Cannonsville Reservoir copyWhen your job is to ensure that one of the worlds most prominent cities has a steady supply of potable water, it’s a given that your in a position of high stakes. They are only raised higher when the responsibility of ensuring that hundreds of thousands of people go along with your plan voluntarily is thrust upon your shoulders.

That is exactly what the Watershed Agricultural Council of the New York City Watershed Region does on a daily basis.

“Basically, we work with local landowners to help them make good decisions on their property that helps ensure that we keep the drinking water supply for New York City clean,” said Heather Hilson, forestry program outreach specialist for the council. “When I say landowners, we’re mostly talking about farmers, forest landowners and professional foresters and loggers.”

The New York City Watershed has 19 reservoirs and three lakes that hold up to 580 billion gallons of water. About 1.1 billion gallons of that water gets used daily by up to 9 million people. Keeping that water clean and drinkable is the largest achievement the organization has obtained so far, , according to Hilson.

“The biggest achievement is that we are a big part of the equation that has kept New York City Water from being filtered,” she said. “Most places now have to have big filtration plants and if we did that it would cost trillions of dollars.

“It’s having voluntary programs like ours that allows us to keep prices cheap,” she continued.

These voluntary programs had to be promoted online so that people knew that they existed before they had any chance of success. It was in the search to find the right team to spearhead their digital efforts that CNP Integrations first came to the attention of the Watershed Council.

The whole process started because the Watershed Council would pay for planner to map out forestry plans for various property owners before and yet found Heather Hilsonthis to be ineffective in their mission of maintaining a healthy environment and water system. They turned to the web for an alternative strategy.

“We had a forest management planning program where we paid professional foresters to write a plan for landowners on property,” said Hilson. “Through a bunch of research we found out these forest management plans we spent $1 million on don’t work.”

As a result of a shift in their strategic thinking, when they put out requests for bids on the website project, CNP was one of the applicants.

“Usually we go with the cheapest but if we have reasons to go with another bid, we will,” said Hilson. “I talked to Chris and I got a sense that he was much more knowledgable and did his research.

“Some people just submitted without doing research,” she continued. “But he was comfortable with it.”

The project allowed the Council to do away with their forestry planning program that was in reality not doing much for the landowners within their jurisdiction.

“Their main recommendations involved people planning to cut down trees for timber and people did not really want to do that,” she said. “This alternative was the cheaper option and through the website people were able to find alternative ways to manage their land and keep our water resources clean.”

Over the course of their two years of partnership with CNP Integrations, continuous consultations and maintenance on their web page has perpetuated a productive relationship.

“We really hope to continue our relationship with CNP,” said Hilson. “We’re not going anywhere and we hope they’re not going anywhere either.”

Fletch Airplane Mechanic JPGDo you ever use Jargon in your marketing or sales presentations?

Most people do.

I have always preached that you should avoid it whenever possible. I have changed my tune on it a little bit. I think there are times that it is not only good but catastrophic not to.

Let’s start with what is jargon?

Wikipedia says that “Jargon is a type of language that is used in a particular context and may not be well understood outside of it.” which means that a small group of people recognizes it.

An example of this may be technical speak. If you are a computer programmer, you may talk about CSS. It could also be slang, like someone said “Hashtag.” Both examples use language that is only understood in a limited context. What is important to understand is the speaker and the intended audience. Sometimes jargon is necessary to prove you are reputable, or “in the know”. It can show that you understand the topic well enough to know the “lingo”. It proves legitimacy; that you are an insider.

The medical and tech worlds are like this. If you are talking about a Nurse Practitioner, they are an NP. If you are explaining computer storage, it is in “Gigs” which is a slang jargon.

If I had a conversation with my mother about the NP in my clinic that just bought a new computer with 500 Gigs, she would have no idea what I was talking about. But if I was a pharmaceutical salesperson and walked into a clinic and asked for the “Nurse Practitioner or Medical Provider” on duty, I could be looked at as an outsider.  

I used to work with a guy who was a bit of an office bully. He would consistently use jargon terms like CPC, CPM, and PPC (we worked in advertising at the time) especially with new employees in the industry. I think that it gave him a bit of an ego boost to know things that the kids may not have known. That is not an effective way of using jargon.

So where and when is jargon an issue? In short, anytime you use language to communicate to your audience. It could be in your “elevator pitch” (Jargon in itself!), where you talk about what you do, and how it would benefit the customer. It could be in your marketing collateral, or on your website; it could be in the everyday language that you use when you are speaking live to a customer.  As a sales trainer, I always used to say that you should stay away from jargon when talking to a prospect. Think of it as Jargon Rule 1.1. Jaron Rule 1.2 is to use it but explain it. Let’s call Jargon 1.0 the version where it is used liberally.

Here is an example I use in training classes. I used to work in a ski shop in college. When people came to buy skis, one of the questions I used to get asked was “What’s the difference between this ski and that ski” and I would invariably talk about the construction of the ski.

Jargon Rule 1.0 version:
This ski has a channeled wood core, with a titanium dampening layer. It has a deep sidecut, with a moderate flex in the tip and tail, but stiff though the waist.

Jargon 1.1 version:
Based on how you told me you ski, this one would perform better for you. It will be durable, lighter in weight, and turn quickly. On those long flats, it will feel smooth.

Jargon 1.2 version:
It has a channeled wood core. A wood core is more durable than a foam core, which is what that other one is. Think of a piece of wood vs. a Styrofoam cooler, but wood is heavier. What this manufacturer does, is they cut channels into it that takes some of the weight away but still keeps a degree of strength and durability. They also install a strip of titanium metal along the top, and it helps to minimize vibration at high speeds. Have you ever been on a flat section going along as fast as you can, and you can feel the ski chatter? Well, the titanium helps to reduce that. It also is flexible at the top and bottom because when you turn, you want to lean into it, and the ski will bend, or flex, into the snow. A flexible top and bottom, we call them the tip and tail, will allow it to start the turn more easily.

Each of these versions would be appropriate based on the audience. If I used Jargon 1.0 with my mother, it would fail miserably. If I used it with a ski aficionado that hadn’t seen a new model and wanted to know what the difference was, that would be perfect. It would lend credibility to that person that I knew what I was talking about. If I used Jargon 1.1 or 1.2 with the ski aficionado, she might think that I’m a new guy who just learned it, or I may be prejudiced and think that she doesn’t know her stuff. She could see it as an insult.

The biggest thing here is to know your audience. If this were media (print, audio, video), you would want to make sure you were addressing your buyer personae directly.

Another common use is in overused platitudes. This is one of the worst uses of jargon you can use! Think of words that mean NOTHING. We are a “One Stop Shop”. Our company is a “Full Service” or “Comprehensive” or “Passionate about our customers” or my favorite “Best Quality”.


Seriously?


If you thought that your business did not care about its customers, had poor quality, or did very little, would you still work there?

For your own good, do this exercise. Pull up your marketing collateral, website, brochures, ads, fliers, anything that faces a customer. Then pull the corresponding material from your competitors. Take turns reading them aloud to your teammates without saying the name of the company or geographical region that may be mentioned.

See if you can tell the difference. If not, you need to cut all that out and re-write it.

apothecary 730292 1920SEO has been around for a long time. Pretty much since the beginning of "Search". I see a lot of people selling SEO services, and while your site may need to be "Optimized" don't think it ends there.

Here is the thing about SEO, if you are doing all the things that will prove to Google that you are the best choice for the query, then you will show up at the top of the search. If you aren't, then you won't. There is no magic pill, there is no fast lane, and no hacks, tips, or tricks that will make your site rank high (for very long) if you don't put in the work.

When you look for help or advice from your good friend Google, they DO want to do the right thing! Their goal is to provide you with the perfect answer or link to what you are searching for. I believe that if they could make the product so perfect, they would deliver just one listing. It's almost like they want the product to end up being their "I'm Feeling Lucky" button. But I digress.

Google released a copy of their Search Quality Rater's Guidelines late in 2015.  It's a 160-page document that gets very specific about what they look for in a web page. One of the things they talk about it Expertise / Authoritativeness / Trustworthiness or what they call E-A-T. It represents what they feel is the value of your website.

Google thinks that your site is a person in an interview. Think about it, if you were looking to hire someone you would want to know if they are and expert, if they have authority, and whether you trust them or not. You can optimize a person into a nice suit, but if during the interview they come across as inexperienced, or untrustworthy, you are NOT going to hire them. Google looks at a search like an open job posting and asks "Is this the right candidate for the job"?

What can you do then to E-A-T better?

First, you need to make your website work. A website these days is no longer just an electronic brochure for your business. It needs to be an engine that is continually whirring and doing something. It will stop running if you do not fuel it. Content is one of the biggest fuel sources out there. As for what that content is, it is up to the nature of your site. If you are a musician, you probably want audio or video files. But if you are an author, maybe it is the written word. (The best would be BOTH!)

Here are some examples of things that you should consider as fuel for your site:

* Blog Posts
* Slide Presentations
* Comments from visitors
* Reviews
* Video Files
* Audio Files
* Testimonials from Customers

Again, like fuel, this content is something that people will want to consume. Because of that, it has to be useful. If it's not useful, it won't fuel the engine.

Once you begin to create this content, that is where your ongoing SEO takes over. Each piece of content should be "Optimized". This is an incrementally minimal process that you can do at the time of that content creation process. Things like:

* Using appropriate keywords in context in the piece that you create
* Making the title of the post or video eye catching
* Making sure images have alt text that applies to the keywords you are trying to rank for

Last but not least, make it SHARABLE! If it is not easily shared, it won't be shared. Simple as that. Keep in mind, even if you are not a big social media person, if it is not something that is worth sharing, it won't help.

Marketing Writing ToolsIf you are like most businesses, you are using your website for "Marketing". I use "Air Quotes" to highlight that SO MANY companies have a website that is just an online brochure. It does not say anything more than the materials that they hand out at trade shows or the chamber of commerce luncheons.

While this is better than not having a website (usually) it does not help grow the business as well as it could. I'm not going to beat a dead horse about that right now, though. I'm going to talk about a few tools that you should be using if you have already adopted this practice.

One of the biggest tools for online marketing these days is Content. Content can come in many varieties. It can be a blog post, a social media post, a video, a Powerpoint presentation, a podcast, and there are a lot more. One of my FAVORITE tools for all of this is Grammarly.

According to their website, www.grammarly.com it is "The World's Most Accurate Online Grammar Checker". Grammar is incredibly important if you are doing any writing at all. It will make you clearer, and it will eliminate the Freshman English Teacher in all of us from judging you. Have you ever gone to a website, or read an email, or a flier and seen a typo? What did you think at the time? You most likely discounted their opinion in your mind.

Grammarly has a free version that works great. It has a plugin that allows it to work in Chrome or Windows. The premium version has a few more features that are cool if you are planning on doing a lot of writing. Things like plagiarism checker and vocabulary enhancement. For example, in this post, it told me not to use the word "Business" in back-to-back sentences. It also told me to correct my split infinitive. One of the things I love about the plagiarism checker is that it shows you sentences that are unoriginal. While I did not plagiarize the first six words of this post intentionally, they are unoriginal. So it alerts me to trite phrases that I may want to re-write.

One of my other favorite writing apps is Hemingway Editor. I am a huge Ernest Hemingway fan, so they had me when they named it. But it "helps you write with power and clarity by highlighting adverbs, passive voice, and dull, complicated words." according to their website www.hemingwayapp.com . It's $9.99 one time to purchase, so it's very affordable.

I don't often write in it directly. I've tried, and there are a few bugs in it that keep the text as a ghost image sometimes. I usually write in Grammarly, then copy and paste into Hemingway to help me simplify my language. It also will tell you the grade level you are writing at.

Those two tools will help you write well, but what are you going to write about? I like to use Google Adwords Keyword Planner (Free!) to do some keyword research to see what people are searching for. Naturally, you want to make sure it's something you know well enough. (I'm not going to get into anything on Dark Matter Research anytime soon.) This way when you write something, you know that there are people out there searching for it.

Last but not least is Feedly. I use this news aggregator to watch all the news feeds, blogs, youtube channels, etc. that I find informative and helpful. I like the simplicity of it, and how clean it is visually. You could use many other similar tools, but this is the one I prefer. www.feedly.com They have a free and a premium product. The free one is fine for most people.

Now, go out and make something with these tools!