Todd Martin

Todd Martin

Sales Strategy

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They Said WHAT About Me?

April 22, 2015

Reputation management is more important than ever, thanks to social media. Manage your customer relationships carefully to avoid a public relations crisis.

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You’ve probably heard the horror stories. Someone gets upset about a product or service they received, and they take to Yelp and Twitter and numerous other online venues to try to trash your reputation.

Sometimes, the individual posting the reviews doesn’t even have an ax to grind. For whatever reason, he or she just wants to tarnish your image.

You’ve spent years — maybe even decades — working hard to maintain the integrity of your brand. It doesn’t seem fair that one person can do so much damage to your good name.

But it happens.

Shut It Down Before It Can Happen

One way to avoid damage to your reputation is by owning your brand online. If you’re just launching a new business, get your company name and profile up on the major social networks. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn aren’t enough anymore. Host your own presence on YouTube, Instagram, and Google+. Maybe even Pinterest and SlideShare.

If you’re a big company with plenty of money and a sterling reputation that must be guarded, hire a reputation management firm. Otherwise, assign one employee to the task of trolling for dirt daily, or split the chore up among multiple staff members.

Here’s what the designated individual(s) should do:

  • Type your company name into the major search engines and see what comes up on the first five pages.Todd Martin 042215 image 2
  • Dp a search for your company name plus words like “complaints” and “reviews.” Misspell it occasionally.
  • Run your brand through the search tools on social media sites.
  • Read your feeds. Nothing should appear in your social media streams that someone on your staff doesn’t see the same day.
  • Set up a Google Alert for your company name — and for common misspellings.
  • Pay Yelp regular visits. It seems to attract naysayers.

Keep Up With Your CRM

Use your customer relationship skills to be in touch with your audience, and sniff out trouble early. Do as much as you can to post news and comments that have a positive slant. Get your customers involved. You could have a contest for the best YouTube video of someone using your product and award a nice prize. Don’t push it, but encourage positive user input. Solicit feedback and respond quickly.

But don’t go overboard on PR. Your content should be focused on your customers. The more you help your customers with how-to’s, troubleshooting guides, Q&A’s, training manuals, etc., the more likely positive comments about you will bubble up.

Todd Martin 042215 image 3If the worst happens and you’re taken to task for something — real or imagined — online, act fast. If it’s on one of your properties, get the appropriate person on it immediately. If it’s legitimate, acknowledge it and find a way to make it right. If it contains profanity, obscenity, threats, or other inappropriate content, delete it if you can. On properties hosted by a third party, you may or may not be able to have it removed.

One last tip: Formalize a complaint procedure. Make it easy for individuals and businesses to lodge a compliant (ideally, this should be a link that goes directly to staff, not a public thread).

Reputation management is a constant battle, so get out in front and lead the charge.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

RIP, Privacy? Not Where Customer Data is Concerned

April 13, 2015

Some folks say privacy is dead. Fere are five ways to avoid that with your critical customer data.

Take a close look at your spam folder. What’s in there, and why don’t you want to see it? How did those email spammers get your address?

Now, think about your contacts, leads and customers. Each of them is concerned about personal information privacy at least as much as you are. Safeguarding information about your prospects and customers is an important obligation. In fact, failing to take care of this essential obligation can destroy your business. You’ve seen the headlines.

Don’t think it can’t happen to you. Ask these questions to see how you’re doing:

  • What is your privacy policy? – Do you have one? You should. Do you share or sell contact information about your prospects and customers? If not, make that clear to everyone. People won’t look for a privacy policy on your website. So tell visitors that their information is confidential wherever you ask for contact details. You’ll inspire confidence and get additional leads. If you do share or sell information, reconsider. Why let others profit from your contacts?
  • Is your customer data secure? – With all of the malware and hacking reported in the news, even the smallest businesses need to focus on data security. You may not store as much customer data as Target, but if that data is compromised, your losses could be huge. Check your firewalls, anti-virus and anti-malware software for effectiveness and update regularly. If you store customer data in the cloud, make sure it’s protected by strong encryption.
  • How secure is your social media? – Examine how Facebook, Twitter, and other social media venues handle sharing, likes, and other contacts. Opt out of as many ways your social media contacts are shared as possible. Be careful with your own choices of apps, games, likes and associations on social media. All too often, they grab all of your contacts’ information as soon as you tie yourself to them. Don’t share your valuable contacts accidentally.
  • How careful are you with email? – Pay special attention to replies and email forwarding. If you Reply All, for example, you could be forwarding a list of customer addresses to the recipient. Never send email replies without checking the entire list of addressees. When forwarding emails, you could be sending a long list of email addresses at the same time. Use group email lists carefully, too. Protect your investment in lead-building carefully.
  • Are you using CRM solutions wisely? – If you’re using a state-of-the-art CRM solution, you’ll be able to keep all of your contact details and a wide variety of related social information in one password-protected profile. If you update them regularly, CRM profiles can be a treasure trove of selling ideas.

 With Customer Privacy, Follow the Golden Rule

You work hard to build leads, acquire customers and create contacts. If you treat their personal information as carefully as you’d like your own information treated, you’ll stay on the right track. Privacy and security for that data is crucial for your long-term success.

Make Your Website Sales Copy Sing — or at Least Whistle a Catchy Tune

March 31, 2015

Your website is a major production, like a concert or Broadway show. Will it be a hit ? Or will it close after one night?

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Your website has to wear a lot of hats, A big one is responsible for attracting visitors and giving them the information they’re looking for.

Making the sale, though, is essential.

Content that sells is like the hit songs people remember long after leaving a venue. Everything else should be designed to put a spotlight on your sales message. Making the sale or getting the lead is the core goal of the production. Sales copy has a unique job and requirements that are different from the rest of your content. Make it sing with these tips:

  • Simple Songs Move People – Unlike informational content, your sales copy and calls to action should be brief, simple and direct. Clarity, simplicity and relevance to visitors’ needs are crucial. Keep the focus on how a product or service benefits visitors, and they’ll dance to your music. Keep sales copy lively and ask for action. You’ll convince people to sing along.
  • Keep Sales Content Upbeat – Always focus on the positive in sales copy. Emphasize a few of the very best features of a product or service. Show visitors why they need it now. Get them up on their feet by using price and time-related incentives to move them from the sidelines to the dance floor. You’ll soon hear the applause.
  • Stay on Pitch and in Tune – No other content on your website is as important as your sales message. Trust your sales copy to the pros and it will never sing a wrong note or miss an entrance. Make every word count, keep the tempo lively and always remember the audience’s preferences. Quality makes the difference between a hit and a flop.
  • Get the Audience Tapping Its Feet – Maintain a constant, steady rhythm in your sales content. Skip complexity and focus on direct language that makes your points without unnecessary words or ornamentation. Simple, conversational sentences get visitors involved and keep them listening to the tune you’re singing.
  • Go for a Big Finish – Everything about your sales copy should lead toward the final chord in your pitch. Once they’ve heard the verses and chorus in your sales melody, pump up the volume and end with a solid, harmonious finishing note. Ask them to take action. If the music moved them, they’ll be motivated to buy the album.

Amp up Your Sales Content for a Sold-out Performance

Every year, dozens of big productions close almost as soon as the curtain rises. If you want your website show to have a long, successful run, make sure that it’s an audience pleaser. In copy that’s designed to close the deal, there’s no room for off-key notes or faulty rhythms. Focus closely on it and the sales curtain will keep rising.

5 Ways Your Website is Scaring Away Sales

March 17, 2015

Whether your website is designed to sell products or services, retention and conversion of visitors are essential.

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Anything that interferes with those crucial goals is certain to send people back to the search results to find your competition. All too often, web designers focus on the wrong priorities and ignore visitor experience. If you’re not seeing increased sales from your Internet presence, take a hard look at your website and other marketing efforts to see if you are making these common mistakes:

  • Incorrect landing page focus – Search engines may send visitors to any page on your site. Search results rankings are based on content relevance and quality. Visitors who don’t immediately find the information they were seeking will leave a landing page in just seconds. Make the first thing they see informative and tied to the SEO focus of that page, and watch your bounce rates drop.
  • Poor navigation design – Some web designers fail to show visitors how to find information. Links hidden in drop-down or hover lists are not immediately obvious, and impatient potential customers won’t hunt for them. Important navigation links should be clear and always visible without scrolling. Don’t forget links in text content, either, and use well-recognized link formatting standards.
  • Inadequate informational content – A popular and disastrous trend in web design is limiting text content length. Template-based web designs and the cost of top-quality content are to blame. Site guests are trying to make a decision. If they don’t find sufficient information, they’ll look elsewhere for it. Conversion is the goal, so give people what they need to make a decision to choose your business.
  • Too many distractions – Fancy widgets, pop-up chat boxes, auto-playing videos, and other web design tricks oftenTodd Martin 031715 image 2 appeal to designers and business owners. They don’t appeal to your guests. Site visitors are on a mission. If they’re distracted or annoyed, their Back button is just a click away. Everything on your pages should focus on answering questions, offering solutions, and motivating guests to act.
  • Device or Browser Incompatibility – Up to 50 percent of your site visitors are using smart phones or tablets. When they land on a page that looks horrible or is impossible to read, they’re gone in a flash. Check your site on as many different platforms as you can and look at it through the eyes of a potential customer. Adaptive or responsive design is essential for success. If your pages don’t look great to everyone, they won’t sell.

Give Guests What They Want, and You’ll Get What You Want

Well-designed, informative websites and other Internet marketing strategies aren’t just a good idea; they’re essential. Focusing on visitor retention and conversion is the only strategy that makes sense.

The bottom line: Every Google search is a quest for information. Provide relevant, high-quality information, and your marketing is a winner. Make design and content mistakes that interfere with the visitor experience, and your competition wins.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Good Google Placement Eluding You? How to Improve Your Odds

March 8, 2015

Unless your website or blog turns up in the first three pages of Google results (for searches people actually use), you’re not getting the visits you need. 

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That’s the sad truth that stymies sales performance for most online marketing efforts. Getting those top rankings is the job of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but unless your SEO is based on an understanding of how Google ranks sites and pages, it won’t deliver.

There are no tricks or magic formulas for success. Great SEO requires hard, detailed work in today’s hyper-competitive internet marketplace. By following the same strategies the experts use, you can boost performance. Try these five proven techniques:

  • Expand your keyword list – Primary keywords and phrases are important, but heavy competition makes achieving top rankings for them difficult. By focusing equally on secondary keywords and longer phrases, you’ll get higher rankings overall. Keyword suggestion websites can help, but your own intuitive choices may work even better.
  • Focus on location – Every Google search is a localized search, since Google knows where every searcher is. Associate your keywords and phrases closely with location keywords for improved results, but avoid awkward word associations. Hint: Also include alternative names for your target locations, like “Twin Cities” or “Manhattan.” Searchers use those frequently.

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  • Place keywords strategically – Put keywords and phrases in page titles, headings, bullet lists, and even in the page’s URL for maximum impact. Don’t overdo keyword frequency in page content. Include multiple key phrases on every page to expose additional search terms for ranking. Both Google and your visitors value readability, so focus on that.
  • Outstanding content is essential – Google’s recent Penguin and Panda algorithm updates verified that the search engine is ranking by the quality and relevance of page content. Relevant, informative, readable content improves SEO results. Visitors will stay and convert, too if it’s worth reading. Useful information, not hard sales pitches, wins the rankings battle.
  • A great visitor experience is the goal – Exactly how Google’s ranking methods work is a trade secret, but it’s no secret that Google watches visitor behavior. High bounce rates, stale or limited content, and unoriginal, copied text damage rankings. Work to keep visitors on your site for maximum SEO effectiveness and better conversion. You’ll win all around.

Great SEO Strategies Do More than Just Attract Visitors

Google has just one goal: giving its users search results that lead them to the most relevant, useful information for every search. That’s why it focuses heavily on ample, high-quality content in its ranking algorithms.

By making sure your website, blogs, and social media efforts provide what Google is looking for, you also give your own visitors what they need to make the decision to choose you.

Success in Google’s organic results rankings isn’t easy, but great results on Google will increase your chances of excellent returns on your bottom line. Focus on what Google wants, and you’ll be more likely to hit the mark with your potential customers.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Be in Two – Actually, Way More than That – Places at Once

February 26, 2015

Do you know what people are saying about your company at any given time? Perch can help.

The internet and its countless social networks provide you with tremendous opportunities – and formidable challenges.
You can be as visible as you want, at very low cost. You can say what you want to say about your company and its products or services.

Todd Martin 022615 image 1But so can everyone else. And therein, as they say, lies the problem. How in the world do you know when someone mentions you or your business? You can set up Google Alerts, spend a lot of time combing through sites where your industry peers hang out, or pay someone (at great cost) to do it for you.

Perch is another alternative. It’s a free app available for both iOS and Android smartphones. It’s not brand new; in fact, it’s been around long enough to have won an Appy Award for Best Business App in 2013.

I don’t usually use this space to promote just one product. There are many that are worthy, but I figure you do a lot of investigating on your own.

This one is worth it. It tracks reviews, social posts, and promotions where you’re mentioned, on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Google+, Instagram, Foursquare, Groupon, and Living Social.

It couldn’t be simpler to use. Once you’ve downloaded and installed it, you simply type your company name and its city into the Search fields. If you’re already in the system, Perch will present you with a streaming feed of related mentions going back 14 days. You can, of course, click on an entry to view it in its entirety.

If your company name isn’t found, you can do one of two things (or both). Perch uses the Foursquare database of businesses. If you know you’re not listed there, you can go there to add yourself. You can also click on a link to send an email to Perch and ask that you be included.

Todd Martin 022615 image 2Perch will send you an email digest on a daily or weekly basis – your choice – providing a recap of activity. In between those roundups, just open the app to check on your stream.

You’ve probably caught on to another powerful use of Perch by now: You can enter the names of your competitors and see who’s talking about them – what reviews they’re getting on Yelp and what pictures are being posted on Instagram and where they’re being mentioned (as well as what they’re saying about themselves) on Facebook and Twitter.

And why wouldn’t you?

Perch is a surprisingly simple but potentially very effective way to watch how your company’s name and products are being treated by the social networks. It’s free. It’s simple. It’s a tremendous time-saver. And it meets a need that every company doing business on the internet has. Try it.

Stock image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tired of the Sound of Your Own Voice?

February 22, 2015

If you just can’t write one more tweet or LinkedIn update or blog post, try some alternatives.

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We’ve all experienced it. Writer’s block. We just cannot for the life of us come up with any content to share on our blogs and social networks. That dog won’t hunt. Everything we try to write sounds trite or repetitive or dull or otherwise unpalatable.

At times like these, don’t force it. There are other options. Not only do these lighten the load on you, but they also give you a chance to introduce your visitors to other voices besides yours.

Just as some of your own content is more appropriate for Facebook than LinkedIn, or Twitter than your blog, these suggestions should make their way onto your most appropriate piece of online real estate.

Retweet others’ tweets.

There is some research that says retweets actually get noticed more than original tweets. This makes sense. Anytime someone reacts to something positively enough to retweet it – rather than listening to the sound of his or her own voice – it’s likely to have some merit.

Curate content.

You know what curators of museums or art galleries do. They “own” the collections on exhibit there – not literally, of course, but in the sense that they are often responsible for acquisitions and for making the pieces accessible to visitors.

This means that they must be very familiar with everything that is put on display. So, too, should you be if you curate content on your blog or other social site. Read each piece completely and thoroughly to make sure that you want all of its messages to be passed along to your readers.

Museum curators don’t display absolutely every piece from any one source, and you don’t have to reproduce an entire article from an original site, especially if it’s lengthy. You can pull out the best parts and comment on them, adding your own particular view.

Todd Martin 022215 image 2Curating is easier than starting from scratch, but it still requires work on your part. You must include the author’s name and the title of the original work (you will, of course, introduce this material by coming up with your own title for the entire post, which will include the desired excerpts, your commentary and calling out of critical points, and your request that readers join in on the conversation). Include a link to the site where you found the content.

Get a guest blogger.

This goes on a lot. It gives bloggers a break and gives readers exposure to another perspective. You may want to simply ask someone whose work you admire to contribute a post (they may want some kind of payment, which you may or may not be willing to do). Bloggers frequently swap spaces; they each write for the other’s blog.

Dust off your greatest hits.

If you’ve been active on your blog and social networks for 18 months or more, there’s no shame in re-posting something you’ve done before that got a good response. Readers will come and go, and you probably have a new set of visitors who haven’t reached back into your archives. Certainly update the original, and improve on it if you can.

Whatever you do, don’t let your social properties go dark. Use outside resources when you’re running dry. This injection of fresh content may give you the shot in the arm you need to move on.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Notice Anything Different?”

February 12, 2015

LinkedIn has been introducing new features that can punch up your Profile – and there are more coming.

LinkedIn logo

I’ve repeated some of the same themes in this space for the last few years. They boil down to this: Online content is different than any other documents or marketing materials or fact sheets you’ve ever produced. Because you have so much competition for your prospects’ consideration – and because the internet has shortened our average attention span — you need to:

  • Write economically. Use the words you need, but no more. And use descriptive and dynamic words (in an understated way). This doesn’t mean the biggest words.
  • Show as much as you tell. Find the right balance of text, photos, and video.
  • Tell your audience who you are. You’re more than a manager or an employee at a company. Let people have a peek behind the title on your business card.

LinkedIn Supporting Best Practices

These are common bits of advice that many people share these days. LinkedIn has been following that model, adding new ways for you to present yourself to your audience.

Think about how long you look at a LinkedIn Profile. If you’re planning to interview somewhere for a job, or if you’re being interviewed for a new position, you probably take it all in.

In many cases, though, you’ll probably spend less than a minute. Maybe 30 seconds. And what do you look at? First, the photo. Does yours convey the impression you’re going for? Professional headshots rule on LinkedIn, but don’t be afraid to be a little creative with this if it “matches” your personality, your corporate culture, and your position.

Second, you look at the Summary. Is yours right at the top, directly below your Contact info? It should be. If not, make sure you’re in Edit Profile mode, grab the up/down arrow in the upper right of the Summary with your cursor and drag your content block into place.

Your text here should be some of the best you’ve ever written. Try to keep it to one concise-but-informative paragraph. Readers should get a sense of why you do what you do and what you excel at. Name a couple of past positions/companies if you want, but leave most of that for the Experience section. Who are you?

If you haven’t edited your Profile for some time, you may be surprised to see the buttons under your Summary (and under all of your job descriptions): Document, Photo, Link, Video, and Presentation. Add these items if they make sense, and be sure you follow the link to read Supported Providers, so viewers will be able to access them.

There’s 30 seconds. Your visitors may look at your current position and maybe one or two more, so make these pop.

New Features Coming

You may or may not have the new LinkedIn design changes on your Profile; the company is rolling these out in waves. They include:

  • The Keep in Touch box. Located in the upper right, this will consolidate your connections’ updates.
  • A new box next to your Profile picture that will link actions and information like Edit Profile, Who’s Viewed Your Profile, etc.
  • Easier access to People You May Know

Keep an eye on LinkedIn if you don’t already – they tend to slip new features in without a lot of fanfare. And keep polishing your Profile using the tools provided. People look you up on LinkedIn for all kinds of reasons. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to toot your own horn.

Blow Out the Cobwebs. Swab the Decks. Clean House. Pick Your Metaphor.

February 5, 2015

Spring is a ways off for most of us, but it’s not too early to prepare for a spring cleaning of your online content.

I don’t have to tell you that keeping up with your website and online social content is time-consuming. There are blogs to write, Tweets and other updates to post, follow-up with prospects who fill out contact forms, etc. You absolutely don’t have any more time to spend on your web-based presence.

But I’m going to suggest that you try to fit some extra hours in over the next couple of months. Not necessarily to add a lot of content, but to do a serious review of what’s there.

Todd Martin 020515 image 1Maybe you do this on a regular basis already. If so, that’s great. But if you haven’t looked at absolutely everything you’ve posted or uploaded with a critical eye, you might consider setting a spring deadline for a revamp. I’m not suggesting a complete interface overhaul, unless you’re prepping for one anyway. Just a good, close look that will help you fix some things by oh, say, Memorial Day, and set some goals for more long-term renovation.

Here are some steps you can take:

  • Jettison dated content. You may be proud that you have so many pages on your website – and that is an accomplishment. But if your visitors stumble across pages that are advertising old sales promotions or products/services you no longer offer, how-to’s and other support for obsolete items, bios of staff that is no longer there, etc., it makes you look sloppy.
  • Use your “Instagram vision” to evaluate your visuals. You’ve heard from people beyond me that photos and videos rule these days. If millennials and younger are part of your target audience, you probably know that they’re fleeing Facebook – in part because their parents are there – and moving to Instagram. They’re used to seeing interesting, high-quality, well-staged pictures. If some of yours aren’t up to snuff, try to get some new, better ones. Consider, too, whether you’re posting too many (makes you look like a catalog) or not enough (fewer chances to catch visitors’ attention).
  • Consider your tools and your access to design specialists. There are some really great do-it-yourself website-building tools. You can often spot the sites that were created using these. If you’re using one of these (or have enlisted the help of a non-professional) and you’re really serious about building your brand and presenting a fresh, state-of-the-art face online, at least consider consulting with a professional. Many offer free consultations.
  • Todd Martin 020515 image 2Assess your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Run your company name, keywords, etc., through a search engine on several computers and mobile devices. Are you ever on the first couple of pages? If not, you can either study up on SEO and attempt to improve it yourself or hire a professional.

If all this talk about hiring experts makes you check your bank balance, know that there are many talented individuals and firms out there who are reasonably priced because there’s so much competition.

Remember that your website and social network content serve as your 24/7 salespeople. Make sure they’re well-dressed and armed with the most current information.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Puppy Ad Make You Mad? Be Careful With Your Brand

January 29, 2015

A small business can look bigger and more successful if the branding is done right. Or it can look really foolish.

GoDaddy learned a valuable lesson this week. Two, actually. One was about what happens when all of those individual voices on social media get mad about something. The second? How one bad decision can tarnish your brand – at least temporarily.

Here’s an example of the branding that GoDaddy would like to be associated with (though the company’s name still conjures up ads featuring scantily-clad women):

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Long story short: Go Daddy produced an ad that was to be aired on Super Bowl Sunday. The company released it early on the internet. It was about a couple who rejoiced when their lost pup returned home. Not because they loved the little guy, but because they ran a puppy mill called Gabby’s Goldens, and they knew the pooch would probably bring in several hundreds of dollars.

So as least for now, here is the face – the brand image – for GoDaddy (how many people even knew that they were in the web hosting business?):

Todd Martin 012915 image 2Animal rescue groups and animals lovers were outraged, and took to social media. An online petition garnered countless signatures, and phone numbers for management at GoDaddy were passed around. The company wisely announced that it would not air the ad.

Your business may not have the name recognition that GoDaddy has built up over the years, but your brand matters. Have you given much thought to it? Having matching logos and photos on all of your online social sites is a good start, but did you put a lot of thought into those images before you posted them?

If you’re in the process of creating a brand, or you think yours needs an overhaul, keep these issues in mind:

  1. What will your brand represent? Will the focus be on you personally, or your company? A product or service? A problem or solution? Is there a geographical or industry element that you need to incorporate?
  2. What sets you apart? This is a critical issue that I hope you’ve wrestled with before. If not, immerse yourself in your mission statement, your goals and objectives, and every piece of paper that your prospects and customers will see or have seen – product brochures, fact sheets, ads, business cards and stationery, etc. Are they consistent?
  3. What will your images and other graphics, your choice of fonts and color, your photos, etc. say to people? Will they instantly associate you with something they want or need? They may not want or need it, but did they catch your drift? This is why steps 1 and 2 should be taken very seriously. Make sure you know what you’re trying to say, and that the brand matches it. It may seem like an impossible task, but in this short attention-span world, you have only seconds to make an impression.

They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity. And maybe GoDaddy even got some positive brand name recognition from the ill-conceived ad. I hope not, and I didn’t see any anecdotal evidence of that, but I have heard from GoDaddy customers who will now take their business elsewhere. Don’t let it happen to you.

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