Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Is Your Message Being Diluted in Your Marketing Materials?

When it comes to the marketing materials that you're putting out into the world, there is nothing more important than the factor at the heart of it all: your message. Ultimately, the best-looking print mailer, poster, or other material in the world won't mean a thing if you don't have the clear, concise message in the center of it to back it up. If you're worried about whether or not your design instincts are getting the better of you, and you are, in fact, diluting your message in your marketing materials, you can use these delightfully simple tips to find out.

Are You Overloading the Reader Visually?

Graphics, interesting font choices, and more can all be great tools to help get your message across to readers - but they should be complimentary, not supplementary. Every element that you use in your materials that is not contributing to your message is only taking away from it - never forget that. If your materials have swayed decidedly in the direction of "a lot of style, very little substance" in that you're loading them up with tons of bright colors, flashy logos, images and more, there's a great chance that you could actually be accomplishing the exact opposite of what you set out to. Start designing your materials with your message in mind and then lay everything else around it. Don't design the best-looking print material you can and THEN try to cram your message in there somewhere.

Does it Take Longer than 30 Seconds to Discover Your Message?

In order to achieve a maximum level of effectiveness, your message needs to be as simple as possible. "This company is the one you can trust." "This product is the one that can solve your problems." "This service is the one you need to make your life easier." These are (admittedly simple) examples of marketing messages that can be identified and absorbed quickly and easily. If it takes longer than 30 seconds for your target audience to realize what you're trying to say, you've probably already lost them. Trust us - you don't have that kind of time.

Do You Have Enough White Space?

White space is undoubtedly the best friend that you have when it comes to the print marketing materials that you're designing. People don't want to read a wall of text to find out what you're trying to say - they want to be spoken to directly and succinctly. If brevity is the soul of wit, white space is the brevity equivalent when it comes to your marketing message. If you design a particular material and have very little white space left over at the end of the process, the chances are high that you should probably take another look. There are undoubtedly elements, whether graphics or text or something else entirely - that you can drop without harming what you're trying to say.

Anything that isn't directly contributing to your marketing message is only serving to take attention away from it, which is absolutely something that you do not want under any circumstances. People shouldn't have to work to figure out what you're trying to say - it should be immediately clear. By keeping these few, core tips in mind regardless of the type of material you're designing, you'll place yourself in a better position to establish a direct line of communication with your target audience in the exact way that you intended.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Daring to be Innovative

Ideas that turn the conversation on its head producing an altered perception are clearly among the most interesting. Nobel Prize winning playwright George Bernard Shaw perhaps related this concept best when he said, "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man." Of course, being unreasonable here is equated with being unbound by convention rather than being not guided by good sense.

Being unbound by convention is the first prerequisite for innovation, and turning arguments on their heads is one of the next important steps in the process.

In Steve McQueen's racing-themed movie "Le Mans," he answers a serious question concerning what is so important about driving faster than anyone else. His answer turns the question on its head. He says, "A lot of people go through life doing things badly. Racing is important to men who do it well. Racing is life. Anything that happens before or after …is just waiting."

Author of many books as well as the best selling business video in history, Joel Arthur Barker put it slightly differently. He said, "Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world!" Innovation is what drives the most dramatic change.

To most, innovation comes with some degree of difficulty since we are typically forced to abandon alternatives with which we have become quite familiar. After all, we have learned that not all change is good. This is why you have to be somewhat daring to be truly innovative. Daring to be innovative does involve some risk, but hesitancy in following a dream gets you no closer to that dream. Progress in business depends upon the "unreasonable" entrepreneur.

ZipDial and Xiaomi are two fine examples of truly innovative companies led by some truly "unreasonable" entrepreneurs.

ZipDial

Have you ever used the old trick of phoning someone and allowing it to ring for only a moment before hanging up to signal your presence or arrival somewhere? This bypasses telephone company fees since there was no connection established. Valery Wagoner created ZipDial, a "missed call" marketing platform, to exploit that concept further.

Companies promote a ZipDial number in their advertising. Customers then call and hang up, only to be contacted by the company to complete their transactions, enter contests, obtain coupons, or take advantage of other promotions. The innovation was using an existing idea to generate new business. In January, 2015, Wagoner turned her innovative idea into a deal with Twitter, which acquired ZipDial for an estimated $30 million.

Xiaomi

Xiaomi is a recent entry into the burgeoning smartphone market. The innovative part of their marketing model is a reliance on peripherals and software applications to build profitability. The smartphone, itself, has a paper-thin profit margin, but the apps sold to go with it are the source of much of the company's substantial revenue. That is one aspect, but the other is sheer volume. Because of their low price (and the speed of "flash sales" in an internet-driven economy), one of the phone models sold out in a matter of two minutes. One hundred thousand phones in two minutes, and each of them requires software.

These two companies approached their problems with imagination and the willingness to innovate. "Unreasonable" entrepreneurs followed the advice of business commentator David O. Adeife, who said, "Never innovate to compete; innovate to change the rules of the game." Innovation does not necessarily involve reinventing the wheel. Successfully applying proven models in new contexts is every bit as innovative as coming up with the better mousetrap.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

From Dreaming to Succeeding

Norman Vincent Peale's famous book, "The Power of Positive Thinking," may not have been the first such motivational book, but it certainly achieved fame as one of the most popular and enduring testaments to a positive attitude. As Peale put it, "Change your thoughts and you change your world." If one person's life can illustrate this concept, it might be that of Eric Castillo.

As a young man fresh out of high school, Eric started up his own business, a personal training studio. Bright eyed and bushy-tailed, he easily achieved his early financial goals, and his business seemed destined for success with Eric still at the tender age of 18. He was on top of the world before things began to unravel.

Eric was already married with two young children, and addicted to a fast-paced lifestyle that came with the success of his business. The pressures of raising a family while running a business took their toll on someone perhaps a bit too young to handle the situation. Eric descended into depression and alcohol abuse. His early successes now haunted him like spirits. He lost his wife and children. Then came the day Eric punched his fist through a glass window and almost permanently lost the use of his hand. He knew he had hit rock bottom and needed a change in his life.

He thought he had lost the use of his hand, but being well versed in personal training concepts he rehabilitated the hand himself. That was the first thing he dedicated his efforts toward, and it worked. he knew he needed more, however, and he went after it. As Norman Vincent Peale wrote, "There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment."

Eric decided to try out for college football even though he had never played on a team. Eight dreary years had been wasted in depression and alcohol, and the 26-year-old version of Eric was deemed too old for college football. Everyone tried to discourage him.

He released 40 clients and closed his studio, cutting off his income. Eric tried out for three college football teams and applied to enter two others. Only on the strength of a letter from San Antonio Mayor Ed Garza was Eric accepted by the University of the Incarnate Word. He made the team as a walk-on.

Four years later, Eric was a 30-year-old senior ready to graduate, having lived his dream of being on a college football team. While he had not played a single play in all that time, his dream was fulfilled by simply running onto the field with his team for every game. He had reached for the stars and succeeded.

One of Eric's inspirations had been the film, "Rudy," about a walk-on with limiting disabilities who made the team. Eric's only limitation was his age, and having overcome it he earned the respect of his teammates and coaches. In the last game of his career, his teammates called out to the coaches to put Eric in for a few snaps. Just like in the movie, "Rudy," the guys were calling out, "Put in Castillo!"

It was like icing on the cake. Eric got more than he ever expected. He had already realized his dream and had decided to use the drive and ambition he now generated in another way, toward another objective. While still a UIW student, Eric started up a non-profit organization called A Walk in My Shoes. He solicited and received donations of new and slightly used pairs of shoes to distribute to needy people for free.

To date, they have distributed thousands of shoes to organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club of San Antonio and the American Red Cross. There has even been a documentary film of Eric's drive to overcome adversity entitled, "The Power of a Dream" that was released in 2015. Through his continuing efforts, Eric's success has become the success of others.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Signs That It May Be Time to Change Your Brand

As you enter the world of business, you're told time and again that your brand is essentially everything. It's the first encounter that most customers have with your organization and it's your connection to those people, particularly when it comes to establishing the type of meaningful and long-lasting relationship you need to survive. While all of this and more is definitely true, there is one important thing that your brand is NOT: immortal.

Changing your brand may be a difficult decision, but sometimes it is the best chance you have to re-organize your priorities and start anew. There are a few key warning signs that it may be time to change your brand that you should always be on the lookout for.

Time Has Passed and Passed... and Passed...

A lot can happen in a decade. Since 2005 alone, the world saw the rise of the smartphone, the fall (and arguable recovery) of desktop computing, the "death" of physical media and more. If the one thing that you CAN'T say about the last ten years is, "I've updated by brand at least once, preferably twice during this period of time," then you're looking at a clear-cut sign that it's time for a change.

So much happens in a decade that without a brand refresh, you run the risk of developing a reputation for being old and stale. Even if you know that isn't true, relying on the same logo and marketing approach from President Bush's second term will land you right back there anyway. A brand change or upgrade is a perfect way to start fresh with a bold, new (and most importantly modern) voice.

Your Target Audience is Changing

At some point, any successful business that has operated for an appreciable amount of time needs to deal with a target audience that "ages out" of what attracted them to their business in the first place. If you think of the most successful brands in history, be it Pepsi or Microsoft or something in between, they've all had to deal with the same issue at some point in their history.

If despite your best marketing efforts your once steady sales have started to stagnate, or if you just can't seem to rile up your audience the way you once did no matter what you try, it may be time to rethink your brand and who it is geared towards. Remember that a 30-year-old in 2015, and a 30-year-old in 1965, represent two completely different things and barely resemble one another. If your core audience has gone away, a dramatic change to your brand (but adherence to the values you established in the first place) is a great way to attract the attention of a whole new crop of people in one bold and striking move.

Changing Your Brand Doesn't Mean Changing Your Vision

These are just a few of the many signs that it may be time to change your brand. Above all else, it's important to remember that a brand realignment is not an admission of guilt that something went wrong, or defeat in terms of your business in general. Instead, it's an opportunity. It's a chance to throw out the old and rise from the ashes like the phoenix, ready to take a new generation of your target audience by storm and impact their lives with your products or services in a much more organic and impacting way.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mistakes as Vehicles to Success

Accidents and mistakes have given us many advantages that otherwise might have never come about. In fact, experimental accidents have been responsible for many of our scientific and medical advances over the past few centuries. The business world has also learned to take mistakes and failures to heart as learning experiences rather than obstacles. Our mistakes can be viewed as stepping stones to future successes.

Famous singer/song writer Janis Ian recently documented in a blog post several of the mistakes she has made over the years. Describing herself as prone to accidents "in the minefield of life," she revealed some whopping errors. Three noteworthy examples are refusing the role eventually played by Rhea Pearlman in the hit TV series Cheers, passing on performing at Woodstock, and declining to write the musical score for the blockbuster film, The Graduate.

These were definite mistakes, to be sure. But as serious as these now obvious blunders were, Janis Ian is still doing what she loves and making others happy in the process. She is earning a living writing music and performing, and the world is better for this. None of her mistakes in that minefield have kept her down nor kept the world from enjoying her music.

Isaac Newton's mother made a mistake that had the potential of altering the history of science. Young Isaac was pulled out of school to help run the family farm, but he was really no good at this, and his mother recognized it. She also knew that he really wanted to finish his schooling. When she realized that this was a far better fit for her son, she found another way to get the farm running as it should and allowed her son to finish school. The world of science is better because of this woman's mistake being corrected and learned from.

Many stories tell of business successes born after their founders' prior failures. Macy's, the department store chain, is one of the largest such chains in the world, but Rowland H. Macy suffered through multiple business failures before learning enough from them to bring him and his family fame and wealth.

Dave Anderson of Famous Dave's BBQ restaurants was, at one time, a not-so-famous Dave, after experiencing not one, but two business bankruptcies. One of them was as a wholesale florist supplying very large clients like Sears Roebuck. His business grew so rapidly that he failed to keep up with it, and lost the business. But, he learned from his mistakes and personal limitations. Indeed, he describes failure simply as "a learning tool."

Since Dave knew that he loved making food, a restaurant was an obvious choice, and Famous Dave's is the famously successful result, but he did not stop there. Anderson also created the LifeSkills Center for Leadership in Minneapolis, investing over a million dollars to start the program for helping at-risk Native American youth. The program focuses on leadership skills--the same skills Dave learned from his previous mistakes.

As author John C. Maxwell put it in his successful book, Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success, your objectives should include this mantra: "Fail early, fail often, and fail forward." Mistakes should become vehicles, not obstacles. Like Janis Ian, despite mistakes you keep on keeping on. Isaac Newton's mother learned that correcting mistakes can create value where none appeared to be. Like Rowland H. Macy and Dave Anderson, you build success on the foundation created by prior failures.

As social activist, composer, and singer Bernice Johnson Reagon put it, “Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.”

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Individuality: Use Your Voice to Emphasize What Makes You Special in a Crowded Marketplace

When you begin to create marketing materials and send them out into the world, one of the most important aspects to focus on is your voice. You can describe "voice" in marketing in many ways - from the word choices that you use to the feeling that you're trying to unlock in your target audience. Even if you're operating in a crowded marketplace and competition is incredibly stiff, we believe that your voice is one of the best opportunities that you have to emphasize what really makes you special to your readers. By not shying away from this built-in sense of individuality, and instead, embracing it head on, you can really do wonders for your marketing return on investment at the same time.

The Impression That You're Trying to Create

One of the most important things to understand about your voice in marketing is that it isn't necessarily something that you can artificially create. It's something that you're going to have to find as your business continues to grow and evolve. Once you do discover exactly what that is, however, you'll want to grab onto it, use it, and refuse to ever let it go.

Consider the example of Nike as a recent example of a powerful voice in action. Nike's "Find Your Greatness" campaign played up the idea that amazing things typically have small beginnings and sometimes you really only need a simple "push" to unlock your full potential. Obviously, as one of the premiere footwear manufacturers on the planet, the thesis of the campaign itself is, "If you want to be a great athlete, your journey begins with a pair of Nike shoes." But, the use of Nike's voice as a reflection of their own brand and individuality is unmistakable: what Nike is telling its audience is that the shoes themselves are not necessarily great, but the combination of the shoes and the undying will and perseverance of the individual are what will accomplish great things. Nike's voice in this case has created an emotional connection with its audience. They aren't saying, "Buy these shoes because they're the comfiest or longest lasting shoes that you will ever have." They're saying, "If you want to accomplish the impossible, step one is buying a pair of Nike shoes."

Is it bold? Yes. Is it almost brash in its confidence? Absolutely. But regardless of whether or not you buy into the marketing line as a consumer, you can't argue with the fact that it is a startlingly simple campaign that distills what makes Nike unique into one positive message of empowerment.


Your Voice is as Unique as Your Business


Never forget that the form your voice takes depends on the impression that you're trying to create. If you sell shoes and you want to come off like a friendly neighbor who just happens to be a clothing manufacturer, you would want your marketing language to take a much more casual and flowery approach. If you want to come across as a professional expert, you would essentially go in the other direction and prove yourself trustworthy through word choice. The key is experimenting and finding the voice behind your company and then using it to separate yourself from the rest.

These are just a few of the key reasons why embracing your voice and emphasizing what makes your business unique in marketing are so important. It isn't necessarily what you sell that makes you successful - it's how you choose to sell it. There are a million different companies that sell widgets out there, but what is it that really makes people want to buy YOUR widgets above anyone else's? The answer is your voice. If you can master that, everything else will fall into place.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Building Anticipation for a New Product or Service Through Marketing

Marketing materials that you put out into the world aren't just a great way to introduce a new product or service to your target audience. If done properly, they can also be an invaluable way to create a huge amount of buzz and anticipation surrounding an upcoming product or service launch. That can then translate into increased sales when it is eventually ready for release. By keeping just a few, key things in mind, you can use hype to your advantage and build the type of momentum that most businesses can only dream of.

Master the Art of the Tease

One of the major lessons to be learned about building anticipation for a new product or service through marketing is to master the concept of teasing. If you were still a year out from the launch of a new product, for example, you wouldn't necessarily want to send out a mailer detailing all of that product's functions right away. Not only do you not want to "give the game away" just yet, so to speak, but a year is an incredibly long time in the world of business. Things can change, so you don't want to lock yourself into something that you may end up dropping down the road anyway.

Instead, you can send out a mailer talking about the exciting new product that is on the horizon and detail all of the hard work that you're putting into it. Instead of talking about what it specifically does, talk about the problem in your customers' lives that it is designed to solve. Talk about the overarching goal of the product in a way that both gets people excited and makes them want to learn more.

It's About Steady Updates

Another major technique to make use of when building anticipation is to check in periodically with your customers prior to launch. You wouldn't want to send out a mailer teasing your product and then not check in again until it's ready to launch. You would want to send out materials two, three, or even four times during the year, revealing larger bits of information each time. Not only does this give you a chance to build the hype surrounding your product or service a little more each time, but it also helps to keep it in the forefront of a customer's mind - even though it isn't released yet. Not only will your customers have a higher level of anticipation, but they also won't have a chance to forget about what you're up to.

Learn From Hollywood

If you want to take a master class in building anticipation through marketing, look no farther than movie trailers. Every Hollywood blockbuster usually follows the same format when it comes to their previews. First, roughly a year from release, a teaser trailer makes its appearance. This preview is usually around a minute in length, gives away virtually none of the plot and really just broadcasts the look or spirit of the movie. Six or so months later a longer, full trailer is released, which is usually about two minutes. This expands on the promise of the teaser, gives a way a bit more of the plot, but still leaves a lot to the imagination. A final trailer is released in the weeks before the movie itself, which is usually around three minutes and not only lets you know exactly what the plot will be, but also showcases amazing images that you immediately need to see more of. Building anticipation is all about escalation and Hollywood seems to have created a formula that works wonders, regardless of the type of business that you're in.

Marketing is one of the best tools that you have to not only announce a new product or service to the world, but to build the type of anticipation that always translates to increased sales.

Overcoming Negativity

Irish author James Joyce once said that anything you don't feed dies. He was talking about spirituality, but the statement applies to just about every facet of your life from your stomach to your imagination.

Positive energy is something each of us benefits from in several ways. It helps generate positive feelings within us, but it also transfers to the people we come in contact with. A smile can make a significant difference to someone who happens to need one at just the right moment. But what happens when you cultivate negativity, instead?

Appropriately used, sarcasm can be quite entertaining and revealing. But at its base, sarcasm is an expression of negativity. Even when the ultimate message is a humorous, positive reversal, the delivery of that message through sarcasm is negative. Yet some people seem to thrive on delivering a kind of satirical sarcasm. However, while these folks may be seen as clever, they are rarely perceived as happy individuals.

Negativity and pessimism are just as contagious as optimism and positive attitudes. They have a certain toxicity that becomes a shared experience. Negative people spread negativity like a disease, while positive personalities spread the warmth of optimism more like the vibrancy of good health. And really, what this is actually about is health, because few things in life make you feel better about yourself than a positive outlook. Few things make you feel less good about yourself than a negative one.

You don't have to be arrogantly negative to spread a negative outlook. Even humor and light-hearted expressions of mock jealousy can color a situation with a darkness that partially blocks out a portion of the comedic effect. As funny as Rodney Dangerfield's "poor me" approach was, it still left us feeling a little bit genuinely sorry for him in some way.

Being negative can devalue the spirit. It can tarnish the soul. It defeats you with your own words. Refusing to allow negativity to take hold and control you is a daily objective that can literally turn your life around, as it has done for many.

There is an old Native American tale that bears witness to this fact in an entertaining way. As the story goes, one evening an elderly, Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that constantly rages inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves fighting inside us all. One wolf is evil. It is anger, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, lies, guilt, self-pity, envy, jealousy, resentment, false pride, superiority, inferiority, and ego."

He continued, "The other wolf is good. It is joy, peace, love, truth, humility, kindness, benevolence, hope, serenity, empathy, generosity, compassion, and faith."

The grandson thought about this for a moment and then asked his grandfather, "If it is a battle, which wolf wins?"

The wise, old, Cherokee brave replied, "The one you feed."

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Return of the 90's Sitcom

For anyone who grew up watching the popular 90’s sitcoms, the past few years have been particularly exciting. It seems as though now is a popular time for studios and actors to bring back some of the shows in the form of spin-offs.

Take "Boy Meets World." This popular show followed the young Cory Matthews from school through college and all the fun times and drama that came with friendships, school, and finding love. The show is now being revived into the form of "Girl Meets World," which features Cory and his childhood sweetheart, Topanga, now raising their own family.

Similarly, the show "Full House" told the story of a single dad trying to raise his three daughters with the help of his best friend and brother-in-law. This show now follows the next generation with a spin-off that is being called, "Fuller House."

These newer shows are providing many people with the chance to relive their childhoods and share their favorite characters with their own children. While you sit back to enjoy the latest episodes, however, you might find that they have a few things to teach us all about our latest marketing campaigns.

The Power of Relationships

The strength of both shows was in the powerful relationships that dominated the series. In "Boy Meets World," the friendship of Cory and his friend, Shawn, as well as his relationship with his future wife, Topanga, was something that drew many people to the show. People were able to relate to the struggles of Cory as he worked to navigate these different relationships, and loved being able to see how everyone was there for him.

In "Full House," the relationships between the three sisters and their friends and family were the driving part of the show. The girls had to learn how their own relationships were going to mature. The entire family had to be a major source of support for each other as they all struggled to find their way with the loss of the girls’ mother to a car accident before the show began. Single parents, families with multiple siblings, and extended families who all lived under the same roof could understand many of their relational experiences.

In marketing, relationships are also your driving source behind your success. You want to build relationships with everyone you meet and your customers need to know that you are there for them and can help them solve their problems.

You also want to build a strong network of relationships with other professionals. It can be a great, professional asset to have others in your industry with whom you can discuss ideas. Networks can provide you with the opportunities to build relationships with other people who can pass work along to you according to your strengths when the opportunity arises.

Finding Your Place

Both sitcoms largely revolved around the characters’ coming of age. They matured from young children into adults with their own paths. The shows followed them as they found their place and role among their social groups and wider society.

You will need to find your place within your own industry, as well. You need to accurately identify where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Learn how to market to your niche based upon those strengths, and demonstrate why you can solve the pain points of your customers.

Enjoying spin-offs of your favorite 90’s sitcoms can be a fun pastime, but it can also provide you with some valuable lessons about how to succeed in your own marketing endeavors. If you are interested in beginning a new marketing campaign, let us know. We would be happy to help you get started.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Quest for Quality Content in the Marketing World: Why the Need Isn't Going Away and is Only Getting Bigger

If you have any type of Internet presence for your business at all, the chances are high you're always searching for relevant, high-quality content to put out into the world on a regular basis. Quality content accomplishes a number of different goals. It allows you to maintain an active presence on the Web, to engage with your target audience, and to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry. It also happens to be incredibly important for reasons that go above and beyond those -- and will only get more and more integral to your strategy as time goes on.

The Google of it All

One of the major reasons why high-quality content is so important to your website, your blog, or your social media presence has to do with Google. Google is essentially the "be all, end all" way of getting recognized by your target audience in the digital age. If your blog appears near the top of the search results for relevant keywords, you can expect a huge boost in visitors (and ultimately revenue) as a result. Because of all this, quality content is important for one simple reason: Google thinks it is.

How High Quality Content Ultimately Benefits You

Even going above and beyond website traffic, the quest for quality content is one that ultimately benefits your business in a wide range of different ways. For starters, it forces you to stop thinking of your website visitors as users and to start thinking of them as real people. This is a great approach to have, as it puts you in a better position to connect with them in a meaningful way and to form a meaningful, loyal bond in return.

Secondly, striving to generate high-quality content online can be a great mentality to take with you into the offline world, too. If you use the same practices when generating offline content that you do for your online content -- an emphasis on readable, relevant, and interesting materials -- you can form the same meaningful connection with those you're targeting via direct mail and other materials as you do with Internet users.

Ultimately, however, the quest for high-quality content means one thing: everybody wins. You aren't "faking your way" into the position of a thought leader in your industry. You aren't "tricking" your customers into thinking you know more than you really do.

You ARE a thought leader in the industry and you ARE a voice to be listened to. Google and similar companies that emphasize high-quality content are essentially performing the biggest magic trick of all -- they're slowly forcing businesses in all industries to become better at what they do on a daily basis. When you look at it from that perspective, it's a position that's certainly hard to argue with.

Finding Your Way in School and in Business

Imagine for a moment you're the new kid at school. You arrive on the first day and take a few deep breaths before entering. Around you, kids are happily chatting and comparing notes from their summer breaks. From the rockers to the geeks, each and every group seeks to have a strong representation at the school. Each social group seems to have established its own social hierarchy, and everyone knows exactly where they fit and what role they play within the school community.

As the new student, you nervously look at your schedule and make your way to your first class. It's clear to you that you will have to find your own place of belonging within the already saturated student society. That's never an easy task for new students.

Fortunately, you've been the new kid before, and you know the first step to finding your place is forming a few connections. You need to look for ways to demonstrate how you're a worthwhile friend for people to have. You head into that first class with your head held high, confident you'll be able to find new friends.

What It Means To Be A New Business

If you've ever experienced the above scenario, then you know just how stressful it can be. Once you've left school, you might even think you'll never have to worry about finding your place again, but that would be untrue. New business owners must go through a similar process whenever they look to establish a new business.

A new business, like the new kid, is one that people are unfamiliar with, and therefore are reluctant to trust. You have not yet shown your value to anyone, so people are unsure about whether or not they should hang out with you.

Finding Your Way

The new student in the above story knew there were two key parts to becoming comfortable at the new school. First, connections with some other students had to be made. This typically involves getting to know a peer well enough that they're willing to invite you back to hang out with the rest of the group. The second key part was proving you're a fun person to hang out with and that you belong in that particular social group.

As a new business owner, you'll also need to establish connections with other professionals. Networking is a critical component to becoming secure. These connections will be fantastic for providing referrals to your company, coordinating different projects, or generating new business directly by buying from you. New connections are your link to the established industry marketplace.

Just as the new student needed to prove their worth, you'll also need to demonstrate how your products and services add value for your customers. You must have something to show that can intrigue people and encourage them to learn more about you. You might offer service to a new niche, better prices, a revolutionary product, or something else, but you must be able to show worth and value to get your foot in the door.

Being an entrepreneur is never easy. Finding your way when you first open your doors might be the hardest step. Similar to the new kid in a new school, you have to learn where you belong within your industry and establish yourself as a company worth your customers' time. If you want to improve your brand reach with a marketing campaign, contact us today to get started.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Millennials: How to Use Print to Capture the Attention of the Technology-Driven Generation

Officially, a person is a millennial if they reached young adulthood sometime around the year 2000. Also commonly referred to as Generation Y, these are people who are just now becoming the age where they matter most -- at least as far as marketing demographics are concerned. They're starting to break out on their own, live their own lives, and spend a great deal of money. Historically, they've also been the most difficult to market to for one simple reason: technology.

Chances are, if you happen to see a young person who can't be bothered to look up from their smartphone or tablet for a single second to take a look at the world around them, you're looking at a millennial -- or at least a stereotypical one. In reality, it's actually pretty straightforward to market to millennials, as long as you go about it in the right way.

Be Relevant

By far, the absolute best way to market to millennials is the same way you market to anyone -- by being as relevant as possible. Go out of your way to understand Generation Y. Discover how they think and -- more importantly -- what they're looking for. You can try all the flashy gimmicks you want or sink a huge amount of time and effort into social networking and similar bits of technology in an attempt to gain a foothold in this ever-important market, but none of it will mean a thing if your message is completely irrelevant to the people you're after.

It's Print's Time to Thrive

Print marketing is actually one of the most powerful techniques you can use to attract the attention of the millennial generation for a very simple reason: it's difficult to ignore. Whereas baby boomers have decades of experience sifting through direct mail and advertisements in general, it's still something unique to the younger generation. This makes it more impactful, giving you a competitive advantage over those who forgo this route.

You can also make your print and digital campaigns work together. Use a QR code on your direct mailers, for example, to give millennials the opportunity to begin the conversation in print and finish it online where they feel most comfortable.

Personality Talks

Each new generation tends to be a little more informal than the one before it, but not necessarily in the way you might think. What this trend really means is that each new generation embraces a true sense of personality more than the one before it. Millennials are after a sense of fun and a company that represents a hipper image that they want to be part of. While injecting as much personality as possible into your mailers might not work for that 50-year-old housewife, it will absolutely capture the attention of a millennial.

With each passing year, the millennial generation becomes more and more important. They're already poised to overtake the baby boomer generation in spending, sooner rather than later. Now is the time to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak. By going after the millennial generation now, you'll begin to amass an army of loyal followers ready to spend money on your products or services for decades to come.

Measure Performance and See Success

George loves fantasy football. He began playing a few years ago while still in college and has continued throughout the beginning of his professional career. Fantasy football serves as a fantastic escape for him -- a great way to relax and dive into the sport he's loved since childhood. It's also a great way to bond with many of his colleagues, since there's a football league right in his office. The group spends many lunch breaks together, studying the latest football stats from the weekend's games and determining how those stats will impact their own teams.

If you were to ask George what the secret is to a successful fantasy football season, he would answer, "statistics." You need to have a good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each player. You can use this understanding to see how performance metrics can dictate how the fantasy team performs. After players perform in real games, their every move is broken down and analyzed to determine how they would have performed according to the setups of the fantasy team. Performance metrics are an incredibly important aspect of any fantasy team.

If you've ever participated in a fantasy team, you've also been exposed to the importance of statistics and performance metrics. This fun game can provide you with incredible insight you can use to improve your marketing efforts. Here are just a few lessons you can learn from fantasy sports teams that can be transferred to marketing.

Performance Metrics are Everything

As any sports fan knows, performance metrics are continuously analyzed for every athlete. Whether batting averages, average distances thrown, or the typical number of points scored, the actions of every player are regularly scrutinized.

In marketing, performance metrics are equally important. While it can be tempting to run marketing campaigns based solely on best practices -- and best guesses -- these types of campaigns will have limited value for your brand. To be successful, a campaign must be perpetually monitored to see how well the different aspects are performing.

Performance Metrics Should Be Used to Guide Decisions

On the sports field, coaches will use statistics about players to form their starting lineup and opening plays for the next game. In football, for example, it's common for coaches (and players) to study film of their upcoming opposition to determine the weaknesses they can exploit in the other team. Coaches will also use the statistics of their own team to see who's at the top of their game and who needs to sit the game out in an effort to create the optimal lineup.

In marketing, you should regularly make adjustments and tweak your marketing efforts to reflect what your performance metrics tell you. If the metrics tell you your direct mail campaign or your email campaign is not having the desired impact, you need to examine why that may be and what you can do to better reach the intended demographic. By perpetually measuring the success of your campaigns, you'll be able to see how well your changes perform and continue to refine your campaign. This will help you avoid spending unnecessary money on unsuccessful campaigns, while also better reaching your intended audience to bring in more customers.

As anyone who loves fantasy football (or any other fantasy sport) knows, statistics and performance metrics are critical for developing a successful team. This lesson also translates well to marketing, where perpetually measuring customer behavior will help you refine your efforts and boost your bottom line.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ways to Ensure Everyone Has their Favorite Type of Content

Imagine three friends walk into the local grocery store. They're roommates in a nearby apartment building and are planning a fun get-together with their friends that night. The friends split up, each with a separate shopping list, and plan to meet up at the cash registers in half an hour.

Thirty minutes later, they reconvene and look over each other's selections. The one tasked with selecting salsa pulls three jars of Brand A out of her bag. The other two roommates grimace slightly.

"What?" she asks.

"Oh, it's nothing," another roommate says. "It's just that I prefer Brand B salsa. I always find Brand A a little too watery."

The other roommate chimes in, "Really? I always prefer Brand C. I find Brands A and B both to be too mild."

They each laugh. "Wow!" exclaims the first roommate. "I had no idea there were so many different opinions regarding salsa. How about I get one jar of each? Then, we can all have our preferred flavor at least some point in the evening."

Like the friends in this story, your customers often have different tastes and preferences. When planning your marketing, you must remain considerate of your customers and recognize that it's possible for different customers to have different content 'tastes.'

The Different Types of Content

The digital world has long been dominated by text, but in many ways this is changing. People are realizing how critical and engaging images are when added to text. In fact, tweets that contain images are known to receive up to 5x the engagement of those without images.

People like images because they give them something to relate to. When you see a picture of a company's customer using their product or service, it becomes easier to see yourself in that position. As a brand, you can take advantage of this by beginning to build a stronger relationship with potential customers and enticing them to do business with you.

Videos have also become an increasingly important aspect of digital content. Customers have begun demonstrating their preference for this form of content in many ways, and customers upload 300 hours of video every minute on YouTube alone. Visuals allow people to process information up to 60,000 times faster, making it a valuable way to communicate with page visitors.

There are also other valuable forms of content to consider. For example, on social media, memes and other fun images are easy to create and share with audiences. These types of images fit well with the casual attitudes of many social media platforms, while also communicating basic ideas about the business and industry.

Infographics are another generally appreciated form of visual content because they communicate valuable information in an easy-to-digest format. Infographics can be used nearly anywhere, from your website and blog, to your social media platforms.

The content of digital marketing continues to evolve as marketers realize that not all customers will respond to the same type of content. Just like the roommates who all like a different type of salsa, you can be confident that different customers appreciate different types of content. By producing a variety of content types to nurture your relationship with all these different groups, you'll create a strong digital marketing campaign.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Writing Thank You Cards and Keywords

Remember as a child, sitting at the kitchen table, writing thank you notes following the holidays or your birthday? The adults in your life likely had high standards for these notes as well. They wanted to see notes that expressed your gratitude and showed just how much you appreciated the gift. Those extra sentences about how you planned to use those gifts were always important as well.

Did you ever struggle to find the right words for those little notes? You wanted to find words the reader would understand that would communicate how much you liked the gift. You searched for vocabulary that would speak to the reader and resonate with them.

When you create content for your marketing efforts, you're doing the same thing. You want to find language and vocabulary that correctly expresses what your potential customers want to hear. When you learn to speak the language of your customers, you'll have far greater success in reaching them and convincing them to use your products and services.

The Importance of the Right Vocabulary

When drafting marketing materials, your customers want to know you understand their individual issues. They want to feel confident you understand their problems and have solutions. When you speak in language that doesn't resonate with these customers, you risk losing the connection with them. They won't be able to internalize your message as well or relate to your advertising campaigns. Choosing the right vocabulary helps to ensure a positive response and a stronger relationship with prospective customers.

Vocabulary in Digital Advertising

In the digital world, selecting the best words goes even further than your connection. It determines if your content will be seen at all. Search engines work to match queries to content based on keywords. Using the same vocabulary as your customers allows you to promote your content naturally. The closer your content matches your potential customers' queries, the higher it will rank and the easier it will be to find.

The key to using keywords correctly is to use them naturally and focus on producing high-quality content. When people click on your content, they want to find valuable information that answers their questions and helps them solve their problems. If you only produce low-quality, keyword-stuffed content, people will click off your page as soon as they open it. This will lower your click rate significantly because your page won't have any engagement.

Instead, focus on writing information people will want to read and will find helpful, while also naturally adding in keywords as they fit. This will help your content get found, while also engaging your audience. As more people are attracted to what you have to say, your content will continue to rise in the search engine results, attracting even more viewers.

When you wrote those countless thank you notes all those years ago, you probably had no idea you were preparing for your future in marketing. This was actually a valuable experience in finding the right vocabulary that resonated with your audience. Check your vocabulary to make sure you're using words your potential customers are most likely to respond to, and get started improving your marketing strategies today.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Maintaining a Balanced Marketing Diet

We all have favorite foods. If you're like most people, your favorite food is probably not the healthiest, either. Some people have a weakness for pies, while others prefer brownies, cakes, or even just rich and delicious pasta. No matter how much we may like one particular food, however, we all know we need to limit our intake of it. No one can survive on just one single type of food.

Imagine parents trying to introduce their baby to new foods. Although they might focus on a particular food for a meal, they aim to create a rich and varied diet for their child. Each type of food has different benefits that help the child become healthy and strong. The different parts of the body all require different nutrients to keep them functioning properly. If a person's diet becomes too concentrated on a particular food, they'll end up short of the nutrients found in other types of foods. This can result in a variety of disorders resulting from nutritional deficiencies.

A Similar Concept Applies to Business Promotion and Marketing

It's easy in business to limit yourself to just a few marketing techniques. You might look at the success others are having on social media and want to confine your marketing to social media. Or, if your company's been around for several decades, you might feel reluctant to dive into new digital and inbound marketing techniques and try instead to keep growing your business using cold calls and other outbound techniques.

This level of restriction will seriously deplete your business of the growth it needs to succeed in the modern market. Just like a person who eats only pasta dishes, your business might continue to grow, but without many key nutrients needed to sustain that growth. Eventually, the person trying to survive on only pasta will notice they don't feel as healthy as they once did, and you'll notice the same about your business if you limit yourself to just one or two marketing strategies.

Developing a Well-Rounded Campaign

It's important in business to maintain a balanced diet of marketing techniques. This means integrating a variety of different marketing strategies to reach your targeted audience efficiently. Every company will have different marketing platforms and systems that work best for them. Finding the right balance can help your company stay healthy and prosper.

With that in mind, here are a few steps to consider as you begin to plan an integrated campaign across several platforms.

  1. Carefully identify the ideal buyer for your brand by analyzing current customers and using market research.

  2. Determine where your ideal customers can be found through research and speaking with existing customers.

  3. Implement a campaign across the key platforms identified.

  4. Measure what aspects of the campaign are most successful at bringing in new customers.

  5. Adjust the marketing strategies to account for these strengths and weaknesses within the campaign, then run a new campaign.

  6. If particular aspects of the campaign failed to produce enough results, don't be afraid to eliminate them and try something new.

  7. Allocate more resources to the most successful parts of the campaign to maximize the budget.



Building a successful marketing campaign is like eating a well-balanced diet. It's important to build a healthy mix to strengthen your business and maximize the opportunities for reaching new customers. If you're interested in learning more about beginning a new marketing campaign, contact us today. We'd be happy to help you get started.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Re-Branding of Curious George

Many people are unaware of the origins of Curious George. For the youngsters who love the books and TV show today, George is just an adorable little monkey who happens to live with a man in a yellow hat. The children watch as George gets himself into all kinds of trouble, learning along with him how to problem solve.

The stories didn't begin that way, though.

When the very first Curious George stories came out back in the 1940s, George was a monkey who had lived in Africa. The man with the yellow hat tricked George into coming out of hiding by playing on his curiosity. He originally planned to take George back to Europe and put him in the zoo. Instead, the two began to develop a relationship.

It's interesting to note the prevailing opinions of the time. Many people looked at explorers who went into the jungle as heroes. They wouldn't have had as many negative associations with an explorer kidnapping a monkey from the jungle as we would today.

The new books that children read today came out in the 1990s. These later books don't really talk about how George came to live with the man in the yellow hat. The authors of these later books, which are modeled after the original books, focus on George's curiosity and how he manages to solve his problems. The authors of the newer books recognized that people today wouldn't appreciate the story of the man with the yellow hat kidnapping George from the jungle.

When the newer books and television series first came out, the authors focused on creating a fun story centered around a lovable monkey and the trouble he could create. Rather than focus on how the monkey and the man with the yellow hat came together, they just developed an entertaining story focused around the present.

You could say this was a re-branding of Curious George -- and it was a complete success.

Successfully framing your company for success

When you set out to market your company to your customers, you must understand your audience and what they seek. The new audience of preschoolers in the 1990s and 2000s wanted an entertaining character without the baggage that came with the original, so that's what the authors delivered.

Similarly, you should familiarize yourself with your customers enough to predict what's going to resonate most with them. Use this to guide your marketing and re-branding efforts. Audiences might change over the years, particularly if your company's been around for several decades, so don't be afraid to shed parts of your original message and add in something new if it will help you reach your customers.

When it comes to advertising, nothing matters more than understanding your audience. Those familiar with the saga of Curious George will find the comparisons between the popular monkey and the marketing campaigns of evolving companies intriguing. If you're interested in developing a new marketing campaign, speak to us today. We'd be happy to help you get started.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Power of Personalization

Print marketing is still one of the best and most effective ways to connect with your target audience and create brand awareness on a large scale. For starters, print marketing is tangible -- you're giving a person something they can hold in their hands and, more importantly, something they can pass along to a friend or family member.

Despite the many benefits of print marketing as a medium, many people still seem to miss one of its most powerful and most natural tools: personalization. When you take a look at just how effective personalization can be, you'll be shocked you weren't embracing it in the past.

Personalization: By the Numbers

In 2012, the industry organization InfoTrends conducted a study on marketing communication. It revealed several interesting facts, all of which are important to know when planning your next marketing campaign. The good news is that print marketing is alive and well, even in an era where everyone carries a smartphone or other type of mobile device with them at all times.

The better news is that marketing materials featuring high levels of personalization yield a dramatically higher ROI over ones sent out in a uniform or more generic manner.

The InfoTrends survey covered more than 1,000 businesses in 10 industries. Nearly two thirds used personalization or segmentation techniques to increase response and conversion rates. One of the respondents who used personalized print materials exclusively experienced a response rate of around 6% and a conversion rate of over 16%. Compare this with the average 2% response rate more generic materials generate, and the power of personalization becomes abundantly clear.

Things get even more impressive when you combine personalization with other best practices of modern marketing, like combining print and digital to reach a wider audience. For example, the respondents who utilized print and e-mail materials with high levels of personalization reported a response rate of 7.6% and a conversion rate of over 18%.

Why Personalization Matters

When you personalize your marketing materials, you're taking that extra step to show your target audience how much you really care about them. Instead of addressing a direct mail brochure with the generic and calculated "Dear Sir or Madame," you can take advantage of the basic technique of including their name -- which, keep in mind, is information you already have if you're sending them something in the mail.

Believe it or not, this does go a long way. It instantly creates a much more organic connection with the person reading your materials and subconsciously separates your mailer from others that may not be personalized at all.

Personalized print marketing is also inherently more impressive than personalized digital materials of the same variety. Everyone has a computer, and they know how quickly you can change an e-mail to include a name. Changing a print mailer, however, takes a little more thought and effort (though not as much as you'd think). Your effort will definitely be appreciated by the recipient.

Not only is print marketing alive and well, but one of its most powerful assets is something many businesses aren't even using. Personalizing your print materials will go a long way toward creating a more meaningful and long-lasting connection with your target audience and increasing your ROI.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Learning to Dream Again

The next time you find yourself in the company of preschool-age children, ask them what they want to be when they grow up. Children are known for dreaming big. In a class of 20 students, you might find yourself surrounded by several future astronauts, firefighters, teachers, ballerinas, doctors, and scientists. Their little minds can be inspiring for us adults.

Children dream uninhibitedly. They dream about things the rest of us find unobtainable. Too often, we think about all the obstacles in our way and allow our minds to entertain the "what ifs," rather than the "why nots." As we mature, our goals need to be more realistic for our skills and abilities, but that doesn't mean we have to stop reaching for the stars.

We need to remember our childhood innocence when it comes to our dreams. It's the only way we'll ever accomplish all the things we're truly capable of achieving.

As Gloria Steinem says, "Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning."

No one ever made it to the top of their industry by limiting themselves on what they were capable of accomplishing. Instead, you need to imagine the heights your business might be able to reach if you allow yourself to really dream big.

Of course, as a professional, your dreaming must take a slightly more predictable path. You must not only have the end goal in mind, but you must also be able to determine what you need to do to reach the desired end result.

Identify what you'd like to accomplish professionally

These goals can look vastly different. If you're a small business owner, you might have a desired income you'd like to see from your business, or perhaps you want to have enough income to open another branch in a neighboring city. If you work for a company, maybe you want to reach the c-suite or gain the experience you need to start your own company. This is where you should be inspired by the dreams of those in the under age five crowd. Allow your mind to imagine where you'd like to be in 5, 10, or 20 years.

Outline a path you need to take to accomplish this goal

Once you know where you want to go, it's time to outline the steps needed to get there. This includes setting small and incremental goals throughout your journey. If you want to reach a new position within your company, consider what type of education and experience you'll need to obtain along the way. If you've started a business, learn about better business practices to bring in new customers and encourage them to stay. For example, set:

  • goals for identifying and appealing to your ideal customer audience

  • goals for improving the business website

  • goals for improving customer experience

  • goals for using inbound marketing and new digital marketing

  • goals for integrating digital marketing with traditional marketing practices

Once you know what you need to do to reach your goals, you'll be able to confidently set out on the path toward accomplishing them.

The path to success requires thinking outside the box and being willing to dream big. Children are excellent examples for us to think about what we might actually be capable of accomplishing if we don't get overwhelmed by the potential obstacles. Too often we limit ourselves unnecessarily. Take a lesson from the smallest members of society and learn how to dream unfettered. If you're interested in starting a new marketing campaign to help your business reach its goals, reach out to us today. We'd be happy to help you get started.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Hopping Aboard the Bandwagon

The bandwagon effect is nothing new. Scientists have been amazed for decades by the propensity for people to follow the lead of others. It seems to dominate our lives in so many ways! We become more likely to buy products our friends buy, and we even find ourselves ascribing to the opinions and beliefs of those around us. This psychological phenomenon might be one of the most interesting and influential topics of study in the field of neuro-marketing.

An excellent example in the world of public opinion can be found in the Oxford Journals, dating back to 1977. This experiment used two groups of questionnaires to study participants. Each contained the same four questions, but one set of questions was accompanied by recent public poll results regarding answers to the question. The study found that those in blue collar trades seemed to react negatively in opinion and response rate to the addition of the polls, while white collar workers reacted positively in both of these areas.

The findings of this study have been cited numerous times and have been used as a foundation for subsequent studies on the notion of the bandwagon effect. A study as recent as 2013 sought to determine how influential the bandwagon effect is on voting. The study, published in the Journal of Psychology, found that the opinions and votes of participants were similarly impacted by the behavior of others.

Why do we care so much about what others say and think?

We all want to feel as though we're part of a group. Put yourself back in high school for a second. You walk into school, put your backpack in your locker, and likely begin to search for your friends. Whether a jock, a bookworm, or a rocker, everyone had their own clique. Even the 'outsiders' seemed to have their own group of like-minded people. As people, we enjoy feeling as though we're part of a greater society.

Our desire to be part of a group impacts everything from our shopping behavior to the social media platforms we join and the content we seek. It explains why that latest cat meme went viral and why various fads seem to arise and disappear overnight.

It can also be a powerful tool for marketers. When you harness the power of the bandwagon effect, you can create the recipe for a successful marketing plan or product launch.

Take social media, for example. These digital platforms are excellent for your customers to let their friends know they like your brand. People are more likely to be attracted to and follow brands their friends follow because of the bandwagon effect. When companies advertise who follows them on social media, it works to create a strong social media community where people regularly converse and engage with the brand. It can also help to encourage others to like the brand.

Similarly, people are far more inclined to try new products if they see others buying them. If you're running a sale, for example, indicating the percentage of your product that has been bought, particularly as the numbers get higher, can actually help drive new people to make a purchase.

As scientists have been telling us for decades, the bandwagon effect can be a powerful motivator for people interested in making a purchasing decision. Keep the power of groups in mind as you design your next marketing campaign and see how you can leverage this power yourself. Contact us today to get your new marketing campaign started.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Using Instagram to Market Your Business

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms right now. As such, it's the perfect showcase for your business. With so many people using Instagram, you need to stand out to make an impact with your audience and gain new, devoted followers. This means thinking outside the box. Here are four extraordinary ways to use Instagram to boost your company's success.

1. Show New and Innovative Uses for Your Products
Most of your customers and followers already know what your products can do, or at least what they were initially made to do. However, you can increase user engagement tremendously by showcasing lesser-known things your products can do. Come up with some novel and innovative uses for your products, then post photos of your products being used in those new and interesting ways. Take it a step further by inviting your followers to come up with their own new and interesting uses for your products. Have them send you photos for possible inclusion on your Instagram page. Make it a contest, and award a prize for the most unique and/or useful suggestion submitted via photo. You'll get a lot more participants and new followers, which is exactly what you're after.

2. Show Your Production Process
Give your followers a behind-the-scenes tour of your production space, office, store, and other places where the magic of creating your product happens. Show them what a day in the life of one of your employees looks like. Don't limit your images to just production. Show employee-only areas like cubicles, on-site gyms and daycare facilities, lunch areas, meeting spaces, common areas, and more. Include images of employees interacting with each other in both a businesslike and playful manner. Showcase each individual employee with a mini-bio (your employees will love this recognition). Give your followers an idea of what goes on at your company, and strengthen their loyalty to you by making your relationship with them more intimate and personal.

3. Include Celebrities
Our culture loves celebrities. If you can get an image of a celebrity sighting in your area, put it on your Instagram page. Whether it has anything to do with your product or not, it's sure to get a lot of views. People who come by to view the celebrity image will probably take the time to look at the rest of your Instagram page, leading to more followers and fans for your product.

4. Use the Power of Animals
Just like celebrities can't help but bring views to your Instagram page, animals have a similar power. Share images of cute animals you find that you like. Post photos of your employees' pets (bonus points if the pets are at your office). If you can get an image of someone's pet using your product in some way (even playing with it), your followers will love it, and it will attract new views. As with celebrity images, these new views may very well turn into new followers.

These are just a few ways you can creatively use Instagram to your advantage. Make sure your business has an Instagram presence, then make the most of it. Use these suggestions, and watch your views and follower numbers soar.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Confusing Directions and Confusing Advertisements

Driving somewhere new always comes with a certain level of stress. Even with GPS, there are worries about getting lost, ending up in the wrong location, or otherwise having a bad experience. When someone gives you directions, whether you enter them into your GPS or they get scribbled down on a notepad, you expect them to be clear and direct and help you get where you need to go.

Imagine there's a new restaurant you've been meaning to try, so you call and get directions over the phone. You jot them down, as the GPS has not been working well. You know the general part of town where the restaurant can be found, but you haven't actually been there, so you feel a little nervous looking the directions over.

You get in your car and start driving. Surprisingly, the directions seem to be taking you in the opposite direction of where you need to go. You decide to continue follow them a bit. The directions have you circle back around and eventually start heading in the right direction, but you have now wasted 20 minutes. After a few more odd turns, however, you find yourself in a part of town you don't recognize, and you become increasingly frustrated. Eventually, starving and annoyed, you give up and head home, stopping at your favorite place to eat right by your house.

By giving unclear directions, that restaurant just lost your business.

What we as marketers can learn from this experience

Your customers want -- and need -- clear instructions from you about what to do. When you create marketing campaigns and landing pages, you want to make sure they're simple and easy to use. If you have pages that are busy or confusing, or if your pages have multiple calls to action, you're going to lose customers.

This desire for simplicity is known as the Law of Pragnanz. People appreciate layouts and designs that require the fewest cognitive processes. We all naturally interpret things according to the simplest explanation.

Using this desire for clear directions in marketing

Creating advertisements that lack a clear path of what the visitor is expected to do can be as frustrating as the directions you received to get to the restaurant. You didn't know where to turn and -- in the end -- just gave up. Chances are, if you were still looking for a product or service, you would've just gone to a competitor (like the favorite restaurant in our story).

All of your marketing materials should be designed to provide clear guidelines and instructions for your customers. Don't be coy about what you're actually hoping customers will do. Be upfront about the purpose of your advertisements and what customers will get from you. This will help improve your conversion rates and the success of your marketing campaigns.

Too many companies find themselves trying to make advertisements with multiple calls to action or with formats that are so confusing no one knows where they should click first. Keep it simple and work to create landing pages and advertisements that are clear and straightforward to follow. You'll keep your customers happy and improve your conversion rates.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Building Brand Awareness Requires a Consistent Brand Experience

Building brand awareness is one of the cornerstones of successful marketing. People need to see you as the trusted leader you know you are. Every message you put out into the world -- from flyers to advertisements to the content on your website -- must reinforce that core ideal. The goal is to create a consistent brand experience across every marketing channel.

To illustrate just how important a consistent brand experience is, take a look at a company that has mastered it: Apple. Apple is notorious for the strength of its brand. Say what you will about its products and services, but you can't argue with the fact that when that shiny white "Apple" logo appears on a computer, portable music player, or advertisement on television, a very clear image of what that logo represents pops into your mind almost immediately.

The major theme of Apple's company over the years has been simplicity. The lengths to which the company has gone in its effort to reinforce that concept are actually quite astounding. Apple has long been lauded for its television commercials. Instead of relying on flashy graphics, loud music, and other tropes typical of traditional television advertising, Apple displays key products on stark white backgrounds with a basic music track not unlike what you would hear in an elevator. In a word, the ads are incredibly simple, just like the products themselves.

If you take a look at Apple's website, it's almost like one of the company's television commercials brought to life. The website features a stark white background and large, simplistic lettering. The products themselves are clearly the emphasis. Simplicity rears its head yet again.

This extends even to the print marketing materials that come packaged in the box along with Apple's products. Instead of the extensive user manual that accompanies most products, you get a short and painfully straightforward pamphlet with basic tips on how to get started using the device you just bought. The only other item in the box (accessories notwithstanding) is a sticker with the Apple logo. Simple, simple, simple.

Apple succeeds because every last bit of marketing it puts out into the world harkens back to that core message of simplicity. The avenues it uses to communicate that message may change, but the look, feel, and emotion behind the message remains the same.

This isn't a phenomenon unique to Apple. If you think of the biggest companies in the world (or even the most successful businesses in your area), the one thing they all have in common regardless of industry is the consistent brand experience they deliver. By focusing on your own marketing message and clearly communicating it in a straightforward and consistent manner across all marketing avenues, you, too, can build awareness and create the same type of consistent brand experience for your company.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Building a House, Building a Marketing Campaign

Imagine building a house. Before you saw a single board or dig the footings for your foundation, you must first finalize your blueprints. Without plans telling you what your desired result should look like, you won't be able to accomplish very much.

You also need to make sure you have the tools to accomplish the job. In construction, tools all have very defined purposes, and failing to listen to safety guidelines about using the tools can end up either hurting you or destroying your house.

Once you have your final plans and all the tools and materials you need, it's time to get to work. Now is your opportunity to put all your knowledge to the test. The process might be slow, but as you go step by step, you start to see progress. Before you know it, the final result begins to take shape. The further you get, the more confidence you gain in your abilities.

Most of us will never build anything more elaborate than a bird house. That doesn't mean, however, that the steps involved in building a house cannot teach us anything. Even just planning how one might begin to build a house can teach us something about how to succeed in marketing a company.

The planning

Before building a house, everyone involved in the process needs to know their role and desired outcome. Without a final goal, it would be impossible to create anything useful or of value.

The same holds true in marketing. Marketing is most successful when you have a final goal and vision in mind from the beginning. Understanding the end goal is the only way you'll know where you're going and what the final result should look like. This final vision will guide you as you develop your campaign message and plan for reaching the desired intended audience.

The tools

When building a house, you need to use a variety of tools that each serve a very distinct role. In marketing, you'll also find various tools in your tool kit. From direct mail to Facebook ads to inbound marketing, a successful campaign involves understanding the purpose of each individual tool and how to successfully use them.

Perseverance

Building something as large as a house will require an incredible amount of perseverance. There will be times when you get discouraged or struggle to see progress, but you still must keep going.

The same lesson applies in marketing. When starting a new campaign, it can be hard to see tangible results right away. The results will come. You just need to keep pressing forward. You must be willing to put in some effort before you begin to receive any return.

Building a house is something most of us only imagine doing. Those who have had the opportunity to work on such a project, however, know what an educational experience it can be. Even if you only ever dream of building your own house, consider the steps you would take. You might be surprised at the tips you can learn about marketing your company. If you're interested in making your dreams a reality and getting your marketing plan off the ground, contact us today. We'd be happy to help you get started.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What Gardening Can Teach You About Marketing

Spring is in the air (or at least on the calendar), and people everywhere are starting to think about their gardens for the year. While gardening might not seem to have much to do with business, in reality, it has several lessons it can teach us about running a successful marketing campaign. Here are four to keep in mind as you prepare your yard this year.

Start with a plan

Any experienced gardener knows a garden must be carefully planned. From lighting and shade considerations to eventual plant heights, watering needs, and general arrangement, failure to consider the characteristics of each individual plant can easily result in a struggling garden that doesn't please the eye.

Marketing is the same. Randomly throwing together a variety of different strategies and hoping something sticks is never a good approach. You need to plan how each piece will fit together and serve your ultimate goal: getting your message in front of the people who are most likely to buy from your company.

Provide regular maintenance

Once you plan and plant your garden, you'll find yourself returning regularly to care for it. Weeding prevents undesirable plants from taking over. Watering ensures the garden prospers and grows. Without regular care, your plants could die, and the entire garden might turn into a small, wild field.

Your marketing also requires regular attention. Track how well each strategy performs and how much you're spending per customer. Identify areas to improve and refine your marketing. On social media, use each platform to interact with your followers. They aren't going to magically buy just because you set up a page.

Have patience when tracking results

Gardeners know the fruits of their labor might not be visible for several weeks or even a couple months. They put in the work and planning so their yard can look amazing in the future.

You must also be willing to wait to see the results of your marketing efforts. Just because you sent out a direct mail flyer or set up a few social media sites doesn't mean customers will just start rolling in. You need to have patience to see results and understand that marketing is all part of the plan to grow your business.

Make a plan to handle abundance

Anyone who's ever planted a garden knows that sometimes you get too much in return. Maybe your bushes have started to grow so much they're overtaking the other plants. If you planted vegetables, you might suddenly have too much produce on your hands. You need a plan to deal with this excess.

It's also possible in business to get overwhelmed by a very successful marketing campaign. A sudden influx of customers can leave your company scrambling to keep up with demand. Make sure you have a plan for dealing with fluctuating customer numbers. Consider part-time help and training staff to adequately handle larger numbers so no customer gets neglected.

As you plan your garden this spring, consider the many lessons you can learn about marketing as you go. If you're ready to start working on a new marketing campaign, contact us. We'd be happy to help you get started.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Finding Your Niche in a Crowded Industry

The Internet has been an enormous asset when it comes to doing business. We now have the power to reach potential customers around the world. But while the Internet has given us incredible benefits, it has also produced one major drawback: competition.

Thanks to the Internet, you're likely competing with far more businesses than ever before. Today's consumers often research companies online before giving them a try, so avoiding the Internet altogether is not an option. Even local businesses must often compete with one another online, too.

To survive in this intensely competitive atmosphere, you need to carve yourself a niche. With the right niche, you'll have something unique to offer your customers and will know exactly what type of clients you're looking to reach. Thanks to modern technology, you can now find each other.

So, how do you discover your niche?

Start by focusing on what makes your company unique. For some, that might mean discovering a product or service that appeals to a very specific group of people. For example, there might be a few different companies that make pet clothing, but you can set yourself apart by focusing on a particular type of clothing, such as winter gear or beach gear for pooches.

If yours is more of a service industry, focus on finding what makes your service different from your competition. There are countless companies and professionals who provide marketing services, for example, so branding yourself as a general marketer might not be that helpful. Instead, specialize in a particular type of business, gain particular certifications, or focus on a particular type of marketing.

Look for groups that have been under-served within a particular industry. You want to find potential customers who have been just waiting for someone like you to come in and help fulfill their need. When you reach these customers, you'll have the best chance of growing your business.

What do you do once you have your niche?

Once you've figured out what sets you apart from the crowd, make sure your potential customers see your value as well. Take the examples above. If you want to specialize in producing beach gear for dogs, you don't want to focus your advertising efforts on attracting the attention of people who just want dog clothes. You'll be up against countless competitors! Instead, focus your marketing efforts on those who are seeking your specific products. Target those going to beaches regularly, those researching information about taking pets on vacation, or those who live in seaside towns.

In the second example, incorporate your unique qualifications into your advertising materials and use them as keywords in your online marketing.

Once you've identified your niche and discovered how to market specifically to them, you need to focus your efforts on becoming the niche authority. Since this is your specialty, you'll have incredible insight to offer your customers. Take the time to develop valuable information and content that can help you stand out even further. This will help potential customers trust you.

In today's competitive marketplace, you don't have the luxury of being a general provider. You need to find something that sets you apart. Whether you provide services or products, finding a way to appeal to your customers on a unique level will provide you with the key to growing your business.

Translating a Study Abroad Experience Into Business Success

Studying abroad is a popular and honored tradition for many students as they go through college. If you had the opportunity to do so, you likely reveled in the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture. But while you were busy learning about new cultures, you were also learning some valuable insight about business. You just might not have realized it. Here are three lessons you learned about being successful in business while you were studying abroad.

Jump in with both feet

When you find yourself studying in a foreign country, you don't have the luxury of taking it slow. You're living in a new land, completely immersed in the new culture. You now have to completely rely on your language and culture lessons because this is no longer just practice.

When you start a new business, you need to apply the same principles. You need to jump in with both feet and completely apply yourself to your new business and new industry. If you try to cut corners or resist investing the time and energy needed for the business, it's going to be substantially more difficult to succeed.

Be assertive about learning

When you first arrive in a foreign country, the next six months or year feels incredibly long, but it's actually quite short. Before you know it, you're back on a plane coming home. You have only a matter of months to absorb all you can about your temporary country. This means meeting the people, trying the food, seeing the sites, and learning the language. You need to be assertive about learning to maximize your opportunities.

When you start a new business, you need to dedicate yourself to learning as well. Once your business officially opens, you only have so much time financially before you need to start having customers. Before you open your doors, you should have a very good understanding of everything there is to know about your customers, how to market to them, and what your appeal will be to reach them.

Surround yourself with helpful people

When you arrive in a new country to study abroad, you're likely to experience some degree of culture shock. There will be a period, however brief, when you feel overwhelmed by the differences in how things are done in the new country versus your home country. One of the best ways to cope with these problems is to surround yourself with people who can help you. In a school program, this might be fellow students going through the same emotions as you. If language becomes a struggle, professors can offer some additional tutoring to help you communicate as well. Finding these key people who want to help you is enormously beneficial.

In business, you'll also face difficult moments. There are going to be times when you feel overwhelmed with your ambitions and will wonder if success is possible or worth the effort you're putting into the company. You also need to surround yourself with helpful people who can support you. These people can serve as your sounding board, helping you bounce ideas around while also offering guidance when you feel like giving up.

Running a business is a challenging proposition for anyone. If you studied abroad, however, you learned some valuable lessons about success that you might not have even realized. As you begin to prepare for the future of your business, consider the lessons you learned and see how they might be applied to moving your new enterprise forward.