Monthly Archives: May 2009

Go Google Yourself: Alerts for Your Business

Now here’s a tool that should be in your marketing toolbox. Everyone knows the power of Google’s unique web search capabilities. But do you know how to put Google to work for you? And more importantly, is it working? Well if the answer to either question is no, then I have two words for you:  Google Alerts.


Ever have a friend comment, “oh, you’re ears must have been burning, we were just talking about you!” Google Alerts are the burning ears of the web world. With a few simple steps you can set-up a Google Alert for any name, phrase or search term and Google will email you when it’s been mentioned on-line.


It’s a simple and powerful tool, when you know how to use it. But first, you might be asking, “why should I?” Here’s a few reasons to consider.


Track Your Company  This is a great way to see what other websites and blogs are saying about your business. This information could be a valuable resource when you’re launching a new product or keeping tabs on customer service.


Track Your Website  Find out who’s linking to your website by entering link: as the search term. The more related websites that link to your site, the greater your search engine rankings will be. 


Track Your Services  Set-up an alert for names of products and services that are unique and you’ll see who’s recommending them. And remember, the more specific the better. For example you could set up an alert for ‘Michigan Wine’ which would return thousands of hits. Or set the alert for ‘Black Star Farms Winery‘ and you’ll have more targeted results.


Track a Name  Sometimes called a Vanity Search, with Google Alerts you can track your own name, as well as those of your company executives, industry leaders or even potential customers.


Track your Clients  This is a great way to learn more about your clients and their businesses. You may find articles on recent awards, new employees or shared interests that could give you insight into your relationship. 


So how do you get started. It’s easy. Enter Google Alerts into your search box and you’ll see this graphic on the left.

google alert graphic

Fill in the form and click the button Create Alert. (You will need to have a Google login, but if you use Gmail, Blogger or Google Analytics for your website, you already have one.)


An email will be sent to the address you supply, and once you verify the alert will be sent. Alerts arrive in your inbox when Google finds a website, blog or news article that mentions your Alert. 


Once you set-up the Google Alerts you can manage them by logging on to the Google Alerts webpage. There you can change, edit or cancel any alerts you set up.



So, what are you waiting for? Go Google Yourself! It’s free, it’s easy to establish, and once you do it works effortlessly…on your part anyway.  Sort of like the Roomba…and crock pots…or RSS feeds.

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Posted by on May 18, 2009 in Marketing


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Pair up for Promotions


Marketing Tip #106

Just as two heads are better than one, a collaboration can be a great way to get more bang for your marketing bucks. The trick is to find the right partner. Here are a few quick tips for creating a tag-team promotion.

  1. Find a Yang for Your Ying
    A good partnership will highlight the features of both businesses in a logical and practical way. For example, if you sell cardboard boxes you might partner with a tape manufacturer or shipping company. Remember the ads for Reeces peanut butter cups? Chocolate and peanut butter; two great tastes that taste great together. That’s what you’re looking for. If you’re still stuck coming up with an image, here’s a few suggestions to get the ball rolling:
    Web designer + Illustrator = clever banner ad series on social networking sites
    Car dealer + Auto wash = useful perks for new car buyers
    Brewery + Golf course = golf tournament with beer dinner 
    Celebrity + Professional ballroom dancers = unexpectedly entertaining TV
  2.  Answer the “W” Questions First
    Start your planning by answering Who, What, Where, When and How Much. 
    Who:  determine who your target audience will be. If you’re creating a direct mail piece you may need to compare lists and weed out duplicates, or narrow the prospects to include a more specific group. 
    What:  A collaborative promotion can take many forms, depending on the partnership. A copywriter and an illustrator could combine talents for a memorable direct mail piece. A winery and a restaurant can put on a fabulous wine dinner for V.I.P. guests. The key is to create something memorable by combining your specialties. 
    Where:  If your promotion is an event you’ll need to determine the best location. For a brick-and-mortar businesses that may not be an issue, but the self-employed work-from-home types (like me) may need to brainstorm a solution for this one.
    When:  Timing can be critical, both for you and the your target audience. If you’re launching a new product line for spring you’d be wise to begin promotion in February. And remember to consider the timing for your audience as well. Events held after-hours on a Friday are great way to capture the business crowd, but if your target is restauranteurs you’re better off with a early-afternoon reception.
    How Much: The budget is often the best place to start. Decide up front how much you can afford to spend, and who will cover which expenses. Discussions about money are often the hardest to approach. Make this the first order of business and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the planning. 
  3. Divide and Conquer
    Establish who will be responsible for each part of the promotion. Divide the tasks evenly based on interests and connections. Perhaps you have a great caterer, and they may know someone to handle invitations. Play to your strengths, and share the unappealing tasks.
  4. Pool All Your Resources
    The beauty of collaboration is to take advantage of your specialties. Combine not only your marketing dollars but also your client lists, network of volunteers, etc. and you’ll have more than twice the momentum to tackle the challenge.

Like any partnership a collaborative promotion requires a little give and take on both sides. Taking the time to find the right partner, and follow a few simple steps, can make all the difference.

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Posted by on May 10, 2009 in Marketing, Promotions


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Identity crisis

Riddle me this Batman, why do start-ups spend the least amount of time and resources on the most visible feature of their business? No I’m not talking about a storefront, website or even products. I’m talking about branding. Your corporate image, your logo, your brand represents who you are in the eyes of the outside world. And yet I see so many eager entrepreneurs leap into website designs, full color brochures and even expensive exterior signage without giving due diligence to the one image that is supposed to speak their name. Let’s take a moment and think about why your logo is so important.

Creating an identity for your business doesn’t have to cost a fortune. I realize there are agencies that specialize in identity systems who will try to sell you otherwise (I came from this industry so I say that without judgement). And to their credit they may be worth it. But there are also steps you can take, on your own or with a little help, to ensure that your brand will be successful without dipping into what’s left of your 401K.

Here are a couple recent examples to help you avoid an identity crisis.

The “what I really need first is a website” mentality. How is that website going to look without a cohesive message that ties the products and services to your company? Printed collateral, media and packaging is about reinforcing your brand in the eyes of the consumer. Providing a consistent message and image builds that confidence. Inconsistency demonstrates indecision or lack of planning.

I recently had a discussion with a friend who’s launching a new business with an existing product line. Her enthusiasm for the quality of the products was obvious, and the sales were starting to get off the ground. I heard stories of the brand new website in development and plans for distribution on a large scale were already underway. And then I noticed the branding. It said nothing to me about her new exciting business. She gave careful consideration to the packaging, the products and even the delivery system, but the overall image created by the brand screamed copy shop clipart. As a consumer, I want to feel her passion and energy when I see her product on the shelves. That’s the importance of branding.

The name game. When a child is born the parents must face the somewhat daunting task of choosing a name. So you eliminate any names that reminded you of childhood bullies, ex-girlfriends, strippers, hillbillies, relatives you’d rather not remember, politicians, etc. You have to brainstorm possible nicknames, especially the awful ones children invent on the playground that will linger like the stink of skunk on the highway. What will their initials spell? Questions, questions, questions. Until finally you narrow it down to what you like…or at least what you don’t hate.

You should use the same process when developing the brand for your business. What names are your competitors using? Be original, but not so much that no one gets it. Will you need to abbreviate or use initials when referencing the business? If so, is that a nickname that you’re willing to live with? A little time spent on branding R&D now can eliminate a lot of headaches and costly redesigns later.

I recently, albeit reluctantly, mentioned to a friend that the name of her new organization, which is designed to support and promote Michigan products, begins with the abbreiviation NoMi. No MI. Without the periods in the abbreviation it appears to say NO to MI, exactly the opposite of their intention. Now I realize that I may view these details more closely than some, with the critical eye of a designer. But society is critical and brutal. They catch our mistakes and call us out. So better to prevent them when we can.

A brand is more than a slick name and catchy tagline. It’s a philosophy. And it’s the means by which you connect with your customers. Take the time to make that connection. Recognize the importance of your brand so this can be one crisis….averted.