marketing

A First Step to Find Your Advertising Audience in Social Media

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Finding the right audience in social media advertising can be a challenge – especially when you’re trying to get to find the ideal mix that gets you the most clicks, impressions, ROI and any other goals you and your digital marketing team are working toward. However, one of the easiest places to find your audience is already provided for you.

Your social media channels.

When was the last time you checked out your Pinterest or Twitter audience insights? In the depths of those often-overlooked tabs you just might find your answer. Anything from what their interests are, to who else they are following. Then what should you do? Create audiences within Facebook advertising for each platform and test it. They all might be a little similar, but each provides different insights into your audience’s interest.

Twitter has a “followers” tab you can check out that contains information from most unique interests, top interests to even who your followers are following. Use this information to fill out a custom audience. Are they interested in fashion, technology, music? Use their interest!

Pinterest audience interests are a little harder to find. You have to go to the analytics tab, then hit ‘interest’ (close to the top). Here you will see what boards/interests your Pinterest audience is interested in. Design, healthy eating? You can create a new audience in Facebook to send ads out to. Compare and contrast Twitter and Pinterest by running the same campaign back-to-back and seeing which works best.

Don’t forget Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is a fantastic tool to use to see where your audience is coming from to your site. The best part is you can use that information to your advantage when targeting audiences to advertising using Facebook (or other platforms).

When all of the Facebook audiences have been tested you can take that same strategy to other platforms. Try doing the same test on Pinterest or Twitter! It’s all about working with what you already have in front of you, and then testing other audiences as you go!

Knowing versus Believing

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

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

Need doesn’t always supersede want.

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

Why is this?

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

According to a recent BBC report:

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

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

How does this impact consumer communication?

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

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

How to foster belief

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

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

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

 

photo credit: Ben Rea

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

Don’t Just Take the Money and Run

842 452 Nathaniel Seevers

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

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

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

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

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

Define Your Niche

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

Determine Your Top 3-5 New Business Sources

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

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

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

Understand Your Profitability Status

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

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

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

Is There a Formula for Viral Content?

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

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

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

Luke Pierce

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

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

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

Nathaniel Seevers

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

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

Gretchen Ardizzone

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

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

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

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

Shannon Blair

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

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

 

Photo Credit: zhouxuan12345678

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

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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.

broom

Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Business

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

Nathaniel Seevers

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

For a spring clean homepage purge consider:

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

Gretchen Ardizzone

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

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

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

Shannon Blair

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

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

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

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

Google+: Clean up those circles, people!

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

Luke Pierce

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

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

Photo Credit: kaiton

Why Sales is No Longer About Selling

880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Externally it’s about:

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

Internally it’s about:

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

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

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

Thoughts or experiences on the subject? Share below.

photo credit: Alden Jewell

HubSpot 30-Day Blog Challenge: Lessons Learned

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

Luke Pierce: Strike when the iron is hot.

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

Colin Smith: Write what you know.

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

 Shannon Blair: Content betters our online presence.

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

Gretchen Ardizzone: Keep it organized.

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

Marsh Williams:

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Mark Brannan

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 said 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

Why Do We Have A Website?

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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

Marketing Based on Desire Instead of Fear

1920 700 Nathaniel Seevers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

book on a desk

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

Why not to position around fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to do instead

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

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

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

Building a Successful eCommerce Site – Part 3

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In parts one and two of Building a Successful eCommerce site, we talked about location and design, respectively. Those two aspects of eCommerce sites and brick and mortar stores are fundamental to success throughout the life of the business, but even if both those aspects are stellar the business may not succeed long enough to matter. Enter promotion.

First off, don’t confuse promotion for marketing. Marketing is something you should be engaging in at all times, through the life of the business to build and reinforce your brand. Promotion is a specific marketing campaign, in this case, geared towards promoting your new eCommerce site. It’s one of those “all bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon” kind of things.

Business owners often understand the need to promote their new brick and mortar store but for some reason believe that the internet is a magical place that people instinctively know to flock to their new site. There are some familiar ways that people promote new brick and mortar stores like hanging a sign, doing a PR outreach to local publications, and hosted events. Each one of those promotional tactics has an eCommerce equivalent that is easy to do.

 Signage = Electronic ad space or splash page

A Nordstrom Rack recently opened in Columbus. Everyone knew it was coming months in advance because Nordstrom bought significant amounts of ad space on billboards and park benches downtown and elsewhere (some of which are still up). It sparked high levels of anticipation and word-of-mouth marketing. The same thing can be done online. Do your research to find out where people would be excited to hear about your store. Check specific facebook (or other social media) groups, search terms applicable to your product or service, and popular blogs.

Since most ads on the internet are pay-per-click you need to give them somewhere to go. That is going to be your splash page. It’s the equivalent of hanging your banner on the fence outside your brick and mortar store that is containing the construction going on. Make sure your splash page has some information about an opening and a place to opt for an e-mail communication.

 PR Outreach = Blogger & eMagazine Campaign

A press release is often sent out to local print publications about an upcoming brick and mortar store generating curiosity and buzz in the local community. On the web, you want to focus on bloggers, podcasters, and eMagazines to do much of the same thing. Reach out to them and offer a sample of an early product. See what it take to be a part of their content. Keep in mind most bloggers and magazines plan their content out very far in advance so you may not get in right away but planting that seed for a traffic pop down the line could pay off dividends for you.

 Parties & Events = Social Media Contests or Give Aways

Brick and mortar stores usually have some sort of grand kick-off party, sale, or giveaway. It is a great way to open your store to big crowds and generate word of mouth. These things usually include an offer of some kind although it doesn’t have to. Restaurants do it with practice nights where they give away free food to friends and family. Some stores offer big savings to their first customers. You can achieve the same thing with eCommerce stores with a focus on social media. Try doing a social media contest. Raffle Copter can be a great tool. Or maybe put an opening day discount code and share it on some Facebook ads. Social media can be a very powerful tool, but if you are waiting until opening day to start building your audience you have planned very poorly.

Building a successful eCommerce shop is a complex undertaking but the rewards for doing it right are infinite. If most people approach their eCommerce shop with the same considerations as building a brick and mortar store; good location, great design, and efficient promotion the chances of success are in your favor.

Photo Credit: jurvetson cc

2014 Oscar Nominations for Marketing

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

 Luke Pierce – Inside Llewyn Davis

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

 Gretchen Ardizzone – Frozen

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

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

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

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

 Colin Smith – Anchorman 2

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

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

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

 

 

Photo Credit: Dave_B_ cc

sign and guitar

Marketing Equals Engagement

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We’ve been on an internal campaign lately to think less about marketing and more about engagement. After all, you cannot create a customer/client/friend/whatever until you engage them in some way.

The phrase we’ve been kicking around is AIDA—not the opera, but ATTENTION, INTEREST, DESIRE, ACTION. It’s a natural progression in forming a relationship that so many companies, including ours, forget from time-to-time.

Alright, break it down. Let me share what the little voice in my head is saying in response to your marketing…stay tuned there’s a prize at the end.

Attention

The goal here is not to just get someone’s attention but doing it in a way that leads to interest. Any idiot standing on the corner screaming can get my attention, but lose it just as quickly because I have observed, processed and decided I have no desire to be around them.

So now turn that around. In the same way, a great visual element, or line of copy can pique my interest and get me to the point of spending a few seconds more (that’s all you get) to see what is going on, “…you’ve got my attention, now keep me interested.”

Interest

I’ve seen enough on this brief journey to start observing critically and begin to form an internal value statement on what I’m observing/reading/listening to.” I’m actually going to spend a few more seconds to see what happens next. “…you better keep it interesting.”

Desire

“Alright, I’m in. I’ve seen enough that I want to know where this goes.”

Action

This is the payoff…what all marketers want: engagement. Up till now, I’ve been “distracted into” seeing what someone has chosen to present. I’ve been a passive party in the experience, but now I’m stepping over the threshold. Now I’m taking action based on my experience and I am going to be proactive in my response by calling/emailing/buying/referring.

Now for the fun part…take those thoughts and apply the first three steps to the video.

Attention

A man in formal wear standing in the middle of a public plaza with a bass doing nothing.

Little Voice: “Wait, what’s wrong? Why is he here in tails and why is he just standing there doing nothing.”

Interest

The man starts playing and almost immediately someone else comes out and joins him to build the experience.

Little Voice: “Alright this is cool and completely unexpected. I want to see where this goes”

Desire

New elements/layers are being added at a rate that captures my interest. The overall experience in building on itself to the point that people are going to see this through and get the full message.

Little Voice: “This is pretty wonderful and I don’t care if I have to be somewhere else right now. I’m just going to be late because this is worth it.”

Action

People loved it and it has been the most successful marketing/engagement the Sabadell Bank ever undertook… that’s right, the bank that’s in the background of almost every shot.

Little Voice: “If that ever happens again I want to be there to experience it myself.”

By the way…if you don’t have a little voice in your head then we rent ours out.

 

Photo Credit: Stephen Poff

Statue with head in hands

Biggest Marketing Mistakes

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

Marsh Williams

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

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

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

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

Colin Smith 

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

Luke Pierce

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

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

 Gretchen Ardizzone

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

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

Photo Credit: Alex E. Proimos

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How to Enhance Your Digital Marketing in 2014

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

Nathaniel Seevers

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

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

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

Colin Smith

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

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

Gretchen Ardizzone

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

Marsh Williams

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

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

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

Shannon Blair

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

Photo Credit: wenzday01

a compass and a map

Key Components of a Brand Guide

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

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

Introduction

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

Brand Platform/The Core

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

Proper definitions courtesy of Brand Channel.

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

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

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

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

Visual Identity

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

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

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

Photo credit: Olga Filonenko

Blogger Outreach: Building Brand Buzz

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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 on 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 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 them 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 the appropriate time to respond. Pay attention to automatic messages. If you get something stating, “Due to a high volume 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

Ways to Wrap Up the Year

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It’s the end of the year, now what do you do? For each individual what we choose to do can vary greatly. No particular approach is right, but each one can help you either learn from the days of past or plan for the days ahead. Here are some ways we plan to wrap up the year:

Nathaniel Seevers

Though the happenings of the previous year are never wiped clean away, the start of a new year can be a great mental and emotional checkpoint. Both personal and business, there’s value in reflection and building goals around the positive – around improvement and around reward.

This year I’m asking myself these questions:

If I could only pick one, what is one particular area I want to focus on improving next year?
And how. Can steps be mapped out to get there? Then I would ask the same question for our business

How can I get better at disconnecting?
Hard work is rewarding. I love the work we do. I love being busy. But as our resident runner, Gretchen, will tell you, a sprint isn’t sustainable over the long journey. Part of being productive and being our best is understanding how to recharge and what drives the creative process. For me, that means time to disconnect from email and social media, from surfing the internet. I’m working on building more times like that into my weeks for next year.

Luke Pierce

Unless you are ridiculously lucky, I am sure that everyone reading this has faced some sort of adversity over the past year. We all come across misfortune now and again, but that is just part of life. The best thing you can do after a situation like that is to learn from it. The trouble is most people don’t take the time to really think about it and commit to change.

To wrap up my year, I am going to take some time to think about the worst things that happened this past year and how I handled it, probably with a nice glass of bourbon. I hope to not just learn from the past, but I hope to actually change it. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over. My point is that learning something new is pointless unless you put it into action. Learning is good, changing is better. I suggest you change and usher in a new modus operandi for the new year.

Gretchen Ardizzone

For me wrapping up the year means planning to start the next on the right foot…literally. As Nathaniel mentioned, I’m a runner. This time of year I reflect on the races I ran, the goals I set, challenges experienced, accomplishments made and what it took to get there. And then, I plan to do it all over again. Setting new goals, searching for new courses, and establishing my training. To keep myself organized I even use an excel sheet to track the whole process.

Sometimes by the end of the year, you’re exhausted and all you want to do is decompress (or hang up your running shoes), but getting organized is a great way to successfully start out the new year with a clear focus. For digital marketing one of the best tools I recommend is an editorial content calendar. It can be helpful to plan article and blog post topics, campaigns, ebooks, as well as scheduling social media content. This also relieves the stress of knowing who is doing what and when. You can assign who is writing the content when you plan to publish, and where you plan to distribute. There are a variety of resources you can use like WordPress Calendar or CoSchedule, or even managing through Google Docs or downloading a free excel template can make the process easy. Browse around and see what works best for you!

Marsh Williams

The end of the year is always a special time for me. I really look forward to it for a number of reasons. First, it’s more time to spend with my family and friends which is a very precious thing. Secondly, it’s a time to be thankful, reflect and rest.

Regardless of how any given year goes, there is always so much to be thankful for; people met, lessons learned, successes, and even my failures. Stepping back and looking at things in perspective is a great exercise, a great time to reflect on what happened, what surprised me and what I’d like to change going forward.

Lastly, the end of the year is a time to rest. A time to get ready for the new year ahead, and a time to set work aside for other priorities. We’ve embraced this at Shout Out to the point where we are closed for the full week between Christmas and the New Year.

I hope you have time to rest also and get ready for the incredible things to come on 2014.

 

photo credit: allerleirau
modified by Shout Out Studio

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