Archive by Author

The Innocence of Children

12 Nov

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.

Marketing with Email Signatures

19 Aug

Think about how many business emails you send each day. Now think about the email signature you’re currently using on your emails. While email signatures are commonly used as a way to identify the sender and provide important contact information, many people are missing out on the valuable opportunity to use their signature line as a marketing tool. Here are a few tips to help you create an effective email signature that your recipients will remember:

  • Create brand recognition by including your logo, tagline, mascot, or other graphic that is tied to your brand.
  • Choose images carefully and use them sparingly, so your signature doesn’t overpower your message.
  • Increase web traffic by enticing readers to visit your web link for a free sample, free white paper, or to subscribe to your newsletter.
  • If you include a web link, spell out the address rather than using hyperlinks. This will eliminate trust issues caused by opening an unknown link and will also make it easy for recipients to copy and paste the address into their browser.
  • Offer a teaser that entices the reader to ask for more information or to click a link to learn more.
  • Personalize your email signature with a photo to help readers put a face with your name.
  • Consider adding a brief quotation that represents your business or provides an insight into your personality.
  • Create a consistent brand image by standardizing email signatures throughout your company.
  • Change up your messaging frequently to keep it fresh and interesting for email recipients.
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Business and Fortune

19 Aug

ImageA fortune cookie has an average taste at best. So why do people look forward to eating them? Because of the little piece of paper inside the cookie. You know, the one that tells a story: your fortune.

The text on the fortune is rarely profound, yet we still excitedly break open the fortune cookie to see what it says. Why? Because those simple and sometimes silly words illicit an emotional response.

Your products and services are like a fortune cookie. In your mind, they are second to none, but to your audience, you may be one of many.

Your values, vision, and especially your story are like the fortune in the cookie. Your prospects and customers want the fortune as much if not more than the cookie itself because that’s how they connect and how they will remember you.

Strive to make your services and products the best they can be. But don’t forget to tell the stories behind them, so you can connect with your clients emotionally. That’s the key to what will make you unforgettable.

Writing Thank You Cards and Keywords

14 Aug

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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.

Business Lessons You Can Learn From Film and Television

19 Apr

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Inspiration can come from many places. While it’s always important to look toward successful leaders to see what you can do to better yourself and your organization, you can also find tips in the most unlikely of places, including film and television. While certain fictional characters may seem like little more than “kids stuff” on the surface, entertainment is actually filled with budding entrepreneurs, successful businesspeople, and everyone in between.

1. Lex Luthor – Supervillain, Business Leader, Or Both?

If you’ve only known Lex Luthor as a “mad scientist” who will do whatever it takes to stop his arch rival, Superman, you haven’t been keeping up with the character for the last several decades. In the classic Richard Donner film, Superman, Luthor’s plot involves buying up thousands of acres of worthless Arizona desert that will eventually be transformed into a “new West coast” of high-priced real estate after he separates California from the rest of the U.S. by way of his dastardly plan.

Though Superman thankfully puts a stop to him before that can happen, the business lesson here is abundantly clear. Luthor recognized an opportunity in real estate (or, as he so eloquently put it, “the one thing they’re not making any more of”). He thought outside the box and was able to find a new way to penetrate an existing market, which is something all business owners should be doing on a daily basis. Even though his target market seemed impenetrable, he was able to put a bold new slant on an old idea just by embracing unique possibilities.

2. The Avengers – The Importance of Teamwork

One of the most amazing things about the 2012 film The Avengers is the important business lesson inside. From the moment these heroes get together, all they do is bicker. Instead of saving the world, much of the first part of the film involves them arguing with one another to the point where a villain is able to execute the vast majority of his master plan while no one’s even paying attention.

The business lesson from The Avengers, however, rests in the third act. Separately, each hero could not complete the mission before them. Only by properly teaming together and utilizing their complementary strengths were they able to form something much bigger than any one person. It’s the same thing you need to be doing in business on a daily basis. Your team members are there for a reason. Everyone is good at something. Recognizing those strengths is what drives success.

3. Wile E. Coyote – There Is No “Magic Bullet” In Business

Wile E. Coyote is known for many things, including being a textbook illustration of what not to do in the world of business. As Wile E. Coyote attempts to capture his arch rival, the roadrunner, he keeps trying to do so with a single solution. Sometimes that solution takes the form of an Acme rocket that explodes too early or an anvil placed in just the wrong location.

The business lesson here is startlingly simple and amazingly important at the same time. If you depend on one single “magic bullet” solution to achieve business success, you’re never going to get what you want. Such a solution doesn’t exist. Putting all your eggs in one basket, so to speak, isn’t the way to run a successful business. It’s gambling that will never quite pay off. You can’t expect any one single move to rocket your business into the stratosphere. Instead, you need to have backup plans for your backup plans and (most importantly) patience.

You really never know where inspiration might rear its head. One second you might think you’re only watching a diabolical villain trying to pull one over on the last surviving son of Krypton. But before you know it, you realize you’re actually watching a master businessman at play. Important business lessons can come from even the most unlikely places. You just have to make sure your eyes are always open and you know where to look.

Transparency and Authenticity: Two Keys to Marketing Success

19 Apr

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Trust is essential to success in today’s business world. It’s not enough to offer a terrific product or service. You need to back that offering with the type of high-quality brand experience people won’t find anywhere else. Doing so doesn’t just create customers — it creates advocates. It creates a legion of followers who are willing to champion your brand to their friends and family members, extending your reach farther than you ever could on your own. In order to achieve this, however, you need to focus on two key qualities: transparency and authenticity, especially in your marketing message.

What is Transparency in Marketing?

At its core, transparency means being truthful about your business at all times. Far too many business leaders believe that acknowledging problems or mistakes is akin to showing signs of weakness. As they see it, letting people know your business may be going through a rough patch is proof that blood is in the water and the sharks will soon begin to circle.

In reality, transparency is one of the best ways to establish yourself as a trusted brand. If you make a mistake, don’t attempt to sweep it under the rug. Instead, lean into it, take the heat, and use the experience to better your organization. From that regard, transparency isn’t a weakness at all. It’s a way to show your organization is run by human beings who sometimes make mistakes but who always care about their customers above all else.

Consider the recent surge in data breaches that have affected some of the biggest companies on the planet. There are commonly two types of reactions to these events. Some companies try to pretend like a data breach didn’t happen for as long as possible. This never ends well and only damages their reputation. Others step up, take full responsibility, and go to great lengths to do right by their customers. These are the companies that survive the PR disaster that a data breach represents.

Authenticity is Key

Gabe Newell is the co-founder and managing director of the Valve Corporation, a highly successful video game development and distribution platform. When asked about the early days of Valve and the major success it had with digital distribution when so many other platforms were faltering, Newell said the key was simple. “One of the things we learned pretty early on is don’t ever, ever try to lie to the Internet,” he said. “They will catch you. They will de-construct your spin. They will remember everything you ever say for eternity.”

Newell understood what so many others failed to: authenticity is no longer a recommendation for business professionals. It’s a requirement.

Building a following for your business is always a challenge, especially as new competitors crop up with each passing day. Transparency and authenticity are two of the most important resources you have that will move you toward that goal.

Local Marketing: The Biggest Weapon in A Mobile and Social World

4 Apr

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Engaging with customers has always been the name of the game in marketing. Thanks to the Internet, target audiences are increasingly spread out. That isn’t to say the Internet hasn’t been a benefit to marketers. It unquestionably has. However, the Internet isn’t marketing’s final frontier. Far from it, actually. When you think about some of the biggest digital channels businesses are using today, mobile devices like smartphones and social networks like Facebook unquestionably come to mind.

When you break down those two categories into their core elements, however, what you’re left with is the same type of local marketing businesses have been using for decades. This is why traditional print marketing and — more specifically — local marketing remain hugely valuable tools to businesses in the 21st century.

What Is Local Marketing?

Studies have long shown that most people do most of their shopping within a ten mile radius of their home. This is still true, even at a time when people can have something delivered to their home with the press of a few buttons and the click of a mouse. People are still willing to venture out of the home to pick up that hot new item or to participate in a service they truly believe in. They just need to know where to look.

According to a recent report released by the CMO Council, 49% of all respondents to a survey agreed that localized marketing was crucial to the overall growth and longevity of their business. More than that, one in four marketers were spending at least 50% of their total marketing budgets on localized programs, certain location-centric promotions, and more.

At its core, local marketing allows you to use these types of stats to your advantage by not just targeting as many customers as you can with your campaigns, but by targeting the right customers — namely the ones who live in the area where your business is actually located.

The Benefits of Local Print Marketing

To illustrate just how effective local marketing can be, think of one of the oldest such strategies in the book: the business card. As you meet new people or network with fellow industry professionals, you’re likely to hand out a business card to whomever you meet. Even if that particular person doesn’t have any use for the product or service you provide, they may know someone who does. Thanks to your business card, they now have something tangible they can give that person to point them in the right direction.

The whole idea is brilliant in its simplicity. You’re establishing your organization as a local leader in a way that creates increased traffic right to your doorstep. On the one hand, it really is no different than sending out mobile “push” notifications to a smartphone or making people in your area “friends” on your Facebook page. The advantage it does have over those digital channels, however, is that it’s something tangible. By tailoring your printed materials to a local market, you’re instantly increasing their relevancy in the lives of those people. The result is improved marketing effectiveness, which will ultimately build brand awareness and position your business as the type of authority you know you are.

Targeted local marketing remains one of the best ways to bring your organization to the attention of a new set of customers who may not even realize you exist. In an age where you’re competing with digital businesses that may offer the same services, it’s no longer about trying to attract the biggest possible audience. It’s about attracting the right audience. That’s the power local marketing gives you if you know how to use it.

Planning a Meal, Planning a Marketing Campaign

4 Apr

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Imagine planning a special meal. You start by thinking about the different dishes you want to serve and how well they’ll go together. You try to choose flavors that complement each other and fit well with the occasion. You hope to create a delicious feast people will love and remember for months to come. The same should be true of your marketing.

Understanding integrated marketing

Planning a successful integrated marketing campaign is a lot like planning a successful feast. Just as choosing various dishes that complement each other helps to create a memorable meal, using a variety of marketing platforms to create a single campaign will help to capture the story of your brand.

Too many companies try to create different marketing campaigns for each platform. The result is like a meal of random dishes that have absolutely nothing in common. Separately, each might taste good and draw compliments, but together they seem confusing and fail to provide the lasting impact you hoped to create.

The importance of audience

It’s also important to consider the desired audience for an integrated marketing campaign. When you plan a meal, you carefully think about the atmosphere and what people will expect. Similarly, when you plan the various aspects of your integrated marketing campaign, you need to consider who you want to reach. If your audience consists of largely retirees and empty nesters, focusing a large part of your campaign on Facebook might not be the best use of your time and money. The same way you think about the types of dishes people would expect and appreciate, you want to maximize the reach of your marketing campaign by thinking about where people are most likely to appreciate your message.

Planning a large meal requires careful preparation to ensure that each dish fits together well to accomplish the desired final effect. Similarly, your integrated marketing campaign must combine various marketing elements into a successful, incredible campaign that attracts the right attention.

How to Handle Customer Complaints Effectively

28 Mar

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Few aspects of running a business can be more frustrating — or more expected — than customer complaints. It’s impossible for even the most successful companies to please every customer every time. Knowing how to handle customer complaints effectively and professionally can improve brand reputation and turn a disgruntled customer around.

Listen and acknowledge the customer

It sounds basic, but a surprising number of businesses care more about defending their actions than listening to the customer. Remember that the vast majority of people who have a problem with your company won’t bother complaining to you. They’ll just complain to everyone else. Every customer who takes the time to complain directly to you should be thanked for the opportunity to make the situation right. This means listening carefully to everything the customer has to say about the experience and offering an apology for their discontent.

If you encounter a complaint online, reach out and publicly acknowledge the complaint online as well. Let the person know how disappointed you are that they were unhappy and ask for the opportunity to discuss the incident with them privately.

Discover the source of their frustration

If a customer complains that they can’t find something in your store, you might assume they’re asking you to reorganize your shelves. However, they might really be upset that no staff members noticed their frustration and stepped in to help before they started complaining.

Find out what the company can do to help

Sometimes all the customer really wants is an apology or information about how you’ll work to improve so you don’t make the same mistake again. In these situations, it’s easy to exceed customer expectations by offering coupons or a similar incentive in addition to meeting their request.

If the customer’s not sure how they’d like to be compensated or if they have demands you can’t reasonably meet, you should have a policy in place to help alleviate the customer’s concerns. Make a point of explaining what your company’s doing to improve in the area of the complaint, and thank them for their feedback.

Handle the publicity of social media

If a complaint originates on social media, take the solution back to social media once the situation’s resolved. Everything in social media is public, so once a customer posts a complaint, it can be seen by countless potential customers. Bringing the solution back to social media will help those who saw the original complaint see how well you did addressing it.

If someone complains to you through a blog post, ask them to either update the post so new readers know the situation was resolved or remove it altogether. If the complaint was made on Facebook or a similar platform, return to the original post and make an update yourself, such as, “I’m so glad we were able to work together to resolve this problem. We look forward to doing more business with you in the future.”

Customer complaints are an aspect of business no one enjoys but everyone has to know how to manage. Keeping the above guidelines in mind should help you successfully navigate this terrain, strengthen your company’s brand, and improve your reputation.

What Gardening Can Teach You About Marketing

28 Mar

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Spring is in the air (or at least on the calendar), and people everywhere are starting to think about their gardens for the year. While gardening might not seem to have much to do with business, in reality, it has several lessons it can teach us about running a successful marketing campaign. Here are four to keep in mind as you prepare your yard this year.

Start with a plan

Any experienced gardener knows a garden must be carefully planned. From lighting and shade considerations to eventual plant heights, watering needs, and general arrangement, failure to consider the characteristics of each individual plant can easily result in a struggling garden that doesn’t please the eye.

Marketing is the same. Randomly throwing together a variety of different strategies and hoping something sticks is never a good approach. You need to plan how each piece will fit together and serve your ultimate goal: getting your message in front of the people who are most likely to buy from your company.

Provide regular maintenance

Once you plan and plant your garden, you’ll find yourself returning regularly to care for it. Weeding prevents undesirable plants from taking over. Watering ensures the garden prospers and grows. Without regular care, your plants could die, and the entire garden might turn into a small, wild field.

Your marketing also requires regular attention. Track how well each strategy performs and how much you’re spending per customer. Identify areas to improve and refine your marketing. On social media, use each platform to interact with your followers. They aren’t going to magically buy just because you set up a page.

Have patience when tracking results

Gardeners know the fruits of their labor might not be visible for several weeks or even a couple months. They put in the work and planning so their yard can look amazing in the future.

You must also be willing to wait to see the results of your marketing efforts. Just because you sent out a direct mail flyer or set up a few social media sites doesn’t mean customers will just start rolling in. You need to have patience to see results and understand that marketing is all part of the plan to grow your business.

Make a plan to handle abundance

Anyone who’s ever planted a garden knows that sometimes you get too much in return. Maybe your bushes have started to grow so much they’re overtaking the other plants. If you planted vegetables, you might suddenly have too much produce on your hands. You need a plan to deal with this excess.

It’s also possible in business to get overwhelmed by a very successful marketing campaign. A sudden influx of customers can leave your company scrambling to keep up with demand. Make sure you have a plan for dealing with fluctuating customer numbers. Consider part-time help and training staff to adequately handle larger numbers so no customer gets neglected.

As you plan your garden this spring, consider the many lessons you can learn about marketing as you go. If you’re ready to start working on a new marketing campaign, contact us. We’d be happy to help you get started.