Saturday, September 26, 2009

How to revise your keyword strategy

The agency I work with had an experience a few months ago that reminded me of the power of keywords. I know that when I say ‘keywords’ your eyes have automatically glazed over. You’re thinking about lists and bids – trying to find that word that steals people from your competition to arrive on your website. What a chore. Why don’t we just do a viral video or a huge billboard. Your reaction is on par with every reaction I’ve ever received when I bring up keywords to a marketer, client and even some agencies. Hold on for a second, this is going somewhere useful…

Over the past few years we have worked closely with the Workers Compensation Board in Nova Scotia. This relationship has seen great creative work and awesome results delivered year after year. Most public service advertising of this kind focuses on the big messages – huge accidents can be avoided, don’t take unnecessary risks, etc. For this campaign the insight was based on the little things: How a small action can prevent a major problem. We thought it was good, the client thought it was good and after the launch, the public thought it was good as it was quite successful.

Just after the launch of this campaign, Pat Cowin was putting together a safety presentation for her fellow workers at the NASA Langley Research Centre. In preparing for the presentation she wanted to demonstrate how the little things that no one thinks about usually cause the injuries. She dropped ‘safety is in the little things’ into Google and received this response: followed by the description “It’s the little things that no one thinks about that can cause injury…” . A person looking for something very specific found it from an organization a country away. There was no major keyword buy, but keywords and content were not ignored. Because the root of the campaign was based on a rationale that was easily shared and specific, it was picked up by a variety of other organizations looking to spread a similar message. Because the main idea was built around that simple set of keywords, the keywords that made it accessible were found in every piece of communication and they didn't have to be forced in.

The basis for any online strategy should be on an insight that reflects common sense. Your keywords don’t always need to be purchased, but they must always be thought of. They are essentially the only continuity between your message and a person’s action. A keyword strategy is the central point of integration between any traditional campaign, the message, and the audience response. We have the opportunity when developing a campaign, product or any communications to either

1) capitalize on existing language that is familiar to our audience;
2) or develop something new – something that stands out.

For we chose the former, as ‘safety in the little things’ was common language but rarely used to promote work safety. Think about how a similar strategy can easily be integrate for your products or services and how looking at the creative idea for its main point can leverage the online traffic searching for your solution.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Transparency does not mean trustworthy.

Being upfront and open to people has always been a challenge for companies. They live in a world surrounded by paranoia and legal teams that influence when things are disclosed or off the record. Nobody wants the competition to steel that secret and nobody wants to be sued for using some misunderstood headline. The presence of companies online has only added fire to the debate about the requirement to be transparent. They're on Facebook, anonymously dropping videos on YouTube, and talking back on Twitter. They should be upfront and transparent. If I write a blog post about a product and that product pays me, I should let readers know. If I'm a credit card company advertising a 4% interest rate, but I'm really just trying to sell an18% interest rate, I need to put a * beside my 4% followed by some legalese that states my goal. Transparency has various degrees of truth. It usually is motivated by a short term impact or action.

When something goes wrong - profits fall unexpectedly, CEO is investigated for fraud, or customers get ticked because they thought the ad actually meant 4% - companies point to transparency. Since they have been transparent you should have known all this stuff could go wrong. Even though you didn't, they would still like you to see that because they have been transparent, you can trust them.

Transperency is not enough.

It's a one way action with an expectation of return. A contract with your mobile phone company is open and transparent, but the fact that it states that they can change your monthly fee without notice and your only recourse is to pay them $200 to end your relationship is not a customer/company relationship based on trust. It's more like a protection agreement, where you pay me to look after your shop or I'll burn it down. Transparent? Yes. Trustworthy? No.

Trust is also one way, but with no expectation of return. Actions result from the decision to just be better. To look at the world through a different lense. Profits come from happy people, so rather than focus on profits, focus on happy people.

Trust is a gradual process that results from consistent behaviour and time. If a company says that they will refund your product, no questions asks and actually does it repeatedly - people will notice. Athough it doesn't make short term sence to lose the proftis on all these refunded products, some of which could be just customers taking advantage of the trust, in the long term most people will feel compelled to return to those companies that have earned their trust.

Trust is the long ball game. It's the differentiator you've been paying all those consultants to find. The reason the new company in the industry can make a big splash is that they can be reasonably trusted. They have no track record. Trust is theirs to lose. They say they'll deliver their product in 2 days and do it - they're already better than the market leader who was late on one shipment.

One final point. If a company only looks a whether customers trust them compared to the competition then they are probably no better than the competition. If people are skeptical of telemarketers, then being the most trusted of untrusted telemarketers is no prize. This is true for any industry. If your company is focused on being transparent, it probably in not actually concerned with being genuinly trustworthy. The shift to looking at each consumer as an individual and actually doing what you say you'll do - with every action and communication - will build a consumer base who is your for the long haul. They weren't baited by some promo price and won't compare you to your competition.