Shout Out Studio - Brand Forward Marketing

Brand Marketing Strategy and Execution

Local Search & the Link to Online Reviews

Local Search & the Link to Online Reviews 1920 703 Shout Out Studio

For most companies, it’s not so much a question of if managing your brand’s online reputation is important; it’s more a question of “where does online reputation management fall on my list of priorities?” It’s a fair question. To which the answer is, while there are many facets to reputation management, the best place to start is the area with the greatest opportunity.

More than 10 billion searches are conducted on Google every month. That’s a monster number, and many of those searches involve someone looking for a particular type of business or service. In fact, 92% of consumers regularly read online reviews to learn about a business,1 but here’s the catch; 94% of people only look at the first page of Google search results. 1 It’s easy to see just how crucial that first-page ranking can be, and therein lies the opportunity–on the first page of all those local searches.

Consider this scenario. It’s a Friday evening, and you’re craving sushi but want to change it up from your local go-to spot. You search online, “sushi restaurants near me.” Essentially your goal is two things: determine what’s near you and what’s good.

An ad appears and a few initial listings. Instinctively you start scanning the listings to help make your selection. You start at the top browsing ratings and reviews, likely the pictures too. You notice Akai Hana with 1,102 reviews and a 4.7 rating. Good, right? You scan a few reviews and see someone recommends Sukiyaki, and you’re sold at that point. Problem solved, dinner ordered. What you didn’t notice, had you kept scrolling, was restaurant X with only two reviews and a 3.0-star rating. And that’s not uncommon.

There are several reasons for the search results you receive, but research suggests online reviews are now the second most important factor for local rankings.2  Much like fresh content is vital for SEO, so are reviews. Search engines factor in your review profile (including quality and quantity) when calculating where your business will show in the search results. Obviously, the higher the rating out of 5 stars, the better. What most folks don’t expect is that your reviews need to be recent and high volume as well, especially in comparison to your competitors. “When you acquire [reviews] regularly, they provide a constant influx of fresh content for the search engine spiders to digest.”2

More than ever, consumers are looking for signals of trust, and what people say about your brand builds credibility. Often, companies fail to cultivate their good reviews and what remains online as a representation of the business are those few negative experiences. Train staff and team members to ask customers in-person. Provide links on your website, email signature, newsletters, thank pages, or on receipts. You can even ask for feedback on social media.

Want to continue the conversation on customer feedback? Reach out to learn more about our review generation process.

Why Sales is No Longer About Selling

Why Sales is No Longer About Selling 1920 703 Nathaniel Seevers

My wife and I leased a new car recently. Pre-COVID. We don’t change cars often, but it was time. We settled on a budget-friendly, Ohio winter-friendly, grown-up, anti-college-car car.

This was the first time at a dealership in a while. For some reason, I guess I expected the approach had changed since 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 out there filled with honest, attentive sales associates. More so, 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 along with purchasing habits and consumer expectations.

It’s not hard to find biting stats like these when it comes to sales:

  • 7 out of 10 customers believe that the sales reps are product-focused rather than customer-focused
  • Only 13% of customers believe a salesperson can understand their needs.

 

SO IF SALES IS NOT ABOUT SELLING, 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 with the customer’s needs.
  • Acknowledgment of reservations: hearing the customer and talking with them not talking around them.
  • Anti-segmentation: less lumping into groups, 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
  • The beginning of your customer retention efforts. Even before the first sale is complete you are building credit toward return and/or expanded business.


A recent Salesforce Research study shows that “84% of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services.”

 

Sales is not about selling anymore. When organizations consider the sales process part of the experience, everyone wins.

Thoughts or experiences on the subject? Share them with us on social.

photo credit: Unsplash

Mass Market Emails: Why You’re Doing It Wrong

Mass Market Emails: Why You’re Doing It Wrong 1920 703 Shout Out Studio

E Blasted.

306.4 billion emails are sent and received daily as of this year (2020).6 Don’t worry; we’ll give you a minute.  Because if you haven’t heard that statistic before, it’s likely to floor you. Three years ago, 74% of consumers were already overwhelmed by “Email Overload,” according to a study released by Edison Software.2 In that same year (2017), the number of emails sent and received each day was 269 billion.1

Thereafter until now, we have seen a nearly 14% increase of emails flood both personal and professional inboxes around the world. And that’s not even getting in the weeds of how Covid-19 has pushed email to become one of the most used forms of communication. As the boundaries between homes and offices continue to overlap, we expect the fatigue of ‘email abundance’ (for both professional and personal inboxes) to become inexorably linked.

Email: Dead Or Dying?

Doubtful.  We asked ourselves if people still wanted to receive emails anymore.  And on the surface, one would expect that the answer is no. But hold on, 99% of consumers say they check their personal email every single day3. Chances are when you’re conducting an email campaign, you’re going to be sending at least a few emails to personal email accounts. So, given that the open rate is about 15%4 for Mass Market Emails, there seems to be a huge disconnect.  Should businesses give up on appealing to and communicating with consumers via email if such a small percentage of Mass Market Emails are being opened? We don’t think so. Brands like Rivaltech suggest making a full switch to social media messaging from email, but we think there’s another way.5 People do still want emails from the right sender, with the right message.

Empathize, Then Engage.

So how can you increase that open rate as a small business owner or entrepreneur?  Essentially it boils down to two points. Point 1. Respect Your Audience: the details matter.  Do the little important things like keeping your word count concise: 50 to 125 words boasts a 50% email response rate.  Or making sure consumers can read your email on mobile.4 “Over 70% of consumers read their emails in a mobile app, and just under 70% delete the email if it displays poorly.” Yikes.

And Point 2. Deliver Value.  Make the emails you send, count. Quality over quantity. “69% say they unsubscribed because of a high frequency of email.” If 99% are checking their personal email daily, those consumers are looking for something to catch and keep their attention.4 Don’t send out a flurry of emails you would be overwhelmed by as a consumer, which would ultimately lead you to unsubscribe if you were the recipient.

Email will work, but only when done right.

Have questions about email marketing? We’re here to help. No sales pitch just honest answers. Reach out here>

Creating effective social media

Getting Beyond Meh…

Getting Beyond Meh… 1920 703 Shout Out Studio

Creating a social media post is really easy, creating an effective social media post that actually accomplishes something is not.

What are you doing?

This is the question I have started asking myself with every post created for our company or our clients. This gives fundamental guidance, and it’s helping.

I also think of a post as a type of Mad Lib.

These are my questions:

I want to __________________ with this post?

  • share something interesting
  • share knowledge
  • share a fact
  • share point of view
  • teach something
  • promote our company or services

I’m writing it for people _____________.

  • who already follow our company on social media
  • who already know of our company
  • people who are looking for information related to the services we provide
  • people who may be looking for knowledge we are sharing
  • people who are trying to learn about a topic

When a person reads it I hope they will ________________.

  • be glad they took the time to read it
  • learn something
  • laugh
  • find it interesting enough to share
  • remember it

If the goal is to get someone to complete an action make it easy for them, tell them what you’d like them to do:

  • encourage them to respond with a comment
  • give them a link to the intended destination
  • give them relevant details for planning
  • It’s important to remember the context of the platform…
  • embedded links are always helpful
  • if you want to provide links on Instagram, use LinkTree or Later as a means of providing multiple links not just a single profile link
  • each social platform should have its own voice, tone, and purpose in your efforts
  • know your followers, can you post the same content on each platform or is there so much overlap in followers that each platform has a unique place in your plans

Also, consider that, while most organizations undoubtedly publish more than one piece of content on a topic, a single post may be all one person sees. In creating a post, does it stand alone and provide enough information to be of value; it should. Organizations cannot, and should not, assume that people will see the entire body of work on a topic, nor that people should need to, to gain an understanding of your message.

Finally, we use Agora Pulse for all social media, it has definite advantages, but one of the biggest is that it works with Grammarly and lets us get two sets of eyes on every post. Agora or not, always have someone else look at your post if you can.These are my rules, and while they don’t have to be yours, it’s always good to have some in place to help everyone understand what your organization is trying to achieve with social media messaging.

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN

If you’re a small business or non-profit and you need help, advice, or you just have questions, let us know. We will set up a call or video chat to walk through your questions and provide counsel free of charge. Contact us here or on social.

No sales, just good honest answers to help. We’re all in this together.

Tips and Tools for Virtual Work

Tips and Tools for Virtual Work 1920 703 Shout Out Studio

It’s a brand new world and for the first time many are finding themselves working in a comfortable, but unfamiliar space; at home. While we have been fortunate enough to experience this before we also realize it is new to many so we’ve put together some of our top tips for being productive while operating in this new era.

Marsh:

To us “Social Distancing” means be physically apart but socially connected…our primary ally in that approach is Slack.

Staying in touch is one of the biggest issues for teams, learning to work apart but still needing to feel connected by purpose and personal exchange. We use Slack as our mainstay to address this. Many people are aware of Slack and live by it, yet many are not.

In its simplest form, we use Slack to facilitate day-to-day communication around the needs of our clients and our projects on their behalf. The company describes it as an alternative to a crowded inbox, a description that does not do it justice. It is an incredibly more efficient than email for our purposes it also allows us to aggregate data, files, and conversations into a single “channel,” as they call it.

We’ve also gone as far as using it to replicate office dynamics by creating a channel we call #watercooler, for jokes, office conversations, and miscellany.

If you have the professional version, once a channel is set up you can easily call all of the “members” with audio or video conferencing and screen sharing. It really is a no brainer. If you are unsure they have a great free version which we used for months before we upgraded; it’s about $7.00/month/person.

It integrates with many apps:

  • Calendar
  • Project Management
  • Time Keeping
  • Google Drive
  • Box
  • DropBox

This page probably gives the best overview https://slack.com/why/slack-vs-email

…and yes Micorosft has what they call “teams,” but it’s not as user friendly and after all it is Microsoft.

Hailey:

Working from home has been a learning experience for me from the beginning. A trial and error process where I am continuously finding new things that work and others that don’t. Let’s start with the latter.

When I first took on this role, we began working from home more than I was used to, I had to adapt quickly to the new work pace. I found myself so concerned with productivity that I wouldn’t leave my workspace for hours at a time. I would dive into work and not pick up my head until the late afternoon. While that may sound great, more than a day or two of it left me feeling burnt out. I was sick of looking at the same room and always desperate to get out of my house, but too exhausted to do so. Not the right fit for me.

The solution? A schedule that included valuable (and mandatory) breaks, healthy snacks, room changes, and exercise. I start work before breakfast. By the time 10:30 am rolls around I have gotten two hours of extremely productive work in and I am hungry! I take a break to make a quick breakfast, I change my environment and I start on my next work block of time. This block I let myself tell me when it’s time for a break. Sometimes it’s another two hours, other times it’s three. I use my lunch break to get in a quick workout and a small meal, allowing me to have the energy to finish the day strong. I then change rooms again and work until 4, and spend the rest of the work day taking stock of what I completed that day and plan for the next usually with my dog by my side and ready for a walk.

Dividing my day up into three sections makes me feel energized and accomplished at the end of the day. I am able to close my laptop, and have valuable hours of “me time” before it’s time to wake up and start again.

Durelle:

One constructive thing I’ve learned is that I need to set rules for my virtual workspace. If the strategy is to work productively, two items are more significant than others. Tactics for managing time, and boundaries for anything outside of work. Work needs to be separate from your television, games, and ideally social media for example. I believe the best way to implement these tactics is to set a timer for blocks of time, on your phone or on your computer.

Scheduling specific blocks of time manages focus, and gives a sense of urgency that may otherwise be lacking from your home environment. In a big way, it provides more freedom with structure. When structuring my day, I usually focus on two hour chunks at a time. If I know I’m working on a project, I’ll schedule for 4 hour blocks. No matter what, I’m loosely giving myself a deadline for what I want to accomplish. Once I’ve accomplished what I want, that’s where the boundaries come into play. If I do everything I set out to do within the timeframe I allot, or faster, I’ll allow myself a 20 minute break or so (until my next block of time) to do something I enjoy – taking a walk, reading a bit, video games, or fictional writing.

If using your computer to set a time, just type “timer” into a Google search, or find it here. The Google timer has a pretty unpleasant sound when the time expires, so you may want to go with your phone. Either way, the goal is to set those blocks of time to do a task or project. And be honest with yourself. We’re human, we’re going to get off track. So if you set a two hour block of time until you’re setting yourself a 20 minute break, but end up only working for an hour and a half, skip the break. Whenever possible, avoid deferring any unproductive work time to “after work hours.”

Nathaniel:

As countless memes have highlighted, those of us on the more, let’s say, hermit-like end of the spectrum, are less freaked out by social distancing and an abundance of home time.

I work well from home. I’ve done so for years, in some capacity or another. My home office is comfortable, it’s filled with natural light, my favorite books, my favorite records, and often a snoring dog. So I wasn’t too concerned about working from home full-time. What I didn’t account for was my wife also working from home full-time.

Ours is a small place with old walls. Sound absorption is not its strong suit, to say the least. After a couple of days haphazardly working from the couch, stumbling through the hours of the day, and taking video calls, we realized that getting back to some resemblance of a routine was important.

Now, as if it were a normal day (or world), we wake up, (sometimes) work out, shower, make coffee, have breakfast, and arrive at our laptops prepared to work at a normal work time. We’ve designated two separate workspaces that don’t involve the couch. My wife got the office this week and I set up shop in the dining room for now. To mitigate the noise, we’ve shared our work calendars with one another and we try to stagger video conferences.

We still ask one another about the day ahead over breakfast. We still meet up for lunch, it just happens to be in the kitchen instead of a local restaurant. We take an afternoon break to walk the dog. We make plans for dinner then try to create some separation between work and everything else. We’re doing what we can, and a smart work routine that somewhat resembles our pre-COVID19 daily lives helps.

If you’re a small business or non-profit and you need help, advice, or you just have questions, let us know. We will set up a call or video chat to walk through your questions and provide counsel free of charge. Contact us here or on social.

No sales, just good honest answers to help. We’re all in this together.

Targeting Has Changed – And So Should You!

Targeting Has Changed – And So Should You! 1920 703 Shout Out Studio

The Most Effective Way To Connect:

For marketing to be effective, a business must target.  This isn’t a new concept; but why is it important? Consumers don’t want companies to make broad assumptions and treat them like the masses. Consumers want brands to dive deeper, and make an effort to speak to them in unique and meaningful ways. Targeting is a careful, measured approach to finding your preferred client.  Ideally, we want consumers to know that we want to understand them, and want to connect authentically.

In many ways, targeting hasn’t changed: we still want to pinpoint an archetype.  But there’s another, highly significant layer now: connection.  That variable, connection, used to be a cherry on top of a metaphorical ice-cream sundae, but now it’s the expectation.  However, the return on investment of consumers who appreciate our significant and genuine connection with them, is invaluable.

Calculating… Targeting Refined

So how should we alter our approach?  When consumers are successfully targeted by a company, they feel like that company cares about who they are individually; that they’re more than just a number or email address in the database.  This is because, when done right, the way we target should discover more than demographics data.  We want to aim to consider all of the pertinent information of the group we wish to pursue.

For example, if you’ve determined that a group of the population has an unmet need for kitchen knives you could immediately begin with an age demographic (independent adults perhaps), combined with location, and possible gender needs; standard targeting.  In addition to that, let’s start with questions to understand our consumer better. We might ask something like:

  • Why do they need or want sharp cutlery?
  • What do they intend to do with their cutlery once received?
  • What other household products might they also be buying?

With this, maybe we discover that the consumer doesn’t just want cutlery, they want a faster, easier way to prepare their vegetables.  We may come up with a product that can create this effect instantaneously – a knife that steams vegetables as it slices.  The important thing is that we’ve humanized our consumer more than the collective demographics could. We care about the what and the why.  Now we can garner the additional pieces of information we need. That’s how we connect.

Adjust Your Aim Like Scotts Did

Scotts Miracle Grow
Targeted Segment:

  • Male
  • Homeowner
  • Limited product knowledge *
  • 27 – 35
  • Earning 50,000 + per year
  • Sports enthusiast

When the 2016 earnings reports came across the desk of retailers, many were panicked, struggling to determine how to continue reaching their existing target audiences in the ways that matter.  A lot of millennial bashing occurred, because frustrated companies could not understand what had changed.  Instead of adjustments, judgements were made.

Not Scotts.  In fact, since 2006, Scott’s reported yearly earnings have been consistently above 2.6 million in annual revenue.  That is, with the exception of the period between 2014-2016 where revenue hovered around 2.5 million or lower.  Scotts was not impacted quite the same way some other retailers were, but there was a clear, industry wide consensus that “reaching millennials,” was imperative.  Scotts was no different.  They effectively had two choices.

They could have chosen to change their formula entirely by choosing a different target.  Instead, they chose to keep their existing formula, but tweaked it so that it embraced the parts which were now different.  In 2015, they likely asked themselves:

  • Are all our criteria for our target market still relevant?
    • Yes except for age.
  • How are 27 year old’s different now than they were 10 years ago?
    • Many grew up in an environment not prioritizing lawn care and maintenance.

It’s no secret that millennials have presented a uniquely complex set of obstacles for most retailers. After researching the parameters it had once set for itself, Scott’s understood at least one of the very distinct differences – the lack of product knowledge.  Thus, they made it a point to incorporate instructional videos for all things lawn-care related, right down to the mulch calculator.  As of 2019, Scotts enjoyed its record high revenue of 3.15 million for the year.

Aim True

Your target can be the same, but the variables required to hit the target may change.  Any marksperson who participates in trapshooting knows that you can’t ignore the wind.  For that matter, any sailor trying to reach land on a sailboat must acknowledge the same variable.  Whether the target is a skeet, an island, or a person, variables will shift, and you have to be accepting of that.  You still want to strive to hit the target, of course, your business depends on doing just that. It’s fine if it’s the same target every single time.  Just don’t expect to be able to hit the same target in the same way when the wind changes.

Your consumers are people after all, and people change.

Instagram is Facilitating Theft from Users

Instagram is Facilitating Theft from Users 1920 703 Marsh Williams

The Problem

More and more companies are stealing from Instagram users, and Instagram is driving the getaway car.

Over the last few months, I have noticed, as an Instagram user, many suspicious-looking ads on the platform, and recently these ads have moved from suspect to outright fraudulent. Ads showing one product and shipping a far inferior version are commonplace, and as a target of these ads, all I can do is report them and hope Instagram will review them.

Recently, I’ve noticed a new trend of companies that advertise nonexistent products going as far as creating websites to support their fraud only to disappear a few weeks later. That leaves Instagram purchasers to navigate the complexities of refunds from their credit card companies or, God forbid, PayPal.

To be completely honest, I fell for a couple of these. One was for a Nano Screen Protector, which would allow your iPhone to crack walnuts and not be scratched. The other was a carbon fiber camera tripod I’ve been coveting from Peak Design. The tripod retails for about $700 (I know I have a problem, I’m in a group for that), but when I saw it advertised on Instagram for hundreds less, I bought it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until later that the synapses fired off.

After some research and communication with Peak Design, it was clear that the ad and the supporting website were utterly false. The thief had simply stolen all of the content from Peak’s site and pretended to be a reseller. I’m still going through an incredibly draconian process with PayPal to get my money back, but the counterfeit seller has really figured out how to game the system and make that almost impossible.

Subsequently, I have gone through a period of about four weeks looking for suspect ads, researching their offerings, and reporting the advertisers to Instagram when warranted. To their credit, I have received several responses from Instagram stating that “The ad you reported violated our Ad Guidelines and has been removed;” however, in most cases, this just initiated a game of “Account Whack-a-Mole.”

The underlying problem is that Instagram has zero incentive to stop this type of activity; in fact, they have an incentive to perpetuate it since they make money on every click.

Instagram’s Celebrity Solution

For celebrities and brands, Instagram offers a verification process that yields a coveted “verified” checkmark next to the account name indicating its legitimacy. The process is well documented, and all parties take it very seriously.

This verification process has been in existence for an extended time, it keeps unscrupulous people from impersonating others, and helps verified accounts protect their brand from those who might use their name or image for an illicit activity or ill-gotten gains.

So here’s the real question, if Instagram has a process for verifying celebrity accounts, why can’t they have a process for verifying legitimate advertiser accounts?

Why doesn’t Instagram create and apply an advertiser verification process for those who want to become verified and give themselves an advantage in the “click” game?

There is no reason Instagram can’t do this; they just have to “want to,” and there’s the rub. They make money from every click even if the sponsor is stealing from their users.

What Should Happen?

Instagram should take the side of their users and intervene. There should be an opportunity for Advertisers to become verified and display that they have been vetted. As part of this, Instagram should create a standard that requires all verified advertising to adhere to all government regulations regarding claims of product performance or benefit.

The outlines for this process are already set forth by the FTC and the FDA. This brings Instagram into the general realm of compliance, where other publishers and media outlets live. It may not be a perfect step, but is it a step forward.

The real problem for Instagram: we are the product; they are selling access to our eyeballs and bank accounts. I’m by no means the first to float this assertion, but viewing the relationship this way makes it is easy to understand why the platform has little incentive to address this issue.

How about it Instagram…you willing to step up?

Open book showing multiple logos

How to Work Through a Logo Refresh

How to Work Through a Logo Refresh 1920 703 Nathaniel Seevers

Trained or untrained eye, sometimes it’s clear that a logo no longer holds up in the marketplace. Maybe it relies too heavily on past design trends and hasn’t aged well. Or frankly, maybe it was poor design from the start. On the flip side, even the most well-designed logos can periodically benefit from a design update that better reflects an evolution of the business (see the Rolling Stone evolution below). But it can be scary to think about scrapping a longstanding logo and wandering out into the design unknown, especially when considering the identity equity that’s been built up over several years of business existence.

It’s not always necessary to start from scratch to show progress. There is a way to maintain some of that familiarity while showing the world your logo belongs in the modern day. It’s called a logo refresh and here are some components to consider.

TYPOGRAPHY

One of the fastest ways to see real improvement in logo design is to evaluate the typeface, whether custom or out of the box, and adjust for current brand personality traits and/or communications goals. Brands evolve and market tastes change, oftentimes the typography utilized in the original logo design can begin to feel outdated or simply no longer represents the brand effectively. We worked through something similar with Timmy Global Health (below).

For example, incorporating a typeface with more uniform lines can add modern appeal, adjusting weight and kerning can tilt the scale of sophistication and drama. Better typeface design is often a prerequisite to helping a logo reach its full potential.

Color & Contrast

Color plays an important part in the visual recall of brand identity. Coca-Cola red, Starbucks green, etc. Incorporating the right color palette can help convey the right brand intentions and creates a more memorable connection. Color psychology isn’t a hard and fast rule for branding but certainly is worth considering. There’s a reason why most financial institutions are represented in greens and blues not red.

The wrong hue can also impact initial perceptions of value. Color can make a logo looks flat, ordinary, cheap even if it is representing a premium product. Shifting the shade of a color can help add needed weight to the design. Adding a complementary or foundational hue can provide contrast and fresh appeal.

Dropbox (below) not only simplified the shape and blue on their icon but also changed the wordmark to black, helping to anchor the design and create contrast.

Space & Balance

Not too long ago, YouTube redesigned its logo, cleaning up the type slightly, but more obviously, incorporating the red tv shape aligned left as a new standalone mark instead of as part of the name. The new alignment gives the logo better balance, an updated look, and a more versatile design.

Improving space and balance doesn’t mean everything has to be symmetrical but it does mean considering all the ways and sizes your logo may be represented.

Having said all of this, each opportunity for logo refresh will require an individual approach. Though he wasn’t a designer, nor was he referencing design in this instance, I’m always reminded of a quote from Albert Einstein that goes, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

When in doubt, during your logo refresh, simplify.

Pieces of the brand puzzle

Brand Voice, Story, Audience

Brand Voice, Story, Audience 1920 950 Marsh Williams

With apologies to Rod Stewart – “every company tells a story.”

Every company has a story to tell, one worth listening to, but for the most part, one that exists in pieces all around the office. Oh, it’s all there, it just has not been gathered and assembled into a single cohesive message, and frankly, it’s usually easier for someone from the outside to find. Within the company,  people have heard something so many times it just becomes part of the company lore and seems to be matter-of-fact when it is the exact opposite. The little gem, the nuggets, which people hold on to, those are the pieces customers look for, those are the pieces upon which a story is built.

Once we get an opportunity to look, all of the pieces are always there, but like the ingredients for a great recipe, unless you can put them together in the right order, they are just elements, each good but not reaching their full potential as part of a greater whole. In fact, most of our clients have multiple stories that should be told, and that’s where the fun begins. Weaving everything into the company’s origin tale, it’s purpose for being, and the message they want to deliver.

Ironically, building and crafting the message is not the whole story (yeah, that was intentional.)

But what really makes a story great is the listener, the audience/consumer. That’s why the story exists, for, without an audience, the story has no purpose. Knowing about an audience, who they are, what they want to hear, and how they want to hear it: brand voice.

Voice is all about connecting with the consumer, what is the tone, what are the words, what is the delivery that will connect with the most impact and best represents the brand. Words, cadence, delivery, tone all are parts of the voice, and understanding it and communicating it internally/externally is critical to consistent brand marketing.

The entire purpose of voice and story is to establish a rapport, a sense of knowing something about both the speaker and listener. That’s how relationships start, and ultimately that’s what storytellers want, a relationship with the audience, which by the way, helps the story evolve. The audience/customer input always impacts the story by definition. Once it has been told, the story becomes the audiences’ to share with their audiences; friends, family, and others. That type of brand loyalty is the gold standard; turning customers into fans.

By diving into all of this, we’re not trying to make this seem complicated, we’re trying to give some sense of the hard and deliberate work that leads to the magic. It’s not easy, but then again, easy never made a great story, did it?

Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster

The Incredible Power of Online Reviews

The Incredible Power of Online Reviews 1920 950 Marsh Williams

Everyone has a story about online reviews; some are good and well, some aren’t.

So before we take a deeper dive, let’s go to the board for a few stats.

  • 97% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses – Source
  • 94% of consumers read online reviews; they trust reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family
  • 89% purchase within a week of visiting review sites and 29 percent will do so within a day
  • 82% of consumers go to review sites because they want to buy a service or product
  • 80% of consumers will reverse a purchase decision based on negative reviews

Reviews matter…

Negative Reviews

Once a negative review is in place, no matter what anyone tells you it is virtually impossible to get it removed unless you can demonstrably prove it is fraudulent. We actually had this happen and someone we had never done business with, or even heard of, left a negative review on Google. No matter how much we went through Google customer service, they deemed it a legitimate review and would not provide any relief. We wound up having to write a response to the reviewer saying “…we don’t recognize your name and have no record of doing business with you. Please contact us so we can address this for you.” They took it down without discussion.

Negative reviews have a direct impact on the bottom line. Here are some specifics.

Effectively the only way to manage bad reviews is to get in front of them. By this, I mean to identify potentially negative reviews and respond to the customer/reviewer before it is published. It can be done, and we can discuss that later.

In a study conducted by BrightLocal they found that a single negative review can cost a company up to thirty customers, and in a similar study Moz found that three negative reviews can drive away up to fifty-nine percent of customers. Eighty-Six percent of people will hesitate before purchasing form a business that has any bad online reviews.

Positive Reviews

Online reviews drive local traffic. Ninety-Seven percent of consumers use the internet to find local businesses, and three in four people who use their smartphones to search for something nearby end up visiting a local business within a day. While traffic to retail businesses is down fifty-seven percent in the past five years, the value of every visit has tripled.

Grade.US found that happy customers tend to share their experience with up to fifteen individuals, and when you get those good reviews, they actually add to your revenue stream. Companies experience a revenue increase of between nine and twelve percent with a one-star rating increase on Yelp. Sixty-eight percent of customers will leave a review when asked.

And finally, negative reviews are not all bad, seventy-two percent of B2B buyers say negative reviews give depth and insight into a product or service offering, and if handled correctly they provide a great opportunity for a response that demonstrates your company’s values. Over seventy percent of consumers who have a problem resolved satisfactorily will buy from that business again.

The Formula

So there are a few basics you need to achieve.

  • At least a 4.0 rating on the respective platform with a minimum of 40 reviews per platform
  • Current/fresh reviews that have been created in the last thirty days
  • Respond to every single review your organization receives, good or bad.
  • Embrace customer feedback as a core value for your company, listen, learn, improve, and prevail.

The Way to Get There

There are a lot of ways to engage customers and manage reviews. We prefer a system to do such and bowline that this approach provides a simple and effective manner to engage customers for feedback. The platform we use allows businesses to leverage positive reviews and mitigate potentially negative ones across up to severely review platforms.When integrated into ongoing communications efforts, it can drive significant change to an organization’s online ratings.

…and finally

One final comment to consider, reviews count for 15.44% percent of your Google SEO…and it’s growing. – Source

Brand Consistency is Worth 23%

Brand Consistency is Worth 23% 1920 700 Marsh Williams

A survey we recently ran across had a statistic that, frankly, astounded us: 

The average increased revenue attributed to consistent brand presentation, by the organizations that responded, is 23 percent.

Most people would view this as low hanging fruit and take 23 percent in revenue. At least that’s what we thought. 

As we read further into the survey, here is what we found: Almost all organizations responding, 95 percent, considered brand guidelines essential, but only 75 percent stated they have consistently enforced brand guidelines. So companies believe brand presentation is critical and, when adhered to, it increases their revenue. But three out of four either don’t have brand standards or don’t always enforce their use.

How hard is it to consistently present a company’s brand? Actually, it’s pretty hard when you consider all of a company’s touchpoints. Sure, marketing is a slam dunk, but what do customers experience when navigating voice mail or waiting on hold for customer service? All of this is brand, and it has to be consistent across every customer engagement.

In a previous post we wrote about Vian’s Axiom:

“Marketing is what you promise, brand is what you deliver.”

We spent some time thinking about companies that really have very tight alignment on all brand touchpoints and landed on McDonald’s and one of our favorites REI. 

McDonald’s is remarkably consistent at every customer touchpoint, particularly with regard to visual elements. Customers know exactly what to expect when interacting with the company. Like it or hate it, there are no surprises. McDonald’s also rules on social media. They have a massive following and regularly use platforms to engage and interact with customers. That’s right, the burger chain that’s been around since 1955 has mastered brand communications on the newest media.

REI’s brand message and personality flow through everything they touch; every communication they initiate. The attitude they purvey online, in all media, and in their stores is one hundred percent aligned. They are membership-based and at times challenge retail industry norms. On Black Friday, 2015, they closed completely. They walked away from what we believe to be the biggest retail sales day of the year and made the following statement, “Black Friday is a perfect time to remind ourselves of the essential truth that life is richer, more connected, and complete when you choose to spend it outside. We’re closing our doors, paying our employees to get out there, and inviting America to Opt Outside with us because we love great gear, but we are even more passionate about the experiences it unlocks.” In a letter to his members, Stritzke quotes outdoor visionary John Muir, who stated in 1901, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home.” 

A brand is somewhat ethereal, and while this may be hard to agree with, the only place your brand exists is in someone else’s mind. Consistent branding is always built on consistent behavior, consistent voice, tone, styles of engagement, and customer interactions at every level of the organization: this is why formal branding guidelines are critical to overall success.

By “formal guidelines,” we do not mean brand police. We want a clear, concise vision of the brand with examples for everyone to understand and embrace. A brand book should inform, enlighten, and educate. It is something that should be given to every person on their first day with the company. Let them read it and understand the essence of what you want your brand experience to be.

Without this, the customers’ understanding and perception of a brand can change with every experience. Customers will not know what to expect from one interaction to the next, and they will perceive that your brand is inconsistent or, in the worst case, schizophrenic.It becomes too much work to figure it out every time so customers move on to their next choice in the market.

Brand guidelines are important. Brand books help communicate those guidelines effectively and explain how they can enhance customers’ overall experience…besides, who wouldn’t like a 23 percent increase in revenue from something so simple.

If you’re thinking about your brand presentation and consistency, we’d love to discuss it: no sales pitch, just an honest discussion about where you are and where you’d like to be

Photo of person shopping on iPad

Remarkable Marketing

Remarkable Marketing 1920 703 Shout Out Studio

For the average consumer, basic needs and wants are only a few clicks away or ready for pick-up, maybe even delivery. Brands are constantly wanting to be a part of this transaction and so they storm consumers with marketing noise in an effort to do so. The constant noise blurs together and most consumers have become quite skilled at tuning it out and scrolling past. To succeed in a loud world, cluttered with new ideas a company’s brand and marketing must be, not only unique but truly remarkable.

Lemonade

Lemonade is a company that has taken something boring and turned it into something remarkable. With the growing number of millennials moving into their own apartments and homes, Lemonade developed a brand of homeowner and renter’s insurance that speaks directly to that demographic. Starting with the visual brand, Lemonade communicates to target customers with bright colors, fun graphics, and an easy to navigate website. They seek to educate and engage quickly. Once they have initially engaged their audience they promise a hassle-free, 90-second sign-up, and to top it all off they ensure that any money left over after claims get sent to good causes. They make the benefits easy to understand and they make it fun and easy to buy.

Billie

Billie is a women’s razor subscription service that seeks to empower and ease minds all at the same time. Billie not only sells a product that functions better than others on the shelves, but does so with a lower price point, a convenient subscription option, and a meaningful message. Billie products are made without parabens, sulfates, GMOs all while costing half of what the competition charges. Billie’s bright colors and strong female empowerment message push this product into the remarkable realm and keep customers coming back for more while activating customers to spread the word through Billie’s referral program.

Photo of Billie product lineup
Photo of Billie Razor and Blade refill

Warby Parker

For years the creators of Warby Parker watched as large companies cornered the eyeglasses industry and up charged their oftentimes aesthetically outdated products because of their control over the marketplace. Warby Parker’s founders knew there must be a better way and by bypassing traditional channels and communicating with customers directly they were able to create high quality, fashionable products at a better price. But how are they remarkable? The message they have built behind each purchase. Warby Parker understands that without glasses people are unable to effectively learn, work, or go about their daily lives, so they set out to do something about it. In addition to stylish, accessible glasses, Warby’s Buy One Give One business model means for every pair of glasses the company sells, another pair is distributed to someone in need through non-profit organizations.

Model showing off Warby Parker frames
Close up shot of Warby Parker frames

Now let’s recap. What can make a business remarkable? Lemonade does it through their bright-colored young-looking brand, fast-paced enrollment, and charitable donations in a traditionally dull industry. Billie does is through their strong values, extremely low prices, and convenience. Warby Parker sets itself apart with creative logistics, low prices, strong message, and a charitable business model that makes the world a better place every single day. The beauty about being remarkable is that it can (and should) mean something different for every business out there. How can your business make a shift toward being remarkable?

Media sources: Lemonade | Billie | Warby Parker

Should You Set Up a Google My Business Page If You Don’t Have a Physical Address?

Should You Set Up a Google My Business Page If You Don’t Have a Physical Address? 1920 703 Shout Out Studio

Navigating your own business can be a difficult endeavor. There are many decisions to make surrounding which business services are right for you. While there are advantages to not having a physical address for your business, it can make registering for certain business services more difficult. Many of these helpful services require you to enter a physical business address. This includes Google My Business, which helps your business to become more visible on the most common search engine. It offers a lot of benefits for both you and your customers which makes it hard to want to ignore this service. Figuring out how to proceed is the question in this scenario.

Should You Use Google My Business?

In short, yes. Google My Business is an important service to set up for a growing business. It is a free service so there are no risks to setting it up for your company. If you want to reach a larger audience, you need to be highly visible on Google. The conveniences of Google My Business legitimize your business in the eyes of many consumers. Google My Business provides an all-in-one way to monitor and reply to customer reviews, add photos, accept bookings, share updates about your business, and gain insights on your target audience. It will also give a direct link to your site, direct call button to contact your business and a simple way to bookmark the site. This will simplify customer interaction and really improve your business if you are able to show consistent good customer service.

Determining Your “Service Area”

You do have to add an address on Google My Business. This can be your physical address or a virtual address if you have one. When setting up your Google My Business, click the box that says, “I deliver goods and services to my customers.” This will make a second box appear. “Hide my address (it’s not a store)” will make it so your address can’t be seen. Now you’re ready to set your service area. You can choose specific regions or set your service area to be within a certain radius of the location you entered. Depending on your location and the nature of your business, one may be more helpful than the other. Know your target audience to make sure they are clearly seeing you. If you’re unsure, start by setting a radius from your location and this will help you to fine tune who is most in need of your business services.

Google Reviews

Setting up Google My Business enables Google reviews on your business. This allows customers to rate and share experiences that they’ve had with your business. The customers can share photos in addition to details on their interactions with your business which really gives those considering your business a clear idea of what to expect. One of the best ways to encourage people to do business with you is for them to hear about the positive experiences that others have had with you and your business. In addition to reviews, customers can ask public questions about your business which will help them and future customers with similar inquiries.

Setting Up Ads

Google My Business helps with your advertising as well. As previously mentioned, this helps to increase your visibility on the Google search engine. However, this is also a useful step in setting up Google Ads if you choose. This improves your algorithms so that the people who are most interested are seeing you. Your business will be one of the first to appear when searching for someone within your industry. It will appear at the top of the search page with the sponsored results. This will increase website traffic and with the insights from Google My Business, you’ll be able to see the direct results you’re getting from these ads.

Now that you are familiar with the benefits and are armed with the knowledge of how to set up your Google My Business page without having a physical business address, it’s time for you to proceed and watch your business grow. Good luck on your entrepreneurial adventures!

If you’re looking for online marketing help, check out our services and see how we can help!

The Real Impact of Poor Digital Marketing on a Company’s Value

The Real Impact of Poor Digital Marketing on a Company’s Value 1900 720 Marsh Williams

Every morning I spend about an hour catching up on news and events. Most of this effort is business-related, and there are always a few “nuggets” I can use. Recently I found one… I read an article about downgrading for a company’s stock, partially due to its digital marketing.

“We see a recent slowdown in both Google trend search and Instagram engagement over the holiday quarter — most notably in December — as somewhat concerning for a stock that currently relies heavily on momentum and robust growth to keep their premium valuation justified.”

Let that sink in a minute. In January, Canada Goose was downgraded by analysts because of their digital marketing analytics from the preceding month. Wells Fargo lowered Goose’s price target from $80 to $68; that’s 15%, and they took an immediate hit in the market of over 10%. That translates to a loss in market capitalization of hundreds of millions of dollars. Partially over their digital marketing results.

Maybe I’m overreacting to this news, but the only time I’ve had a similar revelation was in 1985.

Digression—But Relevant Digression

My wife and I were both working for Warner Communications and involved in the launch of QUBE. Many things spun out from QUBE, including MTV, Nickelodeon, home shopping channels, travel channels, and Pay-Per-View television. At that time, there was still a little bit of uncertainty about how these entities would fare until one day when we were sitting in the car and heard “Money for Nothing” the first time. That was the moment we both knew MTV was going to be bigger than we had ever imagined.

I had the same realization this morning reading the article about Canada Goose. Maybe this has been going on a while, and I’m just ignorant of that fact, but this is the first time I’ve seen it in black and white. A company’s net worth diminished because of digital marketing analytics.

To bring this down to Earth… “so what and who cares, how does this affect me?”

Digital marketing is an essential part of any company’s revenue generation efforts: it matters, and we should all be paying attention. We’re in the business, so we do, but what do we measure and why.

Essential Digital Marketing Metrics Every CEO Should Care About

It’s’s easy to get caught up in likes, followers, and visitors, but in our opinion, forward movement every month is more critical, so here is what we measure for ourselves and our clients, month-over-month.

Website Analytics

Visitors: When we track this number, we remove “bounces” and only focus on traffic in the geographic areas in which we are interested. The resulting metric will give you a real picture of the visits that matter to your strategic growth.

Pages Per Visit: The average number of pages visited by each visitor in each session. By working on your content strategy, you should be able to increase this metric over time. It reflects how relevant your content is to visitors.

Length of Session: A simple metric showing how long visitors spend on your site for the average visit. Again this can be used to measure the effectiveness of content and how relevant it is to the audience you are attracting.

Conversion Rate: Whether it’s’s sales, getting people to register for an event, or fill out a contact form, track this number. Once you have established a baseline, work on improving it through different “Calls to Action,” improved copy, or page layouts.

Traffic Sources: There are a lot of possibilities here, but for executive summaries, we focus on four key areas or channels: Organic Search, Direct, Referral, and Social.

Social Media

First, not every organization should be on every platform. Choose the best platforms for your organization and use each one differently, but all in a coordinated effort. We focus on overall growth and engagement.

Growth is pretty apparent; how much is your audience increasing over time.

Engagement is the most critical factor for us. It directly measures how well your messaging is resonating with the audience. Engagement includes several factors, and they are a little different on each platform, but essentially it measures how well you are hitting the mark.

Original Article

what's your brand

What’s Your Brand?

What’s Your Brand? 1920 703 Marsh Williams

“Describe your brand.” It’s a simple request and one that we ask of every client.

Let’s start with one data point. Brand is more than a logo or a name; it’s the full representation of your company (tone, voice, look, values) and how it’s perceived out in the world.

So as companies grow how do they make sure everyone one understands and buys into the brand? Where is the stake in the ground against which you can measure any communication? Do you have one?

We work with companies of all sizes and stages; the first thing we want to know is what is the brand. We’re engaged to act and communicate on their behalf as part of their team so emulating their voice and tone is critical to the role they have asked us to fulfill. Being in lockstep with what the brand is and what it stands for drives everything. For companies that have a brand guide, that stake in the ground, it’s pretty easy. For those that don’t we lead them through an exercise we call Brand Clarity. It’s not a rebranding by any means, but it’s a useful way to gather the information to create the document a business can use as north on the compass and we can use to create more effective marketing communications.

Clarifying Questions

We start the process with some key questions. It’s always interesting because even though everyone generally has the same idea of their company’s brand, there are still nuances which need to be captured and discussed. These discussions are a great way to build understanding and consensus within the organization about the brand.

You don’t need us to do this you can do it yourself. Using Google forms or something similar create a simple online form and ask the primary stakeholders in the organization to respond; make it anonymous. Then compile the answers, share them with everyone and discuss the differences. Document the outcome and share it with everyone in the organization. Of course, a full brand book contains more than this, but that exercise a good starting point even for mature organizations.

Begin with these four fundamental questions and add others you deem valuable:

  1. Who is your audience?
  2. Name two or three brands that share a similar audience
  3. Why does your company exist?
  4. What makes your company unique?

We’ve never been through the brand clarity process without it precipitating excellent discussions about the value, voice, and tone of an organization. It’s a reliable process for getting everyone on the same page, and when done correctly the output can be an excellent onboarding tool for new staff at any level. The brand book says this is who we are; this is what we believe, this is how we treat everyone with whom we come in contact.

Moreover, if you want to take it to the next level, add information about your visual standards; colors, logos and proper use, fonts etc. There’s your stake in the ground. Something against which you can measure every communication to make sure is on point and consistent across the organization no matter who is telling the story.

You are What You Tweet - Social Media for Restaurants

You are What You Tweet

You are What You Tweet 1920 703 Shout Out Studio

Today, social media’s impact on restaurants is more significant than ever. Whether that impact is positive or negative depends on how a restaurant executes a social media strategy. If done right, social media can have massive marketing power at a minimal cost.

But just creating social media accounts and aimlessly pushing out self-promoting content is not enough. These basic social media marketing tips will help increase your restaurant’s reach and engagement and get more people in your door.

Know Your Audience

Before creating a social plan, you first have to define your restaurant’s audience. Age, gender, location, and interests are just a few of many qualities you may want to consider. Once you establish the audience, the next thing to do is determine on which platforms that audience is active. These platforms are where you’ll start.

Taco Bell, whose target market is 18-34 year-olds, knows that 71% of Snapchat users are between 18-34 years old. So, naturally, that’s where their social media efforts are focused. They post daily on Snapchat, and only about one or twice a week on Facebook and Twitter.

Once you know your audience and what platforms they’re on, the next step is speaking their language. Taco Bell does this by using phrases made popular by millennials and Generation Z like “it’s lit” and “extra.” But this can backfire if you’re not careful. Being genuine is key on social media. Avoid posting anything that seems unnatural to you because if it seems forced to you, it probably seems forced to your audience too.

Word of Mouth Marketing 

The restaurant industry has always relied heavily on word-of-mouth marketing. Organic word-of-mouth is when a friend goes to a restaurant and raves to you about how amazing their experience at that restaurant was. Next time you’re looking for a place to eat, you may consider this restaurant based on your friends’ recommendation.

Social media word-of-mouth is the same idea. Except instead of personal recommendations, people may look to tweets or Facebook reviews. In fact, 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

You can’t afford to ignore feedback on social media. If your restaurant receives a negative review, it’s crucial to respond as soon as possible by acknowledging the problem, apologizing, and offering an incentive to get them back in your door. This builds credibility and trust with that specific reviewer, and with everyone else who visits your review page.

Addressing positive feedback is also helpful. A customer that goes out of the way to share a good review is a customer you want to keep. Responding to their feedback is the cherry on top of their experience that can turn a one time reviewer into a lifetime brand advocate.

Share Valuable Content

Valuable content, whether it’s informative, engaging, or entertaining, gives customers an incentive to follow your restaurant and keeps them continually coming back for more.

You should share anything that may affect your audience’s ability to visit your restaurant, such as construction in the area, holiday hours, special events, and more. This kind of communication helps customers feel involved and ultimately can establish customer loyalty.

“Behind-the-scenes” content is also a valuable tool. This could include employee spotlights, a “sneak peek” at new menu items, and other back-of-house happenings. When you pull back the curtain, you’re creating a sense of inclusivity and developing an emotional connection with your customers. Having this kind of relationship with customers is invaluable to a restaurants success.

Encourage User-Generated Content (UGC)

With more than 260 million posts tagged #food on Instagram, food pictures are undoubtedly one of the most popular types of content on Instagram. There’s a good chance your customers are posting about your restaurant with or without your interaction.

To capitalize on these posts, many restaurants implement campaigns encouraging customers to use a hashtag unique to their restaurant. To further incentivize customers to share, restaurants often make it a competition, offering SWAG or gift cards to the most creative post.

Not only can user-generated posts take some content building responsibilities off your shoulders, but it also acts as a valuable endorsement, since consumers value peer opinions more so than a brand’s cleverly written sales pitch.

key components of a brand guide

Key Components of a Brand Guide

Key Components of a Brand Guide 1920 703 Nathaniel Seevers

A well-formed Brand Guide can act as a playbook for business decisions and marketing strategies. It’s a point of reference as to why the brand was started in the first place and a compass for maintaining your intended path. Keep in mind, when we say brand we’re talking about much more than the design components. More than just the looks. The brand guide should, as accurately as possible, describe the entire character of the brand – the promise, purpose, the walk, the talk as well as the look.

Putting together a full-fledged Brand Book 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. This part provides context for the reader and helps rally the team working on behald of the brand.

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 and 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. 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.

helping small businesses with digital marketing

What Small Business Can Learn from Big Brands in Digital Marketing

What Small Business Can Learn from Big Brands in Digital Marketing 1920 600 Shout Out Studio

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

By: Grant Smith & Kristian Jennes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

marketing qualified leads

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

Marketing Qualified Leads: What You Need to Know to be Successful 1920 703 Shout Out Studio

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

By: Ben Clodgo & Taylor Bleedorn

WHAT IS A MARKETING QUALIFIED LEAD?

Defining MQLs

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

Why MQLs Matter

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

HOW TO GET MARKETING QUALIFIED LEADS?

Techniques Employed

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

Lead Scoring

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

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

Implementation

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

Research who you want to target.

Score potential leads.

Act upon the information.

 

brands and politics

Brands & Politics: A Conversation Worth Having?

Brands & Politics: A Conversation Worth Having? 1920 703 Shout Out Studio

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

By: Daniel Kuperman & Sean Hynes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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