Does Your Print Website Flunk the Content Test?

If you’ve been in printing for a while, you know that there’s really no such thing as the perfect print project. Regardless of how meticulous the proofers are, something will get missed. You’re good at what you do, so the mistakes are minuscule; usually it’s something that you find when you pick up the completed project, but no one else will ever see it. You probably look at your website in much the same way that you do a finished brochure or an invitation set. There are a couple of things that you’d like to correct – the header font needs to be a little larger and the line spacing is off in a few places. You’d like to fix it, but it’s not a big thing and you really don’t feel like fooling with the backend of the website today. You’re missing something Checking a website isn’t at all like proofing for print. Sure, the spelling is important, but it’s the content that really counts. Among other things, Google and the other search engines are looking for unique content. Their robots index topical keywords that are used to determine relevance in their search algorithms – the complicated formulas that the search engines use to determine who comes up at the top of the search results. Lack of unique content is a big problem for printing companies, especially for smaller firms who use boilerplate websites from several of the web development companies who specialize in print.   Are you up for an experiment? Let’s try a little test that will illustrate the problem. I’ve pulled some boilerplate content from a printer’s website – two sentences from the Company Culture page. Here they are: We love what we do. The passion we have for our work enables us to take ownership of our clients’ projects. Now for the experiment, copy the sentences and paste them into the Google Search engine. You might be surprised at the results. Here’s what I got:   Google lists 369,000 results. I’m skeptical that there are this many exact replicates, but there are literally pages of printers with exactly the same text on their site. It’s a safe bet to assume that these two sentences aren’t the only repeated content on those sites. Why is duplicate content a problem? For a couple of reasons. First, duplicate content creates an attribution problem for the search engines....
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When Selling Should Stop

“That project fizzled over 2 years ago,” I patiently explained. Actually, I patiently explained again for about the 6th time to probably the fourth salesperson who had contacted me. Here’s the story: A couple of years ago, I was researching a direct mail project for a client in the healthcare industry. They were interested in targeting a segmented audience: women under 40 with Type 1 diabetes. I had received a mailer from a data company that offered specialty address lists, including several medical lists. It impressed me enough to keep the mailer, and I called them when the possible project came up. In hindsight, that was a mistake. The company was responsive enough. They sent a count that matched the specs I gave them. The client decided to go a different direction, so the campaign never came about. The sales rep I talked with followed up appropriately, and I explained that we wouldn’t be doing the project. That exchange occurred in September of 2014. I didn’t expect another call. Since then, I have received a phone call every three months from various representatives of the company. None of them seemed at all aware of the previous conversations. Every call has started something like this, “Richard, I’m calling to follow up on your list inquiry. Are you ready to purchase the healthcare list you inquired about?” Last week’s call added a new annoying feature. The sales rep first tried to add me as a contact via LinkedIn. I declined. His call started with “Richard, I tried to reach out via LinkedIn, but maybe you missed the contact request. Are you ready to purchase the healthcare list you inquired about?” The call was short, and my impatience was probably evident. It ended with a direct request, “Please take me off your call list and remove my name from your CRM.” Missed Opportunity The irony of this tale is obvious. The list vendor is misusing their own house list. An appropriate response to the first (or even second) call to me would have been a note in their CRM. It could have been something like this: Project dead. Small marketing company. Keep on mailing list. That would have been great. I do occasionally purchase targeted lists for my clients and I would have welcomed an occasional email or direct mail piece that informed me about availability of new lists or services. It’s...
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Why this Postcard Went to the Dogs

My veterinarian is marketing. Isn’t that great? I was confused by the postcard at first. The message, “John, don’t forget to come visit us,” didn’t register. My name’s not John. Then I noticed the beagle photo and it started to make sense. My dog’s name is John – it’s the one he came with when we adopted him. John isn’t a beagle, so the connection took a minute. I finally figured it out – a message from my vet. My vet is marketing, I thought. That’s good. He’s spending some money on postcards to remind his patients to bring their pets in for an annual checkup. That’s ok, even if I already had it on my schedule. There’s a QR Code on the card. Cool, he’s sending a personalized message and enabling response online. As I explored further, though, I discovered a lot of room for improvement. The vet’s multi-channel, personalized postcard was half done. It was obviously part of a packaged program that he had purchased. The marketing company name is actually referenced on the reverse of the card. A quick visit to their website showed boilerplate communications programs for several industries – dentists, spas and salons, and veterinarians. This kind of generic program isn’t an absolutely bad idea. It can simplify the process for small businesses who don’t have time to create custom content or manage direct mail, but in this case the whiz bang marketing features flopped before they had a chance to turn around three times. Personalization Gone Astray To push the pun, my vet’s marketing effort went “a-stray.” There just wasn’t enough attention to the detail. In particular, the personalization missed the mark. Sure, the mailing company included my name on the reverse side, but the effect was contrived. The message wasn’t personally appealing. It came off as a gimmick. As for the online integration, it just didn’t work. Here’s what could have been better: Creativity – It would been more effective to include a photo of my dog, a slightly overweight admixture of diverse and dubious heritage who is as similar to a beagle as an army tank is to a Toyota. People love their pets. Why not take a photo when they visit? Overdone personalization – Just because you have the dog’s name doesn’t mean that you must use it in every sentence of the message. “John is due for veterinary services....
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1/3 the Product for 1/2 the Price!

A Value Proposition? 1/3 the product for 1/2 the price. You might almost be interested in the offer, until the mathematics settle into your brain. As a consumer, you’re certainly interested in receiving more product for less money, but not the other way around. Getting less for more isn’t a winning offer. Or is it? I’ve been reading lately about the latest in the string of marketing buzzwords for 2016, customer experience or CX for short. What’s it all about? Here’s a definition from SAS, the business analytics and data company: Customer experience is defined as your customers’ perceptions – both conscious and subconscious – of their relationship with your brand resulting from all their interactions with your brand during the customer life cycle. As you might expect, CX is trending with large companies, who are busily exploring customer perception at every step in the buyer journey and naturally gathering data they can use (both to influence and improve). Gathering data isn’t much use if you don’t act on it, and the big firms are moving merrily ahead with that, too.  Here’s what they’re doing, according to a Harvard Business Review article: Organizationally, adopting a journey-centric approach allows companies to move from siloed functions and top-down innovation to cross-functional processes and empowered, bottom-up innovation. Most companies keep their functional alignments intact and add cross-functional working teams and processes to drive change. To that end, many companies we have studied set up a central change leadership team with an executive-level head to steer the design and implementation and to ensure that the organization can break away from functional biases that have historically blocked change. Did you get all of that? Translated into English, it means that they appoint a committee and a leader to make changes that will improve customer perceptions. Closer to Home I’m convinced that at least one of our local grocery stores has been dabbling in this voodoo, potentially with an ulterior motive. I have to admit that the experience is pleasant enough. The aisles are wide, the store is spotless, the employees are very friendly, and they send me recipes by email every week. There’s no doubt that they’re tracking the data, because I also get digital coupons for products I buy. In contrast, their competitor’s store is less appealing, and I’m pretty sure that some of their checkout staff are on prison work release. Here’s...
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Reality Check

This article was originally published in our Weekly Idea newsletter. If you haven’t already subscribed, the newsletter brings at least one new idea to you by email (almost) every week. Here’s the subscription link. “I don’t have time to talk. We’ll have to make this quick. I need a website, but I don’t have time for it.” The first three sentences set the stage for the rest of the very brief conversation. The Background This wasn’t a cold call; the printing company owner had requested the conversation. He has a website, but doesn’t like it. He’s using one of the turnkey printer platforms and the boilerplate content hasn’t been changed since he originally took the website live a few years ago. What the printer would like is to magically create a consumer-oriented e-commerce site that will bring in lots of sales. He needs it to be created cheap, because he doesn’t have a budget for a new website, and he doesn’t really want to be involved in the process. Fast forward a couple of days. One of my online friends sent me a very interesting article that was full of small business statistics. Here are a few excerpts: Between 50% and 55% of small business owners don’t have a website. 26% have a social media presence. 49% of sites fail to comply with basic usability principles, and 50% of online sales are lost because visitors can’t find content. 93.3% of small business websites aren’t responsive/mobile compatible. 8 of 10 entrepreneurs fail with their first business venture within one year. Another fast forward. Last week, I took a straw poll at a workshop for startups. Of the 12 people present, only 3 had an active website. Only one of the three stated that they were actively updating the site and using it successfully to generate leads and new business. You’ve heard this week’s idea before, but it’s important: Your website is the center of your marketing universe. If you don’t have a working website, for all practical terms, your business is invisible. According to Forrester Research, 74% of business buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. Other studies show that 60% or more of the “buyer journey” takes place online, before a call is placed to a company. If you’re not providing the information buyers need to make a decision online, it’s likely...
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