Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Management Lessons From Our Elementary School Days

Think back for a moment to your elementary school days. Chances are, some of your best memories revolve around celebrations. Whether celebrating a classmate's birthday, a favorite holiday, an accomplishment for the class, or even the 100th day of school, everyday celebrations are an essential part of many elementary school classrooms.

Why are these types of celebrations so popular?

For one thing, they offer everyone, including the teacher, a bit of a mental break from the daily grind. When people return from a break, they're ready to sit down and work some more. Without a break, it's easy to get burned out.

Secondly, they help to keep the atmosphere happy and joyful in the classroom. Everyone functions better when they work in a positive atmosphere.

And finally, they offer the teacher and classmates the chance to recognize the accomplishments of the group as a whole, as well as those of individual students. When students know their efforts are recognized, the motivation to continue to perform and earn more rewards is strengthened.

While most working adults are far removed from elementary school, that doesn't mean these basic lessons learned in childhood no longer apply.

What business leaders today can learn from their elementary school teachers

Elementary school teachers understand that the best way to keep people motivated is to celebrate their accomplishments. When you find ways to congratulate people or teams who meet particular goals at your organization, you'll also be encouraging them to continue to strive and accomplish more. Employees who feel as though their accomplishments and efforts are recognized are more likely to feel satisfaction at the workplace and trust that their efforts contribute to company success.

How businesses can create the environment on an adult scale

Working to keep the atmosphere light and pleasant can also contribute to a positive work environment. While most professional environments wouldn't be able function with parties every week, there are plenty of other ways to encourage a positive workplace. Cards, token gifts, bonuses, announcements of accomplishments at meetings, and similar strategies can all help employees feel appreciated. Even personal notes from management will let employees know their leaders notice the efforts of everyone below them. Save the parties for more memorable occasions, such as the holiday season.

Employees who feel appreciated have greater company loyalty. Loyal employees tend to be fantastic company evangelists, while also contributing to the stability of the company. The result is a stronger company that can move forward more effectively. Loyal employees tend to speak positively about the brand to their friends and family, as well as online. Creating a positive company environment will help to make the entire company a welcoming place for employees and customers.

When companies have specific goals in mind, it's tempting to just expect everyone to put their noses down and work. In reality, companies that work to create a rewarding atmosphere where employees feel happy and content are likely to accomplish greater things and have employees who feel more loyal and appreciated by management. How happy an employee feels can have an incredible impact on their productivity. So take the time to foster happy employees, and get started building your company today.

Marketing Your Brand to Every Palate

One of the joys of eating out as a family is the opportunity to let each person choose their own meal. For those with a bit more daring palate, that might mean trying something new. For others, it might mean ordering an old standby they know they'll enjoy. In either case, the person is more likely to enjoy their dining experience because they have the chance to order something that suits their own individual taste.

Distinct appetites and marketing

Just as every person has their own unique palate when it comes to food, your customers have their own appetites when it comes to how they want to receive your marketing messages. Keep this in mind as you plan your marketing campaigns. Work to tailor your message (and media) to address the needs of the various types of customers you're trying to reach.

Begin the process by developing several key buyer or customer personas. Your marketing campaigns should be carefully tailored to address the particular characteristics each of those personas share. For example, if you're marketing for a bank, the ads you use to reach consumers looking to save time checking their balances and making deposits might not be the same ads you would use to reach consumers searching for information on a reverse mortgage.

In the same way, try to tailor your campaigns to address the platforms your customers are using to access your information. Emphasize web links and clickable phone numbers on mobile websites, email addresses and phone numbers on standard web pages, and easy-to-remember URLs on print ads and brochures. For direct mail marketing, target your campaigns based on demographic information, such as income levels, number of children, location, and so on.

The more precise you can make your campaign, the more likely it will be to succeed. Customers appreciate it when they feel as though a marketing campaign addresses their unique concerns and problems. When customers see advertisements that don't apply to them, they tend to ignore them. In some cases, they may even get completely turned off by the company involved. Taking the time to tailor your ads to address the needs of different groups of potential customers is the best way to start gaining new customers and improve the visibility of your company.

Whether it's a night out with the family at a favorite restaurant or a marketing campaign aimed at gaining new customers, remembering the individual tastes of the people involved always makes good sense. A well-planned, well-focused, multifaceted campaign leaves customers feeling appreciated and increases the chance of reaching them when they're ready to buy. If you're ready to get started with your next marketing campaign, reach out to us to see how we can help you make it happen.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Writing an Amazing, Effective, Brilliant Press Release

What's the first tool you turn to when you need to get the word out about a new product, service, or innovation from your business? If you're like many small business owners, it's probably not the press release.

While some marketers have pushed the press release into the background -- throwing it under the bus in favor of newcomers like Twitter, Facebook, and banner ads -- this venerable marketing tool has definitely not outlived its usefulness. In fact, some even say that with today's focus on content, the press release is more valuable than ever... that is, as long as it's done right.

We've collected best practice tips and advice from the experts to help you take full advantage of this tried-and-true marketing strategy, so you can write a brilliant, amazing and -- most of all -- effective press release that'll get noticed.

Press Release 101

First, the basics: What, exactly, is a press release, and why does it exist? In a nutshell, a press release is a written update or summary, usually a couple hundred words in length, that alerts the media to news about your business. Whether you've created an innovative solution, are introducing a new service, are planning a big event, or have won an award, a press release supplies journalists with the information they'll need to write an article about you in the press.

At least that's the goal. Crafting your press release to appeal to journalists is key, as they're inundated with information every day. Here's how to make yours stand out.

Make it Accessible

Your press release should follow a standard format, which includes an attention-grabbing (but relevant and accurate) headline followed by a strong opening sentence that gets right to the point. Reporters are busy; assume that they'll probably only read the headline and first few sentences before scanning the rest of your text, and really make that prime (content) real estate work for you.

Within the first paragraph, think like a journalist and address the 5 "W's": who, what, where, when, and why. Use the remainder of the text to support the important information you just shared in the first few sentences.

You Invented a What?

Here's the fun part. Remember, what's huge news to you as a business owner (that new line of tires you're offering is amazing! Your lobby redesign is a stunning example of modern design!) may not be quite as huge to those who aren't directly connected to your company.

But don't get discouraged: Get creative. Find the angle that makes your information compelling -- the angle that makes your press release more like a news article. You need to demonstrate the value of your information; does it solve a problem for consumers? Will it fill a need in the community? Think like a reporter, and turn your press release into news that people want to read and can use.

Short and Sweet

Again, journalists don't have a lot of time to savor each and every word, so keep your message short and sweet. Be succinct; get to the point and say what you need to say in as few words as possible. Your press release should always fit on a single page.

Contact Information is Key

Whatever you do, don't forget to include your contact information! This vital data should go at the top of your document, where it's easy to find. Ensure that you're including the contact data for the person you want reporters to contact, as well. Maybe that's your secretary, your CEO, or a project manager. Whoever it is, ensure that those who want to contact your business can.

If you continually deliver direct, relevant press releases, your recipients will take notice. As your credibility increases, so will your chances of getting that valuable media attention.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Color in Print Advertising: Are You Sending Hidden Messages?

A printed marketing piece -- whether a brochure, flyer, catalog, or letter -- contains many design components. From margin size to font, use of white space to size and type of paper, the elements that go into a printed piece require much consideration. But when it comes to color, marketers all too often make choices based on personal preference, anecdotal evidence, or even hunches.

However, people actually devote time and effort to studying this stuff; researchers have uncovered a large body of quantitative data about the many ways color affects consumer behavior. Their findings can help inform color choices, so printed projects can better reach their intended audiences.

How Important is Color in Marketing?

In a nutshell: Very. A study by the Seoul International Color Expo found that almost 93 percent of consumers said visual experience is the most important factor when it comes to purchasing. Of these, almost 85 percent listed color as the major factor. Even more impressive, a report from the Institute for Color Research notes that most consumers make a judgement about a product within 90 seconds of first seeing it and that color accounts for 62 to 90 percent of their initial impression.

Color is also key in branding; a University of Maryland study found that using a consistent color palette increased brand recognition by a whopping 80 percent! Why? It's all about brain chemistry; our neurocircuitry is hard-wired to respond to color. Multiple studies indicate that color significantly improves mental processing, storage, and memory. And if you're still not convinced, consider that colorful ads are read 42 percent more often than black-and-white ads. Readers also tend to spend more than twice as long lingering on a colorful ad than on a black-and-white ad.

These numbers aren't exactly ambiguous -- color matters (a lot!) when it comes to marketing. But which colors are best?

Color Choice for Intended Results

While each individual reacts to colors in their own way, research indicates there are some common themes associated with colors. In fact, certain colors actually trigger biological responses, some of which improve attention and evoke emotions.

Red: Studies indicate that consumers tend to associate red with attention, vigilance, excitement, stimulation, and enhanced concentration. When products are featured on a red background, readers tend to have more positive thoughts about the product if specific descriptors are used, rather than creative or evocative language.

Blue: In contrast, readers preferred emotive, creative descriptions for products featured on a blue background. The cool color blue tends to elicit feelings of calm, safety, and openness, which can open the door to creative expression and exploration.

Yellow and Orange: Like red, these warm colors evoke feelings of excitement and attention. Orange tends to be associated with extroversion and energy, while yellow is often seen as optimistic and friendly.

Green and Brown: Both green and brown are associated with nature, making these colors effective for outdoorsy, rugged, or natural products or campaigns. In addition, green is associated with security, while brown is linked to seriousness.

Pink and Purple: Pink and purple both evoke associations with femininity and sophistication. Purple also connotes luxury and authenticity.

Black: For the ultimate in elegance and sophistication, nothing beats black. Glamor, power, dignity, and high-fashion are all evoked by the use of black.

White: As the absence -- or complete reflection -- of all colors, white evokes feelings of purity, simplicity, and cleanliness. It's also associated with happiness and peace.

When choosing colors or combinations for your print ads, keep these associations in mind. Select colors that support your messaging, rather than subconsciously undermining it.

Do You Truly Know Your Target Market?

Are you preaching to the wrong choir?

While every business owner or marketing department head certainly has heard that basic rule of advertising -- know your target audience -- when was the last time you stopped to ask, "How well do I REALLY know my target audience?"

Say, for instance, you run a landscaping business. You know your target audience includes homeowners in your town. But if you take it a few steps further, you may just discover that your true target audience includes homeowners between the ages of 45 and 65 who live within a five-mile radius of the center of town and who have an annual income over $55,000. Sounds pretty specific, right?

The old adage "you can't please all the people all the time" certainly applies to your marketing efforts. Too many businesses try to be all things to all people, focusing on too broad a demographic. Narrowing your focus can result in a more effective use of your marketing dollars.

If you haven't taken this particular commandment to heart, it's likely affecting your marketing for the worse. Here's how to identify your true target audience.

Playing Detective

Get out your deerstalker. It's time to play Sherlock Holmes. Identifying your target audience involves a bit of research into demographics. Start by compiling a list of customer characteristics, including age, gender, location, income, education, occupation, ethnicity, martial status, and number of children. Now think about the last few purchases you made. How many of these factors influenced that purchase?

Narrow your focus down to the two most significant factors -- we'll call these your core factors -- and then choose up to two "secondary factors" to round out your market. You'll want to focus your research on these core and secondary factors to really get to know your target audience. Find out where they shop, what's important to them, which businesses they frequent (both online and off), and what problems they experience that your product or service can solve.

With those answers in place, it's time to delve deep into your audience and compile the data and information that make them tick. Resources for your research may include:

  • U.S. Census Bureau

  • Google Analytics

  • Facebook Insights (analytics available if your business page has at least 30 "likes")

  • Customer review sites (What other businesses are your customers patronizing on Yelp? What appeals to them?)

  • Your competitors' sites and reviews

  • Surveys or interviews with your current and past customers

  • Hosting small focus groups

Keep in mind that you're also looking for psychographic information, such as hobbies, interests, lifestyle, attitudes, and beliefs. While demographic information tells you who is most likely to buy your product or service, psychographic data tells you why they're interested.

When you're compiling the data, look for common threads that run among your customers. Do they work in similar industries or have similar hobbies? Does your product or service appeal to families with two kids or single professionals? Seeking out similarities makes it easier to target relevant customers.

Develop a Profile

Now that you've gathered your research, develop a "typical customer" profile. The goal? To create an in-depth picture of who your customer is. Your profile should contain both demographic information -- age, location, marital status, etc. -- and psychographic information -- values, attitudes, political leanings, hobbies, and the like.

Your profile will help you determine where, exactly, to find your target audience. Do they tend to live in a certain neighborhoods -- or certain streets in certain neighborhoods? Do they patronize certain businesses because those places reinforce their values? The better you understand your target customer, the more easily you can tailor your marketing materials to appeal to them.

Remember, your customer profile and your target audience aren't static. They'll evolve and change over time, and so should your approach. Determining your target audience isn't a once-and-done proposition; rather, it's an ongoing task that grows along with your business.

Networking Tips Straight Out of High School

Back in high school, there were always a few classmates who seemed to find schoolwork effortless. They were able to easily achieve the top grades while the rest of the class struggled. As finals week rolled around, these students often found themselves inundated with requests for study help. Some would come from friends, but many came from complete strangers who would suddenly try to buddy up with the smart kids in an effort to curry their favor.

Typically, the smart students would react to these requests in one of two ways:


  1. The requests that came from friends -- people the students socialized with outside of class -- were met with assurances of help.

  2. The requests that came from strangers were often dismissed.



Why the disparity?

No one likes being taken advantage of. While it may have been just as easy to offer study help to members of either group, the smart students didn't like people suddenly trying to be their friend, only to be 'dumped' once the other person passed an exam. It wasn't that they didn't want to help. They just preferred to help genuine friends they could trust to actually care about them.

How this relates to networking

People often look for shortcuts to take with networking. They don't want to go through the trouble of building a relationship with a new connection; they just want to know if the person is going to be interested in doing business together or not and then leave it at that.

The problem with this method is the same problem that many struggling students found when they tried to suddenly befriend the smart kids at the end of the year: No one likes to feel that they're being taken advantage of.

When you're on the other side of the relationship, you don't want to have someone approach you and just immediately start trying to sell you. You're more interested in doing business with someone you've already built a relationship with and you trust to be concerned with your business as well as theirs. If a connection that you've gotten to know over the course of several years reaches out and offers you a trial of their new software and invites you to sign up for a newsletter, you're far more inclined to accept that offer than you would if the same invitation came from someone you just met.

Making this principle work for you

Networking takes effort. There's no getting around that. Forming these valuable connections, however, has the potential to really grow a business. To help make your networking overtures successful, keep these tips in mind:

  • Discuss business, but don't try to sell after just a meeting or two.

  • Keep detailed records of contacts, such as meeting dates/conferences, birthdays, anniversaries, and similar dates. Send cards on applicable days.

  • Keep a rotation of connections that you reach out to on a regular basis, such as once every few months to maintain the relationship.

  • When making a sales pitch, frame it in a way so the other party sees how it might benefit them as well.

Networking can be instrumental in growing a business. However, taking shortcuts and trying to sell to a new contact you've just met will probably have the success rate of trying to get the high school valedictorian you've never spoken with to study with you the day before finals. Taking the time to build a relationship can make a world of difference. Keep that in mind when you set out to build your network, and you just might be pleasantly surprised at what networking can do for you.