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Apple product launches have become the stuff of legend.

The iPad sold 300,000+ WiFi-only units on launch day. Within three days, the iPhone 4 sold 1.7 million units. The iPhone 3G sold over a million units on its launch weekend.

Clearly, Steve Jobs knows how to launch a product for maximum sales. You might even wonder if you can capture a bit of his magic to kickstart your own promotions.

And I believe you can. While Apple’s reputation and sometimes-rabid fanbase obviously plays a large part in the success of their launches, there are also a number of strategies virtually any company can employ to make their own product launch a huge success:

1. Put the Focus on the People, Not the Product

Rarely do you hear Steve Jobs talking about the various features of Apple products. Standing on stage, he doesn’t push the speed of the iPhone’s processor or the screen resolution, for example. He knows most people don’t care, and the ones who do can easily find that information on Apple’s website or product literature.

Instead, he goes out of his way to emphasize how the product affects you. He talks about how annoying it is to carry both a phone and an MP3 player and how, with an iPhone, you’re condensing them down to one easy-to-carry device. It’s about simplicity, productivity, style — all things he knows people are interested in.

And it takes discipline. When you launch a product, everyone in your company is probably excited by the technical specs, and all of the different ways your product pushes the envelope, and it’s easy to assume your customer feels the same way. But they don’t. They care about their problems and how your product is going to fit into their life

So, that’s how you have to frame your marketing. Don’t just talk about what your product does or why it’s superior; show them a compelling picture of how it’s going to make their life better. That’s what gets people excited.

2. Get Opinion Leaders On-Board Early

Apple has a knack for getting bloggers and other thought leaders on board before their product launches. What really sets them apart, though, is they get everyone talking months before the product launches, usually before there’s even a demo for anyone to see. No one is talking about what the product does; they’re talking about what it mightdo.

Obviously, their history helps. Journalists and bloggers know that Apple has a history of releasing innovative and useful products, and they bet on the fact that subsequent product releases will be just as innovative and useful.

But it’s a strategy anyone can use, even if you don’t have a history like Apple. No, you might not have the New York Times and CNN arguing about what your upcoming product is going to do, but you can start working with the media in advance of your product launch. Even if it doesn’t get you much coverage, it’ll give you something to build on. The media will know who you are, so come launch day, at least you’re not starting cold.

And that can make getting press a lot easier.

3. Be Revolutionary

When Steve Jobs takes the stage, the whole world watches. It’s not just because Apple is a huge company. It’s not just because there are billions of dollars on the line. It’s not just because Steve is a great speaker.

It’s because they know Apple isn’t afraid to change the world. Their products aren’t incremental advances; they are revolutions. They change the way we think about the entire product category, and whole industries have to shift just to keep up. And people talk about it, not just because Apple decided to stage an event, but because it’s realnews.

Can you do the same thing?

I think so. Maybe your company doesn’t have quite the reach Apple does, but every company, no matter how small, has the opportunity to revolutionize their business. Do something none of your competitors have ever done before, take a position that’s bold and imaginative, paint a picture of the future that your customers want to live in, and then put your whole company into motion creating that vision.

It’ll inspire people. Right or wrong, the world loves visionary companies with the courage to lead. Instead of fighting to get people to talk about you, they’ll be chasing you to find out what’s going to happen next.

4. Turn Your Product Launch into an Event

When Apple launches a new product, you don’t see some PR lackey trundling out onto the stage to read a press release. They stage an entire event around it, going so far as to even close their online store, so that everyone knows something important is happening and they need to pay attention.

And who do you have at center stage? None other than the CEO of the company, Steve Jobs. He isn’t so much a speaker as a showman, spending days or even weeks leading up to the launch planning his every word and gesture so that it leaves the audience spellbound.

And it works, not just for Steve, but for everyone. If you have the budget for it, throw a big press event for your product announcements. If not, at least have some kind of online event. If you make a big deal about your product launch, both your potential customers and the media are likely to take it more seriously, and it’ll be reflected in your product sales.

5. Take Pre-Orders

This is probably one of the most overlooked launch strategies out there.

Every company that’s been around for a while has a set of customers who will buy anything they release. As soon as you announce the product, they’ll be lining up in droves, eager to get their hands on the first units to be released.

So why not let them?

Apple almost always offers pre-ordering of their new products, and because of that, it’s not uncommon for them to sell hundreds of thousands of units within a week or two of launch. Pre-orders generally aren’t counted until the product actually ships, meaning the orders that came in over a period of weeks all get counted on launch day.

Of course, it’s not always possible. You can’t offer pre-orders until you know what your final pricing will be, for example. But you can still harness the enthusiasm. Until you know your pricing, make sure you at least have a way for prospective buyers to sign up for updates. Then make sure those updates offer a link to pre-order as soon as it’s possible.

6. Release a Product Your Customers Will Want to Show off

Apple knows their image is vital to their success.

That’s one of the biggest reasons they place such a high value on form. People know and expect that Apple products will be aesthetically pleasing. If Apple suddenly stopped launching beautiful products, they would almost certainly see a huge drop in market share.

Don’t underestimate the importance of your product’s appearance. If it’s ugly, your customers won’t want to share it with their friends and colleagues, hiding it away regardless of how useful it is. At the same time, a professional design makes people want to talk about it, and online or offline, it can have a big impact on your product sales.

7. Draw out the Suspense for As Long As You Can

While Apple always makes a big deal about announcing new products, prior to those actual announcements their product lines are shrouded in secrecy. And Apple will do almost anything to protect that secrecy.

Look at what happened when a late prototype model of the iPhone 4 was found by some bloggers. First, Apple denied they had any knowledge of the product, and then when details were made public, they pursued legal action against the bloggers who wrote about it, setting an example to deter future leaks about other products.

To make use of this strategy in your own company, take your hottest product and deliberately release very, very few details about it. The mystery will drive your customer base into a frenzy.

When the iPad was getting ready to launch, the rumor mill was filled with speculation about Apple’s new tablet, but no one really knew anything about it. People went so far as to create realistic 3D mockups of it, hoping to get more readers for their websites and blogs. By the time it actually launched, its reputation had grown to mythic proportions.

The Bottom Line: Plan Your Product Launch

The point of this article isn’t to imply that you have to have as big of a launch as Apple, or transform yourself into as big of a showman as Steve Jobs. No matter how tempting it is, being a copycat is never a sound marketing strategy.

The point is that you need to think through your product launches. Deliberately plan what information you’re going to release and when, who you want talking about you, and how you can turn your product launch into something worth talking about.

That’s what Apple does. No, you may not have whole departments of marketers and PR aficionados strategizing it for you, but you can plan a launch that will impress people, even if the only person working on it is you.

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SEO experts have burst onto the SME marketing stage recently with success stories, buzz words and technical know-how to impress and confuse even the sharpest business owner. With SEO experts ruthlessly focused on getting that top Google slot, it’s understandable that business owners get caught up in the hype, invest thousands in SEO strategies and then are disappointed with their bottom line results. This is because often those with the SEO know-how, unlike business owners, don’t understand the art of creating and closing a sale, they just know how to get your potential customers in the online door. The following tips will ensure that your SEO investment ends up in sales success for your business.

There are four key synergies that your SEO strategy must have with your overall sales strategy and web presence. Getting the right keywords optimized, having a user friendly site, a clear and valuable offer of your service prominently displayed and running targeted email marketing strategies will ensure that the SEO art of lead generation builds the optimum launch pad for the harder gig, ecommerce.

SEO Tip 1: Get the Right Keywords Optimized

Keywords are how the customers that are already looking for your service/products find you. If you have the wrong SEO keywords optimized you will get the wrong people (not customers!) to your site. Don’t fall into the trap of believing a less relevant keyword with higher Google traffic means greater exposure, if they’re not after your product/services they won’t turn into customers, and therefore your investment in optimizing for those keywords is wasted. Rather you need to identify and invest in the right keywords for your products and services.

SEO Tip 2: Have Well Designed User Friendly Website

Once your highly ranked website is clicked on, you need your new customers to land on a webpage that is easy to understand, quickly educates them about your product/services and then effortlessly guides them towards point of sale. Consider what your customers need to know about your company before they would buy from you – is it a description of your product/service, a clear statement of your unique selling point, customer testimonials or industry reviews? It’s probably a range of all of these, but one fact web designers and SEO experts often miss is the understanding a business owner has of their own sales process. Is the next step of the sale to contact your office for a meeting or more information? Then make sure you have an obvious link to contact us in your perpetual navigation. You need to have well designed website that replicates the in person sales process but offers more information along the way.

SEO Tip 3: Place a Great Offer that is easy to find

You know why your product/service is the best, but for effective SEO and ecommerce, you need to make sure that your website visitors understand this fast, before they click off to a competitors page. Promoting your killer offer is different from informing your customers about your product. Effective SEO and a well designed website will situate this information in a compelling but not confusing way.

Very successful websites have their great offer prominently displayed and use the “find out more” hyperlink or button, for a full product/service outline. Your offer needs to be on your home page or a bright banner or button that commands attention. The offer is the “sale sign” that convinces your customers to buy. SEO that turns into sales always leads the customer to your offer quickly.

SEO Tip 4: SEO plus Email Marketing Strategies Equals More Sales

An effective way to ensure you’re constantly staying ahead of your competition is to keep your customers coming back to your site. Not only does staying in regular contact with your customers build trust and your relationship with them, it also strengthens your SEO efforts leading to more sales. This could be through a regularly updated and topical blog (also an ideal place for adding more of your keywords to your site), through sales, a newsletter, free white papers and resources or competitions. Email marketing campaigns are also a great way for customers to easily promote you to their friends; you’re only a “forward email” click away from a new customer!

So if you want to invest in the best possible SEO strategy for your business, make sure you don’t take your business understanding out of the equation. By targeting the right customers through optimizing for the right key words, welcoming those customers by having a well designed site, closing those sales with an outstanding offer in an obvious place and boosting your SEO success with email marketing strategies, your SEO efforts in lead generation will translate into sales effortlessly.

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Pixels, white space, focal points and sans-serif. Designers have their own language, and it’s baffling if you’re not used to it.

It’s almost like we have a “secret code,” and we reserve our best work for the clients who know it. When you speak with us, you might feel like you need a translator to communicate what you want and get marketing materials that stand out.

But the good news is it’s simpler than it sounds.

In the end, you don’t need to know the difference between points and pixels to get the best work from your designer. You just need to know a few secret code phrases to help you describe what you want and avoid the red flags that set graphic designers on edge.

Code Phrases to Avoid:

Say the phrases below at your peril.

When we hear these come out of your mouth, we immediately start either formulating how we can say “no” to working with you, or calculating how much more we should charge for the project so that we can cover the additional time it will take to deal with you.

1. “I’ll know it when I see it.” When you say this, we have visions of parading design after design by you as you sit passively and observe. Design is a two-way process. Your participation and guidance are key to coming up with a final product that meets your needs.

2.”Here, I made a layout for you.” On the other hand, we don’t want you to do our work for us. Tell us about your conversion goals and the market you want to reach, let us know if there is a certain mood you want to create or an image you want to convey, and then step back so we can do what we do best: solve communication problems visually. When you try to do our work for us, you limit our ability to deliver the best solution.

3. “I had a huge falling out with my last designer.” This one puts us on edge. We wonder why? Was it them, or was it you? Were you impossible to work with? Did you not pay your bills?

4. “I don’t have much to spend now, but there’s more work coming.” Whenever you don’t have money set aside for design, it’s like telling a designer that you don’t value good design or well-planned marketing, and you won’t appreciate the impact it will have on sales. It’s a red flag that you’ll be hard to deal with, won’t pay invoices on time, and might even be out of business within a few months or years — none of which are qualities top designers are looking for.

5. “How much does <hideously complicated project> cost?” Designers sometimes have standard prices for projects that have a tight description and don’t vary much. These could include website headers, HTML emails of a particular length, and even logos. But for any project that’s complex, such as a free report, corporate website, or product packaging, we need to gather information before we can give you a price. Experienced business people know this, so asking for a “ballpark figure” before giving details just makes you look like a beginner.

6. “I want to show this to my <spouse/friend/child>.” There is nothing wrong with asking for feedback, but this one still makes designers nervous, and here’s why: none of these people are inside your business. If you want to talk with a marketing director or your business partner, that’s fine, because they probably understand your business and marketing goals, but when you go outside of your company for feedback, what it really tells us is that you can’t make a decision on your own.

Code Phrases to Use:

The phrases below are music to our ears. Clients who understand the value a designer brings to the table and know the importance of well-planned marketing say things like this:

7. “What do you recommend we do?” The simplest way to get inspired work out of anyone is to make it clear that you value their opinion. Graphic designers are no exception. Instead of starting a project with your deliverables set in stone, give us a chance to think about it and make recommendations. Sure, it might take an extra day or two, but you’ll often be amazed at the ideas top designers give you. It can be the difference between a mediocre marketing campaign and one that makes you millions.

8. “How much time do you need?” This question tells us you know good work takes time, especially for new clients. First projects always take the longest because we are inventing the “look” of your company from scratch. It takes a lot of thought, back-and-forth, and revisions, all of which take time. But if you’re willing to be patient, it’s worth it.

9. “What’s the best way to communicate?” Some graphic designers are impossible to reach by phone, while others prefer it. Some are happy to talk with you at 10 PM, while others can’t. Before you start your project, it’s important to know how your graphic designer prefers to communicate, and then do your best to accommodate it. You’ll have less mixups, more fun, and a designer who loves working with you — all of which lead to higher-quality work.

10. “Here’s the information you need. Here’s the target market. Here’s how we’ll approve your proposals. Go to work!” The ultimate designers’ fantasy: a client who has all of their text and photos organized; who knows their target market and overall goal for the piece; who has a clear approval process in place; and who is willing to give us the time and authority to do our work. If you learn nothing else from this article, learn these phrases, because they cover everything we want to hear.

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Contrary to popular belief, video didn’t kill the radio star, YouTube didn’t knock off TV and Twitter didn’t shut down blogging. However, in each case the steady advance of new technology definitely forced the incumbents to evolve. One can argue, for example, that some of the more established blogs on the web benefited greatly from building content strategies that engender massive link sharing on Twitter. Much the same, TV ad creative has changed to facilitate additional exposure on YouTube.

Enter e-mail marketing, which, to some degree, has been beaten down by regulation, and has taken a backseat to social networking. Nielsen revealed last week that e-mail’s share of time declined 28%, putting it in third place, while social networking, the leader, climbed 43%.

Despite these attention currents, however, the reality is that e-mail is stronger than ever. According to an eConsultancy study of 1,400 U.S. consumers, 42% said they prefer to receive ads for sales and specials via e-mail compared to just 3% who said the same for social-networking sites and 1% who preferred Twitter.

Savvy marketers are beginning to see that if they leverage all of their channels effectively, they can increase their overall ROI and, in the process, establish a deeper bond with customers and influencers.

They will have help.

Quietly and steadily, email marketing is evolving and turning more social, thanks to a blitz of homegrown innovations, acquisitions and start-ups that are reinventing the platform. Many companies are building end-to-end “social CRM” tools that will help marketers manage their relationships by mashing up existing customer touch points and social-networking sites.

Here’s a look at some of the companies in the space:

  • Constant Contact, an e-mail-marketing vendor, in May acquired Nutshellmail, a handy tool that helps individuals and businesses manage their entire social-networking presence via e-mail. Nutshellmail offers a suite of plug-ins, including one that makes it easy for businesses on Facebook to add an e-mail newsletter. Constant Contact is planning to build this into an entire end-to-end offering for small -and medium-size businesses.
  • Rapportive, which provides contextually relevant information to Gmail and Google Apps users about their contacts and the companies they work for, last week generated a fair amount of buzz for raising a seed round that included high-profile investors such as Paul Bucheit, Gmail’s architect and now a key member of the Facebook team. Xobni, a similar technology that integrates with Blackberrys, Facebook, LinkedIn and more, raised $16 million earlier this year. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s new Outlook Connector brings a similar functionality right to millions of corporate desktops.
  • MailChimp, a popular e-mail-newsletter platform, is in the process of integrating Facebook “like” buttons to campaigns. This will provide marketers with detailed analytics that reveal how many and who clicks on “like” and whether they progressed down the funnel toward a sale, thereby increasing overall accountability.
  • Flowtown and Rapleaf, meanwhile, are taking the opposite approach by helping marketers understand the social connectivity and influence of existing members in their online databases. Flowtown has an e-mail-campaign-management system that integrates with many of the larger platforms, as well as an array of powerful insights tools.

As more marketers apply analytics across the entire marketing spectrum (online and offline) and tap into tools like the ones mentioned above, the mentality will change from reach to relationships. In the process, both e-mail and social-media marketing may gain, but what’s clear is that the two are increasingly made for each other.

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Consider this a start. You probably could add another 50 tips for marketers and PR professionals to consider by adding to the comments section, or blogging an additional list at your site. I know you’ve got some ideas that I’ve missed. Care to share?

  1. Add social bookmark links to your most important web pages and/or blog posts to improve sharing.
  2. Build blogs and teach conversational marketing and business relationship building techniques.
  3. For every video project purchased, ensure there’s an embeddable web version for improved sharing.
  4. Learn how tagging and other metadata improve your ability to search and measure the spread of information.
  5. Create informational podcasts about a product’s overall space, not just the product.
  6. Build community platforms around real communities of shared interest.
  7. Help companies participate in existing social networks, and build relationships on their turf.
  8. Check out Twitter as a way to show a company’s personality. (Don’t fabricate this).
  9. Couple your email newsletter content with additional website content on a blog for improved commenting.
  10. Build sentiment measurements, and listen to the larger web for how people are talking about your customer.
  11. Learn which bloggers might care about your customer. Learn how to measure their influence.
  12. Download the Social Media Press Release (pdf) and at least see what parts you want to take into your traditional press releases.
  13. Try out a short series of audio podcasts or video podcasts as content marketing and see how they draw.
  14. Build conversation maps for your customers using , Google Blogsearch, Summize, and FriendFeed.
  15. Experiment with Flickr and/or YouTube groups to build media for specific events. (Marvel Comics raised my impression of this with their Hulk statue Flickr group).
  16. Recommend that your staff start personal blogs on their personal interests, and learn first hand what it feels like, including managing comments, wanting promotion, etc.
  17. Map out an integrated project that incorporates a blog, use of commercial social networks, and a face-to-face event to build leads and drive awareness of a product.
  18. Start a community group on Facebook or Ning or MySpace or LinkedIn around the space where your customer does business. Example: what Jeremiah Owyang did for Hitachi Data Systems.
  19. Experiment with the value of live video like and Mogulus, or Qik on a cell phone.
  20. Attend a conference dealing with social media like New Media Expo, BlogWorld Expo, New Marketing Summit (disclosure: I run this one with CrossTech), and dozens and dozens more. (Email me for a calendar).
  21. Collect case studies of social media success. Tag them “socialmediacasestudy”
  22. Interview current social media practitioners. Look for bridges between your methods and theirs.
  23. Explore distribution. Can you reach more potential buyers/users/customers on social networks.
  24. Don’t forget early social sites like Yahoogroups and Craigslist. They still work remarkably well.
  25. Search for as much data as you can find in Twitter on your product, your competitors, your space.
  26. Practice delivering quality content on your blogs, such that customers feel educated / equipped / informed.
  27. Consider the value of hiring a community manager. Could this role improve customer service? Improve customer retention? Promote through word of mouth?
  28. Turn your blog into a mobile blog site with Mofuse. Free.
  29. Learn what other free tools might work for community building, like MyBlogLog.
  30. Ensure you offer the basics on your site, like an email alternative to an RSS subscription. In fact, the more ways you can spread and distribute your content, the better.
  31. Investigate whether your product sells better by recommendation versus education, and use either wikis and widgets to help recommend, or videos and podcasts for education.
  32. Make your first stop for understanding the technical quality of a website.
  33. Make your next stop for understanding a site’s traffic. Then, mash it against competitors’ sites.
  34. Learn how not to ask for 40 pieces of demographic data when giving something away for free. Instead, collect little bits over time. Gently.
  35. Remember that the people on social networks are all people, have likely been there a while, might know each other, and know that you’re new. Tread gently into new territories. Don’t NOT go. Just go gently.
  36. Help customers and prospects connect with you simply on your various networks. Consider a Lijit Wijit or other aggregator widget.
  37. Voting mechanisms like those used on show your customers you care about which information is useful to them.
  38. Track your inbound links and when they come from blogs, be sure to comment on a few posts and build a relationship with the blogger.
  39. Find a bunch of bloggers and podcasters whose work you admire, and ask them for opinions on your social media projects. See if you can give them a free sneak peek at something, or some other “you’re special” reward for their time and effort (if it’s material, ask them to disclose it).
  40. Learn all you can about how NOT to pitch bloggers. Excellent resource: Susan Getgood.
  41. Try out shooting video interviews and video press releases and other bits of video to build more personable relationships. Don’t throw out text, but try adding video.
  42. Explore several viewpoints about social media marketing.
  43. Women are adding lots of value to social media. Get to know the ones making a difference. (And check out BlogHer as an event to explore).
  44. Experiment with different lengths and forms of video. Is entertaining and funny but brief better than longer but more informative? Don’t stop with one attempt. And try more than one hosting platform to test out features.
  45. Work with practitioners and media makers to see how they can use their skills to solve your problems. Don’t be afraid to set up pilot programs, instead of diving in head first.
  46. People power social media. Learn to believe in the value of people. Sounds hippie, but it’s the key.
  47. Spread good ideas far. Reblog them. Bookmark them. Vote them up at social sites. Be a good citizen.
  48. Don’t be afraid to fail. Be ready to apologize. Admit when you’ve made a mistake.
  49. Re-examine who in the organization might benefit from your social media efforts. Help equip them to learn from your project.
  50. Use the same tools you’re trying out externally for internal uses, if that makes sense, and learn about how this technology empowers your business collaboration, too.