Mobilegeddon?!? Don’t panic.

If you are involved in marketing or have a website, here’s something new to worry (a little) about. 

Does your website pass muster on mobile devices? Starting Tuesday, Google is going to reduce the ranking of sites that fail their test.

moerubenzahl-mobile

Don’t panic. See Searchengineland’s well-reasoned advice.  And realize that it affects only phones and not tablets, non-brand traffic, and there is no permanent penalty — the effect goes away as soon as you fix it to Google’s satisfaction. 

It’s a good thing to address anyway and to be honest, it got me to stop procrastinating. This page didn’t meet the criteria until last Friday.

For a WordPress site fixing the issue generally means one of two things: Change themes or contact the theme producer to see if they have an update in the works. It took me just five minutes by updating the theme and turning on a mobile-friendly feature in “Jetpack.”

More: 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2015/03/31/is-your-website-optimized-for-mobile-you-have-until-april-21-to-get-it-done

You are not your customer

Apple Watch Edition

I love this article by Amy Hoy on why logic fails to predict what people will buy. Here’s why she’s right, and a way you can model and predict behavior.

Here in the land of high-tech, I see it again and again: Logical, sensible people using logical, sensible arguments to predict what will sell — despite repeated evidence that logic and sense are not why people buy.

I have to confess. This was me:

ipodgen1_jpg_300×346_pixels“You probably didn’t believe anyone would pay $399 for an MP3 player that couldn’t even hold half as much as the Creative Jukebox. You probably knew the iPhone would flop because it didn’t have third party apps, 3G, GPS, multi-tasking or even friggin’ copy and paste.

“You probably thought the iPad was ugh, just a big iPhone, who cares.”

Almost. I was wrong about the iPod and the iPhone, for exactly the reasons she cites here. But when the iPad came along, I had learned my lesson and redeemed myself, winning a bet with an engineer friend who knew, absolutely knew, it would fail.

There is something I do know about who will buy the Apple Watch: it won’t be me, at least not for this year’s product (just as I did not buy the 1.0 versions of the iPod, iPhone, or iPad). That’s the point: I can predict success of a product, but only if my customer happens to be me.

David Packard called it “the next bench syndrome.” In HP’s early days, the company’s engineers could design by asking the guy at the next lab bench what he wanted, because they were designing products that electrical engineers would be using. When they began developing business computers, that model began to fail.

So how do we know what customers will buy? Well, there are some expensive methodologies that work well for established markets but most of my clients have something more like Apple’s market — new markets for new services and products that won’t predict well. And they don’t have Unilever-sized budgets for research. High-tech firms tend to rely on intuition and some sense that they know the customers. Risky business.

You can only know your customers by their actions

Amy Hoy says, “You can only know your customers by their actions.” Between how do you know them all if they’re not you? A methodology that works for many of my clients is persona development.

personas

I define a persona as a customer type based solely on desires and behaviors. We use the company’s inside knowledge to discover a very small set of personas (typically 3-5). The goal is to define them so clearly and concisely that everyone in the company can know them by heart. This is not the same as customer segmentation, which can be complex and detailed. Segments are for automation and procedures; personas are for people. We refine the personas through a series of processes and do small research projects to verify anything that’s uncertain. We create a chart showing each persona’s problems, emotional drivers, what products we have for them, benefits and unique value propositions, competitors, etc. The chart is detailed enough to capture the customer base’s desires but simple enough that everyone can know them.

With carefully designed and researched personas, a company has a fighting chance to know what they will want and make decisions based not on what people in the company would want, but what their real customers and prospects would want.

What startups need to know about marketing

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 5.34.14 PMAre you running a startup?

You already know dozens of marketing tactics, but are you doing the ones that matter? I gave this presentation, marketing for startups (PDF) to the Princeton Club of Northern California’s Entrepreneurs’ Group, with four marketing priorities entrepreneurs tend to overlook.

Also available on slideshare.

Content marketing index

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 4.33.13 PM I write a lot about content because, as Altimeter analyst Rebecca Lieb says, “Content is the atomic particle of all marketing.” It’s what marketing is made of. It’s how you deliver value to all customers, including the ones who aren’t paying you. It serves every step of the buyer’s journey. It’s how you make people aware of your brand and move them toward familiarity, purchase, and loyalty.

Here’s an index of the top articles I’ve written here about content marketing:

Getting started

Best practices, building a content machine

  • The top 50 content marketers: Learn from the best.
  • A culture of content: Content marketing can’t succeed if everyone looks to the “content guy.” Here’s how to build content into the organization and make it everyone’s job.
  • My favorite article: What if you could amplify your effectiveness by turning every piece of content into 20? What if you could build a machine to make this happen? Learn how to make Many Pieces of Content from One.

Getting the word out

And all the rest…

Follow the full index: All articles on content marketing, to see everything, including new articles, as they appear.

Bathroom humor hits the spot for a utilitarian B2B brand

How do you boost a utilitarian brand like SurveyMonkey? Most marketers would be thinking about “what it is and what it does.” Functional, pedestrian, and boring. Eli Schwartz thinks bigger with this clever release about — well, about what cell phone users do in the bathroom.

surveymonkey-bathroom-1

This is genius marketing because it:

  • Highlights a skillful use of a survey, using SurveyMonkey’s Audience tool.
  • Is an attention grabber with high viral potential.
  • It’s relatable and tells a story (one more than a few readers will relate to).
  • Is one of very few quality uses of an infographic.
  • Made me LOL. And made me think about SurveyMonkey. And made me pass the word!

The execution is great, too, with bright, humorous graphics.

surveymonkey-bathroom-2

(Disclaimer: I know Eli and spotted this because I follow him on LinkedIn.)

Tell me a story

I was afraid. Standing at a lectern in downtown Manhattan before a room full of experts, I was easily the youngest person there. I was sure they could see me sweating. I prayed for the end before I said my first word. But then, I closed my eyes, took a breath, and began to talk about the future, a day in the automated office, when computers were connected. And when I was done, people came up to ask questions about our office automation architecture. The 20-something budding marketer from HP with the soaking wet collar had connected.

tell a storyCredit: Wikipedia

Is there anything more viscerally connecting than a story? It’s how humans have expressed themselves, convinced, controlled, enrolled, sold, and created value for millenia.

And yet, in marketing materials, we keep seeing, “The GM-X is an innovative solution for enterprise-ready network service stacks that ensures rapid deployment, cost savings, and the infinite connectivity of a cloud-based architecture.”

In the New York Times, “Storytelling Your Way to a Better Job or a Stronger Start-Up” reminds us that stories persuade. They also generate a happy hormone, oxytocin, in the brain. Researchers diagrammed Super Bowl commercials based on storytelling elements and successfully predicted their outcome. The key elements? It’s what we learned in high school:

It probably sounds familiar from middle-school English class: Act 1, scene setting; Act 2, rising action; Act 3, the turning point; Act 4, the falling action; and Act 5, the denouement or release. Variations of this include fewer or more stages, but they all follow the same pattern.

In business writing, especially in email and on the web, we don’t have much time to get the reader’s attention. But then, neither does a Super Bowl commercial. The Times article cites Hemingway’s six-word story: ““For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” So we really have no excuses.

How do we tell a story? We have to remember the basics, then practice the ancient art.

Most important, I think is to tell the story, rather than telling about the story. We tend to judge, categorize, summarize but a judgment ends the narrative and kills the tension.

We also shy away from feelings, when feelings are the best way to connect, establish trust, and build empathy.

It doesn’t come naturally, at least for me. I find I have to remind myself to connect. The way that young, sweaty kid from HP did in New York.

On the design process

If you love design, check this out. Good job of capturing the process. 

The key takeaway, in my opinion, is that where most people think and think about the problem, Aaron Draplin sketches, rapid fire. The creatives I know (including myself) experiment, and err, 100 times as much as most people. Notice how he rapid-fires designs on paper first. Then he goes to the computer and he’s still experimenting rapidly. 

While not everyone can be a master, anyone can design. Few do because they don’t realize it’s not about innate talent, it’s a question of practice. People who say they can’t draw (or sing or throw a baseball…) are wrong. 

By the way, if you think you can’t draw, read the book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” by Betty Edwards. 

The benefit of benefits

features and benefits Copyright 2014 Moe Rubenzahl

Features and benefits: People tend to talk about that as if it’s easy. It’s not. But it’s super-important. When you really reach the benefits, you’re really reaching the customer and distinguishing yourself from all the poor marketing out there. 

Here are some tips to find the benefits, and a link to a really great — and free — book.

But the very first thing I want you to know is:

Writing benefits is hard!

Even with years of practice, I have to ask myself if what I just wrote is truly a customer benefit. Often, it’s a feature masquerading as a benefit.

A feature is what it does and how well it does it. A benefit is why the feature matters — how it solves the customer’s problem or delights the customer. Benefits are “what’s in it for me?”

quarter-inch-hole

The reason it’s hard is that we think we are logical and sensible, that we want features. But we don’t — features tell but invariably, benefits sell.

benefits-featuresCopyright 2014 Moe Rubenzahl

Features and benefits:  Here's what our product can do; here's what YOU can do with our product.

How to find the benefits

A great way to find the benefit is to ask:

So what?

When you’re looking at a feature or benefit, ask, from the user’s perspective, “So what?” Why does the customer care? Then when you answer the “so what” question, ask it again. Continue until there is no answer. Example:

Lower power

So what?

Uses less battery

So what?

You have to charge less often

So what?

Goes all day without recharging!

Another example

Lower power

So what?

Uses less battery

So what?

Batteries are smaller

So what?

Lighter weight

So what?

Our exercise monitor fits in your shirt pocket — you will forget it’s there!

Notice how the same feature might be a completely different benefit. In all cases, benefits are what connect with customers. 

Learn more

Writing with benefits is not easy and for most of us, not automatic. It’s a discipline. Want to master it? Here’s a quick read:

http://www.enchantingmarketing.com/features-and-benefits/

and download the free book, “Write Benefits to Seduce Buyers” offered there.

henneke-write-benefits-book

It’s an easy read, just a dozen pages, and it will make you a better marketing writer. Your writing reach customers better and need less editing. That will make you and your team more productive. (See what I did there?)

Top 50 content marketers

Kapost's top 50 content marketers

Content marketing solution Kapost has announced their list of the top 50 content marketers. They look like excellent choices, based on the dozen or so whose work I know. These are great ones to study for wise practices.

Many of these are brands I follow, even if I am not a customer, because of the quality and usefulness of their content. You can bet they will be considered when I, or a client, needs what they provide. A good example is HubSpot, which produces a steady and amazingly prolific drumbeat of marketing articles, mostly lightweight enough to absorb in less than 15 minutes. Likewise, MOZ.com is a favorite of mine — highly prolific and highly valuable articles in a range of media. Check out their whiteboard Friday videos.

The list seems to favor marketers, perhaps because the folks at Kapost have a tendency to follow material from marketers. That makes this a good list of companies we marketers should be following!

Content marketing can’t succeed if everyone looks to the “content guy”: Culture of Content

A Culture of Content, Altimeter Group, Rebecca Lieb

I was pleased to see that one of my favorite marketing analysts, Rebecca Lieb of Altimeter Group, has a new research report on how to build an organizational Culture of Content (with co-author Jessica Groopman and contributions from others). 

It’s a topic I find deeply interesting because in my experience, the biggest difference between success and failure in content marketing is whether the whole organization embraces it. Excerpt: “As communications shift from interruptive and obtrusive forms of push messaging (advertising) to softer pull strategies that are more marketing- oriented (owned and earned media), brands will require appropriate, relevant, authoritative, and timely content. Such a need can no longer be the purview of marketing alone; it requires participation across the enterprise and an evolution toward a culture of content.”

In any technically-driven company, content requires time from very technical, very precious technical resources. Unless the organization is committed, writing an article is seldom anyone’s highest priority. A technical article won’t happen unless everyone in the organization understands that content is valuable and the company acknowledges and rewards contributors.

At Maxim Integrated, the $2.5B B2B where I was Executive Director of Internet Marketing, we built the site to over a quarter million pages, with 2500 technical articles and thousands of other technical items. The biggest driver: Early on, the CEO gave goals to each business unit and made it clear that this matters. Over time, many hundreds of people wrote for the website. As Rebecca’s report says, content initiatives succeed when ownership is distributed: “To motivate these groups, avoid asking them to work for marketing. Instead, tie content to individual or departmental objectives and develop metrics that enable them to track their progress toward these goals.”

That’s what we did at Maxim and the results were fabulous, with quality material that measurably drove excellent search marketing results and customer satisfaction.

I gave a content marketing workshop to a client in September and have been thrilled to see how they are embracing it. They assigned someone as content lead. That’s good but what worked is that she’s not alone in the corner, pleading for content (which is what often happens); everyone is eagerly producing ideas and content. It is easy to predict they will succeed.

At another client, it’s much more difficult. No one’s on board, no one’s committed, and writing is not a priority.

Commitment is one element. Another is the content machine. “Think like a publisher” means not just producing content, but doing it with a plan, the way a magazine does. And once something is published, procedures and automation push out a stream of links, tweets, additional items, and additional media (see: Many Pieces of Content From One).