Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Emotion in Print Marketing: What it Means and How to Do It Properly

In some ways, the most important goal of any piece of print marketing isn't merely to act as an educational tool for your target audience. While conveying the message of what your product or service does and why they need it is integral to the success of your campaign, it is only one small part of a much larger goal. One of the major keys to success in advertising involves evoking an emotional response from people, which is something that print marketing as a medium can do quite well - if you approach it from the right angle.

What Does "Emotion" In Print Marketing Actually Mean?

To boil it down to its essentials, invoking an emotional response from a person who views a print marketing material means that you've gotten them to think more than just "I understand what this product does" at the end of a piece. You don't necessarily want to leave a person with the idea of "This particular product will help solve my problem" per say - you want to leave them with a sense of "Not only will this product help solve my problem, but it will also make me happier at the same time." You want them to long for the emotion every bit as much as they do for the product, which is where the real success of this technique rests.

Nostalgia is the Key to the Emotional Response

One of the single best ways to inject emotion into your print marketing is through good, old-fashioned nostalgia. Even if your message is framed in a way as simple of "Things used to be great, but now you have a problem. With X product or service, they can be great again," you're going a long way towards tying your particular product or service to emotional past experiences that the customer has had. This lets them both acknowledge that they long for the days where things were much simpler and gets them to realize that with what you're offering, they may just get there again.

In the AMC television show "Mad Men," set against the backdrop of the 1950s print advertising industry, Don Draper at one point early on creates an astounding pitch for the Carousel from Kodak. For those unfamiliar, the Carousel was a slide projector that made it easier than ever to enjoy all of the wonderful photographs that you've taken over the years on a much larger scale than ever before.

Don didn't just zero in on this functionality, however - in an impassioned speech to the Kodak board, he talked about how the Carousel was much more than just a slide projector - it was a time machine. It was a doorway into the past, allowing someone to relieve those wonderful Christmas mornings when their kids were still small, or that family trip that they took to the Grand Canyon that they're still thinking about - all in the type of stunning detail that customers wouldn't be able to find anywhere else.

What made Don's pitch so successful is that he tied the product to a noble emotional response - something that people are actively looking for in what they consume, be it their favorite movie or the products they buy and everything in between.

It is inside that emotional response where most of your success in print marketing will reside. If you can tie a positive (and hopefully intense) emotional response to your product or service through marketing, you'll create a loyal army of customers who can't wait to buy what you're selling because what you have to offer is so much more powerful than any one product or service: you're offering them their own emotions.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Getting Out of Your Own Way

Brilliant author, philosopher, and speaker Alan Watts once published his autobiographical book, In My Own Way, the title of which is a play on words with alternate meanings. An extremely independent thinker, Watts clearly did things in his own inimitable way. The clever alternate meaning is probably more common for the rest of us, where we use excuses and other convenient reasons to get "in our own way" on the path toward success. As Watts pointed out, the difference lies between fulfilling yourself and obstructing yourself.

Starting a business is a bold step, not one for the timid. The list of excuses used to avoid the dangers of launching a business are many and varied, but they all resonate with the same timidity. Fear of failure is probably the most common thread among all of the excuses holding us back. It takes courage to take the plunge, and a prospective entrepreneur must be willing to take some chances or they will definitely getting in their own way.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

You are familiar with these. We have heard them all before: I don't know enough about running a business. I don't have the skills. I don't have sufficient contacts with the right people to get started on the right foot. I can't afford it right now. The economy won't support a new business just yet. It's just not the right time.

Each of these may be a valid concern, but the bottom line is that they are nothing more than excuses holding you back from exploring your dream. THEY are not what is holding you back. YOU are what is holding you back.

There are many ways to overcome the fear of failure. One of the most common is simply out of necessity. People lose their long-held jobs and have to pay the rent. Being "forced" into business has been the best thing ever to happen to a lot of people. But whether you are forced, following your dream, or simply fall into it by chance, the opportunities are there for you to succeed. Pat Flynn's success is a good example.

Pat Flynn was laid off by an architectural firm in 2008. He set a goal of passing an architecture-related exam and created a website to gather information on the test and how to pass it. Many others were also interested in this objective and the site started generating thousands of hits daily. His internal light bulb went on and Flynn wrote an ebook study guide on how to pass that test, selling it for $19.99. Within a month, he had generated sales in excess of $7,000. He never looked back, and today is the brain trust behind SmartPassiveIncome.com, as well as numerous other revenue-generating websites. Pat Flynn got out of his own way.

Founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg is an extremely successful entrepreneur. He didn’t start the wave that has become social media, but his brainchild is today clearly the most popular vehicle in the genre. On his profound success, Zuckerberg said, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

You must get past that little voice in your head that says, "You can't," and find the other one in there that says, "Yes, you can." That voice is in there. You just have to find it and listen, for a change. The boldness to take the plunge depends on it. As Henry Ford once said, "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right."

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Is Your Message Being Diluted in Your Marketing Materials?

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

Are You Overloading the Reader Visually?

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

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

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

Do You Have Enough White Space?

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

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

Friday, December 18, 2015

How to Create and Amplify Desire in Your Marketing Materials

If your marketing campaign is all about telling a story (and make no mistake, it most certainly is), the most important quality that story can have is a sense of desire. When you really stop to think about it, marketing is similar to almost every other medium in that regard. If your story took the form of a movie, desire would be the need for your audience to stay right where they were and not even think about getting up for popcorn. If you were writing a novel, desire would be the absolute need of the reader to turn the page and find out what happened next. In marketing, desire involves communicating to your target audience exactly why they need your product or service in their lives and why they can't stand to live another day without it.

Creating Desire in Marketing

One of the single best ways to create a desire in your marketing materials is to use your target customer's own natural sense of curiosity against them. Help them visualize the many ways that your product or service can fit into their existing lives through a combination of scenarios. Highlight what makes your company a very different (and better) animal than your competition. What you absolutely should NOT do, however, is give the game away too early. If a customer thinks that they have all of the information about every last thing a product does, they may feel compelled to easily write it off without giving it a second thought.

Don't rely too heavily on trying to be clever or to "impress" your potential customer, per say. Not only is it difficult to master without wasting space, but it also isn't necessarily something you even need to do once you've piqued their curiosity in the first place.

Simplify the Next Step

Much has been written about the idea of the call to action as a way to direct the reader farther along towards the sales funnel, but many people don't realize that it can also be a great way to amplify desire in a customer.

Say you've designed a perfect, enticing ad campaign that both highlights benefits about your product and also leaves enough to the imagination where they can't help but want to know more. A great way to kill that desire before you've had a chance to use it is to make the next step far too complicated for its own good. People don't want to fill out a form to get an e-mail to download a PDF to possibly satisfy their curiosity and desire. Keep it simple: "Having this wonderful product or service in your life is only a phone call away." That one simple technique can put many potential customers over the top and turn them into sales.

These are just a few of the many reasons why the concept of desire is such an important one when it comes to marketing. If you can master the art of desire, you're almost leveraging the power of your potential customer's own brain against them. Once the seed of desire has been planted, it is one that will essentially grow and come to fruition on its own. Once a potential customer truly and deeply wants something, they will move heaven and earth to make it happen - which is absolutely something that you want to create in as many people as possible.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Individualism in Thought and Action: Is it always a good thing?

Certainly, a strong sense of individualism is a valuable asset to possess. Free market capitalism is based in large part on the ability to be both clever enough and individualistic enough to see a need and meet that need in a way that no one else has done before.

After all, it is the individual who supplies the needed answer, where only the question existed before. They do this by doing something in a new way, differently than it had previously been done, providing a product or service that is in some respect novel. In a way, they predict the future by inventing it. They supply something that was simply overlooked by everyone else. Albert Einstein said it this way: "If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got." The individualistic entrepreneur wants something more than what they have "always got," and they set in motion the mechanism to obtain it.

Apple's, Steve Jobs may have been the poster child for innovative individualism, but he is by no means alone in this capacity. Indeed, most successful entrepreneurs in Western culture adhere to the belief that their success was the product of their undaunted individualism.

Bandwagon Effect

For the most part, we have all heard of the bandwagon effect. It happens when an individual or group forms an opinion based, to some extent, on the stated or observed opinions of others, particularly if the others have formed a growing majority. Those who are influenced in this way are said to have "jumped on the bandwagon." According to this confirmed psychological effect, the more people who hold an opinion, regardless of how true or untrue it may be, the more additional people will have a tendency to accept that increasingly popular view as their own. The bandwagon effect, therefore, relates to how opinions are shaped by the observed behavior of other people. It is based on our innate attraction for group activity. No matter how individualistic people may be, they are still affected by this innate attraction to group behavior. We are, after all, extremely social beings.

Among other things, research into the bandwagon effect has focused on politics due to the critical nature of the effect on election results. However, the effect has been observed in many environments, explaining the growth of fads and fashion trends, as well as the popularity of Internet memes on social media, especially as they are said to "go viral."

In business, too, the bandwagon effect has a definite place. As such, it seems radically opposed to the apparent benefit of individuality, but the connection is both meaningful and useful, and should not be overlooked.

The concept of rugged individualism is the basis for the Boot Strap Theory, whereby someone of more modest means can pull himself "up by the boot straps" to a more successful position in society. Keep in mind, though, that successful business ventures must acknowledge the necessity for meeting the needs of a wide spectrum of customers or the relatively fewer "individuals" served will not provide enough of a base for financial success.

Individuality really is a good thing as long as it comes with the realization that it is not alone in some sort of exclusive importance. For most businesses to develop and prosper, owners need to realize that most people are not leaders, but followers by nature, adhering (whether they realize it or not) to the bandwagon effect. A successful business operation usually depends on the overall popularity of the business. Social media constitutes a good tool for exploiting the benefits of the bandwagon effect. However it is accomplished, though, the smart business owner will explore the benefits of increasing the popularity of her business by understanding and taking advantage of the bandwagon effect.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Bridge the Gap to a Successful Resolution

In its simplest context, a bridge is a solution for getting from point A to point B. The best bridge is one that accomplishes that task with the least amount of difficulty. But bridges, even the metaphorical symbolic ones, come in all shapes and sizes.

In northern India, the roots of the banyan fig tree are used by the indigenous population to form bridges across ravines and streams. As solutions to problems, these living root bridges are quite successful. It is not known who first built these amazing structures, but the trees are known to live for more than 500 years. With that knowledge, at least as far as bridges are concerned, you don't have to worry too much about the decay of your infrastructure.

These aerial roots grow perfectly well in the air, and the young pliable roots are trained to travel through hollowed out tree trunks laid across whatever must be crossed. The process can take up to 15 years, but once the roots attach themselves to the other side, the bridge is usable and simply must mature with a hardening of the roots to become fully functional. Some of the best solutions take time, but if you have one that is going to perform for 500 years, you have a pretty good solution.

Exemplifying another kind of bridge, in 2014, the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, received an award of distinction for its leadership in the areas of diversity and inclusiveness. In fact, the award presented by the Greater Baltimore Committee is actually called the Bridging the Gap Award.

Led by Dr. Richard Bennett, Bayview's Diversity Council was recognized as one of the nation’s top ten such councils. In this case, bridging the gap involved uniting business interests with community interests with the bridge of commitment toward generating summer employment for minority students pursuing health care and life sciences careers. Bayview was also recognized for its efforts to support leadership initiatives among the medical center’s under-represented minority and female staff members.

One of the most innovative and successful business leaders to emerge in the past 50 years was Steve Jobs. One of the primary problems he routinely addressed was how to do business with a focus not on his product, but on the utility of that product, and how clients received and used that product. Steve Jobs was focused on people, not products. As a result, his energy was poured into solving the problems of people rather than solving the problems of making products.

Clearly one of his biggest success stories was the iPhone, as it performed the functions of three or four machines with one device. That solves a people problem creating a bridge between multiple needs and utility. But it didn't stop there for Jobs. He went further by creating an environment in which the iPhone was not merely an industry leader. Other companies in that industry were creating applications to use on his iPhone. In essence, he created an ecosystem in which his product sales were now being driven by other companies through their software marketed specifically for the iPhone. Steve Jobs built a bridge between multiple needs of people and the obvious solution to those many needs with a single product. And then, he widened the bridge by getting other companies to basically market his product for him.

Business has always been about solving problems. The best bridges solve problems the most effectively. Like the famous folk-rock group Simon and Garfunkel said in their Grammy-winning song, "like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down." Successful bridges make the journey over troubled water a much easier task.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Avoid These Common Print Marketing Mistakes

We tend to talk a great deal about all of the things that you should do in your print marketing campaign for maximum effectiveness. You always want to make sure that your message is clear and concise, for example, and make sure that your pages are designed in a way where you can naturally control the flow of how people are taking in your important information. As a change of pace, we thought it would be fun to talk about some of the things you SHOULDN'T do if you want to unlock the maximum value of your campaign. A good piece of print marketing material is an incredible investment, but a bad one will quickly have the exact opposite reaction that you intended.

Remember the End Product - Particularly Its Size

Unlike the old days, most print marketing materials today are designed on a computer. After all, it's never been easier to get the exact look that you want with just a few, quick clicks of your mouse. One of the most important things to keep in mind, however, is that the way a material looks on a crystal clear HD computer screen can be quite a bit different from the way it looks in real life if you're not careful.

More specifically, pay attention to the font size that you choose to use - particularly if your print material is something that you'll be blowing up to a much larger size later. Even small printing looks perfectly legible when you're sitting a few inches away from a 1080p computer monitor. When you print out the banner or other item that you've just designed and blow it up to its intended size, though, you may find out that the small font size you chose to fit as many words on the page as possible is suddenly impossible to read unless you move closer. You can pretty much guarantee people who are just going about their busy lives are not going to take the time to slow down and move in closer to your marketing.

Forgetting to Account for Light

Any print marketer will spend a huge amount of time making sure that their materials look and feel just right. You'll go over everything with a fine-toothed comb and may even spring for that extra glossy paper to really sell the look of professionalism you're trying to get across. If your print material is going to be hanging in a well lit area like a store window, however, you may want to skip the glossy paper for a very important reason.

Forgetting to account for the lighting in the environment where the material will be viewed is a disaster you want to avoid at all costs. At worst, the shine from something like the sun on a glossy window banner will make it difficult to read. At just the right angle, it can actually create a dangerous situation for drivers who suddenly have the full force of the sun beaming directly into their eyes. Always remember where your material will be viewed and under what conditions when designing.

These are just a few of the things that we think you need to keep in mind when designing your print marketing materials for maximum effect. Remember, it isn't just your message that is important - it is ultimately who will be viewing those materials, how they'll be exposed to them, and under what conditions this will happen that you also have to focus on for the best results.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Daring to be Innovative

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

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

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

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

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

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

ZipDial

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

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

Xiaomi

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

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

Monday, November 30, 2015

Buyer Personas: What They Are, Why You Need Them, and What Should You Do About It

In marketing, one of the most important terms that you need to keep in mind at all times is "focus." In order to run a successfully executed campaign, you need to remove as much of the superfluous noise from your materials as possible and boil it down to the core essentials. You can't appeal to all people all of the time, which is why focusing on creating the right message and using the right delivery channels is so important. Buyer personas are a concept that allow you to do just that in a host of different ways, all of which are beneficial to you and your team moving forward.

What is a Buyer Persona?

In marketing terminology, a buyer persona is essentially a person that doesn't exist. They're a fictional representation of the type of person who is most likely to buy your product or service after hearing your marketing message. Buyer personas are created using as much actionable information about your ideal customer as possible: How old are they? Where do they live? Do they have any children? How much money do they make? What types of products have they purchased in the past? What do they like? What do they hate?

If you knew all of the answers to those questions when talking about a real person, you'd already have a pretty vivid picture about how that person acts and what their personality is. You'd certainly have an easier time talking to that person and relating to him or her - which is what buyer personas are all about in the first place.

Why Are Buyer Personas Important?

By creating a fictional representation of the person who makes up your ideal customer, you always have something to refer to when crafting your marketing materials. Say your business' buyer persona is Jane - she's a 35-year-old mother of two with a combined household income of $150,000. Instead of "throwing everything and anything at the wall and seeing what sticks" in terms of your marketing campaigns, you have something to compare your techniques to. How does your product or service fit into Jane's life? How does it solve a problem that she has? How does it align with past purchases she's made? The answers to these questions will drive your marketing decisions moving forward.

Crafting Buyer Personas

Creating a buyer persona requires you to be two things at all times: detailed and accurate. After you've been in business for an extended period of time, you have access to huge volumes of data regarding things like market research and even your past customers that you can draw from. To a certain degree, all of this data should dictate the buyer personas you create, which in turn should dictate the direction of your marketing. Are a significantly large number of your past satisfied customers men between the ages of 18 and 34 who have no kids? Congratulations - you have the basic framework to begin building a buyer persona. Any marketing technique that isn't directly appealing to that specific type of person is one that you now need to re-think.

It's important to not go "too far" when creating buyer personas, however. If buyer personas are all about focus, going out of your way to have too many personas is a great way to instantly undo all of the benefits that you've just worked so hard to build for yourself. Focus on a few core types of customers and craft buyer personas for each, and then compare every marketing move that you make against the information you've compiled for guidance on what to do next.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Resilience: Withstand the Hardship

One of the more important characteristics of a successful business is resilience. Without resilience, a business that suffers any setback is far more vulnerable to hardship or even complete collapse. In fact, failures frequently precede success in many people's efforts in business or otherwise. Just look at some of these examples.

Walt Disney was fired once because he "lacked imagination and had no good ideas." A recording company executive told the Beatles that he just didn't like their sound. Stories like this are accounts of people with the persistence to avoid defeatism in the face of difficulty. They had the needed resilience to keep going, to strive for future successes instead of wallowing in failure.

Another lesser known example is that of Thomas Carlisle, who took more than a year to compile his monumental history of the French Revolution. A housekeeper mistook it for trash and out it went. Carlisle dedicated himself to re-creating it, and with three more years of hard work, recalled it from memory and produced the replacement--a monumental history produced with an equally monumental reserve of resilience in the face of defeat.

One of the most familiar such stories in the business world is that of Austrian psychiatrist, Victor Frankl. Frankl survived Nazi Germany's, Auschwitz to become a leading proponent of a humanistic therapy approach for motivating more productive decision making. In Frankl's best-selling book, "Man’s Search for Meaning," he details the critical moment when he realized the objective of creating this revolutionizing form of therapy.

Frankl had fallen into self-pity over his concentration camp existence. He now saw his life as meaningless and trivial, but he suddenly realized that to survive, he would have to overcome this feeling. He would have to find some overarching purpose. He would have to have the resilience to form some positive objectives in the face of so much negativity. Frankl envisioned himself delivering a lecture after the war on the subject of the psychology surrounding a concentration camp. From this simple beginning sprang his entire school of thought, which he called, "Meaning Therapy," with a mission of recognizing and creating significance in the lives of others. With resilience, Frankl turned around not only his life, but the lives of countless others. Today, employee resilience training is common in the work place.

Frankl's resilience was born of an ability to find meaning against all odds in a horribly negative situation. Finding meaning is just one of the characteristics of those with high resilience, though. Another, perhaps strangely, is an acceptance of reality - for only from a realistic acceptance of a challenging situation can an adequate response be generated to fix it.

The investment bank, Morgan Stanley, had its offices in the World Trade center before that awful day on September 11, 2001. As it happens, Morgan Stanley had a diligent concern for preparedness, which included preparing for possible disasters requiring building evacuation. When the first tower was hit, it took them exactly one minute to begin the evacuation of their offices in the second tower. Only because of their preparedness and training were almost all of the company's 2,700 employees saved when the second plane struck its target fifteen minutes later.

Their realistic approach, accepting the reality of the existing threat of terrorism, brought about the preparedness plan that allowed Morgan Stanley to remain in business. This resilience in the face of potential disaster saved them when the danger became a reality.

Some people and some businesses break under pressure. Others succeed due to their resilience in overcoming adversity or planning for its resolution. Which one are you?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Inspiration from Acts of Courage

As American actor and social icon John Wayne said, "Courage is being scared to death …and saddling up anyway." Observed acts of courage are nourishing to the spirit and inspiring to all of us. In business, this is just as true and important as it is anywhere else.

Three company leaders who went above and beyond the call with their courage, demonstrating the kind of direction that characterizes great leadership, are the CEOs of Bluebell Ice Cream, Canada's Maple Leaf Foods, and Southwest Airlines.

After many were taken ill, and three people died from a listeria bacteria contamination of Blue Bell ice cream products, the company voluntarily recalled some eight million gallons of their ice cream products from retail shelves. Once the severity of the situation was known, CEO Paul Kruse recalled the products and initiated a program of employee training and plant sanitization that would take four months to complete. Four facilities in three states had to be sanitized and thoroughly inspected and tested for the presence of the bacteria before production could resume. There was the distinct possibility that the company would be unable to financially survive this hiatus while 1,400 employees were laid off, and an equal number being partially furloughed. Kruse secured capital from an outside investor and saved the company.

A similar circumstance faced Maple Leaf Foods' CEO, Michael H. McCain, when numerous deaths were attributed to contaminated meat produced by his company. Meeting the obvious media interest, he stood resolutely in front of the cameras accepting responsibility for the problem. Not all leaders are cut out to handle this kind of pressure, or deliver a necessary and potentially disastrous response with this much courage. An old, Latin proverb tells us that fortune favors the bold, but abandons the timid. Maple Leaf Foods was saved because of McCain's bold resolve and dedication, which rested on the foundation of his courage.

The CEO of Southwest Airlines, James Parker, displayed a similar courage in the face of a different kind of threat. Deep in the shadow of the recent horrific events of 9/11, the trend for businesses was to cut workforces and pull back on expansion projects in the recognition that far less prosperous times may lay immediately ahead. But, while these fears gripped industries nationwide, and particularly the airline industry, one airline CEO made the brave choice to buck this trend. Only three days after 9/11, Parker announced that Southwest would not be cutting employees, and in fact, would be keeping them all, as well as initiating a new profit sharing program with them.

These CEOs are cut from a different cloth than some, such as those from some of the large Wall Street banks prior to the 2008 crash, as well as Enron and WorldCom, to name a few. These companies were unable to find the ethical internal compass to reject risky operating plans in the name of artificially elevated profit taking. The scandals that ensued in each case demonstrate a lack of courage and a lack of commitment to ethical standards in business. True courage in leadership is as valuable as any given asset for an organization, no matter how large or small.

Ernest Hemmingway said that courage is grace under pressure. The three CEOs of Maple Leaf, Blue Bell, and Southwest certainly had an element of grace under pressure, but they had more than that. Echoing what John Wayne said, author Arthur Koestler wrote, "Courage is never to let your actions be influenced by your fears." These three men did not let either notions of greed, nor the fear of failure sidetrack what they knew they needed to do. They saddled up, anyway.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Creative Examples of What You Can Do With a Well-Placed QR Code

In today's world, one of the single best opportunities that you have to leverage the power of both digital and print campaigns at the same time is with a well-placed QR code. Short for "quick response code," a QR code operates on the same basic concept as a barcode, but can be used to accomplish a host of different things given the circumstances. If your goal is to use QR codes in your print campaigns creatively (as you should be), there are a few key avenues you can choose to pursue.

It's About Education, Not Destination

If you're only using QR codes as a substitute for a hyperlink, you're not coming close to unlocking the benefits of this technology. Consider the example of a restaurant that uses QR codes for customer education. There's only so much information that you can fit on a "take home" menu before it starts to get unwieldy. The larger that menu is, the more likely it is to get thrown in the garbage because it's difficult to store long-term.

If you were a restaurant owner, you might include an abbreviated menu featuring just items that are available to carry-out as a print marketing material. The QR code on that same menu, however, can be used to instantly educate the user about what your restaurant looks like, what items you have available for dine-in visitors and more. The physical print information that the customer is receiving is contextually relevant, in that dine-in options aren't necessarily on their mind if they're looking to order in. However, they do have access to all of that additional data should the need arise.

The customer has everything they need to order in and stay home for the evening if they choose, but you're also using the opportunity to show them what a great time they'll have, and what a great selection they'll be exposed to when they do decide to pay you a visit. More than that, you're saving physical space on your material and are leaving contextual information in the digital realm. This is the power of a well-placed QR code at work.

Adding to an Experience

Another great way to use a QR code in your campaign has to do with adding to the experience before, during, and after the event. As previously stated, a QR code should be about delivering quality information to your customers. In the days leading up to an in-store event, for example, a QR code on the print mailer that you send out may automatically send relevant details about who is going to be there, why the customer should come, and more to that person.

After the event, however, you can update what that QR code actually does to redirect the user to photos, video and other multimedia elements that were captured while the event was going on. Did a speaker host a question and answer session during the event? Suddenly, that same QR code can be used to deliver all that content right to the user's smartphone to let them relive the experience (if they were there), or show them what they missed (if they, unfortunately, couldn't make it).

Now, you don't have to send out another print mailer with updated information because the QR code itself is inherently malleable. It can be whatever you need it to at any given moment with a few quick modifications.

A well-placed QR code can do wonders for combining the best parts of both print and digital campaigns together. More than anything, however, it gives the user a choice regarding how they want to view the information that you're trying to get across. It allows them to pick a forum for the receipt of this data, allowing them to gain exposure to your message in the format that matters most to them.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Innocence of Children

Remember when you were a little kid; how the world seemed different than it does now? A big part of that difference was defined by your innocence as a child. As adults, we look back on childhood innocence with older, more mature eyes, and when we do, we see something almost magical in contrast to our work-a-day world of adult living. What is it that makes childlike innocence so attractive and ultimately inspiring?

We were all children at some point, complete with the requisite innocence of childhood and before the experiences of life turned us into knowing adults. While most of us have trouble remembering the innocence of our own early lives, there is no denying that the innocence we observe in today's small children inspires in us a faint recollection and a distant longing for whatever feeling that was, way back when. Innocence is attractive to us precisely because it is something we have largely lost and cannot regain.

We really have little choice in the loss of our innocence. We value experience as a necessary part of being functional adults, so we allow our innocence to die at its hands. That makes observed innocence all that much more attractive to us.

We still see flashes of that inherent goodness in adults, but it is usually reserved for times of emergency and imminent danger. Earthquakes, hurricanes, and volcanoes have brought out the best in heroic bravery. We honored the dedication of first-responders to the 9/11 disaster. We see images and videos on Internet social media, depicting the work of individuals who rise to specific occasions helping others in need, from mining disasters to oil spill clean-ups. But for adults, this is the exception, and not the rule. Only in the innocence of children can goodness still be displayed as the norm, as the way children simply are.

We adults chuckle at innocence, but deep down inside we respect it. Few things can be more deeply inspiring than innocence as French philosopher Jean Baudrillard said, "There is no aphrodisiac like innocence."

What is it we see in the eyes of a young child? We see untainted belief in the goodness of human beings. We see the belief in the goodness of ourselves, vicariously re-lived in our young counterparts. We see a willingness to embrace the irrational and an ignorance of the concept of death. The eyes of the innocent are a deep well of remembered truths and valued feelings. What can be more inspiring than the look of a child who sees into your own soul with a clarity that you, yourself, can no longer muster? Innocence, it seems, can be far more powerful than experience.

Founder of the Hilton hotel chain Conrad Hilton once said, "Be ever watchful for the opportunity to shelter little children with the umbrella of your charity; …[They are] in their innocence the repositories of our hopes for the upward progress of humanity."

We never completely outlive our innocence, but as adults, we need to spend the time to view its full force in the eyes of our children.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Constructive Criticism: Why Direct Customer Feedback is Better Than Surveys and How It Can Help Propel Your Business Forward

Constructive criticism is always important, regardless of the type of business you're running. It's one of the single best ways to not only identify areas where you and your team truly excel, but more importantly, identify things that you could be doing better that you might not be otherwise unaware of. The key word in this phrase, however, is "constructive." You need to be able to glean something valuable from what your customers are trying to tell you. To do that, you really need to consider the source.

The Survey Conundrum

Many people believe that sending out surveys is one of the best ways to get open and honest criticism regarding what they're doing, what they should be doing, and what they should stop doing as quickly as possible. In reality, this is incredibly false and surveys, in general, are faulty for a very important reason. The types of people who are the most likely to fill out surveys are the ones on the extreme ends of the customer spectrum. People who are really, really dissatisfied or who really, truly already love your company are going to represent the vast majority of all responses. As a result, you're going to get a huge number of responses that you can't really do anything with or learn anything from and the few, valuable leads that you do have are easy to get lost in the shuffle.

What is Direct Customer Feedback?

The best way to get the constructive criticism that you're after is to go to more direct sources - namely, social media, forums and similar channels online. Social media, in general, has made this incredibly easy in the last few years - you can search for your company name on a site like Twitter or Facebook and look at the conversations that users are already having with one another that you had no part in starting. These are people who were already having an open and honest discussion that they never assumed you would be a part of in the first place, so they don't have a "horse in the race," so to speak. These are the conversations that you need to be learning from. Online communities like message boards are also a great source of this, provided that it isn't a message board hosted on your own website. Again, these will be users who are similar to survey respondents - they're not the customers in the middle who you really need, but are the "extreme" customers who fall firmly in "love it" or "hate it" camps.

Onward and Upward

Direct customer feedback is something that you should not only embrace, but actively seek out on a regular basis. In a way, it's like any other customer service channel - by showing that you're ready to accept anything that your customers can throw at you, you're showing that they have a voice that is equal (if not more important) than your own. Some business owners label people with issues "haters," even if they have legitimate concerns. This would really only be true if you believe that your business is already perfect, which is not true. This is also hugely beneficial from a marketing perspective. Simply put, customers enjoy supporting businesses when they know that their opinions are valued and they feel valued, too. By seeking direct customer feedback through public channels, you're putting your best foot forward in this regard and are only strengthening your marketing message, your brand, and ultimately your business at the same time.

From Dreaming to Succeeding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 30, 2015

Signs That It May Be Time to Change Your Brand

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

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

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

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

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

Your Target Audience is Changing

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

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

Changing Your Brand Doesn't Mean Changing Your Vision

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mistakes as Vehicles to Success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 23, 2015

Guest Blogging: Fully Understanding This Marketing Best Practice

Running a marketing blog as a part of a marketing campaign is practically a requirement in today's modern world - particularly as Google changes the very foundation of what SEO stands for on a regular basis. One of the many things that Google looks for when ranking sites is how frequently they're updated. A steady stream of fresh, trustworthy and high quality content will always rank higher than a page updated once a year. This describes a blog pretty efficiently. However, you may not always have time to pen every single entry on a blog yourself. For those situations, guest blogging can certainly come in very handy for a number of reasons.

What is Guest Blogging in Marketing?

As its name suggests, guest blogging involves "making a meal" out of the fact that you are not the one writing a particular blog entry. Not only do you get the benefit of being able to take a day (or week) off to catch up on your backlog, but you also get a huge amount of new attention to your blog thanks to the presence of your guest.

How Does Guest Blogging Help You in Marketing?

For starters, perhaps the biggest benefit of guest blogging is that it can help generate a whole new level of traffic for a site. This is especially true if this guest blogger already has his or her own following, so they'll be bringing their own audience to your site for the first time. While most of those new visitors will likely leave again to follow the guest blogger across the Internet, many will stay.

Another one of the major benefits of guest blogging is that it helps you build your authority in more ways than one. If the person that you're having guest blog for your site is well-respected, the very fact that they're contributing a piece to you at all only serves to lend some much-needed credibility to your enterprise. This is particularly true if you're just starting out.

Another one of the reasons why guest blogging is so beneficial, particularly in terms of marketing, is because it helps build authority where it matters most - search engines. Gone are the days where you can just stuff a site with keywords and instantly fly to the top of Google results. Google emphasizes pages that are trustworthy over all others now and guest blogging is one of the single most efficient ways to get in on some of that action for yourself. By showing that your site is not only regularly updated with high quality content but also pieces from different authentic, trustworthy voices, the general rank of your entire enterprise will only rise as a result. This means that there will naturally be more eyes on your marketing blogs, which only means increased revenue as a result.

These are just a few of the reasons why guest blogging is, and will remain, a marketing best practice moving forward. Leveraging the power of search engines is all about authority and high quality content - guest blogging is able to deliver this to you in spades. If you're the type of person who could use a little extra time to keep that steady stream of content flowing, guest blogging also makes perfect sense from the standpoint of your own productivity and efficiency at the same time. There really is no reason why you shouldn't be exploring this with your marketing materials.

Tuesday, October 20, 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.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Tips for Mastering Multi-Channel Communications in Your Campaigns

You can essentially boil down the goal of any marketing campaign to one impossibly simple core concept: you're trying to connect to your target audience and communicate a message in the most natural and organic way possible. In today's modern environment, marketers tend to fall into two distinct camps: those who are sticking to the tried-and-true print technique and those who see digital as the way of the future. The fact of the matter is that these concepts do not have to be mutually exclusive. Learning how to take all of your available options and use them in tandem with one another is a large part of what multi-channel communications are all about.

Let the Customer Discover Your Message on Their Own Terms

For an example of effective multi-channel communication in action, consider what happens after you send out a print item to a customer using direct mail. Logic dictates that you should wait a week or two and send a follow-up message, right? As you've already established contact, that follow-up doesn't have to come in the form of another mailer sent to the customer's mailbox. It can easily be an e-mail sent to the address for that customer you have on file. Suddenly, you've used not one, but two, different channels effectively, allowing the customer a full range of options regarding how and why they respond and continue their journey.

That may be simplifying the situation a bit, but the benefit to the consumer of getting full control over how they're receiving and responding to your message is what multi-channel communications are all about.

Better Campaigns Mean Better Results

In order to master multi-channel marketing and really put it to good use for your organization, you'll need to keep a few key things in mind. For starters, you'll need to establish a single, unified view of your customers across all channels. Any available piece of information will need to be collated together, not only so that each channel seems like a natural extension of the next, but so each channel can allow for the deeper level of customization that attracts customers in the first place.

Another factor to consider has to do with your organization's ability to create the most consistent experience possible across all of those channels at the same time. When a customer gets an e-mail, sees a mobile ad, and receives a letter in the mail from your campaign, they all need to feel like they're coming from the same company. One can't be casual, while the other, stuffy and overly professional. Failure to grasp this basic concept can result in your organization coming across as a bit schizophrenic.

You'll also need to develop your own in-house multi-channel platform to help keep track of all of these materials. You'll need things like campaign management software, for example, giving you the ability to execute all aspects of a campaign (including both print and digital materials) all from the same unified workflow. This will also give you a better idea of tweaks that you can be making to your campaign by way of things like predictive and actionable analytics.

Multi-channel communication, in general, just goes to show you that print and digital don't have to be an "either/or" scenario for marketers. By leveraging all of the tools you have available to you instead of playing favorites, you'll put you and your team in a much better position to succeed moving forward.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Expressions of Appreciation

“Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life.”
â€" Dr. Christiane Northrup


Have you ever felt under-appreciated? It is unfortunately a common condition in our culture. But, we can do something to combat its ubiquity. Like so many negative influences in our lives, we can turn this around and reverse its influence by doing the exact opposite. Actions may speak louder than words, but some words can have an unforgettable impact. Appreciating the contributions of others and making that appreciation known to them, will not only inspire them, but it will also add remarkable value to your own life.

Expressing appreciation to others is such a simple act that it is frequently overlooked. The opportunity is ignored, or we let it pass on by without saying anything, simply because it might expose our inner self to others. We ignore the potential to connect with someone else in this way because it is easy to do. We take the easy path instead of the better one.

Especially in a job situation, expressed appreciation can make a tremendous difference in job satisfaction and employee productivity. Expressions of gratitude for a job task that was particularly well done shows the recipient that she has made a positive difference. She has contributed something of value to the business. This can have a marked impact on even the least productive employees, as they start to see the importance of their place in the scheme of things.

Some people seem to have a hard time even saying thank you. For them, expressing further appreciation may take a little more effort, but for most of us it is a fairly easy habit to develop. Make no mistake, it really is simply a habit to be kind enough to say thank you, and tell someone why you appreciate their contribution. Good habits like this are fortunately just as easy to develop as the bad ones.

To develop this altruistic habit, simply adjust your thinking to include at least three expressions of gratitude every day. Set this as a goal as you get out of bed. Search your morning for something to be grateful for and someone to thank for it.

I appreciate that you make breakfast for me every day. Thank you for your smile, it inspires me. I love the fact that you are so energetic so early in the day. I wish I didn't have to go to work so I could spend the whole day with you.

Develop the habit. It's easy. American philosopher and psychologist William James said, “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” Fulfilling that craving is not a difficult task, but to develop the habit of doing so may take an adjustment of attitude. We need to stop thinking of gratitude as an incidental byproduct of life and start thinking of it as a worldview. It will condition our responses to be more in line with the importance of this deep craving that all of us share.

All too easy to forget, these expressions of gratitude are very simple ways to get the most out of life by making others, as well as ourselves, feel better about our daily routines.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Staying Relevant in a Social World Means Embracing All It Has to Offer

Despite the fact that we're well into the 21st century at this point, there are many businesses that are truly afraid of addressing exactly what that entails for whatever reason. It is not uncommon to meet a marketer that is still relying on the tried-but-true techniques of yesteryear, while at the same time turning a cold shoulder to the advancements of the last decade: namely, the social media-centric society in which we now live. If you distill the goal of marketing down to its most bare essentials, all professionals operate with the same end result in mind. Marketing is a quest to stay relevant. It's a battle to keep a brand at the forefront of a customer's mind and to engage with an audience in new and meaningful way. It's an attempt to create a world in which the customer cannot fathom living without Product X or Service Y. In the 21st century, that means embracing social media and technology in general.

Social Media is Meaningful

By staying firmly ingrained in the techniques that have always worked in the past, the "old school" segment of the marketing population is forgetting that these new technologies bring with them a huge variety of advancements that can't be ignored. For starters, social media eliminates much of the guesswork that marketers used to have to contend with. You no longer have to guess which conversations your customers are having and try to interject in any way that you can. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and other sites, you can literally see the conversation as it's taking place. You don't have to attempt to steer the conversation in a new direction to attract attention - you can attract attention by contributing meaningful content to something that is already taking place.

If a customer is having an issue with a particular product and posts about it on Twitter, a marketer is, at most, three mouse clicks away from solving that problem and creating a meaningful example of brand engagement at the same time. Social media also tears down the obstacle of geography, creating a world that is literally as large as it's ever been but figuratively much smaller. Do you want to quickly get a message out to customers in Cleveland, Ohio? Filter Twitter accounts based on location and send away - they'll receive it in seconds.

Most importantly, social media allows you to make use of one of the most widely used platforms for any type of activity in existence today - mobile. People spend a massive amount of time on their smartphones each day thanks to their ease-of-use, small size, convenience and more. You don't have to fight for their attention anymore - if you're putting the right content out in the world using the right social channels, you've already got their attention.

Social Media is Not a Replacement

One of the biggest misconceptions that the "old school" marketers have is that social technology, in general, is replacing the way things used to work. This couldn't be farther from the truth. The timeless, best practices that worked in the 50s and 60s still work today. They will always work. Social media and other digital marketing techniques are not a replacement to the techniques that you've always depended on, but a compliment to them. When used in conjunction with one another, they're creating an environment where success is practically a guarantee.

A properly designed direct mail piece will be just as effective in 2025 as it was in 1975. If you also add a hashtag or a QR code or some other type of digital element to that mailer, however, you're performing the most important task of all: You've given the customer an option regarding where and how they'd like to continue the conversation. You've included them in the process in a meaningful and organic way and, rest assured, they will thank you for it. That is what social media is all about.

Friday, October 2, 2015

How Introverts Thrive in Quiet

When we picture successful people, we tend to lean toward the extroverts -- those who speak up more, get noticed more, and interact with others more than their introverted peers. But introverts have much to offer beneath their quieter demeanor, and they are more than wallflowers. They are not necessarily even shy.

Extroverts thrive on interaction with other people, which gives them the energy they need, and they tend to be restless when alone. Introverts, on the other hand, recharge through seclusion and tend not to be lonely when alone. An introvert may look forward to a quiet evening at home with the same zeal as an extrovert who anticipates an evening out with friends. The extrovert is geared toward activity, the introvert toward contemplation. They are both vital parts of the same world.

You may not realize that some of your close friends and family members are introverts. It doesn't always show.

"I dream big and have audacious goals, and I see no contradiction between this and my quiet nature," Susan Cain, author of "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking," writes on her website.

Cain, a former attorney and negotiations consultant, dropped out of corporate life to live a quieter life as a writer at home with her family. She describes the seven years of writing her best-selling book as "total bliss."

"Quiet" was published in January, 2012. The following month, Cain left her blissful world momentarily to do a TED Talk, "The Power of Introverts." To prepare, she joined Toastmasters, worked with TED's speaking coach, and spent six days with an acting coach. Three months later, she wrote that she had become an "impossibly oxymoronic creature: the Public Introvert."

That introvert aced her talk, which reached one million views faster than any other TED talk and now is ranked as the 12th-most viewed TED Talk of all time. It's the favorite of Microsoft founder and multi-billionaire Bill Gates, himself an introvert who says one of the advantages of introversion is the ability to spend long periods of time thinking about a problem or concept.

Cain tells "Quiet" readers that Western society is dominated by what she calls the "Extrovert Ideal."

"Introversion -- along with its cousins - sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness -- is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology," she writes. Extroversion, she notes, "is an enormously appealing personality style, but we've turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform."

Society really isn't designed for the introvert. Children are encouraged to speak up, to get over "shyness," to play well with others. Introverted teens may be considered antisocial or withdrawn. Adults in the workplace are often advised to be assertive, to join committees, to take leadership roles at work and in the community -- in other words, to be productive members of society, or as Cain says, the Extrovert Ideal.

"But we make a grave mistake to embrace the Extrovert Ideal so unthinkingly," Cain writes. "Some of our great ideas, art, and inventions -- from the theory of evolution to Van Gogh's sunflowers to the personal computer -- came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there."

In the quiet, introverts are in their element, momentarily removed from the world of the extrovert. They create art, solve business problems, and come up with great ideas. Businesses are wise to celebrate the introvert along with the extrovert. They are two sides to the same coin.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Value of Understanding Motivation in Marketing

Have you ever lost an entire afternoon diving into an incredible book? Despite the numerous decades that have passed since the publication of countless works of classic literature, people still manage to lose themselves in the words. They imagine themselves as a part of the plot-- trying to understand the characters and their motivations. They root for their favorite hero or heroine while cringing every time that famed nemesis appears.

We are all accustomed to trying to understand the motivations of our favorite characters. We know that if you do not make an effort to comprehend the ‘why’ behind the actions, the book will lose much of its appeal. Humans are naturally complicated! We relate far better to well-rounded characters than the more superficial ones.

Although we all have the skills needed to complete this type of analysis, most marketers neglect doing it in one of the most essential aspects of their jobs: understanding Google.

The Struggle of Marketers

The past 18 months have been big for marketers. The mobile update that hit in April sent many brands scrambling to make sure their sites were ready. There were also Panda updates and a suspected Phantom update, just to name a few. Each change impacted countless sites both positively and negatively. Some sites saw their rankings plummet-- and with it their traffic and their business. Others saw their sites suddenly appear on page one of SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) for the first time and experienced a much-needed jump in traffic and revenue.

Many professionals dedicate their time to trying to correct whatever errors might have hurt them in the last update. When the Panda update hit, they learned that thin content was frowned upon, so they spent time trying to beef up certain pages that were damaged by the update. When Google made the announcement that sites could expect a mobile update in April 2015, numerous marketing and IT departments found themselves scrambling to make sure their sites were mobile ready.

The problem with these techniques is that the site is always one step behind. If you are always trying to catch up to the latest Google update, then you have already lost your spot on the SERP. If you want to have a successful site, you need to be one step in front. Just like targeting the motivation of a character in your favorite book, you need to understand the motivation of Google. You want to know the ‘why’.

The why is actually simple. Google does not care about your business. Google cares about making their users happy, which in turn means delivering sites that answer their queries. Every one of the Google updates has been designed to better sort through poor websites and track down the high quality ones to display for users.

If you want to create a website that is successful, you need to focus on the end user.

You need:
- Content that provides immediate value and is not just a superficial, general treatment of your subject.
- Text that is easy to read, skim, and digest.
- Vocabulary that matches what people tend to put into search engines to help them find the material.
-That same vocabulary present in page titles, meta data, URLs, and other parts of the page that Google and users examine to see what your site discusses.
- Careful analysis of how your content performs in the short term and the long term to identify the types of content people respond to the best.
- Analytics that do not just look at the number of views or shares, but actually measure leads and conversions.

Understanding the whys behind behavior is important for understanding a great book, and for understanding Google. Rather than always playing catch up with algorithm updates, get out in front of it by focusing on the same thing Google does: the end user.

If you are ready to get a new marketing campaign off the ground, contact us to get started.

The Value of Understanding Motivation in Marketing


Friday, September 25, 2015

Backlinks: An Online Handshake

When you speak with SEO professionals, you may hear them talk about the importance of backlinks. Backlinks are when another site links to your site. These links are important because not only do they help drive traffic to your website, but they are a sign to Google that your site provides information that people appreciate and view as worth linking to.

In the beginning of 2015, there was controversy following one of the Google ‘hangouts.’ John Mueller, of Google, seemed to indicate that webmasters should not focus on building backlinks. This took the marketing world by storm, as many people dedicate time and energy to developing a high quality backlink profile.

Careful analysis of the problem, however, demonstrates that this might not have been what Mueller meant. At other Google hangouts in the past, he gave advice about how to appropriately go about building successful and useful backlink profiles. It is now largely agreed by many marketing professionals that Mueller was speaking about avoiding using illicit tactics to build backlinks, such as engaging in, 'I link to you, you link to me’ backlink schemes.

To understand how backlinks should ideally be developed, it can be useful to look at how business is conducted in person.

The Role of a Handshake

Place yourself in a corporate meeting between two important executives. They are sitting at a long table in a professionally furnished conference room. They sit at opposite sides, each with a team of assistants taking notes of the meeting and making sure that the bosses are always equipped with a glass of ice water.

The two hash out their ideas. They want to see if their information aligns and if they believe they can work with each other. No executive wants to run the risk of doing business with someone who would ruin their reputation. Before any deals are struck, they want to make sure that this is a professional with whom they want to have their name publicly associated with.

After a long conversation, they both stand up.

“Well, I suppose we are in agreement,” says one.

“Yes. I will have my team get started on the contract right away,” says the other.

They reach out and they shake hands-- and now everyone in the room knows that they will be willing to vouch for the other.

The Role of the Backlink

The handshake is a backlink. When one site links to another, they are publicly vouching for the content on that page. They have reviewed the information and found it to be in line with what they believe about the topic at hand. They trust that when they send their page visitors to that website, the users will be able to obtain useful information that will help them answer their questions.

Backlinks should not be something that you ever have to trick the other website into doing. It is not supposed to be the end goal of SEO. Instead, backlinks should be viewed as a part of a larger SEO strategy that involves creating high quality content that people are interested in reading and find helpful.

That does not mean you cannot ask for backlinks. If you find a website that aligns with your intended audience and you think your content would be helpful, there is nothing wrong with asking for a link, but it should always be done upfront and honestly.

You can build backlinks by writing guest posts or thought-leadership pieces for other websites. You should also be sharing your content on social media to increase exposure and build more backlinks.

Google, and its algorithm, want to keep an eye out for backlinks that come from low quality sites or always seem to come from the same types of sites. They want to make sure that the backlinks are diversified and gained honestly. If a poor site links to you and you do not want the backlink counting against you, then you can always disavow it to let Google know that you want no part of that link.

When it comes to building backlinks, remember to always build them honestly and with the end user in mind. Just like a handshake in business, it should be viewed as a public vouching for the other site. When you view it in that context, it will be easier to understand the role of backlinks in the online web community.