communication

helping small businesses with digital marketing

What Small Business Can Learn from Big Brands in Digital Marketing

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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: Grant Smith & Kristian Jennes

With the release of new technologies such as augmented reality over the years (or months) and the proven business usability of social networking platforms, the landscape of marketing strategies has evolved from cold selling to the use of digital channels. This new method provides a new experience for the customer, while contributing meaningful insights for organizations to utilize. A study done by Adobe interviewed a large group of marketing professionals from all facets to gain an understanding on best practices. One finding: Sixty-six percent of all marketers think companies won’t succeed unless they have a digital marketing approach. While larger organizations have multi million dollar budgets to invest in a digital strategy, small businesses feel left behind. There are many lessons that small businesses can learn from larger brands that can be implemented on a smaller scale to generate compelling content for consumers.

Although virtual reality is the more mainstream of the two, augmented reality has been embraced by the masses this past year with Pokémon Go, a mobile application which let’s users see characters in their own reality through their phone. This comeback of the 1990’s cartoon game shows businesses consumers are ready for the AR experience. In fact, over the past year, make up, furniture, and drug store organizations have heavily invested in AR to provide their customers with a new channel to view products. Walgreens has a mobile app called ‘Aisle411’ which immerses customers in new promotions and usually unseen products/deals while walking around the store. IKEA introduced an application that allows buyers to see what a certain piece of furniture would look like in their home. Sephora (cosmetics) now allows customers to see how a certain style of make-up would look on their faces simply by using their front facing camera. Within 8 weeks of the launch, Sephora’s application was bought over 1.6 million times.

Of course, larger brands like Walgreens have the resources to fund augmented reality style marketing strategies. But what about the small town brick and mortar shops- how can AR be utilized without breaking the bank? What they can learn from this craze is this: consumers are ready for a shopping experience that incorporates exploration through different channels other than walk in’s. Simple changes to websites such as including products that are not on the shelves or at a particular location can spark more time on your website and increased awareness of your brand. Augmented reality use by larger brands will also bring a vast amount of insights of consumer trends. Although actual augmented reality applications for organizations require heavy investments, the results and teachings that can be captured online are always free for small businesses to utilize.

Implementing a strong digital marketing strategy is crucial to any successful business, but in today’s cluttered online marketplace, providing consumers with an unforgettable experience can vault a company to the top of its industry. WestJet took the experience a step further, by blending a digital sharing element that guaranteed a large scope and huge awareness for years to come. By posting a video of employees granting passenger wishes, WestJet created a viral sensation that has racked up 41+ million views to date. The combination of an experience shared on a digital platform maximized reach while resonating emotionally with viewers, showing the value of taking a mixed approach to marketing.

Small businesses have not missed this trend and have already begun to take advantage of experiential marketing. One of the biggest ways that small businesses are capitalizing on this trend is by partnering with other small, local companies to provide consumers with a joint event that promotes both businesses and gives consumers a destination that will help the brand resonate with them. A common pairing is often micro breweries with local restaurants, both huge startup trends in large cities that a young demographic will flock to for live music, drink specials, or other events. Companies are utilizing their social media platforms as well as websites to help promote these experiences and gain brand awareness in the community.

One of the biggest hurdles faced in digital marketing is finding a way to resonate with consumers, while reaching the widest range of consumers as possible. When used effectively, contests can be a great way to address this challenge. Dove held an extremely successful contest that instructed users to post a picture of their friend with why their friend “represents real beauty” by filling in two reasons why they find them beautiful alongside their name.  This user generated content not only built the brand’s goodwill, but was free marketing material posted on millions of Facebook walls for viewers to see.

While larger brands often use Facebook as the host for their contests, small business often don’t have the name recognition or following to get these types of promotions to go viral. However, one good way for small business to take advantage of this tactic is to sponsor contests for local sports teams or at large local events. This demonstrates community involvement, spreads brand awareness, and allows consumers to connect on a more personal level. While this takes a much more experiential approach, it can be promoted and marketed using social media and web platforms, blending the two marketing plans into one actionable strategy.
Adobe’s research on digital marketing presented another eye opening result: ‘less than half (48%) of professionals who consider themselves primarily digital marketers feel highly proficient in digital marketing.’ Although the digital strategy has shown success, it is a task that consists of significant resources, time, and constant change. Small businesses cannot be intimidated by this fact, with a clear direction for obtainable goals,consistent strategy, and the desire to constantly learn about consumers trends, one can implement a meaningful marketing campaign that models those of big businesses. While a new technology such as augmented reality can add value to an organization, it is unrealistic for smaller firms to have the ability to research and develop something this expensive and time consuming. Instead, small businesses can position themselves to learn. By gaining insight, one can change the layout of their store, add trending products to their shelves, and provide features on the their website catered to consumer needs while being cost effective. One of the most important aspects of digital marketing is sending a consistent message to consumers, regardless of how they are viewing content.  This means that a small company needs to ensure that mobile applications, web pages, and social media accounts are offering the same features, same information, and same usability. To grow a small organization into one with resources to fund large scale digital marketing strategies, owners/managers must stay up to date on trends and take advantage of the strong customer relationships that a small organization can establish. By truly understanding the target market one can decide which digital strategy to model.

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.

 

Social Media Success Summit

Social Media Success Summit – Part 1

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This month we’re participating in Social Media Examiner’s 6th Annual Social Media Success Summit. The online conference focuses on all things social media with more than 45 of the world’s leading social media pros. Last year’s conference drew in 3,000 like minded marketers. Since we’re halfway through the conference, we thought we’d share a few highlights from some of our favorite sessions.

Twitter

Amy Schmittauer, founder of Savvy Sexy Social, hit home three key points: Be Human, Be Relevant, Be Giving, during her session on “How to use Twitter to Build Relationships that Lead to Business.” On the surface that may just seem logical in the realm of social media, but it’s how you do it that makes a difference.

Conversations are crucial. Amy advised “Listen and talk to people. If you do nothing but this, you’ll find success.” It shows people that you DO talk to people, and you’re listening and interacting. People judge a follow on how much you engage with your community. The nice thing is that Twitter discussions don’t take up the news feed, like tweets on your timeline, because its just a dialogue between two people. So go ahead and carry on.

How do you get more engagement on Twitter? Go find conversations!! Everyone who wants to have conversation isn’t necessarily looking for it. Find conversations you can be a part of, and tweet with people you follow. Or tweet with people who are following you, but maybe you haven’t followed them back yet. Check out their timeline, find out what they’re talking about, and if there’s something that interests you.

We’ve mentioned before how much we like Twitter lists, but Amy recommended taking it a step further for engagement and consider utilizing for a specific event, such as a conference. You can list speakers or acquaintances that you want to connect with before or after the conference.

Visual Content

Another presentation that caught our attention was, “How to Use Visual Content to Drive Massive Social Media Engagement,” by Kim Garst. The statistics that Kim provided on visual content were staggering:

  • Visuals are processed 60 times faster by the brain than text
  • 90% of all info that is transmitted to the brain is visual
  • 40% of visual content is more likely to be shared
  • 46% of people think website design is #1 in deciding if a company is legitimate
  • 65% of people are visual learners

With statistics like these backing up her presentation, it’s clear that companies who aren’t capitalizing on visual content are missing out. Kim also mentioned three key things to consider when creating visual content: 1) It’s not about you, it’s about them. 2) Consider what your audience cares about, outside of your product or service. 3) Your visual content has to appeal to your prospects’ lifestyle. Most importantly – Be Real! So many companies out there put out content that isn’t authentic. Kim advises that you post a photo of your co-workers ‘behind the scenes’ rather than stiff stock photos.

LinkedIn

Lastly we couldn’t resist the chance to check out Viveka von Rosen‘s session on “LinkedIn Prospecting Gold! 5 Steps to Finding, Engaging and Closing Leads with LinkedIn.” LinkedIn has huge applications from a B2B perspective, but many users seem to still struggle with how to get the most benefit out of it. Here’s a look at some of the advice that Viveka shared:

Like Google your profile must be optimized if you want to be found by prospects. Check your connections’ skills sections, and those are great keywords. For premium users, utilize the new keyword tool to incorporate keywords into your summary section, interests, and experience description. When you add keywords, add them to CONTENT! Two to one people will find you through the keywords in your content.

Save your searches. Once a week LinkedIn will send you an email of three leads that fall into that category from your searches. Seems kinda like a no brainer, right? When you search company pages don’t forget to click on “People You Know,” to see who you’re connected to. Find out what groups they’re in and you can join and look for an opportunity to connect. For a little extra help on any additional information you need, use an eGrabber Account Researcher tool to get phone numbers, email addresses, and public company information about a prospect.

Utilize LinkedIn Connected. It allows you to tag people or create lists according to what they are to you. And, because tags are private, you can send messages to a group of people. Viveka said it’s a little time consuming to set up, but worth it. You can also add private notes right on their profile. For example, a note about where you met someone or specifics of your conversation. You can also set up reminders to follow up with them.

Lastly, use messages as opposed to email because email can sometimes get caught up in spam filters. You’re 20% more likely to have your message read than an email.

We’re looking forward to the upcoming sessions covering video, content and Instagram marketing. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our highlights of the Social Media Success Summit.

 

 

Growing, Maturing and Getting Organized

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Growing, Maturing and Getting Organized

I’ve been through so many start-ups it’s hard to count, but there is a point in each one where members of the team have to make a change in their mindset and for me it’s always hard.

Starting out everyone knows everything that’s going on in the company all of the time. Whether by water cooler or meeting, it’s pretty easy to keep a proverbial finger on the pulse of what’s happening. In addition, everyone helps in almost every area. People pitching when they have time and do what they can to serve the clients, build the team and grow the company. As a friend of mine used to say, “everyone is a generalist.”

But one day it happens

Someone finds out about something “after the fact.” This is the point where things are moving quickly, the organization is growing and all of sudden people find out there is more going on than they know about. This is an inflection point in the life of a company and for the individuals who find themselves there. Now what?

In my experience there are two ways to respond, and to be honest, I’ve done both over my career.

Two Options

One way is to start taking it personally, to feel you’re being excluded because you’re not in the loop on everything. In my experience once this begins it can get very ugly. The second way to deal with this is to realize that it’s just growth. As the organization gets bigger and the projects get bigger and the clients get bigger, things will naturally change and the process of communications becomes much more complicated. As a result, it’s very hard to keep everyone involved with everything that is going on. There is also a point where it’s incredibly inefficient for everyone to be involved in everything.

So as we’ve been wrestling with this issue within Shout Out, here’s what we’ve decided to do: get organized, and get organized in a way that let’s everyone have access to pretty much any information they want and everything they need. Wow, this sounds so simple, but it’s not. We’ve been working on this for several months and looking for a way to communicate efficiently internally and externally with all of the involved parties.

So what do you do?

Well we think we have found a solution. About a year ago we started working with a tool named Asana. We tried it for a little while then set it aside. About four months ago we picked it up again and it is helping to transform the way we work, communicate and manage everything we’re doing. We can now let anyone see what is going on with any project, internal and external, and know who is working on what. Everyone on the team also has the ability to jump in and help on a project if they have any extra capacity, just by looking at the open “to-do” items and seeing if there is something they can pick up.

Asana is a solid tool in which we’re investing a lot of time and effort. This is not a case where the magical-silver-bullet, golden-unicorn tool saves the day. Asana is a tool and that’s it. What we’re investing in is learning how to use the tool and developing processes that surround our use of Asana. Without processes a tool will just sit there and stare at you. Or even worse, it can drag you down a rabbit hole and waste a lot of your time.

Over the coming months we’re going to provide updates on our little experiment and get perspectives from all of the team members about how it is working. In addition, we will do our damnedest to provide guides on any best practices we come up with in case you want to tag a long or are already using Asana.

Disclaimer

And by the way…there is no connection at all with Asana, other than the fact we’re a client of theirs. The reason we share all of this is that in our experience all companies are looking for good tools and process to help them grow, mature and get organized.

Photo Credit: reynermedia

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

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.

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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

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

How To Be A Better Business Blogger

880 461 Shout Out Studio

In previous posts we’ve broken down the anatomy of an effective blog post and established why blogging matters for business, but how can YOU be a better business blogger? Here are a few best practices you might try:

Collaborate With The Team

There’s no “I” in team right? Well, there’s no “I” in blog either. The most refreshing blogs online these days are the ones that have different view points – why? Because it’s different! Working together as a team allows different to be created with little to no effort. How does that happen? In 3 ways:

  • When you collaborate as a team you feed off of each others ideas. If I’m stuck and my creative juices aren’t flowing I can look to my team to support me through that. They offer ideas or things they would want to hear about.
  • Your team isn’t afraid to say no. Or yes really. Often as individuals we sit around and question our ideas, yet when we present them to the team we more often than not get a positive response, or ways to make our posts even better.
  • Think in broader terms of team. Everyone has a perspective and sometimes it’s those with the softest voice that end up having a ton to contribute, it just takes asking and they’re excited to be involved.

Understand Your Audience:

You know how everyone and their brother tells you that in order to be a successful company you have to understand your audience? Well, they’re right. It’s Business 101. You have to be able to understand your audience’s wants and needs – and more importantly provide for those wants and needs. The same goes for your blog. We could sit around all day blogging about why cupcakes are so delicious, but that’s not what our audience wants to hear because that’s not the information or the business we provide to benefit them.

Sometimes it’s as simple as just going straight to the source and asking what they want to hear more (and less) about. Survey your readers directly on the blog or poll your audience via social media. You don’t know if you don’t ask.

Network With Your Peers:

Don’t blog with blinders. Get out of your office and go talk to the world. It’s easy to get into a rhythm of developing content, but an outsider who’s not on the front lines with you all day long can help provide a fresh perspective. Sometimes ideas are spurred by just having conversations with your peers. Ask them about issues they’re challenged with, and turn it into an opportunity to use your expertise to help educate others who might be dealing with a similar issue. Don’t just focus on challenges though, we all love to hear a good success story and share ways we can be more efficient and effective in business. Consider even doing a monthly roundtable with other business leaders to discuss hot topics for blog fodder.

Another way to utilize both your expertise and your peers is to swap your knowledge. Be a guest blogger and pay it forward. Provide insight on a subject matter that might be relevant to their audience, and in return give them a platform to share their knowledge with your audience. Sometimes it a nice little break on both ends.

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk

There’s Nothing Wrong With Saying No

880 461 Marsh Williams

At one point in my career, about 324 years ago, I had the privilege of working with Harry Gard, one of the original people behind CompuServe, and one of his favorite sayings was “…I’ve made more money saying no than I ever have saying yes.”

I’ve always had a tendency to say yes and felt saying no to something, be it a client, a project, a whatever was a sign of weakness. “I don’t want anyone thinking there’s something I can’t do,” and that philosophy has probably created more problems for me than I want to admit. There’s nothing wrong with stretching yourself and learning, but overreaching and promising something just so you can say yes can cause a lot of problems.

But, over time, I’ve come to understand that know what can be done and what should be done in a given situation is a great strength. I’ve learned to say no. Oh don’t get me wrong I still hate to say no, but I’ve learned that it’s the best route in certain situations.

Two weeks ago we were in a meeting with a prospective client and we were asked if we could help them develop a retail marketing strategy for something. Could we? Maybe. (That’s nothing but arrogance speaking.) Should we? No. It’s way out of our experience and core competencies. I told them that it was just not something we were comfortable with and it would be lying to them if I said we could.

The CEO thanked me. What I was really prepared for was, “Well thank you but we’re looking for a firm with broader capabilities.” What I got was, “…thank you. That’s the most honest answer we’ve had in any of our meetings. I’m just sick and tired of everyone saying they can do everything.”

Did I want to tell him yes…of course, I’m a recovering pleaser, but I had to tell him the truth. He would have found out anyway and at that point our relationship and credibility would have taken a huge hit.

Saying no is hard, there is no doubt about it, but if asked to do something outside your expertise or abilities, try it…I’d love to hear how it goes for you.

Photo Credit: gaptone

Image of Post-it Note Faces with one green face smiling

Why Use Taglines When Branding

880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

The jury of branding experts is out on the absolute necessity of a tagline in branding. Some argue that the majority of taglines are bad and basically worthless while others point to the tagline’s direct opportunity to communicate a brand’s purpose and difference right from the start.

A more reasonable statement would be that, when conceived and created properly a really good tagline reinforces your brand’s message and helps connect an idea with your audience. Not having a tagline won’t sink your company. But why pass up the opportunity to communicate with the market? read more

What's In a Name

What’s In a Name?

842 452 Nathaniel Seevers

Some things to think about when naming your business

What’s in a name? Well, it sure meant a lot to Romeo and Juliet but does it have to be a life or death decision for your business?

Not exactly.

It should be a piece of your brand’s overall strategy and it shouldn’t be something that you take lightly. A name is often the first thing you decide on when starting your company and it’s almost always the first impression your potential clients are subjected to.

How will it stand up?

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target marketing

To Begin Target Marketing Get Laser Focused

880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

We often come across companies that know they want to market themselves but they don’t know what to say or how to say it. More than that, they don’t know whom to say it to and they often resort to grabbing a bullhorn and yelling to everyone. Target marketing helps you to be engaging to your audience and helps you to more easily see where you resources are best placed. To begin to develop a targeted marketing strategy you must first be laser focused as to who you are and what you want to get across in a message.

Sure, having a market large enough to support your business is important and should be a major part of your analysis when considering even starting one in the first place. But even though you may consider yourself that well rounded, perfect for everyone solution – not everyone will see you that way. You shouldn’t want them to.

The truth is there can be side effects with that approach.

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