Sword and the Script

Marketing: the Race to 2nd Place

Race to 2nd place

Racing to 2nd place is like chasing a sunset: you never quite get there.

by Frank Strong

If you are running a marathon and pass the person in second place, what position do you hold?

The correct answer is second place.

The race to second place is pervasive in the business community.  Every company wants to be the leader but few are willing to take the risk to lead.  Often the first question posed in response to a new initiative is — such as social media or content marketing — is who else is doing it?

Nothing gets senior management’s attention like the competition.  Benchmarking the competition is a near-sure-fire way to make the case for content marketing.  Replicate the effort in sleeker packaging and a head for first.

Some might argue this is the Microsoft strategy — though in fairness Bing is doing things Google isn’t with Klout, Quora and others. Say what you will about Klout.  It is an interesting marketing tool and Microsoft does deserve credit for experimenting.  Read More…

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Content Marketing is Window Dressing for the Web

content marketing

Window shopping near Covent Garden, London

by Frank Strong

Physical stores – the brick-and-mortar kind – always prefer to select locations on street corners.  Why? It provides greater window space and two main entrances which means double the opportunity to connect with prospective customers.  The street corner is prime real estate.

Store front windows provide retailers with the opportunity to showcase their best wares – their high quality content.   The more great content on display, and the more convincing it becomes to walk through the door, the more likely it becomes a hurried passerby might stop and browse.

And the longer they browse, the more likely they are to purchase.  Who hangs around a store without making a purchase?

Starbucks is legendary for providing us an illustrative example. The company would often open new stores nearby existing stores.  Many would question such a move arguing that placing additional stores so close to each other would cannibalize sales; but it doesn’t. Read More…

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Marketing, Strategy and War Analogies

marketing war analogies

Sheltering new graduates to enable them to conduct their own missions later.

by Frank Strong

For three years he had traded space for time. Skirmished, lost, retreated and did it again.

The war dragged on. Public support plummeted. Abandonment rates grew.

The men were exhausted and bitten by frost. It was dark. It was cold. The plan was exceedingly audacious. It was, in many respects, desperate. The route of approach for the raid crossed a wide river and more than nine miles on foot.

Chaff. Blisters. Frost bite. Hunger. Dehydration. Fatigue. Ammunition on short supply. Men would — and did — die on the movement let alone the battle.

For three years he had traded space for time. It was a strategy that had kept his rag tag band of men assembled into an organization easily mistaken for an army. On that night, the day after Christmas, his strategy was surprise. Read More…

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Why Google+ is a Better Place for Brands

Google+ for brands

Google+ is the #2 network according to eMarketer

by Frank Strong

“Google+ is like a gym,” began the Facebook status update. “Everyone joins it but only few use it. [sic]”

Lately, I’ve noticed people that make such broad statements have weak or little activity on the social network, but there’s little doubt it has grown.

Recently eMarketer published a post with a headline that stated Google+ had topped Twitter as the #2 social network in a survey of 2,500 U.S. Internet users conducted in March 2013:

The site had the second-highest number of account holders among both men and women, leading Twitter by approximately 10 percentage points for both genders. – eMarketer

Google+ hasn’t existed long enough to reach toddler status, yet the critics have already marked it as a failure. It’s amazing, really, because if a startup social network gained such traction it would be a media darling. However, since it’s Google, the standards, vague as those might be, are set higher. Invariably, it always returns to a Facebook comparison.

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Google Bombs Native Ads

native advertising

eMarketer reports and optimistic outlook for spending on native advertising.

by Frank Strong

Usually when Matt Cutts speaks he reminds me of the Federal Reserve’s Ben Bernanke testifying before Congress: he speaks in broad terms about a philosophy and leaves the pundits to interpret the details.

This probably isn’t by choice, but by design because the words of both men hold a great deal of gravity to so many people. The latter can boost or tumble global financial markets, while the former has a similar impact on online marketing. However, one can arguable say both men speak to a digital form of currency.

That currency is dollars for one and links for another, but yesterday Cutts spoke out with unusual clarity about both. Links in exchange for dollars, he pointedly said, don’t mix.

Misleading Readers

Google’s Web Spam team lead was speaking of course about native advertising and in a video bluntly titled “advertorials” he warned that publications running advertisements, which are designed to look and feel as if they are editorial content, may face stiff penalties. In fact, he warned that Google might go beyond just removing the offending content and remove an offending publisher’s entire site from Google News.

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Two Marketing Vendors that Do a Bang Up Job with their Blogs

marketing vendor blogs

There’s only a couple of marketing vendor blogs that burn it up.

by Frank Strong

The challenge for a vendor selling tools to the marketing or PR space is that they’ve got to be experts.

Why is this such a challenge? This is because most vendors are technology companies first, which means they are people that may be good at writing code, but not necessarily great at marketing. It’s a law of nature that often gets overlooked by customers and prospective customers because the juxtaposition of tool and space is a powerful persuasive leap.

There are a dozen vendor blogs I read regularly — which means I check in on them about twice a week.  Of course, I manage a good old fashioned RSS reader (Netvibes is my preferred reader) so I’m continuously adding and removing vendor blogs to keep current. As of the moment, my list has vendors that make tools for blogging, SEO, email marketing, marketing automation, social media management, and a couple that pitch themselves as all-in-one.

Of this list, there are just two vendors that I think do a really bang up job with their blogs. Read More…

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Aim for Mediocre Because Everyone Else Sucks

social media crisis, social media customer service

Is it a paint job or a structural issue?

by Frank Strong

Crisis can be good PR, at least according to a study of 3,000 randomly selected Google users — Should Your Brand Take a Stand — published by WrightIMC.

When asked, “When I make a purchase, I consider the social stance of the company that makes the product I am purchasing,” this is how responses added up:

  • ~39 percent either agreed or strongly agreed.
  • ~26 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed.
  • ~35 percent apparently could care less.

In other words, 61% of respondents said companies with controversial points of view did not affect their purchasing decisions. Based on my experience, I suspect its actually far greater.

Pop quiz:  identify a brand name company that went bankrupt after a social media crisis. 

The study concludes:

Overall, our survey results show that the majority of consumers either didn’t want to answer the question or are apathetic about a company’s stance and chose to answer “Neither Agree nor Disagree” on both questions.

Reporter Matt Wilson, in a post for Ragan’s titled Why controversies might be good for brands—study, and citing high profile social media conflicts, such as Chick-fil-A and Starbucks, sums it up nicely:

Though PR people certainly remember those incidents, most in the public forget them soon after they happen, according to a report from marketing consulting firm WrightIMC. It found that, largely, brands that stick to their positions may face an initial dip in sales in the month or so after a controversy, but soon afterward, the increased attention the stance brought the brand is actually beneficial. Read More…

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Tchotchkes: Marketing Starts After the Give Away

tchotchkes, marketing, promotional items

How to be more effective with tchotchkes and promotional items. Photo credit: Flickr.

Note:  This is an exceptional guest post by Matthew Powers of Blue Soda Promo. Matt had pitched another idea, but as it is with me, I asked him to try for something a little different: Everyone loves tchotchkes, but how can we use them beyond give-aways at trade shows? He accepted the question came back with this post, which I think is pretty compelling.  Want to pitch a post?  Read these guidelines first

>>>Promotional products are still an effective form of advertising.  While most can easily see the benefits of a giant billboard that millions of drivers will see or a PPC campaign that drives targeted traffic to your site; they also may think twice when it comes to promotional items.

But promotional products have staying power. According to the 2013 ASI Impressions Study, recipients keep a promotional product for, on average, 5.8 months.  That’s longer than it took us to completely forget who actually sang, “Call Me, Maybe”.  Read More…

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7 Sexy and Creative PR Ideas

by Frank Strong

7 Sexy and Creative PR Ideas


noun /ˌkrē-āˈtivitē/

The use of the imagination or original ideas, esp. in the production of an artistic work

I  love to write posts about  creative ideas. And creative ideas are hard to find.  Go ahead — search for creative PR.  You’ll have to dig deep to find good ideas.

So as I’m perusing the web I try to make a point to save up links until I get to a point where I’ve got enough to share a snappy post.

And I’ve been itching to write this post, because there are some really good ideas in here.  Here are seven creative PR and marketing ideas: Read More…

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Enduring Questions on Press Releases and SEO

Do press releases have SEO value

As I was taking this screenshot, I noticed that in Chrome, “SEO” is marked as a spelling error in Bing.

by Frank Strong

Press releases.  Few topics get the PR community spun up more with the exception of the definition of PR.

We argue over how they should be used.  We argue over whether or not they should be called something else.  We argue over the best time to issue a press release. We argue over which wire service performs best.

Have heart, PR pros, we are not alone.  Press releases spin up another community too:  SEOs.

SEOs get their whirling dervish on over press releases because they are forever debating whether or not they have search value, or more precisely whether or not links in press releases have value.

Google’s most public facing expert, Matt Cutts says links in press releases do not have value.  Even for the mighty Matt, that’s a challenge to SEOs, who will go out of their way to prove Google counts press release links.

Ivy Lee could not have possibly imagined what he started when he issued what is recognized as the first press release. Read More…

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