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marketing qualified leads

Marketing Qualified Leads: What You Need to Know to be Successful

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Editor’s Note: Shout Out Studio has partnered with students from Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) to mentor, research and write a series of blog posts for shoutoutstudio.com. The authors are members of student-led group, East Bridge Consultancy, an affiliate of Alpha Kappa Psi, a professional business fraternity.

By: Ben Clodgo & Taylor Bleedorn

WHAT IS A MARKETING QUALIFIED LEAD?

Defining MQLs

In the ultra-competitive business world today, companies are looking for any way to gain an edge. Marketing Qualified Leads are quickly becoming a popular and cost-effective way to do so. Marketing Qualified Leads, or MQLs, point companies to those customers that are most likely to purchase their product or service. Finding these valuable leads will allow a company to be more successful in converting them to customers.

Why MQLs Matter

Companies don’t have the time or resources to sift through tons of potential buyers. Narrowing down the pool of customers allows you to spend more quality time and resources on those high-probability buyers. This translates into more revenue per lead and higher overall productivity.

HOW TO GET MARKETING QUALIFIED LEADS?

Techniques Employed

Knowing the general concept of what constitutes a Marketing Qualified Lead will only take your company so far. An in depth understanding of how to obtain and implement MQLs is imperative both to the success of a company and to yielding positive results. There are four variables that are foundational to recognizing the leads: Profile, Channels, Actions, and Undesirables. Every company is unique, which means profiles of their MQLs will differentiate as well. For a profile to be completed, the basics and needs of what is being sought out must be outlined. Along with the profile of what the MQLs should look like, the channels must be agreed upon. Channels can range from direct forms to forming one-on-one interactions to even hosting events. Overall, choose the channel you believe the leads will respond best to. Which leads into actions, the third variable in obtaining Marketing Qualified Leads. The actions an individual takes can be some of the most vital information to your business, since it is what allows you to figure out how an individual becomes an MQL, and the development it took for that change. Throughout the whole process of employing techniques to achieve more Marketing Qualified Leads, keep the last variable in mind: undesirables. Undesirables are exactly that, the ones who are unsuited to become an MQL for your company. This does not mean that that consumer is inferior, but they are simply not likely to purchase what you are selling. For every positive profile, channel, and action that emerges, a focus must also stay on the opposite of those. This will guide your company away from the undesirables, and towards the desirables, thus leading to more MQLs.

Lead Scoring

Lead scoring is taking the four variables of your MQL and having the ability to score any lead that presents itself. Your business must be able to determine whether or not the lead is qualified enough to fit the company’s needs. Every business already knows that one of the most vital parts of staying successful is converting investments into revenue. Think of lead scoring MQLs as your company’s newest investment –  it must be worth spending the money and resources to see a valuable outcome.  The measurements used can be split by your business into two main categories: Explicit and Implicit. The explicit scores are the ones that can be defined through the MQLs profile such as demographics, budget, timeline, or firmographics. Whereas implicit caters more towards the online actions taken by MQLs through site browsing, clicks, shares, and engagements online.

This measurement tool can dramatically shape your company’s outcome with revenue and conversion rate. You may think that having a myriad of MQLs is the goal, however, those leads will accomplish nothing for your business unless they are refined to the best quality. Hence the purpose of lead scoring, which funnels the leads that have both the intent to buy, and a profile that lines up with your company’s overall target market.

Implementation

In all of the focus on obtaining marketing qualified leads, don’t forget the end goals of your business. When used successfully, MQLs will streamline your company and let you begin to churn out customers. It is important to remember that every company will look different and will target different consumers. By remembering a few key steps, you will be well on your way to gaining the competitive edge.

Research who you want to target.

Score potential leads.

Act upon the information.

 

brands and politics

Brands & Politics: A Conversation Worth Having?

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Editor’s Note: Shout Out Studio has partnered with students from Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) to mentor, research and write a series of blog posts for shoutoutstudio.com. The authors are members of student-led group, East Bridge Consultancy, an affiliate of Alpha Kappa Psi, a professional business fraternity.

By: Daniel Kuperman & Sean Hynes

When an increasingly complex business environment collides with a decidedly unconventional political landscape, the only certainty is disruption. Although, to many, this bizarre interplay became most visible during Britain’s exit from the Eurozone and the ascendancy of Donald Trump, keen observers noted signs of change well in advance. The prevalence of social media helps facilitate the adoption of oxymorons like ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news,’ somehow becoming mainstays in today’s vernacular. These developments point to a deep uncertainty that pervades social interactions, political conversations, and the markets alike. For some brands, this new standard presents a unique opportunity to connect with a targeted audience.

As exemplified by the immigrant-centered Anheuser Busch ad featured during Super Bowl 50, the growing impact of increasing political divisiveness can be clearly seen. It is also no coincidence this commercial — and others like it — were aired during the single most-viewed television event of the 21st century.

Officially, Anheuser Busch played off the immigrant focus as a coincidence. Amidst the contentious debates that followed Mr. Trump’s proposals for deportation, it was quite the timely opportunity for this ad to air. Delving deeper into the elements of this industry leader’s client base and competition lends useful context to this marketing effort. It is no secret that behemoths like Anheuser Busch have been seeing market share erosion for years due to increasingly popular craft beer brands. A common criticism is that such a massive firm adapts too slowly to diverging consumer preferences, whereas its more nimble competitors were founded upon these new tastes. Perhaps this political gesture intended to rebuy the support of millennial consumers using an unapologetically current ad, costing AB as much as $15 million.

Not all companies choose to align with any specific political ideology or movement, but rather embrace a broader theme such as unity seeking widespread appeal. Coca Cola’s #AmericaIsBeautiful campaign aims to evoke a powerful, albeit safer, reaction among their customer base. The ad seems to make the case that despite our differences, we can bond together and enjoy the ubiquitous experience of a Coke. Compared to AB’s commercial, what Coke lacks in boldness it makes up for in mass appeal. For a country appearing to be growing apart on political and social fronts, this may be a wise approach.

The less audacious brands are perhaps in the best company, opting for a neutral stance instead of venturing into potentially hostile social arenas. Well-recognized (and more often than not, publicly traded) companies chose to respond in ways that would not commit them firmly to either support or opposition of Mr. Trump’s actions. A longer-term outlook reveals a danger of staying out of the conversation, however. While this more guarded course of action makes sense from a shareholder-centered perspective, if social tides turn and increase pressure on corporations to take a stand, those who stayed neutral will be first in the line of fire.

As the powers of social media continue to grow at a seemingly exponential rate, this pressure will continue to creep up on corporations. Public relations nightmares have gone from a minor inconvenience to becoming a major catastrophe overnight, with recent occurrences involving Pepsi and United Airlines coming to mind. Whether it was a company releasing the wrong politically charged ad or having employees’ actions reflect poorly on their employers as a whole, companies must be wary of the powers behind making the wrong move, especially with growing pressure to step out of the neutral zone and take a stand. For United, a single failure in PR crisis management resulted in a $250 million net loss in market value.

Individually, these examples are anecdotal at best; extrapolating on any single situation would be ill-advised. Deciphering a best practice may be impossible for industries as a whole, but by engaging with one’s unique audience, companies can aspire to connect on a more profound level with end users.

 

Benefits of Outsourcing Your Social Media

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Social media is beyond mainstream, and many businesses today realize the benefits the various communication platforms can provide to reaching their business goals. The reality though is that as social media becomes larger landscape and more sophisticated over time, succeeding in the social realm can be tough…and it might require some additional expertise. So, if you find yourself in this place, here’s a look at a few reasons why it might benefit you to outsource your social media.

Communicating Your Brand Message

Sure, you know your brand best, but do you know how to effectively communicate it? Whether you’re a brand new startup just getting your feet wet or you’ve been in the industry for decades, believe it or not, it can be a challenge to communicate who you are as a brand and identify what’s your tone-of-voice. If you expect your audience to connect with you, this is an extremely important point of communication. Every update, post, or image should be something that represents the attributes of your brand, and should feel authentic as if you were talking to someone in person. If you haven’t established a voice, having a team to help you identify this voice and keep it consistent can be extremely valuable. Some of the best brands (small and large) are seamlessly managed by outside resources because they’ve been able to embrace the brand’s unique style of communication and flawlessly engage with their audience.

Socially Active Experts

Social media is an ever-evolving form of online communication, and there’s no reason to expect it to slow down anytime soon. Marketers managing social media have to stay on top of new trends and platform innovations. Whether it’s a new algorithm update, click to buy feature, advertising enhancements, etc., … it’s difficult to stay abreast of the social media environment unless you’re living it every day. Having a team of individuals, who can assess the environment, test new platforms, understand the opportunities and debunk the fleeting pop-up of platforms ultimately can save you a whole lot of time and provide focus.

Scaling as You Grow

As you grow, so should your audience, and with that comes more activity and the need for more engagement. And while you may be able to get things off the ground initially, as you continue to grow and see success, tending to social media may not be feasible. Let’s be honest, you still have a day job. Having dedicated individuals, who are there when your customers ask questions, have a customer complaint, or just want to sing the praise of your brand, could establish a new customer relationship, strengthen an existing, or renew a fading one.

Putting Money Where It Matters

Some platforms require a little extra power to get off the ground, to expose your brand to new audiences, or frankly just to stay visible, and sometimes it costs a little to get your voice heard. The unfortunate part is if you’re not familiar with the platform, you could be tossing money in the wind with no return on investment or your time. Those who manage social media day-to-day actively should understand where your time and dollars are best spent, be able to establish ideal budgets, and project anticipated results based on your desired goals.

Analysis of Activity

If you haven’t benchmarked social media goals (followers, reach, engagement, impressions, etc), how do you know if you’re succeeding or failing? Yes, every platform has available analytics, but if you don’t understand what the data is telling you, then how can you be sure that you’re getting the most out of your efforts. If you see engagement declining or impressions increasing, a social media team should be able to pinpoint what has resulted in a decrease or increase, and determine the appropriate actions to respond accordingly.

 

Bottom line don’t be afraid to ask for (outside) help. If you’re not sure how to approach social media or keep on top of it, consider asking a team with social media expertise to evaluate your current performance. You might just find that outsourcing your social media could be a real benefit to your brand and your customers.

Brand Building: Attracting Your Ideal Audience

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Whether you are establishing a new brand, or taking a closer look at an existing brand, one key aspect to take into account is your audience. Furthermore, are you attracting the audience you want? Successful brands are able to identify and align with their audience in a way that is both natural and genuine.

The ability to identify your ideal audience allows you to establish a connection between your brand and your consumers. Having a clear understanding of the type of consumer you want gives you an advantage when it comes to the rest of your marketing efforts. Even if you’re a small business and don’t want to exclude a potential customer, identifying your target audience is crucial to branding.

Values: The values of your company should be apparent in your brand. Are you a company who values tradition and quality? Or do you value innovation and contemporary style? These types of questions should be able to be conveyed simply through your branding. That’s why luxury brands don’t waste resources by trying to reach out to every consumer. Thats also why their branding reflects the exclusive lifestyle they want to attract.  They focus on being selective, high quality, and not available to the everyday consumer. By doing this they set themselves apart, and attract the type of customer they want.

Social Media Engagement: What kind of audience does your brand attract on social media? Is it a younger crowd who enjoys entertaining and humorous content or is it an older crowd looking for engaging and informative content. Does it mirror the type of people you hope to attract as customers, or are you missing the mark? Social media is a great way for companies to see where they stand when it comes to branding. It gives both the consumer and the company an opportunity to give direct feedback to one another.

Be Original: It’s easy when developing a brand to look at what is working for other companies. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing to do for inspiration and ideas, it is a bad thing to do when you try and mimic another brand. To stand out from the crowd and attract the attention of people, you have to find your own image. Even though two car companies are fighting for the same customers, they tend to go about it from a different angle. They have their own story to tell, and that story is unique to them. Find your unique story and use it to build a brand that is all your own.

Don’t Over-do It: Trying to hard to appeal to your audience can come off as just that, forced. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and don’t be something you’re not. Find the middle ground that keeps true to your company, but is also attractive to the audience you hope to gain. This middle ground will be the best opportunity for success.

Lastly, think about the long haul. Build a brand that can be adapted over time while staying relevant to your target audience. Building a brand for the now is setting it up for a complete overhaul. Keeping the long-term in mind will help you build a brand that can stand up to the test of time. You will always need to adapt, because your audience won’t stay the same forever, but adapting is easier than changing.

Photo Credit: Roger Reuver

I Voted

Political Marketing, and the New Viral Voter

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Politics is a topic we don’t broach often here at Shout Out Studio. As everyone knows you don’t discuss politics and religion with those you want to stay friends with. But I have been thinking about politics a lot lately. Specifically how some political marketing campaigns are and will be marketing to reach their target demographic in regards to this upcoming mid-term elections. As long I try to stay neutral there is no harm in talking about it, right? read more

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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

What To Consider When Selecting Your Website Typeface

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There are plenty of ways to make your website stand out from the crowd. The overall look of your site is a reflection of your company, brand, and overall personality. The typefaces you use are a big part of your site’s feel, but there are some things you have to take into account when choosing your type. First, not every typeface will appear on every computer. Each computer has common system fonts that most users will be able to see when they go to your website, but that list is short and limits your ability to be expressive. Luckily, there are several ways to include the font you want on your website which will allow users to view your site the way you intended them to.

Fonts can be embedded in your site, which allows them to stay consistent even if a user doesn’t have the font you use downloaded on their computer. They are also compatible with the major browsers your viewers might be using. There are a variety ways to embed or link your fonts to your website, allowing a browser to access them and show them in your site. Before embedding a font in your website, make sure that the license for that font allows it. If it doesn’t you may have to get an extended license to do so. That being said, each way of embedding has its drawbacks.

sIFR (Scalable Inman Flash Replacement)

sIFR uses Javascript and Adobe Flash that enables text on HTML webpages by replacing them with Flash replacements. It mimics normal HTML text, meaning it can be resized and copied relatively easily. Some downsides of this method are the requirement of Flash and Java make it vulnerable to things like ad blockers and any platform that doesn’t support Flash. It also affects the load time of webpages, but its biggest drawback is that it wasn’t intended for body copy, making it one of the more dated methods.

Cufón

Cufón also uses Javascript, but unlike sIFR it converts fonts into vector images. It’s easy to use, has small file sizes, and doesn’t require Flash which eliminates some of the issues sIFR has. One problem Cufón runs into isn’t new to embedding fonts, and that issue is with Copyright.

Both Cufón and sIFR include the font files making it possible for people to steal the fonts. These methods use JavaScript, Flash and PHP to embed fonts. Something to be aware of about sIFR and Cufón is the conversion of the font into another format (flash and javascript). Some fonts that are free, even for commercially distributed uses, prohibit the conversion of the font file into another format. If you still want to convert them you will need explicit permission from the author of that font.

@font-face

@font-face uses a CSS rule allowing you to download a particular font from your server to a website, allowing a visitor to see that font even if they don’t have it installed. Unlike sIFR and Cufón, it doesn’t embed the font on the site. Instead it tells the browser where to find the font.

As it has progressed, there are now a host of sites that provide Web Fonts that utilize CSS and/or Javascript to embed in your site for use. a web font is a file downloaded from a web server and used by a browser to render the HTML text. Your webpage accesses it using the @font-face rule. Most font files will include each type of file needed to make sure it is compatible on every browser and platform (.eot, .ttf, .otf, .svg, .woff). Every font is controlled by an End User License Agreement (EULA) which will tell you what you can, and can’t, use that font for. Here is a list of a few sites where you can find great web fonts to use on your site:

Fonts.com is a subscription font hosting service with CSS and Javascript embedding available and +3k free fonts to choose from.

YouWorkForThem offers one-off per font licenses you can embed using CSS. With many big name clients, YWFT is a great resource for beautiful fonts.

Typekit is a resource brought to you by Adobe that offers subscription plans, as well as plans through the Creative Cloud to bring you a large collection of fonts which can be embedded using CSS and Javascript.

Fontsquirrel is a great site for typefaces that are %100 free for commercial use. They can be embedded using CSS.

Google Webfonts is open source with 501 free fonts that are available to embed using CSS.

With some options of how to embed font on your site, and some resources to find your typeface, all that is left to do is find the font that fits your company best! With so many to choose from, take your time and find what reflects your brand’s personality. Be creative, but make sure its legible at various sizes and on different platforms.

Photo by: Kyle Van Horn

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

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Keeping the Office Creative

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The ever changing landscape of business today is full of opportunity, risk, and the constant need to stand out in the crowd. Whether it’s a small business or a large corporation, the goal is the same: stay innovative and unique. This doesn’t only apply to products and services but also to problem solving techniques, new ways to increase productivity, and creating experiences that are fresh for both clients and employees. A company that is desirable to work for will result in a company that is desirable to work with. So how are companies staying innovative? By promoting creativity.

Creativity can be hard to sustain on a daily basis, but a good place to start is the environment where employees will be working every day. Looking at the offices of successful and creative companies, there are things they do that break the mold of a standard office building. The first thing you will notice is how open they are. While you may see desks with individual work spaces adorned by personal pictures and objects, the rows and rows of grey cubicles are nowhere to be found. Having open work areas promote communication, interaction and community which all lead to a more productive and social workforce. Fluorescent lit rooms used for one specific purpose are also not very conducive to a creative environment. Instead, there is a move towards open offices with a lot of natural light, color, and space.

An office is a reflection of the company and people who work in it. It is a reflection of the brand, culture, and work produced by the company. Having examples of work, indicators of a companies values, and items that reflect the brand are great ways to make the office more than just a place to clock in at the beginning of the day. Innovative companies are moving towards office-zones: spaces with different intentions. An area of movable and comfortable furniture promotes co-workers to work together, solve problems, and discuss ideas freely. Areas to write and doodle are also common in these areas. Whiteboards where people can ask questions, draw ideas and provide insight are all great ways to promote productivity and creativity. Other “zones” designated for employees to work in a quiet area without interruption are also great for individuals to get away from the more social parts of the office. While collaboration and conversation are great for inspiration, a place to focus on an idea is also necessary for it to come to fruition. The idea is to create an environment that creates a community of people who enjoy where they are, the people they are with, and what they do.

Aside from forming inspiring and inviting offices, companies are also providing employees with opportunities to grow and explore new ideas. These opportunities go beyond an occasional work trip, and occur much more frequently. Another reason they work is employees get paid while taking part in these activities. Here are three companies who have different approaches when it comes to allocating time to experiment.

3M

3M has been creating products we use on a daily basis since 1902, and now produces more than 55,000 products. Innovation has been key to their success and is the reason they have been able to continue to grow for over a hundred years. One of their ideas has been adopted by many tech companies today, including Google. 3M allows for employees to spend %15 of their time to create, experiment, and pursue their own ideas. This paid free-time has led to products that they still make today, including the Post-It Note. They feel it is well worth it to give employees this paid opportunity to pursue ideas, as it has led to thousands of patents and ideas from which the company has greatly benefited. The key to this free-time is to be supportive and open to new ideas.

Foursquare

Foursquare and their “Friday Afternoon Art Hour.” As it suggests, every friday at 5 p.m. a group of Foursquare employees gather for an hour. Each week someone purposes a new exercise, problem to solve, or a goal for the individuals to work on. They each spend a few minutes brainstorming, after which they draw their final solution. While the activities aren’t necessarily related to ways to improve Foursquare, they are a way to stretch the imagination and problem solve in a stress free environment. Besides, everyone is a little fried by the end of the week, and this gives them a chance to shake off responsibility and think outside of the box.

Google

It’d be near impossible to talk about innovative companies without bringing up Google at least once, for a variety of reasons. A company that started as a search engine has become one of the most innovative corporations in the world with recent releases such as Google Glass, Google Fiber and autonomous cars. One way they promote thinking outside of the box is a space that is accessible to all departments of the company, from legal to design. It’s called The Garage, and its sole purpose is to promote creativity. The name is an ode to Google’s roots, and the culture of silicon valley where start-ups are born in the garages of the next-big-thing’s home. The Garage’s main purpose is collaborative creativity and boasts everything from laser cutters to 3D printers so employees are able to create anything they think up. By making sure the space is flexible, accessible, and open to everyone, Google gives everyone a chance to contribute. In a sense it is an adult’s playground where teamwork leads to productivity.

While creativity and innovation can’t be taught, they can be given the chance to flourish. By creating an office with an environment that promotes free thinking, productivity and community, companies can be sure they have employees who want the company to grow. Secondly, companies who provide employees with the opportunity to grow as individuals will lead to creative thought, new ideas, and progress. The final part to ensuring innovation is by being open to new ideas and different ways of thinking as a whole. The ability to step back and approach ideas from a different angle will give a company the upper-hand on it’s competitors. Companies full of passion and creativity will be the companies with the brightest future.

Photo Credit: Marcin Wichary

mail slot in door

Email Marketing Etiquette

880 461 Gretchen Ardizzone

I sign up for emails from a lot of  businesses and service providers. Why? Not necessarily because I’m looking to purchase something, but because its a good way to study communications from a variety of brands. Recently though, I’ve noticed some of the basic mechanics of email communication seem to be missing. And if that doesn’t seem like a big deal then consider the fact that 122,500,453,020 emails are sent every hour (source: Madison Logic). So a subpar email is bound to get ignored. Here are my tips for email marketing etiquette:

Introduce Yourself

I’ve received emails from a variety of people that I know I never subscribed to their email. I imagine they acquired my address from a third party resource or just simply found my contact info published somewhere online. And while I guess I appreciate the resourcefulness, your first communication shouldn’t be the same that you send to every other contact or subscriber in your database. Introduce yourself and explain why you feel what you have to offer is relevant to me. Getting a blind email is extremely confusing and often leaves me wondering why I received the email in the first place, even if your offer could be something of interest. Set the framework with whom you’re communicating, and you’re more likely to gain traction.

Humor is Okay, But Don’t Be Cheesy

I recently received an email from someone who was obviously trying to get my attention the subject line titled, “Eaten By Alligators.” Of course my interest was peeked and the email went something like this…

Hi Gretchen,

I’ve attempted to reach you, but have had no success. Either you’ve been eaten by alligators or you’re just plain swamped. If you have been eaten by alligators, my deepest sympathy goes out to your family members. If you’re still alive, one of the following is more likely to have happened. I hate to keep pestering you, but I do want to express my desire to chat with you more about whether or not our work management system may be a fit. Please pick one response and let me know what our next step should be.

_____ Yes, I’ve been eaten by alligators. Please send flowers.

_____ No, I haven’t been eaten by alligators, but you may wish I had been, because I have decided I have no interest in your service. Sorry, you’re sunk. (Thanks for your frank honesty. I can handle it.)

_____ Yes, we have some interest in learning more about (Company Name), but here are my challenges…

_____ Yes, we have some interest in leveraging (Company Name) to manage our work better. Call me to set a time for us to meet.

_____ I’m not the right person, please contact ____________.

Kind Regards,

(Contact’s Name)

Okay, so they achieved their goal of getting my attention, but to be honest I don’t recall receiving any other messages from this person prior to this. Also, the email left me so fixated on the element of being eaten by alligators I had no real grasp of what the company does or what they have to offer other than the brief mention of a “work management system.” Make sure you don’t get caught up in the act of being funny and forget the purpose of your email. This could be your one chance to get your recipients attention, don’t lose sight of that.

Watch Your Tone (of voice)

We’ve written several posts about how important it is to identify your company’s voice, and that same tone of voice should be utilized in your email communication. Whether it’s one email or a larger email to a segmented group, the tone used should convey an expression accurate to your brand. For a recipient receiving an email for the first time its an introduction to who you are and for someone who’s received emails from you in the past the language should be consistent with what they would expect. For example, if you’ve ever received an email from anyone at Shout Out you can expect there might be reference for a casual conversation over coffee. Why? Because we believe everything starts with a conversation, not a sales pitch. Throwing numbers at you is not our style, we genuinely want to discover what your challenges are and how we can help you achieve them, so that often starts with coffee.

Don’t Just Repeat The Past

If you’re seeing that your email open rates are not improving, you’re getting more opt-outs, or not successfully driving traffic to your website, don’t just keeping doing the same thing. We all know the famous quote from Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It could be time to evaluate your message. Try A/B testing campaigns to see what resonates with people and use the data to make changes. Explore your call-to-action. Do you have one? Personalize the email. Open rates increase significantly just by addressing the recipient by name. Create a captivating subject line that conveys the point of your message. The subject line is the first barrier to overcome in getting someone to open your email.

Extend The Conversation Beyond Email

Your email is just one vehicle to communicate with your audience, but why should the conversation stop there? Make sure you provide contact information where your audience can learn more about your company. It’s amazing how many emails I’ve received that don’t provide a simple link to their website. Make it easy, don’t make them hunt for you. And don’t forget to utilize social media links to encourage them to follow you on the various platforms where your brand is active. It could be an easy way to get your customers into the next stage of an engagement process.

 

Have any email marketing tips of your own? Leave us a line in the comments, we’d love to hear what works for you.

Photo Credit: loop_oh

Vian’s Axiom: Marketing is what you promise, but Brand is what you experience.

776 415 Marsh Williams

I have a great friend, Marty Vian, who has always said that “Marketing is what you promise, but Brand is what you experience.” I’ve named this Vian’s Axiom.

Now take that to heart for a moment and apply that to your customer’s experience. How much time to you spend extolling the benefits/virtues/outcomes of your product? How much time do you spend trying to cut through the noise and get potential customers to at least be interested or aware of your product?

If you’re like most companies this is the entire focus of your marketing and advertising effort.

Now take everything you know about your marketing and throw it away for the next fifteen minutes. Forget about all of the effort you’ve put into positioning, promotion and communications.

Make yourself a customer and do the following.

  • Respond to your own marketing offers.
  • Click on social media link, go to your website and pretend you know nothing about your offering
  • Post a question to your company on Twitter, Facebook, Etc and see who’s listening
  • Contact your customer support with an issue
  • Call your customer support phone number and see what happens
  • Call the main phone number of your company and see what happens
  • Send in an email inquiry through the website
  • Fill out a contact form on the website.

If you do these things the response/result you are experiencing is your brand: as Vian’s Axiom goes this what you’re actually delivering to your customers therefore it is your brand.

You probably know where to go from here, but make sure the response from these experiences matches your marketing…that’s real brand alignment.

Here are a few things we’ve worked with our clients to align, all the company names have been replaced with Green-Widget.

Do Not Reply

Don’t send emails out to anyone, under any circumstances, with a return email address that starts with “donotreply@gree-widget.com” all this tells the customer is that you don’t really care about what they have to say and you are making them look for a way to respond if they need to.

If you have to do this because your IT department is making your marketing decisions then provide a contact email in the body of the message. Never, ever make your customer have to hunt for a way to contact you.

You’re Valuable, but not That Valuable

Do not send an automated reply to a customer service inquiry that says

**This is an Automated Message to confirm that we have received your inquiry.**
Thank you for contacting Green-widget Support.
As a valued customer of Green-widget, you will receive support within 1 business day

How’s that for mixed messaging.

Setting expectations is a good thing but try something like, “Thank you for contacting us. We want you to know we have received your request and are reviewing it now. It may take us up to a day to review it and respond. However, If your matter is urgent please contact us at 123-123-12345 or urgentsupport@green-widget.com and we’ll get on it immediately.

To contact us…aww we’re only kidding

Recently we encountered a firm whose website contact page had no email address or contact form. It simply listed Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube etc

We sent them a question via Twitter…no response.

We sent the same question to them via Facebook…no response.

We looked up their Chief Operations Officer on LinkedIn and send him an InMail…no response.

We looked up their VP of North American Sales on LinkedIn and sent him an InMail…no response.

That’s their brand you hear talking, very loudly.

In Summary

If you want your customer to love you and what you’re doing listen to them, engage them, applaud them…but do not ignore them; what you say is marketing, what you do is brand.

 

Photo Credit: aldenjewell

Backstory on Photo

The Chevrolet Corvair was an entirely new approach to car design, fun, fuel efficient, inexpensive: a marketer’s dream. Then reality set in when Ralph Nader published Unsafe at any Speed. It crushed the Chevrolet Brand for years. Thus a great case for Vian’s Axiom.

road sign

Smart Long-Term Goals for Startups

880 461 Shout Out Studio

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

facebook logo in the water

The Passive Generation and The Death of Like

880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what does all of this mean for your business?

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

Photo credit: mkhmarketing

overcome your marketing fears

Overcoming Your Online Marketing Fears

842 452 Shout Out Studio

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 everyday 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 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 of you 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.

Photo Credit: wsilver
In use under Creative Commons 2.0

Real-Time Marketing

880 461 Gretchen Ardizzone

Last week our team participated in HubSpot’s one-hour live blogging challenge. While I typically prefer to plan, there was something exciting about how spontaneous it felt to participate in a real-time blog challenge. It forced us to be creative in the moment, use quick thinking, and utilize great time management skills. It is also inline with a subject that I think is trending in general…real-time marketing.

With the amount of content out there now and with no real signs of slowing down, there’s an increased need for brands to break through the clutter in order to deliver their message. And certainly social media has had an influence at the speed in which that message is delivered. Ideas that use to be incubated over months are now sometimes launched in the matter of moments. I’m not just talking about your ordinary tweets, Facebook status updates or Instagram pics, the real-time marketing moments that are capturing attention are clever, creative, and responsive. Here are a few noteworthy examples:

Oreo

I don’t even remember who played in last year’s Super Bowl, but what I do remember is the slam-dunk Oreo made when they capitalized on the blackout. Within moments of the power outage the brand released an ad on Twitter with the message, “Power Out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.” With reportedly 23 million twitter comments throughout the entire game the Oreo executives and agency creative team were wise to use quick thinking and capitalize on the opportunity…not to mention it didn’t cost a penny. The ad has been retweeted almost 16,000 times since.

DiGiorno Pizza

Another case of live tweeting that created sweet sounds of success, were the tweets sent by pizza brand DiGiorno during the live Sound of Music broadcast. While there’s not a lot that seems relevant between pizza and the Sound of Music, the brand managed to cleverly create pizza related tie-ins with classic musical. Witty tweets like “Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, until you find a supreme (pizza from DiGiornoooooo)” and “Can’t believe pizza isn’t one of her favorite things smh” #TheSoundOfMusicLive, had twitter followers chuckling at the irony. The brand chooses “socially relevant events” to focus their real-time marketing efforts. You might have also seen their recent Twitter coverage of the Grammy Awards.

Acura

Recently Acura released 150 tweets in a day, and it wasn’t a Hootsuite scheduling situation gone bad, these tweets were all sent with intention. The flipbook style animated tweets featured an abstract image with each and every tweet exposing more of the plot to result in a complete ad for the Acura NSX prototype model. Now obviously if every brand out there took on this same approach it would be quite excessive and likely would result in many followers unfollowing, but what Acura did was capture a moment and use in an unconventional way (forget the 140-character limit) to tell their story.

Obviously not all your marketing can be managed real-time (nor does it need to be on Twitter), but there is an opportunity to disrupt the noise and make your message really heard every once in while.

Photo Credit: ✿ SUMAYAH ©™

Why Do We Have A Website?

776 415 Marsh Williams

Why do we have a website? Every-once-in-a-while it’s really important to stop and ask this question. It’s important to validate what we are doing as a company and make sure that we’re still on point with what we are publicly communicating about our organization.

I can tell you this, what we were when we started is not what we are now. Change is inevitable and we love it. Change is growth, learning, movement, adaptation, and natural, but we need to remember that our story and how we communicate it needs to keep pace with that change in all we do. This is the hard part. It’s so easy to just put something out there and leave it alone and have it be fine, and in reality it’s what we all want, but in reality it’s never going to happen. So what do we do? We stop and ask ourselves three key questions:

  • Why do we have a website?
  • What does it say about us?
  • What do we want from it?

It gets to be a little convoluted from time-to-time but here is how we handle it.

We have a website to tell our story. It’s not a sales tool it’s a tool that lets people see into our organization, what we do, how we do it, who we are, and what we’re like. If they like what they see we offer them opportunities to get to know us better and hopefully they will get some insights from our blog,—”Why do we have a blog?” is another topic for later—but we do not expect our website to sell anything…ever. We just think of it as a way to share, our knowledge, something about who we are and tell our story.

What our website says about us is important, not in the description of what we do, but in the words we choose and how we present ourselves. We want our site to reflect who we are as a company and what we are like as individuals. We like long-term relationships and that means we have to be really honest about ourselves. It doesn’t do any good to present ourselves one way on the website and actually show up and be different people. We are, for better or worse, unique. We are the only “us” there is and that’s what makes us different from every other firm in a very crowded space.

We cultivate that difference and work hard to reflect it in our communications. It took a long time and a lot of effort to find our genuine voice and eschew the standard marketing speak for real communication that people can identify with. We do not want to lose this and it’s incredibly important that our website says what we believe and reflects our culture as it really is.

Some companies just don’t care for what we put out there and think that it’s too informal or too “creative,” but that’s alright we are very comfortable with who we are as a firm and a team, and for the companies that can relate to that it’s usually a great place to begin our conversations.

Lastly, what we want from our website is interest. That’s it. We want our website to generate interest in knowing more about our firm. We want our website to generate interest in knowing more about our people and how we dissect and solve problems for our clients. We want someone who needs our services to visit our website and say, “I don’t know if this is the right team or not, but I’m crazy if I don’t meet with them.”

That’s why we have a website…why do you have yours?

Photo Credit: jonathan mcintosh cc

dictionary

Digital Marketing Terms Defined

880 461 Colin Smith

If you’re new to digital marketing, you may find yourself in a world full of unfamiliar acronyms and jargon. It can seem intimidating, confusing, and even exclusionary. But, most of the time it’s a way for marketers to communicate with each other in the most efficient way possible. Knowing some of what it means can help you as your company enters a digital marketing venture. Below is a list of commonly used terms you will come across in digital marketing, and what they mean. By familiarizing yourself with these terms, you can feel confident moving forward with your companies marketing goals.

B2B:

Business to Business refers to business interactions that occur between two businesses. It is the way goods or services are exchanged between two companies. This is usually part of the development or manufacturing of one companies consumer goods.

B2C:

Business to Consumer is similar to B2B. A business to consumer transaction is when a consumer buys a final product or service from a company for use.

CTA:

A Call to Action is a something on your company’s website that grabs the attention of a viewer, and invites them to view another part of your site. It can be something like a banner or button, such as a “Learn More”  button at the end of a paragraph, inviting the viewer to continue reading. In other words it is a lead, or a prompt.

Bounce Rate:

This is the percentage of people who visit one page on your site, but leave it without visiting any other page. It is better to retain a viewer’s attention, and get them interested enough to visit more of your site.

Blog:

A blog is what you are currently reading. For a business, it is a chance to self promote. You can put out original content, create site traffic, and grab the attention of potential clients. It’s a good way to interact with your audience by starting a conversation.

Brand: 

In marketing, brand does not just refer to your logo or tagline. It is identifying what you want the target audiences’ perception of your company to be, and how your company’s voice reflects that image.

ROI:

Return on Investment basically comes down to getting the biggest bang for your buck. You want to see results, and developing a strategy geared towards providing ROI (Return on Investment) is the first place to start.

SEO: 

Search Engine Optimization is the visibility of your site in a search engine’s “natural,”  or unpaid, results. The better your site’s SEO is, the more views it will get from this “organic”  traffic.

SEM:

Search Engine Marketing is the promotion and SEO development to increase site visibility.

UX:

UX is an acronym for User Experience. In terms of digital marketing, this is the experience your visitors will have when they visit your site. User experience takes into account the actions you’d like the user to take and the information you’d like them to obtain. The more they enjoy that experience, the more likely they are to spend time looking at what you have to offer.

While this is not a complete list, it can give you a better understanding of what’s being discussed in digital marketing. In the fast-changing culture of the Internet, and therefore digital marketing, it is nice to have a base of reference to lean back on.

Photo Credit: MrPhilDog

Blogger Outreach: Building Brand Buzz

880 461 Gretchen Ardizzone

If you’re a young brand looking to grow, but don’t have the capital to pay big bucks to get your product out there, word of mouth marketing in today’s terms might just be the right thing for you. What am I talking about? A blogger outreach campaign.

According to Nielsen Media, there are somewhere over 181 million blogs on the Internet with 6.7 million people publishing content on blog sites. That’s a whole lot of blogging going on, and a whole lot of opportunity to create some buzz. Using a blogger outreach campaign as a part of your marketing strategy can be beneficial to create brand awareness and exposure to relevant, targeted consumers.

Why does a message coming from a blogger sometimes have better reach than your marketing message? Trust. 81% of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs, and 61% of online consumers have made a purchase based on a blog’s recommendations (Source: BlogHer). One of the ways that you can utilize this influence is by getting your product in the hands of these bloggers to conduct a product review and post content around their experience with the product. Here a few recommended steps for a successful approach:

Establish your goals: First things first with any marketing initiative it’s important to understand what the goals are for your outreach campaign. Do you want to increase foot traffic to your website, gain a following in social media, build brand awareness, introduce a new product, etc. Understanding this upfront will give you something to benchmark and determine if your strategy was a success.

Find the influencers: Next, establish your criteria for qualified bloggers. You can use Technorati, Alltop or even Google’s blog search to help you locate them. Use tools like Pagerank and Alexa scores to determine what kind of traffic the identified blogger is getting. This will help you save time in the long run. Why waste energy pitching to someone who isn’t relevant or the end result won’t get your reach.

Establish rapport: You don’t ask someone out on a date before you get to know them. Establish rapport first before you approach. This means following them, engaging with the on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+), commenting on and promoting content that you like (honestly).

Outreach: After you’ve had some time to “get to know” them, you’re now ready to reach out. This is a big step though. Depending on how well known the blogger is they might receive thousands of emails just like yours. Your message needs to be genuine, personal to them, and creative. Something has to make them want to read it. If it sounds like a blanketed message, then chances are you’re just wasting your time. This part of the process does take time, but it’s worth it to put in the extra effort to connect with someone. That’s what will get you noticed. The key is not to be long-winded. Yes, what you’re sharing is great, fabulous and awesome I’m sure, but anything too long might get ignored. Be concise and to the point as far as what you’re asking for them to do.

Provide incentive: Be prepared to offer them something in return. What are you going to do for them that gives them a reason to even respond? Are you offering a complimentary product, are you willing to sponsor/fund a post? Sometimes bloggers (especially with greater reach) will only participate if you’re willing to provide a financial investment. It’s important to know upfront if that’s something you’re willing to consider. And if not, it’s good information to know and could be useful in the future.

Follow up: So you’ve sent your message. Next requires follow up, but make sure you’ve given them appropriate time to respond. Pay attention to automatic messages. If you get something stating, “Due to a high volume of amount of emails,” you have to take into consideration that if might take them some time to even see your email. Wait a week. A lot of bloggers won’t engage until the follow up response. Planning your blogger outreach campaign well in advance will help allow for the turn around time it sometimes takes to get a response.

Support content creation: Once someone has agreed to participate, make it as easy for the blogger to develop his or her content. Provide them with information about the product. Is there a unique backstory about how it was created? If so, make sure to share, consumers care not only about the product, but a good brand story can help capture someone’s attention. Are there specific product features or benefits they need to know? The blogger may not know these intimate details so make sure you include. Many times bloggers will take their own photos of the product, but sometimes supplying additional imagery helps to support content. They may be featuring one product style, but if you want to show the breadth of a product line, that can be communicated through an additional photo.

Track your results: So your product has been featured, it’s time to track your results based on what you established as your goals. Monitor your website traffic, social media following and engagement. Make sure to thank the blogger for their efforts, you could be establishing an ongoing relationship with a blogger that may be interested in featuring your product more than once as you introduce new styles, limited edition collections, etc.

Be prepared for the negative: Something to keep in mind with this type of program though is you don’t have complete control in the process. You have to be prepared to hear the negative. There’s always a possibility your product won’t be a hit with everyone. It may mean the product isn’t right for them or it could be an opportunity for improvement based on some honest feedback.

Consider alternative outreach opportunities. Blogs are not the only platform brands have an opportunity to conduct outreach. Each social media platform (Google+, Twitter, Instagram) has influencers that create a potential for you to connect your brand with consumers. An interesting Instagram example was one carried out by shoe brand Puma. With a goal to increase their followers the brand reached out to influential Instagrammers and sent to events (even some overseas) equipped with a camera to document “awesome places that shoes take you.”

Another unique example is how Audi utilized Twitter. After a raving Audi fan created a hashtag, #WantAnR8, around her desire to acquire an Audi R8, the brand made notice and gave her an Audi for the day to experience, document and share with her Twitter community. Audi promoted the event via twitter and encouraged others to do the same, resulting in a giveaway of eight more R8s. What’s interesting about that example is that the consumer created the opportunity, Audi was just smart enough to be listening.

The more unique the approach, the greater opportunity your outreach will standout in the crowd and gain a following. Start by considering what platform for outreach might be appropriate based on where your customers are spending their time online.

photo credit: Mylla
modified by Shout Out Studio

pen laying on a calendar

Creating The Right Digital Marketing Campaign

880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

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

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

Let’s explore shall we…

1. Define Your Goals

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

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

A Product of Craftsmanship

880 461 Shout Out Studio

Were pretty big fans of beer here at Shout Out Studio. Recently we were fortunate enough to do a collaboration on our own beer with local brewery, Seventh Sons Brewing, here in Columbus. It got us thinking. Craft beer isn’t the only thing now a days being made in small batches by talented craftsmen. Here is a list of some our favorite companies crafting incredible things:

Luke Pierce

Expert craftsmanship comes in all shapes, sizes, and forms of physical states (solids, liquids, and I guess I don’t know of any artisan gases yet but keep me posted). One brand that I use every day and admire their design, level of craftsmanship, and innovativeness comes in the shape of a wallet. zerOz was started by a guy with decades of product design experience, who was one day inspired to create a better wallet.

What I love about these wallets is that they aren’t your typical wallets. They are designed to complement a minimalist lifestyle as it encourages you to rid yourself of month old receipts, rewards cards you use once a year, and anything else that is dragging you down. Each one is made by hand in their design studio from a variety of Italian leathers that make up the look and feel of the wallet while they use recycled materials to give it structure. The innovation comes in the way the wallet functions. The wallet is like a card shaped cylinder with no top or bottom, the cards are meant to slide in and out in the same way you slide a new DVD out of its outer cardboard sleeve and it also has a strap on the back to hold cash. The wallet is an old product, but it is exciting to see new life breathed into it by someone with the expertise to do so.

It’s people and brands like this that make me excited to think of the possibilities when people apply their unique expertise and level of skill to craft new products for all of us to enjoy. There are a lot of talented people out there, I hope they too are inspired to go forth and craft something for us all!

Gretchen Ardizzone

As someone who was taught to sew at a very young age by my grandmother, I have a great appreciation for the skill, patience and attention to detail that goes into making something from hand. One Columbus retailer who caught my eye several years ago for their craftsmanship is Substance. The women’s apparel and accessories retailer offers a curated collection of name brand and local artisan products, as well as designs and produces their own collections. In fact, you’ll often see them making the pieces right there in store. In support of fostering new talent, the second floor of the space also provides a place for up-and-coming independent designers to showcase their work.

Not only does Substance embrace the craft of making a piece by hand, but they’re sharing that with their customers. The brand offers Design Lab workshops which allows individuals at all skill levels the opportunity to explore their creative abilities working side by side with designers to create a one-of-a-kind piece.

If craftsmanship is an important element of what makes your brand unique, make sure your customers see that online as well. Use Instagram to share the raw materials and fabrics of your product or short video of a piece in production, or consider Pinterest to share you brand’s inspiration or DIY ideas for the creative type. The purpose is to utilize the online environment as an extension to your customers and followers to tell those stories that matter to your brand and are relevant to them.

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