marketing

Blogger Outreach: Building Brand Buzz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: Mylla
modified by Shout Out Studio

Ways to Wrap Up the Year

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

Nathaniel Seevers

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

This year I’m asking myself these questions:

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

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

Luke Pierce

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

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

Gretchen Ardizzone

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

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

Marsh Williams

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

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

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

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

 

photo credit: allerleirau
modified by Shout Out Studio

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.”

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!

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

Money

Marketing Your Value

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“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” – Einstein

The technical term of value is the benefits a customer receives from buying your good or service. Here’s the hard part, folks: Value is in the eye of the beholder… so one person could hold your company value to a different standard than others. The question you should ask is who should value your value:

1. Yourself:

You have to establish a great value within yourself and what you do well. Without true value marketers can’t communicate benefits to the customer very well – at least, we hope not. A huge challenge to a marketer is to connect that true value to the customer.

2. Consumers:

One important thing to remember when you are marketing your value is to market with consumers – not to them. See the problem is marketers have to make sure that your consumer appreciates the value of your product/service. Marketers who understand that know that their company value will be more successful if they build relationships between the product/service and the consumer.

3. Competitors:

How do you go about creating a valued advantage over your competitors? Like we said, you first have to find the value in what you do really well. Second, you have to find value in what your competitors don’t have value in… say what?? Basically, you have to hold what you do to a standard that your consumers will acknowledge and therefore create brand equity in their minds – that is the value you hold over your competition.

Photo Credit: Unhindered by Talent

Finding Your Company Voice

Finding Your Company Voice

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Is It Hanks?

If you had to choose a public figure or celebrity who most represented the company you work for, who would it be? The team at Shout Out Studio once asked themselves this very same question.

As a new member of the team, I am still getting a feel for who we are and how we talk about ourselves as a company. During my first internal marketing meeting, I asked if there was a simple statement or question we could ask to make sure we’re staying true to our brand and consistent in our tone-of-voice. Someone suggested, “Who is our brand?” Immediately I heard them respond, “Tom Hanks.”

At first, I thought of it as foolish being of the same vein as middle school games such as M.A.S.H. and that fortune telling the game that uses a folded up piece of paper with numbers on the outside. However, the more they explained why Tom Hanks represented our brand, I found my perception of the exercise swaying towards relevancy.

Now, I wasn’t there for the original conversation, which I can only imagine consisted of intense debate about how Tom’s performance was better in Big than in A League of Their Own, or how the best movie of his career was hands down Saving Private Ryan rather than Forest Gump, but I know that they discerned two important characteristics of Mr. Hanks and the characters he plays; he is genuine and helpful.

For one reading this, these specific characteristics shouldn’t matter; rather it is the simplicity of the statement that is most important. The group narrowed it down to two specific characteristics, and like any good design, there is beauty in simplicity. Don’t get caught up in how silly the exercise feels or the subject matter. Focus on the simple direction and the insight it gives to the company’s brand identity.

Tom Hanks represents Shout Out Studio’s most valued characteristics of our brand voice, thus giving us one simple question to ask before we send a tweet, write a blog post or give advice to a client. Is it Hanks?

So, if you find yourself asking, how do we go about finding your company voice? You just might find this exercise will provide clarity and consistency to your brand and communications.

Photo credit: Howard Lake

Summer Company Bucket List image of sand buckets on the beach

How and Why to Make a Company Bucket List

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June is here and everyone is getting that summer itch. It’s the one where people would rather be out and about instead of in the office. It’s the same one that has everyone dreaming of that vacation to The Outer Banks they have coming up.

So, you have a pile of things you have to get done before you can get to the summer fun. What do you do? (I promise I’m not leading you to a cheesy infomercial)

Make a Summer Company Bucket List! For not only fun things but ridiculously productive things as well. 

Yes, you can do both. When everyone else is taking half days to hit the beach or golf course get creative with your productivity.

What are some things that you’ve wanted to do but keep putting off? DO THOSE THINGS. Schedule time to do it this summer. It doesn’t have to be something you are dreading to do, but if it is, make it into something fun by adding a change of scenery. Find a great coffee shop, restaurant or pub with a patio for instance. read more

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Your Business Doesn’t Belong to You

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Let me preface this post by saying that none of what we write here is to call anyone out or make anyone feel bad about their efforts online. If you think we don’t screw up you’re crazy.

The goal for us is to provide some guidance when we can so companies can get better and in turn, provide a better experience for their clients.

Thus the basis for this reminder.

A good friend of mine was telling me about a conversation he had the other day with the marketing manager at a respected business in his area. They were talking about everything online marketing and happened to stumbled over the topic of online reviews like Yelp and Google and so on. This friend of mine happened to ask how this business handled negative reviews online. The reply was to the effect that they ignore it because it doesn’t make sense to let people tell them how to run their business.

Here’s where the reminder comes in: read more

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Basics for Getting the Most from LinkedIn

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Building a Solid LinkedIn Foundation

Just because you have a presence on LinkedIn doesn’t mean it’s doing things for you. LinkedIn is considered the world’s largest audience of influential, affluent professionals in one place, and they are gaining one new member every two seconds. Use this almighty information to your advantage. Here are straightforward, but often overlooked, basics for getting the most from LinkedIn.

4 kick-ass things you should be doing on LinkedIn?

Share Information.

You find a cool new tool that helps your business and you keep it all to yourself. Well, that’s selfish. Share it! And don’t do that ultra-mega social media blast unless it is earth-shattering information. Pick what info you are going to share on which social network.

Why? Because each platform could mean a different type of audience for you. An awesome Ryan Gosling meme will be loved and shared on Facebook but on Linkedin, that’s not what your audience is looking for. And don’t just share your own articles, curate great info your connections and groups can use. read more

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Why Use Taglines When Branding

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

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

Why We Changed Our Website After 4 Months

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Back in September 2012, the team at Shout Out Studio schemed up a website for ourselves.

During the planning meeting, we threw out an idea that a load of content marketers probably dream of: “What if our site was first and foremost a space to share content?”

Rather than have a “typical marketing firm website,” we’d focus on making our website a go-to resource for our clients (and probably our competition too).

For this reason, our original homepage looked more like an online magazine than a business’ website:

An Attempt at a Marketing Resource Center

The Old ShoutOutStudio.com

Once that site had launched, we asked a lot of folks to give us feedback. One thing we heard was “It is kinda hard to find out more about your company.” This is exactly what we expected and – to be honest – what we wanted. We wanted the resources to shine and our company to be along for the ride. So we pushed forward… read more

Breaking Bad Marketing Habits

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The line between sales and marketing is now barely visible for companies approaching it correctly. For the rest lingering, out of date sales and marketing habits put their prospective clients at arm’s length and threaten nearly irreparable damage to the brand. Relationship building, though always important in business development, has been amplified by a shift to relationship marketing and from deceptive, quick turn, marketing practices.

Every day we see a number of companies using new technologies with old methodologies. From tactical to philosophical, here are 6 sales and marketing bad habits everyone should work to break. read more

target marketing

To Begin Target Marketing Get Laser Focused

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

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

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

read more

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