Start with a Plan to Market Your Product

Start with a Plan to Market Your Product


When promoting an organization, service, product, person, or event, you must start from a plan outlining goals, people you want to engage, and what you plan to do.

When working with people on communications I always ask them whether they have a plan. Following a plan will ensure you meet your goals whether it is to raise awareness, change your audience’s behaviour, build relationships, or reinforce desired behaviour.

Here is an outline for a integrated marketing and communications plan which includes concepts practiced by people from strategic communications, marketing, and public relations.

  1. Organization’s goal and communications goal
  2. Context / Situation
  3. Target Audiences
  4. Strategic Approach, Key Messages
  5. Tactics (schedule, communication channels, budget, actions)
  6. Evaluation (metrics)

You can start a integrated marketing and communications plan template with these headings and fill in details as you go. Usually the tactics section will be large since it is a detailed plan of actions you will take and how they relate to your goals and audiences.

Here is an example integrated marketing and communications plan from a mid-sized sport organization if you are looking what a plan can contain.

4 Steps to Optimize a Website with Keywords

4 Steps to Optimize a Website with Keywords


Want to make it easier for people to find your website? Use these 4 steps.

People find things online using search. One of the ways you can ensure you show up in their search results is with keywords which are similar or exactly the same as what people are searching for. Keywords should be relevant to your organization and what you do, so you get the right people visiting your website.

Case Study for Examples shown in Italics
Anita is a clothing shop owner and wants to enhance her website with keywords so potential customers will find her online. Anita owns a retail children’s clothing business in the city of Oakville called Anita’s Cloth for Kids.

Step 1: Set a Goal

Before researching keywords, you should determine your goals and its relationships to the website. Ask yourself what is your organization’s goal and how does it relate to the website?

For a retail business, a website will sell goods. For a charity, a website aids in awareness building and donation collection. For government, a website informs the public and provides services.

Anita’s Cloth for Kids has the goal to market and sell clothing products, hence the website goal will be to increase revenue growth due to leads or sales from the online clothing store website.

Step 2: Who is your Target Audience?

Children's clothing on display in store

photo credit: slapjack

Determine what kind of people you want to visit your website to achieve your goal. In the case of a retail business, it would be consumers and in the case of a charity, it would be people that donate and for government it would be citizens looking for information on a topic area.

Anita has identified young mothers as the people most likely to contact her or buy clothing via the website. Other potential people are:

  • Family, mothers, and fathers of young children.
  • Residents of the geographical area where the store is physically located.
  • People looking for gifts for young children

Step 3: Research Keywords

Step in the shoes of people in step 2 think about what they want and what they would search on.

Having trouble thinking of keywords? Try these methods:

  • Visit websites related to your organization (blogs, competitor websites) to get keyword ideas.
  • Use the Google keyword tool to pick up keywords on your websites and related sites. One technique is point the tool to Wikipedia page related to your organization and what it does.
  • Most website data collectors and analytics will tell you popular keywords of your visitors.

Expand your initial list to include words that people might use including synonyms, stems, and related keywords. The expanded list will help you vary your web content and avoid repetition.

To come up with keywords, Anita did the following:

  • She knew past customers used search phrases like “buy sweater 9 year old Oakville”
  • She visited clothing magazine websites and online children’s stores and noted down reoccurring themes and keywords.
  • She used the Google keyword tool on topics and websites ranging from children, pre-teen, to clothing.
  • Using a thesaurus and results the keyword tool, Anita expanded her keywords list to include similar words.

Step 4: Put the Keywords on Your Website

Using the keywords you found in step 3, you can enhance your website by placing those keywords in your website. Placing those keywords in your website is one of the techniques of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO means making your website better for search engines to read and the result is the people looking for you and what you do using search engines can find your website easier.

You can approach keyword SEO in two ways:

Improving your website as a whole

Use Meta Information

In libraries, we find books using information about a book in an index or online search. This information about the book is called meta information and describes the book like its title, author, category, etc. Web pages also have meta information where you can include your keywords and things about your organization to help others find the page.

You can read more about the meta elements of web pages and the technical details to add this information to your page, especially if you know HTML. Some web publishing platforms will manage this meta information for you based on your input.

Organize Your Website

  • Choose meaningful titles for your pages.
  • Use keywords in a logical order that they might be searched on.
  • Look at the navigation and key links on your pages. These links should contain keywords and action verbs (e.g. buy, learn, contact).

Improving individual pages

When looking at single pages, place keywords in the following areas:

  • Headings
  • Links
  • Bolded text
  • Media descriptions/names (images, video, transcripts, audio)

These keywords make it easier for a visitor to scan the page and for a search engine read it and find what it is about. Make sure the keywords

Anita made the following changes on her store’s website:

  • New navigation links were added for Pre-teen clothing, Gift Ideas, Clothing On Sale.
  • Text for links to product pages contain the full product name.
  • Descriptions were added to pictures of each clothing product
  • Product pages contain the following information:
    • Name of the product
    • Age category
    • Name and location of the store
    • Example: Sweaters – 6-9 year olds – Anita’s Cloth for Kids Oakville

Standard meta information was added to every web page. See the code below.

<meta name="dc.title" content="<page name here> - Anita’s Cloth for Kids Oakville" />
<meta name="dc.format" content="text/html" />
<meta name="dc.description" content="Website of the Anita’s clothing store for children in Oakeville, Ontario" />
<meta name="Description" content=" Website of the Anita’s clothing store for children in Oakeville, Ontario." />
<meta name="dc.creator" content="Anita’s Cloth" />

All Done, Now What?

After applying the SEO keyword techniques in the 4 steps, monitor your website to:

  • Find new keywords and popular ones
  • Find out who is visiting your website
  • See what people are searching for when they land on your website

A popular tool to monitor your website traffic is Google Analytics. Some publishing platforms like WordPress will provide you with similar information.

After the improvements, search for your website using the keywords and phrases you have to see your ranking. You can see who is higher than you and check out their website for ideas to improve.

Anita integrated Google Analytics on her website so she could observe popular keywords and information about the people visiting her store website. She discovered popular items people browsed and searched for. Using this data, she enhanced the product pages for the popular items and made offers on other products to attract more visitors.

Using These Steps for Good

Only use keywords that are relevant to your organization and what you do. Here are two reasons why:

  1. Including keywords relevant to your organization ensures the right people you want to come to your site instead of just anyone. Doing that increases your position in search results since you are relevant and reduces the load on your website, ensuring visitors get the best possible experience.
  2. It is unethical to place irrelevant or misleading keywords in your website. If search engines like Google and Bing find out you are doing it, they will decide to ban you from search results like Google did to BMW in 2006 and then no one will be able to find you.
How to Configure Proxy Settings in Linux

How to Configure Proxy Settings in Linux


Here are two ways to configure Linxus to recognize a proxy server or proxy configuration file.

Operating System Level

Personal kneeling in stone tunnel, photo credit jondoe via flickr

photo credit: jondoe

Use the following commands to configure your proxy for http and ftp traffic on the command line
export http_proxy=http://<proxy host or IP>:<proxy port >
export ftp_proxy=http://<proxy host or IP>:<proxy port >

If your proxy requires login/authentication, you can use the format:
export http_proxy=http://username:password@:<proxy host or IP>:<proxy port >

To have this applied every time you log in, place these lines in your .bashrc in your home (~) directory.
export http_proxy=http://<proxy host or IP>:<proxy port >
export ftp_proxy=http://<proxy host or IP>:<proxy port >

System-Wide Proxy Settings can be set in your Network Settings

For GNOME, go to Computer->Desktop Preferences->Network Proxy
For KDE desktop manager, you can get to the network proxy settings under System Settings > Network Settings > Proxy

In the setting you can configure either by your proxy server and port, by the network, or a file via a URL/file location (e.g. http://myproxyserver:port/proxyfile.pac) .

These setting work with most other applications (e.g. other browsers like Chrome, OS commands).

Program/Application Level

Some applications and commands will not pick up the system wide proxy settings, so you have to configure each program you use. Below are some common examples.

Firefox

Occasionally, Firefox does not pick up the operating system proxy setting.
You can manually set up the Firefox proxy in Options menu. Go to Options > Advanced > Settings.

Fedora – Yum Package Manager

yum proxy settings can be found in the file system at
/etc/yum.conf

Add a line to the file with the following information:
proxy=http://<proxy IP>:<proxy port >
The next time you run yum, it will pick up that proxy.

For Ubuntu

Here is a similar how to article on configuring proxy settings in Ubuntu covering Synaptic Package Manager, Gnome, apt-get, and Firefox.

Sephora’s Market Segmentation Responsible for its Retail & Online Strengths

Sephora’s Market Segmentation Responsible for its Retail & Online Strengths


Sephora is an innovative skincare, beauty, and fragrance retailer catering to customers who want quality, freedom, and a positive shopping experience.

The following is a paper by Justin Tung about Sephora as part of coursework from the “Creating Consumer-Oriented Merchandising Programs” course at University of Toronto.


Sephora’s Target Market and SegmentPicture of various women with Sephora displays in background, Photo credit: justintung on Flickr

Sephora’s in store design indicates several target market segments/personas including women and men. Specific sections of the store show pictures of women of all cultures from 20-30, 30-40, 40-50+ and men 20-40+ (see Appendix for store pictures). The segment of women attracted to Sephora would be those who value fashionable/quality skincare, beauty, and fragrance products and are open to a medium to high price range. Also, there are product sections with richly decorated cosmetics that would appeal to young girls (pre-teen to teenager). The black and white colours of the store give a look attractive to professionals. The wide assortment of brands, vendor exclusives, and private label combinations would attract any shoppers looking for variety (Sephora USA Inc., 2011).

Strength: Self-Service Environment

The freedom a Sephora store provides allows customers to navigate the store as they please, try products on their own time using demos, and ask for service if needed. The nature of beauty products means women must try them to see their effects and compare. The freedom to try products without high pressure sales and sales associates recommending certain brands typical of service oriented department stores helps consumers take the time to enjoy the shopping experience and choose what fits them.

Lack of Success in Germany and Japan

Despite the strengths of Sephora’s store layout and retail mix, Sephora had to close their stores in Germany and Japan in 2001 and 2002 due to economic conditions and poor performance (DFNI Online, 2001). Sephora’s parent company Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) may have expanded Sephora stores too aggressively in 1999 following excellent profits/sales, causing problems in the early 2000s, when new markets did not perform as expected (Retail Traffic Magazine, 2002). In Japan, Sephora’s traditional strength of a self-service environment became a weakness since it did not fit with the expected retail experience of Japanese consumers and procurement of supplier services. The result was domestic suppliers only gave Sephora a limited supply and consumers were confused with store layouts and low service environment (Carter Associates, 2008).

How can a Beauty Retailer Successfully Transition to an Online Channel?

The retailer should set a strategic goal their online presence will achieve. Some example goals are to provide a self-service sale channel or encourage sales conversions through content. By establishing a website, a beauty retailer should concentrate on format development of the online channel (e.g. online deals, promotions, advice) resulting in benefits of market penetration and market expansion into new geographic segments on the internet. The content of the online channel should engage consumers in learning about, selecting, and using beauty productions through media such as pictures of products and video demonstrations. The retailer can consider online advertising (e.g. search engine marketing) and social media to establish its brand online. Targeted online advertising will aid in market expansion to reach a larger audience, especially for an international retailer. Finally, the retailer should consider business aspects like supply chain management and evaluate suppliers/shipping and opportunities for cost reductions. Initially, human and information communications technology resources should be kept inside the company to maintain brand consistency and pricing across all channels and keep e-business knowledge in the company (Chaffey, 2009, pp. 261-311).

Why Sephora’s Online Site is Successful

Sephora’s website (www.sephora.com) builds on it retail store strengths of self-service, freedom, and quality. Users are free to browse and learn about products through consumer reviews, videos (Sephora TV), and information (Beauty Talk expert advice) such as usage tips and recommendations. The videos are professionally produced and the reviews and expert advice provide relevant content to users in making decisions (Sephora USA Inc., 2011). Sephora.com also employs a variety of best practices in e-commerce websites such as “popular picks”, tiered navigation interface, suggestions, rich visual content, and explanations of products from the consumer’s perspective (i.e. how to use product, why use it). Having these features on the website provides value to consumers through access to information and aids in conversions (Chaffey, 2009, pp. 413, 419, 437).

Appendix – Sephora Store at the Toronto Eaton Centre

Pictures are of the Sephora store located on level 3 in the Toronto Eaton Centre taken by Justin Tung on October 29, 2011. Pictures show the store layout, design (colours, product sections), and target market/personas of Sephora.

Collage of store merchandise and design of Sephora at Toronto Eaton Centre

Bibliography

Carter Associates. (2008). Foreign Market Misses in Japan. Retrieved 10 26, 2011, from Carter Associates: http://carterassociates.net/aboutJapan/stories_01_misses.html

Chaffey, D. (2009). E-Business and E-Commerce Management, Strategy, Implementation, and Practice. Edinburgh Gate: Pearson Education Limited.

DFNI Online. (2001, November 29). Sephora quits Japanese market. Retrieved 17 October, 2011, from DFNI Online.com: http://www.dfnionline.com/article/Sephora-quits-Japanese-market-1065578.html

Retail Traffic Magazine. (2002, September 1). Sephora kisses Rock Center flagship goodbye. Retrieved 10 25, 2011, from Retail Traffic Magazine: http://retailtrafficmag.com/mag/retail_sephora_kisses_rock/

Sephora USA Inc. (2011). About Sephora. Retrieved 10 24, 2011, from Sephora: http://www.sephora.com/help/about_sephora.jhtml

5 reasons to Advertise on Internet TV, Video, and Radio

5 reasons to Advertise on Internet TV, Video, and Radio


I’ve advertised on internet video channels and here are benefits I found you can consider when media planning for internet TV and radio.

Advantages of Internet media

Reaching a Niche

Some people just prefer to listen to free internet radio and watch TV online. They’re usually young people who have modern technology and don’t use radios or have or can afford cable TV.  If those people are your target audience, the digital channel is important for your campaign and you’ll want people clicking on your online ads or going to the campaign landing page.

Ease of Reporting and Tracking Ad Effectiveness

Thanks to services like Google Analytics, you can find out easily your ad’s engagement, impressions, and return on investment.

Market Research

YouTube and other internet media offer you detailed information on people viewing and clicking on your ads (e.g. gender, age, interests). It is worthwhile to run campaign just to see which audiences prefer your brand and style of advertising. I’ve received a lot of marketing data from internet media companies by running ads.

Quick to Test Ads and Change Them

You’re getting real time data about ad impressions and clicks. You can easily test different ads and change them on the fly unlike traditional media. Your ad viewers are one click away from your website and the real time nature can aid in campaigns that are time sensitive.

Reuse your digital media

Most strong brands have videos and sounds clips online already. You can reuse parts or your organization’s existing media (e.g. popular YouTube videos) for an internet TV/radio ad.

Bonus: 3 Tips for Design TV/radio Internet Ads

creative pencil analytics interaction between people


photo credit: David Berkowitz

So now that you’re exciting about making some ads, here tips based on data from past internet campaigns. One insight is very few people will listen or watch a whole internet ad so:

1. Front load important information and in the first 3-5 seconds of the ad. People who are really interested in your product will watch the rest if they need to.

2. The first part of the ad should have catchy visuals and/or sounds to capture your audience or allow them to self-select whether the ad is relevant to them. Here are examples – show a map to indicate a location, choose music to represent your product category’s environment, use text or voice to summarize the ad’s topic or provide a hook.

3. Be open to trying different variations of ads and then use the most successful one (one with the most clicks or engagement). My experience with 2-3 variations of ads is over time 1 will become the preferred one. An easy variation can be to alter the duration of the ad.

12 Tips for Low Cost Advertising & Promotion Strategies and Tactics

12 Tips for Low Cost Advertising & Promotion Strategies and Tactics


I kind of specialize in low cost advertising and marketing promotion production after working for non-profits and promoting employee programs where there is no budget other than people to do the work who are usually volunteers and basic equipment like cameras, printers, and computers. Here are tips I use to make the most of common supplies with a zero to low advertising budget.

Strategies for Low Cost Production

Use as much free stuff as possible like open source/free software, creative commons media, sponsored materials, public domain media (sound clips, videos).

Partner with other organizations to lower the cost of their advertising and combine marketing plans to strengthen their market presence. For example, a tourism organization I work with partners with regional tourism groups and the provincial government to promote their area.

“Who you know” — Ask your team about their talents, especially their hobbies outside of work. You’d be surprised how many people outside their work are talented musicians, video editors, photographers, renovators, etc. who can donate their time or have contacts with people who can provide low cost advertising materials.

woman reading a book in a library stack

photo credit: J. Star

Be simple with your ads and use a casual everyday scenarios, lighting, and scenes for yours ads. A recent ad by President’s Choice is a good example. It was Galen Weston Jr. sitting in a well-lit kitchen talking to two women about the new product – - that’s it!

Use your archives and find older ads and media. Is there something you can reuse and recycle?

Set up a common repository of advertising stories, media, materials, etc. for your organization. It’s common to share a stock photography and video library.

Tactics for Low Cost Production

stormtroopers loading piggy banks with coins

photo credit: Kalexanderson

Combine marketing campaigns with an advertising partner. Ideas to combine are direct mail campaigns, out-of-home media, events, and commercials.

Use free open source software. Lots of choices for creative people on different computer platforms (online web tools, Windows, Linux, Mac)

Ask your corporate/organization’s sponsors to help you with events by providing materials you can use for promotion. My sponsors commonly pay for printing of posters if you include them in the poster and thank them for sponsorship.

Borrow and Share. Do search on the internet for ads that resemble yours and adapt their designs or approach to your brand.

Use Bing/Yahoo, Facebook, or Google promotional coupons for free digital advertising. Usually they provide $50 of free advertising for new sign ups. You can sign up, use the free $50 and continue if you like.

Use social media to get input from customers. Not an innovative idea, but getting input either through voting, a contest, or reward system is a win-win for the company and consumer. Plus, you can get good publicity from asking for input.