Handy Hints For Fixing Your Confusing Information Architecture

August 5, 2008 at 6:39 am | Posted in Barlow, Janelle and Claus Moller - A Complaint Is A Gif, Books, Business, Communication, Marketing, Online marketing, Usability | 4 Comments
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Courtesy of recursion_see_recursion via Flickr

Courtesy of recursion_see_recursion via Flickr

Information architecture isn’t sexy. In fact, good information architecture (or “IA”) shouldn’t be something your website visitors even notice.

Information architecture is basically how your site is designed. We’ve all seen site maps – those are basically outlines of your IA. It’s the organization of your website, how things are arranged, and it needs to make sense to your visitors.

Unfortunately, not enough businesses focus on their IA or they assume their customers use their site in the same way they would. This blog post explains why you must pay attention to your IA and includes some handy hints to figure out if it’s working.

I Can See Clearly Now

The non-profit Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement (IDEA) recently released a study called Finding Information: Factors that improve online experiences. One of the main findings was that visitors are looking for “simple, accurate, fast, and easily navigable web sites.” Visitors to websites reported feeling lost on websites or not knowing where their desired information was in much higher percentages than the designers of the websites.

Your designers may have the best of intentions and be highly creative, but it’s up to you to ensure your customers can find the information they need and know where they are on your site at all times.

Website navigation starts with your IA. Here are some handy hints to help you determine whether your website is easily navigable and, if not, how to start fixing it.

Continue Reading Handy Hints For Fixing Your Confusing Information Architecture…

Thank Yous And New Pages

August 3, 2008 at 9:18 am | Posted in Blogging, Books, Communication, Marketing, Meta, Online marketing, Social Media, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment
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This isn’t a regular blog post. I wanted to take a moment on this beautiful Sunday morning just to thank you. Yes, you.

Readers of OnlineMarketerBlog sent a lot of traffic here in July. In fact, we more than doubled the pageviews of our previous best month.

And thanks goes to you. The blog only got this much traffic because you guys told your friends to subscribe, shared articles on Twitter and FriendFeed, linked to it from your own blogs, stumbled it, mixxed it, sphunn it, and just otherwise kicked @ss.

I will return to regular postings tomorrow, but today, I wanted to carve out a space to give you a very sincere thank you.

New Pages

You will notice two new tabs in the navigation.

  • The “Best Of…” page is a collection of posts that this blog’s readers have most enjoyed. It is a great place to send newbies who want to know what this blog is all about, and a place for long-time readers to learn what the community has liked.
  • The “Books You Need” page is a list of books mentioned on the blog. You may know that I read a lot and mention the best books here on the blog. I wanted to give you all a space to peruse and buy those books on Amazon.com. (This list will remain only books I recommend; negatively reviewed or mentioned books will not make the cut, so you can trust the list to be the best books in marketing and social media.)

I hope these pages are useful to you. And again, please accept my thanks for your faithful readership. I don’t take it for granted.

DJ

Marketing Is Dead; Long Live Anthropology

August 1, 2008 at 6:15 am | Posted in Business, Communication, Forrester, Li, Charlene and Josh Bernoff - Groundswell: Winning in, Marketing, Online marketing, Research, Social Media, Web 2.0 | 6 Comments
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Courtesy of jbhill via Flickr

Courtesy of jbhill via Flickr

I’ve had a little case of writer’s block this week, so I started with the basics: I read the definition of “marketing” in Wikipedia.

The impetus of this was a comment I wrote on a recent Brazen Careerist article in which I boiled down marketing to selling stuff. Really? That’s the business I’m in? I get up at 5am to write because I love making crap fly off the shelves?

Listen to Wikipedia’s definition: “Essentially, marketing is the process of creating or directing an organization to be successful in selling a product or service that people not only desire, but are willing to buy.”

Bleh! Sure, there’s creation and desire (positive), but there is also directing and willingness to consume (negative). It’s almost like it’s not enough for them to buy it; you gotta make them want to buy it. Make ’em beg.

Frankly, this doesn’t sound like the business I’m in at all. I find marketing these days to be customer based – where are they and what do they want? – and less, well, skeezy. Ideally, marketing these days isn’t invasive or worthless or annoying. In fact, marketing these days sounds a lot more like anthropology than marketing.

What do you think? Are web 2.0 marketers really anthropologists of the present time? Don’t we study why certain people behave a certain way (and how to influence that behavior)?

Continue Reading Marketing Is Dead; Long Live Anthropology…

Is Marketing Work Making Us Stupid?

July 11, 2008 at 6:27 am | Posted in Books, Business, Communication, General, Gladwell, Malcolm - Blink, Marketing, Online marketing, Social Media, Web 2.0 | 11 Comments
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Photo curtesy of jbhill via Flickr

Photo courtesy of jbhill via Flickr

I would like to do something a little different on this lovely Friday. Instead of presenting an argument or commenting on a piece of news, I would like to throw out a question to you. (Yes, you!) I need your help, so dip your figurative quills in the ink well and read on.

Here’s something you probably don’t know about me: I have a terrible memory. That’s what people tell me anyway. I forget birthdays and I was never good at remembering phone numbers (ah, the days before cell phones).

I’m the type of person who walks into a store and, when they come out, can’t figure out which direction they came from. (Malls were especially difficult as I recall.) It’s not because I’m stupid – it’s because I’m analyzing the advertisement they posted in the window, the customer service of the employees, and whether the discount rate of the sale was more or less than was offered online.

And then I noticed a passage in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink (page 186 for those of you following along at home). Gladwell describes giving a group of his Manhattan friends the Pepsi challenge – figure out which drink is Coke and which is Pepsi while blindfolded. And yet none of his urban friends, pinkies presumably high in the air, could tell the difference. “They may drink a lot of cola, but they don’t ever really think about colas.”

But marketers must think deeply about these experiences. In whatever field you work, do you have an extraordinary sensitivity? Do you have a Spidey-sense about messaging?

And this leads back to my original problem with memory. I’m working on the theory that marketers focus so much on both the big-picture issues (think branding) and small details (think bounce rate) that they may lose some of the information in the middle. Is this the case for you? Or is this just a bunch of baloney?

Continue Reading Is Marketing Work Making Us Stupid?…

Book Review: Toy Box Leadership

July 8, 2008 at 7:13 am | Posted in Books, Business, Communication, General, Hunter, Ron Jr. and Michael Waddell - Toy Box Leadershi, Leadership, Marketing, Online marketing, Social Media, Web 2.0 | 5 Comments
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TBL1

I was recently asked by co-author Michael Waddell to review Toy Box Leadership. This new book is definitely worth picking up and I will explain why. (This post contains no affiliate links and I received no compensation of any kind except for a free review copy of the book.)

The premise of the book by Waddell and Ron Hunter, Jr., is that childhood toys taught or exemplified many of the skills necessary to lead well. Some examples are direct correlations (a rocking horse describing lots of work without actually achieving anything) and others are more figurative (LEGOs describing relationships that start with connecting).

Seriously? Toys And Leadership?

The connection between childhood toys and leadership lesson fluctuates from poignant to cheesy to fondly familiar. But the important thing to remember is that this is not the point. The connection between the toy and the particular lesson is secondary to your ability to absorb and recall the idea.

The toys simply provide an easily recognized and easily remembered framework of leadership strategy. The metaphors are certainly stronger than, say, a purple cow or square apple.

Let’s Just Say It

We need to own up to a basic fact: every book on leadership will contain some similar fundamental truths. Communicating goals to your employees, for instance, will universally be a positive thing while emotional rages around the office will be regarded as uncouth. Stating this universality is not a knock on this or any other business book – it simply is.

If we admit to some similarity, then one of the differentiators becomes the book’s ability to be memorable and to find a place in the reader’s life. This is ultimately what makes Toy Box Leadership successful. Toys fit with the intended audience (Lite-Brites rather than Xbox 360s) and flow smoothly into the each particular subject on leadership.

Continue Reading Book Review: Toy Box Leadership…

ROI Of Social Media For Gen Y Audiences (And How To Convince Your Boss)

June 25, 2008 at 6:41 am | Posted in Blogging, Books, Communication, Facebook, Forrester, Generations, Li, Charlene and Josh Bernoff - Groundswell: Winning in, Marketing, MySpace, Net gens, Online marketing, ROI, Second Life, Social Media, Tweens, Twitter, User generated content, Web 2.0 | 5 Comments
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Generation Y – roughly those aged 13-29 – are among the strongest consumers and influencers. And while social media like Facebook, delicious, and Flickr have garnered media attention, many businesses are still wary of dipping a toe in the social media water.

I argue that we can gauge return on investment (or influence) for Gen Y by looking at their buying power and online behavior and therefore that it is imperative that (most) businesses participate in social media. Plus, I will give you the research to back up these assertions so you can prove it to your boss.

Flashback: Ohio

Growing up in pre-internet Ohio, I spent a good chunk of my allowance and lawn-mowing money on comic books at the local pharmacy. If they were sold out of my usual books, I was SOL until the following month. Scarcity of goods required that I go where they were (and quickly!) or I would miss out.

Fast-Forward: Today

Now, post-internet, these stories sound quaint. Given a bank account, any kid can get any comic book from anywhere in the world. So what does this have to do with social media and Generation Y?: proximity to resources.

Today, consumers expect businesses to come to them. Long gone are the lazy summer bike rides to the pharmacy – today, young people expect to be able to spend their money just about anywhere. And where are they? Online, in general, and on social media, specifically.

Maybe this shift isn’t a surprise to you, but let me prove it with research (easily printable for timid bosses or humbugs).

Continue Reading ROI Of Social Media For Gen Y Audiences (And How To Convince Your Boss)…

How To Be An A-List Blogger – Study, Study, Study (Part 4)

May 22, 2008 at 6:04 am | Posted in Advertising, Anderson, Chris - The Long Tail, Blogging, Books, Communication, General, Gladwell, Malcolm - Blink, Godin, Seth - Meatball Sundae, Heath, Chip and Dan - Made To Stick, Jaffe, Joseph - Join The Conversation, Marketing, Ogilvy, David - On Advertising, Online marketing, Research, Social Media, Taleb, Nassim Nicholas - The Black Swan, Turow, Joseph - Niche Envy, User generated content, Web 2.0 | 5 Comments
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Update: Welcome Stumblers! If you like this article, please show your love via StumbleUpon. Thanks!

In this installment of the series, I will cover all of the books, magazine, websites, and podcasts that you need to become an A-List Blogger. These resources will give you the ammo to be the very best in your field. (And if you think this amount of reading, watching, researching, and learning is impossible, visit tomorrow when I will share the secrets of how to carve out at least 10 hours per week to study.)

Marketing has a funny relationship with education, research, and good, ol’ fashioned studying. Maybe it’s because the communicative aspect of marketing comes naturally to us that we forget there’s a lot of hard work that needs to happen, too. In short, you cannot be a good blogger or marketer without studying your craft.

You Can Study Communication?

From David Ogilvy: “This willful refusal to learn the rudiments of the craft is all too common. I cannot think of any other profession which gets by on such a small corpus of knowledge. (page 21)” Sometimes the flashy new tools or the expense accounts or the pursuit of new clients can all distract us from our responsibility to constantly improve our game.

And while the world around is may be shifting from books to blogs, an A-list blogger or marketer perhaps should think in terms of content or research or media, regardless of the medium. Read, watch, and listen to as much as possible, and think critically about whether the message has value.

Help Me Help You Help Me

Of course, I can only speak from my own experience. But I thought it might be helpful to outline the books, blogs, podcasts, and other forms of blogging/marketing research in which I’ve partaken during the last year.

This isn’t meant to come off as boastful. My main goal is to impress upon you the importance of continual professional education, then see you buy or subscribe to these resources and suggest new resources to me.

Continue Reading How To Be An A-List Blogger – Study, Study, Study (Part 4)…

How To Be an A-List Blogger – Curiosity (Part 3)

May 20, 2008 at 5:25 am | Posted in Blogging, Communication, General, Heath, Chip and Dan - Made To Stick, Marketing, Online marketing, Social Media, Web 2.0 | 3 Comments
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In this continuing series, I am covering how you can become not only the best blogger you can be, but also how to become recognized in your field and thus adequately compensated. The first two installments covered tactics – commenting and optimizing for search – but in this third post, I am making it more personal.

There are traits that are uniquely ideal for blogging. I believe the most important of these traits is curiosity.

But how can something as abstract as curiosity lead to concrete blogging results, nay success? What are the benefits of curiosity? I’ve gathered some of the best comments on this topic and I hope it proves enlightening. (If so, please feel free to comment below and subscribe to be notified of future posts on the subject.)

The Pain of Not Knowing

Curiosity is arguably caused by the pain – or perhaps frustration – of a gap in knowledge. Most of us have experienced this condition in acute or chronic form.

Long-time readers of this blog know of my appreciation for Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick. They quote behavioral economist George Loewenstein on his gap theory of curiosity: “[Loewenstein] says that as we gain information we are more and more likely to focus on what we don’t know. Someone who knows the state capitals of 17 of 50 states may be proud of her knowledge. But someone who knows 47 may be more likely to think of herself as not knowing 3 capitols” (pg. 89).

Continue Reading How To Be an A-List Blogger – Curiosity (Part 3)…

4 Reasons Not To Rely On Market Research Alone

May 9, 2008 at 5:51 am | Posted in Advertising, Books, Communication, General, Gladwell, Malcolm - Blink, Marketing, Ogilvy, David - On Advertising, Online marketing, ROI, Usability, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments
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I was freezing my tush off a couple of weeks ago at Wrigley Field and inquired to my good friend why he had made the unlikely (in my mind, at least) switch from marketing to insurance. It seemed to me that he was turned off by the manipulative and predictive nature of old-school marketing – as though statistics and market research would tell exactly how someone would behave.

Then, just yesterday, I read both David Oglivy’s chapter “18 Miracles of Research” in On Advertising and Hank Williams’ post Who Needs Market Research. The stars seem aligned to answer a few questions about market research, including: Why can I not rely solely on market research and how can the online channel help?David Ogilvy

Sure, research is helpful to some extent. As Ogilvy said, “Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals. (pg. 158)” But you are making a severe mistake if you expect focus groups, polls, and testing to divine your strategy like a Magic 8-ball.

Market research (especially customer-focused research) must be taken with a sizable grain of proverbial salt. Here are four reasons why:

1. While I think there is some use of market research, I agree with Hank Williams’ hypothesis that content and experience are much more important. People cannot articulate an experience they’ve never had. Focus on producing good content and a good experience – not whether people claim that they understand how they think they will respond to a hypothetical situation. And even if you have the product or advertisement, do you really think people will respond the same way to it during a focus group at the mall as they would in their own homes?

Continue Reading 4 Reasons Not To Rely On Market Research Alone…

Ogilvy vs. Godin: Is The Big Idea In Advertising Dead?

April 29, 2008 at 5:28 am | Posted in Advertising, Books, Boomers, Communication, Generation X, Generations, Godin, Seth - Meatball Sundae, Marketing, Net gens, Ogilvy, David - On Advertising, Online marketing, Social Media, Web 2.0 | 5 Comments
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Is the concept of the Big Idea dead in advertising? How much has the internet and Web 2.0 specifically altered the fundamentals of the industry?

In his 1983 book, On Advertising, master David Ogilvy held forth on the central tenet to sell products:

“You can do homework from now until doomsday, but you will never win fame and fortune unless you also invent big ideas. It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product…Research can’t help you much, because it cannot predict the cumulative value of an idea, and no idea is big unless it will work for thirty years” (emphasis by the author, page 16).

And yet, almost the very same day as I read this from Ogilvy, I find myself almost stunned off the treadmill as new master Seth Godin holds forth on the big idea in the third disk of his audio book, Meatball Sundae:

“There’s a difference between a big idea that comes from a product or service, and a big idea that comes from the world of advertising. The secret of big-time advertising during the 60s and 70s was the big idea…Big ideas in advertising worked great when advertising was in charge. With a limited amount of spectrum and a lot of hungry consumers, the stage was set to put on a show. And the better the show, the bigger the punchline, the more profit could be made. Today, the advertiser’s big idea doesn’t travel very well. Instead, the idea must be embedded into the experience of the product, itself. Once again, what we used to think of as advertising or marketing is pushed deeper into the organization. Yes, there are big ideas. They’re just not advertising-based” (disk 3, minute 48).

Of course, we should probably define a “big idea.” As explained, a big idea is an advertising tool to sell products. It stands the test of time. It originates with the company and is distributed far and wide. It is inextricably linked to the product and the experience of the product.

In my mind, big ideas include cut-out coupons. By-mail Sears catalogs and mail-in rebates. Tony the Tiger and the Trix Rabbit. Toys in cereal boxes that had kids begging Mom to pick that one! (Why cereal innovation is on my mind this morning, I have no idea.) Shopping malls. Radio jingles. Anything that fundamentally affected people’s decision about whether to buy a certain product or not.

So where do I stand?

Continue Reading Ogilvy vs. Godin: Is The Big Idea In Advertising Dead?…

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