Stop ignoring the majority of your traffic and update your website

The majority of your website is likely not ready to buy

Those ready to buy and those who are thinking about buying – who should you appeal to on your website? If you guessed those who are ready to buy, you are wrong. Don't feel bad, this is still the most common website strategy mistake.

The truth is that those who are ready to buy are a much smaller audience, and even though you don't want to ignore them, your website should be geared toward those who are thinking about buying. If you can start a relationship, you are much more likely to be top of mind when they are ready to buy.

Changing your perspective 

At the core of this issue is a lack of perspective. What I mean is, the marketing and design of the website is easliy created solely from the perspective of the company or product. Owners and stake holders often completely forgets about the audience of people who have not decided to become customers, but who are great potential.  

I'm sure these websites have people visiting who are ready to buy but the reality is, the majority of those website clicks come from people who are—at most—only thinking about purchasing. When all they see is the loud 'BUY NOW!', you are eroding the trust you want to build with potential customer. They feel sold to when they are really looking for information.

Removing the blinders 

Something important to understand and consider when developing a website is your buyer's journey. Knowing what prospective customers are interested in, how they collect information, and how they are influenced is the way to formulate an effective website. 

The three main stages of the buyer's journey are: awareness, consideration, and conversion. When most people first come to your website, they are in either the awareness or consideration stage. That means they need more information and need to be lead more before a sale. It's only when trust has been built that prospective buyers will choose to become customers and move to this final conversion stage. 

This change of mindset leads marketers to create a website that is inviting to all audiences on the buyer's journey. It should be able to entice people who are not quite ready to act as well those ready to act.

How to start

The reason I see so much web marketing is not geared for prospective customers is because the concept of the buyer's journey is easy to talk about but often times hard to implement. Here are a few ways to create a more inviting website:

  • BloggingWhen companies engage the discussion online, it opens up barriers between customer and company and allows there to be trust.
  • Social media engagement: Similar to blogging, social media is a way to help people along the buyer's journey and choose your product. The more they know and understand about your product or service, the more they will commit.
  • Call to action: This is a great way to create engagement with your customers on your website. It's okay that people aren't quite ready to buy yet, but create an engaging relationship with your audience where you are seen as a resource for great information. 

Exlpore this topic more by reading our inbound marketing philosophy. Before you start the process of creating a new website, be sure to download the free resources below.


Free resource: 25 Website Must-Haves

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Financial planner marketing? Yes! It makes perfect sense.


Financial planners and marketers are often put at opposite ends of the spectrum. They think about business in an entirely different light. Financial planners are analytical, methodical, and exact with their numerical values, while marketers are fluid, free, and more creative in their methods.

Don't put them in a box. Numbers are becoming a marketers best friends

Putting these two professions in a box like this is a common mistake. Especially with today's technology and advancement, financial planners and marketers have more in common than ever. Math, data, numbers, and exact values are changing the face of marketing entirely. 

Inbound marketing is a method of marketing that works differently than traditional marketing methods. Instead of throwing up a bunch of stuff and hoping something will work to convert a stranger into a customer, inbound methodology centers on creating content specifically designed to appeal to your ideal customers based on specific data.

Tools such as HubSpot, Google Analytics, and Facebook Insights help track data about specific customers. These analytics show things like the number of new visitors that came to your website, what referral site brought them there, and even their demographics. Using this specific data, marketing agencies can analyze and fix their inbound marketing strategy and generate more leads and customers than ever before.

This is music to a financial planner's ears.

Something all financial planners can respect is a good return on investment (ROI). Businesses have a budget and the marketing agency in the past could at best guess at what would work. But is it going to work? And if it does anything at all, what's the true ROI? 

Inbound marketing is one of the most effective tools to helping any business know if they are getting results. The key to inbound marketing is data, and when you can put numbers to your marketing, it provides measurable results. What is even better, they can tell you what you're spending your money on, see what's working and tweak what's not, and that is something both financial planners and marketers can be satisfied with. 

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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3 questions every financial planner must ask before any marketing initiative

We live in the information age, and it seems like the rate of change continues to accelerate. This acceleration poses a significant threat to effective marketing. I see financial planners and advisors jump on the latest trends before they get results from the last shiny marketing initiative. The worst part is that they often cannibalize resources and energy on basic things that should already be in place in an effective marketing program. The thrill of trying something new is a blessing and a curse.

Don't violate the most basic marketing principle

Neglecting what is working and abandoning things that have more potential for showing a return is a threat to a basic marketing principle – repetition. Consistent exposure builds awareness and trust in financial planner marketing. Trying something new all the time is a rather lousy way to market something.
So before you are enticed to try something new, ask yourself these three questions.
  1. Will it work for me? I too often have conversations with people who say, I want to do “abc” because it works for “xyz”. Before you pick up a strategy, you better examine the criteria that made it work for “xyz”. What works for “xyz" — who has a huge house list, and who has built a strong personal brand — will not work for someone who doesn't have a personal brand or even a house list of prospects. The factors that make something work need to be identified and examined before one tries to mimic the success. 
  2. Do I have have a plan in place? Trying new things all the time is not a plan. Do you have a solid website that clearly communicates your value? Do you have an offer that entices people who are not ready to act, and a path to lead them up to a sale?
  3. Am I measuring something? Most are not ready for deep analytics, but it is just not acceptable to have no measurement in place. Is your blog traffic growing? Are you getting more email subscriptions than last year? 

Experimenting is not bad

I am not proposing that one sticks their head in the sand. The truth is that it is more important than ever to be aware of how the world is changing and how this effects communication and marketing. A portion of your marketing should be invested in trying new things. 
Make sure you check out our portfolio with examples of branding and marketing work we have done for financial planners. 
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Posted in Marketing

How to fix your email marketing and get more valuable subscriber information

Get the information you need to segment your email audience

Last week we talked about the importance of email targeting and ways to segment your audience to deliver more relevant content. So how do you go about acquiring the necessary information about your readers to start doing this?

1. Collect more audience data in the sign-up process

The most direct way to collect the information you need to begin segmenting your email list is to ask for it upfront in your sign up form. However, many email marketers wisely hesitate to ask for anything beyond the email address for fear that too many questions will deter potential subscribers. We have found that if your sign-up offer has value, you can ask for a few pieces of additional information. Proceed with a bit of caution if you go this route, and ask only what you WILL USE to create more targeted emails. 

Another approach is to ask them for more information as they increase their engagement with your site. For example, after they sign up, offer another incentive in exchange for more information.

2. Ask your readers about themselves with a survey or quiz

For those who don’t want to deter potential subscribers with a lengthy sign up form, or want to know more about their longtime subscribers, follow up with a survey. SurveyMonkey integrates with a number of email service providers (ESPs) and some ESPs even have their own built-in survey tools. Give your readers incentive to participate in the survey such as a discount code or entry to win a prize upon completion. If you want to get creative, send out a quiz with interesting results — you can either collect the data you need within the quiz or as a requirement to see the results.

3. Leverage the data you already have

As audience segmentation becomes more and more important, most major email service platforms are building in valuable tools and analytics to better understand your readers. MailChimp for example tracks reader location when they open an email. You can then segment your list based on this geolocation data without needing to collect any additional information from your readers. Explore your email service platform to see what other data you may already have.

4. Include a call-to-action to update preferences in every email

A more passive approach is let your readers provide you with the information you want at their own convenience. Most email services providers offer a “preference tag” which allows subscribers to manage their own preferences. You can typically decide which information is visible for them to update — which lists they are on, sending frequency, interests, demographic data. Include a call-to-action in all of your emails asking users to indicate their preferences.

Want more ideas on how to fix your email marketing?

Read our popular post3 reasons why your email marketing strategy sucks out how to fix it and download our 30 Greatest Lead Generation Tips, Tricks and Ideas.


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Posted in Email Marketing

How to fix your email marketing and give people what they want

How to fix your email marketing

Recently my craft beer-connoisseur husband and I were at a large beer and wine store across town. We don’t frequent it too often but tend to stock up on the same thing when we’re there — a mixed selection of craft beer. So I was a bit surprised to find their rewards program (which tracks our purchases) emails us only with their latest wine offerings. 

It’s a well-known fact that targeted, relevant content will deliver superior results. The number of emails the average person receives each day is steadily climbing, making it harder and harder to stand out in the inbox. Email marketers need to be proactive in targeting their communication to stay relevant. This particular store missed the opportunity to send us valuable content based on our buying habits. Here are three other easy ways to jumpstart your audience segmentation efforts to better serve relevant, targeted content.

1. Fix your email marketing by using basic demographic information

Basic demographic information —age, gender, company position if you have it— is one of the easiest ways to start segmenting your audience. For example, a client of ours hosts a recurring event in which they value having balanced demographics in attendance. When they noticed a surge in female applications, they were able to directly target their male subscribers to encourage registration, achieving their goal. Another example—let’s say a financial advisor is expanding on their retirement planning services—they can easily let clients who are more likely to jump on this new feature know by targeting based on age or career position.

2. Fix your email marketing by being location sensitive

In addition to using a reader’s geographic data to promote regional sales or events, you can space out the sending of your emails based on the ideal time in each time zone. Or let’s say you have multiple offices or stores across the country. If your email marketing platform supports dynamic content, you could even include the contact information of only the location nearest to each user — all from a single email.

3. Fix your email marketing by utilizing historical data

By taking a peek at your email response data, you can easily find your most loyal subscribers and those who have not opened in a while. You can use this information to reward your loyal subscribers with a unique discount code or a sneak peak at an exclusive new offering. You can also try win-back the others with a re-engagement campaign.

These are just a few ways to leverage your data to deliver the best email content to your readers. Of course, the more information you have, the better you can target your emails. Read tips and strategies on collecting this information from your readers.

Want more ideas on how to fix your email marketing?

Read our popular post3 reasons why your email marketing strategy sucks out how to fix it and download our 30 Greatest Lead Generation Tips, Tricks and Ideas.

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Posted in Email Marketing

Nonprofit Website Mistakes and How to Get your Website on Track

Nonprofit Website Mistakes

It is still shocking to me that most nonprofits view their website as an informational tool. They describe the mission of the organization, how it was started, and a phone number to call in order to donate or volunteer. 

But if your website is set up like this, you're hurting yourself and likely killing the opportunity you have to gain new donors. A successful online strategy is one that attracts visitors to your website, engages them with content they want, and converts them to act

A nonprofit website should advance your mission, not simply state your mission — it is a huge mistake if you miss this point.

The baseline for an effective online marketing strategy has been raised for all nonprofits. A site that builds trust is important and I don't want to underestimate how important it is, but now you need to do a bit more.

Getting your donors and your audience to act is everything. I am not talking about a donation either – that is super unrealistic.

You need to be asking yourself: "What will site visitors find valuable and how will I get them to move closer to making a meaningful connection – giving me their email address?"

Ways to empower your audience

Here are a couple of suggestions on how to make your website more interactive and how to get people to take action towards your nonprofit:

  • Social Plugins: Adding a Facebook “like” button and including the ability to share a page on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest is an easy way to add some basic interaction. Do it yesterday. There are no excuses. I love Addthis as it has a lot of great functionality.
  • Incentives or Freebies: Offering something for free is the baseline to get people to give you their information. It's a win-win; they get something for free, and you get their contact information. It's a building block towards building a relationship with your customers. The deliverable can cost you nothing, as long as premium has perceived value to your target audience. A nonprofit I work with has an online store; I included a popup window with a 10% off code when you sign up to receive their free content email. We went from getting almost zero subscribers from their online store to getting several a day. The interesting thing is that only 23% took advantage of the offer — well worth the small discount to get highly qualified leads.
  • Share things: Most feel that marketing now means you have to generate the content yourself. You can get a lot of engagement by sharing other people's content. If it is content that would interest your supporter base, sharing it makes you seem more the expert.


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Posted in Marketing, Web Design

Direct mail examples: Don't wait till it stops working

Don't wait till it stops working

I receive a catalog about every other month from Uline. I have ordered from them in the past and have had a positive experience, but my orders are small and infrequent. I always order online and rarely flip through the catalog.

Direct marketing examples: Don't wait till they stop working.My only negative experience is that they keep sending me these huge catalogs. I hate to pitch them – it seems like a waste of paper and resources just to essentially maintain brand awareness (I don't forget them). This is an example of direct mail that is clearly living in the past. It worked before so we will keep doing the same thing — until we are driven into the ground by a smarter competitor.

Wanting more for your print budget

I am a big believer in the power of direct mail so I would not be a proponent of recommending they dump the catalog, but if I was in charge I would want it to work much harder than just delivering name recognition. 

A simple idea to infuse brand personality

What if they approached a couple of different magazines (maybe a business magazine) and asked to reprint the magazine inside their catalog? The magazine would receive great exposure (what magazine would not like to tell their advertisers that they are delivering more exposure for free?),  and would cost almost nothing for Uline (they could cut a section out of their catalog versus increasing the size). 

The recipient would actually open the catalog and the perceived value of the catalog would increase. As the recipient flips through, they would be reminded of what Uline sells and it would deliver a lot more positive brand personality (Uline is weak in brand personality).

Rethinking is important

So what have you been doing the same because it worked in the past? Don't wait until your direct mail stops working. If you are currently utilizing no direct mail, maybe it is time to actually go back to mailing something. In the digital age print is a powerful medium — which is why I probably still receive these monster catalogs.

Want more ideas about direct mail? Get data to support the value of using direct mail, and discover how a small budget or list size can still deliver results

Start somewhere. Download this free template to make S.M.A.R.T. Marketing Goals.


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Posted in Direct Mail

Logo Help: Beyond the Logo


It can be tempting to plop your logo onto everything surrounding your business and call your branding efforts done. A strong logo is great, but there are so many more elements that go into a successful brand.

Your brand is defined by the perceptions customers and potential customers have about your product or service. These perceptions can be influenced by the visual elements such as colors (a bold yellow might evoke an cheerful feeling, a quiet blue, a sense of trustworthiness), the tone of your written communications (such as friendly and conversational or authoritative yet approachable), and even the interactions customers have with your employees. The list goes on. 

So what are the ways to visually enforce your brand beyond the logo?  Let’s look at Target as an example — Target has enforced their visual identity so well, the average American consumer can see just a few seconds of a commercial and immediately know it’s for Target without even seeing the logo. So how do they do this?

  1. Color. There are countless studies into the psychology of color, and at this point we know people’s feelings about specific colors are largely tied to their own personal experiences and cultures. However, we are learning about the importance of perceived appropriateness of color. For example, if you run a non-profit raising money for refugees fleeing war-torn countries, a cheerful yellow may seem out of place and inappropriate for such a serious mission thus turning off a prospective supporter. Or if you are marketing a product to American men, gender stereotypes aside, studies show they will likely be less responsive to softer colors. Who is your brand speaking to and what feeling do you wish to evoke?
  2. Typography. Fonts can be playful, serious, impacting, decorative, casual. The appropriate font can help communicate your brand’s mission. Serif fonts originally evolved from the calligrapher’s hand so these fonts are largely seen as more traditional. Sans-serifs came on the scene later and therefore tend to be seen as more modern. Let’s take a look at the message below. Each says the same thing but the fonts help to convey a different feeling. Which feeling do you wish to convey?
  3. Imagery. While we could technically house your brand’s full visual identity under the umbrella of “imagery”, let’s focus on patterns and photography here. U.S. researchers found that the human brain can interpret images in just 13 milliseconds, making it one of the fastest ways to connect a prospect to your brand. Are you using photos that tell a story? What feelings are being evoked? Do the colors compliment your brand colors? 

For Target, the use of patterns, their unmistakable red, and supporting colors all work together to establish their bold and energetic visual identity. Over the years they’ve been able to make subtle changes while still keeping a cohesive aesthetic. 

It takes time and many interactions to establish a brand in the minds of their customers. A logo is just one piece of the puzzle; using color, typography and imagery effectively and consistently is an important part in achieving a strong brand. 

So even if you are not thrilled with organization’s logo (and maybe for good reasons), you can still build a strong brand by leaning more on the other elements that form your organization’s visual identity.

Need ideas on gathering new leads for your business? Download our free ebook on the 30 Greatest Lead Generation Tips, Tricks & Ideas.

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Advice from a Nonprofit Marketing Agency: 3 Dangers of Event Marketing


In my years of helping businesses with branding and marketing strategy, I have often helped people promote events. I am generally brought in after the decision is made to hold an event, and I often try to discourage people from hosting events because of one or all of the potential dangers that exist in event marketing. The following are my top three:

Danger 1: Events create an illusion of marketing activity when all that is really being accomplished is activity. Once the decision is made about an event, everyone feels good. We are going to do this, and everyone is set in motion to do their part. There is a lot to be done: find a location, prepare a presentation, invite people to name a few. All this activity is important to host an event, but it is activity and not marketing activity. It provides an illusion that this event will deliver the results we need. I often notice that expectations grow in the process. Most often they grow unrealistically. 

Danger 2: Events become the marketing strategy instead of a marketing tactic. This is probably this biggest problem with events. Events can not be your whole strategy. If you don't have the bandwidth to do other marketing activities,  you should not be doing events. Do you have a solid strategy on how to turn strangers in to friends, friends in to customers and customers into brand evangelists?

Danger 3: Events lose steam at the point when the greatest amount of energy is needed. Once an event is done is when the real activity needs to begin. The follow up strategy is often the thing that gets left undone in all the effort to host an event. The truth is that events nurture leads, but rarely convert leads. Unless you have a solid follow-up strategy, events will be a disappointment.

Events can be an effective part of a marketing strategy. The best events start with making sure that all involved have the same expectations and there is a good post-event strategy in place before the event date. 

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3 Tips For Great Client Relations


A client called this week and told me he was in town and wanted to stop by. He shared how dramatically his business has grown. His updated brand and new website went live six months ago, and he has hired more staff and is still turning away business. I have been tracking his online results, but he said he receives many leads that just call after visiting the site. In our brief conversation, he shared three things that make a great relationship bear good fruit. 

I understood his business

I think this is one of my unique strengths. I listen and ask a lot of questions. I am able to see things as a prospect would, and I am willing to speak the truth about the holes I see. This approach means that if you are just looking for someone to execute your idea we are not the right choice. If you are looking for an honest evaluation with realistic ideas on how to make your organization more attractive to prospects, we would love to dig in.

I kept him on task

This was a rather large project with many pieces (rebranding, repositioning, web development, copy writing, and video production). We had a budget and a schedule, and we had to deliver on budget and on time. Personally, it is a pet peeve of mine to work with others who need me to micro manage in order to get them to do what I hired them to do. I believe an important part of our service is to be proactive and help people accomplish things.

It is quite simple, if you hire Spire2 and we don't help you, you're not going to hire us again. Great design, good insight, and creative ideas are not good enough unless they are executed. Now if I could only manage home projects as well! 

I pushed him when needed

He was nervous about doing unscripted video, he was nervous about using an illustration, and he was nervous about the way we presented his pricing. They were all a bit different than how others in his industry did things. Right before we launched he developed some serious cold feet, and suggested changes that would have derailed the project. I acknowledged his concerns, but provided the rational for each decision we made. He thanked me for my approach to addressing his concerns, and we moved forward with project. He specifically thanked me for "pushing back" and not allowing him to make those changes. 

No magic here

Before you pick up the phone and tell me to do the same for you I have a confession. I can't promise you the same results. The best that I can offer is that over time and where clients desire to get results and are active participants (my mantra is that you will always know your business better than me, I bring my expertise in branding and marketing) I have a solid track record.

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