Nozkidz: Online and Offline Promotion for a Real World Business

Well, the last few days have been pretty busy as we’ve been pursuing both online and offline audiences for our school. So we’ve now managed to establish a fully bilingual website, with our own Blog in English. Offline, we’ve been promoting our classes with Teaching Demos, Activities, Flyers, and meet’n’greet style promos. It’s all been hard work, but we’re beginning to see limited success in a number of areas:

First, it takes consistency, timing and perseverance to get the promotions done. And just occasionally, a little flexibility. With the development of our online marketing effort, as I hinted, we’ve completed the initial stages of promoting the school site in English (with our english theme/blog), EzineArticles, Squidoo Page, WordPress, and Blogger accounts. While none of the resources is particularly developed or popular, the combined effect has been to boost traffic to the English half of our website.

Online: Honeypots and Keywords

For the Chinese half, we’ve focused more on developing the keywords, putting up basic content. Many of the avenues open to US/European blogs such as EzineArticles are not just available in the local Traditional Chinese market in Taiwan. So we’re looking at developing more micro-sites to act as honeypots for traffic and boost our SERPS. Given language difficulties, this is not currently being pursued in any intensive way. Keyword search, however, has provided some interesting news, and the results of choosing specific keywords a few months ago is beginning to bear fruit.

We initially did a simple evaluation of our site courtesy of the Google Keywords Tool available in the AdWords accounts, looked at the statistics for the past six months, and created our initial selection of keywords. This proved somewhat haphazard at first, as the terms we chose weren’t the most focused. After doing some refining, we focused on about twelve terms. We’re not ranking for many of the terms in Google properly yet. But I was sad about that, until I remembered in Taiwan, Google is very much an also-ran. So I decided to check out the Yahoo! rankings, and their results were astonishing. Of our initial ten terms, only three ranked in Yahoo and one in Google. But when I started searching the other keywords, I was astonished to find a total of 13 keywords in which pages from our site ranked in the top 30 results. And many were on the first page for the results in Yahoo! General indications are though that many of these key terms don’t have high search volume, but at the moment, this is only the second iteration of keywords.

It’s difficult to see the individual effect of additional successful keywords but in general terms traffic is now approaching an all-time high. We are pursuing additional options in the English side of the site, as well as the Chinese… but it takes a considerable amount of time.

Offline: Flyers and Promotions

Running a promotional campaign has pushed my designing skills to the limit as well as other aspects. We decided to go for color flyers, instead of the usual black & white, which came out very nicely. In addition, we made extra specific flyers and color attachments to suppplement. Many of the leaflets were handed out to existing students and parents, while we ended up pushing flyers through mailboxes twice in the last week. In total, we’ve had over 2000 flyers printed and delivered in the past seven days.

My colleague is always skeptical about such things, but in handling offline promotion, I really think it’s important to get in people’s faces so that you get a chance to build up name recognition. Though our community is smallish, it’s a fairly big city and things are always changing. Familiarity takes a lot of time to build up on the streets so we’re going to be printing a lot more and expanding our leaflet campaigns to reach the major residential communities in our area.

Since we’re a real world business, it’s important to pursue a dual strategy of promotion. Local search traffic just isn’t significant enough to rely on 100%, but having a website means we are open 24/7 for information and communication. It’s a healthy symbiosis.

Tags: business, affiliate, marketing

In business: If you talk the talk, you better walk the walk, too!

Many years ago, I worked in a school in Taipei. It was very much a wonderful learning experience because I saw all the mistakes that our school’s owners made over the years. I still remember most of my students fondly, and just occasionally I will run into one or two of them on the street. But one of the biggest mistakes we made, and it was years later that I realized it as such, was our motto. We enjoyed our work, we liked the students, and we thought we were good, so we stupidly created the motto: “The best of the best”.

Best of the Worst: Best of the Words

Unfortunately, the motto was quite hollow. It was supposed to invigorate us and inspire our students, but it didn’t ring true in our hearts. Our flyers were printed on green A4 paper, and distributed community wide.What they really shouted was how pathetic we were. And our school was. Small classrooms, poor resources, lack of leadership, … to name but a few. When I realized the enormity of our mistake, I was determined not to repeat it. Why?

What was wrong?

If you really are the best, everyone knows it. There’s no need to tell it. It’s in plain sight. And if you’re not the best, it’s a lie. And again, everyone and their dog can see it. It’s that simple. It was the case with us. We were obviously not in the first category at all. So clients were left to draw only the latter conclusion. We really set ourselves up to fail by creating such high expectations. How could we really succeed?

Choose something tangible

We have been building our marketing campaign for our own business for some three years. But one of the decisions I made at the outset was to avoid making unverifiable claims. Instead, we would tell people exactly what we did, and leave it up to them to decide if we were good or not. Now our motto is exactly what we do: “Teach our students to use English and make it a part of their lives.”- It reads better in Chinese!

And that’s exactly what we do: students are greeted in English, classroom activities take place in English, even break-time activities require some English. We do use Chinese at times to make students feel comfortable in stressful situations, but for the most part, we encourage students to use English as much as they can.

Say it loud, say it clear!

It doesn’t have to be a complex message, it doesn’t have to use superlatives. But any motto or slogan you choose for your products should at least encapsulate the benefits of your product in ways that are tangible and identifiable. Make sure your performance matches your claims and be prepared to verify the claims. Parents hear our students using English when they arrive or leave, they call up and use English, too, when they have problems with homework. Classroom work is verified with all skills quizzes. And yet, sometimes we still fail to get our message across!

It ain’t lip-service

Many companies promise great service, but when you call up to find out about the ‘great’ service, you find out the truth. I recently was asked to telephone a local hospital in Taiwan that claimed it had an English answering service. Although it was just a survey, I was horrified to find out that if I had been depending on this service as a tourist, I might have ended up dead! I called the hospital’s ‘English’ hot line, was transferred in a bilingual telephone message to a center that picked up the phone for an answering machine! An English hotline had a Chinese answering machine! Wow!

Manage Expectations: Be realistic!

By managing expectations, the hospital could have avoided the complications, negative reports, and immense loss of face this caused some official when it went in the report that the hospital failed the assessment. By simply saying the line was only staffed from 10-4pm each day, the hospital would have got a lot of kudos for providing a needed service.

Unfortunately, the mistake this hospital made is one that many international companies make, too.

When you’re a service oriented company, it’s vital that service is as good as you can make it. In other words, you have to walk the walk if you talk the talk.

What’s your experience marketing your business or selling products or even dealing with ‘big’ companies and their promises? How does it fit in with what I’m saying here?

Calling All Taiwan Bloggers

I’ve decided to see if I can’t get a small group of bloggers together initially in Taipei one Saturday afternoon to discuss blogging and make some connections…

I’m planning to make this a regular thing with a chance to socialise, present topics and discuss issues related to blogging (it’s going to be relaxed and informative, I hope!) such as writing, blogging, software, hardware, marketing, photography, business side of things, techniques, tips, social chinwag, etc…

I’m looking at the Saturday 29th in the afternoon… Anyone interested? If so, please add your name to this thread or contact me. I’ll gladly create a mailing list, and set up a presentation or two (anyone interested in talking about their blog?)… I don’t have a venue yet (and that depends on how many are interested…)

So let’s see … Sign Up on this form! Once there are enough replies, I’ll create a formal notice using MeetUp. But I’d rather start small … (I’m not wildly ambitious, really)! :whistle: