Jeff Conlon
Author

The Baseline Digital Marketing Checklist To Up Your Game

Digital Marketing

Planes don’t take off without checklist or they’ll crash. The same goes for your marketing. Don’t crash.

Why You Need This Checklist

You have been at this digital marketing thing for some time now. For some of you, that means decades. For others, months. But at some point you started and kept going and gathered steam and tried this and tried that and switched to WordPress and testing Facebook Ads, etc, etc.

You’ve got baggage now. This checklist will help you refocus and lose that baggage.

It will help you see the forest from the trees again. It will rejuvenate and restart your marketing efforts and help you thrive again.

So, get to it. Adjust what you are doing to maximize your efforts for 2020 and beyond (at least until 2021 🙂 actually, a lot of these techniques are timeless). Clear the clutter and get clear results again. Refocus on what actually moves the needle.

It’s time to thrive again.

For best results, these should be done in this order but to each his own.

  • Reassess (or assess, if you’ve never done this) your Ideal Customer Avatar. This is the person your messaging will be speaking to. Define their main Pain Point as it relates to what you offer/sell.
  • Create an Offer that solves your Ideal Customers pain. This offer isn’t a discount, this is a clear solution that solves their issue.
  • Update the homepage of your website with:
    • A message that speaks directly to your Ideal Customer that addresses their pain.
    • A clear Call to Action that you want them to take that will help alleviate their pain (this isn’t necessarily a place to sell unless your e-commerce).
  • Create content that you can fashion into a Lead Magnet that teach/help customer solve their pain
  • Create an automated email sequence that will be sent to those people that request your Lead Magnet.
    • Send at least five emails in this sequence
    • The first thanks them and delivers their Lead Magnet
    • The next three provide additional information for how your customer can solve their pain
    • The fifth email is a Call to Action that says you can solve their pain for them instantly is they don’t want to do it themselves.
  • Start generating traffic to your Lead Magnet and website from Google Ads and Facebook Ads. Your messaging in these ads should be focused on the same pain/solution framework
  • Build Custom Audiences on Facebook in order to guide people through the buyer’s journey
  • Create Call to Action ads and only show them to these Custom Audiences on Facebook to generate sales
  • Using the same pain/solution framework, create content on your blog and promote it organically on social media
  • Improve upon and expand your automation and personalization game now that the machine has been built
  • Optimize everything every month to improve ad performance and conversion rates

The end.

If you’d like help, book a time with us.

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COVID-19 Digital Marketing Playbook for Home Service Companies

Digital Marketing

This post about COVID-19 digital marketing strategies was originally written on March 20, 2020, as COVID-19 began to spike in the United States. We plan to update as the situation unfolds.

The San Francisco Bay Area, where IMA is based, has been ordered to Shelter in Place. This means all businesses are closed except those deemed “essential”. The majority of IMA’s client base is in the home services industry. It quickly became clear that certain home service companies, like plumbing and HVAC, were definitely essential businesses while others, like carpet cleaners, were likely essential business. Most of our clients are not in the San Francisco Bay Area but we assumed similar orders would be enacted around North America soon.

Given the fact that our clients would not be forced to close, we developed the following playbook to take advantage of this position and leverage this unique new situation. If you are in the home services industry we believe this strategy can help you during this extreme time.

Let’s begin.

Point #1. Your audience has never been more available to reach

First and foremost, the home service industry is in a favorable position. Certainly, there will be an impact on sales and revenue. However, a single healthy individual coming into a home to clean or repair that home is not something that is going to be eliminated in our current social distancing environment. There is also an opportunity to educate your local communities. There have never been more people at home and on their screens than there will be in the next few weeks or months. We are already seeing an increase in social media usage during this time and Italy has seen a 30% increase in internet usage during their recent quarantine period.

Point #2. Shift a percentage of media dollars from bottom of funnel Google Ads to top and middle of funnel Facebook/Instagram and focus on increasing brand awareness.

This means that a shift to more Facebook/Instagram advertising that is focused on how your business can help your community during this time will pay huge dividends. This will not necessarily generate leads in the short term but it will position your company to be seen and trusted as we exit this period in a month or so (hopefully).

Point #3. Be a source of comfort and care during this time. Provide helpful information, not hard sales tactics.

The key during this time is messaging. You must update or write new ads to acknowledge the times we are in. The worst thing you can do is to be tone-deaf to the very real crisis that is unfolding. You must be empathetic. You also must position your company as an organization that can help.

For instance, if you are a plumbing company, let your audience know that you are an essential business and that you are standing by to help them if they have a plumbing problem. People are nervous and at home. If they have a toilet back up or a water leak they need to understand that they are not alone. Your Facebook strategy should repeat this message extensively. This is your new brand messaging. You don’t shout about “$99 Special Offers’. Instead, you provide a valuable and “essential” service during this time of need.

Point #4. Align Call to Action messaging with your new brand messaging.

So can you do more direct response advertising during this time? Yes, absolutely, but we don’t think you should be as aggressive as you normally would. Scare tactic headlines are not helpful right now. Limited time offers are also not going to help your customer’s anxiety when there is a limited stock of toilet paper at the grocery store.

Instead, position the offer as an acknowledgment that their finances are hurting and that you are here to serve your customers as best you can. Use similar language as your brand awareness ads and remember to match the tone of the overall campaign. Then you can provide a special offer that is empathetic to the customer’s current situation.

Point #5. Pent up demand unleashed

There is an old adage that says, “When times are good you should advertise. When times are bad you must advertise.” Why? For a variety of reasons that you can read about here.

But in our opinion, the main reason is that scared advertisers will shut down their campaigns. That means you, even if you have to reduce your budget, can increase your brand awareness and, using the messaging approach in Point #3, be seen as a loyal, trusted and dedicated part of your community. And, you’ll be able to do this with less noise in the marketplace and at lower costs because CPCs and CPMs are already dropping.

In short, you will NEVER (hopefully) have an opportunity to reach your customers with less competition and less spend. And that is incredibly important because when this wave passes, and it will, search behavior will surge and you will be in an incredible position compared to the competition that chose to sit this time out. Your brand term searches will skyrocket. Your CTR will increase and your close rate will jump.

That will refuel your business and push it to new heights in the wake of this emergency. The time is now.

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Before Noon

Digital Marketing

“Have an amazing day by noon and see what happens in your life.”
This quote from Gary Keller, of Keller Williams, appears to be the kind of dumb throwaway quote that is plastered all over Instagram.

Except it isn’t. This quote, this idea, can change your life. It’s changed mine. And it’s changing IMA.

Here’s the basic premise. Pick one main thing that you need to do tomorrow. That most important thing. Something that requires focus. Deep work, etc. Write it down on a post-it or piece of paper or in Todoist or Things or Asana or Airtable or whatever. Then go to sleep.

Get up at 6 am the next day. Make coffee, work out, meditate, read the news, eat breakfast, take a shower, take the kids to school, walk the dog. Check email and Slack. Have your morning.

Then, no later than 8:30 am, look at the task you wrote down and get to work. Close your email. Close Slack.

I repeat. Close your email. Close Slack. And mute your phone.

Now work on your task uninterpreted until noon. Use that morning brain energy and focus to get real work done. Work that will move you forward, that will create something, that will improve your business.

At noon, stop. Crumple up and toss the post-it or cross of the task on the paper or check off the task on your computer. Feel the accomplishment. What you did actually matters. This is actual, meaningful work that will pay dividends. Feel how that feels. All the feels.

Then take a break. Have lunch. Go for a walk. Make some tea.

In the afternoon, open up that email. Open Slack. Perform all of the bullshit tasks that we have to deal with every day. But feel accomplished while doing them. Because your day is already a success.

You won the day.

I instituted this approach this month and the results are incredible. I’m doing more deep work on IMA than I have ever done.

My day can be filled with distractions if I allow it. It’s easy let email and Slack control my daily agenda and leave me with little substance to show at the end of the day. Just more incomplete tasks that continue to pile up.

You’re probably the same way. I know our employees are the same. That’s why as we scale IMA to new heights this year, I’m going to create a new part of our culture around this Before Noon concept. That means no morning meetings. That means no one expects an email reply before noon. That means Slack is asynchronous.

That means our team will be doing deep work for our clients. Work that will generate more revenue. That means our team will be improving IMA, making us more profitable. That means our team will be happier and feel more accomplished. Stress should, not disappear, but decrease because we are dividing our days into two types of work. Focus and collaboration. Equal but not the same.

This idea was inspired by Gary Keller but this idea is not unique. The idea of the maker/manager schedule has been written about eloquently before I heard Gary on the Tim Ferriss podcast. It doesn’t matter. It works.

Try it and see what you can accomplish.

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A Note at the Dawn of 2020

Digital Marketing

In this note, I want to provide a glimpse into the future. These are the forces shaping our industry, your campaigns and all of our revenues in 2020. 

As usual, the digital landscape changes quickly and with force. There are no longer 10-year cycles of predictable marketing trends. We’re lucky to get two years without major disruption. But that’s why we love this industry. If you’re an early adopter like myself, you can’t help but be stimulated by all of these changes. The key is deciphering the signal from the noise. 

Ultimately, that is the service we provide to you. We asses the best path forward for your strategy and campaigns. We take that very seriously and are honored to work with you on growing your business. 

So what’s happening in 2020? I believe these three simple concepts are a requirement for getting the most out of your digital campaigns in 2020. 

Appear.  Offer. Nurture.

Appear

IMA works primarily with small and mid-size companies. When we begin working with a new client, we usually complete a project called an IdeaMap. This project is basically a road map of the next six to twelve months of the digital strategy that the client needs to achieve their goals. 

Part of the IdeaMap is research, both of the client and their competitors. While reviewing this research, I am shocked, going into 2020, to see so few small and mid-size companies advertising on Facebook and Instagram. 

I remember back in 2010 when we started pitching Facebook Business Pages to our clients. Almost all of them said it was a waste of time. That, “They’re not on Facebook” or, “It’s just for kids”. That was ten years ago yet most companies continue to overlook Facebook!

Now, let me clarify an important point. Most of the companies and their competitors we review are on Facebook. They have a Business Page. The majority post-semi-regular content to that page. Today, posting content to your Business Page, which is called organic content, is not the strategy. That was the strategy in 2010. 

Today organic content reach hovers between 2 – 6%. That means virtually no one is seeing your content. So what is Facebook good for? 

Facebook is an advertising platform. It’s not a blogging platform. You have a Business Page so that you can use Facebook’s Ad Manager. A Business Page is just the key to the kingdom. Facebook is good at ads.

The Ad Manager is where the rubber meets the road on Facebook. But less than 40% of the companies we review are actively running ads on Facebook. That would be like saying in 1990 that fewer than 40% of small businesses were advertising in the Yellow Pages.

So why don’t more companies use Facebook Ads? We hear two main stories (I would call them “objections” but they are so easily overcome that I call them stories because it’s a self-limiting tale that the person is telling themselves). 

The first story is essentially the same story that we heard in 2010 but now people will say either, “it’s just for kids” OR that “it’s just for old people”. This kills me. Everyone needs to understand that Facebook is like network TV in 1980. Only it’s bigger. Everyone is on Facebook. Yes, some demographics use it more than ever (“Ok, Boomer”), but if you’re trying to sell to people that own homes and have disposable income than you’re in luck. 

Why? 

80% of people ages 18–49 are on Facebook compared to 55% of people 50 and older. Across all users, 74% in the U.S. login daily and spend an average of 35 minutes per day on the platform. You can see from these stats that your target demographic is on Facebook en masse. Only YouTube has higher numbers across these demographics (don’t sleep on YouTube!).

Which brings me back to the theme originally stated. 

Appear

Appear on Facebook. Appear on Instagram. Appear on YouTube. Appear where your target demographic, your Ideal Customer, hangs out. 

And the way to appear before them is with ads. You have to pay to play. It’s non-negotiable. There are ways to boost organic reach (post a ton of platform-specific video every day) but it’s cheaper to play the game and buy advertising. 

Just make sure you do it the right way. Because the second most common thing we hear is, “I tried running ads and it didn’t work”. Why do people say that? They say that because they ran Facebook ads like they run Google Ads. They only ran direct response ads. They didn’t move their Ideal Customer through the buyer’s journey. They didn’t take the person out for coffee. Instead, they asked a complete stranger to marry them. 

That doesn’t work on Facebook. This post would be far too long if I described IMA Facebook ad philosophy so we’ll do that in another post. But it boils down to showing specific ads to specific groups of customers at specific times. This isn’t a new concept. But it’s more powerful than ever on social media, and it’s rarely done properly by small and mid-size businesses. 

So, #1 in 2020, go where your people hang out. Appear before your Ideal Customer and start the relationship.

Offer

We recently completed an IdeaMap for a new client and over 80% of their competitors had the same offer as theirs. Guess what the key themes were in all of the offers?

“High Quality”. 

“In Business Since…”. 

“Family-owned”. 

“Superior/Unmatched/Excellent Customer Service”.

Only one company spoke to their potential customer’s pain!

If the vast majority of your competitors are saying the same thing as you then you are doing it wrong. This is lemming territory. 

I would also guess that this is the result of a serious lack of effort. When marketing resources are not prioritized, companies building new websites will go to their competitor’s sites and hit two buttons on their keyboards. 

Copy.

Paste.

And in doing so, they endanger their business and cap their revenue potential. 

You have to realize that customers don’t care that you are a family business or that you have been grinding away for 25 years. 

They’re trying to avoid getting ripped off. They’re afraid of making the wrong choice. 

And they have a problem that is causing them pain that YOU might be able to solve. You need to speak to them and educate them and then prove to them that your company will solve their pain. 

Again, this is Sales & Marketing 101, but so few companies do this well. This means that if you do it, you have an opportunity to increase market share. You do this by taking your time with your potential customers. Treat them well. Speak to them, educate them and then offer them your product or service. And when I say offer, I mean offer

Message = “We can solve your pain”

Offer = “Pick up the phone and call right now!”. 

You need to generate action. The best way to do that is by making them an offer that is impossible to refuse, or an “Impossible Offer” as we say here at IMA. 

One important note, an Impossible Offer should make you nervous. 

It should be like Patagonia’s “Iron Clad Guarantee” which states, “We guarantee everything we make. If you are not satisfied with one of our products at the time you receive it, or if one of our products does not perform to your satisfaction, return it to the store you bought it from or to Patagonia for a repair, replacement or refund. Damage due to wear and tear will be repaired at a reasonable charge.”

What could your company offer that would live up to the Patagonia example? If you’re in a service industry, you won’t be replacing a product so you have to think a little differently. Recently I paid $600 for new tires on our VW Westfalia Camper. I don’t love spending $600 on tires for that car because we only use it to go surfing and camping. So those tires better last a while. But one thing made me feel better about my purchase. The guy at the local tire shop said that if I ever get a flat, they’ll fix it for free, no questions asked. 

Now, people get flat tires all the time. If you think about it logically you would say, “No way am I repairing flat tires for free to all my customers. I’ll lose my shirt”. But people typically don’t take people up on these types of offers. People forget. Or they’re out of town. Or whatever. Chances are that less than 10% of customers will ever take this shop up on their offer. That makes it a very safe investment to offer real value to convince your customers to choose you over a competitor.

So what can you offer that has real value? Something that makes you stand apart from the lemmings. Something that makes you nervous? Develop that and you’ll be able to spur prospects into action.

Nurture

in 2020, you are going to show up in the places your Ideal Customers hang out.

You are going to advertise to them with different ad messaging to move them through the buyer’s journey.

And you are going to make them an Impossible Offer.  

And then you’re going to disappear and hope they remember you? 

Right?

Wrong. You are going to nurture this new, budding relationship. You are going to give them valuable information related to the solution you provide. But it’s not going to be about how great you are, yadda, yadda, yadda. No, it’s going to give them information about their point of pain and all kinds of different ways that they can solve it. It’s going to go deep into why they might have this pain in the first place. It’s going to dissect all of the ways they can go about resolving this issue. And every now and again, you are going to suggest that they could just simply call you. And poof, pain is gone.

Believe it or not, people still use email. They open emails from businesses every day. They just do. And they definitely open emails from brands that they like and trust. Brands that have educated them or helped them. Brands that have stood by their word. Brands with really happy customers who rave about them. People love to open emails from those companies. And when an Impossible Offer is presented to those people, they buy. All Day Long. 

My goal for every client of IMA is to 10X their email list in 2020. Note that I mean an email list of prospective customers, not existing ones. We want a list of 10,000 people that have never bought from you before. There is nothing more powerful than a prospect list that respects your brand. They will open your emails and they will buy from you. And after they buy, we send them over to your existing customer list where you continue the relationship and increase lifetime value. 

Sending emails is incredibly cheap. And it’s incredibly powerful. If your company can build a list of prospects than you can generate revenue whenever you need it. You can market a new product or service to this list. You can market a price reduction to this list. You can just state your Impossible Offer and boom, cash. 

But first, you have to build the list of prospects. You have to appear where they are hanging out. You have to offer them something to get their email in the first place. Something called a Lead Magnet. Then you have to automate an email sequence that nurtures these prospects into new customers. 

Then you have a funnel. 

And you go to the bank. 

So, my note about 2020 boils down to four words. 

You Need a Funnel.

Happy New Year!

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My Letter to an Unqualified Client (or Five Ways to Grow a Small Business)

Digital Marketing

This is the playbook I recommend for small businesses that are just getting started or are still ramping up and have a limited marketing budget.

These 5 steps will help you focus on the things that actually move the needle for your business so you can scale, grow revenue and, most importantly, profit!

1. Focus on being a business owner and not an operator as soon as possible.

This means you’re not doing the actual work. You’re managing employees. This will help you scale.

How do you do this?

You need to build processes for everything. Everything. Pretend that you’re going on a three-month vacation with no wifi or cell coverage. How would the books get done? How would employee schedules get done? How would customer complaints be handled? Write down the process for all of these things and everything else that you do on a daily basis. You’re going to continue to do these things but, now that you’ve documented all of your processes, you can start to peel off some tasks and outsource them to an employee or contractor when you’re ready.

A key point about building processes. Perfection is the enemy of progress. Don’t worry about it being perfect. You’ll always be adjusting these anyway. Just document it somewhere that is easy to share. Google Sites are a great tool to do this and it’s free.

2. You need to build your company in your image. In other words, build your brand.

This way people will equate your company with you and vice versa. Your company will have it’s own values and reputation. This might sound like something only large corporations do but it is important at every level of business. It doesn’t matter if it’s just you or if you have 1,000 employees.

How do you build a brand? Stand for something. Have an opinion about your industry and express it in everything you do. Position yourself against a big competitor and tell the world why your approach is better for your customers. Define yourself clearly and express it in everything you do.

Finally, when you’re starting out or growing, a key way to grow your business is word of mouth. You are going to advertise too, but for now, delight your clients and be upfront about asking for referrals if they’re happy with your work.

What do I mean by delight?

Here’s one example. If you’re a home service company and you have an employee working on a job at a customers house, swing by and bring a box of cookies or cupcakes (store bought is ok!). Give the treats to your customers and ask them how your company is doing? Are they happy with your service? Get to know how they feel and address any concerns that they might have. Do that and people will start talking to their friends and referring you to new clients. I guarantee that your competitors are not doing that.

3. Take Yelp Seriously

Lots of people use Yelp. Do everything you can do to get your company rated in the top three of Yelp for your region. By everything, I mean do great work, communicate quickly with your customers and ask the happy ones to review you.

You might say, “Yelp’s not a player in my city” or “My industry isn’t reviewed on Yelp” and you might be right…today. If that’s the case, and then people in your city or industry starting using Yelp more frequently, well now you’re in pole position because you’re competition used to have the same negative outlook that you used to have. Now they’re playing catch up while you’re in the #1 position and getting all of the business.

There is another reason to focus on Yelp that is even more important. You can read about that here.

One last point. If Yelp never takes off where you are then you’ve still done great work and communicate well with your customers. That practice alone will pay dividends.

4. Get your MESSAGE right and shine a spotlight on it at all times.

If I ask you why a potential customer should use you versus your competition, what would you say? That you provide excellent service? Great prices? Years of experience?

The customer doesn’t care.

Your message needs to speak to the problem you solve for your customer. And it needs to say how you solve that problem better than anyone else.

Let’s say you own a bakery. Your customer has a problem. Their problem is that they need a cake for their child’s birthday party on Saturday.

Do you show that you can solve their problem by saying, “We have great cakes and the best prices in town. Proudly serving our community for 25 years”.

NO.

That doesn’t solve the problem. That’s all about you. Even worse, you’re competing on price meaning it’s easy to take your customers by simply charging less than you do.

Instead, you might say, “We are YOUR birthday cake solution! You choose from over 100 designs that kids love (like Black Panther and Wonder Woman), we’ll text you a photo of your design so you know it’s perfect and we’ll deliver it to your home on the big day for FREE!”

Which bakery would you choose for your child’s party?

The one with tons of designs so I know they’ll have something that my kid loves? The one that will text me a photo of the cake so I’m not nervous that Spider-Man looks more like Green Lantern when I go to pick it up. And, speaking of picking it up, I don’t have to do that because you’re going to deliver it for free which helps me immensely because I’m haggling with the bouncy house guy and trying to get my house clean for our guests.

Not only will that message attract customers in droves but those customers will pay a premium to use you.

Find your message. Put it everywhere. Repeat it constantly.

You don’t need a fancy website to do this. You just need to message on the website to be awesome.

5. Marketing and Advertising.

Finally, now that you have your processes done, you are taking a stand and building a brand, you’re taking Yelp seriously and your message is on point, you are ready to spend some money promoting yourself.

Do you have a website?

If the answer is yes, ask yourself this question: “Is my website awful?”. Be honest. If the answer is yes, then follow the “Get a Website” instructions below.

If the answer is no then, Get a Website. It’s 2019!

It doesn’t need to be fancy. Five or six simple pages is fine IF you clearly communicate your Message on those five or six pages. Don’t spend a lot of money on a custom website yet. There is time for that later. Use Squarespace or a WordPress theme and get it up and running. Remember, this website is there to relay your message and have some basic details about you and your offering. Also, don’t write in “marketing-speak”. When you write your text, just imagine you are writing an email to your favorite customer. If you don’t have any customers yet, then imagine writing to your mom.

Once you have your simple website set up and clearly stating your message then set up a Facebook business page and place the Facebook pixel on your site. Then, find a trustworthy contractor on Upwork for $25 an hour to set up a Retargeting campaign on Facebook. This will only show ads to people who have been to your website and will only cost you a couple hundred a month, at most.

If you want to accelerate your growth, take a weekend and write a five-page guide for your ideal customer that addresses their biggest concerns. This can be a How-To guide, an Ultimate Guide, or even a PowerPoint. Go back to Upwork and hire someone to take your words and turn them into a Lead Magnet. The final result will be a PDF. Set up a pop-up plugin like Sumo to offer your website visitors your Lead Magnet in exchange for their email addresses. Then, once a month or as often as you can, email these people something of value. This can be a tip, an offer, anything that conveys your Message and provides value. When the list gets too big to handle manually, sign up for an email service like MailChimp. Now you’re in the big leagues!

If you do those five things then you’ll be paving your path to success.

Total investment = 10 – 15 hours up front (and 5 hours per month) plus maybe $200 per month. You can afford that, right?

Good luck! Don’t forget to stay in touch.

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