Free For All Friday

Attention Grabbing Email Marketing Incentives

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Email marketing has a powerful influence on consumer buying decisions, and if you aren’t making it a marketing priority, you could be missing a huge opportunity for converting and retaining your customers.

Consider these stats for a moment:

  • 66% of consumers have made a purchase online as a result of an email marketing message (Direct Marketing Association)
  • People who buy products marketed through email spend 138% more than people that do not receive email offers (Convince and Convert)
  • Over 70% of mobile purchasing decisions are influenced by promotional emails (Express Pigeon)

Just getting noticed by your subscribers is the first challenge, but what will be the incentive or carrot you dangle to get the next desired outcome? Here’s a look at some attention-grabbing email incentives we’ve seen.

Gretchen Ardizzone

I’m pretty use to discounts or free shipping offers, in fact, I almost expect them, but one of the most effective email marketing incentives I’ve received is Bauble Bar’s “The Buried Bauble.” It’s ironic because I don’t even wear that much jewelry, but somehow I’m always sucked in to “The Buried Bauble.” For 24 hours every Monday and Friday, Bauble Bar secretly marks down the price of one of the jewelry items to the guilt-free price point of $10 or $20. The email provides a clue for customers to locate the buried bauble online. For example, last week’s clue was “It’s on like NEON.” Customers then search the site looking for the product related to the clue; in this particular case being led to a neon cord bracelet. Aside from staking a claim on my bargain hunt, I typically the find myself perusing the site to see what else is new. The brand does a great job with enticing customers who enjoy the thrill of the hunt and exposing them to other great products at the same time.

Shannon Blair

I believe email incentives that work are ones that stand out. Whether from a subject line that is quick and witty, to a body that is colorful and fun. Standing out and being creative is what catches my eye. Another huge bonus, when it comes to email marketing, is keeping the voice of your brand. I have the utmost respect for companies that capture my attention with a small number of characters, then while reading through their email their voice remains prominent, yet attentive. May sound generic but Apple is an email marketing genius. They do all the things listed above that I love, as well as add their own flavor with a sleek design.

Colin Smith

Something that always catches my eye while digging through my inbox is a well-designed email. If it has attention-grabbing visuals, I will usually take the time to read about the deal, product, or news. Recently I received a promotional email from Homage, and while I wasn’t looking to buy a t-shirt at the time, their quirky image of a mad scientist/warehouse manager offering “Dr. Dinker’s Mystery Pack”  was enough to make me reconsider whether or not I should add a few more shirts to the collection. Upon actually reading the email it turns out that the 4 Tees for $30 was well worth it. A good incentive is one that a customer can’t pass up. Hook, line, and sinker.

Nathaniel Seevers

I’m with Colin, a well-designed email is one of the few things that grab my inbox attention. After that, it needs to be focused (short and concise) and also relevant. I don’t have time to scroll down an email forever. And don’t try to sell me on too many things in one message. TOMS, for me, nails this most often. Their seasonal focused emails put all the information in one view with a great photo or graphic and minimal copy – usually supplemented by a solid offer.

Sonya Palmer

As Desktop applications have migrated to web apps and online tools. I’ve really learned the benefit of investing in premium services. So anytime an email asks me to share how much I love their product for a extra offers, or maybe a free trial? I’m in!

Any email incentives you’ve found to be successful? Drop us a line in the comments below or hey, shoot us an email and share!

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Is There a Formula for Viral Content?

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Over $46,ooo and counting for potato salad on Kickstarter. For potato salad.

Zack (Danger?) Brown decided to make some potato salad and enlisted the help of Kickstarter to raise funds. Whether it was the sheer curiosity of where it could go, or the entertaining description and goals set by Zack, or that hungry people really just wanted some potato salad, word of the Kickstarter project spread. Fast.

Of course it’s not just potato salad that has this effect on the internet and all too often, a highly popular event online sparks a number of copycats. So it brought up the debate with our team, is there a formula for viral content?

Luke Pierce

In my opinion, there is a formula for going viral. That formula is:

1. Be genuine.
2. Be in the right place at the right time.
3. Don’t TRY to go viral. Just hope.

With point number three lies the problem. How can you get something to go viral without trying? The answer is, you really shouldn’t even try. If we are talking marketing for a company, you time is much better spent doing the tried and true processes that have been proven to work.

Nathaniel Seevers

I distinctly remember at one point last year sitting in a local coffee shop waiting for a client to arrive, enjoying my coffee, checking emails, when a group of folks came in and sat at the 4-top table near me. They ranged in age from early 20s to late 40s by my estimate. They sat down with their drinks in buzzing conversation, full of energy. They’re conversation bubbled over about a video sweeping the internet. I soon realized the group was made up of marketing professionals from a local bank and what they were discussing was how they could make they’re own Harlem Shakes video so they could go viral.

If there ever was a formula for creating viral content “me too marketing” was never part of it and never will be. All one can hope to do is start with a compelling message/product/story/introduction and then think through the best method for delivery that matches the purpose of the brand.

Gretchen Ardizzone

There’s no true equation as to what will make content go viral. I think if you look at some of the most notable things that have gone viral though, there’s an emotional element whether it be something genuine, laughable, memory invoking or just plain unexpected.

Many viral creations are like a splash in the pan though. They’re hot for a minute and then gone. And does it really help you achieve your goal? One of the viral campaigns that comes to mind is the Devil Baby’s Attack promoting the movie Devil’s Due. Promoters used a possessed animatronic baby to scare passersby on city streets. The video spread like wildfire online, but in the end, the goal was to generate interest in a movie, and unfortunately, the ticket sales weren’t there.

If you are successful with having your content go viral, the big question is what next? If you can manage to tell a story with your content then there’s a repeatable factor that can be recreated if done right and not worn out. I think of some of the successful campaigns like Old Spice and Dove who started with one campaign idea but then realized if they could capture those same elements but in a different context, then they had a winning formula.

One of my favorite examples of a piece of content gone viral is Warby Parker’s Annual Report. Why would an annual report ever go viral? Because they made a story of 365 days of the company culture and events in a visually engaging way. It’s been such a great tool that they’ve continued to invest in its development annually.

Shannon Blair

Lebron just announced about 3.5 seconds ago that he will be “coming home” to Cleveland, and the news has already gone viral around the world. I don’t believe there is a formula for anything to go viral, but we are humans, we are constantly starved for entertainment and information. Quite frankly, we can never get enough of it.

At this point, we have all seen just about anything and everything go viral and such content is helped by trending features on Twitter and Facebook that provide this information daily. There are no answers to why a hamster eating a piece of pizza goes viral, and there never will be. All we can do is sit back and enjoy it.

 

Photo Credit: zhouxuan12345678

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Website Woes: What Not to Do

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Whether you’ve just launched your website, looking to redesign, or perfectly content with it’s current performance, it still requires continual maintenance and should evolve over time. Sometimes though, best intentions can actually be bad practices. We’ve compiled our list of website woes to guide you on what NOT to do.

Colin Smith

Don’t over-complicate your website. While keeping up with trends in web design and user experience are positive and keep your site looking fresh, it can easily be overdone. Trying to include too much can lead to clutter, confusion and chaos. Make sure your site is easy to use, looks up to date, and delivers your content in a clear manner. This will keep your visitors happy, and they will be more likely to stick around or visit again. You’ll also be happier in the long run, and avoid a month’s worth of headaches if something goes wrong.

Gretchen Ardizzone

Designing for desktop only. You’ve heard us say before that if you think your visitors are only using a traditional desktop for viewing your site, you need to reconsider. 50% of people use mobile as their primary Internet resource. I can tell you personally, the experience of trying to purchase a product from an eCommerce site that is not mobile compatible is painful. And if you’re driving traffic from a social media source (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) often viewed on mobile, your visitor is going to expect a seamless transition from the platform to your website.  You don’t need to go to the extent of developing an App, but at least consider making your site responsive to mobile and tablet users.

Also, make your message clear on your homepage. Think of it as a cover to a book. You wouldn’t want multiple titles to confuse the reader what the book is really about would you? You may have the flexibility to communicate a couple messages with a call to action on your homepage, but don’t go overboard. If you’re presenting ten different messages all speaking to the visitor at the same level, something important is bound to get overlooked. Prioritize your key messages and have those drive traffic further into the site.

Lastly, it’s easy to think everything is working fine on your site until someone tells you otherwise, but put yourself in their shoes, navigate your site, test buttons, links, and forms every once in a while to make sure things are working as they should be. It’s not every day that someone will take the time to tell you something is wrong, they may just walk away in frustration. Spot the problem before they do.

Luke Pierce

You know what really grinds my gears? Moving chat boxes. When I am a first time visitor to a site and I have to play “hit the tiny little ‘x’ to close the chat box moving target game” I immediately get annoyed and often times leave the site right away. Don’t get me wrong, live chat can be great. I love how useful live chat can be when I actually have some questions to ask, but when your chat box is moving back and forth across the screen blocking my view of the content I actually want to read it drives me nuts.

Instead, utilize a tab that can easily be clicked upon to open a chat dialog or place it somewhere else in the site that is easily accessed. Just don’t force your chat feature on every visitor. Focus on creating great content that gets people excited to talk to someone first. When someone wants to chat, make it easy for them to do so and they will.

Shannon Blair

Please, I’m begging you people, STOP asking me for my email address and other information before you even let me see what you can offer me. There is a rather well-known website that offers you good products (clothing, home decorations, health items, etc) for good prices and the one thing that drives me absolutely insane is that every time I go there I have to log in to see what they offer. I understand the need for information but there is a time and place to ask for such things. Acting like a private club isn’t going to get you far in the online world, and it is definitely not going to help you gain an audience.

Photo Credit: MarcDubois

microphone

Talk to Me: Great Brand Voice Examples

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Character and personality are expressed through a brand’s tone-of-voice. Whether it be genuine or authoritative, for example, these are the characteristics that define your communications. From a simple tweet to an advertising campaign, your voice tells people who you are. Here are some of the best examples of great brand voice.

Colin – Newcastle Brown Ale

The voice of honesty: it has some redeeming qualities, especially for brands. One brand, Newcastle Brown Ale, decided it was going to capitalize on the lack of honesty in beer commercials. They teamed up with Droga5 to create their “No Bollocks” campaign, which they have used on every form of media since. From TV commercials (they are well worth a watch), to drink coasters, to street advertisements, Newcastle has stayed consistent in calling out other beers and their advertising tactics. Another way they carried their No Bollocks campaign forward was during last year’s Super Bowl when they launched “If We Made It.” Because what’s more fun than teasing other companies who spent millions of dollars for their Ad spots during the big game? To Newcastle, nothing. Instead they made they’re own versions of every commercial with storyboards and posted them to IfWeMadeIt.com. They’re videos of an annoyed Anna Kendrick and confused Keyshawn Johnson got almost as much attention as the Ads during the game.

Newcastle doesn’t mind being brash and honest, and it has paid off for them both in sales and social awareness. Their Twitter and Facebook pages are very active, and they get a lot of responses from fans and customers. Side-note: they are currently giving a dollar to every new follower on Twitter. They have even moved on from calling out other beer companies by allowing fans to call out their friends on bad social media behavior. It’s refreshing and entertaining to see a brand that takes itself a little less seriously.

Nathaniel – Harry’s

You know a company has the tone right when you can easily create a person in your head, a visual representation for the words you’re reading. That’s Harry’s. It doesn’t hurt that the company name could be the first name of someone you know.

Harry’s is an online, low cost provider of high quality men’s shaving products. Yes, something like Dollar Shave Club but it’s a much different tone. It’s situations like these, comparing brands of a similar business model, where you can really begin to define what brand voice means.

Harry’s is calm. From the website copy to the photography pairing to the packaging instructions, Harry’s tells you exactly what you need to know. They’ve even created an easy going lifestyle blog-a-zine called Five O’Clock.

It all wraps up into confidence without the fuss. There’s no chest beating just the occasional subtle quip. Harry’s communicates a vibe of approachable sophistication and accessible quality that allows you to enjoy the purchase experience and leaves you feeling good having the products on your shelf.

Luke – Chipotle

A great brand voice not only resonates with their target market but also creates emotion in them, and in this case hunger as well. In my opinion Chipotle has developed a great brand voice. It carries through consistently across their billboard ads, radio spots, and web presence. The key to their brand voice is knowing their target market and creatively communicating what they care about directly; ingredients. Chipotle effectively displays their commitment to quality ingredients constantly. So much so that often I can name their chicken purveyor or where their cilantro is coming from. They know what their message is and they communicate it in an interesting way. That is a great brand voice.

Sonya- Burt’s Bees

Burt’s Bees products have become a staple in purses, pockets, backpacks, diaper bags and more. Their message has helped inspire a host of other natural personal care products. How did they do this? Simple, they take care of their customers by providing quality products, and they take care of the environment in the process.

Every time I reach for my bright yellow lip balm and apply, I know I can trust that there’s only good stuff going on my lips, and I’ve got Burt to thank for that. Thanks Burt.

Gretchen – Birchbox

When it comes to beauty products it can be a little overwhelming in understanding what’s going to work and what’s not. I’ll tell you firsthand that I constantly suffer from buyers remorse when I purchase a product that leaves me dissatisfied. So you could say that I would normally stick with what’s tried and true…until I was introduced to Birchbox.

The online subscription based beauty (and grooming) sampling program was launched by young entrepreneurs, Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp, in an effort to help cut through the clutter and find products that really work. Products are curated by the Birchbox staff and uniquely selected for you based on your beauty profile.

The brand experience unfolds as you open the box. Each month’s Box is created with a theme, for example this month’s is “Away We Go,” with all the travel-ready sample size essentials you could need for taking that road trip, staycation or far-flung adventure.” The products are introduced with a personal card from Katia, Hayley and the Birchbox Team.

The helpful guide through the beauty world doesn’t just end with your Box though. Their site is chock full of inspiration, information and advice through articles, videos, interviews, and even guest bloggers.

Through their friendly, fun approach and genuine voice, people feel inspired to try new products and have the confidence in their purchases. They not only inspire you to try new things but to share with others what you love.

Marsh – Shinola

One of the oldest names in America has reemerged and has one of the best brand voices going today. Shinola (yes as in you don’t know S@#$t from Shinola) has recreated itself in Detroit.

And what are they doing? They are leveraging everything they can about Detroit; its downfall, the loss of manufacturing jobs and the American passion for manufacturing excellence, into one of the best brand voices going. They are single-handedly positioning themselves as the new American model for manufacturing. They are retraining auto workers to make watches, they are bringing back American pride in everything they make and the way they are telling their story is spot on.

Reemergence, retooling, resurrecting and all in one of the most devastated cities in the country. They are staking their claim on what can be done in America with American ingenuity and know how. From handcrafted leather good, to some of the best bicycles available in the country, to watches assembled in their own Detroit plant they are committed to reinvigorating the American story of great products made in this country by great people who care about what they are doing.

From their website

“Why not accept that manufacturing is gone from this country? Why not let the rust and weeds finish what they started? Why not just embrace the era of disposability? And why didn’t we buy a warmer coat before we moved here? Through three Detroit winters, we’ve asked ourselves these questions. And worked not to find our answer, but to build it.

Because we don’t think American manufacturing ever failed for being too good. Our worst didn’t come when we were at our best. It happened when we thought good was good enough. “

Like it, wait until you watch their video, “Why Open a Watch Factory in Detroit.

 

Photo Credit: Яick Harris

App Icons

Apps We Can’t Live Without

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Nowadays there’s an app for just about everything you do… from checking the weather to tracking your fitness to managing budgets to connecting with friends. While being connected all the time can have its downsides, there are some apps that as a team we depend on daily. Whether it be a break from business or to keep us organized, here are the apps we can’t live without.

Nathaniel

I try out a lot of apps. Mainly because I’m a ux design geek. I marvel at the way some apps are designed and how they move. So I try out a lot of apps, but not every app makes the cut. I regularly purge; feeling some sort of digital claustrophobia staring at my iPhone screen.DesignTools_App

There’s one app that always survives cut day and that’s Design Tools. I may not use it every day or every week but I need it to be there. Design Tools is a no frills, quick reference app for everything from standard web banner sizes and iPhone screen dimensions to business card and even billboard sizes. The Design Tools app also features a handy colour converter for RGB, HSL and Hex as well as a 5 part unit converter for dpi, pixels, inches and more.

Unlike many of the other apps on my phone, Design Tools gives you exactly what you need and nothing that you don’t. Get in, get info, get out and get back to work.

Sonya

I’m a list maker, so much so, that I often make lists of the lists I need to make. Over the years I have teetered between whatever new to do list app was popular, and plain ol’ pen and paper. After a few weeks of never quite using the apps as much as I had intended, I would meander back over to a notebook and sharpie.  just always seemed to abandon digital for physical, until I found workflowy.

It is super simple, but with functions that are very useful and intuitive.  It is a rolling outline, with plenty of room for tasks and subtasks. I have it installed as a chrome extension, allowing me to add tasks through my desktop that then sync with the app on my iPhone. I’ve been using it to take notes in meetings, my grocery lists, to organize web resources, and to catalog my small but mighty record collection.  If I start feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I just open it up. Looking back at what I have finished up, and being able to organize exactly what I need to get done helps me focus, and clears my head. It’s been an excellent tool at organizing, but also making me more productive, and helping me manage my time better.

Colin

I enjoy going new places & trying new things, and there are many apps that help me do just that. But when it comes to spending money, I like to know I’m putting it to good use. Wisely is the app I look to for this purpose. Even with so many resources full of consumer and expert reviews, I always find myself wondering how genuine or opinionated they may be. Wisely shows you where people are spending their money, how often people came back to that business as repeat customers, and how much the average transaction at that location is. All of this information is anonymous of course, and they pride themselves on the security of their users.

While reviews are good for opinions, Wisely has the data to back it up. Not only that, but it helps you budget yourself, which is something that is very handy for someone like me. Set a budget and watch your spending habits over time to learn how to, well… spend wisely. See where your wallet is taking the biggest hit, and find ways you can spend more efficiently. I also like how easy it is to set up: sign in to your bank account through the app, authorize the app via a code sent by your bank via text or email, and decide what cards you want to include in your “wallet.” As popularity of this app grows in your area, the more information they can provide to help you choose where to spend your money next.

Gretchen

My favorite app? I’ll be honest, the last thing I want to do when I get of my computer is anything related to business. I’m drawn to social or pseudo social platforms like Facebook and Instagram. I even had a short-lived addiction to Draw Something. With that said I still keep an eye on the business end of things just to keep my mind at peace.

Sprout Social is the app that lets me do just that. We have several accounts we manage for clients and our own social media accounts. I can see messages scheduled, sent, incoming, and switch between client accounts seamlessly. I can check-in on the social stream when I want to, and know that I’m covered when I’m away.

Shannon

Being someone who is mildly obsessed with all things social media, I would have to say there are plenty of apps that I can’t live without. However, the one that helps me out the most is the one that keeps me the most organized: Hootsuite. The thing is, I have a relationship with Sprout Social, but I have a marriage with Hootsuite. I love that as soon as I open the app I can manage our company twitter and various platforms. I also dig that I can keep an eye out on all the trending hashtags and keywords that we set up.

 

 

Photo Credit: Frau Hölle

Graduates

Advice to Future Digital Marketers

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It’s the time of the year that many college students reflect on the years they’ve spent in school and prepare to enter the workforce. At a recent marketing meeting we were discussing this as a couple of our very own team members recently donned the cap and gown and took the proud walk of achievement. Thinking about this got us on the discussion of what advice would we give to future digital marketers…

Nathaniel: “Change it.”

My advice for the future digital marketer….it’s tough to think about considering how fast the digital landscape is changing and how different companies interact with consumers today versus 10 years. But if I’m simply putting my best advice foot forward I would say this one thing:

“If you don’t like the state of your marketing universe, change it. In fact, be prepared to.

There are guidelines being created every single day but guess what, big picture, we’re all still pretty new at this digital marketing thing. These rules aren’t set in stone. Each new breakthrough in social technology creates a ripple that will and should impact the way we as marketers help companies connect and engage with their audience. It’s ok to not play by the rules if you don’t feel those “rules” are in the best interest of your clients and their customers.

Shannon: “Stay Organized!”

So here’s the thing… with anything new you are going to have an “oh crap” moment when you don’t really know what’s going on. It happens to everyone. It especially happens when you are new to something such as digital marketing. Staying organized when you work on a computer all day is going to help you out a ton.

  • Embrace Tools: Having tools such as Evernote and Asana is going to help you have checklists to get you through your day.
  • Write Notes: Not just on your computer, but in a physical notebook as well.
  • Take Timeouts: Seriously, you have to step away from the screen now and then to gain real perspectives of tasks.

Gretchen: “Have a voice and don’t be afraid to fail.”

When I first got out of college I was quiet, listened to what my co-workers had to say, but for the most part I kept my opinion to myself. I had this idea that due to my lack of extensive, real-world experience, what did my point-of-view have to offer? Turns out, a lot. Luckily I had great mentors who challenged me to share my insights and ideas. It’s just as valuable for you (young graduate) as an individual as it is for those that have years of experience beyond you. Through you they will also have an opportunity to learn!

Try things, test things, know that not every time things will come out on top, but through failure you also learn. There was a period of time that I let a fear of failure stifle my willingness to act, and if I did, I pushed for perfection. It was daunting, and realistically not practical. Some of the most successful business people have had great failures before achieving success. It is sometimes then that you can truly find greatness. Digital marketing is ever-changing and always evolving. Don’t be afraid to test something new before it’s been truly proven. The key thing is to learn what works and what doesn’t, adapt and evolve.

Colin: “Go back to school and become an engineer.”

If that isn’t an option I would say to look until you find the company that fits you best. I know there is a lot of pressure to find a job right after you graduate, but if you take to time to find the firm where you will learn and grow the most, you will be better off in the long run. Making money is important, but so is being happy and passionate about what you do. Don’t waste your own time and continue to fight to accomplish the goals you have been working on for the past four years.

It’s an exciting and unsettling time right after you graduate, but you also have the choice to make the most of it and set the pace for the rest of your career.

Sonya: “Be resourceful & never stop learning”

The tools and platforms of a digital marketer are changing constantly. Being an expert in specific software programs or web languages can only get you so far. Learn how to look for information, and if you can’t find it, don’t be afraid to ask for help. And continue to look for ways to add to or sharpen your skills. Pay attention to what new technology is trending, and decide what you should and shouldn’t spend your time learning. And don’t be afraid to walk away from the computer. Use whatever keeps you curious to harness new information and skills.

What advice would you give to a future digital marketer? Drop us a line in the comments, we’d love to hear.

Photo Credit: j.o.h.n. walker

Child playing piano

Most Important Thing I Learned This Week

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Quite often you hear people say the common phrase, “I learned something new today.” With each of our team members unique in their own way, this is something you’ll quite often hear us say. But what’s great is that learning new things doesn’t just end with our team, but we find that through the process of working with our clients and partners we’re frequently learning something from them too. As the team reflects on this week, here are some of the most important things we’ve learned.

Marsh: “Sometimes you can help someone help themselves”

A few years ago we had a client who was really heading down the wrong path on some things. The client team we worked with knew it was the wrong path but that’s what they were told to do by their senior management. From our perspective, they were going to hurt their brand, plus waste money, time and effort ¬– and our immediate client representatives knew this – but they were going ahead because they were told to and their organization did not/does not embrace “Truth to Power.”

When I got some time with our primary contact I asked him about this. His assessment was, “You’re making a big mistake. Don’t try to help us help ourselves.” I responded that we didn’t know how to do that. We both laughed about it and moved on, but I’ve always carried that with me.

Don Quixote, Pollyanna, whatever, our goal is to guide, to coach, to transfer wisdom when we can, and most of all to help clients reach their goals. Yeah, I get that this sounds like so much blah, blah, blah. But today I saw a client who was willing to learn and grow to reach a significant goal, and we were able to help them do that.

So what’s the most important thing I learned this week? Never give up on doing the right thing. Never say yes because it’s easy. And always stick to your guns when you know in your heart you’re right. When you can help someone else reach their goals and learn from each other in the process it’s a beautiful thing.

Gretchen: “Use Your Words”

Driving from a client meeting the other day we passed a billboard stating “safe” then showing a car and the words (dot) com. Marsh asked what did I see? As if I were playing an old-school game of concentration, my response was “safecar.com.” Clearly I would’ve lost because the correct response was safeauto.com.

My lesson is relatively simple. You hear people say an image is worth a thousand words, well sometimes an image alone isn’t enough. Don’t rest on the fact that you can use a visual to convey your message. With the popularity of social media platforms like Instagram, we have certainly become a more visual society, but you might need to do more to tell the whole story. In the case of the billboard, they may not have been able to tell a story per se, but I’ve encountered instances were the same thinking has been applied to digital marketing. Don’t expect visuals to communicate what you mean and especially when the subject is complex. Give your message justice and use your words.

Colin: “Know when to just ask”

Being a recent college graduate I find myself running into situations where I don’t have the solution right away. This isn’t a bad thing, and can often lead to a good learning opportunity. And while being resourceful and putting in the time and effort to find the right answer is both beneficial and shows initiative, it can also be time-consuming. This week I learned that sometimes just asking someone for the answer can be the better route. Being efficient and effective trumps a learning opportunity in certain situations.

Even a problem as small as getting your email to work can create a timely search for the answer. I spent more time than necessary re-entering, searching for answers, and getting generally frustrated trying to get my email to allow me to send messages. Eventually, I gave in and took it to the geniuses at the Apple store. I walked out fifteen minutes later finally able to respond to the emails that I could have been responding to earlier had I just know when to ask for help.

Sonya: “Look back more often”

I reward myself for making healthy choices by buying $15 items on Amazon. This week it was the Retrobit Nintendo 64 game controller for Mac. Plugged it in, and started my first favorite game, The Legend of Zelda. The music, and even holding the controller, quickly transported me back to my parent’s house where I grew up. Somewhere in 1987, staying up late with my dad and beating the game for the first time.

Trends like on Twitter and Instagram have had me searching through old albums and photos looking for images to embarrass my sister with. It had been years since I’d gone through those photos. And it reminded me of the foundations I had growing up. I was blessed with a great family, and have great memories that have helped shape me. So often, with technology, and business, and marketing… we look to move forward. To not dwell on the past, but to leave it where it is. And while I think it’s important that we not be discouraged by past mistakes and regrets, there is still value in our memories. Looking back can be a reminder of why we are the way we are. It can help us determine, the things we are good at, and what we can get better at. And maybe most importantly, it can allow you to recognize the people who helped get you where you are and to thank them for just that.

 Luke Pierce: “Unwritten Goals Mean Nothing”

We are finishing up a big contest project this week for a client and everyone involved couldn’t be happier with how it went. But I can’t seem to shake this dubious feeling I have. Let me explain.

At the beginning of the project we talked internally about what we thought we be successful for the project, we even quantified it with the team that was working on it. Then during the initial meetings with the client, we asked, as we always do, “what will define a win on this project?” We got an answer and great direction to take the project in. However, we never actually put metrics around our goals and we definitely never wrote them down.

We reported metrics every week to the client and were totally transparent about all happenings in the project. We knew we were on track the whole time to hit the goals we had talked about in the beginning, but now that the project is over, it doesn’t feel real. They were false goals because we never accurately communicated with everyone involved about what they were, and we never wrote them down.

This week I learned to make sure everyone involved in a project can be confident in the project’s outcome, one must accurately define and communicate goals, quantify them, and WRITE THEM DOWN!

 Shannon Blair: “Always back up your computer”

Here’s the thing… even all the way back in middle school my teachers were telling me to save my Word doc. in case something happens. I always took it kind of lightly and just thought people were a tiny bit obsessive. When I came to Shout Out my team mentioned backing up our computers and my thought was, “but everything I use is online?” Well folks, then the Coffee Incident of 2014 happened to me. Starting my day off right, with blog reading and a hot cup of coffee, I set my coffee down on the corner of a stack of papers and it took a tumble right into my keyboard. Now, I sit mortified at how stupid the decision had been to never back up my computer because let me tell you, I had documents on that bad boy I hadn’t thought about in over a year that now I miss dearly.

Nathaniel Seevers: “Sometimes the problem is the solution.”

My contribution to this post is a few days late. While not ideal it has been a reminder of something important; sometimes the problem is the solution. When I sat down to write my part for the post, on-time with the best intentions, I blanked. It wasn’t that I didn’t learn anything over the course of the past week. We’re all constantly learning every single day. It was that when I tried to rehash the lessons I’d recently gathered I came away with a paragraph of forced, uninteresting, borderline trite…. whatever. I questioned how it was useful to our readers and so, I stopped. I trashed what I had down and I politely bowed out.

As I read back through the contributions from my team I realized not contributing is what I had learned. Sometimes you have to not do anything to move ahead. You can be too close to what you’re trying to accomplish. Sometimes the problem is the solution the whole time.

Photo Credit: Jackson Latka

road

Instagram: Who To Follow

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What started as a smartphone app has quickly grown into one of the major social media platforms with over 200 million users. And with the 2012 purchase by Facebook, the popular photo and video sharing platform, Instagram, shows no plans for slowing down. The visual element and simplicity of use are undeniably attractive for businesses and consumers alike. Check out some the brands and people we love to follow and why.

Luke Pierce – Homage

Homage is one of my favorite home grown Columbus companies. They started with a simple shirt sold throughout some stores along High Street in Columbus, and grew it into a indie clothing empire, partly because of their social media marketing savvy. Their Instagram account is no exception to their awesomeness. Terrific photography coupled with throwback photos and Instagram exclusive deals keeps me a dedicated follower.

Marsh Williams – Our Open Road

I tried showing Instagram to a friend a while ago and the only response they had was, “why would I want to see someone else’s pictures?” I was hard pressed to provide an answer that wasn’t akin to “are you *&^%$#@ kidding me.”

I love Instagram, most mornings it’s how I start my day. Sitting down with a cup of coffee and my iPad. Seeing things through the eyes of others is amazing and the range of content and subject matter is extraordinary. One of my most recent “follows” is Our open Road. A family that took off from California about a year ago and has been documenting their nomadic adventure via their website and Instagram. The images and stories of adventure range from sublime to the ordinary, but the entire experience of following along is peerless.

As for companies on Instagram, I don’t know. I was not happy when advertising crept in but that’s just me.

Other people I follow just because I enjoy what they are doing are:

Luidanole—a very talented photographer who works long enough to fund his next photo journey and then hits the road (private profile).

JethroMullen—great nature and city scales.

Paulyvella—wonderful nature photography.

Kiwiboy—a true HDR junkie with a great eye.

Instagram takes me back to the great Life Magazine days. Later this year I plan to take off for a week or so and hit the Natchez Trace for my own adventure.

Gretchen Ardizzone – Sweetgreen & Nike Running

Brand consistency is huge thing for me when it comes to marketing, and what you put out on social media is no different. Many brands can perfect their tone of voice on Twitter or creatively craft the post that everyone will share on Facebook, but when it comes to Instagram, the visual aspect seems to sometimes present a challenge. So the brands that I love to follow manage to effortlessly showcase the epitome of their brand in true form.

Sweetgreen, the farm to table fast casual kitchen, is passionate about the food they create and the community relationships they cultivate. With a healthy mix of artful ingredients, drool-worthy food, and fanatical Sweetgreen followers you start to understand what living the “Sweetlife” is all about.

Nike’s branding has always aimed to empower you to “Just Do It,” and their Instagram equally delivers the motivation to move. Still photos show strength, and their 15 second videos capture a glimpse of aspirational activities. As a runner, I find NikeRunning the most inspiring. I can almost picture myself in their shoes with the wind at my back and my feet pounding the pavement.

Colin Smith – Go Pro & Taco Bell

The great thing about Instagram is the variety of content available. From the everyday photographer documenting their life, to professional photographers featuring their work, to brands promoting their products, you have a broad opportunity to look through someone else’s eyes. Instagram is a growing social media platform with a lot of potential for companies to connect with their customers in a different way. As they say, seeing is believing. So, my votes for the two brands who are doing Instagram right are as follows:

GoPro – When you claim to make “The World’s Most Versatile Camera,” Instagram should be a showcase of your product’s capabilities. Luckily, GoPro lives up to their slogan. They feature their photo of the day, chosen from user submissions, which gives a unique look at just how versatile GoPro really is. The photography is definitely worth the follow.

Taco Bell – A fast food chain may come as a surprise, but Taco Bell sure knows how to use their social media to engage their customers. With a variety of photos ranging from mouthwatering shots of food, to pictures of people brought together through their product, they take Instagram and build their brand through it. They even featured fan photos with the Doritos Locos Tacos in their television advertisement. Taco Bell sees Instagram’s potential, and they plan to take full advantage of it.

Honorable mentions: While these aren’t brands, they deserve a follow as well. Janske has some of the best landscape photography on Instagram. The awe-inspiring pictures are more than refreshing to see on your newsfeed. In Contrast, AdamSenatori is a pilot and photographer. The aerial shots of cities coupled with shots of attractions from around the world are truly beautiful.

Sonya Palmer – Sharpie & TrevLee

Despite my desire to be all digital. I have a serious crush on office supplies. File folders, binder clips, post it notes, I love it all.  And after years… YEARS of searching for the perfect pen, I found it in Sharpie’s Fine Point Pen. I love following their Instagram because they feature the people who use their products. Their Instagram consistently provides a break from my creative processes, while also inspiring me. When your head is buried in code and content all day, it’s nice to see what the outside world is doing with just pen and paper.

We had a rough winter in Ohio. Heck, we had a rough winter everywhere. Trev Lee is a photographer in Northwest Ohio, who spent a year in Yosemite. I cannot tell you how often his amazing photos of Yosemite reminded me that, yes… the outside is beautiful, yes…. Snow is even beautiful. There is life outside this house, there is life outside Ohio. He often made me want to climb rocks and trees and, well anything that was vertical!

Nathaniel Seevers – Steve Rodia and Hotel Lincoln

One of the best things about social media for me is the way we all build brand personas for the random strangers we cross digital paths with. Steve Rodia is one of those strangers that in my mind I’ve built into his own lifestyle brand. Steve’s Instagram glows of his interests; travel, great food, great bourbon. His is always the account I look forward to checking as I love to admire the places he visits, his panache southern attire, his appreciation of fine pork products and, of course, the fine bourbon he drinks. To me he is a lifestyle brand and blogger. To others he’s staff engineer at Honda.

Here’s where the duality of my taste comes into play. Aside from my love for a slower pace, grilled meats and bourbon neat, I do also love the urban pulse of certain cities. Few cities do I love as much as Chicago. During a long weekend stay for business last spring my wife and I decided to try out Hotel Lincoln as a change from our standard hotel stays. Right from check-in we felt welcome and quickly realized their friendly, eclectic disposition carried through social media. Their Instagram runs the gamut of shots of the funky interior decor of the hotel to neighborhood events in Lincoln Park to the occasional sighting of honest Abe himself.

Shannon Blair – WorldWanderLust

Similar to Marsh, I start my day with a cup of coffee and a good Instagram scroll. The person I follow that uses Instagram the way it was meant to be used, and with the most inspirational and amazing photos is WorldWanderLust. This gal was awarded as Skyscanner’s travel blogger of the year, and for good reason. Just this morning she’s in South Africa on a Safari. Last week? She was wandering around Lisbon. Seriously, she is one of those people who has built up her individual brand using the power of Instagram and by doing so she is able to travel around the world and take photos – just living her dream. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Photo Credit: Dirk Dallas

Smart Long-Term Goals for Startups

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Starting a new business is no piece of cake. You put your blood, sweat, tears, and I’m sure a bit of money into it, but the reality is that all that hard work isn’t done once you’ve launched your business. Setting long-term goals is the only way you can plan for success. If you’re starting up a business, here are some smart long-term goals to consider:

Nathaniel Seevers

The long-term vision for your startup might be grand. That’s perfectly ok. Think big. But to get to grand you have to be able to sustain the marathon that is building a business. One important long-term goal should be cash flow consistency. Now you might think cash flow is an important short-term goal and you’re right; maintaining the right balance of cash flow against expenses over time, as you grow, is where sustainability happens. When you’re hitting new levels of revenue is often when it’s easiest to overspend. You can help yourself hit cash flow control goals by frequently reviewing expenses and calculating how new costs and investments will contribute to increased revenue.

Gretchen Ardizzone

Long-term goals should not only gratify you as the founder of the company, but your employees too. Meaning, you can’t just up and decide one day that you want to sell X, because you see potential in the market, when what the business was originally created to do is to sell Y. Not sure how employees would’ve felt if Steve Jobs had announced Apple was going to sell irons. Yes, they’d probably be the coolest irons in the market, but I’d call that jumping the shark for brand, and employees probably would agree.

You need to make sure that your employees are aligned with the direction of the company from the very beginning and as it continues to grow. They will be the ones to help you achieve the short-term goals along the way that get you to reach the  overall company goals. I’m not suggesting don’t change direction or expand upon your offering, but make sure you get buy-in from employees and the changes you make are relevant to your brand.

Shannon Blair

So you’ve started a company, and now you want a few long-term goals to go along with the short-term ones. A long-term goal should be to understand your potential for growth. Clients, employees, and office space should be a few on the top of your list. To plan for growth in clients –  you need to plan for more employees, to plan for growth in employees – you need to plan for a bigger office space. You have to plan accordingly to this growth and set a few short-term goals to reach this over-all long-term growth.

What long-terms goals would you recommend to someone starting their business? Share your advice in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Roxanne Elise

broom

Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Business

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In business a new year often means new goals and a plan to achieve them. Next thing you know, several months go by and sometimes that means things get a little cluttered or you might even find yourself slightly off track. Spring is always a refreshing turn of the season, because it not only signifies that you have survived the less than desirable winter, but it’s an opportunity to organize your enterprise. From the collective crew at Shout Out, here are a few Spring cleaning tips for your business:

Nathaniel Seevers

When a company has a product or service they’re passionate about they want to tell the world; tell them everything, every feature benefit and scream it from their homepage mountain. It’s understandable but what can often result is a bloated, busy, confusing first impression when someone hits your site.

For a spring clean homepage purge consider:

  • Reducing the number of slides in your slider. Online attention spans are short. Few visitors stick around to see more than 2, 3 slides at the most. Getting more concise with your benefit statement helps you in other areas as well. Even challenge yourself to reduce to one static main image. Get really good at being captivating.
  • Attracting your visitors to specific click-throughs for diving deeper into content versus telling the whole story in one spot
  • Implementing a heat mapping tool like Crazy Egg to see what people are clicking on, hovering around and ignoring. This can help you better understand what’s working and what you can cut.

Gretchen Ardizzone

To many businesses a customer email address is like a golden ticket. But how much is that ticket worth if it’s extremely out of date? My tip is take time to clean up your email lists. Why waste time and energy communicating to a vast group of people who hardly even read your stuff, can’t remember when or why they subscribed, or frankly they may question how they ended up on your list to begin with. Spend your time communicating with those who want to read what you have to say or see what you have to offer.

If you have an old list, don’t start re-engaging by sending them a promotional email, instead consider a quick reminder email to make sure they remember who you are and want to continue to receive your communications. And if it’s been a little while it doesn’t hurt to include an opportunity to opt-in again. Give them a couple of chances to opt-in before finally removing them.

If your email list raises some questions to begin with, you might want to check out this MailChimp article titled “Is my list ok to use in MailChimp.” While this may be intended for importing lists into MailChimp, I think many of the questions they ask are still applicable in evaluating the quality of your list. If you’re anything like us, you’ll enjoy the humor and appreciate the advice.

Shannon Blair

Ah, Spring… you begin cleaning out cars and closets – but what about social media? Yep, there are quick and simple ways to clean that up too.

Twitter: Go through your Twitter lists and followings and clean those up by unfollowing the ones that are inactive or who aren’t posting content that’s relevant to you or your company.

LinkedIn: Have you updated your resume, done some networking, or moved positions in your company? Dust off those cobwebs and update all that information and connect with new contacts!

Pinterest: You can comb through your Pinterest boards and tidy up by creating new boards or deleting old, irrelevant ones.

Google+: Clean up those circles, people!

Facebook: Get on Facebook and check on your information and update content that needs it – also give your Facebook a facelift by adding a new photo or header.

Luke Pierce

This winter was a tough one in central Ohio. It is easy to let the clutter accumulate in that kind of weather, not only around the house, but digitally as well. For whatever reason, I let my desktop on my computer get overcrowded, hardly emptied my browsers cache, and let hundreds of things pile up in my downloads folder. This week I decided my spring cleaning was going to take place on my lap top. I cleared my desktop, getting everything in organized folders to where it needed to be. Emptied my browsers cache. And cleared out my downloads folder. Not to my surprise, my laptop started functioning loads better. It always amazes me how easy it is to make things better and it makes me wonder why I don’t keep up with it all the time. Next up: properly back up my laptop on a regular basis.

Do you have a Spring cleaning list of your own? Share your tips in the comments below.

Photo Credit: kaiton

Pencil and paper

Favorite Quotes of the Week

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As integrated team, communication is key. We use lots of mediums to communicate on a regular basis: email, text, Skype, Google Hangout, and good ole conversations, and occasionally we have priceless moments that make us laugh. Check out some of the entertaining musings of our team members in this collection of our favorite quotes of the week:

Nathaniel Seevers

“Like a snake eating a pig.” I’m not sure what the conversation was where I first heard that sage observation from our very own Marsh Williams. Nevertheless it’s hard to forget that punchline. It’s also hard to forget the collective look of the faces in the room. “It’s a southern thing…” was the definition given by Marsh in response to our inquisitive looks. I use it still to this day having no idea what it really means.

Gretchen Ardizzone

We often travel by car to meet with our clients, and we try to use this time to be productive to talk about projects or our own digital marketing initiatives. We even have a hotspot set up to connect online. Essentially it’s a mobile marketing unit. During a recent trip this is how our drive started: Luke: “What do you guys want to listen to? I have NPR or Radio Lab podcasts?” Shannon: “I have some Miley on my phone.” Needless to say Miley may be topping the billboard charts, but she did not win out on this battle. “We can’t stop” laughing.

 Shannon Blair

As Gretchen said – we often travel to meet our clients. Meaning we spend hours together and things can get pretty interesting… especially when its 6:30am and you haven’t had enough coffee. One particular conversation we have had involved Marsh saying, “Last night I was doing meatball math in my head.” Take a second to pause, as we did, and attempt to figure out what this means. After some questioning our team found out that meatball math means: Slapping together some sloppy numbers without really knowing what you’re going to get. Oddly enough, this saying has really taken to our team and is now frequently used.

Marsh Williams

First, none of what was said above it actually true. They just sit around and make this stuff up…

Last Monday we were all whining bout day-light-saving time. And, then Luke said “I love daylight saving time, it makes the day longer.” Then he tried to recover with “Well it doesn’t make the day longer but there’s more sunshine.” About a second later he self corrected with the incredible comeback of “…ah you know what I mean.” We immediately took him to Luck Brothers for a full coffee immersion.

He can try again in a year.

Photo Credit: becca.peterson26

computer with handshake image

Favorite Offline Marketing Tactics

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While we may be in the business of digital marketing, we still believe in marketing methods offline. Combining a strong digital marketing strategy with your offline marketing efforts is the best way to have a cohesive strategy in obtaining new customers and communicating with existing ones. Here are a few of our favorite offline marketing tactics.

Colin Smith

A great way to market your brand and build your image is through networking. Online networking has so many platforms to choose from, giving you a variety of ways to connect and engage with customers. But when it comes to offline marketing, it is entirely up to you and your team. That being said, there are still plenty of chances for you to attract the same types of potential clients as you could online. Attending trade shows, industry events, and other gatherings present opportunities where you can hand out business cards, have conversations, and build relationships that will benefit your company.

It may seem old-fashioned, but a person-to-person interaction is still a very valuable way to build your business. You get to represent your brand and make a good impression first-hand. Another upside is you can be selective with who you reach out to, and only spend your time with the potential customers that you would want to work with.

Gretchen Ardizzone

While saying thank you may be more of a courteous business principal than a marketing tactic, the two words hold great power in showing your customers your appreciation. And when delivered personally the message is even more profound.

I recently became a new pet parent, and found myself in need of all the essentials to care of my new member of the family. I brought my dog, Gizmo, with me on the trip to the local pet retailer to acquire the necessary items. The staff was extremely helpful recommending the appropriate items while also doting on my adorable pup.

A week later I received a card in the mail from the retailer saying thank you and congratulations on the new addition to the family. Each store associate personally signed the card and had a genuine message about how great it was to meet Gizmo. Even the associates who weren’t there that day signed saying they couldn’t wait to meet him. It was such an unexpected surprise. Their service alone was enough to leave me a satisfied customer, but the card in the mail was such a delight…marketing at its best!

Shannon Blair

One of the best things to do for yourself or your company in the marketing field is to unplug. Remove yourself from the computer and be in the moment. Reach out to shake a hand instead of send and emails. One of the most refreshing marketing tactics I’ve seen lately are the ones that are taken offline and stepping out from behind the keyboard. Whatever happened to that tactic? Honestly, we need it back.

Photo Credit: Truthout.org

building blocks

Building Our Business: What We’d Do Differently

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When we started this business roughly two years ago we were faced with the challenges that many entrepreneurs and small businesses are faced with…how to build a brand, assemble a team, and form the right client relationships. Now that we’ve been on that journey for a little while we’re able to look back at building our business. While we can’t go back and change the past, we can reflect on what we might do differently.

Luke Pierce

Although it may seem trivial, the one thing that I would do differently is to simply write down our goals, and do it often beginning on day one. Sometimes our creative ADD can really get us going in directions we previously had never dreamed of, which can be fantastic but it can also be a distraction. Sometimes I feel we lose site of what our real goals are and what we are doing in the meantime to get there.

It’s one thing to talk about your goals and ambitions, but to me, it’s an entirely different thing to write them down. If we had written our goals down from day one we could look back on them now and tell the entire story of the company. If we could tell that our goals on day one are matching up with our goals on day eight hundred and nighty seven, we are probably doing something right and if they don’t we can reflect on what changed in us and determine our new direction or how to get back to the old one.

Gretchen Ardizzone

When we first discussed this question, I thought to myself, “Why would we want to do anything differently?” Look at where we are today. But our relationships with our clients goes beyond just being a team of digital marketers, we work side-by-side to understand the constraints and challenges that prevents them from being successful at what they do best. Looking at what we’d do differently helps provide perspective and uniquely relate to our clients who are also trying to grow their business.

If there were one thing that I say could’ve been done differently was to make more time for ourselves. That may seem strange to hear, but I think along the way we’ve determined that we need to make time to focus on our own company and individual goals. We’re finding that happy balance now and I think being a stronger team and continuing to build our own individual skills only brings more benefit to our clients. We now have team members being certified in certain areas of digital marketing and others who are taking on leading their own initiatives. So my takeaway for others is to not just focus on being better marketers, but to focus on being a better team and continue to grow your individual roles.

Shannon Blair

I started working for Shout Out when the company started, only I began as an intern. Essentially, I grew with the business. When asked what I would want to change if we did it all over again, instantly I think “nothing!” The reason I think nothing is because I’ve watched our company go from an idea to a work in progress. Sure, that doesn’t sound rewarding, but it is because every business is a work in progress. If we are at that stage, I think we are doing really well.

However, under the question asked I cant help but think what would I have done differently as an individual. The answer that comes to my mind is to have been more goal-oriented. I recently discovered my love for tools (such as CoSchedule and HootSuite) that help me achieve these goals. There’s a possibility if I had found that love earlier I could’ve been a bigger asset to the company from the beginning. However, I have learned a ton working with this company and other than changing how I could’ve contributed in a different light, there isn’t much I would change because I’m proud of the company Shout Out has turned into.

Nathaniel Seevers

Call it foolish or naive but the thing is, I’m not sure I’d do anything differently if we were to start it all over. I say that for a couple reasons.  First, because we started with a great mix of people who brought a range of skill sets and skill levels to the table. Were we missing a skill or two for a running start? Possibly. Instead we focused on the will do more than the can do and outside of a handful of positions like, I don’t know, surgeon or rocket scientist or bar tender, I would do that every time. The other reason I feel this way is because we’ve learned so much on this path, some easy and some tough lessons, that will make us better over the long haul.

Photo Credit: nettsu

person walking down street

Social Media Changes: What We’re Looking Forward To

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In the competitive world of social media platforms it seems like the only thing that is constant is change. Over the last couple weeks Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all made major announcements for change. While some of these updates have rolled out in a phased integration, others (including us) wait in anticipation. While we wait though, we’re not shy to share our perspective on what this means:

Nathaniel Seevers

Word on the street is a new Twitter layout is on it’s way to a profile near you and including you. I haven’t received mine as of this publish. I’m not one of the cool kids I suppose but based on some early reviews and screenshots I can already make some educated guesses about parts of the new design I anticipate and parts I dread.

Excited to see more: tweets via a new mosaic, less straight line vertical format. The new design takes a queue from the Facebook timeline’s not so side-by-side content “tiles” to provide more information in a single view and even multi-column layout (pictured here) for photos and videos.

Not so excited to see more: arbitrary cover images. I’m confused as to how it’s useful or relevant to a micro-blogging/information resource/celebrity stalker platform like Twitter. I’m all for a little more visual tweet, the summary cards are cool and useful, but a 1500px X 500px cover image?

The bigger design question becomes, how does it all translate to mobile? Does the mobile side change at all? According to a report on TechCrunch back in October Twitter said, “75 percent of its 218.3 million+ monthly active users are accessing the site from mobile devices — or 161.25 million users. And mobile accounts for 65 percent of all its ad revenues.”

They’re a savvy bunch so maybe that’s what I’m anticipating the most; how it all ties into a larger overall strategy for my favorite social platform.

Gretchen Ardizzone

My first instinct when I heard about LinkedIn rolling out its publishing platform to all users was why would I want to blog on LinkedIn when we have a well-built, beautifully designed blog platform on our company website? So as I evaluated the functionality of this new feature, I had a few questions and considerations:

Will people be duplicating content they’ve published on their blog or will it be unique? I’ve already noticed some of the influencers I follow on Twitter linking to their LinkedIn posts, but I’ve also noticed some of it to be repetitive to the content I’m seeing published on their blog. That’s a big best practice no-no for me because you’re training me to stop following one of your channels of communication. It’s going to have to be original.

What kind of metrics can I measure? LinkedIn has some metrics around company pages, but there’s little around individual users to track who’s really reading the content (from what I can tell). We utilize several analytical tools to track our website traffic and can even identify posts that are most read. I’m all about generating the right content to the right audience, but part of being able to do that is having the analytics to support.

Does this shorten the time-span of content? Whatever post is published last will appear to any visitors of their LinkedIn profile. The only issue with that is the next post trumps the prior content. There’s no search feature to allow people to find the content they want based on relative topics. Some of our blog posts, while published maybe a couple months ago, still have application to business today and are not necessarily time-sensitive.

What can we expect from the quality of content we might start to see published? Most blog platforms are relatively easy to use anyhow, but from what it appears the simplicity of the LinkedIn posts take things to a new level. Will everyone adopt a blogger mentality? Yes, folks you still need a beginning, middle and end, and spell check is still required.

Will I start to see an increase in individuals who want to join my network that I don’t know? It’s one thing to follow me on Twitter, but I’m more selective of who I give access to in my network of connections. Just because my content resonates with you may not mean I’m ready to invite you into my inner circle…we may need to have coffee first.

With that said, we’re a digital marketing company and we’ll test it for ourselves before we close the book on this one. It does offer another platform for content to be published that our network might not otherwise reach. And honestly, I’m excited to see LinkedIn’s continued evolution. It’s not my favorite (or first-priority) platform, but I’m pulling for the continued changes because I see potential. The further blending of business and social is an opportunistic position for platforms.

Luke Pierce

If you read the news, are ever on the Internet, or simply converse with people on a regular basis you have probably heard of the staggering 19 billion (yes with a B) dollar acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook this week. This is one of the biggest acquisitions in the tech industry for over a decade and is the biggest news in social media in 2014. What I am struggling with is how to feel about it. I needed to take a closer look at the deal and answer some basic questions.

Why did Facebook want WhatsApp?

Given Facebook’s goal of trying to connect everyone on the planet, WhatsApp and its growing 450m users was a good way to take another step in that direction. But it wasn’t just the fact WhatsApp has 450m users, it was how it got there. WhatsApp reached 450m users faster than any other social network to date, including Facebook. In addition, they are adding users at a rate of 1m a day. Another staggering statistic is how active it’s users are with over 70% of WhatsApp users interacting with the app more than once a day. To put it in perspective, WhatsApp users generate the same volume of SMS messages as every carrier in the world combined.

What does it mean?

For now, not much. The CEO of WhatsApp has been brought on to the board of directors at Facebook and Mark Zuckerburg has said that WhatsApp will continue to operate as its own company. Mostly the acquisition just means that Facebook bought 450m users for its overall network, what they will do with them is to be determined.

Is it good or bad?

At this point, it’s hard to say. My hunch is that it is a good thing that WhatsApp went to Facebook and not Google, who were rumored as willing to pay more than the 19 billion Facebook paid for the app. The rumors said that Google was willing to pay more solely to keep WhatsApp out of the hands of Facebook, which sounds to me like they might have smothered the app if they acquired it. Anything with a user base growing as fast as WhatsApp, I want to see what it evolves into. However, with an acquisition this big there are bound to be some changes. The CEO of WhatsApp is very anti-advertising, but I would be surprised if that continued through the life of the app. If you are currently a user of WhatsApp it would be safe to assume you’ll see some changes in the future.

I’m excited.

When I read more about the acquisition and gathered my thoughts, I decided that I am excited. WhatsApp was, and is, growing at an incredible rate. Faster than anything we have seen before. With it’s mere 55 employees and relatively low yearly revenue, it’s hard to say if WhatsApp would be able to accomplish the same things that it can now with Facebook’s resources backing them. Overall, I’m just excited to see what WhatsApp might grow into.

Are you using one of these platforms in their new form or have an opinion on the updates? Drop us a line, we’d love to hear.

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Social Media Habits

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They say a habit is a routine or behavior repeated regularly and tends to occur unconsciously. But as we know, not all habits are good. Recently the team at Shout Out got into a discussion of social media habits in particular and realized we all had some that we wanted to build and some that we wanted to break. Here’s a look at some of our individual goals around our social media:

Luke Pierce

Admittedly I am usually better at looking at a business’ social media, formulating a plan, and executing that plan on a rigid schedule than I am at operating my own social media. My habits up until now have been more reactionary than anything else. I often find myself only checking Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook when I am prompted. As an example, yesterday I didn’t check Twitter at all, but I found myself sending 15+ connection requests on LinkedIn because someone accepted a request I sent last week. Too many times a week I find myself being interrupted with a social media distraction of this nature. I think it is causing me to spin my wheels socially, so to speak. I want to change that.

To change my habits I am going to set a personal plan with some personal goals. I am going to incorporate social media into my morning routine setting aside time specifically for the purpose of interacting and furthering my social media presence. To illustrate further, here is my rough plan: 30 minutes will be set aside after my morning emails (using one of my favorite apps 30/30 to time myself). I will divvy the time up between the three social networks I focus on, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Each network will have specific daily tasks to perform, but all will have the simple goals of growing my network and engaging in meaningful interaction. Like exercising, sleeping, hygiene, and many other things, I know I will achieve my goals much easier if I start to form better habits.

Gretchen Ardizzone

I’m admittedly a news junkie. I feed off of the constant flow of information and can’t wait to be the first to discover a great article or post. Today though showing appreciation for the content you read has been easily whittled down to a retweet, like, or share.

Understanding how important audience input is to gauge what will resonate, we recently asked our social network for feedback on what people wanted to read in our upcoming newsletter. I quickly grasped that I can’t expect others to share their opinion if I don’t take the time to share myself though. Which leads to a suggestion from our very own Luke, and a goal for myself, who encouraged us all to leave a comment on the content we share with followers. If it’s good enough to share, I should have an opinion on what makes it great, and make a statement.

Colin Smith

When it comes to my social media use, I have been trying to make sure I post relevant content. Sometimes it can seem like you are yelling into an empty room hoping for a response. I’m trying to do a better job at limiting my posts to content that is engaging and interesting. Another thing I’m trying to be better at is limiting how much I post to each social media platform. Oversharing can deter followers and annoy the remainder. In a time of over-stimulation, I think it is important to be aware of what you contribute to each social media community.

Shannon Blair

I’d love to grow an audience on social media that has some backbone to it – this is honestly one of the many resolutions on my list for 2014. Currently, I still have a large following of college friends who are still posting on Thirsty Thursdays, and this is something I’m trying to change. This year I’d like to have more of an audience and continue to follow more people in the small business and digital marketing community. You have to start somewhere right? Why not social media. 2014 is my year to reach out individually as a young business professional and develop my social media into one that shows the knowledge I possess, which may be more things about Harry Potter than actual marketing…but hey, it’s more educational than retweeting Perez Hilton (which I’m also guilty of… I’m a work in progress people, I promise).

 

 

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overcome your marketing fears

Overcoming Your Online Marketing Fears

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We’re all familiar with the famous quote, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” made by Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1933 inaugural speech. Well although times have changed much since then, the emotion of fear still has the power to paralyze our advancement, and the online world of marketing is no exception. Our team got to thinking about some of our own fears and those that others have shared with us, and how to overcome them. Here’s our advice for overcoming your online marketing fears:

Marsh Williams

My very first career was in broadcasting and at one point when I was faced with what I thought was an insurmountable problem, my mentor told me, “The worst decision you can make is to do nothing.” His theory was that even a bad decision moves you forward; it shows you your going the wrong way so you can turn around.

I’ve carried that around for a very long time and it really is at the heart of many online marketing decisions. No matter what we all like to think, there is a still a lot to be learned in this area and things change every year. In that environment, there are no absolutes, no matter what the experts/pundits might tell us. There is still a lot left to learn in The Undiscovered Country (Cha-ching, Star Trek reference out of the way).

While there are some best practices and a lot of things that we know will work, there is still so much to uncover. If you’ve got an idea, try it. Start small, see what can be learned and then analyze the results. That’s how we approach almost everything we do. It keeps the mistakes small and turns successes into math problems that can be scaled up when needed.

The best advice, try things all the time. Learn and try them again with refinements. It beats doing nothing and will always point in the right direction.

Nathaniel Seevers

Blogging is such a big word these days. Hundreds of thousands of people every day take to their keyboards to provide insights, prose, and expertise on every subject imaginable. Everyone has an opinion. Everywhere. All the time. All day long.

It can be scary to put yourself out there for review. To be read and critiqued or even worse, maybe to not be read at all.

When I wrote my first post ages ago I toiled over every syllable and sentence. I double checked links and ultimately when published I still found a damn typo. I remember thinking I was safer writing fiction than trying to be useful. My fear was being misunderstood or misguiding someone who might read my attempt at being helpful.

None of that matters.

To quell the fear we have to be ok with making mistakes. In fact, we have to revel in them at first as they become steps for our improvement. Not everyone is going to agree with our perspective every time. Just as Marsh stated above, doing nothing doesn’t help. As Zig Zigler once said, “You don’t have to be GREAT to START, But you have to START to be GREAT….”

There are few things more powerful than conquering the fear of being vulnerable and being ok with the fact that your voice might be different.

Luke Pierce

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the vastness of the internet. There are countless ways in which you can try to choose to interact with someone and I, like many people, have this tremendous feeling of necessity to try to tackle them all. When I realize I can’t possibly do them all that feeling then leads to helplessness, and pretty soon nothing of merit gets done in the way of connectedness for the brand.

It’s a fear that many people have about not having enough time to do everything or the expertise to execute everything, but the fact is you DON’T have to do EVERYTHING. The best way to overcome this fear is to start small. Realize that you can’t be everywhere and do everything. Take some time and figure out the ONE or TWO things that you can manage and will help you connect best with your audience. Whether it be blogging, a social media outlet, a site redesign, ad words campaign, or involvement in preexisting communities. If you start small by doing one thing really well, you can build on that in the future to try and tackle the vastness of the web one step at a time.

Gretchen Ardizzone

Striving for perfection is a daunting task in general but when you think in terms of the online world where there always seems to be a trail or trace of history, it can be tempting to want to pontificate the nuances and dwell on details. I’m not suggesting you skip spell check or just go rogue in relation to having a process for putting content out there, but understand it doesn’t have to be 100% perfect all the time.

The first time I had to to be on camera for a video recording, I was so focused on trying to make my points and say it perfect, that I forgot about just having a casual conversation and conveying what I needed to say. The fear of not being perfect can be stifling to your efforts, and sometimes end up changing the context of what you’re actually trying to say. Your marketing messages should come across in a natural way, and not as though they’ve been crafted and re-drafted a million times until they reach no resemblance to your brand.

Colin Smith

Digital Marketing can seem like a daunting task if you are new to it, a lot seems like The Land Unknown. With all that goes into digital marketing, where do you start? What I found to be the most help, is asking questions. A lot of them. It’s the best way to get the answers, without finding out the hard way. As with anything you are new to, someone knows how to help. It will also help you feel more confident as you take on more. In this case, it’s ok to dip your toes in before diving into the pool.

Shannon Blair

Finding and remaining who you are online is an honest fear of mine. For companies, it’s hard to find 0r even keep your voice in the online world. As individuals, it’s challenge to be yourself. How do you overcome it? You strive to be your own person (or company) every. single. day. You can so easily get swept up in being just like the guy next to you when you are online. Yet, being yourself is your own competitive advantage, and most people don’t realize it. Embrace who you are as a company and an individual.

Have any online marketing fears you’ve been able to overcome? Leave us a comment, we’d love to hear your success story.

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In use under Creative Commons 2.0

HubSpot 30-Day Blog Challenge: Lessons Learned

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When we first heard about the HubSpot 30-Day Blog Challenge, there was no doubt in our minds that we planned to participate. After all, we’re already actively blogging anyhow and this meant just stepping it up a notch. Little did we know we’d learn a little along the way too! Here’s a look at the lessons we learned:

Luke Pierce: Strike when the iron is hot.

The most important thing I learned this month is to start writing as soon as you have an idea. I found that if I started writing as soon as I was inspired by something, I would be finished writing the article in no time at all. Not hesitating not only made the writing easier, but it took the pressure off of deadlines. Once I started writing as soon as I was inspired, I found I would be a week ahead of my deadline. Pretty soon I was two weeks ahead. And now, coming out of our 30-day challenge I already have two blog articles waiting to put the finishing touches on to publish. If you can’t start writing as soon as you have the idea, at the very least, just write that idea down so you can come back to it later.

Colin Smith: Write what you know.

When it comes to writing, in any genre, it can be a challenge to come up with content. Something to help get over this initial panic is to write about what you know. This will allow you to produce content that starts a conversation, as well as the opportunity to continue it. Once you get the ball rolling, tackling subjects that seemed intimidating at first will be more manageable.

 Shannon Blair: Content betters our online presence.

Having more content to provide on a daily basis allows for us to have a better presence online. This means that we can share our content on social media and our blog, and by doing so we have a greater advantage when it comes to connecting with others online and sharing our knowledge with others. We aim to meet the needs of our audience and in providing knowledge this past month in our 30-day blog challenge we have met those needs and wants.

Gretchen Ardizzone: Keep it organized.

When it comes to our normal blog strategy we try to evenly spread the responsibility throughout the team. We feel our readers get the most out of our content hearing from different expertise and points of view. With that said, we knew with increased blog activity we’d need to stay organized with our content so our topics weren’t overlapping and we didn’t cover too much of one subject. Luckily we found a super handy WordPress plugin, CoSchedule, to plan our editorial calendar. We scheduled out the whole month of posts and proposed topics, assigned tasks to team members and had the flexibility to easily move around as needed for individual schedules.

Marsh Williams:

When we first started the 30-Day Blog Challenge I was excited, but also concerned it might become a pain in the rear. Well on the last day of the challenge I can tell you that I was absolutely wrong.

Not only was it not a pain, it was fun and everybody pitched in to help; the entire team. The challenge taught us a few more things that will turn out to be very valuable lessons.

  • It’s not as hard as we thought.
  • Planning things out including topics is a tremendous help.
  • Be flexible, if someone’s creative muse didn’t show up on the assigned day then let another person step up.
  • Writing in your “own” voice is a lot easier than trying to sound like an expert at a conference podium.
  • It was a solid team-building exercise.

We’re here, the last day of the HubSpot 30-Day Blog Challenge and we did it. It was worth the challenge and we’d do it again tomorrow.

We will be analyzing the data results over the next week and report what we found in the next week or two. Stay tuned.

Photo Credit: Mark Brannan

2014 Oscar Nominations for Marketing

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Being a team full of movie lovers it’s one of our favorite time of year here at Shout Out Studio, award season. We love to have yelling matches lively discussions amongst ourselves about what we think the best film of the year was. But today we are taking time out for one of our favorite Oscars, that they don’t give: the Oscar for best Marketing. Here is our list of movies that marketed themselves with genius and finesse this year.

 Luke Pierce – Inside Llewyn Davis

I’ll be honest. There was absolutely no way I wasn’t going to see Inside Llewyn Davis. It’s a Cohen brothers film and it’s about folk music. Talk about a hipster jackpot. I had been anticipating its release for a while, but it wasn’t until I heard about the concert that I got super excited. The concert was called Another Day/Another Time and it was a one-night benefit concert for the National Recording Preservation Foundation. It took place in September, about three months before the release of the film. The concert generated so much buzz about how good the music in the film is that it started to create the feeling that it didn’t matter how good the film was (although come on, it’s a Cohen brothers film). The concert was documented and is now playing on Showtime. There are talks of continuing the concert for more venues and showtimes in 2014. In my opinion, when a film can create such a buzz about something other than it’s visual appeal, that is a marketing win and Inside Llewyn Davis did it beautifully.

 Gretchen Ardizzone – Frozen

I’m giving the award for best movie marketing of 2013 to Frozen. No, it’s probably not in my top five favorite movies of the year, but there’s something to be said for the strategic marketing behind the movie. It’s no secret that Disney set out to market this movie differently than they had in the past. Hoping to attract an audience beyond little girls who love princesses, pretty dresses, and musical ballads, initial marketing was somewhat vague. Early on I had seen several trailers for the movie, but every trailer I had seen included a goofy little snowman, named Olaf, and an awkward Moose. You can check it out here.

It wasn’t until later in October, a month before the November official movie launch, more details around the plot of the movie were released. Apparently, I missed this part of the marketing though, having it in my head already that it looked like it was going to be good. So over Thanksgiving weekend, I headed out to the movies with my son, to see what I thought was going to be a cute animated movie about a snowman and a moose. Not so much. If you haven’t seen it, you can check out this trailer for a more accurate portrayal of what the movie is really about.

Turns out I may not have been the only one confused, not realizing that the movie was about the relationship of two sisters, sprinkled with a little youthful love story, according to Forbes, “43% of audience members were male.”

I’ll admit I would’ve been less inclined to go see the movie had I not been introduced to it in the way that I was. Disney creatively selected elements of the movie that would appeal to a broader audience upfront, and captured their interest, myself included.

 Colin Smith – Anchorman 2

When it came to building a campaign to get the attention of viewers in 2013, no one did it better than Anchorman 2. To begin, they had the popularity of the first movie on their side. But they did more than just make ads and send the star-studded cast out to promote the highly anticipated sequel. They took it a step further.

They created content that people wanted to share. Instead of having Will Ferrell appear on shows to talk about how great they all feel about the movie, they sent Ron Burgundy to do what he does, report the news. His features in Dodge Durango commercials not only boosted their sale but also brought a humongous spike in their website’s traffic. The team also took to social media, giving fans a chance to interact with their favorite newscast from San Diego.

They did something they weren’t able to do the first time around: they created a campaign that was able to stand alone and didn’t rely on the movie. The buzz surrounding the release of Anchorman 2 was one that stretched beyond that of a normal sequel.

 

 

Photo Credit: Dave_B_ cc

Statue with head in hands

Biggest Marketing Mistakes

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Marketers have the great responsibility (and sometimes burden) of coming up with creative, attention-grabbing campaigns, communications, advertisements, and more, and every once in a while there’s a marketing initiative that makes us ask, “What were they thinking?” We’ve compiled what we believe are some of the biggest marketing mistakes from years past and others very recent. There’s something to be learned from them all!

Marsh Williams

So who doesn’t love St. Patrick’s Day? I mean really…all the beer, all the green, all the green beer. So why not honor the Irish with a new product launched in their name on their day. Nike thought it was a great way to tie everything up into one neat bow.

They wanted to introduce a new shoe named the “Black and Tan” in honor of the drink by the same name which is usually made with the Irish staple: Guinness. What they failed to realize is that while Black & Tan might be a perfectly respectable name in Beaverton Oregon, it would never, ever be used in Ireland.

Black and Tan refers to a British paramilitary group organized to help put down the Irish rebellion of the 1920’s. The Black and Tan’s were notorious for their violent and oppressive tactics and are reviled to this day in some parts of Ireland.

So take Nike’s plan to introduce a shoe named Black and Tan on St. Patrick’s Day, an incredibly insensitive and ignorant move, and you have a perfect storm for stupid marketing tricks. The only thing Nike could do to make it worse when they got called out on this gaffe would be to say that “Black and Tan” was the unofficial name and they never intended to use it. Sometime I’d love to hear a company say, “…you know what? We really screwed up and we’re embarrassed by our actions and lack of knowledge in doing this. We’re sorry.”

Colin Smith 

When developing an advertising campaign, companies take everything into account from color to typography. Well, most companies do. Apparently PepsiCo. and Japanese based fashion company A Bathing Ape didn’t double check the latter. They collaborated to create a limited edition can, calling the promotion “Pepsi x Aape” to bring attention to Bathing Apes sub-brand Aape. The two companies decided to use Pepsi’s typeface for the promotion, which seemed reasonable. The unfortunate part of this collaborative print ad, which was featured in a Hong Kong subway, was that some mistakenly thought the ad read “PEPSI x RAPE.” The misinterpreted campaign even made its way on to various other promotional products made for the collaboration. This confusion was avoidable if they had reconsidered the typography they both approved for the ad. Attention to detail is crucial, and failing to do so can lead to some embarrassing public apologies.

Luke Pierce

I realize that I am about to write about a very polarizing subject, so please do not focus on the Obamacare part of these ads and instead look at the approach the ads take. At first glance, the ads promoting the healthcare initiative in Colorado are offensive to millennials. They continue to be offensive at a second glance as well. For those of you who have not seen the ads, you can check them out here. After seeing Wednesday night’s episode of The Daily Show where they aired a report on these ads, you can see why this was the first thing that came to mind when we decided on this subject for our Free-for-all Friday. However, when I sat down to write this, I came across this NPR article which shed a little more light on the story of these ads.

After reading that article I now have mixed feelings about these ads. On one hand, given what they had to work with (a budget of $5000), they seem to have done a pretty good job of getting eyeballs on the ads via social media. But on the other hand, the use of offensive material seems like a cheap trick used to just get some added exposure without communicating the brand message at all. This is ultimately the reason I think this is a huge marketing mistake. At the end of the day, the ads succeeded in getting attention, but they didn’t do anything in the way of relaying the brand message that they really wanted to communicate.

 Gretchen Ardizzone

I was just born the year that this marketing blunder was committed, and while it may be an oldie, there’s certainly a lesson to be learned. Prior to 1981, the portable computer didn’t exist. One company, the Osborne Computer Corporation, saw an opportunity to launch a product that would allow professionals to take their work with them via a portable computer with the creation of the Osborne 1. A twenty-four-pound machine hardly sounds portable when I compare to my current day MacBook Pro, but at the time the product was a true innovation. And with innovation we know comes competition. Big brands Apple and Compaq (who no longer exists) launched their own more advanced versions of the PC. Osborne Computer Corporation felt the need to fend off their competitors with the announcement that they were coming out with a newer, more advanced model. One problem…people quit buying the Osborne 1 in anticipation of something more sophisticated, which wouldn’t be released for more than a year later. It resulted in an immediate financial impact and eventually resulted in the company filing for bankruptcy.

Some of you may have heard of “The Osburne Effect.” The term was coined after this event of prematurely announcing a product launch before the product was made available, and the unintended effects of having a negative impact on product sales. The Osburne Computer Corporation may have been first to make this mistake, but others have since followed. When it comes to product life cycles and innovation, there’s definitely something to be learned here. Timing is everything! It’s the reason Apple stays so hush, hush about their new products, and it’s also what fuels their need for constant innovation.

Photo Credit: Alex E. Proimos

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How to Enhance Your Digital Marketing in 2014

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Digital marketing done right has the potential to provide a great return on investment to help build your audience online and increase customer engagement. Maybe your digital marketing is performing the way you think it should or maybe you know there’s a better way to do what you’re doing, but just not sure how to do it. Regardless, there’s always room for improvement (for us too), and we’ve identified some ways that you can enhance your digital marketing efforts in 2014.

Nathaniel Seevers

Want to immediately improve your marketing in 2014? Tighten up your mobile presence. 50% of people use mobile as their primary Internet resource. Imagine that. If half of your market is using mobile as their only means to access the Internet and your site isn’t built to engage and convert on smartphones and tablets…

Oh, and there are plenty more compelling mobile stats where that came from. Check out more here from Digital Buzz.

Though we recommend responsive sites as the way to go, you don’t have to blow up your current site to prepare for mobile. If you already have great content and user-friendly navigation on your desktop version consider tools like bMobilzed to adapt your site to a mobile-friendly version. There’s no reason to make it difficult for people to connect with you online.

Colin Smith

It’s a new year, and with that comes new trends. Content marketing is on the rise, and knowing what content to post to which social media outlet allows companies to communicate directly with their target audience, as well as other businesses. By now, a vast majority of companies use social media giants such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to post their content and broaden their outreach.

2014 will present more opportunities to use a wider range of social media sites for marketing purposes. Smaller platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, Vine and even Snapchat provide companies with a way to show, not just tell. When used correctly, these smaller platforms can really elevate your online and mobile presence and keep your brand a step ahead of competitors.

Gretchen Ardizzone

One of the ways you can enhance your digital marketing this year starts with first making an assessment of what you’re currently doing—what are your strengths and weaknesses, and where are the opportunities. After you’ve identified those, it’s important to compare against the goals you have set to achieve this year. By doing this you may realize a potential gap in your ability to reach these goals. I’ve worked for companies in the past that have clearly defined what they want to achieve online, but the reality is that department didn’t have the manpower or expertise to reach these goals. That’s ok. One option is working with an outside resource to fulfill the needs to accomplish your goals. Yeah, that may seem like a plug for our services, but it’s really not. This is simply is why companies like Shout Out exist. To serve as a digital marketing partner or an extension of your existing team. Teams like ours can help you plan and execute individual initiatives, or serve as a team of experts to implement an entire digital marketing strategy.

Marsh Williams

Learn the difference between sales and marketing. So many firms use sales and marketing as interchangeable words when it comes to sending out messages that will hopefully generate new business, but they are very different and your expectations should be set accordingly.

Marketing is about establishing your organization within the target audience. It is about giving them a sense of your organization and establishing “pre-sales” knowledge. In this sense ,marketing takes time and has to be done with the regularity of a drumbeat. Marketing efforts take months or years and should have expectations set accordingly.

Plan a marketing calendar, even if you only try one avenue such as blogging, or social media, just pick one area and learn to use it effectively in 2014. You will be surprised by what you find at the bend of a year.

Shannon Blair

One way to enhance your digital marketing efforts in 2014 is to focus on and enhance who you are as a company. Examine the digital marketing work you do and with that – the work you want to do more of in the New Year. One way to do this in an efficient way is to follow your measurements and metrics. By pulling data from various aspects of your digital marketing you can analyze and enhance the parts that you want to do more of. If you haven’t done so already, give Google Analytics a try!

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