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

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

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

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

Grab Attention and Refuse to Let it Go

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

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

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

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

Tracking Success

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

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

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Hopping Aboard the Bandwagon

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Businessman jumping into the air and looking excited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Is a Call to Action?

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

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

Tips for Effective Calls to Action

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

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

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

Predictive Analytics: One of the Keys to Direct Mail Marketing Success in 2015 and Beyond

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Direct mail marketing is still one of the best and most efficient ways to connect to your target audience, even in this social-media-centric world. But that doesn’t mean you need to eschew technology altogether. Case in point: predictive analytics are quickly becoming not just a recommendation, but a requirement for anyone running a direct mail campaign.

What Are Predictive Analytics?

At their core, predictive analytics leverage statistics, data mining, and similar techniques to create a prediction about future behaviors. The idea is to take the past behavior of your target audience and use it to make educated guesses about future activities.

The concept is used in Internet advertising on a daily basis. Have you ever wondered why you suddenly see advertisements for home audio and video equipment or Blu-ray movies right after you purchase a high-definition television set online? It’s a combination of programmatic advertising and predictive analytics at play. Marketers know that based on your purchase, there are certain types of accessories you can definitely use.

If you just bought an HDTV, it goes without saying that you could probably use some shiny new Blu-rays to play on it. By targeting you with advertisements based on that information, businesses know they have a much better chance of making a sale than if they randomly targeted 10,000 people, many of whom might not have an HDTV at all.

Many businesses don’t realize this same idea can also play a very important role in how their direct mail marketing campaigns are conducted.

How Do Predictive Analytics Help in Direct Mail Marketing?

The major benefit predictive analytics brings to the world of direct mail marketing is one of precision. You no longer have to spend time and money each month to send mailers out to all 3,500 people who live in a particular ZIP code. The fact you were sending out materials to many people who ultimately had no interest in your products or services was always just an accepted “cost of doing business,” but that doesn’t have to be the case any longer.

Thanks to predictive analytics, you now have a better chance of targeting the RIGHT people within a particular ZIP code based on their past interests and behaviors. Instead of sending out 3,500 mailers and achieving a 20% conversion rate, you can save time and money by only sending out 1,000 mailers while achieving an 80% success rate at the same time. It’s about giving you a much smarter way to spend your marketing dollars. It’s also about empowering you to stretch your marketing campaign’s strength even further.

In direct mail marketing, success doesn’t mean spending as much money as possible. Instead, true success and market penetration are achieved by spending every dollar the right way. Whether you have $10 to spend or $10,000,000, that theory will always hold true. By making excellent use of advancements like predictive analytics, you can make sure your important materials are actually getting in front of people who find them valuable. This will go a long way toward increasing not only the efficiency of your campaign, but also its general return on investment.

Lessons from Vacation Planning

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Group Of Women Sitting Around Table Eating Dessert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what Sarah meant.

Marketing one-on-one

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

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

Using buyer personas for personalized marketing

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

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

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

Online Reviews: How to Learn from the Good and the Bad

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Constructive criticism is one of the most powerful tools available to businesses of all types today. After all, who better to tell you how you’re really doing than the people you’re supposed to be pleasing in the first place? Thanks to the Internet and the scores of online review sites that have cropped up over the years, you don’t have to look very far anymore for someone’s honest opinion of a product or service, especially now that everyone has an equal voice in the proceedings.

However, the key word in the phase “constructive criticism” is “constructive.” Online review sites tend to be a collection of overwhelmingly negative reactions, regardless of whether or not they have any basis in fact. As a result, many people tend to immediately discredit them or wash their hands of online reviews altogether. In reality, there’s a huge amount you can learn from both the good and the bad online reviews — provided you know how to wade through the noise and find it.

Overwhelmingly Positive Reviews: Not as Overwhelmingly Helpful As You Might Think

Overwhelmingly positive reviews can be a great boost to your confidence as a business professional. They can be a great indicator that you’re on the right track and that you’re meeting the expectations you set for yourself when you started a business in the first place.

Unfortunately, these overwhelmingly positive reviews that give your business 11 out of 10 stars aren’t telling you anything you can actually use to make your organization better. Make no mistake: you are never as perfect as you think you are. Every business, regardless of industry, always has room for improvement. While a dramatically positive review may be a nice pat on the back, it isn’t something you should necessarily spend too much time thinking about.

Negative Reviews: Finding the Needle in the Haystack

When people are angry, their emotions tend to take over. This is evidenced in just about every one-star review you’ve ever read for a product or service online. They’re usually lengthy diatribes about how “everything was awful” and tend to even mention things that a business can’t necessarily control, like the way the post office handled a delivery.

It can be easy to quickly dismiss these types of reviews, but you really shouldn’t for a simple reason. At the core of the one-star review is still a dissatisfied customer you can learn from to make your business better in the future. Try to go through a negative review and delete all sentences that are pure emotion. A sentence that says “this is the worst company ever” has nothing valuable to tell you. Once emotion is gone, you’ll be left with a much clearer indication of what really happened.

The Math Equation of Constructive Online Criticism

If you want to quickly get to the heart of all reviews and paint the clearest possible image of how you’re doing, you need to approach online criticism like something of a math equation.

Consider three reviews: one overwhelmingly positive, one neutral, and one negative. Compare all three, and look for the common elements. Does the overwhelmingly positive review have something in common with the neutral review, like a positive employee encounter? If it does, you can rest assured the referenced employee is truly doing a great job.

Likewise, does the negative review share something in common with the neutral review? Would the neutral review have been more positive were it not for X, which is also present in that one-star comment by a disgruntled customer? If so, then you’re looking at a genuine point of contention that should be fixed as soon as possible.

Online reviews are inherently valuable thanks to the equal voice they give everyone, from the people who love your business to the people who don’t and everyone in between. People have an instinct to wash their hands of online reviews due to their anonymous nature and the grand emotions that are on display, but this is a mistake. So long as you know exactly what you’re looking for and how to find the grain of truth hidden in that emotion, you come away with valuable, actionable information you can use to make your company better moving forward.

What Children’s Dolls Can Teach Us About Marketing

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Lovin’ on My Baby

Imagine overhearing a conversation between a little girl named Sarah and someone else you cannot quite identify. Sarah is addressing this other person, telling them to get dressed for the day and eat their breakfast quickly — they don’t want to be late for school.

It sounds as though this other person doesn’t really want to get out of bed. Sarah turns to a more coaxing tone of voice, and you hear her tell this other person that she understands not wanting to confront a mean classmate, but that going and doing it anyway will make her feel better and put an end to the bad treatment.

Finally, you catch a name. Sarah is speaking with someone named Samantha. Wait a minute. Isn’t Samantha Sarah’s doll?

Children and dolls

Have you ever met a little girl who loved her dolls? Most of us have. These small children can come up with elaborate stories about these inanimate figurines. They’ll tell you the doll’s name, her background, what she likes to do, and who her friends are. Most importantly, they’ll tell you how the doll is likely to react in different situations, and they know how to ‘motivate’ their make-believe friend.

As adults, many of us watch children playing with their dolls with a detached amusement, occasionally jumping into the game. The next time you watch a child with their dolls, however, you should stop to think about how much this active imagination is actually teaching you. If you listen closely, you can learn a bit about how to use buyer personas to grow your business.

The common persona mistake

Buyer personas are frequently cited by companies as the best way to market. It makes sense. You need to understand your customers if you want to successfully encourage them to buy. Countless companies will comb through their customer data and develop categories of buyers. They note the approximate age ranges, the budgets, the company size, and what they bought. Then, they distribute folders describing each ‘persona’ to others in the company, expecting to see an enormous jump in sales.

Unfortunately, they’re missing one key detail — bringing their personas to life.

Buyer personas vs. dolls

To maximize the potential for buyer personas, you need to treat them like small children treat their dolls. They have to completely come to life. Start by giving your personas a name and a photo. Understand their back story as though they were a close friend. Most importantly, figure out their motivations and how to encourage them to buy. It’s only when you understand these key points that you can direct your marketing efforts to better address these ideal customers.

How to understand the motivations of customers

To understand why your customers behave the way they do, you need to step back from gathering data and start asking ‘why’ and ‘what.’

  • Why did you pick our company over another?
  • What drove you to buy today?
  • What was your most pressing concern when you were debating between different companies?

Ask your customers about their back stories, so you can understand the stories of future customers.

We’ve all met, or even been, little children who loved their dolls so much they brought them to life. Rather than dismissing the phenomenon as child’s play, think about what these games can teach us about marketing. These children are showing us the path to successfully using buyer personas. We just need to recognize it. If you’re looking to improve your marketing campaigns, speak with us today. We’d be happy to help you get started on the path to success.

4 Mistakes You Could Be Making With Your Offline Marketing

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Hispanic businessman leaning head on wall

Do you think offline marketing is obsolete? It isn’t…not by a long shot. In fact, you need to pay just as close attention to your offline marketing as you do to your online marketing in order to achieve success.

Used in conjunction with online marketing, offline marketing can help ensure your message gets across to your audience in a variety of ways, making it more likely they will become customers. However, you have to go about offline marketing the right way for it to be effective.

Here are four mistakes you could be making with your offline marketing and how to correct them.

1. Not Using the Phone Book

Believe it or not, people still have landline phones, and many of them still use the phone book. You may have heard others say that people just toss the phone book into the recycling bin now and never use it. However, many people prefer to look things up alphabetically in a phone book, where it’s nice and simple.

Make sure you’re not just listed in the phone book, but also have a nice, attractive print ad accompanying your listing. People are more likely to call the businesses with nice-looking print ads than those that don’t have them.

2. Giving Up on Direct Mail

What’s the point of using direct mail when you have the Internet, right? Well, the point is that people still appreciate the personal touch an attractively printed card in the mail gives them. It shows you care enough to take the time to get a contact’s information and send them a card the old-fashioned way. People can take their time looking over a direct mail ad, considering it for days or longer before making a decision. Direct mail gets results.

3. Not Carrying Business Cards

Business cards are still the accepted professional way to introduce yourself and your business to other businesspeople. They’re an industry must at trade shows and a courteous thing to provide to new contacts. Don’t just assume everyone is going to type your contact information into their smart phone when they meet you. Most people don’t have the time. Get good-looking business cards printed up. Include your phone number, email, and website, and hand them out to everyone you meet. An attractive business card still commands respect in the business world.

4. Avoiding Community Bulletin Boards

All of those flyers and business cards posted on community bulletin boards get more attention than you’d think. Flyers get the most attention because they’re large and easy to see. Print some bright, eye-catching ones with engaging graphics and a bold phone number in plain sight. Before you know it, your phone will start ringing with new customers. You’ll probably get some new ones coming through your door, too.

Offline marketing is still important. It works best when used in conjunction with an online marketing campaign, so you can reach more people and present a unified message. Make sure your ads are attractive, engaging, and intriguing, and you’ll get new customers from them.

New Lessons from Seventh Grade Physics

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The seventh grade physics class sat in their classroom eagerly listening to their teacher explain their next project. The class would be divided into 5 groups of 5 students. Each group would have three class sessions to design and test a small rolling car. They would all be given a variety of materials to use to design this car. After spending three days on design, there would be a competition to see whose car would roll the farthest. The winner would be automatically granted an A on a quiz that would be administered on the Friday after the competition.

A chance to get an automatic A on a quiz? That was quite the incentive. The class eagerly organized themselves into their groups and began discussing possible car designs. They called upon all the teacher had already taught them about physics and began running formulas to find the perfect intersection of weight and size.

Meanwhile, the teacher looked around the classroom contently. Getting the class fully engaged and interested was always a challenge. This competition had brought everyone to life, however, and the entire class seemed to be actively using the material taught to help their teams. This was definitely an outstanding way to engage the class.

What can we learn from this class?

Like the students in this class, most of us enjoy a little friendly competition. When we desire the reward, we become much more interested in the subject matter at hand. The same principles apply to marketing and branding. Customers love competition, and it can be an excellent way to keep people engaged with your brand.

Competitions can be used in a variety of circumstances.

  • Before a product launch, to bring customers through the pre-launch activities
  • To build excitement for something new the company will be trying
  • To build engagement with existing products and services

Say you’re about to open a new store location. You could send out a series of direct mail flyers telling people about the store. You could then invite people to save each of the flyers for an opportunity to earn a free prize at the new store when they bring in all the flyers on opening day. This will encourage people to keep an eye out for your flyers and come to your opening day.

Competitions are also effective online. Consider holding competitions on your social media pages. Encourage people to submit stories of their experiences with your products and services for a chance to be entered in a drawing to win a prize or discount.

People enjoy competition as a way to win prizes, and companies love them as a means of engaging with potential customers. Just like the teacher of 7th grade physics class used a competition to get students interested in the subject, you can use competition to boost sales. Consider the different types of competitions and prizes that would fit with your brand, and see which ones would work best for your goals. If you’re interested in getting a new marketing campaign off the ground, give us a call. We’d be happy to help you get started.

Understanding How Consumers’ Brains Think

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Interestingly, the part of the brain most responsible for making buying decisions isn’t the part that thinks logically. We make the majority of our decisions using what is commonly referred to as the “reptilian brain.” This part of the brain is programmed for survival. It’s perpetually evaluating choices based on the least possible harm to itself. Even when it’s deciding whether or not to buy a product from you, it’s performing a cost/benefit analysis.

When you understand this truth about your customers (and the human brain), you can use it to guide your advertisements and how you frame your business to your audience.

How perceived ‘costs’ impact customer buying patterns

Let’s say you’ve just built a landing page where people can sign up to download a free ebook. Even though you’re not asking for money in exchange for your ebook, you want to keep the ‘cost’ as low as possible. If you ask for too much unnecessary information, your customers will regard this as a cost. Even if you mark most of the fields optional, a shocking number of people will just click off the page and ignore the offer.

To minimize this perceived cost, minimize the amount of information you ask in return for your offer. Remember that you can always learn more about potential leads in later interactions, so only ask for the bare minimum of information at this initial stage.

This same sort of thinking should also impact how you frame sales and deals. Use each interaction to demonstrate that doing business with you will provide maximum reward for minimum cost.

Framing the benefits

In addition to its desire to minimize costs, the reptilian brain also wants to maximize benefits. It responds best to images, emotion, and concrete examples of benefits.

When you set out to describe the benefits of working with your company, make sure your claims are completely clear. Articulate exactly how working with your company can benefit your customers and why your company is superior to the competition. This means providing evidence and proof you offer immediate satisfaction for your customers.

The brain is a fascinating structure. Although many people think of it as a single entity, there are actually different parts that respond best to different ideas. Despite the desire of most people to be logical shoppers, they actually make their choices largely based on cost/benefit analysis. Use this tendency in your marketing and witness firsthand the power of this part of the brain.