Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Keeping Your Resolutions in Life and in Marketing

With the new year upon us, it's time again to consider resolutions for the coming year. Unfortunately, most of us have a far easier time making resolutions than keeping them. Genuine lifestyle changes are difficult to achieve. If you're planning to make radical shifts in your daily life, consider the following:

Bite off small chunks at a time.

If you haven't run in over 30 years and are 40 pounds overweight, it's not reasonable to say you'll run a marathon by spring. Instead, set a goal of completing a mile a day for a certain number of weeks, then slowly increase your distance. Trying to get too much done too quickly can lead to burnout and discourage you from continuing.

Make the goals reasonable.

A person who's just learning to cook might never win a "top chef" competition, but that doesn't mean they won't be able to successfully cook a full Thanksgiving dinner. Set goals that are difficult enough to provide motivation and challenge, but make sure they're also realistic and attainable.

This same advice applies to your small business.

Starting a new business is tough. Countless seminars and classes make it sound as though doing X, Y, and Z will have you raking in millions in just a few months. While there might be a genius entrepreneur somewhere for whom that's true, for the vast majority of small business owners, it's not.

Instead, look at the advice given above, and find ways to apply the same philosophy to your business. Like an out-of-shape person starting to run, you need to take it slowly at first. A new business typically cannot expect to clear hundreds of thousands of dollars per month in profit. Instead, your goal might be just to break even the first few months, and then slowly start generating actual profit after that.

Also, give your books and prospects an honest look. Set realistic expectations for the next quarter and year. Creating progressive goals will give you something to celebrate when you attain those milestones and encourage you to keep moving forward, while preventing burnout and keeping your company on track.

Of course, this way of thinking applies to more than just goals. It can be equally useful in other aspects of your business, such as marketing. When you hear about a new type of marketing with great potential, take the time to develop your strategy and grow in stages, rather than jumping in blindly with both feet. This more tempered approach will keep you moving in the right direction without becoming overwhelmed.

We've all failed at some point with our New Year's resolutions. Those who genuinely want to succeed understand they must set reasonable goals to avoid biting off more than they can chew. The same idea applies to running a business. Here's to a successful 2015 for you and your company.

Friday, December 26, 2014

What Preschoolers Can Teach Us About Marketing

Anyone who's ever spent time with preschoolers in a classroom knows just how amazingly active the place can get. Children at this age are immensely curious about the world around them and work to absorb every bit of information they can. In their learning process, they not only start to understand their own situations, but also gain the tools needed to teach the rest of us some important lessons about marketing and running a business.

Be willing to try new things
Preschool is all about learning to try new things. Children who love to run around and get messy must learn to sit quietly and listen to a story, too. Children who want nothing more than to curl up on a bean bag chair and listen to book after book also have to learn how to engage in active play and run around. Preschool teachers understand that while we all have our strengths, to make true personal growth we must engage our weaknesses as well.

The same thing applies to your marketing. Perhaps you're great at developing written content. Your difficulty comes with the perpetual conversation that is social media. To have a successful marketing campaign, however, you must do both.

Know when you need help
Preschool age children have a penchant for wanting to do things themselves. Unfortunately, try as they might, there are some things they simply cannot successfully do. When these situations arise, it's important for the teacher to guide the student and help them understand that it's ok to ask for and receive help when they need it.

The same is true in marketing and running a business. Although you might want to do everything yourself, sometimes you're going to need to outsource particular tasks. Outsourcing, when done appropriately, will free you up to concentrate on the projects and tasks that only you can complete well. By prioritizing, you'll be able to move your business forward with confidence.

Learn from mistakes and try again
To preschoolers, the world is just one giant place ready to be explored! It's an exciting time in life. That tree in the schoolyard isn't just a tree -- it's a jungle gym that needs to be scaled. What will happen if I roll down this steep hill really, really fast? This attitude for adventure invites young children to challenge themselves in every way.

Sometimes, however, the children will fall. They'll bang up their knees and shed some tears. But after getting patched up, they tend to be right back out in the middle of the fun.

Apply a similar philosophy to your business. Victory and success tend to elude those who are cautious and unwilling to take risks. Those who do take risks, however, will sometimes fail. That's ok. When a failure happens, you need to get up, brush yourself off, and be willing to jump right back in the game. You'll need to learn from your mistakes, but don't let past failures make you shy away from trying again and looking for new ways to succeed.

Preschoolers perpetually work to make sense of their world and all that they experience. In their struggles and successes, they have a number of lessons they can teach everyone else about marketing and succeeding in the business world. If you're interested in learning more about starting a marketing campaign, give us a call. We'd be happy to help you get started.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Rise of Big Data and Its Growing Importance in Marketing

Big data has made quite an entrance into the world of marketing. Though it's largely been the playground of big brand names, many marketing professionals predict it will soon become an important piece of the marketing puzzle for companies of all sizes. Digital marketing has the power to produce an enormous amount of data about consumers and their spending habits, as well as what they seek. Companies that learn how to master this information to improve their marketing campaigns will be far better equipped to meet customer expectations and improve their bottom lines.

What big data can do for your company

With so many customers doing their shopping and research online, a nearly infinite amount of information can now be gathered on each potential lead. These details can provide you with clues to help you market your products more effectively and encourage visitors to convert into paying customers.

Why big data will become so critical

While the Internet has made it possible to work on a global scale and find your own individual niche, it has also produced a marketplace where countless businesses now perpetually vie for the attention of customers. Many people have started tuning out the perpetual marketing messages they encounter on their favorite websites, in their email, on the radio, and even on the buses they see on the way to work. Big data can give you the tools you need to better understand exactly what customers seek, so you can reach the right people at the right time with the right content, rather than broadcasting more general messages to larger audiences. Big data is all about learning to communicate better with customers and figuring out exactly what they seek. It's bringing personalization back into marketing.

Using data to refine your marketing campaigns

Your company can use big data in a number of different ways. Analyze your sales records over the past few years. Look for seasonal trends and how various outside factors have influenced sales. Use the information to adjust your expectations and prices. You can also use big data to determine a more exact profile of your ideal buyer and how to reach them.

One of the biggest challenges for smaller companies is learning how to use data to adjust marketing campaigns. Many big data service providers focus primarily on larger organizations. If you're a small business owner looking to capitalize on big data, look for a program that offers flexibility and scalability, so you can pick and choose the features that matter most to you. Only pay for the services you need, rather than all-encompassing packages that can be particularly crippling for small businesses.

Big data has influenced businesses of all sizes to begin transitioning from decision-making based primarily on feelings and perceptions to decisions based on concrete information and data. If you're interested in taking advantage of what this new technology can offer, look into finding an affordable plan. We'd love to work with you to help you integrate your new insights into your marketing campaigns.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Rise of Big Data and Its Growing Importance in Marketing

Big data has made quite an entrance into the world of marketing. Though it's largely been the playground of big brand names, many marketing professionals predict it will soon become an important piece of the marketing puzzle for companies of all sizes. Digital marketing has the power to produce an enormous amount of data about consumers and their spending habits, as well as what they seek. Companies that learn how to master this information to improve their marketing campaigns will be far better equipped to meet customer expectations and improve their bottom lines.

What big data can do for your company

With so many customers doing their shopping and research online, a nearly infinite amount of information can now be gathered on each potential lead. These details can provide you with clues to help you market your products more effectively and encourage visitors to convert into paying customers.

Why big data will become so critical

While the Internet has made it possible to work on a global scale and find your own individual niche, it has also produced a marketplace where countless businesses now perpetually vie for the attention of customers. Many people have started tuning out the perpetual marketing messages they encounter on their favorite websites, in their email, on the radio, and even on the buses they see on the way to work. Big data can give you the tools you need to better understand exactly what customers seek, so you can reach the right people at the right time with the right content, rather than broadcasting more general messages to larger audiences. Big data is all about learning to communicate better with customers and figuring out exactly what they seek. It's bringing personalization back into marketing.

Using data to refine your marketing campaigns

Your company can use big data in a number of different ways. Analyze your sales records over the past few years. Look for seasonal trends and how various outside factors have influenced sales. Use the information to adjust your expectations and prices. You can also use big data to determine a more exact profile of your ideal buyer and how to reach them.

One of the biggest challenges for smaller companies is learning how to use data to adjust marketing campaigns. Many big data service providers focus primarily on larger organizations. If you're a small business owner looking to capitalize on big data, look for a program that offers flexibility and scalability, so you can pick and choose the features that matter most to you. Only pay for the services you need, rather than all-encompassing packages that can be particularly crippling for small businesses.

Big data has influenced businesses of all sizes to begin transitioning from decision-making based primarily on feelings and perceptions to decisions based on concrete information and data. If you're interested in taking advantage of what this new technology can offer, look into finding an affordable plan. We'd love to work with you to help you integrate your new insights into your marketing campaigns.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Taking Your Keywords to the Next Level

Keywords can be fantastic tools for attracting attention from potential customers. They help search engines 'tune into' your content and better match your pages to the queries people enter. Unfortunately, many companies use keywords at a very rudimentary level, failing to capitalize on what this simple optimization technique can do. Here are four ways you can easily improve the keywords you use on your website to bring in more visitors and increase your brand's visibility.

1. Use the language your customers use.

Select keywords based on the way your customers speak. Often there's a difference between how customers describe your industry and how you would describe it. Consider the types of jargon you and others in your industry commonly use when describing your products and services. Then compare that to how your customers tend to speak. If you sell a cloud-based service, for example, don't assume your customers know the latest tech language, especially if you market your products to the average small business. Your keywords, and the language used throughout your site, should be user friendly.

2. Use language based on your buyer personas.

Your buyer personas can offer you considerable insight into your customers' challenges and needs, so use them to help you optimize your content. As you develop your buyer personas and take a look at what motivates people to buy from you, start thinking about keywords that fit with each of these customer types, too.

3. Use your keywords throughout the page.

Look for ways to weave your keywords naturally into your content. When Google crawls your website, it looks at headlines and URLs, as well, to better 'understand' the content. Include your keywords in these spaces to better communicate with the search engines. Add them to your page meta description, too. When a customer sees your page on a list of search results, they'll see the page title, URL, and meta description. Using your keywords in all of these areas will let search engines know what your pages are all about, while at the same time helping the people who are using those search engines know they've found a page that contains the information they seek.

4. Use your keywords naturally.

When it comes to keywords, more is not always better. In fact, more can often be worse. Overusing keywords comes across as forced and leads people to take your pages less seriously. Think about the last time you read something that had keywords placed oddly and used artificially. Chances are, you clicked away quickly. When website copy isn't cohesive, people lose trust. Focus on providing reliable and valuable information for customers along with occasional, naturally placed keywords. This will help you get found organically and help improve your brand reputation.

Keywords can be a valuable tool for getting found and attracting the right type of people. Using them appropriately, according the four points above, can help you improve your keywords and see even more results from your marketing efforts.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Marketing Lessons from Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein has taught generations of children lessons about life from his books of fun and goofy poems. People of all ages can appreciate his wit and what he has to say. As adults, it's easy to forget all those valuable words, but Shel Silverstein also has a number of lessons he can teach us about business and life. Here are four quotes from the famous poet that we should never forget as we begin to build and grow our businesses.

"Anything can happen, child. Anything can be."

This lesson can be very hard to remember in daily life. After all, most entrepreneurs have at least one force in their life telling them they're not going to succeed. Sometimes one of the most important lessons is learning to tune out the naysayers and finding the mental strength to succeed in the face of adversity. Form your dreams, identify your goals, and plot a way to get there.

"If the track is tough and the hill is rough, thinking you can just ain't enough."

Forging your personal path is never easy. While most people intellectually understand there will be challenges, all too often, when these problems arise, they give up.

In business, you must accept the fact you'll face problems and that things won't always go according to plan. Sometimes the challenges will feel like too much. But if you have goals, you need the perseverance and strength to make it past the hurdles. Believing you can do so and determining the steps needed to succeed will give you the tools you need to continue along the path to your goals.

"If there is a book you want to read but isn't written yet, write it."

This quote applies to more than just books. It also applies to industries and businesses. If no one is fulfilling a particular niche and serving customers in a particular way, use that as your window of opportunity. The marketplace is extremely competitive. The companies that succeed are the ones that identify a need, determine a way to fill that hole, and then get their information in front of the necessary audience.

The idea of writing your own book also speaks to the importance of taking initiative. No matter what your position might be, finding ways to anticipate needs and then addressing those issues instead of waiting for someone else to notice the problem is an excellent way to get ahead and find both personal and company-wide success.

"Just 'cause somethin' ain't been done don't mean it can't be did."

This quote also speaks to the importance of taking risks and being willing to be the first one to take a chance. This might mean developing a new product or service to fill a certain niche, or taking a conventional industry and finding completely unique ways to deliver your products and services. No matter what might drive you, don't allow yourself to be limited by what others in the industry have done. Don't be afraid to blaze your own trail and see where the road takes you.

Shel Silverstein has words of wisdom for all of us. Keep these quotes in mind and use them for the motivation you need to move forward. If you need help developing your marketing plan, contact us. We'll be happy to offer guidance as you get started.

Friday, December 12, 2014

3 Key Marketing Trends to Add to Your Strategy for the New Year

Like many business leaders, you realize that digital marketing is here to stay. But you also know the marketing landscape is changing rapidly, which means that 2015 will bring many new ideas and necessities.

As you look back on your past year's marketing and start developing plans for the year ahead, now is the perfect time to review some of the expected trends for 2015, so you can begin incorporating them into your campaigns. Here are three trends to consider.

The art of personalization

Developing relationships with prospective customers and nudging them closer to conversion is certainly nothing new. We all know that customers appreciate companies who care about them on an individual basis and take the extra time to address their concerns.

In 2015, however, the idea of personalization will go from a 'nice extra' to a necessity. Consumers have started realizing they're in control of more of the buying experience. They'll continue to seek companies who are willing to give them the more personalized attention they deserve.

Personalization must permeate your entire organization. Customers want to bond with you as individuals, not just as a brand. They appreciate hearing your story, seeing pictures, and learning about the people behind the scenes at your company. While such content shouldn't consume all of your digital marketing, you should take the time to develop a one-to-one relationship with your customers.

The role of data

This is another area that will quickly move from trend to necessity in the coming year. While many at the forefront have already started collecting hard numbers to measure the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns, it will become increasingly important for all businesses to follow that trend in the year ahead.

Digital marketing provides enormous potential for data collection. You can learn about where your page viewers are coming from, what they're doing on your website, what engages them the most, what common characteristics they share, and how much money you're spending for every lead and customer. This information will give you the tools you need to refine your campaigns, pinpoint the weak spots, and find ways to improve your efforts, while reducing costs and increasing the number of customers who convert.

Better internal communication

In 2015, efforts at improved communication will play a big part in planning and implementing digital marketing strategies. When you focus on improving communication between departments, two things happen:

  1. Employees have a better idea of what is expected of them and how their job fits into the larger company picture. This increases their work satisfaction and the way they present the brand to the public.


  2. Leads are better managed internally, as everyone has a clearer understanding of the role each team plays in the process. Departments work together in better harmony, and conversion rates improve.



  3. The upcoming year is sure to bring many changes to the digital marketing world. Keeping these three key areas in mind will help you improve your strategies and standing as the new year begins.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What Politicians Can Teach Us About Audiences

The midterm elections may have wrapped up just a few weeks ago, but many are already turning their attention to 2016 and who may or may not make a run. In living rooms across America, people are letting out a collective sigh, knowing that when the next political season begins, they'll be bombarded once again with advertisements trying to convince them that one candidate or another has the experience and ideas necessary to take the country in the right direction.

While it's easy to grow weary of political advertising, if you ever stop and just focus on the message, instead of the politics involved, political candidates can actually teach us all a few things about marketing.

Politicians understand their audience

Successful politicians are master marketers. They construct narratives, brand stories, and reputations, and they work to inspire loyalty and admiration. But one of their most intriguing campaign techniques is the art of tailoring their message to the audience they're trying to reach.

Politicians must appeal to a wide variety of voter groups and constituencies. When a politician is speaking with representatives from a certain population, or is developing an advertisement most likely to reach this particular demographic, they'll use language and cover topics that are more important to this group.

Why? Politicians understand that the best way to influence people's loyalty is by tailoring their message to what matters most to each voter group. Generally speaking, young people know that Social Security is important, but it doesn't typically impact their daily life. On the other hand, seniors understand the importance of education and jobs for a thriving economy, but most retirees don't find these to be pressing concerns for them personally.

The successful politician takes these generalities and develops a message that speaks directly to each respective audience.

Taking the lesson home

If you want to grow your company, you need to do the same thing as these politicians. Take your buyer personas and carefully examine the issues and challenges that impact them the most. Discover what motivates your buyers, where they struggle, and how your products or services can meet their needs. Use this information to tailor your marketing messages, so you can reach your intended audience. Just like different voting groups, your different personas might be motivated by different things.

When you tailor your message and your voice to each potential audience, you'll greatly enhance your odds of reaching them and converting them to your brand. Rather than tuning out the politicians during the upcoming election cycle, take a lesson and learn how to make your own message speak directly to your particular buyer personas.

Friday, December 5, 2014

5 Tips for Developing Content That Will Resonate With Your Audience

When developing content for your website and marketing materials, you want to create pieces that will resonate with your audience. This will encourage them to read what you've produced, share it on social media and with friends, and -- most importantly -- remember what you said. Strong content will enhance brand loyalty and improve the success of your entire marketing campaign. Here are five tips to help you create more meaningful content.

Analyze your buyer personas

Buyer personas exist to give you insight into the people you're trying to reach, so use them to produce the best types of content. Gather information such as:

  • the challenges your customers are facing

  • circumstances that prevent them from buying

  • their budget

  • their goals

This type of information should give you clear guidelines about the kinds of content these people will pay attention to. If you don't know the answers to these questions, interview your existing customers and take surveys of your target population.

Look at what content gets the best responses

Take a look at your past content to see what people respond to most frequently. If you thought a topic was only mediocre but it managed to generate exceptional traffic and attention, you can feel pretty confident that it resonated with page viewers. Use past site data to plan future content on subjects that garner the most interest to keep visitors engaged. Create videos, experiment with different formats, or dive into hot topics from a completely new angle.

Examine multiple formats of content

Different formats, such as video, are increasingly catching steam. People enjoy watching videos to get up close and personal with the people they do business with at a company. Monitor your video views and see how well customers are responding to your productions. This will give you insight into how often you should work to produce this type of content.

Offer genuine value

Some companies get hesitant about producing real value for their readers. They imagine that if they give away all their 'secrets' no one will need to hire them. No blog, however well-written, ever made anyone a complete expert on a new industry.

Instead of worrying about revealing too much, work to offer real value to your readers so they can see the expertise you have to offer. It's this kind of genuine value -- not wishy-washy, bland content that teaches people nothing -- that will turn readers into followers and followers into customers. The more value you can offer readers, the more they'll come back to read your posts again. Don't be afraid to take a stand, form opinions on subjects in your industry, and produce content that's worth reading.

Understand your customers' current situations

When your company appears on top of the issues facing your customers and sensitive to their problems, people will naturally gravitate toward what you have to say. If you acknowledge and address news in your industry, your customers will appreciate that you're keeping them informed. Look for ways to keep the timing of your blog posts relevant. For example, in the winter, a plumber might write blog posts about how to keep pipes from freezing, what to do if they do freeze, and similar bits of information that show an understanding of the struggles customers are facing right now.

Producing meaningful content is key to keeping your website visitors engaged and continually returning to your blog. These five ideas will give you the tools you need to produce posts and information that will resonate with your readers and inform them, which can improve your conversion rates and the success of your marketing campaigns.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What We Can Learn From Children Learning to Play Together

Imagine a preschool classroom filled with three- and four-year-old kids, each eager to play with a certain toy firetruck. The disagreements over whose turn it is quickly draw the attention of the teacher, who is immediately inundated with different versions of the story. According to one student, it's her turn because one of the little boys in the class has been playing with it "all afternoon." The little boy counters with, "No, I haven't! And besides, you'll just break it anyway!"

The teacher sits down and attempts for the hundredth time to teach her students about the virtues of sharing. She explains that by sharing the toys, the children will be able to develop much more elaborate games and have a lot more fun. Playing together will give them a chance to explore new ideas, create new characters, and have all sorts of adventures with the firetruck. She is only partly successful.

In an effort to maintain the peace in the small classroom and reinforce her lesson, the teacher creates a behavior chart for playing with the favorite toy of the day. The chart describes, in preschool language, how the toy will be played with and when it needs to be passed to another student.

The students quickly learn that the teacher is right. When they share the toy together, they end up having much more fun. On those days when the students neglect their newly-found sharing skills, however, the chart provides a handy reference to help them get back on track.

How does this lesson in sharing apply to marketing?

Take the warring students and replace them with the sales and marketing departments at some companies. An estimated 87 percent of the words used by marketing and sales departments to describe each other are negative, yet when these two teams are aligned, they can accomplish so much more. Just like the more elaborate games of childhood, aligned sales and marketing teams can produce up to 20 percent more profit! When the teams are well-aligned, they maximize their lead cultivation and achieve a much higher conversion rate.

Using a written agreement to help align your teams

The teacher in our story discovered that while meetings and lessons helped to encourage the students to play together, the behavior chart gave them something to look back on as a reference when things went wrong. A similar chart (though more elaborate, of course) can help sales and marketing teams coexist more peacefully, too. Such a chart should define terms, behavior, and the steps each team will take in cultivating and contacting leads.

Clearly defining the roles and expectations of sales and marketing teams will help each understand better what role the other plays in generating leads. The teams will also stay on the same page about when a lead is sales ready and when information should be passed along. When the marketing team finds leads, they'll do a better job of passing along lead intelligence to the sales team, so the sales professionals know what contact the company has already had with this particular person. When salespeople receive a lead, they'll have clearly defined expectations of the type and amount of contact they should have with the lead.

Working together will enhance communication, improve understanding, and make it easier to stay on the same page. Enforcing this agreement with regular meetings to judge progress can ensure everyone remains satisfied.

Aligning sales and marketing teams can be a fantastic way to improve profits and brand representation. Just like children learning to share, showing employees the value of working together, while also having a common agreement to back up the lesson, can help improve performance for everyone.

Monday, December 1, 2014

5 Metrics You Should Measure in Every Marketing Campaign

Measuring your marketing campaigns is the best way to determine the success of your efforts. Without accurate measurements, it's easy to be misled by regular market fluctuations or emotions. A few key areas can help you gain important insights into how your campaigns are performing and where they can be improved. Here are five metrics you should use in every marketing campaign, no matter how small it might be.

Where your traffic's coming from

It's important to measure your rate of traffic and know where your visitors are coming from. Identifying how many people click on your ads, follow links from other sites, or find you through search engines will make it easier to identify what aspects of your digital strategy are having the most success and which ones need more work. This data will also give you a better idea about what keywords and offers are the most attractive for customers, so you know which ones need the most attention.

Similarly, with mobile devices representing an ever increasing percentage of the e-commerce market, determining how many of your customers are arriving from mobile devices will help you know how you're doing in reaching this important segment.

Your conversion rate

Once visitors arrive at your site, you should be measuring how many are converting and where they're doing so. Track their engagement with the site, including how many pages they visit before they find themselves on a page that encourages conversion. Knowing which pages and types of offers have the most success with your customers will give you valuable information about how to refine your campaigns to better reach your customers.

Your cost per lead

As you measure your conversion rate, you should also calculate your cost per lead. How much are you spending on average for every lead you acquire through your marketing efforts? Just divide the total cost of each marketing campaign over the course of a particular timeframe by the number of people who converted in that period. Armed with this statistic, you'll be able to see how one marketing campaign compares to another in terms of success.

Your number of return visitors

Page popularity and customer engagement are measured not only by the number of people who find your site, but also by the number of people who return more than once. This will give you insight into the number of people who view you as an authority worth remembering. The more engaged your page visitors are and the more memorable your brand is, the higher your conversion rate will be.

Your cost per customer

You should also carefully monitor the final cost for every customer you gain. This, combined with your other metrics, will let you see how well your campaigns are performing and how many new customers you're pulling in for every dollar you spend. These statistics can be particularly helpful when convincing others in the company to maintain or increase the marketing budget.

Marketing metrics can be valuable tools for improving your campaigns and learning how well they're performing. Metrics take the guesswork out of determining if something was a success. When you pay attention to these five key areas, you'll have a very good idea how your marketing is doing.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What We Can Learn From Writing Holiday Wish Lists

As the holiday season approaches, children across the country will sit down with paper and crayon in hand to spell out exactly what they hope to get during the upcoming festivities. This year, Frozen-themed toys are likely to top many lists, as are the latest video games, some popular action figures, and other toys that have been flying off the shelves. Many children will compare notes with their friends at school to get ideas about what to ask for and to see what's already on other people's lists.

This sharing of ideas is an example of the psychological phenomenon known as 'the bandwagon effect.' From the activity of writing a Christmas list itself, to the toys that appear on it, children are influenced by what their peers are doing. This principle impacts all of us, no matter how old we are or what the subject matter is. Regardless of how independent we'd like to think we are, the truth is we're all heavily influenced by what our peers are doing.

According to the bandwagon effect, we're all more likely to do something, buy something, or use something if others are doing it. We all desire to be part of a larger group, which leads us to follow others to the latest trends and fads. People become more willing to try new products or services when they find that others are trying those products and are happy with the results.

For marketing, this can be valuable because it means your products and services can grow organically. Learning how to capitalize on this effect will give you the tools you need to make your products seem appealing to the crowd, which will enhance the bandwagon effect and your potential for word-of-mouth advertising.

How to use the bandwagon effect to your advantage

The bandwagon effect is all about convincing people that using your products and services will make them part of an established group of satisfied customers. There are several ways you can leverage this type of advertising.

  • Use customer reviews prominently on your website to show your page visitors that others have been pleased with your products.

  • Use images of satisfied customers on your website.

  • Encourage followers on social media to post pictures and stories of themselves using your products and services and the successes they have had.

You can also use the bandwagon effect to create feelings of belonging among your users. Start by creating spaces for your customers to speak to each other and compare their use of your products and services. Customers can discuss how to grow their own businesses while taking advantage of what your company has to offer. This will encourage people to feel as though they're part of a special group, encouraging more feelings of loyalty. Facebook groups, user forums, and even just the comment threads on your company blog are good places to begin these conversations.

Helping your customers feel as though using your products and services introduces them to a special group can improve brand loyalty and encourage people to continue to use your products. Just like children designing their holiday wish lists, customers enjoy comparing notes with their friends and feeling as though they belong to a particular group. Use the above tips to encourage these types of emotions in your customers, and you should see growth in your brand.

Friday, November 21, 2014

How Much Personality Should You Add to Your Company Blog?

Many businesses struggle with the value of adding personality to their professional blogs. You might have heard that customers like to get to know the people behind the company brand to help build those crucial relationships, but you've also heard that blogs are supposed to be centered around building value for your customers. How are you supposed to reconcile these two seemingly opposing ideas?

Balancing your blog

Your blog should really be doing both. The key is learning to balance the blog. The primary focus of your blog should always be providing value to your visitors. These are the posts that are most likely to bring new visitors to your site, answer their questions, and convince them that you're an authority worth their attention. In general, you want about 75 percent of your blog posts to fall into this category.

There are some visitors, however, who read your blog because they've gotten to know your company. They already know they can trust your judgment, so they turn to you for regular industry updates or when they're looking for information. These are the visitors who will likely be most interested in learning more about your company on a personal level. Since you want to develop content for your visitors on every stage of their journey, you also need to develop some content for this type of reader. Set aside about 15 to 20 percent of your content as more self promotional. These posts can include case studies, product information, and ideas about how to maximize your company's products and services. Then reserve about 5 percent to 10 percent of your posts for more personal information.

What to include in your personal posts

Your personal posts can include a variety of different types of information that will give your potential customers insight into your company and the people who work there. Here are some ideas about the kinds of things to include in this section:

  • posts about company gatherings (such as your holiday party), including some pictures of the celebration

  • employee spotlights, where you highlight the employee of the month and give a fun interview that helps the reader relate to this person on an individual level

  • announcements about new hires

  • video walk-through tours of your offices and production facilities, so visitors can see 'where the magic happens'

Including occasional posts like these on your company blog will help customers place a face with the name. When they receive an email from your company or a response to an inquiry, they'll no longer be dealing with an anonymous person, but an individual they feel as though they know.

The hidden benefit of personal blog posts

As an added bonus, speaking about your employees and highlighting their accomplishments can help make your workers feel more appreciated. They'll feel as though their work is noticed and valued by everyone at the organization. This helps create a happier workplace and can help reduce employee turnover. When your employees are happy, they project that happiness to your customers, which helps improve customer satisfaction.

Personal blog posts can be a fantastic asset for your organization. They can help build customer relationships and make your employees happy. Using them wisely can help grow your company and improve your marketing. If you're ready to begin a new marketing campaign, let us know! We'll be happy to help you get started.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How to Fix Your Call To Action

Your call to action, or CTA, is easily one of the most important parts of your website. It's where you find new leads and convince your audience you offer something worth exploring. Whether your CTA invites people to sign up for a newsletter or download your latest ebook, all CTAs are not created the same. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind when developing this critical part of the website.

The words

The words on your CTA are critical. Most people will be skimming it, so it's important to make your offer's potential value obvious to everyone who sees it. Use precise, clear language that explains what customers are going to receive. Bullet points are fantastic because they're particularly easy to skim and tell the audience exactly what they're going to receive.

The words you use in your CTA should also line up with the text around it. For example, if you offer home cleaning services and are offering a free download on the safest cleaners to use around children, your CTA will probably best fit at the end of blog posts and articles that discuss the dangers of certain cleaners or how to safely secure cleaners away from children. Try to create a tangible link between the content and the CTA. This will help ensure your offer reaches those who are most likely to be interested in what you have to say.

The appearance

While what you say is certainly important, so is the overall appearance of your CTA. Choose contrasting colors to help the CTA pop from the page and attract viewers' attention. A CTA that just blends in at the bottom of a blog post will be overlooked and have a poor conversion rate. Similarly, make sure the CTA is big and bold, so no one can miss it. Don't hide the CTA in the corner, using the same font size as the rest of the page. It will be too easy to ignore.

In the same way, use images and other visuals to help consumers get a concrete look at what they'll be receiving. If that's an ebook, for example, use a picture of an actual book with the title of your ebook printed on the front. Using images helps people develop a strong association with the product you're offering and makes it look more appealing.

The importance of testing

When planning your campaign, develop more than one CTA, then test them to see which one resonates more with customers. You might be surprised how much difference a particular word choice or color can make on your conversion rates. Run basic A/B tests on the CTA, and get concrete answers about which offer is getting more conversions.

An A/B test is simple. Say you have one CTA and then develop an alternate page. The A/B test will randomly show some visitors the original and some the alternate page. It will then track how many people convert from each page. You can use this information to see which has a higher conversion rate, so you get the best page on your site.

Developing an efficient CTA will bring you leads and potential customers. Take the time to follow the steps above, and create a CTA that will maximize your potential.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Finding Your Crowd... On Social Media

Imagine you just moved to a new area. It's a small city with a bustling population. The local college attracts many young adults to the city, especially on the weekends, while local businesses ensure the professional crowd is also well represented.

Being new to the area, you want to find a place to go for dinner where you can meet some locals and start to get to know your new neighbors. Friday afternoon, you head into the first restaurant. It's bustling with activity and has great music, but at a volume so loud you can barely hear yourself think. You look around and realize that the crowd is mostly college kids. Surely, some of them are great people, but this isn't really the crowd you're looking to get to know. You might make a connection or two, but it will likely be significantly harder to form meaningful relationships.

So, you head out to the second restaurant. As you walk in, hardly anyone looks up. Most people seem to already be finishing their dinner, and the average age in the place seems to be older than your father. Sure, there are probably some fantastic people here, too, but again, this really isn't the crowd you're looking for.

You try the next place. You see some people in your age range, but it seems to be a much more family-oriented scene. Most people in the restaurant have young children seated with them. While you love your nieces and nephews, you don't have children yourself yet, so you wonder how well you'd fit in. You decide to wander on.

Finally, you head into the fourth place. You look around and breathe a sigh of relief. This establishment is filled with other professionals in your age range. This will be a great place for you to start to meet people in your new town and hopefully form some meaningful connections that can help you both socially and professionally.

So what does all of this have to do with marketing your company?

As the restaurants in our story demonstrate, different places tend to cater to different crowds. They aren't all interchangeable. The same is true of social media. If you want to increase your odds of connecting with your audience, you have to know what types of social media they like and where they will be found. To accomplish this, you need to know the following:

A precise definition of your audience

Before planning a social strategy, you need to know who you're trying to reach. This isn't just a general idea of "people who need XYZ." Instead, you need a more precise profile, including age, education, position, challenges, responsibilities, and what your prospects are looking for.

Who uses each social media platform

B2B companies tend to put a considerable amount of effort into LinkedIn, because this is the platform for networking professionals and those who are thinking about business. Facebook is dominated by people in a variety of age ranges looking to joke around and chat with friends. Twitter is a continuous conversation. Google+ has the biggest asset for local businesses looking to boost their SEO and odds of being found by local patrons.

Take these two sources of information and combine them to make a social media marketing plan that will help grow your company in ways you never thought possible. When you're ready to begin a new marketing campaign, contact us. We're here to help you get started and find success.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Just What the Teacher Ordered: The Business-Building Benefit Marketing Reports Provide

By the time most of us graduated from high school, we were well acquainted with researching, writing, and editing reports. College often meant more of the same.

While few would list report writing as a "highlight" of their academic career, those hours spent compiling reports were not spent in vain. Sure, report writing helped many of us learn how to plan out a project and conduct research, but they also taught us a bit about the topics we were researching, too. By forcing us to look in depth at the various subjects we were studying and analyze them from a number of different angles, we gained a far better comprehension of the subject matter than we might have if we had just read the textbook.

It's important to remember those benefits, especially when it comes to marketing your company.

How marketing reports are like your old school reports

Like their high school and college counterparts, marketing reports can also feel frustrating. People often view such assignments as time wasters that are only done because they're demanded by the c-level executives upstairs. In reality, however, marketing reports can offer considerable insight and help everyone better understand the company's marketing strategies and how they can be improved.

When you sit down and really invest the time needed to complete a thorough marketing report, you'll walk away with a much better understanding of your company's current marketing practices, how well each campaign is performing, and how it all relates to your company's bottom line. Without a well-researched report, it can be easy to gloss over weak spots and overlook opportunities for continued growth.

What a marketing report should exam

There are an infinite number of metrics a marketing report can examine, but some have more appeal and a greater ability to shed light on the success of your marketing strategy. Here are a couple to consider.

How much does it cost the company, on average, to obtain each new customer?

Take a look at your total cost in sales and marketing over a given period of time. Then see how many customers you obtained in that same period. Divide the cost by the number of customers, and you'll have your average cost of obtaining a single customer.

Determine what percentage of that cost is related directly to marketing, so you can see which campaigns worked and which ones didn't. Such insights can prove valuable in helping the marketing team improve their regular performance and illustrate the success of any changes made.

How many leads were generated directly from marketing?

Your marketing team should also be able to report how many successful leads were generated specifically from marketing efforts. Begin by calculating the percentage of customers who began as marketing leads. Then look at how many leads started elsewhere (e.g., in sales), but were influenced by the marketing department before making a purchase.

For added benefit, try to break down specifically where these marketing leads are coming from. Are prospects downloading certain ebooks? Do they subscribe to your blog? Did they take an online webinar?

Marketing reports offer valuable information about the state of your company's marketing programs and what can be improved. Although they might be viewed with the same frustration as the school reports of your youth, they can also offer incredible insight and education. So don't overlook the opportunity reports provide to regularly analyze the success of your marketing efforts.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Designing a Landing Page that Converts Customers

Landing pages are a fantastic way to convert leads into customers. A potential customer sees something that interests them. They click your call to action link or scan a QR code on an advertisement and end up on a page specifically designed to convert them. So how do you maximize the potential of your landing page?

Make the value immediately relevant

Landing pages are typically created to entice potential customers who have seen something of interest. When people arrive at the landing page, you want to capture their attention by showing them immediately the value you have to offer. Use a short paragraph or a bulleted list to outline exactly what the customer can hope to receive from you.

To make the value even more obvious, include positive customer reviews regarding the product or information you're offering. A line or two of customer recommendations at the bottom of the page will help boost sales, as prospects will feel encouraged to join the group of already satisfied customers.

Provide enough value that people won't mind filling out a form or request

The landing page is a page of give and take. People arrive looking for the value they were promised. In return, you ask for information you can use to improve your marketing to them and others like them. The trick is asking for information that's comparable to the value they're looking to receive.

If your offer is a two-page PDF with tips for caring for a washing machine, you won't receive many conversions if you ask people to fill out a 20-line form to receive it. The form is kind of like the payment you're asking customers to make, so you need to make sure you price what you're offering accordingly.

Have a layout that encourages people to convert

Never underestimate the importance of a good layout to encourage conversions. Pictures are a fantastic resource for helping customers connect with your product or service. Include a basic picture that helps customers connect with your offer. For example, you might include a stock image of a book, with the title of your ebook on the front. This will help customers resonate with your tangible offer.

Your layout should also be oriented entirely toward encouraging customers to convert. Remove your navigation links along the top of the page to encourage people to stay on the page and move forward. Include social share buttons along the bottom of your page to make it easy for customers to let their friends and social circles know about the amazing deal you have to offer. One of the best types of advertising is word of mouth. People inherently trust what they hear from people they know more than what they read from a company's advertising.

Building a landing page that's been optimized is a fantastic way to encourage page visitors to convert into customers. Keep in mind, though, that a landing page isn't build like other web pages. Use the tips above, and build a landing page that will maximize your conversions.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

3 Marketing Lessons Netflix Has Taught Us

Over the past few years, Netflix has revolutionized how people think about television and movies. As people have become increasingly disenchanted with cable options and the price of TV, Netflix has risen to become a major entertainment provider. Recently, the service has even begun producing movies and shows of its own. Whether you subscribe to Netflix yourself or know someone who does, here are some valuable Netflix-inspired lessons to consider for your company.

Research, research, research

We know it's important to research our potential audience and customers, but Netflix has taken that research to a whole new level. Just consider the research that came with the company's production of its own original shows. Netflix researched everything from viewing habits to actor popularity to the types of shows and movies people like in order to create the perfect recipe for success.

Conversely, Netflix has also shown us the importance of research with its hiccup a few years ago when it split the charges for its streaming and DVD options. While the company did manage to bounce back, people were very upset with the price hike and were so outraged at the company's attempt to rename part of its brand that Netflix had to drop the idea. Knowing where your customers' sensitivities lie can help you avoid such a debacle. A company that was not as popular as Netflix might have struggled to weather the storm.

Solve people's problems they didn't even know they have

Netflix has become popular precisely because the company has mastered this skill. Before Netflix came on the scene, people didn't really have much of a choice besides cable. Netflix came and offered people a solution for watching movies and TV shows. The company was also able to predict customer trends and started producing and advertising a streaming service before people even realized there might be something better than waiting two days for DVDs to arrive in the mail. Netflix stayed one step ahead of its customers, which gave the company a strong reputation as a superior provider.

Encourage word-of-mouth advertising

Word-of-mouth advertising is some of the most valuable in any industry. When people receive a recommendation from someone they trust, such as a friend or a family member, they automatically give the advertisement more credence. Encouraging people to tell their friends and family, and making it easy for them to do so, has been fantastic advertising for Netflix. Just about everyone has seen those little '1 month free for friends and family' cards Netflix gives out to subscribers. These cards make it simple and productive for current subscribers to encourage signups among their social circles. Once these new signups experience the convenience of Netflix firsthand, they're more likely to stay with the company long-term.

Netflix has built success by anticipating customer needs, understanding what drives customer demand, and capitalizing on industry opportunity. As you settle into your chair tonight for a marathon of your favorite show, keep these marketing techniques in mind and see what lessons you can apply to your own business. If you're ready to begin a new marketing campaign, contact us today for assistance.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Never Underestimate the Importance of Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is essential to any company's growth. When you meet or exceed a customer's expectations, they can do wondrous things for your reputation and even give you free advertising by recommending you to others. However, if you fail to meet their expectations, you'll likely never see them again. In fact, they might even complain about their experience on public forums, such as social media.

The value of customer satisfaction

According to Bain & Company, it costs 6 to 7 times more to find a new customer than to keep an existing one. Holding on to old customers and building customer loyalty gives you the chance to improve the bottom line drastically compared to a mindset that focuses exclusively on finding new customers.

Satisfied customers can also be fantastic brand advertisers. In the age of digital media, both complaints and compliments can go viral. A customer who takes to Twitter to speak about a poor customer experience can influence untold numbers of people who are debating whether or not to use your company. Fortunately, the same can be said for those who leave positive reviews.

Individuals who feel satisfied with the customer experience are more likely to tell friends, family, and associates about their positive experience. Since people take reviews from those they trust far more seriously than advertising, the value of customer satisfaction cannot be underestimated.

Keeping your customers happy

Customer service entails more than just what happens when a buyer makes a purchase. It encompasses their entire experience and interaction with your company. With that in mind, here are some pointers to consider:

  • Keep your employees happy. They're the face of your company. When they're happy, they'll make your customers happy, too.


  • Undersell and over deliver. For example, if you tell a customer you'll call them back by the end of the business day with a suggestion, try to call them back before lunch with two suggestions. Instill this same attitude in your team.


  • Work to ensure customers experience helpfulness at every stage. Make sure your website is helpful and easy to use. Train customer service reps to focus on solving problems, rather than just selling. And don't forget about customers after the sale. Instead, focus on helping them get the most from your product or service.

When customers find their expectations have been met or exceeded, they'll often share those experiences with friends, family, and followers on social media. Make customer satisfaction a focus of your organization to help improve the bottom line and make the entire experience more enjoyable for everyone.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Improve Your Integrated Marketing Campaign in 3 Easy Steps

Integrated marketing campaigns give companies the chance to reach their potential customers on a number of different platforms. A well-orchestrated campaign branches out across several platforms to reach the target audience wherever they might be found. Not all integrated marketing campaigns are created equally, however. Here are three steps you can take to start maximizing the benefits you receive from your integrated campaigns.

Step 1: Create a specialized landing page

Your integrated marketing campaign is aimed at bringing people from a variety of platforms and sources to your company website. Rather than just bringing them to your homepage or service page, however, create a specialized landing page that will directly speak to these visitors based on what they learned about your company through the advertisement.

A quality landing page will have certain characteristics, including clear, concise information about the value the customer is receiving and an easy-to-use form to fill out to buy or sign up for something. In return for filling out the form, the customer should receive something of equitable value. Perhaps you're running an advertising campaign for a new cleaning product. Your landing page should extol the virtues of this cleaning product, offer customers the chance to purchase it, and perhaps include a call to action that invites people to download a free ebook about efficient spring cleaning.

Step 2: Use QR codes

QR codes can be a great way to tie a traditional campaign in with the digital world. By putting QR codes on your direct mail ads, newspaper print ads, and similar pieces, you give your customers a way to connect with your landing page (described above), without having to worry about typing in web addresses or remembering your site name. Customers can scan the QR code with their smart device and get redirected automatically to your landing page.

While QR codes are fantastic, it's important to remember that there are some people who don't have smart devices or aren't in a position to scan when they see your advertisement. For these people, make sure your web address is still displayed near the code.

Step 3: Tighten the campaign focus

One of the biggest risks many marketing professionals run into is the urge to reach everyone in the community. That's not going to be possible. For you to run a successful campaign, you need a target audience -- a demographic you can pinpoint and analyze to see how you can solve a problem for them.

It's common for businesses to get a bit carried away when it comes to integrated marketing because they think of all the different people they can reach on different platforms. But just as with any other marketing campaign, try to focus on a key demographic. Use information and research about this target to see what platforms are best to reach this type of customer, then develop the integrated campaign accordingly. Tighten the campaign to help it speak directly to a particular buyer persona.

Building an integrated marketing campaign is a helpful way to get your message in front of people throughout their day. Integrated campaigns help people develop stronger associations with your brand, remember your message, and hopefully convert more readily. If you're looking to improve your integrated campaign, consider these three factors and see what you can use to take your campaign to the next level.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Maximizing Your Use of 4 Top Social Media Platforms

If you don't use social media personally, it can seem difficult to understand why it's such an important aspect of digital marketing. You might be tempted to think, "Well, Facebook is the biggest of the social media platforms, so maybe I should just post everything on there in the hopes of reaching the most people." What you need to realize, however, is that social media is not just a publication service. It's a community.

While there is overlap, different platforms are known for attracting different people and different types of conversation. You're not going to have much luck unless you understand the crowd each one attracts. Here's a quick breakdown of the top four social sites -- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ -- to help you get a feel for each platform and how to connect with customers on them.

Facebook
Facebook is easily the largest platform with an estimated 1.3 billion users. The site is known for being the perfect place for users to develop their individuality. You can use images, text, videos, and just about anything else you can think of. Generally keep your posts under 250 characters to keep your customers' attention, and don't be afraid to ask questions of your page visitors. This is the platform for making your brand seem full of personality and connecting with customers.

Twitter
Think of Twitter as a large, global conversation. There are an estimated 645 million users around the world, and the site has made the news multiple times for helping to start large social movements. It can also help your business.

Generally, you want to start your posts (tweets) early in the day and post frequently (just like a conversation). What's challenging about Twitter is that your posts should be only 115-120 characters long (which makes it easier for others to 'retweet' you). Twitter is also known for the popularity of the #hashtag. Hashtags help to make your posts searchable, while connecting you with your audience. You should alternate between text-based tweets and occasional photos.

LinkedIn
This site is the more professional of the social pages. There are about 300 million users, and most of them are there for professional networking and business information. This trend is reflected in the best posting practices. Posts made before 8am and after 6pm tend to fare better than those made during the day (when most users are at work). They should also typically concern business topics. Your business page and posts should all reflect the more professional aspect of this site.

Google+
Google+ also has about 300 million users, but Google+ offers the added benefit of being connected to Google, which helps make it fantastic for local search SEO. Google likes businesses to use Google+ and has combined it with the old Google business pages. Take some time to build up your profile and cultivate reviews. This can help boost your local search results and make your business seem very appealing when it shows up on a search results page.

Content posted to this site should also be diversified between images, videos, fun content, and educational content. In terms of seriousness, Google+ tends to fall somewhere between Facebook and LinkedIn, making it a good place to connect with professional and casual users.

Social media has a considerable amount of potential in what it can offer your company. It's a great place to connect with people and show them everything your business has to offer. Knowing the crowds who tend to gather on each platform will help you considerably as you set out to use each to its fullest potential.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Finding Your Position on the Field

The 2002 movie The Rookie focuses on Jim Morris, a high school science teacher who managed to play major league baseball long after what most athletes would consider their prime. It's an entertaining feature and stays impressively close to the real-life story of Morris, who pitched in the major leagues from 1999 to 2000.

The audience learns at the opening of the movie that this father and high school science teacher had always loved the game of baseball. He had excelled at it during his youth, but due to various circumstances, he had to give it up before be was able to play in the big leagues.

While coaching his high school baseball team, Morris makes a bet with his team that if they can win their championship, he will try out once again for a professional team. During tryouts, he manages to amaze everyone with a fastball that falls just shy of 100 mph. This paves the way for his triumphs.

The Rookie is definitely a "feel good" movie. It's the type of film that motivates viewers to go out and follow their own dreams, too. In addition to lifting the audience's spirits, however, there's a very poignant business lesson that every entrepreneur and growing business should pay attention to.

If you have the talent, there is a place for you at the table.

The digital era has made it possible for just about anyone to start a business. This has led to considerable saturation and heavy competition. It has also resulted in specialization and businesses that are able to target very specific niches.

For a new entrepreneur just beginning a new business, this can seem considerably intimidating. How does one succeed in business when there seem to be too many companies within the industry already? It's entirely possible, provided you have the skills necessary and are ready to put in the work.

When Morris decided to pursue his dream of playing in the major leagues, he had enormous odds against him. For starters, he was significantly older than most of the other young men trying out. While they were coming to the game fresh out of high school or college, he had not played competitively himself in years. There were also numerous talented pitchers at the tryout and throughout the league. Despite these potential roadblocks, Morris had confidence that he deserved a position on the team, and he went out to earn that place. He was able to show the coaches that of all the talented pitchers available, he had something special to offer.

As a business professional, you must do the same thing. If you know you have the talent to run your business well, then focus on showing others what makes you so fantastic. There's no industry so saturated that a talented and strategic business professional cannot become a leader. The key to success is working hard, showing determination, and having confidence in your ability. It might be hard to break into an industry that already has ample talent, but when you have the perseverance necessary, it is possible.

For those interested in starting their own business, the digital era has been a blessing. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of existing online companies can also seem intimidating. Take some inspiration from Jim Morris of The Rookie, and remember that talent and hard work can make it possible for anyone to become a leader in any industry. If you're ready to start advertising your business, contact us today.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Keeping the Ship Afloat . . . In Business

We've all heard the expression "keeping the ship afloat." Anyone who has ever spent time on an actual ship knows that keeping a boat afloat and getting it to the intended destination is no easy task. Ships of all sizes require a considerable amount of work from everyone on board, and we in business can learn a great deal from these professionals when it comes to keeping our own companies running and moving in the right direction.

The importance of clear leadership

Ships are not democracies. A captain always leads the ship's crew and directs activities on board. Captains have considerable experience sailing ships and know what needs to be done to make the trip a success. Their ability to see the larger picture lets them direct their subordinates. They don't waffle in making decisions and have confidence in their abilities.

Like any good leader, however, a captain also willingly listen. Captains will take advice from their advisers in certain situations, and then balance the advice against their own experience. A good captain is able to take all of these sources of information and synthesize them to come up with the best possible solution.

As a business leader, you must be willing to do the same. Strong leaders unabashedly listen to those around them while also using their own experience and wisdom to make decisions for the benefit of the company. They don't shy away from making firm decisions, nor are they so concerned for their own power that they neglect to listen to what others have to offer.

Dedicated workers

Ships have always required dedicated crews to keep them afloat. The ships of old required crews of men who would paddle the ship or control the sails to keep the boat moving. Crews today might man the sails or the engine rooms. No matter where the crew is working, however, they have to be prepared to give the boat 100 percent.

The employees you select for your business must also be fully dedicated to your company. You should be able to trust that their skills and experience will help them move the organization forward. Running an efficient business means not having to look over everyone's shoulders, but instead establishing goals and having your employees work to meet you there.

Choosing a direction and sticking with it

When sailing a ship, the boat has a concrete destination. The captain and crew might have to adjust their route slightly if a storm comes up or another obstacle crosses their path, but they always know where they're going and how they plan to get there.

Your business must have the same foresight. Successful organizations don't set vague goals for success. Instead, they lay out concrete, measurable goals they want to achieve. When the goals of the organization are clearly laid out in front of everyone, it's much easier for each person to know exactly what they're supposed to do and how that fits in the broader picture.

Keeping a ship -- or business -- afloat requires strong leadership, a dedicated staff, and concrete goals. When you manage to keep these three ingredients in mind for your company, you'll be well on your way to success.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How Does Email Fit Into a Modern Marketing Strategy?

Given that most people despise spam email, it can be difficult to see how email can fit into a successful marketing strategy. Isn't blasting potential customers with email part of the old, outdated marketing system that's now viewed as ineffective?

Yes, and no.

Yes -- when you send potential customers unsolicited emails, especially using email lists you purchase from a provider.

No -- when your email messages are used purposefully as a means of initiating conversation with your leads and helping them along the sales process.

The truth is that more than 3/4 of your customers prefer to receive marketing communications by email compared to other methods. It's also true that 95 percent of online customers use email, with the vast majority of them checking their email at least once a day. When used properly, email can be a fantastic way to stay in touch with your customers reliably and consistently. Here's what you should keep in mind to make sure you're getting the most from your emails.

Make sure everyone wants to be on the email list.

The first step to using email effectively is to ensure that everyone actually wants to be on your email list. This means no list purchasing and no generating email lists from random people. Your email lists should be comprised of people who have voluntarily given you their email address. You can use your landing pages, sign ups, and past customers to generate much more effective email lists. Such lists will have a much higher open rate than a randomly generated list. Your messages will be less likely to be marked as spam, and you'll generate a higher conversion rate.

Use email to cultivate leads.

Email is a fantastic tool for taking people who have shown at least a passing interest in your brand and moving them further along the conversion process. Start by creating an e-newsletter comprised of helpful, relevant information designed to help people no matter where they are in the buyer's journey. This will remind customers of the value you have to offer. As an added bonus, when you produce content that people like to share, you can generate even more leads. When people receive information about a company from a person they trust, they're more likely to trust the company themselves.

Use email to stay in touch.

Email is also a great medium for staying in touch with people. Got any past customers you haven't heard from in a while? Reach out to them with an email asking how you can help them reach their goals. How about people who have visited your pricing page but didn't make a purchase? Email them to find out if they have any more questions about your products or services.

Email can even be helpful for taking an interested, sales-ready lead to the final step. After making your sales calls, follow up with emails. By opening multiple lines of communication, you're making it as easy as possible for your customers to contact you.

Spam email has long passed its effectiveness as a marketing tool, much to the relief of everyone. But that doesn't mean email itself is obsolete. Using email effectively in conjunction with the rest of your marketing efforts can be an excellent way to cultivate more leads and bring your company the growth you seek.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Business Lessons From the Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz is an exciting tale that has delighted people for several generations. When young Dorothy is magically transported from her home to the magical land of Oz, she and her companions must outsmart witches and other dangers in an effort to find the famed Wizard of Oz, who they believe can help her find her way home and grant her companions gifts of their own. Upon finally finding the wizard, however, they learn that he is not some great and powerful wizard after all. Instead, he's just an ordinary man behind a curtain, projecting his voice and image to appear to be a magical being. Still, in the end, Dorothy does learn how to get back home.

The Wizard of Oz and Business

There are two key lessons we as business leaders can learn from the wizard. In one situation, he's an excellent example of what we should do. In the other, he does the exact opposite of what would be appropriate in the business world.

What the wizard gets right

In Oz, the wizard regularly projects his voice and opinions for all the kingdom to see. He providers personalized information for each person who visits him.

In social media, we're often asked to be like the man behind the curtain. We must project our voice and opinions in a variety of media, communicating a sense of authority and wisdom. With all the demands of the modern business world, it can be tempting to resort to automation. There are a number of 'tricks and cheats' available in the social media world. From programming social responses to buying followers to automating tweets, it's very easy for those who desire it to completely remove themselves from the actual social media process.

If we're to learn anything from the mysterious wizard, however, it's important to remember to always have an actual person 'behind the curtain.' This will allow us to engage potential leads when they arise and avoid missing opportunities to bring in new customers, which can easily happen if all our responses happen automatically and we aren't actually monitoring the conversation.

What the wizard gets wrong

Although it's important to remain actually present behind all our social media campaigns, we also need to be authentic. The wizard made the devastating mistake of casting himself as something he wasn't: a powerful wizard. When those who actually needed his help (like Dorothy and her companions) turned to him, he was virtually powerless to help. If we cast ourselves as something we're not, nothing will destroy our reputation faster than our customers realizing it. We must always be realistic about our capabilities and strengths. Play up what you can do for customers and be confident in your abilities, but don't ever let yourself get caught in a web of lies.

What to take away

Social marketing is an important part of branding and finding new customers. It requires authenticity. That means broadcasting a solid message based on what you can do for customers and always keeping a person involved with every stage of the campaign to communicate with customers. When you stick to these two rules, you'll have a great chance of success.

Are you ready to get a new campaign started? Come talk to us! We'd be happy to help you get started.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Are You Using Keywords Correctly

When it comes to search engine optimization, few topics are as popular as the use of keywords. To hear some people describe it, keywords are the secret to success; if you just use specific keywords in your text enough, people will flock to your website. But think about the last time you read something that was clearly "keyword stuffed." It probably sounded awkward, unnatural, and a bit forced, didn't it? You probably didn't take the information or the website too seriously. Fortunately, it is possible to use keywords effectively to entice visitors, give them confidence they've found a good source of information, and still sound completely natural.

Selecting the keywords

When choosing keywords, think about the words customers are commonly searching for online. Monitor the number of searches that are done for different keywords, and then choose a few you'd like to target. These should be keywords directly related to your business, so you can use them naturally throughout your website and blog.

When selecting keywords, make the subtle distinction between keywords you and other professionals in your industry are likely to use and those your customers are likely to use. Your keywords won't do you any good if your site ends up just attracting competitors. They're not looking to buy from you! You want to use language and keywords that reflect your customers' priorities and their language. This will ensure you bring the right people to your site. This is also helpful for selecting vocabulary words to use on all your marketing materials, including your outbound direct mail and newspaper advertisements.

Using the keywords appropriately

Make sure you use the keywords a few times in content. This will let your visitor know they've found a page with the information they were looking for. If done naturally, using the keywords in the opening paragraph can be a good practice for this reason.

Don't use your keywords excessively, though. Generally, aim to keep the keywords in mind when you write, and use them whenever the opportunity naturally arises rather than assigning yourself the task of fitting them in as often as possible. Using this system will help you improve the flow of your writing and make it sound much more compelling and natural, rather than a trap designed to bring visitors to your website.

The reason blogging and keeping your website up-to-date are so fantastic for marketing is that both of these practices allow you to naturally incorporate keywords into your content. Keywords should be thought of as subjects that you want to write about. They're terms your potential customers are searching for because they're interested in learning more. Be the source of information for them, so they will turn to you as a source of authority.

Keywords can be very helpful in developing websites to attract and retain visitors. Capitalizing on their value, however, requires understanding what customers and search engines are and aren't looking for. Keeping these guidelines in mind should help you use your keywords to your advantage. If you're ready to take your marketing campaign to the next level, let us know. We'd be happy to help get you started!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Building a Championship Team at Work

Postseason baseball is in full swing. After six months and 162 games, only a handful of teams have earned a chance at becoming World Series champions.

Putting together a championship-quality roster is no easy task. Tryouts, trades, drafts, and injuries all play a part in the process. Teams must find the right mix of players who can bat, pitch, and field. Just as importantly, though, they must consider team chemistry, too. Is everyone playing together? Are internal rivalries or personality clashes going to get in the way of a cohesive unit? Can those clashes be overcome for the sake of success? In the end, it often takes experience to get it just right.

What businesses can learn from baseball

When you set out to select members for your own professional team -- your business -- you must give it as much thought as a baseball coach and general manager. Sure, you should carefully review resumes and interview candidates, but in doing so, try to avoid the temptation to simply fill a role, rather than building a team.

When you fail to evaluate a candidate for their ability to fit in with your company culture and ascribe to your company mission, it's easy to lose your internal values. This can in turn damage employee morale and employee loyalty. When everyone is concerned with just completing a job, rather than working together as a team, people don't feel as connected to their workplace.

Why this is dangerous

According to Bain & Company, it's 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an old one. Building a successful business should be focused around delighting your customers, giving them reasons to return, and encouraging them to recommend you to others. Your employees are the ones who interact with these customers every day. They're the face of the company. When you don't take the time to develop a strong company culture that encourages employee satisfaction and a positive work environment, you end up putting up a huge roadblock for customer satisfaction.

Choosing your team

Work with your current team to develop lists of values and priorities that keep your workplace cohesive and productive. When you're ready to make a new hire, carefully consider how the person will fit in with the rest of the organization. This will include asking them questions that relate to these specific values.

Consider having candidates speak with multiple people at the company or try performing some of the basic tasks they would do if they were hired. The better you can choose your employees, the better you'll be at building an organization that works as a team and serves your customers with a united front. Have faith and trust in your organization, empowering your employees and making it an overall fantastic place to work and grow.

While many organizations realize their customer service will have an enormous impact on their success, they don't realize that something as intrinsic as their hiring practices can have such a big impact. Give your company a leg up and complement your marketing efforts with a superior, service-oriented company. Get started by making sure each hire you make will be a great fit for your team. You may be surprised how much it pays off.