Your brochure is not a secret, why do you act that way?

Our top competitor had never offered their product brochures on their website. Their website was still sporting a 1999 look, so I assumed this same indifference applied to posting PDFs.

Helpful ... not

But since they brought their website into the 21st century earlier this year, their general catalog is the only worthwhile PDF (still sporting a 1998 look). They don’t even let the site’s visitors know that product-specific brochures exist.

Are they trying to keep them a secret? Are they afraid I might get them?

Well, of course I have them! I found some of them posted online elsewhere. A few have been leaked by prospects who had to give them to us so we could ‘match’ their products.

I gave up trying to keep our product info a secret a long time ago. I don’t understand their rationale. They’ve got to assume we’ve got this info anyway, so why are they keeping it a secret?

At one time salespeople felt threatened by website content diluting their power of information, but today salespeople are frustrated if they aren’t supported by a robust website. And we all can guess how the prospects are feel about this.

Time was we would get thousands of brochures printed, and try to get into as many hands as possible. Why should it be any different today?

Bad grammar destroys reputations

This guest post by Andy Wallner is in response to my post last March: A missing hyphen can unravel your reputation. Embedded links are his, likely are for SEO purposes, and I am not getting paid. Andy was bold enough to contact me with a personalized pitch that proved he could actually write, not just spam my blog.

If Missing Hyphens Unravel Reputations, Bad Grammar Destroys Them

Hi this is going to be a good articles on bad grammer and stuff with marketing so have fun reading with it thankz.

Now, I’d be willing to bet that when you read that first sentence, you were ready to assume I had no literary skill and that the rest of the article had no credibility. Sadly, this kind of bad grammar happens every day, around the world, at marketing firms. As the business world continues to grow, many marketing professionals are in such a hurry to get copy out the door that they fail to proofread their material. It doesn’t help that few marketing degree programs require courses on basic English and grammar.

Why Does Grammar in Marketing Matter?

Failing to proof your marketing material could cost you dearly. When presenting material to a potential customer, it is imperative that you have everything perfect. There was a slogan used by a popular shampoo manufacturer some years ago that went, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Nowhere is this more true than in marketing. If you leave potential customers with a bad taste in their mouths, you have likely lost their business for good.

On top of that, poor grammar and misspelled words send out a signal to customers that you don’t care about your business. Bad grammar essentially tells the client, “I was too lazy to even proofread this before I sent it off, and I will likely be too lazy when it comes to providing you with service in the future.” Customers want to deal with professionals, not amateurs who didn’t take the time to read and reread their own promotional materials.

Web Footprints Marketers Leave With Poor Grammar

Just as the Internet has led to marketing professionals being able to quickly and easily get their message out, it has also led to marketing professionals being burned. When you put something out on the Web, it is almost impossible to erase, not just because the information is stored on a server somewhere, and not just because temporary cached files are saved to computers around the world.

If you put out material with mistakes, and a potential customer sees it, they can’t un-see it. Even if you catch the mistake and correct it, it’s too late, as the customer’s confidence in your business has already begun to crumble. This is another reason why making sure things are done right before putting them out for the public is so important.

For Every Rule, There is an Exception

This isn’t to say you can’t play fast and loose with the rules in some situations. In marketing, knowing your demographic is the name of the game. You are going to want to speak to your audience in their own language. You’re trying to appeal to a specific type of customer, and just as society has its own cultures and subcultures, it’s important to know the ways in which your audience and its subsets communicate.

For instance, if you are marketing to teenagers it may be acceptable, in some cases, to use improper grammar to reach them, as teenagers often intentionally use improper grammar themselves. Of course this can’t be standard practice, but for certain novelty marketing, you can get away with it. However, you certainly would not want to use the same improper grammar when marketing to a medical office or a legal firm.

Again, it’s about knowing your audience, and using the grammar and spelling that they use. If you take a look at the popular, you can see how the site has used deliberately broken grammar to market and sell humorous products. Another example would be the underground and edgy message board 4chan, where a set of lingo built on horribly mangled grammar is known and understood, and actually encouraged by the regular readership. Once again, it comes down to knowing your customer base.

Misspelling Keywords Doesn’t Work Anymore

And this brings us to another important point: keywords. If you’re using the Internet to market your site, or you are using search engine optimization tactics, you know that keywords are a very important part of making your site more visible than your competition’s. If you don’t take the time to ensure that your keywords and phrases are spelled correctly and laid out properly, you may be missing out on traffic to your site. Knowing how people speak, as well as how they write, is essential to any marketing campaign.

Keep in mind that there are many simple tools you can use to combat grammatical errors in your copy. Most word processing programs have built-in functionality to check for spelling and grammar errors, and there are online tools to do the same. However, never rely solely on an automatic spelling and grammar check, as they are prone to faults as well. If you truly want to remain free of grammatical errors, proofread everything, then proof it again, then have someone else proof it for you. Remember, small grammatical errors can lead to lost customers, as well as a ruined reputation.

Fixing up your web form? Here are today’s best practices

Chris Rand says: “Form design is an area where most web designers really could do with some training, if the forms I come across on a day-to-day basis are anything to go by.”

So, even if you are trusting a web designer, better to have a best practices cheat sheet to hold them accountable to. That’s exactly what Chris links to, posted at Smashing Magazine.

Speaking of usability, the download has many different file formats in a zip file. If you just want the PDF (print to 11×17 for legibility), here it is.

(Secretly wishes the zip file had CSS code for the examples.)

Contact-us forms shouldn’t be WTF moments


I saw this bad ‘contact us’ form today. Then it went to ‘WTF’.

Why is it bad?

  • Well, all the model numbers listed without any context, of course.
  • The really lame qualification questions for “current need” or “future need”.
  • The lack of an opportunity for the prospect to say more than they are ‘interested in’ their products. I can only assume that by filling out the form you will get pricing info.

Then I got to the “salesman to call” question, where one of the two choices is “By Phone/Fax”.
Salesman to call … By fax???? WTF.

Okay, I can only guess that this form was set up with the intent of faxing pricing information (hence the request for your fax number). Certainly this form and method is outdated. And probably they think this form doesn’t perform well, and expect that the ecommerce part of their website is the primary lead collector.

(Yes, they do have ecommerce websites for their different products.) But quite a few prospects, speaking from experience, just jump to the contact-us page to submit what they need.

And when these action-oriented folk hit this contact page, as plain and ordinary as it appears, undoubtedly they are going to say WTF as they attempt to fill it out. They are going to have to HOPE that the normal sales process will get them pricing, or write a plea for what they need in the comments block.

Takeaway: Web forms should anticipate what the visitor wants, and give some expectation of what submitting the form will result in.

This form does neither, and thus fails.

Social media for B2B (or I have bigger fish to fry)

Sometimes I like to ‘connect the dots’. Ya know, see the big picture from the collected bits of information …

So I bring you three articles from the blogosphere that are instructive, quality posts about B2B marketing and the loathed social media marketing bubble (yes, I think we industrial marketers loath it):

1. Industrial Marketing Is Not Consumer Marketing by Mike Collins

As AJ (see article #2) says about this article, it is great and timeless. Mike identifies the challenges of industrial marketing (over consumer marketing):

  1. Product complexity
  2. Industrial buyers
  3. Bids and quotations
  4. Advertising and promotion
  5. Market information
  6. Industrial market research
  7. Product range

Really it comes down to the fact that we have to be skilled in marketing to a ‘niche of a niche’. The focus on providing useful information in B2B alone trumps focuses taught/required for consumer marketing.

This article is a great raison d’etre for the B2B marketer and back-up for anyone who questions what we do (and why). Go read it.

So, what’s that got to do with social media? Maybe you can see where this is headed. See the next article …

2. Are Social Media Right For All Manufacturers? Maybe Not by AJ Sweatt

AJ saw the same article by Mike Collins and went on a tangent about the fact that industrial marketing is so different, social media doesn’t make a lot of sense:

As I read Mike’s article, I realized it also provides compelling reasons why Social Media – despite its extraordinary adoption rates and promise – just aren’t up to the task of serving as many of the marketing requirements in industrial as they do today for consumer marketing.

Here are 3 weaknesses of social media when used primarily to serve the manufacturing & industrial buying cycles:

  1. Serving Discovery …the effort and resources necessary to ‘push’ messages with the cadence necessary to possibly connect with someone receptive to your product or services at the right time and in context are prohibitive
  2. Serving Research Behaviors …buying events around discrete custom parts manufacturing or capital equipment purchases are episodic to the extreme. They just don’t happen frequently, which can somewhat lessen the importance of the ‘conversational’ qualities of Social Media….
  3. Building/Sustaining your Brand …the traction manufacturers will see using these tools alone to do that will likely be disappointing because an industrial branding message won’t find large samplings of the right buyers on current Social Media platforms…

3. 6 Reasons Social Media Sucks, But You Need to Use It Anyway by Tom Pick

Great article title, and let’s just take a look at those reasons: why SM sucks:

  1. It’s full of self-promoters…
  2. It’s more of a place to interact with peers than to engage prospects…
  3. It’s an easy way to waste a lot of time…
  4. It means giving up one’s privacy…
  5. It’s just another avenue for spam…
  6. It’s hard to measure the ROI…

Tom does offer a tonic to these six sucks, six reasons why social media “is essential anyway”. I’ll not repeat that list, but it does hit some talking points you would expect from the SM blogosphere, although much more contrite and realistic. The point is, there is some positive value, but back to Mike’s article, it depends on the niche of a niche you are serving.

What’s Dave got to say?

Fresh sushi when visiting Japan (not fried)

Here are three cases I think SM may make sense:


  • Industrial products with high user customize/configure needs (programmable devices, for example).
  • Ongoing promotion to your customer base is a stategic part of your marketing (selling ad-ons, upgrades).
  • As part of a content marketing program (which, of course has its own needed justification).

That said, the capital equipment that I market doesn’t fit those cases, and there is a ton of work I could do within my traditional marketing tactics to support future sales … I’ve got bigger fish to fry!

Marketing by the rules, an SEO lesson

Rex Hammock blogs: “Don’t do anything you’d be embarrassed to read about on the front page of the newspaper,” is one of those truisms I picked up early and used a lot back two decades ago when I used to run a PR firm and needed to have such quips in my back pocket. #

This, his reaction to a fascinating article about JC Penney gaming Google: The Dirty Little Secrets of Search, in The New York Times:

“When you read the enormous list of sites with Penney links, the landscape of the Internet acquires a whole new topography. It starts to seem like a city with a few familiar, well-kept buildings, surrounded by millions of hovels kept upright for no purpose other than the ads that are painted on their walls.”

Rex, like myself, like to play things clean. Most of us do. But sometimes the temptation is too great, and the line too grey. Link building? Sure all SEOs do that. Link farming becomes a whole ‘nother strategy at some point … but when?

Sounds like JC Penney was contracting-out their optimisation, and probably not paying too close attention to what was being done. The link-farming is nearly invisible. Heck, Google even has a hard time detecting it.

Over the years, we’ve all had competitors just too willing to see what they can do to rank higher. It started with meta-tags, keyword stuffing, then doorway pages, and today link-farming.

The thing is, our bosses have no understanding of how SEO works. They have no idea if we are cheating or not. Likely, quite a few bosses can’t tell the difference between a paid link and an organic link in Google SERPs.

So, really, the decision (and responsibility) is ours as marketing managers. As Penney’s learned, and Rex said, you never know when what you do may end up in the paper. Play clean, play smart.

First step after setting your moral compass, is to get educated. NYT can’t cover the nitty-gritty, but Rex was nice enough to add a bonus link. Start here:

“Bonus link: On Search Engine Land, former Googler Vanessa Fox breaks down the New York Times article and explains what J.C. Penny’s now-fired SEO consultants were doing. #”

(And, yes, you can turn in a competitor who isn’t playing by the rules. Obviously Google can’t catch them.)

What are engineers up to on Twitter?

Are engineers using Twitter? Here is a post from Duane Benson at Screaming Circuits (who says he is studying Twitter) about what those who are, are doing:

It can lead to interesting activity though. Recently, one tweeter, Jeri ( suggested a design contest centered around the old stalwart 555 timer. Chris ( picked up the ball with her and In about three days, just over Twitter, they organized it, other tweeters chimed in, sponsors offered prize money and they’ve set up a website for it. Fascinating.

So, this is what’ is going on on Twitter? Where is the ‘social media’ opportunity? How about being a sponsor of the contest?

Social media do or do-not checklist

Social media … is getting right up there in my hated marketing terms along with webinar, buzz, needs, and solutions.

Us industrial manufacturers are nonplussed by the buzz (shoot, I used one myself) of social media. But truly it is a case-by-case basis. Some marketplaces lend themselves to social media. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are some of your staff already involved in social media for your market?
  • When you go trolling for mentions of your company or a competitor, do you find anything interesting?
  • Does your product require programming or constant use so that operators want to talk about solutions?
  • Do you have an email newsletter that you send out already?
  • Are there changes in your market? Do people want to know about them?
  • Are you interested in social media because it is ‘free advertising’?
  • Is there a specific trade-pub or website that embodies the whole of your market?
  • Does the one video you posted on YouTube have more than 25 views?
  • Are prospects curious about your technology, but not always ready to buy?
  • Does the trade pub in your market have more than 175 Facebook fans?
  • Do you have the time, content, and energy to put into such a program?

These are just off the top of my head. The last question is really the zinger. Because if you can’t do it right … strategically … you are going to fail. Publicly:

  • Everyone can see how many Twitter followers you have. How many Facebook fans there are. When you last blog-post was. How you responded to a upset customer.

So give it some thought. Drag out these questions to anyone bugging you to do SMM in 2011.

Personally, I’d invest my time in making videos. They are for the ages, and much more versatile. And your customers will appreciate them much more than a fan page regardless of their use of social media.

B2B prospects *need* pricing

Did you know that product info is the second thing prospects are looking for?

Dale Underwood of EchoQuote takes a MarketingSherpa/Enquiro report on needs of B2B shoppers and builds up an impressive article about why prospects need pricing. You can read Product Content is #2 for B2B Buyers yourself.

Key takeaway:
Website visitors need pricing MORE THAN they need product information.

In a way it makes sense. B2B prospects basically know what your product is by the time the get to your website. They need to know if they can afford it. Are they on the right trail before they invest more of their valuable time?

Reminds me of a classic Dilbert cartoon I used on this blog when I wrote about pricing in 2007: