Recent Posts

Our Newest Web Project Launches

Aug 21—We are happy to announce the birth of our newest baby - a brand new website for Warkwyn Associates. Who? Warkwyn is an accomplished audio design and engineering firm. We are sharing this news with...Read More

Look Like Who You Really Are

Jul 30— Do you look like who you are? This question is not an “if a tree falls in the woods” Zen kind of question. What we are really asking is: "Do your graphics and other marketing...Read More

Redefining the word Customer

Jul 01—We recently attended the InfoComm trade show in Las Vegas and came away thinking about the meaning of the word “customer” and the way one’s definition influences a brand’s marketing...Read More

Point Of Sale Displays that Sell Product

Jun 17—You are already using the Internet, social networks and traditional media to reach the customer with your brand story. But if you’re not telling your unique brand and product story at bricks and...Read More

What do your customers think of you

Jun 03—A special guest blog by Wendy Price Some of you may say, “I already know what they think.”  Others of you might say, “I’ll just ask my sales people and account managers...Read More

Ten Print Advertising Tips

May 22—In our last blog we made a compelling case that print advertising is relevant and valuable even in this digital age. Now we turn our attention to a handful of basic techniques for making your print advertising...Read More

The Value of Print Advertising

May 07—We almost always include print advertising in our clients’ marketing and media plans. Sometimes we get the reaction “Print? Really? We hear that print is dead.”  There is no...Read More

Making Text More Readable

Apr 15—Words. Every marketer needs them. Sometimes you need a lot of words to get your sales message across. (In our imaginations) our readers hunger to fully understand the marketing techniques we...Read More

Retail Reality-Product Demos-and You

Apr 02—Remember when owning a decent stereo was a major life goal and when shopping in a hi-fi store was fun? We are unapologetically nostalgic for the days when retailers actively sold A/V products; when the...Read More

Ma Mark Marketing or the Importance of Email Subject Lines

Mar 19—Regular readers of the CE Marketing Prose newsletter may have noticed oddities in our last two emails. The February 19 edition went out with the subject line “Mark” in place of “Marketing...Read More

How to Stay out of the Trashcan or the Lessons Learned from a Parking Lot

Mar 04—Marketers of CE products should count themselves lucky. We have it easy; we’re selling fun stuff – toys that help people enjoy great music and entertaining movies and TV programming. But just...Read More

Five Ways to Make Time for Customer Outreach

Feb 19—“Time keeps everything from happening all at once." - Henri Bergson  If you’ve read our website or spoken with us about marketing you know that we’re absolutely rabid...Read More

Brands that Communicate Win

Feb 05—The most successful brands regularly keep in touch and stay top of mind with their customers (end-users and channel partners) via blogs, newsletters and social media. With the advent of new Google search...Read More

Content is Definitely King since Google Changed Search Algorithms

Jan 28—The word “algorithm” is the equivalent of Ambien – it puts most people right to sleep. So it is miraculous that we actually read the news about Google’s newest search engine algorithms...Read More

How Pawn Takes Queen

Jan 20—We would like all of our readers to believe we are the source of all marketing wisdom and insight.  While that is largely true, sometimes we stumble upon someone who has written an article that perfectly...Read More

Should High-End CE Companies Bother with Social Media

Dec 11—On several occasions clients have asked us whether it was worth their time and effort to participate in social media outreach. The tone in which the question was asked told us that the answer they wanted...Read More

Rants from the Frozen Tundra

Nov 25—A friend of ours from the land of baby seals* was inspired by our blog Turning Bad Consumer Reviews into Good  to send us a couple of rants regarding Big Mistakes he sees CE manufacturers consistently...Read More

Flying Without Navigation

Nov 13—Or how we learned to stop worrying and love the research bomb* Imagine you are on a jumbo jet for a 15-1/2 hour flight from LA to Australia. Just after takeoff the pilot announces, “Ladies and...Read More

Coal into Diamonds - Turning Bad Consumer Reviews into Good

Oct 26—We often advise our clients to allow consumers to post reviews on the company website. From the looks of horror on their faces you would think we had proposed offing Granny for the insurance money....Read More

Direct to Consumer Sales and Channel Stress

Oct 14—One of the many services we offer our clients is helping develop direct-to-consumer sales programs for their websites and email communications. When we’ve mentioned that option to some potential...Read More

The Top Twelve Things Your Website Needs To Do - Part Three

Oct 02—In our previous two blog posts we wrote about eight of the top twelve things a brand's website needs to do to be effective. If you didn't read Part One and Part Two you might want to...Read More

The Top Twelve Things Your Website Needs To Do - Part Two

Sep 17—In our last blog post we wrote about four of the top twelve things a brand's website needs to do to be effective. If you didn't read Part One you might want to do that now...................Done? ...Read More

The Top Twelve Things Your Website Needs To Do - Part One

Aug 28— It should be unnecessary to say it in this day and age but just for the record – Your website is the single most important weapon in your marketing arsenal. Don't believe it? When you're...Read More

Aug 21

Our Newest Web Project Launches

We are happy to announce the birth of our newest baby - a brand new website for Warkwyn Associates. Who? Warkwyn is an accomplished audio design and engineering firm. We are sharing this news with you because we believe our methods of conceiving, designing and writing this sitenew-website-design-by-ce-marketing-pros may be instructive to other marketers. And oh, it is shameless self-promotion as well. 

Before wading into the creative process you have to consider who your audience is. In this case, Warkwyn is marketing their services to engineering and product development staff and executives - generally a tech savvy, no nonsense crowd. From that we concluded that a very slick, bells and whistles site was not only unnecessary but could be counter-productive. Warkwyn needed to look sober, serious and professional; totally B-to-B. At the same time nobody likes unappealing, hard to navigate sites. The old Warkwyn site did not exactly project an aura of high technology.

We chose to build the site on a WordPress template that allowed the client to directly participate in building, maintaining and updating the site. The layout is un-fussy and familiar, with straightforward, logical navigation. Websites and other marketing vehicles succeed or fail partly based on the quality of the imagery (see our earlier blog post on that topic) and we wanted Warkwyn to look as competent and professional as we know them to be. At our urging Warkwyn commissioned a local photographer to shoot high-resolution photos of their facility, equipment and staff. The photos make an otherwise simple site design look high tech, dramatic and professional.

Engineers and scientists are not always great at writing in a manner that the rest of us can understand so we re-wrote almost all of the text we got from the Warkwyn crew. Keeping in mind that some of the target audience are top level executives with an interest in profitability as well as performance, we made sure the text contained benefit promises like "competitive," "cost-effective," "sales success," and "better yields." And of course there is plenty of text and graphics to support the superior audio performance of Warkwyn-designed products for the brand managers and engineers. Talk about what your audience cares about.

Warkwyn's target audience loves data, and we gave them plenty in the form of sample measurement graphs that are clickable to larger images. Potential customers can see the data in excellent detail. Look at this page and click one of the graphs to see what we mean.

new-warkwyn-logo-by-ce-marketing-pros

The project was more than just a website upgrade; it was a rebranding exercise. The old logo communicated a music theme, which is good, but we felt the logo needed to communicate precision and technology as well as an audio theme. The sine wave style execution was the perfect solution.

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping audio/video brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful audio brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help their clients STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing marketplace. 

Jul 30

Look Like Who You Really Are

Do you look like who you are? This question is not an “if a tree falls in the woods” Zen kind of question. What we are really asking is: "Do your graphics and other marketing materials reflect your brand’s values and position?" If they don’t, you are handicapping your brand and losing sales.

If there is only one lesson to be learned from Apple’s success it is this: “looks matter.” Apple’s graphics visually communicate the brand’s values. They are clean, contemporary, simple, and bright; and they are consistent across all platforms, all the way down to the manuals.

Take a look at the websites and advertising of successful luxury brands such as Bulgari, Hermes, Burberry, and every single luxury automobile brand. You immediately see big, gorgeous, highly detailed product images. The images are photographs or computer renderings so skillfully executed they look photographic. These brands know that people judge brands by the way they look. “High-end” is communicated by more than price, it is communicated visually most of all.

In the Audio/Video industry we too often see high-end retailers with websites that hail from the 90s and magazine ads that look like Joe’s Bargain A/V Outlet. We see brands with products that sell for tens of thousands of dollars using decades-old graphics schemes developed at the infancy of the brand, or poorly executed product renderings in place of photos. We’re often handed ugly self-designed product brochures at trade shows and see expensive products packaged in plain brown cardboard cartons. Big mistakes all.

Everything a channel partner or consumer sees or touches says something about your company. You have to execute each of them as if it were the only thing someone ever sees from your company. It may very well be. Ask yourself – “what impression would potential customers have of my company if this is the only thing they ever see?” Would you look like a contemporary luxury brand, or an out of touch company, or a struggling start-up? Do your graphics remind one of Nordstrom or Sears?

Brands with a “value” position might not want to look too slick or exclusive, nor do they want to look bargain basement. You never want to look amateurish, no matter what your market position. That applies all the way down to little things like manuals and cartons. A typical prevailing attitude is “no one will see that stuff until after they buy it. What difference could it make?” Are you familiar with the concepts of buyer’s remorse or purchase reinforcement? What impression are you making on your channel partners and salespeople? IT ALL MATTERS.

Renderings are a good source of product images especially as you can have them made well before the product goes into production. But they can bite you if you’re not careful. Low resolution images with no highlights and shadows look like what they are – cheap and poorly-executed renderings. Tell your industrial designer or graphics people that you need “photo-realistic” renderings. They take more time, skill and money but they’re worth it. If you don’t have anyone who can do that level of work, contact us and we can recommend people we know who are good.

The odds are that you’re too close to even evaluate what impression your marketing materials leave with viewers. It helps to have someone on the outside who does not know your business at all (like a neighbor or slight acquaintance) look at your website and all of your printed and digital materials and just answer a few questions such as: “Does this look like an expensive, mid-priced or low-priced company?” “Would you have confidence in this company?” “What values do you think this company holds dear?” “Does this company offer high or low tech products?” “Do these marketing materials all look like they were designed by the same people?” You get the idea.

At very least gather all of your marketing materials together with your staff and ask yourselves the same questions. Are you doing a good job of visually communicating who you are? If not, it’s time you do something about it.

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping Audio/Video brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful A/V brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands  STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing marketplace. 

Jul 01

Redefining the word Customer

We recently attended the InfoComm trade show in Las Vegas and came away thinking about the meaning of the word “customer” and the way one’s definition influences a brand’s marketing plan. Some of the companies we spoke with defined their customer as their distributors; some said their retailers or integrators; others said system designers or specifiers. Interestingly, few mentioned the “end user,” whomever that may be, such as homeowner, engineer, A/V specialist or business owner.

We see the same phenomenon in the Consumer Electronics and CEDIA segments – a tendency to think and market only as far as the first link in the sales chain. That kind of thinking makes a certain amount of sense. You could hardly blame a brand marketer for thinking “my job is to get my products into the first link of the sales chain, it’s their job to move it into the next link.” That approach has the benefits of focus and economy and, in the right circumstances, is the correct approach.

One of our clients, a start-up in the CEDIA channel, needs comprehensive national distribution but is working with a limited budget (dang!). Our marketing plan is 100% focused on building brand awareness within the trade – reps, distributors and integrators. As much as we would like to influence end users, we have to save that for another day.

But more mature companies must look and market farther down the sales path - every step from in-house “customers” all the way to the end user. Why? Because the sale can be lost at any one of those steps, starting with the brand’s own employees. That’s right, your own employees.

A former boss and mentor was fond of saying “the first people you have to sell are your own people.” A salesperson who doesn't burn with enthusiasm is a less effective salesperson. And don’t overlook the other people on your staff like inside salespeople and customer service reps. Every employee who interacts with channel partners or end users needs to drink the KoolAid too.

Getting back to the end-user, he or she is ultimately the most important link in the sales chain. Every other link in the chain could drop the ball but if the end user believes in your brand, you still have a shot of getting the sale. Doubt it? Consider those audio and video brands with household names that continue to sell enormous amounts of gear (sometimes commanding dominant market share) despite the best efforts of salespeople, spec writers, integrators and retailers to sell off their product.

Another mentor of ours was fond of saying “Retailers come and go, the end user is eternal.” Substitute any word you wish in place of “Retailer.” The phrase is just as true for integrators, distributors, reps, or any other entity in the sales path. The channel partner you spend all your time, attention and money to influence today could be gone tomorrow, but there will always be a community of end users.

Influencing the end user starts with understanding who that person is, what motivates their purchasing decision, and what media they consume. Those are topics we will cover in future articles. In the meantime, start by identifying all the people involved in getting your products sold and installed into an end user’s business or residence, including the end user. Ask yourself what you are actively doing to influence every one of those people. Talk to as many of them as possible to learn what’s important to them. From there you can start to build a truly comprehensive marketing plan.

About CE Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping commercisal and consumer electronics brands, integrators and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands  STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing marketplace. 

Jun 17

Point Of Sale Displays that Sell Product

You are already using the Internet, social networks and traditional media to reach the customer with your brand story. But if you’re not telling your unique brand and product story at bricks and mortar, you are missing your best opportunity to have lasting impact on customer perceptions and close a sale. In a previous blog, we made the argument for investing in point of sale materials; see Retail Reality - Product Demos - and You.

While poorly executed displays are useless money pits, well-conceived and well-executed point of sale programs pay for themselves many times over. Your marketing may have brought the customer into the store but now the sale must be closed with a compelling demo. Read on to find out how to realize a positive ROI.

  1. Make it Noticeable.
    If your display does not command the customer’s attention, you’re done.

  2. Choose materials carefully.
    Is the POS for a short-term promotion or for a product presentation intended to last months or years? Establish your budget and choose materials accordingly. Signage and displays get shop worn quickly and shabby displays reflect poorly on a brand’s image. If the material has to last months you will save money in the long run by using better materials.

  3. Consider video.
    If your budget allows, consider incorporating a video monitor. Studies have shown video can generate up to 33% in additional sales1.

  4. Location, location, location.
    Work with your retailers to get your display in front of the customer. If you can’t get advantageous placement, don’t waste your money on the display. Whether it’s a floor-standing or shelf-top design, put the message at eye or arm level. Customers look up only for store signage and directories; any display placed below the waist is ignored.

  5. Make your message short, simple and catchy.
    Develop a compelling message or image. How does your product improve the customer’s life? Hint – it’s not the features. Now boil that down to its essence; you have 1 second to get the customer’s attention. Multiple messages get ignored.

  6. Make it easy to read.
    Choose typefaces that are bold and highly legible. If you must use a decorative face, make it larger. When viewing beyond 18” the formula, D" x 0.472= pt*, gives a rough guide to minimum type size. For example from 12 feet, the calculation is (12 x 12) x 0.472, yielding a minimum type size of 68 pts. (~1” high)2.

  7. Avoid low contrast backgrounds.
    Store lighting is inconsistent, ranging from big box glare to boutique dim. Complimentary colors and high contrast will make your message pop.

  8. Make it memorable.
    Your display should create a lasting positive impression of your product and brand. For smaller brands, it can give you the kind of visibility and sales impact that would otherwise take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy via advertising.

  9. Pick the right fabricator.
    We’ve seen companies turn to offshore sources for active POS displays in an effort to save money. Many of those projects turned out to be money wasters rather than savers. What difference does low cost make if the display breaks or wears prematurely? The better display fabrication houses also provide design consultation. Let their vast experience work to your benefit. You won’t get that kind of help from Asia. If you can’t stretch your budget you are better off building fewer excellent displays than a greater quantity of poor ones. We have worked with various display fabricators and can refer you to the better ones. Give us a call.

Effective and durable POS displays are expensive and outside of most marketing departments’ core competency. That’s why many brands haven’t taken the plunge. But experienced professionals can help you navigate around the hazards to design and execute a display that will increase your brand awareness and, most importantly, MAKE SALES HAPPEN.

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace. 

WE KNOW CE.

 

1 ​How to Make Packaging and Point-of-Sale Work Together. www.prsresearch.com
2 The Magnificent Twelve. www.artisancomplete.com

Jun 03

What do your customers think of you

A special guest blog by Wendy Price

Some of you may say, “I already know what they think.”  Others of you might say, “I’ll just ask my sales people and account managers to find out.”  While others might say, “they are my customers, they must like us.”

But, do you truly know what your customers think of you?  Having sales people and account managers ask is a good thought since you recognize the value of feedback, but will you truly find out what they are thinking?

Sales people and account managers want to avoid negative feedback and might selectively hear only the positive.  Besides, do you really want sales people spending their time asking for feedback when they could be making more sales? 

Having an objective research professional conduct the research will benefit your company.  We are not talking about doing a lengthy survey with a series of grids and rating questions.  Instead, we are talking about conducting in-depth interviews, in-person or by telephone to get below the surface.

Why hire a professional researcher?

  1. Objectivity. The professional is objective, with no vested interest in hearing only the good, and no preconceived ideas.  Researchers are trained to “read between the lines” for weaknesses or problems to identify areas that will drive business improvements.

  2. Focus on Priorities. A researcher will focus on what’s most important to your customer and/or identify their priorities.  Ultimately, it’s better to deliver on the customers’ key priorities than to worry about the less important areas. 

  3. Openness. The researcher will manage the interview in a way that makes the customers comfortable discussing issues and problems that they otherwise would not share.  Customers often feel that the salesperson or account manager can’t be bothered or aren't able to do anything with their feedback. 

  4. Vested. Engaging professional research signals to your customers that the company is vested in their feedback.  A company willing to hire someone to collect opinions must be serious.  They must intend to act on the information!  They care about me.

  5. Confidentiality. The customer may want particular comments to remain anonymous or to be combined with others’ responses, something the researcher can readily do.  There is no need to know who said what, unless the customer wants to be identified.

  6. Depth. In-depth interviews allow the researcher to probe responses for meaning and intent.  The researcher will clarify responses, ask for specific examples, and take the time to delve deeply beneath the surface.

  7. Feedback on Sales Person or Account Manager. Lastly, the researcher also can explore your customers' attitudes toward their sales person or account manager and how the relationship could improve.

Providing customers with an opportunity to share their thoughts will ultimately encourage them to come back to you, to talk about you favorably with others, and lead to solid relationships and more business.

Wendy Price, President of WHP Research, Inc. is a qualitative and quantitative researcher with more than 25 years of experience.  She is a certified focus group moderator and has extensive experience conducting in-depth interviewing projects.  Wendy has a Masters of Marketing Research (MMR) degree from the University of Georgia. Contact Wendy  

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace. 

WE KNOW CE.

 

May 22

Ten Print Advertising Tips

In our last blog we made a compelling case that print advertising is relevant and valuable even in this digital age. Now we turn our attention to a handful of basic techniques for making your print advertising more effective.

  1. Don’t try to say everything.

    The temptation is always there to communicate all the qualities of the product or service in one ad, but if you try to do that you will end up with an ad that is too busy and wordy and still falls short of the goal.

  2. Drive readers to your website.

    Your website is the place where you should have all the information about a product that anyone would want to know, so drive the reader there with a noticeable URL. A simple “For more information visit: www.Your Site.com” will do the job nicely. The ad should be compelling enough to make readers want to learn more. 

  3. Use measurable URLs.

    If you advertise more than one product and/or in more than one publication, you’ll want to track each ad’s effectiveness. You can accomplish that by using a unique URL in each ad. You can use your web analytics software to track how many readers use each unique web address. For example if Bob’s Audio is advertising the Framitz 1000 model in Sound & Vision and TAS the URLs could be www.Framitz1000.com and www.Framitz1K.com respectively.

    If Bob can’t get appropriate domains, he could do something like this: www.bobsaudio.com/Framitz1000 and www.bobsaudio.com/Framitz1K. Many people will not bother to use the extension after “/” but enough will that Bob will at least get a relative indication of which publications and ads are drawing the most interest.

  4. Picture people as well as products.

    It is a measurable fact that readers’ eyes are drawn to images of other people.

  5. Don't pander.

    Some people are going to read tip #4 and get the brilliant idea to use images of scantily clad attractive women in their ads. Don’t do it. Readers are not dumb, they’ll know you are pandering and using a clumsy advertising trick and many of them will resent you for it. Years ago we tested car stereo ads with 16 – 24 year olds (mostly males). One of the ads under test featured an attractive woman. We were stunned to see that it tested poorly. We even got some comments along the lines of “Yeah she made me look twice but she distracted me from the product” and “I knew that was an ad trick and thought less of your brand.”  From the mouths of babes (so to speak)…BTW, the CE Marketing Pros never, ever pander by using provocative images. 

  6. Use great photography.

    People absolutely judge books by covers. Your brand will be judged by how good your ad looks. Nothing makes an ad look better than a stunning photograph. Conversely nothing says “poor quality” louder than a lousy image.

  7. Remember the Zee (Zed if you are Canadian).

    People tend to scan pages in a “Z” pattern, from top left across the top, diagonally from upper right to lower left and again laterally across the bottom. Keep the most important elements of the ad in those zones, especially your logo. This is not a hard and fast rule, other layouts can be effective too, but when in doubt stay with the tried and true "Z.".

  8. Choose background colors carefully.

    For a time black background ads, websites and other marketing media were the rage among purveyors of luxury goods. We get it – the right photo against black looks really dramatic, but it has been overdone in the CE industry. We’ve noticed that more and more luxury brands have switched to light backgrounds and we like the way they look and read. Try something new – look different.

  9. Focus on the benefits.

    Too often we see CE product ads with lots of techno babble but little in the way of benefits that consumers can relate to. For example: “The B-Vox 8000 features composite ham sandwich cones,” says nothing of value to most consumers. It would have been better to use: “The B-Vox 8000’s composite ham sandwich cones bring the musicians to life in your listening room.”

  10. Focus on your differentiation.

    Take a long hard look at your brand and products and isolate those technologies or features or services that make you stand apart from your competition. While "better performance" is important, it is hardly a unique claim and cannot stand alone as a point of differentiation.  Hard as it may be to admit, your competitors make great stuff too. Dig deep, and identify your differentiation and make sure that comes across in your ads.

  11. Bonus tip!

    When in doubt you can always reach out to old pro marketing execs who know the CE business to help you design and write your ads. Know anyone like that? Contact us

 

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace. 

WE KNOW CE.

 

May 07

The Value of Print Advertising

We almost always include print advertising in our clients’ marketing and media plans. Sometimes we get the reaction “Print? Really? We hear that print is dead.”  There is no doubt many print vehicles have died and many more are on their way, especially general interest and news publications. But that doesn’t apply to all print media. There is compelling evidence that specialty or “niche” titles are doing just fine and continue to be important for niche brands.

According to MediaLife.com:

“…niche publications that cater to a narrow audience, whether it’s hobbyists or Hispanics, have actually seen some big gains.”

Unlike [magazines] which target a broad swath of people with general news and advice that’s widely available online, these niche titles offer information that’s not commonly found elsewhere. They also tend to enjoy stronger reader loyalties.

Niche titles account for almost all of the circulation gainers in recent years. Close to home in the CE industry, specialty niche titles Stereophile and The Absolute Sound continue to deliver nice fat magazines (a good indicator of ad revenue). While Sound & Vision and Home Theater magazines have taken their lumps since their heydays, the new consolidated Sound & Vision now has 135,000 subscribers and had a spectacular gain in ad pages in Q1 2014 as did many other niche publications

Circulation and ad page numbers are not the only things to consider when evaluating print. If a publication only had 100 readers but they were the perfect audience for a brand, we would advertise in that publication. OK, that’s an exaggeration but you get the point. It’s not only the quantity of a medium’s audience that’s important; you need to focus on the quality of the audience and whether or not they have an interest in your type of product as well.

Those who continue to subscribe to a given niche magazine have high interest in the category, are loyal to it, are prime candidates to buy and are powerful influencers in their social circles.

Print ads are more powerful visually compared to most Internet banner ads and there is evidence that suggests that print ads are more potent sales tools as illustrated by this article in Gardner Business Media

“A study, conducted in 2012 by Dynamic Logic on behalf of the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA), measured the total increase in purchase consideration/intent for a variety of products. The results? Television [ads] accounted for a 30% increase, online [ads] tallied 13% in increase, but, dramatically, magazines represented a 56% increase. In other words, magazines blew the other two media away in driving positive shifts in intention to buy.”

Furthermore, print seems to be especially effective with luxury buyers. In a 2013 study showed that magazines ranked second among all ad channels for reach and effectiveness with household incomes of $250K and up. Add to that its long shelf life, pass-along circulation and high credibility and you can see why we believe carefully selected print media can be a good value for niche brands.    

Before Internet publishers jump down our throats, we believe digital advertising is also an important component of a comprehensive media plan. For some brands, digital may be the only way to go, particularly if the target audience is under 30 years old. We simply mean to point out that print is still an important marketing channel and the reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

In a later blog we will explore some important techniques to keep in mind when designing print advertising. Stay tuned. 

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace. 

WE KNOW CE.

 

Apr 15

Making Text More Readable

Words. Every marketer needs them. Sometimes you need a lot of words to get your sales message across. (In our imaginations) our readers hunger to fully understand the marketing techniques we advocate in our blogs. Sometimes it takes lots of words; so we worry about readability. And so should you.

But here’s the rub – attention spans are short, people are increasingly reading web sites and documents on tiny screens, and the population is getting older with diminished eyesight. To top it off, most people read 25% slower online than in print.

Recognizing that, we have turned over a new leaf. Beginning right now the font configurations used on this blog are different than what we have used in the past. We are practicing what we are about to preach.

Some Practical Suggestions

There are several things you can do to make your written communications more readable for everyone. Best of all, they’re free.

1.  Ditch the reverse type.

Black backgrounds may look sexy but they force you to use white type and that is hard to read and causes eye strain. Reverse is fine for headlines but bad for body copy. Let’s try an experiment. Here are two blocks of copy, one in reverse and another in obverse. Which one would you rather read?

We would argue that your existing and past customers are among your most valuable assets. Yes, right up there with your inventory, technologies and employees. These are people who have plunked down hard earned money to  buy from you
We would argue that your existing and past customers are among your most valuable assets. Yes, right up there with your inventory, technologies and employees. These are people who have plunked down hard earned money to buy from you

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The same goes for low contrast background/text combinations. Would you enjoy reading this block of text?

We would argue that your existing and past customers are among your most valuable assets. Yes, right up there with your inventory, technologies and employees. These are people who have plunked down hard earned money to buy from you

 

2. Choose fonts carefully.

The general rule of thumb is to use serif fonts in print and sans serif fonts online. Serif fonts have little “flourishes” or flares at the terminal points of letters, sans serif are undecorated.

Arvo is serif.  

Roboto is sans serif. 

Graphic designers tend to favor san serif even in print. But most graphic designers don’t care about readability. It is more important to them that the words look pretty on the page than be readable. Be on the alert for that attitude and stand your ground on readability.

But serif or no, within each group there are readable and not so readable fonts and executions of those fonts. For digital media Helvetica, Verdana, Arial, Lucida Sans and Trebuchet are traditionally good choices (we use Trebuchet for our newsletter body copy). For print, Garamond, Georgia, Times New Roman and Palatino are good choices.

3. Use Italics sparingly.

Italic type is required for publication titles and may come in handy to emphasize a word or two, but large blocks of it will remain unread. We often see italics used for image captions. A better bet is to differentiate caption text with color.

4. Spacing is critical.

Text with tight line spacing is harder to read than well-spaced text.

We would argue that your existing and past customers are among your most valuable assets. Yes, right up there with your inventory, technologies and employees. These are people who have plunked down hard earned money to buy from you.

We would argue that your existing and past customers are among your most valuable assets. Yes, right up there with your inventory, technologies and employees. These are people who have plunked down hard earned money to buy from you

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Size Matters.

Tiny type may look fashionable but most people will find it hard to read on-screen. Extra large text will be too big for mobile devices, too small will make desktop/laptop users squint. Talk to your web developer about using “percentage” or “em” code that scales fonts appropriately for the reader's display size. But if you can’t do that, 16pt is a very legible size making it ideal for online newsletters, blogs, technical data and similar dense text. 

You work hard to communicate your products’ or services’ benefits to your readers with text. With a little design care you can improve the odds that someone will actually read it.

 

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace. 

WE KNOW CE.

 

Apr 02

Retail Reality-Product Demos-and You

Remember when owning a decent stereo was a major life goal and when shopping in a hi-fi store was fun? We are unapologetically nostalgic for the days when retailers actively sold A/V products; when the salesperson knew the products and could give a powerful demonstration. You know, someone like Buck. Sorry to break the news but, like Peace and Love, those days are gone and not coming back.

The big box and sometimes even the specialty retail floor is now
about the fast & easy sale. The salesperson, if you can find one,
was selling shoes yesterday and is non-commissioned, under-
trained and poorly motivated. Commodities dominate this self-service environment. Why would a consumer pay more for a premium product over entry-level when there is no demonstrable difference?

That’s why you need to think seriously about investing in point-of-
sale displays to showcase your product.

Point-of-sale displays are either used for fixed-length sales promotions or for product showcase/demonstration. Promotional displays are temporary, disposable and usually passive, the later is typically an active display that gives the consumer a real demonstration and sales pitch. Showcase displays are designed and built to withstand heavy use for a year or more.

Yes, good showcase displays are expensive, but can make the difference between sales success and utter failure. A great POS showcase display can raise your product from anonymity in a sea of commodities and allow it to STAND

OUT by:

Drawing attention to your product and you brand
Walk into any electronics store; what do you see? A sea of products. Customers are bombarded by choice. Pick any category and there will be dozens of products, each claiming to meet the customers’ needs. The customer is confused by all the choices and, by the minute, becoming less likely to buy. Amongst that visual overload, you have a brief moment to catch the customer’s eye. Nothing does that better than well-designed product display. It creates awareness and an emotional impression of your brand and product. It positions you and your product above those around you, giving the customer confidence and reason to buy.

Connecting you and the customer
There are good reasons for customers to choose your product over competing products but how are they to know? You can’t count on having a salesperson available to guide the customer to your product. Even then, how many have the training to sell your product’s unique benefits? A great active display puts you in direct contact with the customer, telling your story accurately, without filters. A great interactive display can educate, excite and close the sale.

Telling your story as only you can
No one can communicate the value of your products and brand better than you. An active display lets you control your message and do a demo that closes the sale. The best displays communicate your unique product benefits clearly and memorably.

Effectively demonstrating the product
Demo the product - close the sale. Whether the demonstration is audio only or audio-video, the demo is the tipping point, the way to an emotional connection with the customer. The demo will make or break the sale.

Anyone who has ever been to an audio show knows that good demos are rarer than hen’s teeth. Selecting demos that showcase your product in the best light while engaging the customer is not as simple as choosing your favorite Beatles song. It requires a unique skill combining the ability to understand and highlight product’s strengths while minimizing its weaknesses with showmanship.

Increasing the perceived value of the product
Actions speak louder than words. Everyone is suspicious of marketing claims. Comparative measures are impossible since specs are misunderstood and not reflective of a product’s true performance. But we believe our eyes and ears. Point-of-sale displays let the customer judge the product's virtues first hand, elevating your product and separating it from the competition, giving the customer justification to step up from commodity products.

Leaving a lasting impression
You can’t sell every customer even with the best interactive display. But your display will have done the next best thing, It helped you make an emotional connection with the customer and become an authority that the customer will not forget the next time they are shopping or when a friend asks for advise.

In subsequent articles, we will discuss the elements of an effective point-of-sale display.

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace. 

WE KNOW CE.

Mar 19

Ma Mark Marketing or the Importance of Email Subject Lines

Regular readers of the CE Marketing Prose newsletter may have noticed oddities in our last two emails. The February 19 edition went out with the subject line “Mark” in place of “Marketing Insights to Help your Business Grow.” Doh! That was a mistake caused by a combination of a technical glitch and (mostly) human error. OK, we won’t make that mistake again! Not at least until the very next issue which went out with the even more enigmatic subject line: “Ma.” Double doh!

After that you probably concluded that we had finally slipped into full-fledged idiocy (in place of our normal semi-idiocy). And you would be right! Even though it was partly a technical issue, we could have been more careful and avoided making the same mistake. With reddened cheeks we offer our humble apologies for the errors.

But the real story here is the shocking results – way higher open rates! 

Date

Subject line

Open rate

Click rate

Opt outs

Jan 21

Marketing Insights to Help Your Business Grow

34%

20%

2

Jan 29

Special Bonus Issue from the CE Marketing Pros

27%

20%

0

Feb 5

Marketing Insights to Help Your Business Grow

31%

17%

0

Feb 19

Mark

45%

12%

4

March 5

Ma

42%

16%

1

So what can we learn from these numbers? First, our usual open rates are good
for our type of email and the "mistake" email open rates are way above average for
our type of email. Next, our double-digit click-through
rate is spectacularly better
than any category average (typically single digit).  Despite the some-
what lower click-through
rates on the “mistake” emails, the total number of readers who clicked and presumably read our missives was higher than usual. That’s a win. 

Takeaways
So will we keep using nonsense subject lines? Nope. We’re not willing to bet that it would continue to work, nor that you wouldn’t start thinking less of our intelligence. You have the right to know that the email is what it really is – our damn good marketing advice to help your business grow. But it does point out that subject lines matter – a lot. If you want your readers to open your email communications you need to choose carefully. But how?

We use EMMA as our email campaign manager service. EMMA has the ability to test up to three subject lines with a portion of the mailing list before blasting out to the balance of the list. For example, if your list is 1800, EMMA will test 20% of the list (360); 120 people will get subject line 1, 120 different people see subject line 2 and 120 see subject 3. EMMA then monitors and reports open rate for each subject line. If you prefer (as we do) EMMA will automatically send the balance of the emails with the “winning” subject line.

Our typical subject line “Marketing Insights to Help Your Business Grow” had so consistently “won” the competitions that we stopped testing some months ago. But these recent results made us realize we should go back to testing to see if we can find something even better.

And your big takeaways here?

  • Email marketing still works if it is done well.
  • Measure every marketing activity. Without metrics you would shoot in the dark and be incapable of adjusting tactics for better results.
  • Test your subject lines.
  • Al and Paul clearly know what they are doing with this email-marketing thing so when I’m ready to seek help in building a successful campaign I am going to call them and only them and then I am going to give them money. Gee those guys are swell!

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace. 

WE KNOW CE.

Mar 04

How to Stay out of the Trashcan or the Lessons Learned from a Parking Lot

Marketers of CE products should count themselves lucky. We have it easy; we’re selling fun stuff – toys that help people enjoy great music and entertaining movies and TV programming. But just imagine if you had to market one of the least sexy commodities on the planet – a parking lot. Whew boy, how can I make that interesting enough to get people to open my marketing emails?

You should take some lessons from Fast Park, a chain of 16 airport parking lots, including two at my home airport. This email showed up in my inbox; take a long look and let’s review all the lessons to be learned from it: see the email.

Lesson One
They had my email address. They got it by luring me into their frequent parker program to earn free parking. You can follow the example by entering all email signups into a drawing for something of value (a remastered record, or a gift certificate to HD Tracks, or something in your product catalog that is worth a couple of hundred bucks or so). If you have a product registration function on your site (you really should, you know), always ask for an opt-in to your mailing list. Make it a business-wide focus to get the email addresses of as many end-users, dealers, reps and salespeople as you possibly can. 

Lesson Two
A well-chosen subject line. I was a Nanosecond away from clicking delete when I saw the subject line “Travel Like a Pro.” I’ve been a frequent traveler for over 35 years but I’m always looking for ways to make it less painful and exhausting. They had me hooked. Good campaign manager software allows you to test subject lines with a sample of your list to find the one with the highest open rate and then automatically use the best one for the rest of the list. If your campaign manager service doesn’t have that feature, contact us.  If you don’t know what a campaign manager service is, read this.

Lesson Three
Relevant content that was about me, not them. I wouldn’t have gotten past the first bit of the email body if they started with blather about how great their parking service is or that they had a promotion going on. Instead I saw links to articles that could be of real use to me (the center of the universe). In fact, I did pick up some useful information from a couple of them. Start your emails with content that your customers would find interesting – like how to get better performance out of the gear they own now, or a review of a great sounding recording, and then move on to your propaganda later.

Lesson Four
They encouraged participation. Note the invitation for sharing road warrior stories on Facebook and Twitter. They’re amplifying their content and outreach through social media – good idea.

Lesson Five
They mixed in their propaganda. After softening me up with the useful content, I scrolled down and read they had had a new location in Indy, and that they run customer appreciation promotions and that they really, really love me. Awwww.

Lesson Six (the most important one) – They sent it.
Even if the email weren’t as well executed as it was, the very fact it was sent at all would have had value just by putting their brand name in front of my eyeballs for a fleeting moment. Your customers are being bombarded with your competitors' marketing messages through a variety of media. When your customers or dealers need the kind of stuff you sell, your brand name needs to be the first to pop into their brains. It will be only if you work tirelessly to stay top of mind through active outreach marketing.  

What Fast Park Could Have Done Better
I have nitpicks with a couple of their choices. First they packed all their travel tips into one email. I would have saved at least two of the travel tips for later emails. I may be less likely to open next email I get, based on my assumption that there is little else they can tell me that would hold my interest. But I may be underestimating the Fast Park marketing team. They could follow up with more travel articles like the wine tourism article lower down the page. The subject line will be the key.

Second, they don’t seem to have a regular publishing schedule. I get their emails infrequently. While I appreciate not being badgered with too-often emails, once a month would better serve the goal of staying top of mind.

Third, they don't have a Linkedin profile. Frequent parkers tend to be business people and professionals; Linkedin would be a better place to connect with that audience than Facebook and Twitter.

Last Lesson – I’m doing “it” to you right now.
You were lured into reading this far because you saw content that looked like it could be useful to you. Now that I have your attention, let me remind you that CE Marketing Pros offers a service to help you with all or some of your email and other customer outreach marketing. If you are not doing this kind of marketing with regularity, swallow your pride and ask for our help. If you just need help with interesting content, we recently opened CE Wire – a place for marketers to license articles written by the CE industry’s best writers. Click here and sign up as a member (there is no obligation to buy) to read entire articles and sample the wares. It’s good stuff.

And oh, like us on Facebook and Linkedin please.

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace. 

WE KNOW CE.

 

Feb 19

Five Ways to Make Time for Customer Outreach

“Time keeps everything from happening all at once." - Henri Bergson 

If you’ve read our website or spoken with us about marketing you know that we’re absolutely rabid about the need for consistent outreach to consumers via any combination of email, social media or whatever medium is appropriate for your audience.  

After we preach that sermon we usually hear, “Yeah, you’re right, it’s really important to do that.” We reply “So why don’t you?” “Because I don’t have the time” is a common reply.

We understand. Throughout our professional careers we have faced the same problems as you: constant interruptions, too few resources, tight budgets, and of course  the pressure of bringing in today’s sales. The urgent items always outweigh the vital. But inattention to long-term marketing will only make your daily problems worse. Without effective marketing, sales will inevitably slip; resources become scarcer and budgets stretched even farther. That’s no way to live.

So how do you “make” time to do it? Here are five suggestions:

1. Share what you’re already doing – One business owner told us he received several customer emails a week asking for buying or set up advice. He answers every one of those emails so he’s done the hard part – written the material. Now it’s a simple case of copying the questions and answers and pasting them into the website FAQs, an email newsletter template or onto Facebook. Content like that is what customers crave, so give it to them. Your inbox is a diamond mine – dig it!

2. Use existing resources – Your salespeople and customer service staff are perfectly capable of writing about the products they sell and service. Assign everyone in those positions one lousy 500-word article a month. Set a schedule and stick to it. Pay small bonuses like a bottle of good wine (not Boone’s Farm) to the best essay or post of the month. Ask other employees if they have anything they’d like to write about, such as music or wine or movies. At Polk Audio the customer service manager had virtually encyclopedic knowledge of music and music history and wrote amazing articles. Polk newsletter readers loved them!

3. For-hire resources – In an ideal world you’d have a full time employee dedicated to customer engagement. If you have the dough, do it. If you can’t afford to buy it, rent it! Ask your PR agency if they offer social media outreach services. Some know enough about your business to write knowledgably about your products and related issues. Most can at least post entertainment news on Facebook, compose simple surveys and edit material you already own for consumer engagement use. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

4. Dig deep – The ideal solution is for the chief marketing exec, or founder, or owner of the company to JUST DO IT. Make the time – your future is a stake; how can you not make time for that? Paul McGowan of PS Audio is a very busy guy. He travels the world proselytizing his brand, is the CEO of his company, designs amazing products and bakes bread. Yet Paul “makes” the time to write brilliant newsletters that keep PS Audio front-of-mind with dealers, consumers and the press. (See PS Tracks) If he can do it, you can do it.

5. CE Wire  – CE Marketing Pros offers affordable web content and email newsletter production services including a new content service called CE Wire. CE marketers can browse and purchase professionally written articles on topics of interest to the your audience – music, movies, how-to, technology and more. We’ve assembled a dream team of the CE industry’s best writers such as Darryl Wilkinson, Mike Mettler, John Sciacca, Al Griffin and other writers you know. They’ve created articles that your customers will find entertaining and informative – the kind of content that inspires more regular interaction with and enjoyment from their AV systems. And that is worth gold to you! Check out CE Wire.

If you are looking for a complete turnkey customer outreach program where you barely lift a finger, CE Marketing Pros can do that for you too – from campaign manager set up, to list management, to custom promotional content, engaging articles, distribution and measurement of results. We can also set up brand pages on social media for you that tie in to your other communication media. Contact us for details.

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace. 

WE KNOW CE.

Feb 05

Brands that Communicate Win

The most successful brands regularly keep in touch and stay top of mind with their customers (end-users and channel partners) via blogs, newsletters and social media. With the advent of new Google search algorithms that reward content and consumer engagement, the stakes are higher than ever before. (See our blog on this topic.) To strengthen your brand and grow your business you need to keep in touch with your customer base – the right way.  Read on and we will show you how.

Your Most Valuable Assets
We would argue that your existing and past customers are among your most valuable assets. Yes, right up there with your inventory, technologies and employees. These are people who have plunked down hard earned money to buy from you. Presumably they are happy with your brand or store and your products. You can leverage that happiness to sell them more stuff and at the same time build an army of advocates who will bring more customers to your brand.

Contact is the Key
The key is to stay in contact on a regular basis through email, social media and yes even old-fashioned snail mail. We see a number of CE companies using email and social media for customer outreach but it is almost always company propaganda – new products, new reviews, technology gibberish, etc. Nobody likes to feel like they’re being “sold to” but most brand-to-customer communication vehicles are purely propaganda - boring to everyone but you, and easy to tune out. But people will read content that informs, educates and entertains. Mix that sort of material into your communication vehicles and customers will be more likely to read your propaganda.

The Future of Our Industry is at Stake
Beyond being a means to better SEO and as a Trojan Horse to deliver your propaganda, good content serves a more vital purpose – to inspire consumers to use their audio and video systems more often. We are willing to bet there are hundreds of thousands of households with high quality audio systems that go largely unused.

The popular press never stops making fun of audiophiles and videophiles, ridiculing people who buy upscale products. They claim that nobody can hear the difference, that a $30 pair of earbuds or a table radio are all you need to enjoy music; that a $199 soundbar is all you need for TV sound, that a smartphone is a great way to watch TV.  And now we have national TV ads telling people that mono sound is good enough. Fight back!

To combat this onslaught of mediocrity, we all need to remind our customers how much enjoyment quality AV gear can provide. We need to give them how-to articles to help them get the very best performance out of what they own now. We need help them become more informed and discerning consumers by cutting through the jargon and explaining the true meaning of specs. We need to encourage them to be quality A/V evangelists by demonstrating their systems for friends and neighbors. We need to keep our category and our brands top of mind. And most of all we need to inspire them to use their systems by introducing them to new recording artists, reminding them of music they had forgotten, recommending fascinating movies beyond the blockbusters and otherwise encouraging them to turn off the reality TV crap and enrich their lives with quality entertainment and art. 

A Perfect Example
As an illustration, I recently read Light & Shade, interviews with Led Zeppelin guitarist and producer Jimmy Page. In the book Page describes the recording and microphone techniques he used in making the innovative and immensely popular Led Zeppelin records. That inspired me to pull out my Zeppelin LPs and listen to them all over again, using the book as a guide. I spent more time using my 2-channel system in that week than I had in the previous month. During all that listening an insidious thought crept into my mind, “Maybe it is time to upgrade my phono preamp.”  If you were to review that book in your next email newsletter how many more domino effects like my story would you start? If it produced even one additional phono preamp sale, wouldn’t you be thrilled?

Who Has the Time?
In evangelizing these concepts to business owners we typically hear “Yeah, I think you’re right, but I don’t have time for that. I’m spending my whole day making sales happen, designing new products, and putting out fires. Writing original content even once a month is a pipe dream.” We can feel your pain.

In next week’s bonus blog we will explore the topic of How to Make Time and introduce you to an innovative new service that may let you have your cake and devour it too. Stay tuned!

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace. 

WE KNOW CE.

Jan 28

Content is Definitely King since Google Changed Search Algorithms

The word “algorithm” is the equivalent of Ambien – it puts most people right to sleep. So it is miraculous that we actually read the news about Google’s newest search engine algorithms and how they impact web site design and content. We promise not to say the “A” word again in an effort to keep you awake.

The bottom line is that Google has reduced the importance of links to a site and has promoted the importance of the site’s content.

Google’s own Webmaster Tools article on the subject now says “In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.” Older versions of this same page emphasized page links from other sites and blogs.

So why the change? Evil “Black hat” SEO practitioners found it easy to cheat the system in a variety of ways including creating dummy sites with tons of page links back to their site. Google rightly thinks that sort of link spamming doesn’t serve the web community and that what people really care about is informative content from authoritative sources. We couldn’t agree more.

Matt Cutts the head of Google’s web spamming team recently posted a video in which he explains the changes and gives some dang good advice to webmasters and marketers including:

“I wouldn't put too much of a tunnel vision focus on just links, I would try to think instead about what I can do to market my website to make it more well known within my community, or more broadly, without only thinking about search engines.”

Cutts has also been quoted as saying:

“…make sure that you’ve got high-quality content… that’s compelling…that you might see in a magazine or in a book, and that people would refer back to, or send friends to …”

So what does this mean to you? First, if you have been using an SEO specialist who tries to game the system with phony links, paid links, advertorials disguised as editorial or any other sleazy tricks, you should back away. We are not suggesting that links are no longer important – they are. You should continue to encourage your business partners, news sites, publications and bloggers to link to your site as often as possible for legitimate reasons. Real links will not hurt your SEO rank in any way and will draw traffic to your site.

Most importantly you need to develop web pages, white papers or blog posts that contain objective, actionable information about how your readers can get more utility or enjoyment from your product category.

We recently came across an article by John Terra on Media Shower that resonated with our strongly-held feelings about web content. Mr. Terra said it best:

“What Google wants to see now is original, real content created by original, real people; content that attracts the user's attention because it's well-written, relevant and enjoyable.”

“…site owners should use this as an opportunity to bring in new talent that can generate quality content, not limited just to articles, but also images, video and info-graphics. If your site has engaging content that informs as well as entertains, people will stay longer and are likely to share links with their friends.”

You may be thinking how the heck are you going to be able to generate content like that. You’re a busy executive who needs to drive sales, develop new products, control costs, and manage logistics and a zillion other things every day. You don’t have time to write any more content and you certainly don’t have the budget to hire someone to do it for you! We can feel your pain.

Stay tuned for next week’s CE Marketing Prose Blog for more on this and related topics. Or you can contact us now to learn more.

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace. 

WE KNOW CE.

Jan 20

How Pawn Takes Queen

We would like all of our readers to believe we are the source of all marketing wisdom and insight.  While that is largely true, sometimes we stumble upon someone who has written an article that perfectly expresses our marketing philosophy. Such is the case with the article by Glen Stansbury, titled 5 Ways You Can Beat The Big Guys At Marketing. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. OK, maybe just a little better.

So how do these precepts apply to the CE industry specifically?

Scope
Stansbury writes: “Figure out exactly who your customer demographic is, and focus on them only. Know them inside and out, and specifically go where they are to reach out.”

There is an old saw in marketing “know who your existing customers are then go out and find more just like them.” Few CE brands and retailers make a concerted effort to learn all they can about the consumers who own their products or patronize their store; instead they rely on intuition and a limited number of consumer encounters.

Worse yet, many CE companies do not have ongoing communication with consumers. The people who have bought from you in the past are the most likely people to buy your brand or from your store in the future and to recommend your store or products to their circle of friends. Speak with them regularly.

Timing
Stansbury writes: “Red tape. Committees. Boards. These are the types of things that slow a marketing team to a grinding halt, because in this day and age, many large companies often can’t run an ad that hasn’t been approved by the legal department, the subcommittee, the marketing director, the boss, his boss and finally the family patriarch….”

Besides the obvious advice to avoid falling into this trap we would advise you to make your marketing communications personal – that is, put your personality into your marketing. Marketing materials from big companies are often written in the third person and devoid of personality. Talk to your customers in your own voice as a person. Make your customers feel like they personally know you – whether you are the owner, founder, chief designer or marketing VP. Paul McGowan of PS Audio does this brilliantly. PS Audio marketing emails come from Paul, not a faceless company. Take a close look at all of Paul’s consumer outreach efforts, learn and emulate.

Ad Spends
Stansbury writes: “The big guys often blanket ad buys, looking for eyeballs, not conversions."..."Beat them at their own game: Choose one ad platform…focus your energy on that platform and dominate.”

Too many CE brands and retailers spread their ad spend thinly over many types of media. It is better to focus your energy and funds on a smaller number of media, publications and communications vehicles, especially those that directly reach your past customers and people like them.

Smarts
Stansbury writes: “Create something that you don’t have to pay people to talk about. A resource, a compelling ad, a story … the possibilities are endless.”...“The best form of marketing has always been word of mouth or the kind that you can’t manufacture directly. Create something that gets people talking.”

To us this means communicating about topics that are of interest to your audience and not just advertising hype. Years ago Al and I created an advertising campaign that educated readers about home theater (a new phenomenon then) rather than simply crowing about how good our speakers were. We were rewarded with our best ad response rates and a sales growth spurt. 

Edginess
Stansbury writes: “Become a thought leader in your industry, and speak your mind (Mark Cuban is an excellent example). You might upset a few people, but you’ll never make everybody happy anyway. Just know who you’re ultimately trying to reach, and it will reap benefits. Take some small risks with your marketing message…”

The CE industry is all about music and movies, entertainment, toys and fun. So don’t just talk about your precision resistors, local dimming LEDs and low negative feedback. Craft your marketing messages around the benefits of your products serving the music, the performances, and joy. Be provocative, challenge your customers to wring the last drops of pleasure from their CE gear. Be different, stand out. 

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace. 

WE KNOW CE.

Dec 11

Should High-End CE Companies Bother with Social Media

On several occasions clients have asked us whether it was worth their time and effort to participate in social media outreach. The tone in which the question was asked told us that the answer they wanted to hear was – “no, you don’t need to mess with that stuff, it’s just for kids. “ 

The right answer is, you should first find out if your customers participate in online networking. Have you ever asked your customers which social media they participate in if any? A simple email survey can get you those answers pretty quickly. If you don’t know how to do a statistically valid survey, contact us and we’ll show you how to do it at a very low cost.  

The odds are good you’re going to be surprised by your customers’ degree of social media involvement.  Take a look at Pew’s research on social media use by age group.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clearly social media is not just for kids. An astounding 78% of 30-49 year olds and 60% of 50-64 year olds use social media and the trend line is heading up. These are the prime age ranges for high end CE consumers so it’s easy to see why you can’t ignore social media forever. Let’s take a look at each of the major social media.

Facebook - It is hard to ignore Facebook. It still dominates the online social scene, especially with adults. Under 25 year olds seem to be gravitating away from it towards Tumblr, Instagram and other emerging social media. But adults are on Facebook in good numbers – roughly half of the adult population of the US according to Pew. That’s a surprising number of people over 50 participating on a regular basis. And not just people with too much time on their hands; we see accountants, academics, financial and other professionals who are active on Facebook. 

Twitter - The demographics here are very different than Facebook, trending way more heavily toward young people, urban dwellers and African Americans. If your product is aimed at that demographic, Twitter is a great choice. If not your efforts may be better spent elsewhere.

LinkedIn - This one is a no-brainer if your goal is to reach out to other businesses and CE industry professionals rather than consumers. If your brand is primarily Custom Installation focused, your audience is more likely here than anywhere else. CE Marketing Pros has an active Linkedin presence because our customers are other businesses, not consumers. Speaking of which, you should drop everything and “follow” our Linkedin page. Please. 

Pinterest - Skews heavily toward college educated women under 50. If that’s your target customer, go for it. 

YouTube/Vimeo - Most people don’t normally think of video sites as social media but we believe that they are mighty closely related, sort of like first cousins. They have huge audiences across a broad swath of demographics. People go to video sharing sites to get information as well as be entertained by cats playing the piano. Awwww. Over one billion, yes that’s one BILLION with a “B” unique user visits to YouTube each month. Like whoa! If you are not posting videos online you are missing out on an effective and inexpensive marketing opportunity. But that’s a subject for a future blog. 

So Bottom Line it For Me Boys

Should you be participating in social media marketing or not?

* Yes but only if your website is in tip-top order. Your website is the single most important weapon in your marketing arsenal. One of the goals of social marketing is to drive traffic to your website – and there’s no sense driving people to a crummy site. To find out if your site is good enough read our scholarly tome on web design best practices.

* Yes if you have done a statistically valid survey of your existing customer base and know for a fact which social sites they use on a regular basis. 

* No if you don’t have a plan for maximizing the effectiveness of any social media outreach. You’ll be wasting your time and possibly harming your brand image by participating in a half-baked manner. You gotta have a PLAN.

And that boys and girls will be the subject of our next blog post: how to do social media marketing the right way for fun and profit. 

 

Nov 25

Rants from the Frozen Tundra

A friend of ours from the land of baby seals* was inspired by our blog Turning Bad Consumer Reviews into Good  to send us a couple of rants regarding Big Mistakes he sees CE manufacturers consistently make.  A modest man who shuns the limelight, “X” declined our invitation to be a guest blogger and asked us to relay his thoughts on the value of Tech Support and Owners Manuals. And we shall.

* Just for the record, we love Canada and Canadians. Really. A lot.

Rant #1 - Tech Support
Judging by the number of companies that outsource tech support (sometimes offshore), we can tell that the MBAs in charge look at it as a cost center rather than an asset.  Dumb. As well as a means of making unhappy customers into brand advocates for life, high quality Customer Support can be an important source of market research data. Smart marketers interview customer service reps on an ongoing basis, especially after new product launches. Enlightened companies include line-level tech support people on new product development teams. In one company we worked for, Customer Service was part of the marketing department. Marketing kept in close contact with the service reps to understand what kinds of questions consumers asked pre-purchase, the kinds of set up and use issues arose post-purchase and of course keep everyone aprised of failure modes. The knowledge gleaned from customer service helped us be more effective marketers. In our view that’s exactly the way it ought to be.  Are you taking full advantage of this valuable resource?

Rant #2 - Manuals
Oh, but our friend X was just getting started; his ire was sky-high on the topic of product manuals. And we could scarcely blame him; we have seen our fair share of absolutely incomprehensible manuals. X pointed out some easily correctable gaffes.  

The first is don’t rely exclusively on printed manuals. Print is expensive, especially if you opt to print multiple languages and/or in color. Most brands don’t print in color because of the high cost, yet many of the most important points to get across relate to color – such as red and black terminals, color-coded channel markers and so on. Print is hard to change. How many times have you noticed embarrassing errors after thousands of manuals have been printed? Most of the time marketers are forced to produce manuals well before the product is in production, fully tested under real-world conditions and firmware has been finalized - hardly the ideal time.

Our pal X suggests putting manuals with a searchable index on USB sticks. We think the best bet is to have PDF (color!) or HTML manuals on your website. Choose a medium that your staff has the tools to easily edit. One of us was faced with a manual dilemma in 2011 with the introduction of a new product in a new category. We knew that our odds of getting the manual 100% perfect on the first shot was nil, particularly as we suspected that firmware updates were probably going to be needed after the first production run. Our solution was to print a simple color Quick Start guide that described, mostly with images, basic set-up and operation. On that document we directed users to a specific URL where they could get the full manual. We used MS Word to write an in-depth and illustrated color manual that we then converted to PDF. We edited the manual and updated the file on the web page several times to make sure that our customers had easy access to the most up to date information at all times.

Our mystery Canadian friend had a further suggestion that brands include product catalogs in with manuals, particularly if your manuals are on electronic media. Yes we know, product catalogs quickly go out of date, but we think the benefits of exposing consumer to your other product categories outweighs the downsides. Your best bet for tomorrow’s sale is today’s buyer.

Lastly there is the issue of language. The world has shrunk and all brands are competing on a global scale to some degree or another. Even if you think your market is only North America, keep in mind that this is a three-language continent – English, Spanish and French. And by the way, it is a matter of law that products offered for sale in Canada must be bilingual (FR & EN). But a badly translated manual could hurt your brand image. We are sure you have seen manuals written with poor English grammar – makes a pretty poor brand impression; doesn’t it?  Be sure that translated text is written by or at very least proof-read and edited by a native-speaker who is familiar with typical CE jargon. We don’t care that your nephew Bernie claims to be fluent in a foreign language, if that language is not his first and if he didn’t grow up in that culture, he is very likely to to get it wrong. Use native-speakers only and never use web-based translation tools.

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace. 

WE KNOW CE.

Nov 13

Flying Without Navigation

Or how we learned to stop worrying and love the research bomb*

Imagine you are on a jumbo jet for a 15-1/2 hour flight from LA to Australia. Just after takeoff the pilot announces, “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Budget Airways, the airline that doesn’t let little things like safety get in the way of low, low, low prices. Our navigation systems just went down and the windshield is really dirty but don’t worry I know the way. I’ve been flying for 35 years and I don’t need a GPS to get us to Sydney.” After hyperventilating you’d be saying “Pardon me flight attendant, where do you keep the parachutes?”

The equivalent in the CE business is the industry veteran who says with a Walter Brennan western accent “I don’t need no goll darned research, I’ve been in this business 20 years and I know who my customers are and what they want.” We’re willing to wager that one or two people reading this blog have expressed similar sentiments when the door-to-door Market Research salesperson appeared on the porch. Even we, the CE Marketing Pros, have been known to say stuff like that in less enlightened times. Here is one real life experience that changed our minds:

Instructive Anecdote #1
While in the planning stage of developing a new product there arose a hot debate about the value consumers place on various features that in total added quite a bit of cost. Everybody had an opinion about the sales value of every input, output, feature, button or knob. To settle the indecision a marketing executive decided to commission a simple, inexpensive survey of current product owners to see what features people really used and which ones were left ignored. The results were startling. It turned out that consumers used a small number of the features commonly found on this particular product type. Sacred cows were slaughtered on the altar of research, rationality and truth.

The upshot is that the product development team was able to significantly lower manufacturing cost and hit a more aggressive price point without lowering the sales appeal of the product. The product was wildly successful; that survey literally paid for itself thousands of times over.

Instructive Anecdote #2
Speaking of flying blind, we were asked by a brand executive how much it would cost to do an advertising campaign. Being rational marketers we asked, “What are the goals of the campaign?” His answer was to, “Increase brand awareness and web site traffic.” "Great, so what are those metrics now?” we asked.  “No clue” was the reply. How can you get from Point A to Point B if you don’t know where Point A is on a map?

Measuring brand awareness is a tricky thing and can be expensive if you are concerned about the general population. But if your target audience is a smaller, easily definable segment of the population it may be easier and affordable.  Of course measuring web statistics is easy and virtually free so this guy had no excuses there. When was the last time you took a really detailed look at your web stats beyond unique visitors?

No Panacea
As much as we believe in research and surveys, we are under no illusion as to their limitations and we have great respect for inspiration and instinct. Steve Jobs relied largely on intuition and his genius vision. Of course he had as many total flops as successes. Remember the Newton? [ed. correction - Newton was not a Jobs idea. That said, he had his share of  product duds.] Research is but one very important data point out of many that can help you understand the marketplace, customers and how others perceive your brand.

There are many simple and inexpensive ways of doing market and consumer research, including integrating it into your website, that will help you make better business decisions. You may already have a wealth of data collected by a variety of means that just needs to be mined.

We have conducted hundreds of surveys of varying complexity from simple polls to conjoint analysis. Stop flying only by the seat of your pants and blind intuition. CE Marketing Pros can show you how. Pick up the phone and call Paul DiComo at (410) 458-3176 or drop us an email.

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace. 

WE KNOW CE.

* Apologies to Stanley Kubrick

 

 

Oct 26

Coal into Diamonds - Turning Bad Consumer Reviews into Good

We often advise our clients to allow consumers to post reviews on the company website. From the looks of horror on their faces you would think we had proposed offing Granny for the insurance money. (For the record, we don’t recommend doing that.)  We explain that there are easy and safe ways of controlling trolls, potty mouths and outright fraudulent reviews. Then the client asks, “but what if somebody leaves a bad review?

We maintain that even bad reviews can benefit your brand. This blog post will show you how.

First, a confession. One of us, at CE Marketing Pros, has been the customer from hell (Comcast probably has him on a hit list). Chances are, at some point you have been an angry irrational customer too.  Your anger seemed entirely rational to you at the time. You trusted the brand; you trusted the product or service. You were excited about it. You spent hard earned money and…it didn’t work. Arrgh.

If you complained, you’re one of the few. Most customers do not complain, only 20% of online reviews are negative.1 The larger problem is that for every complaint you hear there are 26 unhappy customers that you’ll never hear from.2 And those twenty-six dissatisfied customers will walk away from your brand and tell their friends online and off.

“Customers very rarely complain to the service/ product provider. Instead they will tell their friends, who will in turn tell their friends, creating a pyramid of dissatisfaction.”  2

So if you get a bad review what do you do? First, you have to make sure there are procedures in place to respond immediately to all complaints and all reviews of 3 or fewer stars. You should also make the time to thank those who leave glowing reviews. That makes customers feel better about posting the review and it encourages others to write their own good reviews. (And it’s just good manners as Granny would tell you.) According to a Bazaarvoice study, shoppers who read helpful brand responses to reviews are 186% more likely to make a purchase and show 157% higher average product sentiment.1

No one wants to see a bad review or complaint but the smart marketer will make lemonade out of lemons. Complaints are teaching moments that, properly handled, can add value to your brand in four ways.

  1. They offer the opportunity to demonstrate outstanding customer service.  A good marketer will make certain that all complaints get a fast response – less than 24 hours. Whether by email, by phone or in a review response, the customer will always react positively to your outreach. Most are stunned that you would even care. And we have found that the majority of problems can be resolved to everyone’s delight.  More often than not great customer service will turn your most vocal critics into equally vocal supporters and advocates for the brand that listens. And of those viewing your responses online, 41% will see it as a sign that the brand really cares about its customers.1

  2. They validate the authenticity of the good reviews.  Sites that only display glowing reviews are viewed as being non-credible. Nobody believes that 100% of buyers are thrilled and that any given product is perfect in every way. They will rightly conclude that all the bad reviews have been suppressed, and they may even conclude that the good reviews are fakes. Demonstrate that the reviews on your site are honest and real and the good ones will have more credibility and power.   

  3. They shine light on product issues.  Few product developers have the intuition and absolute power of Steve Jobs who would postpone product introductions indefinitely until every detail including features, accessories, packaging and marketing were flawless. We often have to learn from customers where we missed the target. Still, that’s preferable to wearing blinders. Customers will tell you things that you never thought of. They will use the product in ways you can’t imagine.  You may be able to use the feedback to improve existing product but you can certainly use it to make the next product better.

  4. They help you refine your marketing message, presentation and collateral. It is the plight of the marketer that he/she is forced to create positioning and marketing materials before all is known about the product. Being in the unenviable position of developing marketing programs and materials without ever seeing a finished product happens all too often. Customer responses will tell you whether you over-promised, missed the target on messaging, properly explained the functions of the product and its value proposition as well as tell you whether you chose the right distribution channels.  All is priceless in helping you better understand, target and sell the product.

We live in a connected world. The beauty of the Internet is that even a small company with a great product can attract the attention of thousands. Just as word of a company’s flawed product or, more critically, poor customer service will spread like wildfire. If you’re winging it with customer reviews and complaints, you’re flirting with disaster.  

If you don’t have well articulated written customer service policies and procedures that everyone who interfaces with consumers has seen and adopted, stop what you doing and deal with that now. Handling consumer complaints promptly in a consistent manner, particularly online, is vital. It’s the most important thing you can do today. One final thought: never outsource your customer service. Ever. More on this in a future blog post.  

If your website does not have provision for consumer reviews you are missing a golden marketing opportunity. CE Marketing Pros can help you implement a review system that enhances your brand's image and increases sales. 

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace. 

WE KNOW CE.

1 The Conversation Index, Vol. 6, Bazaarvoice

2 1999, TARP worldwide 

Oct 14

Direct to Consumer Sales and Channel Stress

One of the many services we offer our clients is helping develop direct-to-consumer sales programs for their websites and email communications. When we’ve mentioned that option to some potential clients they looked at us with Home Delivery has changed shopping habits​horrified expressions as if we had suggested burning down an orphanage. We would never do that; we love orphans!

We understand this is a tricky issue and there are no easy answers. Most of our clients distribute through bricks and mortar retailers and/or custom installing specialists, groups that are understandably hostile to competing with their suppliers. While it is true that “most every brand is doing it,” that won’t be enough of a justification to keep you out of hot water. But there are some conditions under which direct to consumer ecommerce may make sense.

These are some of the legitimate, defendable reasons to engage in some level of direct sales: If you have large swatches of territory where your products are not represented in B&M retailers and you don’t have an Internet retail partner it is perfectly justifiable to offer direct-to-consumer sales. Or you may have accessories, parts or old models that your retailers simply do not stock. Consumers have a right to fast, convenient access to those accessories, parts and obsolete items and manufacturers have an obligation to make them readily available.

We’ve seen vendors hang Buy Now buttons on their sites and wait for the cash register to ring. Usually they wait in vain. Were it only that easy! Online buyers prefer to buy from retailers rather than manufacturers. Retailers can provide every part of a system, not just the speakers or electronics or TV. Online retailers have robust customer service and sales staff behind the website for 12 or more hours a day. Online retailers have experience in SEO, SEM (paid search word advertising) and other marketing techniques for attracting customers. Most brands can’t do any of those things. In short, retailers know what they’re doing; manufacturers generally don’t, but they can learn.

The first lesson to learn is never, never, never undercut your retailers’ offers for current model “A” goods. In most cases an on online transaction will not be subject to sales tax (although that may change soon) so if you want to level the playing field, charge for freight. If you feel the need to make a special offer to boost sell-through, make sure your retailers are informed in advance and are able to make the same offer.

You may have SLOBs (slow turning or obsolete products) in the warehouse that are tying up valuable capital.  It is far better for you and your retailers to sell those goods in an orderly fashion rather than dump them via an inventory liquidator or favored retailer. Brands have typically moved SLOBs by choosing one or two retailers to buy the lot at fire sale prices. The retailers in turn promote the products at deep discounts. While that tactic worked when retail was strictly local B&M, it makes less sense in the internet age. Now one retailer has a win and everyone else loses. The brand makes low to no margin and ticks off the rest of its channel partners who could not compete with the closeout price. Double whammy.   

A good low risk way to move SLOBs and get your toes wet in e-commerce is to begin direct-selling your B-stock, open box and refurbished products. You can put the store on your site, or make the product offers available only to your friends and family though an email program, or, as many have done, open an EBay store. Most agree that the EBay customer is by nature a bargain hunter who will never pay retail so there is little risk of one of your retailers losing a full price sale.

The marketplace has changed - the Internet and ecommerce are not fads and the genie is not going back into the bottle. We think that it is inevitable and necessary for brands to have a means of selling direct to consumers to some extent – not as a replacement for B&M and online retailers, but as an adjunct. You might as well jump in now at least for the learning experience.

There are other elements to successful, low channel-stress, direct to consumer sales that we would be happy to share with any brand marketer who would like to take the plunge. Contact us to discuss. 

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace. 

WE KNOW CE.

Oct 02

The Top Twelve Things Your Website Needs To Do - Part Three

In our previous two blog posts we wrote about eight of the top twelve things a brand's website needs to do to be effective. If you didn't read Part One and Part Two you might want to do that now...................Done?  OK, here's the third and final installment of our saga:

9. Allow consumer product reviews
In the eyes of most consumers the most reliable source of product recommendations are other consumers. There is a really good reason why every online retailer has a robust system for web visitors to post reviews. If your site doesn’t, it should. By encouraging customer reviews on your website, consumers are much more likely to visit and remain on your site during their research. If consumer-written reviews sound scary, there are means to prevent crank and nuisance reviews. Bad reviews can happen but they can be managed and turned into positives. We can show you how.

10. Display suggested retail prices
This one can be controversial. In some cases, such as in the custom installation segment, it may not be a good idea to display MSRPs. But customers really want to see prices; it is a vital data point in making a product choice. If you don’t show price you can bet your bottom dollar they will leave your site to find someone who will, and it may not be one of your authorized dealers.

Some of you may be sensitive to showing prices to web visitors who are outside of North America. First, the Internet has no borders – they’re going to find out anyway. Second, there are technical means to display different prices to different web visitors depending on their location. Visitors from the EU will see the SRP in Euros while visitors from Australia will see prices in Australian Dollars. Or you can choose to block price visibility altogether from anyone outside of the your home market. If your web developer doesn't know how to do these things, talk to us.

11. Serve your partners
Your dealers and members of the press will want to help you promote your brand if you make it easy for them to do so. The press wants readily accessible high-resolution product images (multiple angles, lifestyle and light-table varieties), logo images, press releases, technical white papers, contact-info for your press agent and a press kit. Never password-protect assets intended for the press. That’s a sure way to be passed over for free PR.

Your dealers want most of the same things the press needs with the addition of product training materials, upcoming product announcements and price sheets. Sensitive dealer assets such as dealer price sheets should be password protected of course but if you’re not going to post sensitive materials like that, skip the passwords, they just restrict access for no good reason. No harm is done if consumers get your high-res images or your press releases.

12. A good dealer locator
And of course what dealers want most is for you to send them consumers who are interested in buying something. Dealer locators with map functionality are easy to do and ubiquitous. What’s harder is to make sure your dealer list is up to date and relevant to the consumer. You need to have policies and procedures for culling non-active dealers from your list and identifying custom installers with and without showroom facilities. There’s little worse than sending a consumer to a non-stocking or non-displaying retailer.

What’s your score?
If you can honestly say that your website meets all twelve of these criteria you must be a CE Marketing Pros client. If you score 7 to 11 your web and marketing teams are doing well but can improve a little. If your score is lower than 7 you are missing key opportunities to market your brand effectively.  It’s time to gather all your website stakeholders for a serious discussion. Better yet email or call Paul DiComo, (410) 458-3176.

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace. 

WE KNOW CE.

Sep 17

The Top Twelve Things Your Website Needs To Do - Part Two

In our last blog post we wrote about four of the top twelve things a brand's website needs to do to be effective. If you didn't read Part One you might want to do that now...................Done?  OK, here's Part Two:

5. Get right to the product
Sorry to break this news to you, but web visitors don’t care about you, your rich history and your undying dedication to sonic purity and the American way. They care about your products and their benefits. How do we know this? By studying page view statistics. “About Us” and “Our Story” pages are among the least visited pages on a site. Make it as easy as possible to get right to the products.  

6. Have deep depth 
A visitor to your website should be able to get to anything they might possibly want to know about your products down to the last detail – what it’s made out of and why, how to set it up, why it’s better, how it compares to other products in your line, what other consumers and experts think about the product, what it looks like from every angle, exact size down to the millimeter, etc. etc. That’s why they’re there - to get all the information on which to base a buying decision! Sites with multiple layers of data and resources allow customers to go as shallow or as deep as they need.

7. Take names
By this we mean take names and email addresses. Every page should have an area in which a visitor may opt-in to your email list. Your fans want to hear from you! Make it easy for them to tell you how. If your site does not have an email collection box on every page and if it doesn’t automatically update your campaign manager email list, fire your web developer.

8. Register purchases
Are you still using mail-in “warranty” cards? Stop that! We’ll bet you a case of beer those cards are sitting in a file drawer and you’re doing nothing with them. By providing an on-line option you’ll double the percentage of people who register their purchases, you’ll further build your database of consumer email addresses, give yourself an opportunity to do some basic market research and provide better customer service all at the same time.   

Want More Good Advice?

Part Three starts when you click the magic button

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace. 

WE KNOW CE.

Aug 28

The Top Twelve Things Your Website Needs To Do - Part One

It should be unnecessary to say it in this day and age but just for the record – Your website is the single most important weapon in your marketing arsenal. Don't believe it? When you're looking to make a major purchase where is the first place you turn to educate yourself before going to a store? You are not alone. A 2010 Cisco study showed that 74% of consumers conduct research on the Internet before making an in-store purchase.

Now that we got that out of the way, here are the first four of the top twelve things a brand website has to do in order to be effective:

1. Look good
People judge books by covers and brands by how they look. Do you think Apple’s success has more to do with the excellence and consistency of their ID, user interface and graphics, or the efficient use of system resources by their proprietary operating system? Yeah, must be the tech stuff.  Beyond the look of the product itself, your brand is being judged by the looks of your packaging, printed materials, advertising and most of all by your website.

2. Be fresh
Web site home pages that rarely if ever change are boring and discourage return visits. If nothing changes on your home page you’re telling your customers that there is nothing going on with your brand, it’s dead. Good websites make it easy to change messages, images or banners on the home page. If it takes the intervention of a web developer to make your home page look new and fresh you have the wrong web developer.

If you can easily change your home page, make sure you’re doing so at least once a month. Got a new review? Post it on the home page. Got a new product? Give it star status. Running a promotion? Feature it on the web page. Do you support charities? Give them some love online.

3. Have quality authoritative content
Recent changes to Google’s search engine algorithms reward high quality, authoritative content more than anything else. The old “blackhat” SEO tricks of web spamming links and dummy sites will be punished with lower rank or banned outright. As we have been advising our clients all along, content that educates, informs and entertains will bring visitors coming back to your site. With Google’s new algorithms, quality content will improve your search engine rank and bring you new customers.

4. Be easy to navigate
Oh right....your site is easy to navigate! You know that it’s easy because you know where everything can be found. But the odds are good that first time visitors won’t be able to easily find what they’re looking for. How do we know this? Because we’ve looked at most of the CE sites out there and almost all of you are organizing your products by series. Sorry, real people don’t think that way. Think like the customer and organize by product category, or location of use or size or color, whatever makes sense to consumers in your market niche.

Mother-in-law research is a good way to test navigation schemes – use neighbors, relatives and office support staff to tell you how they would look for a product. Have your web developer make at least two dummy home pages and navigation schemes and test them with real people.

There's More
Given today's short attention spans and how busy we all are, we thought we should break this article into three parts. Gives you something to look forward to. Ready for Part Two? Click here.

 

About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace. 

WE KNOW CE.