Free For All Friday

How to Say Thanks to Your Clients

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Saying thanks is one of the best ways to reward those you’ve rolled up your sleeves with and worked side-by-side all year long. But selecting that perfect way to give thanks can sometimes be challenging. The truth is that it doesn’t have to be that complicated, just heartfelt and sincere. Here are some ideas from the Shout Out team on how to say thanks to your clients:

Luke Pierce

This time of year can be tough. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great things about the holidays too but sometimes the pressure of shopping for the perfect gift can be daunting and that’s just for friends and family. What about the people and companies who make it possible for you to do what it is that you do? Well, the first thing is to stop thinking of it as a traditional gift. A great thanks doesn’t have to come in a box with a bow on it. Here are a couple things I think can say thanks to your clients in a big way:

Give them some social media love – If you are like us, you geek out when people talk positively about you. We love getting some love. We love a little boost of traffic to our site. I think your clients might like the same.

Give something meaningful – While we appreciate the notion when we all get a $25 gift card to Olive Garden, we often look at that money and see all the good things that could come from it. We would much rather see that money do some good for someone who really needs it. Find a charity, donate what you would have spent on gifts, and do some good on behalf of others.

Colin Smith

Giving a gift to someone during the holiday season is a chance to show your appreciation for them and everything they’ve done for you. Seeing them light up as they unwrap the present and realize what it is you’ve given them is as rewarding as it gets. But, it isn’t the only way to reach out to show someone your appreciation. A personalized card shows that you have enjoyed working with your clients, and the extra effort will go a long way. Cards are great because they present an opportunity to communicate with your clients on a personal level, without emptying your wallet. Whether the note is handwritten or printed, the content of the card is what matters most. Even a personalized e-card is a good way to spread some holiday cheer while showing the client that you enjoy doing business with them.

Nathaniel Seevers

As my big-hearted colleagues have alluded to in this post, it’s the type of thanks that gets you thinking outside the (gift) box that’s worth more than anything with a price tag. Time and sincerity go a long way.

Pick up the phone, call your clients and actually say thanks. Sincerely.

“Hey Bob, just wanted to call and say we really appreciate your business and the relationship we have with you and your team. Glad we had the chance to work with you this year. You and the family have a great holiday.”

Maybe schedule a lunch with your clients to say thanks. The important thing is, this is not the time to start talking about all the ways you’d like to extend the business and get more of their money. Save that for another conversation.

If just saying thanks doesn’t feel like enough, give time. Maybe you can volunteer at a client’s charity event or if applicable, donate X amount of your company’s time or a service to help a business that belongs to your client’s friend.

Gretchen Ardizzone

I’m a big supporter of thinking out-of-the-box when it comes to saying thanks. It’s the little extra creativity that shows your clients just how much you care. Use your skills whatever they may be and put some elbow grease into it. Make a video from all your staff about what you love about working with your client. No script writing or serious production required here, just use what tools you have at your access and make it sincere. Heck, it could even be a 15-second Instagram video.

Saying thanks is probably something we could all stand to do a little more and it’s often this time of year that we think to do it, but saying thanks should be something that happens all year long.

Shannon Blair

From the moment you first meet with your client, it becomes a relationship between your business and theirs. We typically celebrate giving thanks during holidays by showing our friends and family some love through presents, cards, and embarrassing posts on Facebook walls from your grandma. Yet, in the professional world, companies have to find ways to take it one step further. Another great way to say thanks to clients at the end of a great year is to give them a shout out on your website for all the hard work you two have done together. Whether it’s a shout out on the sidebar of your site, or a full blog post dedicated to a particular client – giving thanks on your site is a great way for your viewer to also see the potential in the people you work with as well as what your company has to offer. Plus it makes you look less Scrooge-like… bah humbug!

Photo Credit: arminho-paper

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

Great Marketing in 140 Characters or Less

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Twitter is something special. We all know that now. There are many elements that contribute to its uniqueness and influential status. Twitter helps connect people and movements, it eases the spread of radical ideas, and it creates a forum for the world to debate on. But one of the core ideas of Twitter is what gives it relevancy in today’s overly indulgent world; it’s tricky and thought-provoking 140 character limit. The character limit forces everyone to think about what they are saying and how they are saying it. It makes everyone pause to determine if what they are saying truly gets to the heart of the message they are trying to convey.

At Shout Out we often ask ourselves how we can help people and their businesses. That conversation almost always leads us to think about what great marketing really is, and more often than not, it gets a little long-winded. Today we thought we would take a moment to think about what we really think great marketing is, and then say it with gusto à la Twitter style.

Gretchen Ardizzone

“Great marketing is storytelling with confidence. It’s real, engaging and ever-changing.”

Luke Pierce

“Great marketing is creating passion, emotion, a deep sense of loyalty, and a tremendous desire to share and spread those feelings.”

Shannon Blair

“Great marketing is having pride in what your company can do, with the confidence and knowledge to do it.”

Nathaniel Seevers

“Great marketing is listening and understanding before speaking. It’s a two-way street. It’s dialogue.”

Marsh Williams

“Great marketing is getting the person you are “speaking with” to want more. Always give them just enough to make the decision to want more.”

An old radio

Technology that died to make way for new

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Innovation is fueled by taking existing products and making them better. It’s about knowing what the customer needs before they know they need it. Companies like Apple have thrived for years by making the next iteration for products already in the market. But for a new product to be created often times, one had to pave the way. So today, we give thanks to the technology that died to make way for new:

Luke Pierce

I was eight when we got Prodigy. It was my family’s first foray, as it was many others, into the Internet. For those of you who don’t remember, Prodigy was a subscription service that offered access to things like news, shopping, weather, and games via a dial-up connection. It also added a web browsing service shortly down the road, however it was very limited. At the time, I don’t think I realized the potential of something like this. It was simply something that my dad seemed excited about as well as an excuse for me to play computer games. However looking back on it now, I realize how important Prodigy was, not just for me, but for thousands of kids my age. It served as a primer to the real Internet. Prodigy served as the foundation for the expectation I now have the ability to access information about anything I want at any given moment. With the rise of the internet browser, it didn’t take long for Prodigy to die.

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A Product of Craftsmanship

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

Luke Pierce

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

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

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

Gretchen Ardizzone

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

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

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

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The Top eCommerce Sites We’re Addicted To and Why

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You Better Shop Around

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

Luke Pierce

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

Gretchen Ardizzone

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

Brands We Wish Were Real

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Good brands create advocates. Fans so passionate they take it upon themselves to spread the brand message and share their joy. That is what good marketing is all about. Creating brand advocates. We often talk about these brands at Shout Out Studio and do our part to help our clients do the same. In fact, we got to talking the other day and found out that everyone had a favorite brand they were advocates for that simply speaking, didn’t exist. Here is our ode to our favorite brands we wish were real.

Nathaniel

When you’re on the run from the law, when you’re singing into a can, when you’re sleeping in the woods…accept no substitute.

“I’m a Dapper Dan man!” 

When Everett McGill (George Clooney) orders Dapper Dan and is offered FOP, another brand of men’s pomade in the movie, O’ Brother Where Art Thou? that was his declaration. Wouldn’t we all appreciate that sort of brand loyalty?

I’m convinced! If not for the main ingredient being real seal oil I might give it a try. By the way, for a great men’s hair product with natural ingredients and no seal bits, check out Cliff Original.

So what can we learn from Dapper Dan’s dedicated following? First of all, don’t overlook the importance of your brand’s name. FOP versus Dapper Dan; which one sounds like something you’d like to put in your hair? Also, check out that package design. If I use Dapper Dan I could look like this Clark Gable-ish fella?

I’ll take 2 cans!

Digital Marketing Horror Story

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Cue the blood-curdling scream…

It’s that time of year when the weather changes and we all prepare for the usual Halloween activities like trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, horror flicks, hayrides and haunted houses. Given the seasonal timeliness, the subject matter of our marketing meeting yesterday ended with each of us telling our own Digital Marketing Horror Story. Please avoid these terrifying tactics at all cost.

Luke Pierce

You know that iconic vision of a haunted house? Those once beautiful Victorian homes that have sat lonely on a hilltop rotting and decaying for years? Well, the Internet is riddled with their website equivalents. It’s horrifying.

Some believe that a website is a one-and-done type of thing. They believe that once it’s built, it will sit in pristine condition until the end of time. The truth is, it is just like our haunted house. It decays over time without attention. It gets forgotten about. People stop visiting. It starts to inhibit ghosts of your copyright past. Frankly, there is nothing that scares the shit out of me more than when I log onto a website and see 2002 ©.

Marsh Williams

So… we’ve all been there. We’re looking for something and we click a Google ad and poof… we’re magically transported to the mystical land of landing pages. Once I’m there I resist the siren call to give them all of my information before I learn more about the product. I attempt to go to the corporate website and read some more, but noooooo, I’m trapped! I’ve fallen for the oldest of gambits, next to “Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line,” and there is no way to leave the landing page. No link to the company home page, no hidden link in the company logo, no link anywhere to other information the company would probably want me to know about. Yes, worse than a corn-maze with no exit, a landing page with no way out.

By the way, I’m still stuck on the page and can’t seem to find my way home. Send pizza…

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Movie Quotes to Market By

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We all love movies, but what we love even more are those memorable one-liners that you hear repeated time and time again. Earlier this week as we were reciting some of the favorites (of course with our best celebrity impression), we thought why not turn this into a useful exercise. So for this week’s Free-for-all Friday, we’ve selected our favorite movie quotes and what that means for marketing. Here are some Movie Quotes to Market By…

Luke Pierce

“You keep using that word… I do not think it means what you think it means.” – The Princess Bride
There is nothing more annoying than seeing slogans, ads and propaganda that is chock-full of trendy buzzwords that A) don’t apply to the message and B) have to be defined before you can understand the message. Trust me there are enough words in the English language that are available to help craft your message and get your point across. Use plain speak everyone understands.

“Damn! We’re in a tight spot.” – O’ Brother Where Art Thou?
You know why you’re in a tight spot? It’s because you are approaching marketing as a last resort. There are too many companies out there that read more

Admirable Brand Marketing

Admirable Brand Marketing

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We spend a lot of our time helping brands increase their marketing effectiveness, but yesterday we sat back and took a moment to appreciate those who are doing it right. Here are a few brands, big and small, we admire for thinking holistically when it comes to marketing and telling their story.

Gretchen Ardizzone—Warby Parker

When thinking about admirable brand marketing, for me, it’s got to be Warby. I watched this brand go from undercover indie to mainstream cool, all while managing to maintain their authentic, genuine, do-good attitude. Warby Parker launched in 2010 with its home try-on program and a mission to offer boutique-style glasses at affordable prices.

What makes it admirable is what they’re marketing is bigger than just eyewear. The brand evokes a physical representation of literacy. Heck, the name was even born from two character’s names, Zagg Parker and Warby Pepper, from writer Jack Kerouac’s journal. read more

Social Media Missteps

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Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, yeah, you’re there but are you following a social media strategy for your brand’s communication approach? If not, you’re likely to fall into one of the pitfalls we like to call “Social Media Missteps.” Here are a few things we’ve identified as common mistakes brands sometimes make in social media communication.

Shannon Blair—Stop social media blasting us, please

Yay! You found/have great content that makes you want to run to the top of the nearest mountain and shout it to the world!! While we all appreciate a good Julie Andrews – Sound of Music opening scene moment – please… please… stop blasting it on every social media platform you have. There is nothing worse than going to Twitter and seeing a great tweet, then Facebook and seeing the same post, then LinkedIn and seeing the same post, and Google+ and seeing the same… oh, I’m sorry, are you seeing a repeat here? So are we. Stop it.

Luke Pierce—Not using your brand voice

It’s really simple; if you sell couches don’t post about fried chicken. Unless you’re having a fried chicken couch party, then post away. If you aren’t however, then stick to posting about subjects that accurately reflect what your brand is all about. People seem to mess this one up all the time. I get it, there are all these social media platforms to share information across, and it can be a struggle to generate content for each, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to start posting things that don’t relate to your brand. If you don’t have fresh content that you’ve generated yourself, spend a little time doing industry research about a subject you’re excited to tell people about. If you are constantly trying to educate yourself and share what you learn, you will never run out of content to post. Oh, and if you need a little help trying to clarify your company’s voice, check out this article.

Nathaniel Seevers—Anti-social media

Social media is meant to be just that – social. Too many companies approach social platforms as their own personal broadcast channel, a chance to feed an audience a spoonful full of a sales pitch. There are brands all over Twitter who log in only long enough to toss out their own blog post or press release. read more

Viral Videos Stuck in Our Heads

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

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

Luke Pierce

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

Gretchen Ardizzone

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

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