Online Marketing: Like Going Down a Rabbit Hole

If you’re looking to learn about social media and online marketing, you’ll find there are plenty of courses to choose from. Many focus on specific aspects of social media or online marketing so you can pick and choose the courses you want.

That’s great. But there’s one drawback….it’s all piece meal. You learn about landing pages from one source and Facebook marketing from another. You get tips on building your LinkedIn and Twitter profiles from another. You can even take courses about content marketing and get tips on blogging. It’s overwhelming.

How do you know what’s right for you and your circumstances?

Just because someone is having tremendous success with Facebook doesn’t mean you will….not if your ideal customers are spending the bulk of their time on another platform like LinkedIn or Google+.

So you have choices to make. You can try to figure it out on your own, enrolling in many of the excellent courses by the various online marketing gurus, or paying $30 a month on Lynda.com for thousands of different courses. Or you can try out my course at http://bit.ly/MktgSolopreneur.

I’ve utilized a systems thinking approach® to marketing that starts with where you want your business to be at some future date and why you chose to be in business, rather than just how to do various online marketing projects. I’ve also incorporated best practices from the online marketing gurus, and applied them to a specific focus – helping entrepreneurs, consultants and solopreneurs put together a marketing program that works for them. The focus is on using LinkedIn, Twitter, landing pages, email marketing, and content generation as the tools to attract your target audience, your ideal prospects, and eventually convert them into clients.

It’s comprehensive, targeted, and has step-by-step explanations of what you need to do to create and implement your social media marketing plan. I also provide resources that I’ve found very helpful that are either free or affordable to help you implement each phase of the marketing plan.

online marketing is like going down a rabit holeWith online marketing it’s easy to get drawn down a rabbit hole

But I’m the kind of person who needs to see the big picture first, to know what I want to accomplish, identify the steps to get there, and then set them in motion. In my years of doing online marketing, I’ve found how easy it is to get drawn down a rabbit hole and lose track of what you were trying to do in the first place.

Here’s an example:
Let’s say you need to create a landing page. So you set up an account on leadpages or Instapage and choose one of their templates. You start customizing it, and then you realize, “oh wait. I need to provide a lead magnet people can download.” (That’s the free item you offer in exchange for the visitor’s contact information). But guess what? You haven’t created it yet. Crap! You now need to get out of the program, and go record a video or write an article or an eBook, or find something else of value that’s relevant to your target audience.

So you get that done, and you get back into the program, and you realize, you don’t have any custom images. Crap again! You need to go find some images you can use (by paying for them or using a site like pixabay.com where you can download them free), or create your own. And you’ll need to resize them and make sure they’re the right resolution for online vs. print. Then you need to upload those images first before you get back into designing your landing page. “Why were you doing this you ask yourself? Oh, that’s right, it’s step one of my plan to attract a certain prospect and build my list. Hmmm….I need to make sure the images, video, ebook, article are the right ones for this target audience.”

Ok, so now you’ve got it all completed. You need to decide how you’re going to promote the page. Are you going to embed it on your website or use the landing page host? Darn. You need a custom domain, if you’re going to embed it or add it as a page on your website. Now you have to log into GoDaddy or some other platform to buy a custom domain. Of course you want to use key search terms that your ideal customer would use to search, but guess what, you haven’t done the keyword research yet. So first you need to do that. Then make a list of keywords you might use. Then check to see if they’re available as a custom domain (which they probably aren’t if they’re very popular). Wait. Why are you doing all this? Oh, right! You need this in order to put the landing page on your website!

See what I mean? It’s an endless rabbit hole, and sometimes, one thing leads to another, which leads to another, to the point where you just want to throw up your hands and say, “Get me outta here!”

That’s where online marketing consultants come in. I’ve tried to make this process simple in the course. No, I haven’t spelled out step-by-step examples like the one above because I don’t know what your business is, who your ideal client is, and what platforms you should use. I’ve had to generalize because there are so many options. If I tried to cover them all, the course would never be finished. What I’ve done is to create worksheets you fill out that cover the key questions you need to answer. Then give you the tools to focus on the primary platforms that make sense for consultants and solopreneurs. I’ve created my own videos that walk you through the process of filling out each worksheet. I’ve also demonstrated how to perfect and tweak your LinkedIn profile. And I’ve included videos by others who demonstrate how to do things like customize your Twitter profile.

Solopreneurs widgetSo now it’s up to you.

There is a huge amount of content built upon my years of learning and perfecting for our own practice. I hope you find it useful.  As a special promotion, I’m giving a 30% discount to the first 100 people who sign up for the course. There are still opportunities available, if you act quickly.  Just use the coupon code 30percent on the checkout page. There’s a link under the full price which says, “Have a coupon?”  Click that and enter the code 30percent, and you’ll get the discounted price.

Once you’ve completed the course, I’d love your feedback about its usefulness and ways it can be improved. Just fill out the survey at the end, or drop me a line at jeri at dennergroup dot com.

Agile Decision Making Framework is Flexible

The answer is Yes, you can! The question is, can you use the Agile Decision Making Framework for anything besides strategic planning?

Adapting the Agile Decision Making framework to social media planninggThe beauty of the Agile Decision Making Framework is that it can be applied to any type of project – even marketing and social media planning. The framework helps you focus your thinking by answering five strategic questions as you work your way around the template.

Many social media plans I’ve seen start with identifying your ideal customer and their specific needs. While this is important, it’s not the place to start.

Define your outcomes first

As with strategic planning, you need to start with your future outcomes. That way the actions you take are designed to help you achieve those outcomes. Otherwise, you’re just throwing spaghetti on the wall and hoping some of it sticks.

Using the Agile Decision Making Framework, start with Phase A, answering the question, Where do we want to be?  What do you want to accomplish through social media marketing? They should support the higher level outcomes of your organization’s overall strategic plan. Once you’ve determined which social media outcomes can help support those, you can begin to focus on your ideal customers and their needs. In the process, you’ll need to also identify which social media platforms they use the most so you focus your efforts there when you’re ready to take action.

Once you’ve completed Phase A, move on the Phase E. This will help you identify the future external factors that could have an impact on the actions you take today.  These become your future Opportunities and / or Threats that you need to consider so you’re prepared to respond should any of them occur. Why look at the external environment you ask? Because your business doesn’t operate in a vacuum. What happens locally and even globally can have profound effects on your customers, their needs, and their desires for your products and services.

With social media, you have to continually be tracking these future trends because new platforms emerge and popular ones lose favor. You don’t want to be stuck on an island by stuck on an islandyourself after your customers have moved over to another platform. If you don’t periodically focus on Phase E, you could be missing the boat!

Once you’ve reviewed Phases A and E, you can move on to Phase B. This is where you identify the specific targets you want to reach and track through social media, answering the question, How will we know when we get there?

These may include the number of click throughs on your links, or a specific increase in customer engagement on your Facebook page, or a percentage increase in website traffic and/or subscribers to your email list. The more specific, the better, so you can track your efforts and see what progress you’re making.

Phase C comes next, answering the question, Where are we today?  The first three phases were focused on your future outcomes, your ideal customer’s needs, external trends, and specific goals. This phase looks at your current situation. What are your Strengths and Weaknesses related to social media? Are you just starting? Do you have a strong team working in this area? Do you need to hire a consultant to help? How well do you know the various platforms – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, etc.? How well versed are you with Google Analytics and Google Adwords? Those are the kinds of skill sets you want to list under your Strengths and Weaknesses. You should also fill out the Opportunities and Threats areas, which came from the external scan you did in Phase E.

By now, you should begin to see some major themes evolving. These become your high level strategies which you list under Phase D, answering the question, How will we get there? These are the specific actions you need to implement to close the gap between your current situation and your future outcomes. Some high level strategies might be training, hiring external talent, creating a social media policy, and customer engagement. Under each strategy will be specific actions you need to take, such as finding online training webinars, advertising for talent, researching social media policies you might adapt to your organization, and creating a content calendar.

Using the Agile Decision Making Framework makes the process of creating your social media plan fairly simple and fast. The next step is to write it up and share it with your team. Then start to implement it!

Planning without action is just dreaming.

Social Media Apps Make Sharing Easy

Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International

Takeaways: Many social media apps exist to make content sharing easy.  Choose the right ones for you to stay connected with your audience and enhance customer engagement with your brand.

Are you using any of the smart phone apps to post while on the go? There probably are hundreds but you don’t need them all – Just the ones that make it easy to post, share and engage with your audience when the inspiration strikes.

Social media apps make sharing easyObviously, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, and Google+ have their own. So do Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Foursquare, which now switches you over to their new app, Swarm, for social location sharing.

Then there’s Instagram, which Facebook owns, to make it easy to snap photos and videos and share with your friends. And Twitter has Vine which makes it easy to record and share short videos. Snapchat and Whatsapp are two popular apps for instant messaging with friends.

Beyond these are others which make it easy to share from your smart phone across multiple social sites. These are some of my favorites:

Pulse – now owned by LinkedIn, the app on your phone makes it possible to customize just the news sources you want, browse current stories and trends, and share them across multiple sites.

Bitly – primarily a url shortener, it also lets you connect a variety of social profiles to share your shortened links. Set up your account from your desktop, connecting your social profiles. Then download the app to your smartphone so you can share those shortened links while on the go.

Buffer – This is an app which installs in your browser enabling you to share content as you’re visiting various sites online. You can either share instantly or use Buffer’s robust algorithms to choose the right time to share on the various social sites you’ve connected. Buffer lets you connect two sites for free.

Hootsuite – useful on desktop computers, this app connects up to five of your social profiles for free letting you schedule messages for times you choose. You can share, comment, message, and interact on all those sites just using the one app. No need to visit each social profile to see what’s trending. It all shows up within Hootsuite, and it uses its own ow.ly url shortener.

LinkedIn Connected – have you seen this app? It makes it easy to stay in touch with your connections, congratulate them on recent job anniversaries or new promotions, send them messages, etc.

What are some of your favorite apps for social sharing and customer engagement on the go?

Idea Killers Squash Brainstorming Enthusiasm

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International

Takeaways: Idea killers are people who can dampen or destroy the enthusiasm in a brainstorming session. How you deal with them is critical to turning an unproductive session into a productive one, despite these participants.

SmartStormingWe’ve all experienced it. You’re in a meeting with your colleagues and the boss asks for ideas to solve a particular problem. As people begin to offer them, one person present puts a damper on every idea contributed. It may even be the boss.

In their book SmartStorming, co-authors Mitchell Rigie and Keith Harmeyer talk about brainstorming as a collaborative process that often generates interesting ideas and results. Unfortunately, amongst the participants frequently you’ll find a few idea killers who can turn the process into a less than pleasant experience. Here are a few offenders the authors list in their book. See if you can identify any of them in your organization.

Attention vampires. These people always have to be the center of attention. They push their ideas forward and tend to dominant the conversation, often putting a damper on the brainstorming process.

Dictators. Every idea is great as long as it’s theirs. This reminds me of the commercial where the boss says, “There are three ways to do this: My way! My way! and My way!”

Idea Assassins. These people love to shoot down ideas. They always see everything wrong about any new concept. Rather than looking at the positives, they are first to point out all the possible negatives and flaws.

Obstructionists. They over-complicate everything, bringing up unrelated information that seems related but really isn’t, derailing the flow of ideas. They tend to over-think everything.

Social loafers. These people show up but don’t participate, appearing bored or aloof, letting everyone else generate the ideas.

Wet blankets. These are the pessimists who instantly shut down the enthusiasm of the session. Even though the majority of their comments aren’t viable, they succeed in turning a positive mood into a depressing one.

On their website,SmartStorming, the authors offer a variety of programs to help trainers learn methodology to conduct effective brainstorming sessions. These include a variety of tools to strengthen problem-solving activities. What are some of the ways you deal with these idea killers when you encounter them? Let us know by commenting on my LinkedIn post. Or fill out the contact form and let us know directly.