A Full Range Advertising and
Marketing Agency Since 1979

SMS, Ink

Colorful Tips for Serious Marketers

Technology and The Value-Added Partnership

When SMS was founded by Bob Norton in 1979, it was partially built on the idea that a full-service agency that understood the language and unique challenges of the B-2-B scientific and high-tech industrial marketplaces would more efficiently turn marketing budgets into increased market share. Most agencies at the time (and now) operated from a central salesforce that supplemented their limited in-house services by utilizing outside vendors to complete projects. This resulted in cascading markups and unavoidable inconsistencies in the quality of work, which led to costly redos and unhappy clients.

Since the advent of Internet technology, agencies have ridden the supposition that electronic communication would mostly remove these inconsistencies and the tactical and creative worlds were now connected enough to be considered “in-house”. In part, that’s true. It’s rare that a designer needs to “mock up” a look and walk it over to a client representative for review, and files are far more easily shared with clients via downloading applications. I still remember waiting at the door for envelopes of photo transparencies and in some ways I miss that. You knew the work was checked dozens of times and you rarely felt apprehensive about what was inside…

…which acts as a segue to what I’ve been wondering: has the quality of work and professional service suffered with technological expediency, offsetting the value-add? While it’s much easier to break creative barriers and supply something new, simple follow-through and planning can just as easily slip away. When human interaction was necessary, the warm press of the palm was frequently the only guarantee a client or prospect needed. Professional pride in one’s ability to service a client – or an employer/employee – was always in check. Having a team around your project kept things running smoothly, especially as the team grew together. Convenience wasn’t a subject of conversation, although speed certainly was as deadlines loomed. Still, the long-form focus on client needs maintained synergy and strengthened professional bonds, with the resulting sense of trust catalyzing the innovation of ideas.

All this is to say that it feels like there is a diminishing return to increased isolation while casting one’s net as wide as the earth with the push of a button. The promise of unlimited reach, extended to all regardless of intent, has perhaps reaped a chaotic marketing environment that has wounded professional trust. At SMS, we strive to customize our approaches to prospects so that they feel understood and know we share their values. However, it’s become harder to prove that when the mediums of communication have become tainted with spam, viruses, phishing, AdWord wars, and global piracy. Where it once felt that anyone could compete, with it emerges a sense that anyone can become lost – not just interpersonally but also in your marketplace.

So what are we doing to combat this creeping ennui? Well, in some ways we’ve been doing it for 40 years by remaining a cohesive team that gives a damn about our clients. If you reach out to any one of us, you get a speedy reply. If you call, we pick up. If you have a question, we’ll talk about it until we arrive at the right answer. If you want to sit down and go over your marketing activities, we’ll clear our schedules, our desks, and our heads. We take the time because we believe our experience as a full-service, in-house, hands-on agency adds real value to our partnerships. We do all of this for free because the scope of your marketing activities shouldn’t be reined in by the hidden limits of technology or a running meter.

And it all starts with a handshake.

– S. Norton

For more information on planning your marketing activities, simply contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation or fill out this short form on our homepage.

Online Surveys: Letting Them Tell You What They Want

A shorter one this week as it’s Halloween and I have to hit my neighborhood up for candy. Maybe I can use the holiday as an analogy and hopefully it’ll be a treat for everyone.

When it’s time for a client to update the design of their website, collateral literature or some other marketing tool, they often ask us to show them “something different”. As a creative team that loves to be pushed out of its comfort zone, we relish these opportunities as it lets us exercise our chops. Of course, such wide open direction can lead to lots of wasted hours, especially if there are a number of decision makers and they all have to agree. Taste varies not only from person to person, but sometimes mood to mood.

To save time, we like to put together online questionnaires that allow us to ask the right questions, receive some examples a client may have seen that they liked, and combine the results among any number of decision makers. Not only does this give our designers clear parameters to work from, it also forces clients to really consider their ideas. Requiring someone to put their answer down on a form that will be shared usually leads to long periods of revaluation. Ultimately, decisions strike a balance between daring and practical, with more careful consideration given to customer needs. Once goals for a new design are set (i.e. value proposition above the fold, product image-heavy, three clicks to purchase) the time required to present a few looks is shortened considerably. More importantly, the time is well spent.

So, where’s the clever analogy? Hmm, right, okay…remember how it felt to go trick-r-treating and how anxious you were about the kind of candy each house might give you and how much you might get? It was a really big deal. You spent lots of time choosing or making a costume, and walking up to all those front doors got pretty tiring after awhile. Then, when you got home, examining your loot was always fraught with the possibility of disappointment. “More fruit rollups?! I wanted MILK DUDS!!!”

Well, what if you were able to fill out a survey that asked you to input exactly the kinds of candy you liked and hoped to receive?  Houses wouldn’t waste their time and money buying the wrong stuff and kids would be put more at ease. Sure, some of the fun from being surprised would be removed, but I’m sure your parents – likely the people funding the entire operation – wouldn’t have been too bothered. And there’s nothing like sifting through a bunch of your favorite candy to make up for any fun missed.

Want to take a survey and try it out? Click here and let us know what kind of website you might like for your company.

Happy Halloween!

– S. Norton

For more information on developing your own online questionnaire, feel free to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. Or, simply fill out the short form on our homepage.

Staying In-Touch: Mobile Apps and Industrial Marketing

For the most part, apps that live on your mobile devices satisfy personal, social and recreational needs. These are generally monetization models, notably paid-for and in-game purchasing distractions like Candy Crush and Clash of Clans, transport position tracking services like Uber and Lyft, and interfaces for downloading and streaming music like iTunes and Spotify. We’ve come to depend on those colorful icons to thrill us, help us organize our daily activities, track our exercise, and of course, check the weather. In fact, mobile app revenue has more than doubled in the last four years* and while it’s finally leveled off with maturity, many of us interact with a handful of apps daily. Therefore, the question begs: if apps have successfully dug into our personal routines, can we adopt and adapt them to connect industrial companies with their clients? If so, can they be designed not just for ordering purposes but also for more practical functions?

Recently, SMS has been in conversations with a client who wanted to know if it was a cost-effective, technological possibility to build an app for their customers that would help them calculate the correct line of products for a specific application. In use, a customer would input information to satisfy a select number of variables to receive an optimum solution on the spot without the need for Wifi connectivity – essential for when field operations are out of reach of strong signals. In short, a calculator, but one with a very specific purpose that could be remotely updated to reflect the most current product specifications.

We loved the idea, having touched on the use of mobile apps in the past with our industrial clients, and have been waiting for the right time to further explore the possibilities. We knew that our in-depth knowledge of our customers’ markets would play an important role in building an affordable app tool that would deliver just the right user experience and interface parameters. Apps aren’t cheap relatively speaking (simple designs can reach new website numbers and higher), but they can more than pay for themselves in customer service and satisfaction if done correctly. Even more exciting is their ability to deliver push notifications, which allow companies to notify customers of new information without requiring the app to be open. It’s a fairly unobtrusive way to stay in front of your customers if used judiciously.

Apps have other B-2-B benefits, as well. They drive traffic to websites (or can, depending on their design), improving SEO. They have a higher percentage chance of customer interactivity due to their fingertip nature; it’s much easier to use them than it is to launch a browser and pull up a bookmark or input a URL. They’re usually engineered for highly specific purposes so organizing communication channels for content is more easily streamlined (how many marketing projects are currently on hold at your company due to broadly defined content and shifting concept designs?). Apps do what all B-2-B companies hope to do: simplify processes with elegant solutions. They’re a perfect fit.

As marketers, we’re always looking to the future to ensure that we’re offering the most cost-effective and enduring answers to our customers’ questions. We’ve always done the best we could in terms of creating marketing tools in formats that will remain relevant and stretch budget decisions. With phone and tablet technology continually evolving yet holding fast in their roles as important interactive tools, apps not only appear to be here to stay but could still be in their infancy in terms of potential marketing power for industrial marketers.

– S. Norton

*Source: Statista

For more information on developing apps that will improve customer relationships with your products, feel free to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. Or, simply fill out the short form on our homepage.

Online Market Research and the Customized Marketing Approach

Much has been said – on this blog, in particular – about SEO and the importance of adding fresh content to B-2-B websites to compete with companies with more resources and expensive AdWord campaigns. A two-pronged attack of crafting content to reflect high-volume keywords as well as specific keywords that help broadcast you company’s flagship products and services is essential to carving out precious SERP real estate, especially for small-to-midsize B-2-B marketers.

Equally important to using digital marketing tools to send your message out is using the web to collect prospect information in order to create a more customized marketing approach. This often involves utilizing creative search methods to identify a range of new markets that may be ideal for your company’s products and services. Thinking more abstractly to uncover new applications for your company’s innovations, whether they be in product design or customer service, is a little like trying a new fishing lure: it may take more time to use it right and in just the right way, but it may be the only way to catch something you haven’t caught before.

online market research

Innovation generally follows market research, so mining benefit and message keywords and combining them with some fresh concepts that loosen the context could turn up new companies in new marketplaces. For example, if your company has designed a laboratory product that performs a delicate function faster without sacrificing precision, you may want to consider other ways “lab research, speed and precision” may be important in other delicate applications. Searching “fast and precise lab equipment” or taking it further with “emergency lab processes” an onward down the rabbit hole may lead you to content on competitor websites and online industry trades (both effective sources for search inspiration), but could also highlight clues to niche marketplaces like mobile health services in hurricane-hit regions where speed and precision saves lives. At that point, you’re onto practical emergency healthcare solutions as a general topic and off you go.

Once unique markets are uncovered and prospects identified, it’s time to dig deeply into these worlds and extract as much enlightening information about each company that you can. Counter to the “wide net” or “mud against the wall” methods of converting prospects into customers, spending less time on spamming the globe and more time on vigorously vetting highly qualified leads could yield better results. To do this, you have to be uncommonly thorough. Every piece of information on a company’s website has gone through countless rounds of revisions, and if it made it to a page that company feels it’s important. Read everything and get a sense of the people behind the message. Scour their news sections and learn if they’ve been acquired or have acquired another company. Find them on social media and take a peek at their trade show photos. Absorb their messaging with the understanding that they, too, deliberate well into the night about relatively minor company decisions. Spot their techniques for standing out and then incorporate that information into your communications. It sounds a little like cyberstalking, and perhaps it is, but if your intentions aren’t nefarious your prospects will appreciate the time you took to get to know them.

Doing your homework is essential to connecting with a prospect, but really getting to know them may require a more straightforward approach. Digital surveys about their current interests and experiences will help you avoid retreading old ground and poking old wounds. Also, asking them to point to online products and solutions they find interesting but perhaps limited in some way could lead to mind-blowing win-wins. Some answers are best found together, and prospects that utilize their own research methods could inform your own. Hey, the Internet is a living market research tool and always evolving. Anyone who says they’re an expert is probably falling behind.

It’s tempting to use the Internet like a blaring horn playing your message repeatedly into well known marketplaces, but using it as a tool to quietly research and refine your approach to new business may be a better way to be heard.

– S. Norton

For more information on using online market research to refine your marketing approaches, feel free to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. Or, simply fill out the short form on our homepage.


Social Media in Industrial Marketing: Can it Play a Role?

You know the routine: you spend umpteen hours and precious resources developing your company’s website and the time comes to add the social media icons or “bugs”. If you haven’t already been maintaining a social media presence, you hold a meeting to decide which applications might be useful and the usual suspects get bandied about: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Conversations swirl around their effectiveness in your marketplace and the best ways to build your networks.

Soon, someone mentions that they don’t even use social media and everyone looks at them wondering why they’re even in the meeting until you realize they represent most of your company. “My wife uses it,” you hear from one employee. “My kids made me a page but I don’t even have a picture up,” says another. Your research of other B-2-B websites turns up social media graveyards more often than not – companies that tried to use various platforms in various ways before eventually abandoning the idea altogether. Before long everyone is asking the same question: why are we doing this again?

Anyone who has tried to maintain a social media page for their company at some point begins to feel a sense of absurdity, as if they’re off in a corner talking to themselves. Even if there’s a healthy number of people in your network, over time the lack of responses creates a bigger and bigger echo from the abyss. So, the question remains: is there a role for social media in industrial B-2-B marketing outside of using it because everyone else is and your website may look old-fashioned without those darn bugs?

The answer, unfortunately, is “maybe”. It really depends on the availability of content and one’s ability to identify it and make it engaging. Yes, network building is important and adding a “Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.” to your signature blocks can help add people to your page but social algorithms may start cutting your content from their walls if there isn’t enough interaction. A company with a social media presence is also at odds with prospects who already employ those applications for non-business related reasons. Your company message can jar someone who has been staring at memes for an hour, and not in a good way. Making your precious few connections angry is hardly the way forward.

And that means fashioning content to fit their flow. It can be done, especially by focusing on the people inside and outside your organization. Remembering that businesses are essentially made up of people who have real lives and similar problems and interests is a good start. Highlighting employees always gets a look, as eyes are drawn to faces. People are always curious about how others look, or wondering if they know anyone in a photo. If you want to shoot a machine, put someone next to it looking in. Light it well, and maybe even add some filters. You can try cocking the frame off axis, too – anything that makes it more interesting. Also, learn how to use hashtags (#). They will help your content reach beyond your closed network.

It can take practice, but posting to social media can easily become addictive. Before long you’ll be seeing possible posts everywhere you look. Most importantly, social media content can positively affect your site traffic through SEO, so make sure your content is rich with keywords, both in the text that accompanies your photos (they’re a must), and in your “About” descriptions. Those paragraphs that describe your company become your meta descriptions on SERPs. Also, adding links back to your website in your posts can boost visits when site content has grown a little stale. It’s quick way to make up the difference until you can address your site properly.

The final word on social media and B-2-B marketing is that it requires serious attention to be effective. Like all things, what you put in is usually what you get out. Treat your pages as vital extensions of your marketing mix and they may become real weapons in your arsenal.

– S. Norton

For more information on developing an effective social media program, feel free to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. Or, simply fill out the short form on our homepage.


Maximization Through Customization: Getting the Most Out of Your Digital Marketing Budget

I’ve always disliked long titles to articles and blog posts. They tend to lack creativity and fail to engage. Odds are most will skip over this entry when they receive it in their inbox. Who has the time to read a long thing before reading an even longer thing? Yet despite knowing long titles are problematic, there’s a twelve-word title at the head of this post because it says all the things I feel are important. In essence, I’ve shoved a bunch of stuff into a single title and in doing so risked getting my message to you.

I say we fix it. Let’s try:

Maximization Through Customization: Getting the Most Out of Your Marketing Budget

We dropped a word, which is a okay, but now it doesn’t really mean the same thing. We need the term “digital” because those are the primary activities we’ll be covering. Let’s try again:

Maximization Through Customization: Optimizing Your Digital Marketing Budget

We dropped three more words! Oh, but we added another big word with a “z”. Too many concepts to inhale at once? Will all those z’s put people to sleep? One more time:

Optimizing Your Digital Marketing Budget Through Customization

We dropped another word and now we’re down to seven. Things are going pretty well in that regard. Only, it feels a little drab and the word “customization” is a lot of concept that feels like it’s weighing down the tail. Shorter isn’t always better if the end result is boring half your audience and overwhelming the other half. Last time:

Optimizing Your Digital Marketing Budget

Five words, message simplified, rolls off the tongue. Is it perfect? In my view, it lacks a smile, one of the core concepts, and incorporates a well-worn buzzword – optimization – that in a fresh context could obfuscate the digital landscape. What I’ll need to do is highlight how that word ties into the concept of customization and how it’s become so vital to our digital marketing activities that it should be written on stickies all over the office. Better yet, if I can present an example by optimizing the word power in the title of the blog post, maybe I can even better illustrate my point.


If digital marketing – particularly in the industrial and manufacturing marketplaces – is still a mistrusted term it’s because too few B-2-B companies are carefully customizing their approach and content to suit their markets. The efficacy of sweeping programs that cast wide nets is difficult to track and often miss their mark. Also, sending the same message in the same way over every platform doesn’t always work. Putting a few tightly-scheduled dollars into the right social media platforms to cover trade shows and other, mostly anecdotal content makes sense. Yet, the same doesn’t work with Google AdWords campaigns where more direct approaches are necessary to match the right searches.

Investing in a measured mix of digital programs requires the ability to more meticulously utilize one’s marketing resources. Agency pricing that locks you into a broad range of activities over a set period of time might yield some results in the short term but the waste will drain your company’s potential for growth. An agency that understands these dangers will price their services in small, adjustable increments with no minimums, and clearly allocate a percentage of your budget for trial and error which will help eliminate ROI panic as long as spending equals learning. 

Most importantly, optimizing your budget requires a marketing partner who will get in the trenches with you, learn your markets and help you devise the right tactics to reach them. They’ll share the risk and stand by your side by cutting waste and leaving only the leanest muscle to pull the weight. In short, like a good fund manager, a good marketing partner watches every penny and only succeeds when you do.

– S. Norton

For more information on developing an efficient mix of digital marketing programs, feel free to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. Or, simply fill out the short form on our homepage.

B2B Distributor Partnerships: Doubling Your Marketing Power

A few posts ago we discussed organic search optimization and its importance for getting found when not throwing huge amounts of resources at Google AdWord campaigns. To briefly recap, staying “Google relevant” means websites must be regularly updated with useful, keyword-rich content so that search engine crawlers rank them high enough to be seen. At that point, an engaging meta description should entice users to click, introducing them into the sales cycle and sending “traffic juice” to the website’s organic search metrics. The more traffic you get, the more Google thinks you’re cool and the better your rankings will be.

However, from time to time, companies in the B2B landscape who manufacturer products that get resold find themselves competing with their distributors for Search Engine Results Page (SERP) real estate. Does it matter if customers find you through your website first? Good question. If your website primarily exists to redirect users to your distributor, it does appear to be a logical trade-off.

But there are reasons why you might want customers and prospects to stop by your website before visiting your distributor. For one, you want them to shop with your messaging in mind as it may help close the sale. Secondly, website traffic that correlates with sales efforts provides valuable feedback that can help determine the efficacy of those efforts. Most of all, you want to continue to build brand recognition so that a competitor’s brand doesn’t begin to lodge into your customer’s memory banks. Also, a great deal of searching in the high-tech and industrial marketplaces involve “brand searches”. Once you’ve got them looking for you by name they’re hooked, so keeping your brand prominent in the marketplace is vital for market maintenance and growth.

Now that we’ve answered that question, let’s take another look at the original problem: how does a company compete with its distributor for SERP rankings? The solution exists all around us in the B2C world. Brand partnerships are nothing new, and often accompany non-profit awareness ventures, but how many products can you think of off the top of your head that are sold by prominently featuring their reseller in their messaging? It could be a commercial for a brand of shoes that includes the name of a regional mall, or any advertisement that uses the terms “available at” and “participating retailers” in their copy. In other words, we’re conditioned to think of products in terms of where we can find them, and online shoppers are the same. Huge e-commerce sites like Amazon dominate organic search keyword rankings for a reason. Much like industrial product distributors, their website has loads of content related to your customer’s search terms – more than could ever be matched by the average company’s resources and capabilities. In fact, users now go to Amazon and begin their search there but they do so for a very important reason: they know what they want because of successful branding methods.

Putting together a “channel incentive” program, or partnering with your reseller through carefully coordinated marketing initiatives, could be an effective way to improve sales for you and your distributor. It can be a tricky proposition, as traditional marketing thinking involving brand dominance and continuity still informs most B2B marketing decisions, but it’s not unheard of to sell the two at once. Many sales meetings and seminars attempt to boost partnership morale with co-headlining video presentations and fancy swag that have been carefully designed with painful precision – only to be discarded after a single use. The point is, it doesn’t have to stop there. Developing goal-oriented digital marketing programs that focus on combined sales incentives are easily spread out and tested. For example, a single Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ad that unites messaging and brand recognition can send users to a landing page that promotes both entities. What’s more, combining marketing budgets means sharing the risk, and could allow for higher AdWord bids and better positioning.

Think about it: if your brand becomes virtually synonymous with your reseller’s brand to a carefully targeted sector of the marketplace, you’ve doubled your marketing power for that sector. And with the right blend of goals and communication, a B2B partnership program that starts small could lead to much bigger things.

– S. Norton

For more information on developing marketing programs with your distributor, feel free to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. Or, simply fill out the short form on our homepage.

Outrunning the Bear: The Importance of Competitor Analysis

So you’re hiking with a couple of friends in the woods. It’s a nice enough day and things are fairly jovial when suddenly you come upon a mother bear and her cubs. You realize in that moment that you’re in danger, and no amount of playing dead is going to help. Momma ain’t happy and somebody’s gonna pay.

Immediately you do what everyone says not to do: run. You run for everything you’re worth, dodging branches and hurdling fallen trees. You look back, expecting to see momma on your tail, and realize you’re leading the pack. In fact, one of your friends who put on a few more pounds than you did after college because he still sits around playing video games and eating pizza every night instead of spending what little discretionary income he has on a gym membership has almost zero chance of catching you. It’s then you recall an important marketing adage that wound up on that business midterm you actually studied for: you only have to be better than your competition.

That’s when you relax, but not completely. You wisely conserve energy for the haul back to the truck where you set a reminder on your phone to extend your gym membership. As it turns out, it was more than worth it.

Okay, maybe retooling that old joke was a bit more gruesome than a marketing analogy needs to be, but the point is clear: knowing the competition helps direct your marketing activities. A marketing manager blinded by the amount of digital marketing opportunities and challenges can easily lose sight of how best to use their budget. In terms of developing a website – a dynamic, living tool – the job is never complete. It can become daunting to wonder not just where to start, but when to stop!

That’s why it’s important to spend the time identifying and researching the websites and supporting marketing initiatives of your closest competition – those companies most in line to snatch that precious SERP real estate. Perhaps their capabilities closely match your own and they boast similar OEM programs. Maybe they’re down the road and enjoying the same proximity to major metropolitan centers. Maybe their trade show booth has cookies where yours has coupons for wine. All other things being equal, what might set you apart and win you market share is how wisely you choose to invest your marketing dollars in relation to their choices. In other words, you only need to outrun them to survive and grow.

If your marketing agency isn’t consistently referencing your competition when advising how to use your budget, they’re probably only interested in producing serviceable marketing materials and generic marketing programs that will maintain status quo. If they’re not suggesting methods that are better or counter to what your competition is currently employing, they may succeed in keeping your brand in the market but they’re gambling with your money on keeping it competitive.

SMS researches our client’s and prospect’s competition as a matter of course. We dive deeply into their websites, uncover what they do well and where they might be weak, and run reports on their traffic and standing with Google’s algorithms. We want to know what makes them tick so we can suggest ways to improve on their ideas and fight it out with them for SERP turf. Once we’re toe-to-toe, we can work on messaging and value propositions that will see our products specified over theirs. Most importantly, we want to do all of these things without breaking budgets. Anyone can outspend. Not everyone can spend better.

In the end, doing something is always better than doing nothing. If you don’t run, the bear will get you. But if you’ve invested the time and effort to ensure you’ll run faster and more nimbly than the other guy, you’ll do a better job of covering your butt…or leaving the bear behind.

– S. Norton

For more information on directing your marketing activities through competition research and analysis, feel free to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. Or, simply fill out the short form on our homepage.

*Old joke credit: Bob Norton. 


Buzz Word Watch: Conversion Rate Optimization

Helping industrial B-2-B marketers keep up with evolving digital marketing methods, terms and technology is mostly what this blog is about. Intermittently, I like to highlight certain SMS projects that I think are interesting or required solutions that some might find helpful, and every once in awhile there are announcements and musings about staff comings and goings. Today, I wanted to explain a few key concepts behind one the most important buzz words making the marketing rounds, but not before wishing a happy retirement to long-time client and friend of SMS, Chuck Locke.

Chuck is leaving the position of Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Drummond Scientific Company after 25 years and for all of them he’s partnered with SMS on a number of projects ranging from video and collateral to web development and AdWord campaigns. We’ll miss his strong sense of loyalty, professional exuberance and down-to-earth charm but wish him all the best going forward. Get at those fish, Chuck.

Now, Conversion Rate Optimization, or CRO. I’ve written previously about organic search optimization, a component of SEO that involves regularly adding useful content to a website in order to perform well in organic search rankings. The post was specifically about the power of meta descriptions and how they should be as engaging and relevant as ads in order to attract clicks. Applying effective CRO might be considered the next step – if converting leads to sales is a company’s primary objective. I think we can agree that it is.

Digital marketing acronyms seem to be multiplying like weeds lately, but we can’t talk about CRO without also talking about ROI (Return On Investment). I’m going to guess that most digital marketing managers have accepted the tenet that websites are never “done”,  and therefore understand that an increasingly greater portion of marketing resources are being allocated to website development and supporting digital tools like landing pages, banner ads, and social media platforms. As a result, they’re under a commensurate amount of pressure to prove that their favorite digital marketing tools are budget worthy. It’s something of a Catch-22: everyone knows they need them, but they can’t always prove that they work.

CRO involves many things, from properly organizing the elements of a homepage so that engagement is “above the fold” to the study of data and analytics which help determine where the digital sales cycle is getting caught up. The goal is to convert visitors into customers as opposed to simply increasing traffic. Among other things, effective CRO requires a deep understanding of the behavior of one’s buying audience or persona. Attention spans vary depending on markets, but we can all agree that they’re getting shorter overall so it’s vital to capture a visitor’s attention with a clear value proposition and have them interact with a “call to action” like a contact form or mailing list signup as soon as possible.

Optimizing for conversions involves a delicate balance between direct messaging and indirect selling that requires testing, and it can differ wildly from audience to audience. For an analogy, think about how teachers enter different rooms as they make their way around a school. Each environment calls for a specific demeanor, and each demands that you bring something engaging to offer. If you miss on either point, you’ll likely get tuned out. Teachers learn very early that, despite entering the profession to make a difference, they must first get their students’ attention. To do that, they must find a way to reach an audience who may or may not be aware that they need to improve, or even think that it’s necessary. If we design our websites as if they were us, standing in front of a room of children who challenge every second to be worthy of their time, we’re probably on the right track. If we imagine a situation where those children can get up and leave whenever they please, we’re definitely on the right track.

Optimizing one’s website for higher conversion rates need not be as difficult as winning over a classroom of kids, but there are standards and methods that can make them more cost-effective. Keeping up with them will ease the pressure, and improve investment returns.

– S. Norton

For more information on how your website can be better optimized for conversions, feel free to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. Or, simply fill out the short form on our homepage





Content: Defining the King

For the past several years, whenever anyone was in a serious discussion about web or digital marketing, eventually someone would exclaim, “Content is king!”. All sides would nod sharply in agreement, and often the discussion would peter out. What more was there to say about successfully marketing your website? You could have the most glorious slider photos, clever headlines, and irresistible interactive elements, but first impressions only last for so long. It stood to unanimous reason that unless you were at least regularly supplying fresh content to your website, it was doomed to fail.

There are very good reasons why this content tenet withstands and prevails. One of them involves how search engines work and continue to work. Crawlers are programmed with ever-evolving algorithms that seek out the freshest and most useful content available that matches a specific search word or term. The thinking is that users want the latest and greatest all the time, and in the incessant manner in which information requires updating, who can blame them?

But it’s not only accuracy that drives this thinking; often it’s simply that the information is perceived as “old”, or “stale”. In the case of B-2-B websites, for example, products and services may need to be presented with a new coat of paint despite remaining constant in their benefits and message. The reason is that, when we market, regardless of our forthrightness, the perception is that that which doesn’t appear to stay current loses value. For those of us well ensconced in middle age, no point could be pointier.

So what does all of this mean? Well, for starters, outside of how search engines work and in the enduring sense that perception is reality, we need to add fresh content to our website and keep its design looking current, if not modern. It’s been the SMS experience that the length of time a company needs to refresh and polish their website grows increasingly shorter. Like most things, the speed with which our lives are changed by technology places us in a permanent kind of evolutionary warp. One day our mobile devices are state of the art, the next they’re obsolete. Some of us like to think we live independent of technology’s clutches, but it’s becoming pretty clear pretty quickly that it’s not the case for anyone. We’re all connected, all the time, and sometimes it feels like if we don’t keep our speed on the wheel it will spin us around and spit us out.

Okay, the king grows more powerful and demands more coin – how do we keep him fat and happy? The good news is that we’re all creating content – or at least sowing the seeds of useful content creation – all the time. Every day in our workplaces we’re having conversations about improving our products and services and thinking of new ways to compete. Sure, we talk about other things too, but at any given moment pockets of staff are hashing out the minutiae of their daily professional existence and arriving at problems and solutions, questions and answers. Sometimes our conversations are concrete, sometimes they remain in the abstract. But we communicate constantly and communication is the very essence of marketing.

The trick is collecting these bits of communication, organizing them, and identifying the best way to deliver them to your audience. A quick photo of a new system component accompanied by a honed explanation of how it will benefit your customers works great as a blog post that can then be shared on social media. Same goes for a quick summary of how a company is structured and why it keeps them competitive. What’s happening in one’s industry that has the office abuzz can also be very interesting with a relevant spin.

Content need not be all about business, either. Personalizing your company adds warmth and keeps visitors engaged. Maybe someone in your plant is having a birthday, and wouldn’t mind sharing a few words about the colleagues or customers that have helped make it special. There’s also a better than average chance that there are pieces of literature or photos stuck on shelves or in filing cabinets that can be fashioned into a story – or history – of sorts. The key is to fashion all content to support your core messages as best you can. Everything within the walls of your business somehow relates to why you’re there. Following the threads can be interesting and illuminating.

As a final thought, SMS values our client relationships because we believe in their products and services. We primarily address the high-tech, industrial and manufacturing markets for many reasons and chief among them is that we take great pride in what our clients are proud of. We don’t need to find ways to dig out marketable value in what our clients do; our clients exist to make things that keep the world running. All we have to do is listen and spend as much time as we can learning about their markets and learning their language. We’ve been doing it for almost 40 years and maybe that’s why we ‘re confident we can help them serve the king.

-S. Norton

For more information on adding fresh content to your website, feel free to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. Or, simply fill out the short form on our homepage.