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My Top 10 Marketing New Year's Resolutions

Here are my marketing resolutions for 2006. Feel free to steal these, or leave a comment to share your marketing (or life) resolutions for the new year.

1. I resolve to understand my customers better. What drives them, what motivates them, and how to reach them in a way that is helpful -- never intrusive.

2. I resolve to try to blog more frequently and eloquently.

3. I resolve to put a real effort into making trackback work effectively.

4. I resolve to try to determine why dmoz.org has become so awful about adding new sites.

5. I resolve to try to get back to reading the Marketing Sherpa Best-of-Weekly newsletter on a regular basis. It is the best marketing newsletter on the planet.

6. I resolve to learn more than necessary, and teach as much as possible. Marketing Profs is a great resource for online marketing wisdom. You can find a great summary of life lessons here.

7. I resolve to be more strategic in my thinking and planning.

8. I resolve to write more clearly and effectively. An…

Email Newsletters vs. Blogs Part 2

My post several weeks ago about the emergence of blogs and the decline of the e-newsletter drew a thoughtful comment from Monty Loree of Express Marketing. Mr. Loree contended that "With direct email, you're in control of staying in touch with people and inviting them back to your site." While that's indusputable, my point was that you don't need a traditional email newsletter to accomplish that task.

As Suzanne Falter-Barns points out in her blog here, collecting email addresses from your blog visitors is both easy and a great supplement to RSS feeds. Then, rather than sending out a traditional e-newsletter -- with all of the planning and formatting that requires -- you can simply send a brief note to your email list each time you post (or weekly if you are posting more frequently than that) inviting your recipients to revisit your blog and check out your latest musings.

Your blog becomes the content container for the information you would have previously includ…

Follow-Through is Critical to Online Marketing Efforts

In Web marketing, just as in hitting a golf ball, swinging a baseball bat or kicking a football, the importance of follow-through can’t be overstated. In sports, failing to complete the motion means a shorter drive, hit or kick – in other words, you won’t achieve the desired result. The same holds true for marketing. Launching a campaign or activity without the proper follow-through can mean poor results and/or unnecessary cost.

For example, one company I spoke with had spent a considerable sum of money on a search engine optimization (SEO) project for their site – but never bothered to monitor the change in their search engine positioning. When a (smart) consultant followed up with them later, he investigated and discovered that their search position had barely budged. Had the company known this sooner, they may have been able to get extra work or a partial refund from the SEO firm, depending on contract terms. They would have at least known that their investment hadn’t really paid o…

Talking to a Customer

Marketing professionals too often get caught up in communicating with "markets" to remember that a market is an abstract construct. "Markets" don't buy anything -- people, that is customers, do.

It's a great exercise for marketers to occasionally talk to a real customer. Ask the sales representative in charge of the account first: in some companies, this is required, and in any case it's good practice. You'll need to assure the sales rep that you are not checking up on them; you are rahter trying to determine how well your department is doing in helping them to be more effective. No one likes someone looking over their shoulder. Everyone likes help.

Ask a customer three key questions:

- How well does our company seem to understand your problems?

- What do we do really well?

- Where could we improve?

The purpose of the first question is to determine how well your marketing literature is hitting the mark, and to find out if you are really speaking yo…

Email Newsletters vs. Blogs

When WebMarketCentral was first launched, the plan was to offer an associated newsletter. After careful consideration, this ain't gonna happen. E-newsletters were, not so many years ago, a clever and unique idea (good newsletters anyway). Just a few short years later, email newsletters are beyond ubiquitous. Even the most laggard of sites offer one. People are sick of them. Email in-boxes are overflowing, few people are signing up, and fewer still are actually opening the newsletters they do receive.

Suzanne Falter-Barns does a great job addressing the issue of blogs vs. e-newsletters here. Blogs are more immediate, faster, easier, less formal, and with comments, more interactive.

In the case of WebMarketCentral, I thought about what my newsletter would include if I wrote one: a link to my latest blog posting, e-commerce news and Web marketing news headlines, a sponsor or two, and some humor. Since pretty much all of that is already available on the site -- generally with RSS feed…

Two Helpful Marketing Research Sites

Got marketing research to do? Want to stay current on a topic, industry or company? Here are a couple of sites that can help.

One that's probably familiar is Individual.com. This is a free customized news service that enables you to choose topics you'd like to track -- news, trends and analysis on your competitors, customers and target markets -- and then scans and delivers this content to you via email and the Web. While it includes ads, and doesn't have the wide breadth of sources of a fee-based service like Moreover, it does a reasonably good job of keeping you informed about the topic(s) of interest to you on a budget.

A second helpful tool, one that I hadn't heard of until recently, is BPubs.com. This is a search engine that searches only business publications. If you're looking for information on a specific company or industry and are overwhelmed by the worthless crap turned up by standard search engines, BPubs.com can help by narrowing your search to only bu…

How to Start in a New Marketing Role – RAPIMMR

It’s not the most elegant of acronyms, but it is a solid approach to new marketing campaigns or roles. I was recently pointed to a report from Spencer Stuart titled “A Blueprint for Top Marketers’ First 100 Days.” It’s short and worth a read, but I was expecting more of a detailed roadmap. What their advice comes down to is: talk to lots of people in your new company, establish relationships, and get them on board with your plans. That advice is solid and useful, but hardly profound.

So, here’s the roadmap I would propose, based on the acronym RAPIMMR:

R: Research. Jumping in right away with a “master plan” based on your past experience, but with no input or buy-in from your new co-workers, is a recipe for disaster. Ask lots of questions, of lots of people. What’s been done in the past? What’s worked, and what hasn’t? What’s been considered, but not tried? Ask about marketing programs, key messages, competition, and objectives. Do this both to gain knowledge as well as establish relat…

WMC Interviews: Yvonne DiVita

I was honored this week to speak with author, blogger and expert on smart marketing to women online, Yvonne DiVita. Her book Dickless Marketing: Smart Marketing to Women Online is raising eyebrows and helping smart marketers improve their results, and her witty and widely-read blog was honored as one of the Best Blogs of 2005 by Marketing Sherpa.

WebMarketCentral (WMC): What did you do before Windsor Media Enterprises? What’s your background?

Yvonne DiVita (YD): I've been a writer for my entire life. In fact, I got myself in trouble in 2nd grade because all I did was write (and illustrate -- boy those pics should be worth $$) stories about kids and pets. My teacher called my mother. Together, they tried to convince me I needed to do things like math and science, too. Guess I buckled -- I made it into the third grade and beyond.

So, writing is in my blood. From thereon, I spent the majority of my time writing and reading. In high school I was the one everyone came to for help with te…

Blogging for Business

Recently added to WebMarketCentral.com, the Web marketing portal, are three new pages providing Internet marketers with everything they need to know (for now) about creating and maintaining an effective business-related blog. I've compiled everything I know and was able to find about business blogging onto these three pages: Why Write a Blog for Business?, How to Create an Effective Business Blog, and Best Practices in Blog Marketing (how to promote your blog once it's built). Also included are links to some of the most helpful blogs devoted to business blogging, such as Business Blog Consulting and Why Marketers Should Blog.

A few samples:

A blog is a place where your employees can speak to customers and prospects in their own unique voices. It is a place to demonstrate the collected knowledge and expertise of your company (that is, your people). And, through comments, it is a place to have a conversation with your customers and prospects, informally and openly. Compared to oth…

WMC Interviews: Farrakh Azhar

I had the distinct pleasure this week of talking to Farrakh Azhar, founder and CEO of WebGreeter / LiveAdmins. While there are several companies that offer Web site chat software, WebGreeter is unique in offering both the software (hosted) and the operators who handle the chat sessions. In short, WebGreeter customers not only have no software to install, they also don't have to staff the Web chat function. Customers pay only for what "chat resources" they use, and still get all the advtanges of greeting prospects as they visit their sites: increased visit length, greater "stickiness," and ultimately higher conversion of visitors to customers.

WebMarketCentral (WMC) : What did you do before starting WebGreeter / Live Admins?

Farrakh Azhar (FA): I began my professional experience as a businessman, helping the family-business in Import/Export, Retail and Manufacturing. After graduating from Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in 1991, I started working for Intern…

One Company That "Gets" the Web -- And One That Doesn't

While doing some Web strategy consulting work recently for a large office products company, I evaluated several competitors' Web sites. One site -- Avery.com -- stood out not only as the best in the industry, but as an example of creativity and utility uncommon in any industry. Another competitor -- MeadWestvaco -- unfortunately for them, served as a prime counter-example (or perhaps an example of how to do almost everything wrong). I have no association with either of these companies, and my comments are intended to be illustrative and constructively critical rather than disparaging.

Avery is a company that really "gets" the Web, and it shows throughout their site. It has all of the basics one would expect, such as full e-commerce capability and a newsletter aimed at their target market, office managers. A nice touch is that all past issues of the newsletter are kept online in a searchable archive. Even more impressive, back issues are searchable by section, topic or spe…

WMC Interviews: Albert Maruggi

This week, I had the chance to sit down with Albert Maruggi, principal of St. Paul-based marketing agency Provident Partners (and huge baseball fan). His agency assists companies in a variety of industries in all areas of marketing, with particular expertise in PR, events management, integrated marketing and podcasting.

WebMarketCentral (WMC): What did you do before founding Provident Partners?

Albert Maruggi (AM): Worked in radio for a number of years. I was a television reporter and anchor. I also shot and edited video for news stations. I was a political reporter who made the jump to being a press secretary for a Member of Congress. From there I became Press Secretary for the Republican National Committee and then held public affairs management positions in the Bush '41 Administration.

WMC: How, when and why did Provident Partners get started?

AM: When I could not get my flight from LA to MN on September 11, 2001 I drove back home. I did a lot of thinking on that trip and I made tw…

New Blog Friends for WMC

Marketing is about relationships. And one of my favorite aspects of blogging is "meeting" new people across the marketing blog space. Over the last couple of weeks I've had the pleasure of exchanging emails with several prominent bloggers, all of whom have made me smarter.

David Wolfe at Ageless Marketing
Many bloggers provide tips, which are very helpful. David, however, provides something even more valuable – wisdom. David shares a lifetime of experience on topics such as branding, consumer advertising and earning customer trust.

Sarah Eaton at BeTuitive
Both Sarah and her blog are delightful. Her specialties are email marketing and uncommon observations. A highly useful feature of her blog is the topical category listing.

John Moore at Brand Autopsy
A brilliant, visual and wide-ranging blog on branding. Highly recommended for anyone interested entertaining commentary on consumer and business branding, from a brilliant and eclectic mind.

Michael Smock at Maneuver Marketing Co…

Big Brother Really IS Watching You

While this is not a political blog, government actions that specifically affect online marketing or e-commerce are fair game. Several states have recently begun sending nasty letters to taxpayers who purchased tobacco products online from several e-retailers, including eSmokes.com.

How did they obtain information on these customers? This issue is about far more than the perils or expense of smoking; these actions have the potential to affect anyone and everyone involved in online marketing or e-commerce, anyone who buys or sells anything online. Do you sell products online? Are you absolutely positively certain that you comply with EVERY state and federal tax statute enacted in the last 100 years? Ever purchased anything online, maybe a book or CD, perhaps some jewelry, say back in 2001? Are you certain that the online retailer paid all appropriate taxes on your purchase? Disturbing? Absolutely. Please read on.

First, the state actions: the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on this acti…

A Cluetrain Moment

I just finished reading The Cluetrain Manifesto (yes, I know C-2001, I'm a bit behind on my reading). Those of you who've read this book will understand the reference. For those of you who haven't, I'll provide a more detailed response to the book in some future post, but it is well worth the read.

Anyway, I had a "Cluetrain moment" last week when I met an extraordinary gentleman named Brad Cleveland, CEO of a rapid plastic injection molding prototyping company called Protomold. I don't know if Brad has read the book or not, but he certainly gets it, and lives it.

The company has been using a wide variety of marketing tactics for some time, including search engine marketing / pay-per-click, print, direct mail and email marketing, but decided to hire an outside telemarketing firm to test that tactic as well. On one occasion, one of the telemarketers deviated from the script and upset a customer, who then called a CSR at Prototmold. Brad was notified immediat…

The Most Important News Sources for Marketers

Marketing professionals, particularly those focused on online or Web marketing, depend on the latest news from a wide variety of sources to help them stay current on their craft. While there are obviously some excellent news sites available (such as MarketingVOX, ClickZ and BtoBonline), it's impractical to visit all of them and way too time-consuming to sift through all of the articles that don't matter in order to find the ones that do.

But now you can get all of the pertinent content, from literally thousands of online sources, in one place: the new Web Marketing News and E-Commerce News pages on WebMarketCentral.com. I try to avoid being too self-referential here but I'm really excited about these new feeds and I think -- and hope -- that you will find them useful. The feeds are powered by Web content provider Moreover Technologies. Moreover pulls literally tens of thousands of articles from more than 10,000 online sources, categorizes them, and delivers news feeds on s…

Ubiquitous Ads, Disappearing Freedom

The brilliant and entertaining Anne Holland at Marketing Sherpa recently blogged about the proliferation of advertising, and the need for marketers to save themselves through relevant targeting. She mentioned sand-sculpture advertising on the beach and other examples of the "loud shouting" sometimes done by marketers instead of delivering focused, relevant messages in targeted media.

I stumbled (or rather, paddled) across another example yesterday. My son and I canoed down the scenic and wild St. Croix river on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. While making our way down river, I occasionally glanced down at my paddle to make sure I was pushing water efficiently. Imprinted on the front side of the paddle was, not surprisingly, the name of the camp where we'd rented the canoe. However, late in the trip, I turned the paddle over and glanced at the back of it, on which was imprinted -- the Pepsi name and logo.

What brilliant marketer at Pepsi came up with the idea of putting the…

WMC Interviews: Kelly Allan

This week, I had the opportunity to talk to Kelly Allan, founder of and senior associate at Kelly Allan Associates in Columbus, Ohio. Kelly's firm assists companies in a variety of industries with marketing and operations consulting, helping them to streamline business processes and achieve better results. Kelly has been widely published -- and is just a really nice guy.

WebMarketCentral (WMC): What did you do before starting Kelly Allan Associates?

Kelly Allan (KA): I was a writer, producer/director of educational programs for The University of Michigan Medical Center. Had I stayed, I'd be retired, fat, and unhappy. I had a great boss and great colleagues, but it wasn't what I really wantedto do. Staying would have been a compromise. I tell young people, "Don't sell your life for money. Go take some chances."

WMC: How, when and why did Kelly Allan Associates get started?

KA: I started the company full time in 1976, at age 24. I was too young to knowany better! T…

Yvonne and Jane

If you market to women, or like reading about marketing to women, or just enjoy exceptionally well-written marketing-related blog copy, check out Yvonne DiVita's Lip-Sticking blog. As a strictly b2b marketer, and a guy, I'll acknowledge that I'm as clueless on this subject as the Hahn beer guy (if you've never seen these videos, you must).

Yvonne writes about blogging, conferences, copywriting, advertising and other related topics from her own unique perspective and with her own inimitable style. A great example is "5 Things About Your Website that will send Jane Screaming in Frustration" -- although these apply equally to men.

Who's Jane?

*****

The portal for online marketing, WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

WMC Interviews: Jay Lipe

WebMarketCentral had the chance to sit down (figuratively speaking) with Jay Lipe, founder of marketing consulting firm Emerge Marketing, to talk about his background and his company, and to tap into his Web marketing wisdom. Herewith, the inaugural WebMarketCentral blog interview.

WebMarketCentral (WMC): What did you do before Emerge Marketing?

Jay Lipe (JL): My background is pretty much all in marketing. For almost twenty years, I’ve worked to market companies, products, services, universities, cities, even politicians.

After I received my MBA in Marketing from Northwestern (Kellogg School of Management) in the 80’s, I worked for marketing powerhouses like General Mills, Novartis and Select Comfort. I went as far as I could on that track, then I launched my own business, Emerge Marketing in 1994. I help small companies (less than 100 employees) gain focus in their marketing.

WMC: How, when and why did Emerge Marketing get started?

JL: September 23, 1994. On that day I met with a good fri…

Google Notes, Good People

First, I noted in my last rant here that "The Web's most popular search engine still won't find all of the words "Bronto Topica Silverpop" on WebMarketCentral, even though they are all listed on the Hosted Email Marketing Services page." Well, I checked again today and -- Google still won't find these terms on the WMC site, but it found my blog post (top spot). Guess I need to keep working on my search engine optimization.

Second, one of the most enjoyable things about running WebMarketCentral thus far has been the outstanding people I've been able to "meet" (in some cases, just via email). Kelly Allan gave WMC one its first real links. Jay Lipe, president of Emerge Marketing, agreed to be the subject of the first (of many to come) WMC blog interview (to be posted soon). And just today, Skip Lineberg at the Marketing Genius blog gave WMC a nice endorsement. The opportunity to develop new relationships with great people is one of the most…

Search Engine Optimization 101

New on WebMarketCentral.com is a page on Search Engine Optimization Basics, a how-to guide to getting at least decent placement for your site on the major search engines. While expert search engine position services offer more sophisticated techniques, this guide covers the basics of text optimization, meta tagging, alt-text for images, page naming, links and code tweaking for those without a big search budget.

Having exposed my knowledge and experience on improving one's search position, it's embarassing that the WMC site isn't showing up more respectably on the search engines yet. Through yesterday, a Google search for own press release brought up a number of sites where the release had been posted -- but missed the press release on my site! (Google is finding it today.) Also up until yesterday, Google couldn't find the name "Jay Lipe" on my site, even though it's in both the text and meta tags for my marketing-related blogs page. Again, that's worki…

WebMarketCentral Gets Official

After several weeks live, WebMarketCentral.com has now been officially launched with this press release. Most of the world won't see the release until PRWeb releases it tomorrow, but you can see it on the WMC site today.

Our goal, as always, is to help Web marketing and e-commerce professionals to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently by showcasing the top marketing books, providing useful advice, and providing an extensive directory of helpful online marketing resources.

To that end, we've also recently added to the site a directory of Marketing and Operations Consulting firms, including some of those whom we have found to truly outstanding such as Kelly Allan Associates and Green Point Partners.

Nest week, we'll post our first interview with a key player in the online marketing space. Until then, best of luck to you, and stay tuned.

The Hydra of Web Site Development

Like the Hydra of Greek mythology, though much more benign (and not to confused with the 1990 Toto album, one of their weaker efforts), effective Web site development requires many heads. Perhaps not nine like the Hydra, but at least four: a technologist, a graphic designer, a writer, and a Web strategist. Finding all four skill sets in one individual is as rare as finding the next Michael Jordan in basketball, though finding two may be possible.

Many companies -- and not just small ones -- make the mistake when looking for Web development talent of focusing on the technology side: "knowledge of HTML, Java, Flash" etc. is among the absolute requirements in their want ad. While technology skills are important, they are not necessarily key, any longer, to the development of a truly effective online presence.

Take this law firm site for example: the graphic design is simple yet elegant, and technologically it works fine; but the navigation could be improved (Who are they targetin…