Best business practice: Prefer phone to email or text

Great article in Fast Company about using the phone vs email/text/etc.:

What Happened When I Replied “Call Me” to Every Email for a Week

Photo: Flickr user M. Accarino
The author noticed that successful people would often reply to an email with a phone call, or an invitation to call. He wonders if being “phone-prone” and success are related. He experimented with a phone-prone approach to see what would happen…
I am email-prone myself but I know I’d be wiser to phone (or visit in person) more often. It’s not just that it’s more high-touch, not just the communication of tone of voice; the phone-prone maintain that a phone call is often faster. It’s also much harder for someone to say no to a live phoned request than to an email.
“The phone may not be the newest collaboration tool out there, but I was surprised at how effective I found it after a week of forcing myself to become more phone-prone.”

SEO for entrepreneurs

Search engine optimization (SEO) is something every business needs. Because no matter what your business is, your prospects are probably not coming to you when they are ready: they are going to Google. You need to be there.

Trustworthy search marketing information is hard to find. But good news: I have a new resource to get you there safely.

The problem with SEO is not that it’s difficult (though it is) or complicated (it is). After all, a lot of what modern businesses do is complicated and difficult — so we learn or hire the expertise. The problem with SEO is that hiring expertise may get you in trouble. It is full of danger. Sadly, competent, expert help is hard to find. The SEO industry is full of charlatans. Advice: If someone promises you the top page of Google for your 50 keywords, run.

Some SEO experts are out and out crooked; others are innocently incompetent. They are full of advice and knowledge that is wrong, spouted with great confidence. That’s because they learned what they “know” not from testing and experience, but from all the SEO information on the web, and much of that is blazingly wrong. It is parroted from each other so often that it becomes “common wisdom.” Like politics, but let’s not go there.

For this reason, I tell clients that SEO is not a service you can blindly hire. I will recommend SEO services I know (and offer an SEO and content marketing strategy workshop myself) but even if a client plans to hire experts, I recommend SEO gothey learn the basics themselves. You don’t need to be an expert in detailed SEO tech but you do need a solid grasp of the strategy. (See my article on whether to use agencies or do your SEO in-house.) It’s not unlike demand generation, lead management, or any other complex business area: Marketing and C-level business execs need a strategic grounding so you can know that your staff’s direction makes sense and matches the company’s direction.

Happy news: There’s a new resource I can recommend. The founder of Moz, Rand Fishkin is one of SEO’s shining lights and a gifted teacher. He’s just released a Skillshare class that’s free with your signup (Skillshare is free to new signups for 30 days.)  It’s my new recommended way to learn what you need to know.

Other recommendations are:

Also, please see my previous article, SEO: agency or in-house?

Test your site for mobile. Now.

Google has updated their “Test My Site” tool, and it’s really well done. (For what it’s worth, this site passed but I can improve readability by boosting text size and click target size.)

Google test my site for mobile

This is important because if visitors abandon your site, the brilliance of your messaging and calls to action don’t matter. And Google has threatened to reduce your standing on search result pages if your site doesn’t work well on mobile.

So, let’s do this!

Book Review: Be Like Amazon, by Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg

I am going to recommend this book, Be Like Amazon, by Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg, to all my clients. Here’s the review I just posted on Amazon.

Book review-Be Like Amazon - Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg

When I read that the Eisenberg’s new book was a dialogue, I cringed a little. I usually find that style overly precious or pedantic, like a business-aimed Jonathan Livingston Seagull (not in a good way). But style is, well, just style, and I knew Be Like Amazon would be worth reading because I have read most of Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg’s previous works. So I grabbed the Sample and within a few pages, I had downloaded Be Like Amazon.

And glad I did. Be Like Amazon is short, easy to read, and chock full of gems. I’m a marketing strategy consultant and always on the lookout for ways I can help clients see the big picture. Values, mission, how to align all your people so that you don’t feel any need to micromanage — it all comes from core values. The Eisenbergs call them “unifying principles” and says they “are an operating system.” And they talk about how these feed the brand, which is built on actions and performance.

“We believe.” I got that from this book. I have seen and read the “Start With Why” work by Simon Sinek and make all my clients view his videos but damn, I missed the “we believe” messaging. If that were all I got from Be Like Amazon, it would be a huge win. “You’ll find your corporate ‘why’ when you write 10 true sentences that each start with ‘We believe….” I am so going to steal that.

But wait, there’s more!

Be Like Amazon is built around Amazon’s Four Pillars but you can see those in a two-second Google search. What they do here is bring them to life and relate them to other businesses, some of which use values well, some not; some used to and don’t succeed any more. Costco, Walmart, HP, and some tiny businesses you don’t know (but perhaps should).

Story. Culture. “Brandable chunks.” Unrelenting customer-centricity. It goes on. Mostly things we know but perhaps don’t always remember that we know.

The two measures of the value of a business and marketing book for me are:

1) How much highlighting do I do. Each highlight is something I plan to use with my clients. And my copy of BLA is pretty yellowed up! So a +1 on that.

2) Is it full of fluff? Because here’s the typical business or marketing book: One or two interesting ideas, three or four reasonable use cases, and then the author realizes no one will buy a 40 page book, so they fire up Word and write 260 redundant pages full of generalizations and contrived examples everyone knows. 80% fluff to support the one or two simple ideas the author has. Bleh.

The dialogue approach made me fear the fluff but no worries, this is a well-researched, concise book full of real examples of how Amazon’s four pillars apply to the real world.

Don’t be a bad ad

Don’t be a bad ad.

If you are trying to balance the need to be noticed with the need to make friends, see The Most Hated Online Advertising Techniques, from Neilsen-Norman Group, one of the most respected user experience research firms. Their research confirms what most of us already know: that users hate, hate, hate ads that obscure or rearrange content, are hard to dismiss, or play sound or video automatically.

If making your prospects hate you is not sufficient incentive to be a good guy, Google and Bing are increasingly penalizing sites with obstrusive ads, pop-ups, and interstitials, especially on mobile.

This is not to say all ads are a problem. Be aware of the tradeoff between getting the attention you need and irritating your prospects in the first moments of the relationship. Modal ads (as in the illustration here) are bad; those that cover the whole screen and make you search for the close link are cruel; and on mobile, anything bad becomes downright evil.

“Modal ads, ads that reorganize content, and autoplaying video ads were among the most disliked. Ads that are annoying on desktop become intolerable on mobile.”

The Most Hated Online Advertising Techniques
https://www.nngroup.com/articles/most-hated-advertising-techniques/

I just took a nap

I just took a nap. Perfect timing for posting this article by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, excerpted in The Week magazine: Why you should work 4 hours a day, according to science

Source: https://pixabay.com/p-1762750/

It’s about how some of our greatest scientific minds worked for a maximum of four hours a day and why that’s more effective than the insane (in my opinion) modern American notion that we should work 24/7. I know so many who work, work, work, even on weekends, as if it’s a badge of honor — or worse, something today’s jobs require. When I had a staff, I used to reprimand those who worked too long, too often, because I didn’t see anyone benefiting, including the company.

“Even in today’s 24/7, always-on world, we can blend work and rest together in ways that make us smarter, more creative, and happier.”

Multiple research studies (including by those whose research led to the “10,000 hour” requirement for mastery, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell) support the diminishing returns of overdoing creative and intellectual work.

“Even ambitious young students in one of the world’s best schools, preparing for an notoriously competitive field, could handle only four hours of really focused, serious effort per day.

“This upper limit, Ericsson concluded, is defined ‘not by available time, but by available [mental and physical] resources for effortful practice.”

The takeway:

“We’ve come to believe that world-class performance comes after 10,000 hours of practice. But that’s wrong. It comes after 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, 12,500 hours of deliberate rest, and 30,000 hours of sleep.”

The above link is to an excerpt — here’s the full-length version.

Naming

One of the most popular articles here is about the simplest and most complex aspects of marketing a business: Naming it.

I ran across a wonderful real-life story today, from Alex Blumberg’s StartUp about how they named his fledgling Gimlet Media. He encounters and explains all the typical challenges and along the way reports, in a very honest way, the missteps, discoveries, and musings. (Be warned, there is a very obscene South Park clip; no worries, he gives ample warning.)  It’s a great overview of how to (how not to) name something.

StartUp: Episode 5: How to Name Your Company

And here’s my article, Naming a Product or Company.

SEO: Agency or in-house?

A question about SEO (search engine optimization) on Quora stimulated me to write something I have had in my head for a while.

What is better, hiring an employee for SEO long-term or hiring an agency for a new website?

Clients often ask this question. Search is essential and it’s complicated. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just bring in a hired gun?

But search engine marketing is a strategy and like advertising, brand messaging, lead management, and everything else, it must be a considered part of your broader marketing strategy, serving the needs of your business. It’s not something you can just toss to a contractor. Worse, tackling SEO as a narrow tactic is a sure way to get bamboozled or possibly, penalized by Google. Sadly, the majority (seriously) of people who claim to be “SEOs” are either charlatans or incompetents. If someone tells you they will get you on page one of Google for x% of your 50 keywords, run.

So, what do you do? The best answer is a mix of in-house expertise with some agency help.

Step one is to understand search. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of dicey SEO knowledge out there, so be cautious about what you believe. I advise executives to read “The Truth About SEO” by Rebecca Lieb. It’s a few years old but largely about strategy that doesn’t vary that much and provides a broad understanding of search. For those tasked with executing the search strategy, read Lieb’s book and Moz.com’s Beginner’s Guides.

Step two: Hire or designate your search marketing staff. Large companies that live and die on the success of search will need more staff and they will need to be pretty senior. One idea is to hire a senior-level marketing consultant like me to build a strategy that mid-level people can execute.

Why do you need someone inside? For a couple of reasons. First, no agency will understand your business as well as you do. And even if you have a great agency, you need someone inside to manage the relationship and make sure the agency is giving you its full attention. Finally — and this is really important — an insider has access to the rest of the company. Every search marketing program requires help from many people in the company, from product managers to executives, to IT and web staff. Outsiders can’t command resources or evangelize the cause.

Step three: Consider hiring and managing an SEO contractor or agency.

All that said, there are great SEOs and SEO agencies and they have expertise and stay current in a way most in-house marketing staffs cannot. But when you hire an agency, they must be managed and you must have in-house staff who understands search.

 

SEO in minutes?

I don’t need to sell you on the value of search engine marketing, do I? It doesn’t get all the “shiny new thing” attention it used to, but search is still where your prospects name their needs, and search engine optimization (SEO) is how you get in front of them at exactly the right moment. My search and content marketing strategy session is one of my most popular offerings.

But the best search marketing requires time, expertise, and constant care and attention. Even sophisticated, Fortune 1000 enterprises I work with sometimes allocate their smart search marketing resources elsewhere.

When resources are tight, you can apply the 80-20 rule and achieve pretty-good SEO with fewer resources, at least for a while. Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, the best search marketing information resource I know, addresses what he calls “minimum viable SEO” in Moz’s weekly whiteboard Friday series. Even enterprises with robust search strategies will benefit from this, as will smaller organizations with rudimentary search marketing.

Go visit Rand. In just nine minutes, you’ll have a practical program for pretty-decent SEO when time is tight:

Minimum Viable Search Marketing: Minutes Per Week, Rand Fishkin of Moz.

We claim as our brand: truth

Brand isn’t about logos and colors and an attractive home page. It’s about the instantaneous, gut reaction you want people to have when they think about you. If you are very, very skillful, or very, very lucky, your brand can command a core human value. Today, The New York Times is both.

I would love to be on their marketing team right now.

On the luck side, the nation’s Brand Manager in Chief has taken them on:

The failing New York Times? Not today.

One can debate whether there is “no such thing as bad publicity,” but anyone who looks at marketing history knows that a fast, smart response is everything. The Times is responding with skill, using the President’s attention as an opportunity to grab a brand value that’s not usually available: Truth.

There are values a company can’t claim without seeming phony. You can’t tell everyone you’re trustworthy or honest in so many words; similarly, claiming truth is a dangerous proposition — unless you’re lucky enough to be under attack by someone your constituents consider an enemy. The New York Times has claimed a high ground that will help it take a leadership position.

In multiple media, the Times is investing in the banner of truth.

It comes at a fortunate time. The company has had credibility and financial issues but the public’s memory is not very long, and the timing seems perfect. A strong, protracted statement — a branding campaign — is just what The Gray Lady needs.

Obviously, there’s a sizable percentage of the population that won’t buy this. But they’re not in the newspaper’s potential audience anyway.

For years, many of us have been wondering how newspapers will survive. People didn’t seem to see value in reporting and investigation, or even in writing. The Internet was drowning traditional news values. But some will survive and some will thrive. There are glimmers of hopes for the news business, with a few rising stars, like The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and now, the “failing” New York Times.