• In Defense of Power Naps: How A Pause In Activity Can Boost Marketing Performance

    Every day Americans attempt to cram more productivity into fewer hours. It usually occurs at the expense of efficiency. What appears to be “business” on the surface is usually nothing more than “busy-ness” at its core. Neither are alike in any way.

    Rather than taking a break for a much needed rest, or even getting up to stretch, most people keep pushing themselves and everyone around them to do more, more, more. We recommend taking a nap rather than overextending yourself. And while it may seem like a stretch to apply the benefits of napping to marketing performance, much can be gained from a short pause in activity.

    Wait. What?

    That’s right. Napping.

    Marketing performance is a difficult pursuit where the ground rules change and the goal posts move every day. To coin a phrase from Mr. Dooley, marketing ain’t bean-bag. It requires creativity, analysis, technical skills, constant maintenance, and even a fair bit of damage control.

    In the end, the credit for success usually lands in someone else’s lap – for example: the party animals in the Sales Department. However, blame for failure almost always comes back to marketing.

    In that regard, the fresh ideas you need to get ahead only come from fresh minds, which brings us back to napping.

    It’s no secret that Divining Point employs a unique model that gives us an edge. While we’re not a certified Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), we embrace many of its standards. To us, and for your benefit, we only focus on what matters most: marketing performance. What matters least is where we are, when we do it, how we do it, or why we do it the way we do. Ultimately, your goals are met. You succeed. We succeed.

    At Divining Point, we take naps. You should, too.

    The Benefits of Rest

    Much has been written about the relationship between sleep and achievement. It’s directly analogous to marketing performance in more ways than one.

    The National Sleep Foundation offers this key benefit of napping:

    “Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%.”

    You’re probably thinking: “Isn’t that just sleeping on the job?”

    No. It’s being ready for the job.

    If you consider that tiredness is a response to over activity and burnout is a complete crash, as an organism your business requires periods of quiet where you can refocus your efforts and avoid the negative effects of oversaturation.

    Putting this in marketing terms:

    Your marketing efforts not only deplete your company’s resources, they also strain your customers. Constantly shouting about your brand eventually turns people away. Pushing, pushing, PUSHING your buyers with the same message and the same methods forces them to run away and land in some other company’s arms.

    Think of It Like Flighting

    Flighting is a cyclical technique to advertise your brand. It involves running your ads, then turning them off, and then turning them back on with new value propositions.

    Recent theory suggests that flighting is bad for business, but we beg to differ. For seasonal businesses (like travel or apparel brands), flighting makes complete sense. It shifts the focus to those times when sales are more likely to occur. But for other industries, flighting – or a hiatus – can be just as beneficial.

    Take into consideration the negative effects of oversaturation, which is no doubt the result of continuous promotions and advertising. If you spread your marketing efforts too thinly over a longer period of time, you lose the ability to make an impact on the buyers you desire most.

    If you continue to bang the drum everywhere all the time your audience will tune you out and opt out of your ads. This is the equivalent of strapping a muzzle to your face.

    Similarly, if you don’t focus your efforts to target your specific buyers, and if you don’t tailor your message specifically for them, you waste money and resources on activities that will never yield an ROI.

    Do You Seriously Take Naps?

    Yes, we do. Our team works long hours when it makes sense. We also take naps when it makes sense. It all contributes to marketing performance.

    When looking at your marketing strategy, you can’t effectively be “ON” all the time without incurring some cost – literal or otherwise.

    New platforms, new techniques, new campaigns, new products, new seasons, new trends, new staff… these are the ever-shifting sands in the terrain. Staying engaged in the push is paramount. But strategic pauses are a restorative force that moves you faster and further than your worn out competition.

    Don’t deceive yourself into thinking this is a wholesale termination of marketing. That’s not good. Instead this is the agile refocusing, redirecting, and restructuring of your marketing campaigns in a way that provides relief for you and for your customer.

    The end result is a higher level of marketing performance.

    Need a full-service team to chart your marketing strategy? Contact us today. We’re here to help.

  • 6 Effective Tips for Visual Storytelling with Video

    Capturing the attention of your audience in the midst of today’s digital clutter is a challenging feat to beat. While video marketing is a strong medium to help increase exposure, there’s no better way to stand out than with visual storytelling.

    So what’s the difference?

    Visual storytelling is more than leveraging video and sound. Storytelling involves the bigger picture of what you’re trying to achieve by captivating emotion and bringing your product to life. It is more than just selling with video. It involves delivering an impactful emotional experience that resonates with the viewer long after the video has been watched.

    Here are 6 tips to help your visual storytelling make your business irresistible:

    Create a Structured Timeline

    As an elementary refresher, every story has a beginning, middle, and end. This same rule should apply to the structure of your video. Without an organized timeline, videos will feel incomplete, fruitless, and even confusing.

    The beginning of your story should introduce characters and set the scene by establishing scenarios and hint at the main idea. The middle of the video should include the action being taken to solve a certain problem, while events simultaneously build off one another. Revealing the outcome and unmasking a solution is the best way to conclude your video storytelling.

    While that sounds like a task for a motion picture screen writer, it’s not. Approach every storytelling project the same way you’d write a paper. Start by documenting the goal of the video, who it should speak to, and what the action should be. Continue with an outline that defines the individual steps (or scenes) in the video and define how the video should perform during each part of the composition. From there you can build out the entire piece.

    Lighting and Backdrops Matter

    There’s nothing worse than watching a low-quality video with distracting backgrounds. All too often, people attempt to use their mobile devices to create a video without controlling the lighting or surrounding scene. The result is an inferior video piece that fails to capture the full attention of the viewer.

    If your story takes place outdoors, be sure the weather conditions are ideal; if there are high winds, dark clouds, or rain, it’s best to reschedule. If you’re shooting indoors, consider investing in lighting equipment and use the three point lighting technique. Good lighting can take your video from looking amateurish to looking clean and professional.

    Also think about your backdrop before diving in. Backdrops can make or break a video, so be sure they’re not distracting or too busy. For example, if you’re interviewing someone, it’s safest to stick to a solid background with muted colors such as gray or dark blue. Don’t attempt to conduct an interview on a busy street unless you have the right sound and lighting to keep the focus on your subject.

    Strategically picking your background can save you a ton of time and make all the difference in the quality of your video.

    Simplicity is Best

    While shooting elaborate scenes with intricate dialogue may sound ideal, communicating a singular idea with a straightforward approach can often be more effective.

    Beautiful footage isn’t essential in video storytelling, especially for beginners. Focus on the product and people in your video rather than capturing irrelevant scenes. This can cause too much “noise” and distract viewers from your the problem you’re trying to solve.

    Additionally, don’t fill your entire video with dialogue. Sometimes fewer words have greater power. Try selecting the most meaningful and influential sound bites that efficiently deliver your message. Clean shots, good audio and powerful music can help tell the rest of the story.

    Be Human and Evoke Emotion

    One of the most crucial – and perhaps the most difficult – elements to visual storytelling is inducing emotion to assist in how to portray a powerful message

    Drawing out feelings of empathy will elicit feelings of trust and loyalty to your brand, so before shooting, ask yourself the following questions:

    • How does your message and brand impacts real lives?
    • What emotions are the customers faces with before being introduced to your product?
    • What emotions do you want them to feel when they find the solution?
    • How do you alter your customer’s skepticism and turn it into hopefulness and joy?

    These questions will establish a baseline to your story’s itinerary and keep viewers engaged and invested. Portraying a powerful message through emotion is essential. It makes a lasting impression, as opposed to simply conveying a marketing message.

    Become a Master Editor

    One of the best ways to enhance your video lies in the editing process. Be sure your cuts are clean and distinct. Don’t get too fancy with transitions. Focusing on lavish transitions may detract from the valuable points you are trying to get across. Additionally, try and pick music that matches the tone of the rest of the story to bring your product to vivid life.

    Determining the length of your video is also imperative. Based off over 564,000 video, Wistia determined the ideal length to be 2 minutes. They also found that engagement is steady up to 2 minutes, meaning a 90-second video will hold a someone’s attention as much as a 30-second one. Naturally, you have to consider where this video will be viewed. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook require shorter video lengths.

    Include a Call To Action

    Like other marketing assets, you’ll want to end your video by prompting your viewer to take action. If they’ve watched your video to the end, they’ve already demonstrated a clear interest. Providing a call to action – or CTA – will drive viewers to take an action. Ideally you’d drive the viewer to a designated landing page where they will provide their contact information, thereby turning them into a lead.

    Other CTA ideas can include inviting viewers to your social media pages, entering contests, free trials, webinars, short forms, or another video. Whatever the end goal is, this is your chance to gather further interest and transition them from a viewer to a customer.

    The exception here would be with a branding piece that revolves around a mood, an inspirational message, or personal story. In that case, your visual story is less about selling or promoting your product, but instead focuses on the value of your brand. The call to action is not overt. Instead, you’re hoping the viewer will have a visceral emotional response to your video that will then be positively associated with your brand. It’s less of a “call to action” and more of “call to emotion”.

    Need help with your video storytelling or other social media management? Contact us today to get started on all your social media needs.

     

  • 5 Marketing Methods to Help You Succeed In 2019

    It’s a given that the world of marketing moves fast. Every year brings new marketing methods to engage your buyers. 2019 is no exception. Adapting to the new ground rules each year can be dizzying.

    If you skim the search results for marketing trends in 2019 you’ll see that AI, virtual reality and chatbots are still all the rage. For three years (or more) we’ve heard about the benefits of these new technologies. We don’t deny the power of these new systems, but for most companies these are still inexplicable buzzwords that really don’t make sense for their business.

    Rather than promote bleeding edge programs that verge on science fiction, we present 5 marketing methods to help you succeed in 2019.

    Search Is Still Critical

    As we all know, every purchase starts with a need or a desire.

    Sometimes the urge to buy comes from an organic place: the buyer experiences a real world situation that compels them to find a solution for their needs.

    Other times, the demand for a product or service is generated through the artful use of advertising, which introduces the buyer to something they never knew existed.

    In both cases, the buyer starts the process with online research. That inevitably means they rely on a search engine to find information.

    There is nothing new about search. What’s new in 2019 is where people go to do it.

    It’s not enough to simply write blogs and optimize your site for search engine success. People now use Facebook and Twitter to explore new products. They browse through dozens of images on Pinterest and Instagram. They watch videos on YouTube. They even use voice search (“Hey Siri!”) or visual search to find more information about something they’re looking at directly in front of them.

    Is your company poised to capitalize when your buyer is in the mood to explore? The answer is probably no unless you’re engaging in a sophisticated SEO campaign and regularly pushing content across a wide array of platforms. Even so, many business fail to rank where it matters most.

    Our advice is to quit discounting the most fundamental behavior of buyer psychology. SEO, SEM, social media, and content marketing matter more now than ever before. Invest heavily in a multidimensional strategy that leads buyers to you.

    Expect Fragmentation

    For the last 5 years we witnessed a massive consolidation online. Facebook essentially demolished most of the early competitors in the social media world. Google not only dominated the search engine industry, they also lead the way with online video (YouTube) and digital advertising (formerly AdWords, now Google Ads). Amazon continues to break records for online shopping and now competes for music, entertainment and just about everything else.

    But something predictable happened in 2018. People changed how they consume online media. Thanks to the bitter presidential election in 2016, and as a result of privacy violations across the internet, more and more consumers are diversifying where they spend their time online.

    2019 will bring about more fragmentation in online behavior. People are doing more research on sites that cater to their niche interests. They’re opting in to email lists from companies they trust – while flagging as spam those companies they don’t. They consume considerable amounts of video online all over the internet. They read forums (remember those?) and participate on discussion sites like Reddit. Blogs, podcasts, alternative news sites, the list goes on and on. More profoundly, they’re spending less time on Facebook and Twitter, instead opting for Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Mastodon, Minds, Gab, MeWe, Vero, Signal and more.

    This isn’t to suggest that the Big Three (Facebook, Twitter, and Google) are going anywhere soon. But as personal data becomes a bigger issue for consumers, people will move towards platforms where they can engage with more like-minded users and ensure a modicum of privacy.

    What does that mean for you? Know your audience. Research where they spend their time online and develop a strategy for engaging them all along the way.

    Personalize Your Approach

    You should never send a single email to an entire database of customers. Similarly, you can’t expect a single ad to resonate with all of your buyers. If you speak to all of your customers in the same way you should expect to lose them over time. Buyers are unique. You need to treat them like it.

    Market segmentation is nothing new. Even list segmentation is old news. But are you actually using all of the available tools to speak directly to each individual buyer? Are you appealing to them as individuals and offering them messaging based on their behavior online?

    Remarketing methods, email marketing metrics, Facebook pixel, website behavior tracking… these are but a few of the tools that allow you to analyze the interests and preferences of your buyers. With a CRM and marketing automation platform, you can generate workflows to deliver personalized messages that leads your buyer through the funnel.

    Let’s take this even further for 2019. If you are not developing engaging, original content tailored to the personal preferences of your buyers, you will be missing out on the opportunity to turn customers into brand loyalists. Certainly, buyers buy products because they need them, but brand loyalists buy products because they want them… and they won’t even consider buying from another company. That competitive edge makes your life easier and increases sales.

    Original Engaging Content Means More Than Just A Blog

    Research suggests that the average person is exposed to over 10,000 marketing messages EVERY DAY. Is yours breaking through? We bet the answer is no.

    Everyday people scroll through their social media feed in a somewhat absent minded manner until something stands out. They’re busy. They want to be informed or entertained. They want to be amazed.

    How do you stop the scroll? Make your content awesome!

    If you haven’t taken content marketing seriously up to now, in 2019 you must invest in a strategy that captivates and intrigues your customers. We advise you to think beyond the blog.

    The most engaging forms of content are professional quality photography and video. People by nature are visually oriented. They stop and stare when something captures their attention. This is why billboards are still effective to this day, thousands of years after the first sign was hung for a business. It’s why TV still ranks as the most dominant media form. It’s why YouTube garners billions of users each month.

    We’ll take this even further. If you’re producing brand-related video and photos with a mobile phone it’s highly likely that you’re doing it wrong. Today’s consumers are smarter than that, and they have incredibly high standards for what passes as quality. A poorly lit photo or a sloppily produced video tarnishes your brand. If your product looks less than stellar how does that impact your buyer? It turns them off.

    Diversify Your Ad Strategy

    Earlier on we mentioned fragmentation in media consumption. It’s not that people are no longer using Facebook, Twitter, Google, et al. They’re just not spending as much time there. Much ado has been made about the limited organic reach you get these days on these platforms.

    The cost to reach a greater audience has skyrocketed. It’s a sign of bad times when up to a half of a company’s ad budget goes solely to one company. It’s even more frustrating when these vendors put excessive restrictions on not only WHAT you can advertise but HOW your ad must look.

    The rise in niche sites, independent social platforms, and even new search engines (hello Pinterest!) means there are many more places online to advertise your products. It’s time to explore your options. We’re here to tell you there is life outside of Google and Facebook.

    There are multiple private ad networks that reach industry-specific audiences and capture buyers of niche products. There are influencers and affiliates who can drive sales with a single tweet or shout out in a podcast. And let’s not forget the tried and true standards of the analog ad industry: billboards, radio, TV, magazines, direct mail, and special event sponsorships. All of these methods give you a powerful alternative for reaching your customers.

    Your Brand Still Matters

    At the end of the day you still need a brand. It doesn’t even need to be hip or cute – like so many startups that flood the market. With a strong sense of identity and a good understanding of your buyers, you can use the methods in this blog to reach even more buyers than you did in 2018. While it’s easy to get distracted by shiny new objects like AR/VR and AI, the fundamentals of marketing remain the same.

    What’s changed is the critical requirement to build a diverse strategy. You can’t win the game if you don’t show up to play. Buyers in 2019 will no longer give you a pass for a half-hearted attempt to win their attention. Your New Year resolution should be “Excellence in Marketing”. If you pursue it with intention, you’ll crush your sales goals and succeed while others crash and burn.

    Let Divining Point tackle your marketing strategy, implementation and management. For more information, visit our services page today!

     

  • Facebook Audience Targeting Changes: The Survival Guide

    If you’ve advertised on Facebook in recent years, you’ve seen major changes, through rapid increase—then abrupt declination—of targeting options. As advertisers, we’ve known all along that reaching people based on otherwise intimate details was standard practice on our side of the screen, but Facebook users felt differently.

    No matter if your monthly spend spans several thousands of dollars towards dozens of campaigns or you’re pushing out a few hundred dollars periodically throughout the month, no advertiser is exempt from the effects of the new Facebook audience targeting changes.

    So, what are these changes exactly?

    Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal earlier this year, Facebook started the process of eliminating all third-party targeting options provided by private marketing data companies. You’ve likely seen this warning message if you’ve tried to build new audiences lately:

    Here’s a quick overview of these companies and the data they provided that’s now being removed:

    1. Acxiom: demographics, financials, job role, purchase history
    2. Datalogix (Oracle): auto, purchase category history, demographics, retail purchase history, subscription services
    3. Epsilon: business type, occupation, financials, lifestyle and interests, purchase history

    When is this scheduled to happen?

    The transition began back in May, with additional phases rolling out every few months.

    As of October 1, all third-party data will be unavailable.

    There are still a few months before the final phase, but it’s best to start preparing for this shift as soon as possible. Existing audiences with third-party targeting will be deemed unusable, so now is the time to start rebuilding your audiences!

    Not sure where to start?

    Luckily, Facebook offers a selection of targeting tools outside of these third-party options to make advertising on their platform effective. You can still reach your ideal customer, it just requires creativity.

    1. Interest Targeting: Interest targeting has been a part of Facebook advertising since the beginning, and it’s not going anywhere. It may not be as specific as the third-party data you’re used to using, but it’s still a way to reach your desired customers. Choose common interests that may relate to your product or service, whether directly or indirectly.
      • Pro Tip: If you’re unsure what your customers are interested in, utilize other digital tools (think: Google Analytics) to gather some ideas.
    2. Demographic Targeting: If you know your customers consist of a specific gender, age range or location, use that information to your advantage and eliminate reaching those less likely to convert.
    3. Facebook Engagement: Those audience members who are always the first to like your posts are also likely going to recommend your business to their network, so use them to your advantage. Build an audience around the people who already engage with your business page.
      • Friends of Friends: It’s not surprising that people tend to associate with like-minded people—set your audience targeting to include friends of followers, and continue to build your brand’s network.
    4. Email Lists: If you’ve managed to collect email addresses from existing or potential customers, you can still upload them into Facebook for ad targeting. This method tends to work best for B2C clients, as the email addresses need to be associated with a Facebook profile. It’s as easy as downloading the email addresses and uploading them into your Asset Library. For many companies, this may still be the best bet for doing direct marketing using the Facebook platform.
    5. App Users: Does your business have an app for customer use? If so, you’ve got yourself an additional method of targeting. Choose options as broad as reaching anyone who has opened your app, to as specific as custom segmentation ranging from device type, action, demographic and more.
    6. Pixel Audiences (aka Remarketing): Reach anyone who has visited your website. If you don’t already have a Facebook Pixel coded into your website, there’s no better time than now to get one implemented. Target site visitors based on specific pages they’ve viewed, how much time they’ve spent on your site, and any combination of the two. Your pixel audiences are your most accurate targeting breakdown — you’re reaching the people who have already expressed an interest in your business; so you’re just keeping your brand top-of-mind.
    7. Lookalike Audiences: Once you’ve captured your website’s audience via the Facebook pixel, you can create a Lookalike audience based on commonalities between those audience members.

    Other opportunities to get the most from your Facebook ads

    Targeting is a key factor in your ads’ success, but it’s just the beginning. Here are a few other opportunities you can take to ensure your ads perform their best:

    1. A/B (and sometimes /C) Testing: The best way to know if your ad is performing optimally is to run it alongside one or two variants. Facebook offers A/B testing options when setting up your campaign, so experimenting is an easy way to find the best combination of content and creative for your ads.
    2. Automatic Bidding: As an advertiser or business owner, we don’t often find ourselves with the necessary downtime to make frequent, manual bidding adjustments on our ads. Automatic bidding eliminates the burden and makes the adjustments on our behalf to ensure the best performing ads are prioritized in ad rotation.
    3. Dynamic Ads: Facebook takes remarketing (remember that pixel?) to the next level with dynamic ads by showing your audiences the specific products they’ve recently viewed. With the use of a simple ad template and a catalog of your products saved to your Asset Library, you can keep your products top-of-mind.

    The loss of third-party targeting options makes advertising on Facebook more challenging, but we’re not without hope. By combining old and new targeting tactics, we’re able to find new and creative ways to reach our ideal customer.

    Still not sure how to survive the new wave of Facebook changes? We understand completely. Don’t hesitate to give us a call or contact us.

  • Print Marketing’s Not Dead

    Postcards, brochures, and any other kind of materials you hand out or leave behind are considered printed collateral. With the boom of digital marketing and social media, one might assume that printed marketing is dead, but we disagree and the statistics support our belief. According to data compiled by Vistaprint: consumers trust print ads 34% more than they trust search engine ads. Postcards have an average 4.25% response rate in comparison the 0.1% rate of cold emailing. And finally, the response to direct-mail marketing was 37% higher than email.

    If digital marketing was supposed to kill print, then what gives?

    Digital marketing is powered by fast, attention-grabbing, tactics to get as many eyeballs on your website as possible. With pop-up ads, overflowing email inboxes and 24/7 social media feeds, connecting with your audience requires that you cut through the noise. Printed collateral provides an opportunity to share your brand’s message, minus the potential interruption or distraction from other internet marketers.

    There’s no longer a need to carry heavy binders of sales sheets or product catalogs, but items like business cards and capability brochures are still just as important as ever. Think of print marketing not as a replacement for your digital marketing efforts, but as a complementary strategy to reach your audience via as many channels as possible. In one of our previous blogs, we mentioned that traditional advertising – billboards, TV ads, radio ads – were still thriving in a digital world, and the same holds true for print marketing. This is because your customers live in reality away from a digital screen. They still read printed magazines. They still check their mailbox and sort through direct mail. They still stop and look at eye-catching posters.

    Marketing Tech News wrote the following about print marketing:

    Print continues to have a place in the marketing mix – because it works. Four-fifths (79%) of consumers will act on direct mail immediately compared to only 45% who say they deal with email straightaway.

    Targeted directed mail boasts a 4.4% response rate, compared to email’s rate of 0.12%.

    That is why online brands like Airbnb launch print magazines to reach important stakeholders, print catalogs are on the rise, 10bn business cards are printed in the US each year and advertising print totaled $45.2bn globally in 2013. Growth averaging 4.5% per year is predicted to continue to 2024.

    The following items are popular printed collateral that we frequently recommend our clients utilize to connect with their buyers:

    Project cut sheets/portfolios

    Compilations of project cut sheets are an opportunity to share your company’s best work and to provide a snapshot of your expertise. Use one sheet per project and include details such as client name, industry type, applicable numbers (square feet, budget, etc) and any professional skills that set you apart from your competitors.

    Business cards

    Even in a digital age, business cards are shared and used as a tool for networking. Business cards can now be digitally printed and ordered online, which keeps their costs low and encourages generous sharing. The design of your business card will likely guide the recipient’s first impression of your company and brand, so keep that in mind when deciding what you print. Additionally, the paper stock and coating can also add a dynamic to the design; thicker, smoother, cards will be more pleasant to hold.

    Postcards

    Postcards are great for reaching a specific audience by geography or demographics. You can live miles away and still share your company’s capabilities. Keep in mind that a postcard doesn’t deliver a personal connection, thus the messaging should be equivalent to a cold lead. Postcards are best for grabbing attention and encouraging recipients to visit your website and learn more. When budgeting for postcards, you’ll also need to consider the need for UV coating (to stand up to weather) and postage stamps.

    Brochures

    If you’d like to share more information than can fit on a postcard, a brochure is a good option for providing a more complete picture of your business. Brochures are typically folded, either in half or into thirds, and include multiple panels of text or images. Since brochures are typically more expensive than postcards, they’re a better option for professional conferences or exhibit booths, where you’ll have a chance to establish a connection before handing over the collateral.

    Digital marketing isn’t going anywhere and deserves focus and budget within any company’s marketing plan. However, smart companies know that employing a comprehensive marketing strategy, with both digital and traditional, is the best way to reach your target audience across all channels and in their daily lives. Our toolbox of services includes both digital marketing and traditional marketing. We leverage decades of experience in design and advertising to help you decide on which types of printed collateral could best fit your needs. Give us a call and let’s see how we can fully capture your ideal buyer.

  • Why Service Companies Need to Invest in Branding

    Branding is more than just big words and fancy logos. It’s an investment in your company’s future. It is the first step in reassuring your customers that you will fulfill the promises you make. Your brand tells a story and defines how your clients will experience your company. That begins with the very first impression they form when seeing your logo and hearing your name, and it continues with every interaction they have with your company.

    Some people think branding is hokey. We get it. Many people underestimate the value of a reputable, authentic brand until they have one for themselves.  Your brand is your most valuable asset and remains constant as your company changes – team members come and go, clients come and go, you expand your service line, etc. As such, it is the foundation of your company.

    The only constant is change…and your brand.

    The best brands understand they can’t be everything to everybody. They define exactly what they’re offering and exactly who it will benefit. With such clarity, their messaging is laser-focused on their target market and they position themselves as leaders. A strong brand is not only authoritative, but also authentic, and this combo draws customers in to learn more. Even though your business may revolve around “handshakes” and relationships, your brand is the glue that makes your customers stick with you.

    To establish their authenticity, a brand must separate themselves from the competition by highlighting their “why.” In a market where competitors fight on price, poach talent or build knockoff products, a unique brand is a differentiator that keeps existing clients engaged and attracts future customers.

    Your brand tells a story.

    Here’s an example of engineering companies telling different stories with their brands:

    With Austin’s hot market, local architects and developers are teaming up with engineering firms to knock out projects fast. Let’s say an architect is designing a hotel and needs an engineering firm to help with the parking lot. He runs a Google search and clicks on a few of the organic search results. The first clicked link leads to the site for ABC Engineers.

    ABC: The ABC logo is a blocky, black-and-white, “ABC.” Their website isn’t that interesting either, with just one generic picture of a blueprint and an uninspiring promise of, “we provide innovative solutions for your projects.” The About Us page isn’t much better:

    ABC was founded in 2001 on the premise of providing excellent engineering and communication with our clients. We are a family-owned business and treat our clients like family. At ABC, we’re engineering the future.

    There’s no info on the types of projects ABC does, or where they practice. The architect isn’t wowed by ABC Engineers, so he clicks on another link for a company called Zeus Engineering.

    Zeus: The Zeus homepage loads a 3D-cartoon Greek-styled city rising up through shrouds of graphic clouds. An animated lightning flash strikes their logo onto the page and it’s a mythological Greek god wearing a hardhat and raising his fists with a lightning bolt in one palm and a ruler in the other. The architect visiting the site chuckles because the site is creative and original, unlike ABC Engineers.

    The architect clicks on a page called, “The Legend of Zeus,” and finds their brand promise and firm story: “We summon our Texas engineering powers to provide a hotel project quote within 3 days, phone call updates every 2 days and check-in emails EVERY day.”

    The architect reads on to find their story:

    In 2001, two young engineers by the names of Andy and Paul were working late at an ancient Austin engineering firm. Tired and hungry, Andy exclaimed, “Enough! We’ve been here for 10 hours today and we’re still behind. Clients keep calling and no one is happy. I want to build an engineering firm based on pro-active client communication – I’ll call them before they call me. Let’s use customer service to overthrow our competitors because we both know that communication is next to godliness.” And that was how Zeus Engineering was founded. Two nascent engineers determined to rewrite the process for client experience.

    Game over. The architect poked around on the Zeus site some more, reading client testimonials and watching aerial videos of their projects, but he was already sold. Their brand was confident and measurable. The focused messaging and unique website design demonstrated the signs of a company who works hard to get it right. Zeus is accountable and yet personable. A branding story well told.

    How you can learn from Zeus Engineering

    Your brand doesn’t have to be cute to get the job done. But it does need to speak clearly to the prospects you seek to convert into paying clients. To nail down your brand strategy, think about the following things.  

    People don’t buy things, they buy brands. A strong brand commands premium prices. Think about Harley Davidson and their household name. The company is, perhaps, the most well-known motorcycle manufacturer in the world, and that’s come from years of marketing that positions them as an industry leader for their consumer. They have a recognizable name that lets you know what to expect shelling out top dollar for one of their luxury motorcycles. The Harley Davidson name is more than just a product. It is a culture. It is an icon.

    Your story is built into your brand identity. Building your story into your brand is all about producing a cohesive message and identity that speaks volumes about your company. Colors, taglines, and typefaces evoke different feelings and contribute to how customers experience your brand before, during, and after the sale. As such, your brand lowers the hurdles to closing a sale. It keeps your clients bound to you, thereby making future sales easier. It positions you as the best in the industry – or the cheapest, or the oldest, or the most experienced, etc. Whatever your unique value, your brand will convey that message so you don’t have to do it yourself.

    Branding minimizes chaotic messaging, thus saving time and money on marketing. A defined brand will lead to marketing campaigns that are relevant to your customers. Instead of trying a mixed-bag approach until something sticks, your brand strategy ensures that all messaging reinforces your unique value proposition, and prevents any contradictory efforts. An example of a company with a strong brand focus is Whole Foods. They’ve narrowed down their target market to focus on customers who care about health, want to buy quality food and don’t mind spending a little more on groceries. Their messaging speaks to this audience and strengthens a brand promise of quality, not necessarily affordability. Whole Foods also uses social media and email marketing, because they know that their audience is more likely to research online, versus reading newspapers or clipping paper coupons.

    Brand strategy is an investment that should not be taken lightly or with a haphazard approach. Your brand is your first chance to tell your story and make an impression on future customers. Do it well and you’ll establish your firm as an industry leader. We’ve helped services companies, tech companies and more, and we’ve learned that the most profitable companies, no matter their size, have a single thing in common – a strong brand.

     

     

     

     

  • How To Decide Between Organic vs Paid Traffic

    Unlike the iconic movie Field of Dreams, no one comes to your website solely because you built it. With over 1.2 billion websites online as of March 2017, standing out among the crowd has become no mean feat.

    Whether you have a great idea for an online business or simply want to get your existing business on the web, you need visitors. You need them fast, and you need them the flow of visitors to be sustainable over the long haul term.

    It’s obvious that visitors are needed to generate sales and thus create revenue, but determining the best way to obtain these visitors is much less obvious. Given that the rich visitor data and analytics on your website is critical information for a company’s future decision-making, how do you decide which strategy to take with your digital marketing?

    Let’s start with the basics.

    Organic Traffic

    Organic traffic is any visitor that comes to your page without paid advertising. When people search for your site, or specific keywords, your site appears in a natural ranking in the search results. When a person clicks thru to your site they are ranked as organic traffic.

    Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing rank your website based on a variety of factors like content, coding, backlinks, and website architecture. These search engines consistently seek to provide search engine visitors with website results that are both trusted resources (for the searched keywords) and that provide quality content. Companies invest heavily to optimize their websites for better search ranking (Search Engine Optimization – SEO), because they know that over time organic traffic will increase and outperform paid traffic.

    Paid Traffic

    Paid traffic is any visitor that comes to your page as a result of a paid ad on a search engine or advertising network. This type of advertising is called “Pay Per Click”. Paid search ads include a call to action (CTA) and are ordinarily identified as advertising in the search rankings. When a person clicks thru to your site via an ad they are ranked as paid traffic.

    Paid ads are a fairly deliberate technique to get instant gratification. Your website is listed either at the top of the page or to the side based on the budget and keyword strategy you develop. Rather than working to establish backlinks or develop rich content, you can go directly to the top of the page – with the right budget.

    Breaking It Down

    Paid placement allows you to get visitors immediately and thus gives you the ability to quickly gain market share. For a company that needs to demonstrate sales right away, a paid campaign will do that. You can control your sales volume despite your organic ranking. However, it also ends the moment you run out of cash, which can result in start/stop interruptions that affect nearly every part of your business.

    If an SEO strategy is in your future (or now!), paid placement gives you essential data on keywords and visitors to devise your SEO strategy. Only 20% of searches result in an ad click, so your market share with organic search will outpace paid ads over time. But the paid placements give you quick, reliable insight into which terms should be included in your search engine optimization.

    Organic traffic will outperform paid placement in the long run for nearly every measurable statistic. Organic also outperforms paid for other important measurements like overall percentage of traffic, quality of traffic/visitors, and ROI. Organic will have higher costs and longer timeline to reach your first sale, but those costs will go down over time thereby allowing you to pull back on your paid ad efforts – or eliminate it entirely if it’s not needed for market share or testing new areas to expand your SEO.

    The only way to effectively determine your SEO strategy is to know which keywords are being searched for and which ones offer the highest conversion rates. With this information, calculating your costs and strategy are as simple as conducting a professional evaluation of the competition, determining what it will take to compete with them, and what costs will be associated with reaching that level.

    This is why you should always be wary of any company that offers tiered SEO packages with a “one size fits all” approach. Since SEO strategy is exclusively tailored to your industry and your company, “Bronze, Gold, and Platinum” packages are highly dubious terms that offer almost no insight into how your website will perform six months to a year down the road. Don’t be deceived.

    So which is better: Organic or Paid?

    The answer largely depends on your goals.

    Want to generate immediate traffic? Use paid ads.

    Want to outperform your competition in organic search engine ranking? Invest in a long term SEO strategy for organic traffic.

    Want to quickly earn market share? Paid.

    Want to taper off of Paid ads? Invest in SEO.

    Want to figure out which SEO strategy will give you the best ROI? Test the market with paid ads.

    Were we to counsel you on a comprehensive plan that promptly builds website traffic and keeps it long term, we’d tell you to start with both. Invest in a paid ad strategy to get quick results for immediate sales and market share while also investing in SEO to give your website staying power in organic rankings. Over time you can pull back on paid ads (or not) while still benefitting from a steady flow of visitors reaching your site through organic search results.

     

    Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.

  • Branding Is More Than Just Pictures And Words

    If you own a business or have built a company from the ground up you’ve been told you need a logo and messaging. After that came a color palette, typeface, a slogan, a style guide, and more, and more, and more. It’s dizzying.

    You’ve been told that your brand should make an indelible mark in the minds of your customers and speak to them on an intimate level. Your brand is the personality, identity, and voice of your company. It conveys the values and perceived benefits of your products and services. When done correctly your brand will build a bond with a customer that produces long-term loyalty.

    Sounds really exciting, right? Maybe not. Unless you have a background in psychology and human behavior, which we do, this probably sounds like psychobabble.

    Most business owners are so intensely focused on operations, delivery, and customer service they have no time to dig into the “touchy feely” world of branding. They know they want a logo. They may even have an idea about company values. But for many business owners, brand identity and strategy seems like a difficult task without a clear, immediate ROI.

    Frankly, that’s true.

    Your Brand Is Everywhere

    An investment in branding doesn’t translate to revenue the way that, perhaps, two additional delivery trucks do. It doesn’t bring in new sales opportunities like an outside sales team or automated lead generation. It doesn’t process orders, it doesn’t make widgets, and it doesn’t answer customer service calls.

    Instead, branding is the first impression your business makes when a customer discovers your products or services. It’s also the second impression, the third impression, and the fourth, and so on in perpetuity. Every time your customer engages your product your brand makes an impact. Every phone call, every visit to your website, and every packaged good conveys your company’s value to the client.

    Branding builds the trust your client feels when they see your product on the shelf versus your competitors’.

    Branding is the difference between printed brochures that actually engage the customer versus ones that gets tossed in the trash.

    Instead of seeing a mysterious white van outside of a customer’s house, they see a professional service vehicle with your brand on it and suddenly feel at ease.

    The customer’s decision-making process begins with your brand. For companies that don’t invest wisely, it’s also your brand that pushes customers away.

    Branding Is Insurance

    In essence, branding is a tactical method to reach and retain customers. Think of it as a sophisticated net that keeps the customer engaged. Your company’s brand identity, messaging, and underlying strategy have as much of an effect on keeping customers as it does on why, when, and how they buy.

    Your brand also affects employees and company stakeholders on a deep emotional level. Your company’s mission and values should permeate throughout the organization as much as it radiates away from it. As executors of the company’s service, your brand must motivate and resonate with your employees. It is the glue that binds them together as well as to your company and to the customer. History is full of legendary companies whose brands lost their soul and in turn lost their employees. Equally, there are companies who changed the world by staying true to their brand.

    Our advice is to think beyond the logo and the slogan. Don’t get hung up on the cost. The cost of developing your brand is relative to the magnitude of the losses from getting it wrong. The risk of losing your customers to a swift competitor should be reason alone to invest wisely. If your brand could sink the ship why would you try to cut corners? It’s also your brand that keeps it afloat.

     

    Want to move your business forward?[nbsp_tc]Let’s talk.

  • In Defense of Advertising

    How many times have you heard “Advertising is dead”?

    If you own a business or have spent any time in the tech industry, probably hundreds of times over the last 10, maybe 20 years. And yet, here we are.

    The prognosticators predicting the doom of traditional advertising have been both right and wrong. Yes, traditional advertising has certainly fallen on hard times, and the overall digital media spend continues to grow every year. However, no, traditional advertising has not disappeared. In fact, combined traditional advertising spending continues to be substantially larger than combined digital advertising.

    TV still exists. Every year traditional cable hemorrhages paid subscribers while streaming continues to grow – even on a traditional TV set and in some cases with local and regional ads.

    Radio still exists. Every year terrestrial radio stations continue to lose listeners, but not nearly at the rate that loyal listeners continue to tune in. And while streaming content, like Pandora, continues to grow among younger listeners, this behavior drops off as driving habits increase. More people still listen to the radio in their cars.[nbsp_tc]

    With exception of a small amount of cities, billboards continue to stand as strong as ever. Population growth and aging highways help outdoor advertising make its case. A captive audience and astronomical traffic counts still make billboards one of the most powerful tools for mass marketing and branding.

    Think print is dead? Perhaps for newspapers, but print magazines continue to thrive even in the face of declining print revenues. The model has changed and the media has evolved, but regional, local, and niche magazines continue to keep readers.

    The key is evolution.

    Let’s look at those relics of the advertising world that failed to evolve:

    Yellow page directory… if not dead, then certainly in its last throes. Internet search demolished the industry. What used to be a massive paper block of ads and phone numbers has now been reduced to a smaller, slimmer version of itself not even suitable as a booster chair or doorstop.

    Newspapers… the print newspaper is a dinosaur headed for certain extinction. Ad sales have grown primarily online for many of the major legacy newspapers (think: New York Times), whereas smaller newspapers continue to see revenue shrink both online and in print. Consumers today just don’t read the news the same way they did 30 years ago.

    So how is it that traditional advertising continues to survive while digital advertising evolves and devours more of the annual ad spend?

    The answer is simple: consumers live in reality.

    Reality is filled with multiple forms of media broadcasting thousands of messages every day. Until the time comes when consumer noses are glued to their phones all day, life outside of the Internet will continue to make an impression.

    A hypothetical day for your buyer may unfold like this:

    Your buyer checks social media and email first thing when he wakes up. If he has kids, chances are he doesn’t have much time for surfing the web during breakfast. More likely he has a TV or radio on. He hops in the car, drives the kids to school, and then gets stuck in traffic during his morning commute. The radio is on, and he drives past 40 billboards and three buses with ad placards. Once he arrives at work, he sees two copies of a print newspaper in the break room as he makes his coffee and eats complimentary donuts.

    Before getting too deep into work, your buyer opens social media again, visits multiple news sites (blogs, online news organizations, maybe even the local TV station’s site), and is treated to videos and display ads. He gets countless spam emails that morning and discovers promotional pens in the copy room that were left behind by the insurance rep. Someone hung a poster for Girl Scout Cookies next to the water cooler.

    While running errands during lunch your buyer listens to the radio, drives past 20 billboards, gets stuck behind a bus with a gigantic ad wrap, walks past a kiosk, sees ads on the gas pump, and notices flyers for discounts at the store. A man outside of the store hands him a branded koozie and a flyer. He marvels at the Budweiser wallscape two blocks from the corner store. Upon returning from lunch your buyer repeats the same online media consumption of blogs, news, videos, and email. His phone nearly died, so he took a magazine into the bathroom.[nbsp_tc]

    Once the end of the day rolls around, your buyer spends a solid hour coasting through the afternoon watching YouTube, reading social media, and listening to Pandora with his headphones on. Back in the car, drive time radio, 40 more billboards, four taxis with placards, and another bus with an ad wrap. That night he checks the mail, from which he saves his favorite magazine, a catalog for an outdoor sports shop, and a handful of coupon mailers for his wife. When 8pm rolls around, he divides his attention between the TV, his phone, his new magazine, and the catalog. Just before bedtime, he checks email and social media again.

    Were you counting the traditional advertising versus the digital advertising?

    Guess what, neither was your buyer.

     

    Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.

  • The Missing Ingredient In Sales and Marketing

    Prior to a decade ago, impersonal advertising ruled the world.

    At the time, wizards of promotion reached massive audiences to tout brand authority or product reliability as the key benefits for the buyer. With a relatively captive audience, marketers achieved tremendous success using well-produced advertising to generate demand for their goods. Then came the fragmentation of the market, and nothing has been quite the same since.

    As a proponent of Advertising, I’m happy to say that broad messaging still delivers results when executed with the right strategy on the right mediums at the right time. Expansive campaigns still move the needle very quickly. Otherwise, major brands wouldn’t invest their money in general market advertising.

    The same can be said for Sales.

    A massive outreach campaign using cold calling, promotional events, and outside sales teams can quickly increase revenue when executed correctly and for the right reasons. That’s why telemarketing and door-to-door sales still exist today.

    Given the above information, it will seem odd to hear us recommend that you should think twice (or three times) before taking a “one size fits all” approach to your sales and marketing. Whereas cold techniques can still generate measurable results, they also fail to produce a long-lasting, loyal connection to the buyer. They lack warmth. They lack empathy.

    Empathy is the biggest missing ingredient of most Sales & Marketing campaigns.

    Empathy is defined as:

    “Understanding and being sensitive to the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another person.”

    In a marketing context, lack of empathy manifests itself in campaigns that manipulate the buyer using misleading information, assumptions, and crass persuasion.

    “9 Out of 10 Doctors Recommend…”

    “Best Pizza in Town”

    “Money-back guarantee!”

    Without truth in advertising or any oversight, companies can say just about anything without immediate recourse. As a result, today’s buyers are shrewd and highly cynical of the classic push model of advertising that employs catchy slogans and a litany of broad benefits. They want to be understood, spoken to directly, and (dare I say it) informed and entertained.

    For a good example of a company that understands empathy in marketing see Chubbies shorts.

    While Chubbies’ marketing still features a list of qualities one might expect from their products, the models aren’t showing off six-pack abs in exotic locations that are financially out of reach for their target buyer.[nbsp_tc] As the name implies, Chubbies models are just as likely to have a beer gut or dad-bod as they would a fit and trim physique. Chubbies understands that everybody is different, but everyone needs comfortable and durable shorts when it’s hot outside. Warmth. Empathy.

    Let’s apply this to Sales.

    How often have you received a phone call from a stranger asking you to buy something you either didn’t know about or don’t really need? How frequently did you buy from that person? We bet it’s far less than 10%… maybe even 1%. Those are still good numbers for companies who live and die on sales volume, but selling a widget over the phone for less than $100 requires a completely different sales process than selling someone $100,000 worth of intangible services.

    As with everything, the need to cold call or use telemarketing largely depends on your product, your goal, and the needs of your buyer.

    Start by empathizing with your buyer. Who are they? What do they want? What do they need? What value does your product provide? How does your brand connect with them? How does your sales team bond with the buyer to build trust? How is your product priced relative to the needs, values, benefits, and competition? If your buyer doesn’t feel compelled by your offering, it’s going to be a tough sale. And when the sale is done, will your buyer stay loyal?

    A good example of a company that uses empathy in sales is Sparefoot.

    Self-storage is a purely transactional purchase determined by some basic criteria, like price and proximity to the buyer. Sparefoot understands that researching self-storage options is a huge hassle. More importantly, they know that people who rent storage are either moving, running out of space in the home, or in some kind of emergency to store personal and professional belongings. Their first step is to recognize the emotional state of the buyer and guide them to rent the storage unit that meets their most urgent needs. Warmth. Empathy.

    What happens when a company ignores empathy in their sales and marketing strategies?

    The first sign of problems usually occurs in response to advertising or online media. You may have a problem with messaging and content if your brand isn’t attracting bees to the garden. It’s also possible you’ve selected a media mix or program schedule that doesn’t reach your audience at all. You may be missing the mark entirely. These are easy mistakes to make if you don’t understand your buyer.

    Beyond that, lack of empathy typically results in slower sales, shorter engagements, or, even worse, disloyal customers. As soon as another company comes along that connects with your customer you’ll see sales start to drop.

    Think it can’t happen to your company? See what happened when Coca-Cola rolled out New Coke in 1985. The company thought their consumers demanded a sweeter cola like Pepsi, so they attempted to regain market share by changing their core formula. The result was disastrous. They cut off their most loyal customers who were emotionally connected to Coke’s classic taste and style.

    You may think your product is transactional or too technical for all the touchy-feely science of Empathy, but when buyers are faced with so many cold options you can bet they will gravitate to warmth. Build a fire, friends!

     

    Want to move your business forward? Let’s talk.