Google Fiber Puts Kansas City on the Fiber Map

I attended the initial Google Fiber launch event in my hometown, Kansas City, Missouri,

Google 3 dimensional visual

Google's imagination 3-dimensional data highway uses automobile traffic to compare current Internet broadband speeds to Google Fiber, which is 100 times faster. Gary Lofstrom, online marketing communications professional, admires Google Internet data model.

held on July 26, 2012. It was quite an event, with seemingly every issue covered, from having ample parking with shuttle buses, Google emblazoned umbrellas in case of rain, soft drinks and chairs for guests waiting for the doors to open. Oh yeah, Google Fiber means participants can have Internet access that is approximately 100 times faster than the current high-speed, broadband access. Yes, 100 times faster, and Google had numerous visuals to help attendees understand how fast that is.

Google promises us endless possibilities. Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Access, also introduced Google Fiber Television, a new cablelike video service. Customers will use a set-top box like a DVR that can record eight shows at once, store 500 hours of HD programming, and acts as a Wi-Fi router.

Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Access photo

Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Access, presents Google Fiber to an Internet knowledgeable crowd

Prices are $120 per month for the total package, Google Fiber Television, $70 per month just Fiber Internet and there’s even a way to get fiber connected and pay no monthly fee for current average speed broadband (about 5 MBs). For the latter, Google does charge $300 for installation and promises to deliver the slower Internet access for seven years.


Print media complements landscaper’s online presence

 

Is print media dead? Of course not! It has unfortunately – in some people’s minds – become the red-headed, step-child to the sexiness of online marketing.

Spring newsletter

Beaver Creative News

This landscaping firm is reaching out to audiences that appreciate the capabilities of a licensed landscape architect. Are they older, more affluent and read print publications? Likely so. Do they Google topics they want more information about? Probably so.

This target audience undoubtedly grew up reading print newspapers and magazines. However, like so many Americans, they’ve become accustomed to the wonders of Google searches. The newsletters include short features on timely topics, like spring plants and shrubs, and include tantalizing photographs that appeal to those who appreciate beautiful gardens and landscapes. Most notably, the print newsletters complement the landscaper’s website.

Online marketing can, and often should, complement traditional marketing techniques. Since there has been a decline in print marketing, such as newsletters, there is less to compete with in the mailbox. Of course, I strongly believe the print piece should be a quality piece, professionally designed and in color. Otherwise, it won’t stand out and get the recipient to take a look.

Good writing is important, too, so be sure to include the services of a talented content writer. Please do consider my content writing capabilities if you’re thinking about getting some help.

 


Landscaper’s website a breath of fresh air & soil & water

I’m rather proud of the Beaver Creative Environments website that I helped create with the team of Terri Nemer and Lisa Bowser.

Beaver Creative Environments

Beaver Creative Environments

Terri is a talented art director who wisely chose to go against the usual concept of splashing a landscaper’s or gardening-related business’ website with lots and lots of the color green. Instead, she chose white as the featured or background color, and who would have thought it would work so well.

The design is very soothing and eye-catching, and the white background actually makes the images and colors used pop!

Lisa Bowser, a talented art director in her own right, took the design concepts and made them work in WordPress. This is no small task. You don’t know how many times I’ve heard a web developer say, “That’s a nice design, but we cannot make it look like that.” With the skills of an art director who has mastered the technology of WordPress, my clients don’t have to settle for mediocre design. And I’m a big believer in design. I know that my words, as the content writer, will have much more impact when they are encapsulated by great design.

Nice job ladies!

BTW, the content in this website is rather extensive for a small business. It covers numerous services offered by this landscaping firm, and discusses their approach and methods. The content is search engine optimized, with the help of the SEO-friendly WordPress software.

 


If content is king, why do so many websites lack content?

I’ve been trying to write a post on the qualities of a good blog post, but then I realized the bigger problem with websites and their content was the overall shortage of website content.

For example, a couple years ago I created the static website content (“About,” “History,” “Services,” etc.) for a B2B company with specialty offerings within a big industry. Truly unique offerings – sorry I can’t tell you the industry because I don’t want to embarrass the former client. I can tell you that 2 years and 3 months after introducing the website and an integrated blog there are a total of 3 blog posts. The newest blog post dates to 2010.

Keep your blog and website content fresh

Keep your blog and website content fresh!

As a content writer and marketing strategist, I’m drooling at the chance to post some concise, informative, persuasive, slice of life stories, etc. to that blog. It seems so easy to me, especially since they have a very unique service line. Adding content is not on their radar, so the blog is collecting some serious cyber dust. Like so many organizations, they just took a big sigh of relief after updating their wretched website to a more modern, and yes, more informative website. And patted themselves on the back for having one of those new-fangled blogs for everyone to post away! I could offer more examples, but you get the point, organizations just aren’t taking advantage of their content management systems.

Why add new website or blog content?

Adding new information to a static page or simply making it more current is just good housekeeping. And apparently the search engines like that, too, and will reward you with improved search engine results pages (SERPs). Adding a new blog or a news post is better yet, especially if they offer your visitors some new information. Adding new news posts or blog posts on a regular basis gives website visitors something fresh with each visit – so they don’t think, “Been here, seen that.” Of course search engines love new pages even more than modified pages, so there’s that SEO thing again.

BTW, a new page on your website’s news or blog section creates a new entry point and a new destination for links from searches and other websites.  You probably knew that, but just in case . . .

Stop using content management systems if you won’t add new content

Sorry to admonish you. But if you are not actually going to add content (good content) on a regular basis, then don’t bother with a content management system (CMS), like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla. At least don’t include the blog window and then post a new item once a year!

How do you continually add content?

I’m glad I asked that question for you! More importantly, I’m glad you recognize the value of fresh content and want to do it right. This could be an entire post, but let’s keep it simple for now. Do 3 things.

  1. Type out the objective of your blog, and put it somewhere handy, like your laptop, your smart phone or your “soon to be” antique desktop computer. The objective should be strategic in nature, something like, “Our blog will offer news and insights that customers and prospects will appreciate, and thus, return to our website/blog and subscribe to our content.” Action words are nice, too, like, “We will inspire and encourage . . .” It simply reminds you why your blog (and your organization) exists.
  2. Create an editorial calendar. Also called a content marketing publishing schedule, it’s simply your planning tool for your website’s content. It’s also a commitment to making regular posts
  3. Publish. Publish. Publish. Enough said (for now anyway).

 


Professional service firms grow faster with online marketing

Online, or digital, marketing delivers faster growth and higher profits for professional service firms. That’s according to Hinge Research Institute and their findings from an online survey of 500 professional service firms.  Their findings include:

Online marketing by professional service firms increases their profitability

Greater online lead generation leads to greater total profitability. The survey found that firms generating more than 60% of new business leads via online marketing are two times more profitable than those generating less than 20% of new business leads online.

Online marketing is widespread and poised for growth

  • The survey found that more than 77% of firms generate at least some new business leads online.
  • 46% of firms have redesigned their website within the past year.
  • About 66% of firms plan to increase online spending in the next 12 months. The average anticipated increase is 56%.

Hinge asks, “Why is it that firms that generate a higher percentage of online leads are more profitable?” Their data was inconclusive, but they suggest that is could be due to online marketing being less costly than traditional marketing over the long term. Once a firm is getting good results in searches, the incremental costs decrease.

To add my two cents, I think another factor is that when a prospect chooses to interact with your firm it is “sold on your ability to deliver the goods,” so to speak. They are comfortable and confident in your firm, to a relatively high extent and less sensitive about the fees. Furthermore they probably have reached a pain point where they are ready to act in obtaining a solution for the challenge.

 Online recruiting is also widespread

• 55% of firms recruit employees online.

• About 1 in 4 firms attract 40% or more new hires online.

Personally, I’ve noticed how the career section on websites has expanded and how some of the larger professional service firms have put together video shows discussing their firm’s culture and the benefits of being an employee. I’ve also seen an explosion in job ads on LinkedIn. And many of them specifically state they only want responses from principals, no agencies.


Professional service firms have untapped online marketing potential

Traditional marketing techniques at professional service firms are giving way to online marketing and inbound marketing strategies as buyers of professional services change their habits.

Hinge Research Institute released its 2011 examination of the current state and untapped potential of online marketing in professional services firms. Here are few of their findings.

Results demonstrate that professional service firms embracing online marketing grow faster:

  • Firms generating 40% or more of their leads online grow 4 times faster than those with no online leads
  • High-growth firms obtain 63% of leads online while average firms obtain 12%
  • Greater engagement with online tools is associated with faster growth

Using online marketing also increases professional service firm profitability:

  • The greater a firm’s online lead generation, the greater its total profitability.
  • Firms generating 60% or more of their leads online are 2X more profitable than those generating less than 20% of their leads online.

My take

I belong to several LinkedIn groups, including those focused on professional service firms, such as Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) and Social Media Marketing for Financial Services. There is definitely a growing interest and involvement in online marketing. There is also a lot of confusion about what it is, and how it works. Oddly, I observe a number of professional service firms updating their websites, but omitting the blogging component.

The blogging component, in my opinion and in the opinion of many well-known online experts, is that the website’s blog is the most important part of an inbound marketing effort. Indeed, the Hinge report shows that high growth professional service firms find blogging to be their most important tool, followed closely by search engine optimization (SEO). Of course, blogging and SEO go hand-in-hand.

Read or download the full report, “Online Marketing for Professional Services Firms,  How Digital Marketing Delivers Faster Growth and Higher Profits” at Hinge Research Institute.


Social technologies are extending the organization

McKinsey’s fifth annual survey of 4,200 global executives indicates that social tools and technologies (i.e., social media) are continuing to seep into many organizations, transforming business processes and raising performance. Findings include:

  • Organizations are improving their mastery of social technologies.
  • Organizations using social technologies to enhance operations and exploit new market opportunities.
  • Social technologies can boost a company’s financial performance and market share.

McKinsey professionals note that social technology in organizations is very dynamic, where the gains from using social technologies sometimes do not persist, perhaps because it takes so much effort to achieve them at scale.

Some companies reaped fewer benefits and thus became less networked, while a smaller percentage learned how to deploy these technologies to become even more networked. Executives say that their companies are using them to increase their agility and to manage organizational complexity. Many believe that if organizational barriers to the use of social technologies diminish, they could form the core of entirely new business processes that may radically improve performance.

My take

McKinsey’s scholarly survey further proves what many of us that are championing social media, social technology and online communications see every day. Social media is growing exponentially in its use and importance, whether it’s for internal communications, customer relations, inbound marketing or a myriad of other innovative applications.

Read or download the entire report at McKinsey Quarterly.


FINRA is Official Social Media Guide for Financial Advisors

As content writer for professional service and financial service organizations, I find that all my customer segments are not playing on a level playing field in regard to social media. Specifically, I’m talking about financial advisors, financial planners, broker-dealers – those people licensed to help other people with planning their financial futures and investing appropriately.

Like others that have to be adept at personal marketing and selling, financial service professionals have discovered the benefits of social media and online marketing. Unlike most of us though, financial professionals have a pretty heavy regulatory burden. Mind you, I’m all for protecting consumers from the unscrupulous advisors, but I can empathize with financial service professionals and their bafflement with their oversight.

They answer to Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). FINRA is the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States.

The question then is, “How does a registered representative leverage social media and stay in compliance?”

The answer is a bit convoluted. The easiest way to manage the “stay in compliance” part is not the play the game. In other words, omit social media from your marketing mix, even though it’s fast becoming an expectation by many consumers. Consumers expect to interact with people and organizations regarding most every aspect of the consuming lives: cars, restaurants, hotel destinations, and yes, financial services and products.

Follow the FINRA bible of social media

Step #1 to using social media while staying in compliance is to read (and print out) the “Guide to the Web for Registered Representatives.”  It is the official rulebook, however, it can be vague at times, and it’s periodically updated and/or interpreted by FINRA and other regulatory bodies. Watch for the updates, too, of course. Google Alerts is a handy and free tool for getting updates when certain keywords, or topics, are mentioned in cyberspace.

Step #2 is to learn how respected organizations and people interpret the guidelines, and to keep track of how FINRA rules on those people and organizations that are using social media that are out of the ordinary, or not specifically covered by FINRA. Social media is so new and so different that we’re going to see changes in the guidelines evolve on a continual basis.

Nuts and bolts of FINRA social media guidelines

A number of organizations are closely following and summarizing the latest information coming from FINRA. Since they do a nice job of providing the “nuts and bolts” of social media compliance for the financial services industry, I will not try to duplicate their efforts. Instead, I will mention a few that I found very helpful.

  • FINRA. Always start with FINRA, and state/local regulatory bodies. They are the ultimate source of how financial services professionals can use social media.
  • Socialware. Socialware is headquartered in Austin, Texas. The company (in their own words) “operates a social middleware platform that enables enterprises to transform public social networking Websites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter into enterprise-grade channels for communication and collaboration.” They also are closely following trends in social media for the financial services industry and share their insights in the Socialware blog/website.
  • HearSaySocial. Hearsay Social offers a software-as-a-service (SaaS) social media management platform that acts as a layer on top of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media. The company says it offers the only social media management solution that comprehensively addresses content, compliance, and analytics for corporate-to-local companies. The Hearsay blog and Ally Basak Russell, of Hearsay, are good sources of information about FINRA and social media use in marketing financial services.

If you know of other sources of good information, please let me know! Good luck with leveraging social media in your business.


But Mom, nobody else is blogging

Remember when you were a kid and wanted to do something that your parents wouldn’t give you permission? If you were like me, you came back with something like, “But Mom, everybody else is going to go.” Or perhaps, “But Mom, everyone will think I’m a dork if I don’t get to…”

The modern day, business corollary of that scenario is the way many businesses are responding to online marketing. They’re not comfortable with the technology or the science and/or the art of online marketing, so they say something like, “There is no need for us to do this blogging thing, none of our competitors are messing around with online marketing, and we’re doing just fine thank you very much.”

In some business sectors, such as industrial businesses, there may be a tiny hint of truth to their assertion. Not everybody is using online marketing – yet! Of course, quite often one or more of the more forward-thinking competitors are using online tools, such as blogging, email news blasts, pay-per-click ads, social media, etc. The company leaders for the foot-draggers are just too far removed to really know what the competition is actually doing on the Internet.

Those competitors that have entered the realm of online marketing are making significant progress. They’re learning the ropes, and having success nurturing prospects that have found them via Google, Bing or Yahoo searches. Those prospects “self-proclaim” themselves as being pre-sold on the merits of the company and its products. Internet technology and tools are proving to be powerful business development tools. The “nobody else is blogging” company is in danger of falling behind the curve.

Does your company’s leadership have blinders on in regard to the reality of how the competition is using Internet marketing tools? What can you do to enlighten them?

Most importantly, don’t tell management that your company should use online marketing tools just because everyone else is! At least not right away even if it’s true or you’ll right back into those dysfunctional roles of parent and child. Instead, be armed with insightful information and a dash of courage. Try some of these ideas on convincing management to incorporate online marketing, including social media, into your marketing mix.

Discuss how traditional marketing has evolved to include Internet marketing

Ask your leadership if the Internet has ever helped them to find a product or a vendor. If they say, “No,” you want to start your job search now. Or you might prove them wrong by probing with a few more questions. Unless they’ve never touched a computer, they’ve done at least some minimal product research. There’s a pretty good chance they’ve purchased goods or services over the Internet and haven’t realized how much they rely on it for information and products.

Point out that people research purchases differently in the past, the Internet has given people the technology and power to find products and to source the best supplier – from their perspective. It’s time for your business to evolve with how people use the Internet and how they often avoid traditional, interruptive advertising.

Show them the money (well, at least the road to the money)

It’s pretty easy to show how products and services your company offers are found via Google, Bing or Yahoo search engines. Google and Wordtracker offer a free and a low cost, respectively, keyword research tool. Plug in words that prospective customers might use to find your products. Share the results of how often your company is displayed in the search versus competitors. The data will likely indicate your firm could be doing better in terms of marketing on the Internet.

Present a plan for your company to embrace Internet marketing

You need to help transform your marketing from being “outbound” (broadcasting your message mostly to those who are not actually, or currently, interested) to marketing that is “inbound” (helping interested buyers find your company). Your plan should explain in simple terms exactly what the company needs to do to transform current marketing efforts into a lead- and revenue-generating engine. Be sure the plan links to the company’s financial and marketing objectives, and that you have realistic budget numbers.

Keep learning yourself

As a leader for your company, you must learn more about online marketing, inbound marketing, SEO, PPC and other buzzwords. There are many free resources on the web, and a number of good books. Those shown below are far from exhaustive, but I believe are quite useful for beginners and intermediates.

Online marketing web resources:

  • Hubspot.com offers a depth of information. Be sure to check out their Inbound Marketing University.
  • Mashable.com offers current online marketing information and a number of “How to” articles on social media marketing.
  • Socialmediaexaminer.com bills itself as, “Your guide to the social media jungle.”
  • Clickz.com features both news articles and free email newsletters from subject matter experts.
  • Websitemagazine.com offers a lot for the intermediate to advanced Internet marketer.
  • “New rules of marketing and PR,” by David Scott Merriman
  • “Inbound Marketing: Getting Found In Google, Blogs, and Social Media.” by Brian Halligan, Dharmesh Shah and David Meerman Scott. (Halligan and Shah  are co-founders of HubSpot, an inbound marketing company.)
  • “Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars and more,” by Ann Handley, David Meerman Scott and C.C. Chapman.

Online marketing books

  • “New rules of marketing and PR,” by David Scott Merriman
  • “Inbound Marketing: Getting Found In Google, Blogs, and Social Media.” by Brian Halligan, Dharmesh Shah and David Meerman Scott. (Halligan and Shah  are co-founders of HubSpot, an inbound marketing company.)
  • “Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars and more,” by Ann Handley, David Meerman Scott and C.C. Chapman.

Online marketing is moving at a fast pace. The longer your company waits to really get in the game, the more difficult it will be to catch up. I applaud you for reading this rather long post, and for acting to help your company get on the Internet marketing bandwagon. You will be rewarded for your persistence!

 


Sprint supports small businesses

Sprint held a “Social Media Marketing Made Easy” seminar at its Overland Park, KS campus a few weeks ago. It featured Starr Hall, who offered an overall review of how social media can be used to hype a small business, create conversations with prospects and customers, and lead to increased revenues. Starr helped us frame a social media marketing plan in the second half of the program – very hands on – which was great. Perhaps the best part is the fact that local employer Sprint showed its support of small businesses, and promised to offer additional programs and events for small businesses.