Turn Your Marketing Funnel Into a Tornado of Online Activity

Squeezing the most out of your online marketing campaign can literally bear fruit and translate into increased revenue for your products or services. There are four main ingredients you need in the marketing mix to produce income online. My web success recipe is: Traffic + Experience + Interest + Referral = Revenue. First you have to reach your target markets and drive them to your site. Second, upon arrival visitors need to be intrigued with what you are offering or they will leave after about 20 seconds and two clicks. Third, you need to retain their interest by getting them to come back a second or third time. And fourth, you want the golden rule of selling, recommendation by referral.

Traffic: The Lifeblood of a Website
You don’t just want traffic to your website, you want the “right” type of traffic, namely from your target markets. So how do you find them and funnel them to your site? It starts with using keywords that drill down to your customers and site optimization (SEO). Then it is about search engine marketing (SEM) – getting your message out to the Internet world through social networks, blogs, apps and widgets, PR, email, campaigns, contests, and affiliate outreach.

Experience: Mi Casa Es Tu Casa
Once the motivated visitor lands on your site, you don’t want them to lose that hope, that promise of finding what they are searching for. Remember, visitors want to be sold to, they want to fulfill that need; they don’t want to continue looking for the needle in the haystack. In other words, they want to feel comfortable, feel at home. Therefore, your site must be clear, concise, have benefit-oriented features and offer real value. They don’t want beautiful, they want practical, functional. They want to be informed, poke around and make a decision, even if it is only to bookmark the site for a return engagement. And that is a winner because people rarely impulse buy and will surf to see if there is anything better, before returning to your site – to buy.

Interest: We Are Creatures of Habit
You have enticed them to come visit; they have had a positive experience on your site, now you need to retain their interest. You can do this through emails and alerts, continued blogging, RSS and news feeds, and by offering them special events such as a teleseminar or webinar, newsletters, tips or limited time offers. Here, communication is key. Develop an online relationship with your visitors and welcome them back to something new and fresh. Make your site habit forming. Change content and update your site frequently.

Referral: The 500 lb Gorilla
The best lead is the referral. It is objective, welcomed and encouraged. We all love and respect the referral because it helps simplify our world of choices. It has been tried, tested and approved. Not only that, they reach your target market and are pre-qualified, interested buyers. There are many ways to get referrals in bunches, the best being affiliate marketing. Find companies, organizations or marketers with a significant customer base, membership or following, develop a relationship with them so they will send your url link to their constituents. Another way is recommendations by friends and colleagues. Widgets and emails are also good ways of solicitation along with a tell-a-friend component on your site.

Revenue: The End Game
Now that you have a recipe for Web Success, you need to implement it. Roll up your sleeves and get to work. And yes, it does require work. Putting up a site and not being pro-active is a recipe for disappointment. Your website is a business and it needs energy, creativity, vigilance, and constant tweaking. If you put in the time, and implement some of the strategies outlined in this article, you can turn your marketing funnel into a tornado of rewarding online activity.

Self-Directed Investing For the Canadian Investor

Are you interested in taking control of your portfolio and becoming a “self-directed” investor within the stock market? If so then here is what you need to know.

An Overview of Self-Directed Investing

For most people the idea of self-directed investing comes with a myriad of misconceptions and fears but with the right information and knowledge, making your own decisions can produce significant results. It is not unusual, for example, for self-directed investors to outperform managed money and certainly with a good strategy you can produce well above average returns on a consistent basis.

In a nutshell, self-directed investing means taking the responsibility and control of the decisions surrounding your investments. By opening a self-directed online trading account, you retain the authority to choose the type of investments you want in your portfolio (e.g. mutual funds, ETFs, individual shares, etc), as opposed to ‘managed accounts’ where these decisions are made by a financial planner or an other financial professional. Managed accounts typically have a fee associated with them. (The industry average in Canada is about 2½% of your portfolio per year.)

Why should we self-direct?

So is self-directed investing for you? Knowing why you want to do something usually means you have spent some time looking at the pros and cons. For self-directed investing consider the following.

  • Pros: More control and the potential for better returns, reduced fees, increased liquidity and greater capital appreciation.
  • Cons: Investors assume the risk – and the emotional stress. Many also lack the time, knowledge, and discipline.

If you list out your pros and cons then you can work towards getting the answers you need to make an informed decision.

How much money do we need to start investing?

Many people believe that to self-direct an account, you need ‘lots of money’ but this is not true. You can self-direct any amount. For example, the new Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) that allows Canadians over 18 to deposit $5,000 each year beginning in 2009, is eligible to be self-directed.

People with a large portfolio (e.g. $250,000 and above) often start by self-directing only a portion of it. There is nothing wrong with using the TFSA as a starting point. And as you become more knowledgeable over time, you can transfer a portion of your retirement savings plan account to a self-directed account without forgoing the tax deferral status.

Know What You’re Getting Into

Before you open your trading account and start putting your money to work, it’s important to take stock (no pun intended) of a few things. First, understand what you are getting into. Most Canadians express a sense of fear when it comes to making their own investment decisions and investing directly in the shares of companies doesn’t reduce that fear. The root cause of this fear, either consciously or subconsciously, often stems from a lack of knowledge on how the markets work and how successful they can be. People often think of investing in the stock market as gambling yet nothing could be further from the truth. If you were to ask those that have built great wealth utilizing the markets, you would rarely find “gambling” as a description of their activities.

For starters learn the terminology. A great resource is www.getsmarteraboutmoney.ca Developed by the Ontario Securities Commission, this website is a wealth of information on making and managing your own money. Then consider your options for education. If you are a novice investor with little to no experience a good foundation is important. Look for a company that provides a well-rounded learning experience and compliment that with your own reading and research. Think about how you have learned other skill-sets in your life and consider adopting that same process.

Create A Strategy

Part of your education should include the development of goals and a strategy including a trading plan that matches your risk profile. Setting goals means you can quantify your success at any given time against where you want to be. A good strategy will help you achieve your goals no matter what the market conditions are. And understanding your risk profile will protect you from making decisions that go against your tolerance level. Most novice investors get excited about making money because of course that is the point; however that by itself is not a good plan. A good education will teach you three important principles:

  1. Capital Preservation – keeping your money so you can invest it tomorrow and beyond.
  2. Money Management – knowing how to segregate your portfolio and your individual decisions.
  3. Risk Management – learning how to protect your capital if you make a mistake.

All of these need to be a part of your strategy and decision process.

The Conclusion

Self-directed investing doesn’t have to be time consuming and it doesn’t require a million dollars but it does require knowledge — good goals, a good plan and a good strategy.

Develop A Marketing And Marketing Communications Strategy And Plan For Small Or Midsized Companies

Planning for the year ahead is never an easy task. Lack of resources (people, time, budget), keeping up to date on what’s going on in your market, obtaining quality leads and improving brand awareness and reputation have become increasingly difficult for all organizations – for profit companies as well as nonprofits. This has become especially true among US CEO’s who are concerned with not just domestic but also international uncertainties.

Developing A Marketing And Marketing Communications Strategy Is Critical

This should be your priority. Without a strategy for a plan there are way too many opportunities to get off track and chew up your investment. Your ROI will suffer. Consider the following to focus your efforts when developing your strategy and plan:

1. Determining, understanding and verifying your target customers and prospects should be at the top of your agenda. To improve profitability and ROI you must know what your audience wants and needs, how they perceive your brand and how it stands up to competition.

Be sure to avoid industry and company “myths” and internal “opinions”. Employ primary and secondary research to understand your audience. With so much information available about companies and brands, it is truly the Age Of The Consumer and will be for a very long time.

2. Additionally, as part of your knowledge of your audience, determine the size and scope of various sub-segments that exist today and will tomorrow. For example, does your audience include women, or Asians, or Hispanics? If so, look at the dramatic growth of these segments of the populations and determine if your brand needs to pay particular attention to them.

Also, recognize that millennials (23% of the US population) are not a homogenous group. At the younger end (20 – 28 years), 40 percent t are currently living rent free with family, while at the older end (29 – 35 years), 43 percent have already purchased a home. With that in mind, how should your strategy differ if you’re targeting adults 55 years and older (21% of US population)?

3. Once you clearly understand your audience, develop your unique brand position. To do this, create a brand positioning statement. The statement is a succinct description of the core target audience to whom the brand is directed and a compelling picture of how you want your audience to view the brand. Sound simple? Take a few minutes and try to answer the four components of your positioning:

· The target audience, in very specific detail

· The category in which you complete and its relevance to customers

· The brand’s benefit and point of difference

· A reason for the customer to believe – the most compelling proof

All marketing and marketing communications should flow from this positioning, and it should be fully understood and embraced by all employees, sales reps, partners and management.

4. Improving brand awareness is very important but only the first step. You also need to create great customer experiences with each touch point of your brand. And that means creating brand advocacy at all levels of contact. Develop brand champions at every level of purchase and repurchase to improve ROI.

Be sure these influencers completely understand, believe and can articulate your brand premise. And provide them with the training and tools to convey their trust-worthiness in a believable manner.

Developing A Focused Marketing And Marketing Communications Plan And Budget

After the hard work of developing a meaningful strategy, recognize it’s equally important to develop a specific plan and budget. The following should be taken into consideration:

1. You must be media neutral and open minded in developing your plan and budget. It is extremely important to understand the difference between “efficiency” and “effectiveness”, and not get caught up with the latest trendy new tactic.

Regardless of the specific marketing tactic, or type of digital or traditional media, you’re evaluating, keep in mind that cost efficiency does not necessarily lead to effective results. Also, and most importantly, the best source of marketing communications leverage is the quality of the message, not the marketing tactic.

2. The scope and diversity of marketing and marketing communications tactics has grown faster than the ability to measure some of them. Marketers now are actually spending money without knowing how it impacts their profitability and ROI! Consider the variety of ways in which nearly $450 billion is expected to be spent in the US in 2018:

· Sales promotion ($83 billion), telemarketing ($60 billion), direct mail (($46 billion) and events ($40 billion) highlight projected 2018 US Marketing Services expenditures;

· The internet ($78 billion), television ($68 billion) and the combination of radio, newspapers and magazines ($47 billion) are projected to be at the top of the 2018 US Major Media spending categories.

Source: Zenith Total US Spending

And while it may surprise you, 90 percent of consumers (and 94 percent of millennials) still use coupons. The coupons come from a variety of on-line and traditional mediums, but mail is most popular. Why do marketers still use coupons? The simple answer is because they’re effective in guiding purchase. In developing your own plan and budget, determine and recognize the effectiveness of all marketing tactics, not just their efficiency.

ROI Focused Marketing And Marketing Communications Consultants

If you’re like most small and midsized companies, you and your team may not have the expertise or time to develop an ROI focused marketing and marketing communications strategy, plan or budget.

Even major global brands are seeking outside advisors. In my May article, I discussed the dramatic growth of management and accounting consulting practices (33% increase in US revenue) at the expense of traditional global advertising agencies (0.3% increase in US revenue). One reason for this 2017 growth of consultants is their focus – not on trends or what’s in the news – but on marketing and marketing communications effectiveness, profitably and ROI.

While you may not be able to afford the large global consultants, you should consider hiring a marketing and/or marketing communications consultant. The type of people you should hire should:

· Have a focus on ROI, with significant experience across industries, b2b and b2c brands, both large and small, as well as for profit and nonprofit organizations

· Be media neutral, apolitical, down to earth, be willing to be part of a team and “tell it like it is” so candor will flourish

· Have flexibility to bring in other professional specialists when and as needed so that overhead isn’t an ongoing expense

· Have strong convictions to measure what has been done and measure what will be done to improve ROI, perhaps including a marketing communications audit

In today’s challenging environment, a greater focus on strategy, planning and budgeting can go a long way toward leapfrogging competition and improving brand profitability. And the fresh eyes of a consultant can go a long way to building a meaningful future for your brand.