Are you missing the boat with your marketing message?

Is your marketing message missing the boat?

Marketing is not an easy task because it is a moving target. The reason why someone buys from you today can be completely irrelevant in a few years. Your marketing message must continue to adapt or else it will be buried by a competitor that is willing to recognize and adapt to the ever-changing landscape.

It is easy to pick on others 

The neccessity of re-assessing your marketing jumped out at me when I received an email offer to subscribe to the Chicago Tribune. It has been a long time since I have picked up a printed paper, but I am still regularly  bombarded with offers to subscribe.

They are consistently focused on how low the price is. I am sure at one time this was an effective strategy, but the reality is that the price is not the issue at all. 

Dissecting the problem

The reality is that I am inundated with information. For better or worse, that convenient little device I carry around is constantly assaulting me with information. I cannot possibly consume more information, and the thought of a pile of unread papers laying around my house only would make me feel guilty for not making time to sit and read the paper. 

The opportunity to charge moremarketing-message.png

The recent revelations of "fake news" is a golden opportunity. Trusted journalism is what I am looking for, and I would actually pay more if I could get it. In fact, this ad would perform better if they focused exclusively on providing trusted journalism (mentioned in small type) instead of highlighting the price. The price actualy makes it harder for me to believe their claim of trusted news, and they would probably do better by charging more. 

Bringing it home

I recently helped a client who sells an expensive education program. For years we knew cost was a hurdle. I recommended that we create resources for those who want to attend, but need to sell it to their employers. I thought it would be easy, but quickly realized their marketing focused heavily on the value of the program for the individual. I will soon start incorporating the value of program for the employers of those who attend. I have a feeling it will be particularly beneficial to a particular niche of our target audience. Looking at their marketing from a different angle was enlightening.

Improving your marketing message

Sometimes the clues are all around you, and you just need to take the time to look at your organization differently. My best clients are ones that enjoy spending time talking about their marketing message, and recognize that their experience and expertise makes it hard for them to see their business the way prospects do.

We all know websites are the center of an organization's brand, but what does it really take to have a great website that drives visitors, leads and revenue? Download our free guide25 Website Must-Haves for Driving Traffic, Leads & Sales.25-website-must-haves-mockup.jpg 

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Posted in Marketing

Financial advisor marketing: Is your bio doing its job?

Financial Planner bio

One of the most important aspects in financial advisor marketing is building trust. The truth is that for financial planners, the number one page visited is the "team" or "about us" page. Getting this page right is a critical component of your online marketing.

Make sure you have considered these three aspects on your bio page:

1. Lead with personality. If a prospect is thinking about trusting you with their financial life, try to make sure they feel comfortable. The temptation is to try to be neutral to attract everyone. The reality is, neutral attracts no one. Who would you rather do business with anyway? People you have something in common with are much more fun to work with.

2. Make it skimmable. Paragraphs about every credential you have are enough to put even the most interested prospect to sleep. Bullet points are your friend — use them. Speaking of credentials, don't assume everybody knows what all those letters mean. At least make them links to the credential sites.   

3. Don't just say it — show it. Most people know it is important to have a photo, but did you know that there is a word to describe the right picture? Warmth. If your photo does not exude warmth — get another shot. 

Don't forget the most important thing on your bio page

Your bio needs a call-to-action (CTA). As one of the most visited pages on your site, make sure it is easy for people to connect with you — don't forget to tell them what to do next. 

Will you be my friend?

While credentials and experience are important, don't forget that people do business with people they like. If you keep these three aspects in mind, your bio page will be an important step in converting traffic into customers and it might just lead to some new friends.


Think your marketing might be falling short? Channel Balancing is a proven tool to assess where you are and what you need to be doing to create a stronger lead generation program. It is not right for everyone, but I would be happy to have a short conversation to determine if it might be right for you. Give me a call at (630) 923-5009 ext 700.

We all know websites are the center of an organization's brand, but what does it really take to have a great website that drives visitors, leads and revenue? Download our free guide25 Website Must-Haves for Driving Traffic, Leads & Sales.25-website-must-haves-mockup.jpg 

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Posted in Marketing

The Number One Nonprofit Communication Mistake

A common communication mistake nonprofits make: design by committee

I think the number one killer of good communication in organizations is the "design by committee" approach that invades many nonprofits. If you want communication mediocrity then ask a group to make a decision. I will use branding as an example, but it applies to all communication and marketing.   

The two aspects of great branding and why committees kill them

A great brand gets the attention of your audiences. There are two aspects of getting attention that are particularly hard for committees to accomplish: being unique and being simple.

• Committees don't want to take risks. I have been on committees, and I understand the challenge. I don't want something bad going down while I am on the committee. Great design looks different than what everyone else is doing. When making a design decision, a committee will pick the safest option — the one that doesn't look too different. See the problem?

• Individuals in a group feel like they have to contribute. This problem is not isolated to committees, but it is typically a surefire way to kill creativity. Often people are compelled to offer some criticism to feel like they are participating. Multiply these comments and there is no end in sight for revisions that will ruin a great design.  

• Committees have politics. People on committees feel like they have to represent all: 'Let's play nice and make sure we incorporate everyone's feedback'  or'The brand needs to communicate everything to everyone.' Simplicity often means pairing things down so it is clear and concise.

How to rescue your nonprofit communication from a committee

I might be making it sound like committees have no value, but they have great value. The key is to make sure your committee is accomplishing the right tasks. Once again, I will use branding as an example. A committee that is defining and affirming what the brand should represent will then support the design that meets these standards. Keeping the committee focused on defining the big picture goals and the criteria to measure these goals will free up communication staff to make decisions that best meet the criteria and goals.

The good news is that committees can be a great help to a nonprofit communication professional. Even if they are dysfunctional, it is often not terribly difficult to turn the ship around. 

Need more help? I just read this great article by Michael Hyatt about running meetings with some great ideas. Learn more about our Channel Balancing and Brand Mapping. Both can help you realign a committee so you can do more effective nonprofit communication.

We all know websites are the center of an organization's brand, but what does it really take to have a great website that drives visitors, leads and revenue? Download our free guide25 Website Must-Haves for Driving Traffic, Leads & Sales.25-website-must-haves-mockup.jpg 

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Before thinking about a new financial planning website design get your Google house in order

Google products to stay on top of during a website redesign

When starting the trek of redesigning and building a new website, one of the more cumbersome tasks is gathering access to the various accounts which help us see a complete picture of the current site and where we can improve. Often a developer from several redesigns ago set up one of these accounts and is the only one with access. Or perhaps Google has rebranded and renamed one of the services (as they often do), and no one remembers setting up the account. 

Most people know that their domain name is a business asset and should be held by the organization, but many do not realize how important it is to keep all your Google assets in your name.  

A cautionary tale

Financial planning website design starts with making sure your Google properites all align to help you get found online. We recently had a financial planning client who started to notice that his site stopped showing up when searching by his business name. When his new site launched, he had altered his business name. Even though the redirects to his old domain name and old business name retained all the site authority, the new business name could not pull up the site. We discovered that he had not updated his Google My Business account with his new business name which resulted in him becoming hidden under certain search conditions.  

Here is a summary of some of the Google services and products you want access to before embarking on a website overhaul:

example of Google My Business in search results.pngGoogle My Business

One of the most important tools for a local business is to claim your turf on Google My Business. Google My Business will feature your business front and center when people search for you, whether on Google Search or Maps. Users can easily get directions from here or use it as a jumping off point to learn more about your business. You can add a link to your website, images, and list your contact information and hours.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics helps paint a picture of how your customers are interacting with and navigating through your site. It can help you identify which areas may need a little more emphasis before you even begin the redesign process. Its audience reporting offers great insights to your web developers and marketers alike.

Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools)

Google Search Console monitors and maintains your site’s overall “health” and performance in Google Search results. It allows you to submit a sitemap and alerts you to any errors you’ll want to fix. Which queries lead more traffic to your site? Which other sites are linking to your site? It even helps you resolve potential malware or spam issues on your site.

YouTube

It's no secret that video content is becoming more and more important to  content strategy. The benefits are bountiful — higher user engagement, increased conversion, greater search visibility (video can increase the chance of your brand being on the front page of a Google search result by 53 times!). While Facebook video is rising in popularity, YouTube is still king. According to recent data from Google, users are frequently using YouTube as a search engine, with some arguing that it is the second largest search engine on the web.

Manage it all in one place, and make it easier to share

Create a Google Brand account. This allows you and others to jointly manage the account through your own Google accounts, without needing a new login. As of this posting, Brand Accounts support Google+, Google My Business, Google Photos and YouTube.

Even without a Brand Account, you can easily give permissions to other Google users to access certain products. It is important to retain ownership of your business accounts, while giving your marketing team and designers (who live for this kind of data), access to all the tools and information they need to build you a well-performing site. 

We all know websites are the center of an organization's brand, but what does it really take to have a great website that drives visitors, leads and revenue? Download our free guide25 Website Must-Haves for Driving Traffic, Leads & Sales.25-website-must-haves-mockup.jpg 

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6 easy steps to write better content for nonprofit websites

How to write content for your website

People are online for a variety of reasons. It is important to deliver content about your nonprofit in a way that encourages the reader to take action.

When working on websites, I often ask clients to provide a draft of content as they will always know their organization better than I do. Even though I assure them I will edit and work with content, they often approach the task with a bit of anxiety. Below are a couple of key points for writing content I always share upfront and when clients start managing content themselves.  

Not too much information

I am not making a comment about the length (as shorter is not always better), but for most web content you only need to tell the reader enough to inspire them to take the next desired action. It is tempting to tell the reader everything, but good copy is focused on getting someone to take an action.  

Spend more time writing headlines

It is more important than the content. You won't get eyeballs if your headlines scream "ignore me." Questions are awesome, but whatever you write, it should compel the reader to continue reading. 

Start with the value

Begin with the key benefit you want reader to take away from your content. This should be done in the subhead or the opening sentence. 

Break up copy with subheads

Subheads should help people keep moving forward. If someone can skim your page and get the gist of your content, you have succeeded. 

Don't forget a call to action

Every page should end with a clear call to action. People online want to be told what to do — don't miss your opportunity. Be direct and clear, and it is alright to give them more than one option.

Think like a reader

Always asking yourself if you would read what you just wrote is a great final test. If you can't get excited about reading it yourself, it likely will not get the results you are looking for. I am being gentle here, but maybe I shouldn't be. You are making the world better by not polluting the internet with crude content.   

We all know websites are the center of an organizations brand, but what does it really take to have a great website that drives visitors, leads and revenue? Download our free guide25 Website Must-Haves for Driving Traffic, Leads & Sales.25-website-must-haves-mockup.jpg 

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Posted in Marketing

Which metrics should you be tracking? Ignore Google Analytics until you do this.

Which analytics are worth worrying about?

These days, the ways to gather analytics and stats about your online presence are nearly as plentiful as apps in the app store. From Google Analytics to various social media channels to built-in stats from your content management system, we have enough data to fill a book. We all know we are supposed to be data driven, but where should one start?   

Vanity metrics won't buy you much 

Even though the question "What should I be tracking?" is valid, it can often lead you down the wrong path. Traffic and likes are a trivial measurement of success. Though it is nice to say that your web traffic is increasing it can easily be caused by simply running a pay-per-click ad. The increase in traffic is a waste of money if it is not having business results. 

I’m guessing your organization's mission is not to acquire thousands more Facebook followers or increase your website traffic. In the marketing world, these certainly give that warm fuzzy feeling, but in the end they are simply vanity metrics. Even if they sound nice and get you pats on the back. 

It is all about conversions

That is why it is so important to have a lead generation strategy. Until you do, no other measurement is going to have a significant marketing meaning. 

The goal is always to get visitors to take action, but since most people are online to gather information it is important to focus on helping them start a buyer's journey with you. Of course if they are ready to buy, you want to be ready also, but there is a much bigger audience of people who are just thinking of buying.  You want to get as many people as possible to start a buyer's journey (conversions), so your focus needs to be on something that provides perceived value. Track that first, and then build from there.  

So what should you be worrying about?

Once you start tracking conversions you can track all other marketing activities to see if they are increasing your conversions. Focus on information that gives you the necessary insights to adjust your strategies based on what is working and what is not. 

For example — let’s say you are running an A/B test for a new offer. Group A resulted in nearly double the conversions than Group B. By measuring this, you know the message Group A saw should be the message for everyone visiting your site. Similarly, if you put the same offer in multiple places, keep an eye on where the offer is converting the best. These are actionable metrics.

Nothing wrong with data 

Traffic spikes and social shares and undeniably exciting but should be kept in check. Keep your eyes on focused on what is generating conversions, and you will be way ahead of the game. 

We all know websites are the center of an organizations brand, but what does it really take to have a great website that drives visitors, leads and revenue? Download our free guide25 Website Must-Haves for Driving Traffic, Leads & Sales.25-website-must-haves-mockup.jpg 

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Posted in Marketing

Fix your email marketing: Why your monthly newsletter needs to die!

The end for the monthly email newsletter.jpg

When you see an invitation to join an organization's monthly email, what is your response? If the word "groan" came blazing across your mind, then I would suggest it is time to make some changes to your email marketing program.

Is the monthly newsletter idea dead?

Nope, but calling it a monthly newsletter or putting those words in the subject line of your email is a sure way to find yourself ignored, and scratching your head wondering why no one joins. Please, I beg you, stop using those words right now. Email marketing is changing, but a few small tweaks can breathe new life into your emails and help you start building a more robust inbound marketing program.

The next generation of email marketing

As email tools become more advanced, your emails need to move away from the "blast and pray" style. People are going online because they are looking for information — your emails need to be tailored to meet them where they are in the buyer's journey, and they need to provide value. If this sounds like segmented lists and content that is tailored to a narrow audience you are right. If that sounds overwhelming and like too much work, have no fear — keep reading! 

Do something before you do everything

Most organizations feel overwhelmed at the prospect of using an inbound marketing philosophy. I get it. The good news is that you can start small and build on success. All good inbound marketing starts with a great offer. By starting with your signup form, you are not only going to be improving the growth of your audience, but you are creating the fundamental building block of an inbound marketing program. 

Focus on benefits and offer value

Most sign up forms are descriptive instead of emotive. Your signup form needs to make people believe that by giving up their email address, you will provide value. Shape your invitation around benefits and create something they will receive when they hit submit.

Since most people are online looking for information, I would focus on content. Take your best blog post, an article you wrote or even the presentation you gave at a conference and create a PDF guide. Be cautious of coupons and discounts; they work but as you probably know, most people have an email address they check infrequently and basically ignore — you don't want that email address. Even the most basic email programs allow you to set up an automated email to deliver content once someone takes your bait.

Don't forget this

An email address is a social contract. Seek to delight those who have given you theirs. Ask yourself this before you hit send, "Would I want to receive this?" If there is any hesitation, you better hit edit instead.

I can guarantee your new signup form will outperform your monthly newsletter signup. Will it fix your email marketing? It is a great start. When you start seeing results, you will be inspired to take more steps in building a better email marketing program.   

We all know websites are the center of an organizations brand, but what does it really take to have a great website that drives visitors, leads and revenue? Download our free guide25 Website Must-Haves for Driving Traffic, Leads & Sales.25-website-must-haves-mockup.jpg 

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Posted in Email Marketing, Marketing

Marketing and sales are changing. Is your financial planning firm keeping up?

Evolution of the marketing and sales funnel

Marketing and sales go together like peanut butter and jelly. You need both, but because they are both responsible for sales there is often a tension between the two — one gets the blame or glory (depending on the situation).

The balance has shifted

The reality is that the internet has been changing the game. How people make purchasing decisions has radically shifted as people now want information and are more adverse than ever to traditional sales. 

marketing-sales-funnel-then-and-now.jpg

As you can see above, marketing used to play a smaller role. 'Awareness' and 'interest' were the primary role of marketing, maybe a little 'consideration'. Marketing used to more clearly serve sales.

Now sales plays a much smaller role. In fact, I think this chart is a bit generous as making a decision before they call and are only looking for confirmation that they are making the right choice.

This dramatic shift in sales and marketing has allowed a different methodology of marketing to flourish

This methodology is called inbound marketing. I don’t want to say it is new because inbound marketing is the next generation of information marketing which has been around for a long time — think late night infomercials or the Home Shopping Network. But the internet has made it easy and cost efficient – and a bit more respectable I might add.

It is not either/or

Inbound marketing is often pitted against Outbound marketing (traditional interruption marketing). The boundaries between Inbound and Outbound are a bit artificial. The reality is that they work together  — and  Outbound (interruption) marketing is most effective when it is supporting an Inbound marketing strategy.

The Inbound advantage lies in aligning with people's buying behavior (looking for information). It is measurable so you can learn and incrementally improve what you are doing – Inbound marketing makes marketing more data driven. While there will always be room for instinct and creativity, Inbound methodology provides the path to track that 'X' amount of money will generate 'X' amount of sales.

Inbound also more easily integrates with the sales process. When more and more sales are being made electronically this integration directly impacts sales.

The sooner and more in-depth one engages someone electronically, the more likely it is that they will complete the sale. At the least, Inbound is taking prospects on a journey with the end of the journey being a purchase decision. 

Is Inbound marketing right for every financial planning firm?

I would not be a good marketer if I suggested that the same advice will work for everyone. I think the overarching theme of how people's buying habits have changed needs to be accounted for in every financial planning firm, but how to utilize Inbound or Outbound marketing depends on a thoughtful examination of all the ways you communicate and what you are trying to promote.

We all know websites are the center of an organizations brand, but what does it really take to have a great website that drives visitors, leads and revenue? Download our free guide25 Website Must-Haves for Driving Traffic, Leads & Sales.25-website-must-haves-mockup.jpg 

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Posted in Marketing

Improving Direct Mail Response Rates

direct-mail-ideas.jpg

As more and more marketing has moved online, people have wondered if direct mail is still an effective strategy. The good news is that in 2016 direct mail continues to provide a solid ROI. Some even say its performance is improving as so many organizations ignore it.

The truth is that the evidence supporting the power of direct mail is pretty compelling, even among millennials who are traditionally thought of as being all digital.

79% of consumers will act on direct mail immediately, compared to only 45% who do the same with email, according to the Direct Marketing Association.

According to the USPS, previous customers are more than nine times more likely to respond to direct mail advertising than people who have never shopped at the business.

75% of millennials believe direct mail they receive is valuable according to K. Justin Restaino; 90% of millennials also cited a preference for direct mail promotions versus email.

Direct mail is great but...

One of the drawbacks of direct mail is that it is expensive. Doing one mailing is often a gamble — do you have the right list, the right offer, the right design? Direct mail requires a commitment. The most successful direct mail programs are when organizations are consistently mailing — even if it is only once or twice a year. So whether you are considering it or have utilized direct mail in the past, improving direct mail response rates is important.

A new tool to extend the life of your direct mail.  

Most direct mail points people to go online. Once online, the technology exists to use a cookie to retarget those who received your mailing when they leave your site and visit other sites. For months, your prospects will be reminded of your brand and/or special offer. We all know that repeated impressions is the best friend of marketing. The best part is that the cost is minimal (as low as 10¢ an address) and it is not pay-per-click so the fee is flat.

What are you waiting for?

So if you have not considered direct mail or would like to supercharge your next campaign, there are solutions that will improve your odds of success.


We all know how important a website is to a business's online strategy, but what does it really take to have a great website that drives visitors, leads and revenue? Download our free guide25 Website Must-Haves for Driving Traffic, Leads & Sales.25-website-must-haves-mockup.jpg 

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Simplify your marketing before you update your website

Simplify your marketing before you update your website

I think one of the toughest tasks in updating a website is making things simple. It is way easier to say too much than to be brief. It is fearful to leave out something because it might be important.

In reality we live in a world of overstimulation. Overwhelming website visitors with options results in visitors taking no action – inaction is not a helpful long-term strategy. Here are three questions to help you reduce the temptation to go overboard before you update your website.

Which product or service is the leader?

Often when discussing a new website with new clients they will begin with a list of things they want to highlight about their services. In probing, I regularly discover that most of their clients purchase one or two things and the rest is sold to existing clients. Generally with some resistance, I encourage them to focus their marketing efforts solely on the things that bring them new clients. The other services sell themselves, and they look more focused when they highlight their expertise in one or two areas. 

Who is the right audience?

In a previous post, I discussed that the size of the audience of those thinking about making a purchase is much larger than those ready to act. So the most compelling offer is focused on getting those who are just thinking to take an action. Don't ignore those who are ready to act — provide them a way to take action — but the focus of your website should be helping those who are not ready to act do something that begins a relationship.   

What is the path of least resistance?

A free consultation is often a client's idea of a great offer. There are two problems with this approach. One, it forces the prospect to admit they are looking for a solution. Two, the free consultation also forces the prospect into a decision. Most people do not like to reject others as much as they don't like to be rejected –so prospects are more likely to do nothing or look for somewhere else for more information.

The solution is to try to develop offers that get people to take action and begin a relationship with you. There is no one silver bullet, and in reality it might be different for different audiences—plan on creating more than one option.

Go ahead and update your website

If you hit all three of these questions, you will create a much more simple and compelling website. But before you start the process of creating a new website, be sure to download the free resource below.


Free resource: 25 Website Must-Haves


We all know how important a website is to a business's online strategy, but what does it really take to have a great website that drives visitors, leads and revenue? Download our free guide, 25 Website Must-Haves for Driving Traffic, Leads & Sales.

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