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Nathaniel Seevers

Understand How You Work Best

Understanding How You Work Best

1920 703 Nathaniel Seevers

Leadership doesn’t always mean leading others or directing or delegating. Leadership starts with leading yourself; things like time management, being honest about your responsibilities, putting in the extra time to refine your skills. Part of that is understanding how you work best. What is the optimal situation for you to create your best work most efficiently on a regular basis?

The book, Strength Finders, is built around the premise that your days are better spent amplifying your strengths and gifts versus toiling over your weaknesses. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule at a much more detailed level. If a tennis player’s backhand is a weakness it’s still going to need some work for that player to see success. That can’t be ignored. But if tennis is the athletes weakness and she’s naturally gifted at soccer, maybe her time is better spent there honing that craft.

As it goes with WHAT you work on, so it goes with HOW you work on it. Being in tune with the ideal situation required for you to produce your best work most efficiently will not only help you at that moment but could also help you to:

  • Improve energy and focus over a period of time (days/week)
  • Better communicate with your team and show empathy to how they best work
  • Make decisions on project timelines and assign personnel to tackle the right tasks at the right time

Outlining your best moments: create a Productivity Inventory.

Identifying certain high-level productivity traits comes naturally. It’s easy for most of us to say confidently, “I do my best writing in the mornings” or “my best creative work happens in the evenings when no one is around.” But how do we dig a little deeper? Like an elite athlete, how do we track and improve on specific areas impacting the quality of work we produce?

Self-Awareness is key. First create a checklist of your typical tasks and responsibilities. Now think back on two specific types of moments; one where you “felt in the zone,” felt productive, creative, firing on all cylinders and one where despite knowing exactly what needed done you struggled to stay focus and complete the necessary tasks.

Ask the following for each scenario:

  • What time of day was it?
  • Was there music playing, was it quiet or was there simply a mixture of background noises?
  • Were there people around or were you alone?
  • Were you at a desk or in an easy chair? At the office, at home or offsite someplace like a coffee shop?
  • Were you working under a tight deadline or working ahead of the game?
  • How much sleep did you get the night before?
  • Is there a connection to your diet / are you eating foods the promote brain energy?

Being honest (not feeling guilty) about how we work best can lead to improved individual and overall company efficiency. Things like understanding when you and your team need to walk away and take a break or what distractions you can schedule or avoid altogether gets you to better processes and better project management which in the end provides for a happier work environment and better work for your clients.

Knowing versus Believing

842 452 Nathaniel Seevers

Our job as marketers, communicators, brand builders isn’t so much helping people to understand as it is helping people to believe.

Facts are good. They can be tough to digest at times, but all in all facts help us to make informed decisions. Facts are the basis for logic and reasoning. They are things we can be definitive about – data that helps to remove internal debate. And yet still, facts won’t always win out over gut reaction.

Need doesn’t always supersede want.

If you put the facts sheets together for the latest iPhone and latest Samsung smartphone it’s quite possible that the Samsung phone has longer battery life, runs apps faster, more storage, better price, better this and that. And yet still, people will buy the phone they want more often than they will buy the one that’s the most logical to purchase.

Why is this?

Logic doesn’t always win in the battle with intuition. Even when all the facts are on the table our minds work to justify our gut reaction; to make it feel okay to want what we want. Psychologists call this Confirmation Bias.

According to a recent BBC report:

“…your logical, slow mind is a master at inventing a cover story. Most of the beliefs or opinions you have come from an automatic response. But then your logical mind invents a reason why you think or believe something.”

Our beliefs put our logical mind to work confirming our want.

How does this impact consumer communication?

Facts are important. We as consumers use facts to validate. But we don’t instinctively use facts as a path to desire. We use facts to justify desire.

If you’re marketing a product that is factually backed as being superior and you’ve spent time educating your audience with those facts but still few people are buying, you could be missing the mark when it comes to creating belief.

How to foster belief

Be genuine and speak authentically – this is where being in touch with your brand is crucial. Speak from a voice that is confident and reflective of your brand values. Understand the persona that represents your company and how you need to carry those traits through website copy, packaging and social media in a way that allows your audience to connect and relate.

Put your benefit foot forward –how does your product or service work to better aspects of the consumer’s lifestyle? Someone buys a drill to create a hole, sure, but the decision to purchase is not always that cut and dry. A need to feel prepared could be the driver or a need to complete a collection or an emotional thread of tradition (my granddad used that same drill) could be the underlying reasons that ultimately complete the purchase. What’s the emotional connection behind the stats?

Create Brand Ambassadors – get the community involved. 77% of people say they are more likely buy a product that comes recommended by a friend or colleague. Brand ambassadors help spread belief.

 

photo credit: Ben Rea

Goal Setting for Digital Marketing

880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

As with personal goals, it’s never too late to start setting digital marketing goals. No need to wait until the New Year or fret if you don’t get them set by the end of January.

Yes, it’s never too late for setting digital marketing goals, though it can be too early. Let me explain; goal setting for digital marketing can benefit from some level of baseline knowledge. How would you know what to aim for if you have no idea what is realistic for your business?

Build a Baseline to Reference

If you’re new to measuring certain aspects of your digital marketing, consider taking 1-3 months to measure and record, developing a baseline from which to create your goals.

If you have been measuring for a period of time these numbers should be part of your goal setting decisions.

What Else to Consider

Well, that baseline number up there of course but also:

  • The platform averages for your industry. For example, comparing Average Reach on Twitter for a Logistics company and a Clothing Retailer may be like comparing apples to alligators.
  • Direct competitor performance.
  • Age and level of awareness of the business
  • Age of the business’ presence on a certain platform

Know what to measure

Each platform/channel/area of effort (whatever you want to call it) will have relative metrics to track but all of this should be feeding into a big picture marketing plan with big picture marketing goals. These are the details, these are the brush strokes that make up your masterpiece for the month/quarter/year/etc.

Let’s use two major social platforms as an example of what to measure:

On Facebook

  1. Engagement – How people are interacting with your content on Facebook
  2. Reach (but be aware that organic reach is tough to come by. Any significant Reach is likely to come from paid promotion, at least to get rolling and build awareness).
  3. Page Likes – Despite some reports, page Likes aren’t just a shallow metric to measure your popularity. Quality Page Likes help to amplify your Reach and increase the effectiveness of your Facebook Advertising.
  4. Negative Impact – Diving into the Page Likes section within your Facebook Insights shows you a Net Likes section. Here you can quickly see a count for Unlikes of your Page. Unlike aren’t uncommon, even for the most popular brands, but if you can correlate any large sections of Unlikes to recent posts, ads and/or frequencies listen to your audience and make adjustments. On the ads in particular, check out this article on reducing ads fatigue.

On Twitter

  1. Impressions – numbers of times users saw your tweet
  2. Engagement Rate – the number of engagements (clicks, retweets, favorites, follows, replies) divided by the total number of impressions. This data is more valuable month over month than say day-to-day.

Depending on your marketing and business development goals you’ll likely be looking to convert that social activity to leads and ultimately projects/sales. That’s where your website goals and data comes in.

Website Metrics to Track (Google Analytics):

  1. Sessions/Users – this is the number of visits to your site and the number of Users (or visitors) making up those visits.
  2. Referrals – where those Users are coming from and what they’re clicking on to get to your site. Tracking URLS for your social media sites can help better clarify those actions.
  3. Exit Pages – unlike Bounce rate which can vary based on page content and the desired outcome from your landing pages, Exit Pages allow you to take a closer look at when your visitors are leaving on their journey through your site. From here you can take educated actions that help carry the visitor closer to conversion.
  4. Conversion Rate – Just like it sounds, how your website is performing based on the number of visitors who reach the desired goal (conversion)
  5. Top 5 or 10 Pages – Look at these monthly to help connect the dots between new content and social media efforts with onsite traffic and behaviors.

Set “Stretch But Don’t Snap” Goals

In the end goals should be aggressive but obtainable – realistic but take some of your best effort to achieve. Seeing your team start to close in on goals can be great motivation. On the flip-side, seeing a gigantic gap between where you are and where you want to get, can lead to a serious case of throwing in the towel.

Tell us about your digital marketing goals or if you have a question fire away in the comments or on twitter. Grab more digital marketing insights here.

Photo credit: Jeff Turner

What Instagram Can Do For Your Business That Twitter Cannot

842 452 Nathaniel Seevers

I don’t follow a ton of people on Twitter but I’ve carefully built a feed of:

1) people or brands who share and create useful content
2) people or brands I know or those I’ve connected with in some fashion and
3) folks who are simply kind, entertaining and engaging online.

I’ve built some rewarding relationships on Twitter, met great people and even collaborated on ideas and projects. It can be a valuable platform as long as you’re giving as much as you’re taking away.

Despite all of this deliberate cultivation of tweet sources, Twitter can feel like a social media Groundhog Day – a loop of the same “6 Ways to Whatever” and a broken record of links. To combat this problem Twitter has better integrated images and videos into tweets over the passed year. And it has helped. Stats show engagement rates increase as much as 151% on tweets with images. We’re visual people. Our brains process images 60,000 times faster than text.

So imagine your brand’s visual story being told on a platform inherently geared toward images. Instagram isn’t all selfies and lattes. Companies large and small across a variety of industries are finding creative ways to utilize Instagram as a vehicle for social communication.

What Instagram Can Do For Your Business:

Help You Show More Culture: Consumers, in general, you, me and we, want to know more about the people behind the brands we engage with. It’s easier to connect and relate brand voice and brand tendencies with a person or group of people than it is to a logo or name or product packaging. That hasn’t necessarily changed from consumer interest 20-30 years ago but the way it happens and the scale at which is happens certainly has.

Instagram is the chance to provide a glass door look into your culture; from philanthropy to pumpkin carving, Instagram is a chance to show the human side of business and even activate employees to do the same.

Help You Show More Quality and Value: If you create a product Instagram is the perfect place to provide proof of quality, from the materials you use to the process, to the packaging. If you provide a service give folks a peek at the brainstorming. Let them see the breadth of team, skills and work that goes into delivering a great service experience.

Help You Show More Travel: Heading out for a conference, client meeting or event? Use Instagram to capture highlights and local interests. Relevant hashtags and location tagging helps you connect with audiences that could ultimately turn into buyers.

71% More Likely to Purchase Based on Social Media Referrals

This stat is from a 2012 article but even if that number is skewed slightly the fact remains that social done right builds trust. Instagram provides a visually driven way to communicate and connect. More Instagram How-to’s here.

How is your company using Instagram? Share your challenges and successes in the comments below.

 

photo credit: Alexandre Dulauony
modified by Shout Out Studio

Break Through Writer’s Block by Pre-Writing Your Content

842 452 Nathaniel Seevers

Having a great idea for a post is a huge first step, but then you actually have to write it. Imagine that.

So what happens when you sit down with your great idea, your blog title or ebook subject and you proceed to stare at a flashing cursor for the next several hours with nothing to show for it?

It’s ok. Writer’s block happens to all of us. And it can stem from a number of things like distractions, being tired, being hungry and so on. But so many times writer’s block simply means you’re not ready to write yet. Now this doesn’t mean you sit and let the idea age like a good bourbon, no.

You can break through writer’s block by pre-writing your content. You address it. You walk up slowly, remove your glove one finger at a time and slap writers block across the face and say, “I accept the challenge.”

Here’s how to pre-write your content in order to break through writer’s block:

Talk it out

Tell somebody about your great article. Tell them what it’s all about. No one around? Tell your dog. Tell your cat. Tell yourself in the mirror. The goal here is to make communicating your big idea more casual. To take the pressure off yourself. Plus, sometimes you just need to hear the information out loud.

Write Down the Key Points

After you talk it out you still need to get it down on paper so you don’t forget it. Almost like an outline, quickly jot down the key points of your article. This is the basis for its existence – the what and why. The foundational ideas. For this article as an example I wrote down:

  • The idea that walking away from writer’s block doesn’t have to be the answer
  • A revival of preparation, the old fashion article outline
  • Take the pressure off of the content writing
  • Organizing all those swirling thoughts and giving them purpose

Now, what’s the benefit of the content?

Great, so you have those big ideas down. Consider those the veins for your paragraphs but now they need some life’s blood and some purpose.  This is the big value statement for what you want this piece of content to be to your readers. For me for this post it was:

“To act as a framework and plan of action for not only overcoming writer’s block but creating better content because of it.”

Give It a Voice

We talk about voice a lot here at Shout Out, more in the context of overall brand voice, but individual pieces of content can have variances in voice as well. Almost like accents or dialects. Consider this the best way to deliver your great idea when considering audience and context. For the article, as with almost all of our posts, I’m aiming for: Friendly guide. Semi-professional. Conversational.

So there you have it; pre-writing. Informal, low pressure, yet still making progress. Let us know how it works for you or other steps you might add to the content pre-writing process.

photo credit: Drew Coffman

Don’t Just Take the Money and Run

842 452 Nathaniel Seevers

Building a business is tough. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Often times the toughest part though isn’t getting enough business to pay the bills but rather getting the right kind of business. The kind where you can share your gifts for the good of your clients and take steps toward reaching long-term growth goals: that’s a mutually beneficial business relationship.

When we started building Shout Out we wanted to help everyone. And we still do WANT to, to an extent. At the time we would take on any business that fit into our expertise. Any project that included services listed on our website – no matter how small or how unrealistic the timeline. We were taking smaller brush strokes for the chance to paint a big picture someday – adding funds to our account so we could pay our small team, invest in tools and live to market another day.

But too much time in that zone can hurt more than help. Client partnerships that don’t fit can make accomplishing anything at all more tough than it should be. It takes three hours to complete something that should take one. It takes rebuilding trust at every decision. It takes more update meetings than necessary. It lacks proper communication. It includes two different paradigms on what a successful outcome looks like and those paradigms get in the way of each other. Projects that don’t fit, whether due to budget or timeline or available resources, can negatively impact other projects that do fit. It can risk your other, good client relationships.

Getting caught in the habit of taking on projects and clients that you know aren’t right for your business, just because the pulse of cash flow would be nice, is no good for either party. When you “take the money and run” you never stay put long enough to build something lasting, something that pays dividends to you or your client.

To help you better understand how to get more healthy client partnerships create a profile of characteristics:

Define Your Niche

Where do you play at your best? If applicable, is there an industry or geographic area you see the best results from your efforts? These can help you create ideal client profiles and play into specific marketing campaigns.

Determine Your Top 3-5 New Business Sources

Look at your current clients and pinpoint your best matches. This doesn’t mean the ones you joke the most with on conference calls – though that is important – these are the clients that utilize your expertise in the best way. These are the partnerships where you both contribute effectively to the success of the other party.

Where do most of those great relationships come from? Are they all client referrals? From your website via organic search? From your business development executives?

If it’s possible to pinpoint that main source of great relationships it’s worth putting extra effort into that channel to prove or disprove the theory that more great business will flow from that faucet.

Understand Your Profitability Status

Within your current products/services where are your biggest opportunities to increase profitability? Is there a need to work on extensions of those products or services and if so how do you work that into your marketing so that you attract folks with those needs? Are there areas of your business that become a burden on projects? A service that drains resources or maybe isn’t in your true area of expertise where you could partner with a third-party in order to be better for your clients and yourself?

Of course, defining the right client partnerships works both ways. People and companies in search of a product or service should also jot down characteristics of what they’re looking for. If cost is important it should be on the list, clearly defined with a clear “why” but it shouldn’t be the only box to check.

Photo credit: Kevin Dooley
In use under Creative Commons 2.0 license

Don’t build a brand, build a community

842 452 Nathaniel Seevers

Don’t set out to build a brand, set out to build a community. Build a place in hearts and minds and memories. Build a movement. Build a collective of beliefs and standards and by that a collective, focused group of advocates.

That collective group will help you build the brand.

Even when it comes to persona or personal brands, from actors to athletes to world leaders, it isn’t about that one person. It’s about what that one person stands for in the hearts and minds of fans and colleagues and competitors. It’s about the ideals or values represented by that individual. It’s about backing up your talk with the walk. It’s about communication and follow-through.

What I’m saying in all of this is a “brand” is only as good as those who stand behind it. Not just the founders and c-levels but the community that gathers to help carry the flag and share in telling the story.

 

Photo credit: Martin Fisch via Flickr
In use under Creative Commons License 2.0

Who are you designing for?

842 452 Nathaniel Seevers

The Design Dichotomy

Whether you’re an individual designer or part of a design team or simply someone in a company who has some say in the final design output, you carry with you a heavy question.

“Who is this design for?”

One the one hand, knowing your audience and creating pieces that will resonate is a crucial part of any brand communication.

On the other hand, stepping outside of your authentic self as a company or a designer for the sake of chasing trend can ultimately water down the relationships your brand is working to build.

So there’s your line. Draw it. Paint it. Walk it. But how?

Set the goals of the design first thing.

Here’s where we can fall behind right from the start. All too often the goals for a design project go something like, “we need a label design for this salsa. Make it look awesome. Go.”

Your definition of awesome and my definition of awesome may be completely different. Not to mention the customer might think both of our definitions of awesome are, well, not so awesome.

Good design requires some sense of space for creativity, sure, but some context and direction is just as important. What are the goals for our new salsa label? Just to be awesome? That’s too broad. Do we want it to stand out on the shelf? Speak to our fresh ingredients? Prepare people for just how stupid hot it is? Are we marketing to the buyer who cares about locally sourced or organic?

Thinking about and documenting all of the requirements and considerations in a creative brief takes some of the guesswork out and gets you thinking about your audience.

Ask yourself what you bring to the design table.

This is where we shift focus for a bit from the recipient to the messenger. Reflect on your collective works for a moment. What are the consistencies in your design that you want to carry through to this project? Are there brand characteristics to be considered? Especially if this is part of a brand extension.

Remember, “a camel is a horse designed by a committee.”

Internal meetings happen. Client meetings happen. Opinions happen. And often times in these “happenings” design by committee can be the result. It’s important to establish a filter for the noise. Ideally this can start in the Goals Phase by only having the people involved who absolutely need to be involved in the design process and when it comes down to it, trust has to be placed on the right person to make the final edits.

The NY Times wrote a piece a few years ago about the difference in design approach between Apple and Google. It’s nicely summed up in the photo below but the full article is well worth the read.

DIGI-articleLarge

You can’t be everything to everyone and you shouldn’t. That holds more true for design than possibly anything else because when you set out to create something for everyone to love chances are no one will. So who are you designing for?

Photo credit: ANGELOUX via Compfight
Adapted by Shout Out Studio
Illustration via NY Times / Peter Arkle

puppy laying on the floor

Brand Communication and Emotional Connections

880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

Pepsi means something different to me than it does to you. I may love it. You may hate it. It may have nothing to do with taste. I may not even drink soda but still love Pepsi the brand. Pepsi can’t control that. They never will be able to. That’s ok.

What brands can control is their efforts to build emotional connections.

It’s the same reason why my wife thought I was somewhat cool and loveable and someone else thought I was a clumsy geek of a mess and said, “pass.” We can never truly control the reaction and perception of others but we can control the vibe we’re putting out and how we communicate our intentions. With brands, like with humans, a little self-awareness can go a long way.

Despite the accessibility to information buying decisions are still made primarily based on emotion. Social media has only amplified that. When we see stats like, 71% of consumers are more likely to purchase based on social media referrals it’s easy to see the logic behind that. However, we as consumers seek even a small portion of logic in order to feed a larger feeling of comfort and affirmation about the purchase about to be made. It makes it ok to buy.

When it comes down to side by side choice, often times people can’t really pinpoint the reason for preferring one brand over another. It’s the emotional connection that wins out over price. Generational demographics matter not because of age and technology skills but more because of familiarity. It’s science. Processing fluency relates to the way information and memory is accessed. When fluent processing is attributed to the past it can create feelings of familiarity. “Processing fluency may even be the foundation for intuition,” the sort of “gut feeling” that can often override factual decision making.

So when building a brand adept at creating emotional connections consider:

  • Positioning your message based on what you want the customer to feel versus telling them your product or service is so good they’d be crazy not to buy it.
  • Leading with your brand values instead of a rebuttal to the competitor landscape.
  • Focused listening. Why stop at creating a realistic customer persona when you can survey the actual customer base?

Which brands do you feel are best at building emotional connections? Let us know in the comments.

 Photo credit: Lecates via Creative Commons

stack of books

What I Learned From an Unplugged Weekend

880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

A couple weekends ago I turned my phone back into a phone, took the smart out of smartphone if you will and unplugged for the weekend.

It was long overdue. I knew it could be done. Even though I’m fairly young and of the generation who grew up with this technology – hyper-connected and uber social, I still remember a time when I had to go home to check my voicemail. I remember when dinner was just food and drink and conversation, when small talk was a courtesy and an art and when people couldn’t see what I was eating unless they were with me.

So, I read about National Day of Unplugging on Twitter somewhere. Surprise. I can always use a good cause (excuse) to get behind. A reason not to check emails from bed first thing in the morning and last thing before I go to sleep. A reason not to experience everything from behind a 4″ screen. Being on-demand is exhausting. It does something to you. It’s not healthy.

The premise: sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, no social media, no apps, no texting, no internet. Those might not be the official rules but I clarified for myself that a phone was a phone only. You talk on it. I also shut down my laptop. Turned that sucker off. No smart tv either – nada. I disconnected to feel more connected to what’s around me.

I easily stuck to the rules and timeline and I learned some new things, and some I’d forgotten, along the way:

1. I take amazing photos in my mind when I’m really seeing something. And the filter is one of kind.

2. To share those pictures in my head and do them justice I need to be a great storyteller. I need to be descriptive. I need to be authentic. I need to communicate in a way that is understandable to whomever I’m talking with. It’s an exercise that translates to how we communicate as marketers.

3. I miss writing, physical writing, with pen and paper. Cursive is a dying art in itself. Some schools have stopped teaching it and no matter the reason it breaks my heart.

5. Rarely is there a real good reason to hurry. Most deadlines are arbitrary and most drama is self-imposed or due to complete lack of planning.

6. I feel infinitely more creative within the margins. By “margins” I don’t mean “within the lines” or “within the rules” but rather within the margins between to-dos. The white space on my calendar, the times not working to meet a demanding deadline. It’s important for all of us to understand our individual process for the getting the best of our abilities in a way that is sustainable and allows us to do it long-term.

Taking care of yourself helps you take care of your customers and your business. Sometimes you have to disconnect in order to connect with what matters.

Have you unplugged recently? How’d it go? Share with us in the comments.

Photo credit: Ginny

facebook logo in the water

The Passive Generation and The Death of Like

880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

A click can be such a meaningless thing. Often times having little to no real-world consequence. Often times requiring no real-world investment or commitment.

In an era of Big Data, many companies, authors, brands, musicians, politicians continue to put heavy value on the volume of Likes, Plus 1s, Hearts, and Favorites they can measure.

For the sake of time I’m going to lump all of the previous into the term Like despite the fact that a similar action might not be called that on every platform.

Social signals like these drive marketers and analysts to create groups and sub groups of the groups and micro-markets of the sub groups. We watch individuals “self-select” via The Like and we make educated guesses of their next actions based on those Likes. Many companies associate that button press or icon click with some sort of brand loyalty. It simply doesn’t work that way.

The reality is The Like doesn’t mean much of anything anymore in the realm of social signals and consumer actions. The Like is watered down and it’s importance is getting thinner and thinner. A study back in 2011 states that, “just 1% of fans of the biggest brands on Facebook engage with the brands on the site.” And that was in 2011. By 2012 the number of daily Facebook likes was around 2.7 billion…a day. Today more than 4.5 billion Likes occur on Facebook, just Facebook, everyday (as recorded 5/27/13).

Frontline has gone so far as to dub the group following Millennials as Generation Like.

There’s no doubting the power of social validation but at the hands of a more Passive Generation the Like is barely a conscious action. Instead it has  become a reflex. Little more than a blink when someone claps their hands in your face. A mere knee-jerk at the tap from a ball-peen hammer. It’s a momentary symbol that something was felt but it has since passed or bares no further reaction. The Like is now the slap bracelet of our time. It’s there, it happened, it was quick and easy. I’ve collected it, you can see it, I wear it on my profile page but it means little else. The Like requires no further commitment and alludes to no further action. It’s a pin. A piece of flare. It doesn’t mean I’ll go buy that product or interact or communicate further or share in any other way.

So what does all of this mean for your business?

  1. Spend less time putting eggs in the Like basket.
  2. Work to build and measure engagement and the other numbers will follow.
  3. A passive audience does nothing for you. Build raving fans instead.

Photo credit: mkhmarketing

Why Sales is No Longer About Selling

880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

My wife and I purchased a new car recently. Not a new car mind you but a “new to us” car. A budget friendly, Ohio winter friendly, grown up anti-college car, car.

It has just the right amount of bells and a humble, yet confident, whistle.

This was the first time at a dealership in a while. For some reason I guess I expected the approach had changed since the approach to so many other consumer interactions have, but nothing seemed that different.

I spent some time in new car sales during college. People who know me know how ridiculous that sounds. Not because there’s anything wrong with car sales. There are absolutely great dealerships and great sales associates out there. More because I’m what you might call a fumbling introvert.

It all got me to thinking about sales today. How it’s not really about selling at all if you’ve grown and evolved as purchasing habits have.

The facts, according to a study by Ravenhouse International, are sharp and they are this:

  • 7 out of 10 customers believe that the sales reps that service them are product-focused rather than customer-focused
  • Customers feel that only 1 in 10 sales reps adds any real value

So if Sales is not about selling now what is it about?

Externally it’s about:

  • Teaching  – not the feature-benefits but teaching what to expect in the process and after.
  • Clearing the misconceptions – allowing for transparency in who is involved, how the service/product compares and how there’s a real possibility that it doesn’t fit.
  • Acknowledgement of reservations. Hearing them, talking about them not talking around them.
  • Anti-segmentation. Less lumping into groups but more individualization. What’s that you say? You can’t “scale” like that? Focus your processes on quality over quantity.
  • Being a trusted advisor instead of a “consultative salesperson.” Here the conversation starts at a higher level instead of at transaction.

Internally it’s about:

  • A seamless connection between marketing, brand management and the “sales” interaction
  • The right mix of Direct and Indirect (inbound, content driven) Lead Generation

“Gartner projects that “by 2020, 85% of all B2B transactions will occur without talking to a human.”

Whether the above mentioned prediction holds true or not sales is not about selling anymore. The relationship has to start much sooner.

Thoughts or experiences on the subject? Share below.

photo credit: Alden Jewell

the wright brothers flight

Marketing Based on Desire Instead of Fear

842 452 Nathaniel Seevers

Every day we’re subjected to broad brushed statements, taglines and data geared toward making us take some sort of action. It’s marketing. It’s communication. It’s normal. But all too often a portion of the content we digest on a daily basis works to drive action by peddling fear.

Local news has been guilty of this as long as I can remember.

Severe weather alerts forever, roads are virtually impassable, you better hope you have sled dogs. You might as well just stay home and watch your local news all day for the latest so we can sell more ads.

I get it to an extent. Your local news is a business just the same as a company making hand soap. They are both working to make a profit, to stay open, to pay their people, to pursue the American Dream.

The problem with this, outside of creating a nation of people digging bomb shelters in their backyards is that fear is a short-term game. Fear may be the easiest emotion to tap into but it is only a short-term motivator. It’s a motivation based on instinctual reaction and survival not on choice.

People learn and adapt and evolve. It’s the same reason why the effectiveness of email marketing continues to decrease and why interruptive marketing tactics like animated banner ads and pop-ups rarely convert.

What if we built marketing based on desire instead of fear?

If fear helped model a more dedicated consumer fast food restaurants would no longer exist. Gyms would far exceed McDonald’s locations. Las Vegas would have no more secrets to keep.

Fear doesn’t embed habits. The solution does. The benefit does. The reward does. The attainment of the desire is what promotes dedication.

In the book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg tells the true story of Claude C. Hopkins, a successful advertising executive hired in the early 1900s to help market this new toothpaste called “Pepsodent.”

Despite widely known information on the decline of the health of Americans’ teeth many other toothpaste pushers were going broke. That is until Hopkins focused Pepsodent’s positioning on the reward, the desire to have clean feeling, pretty, film free teeth.

book on a desk

“Within a decade, Pepsodent was one of the top-selling goods in the world, and remained America’s best-selling toothpaste for more than thirty years. Before Pepsodent appeared only 7 percent of Americans had a tube of toothpaste in their medicine chest.” – The Power of Habit

Why not to position around fear

It’s a punk move: it’s a quick fix in an age where consumer education and the value of social validation are high. Fear might get you a quick sale based on reaction but rarely will it translate into recurring revenue or repeat business. You can do better than fear. You can be more creative. We believe in you.

Don’t confuse fear and empathy: Sure, people are concerned about germs and they want a hand soap that will take care of that but you don’t have to lead with how sick they’re going to get if they don’t buy your hand soap or diagram the latest virus spreading across the country.

Empathizing with a concern or pain point in order to provide a solution isn’t the same as pushing an unbalanced dose of “do this or else.”

Brand Association – communicating from a fear platform doesn’t mean you’ll be cast in the role of the hero saving the day it just means you’re scaring the hell out of everyone.

This is a great opportunity to refer to your Brand Manifesto or Brand Guide as your compass, making sure you’re pointed in the right direction and speaking from the brand characteristics you documented for your business.

I bet you didn’t write “scary” as one of your brand characteristics so why tag your company with that feeling? It can lead to a negative stigma in the subconscious of the consumer if pursued regularly over the lifetime of the brand.

What to do instead

  • Focus on the resolution – put your benefit upfront and the problem at the end of your copy. “Shout Out fresh scent hand soap softens hands and kills 99% of bad marketing causing germs.”
  • Paint a brighter picture – instead of talking about the potential of post apocalyptic fall out describe the utopia that comes with the solution you provide.
  • Build an audience around social proof – back it up with positive feedback and a happy community of fans across social platforms.

Add this to the push for a more authentic, useful, inbound focused marketing and business development approach.

Questions, thoughts, ideas or examples? Stop on by the comments. Don’t be scared, we’re friendly.

a compass and a map

Key Components of a Brand Guide

880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

A well formed Brand Guide can act as a compass for business decisions and marketing strategies. It’s a reference to why the brand was started in the first place and a watermark for where you’re heading. It’s more than just the design components. More than just the looks. It should, as accurately as possible, describe the entire character. The promise, purpose, the walk, the talk and the look.

Putting together a full fledged Brand Manifesto can take some time but it can pay off ten fold across the life of your business. Consider the following key components of a brand guide when you get started.

Introduction

Give a quick synopsis of the brand. This is your prologue to the rest of the document. The “why” this document, your company, even exists.

Brand Platform/The Core

This is where you begin to flesh out the character of your brand. Just like talking about a close friend, you should be able to describe what your company’s goals are, what it stands for, the company’s personality. Are you a little goofy or very much buttoned up? The value for this section is in details such as below.

Proper definitions courtesy of Brand Channel.

  • Brand Purpose/Mission: How the brand will act on its insight.
  • Brand Values: The code by which the brand lives. The brand values act as a benchmark to measure behaviors and performance.
  • Brand Essence: The brand’s promise expressed in the simplest, most single-minded terms. For example, Volvo = safety; AA = Fourth Emergency Service. The most powerful brand essences are rooted in a fundamental customer need.
  • Brand Personality: The attribution of human personality traits (seriousness, warmth, imagination, etc.) to a brand as a way to achieve differentiation. Usually done through long-term above-the-line advertising and appropriate packaging and graphics. These traits inform brand behavior through both prepared communication/packaging, etc., and through the people who represent the brand – its employees.

Communication – who are you working to create a dialogue with and how…

Market – What is the ideal demographic? Who is our brand for?

Voice – how do we speak to the market? At Shout Out we worked through an exercise to identify an actual person representative of our company voice.

Visual Identity

Now it’s time to get into design guidelines. This part is incredibly important for maintaining a cohesive visual brand. Hand this section to partners, new hires, anyone impacting or using any part of your visual brand. It should contain:

  • Primary Logo and Proper Usage
  • Secondary Logo and Proper Usage
  • Logo No No’s
  • Typeface
  • Color Palette
  • Photography Style

In the end developing a proper brand guide can be an exercise in brand self-awareness as much putting together guidelines for others. Often times it helps to seek out the perspective of trusted contacts not directly involved with your company. Ask them to answer a short questionnaire based on what they do know about your brand.

Photo credit: Olga Filonenko

pen laying on a calendar

Creating The Right Digital Marketing Campaign

880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

Ever heard the phrase, “you are what you eat?” Well, in the world of brand communication and marketing you are what you tweet, sell, walk, talk, help, share, look, and so on. Creating a cohesive marketing campaign strategy is important for communicating a brand that knows who it is. Being consistent with your message, even if just across a market segment or range of time helps customers and potential customers understand what to expect from your company. That better understanding can help increase engagement and build trust.

So how do you get started creating a strategy that effectively melds the right message and voice across different channels?

Let’s explore shall we…

1. Define Your Goals

Whether a seasonal campaign or long-term brand awareness build, you should start by documenting goals for big wins and 1 or 2 secondary wins. Only when you know your Point B can you plan your path to get there from Point A.

Start high level and broad, then drill down into more detail. Some common goals may be to increase audience size and engagement on a particular social platform or increase online sales by X% through a certain quarter of business. Or possibly improve conversion rate on your website. read more

dog staring at a laptop screen

The Top eCommerce Sites We’re Addicted To and Why

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You Better Shop Around

Getting started with eCommerce is a great way to prove certain business models these days. Resources like Shopify, WordPress with WooCommerce, Big Commerce and so on, make it fairly easy to get started selling your widget online. However, running an eCommerce site that allows you to sell your widget and running an eCommerce site that’s enjoyable for the user to buy from are two completely different things. So with that, here are the top ecommerce sites we’re addicted to and why we feel they’re doing it right.

Luke Pierce

Although I have never bought anything on the site, Uniqlo is one of my favorite eCommerce sites on the web and it keeps me coming back. I love that the second the page loads, you are already shopping. Although things are simply displayed in a grid format on all pages, it still looks natural as they incorporate just the right amount of white space to break things up. Aside from the looks, the shopping experience is straightforward and to the point. The quick look feature they have on every item is nice because you don’t have to leave the page you are shopping on to get a closer look and see the variety of colors and patterns they offer things in. Although I am still not a customer of theirs (and I have been aware of the site for years), their no-nonsense design and simple shopping will have me pulling the trigger soon.

Gretchen Ardizzone

While it just launched this week, the new Toms Marketplace eCommerce site has already captured my heart (and a little of my wallet too). The online site was created by socially conscious shoe brand Toms in an effort to support other like-minded brands and businesses. Consumers shopping the Marketplace now have access to more than 200 products (home goods, apparel and accessories) from about 30 companies and charities that have been carefully selected and curated by the Toms team. Causes supported with this initiative include: opportunities to assist children in need, educational funding programs, aide in basic health and funding for project research, job creation, nutrition via meal programs, and access to clean water. read more

Hands typing

How to Deliver a More Concise Online Message

880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

Let’s get to the point.

Editing in writing and design is often the most critical step. In this age of instant information, instant access, instant gratification, here today gone yesterday attention span, it’s important to be concise with your communication.

Helping companies, and ourselves, get a message across we often find the need to streamline large blocks of copy. Even when there’s consensus that it should be done it can still become a laborious task where pride and feelings can become the defendant of sentences.

It’s easy for all of us, in the middle of a writer’s high, to fail to think about how we ourselves engage and buy online. Our time is precious. Our attention spans short. Our desire for the right information, right now, is great. Yet when it’s our turn to hit the keys, one more paragraph is no problem.

What if we could approach the online communication process better right from the beginning? What if thinking inside the box, a box, helped us to develop better content?

Here are some thinking and doing tips for delivering a more concise online message: read more

picture of cat sitting on a laptop

Viral Videos Stuck in Our Heads

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Admittedly our internal marketing meetings can sometimes take, we’ll call them, creative detours. The most recent creative detour led to a conversation on viral videos, our guilty pleasure love of cat montages and someone’s concerning level of anger over Me Too Marketing. That last one is a post for another day.

So today over at Shout Out camp we celebrate the viral video. Today we raise a coffee cup, turn the volume high and hit replay on the viral videos stuck in our heads. Enjoy the following picks and insights from our team.

Luke Pierce

When I think viral video, I think Bed Intruder. While most “viral videos” feel pretty planned, this one feels a bit more genuine. The video wasn’t carefully planned by marketing masterminds over a long period of time. Two kids saw a funny interview and made a video out of it within 48 hours. The success that followed was enormous. The song made it to iTunes and quickly found its self in Billboard’s top 100, it was YouTube’s most popular video of 2010, and has since been viewed over 117 million times. Bed Intruder has always lead me to ask the question, can this genuine type of video and its success be duplicated for marketing purposes? Or are true viral videos something wild that can’t be tamed?

Gretchen Ardizzone

Beyond just being funny and worthy of sharing, viral videos can have benefits when the result is a memorable message that supports or makes you rethink a brand’s image. One of the most compelling viral campaigns I’ve seen this year is Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches.” read more

picture of lego man screaming

Fear Driven Business Scares Me

880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

Business can be rough these days. The pressure is on to keep up with the demands and changing ideals of consumers – who seem to be spending less and less. Or maybe they’re just spending smarter.

The trends you jump on this morning are dying by sunset and new trends have moved in. Your competitors are innovating. New competitors are popping up every day – all full of personality and caffeine. Or piss and vinegar as my granddad would say.

I have no idea what those ingredients have to do with anything, but still.

And so, when the heat is on and there are decisions to be made that will have a ripple effect across the organization, far too many companies react based on fear. Like when you punch a haunted house worker even though you know it’s all fake.

It’s fight or flight. It’s instinct.

The difference between socking a guy wearing a zombie mask and leading your company or team with a desperate hand is that the former is a one-time event and the latter often turns into a habit. Those decisions can begin to build on themselves.  They stack up until you have to dig your way out. Change the culture.

Seth Godin talk about something similar here. He calls it Stoogecraft.

So how does one help prevent a layer of suffocating fear based decisions? read more

picture of clothes line with copy of Show Them Your Creative Briefs

Show Them Your Creative Briefs

880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

You don’t have to be a big time ad agency or even run a traditional “creative” business to benefit from a creative brief. Maybe you’ve hired an outside team to help you design and build a new website or refresh your logo. Maybe your marketing team is about to get started on Linkedin ads. Both of these examples benefit from a creative brief.

So who is it for and what does it do?

A common misconception is that the creative brief is for the client. Nope. It’s not entirely for the creative team either. It’s for both.

A well constructed brief, put together by the creative team, harnesses all the important details of the project and frames it in a way that provides validation between client and team and sets a track for the creative team to move forward upon. When the creative team gets the client to sign off on the brief they’ve helped to reduce second-guessing from both sides. It’s all right there in the brief.

In order to accomplish this however, a good creative brief needs to answer at least the following questions: read more

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