and is early at the bus stop?  The kid who hits the snooze once or twice, brushes his teeth in the shower and just gets to the bus on time?  Or were you the one who always slept through the alarm, and after mom woke you up you always arrived at the bus stop with your shoes untied and breakfast in one hand just as the driver shut the door?

Just like there are different types of kids, there are different types of clients.  Some know they need your services, watch for your specials, and call you right away.  Others need a reminder or two, but they´ll be sure to get things arranged before it’s too late.  Then there are the sleepers: these ones see your sale promotions and think, “I´ve got time.”  They’re not thinking about your product or service as much as you are, even though they know they need it.  Of course, you´re not their mom—you don’t want to nag—but one gentle, well-timed nudge might get them scrambling for the phone to schedule an estimate with you before they miss the bus!

So what is the most effective way to market to all three types, including the snoozers?  Don´t overdo the marketing; it isn’t an effective use of your money, and it makes clients think you’re too pushy.  Here are a few guidelines:

  • Be friendly and be consistent, using a variety of methods.  Maybe for one promotion you could start with a mailer, follow-up with a phone call a while later, and remind them at the end with an email.
  • Include a call to action.  Suggest what the customer should do (“call today to schedule…”), and give them a deadline or an incentive to act by a certain time (“the first 10 customers to call will receive…” or “Customers who schedule before December 15th will receive…”).
  • Do a final follow-up.  If it is a mailer or letter, you could print an urgent message on the outside of the envelope, such as, “This week only” or “Only 5 Spots Left For Our Winter Schedule.”  Email marketing is a great way to wake a sleeping client at the end of a promotion.  It is easy and affordable.  Send a brief email reminding them of the deal, and put something urgent in the subject line, such as, “Today Only: Our Winter Special Ends Today.”

Here is a recent example from one of my clients, who “hit” his clients three times for one promotion.  First he sent out a mailer in small batches introducing the Winter Special, which received a few responses.   Next he made follow-up calls to make sure they had received the flyer and to ask if they had any projects they needed to schedule during the timeframe of the discount.  This call produced more estimates and sales.  He suspected that there were still a few procrastinating sleepers who had work they wanted done but hadn’t gotten around to calling yet.

    At this point the owner created a simple email with a catchy subject line, immediately informing clients that the sale ended TODAY!  When I spoke with my client this week, he said that he got 4 or 5 clients who called him that evening as late as 8:00 pm asking if it was still OK to get an estimate before the sale ended!

    Yes, even wealthy clients like specials, discounts, and small freebies.  You don´t need to be a BIG discounter (like Wal-Mart, Target etc.) to attract clients.  Just give them a bit of an extra push or incentive to call now.  It works!

    Air New Zealand Makes Safety Video Fun, Not Boring

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    How many times have you sat on an airplane and listened to the safety message that typically sounds like this, “Blah blah blah?” One words crosses my mind, “boring.” Companies are always marketing…remember that! When you have a boring old safety talk, that is marketing. How you greet a client, write a blog, paint a house, remodel a kitchen, it is all marketing. So how do you make your marketing different? Be creative! Very creative if possible. Air New Zealand has done just that. They wanted their customers to have a more pleasant experience when it came time for the boring old safety talk.

    Watch the video below and keep thinking how you can do something remarkable that will make your customers come back to you and tell their friends.

    Special Thanks to David Meerman Scott for sharing this video on his site.

    Seth Godin Defies Traditional Marketing of Books

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    Below is a recent article by the Wall Street Journal entitled “Author to Bypass Publisher for Fans.” This is a must read article. Traditional marketing has never seen so much change the last 1-2 years thanks to the online and social networking communities such as Facebook, Twitter, and many others. Social networking sites have made inbound marketing popular! Now “fans” and “customers” get to decide what they like . A consumer can follow who they want, when they want and even comment and share info in seconds. Seth Godin has a cult following. His fans tell him what they want, and he realized it is time to take action. Read the full article of Author to Bypass Publisher for Fans and consider how your business can do something similar.

    Riemann Painting’s Brand | Cranbrook B.C.

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    Riemann Painting, located in Cranbrook British Columbia recently did a major identity and brand change. Most of the work they have done over the 25+ years has been strictly word of mouth and building strong relationships with builders, facility engineers and homeowners. They did not really have a brand. When I talked to Kim Wasylowich, owner of Riemann Painting, late last fall, Kim said he was open for a change. He wanted to start from scratch. He wanted a completely new and different look, but he also wanted to make sure he was targeting a number of different groups of people: commercial, industrial and residential. He has painters that work on all three types of properties.

    We talked to the Graphic Designer and asked him to get his creative juices flowing. We wanted to create something that really popped. The idea was to have lots of color and yet be so different, people would remember the look. We would then follow up with a creative tagline that promoted the message that is simply this: Riemann paints. Anything and Everything. Period.

    We came up with a number of different ideas from simple to eye catching. We ended up deciding on a Chameleon lizard. A Chameleon adapts and changes color when it is either frightened or to help camouflage itself in different surroundings. It can have lots of brilliant colors or it can be a solid color, depending on the environment. So we thought the Chameleon image/brand would portray what Riemann does very well. We also thought it would be memorable. Most folks, when they see a bright lizard for a painting company will do a double look. Also the final tagline that stuck was, “Painting in Any Environment.”

    The best part about this brand project was Kim and his staff love it. This is the first step in their branding: the creating of the brand. Now we are in the process of promoting the brand to Riemann’s target audience. The new website is also live, but is more targeted to the residential audience. Riemann will be adding commercial and industrial sections in the coming weeks.

    Visit Riemann Painting’s Website

    Back of Business Card of Riemann Painting

    Brand Report | Red Robin Gourmet Burgers

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    If you have never heard of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, you don’t know what you are missing. When you are done reading this blog entry, make sure you put it on your to-do list to research the nearest restaurant and take the family out.

    Red Robin has a unique Brand. They has done something that many companies have not! They wrote down their core values and made it their brand identity. They’ve made their core values the life blood of their organization. In fact, you when you visit a Red Robin restaurant, the core values are embroidered on the sleeves of each employee’s uniform. The core values are: Honor, Integrity, Continually Seeking Knowledge and Having Fun. Most companies have a mission statement and many even have core values. But, do they practice these values and let each customer experience the difference? Red Robin does. Two specific ways Red Robin makes their brand engrained in the minds of their customers is by having very friendly staff members (Having Fun) and something they call Unbridled Act® (Integrity/Honor). The Unbridled Act® is a program they’ve developed where they practice random acts of kindness to their customers and the community. Everyone working at Red Robin knows and understand the company core values and practices them on and off hours!

    When I first heard about the unique brand and core values of Red Robin, I decided to take some friends out and experience Red Robin for myself. I visited one of the San Diego locations. After the meal was over and I was looking over my final bill, I noticed the server accidentally charged me for an extra beverage. I did not want to make a big deal but thought I should let him know. The next thing I know, a manager came to my table, apologized for the mistake and gave me two free meals the next time I came to Red Robin. I was blown away! I came back with my wife a few months later and used the “free meal” coupons. That too was an amazing experience. It is a little uncomfortable for me to eat out for free, but Red Robin did not make me feel this way. They basically said, “Order anything you’d like…anything…even dessert. It is on us!” I’ve never forgotten my experience.

    One final thing, not just anyone can work at Red Robin. They run a tight ship. They are looking for fun people! Their hiring experience is one of the best I’ve ever heard of. Instead of me telling you about it here, ask one of the servers what it was like to go through the hiring process.

    The brand of Red Robin is very noticeable to customers whether or not they’ve seen the core values on the uniforms. When people think of Red Robin, I’m sure they all have the same conclusions, “Good Food. Amazing Service. Unlimited Refills on Fries & Most Drinks (bottomless). Just a Fun Place to Eat Out!

    Linkedin Groups To Grow Your Connections

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    I get asked by contractors almost weekly if there truly is value in Social Networking, especially Linkedin. A short answer is, “Yes! Depending on how one uses Social Networking.” I’ve seen a lot of contractors that use it as a way to promote their services instead of creating good value and content. Social Networking sites should be used to connect with like minded people or businesses. It is also used to get to know potential clients, in a non “sales” approach: just down to earth. Linkedin is a very powerful networking tool, and most of the features are free.

    If your marketing budgets are struggling right now, you have to network and prospect more. Linkedin Groups is a great way to build your connects and credibility. Make sure you watch this Linkedin Groups video and begin following some of their advice.

    Steps to Success Using Linkedin Groups

    1. Research some local and nationwide groups that best fit your industry and target audience. For example, a remodeling contractor in Chicago may want to join a community/local historical society group. A landscaper may want to join a garden club group. Get the idea?
    2. Turn on email alerts. You can get email alerts “as they happen” daily or weekly reports.
    3. Begin scanning through and reading some of the discussions in these groups
    4. Start commenting, asking questions and sharing your knowledge without trying to sell your product or service. This will allow people to get to know you and your company without you having to push why you are an expert in your industry.
    5. Once you are part of a group and participating, start to connect with the members. You don’t need an invitation. Add them to your network!
    6. Finally, start your own discussions and even your own group!

    If you use Linkedin Groups properly, you will see your connections group and will likely get a few leads/prospects when the time is right. Let them come to you, not you hunting them down.

    Branding Report on Amazon Part 2

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    Now I get to tell you in this short blog some of the insights of the Amazon.com Brand! Below are some of the things I’ve heard, and you are all right on!

    When People Think of Amazon.com These Are The Things That Come To Mind:

    • Free Shipping
    • Amazon is the biggest rainforest in the world: therefore, Amazon.com wants to (or is) the biggest online shopping company
    • They have everything from A to Z (notice the swoosh starting at “A” and pointing to “Z”
    • The “.com” means it is online
    • The swoosh represents a “Smile” | Customers experience dealing with Amazon.com
    • Amazon.com is easy to use, easy to navigate and is just an all around good shopping experience

    What do people think when they see or hear your brand name? What makes you different?

    A great book to help you understand branding better is “What Is Your BQ” by Sandra Sellani (She is a gifted speaker too!)

    Schedule your free 30 minute marketing call. Contact David Today!