Finding Your Way in School and in Business

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

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

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

What It Means To Be A New Business

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

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

Finding Your Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Google of it All

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

How High Quality Content Ultimately Benefits You

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

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

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

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

Measure Performance and See Success

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

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

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

Performance Metrics are Everything

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

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

Performance Metrics Should Be Used to Guide Decisions

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

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

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

What Are These New Facebook Reactions and What Do They Mean for My Business?

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A few months ago, Mark Zuckerberg treated his staff to a movie night. The film…Pixar’s Inside Out. The Facebook staff watched in confused amazement wondering who these emotions were and more importantly, where is the big, blue and white like-button thumb? A few individuals voiced what everyone else was thinking…wouldn’t it be swell if Facebook allowed people to have more than one possible emotional reaction to the things they see and read?

A legendary hack-a-thon ensued, spanning an entire month. The result? We now have the choice to not just like something, but to LOVE something, laugh at something, or express shock, sadness and anger. To express our new emotions, all we have to do is hover over the traditional blue and white thumb and six new emojis emerge. For mobile users, simply hold down the thumb and your new emojis will appear.

From a social standpoint, we are all feeling liberated at our ability to express more than one emotion without the necessity of typing out a complete thought. But what does this mean for businesses and people marketing on Facebook? Quite a bit actually…

Aside from the obvious point that you can now identify and quantify how many people feel about your post, there are some handy things you can now do as a business owner that may give you an upper hand with your competition. Because these emotional responses are public, you can do some recon work and check out how people are reacting to your competitors’ content as well. Based on your gathered intel, you can now customize your content to better reflect what people are interested in.

This new functionality can also enable you to get more bang for your buck while advertising on Facebook. If you go to your Insights page on Facebook, you can access data on people’s reactions to each post. If one or more posts are engaging more individuals or are loved by more individuals, you can choose to boost that post for a fee. This takes the guesswork out of deciding where to spend your advertising dollars.

We are all well aware of the reality that it’s just not realistic that you’re going to “like” every post that makes it into your feed because sooner or later the content will be about some atrocity that’s being committed that you want to stop. So, instead of liking the post, you, like most people, just keep scrolling. It’s not that the post was not engaging, it’s just that people don’t want to “like” the content. With the new reactions, people can express sadness or anger at the content of the post, letting them know that it was read and stirred some emotion. The upside for your business is that you can post more meaningful content about issues that are important to them and not worry about losing points for attention because all of the reactions count as “likes” on your page.

Have you ever had one of those days when your server goes down or your payment processing company is having issues? It can really derail your day and cause some ruffled feathers with your customers. People love to go negative on social media if they feel they’re not being heard. The reaction emojis can now help you avoid negative comments in your feed if something is not going quite right with your company. Next time this happens, try pinning a post to the top of your page explaining the situation and perhaps offering a discount to anyone who was inconvenienced by the event. Ask them to show some love to your company by clicking the heart emoji and watch a potentially negative experience turn into an opportunity to engage in a positive way with your customers.

As these reactions catch on, you can be sure more creative ideas will begin to flow on using them to benefit your company. You may even try holding a competition for a free giveaway while also showing people how to use the new reaction emojis. Ask people to show some love in exchange for a free product or service that you offer. Not only will you boost your likes, you will also make people loyal fans. Get creative and have fun. After all, it’s what the new emojis are all about.

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

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

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

Be Relevant

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

It’s Print’s Time to Thrive

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

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

Personality Talks

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

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

Ways to Ensure Everyone Has their Favorite Type of Content

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

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

“What?” she asks.

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

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

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

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

The Different Types of Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Rebranding?

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

How Can I Rebrand?

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

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

What Can Branding Do For You?

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

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

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

Writing Thank You Cards and Keywords

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

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

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

The Importance of the Right Vocabulary

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

Vocabulary in Digital Advertising

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

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

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

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

What a Guerrilla Marketing Campaign Looks Like Today

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

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

The Definition of “Unconventional” is Constantly Changing

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

The Guerrilla Marketing Campaigns of Today

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

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

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

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

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

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Male Owner Of Coffee Shop

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

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

They put the “service” in customer service.

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

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

They knew their customers.

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

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

They understood their customers’ needs.

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

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

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