June 7, 2013

Reporter’s PR tip at trade shows: stop listening to marketing folks

imagesA recent blog post by Health Data Management reporter Joseph Goedert is a good reminder of how PR folks can be operating on auto pilot when it comes to announcements issued at trade shows.  According to Joe, it happens every year:

“Can’t wait for your big news to break at the show when you announce it Monday morning? And hoping you won’t be disappointed by the coverage like you were last year, the year before, the year before…?”

His advice:

“Stop listening to your marketing folks. Listen to a reporter and your outside PR pro who is begging you to release the news early, and release it the week before the conference.”

Joe points out that if your news isn’t major, release it early.  We agree with him in that it often makes more sense, especially if you provide copies in the trade show press room, at publication booths on the show floor and during scheduled meetings with reporters.

His last piece of advice: the week before a trade show is often slow on news and reporters still have daily newsletters to get out.  Routine vendor announcements that might be ignored get picked up.

Good insight the next time your marketing folks demand you release news during the first day of a major event.  It might be wise to consider the input from a reporter.



June 6, 2013

Blog post as a media relations tool?

blog post

Yes, a company’s blog can be a significant tool in reaching out to media and securing news coverage. Often, if there is an issue receiving a lot of attention within an industry, a blog post is the quickest and most efficient way to put a stake in the ground and offer your company’s point of view.

But just posting your company’s position on an issue is not enough. Sure, your employees and other company stakeholders are alerted, but you need to take it a step further and use that post just as you would a press release.

After you’ve entered your blog post, email a copy of it to all media reps important in your space. They’ll see it’s not a press release and you’re not pitching them for coverage, but merely alerting them to an issue your company believes is important. Once the email is sent, continue working with it like a press release and conduct phone follow-up to the top media you want to be in front of. When you have him or her on the phone, talk about why this issue is important to you and how your company could act as a resource should the reporter provide further coverage. You’ve already given your company’s point of view and demonstrated your commitment by phoning the journalist; you might be pleasantly surprised how far this will go in having your company included in future coverage.

May 28, 2013

Eleven ways to increase online sales

In just 11 steps, you can boost results for any online sales initiative. Anything. It’s really not an art; web selling is a science, and the test results are conclusive. Follow these rules to greater success:increase-online-business-resized-600

1. Buyer personas.  If you aren’t optimizing everything for the needs, wants and requirements of your buyers, start over. Once you know who you are talking to, their situations, wants, needs and the answers to their problems, selling to them is easy.

2. Relevancy and motivation. It’s impossible to sell what people don’t want. Driving the right people to your site is the foundation of effective marketing, along with crafting the right offer at the right price.

3. Design for sales. The quality and craftsmanship of your site/store tells more than the words you write. Ugly and clumsy are not attributes, they are sales blockers. And visual hierarchy that encourages easy reading and even easier understanding — that’s salesmanship.

4. Value propositions.  If you don’t have  a unique value proposition, you don’t have what it takes to compete. And if your value proposition isn’t woven into every entry point on your site, you are losing sales.

5. Triage customers. Customers fall into three groups: those who have an unrecognized need, researchers, and those who have come to a decision. You can’t do much for the first group except to educate them, at your expense. Researchers, on the other hand, love to compare before deciding. If you are not the cheapest, this group needs to know your advantages (see item four). The last group is the one that’s ready to buy, so get out of the way and let them sign up or fill their carts.

6. Reduce friction.  There’s plenty of science to prove that friction can only be reduced, and it’s as much a part of sales transactions as it is for Soapbox Derby axles. For sales, it’s the doubts, hesitations and second thoughts. For online sales, here are guaranteed friction factors:

  • Long and complicated forms
  • Hidden contact information
  • Anonymity, no physical address or phone
  • Ugly web design
  • Claims without sufficient evidence of proof
  • Insufficient information
  • FUDs: fears, uncertainties, doubts

7. Obfuscation.  Or lack of clarity. Be sure the customer is able to understand the concept without jargon or big wordy words.

8. Noise and distraction. There’s a proven rule for creating good billboards:  it’s ready when there’s nothing left to remove.  Too many choices with too much information leads to choosing nothing. Too hard. Reduce clutter the closer you get to closing, including crosslinks, sidebars and navigation.

9. Engagement. When 100 people come to your site, how many buy? Increase sales by increasing engagement. The more expensive or complicated your offer, the more time it takes to make a decision. So get their email first, then work to add value, prove your expertise, get them to like you — before you ask for the sale.

10. Urgency. Hurry, because this list is about to end.  Creating urgency, when it makes sense, makes sales.  Limited quantities (only three left) limited time (before midnight tonight) or limited context (Mother’s Day is coming soon) all work.

11. Usability. If your site doesn’t provide a seamless, pleasant and valuable experience, start over. Everything should seem as though it’s made to meet the needs of the viewer, the potential customer. Poorly designed websites create sales failures.

Adapted from How to Build Websites That Sell, The Scientific Approach to Websites, by Peep Laja.

May 6, 2013

Is your website issuing a strong call to action?

Generating leads or sales from your website? The first thing you need is an effective Call To Action (CTA).

Formulating a magic bullet CTA can be a challenge, especially when you have so many valuable features.  The sales challenge, as always, is to turn features into benefits. Thanks to conversion expert Joanna Wiebe, here are some tricks to improve your success.

imagesIf you have a truly unique value proposition, say so. If the average viewer doesn’t know who you are, so say your name in the headline. If you can solve a problem, make the promise to solve it. And if there is a pain that you can eliminate or an objection that you can answer, be specific with proof. There’s nothing better than hearing your customers talk about pains, needs and expectations. They know why they buy, often better than you.

  • Be specific…aim your message at those most likely to buy now
  • Be succinct
  • Focus on the ONE thing prospects want
  • Confirm the expectation of your visitor

Joanna offers five cookbook formulas to cover almost all marketing situations.

1. All gain—When your prospects have a clear pain that you can relieve

Get The(fresh but relevant adjective) Power Of(what your product does) Without(pain)” 

The Astonishing Power of Eye Tracking Technology…Without the High Costs

2. Promise-based SEO—A highly desirable outcome with an SEO boost

(Adjective) & (Adjective) (what you are/SEO keyword phrase) That Will (desirable promise of results)

Clean & Modern iPhone App Design Templates That Will Set You Apart In The App Store

3. Explicit promise— When you customers will believe a promise from you

We Promise: (highly desirable results)

We Promise Just One Thing: Get More Clients from Social Media

4. Comparison — When your customers are using or considering a competitor

(Known competitor) (does this undesirable thing), And (your brand name) (does this highly desirable or impressive thing)

Google Analytics Tells You What Happened, KISSMetrics Tells You Who Did It

5. The value prop — Something that’s both unique and highly desirable

The Only (SEO keyword phrase) Made Exclusively To (highly desirable outcome or benefit) 

The Only Web Copywriting Guides Made Exclusively To Improve Your Sales

Incidentally, like most direct-marketing copywriters, she recommends bold centered headline, capitalizing each word, avoiding periods, and breaking up long headlines with ellipses or em-dashes.

Once you have written a test set of headlines, it’s time to test.

There are a variety of tools out there for conducting and monitoring A/B tests. One of the best tools is Google’s free Content Experiments, a part of  Google Analytics in the Content section.

  • Test Early and Test Often. You should run tests as early as possible when considering a new promotional technique or when launching a new product. You want your site optimized as soon as possible, so you aren’t losing sales. And then keep testing.
  • Test Only A Few Elements. Limit the variables or you won’t know what worked. Start with headlines — they do the most work and create the strongest effects.
  • Run Tests on New Visitors Only. Don’t use your existing customers as guinea pigs for changes to your website. Their preconceptions can skew your results and cause inaccuracies.
  • Listen to the Results. Resist the temptation to listen to your instincts if the empirical data is telling you different. You’re running controlled tests for reason. If in doubt, re-test.
  • Allow the Test to Run for Sufficient Time. Stopping the test early just means there’s more room for error. The same can be said for letting it run too long. Try for a time period of a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on your site traffic (you want a minimum of a few hundred test results before drawing any conclusions, and preferably a few thousand).

Listen to your customers, formulate a short, sweet and resonant set of calls to action and test, test, test.

May 3, 2013

Contributed articles can turn CEOs into thought leaders

As PR and marketing professionals, we hear the term constantly during planning meetings with a client’s executive management.  The CEO wants to be positioned as a thought leader, or someone who is considered to be on the cutting edge of innovation and is helping to guide his or her industry into the future.  A thought leader’s opinion is usually important, sought after and commented on by media, analysts and other industry influencers.

How can you turn a CEO into a thought leader? For those of us in marketing and public relations, it can be a daunting task.  One way to achieve this goal is to utilize contributed article opportunities.


Contributed articles are great ways to share trends, best practices and a vision for the future within any industry.  Many publications consider these articles to play a vital role in their success.  Most of the time you can work with the CEO to determine the topic and key points, then draft an article for his or her approval.  Once published, the piece can be posted on a website, used for social media posts and integrated into sales and marketing collateral.

Before you go down this road, consider these tips for success:

No selling. Many will be disappointed to learn that the best articles contain no company or product information.  They are specifically designed to help colleagues and other observers stay on top of the latest trends.  Credibility comes from addressing challenges and opportunities facing the industry, not just a particular company or set of customers.  The article will contain a byline for the author, and that’s enough.

Be specific. Before writing the article, you will be required to submit a well thought-out topic, headline and at least one paragraph to explain the focus of the piece and what readers can expect to learn.  Take the time to create a quality pitch to the magazine’s editors.  It’s the most important part of the process and not to be taken lightly.

Be patient. If submitted for a print publication, articles could be held for up to three months.  Conversely, web articles are typically posted within a week or two.

Contributed articles can often open doors to build or develop relationships with key media, analysts and industry influencers.  Other benefits can include speaking opportunities at major trade shows and events.




April 26, 2013

Social Fundraising Tips for Nonprofits

imagesFundraising can be a challenge for any nonprofit. Convincing people to part with hard-earned cash is always tricky, even if the organization’s cause is a good one. Despite the challenges, 2012 proved to be a big year for social giving, with nonprofits seeing higher engagement and more donations directly related to their social media efforts.

2012 Social Fundraising Success

An infographic released by MDG Advertising shares the success that nonprofits saw using social media, comparing 2012’s results with years prior. Below are some interesting highlights detailed in the the infographic:

Twitter generated almost ten times more money raised. Average total online donations using Twitter were $225.90. Without Twitter, the average total of online donations was $22.97.

• Using social media on #GivingTuesday resulted in impressive numbers. Normal online donations average $62. In comparison, #GivingTuesday resulted in higher average donations at $101.60.

• Donors posting about contributions resulted in even more engagement. Friends who see these posts are likely to learn more about the charity, ask for more information, repost the donation request, and even donate themselves.

• Three trends to watch out for: (1) Nonprofits will use Facebook more to pursue donations, (2) using Google+ will help social giving by allowing charities to integrate their pages with other Google features, and (3) Twitter hashtags will increasingly help nonprofits spread the word about causes.

What Nonprofits can do on Social Media

How can you get some of the same success for your nonprofit? Here are five tips to help push your audience into becoming donors:

1. Encourage donors to post about contributions on their profiles. As stated above, this results in donors’ friends learning more about charities and may even lead to more donations. After receiving a donation, ask a donor on your website’s “Thank You” page to Tweet or post about the contribution.

2. Jump on the #GivingTuesday bandwagon. In addition to the impressive results above, The NonProfit Times reported that the charitable sector’s Black Friday was already trending on Twitter well before businesses closed on Monday. Be sure to leverage the giving spirit that comes with this day.

3. Provide links to your profiles. Add either links or widgets that lead to your social media profile to your “Thank You” page and emails. Encourage donors to follow and like your pages and profiles to stay up to day on the latest news.

4. Create and share behind-the-scenes content. Use videos and images that gives your audience a sneak peek at what the donors are helping to build. This creates a sense of ownership for the donors. Engaging content like photos and video are also more likely to be shared.

5. Only occasionally ask supporters to donate via posts and tweets. It is important to first build your community, then raise funds second. Nonprofits Tech 2.0 suggests the guideline of asking for donations only twice a month. We also suggest asking leading up to a big applicable event or holiday.

With these tips, any nonprofit should be able to bolster its social presence and motivate supporters into becoming donors.

Related Posts:

April 24, 2013

Trade Up!

magazinesWhen some companies engage a PR firm, they have visions of reading about themselves in Time or the Wall Street Journal. And while top-tier media coverage is always thrilling, it’s not the only way to reach your current and potential customers. You may find the best use of your agency’s time and your budget is to focus on smaller trade publications that speak directly to your customers.

At VOXUS, we have a plethora of trade publications we work with on a regular basis. From Network World and Computerworld to Mashable and TechCrunch, there are media outlets that concentrate solely on technology. So while a story in the New York Times will reach a larger audience, a story in Computerworld might actually be better for driving company sales.

Drilling down further, there are sub-sets of trade media that are even more targeted. One of our clients is a technology company that specializes in hosted accounting solutions. So again, while a story in Computerworld would be nice for it, a story in Accounting Technology is even better because it speaks directly to its customers – accountants. And at the end of the day, although you want your PR program to enhance your image and provide credibility,  you ultimately want it to impact your bottom line with increased sales.

The moral of this story is that, just because you may not receive major coverage in the national media, it doesn’t mean you are missing out. If you can have a clear focus on being a resource for your core trade media, you’re already on the path to a more impressive bottom line.

April 22, 2013

LinkedIn Recommendations for CEOs

When a CEO becomes interested in building a larger presence on LinkedIn, here are some of the suggestions we’ve provided in the past to get him or her started, organized by the amount of time and effort needed:

imagesLevel 1 (Low Participation) – Approx. 30 minutes – 1 hour a week
• Join five LinkedIn groups.  Pick five groups that are related to your company or industry, and ones you feel comfortable participating in. The second step is to make comments when the right topic is posted within those groups. We recommend checking in with the groups once a week to see if there’s a new topic of conversation you’d like to join.
• Post one link to profile wall once a week.  These links can be to anything related to the company. Whether it’s specific company news or industry news, the more you post on your profile, the more attention will be received.

Level 2 (Medium Participation) – Approx. 1 – 2 hours a week
• Create posts in two of the five groups.  Instead of making brief comments to other users’ posts, create your own posts within those groups to generate more conversations revolving around topics that relate to the company’s products, services, and industry. The company name should not be mentioned in the post so that group members do not assume it is a sales pitch.  This allows you to control the conversations, generate discussions and glean potential customer and industry leader feedback.
• Post revised version of group post to your wall.  Anything that is posted within a group should also be posted to your profile wall.

Level 3 (High Participation) – Approx. 3 – 5 hours a week
• Start new group.  Creating a new group allows you to invite customers and other contacts to join and participate. Create one company specific post a week and recruit internal marketing personnel to post industry news and other information. We would advise that the company should create a minimum of eight posts a month. Customers could also create posts sharing their experiences and feedback. The idea is to make it inviting for users that are not current customers to join. This allows you to learn more information about current customers and potential customers and could also lead to great case study material.
• Post revised version your group posts to wall.  This is the same principle as Level 2 except there will be multiple group posts.
• Thought leadership responses to five groups.  Pick three main conversations from the original five groups and write thought leadership-inspired responses. Rather than short comments to certain posts, these responses would be drafted ahead of time and could even be edited and repurposed to fit different groups or shortened to be posted on the wall. These type of thought leadership responses, along with many of the other listed recommendations, will drive more users to not only connect and follow you but also the company brand.

April 17, 2013

Should My Brand Use Memes?


According to Urban Dictionary, the definition of an Internet meme is “A word, phrase, expression, iconic imagery or recognizable reference popularized amongst online communities such as on forums or in online games.” You’ve mostly like seen these Internet creations floating around in places like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, and you might have wondered if you could use them to promote your brand or campaign. The short answer is, “Yes!”

Memes are a great way to connect to your audience — especially Millennials — through the use of humor.   They can go viral if they are really funny, as users deploy them within their social networks. And if something goes viral, that means you’re generating more awareness of your brand.

However, there are some things you should consider before using memes. You should first decide if they are appropriate for your brand, then think about the merits of creating your own versus using existing memes.

Reasons Your Brand Should Use Memes:

  • Memes are easy to share
  • Memes humanize your brand, adding ingenuity and humor
  • Memes jump to attention and get noticed

Tips for Using Memes to Promote Your Brand

1. Opt to use newer popular memes. Keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter for new memes that are popping up, since newer ones automatically garner attention. Unless you use an older meme extremely well, users will be quick to point out that a it has already run its course.

2. Tailor the meme to your brand or campaign. When you find that perfect, already-existing meme, don’t be afraid to tailor it to fit your to your needs. You can use photo editing software like Photoshop or sites like MemeGenerator.net to construct your own message.

3. Don’t blatantly promote your brand. The goal of creating a meme is to see it spread virally. What can hinder that is being too obvious with company promotion. So if you’re going to put a company’s name on it, make sure that it is small type across the bottom of the image in the style of a photo credit. The same goes for logos. Put a small icon in one of the lower corners. And don’t put it in a place where it can be easily cropped out. If people can crop it, they will.

4. Keep it recognizable. Memes are depictions of popular culture. For an example, the “McKayla is not impressed” meme hit the Internet with full force the day after McKayla Maroney made her famous stink-face at the Olympics. With this iconic moment captured and the world watching the Olympics, this meme spread fast with McKayla being unimpressed with many things.

5. Keep it relevant to your audience. If your audience can’t relate to a meme, considering it dead upon arrival. Reflect on the information your audience typically consumes and use its interests and problems to find common ground for your humor. Also, memes sometimes walk a fine line between funny and offensive. Be cautious.

A Word of Caution

Memes can be freely copied and altered. This means that your attempt at a viral campaign to gain brand awareness can turn against you quickly. If your company makes a misstep or has unpopular practices, its memes can be repurposed, causing you to lose control of your message. So while memes are fun and can cement a brand in the public consciousness, they can also turn into a nightmare for any company’s social media manager.

Suprised baby

Carefully consider using memes to avoid a social media nightmare

However, if used correctly, memes can be a really fun way to gain awareness. Just make sure the memes you select are humorous, targeted and brand appropriate. For more information on viral content, read our previous blog post Organic vs. Viral vs. Paid Reach for B2B Facebook Pages.

April 8, 2013

5 Things You Need to Know About Twitter’s Advanced Ads and Analytics

Online and social marketers rejoice – Twitter finally joined the big leagues of social media advertising. For the past year, Twitter has been slowing moving toward becoming a full-on, paid advertising source, first allowing select large brands to run basic promoted account and tweet campaigns, then allowing the same functionality to small businesses. While these promotions have given brands increased traffic and boosted followers, the control board of these campaigns has left much to be desired. Until last month, Twitter Ads’ dashboard was bare bones basic, showing only what tweets were being promoted, number of clicks, engagement rate, and budget spent. For online marketers who are used to the detailed campaign analytics of Facebook or Google PPC, this feels like only being fed an analytics snack when you’re starving for a meal.

Twitter's new advanced ad dashboard

Twitter’s new advanced ad dashboard

Thankfully, Twitter has joined the competitive online marketing ranks, introducing a new advanced dashboard and targeting capabilities that are organized, thorough, and visually appealing. Plus, Twitter has managed to transition into monetization without feeling like it’s losing its integrity. Brands that don’t promote don’t risk not being seen by their followers, and there’s no tacky – if not invasive – option to promote your friends’ posts without their permission (ahem, Facebook).

We’ve been using the new Twitter Ads platform extensively in the last month for various brand campaigns ranging from the less than a hundred dollar range all the way to five digits. Here are the top five things online marketers, regardless of budget, should know about the new Twitter Ads:

1. You decide your audience
Previously, Twitter Ads just allowed you to bid on what you would pay for a click or follower, how much you wanted to spend, and Twitter’s algorithm somehow got the numbers met. The new Twitter Ads allows brands to target promoted tweets and accounts either by A) tweeters with particular interests; or B) followers of particular accounts (like target publications, analysts, influencers, etc). Though the analytics don’t show who specifically is clicking on links, it makes it much easier to answer the question, “Do we know these clicks are from our target demographic?”

2. Prices have gone up
Surprise surprise, with increased functionality comes increased prices. Once brands input which interests or accounts they want to target in an ad, Twitter shows the potential reach your ads could have. The more you pay per engagement, the more people will see your tweet – regardless of how large your overall budget is. For example, if you have a bid of $1.50 per click and a potential reach of 15,000 people, Twitter will tell you you’ll only reach 20 percent of this demographic regardless if your campaign budget is 500 dollars or 1,500 dollars. Additionally, the cost per click has increased. Before the switch, one client had particularly good results from $0.40 bid per click. Now, campaigns are static without a bid of at least $1.75 per click. Yes, Twitter allows you to choose who sees your promotion, but they’ll make you pay to get in front of the right eyes.

3. Price varies on based on country
If you’re running a campaign targeted toward particular countries, setting a budget may be a little more complicated than you think. Twitter Ads now charges more for engagements in countries where a higher amount of the population is on Twitter. This is consistent with the Twitter Ads trend that the more people you want in your pool of targets, the more you have to jump in the pool.

4. You’re not just paying for clicks anymore
Pre-March 2013, Twitter Ads let brands pay to get clicks. Today’s Twitter Ads makes brands pay for engagements, including retweets, new followers, and clicks. Twitter weighs and charges each of these engagements equally. Though this new model does allow for a more well-rounded ad experience, it does not allow brands flexibility to decide what they really want to pay for. If your objective is just getting traffic from a particular promoted tweet, you’re out of luck on this one.

5. The clicks are real
After one of our first large-scale promoted tweet campaigns, I went into Hootsuite (a tweet scheduler that also provides click analytics) and checked the click-thru rate to see how our promoted tweets were performing compared to non-paid content. Hootsuite told me our promoted tweet click-thru was nothing out of the ordinary, while Twitter analytics told me it was in the thousands. What gives? Was Twitter lying to me? So we dug deeper, reconciled with Google Analytics, and it was true – we really had gotten thousands of clicks to the website. Relief. If other Twitter analyzers aren’t picking up on your promoted clicks, always double check with your website analytics.

Happy promoting and analyzing, folks!