Thursday, October 22, 2015

Learning True Humility

True humility comes from a rejection of its opposites (pridefulness and arrogance), along with nurturing of acceptance, listening instead of speaking, and focusing more on another person than on yourself. That meaning was expressed beautifully by the ancient philosopher Confucius, with:

"Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues."

One of the most popular films of all time is "Groundhog Day," starring Bill Murray. As the pre-humility Phil Connors, he is the perfect caricature of a self-absorbed personality. This film is a wonderful depiction of the learning of this life lesson about the importance of humility.

As you recall, the plot is basically his journey toward humility and service to others. He is rescued from a perpetual loop when he learns the lesson, and can then get on with his life as a more mature and complete person.

A favorite character interaction in the movie is that between the well-practiced jerk, Phil Connors, and the well-intentioned, but mentally limited, bed-and-breakfast operator who makes an innocent comment about the weather. The TV weatherman, Connors, having probably practiced this before on other victims, launches into a full blown 65-word weather report ending with the snarky question, "Did you want to talk about the weather, or were you just making chit-chat?"

He intentionally embarrasses her just for the personal enjoyment of it. The exchange becomes the perfect definition of his character, or lack thereof, before learning the lesson of humility.

Equipped with his newfound humility, the later Phil Connors is everyone's friend. He has not only demonstrated to others his appreciation for their presence in his life, but has contributed in many ways to their satisfaction, happiness, and well-being.

Everyone has witnessed someone who they've thought could benefit from a healthy dose of humility. The kind of people who always have a verbal come-back after someone remarks on having done something or been somewhere. No opportunity passes without them commenting on their own experiences. Only it usually is not just an, "I did that, too." Typically, this person has done it bigger and better than you did it.

If you went up in a balloon, they went to a higher altitude. If you have a favorite pastime, they have already done that long ago. They have an, "I did it better," for every subject you bring up.

They practice this without really realizing how obnoxious it is. In reality, they truly believe they are just being conversational. It all too quickly begins to reflect their own weak self-image. They fail to realize how they have turned the art of simple conversation into a contest--one they feel compelled to "win." This, of corse, is the complete opposite to humility.

Winning this contest is rather nicely exemplified in an old joke. The story goes that a fellow goes off to college and returns after graduation only to be completely surprised at how much his parents have learned in the four years he has been away. He knows he has learned a lot, but lacks the humility to recognize that his parents may have already known much of what he has just learned.

Life is not about how much you have personally accomplished, as seen in the attitude of an immature Phil Connors. It is about how much you have contributed to the lives of others along the way. Only after you learn humility can you do this to the fullest extent.

Personal growth is a natural byproduct of service to others. As the immature Phil Connors eventually learned, in the face of your inherent drive for achievement and success, the best guardian of your self image, the best vehicle for promoting your own growth, is not a resume full of accomplishments. It is the humility to recognize your own limitations and the contributions that others have made to make your life better. Humility truly is the foundation of all other virtues.

Tuesday, October 6, 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.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

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."

Friday, September 18, 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.

Tuesday, September 8, 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.

Monday, August 31, 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.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

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.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Rebranding: What It Is, How You Can Do It, and What It Can Do For You

Even the strongest brands eventually go through some type of an identity crisis. Maybe the audience you've been targeting for all these years no longer needs the product or service you offer. Maybe you suffered a bit of a setback from a public relations perspective and are looking for a way to start fresh. Rebranding involves a whole lot more than just putting a new coat of paint on an old house -- it's about getting rid of the old so you can make way for the new in the freshest and most impressive ways possible. If you're in the process of rebranding or are even considering it, your marketing materials will always play an important role in the proceedings.

What is Rebranding?

At its core, rebranding involves starting out with a new marketing strategy that differentiates your current company identity (or the one you hope to have) from the one you had in the past. A brand new symbol, design, visual aesthetic, and even name can all be employed to help accomplish this goal.

How Can I Rebrand?

To begin the process of rebranding, you must first answer the question, "why are we doing this in the first place?" Once you've come up with a concrete answer, you need to always keep that in mind as a goal you hope to achieve. Your answer will dictate every decision you make from here on out.

Are you rebranding in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience? Your marketing materials, the logo you're using, and even your design need to reflect that. Remember that your marketing materials were originally created with your brand in mind -- every element, right down to the font being used in direct mailers, was picked because it accurately reflected the brand you were trying to present to the world at that given moment. If your brand is in the process of changing, there is no element of your marketing too small that won't need to change along with it.

What Can Branding Do For You?

If you want an example of exactly what a successful rebranding campaign can do for your business, look no further than one of the biggest companies on the face of the Earth: Apple. It's hard to remember a time when Apple as a corporation was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. That period wasn't too long ago, however, and Apple was indeed in dire straits as recently as 1997.

Their successful rebranding took the world by storm when they went from "just another electronics company" that put out products many people considered overpriced, to the hippest, most forward-thinking tech company around. Apple's rebranding campaign got rid of all the complicated terminology in favor of a simplistic campaign that reflected the products themselves. They focused on rebranding themselves as a company that put out reliable and endlessly classy products that "just worked" and have benefited handsomely from that decision ever since.

Look at rebranding for what it is: an opportunity to start fresh. There's nothing wrong with rebranding -- it is not an admission of failure or defeat. It's a true chance to reaffirm your corporate identity with your goals and take the world by storm in a way more meaningful and more impactful than ever before.

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.

Monday, August 10, 2015

What a Guerrilla Marketing Campaign Looks Like Today

For small business owners, guerrilla marketing tactics have long been one of the best ways to get noticed in a crowded marketplace without breaking the proverbial piggy bank. The term "guerrilla," in this instance, refers to a small team of professionals who are using unconventional or irregular tactics in their marketing campaigns, especially when compared to what larger organizations are doing.

At its core, guerrilla marketing is a way for businesses to promote themselves in a way that's both unique and cost effective. These campaigns aren't focused on shouting a marketing message from the highest rooftop. Instead, they're designed to boldly attract the attention of customers in a way that's hard to ignore.

The Definition of "Unconventional" is Constantly Changing

While guerrilla marketing, in general, has been around almost as long as traditional marketing, the form these campaigns take changes every so often. In the early days of the Internet, when most of the homes in the United States still had painfully slow dial-up connections, even just putting a video online would have been practically unheard of. Businesses that were able to get in on the viral video craze from the ground floor, however, experienced a tremendous amount of success. Of course, putting out a video on YouTube and hoping your audience discovers it is hardly grounds for a guerrilla campaign today. To truly stay in line with the spirit of the unconventional nature of these promotions, you now have to think bigger and more unique.

The Guerrilla Marketing Campaigns of Today

Modern guerrilla marketing campaigns are every bit as unconventional as their predecessors, but they generally take bigger and bolder risks when it comes to being noticed. Perhaps one of the most successful guerrilla campaigns of the last several years came during the promotion for the film Cloverfield. Directed by J.J. Abrams and written by Drew Goddard, the film featured a mysterious monster of unknown origin ravaging New York City in the style of Godzilla movies from decades past.

What made this guerrilla campaign so notable, though, was its seeming lack of promotion at all. The film was ushered into theaters with an incredibly simple teaser trailer that didn't even feature the title of the film. It only contained the release date - 11/18/08. Beside the fact that it starred a cast of unknown actors and featured a monster doing something in a city that had yet to be identified, almost nothing was known about the film prior to its release in theaters. Beyond the title, it initially wasn't even clear if Abrams himself was even the director or if he was just attached in some way as a producer.

In many ways, the complete lack of marketing for Cloverfield actually BECAME the campaign. People were so desperate for answers that the only solution became, "you have to see the movie to find out." Suddenly, a cheaply produced fake documentary with almost no marketing dollars spent became one of the most talked about (and successful) movies of its age, at least as far as total revenue is concerned.

The spirit of guerrilla marketing will always be one of the biggest weapons small businesses have in their quest to get noticed and spread brand awareness. By remembering that "unconventional" is key, and that you don't have to spend a war chest filled with cash in order to attract the attention of both new and existing customers, you'll find that guerrilla campaigns can provide exceptional value for your marketing dollars - regardless of the type of business you happen to run.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

What Mom and Pop Shops Can Teach Us About Customers and Relationships

Before the age of major chain stores, most towns and cities across the country were served by small "mom and pop" shops. These stores are nothing like the enormous stores found in many places today. Instead, they tended to have a more specialized purpose. These small businesses served people for generations, and many of them were excellent at building relationships with their customers.

The importance of building relationships with customers remains incredibly important, no matter what your company's size may be. To help you successfully accomplish this, let's take a look back at what helped those old mom and pop shops stay in business and thrive.

They put the "service" in customer service.

Successful mom-and-pop shop operators really knew how to serve their customers. They paid attention to the people, asked questions about what they sought, and helped them find what they were looking for.

In modern commerce, this translates to establishing your website and business practices to make things as easy as possible for your customers. People shouldn't have to struggle to find products or contact information on your website. When they call you, they should be put in touch with someone who can actually help them right away.

They knew their customers.

Shops of old knew those who patronized their establishment. They knew them by name and knew their regular purchases.

While this might not be possible (depending on your company's size), focus on personalizing the experience whenever possible. Create marketing materials that use the customer's name and company and segment email lists to reflect customer behavior. People are more likely to pay attention and take advantage of offers when they can see how the offer applies to them.

They understood their customers' needs.

The business leaders of old understood what customers wanted when they came into their establishment. They lived in the community and knew the people. They understood trends and needs. This allowed them to create a business that met those needs and was an important part of the town.

With the advent of online commerce, the communities served by a business (even a small one) might easily stretch across several states, if not across the country or around the world. Even so, it's still important to speak with your customers whenever possible, and use data and market research to learn what your customers want. Surveys and conversations with regular customers can offer tremendous insight. Track the spending habits of your customers and see how different customer personas are leveraging your products and services. Market research about your industry can also add much needed information to the equation. Combining these different tactics can create a very good picture of what your customers seek, allowing you and your business to meet those needs and exceed customers' expectations.

Creating a successful business today means building relationships with customers and meeting their needs. In years past, it was the mom and pop shops who had mastered this skill. To learn how to improve your relationship with your customers, you can look to these examples for a few lessons.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Unseen Lessons Our Teachers Taught Us

When first exploring the power of buyer personas, it's natural to worry about the extra work and effort needed to complete the process. Fortunately, these fears are not unjustified. While it's true you'll need to have an intimate understanding of potential customers and what they seek from brands like yours, the investment is completely worth it and can lead to tremendous growth for your company. Here's why...

Consider for a moment your high school history teacher. In schools across the country, history teachers teach multiple classes with students at all different levels. One class might be filled with students who are ready to break down the information at a very high level. These students are capable of exploring difficult themes. Learning about the American Revolutionary War requires covering more than dates and names, and they will dive into motivations and outside influences.

Another class might be at a more introductory level of history. Rather than covering motivations, they might need to learn more about the major people who influenced the events of the day and focus on learning the timeline.

Both classes are covering the same topic, but if the teacher is going to effectively teach both groups, he or she will have to develop separate lesson plans for each class. If the teacher tried to create a common lesson plan for each group of students, neither group would receive the instruction they needed to succeed. It does require more work for the teacher to create separate lesson plans, but the teacher knows it's worth the effort. A teacher who keeps their eyes on the end goal -- to ensure that both classes walk away feeling challenged and with new knowledge about the founding of the United States -- will know their extra work helped them reach their students effectively.

The Takeaway for Marketers

The same concept applies to marketers. It does take a little more work to create separate content for each of your buyer personas, but if you want to effectively reach your potential customers, you have to be willing to go that extra mile.

Each of your customers comes to your site looking for different information. One customer might be concerned about finding an affordable solution to their problem. They feel as though they've spent too much money in the past, and their primary concern is budget. Another customer might focus primarily on utility. They trust that when they find a well-created solution to their problem, their return on investment will justify their cost. Each of these customers will respond better to different types of content and offers. Creating just one type of content will make it harder for you to reach all of your intended target audiences. It may have been less work upfront, but it will end up costing you more when you fail to bring in the profits and returns you had desired.

In a world where time is money, it makes sense to avoid spending unnecessary time and money whenever possible. What you need to remember, though, is that while efficiency is important, it cannot replace doing something correctly. Sit down with your team, outline your buyer personas, and draft a plan for reaching each one. You'll be amazed at what these additional steps can do to help you close more business.

If you're ready to start building a new marketing strategy, reach out and speak with us today. We'd be happy to help you get started.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Do You Want to Drive James Bond's Car?

From the famous Aston Martin to the Bentley of Casino Royale, the cars of James Bond are famous enough to warrant their own Wikipedia page. Many fans who flock to the James Bond movies love salivating over these gorgeous cars and the incredible gadgets they are often outfitted with to make them even more spectacular. Like everything else about James Bond, people love the cars for their association with class, bravery, heroism, and the mysterious yet luxurious life of the world's most famous (fictional) MI6 agent.

Of course, as anyone familiar with advertising knows, the cars chosen for the James Bond movies, just like the conveniently placed Coca-Cola, Subway sandwich, or Apple computer in your favorite movies and shows, were not chosen by accident. It's all a part of something called product placement, and brands will pay a considerable amount of money to get their products featured in popular television and movie time slots.

Why Does Product Placement Matter?

It's all a part of tapping into the consumer's head in a process known as the bandwagon effect. According to the bandwagon effect, when we see people we admire or members of a group we're a part of (or want to be a part of) using a particular product, we want to use it, too. In other words, when we see people on our favorite sitcom sitting down to enjoy a Subway sandwich with an ice cold Coke, we think that sounds like a fantastic meal option the next time we want to find something easy and fast for lunch.

Tapping into this powerful phenomenon isn't reserved just for major brands with seemingly limitless marketing budgets. Even smaller companies can implement and reap the benefits of the bandwagon effect in their advertising. Here are some great ways to get started:

Use Images and Quotes from Real Customers

People enjoy feeling like part of a group. When you use images of real customers using your products, along with some reviews that use names (instead of just being anonymous), you help to build this type of group.

Build a Strong Social Network

People use social media to connect with their friends and family members as well as the brands they enjoy. Building a strong social network around a particular brand can help attract more people to your business. As people participate in your conversations and 'like' your products on Facebook, for instance, those activities will start to show up in their friends' newsfeeds, introducing them to your brand. Similarly, if people retweet you on Twitter or otherwise interact with your brand, they'll be spreading your company's message. With the bandwagon effect, people will be naturally drawn to the brands and interests of their friends.

Encourage Others to Share Their Experiences with Your Brand

Encourage people to share their experiences with your brand, particularly through social media. Hold contests, and invite people to submit pictures of themselves using your products or telling stories about their use of a service you provide. Such interactions naturally help to promote positive experiences with your brand and show the number of people who appreciate your company.

Movies and television are excellent platforms for brands looking to take advantage of the bandwagon effect through product placement. If you want to see how well this psychological phenomenon can work for you, consider using some of the above techniques. Building a strong following around your brand is an excellent way to grow any business.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Trade Shows Are One Opportunity You Just Can't Afford to Pass Up

Like any business, you probably use a wide range of marketing materials in an attempt to spread your message far and wide. Even though you rely heavily on the print techniques that have worked so well in the past, you've probably also branched out into the wonderful world of social media and digital marketing. But one marketing opportunity remains largely untapped by many businesses. That opportunity is the trade show, which brings with it a wide range of opportunities you can't ignore.

There Are Few Better Ways to Engage Than at a Trade Show

One challenge of any marketing campaign is grabbing the attention of your target audience. In a lot of cases, those who receive your mailers or who see your posts on social media aren't necessarily looking for your particular product or service at that time, which means you not only have to grab hold of their attention in a meaningful way, but you also need to do whatever it takes to maintain their attention until they are ready to buy.

In contrast, a trade show is essentially the exact opposite situation. Trade shows, by their very nature, are designed to bring both consumers and businesses together in a venue where interaction is the name of the game. You don't have to struggle to grab their attention -- they've shown they're already willing to give it to you just by walking through the door. As a result, trade shows are excellent opportunities to create lasting impressions.

Trade Shows Are Amazingly Effective at Generating Leads

If you want a clear-cut example of just how big an opportunity your next trade show is, look no further than the number of attendees. The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, for example, brings in over 150,000 people on an annual basis. Even niche shows like the San Diego Comic Book Convention, which is a bit of a mecca for all things entertainment and pop culture, draws over 100,000 people (and growing) annually.

This represents a massive opportunity for generating leads you literally won't find anywhere else. Every single person who walks through the door is a potential lead just waiting to do business with somebody like you.

Everyone Has an Equal Voice at a Trade Show

Perhaps the most important benefit of trade shows, however, is one of equality. A company with $1,000,000 to spend on marketing materials and a company with only $1,000 to spend are essentially on completely equal ground. If you can make a solid presentation and have your booth staffed with helpful materials and the right employees, you'll attract visitors who will stop and hear what you have to say.

From the lasting impressions they tend create to the face-to-face encounters you just won't find anywhere else, trade shows are truly an excellent opportunity to reach new customers. There are few better venues for finding like-minded individuals who are already interested in your particular industry. If you play your cards right, practice brand consistency, and put your best foot forward, you'll discover trade shows are an investment that can pay dividends for a lifetime.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Creating In-Store Signs Your Customers Can't Help But Notice

When people set out to create compelling print marketing materials for their business, they normally (and appropriately) devote a lot of attention to the types of elements that will attract new customers. Obviously, the design of that print direct mail brochure is key because it will always be someone's first exposure to the brand. However, many people fail to pay enough attention to another area that is equally important: in-store signage. Remember, just because someone is already in your store doesn't mean the marketing machine can take the afternoon off. When it comes to designing the types of in-store signs your customers can't help but notice, there are a few key things you'll need to keep in mind.

Keep It Simple

If you're designing print marketing materials to send out into the world, one of your instincts may be to try to pack as much helpful information into those materials as possible. After all, you can only have one first impression, so you need to make it a good one. When it comes to in-store signage, however, you'll have better results if you dial back your instincts a bit and keep things as short and as sweet as possible.

Think about the language you're using on in-store signs the same way you would the headline in a newspaper. The brochures and other documents you're sending out into the world are like the newspaper articles themselves -- they contain all of the information required to answer any questions the customer may have and guide them further down the sales funnel. In-store signs are the headlines -- they give you just enough information to help you in that moment, but they don't try to tell the whole story.

It's All About the Focus

Because so much of your marketing focuses on selling yourself, it's natural for that instinct to carry over into the world of in-store signage, too. It's easy to forget you already have the customer right where you want them. Now it's up to the products (or, more specifically, the way you're showcasing those products) to finish the job.

Your in-store signage needs to showcase not only what a product might do, but why someone might need it. Your signs should sell people on the benefits of what you're offering, not necessarily on your brand. For maximum effectiveness, use your signs to provide quick answers to questions like "What can product X do for me?" and "Why will product Y make my day easier?"

Above all else, there's one key term you always need to keep in mind when designing in-store signs: compelling. If the types of signs you're creating are always compelling and are always created with the best interest of your customers in mind, they will succeed on multiple levels. Not only will they immediately attract the attention of anyone who looks at them, but they will also add to the overall value of the experience customers are having in your store. Good signage can help turn first time customers into repeat customers in the long run.

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.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Marketing Lessons From Movie Trailers

If you want to see a clear-cut example of the power of marketing in action, look no further than the trailers released into cinemas each weekend for the latest Hollywood blockbusters. Nowadays, many feature films cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make, so a trailer needs to fire on every last cylinder in order to help that film succeed. Because of the high stakes involved, there's actually quite a bit we can learn from successful movie trailers in planning our own marketing campaigns.

Consistency is Key When it Comes to Your Brand

There's perhaps no more perfect example of the power of consistency in branding today than Marvel Studios. The company's films include such successful titles as The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor: The Dark World, and Iron Man 3. Marvel keeps churning out hit after hit, and the studio has learned how to leverage the power of its brand in a pretty interesting way.

For Marvel, it all begins with the Marvel Studios logo. Every single trailer for every single Marvel film begins with the Marvel Studios branding. Even the title cards on these previews don't say "From the Director of X" or "From the Producer of Y." Instead, they say, "From the Studio That Brought You The Avengers." What Marvel's doing is making their own brand synonymous with the type of quality entertainment people are coming in droves to see. They're making Marvel Studios a more powerful brand than the characters in the films, the stars of the films, and even the filmmakers themselves. Pretty soon, it won't matter which movie features which character. As long as it says Marvel Studios on the front, people are going to go.

In many ways, your brand is the most powerful marketing tool you have -- even more powerful than the products or services you provide. If you can turn your brand into one that people can't help but pay attention to through marketing consistency, your bottom line will benefit.

Leave Them Wanting More

Another important marketing lesson you can learn from movie previews is the idea of "always leave them wanting more." A movie trailer should never show all of the best parts of the film. Yes, it should show some of them, but not all. The best trailers leave audiences excited for a film and confident they'll find a whole lot more waiting for them when they go to see it.

Your marketing materials should be the same way. People should get a general idea of the benefits your products or services provide and a desire to experience those benefits firsthand. Your marketing can never recreate the feeling of joy customers get when they start using your products, but it can get them excited about giving those products a try.

Marketing lessons can be found in the unlikeliest of places -- even at the cinema on a weekend excursion with your friends or loved ones. Sure, you'll probably never make a Hollywood feature film and don't have hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, but you can still learn a lot just by paying attention to the way movie studios attempt to sell you on the next big blockbuster coming soon to a theater near you.

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.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What Captain Kirk Teaches Us About Business

Even among those who haven't followed the Star Trek franchise, Captain Kirk and William Shatner (the actor who played him) are household names. Whether you're a lifelong Trekkie or only know the character's name in passing, here are six Captain Kirk/William Shatner quotes we found particularly inspiring for marketing and business professionals.

"Genius doesn't work on an assembly line basis... You can't simply say, 'Today I will be brilliant.'"

When starting out or working your way up in business, you must acknowledge that you don't know everything there is to know about your industry. You're not going to wake up one morning with the experience to be an industry leader. Instead, you must be willing to study and learn as you go.

"You either believe in yourself or you don't."

Running a business is never a sure thing. Chances are when you start your own company you'll find yourself facing skepticism from many different people. If you want to be successful, however, you have to believe in yourself. You must be honest about the faith you have in yourself. If you truly think you can do this, then develop your business plan and prepare to jump in feet first.

"There's another way to survive -- mutual trust and help."

Building a business is not a single-handed endeavor. If you want your business to thrive -- and not just survive -- you must be willing to trust those running the business with you. When starting out, make sure your first hires are trustworthy people who share your vision. Choose candidates you know you can trust completely to have the good of the company at heart.

"Sometimes a feeling is all we humans have to go on."

Sure, predicting the right moment to launch a company or introduce a new product or service involves studying trends, but it also requires a finely tuned intuition. Sometimes, all you have to go on in business is a gut feeling. If you have reasons to support those instincts, don't be afraid to listen to them.

"If I can have honesty, it's easier to overlook mistakes."

This quote speaks to the importance of transparency in everything a business does. No business leader is perfect. Sometimes you'll make mistakes. You'll make the wrong call. When you're transparent with your employees about what happened, they'll be far more likely to continue to trust you and your judgement.

"A captain of a ship, no matter his rank, must follow the book."

Even if you're the founder and CEO, you don't want to place yourself in a separate category than everyone else at your company. Sure, it might be easier to circumvent particular processes or rules, but when you do so, everyone notices. People naturally struggle to feel connected to and loyal to leaders who play by different rules than the ones they set for everyone below them. Show your employees you're all on the same team by following the same rules. The result will be far greater coherence within your team.

Building and successfully running a company can be a challenge for anyone. Those who enjoy the character of Captain Kirk, however, will find a considerable amount of wisdom about how to be successful in the quotes from the captain and from the actor, William Shatner. Consider some of the wisdom above and see how you can apply it to your own company. If you're interested in improving your marketing efforts, contact us today. We'd be happy to help you get started.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Four Key Steps to Successful Branding Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond

Here's a marketing truth that bears repeating: Your brand is one of the most powerful weapons you have in your quest not only to attract the widest possible audience, but to differentiate yourself from the competition in a meaningful way. While the type of brand you're trying to build may vary as your company grows and evolves, the steps you'll use to create and cultivate that brand won't. Here are four key steps to successful branding that are just as useful today as they will be tomorrow, a year from now, and beyond.

1. Make Marketing Decisions with Your Customers in Mind

Just as you wouldn't attempt to offer a service or release a product your target audience wouldn't want, try to keep this same thought in mind when planning your marketing campaigns and branding strategy. Do your target customers respond well to direct mail materials? Are they the type of people who like "larger than life" materials like print billboards? These are all questions you'll need to continually address and re-address moving forward.

2. Simple, Simple, Simple

One of the keys to building a successful brand is the ability to communicate the company's core values clearly and concisely. Keep it simple. Never use ten words when five will do. If you can communicate the idea behind what your brand stands for in an image, you may not even need to use words at all. Communicate your branding message in the simplest possible way for the best results.

3. Your Brand is Your Brand is Your Brand

Though your brand may naturally evolve as your business changes, it's important to take things slowly. If all of your marketing materials reflect one version of your brand in Quarter 1 and a completely different version in Quarter 4, you're going to develop a bit of a schizophrenic reputation among the people you're trying to reach. If you make changes that are too drastic too quickly, you run the risk of confusing your brand with itself and creating the image that you're actually two different companies. For an example of this idea in action, consider the mess Netflix went through when it attempted to split off its DVD-by-mail and Internet streaming components into two separate entities in 2011.

4. Consistency in Language and Intention

Every piece of marketing you put out into the world needs to feel like it's coming from the same company. Start by developing a "style guide" that you'll use moving forward. For example, if you write your direct mail materials at a specific reading level, include that in your style guide. Provide a list of acceptable fonts, color palettes, and guidelines for proper logo usage. Consistency is a key way to show people your brand knows what it's doing without actually saying those words.

As your company ages, it's naturally going to change and evolve over time. The products and services you're releasing today will scarcely resemble the ones you offer ten years down the line. One thing, however, will never change, and that's the power of your brand. No matter what the future holds, the four key steps to successful branding outlined above will never go out of style.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Monet and Picasso: There's Room for You, Too

There are people who love art and can explain to you in-depth what you should know about some of the greatest artists. They can break down for you the differences in style and how the artists used different brush strokes to create the final image. These art aficionados can look at a painting and tell you the style it was painted in and the likely artist.

For the rest of us, trying to keep track of all the names and theories behind great art can feel a bit overwhelming. While all of us can appreciate the work that goes into the creation of a beautiful painting, trying to analyze the different styles can be a challenge. For outsiders looking in at the art world, it can feel as though the industry is completely saturated. There are so many different styles and forms that it can seem impossible for any new ideas to be developed. Yet somehow, each generation manages to come up with unique art ideas that resonate with different people.

The significance of Monet and Picasso

If you asked most people to list some well-known artists, most would list off famous names like Monet and Picasso. What's interesting, though, is that these artists are immensely different from each other. They painted different subjects, lived in different countries and political situations, and their art was vastly different. The similarities might be easier to describe than the differences, with it largely boiling down to: they were both famous and talented artists.

If you have talent, the industry will make room.

Monet and Picasso approached art from different perspectives. They each expressed what they knew in different ways. Monet took a more traditional route, creating beautiful paintings that closely resembled the objects and scenes that were being depicted. Picasso, on the other hand, took liberties with shapes, colors, and designs to capture the emotion and motivations behind the scene being shown.

Both, however, demonstrated incredible talent. Regardless of a person’s individual taste, it's impossible to overlook the abilities of each of these artists. That's what has allowed them to rise to the top of the art world. They're famous enough that even those who don't spend vacations touring art museums recognize their names.

The inspiration for business professionals

Like Picasso and Monet, when you have the talent, an industry will make room for you. These artists are often regarded as leaders within their respective styles, meaning they often took untraveled paths in their quest to reach the top. Their names are remembered because of the paths they forged and the beauty they created.

If you're talented in your industry and have the skills needed to show genuine expertise, you can also find your place within your market. No industry or market is so crowded it can't make room for you. To reach this desired summit, you need to prepare.

  • Know what makes you different.

  • Determine how you can translate your proposition for customers.

When you take the time to set yourself apart from the rest of the industry and have the talent to back up your desires, you can succeed. If the world of famous artists is big enough to house the incredible diverse talents of Monet and Picasso, your industry can support you as well.

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.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Integrating Social Media and Print: Leveraging the Best of Both Worlds to Your Advantage

It's certainly no secret that social media is increasingly becoming one of the single most important tools to connect with your target audience in the most meaningful ways possible. After all, sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more have hundreds of millions of unique users who are actively engaged in social activities on a daily basis. It would be a shame to let such a valuable resource go to waste.

At the same time, you certainly don't want to neglect your print campaign. It's still one of the most effective marketing weapons in your arsenal and always will be. So how do you ensure you're paying equal attention to both print and social media?

The answer is simple: integrate social media into your print campaign and leverage the benefits both have to offer.

Grab Attention and Refuse to Let it Go

In today's crowded marketplace, the goal of any campaign is to grab the attention of prospective customers. You aren't just trying to sell a product or service -- you're trying to quickly show why your product or service is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest.

Integrating social media elements into your print campaigns is one of the best ways to accomplish that. It allows you to get your message in front of more people in the places they're most comfortable holding that conversation.

For an example of this concept in action, consider the hashtag. People use hashtags for everything from highlighting key words and phrases in a post to finding trends, joining ongoing conversations, and adding a definitive statement at the end of a sentence. By including a hashtag at the end of your print mailer, you're giving your customers multiple options regarding how they can join the conversation and communicate with your brand. If they'd like to continue to learn more about your product or service via the hashtag, they can always do so. If not, they can continue their exposure by way of the print materials the same way they always have.

In essence, you're giving them choices, which is one of the best ways to grab their attention and refuse to let it go.

Tracking Success

Integrating social media and print is also a great, easy way to track the success of a particular campaign over a long-term basis. Consider putting a unique hashtag on the end of each print piece you mail. If messages with that hashtag are then retweeted 200,000 times on Twitter, you know your message is being received loud and clear and that your target audience is more than willing to continue the conversation online.

Digital and print marketing don't have to be independent of one another. Anyone who tells you it's a "one or the other" proposition is wrong. Print and digital are both great at accomplishing their own things, or even the same things in different ways. By integrating social media and print together, you're combining the benefits of both platforms into one environment and are truly creating a "best of both worlds" scenario.

Tuesday, June 9, 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.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Ever Wondered Just How Effective a Call to Action Really Is?

While it's true the larger goal of your marketing efforts involves spreading the word about the products or services you sell, this isn't the only thing you're trying to accomplish. Gently guiding your customers through the various stages of the sales funnel, from the moment they begin looking for a solution to the moment they choose to do business with you, is arguably even more important. When it comes to that particular goal, perhaps the most important weapon in your arsenal is and will always be the call to action.

What Is a Call to Action?

A call to action is some type of statement, link, or graphic that provides potential customers with instructions regarding exactly what you'd like them to do next. It may be as simple as telling a customer to provide their phone number so you can contact them and discuss their options further. If your site runs a blog containing helpful articles that are relevant to your brand, the call to action might be "Click here to read more about this interesting new study we found." Regardless of the wording, the intention is clear. You're telling the customer exactly which step they should take next, all the while moving them closer and closer to an eventual sale.

Calls to action are incredibly effective when done properly. According to a case study conducted in 2013 by Inbound Marketing Blog, one company was able to generate up to 12 times more new, high-quality leads per month after effective calls to action were placed on various types of marketing materials.

Tips for Effective Calls to Action

Though calls to action are incredibly important, they're also something you can do "wrong" if you proceed in exactly the wrong way. For effective calls to action, you need to consider where a customer is in the sales process when they're viewing a particular type of content. Is your customer discovering your brand for the first time by way of a direct mailer? An effective call to action in that scenario might be something akin to "Visit this URL or call this number to find out more."

Did your customer just arrive at the general landing page for your brand? A better use of the call to action here might be "Click here to read this article about how effective these types of products can really be."

When customers discover your brand or are exposed to your marketing message for the first time, they're in an inherently impressionable state. At the end of the day, they just want to confirm for themselves that they're making the right decision regarding how they're about to spend their hard-earned money. By inserting properly designed, well-placed calls to action in your marketing materials, you can not only increase the quality of the leads you generate but also gently guide those leads through the sales funnel until they reach the point where they're ready to buy.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Lessons from Vacation Planning

It was almost the end of senior year at the university. Four close friends -- Sarah, Maria, Andrea, and Kaitlin -- were preparing to celebrate the momentous achievement of earning a degree. To make their upcoming graduation even sweeter, each had found employment that would begin a few weeks after they received their diploma. These girls had plenty to celebrate.

To make some final memories before they headed off into the work world, they decided to take a trip together. They quickly realized, however, that each one of them had a different idea of what constitutes the perfect vacation.

Sarah dreamed of spending days relaxing by the ocean, doing little besides napping by the water, swimming, and enjoying fantastic food by night.

Maria desperately wanted to explore some fantastic cities. She had never been to New York City and thought the excitement of the Big Apple would be perfect.

Andrea agreed that cities sounded perfect, but she thought one of the historic cities of Europe sounded more appealing -- a dose of culture along with the excitement of a city.

Kaitlin was interested in an active vacation, and exploring the Grand Canyon sounded like the perfect adventure to her.

As the girls worked to reconcile their different ideas of vacations, Sarah started laughing. The girls turned to her with confusion and asked what could possibly be so funny. Sarah sighed and said, "I'm going to work for a marketing firm in two months, and I know part of my job is going to be developing buyer personas for a startup. I learned in class how important it is to really understand your buyers, but we've all demonstrated this lesson far more clearly than any textbook."

Here's what Sarah meant.

Marketing one-on-one

Customers expect personalized marketing. General information that leaves questions about the value of products and services won't engage them. Thanks to the Internet, customers are now in control of the beginning of the buying process. They can read online reviews and research companies long before they make a purchase.

To answer this consumer need, companies must learn how to market to their customers on a one-to-one basis. This requires knowing customers on a personal level and knowing what they seek. In-depth buyer personas are essential for this task.

Using buyer personas for personalized marketing

A well-developed buyer persona will mean understanding details far beyond gender and level of education or job. For example, all of the girls in the opening story were college-educated women in their early 20s, but they also had vastly different interests. A quality buyer persona will include information about budgets, pain points, goals, and roles within a company.

Using this information can help you determine the questions buyers are likely to have. This can guide the creation of content and marketing materials that speak directly to potential customers.

The more precise you can make your marketing materials, the more effective they'll be. Identifying buyer personas is an excellent way to refine marketing efforts and better understand exactly who will be responding to campaigns. If you're interested in improving your marketing efforts, speak to us today. We'd be happy to help you learn more about how to market to your intended audience.