Promises to Keep

In his classic poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” Robert Frost speaks of taking a moment to watch the snow collect on the trees along a dark lane, presumably on his way to somewhere important. He closes with these lines:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

As business professionals, we all struggle at times with similar feelings, conflicts, and doubts. We may want to stop for a moment in the middle of a busy day to enjoy a mental break, but in the back of our minds (or even the front sometimes), we can’t shake the nagging sense that we should be focusing instead on the work that lies ahead.

Like the narrator in Frost’s poem, we, too, have promises we must keep — commitments we’ve made to customers, vendors, employees, colleagues, family members, and friends. That can often mean long days, sleepless nights, and not a lot of extra time to watch snow falling on trees.

In our drive to stay ahead, we often miss the forest entirely — distracted by the hundreds of tiny details that make up our days.

That’s not to say our promises aren’t important. Quite the contrary. In business, our word is what ultimately matters most to our customers, shareholders, vendors, and employees. Failing to keep our commitments can have dire consequences for our companies and our reputations.

But there’s also something to be said for taking the time to stop and look around. A small mental break might help to spark a bold new thought or rekindle a flame burnt out by trying to get too much done in far too little time.

Such moments are important to our own well-being and to the health of our companies. They can’t come at the expense of getting things done, but they should come more frequently than many of us allow.

So as you go about managing your business, take some time to notice the little things around you. Like the fall of snow on the trees that line the path that wanders through your day.

Why Authenticity is the Key to Growing Your Business

When it comes to content marketing, you can try all the advertising, promotional, and PR ploys, but authenticity remains key. What is authenticity, you might ask? Simply stated, it means staying true to your business values: who you are, who you serve, and what you do. It may sound like a no-brainer, but very few companies are able to withstand internal pressures or external turbulence without losing their authenticity, according to a recent study.

How to apply authenticity
It all starts from the top, so set a vision that your company’s personnel understand, embrace, and can implement. Then ensure that your “authenticity” motto aligns with your business goals, so you can clearly demonstrate to stakeholders such as investors and lenders that you have a growth strategy in place. Here’s how to do that:

Be real
Sounds easy, right? But you’d be surprised how many companies lose their operational soul, delve into every sector deemed profitable, or adopt strategies that are counter to their mission. Define what your business does — its mission and vision — and stick to those core values.

Be charitable
Ever heard of something called “corporate social responsibility”? Well, CSR is one way an organization can give back to society-at-large and the communities in which it does business. Consumers love that, and it’s a win-win for both the company and the aid recipients.

Be consistent
Don’t give mixed messages that might lead to mistrust and confusion, both of which could make you lose customers down the road. Stay close to your values, mission, and vision as much as possible. For example, Apple’s tagline is “Think different.” All of the company’s products and services somewhat match that slogan.

Back up what you say
To build trust and customer loyalty, your word must be credible. If you want to establish a solid reputation, make sure your company delivers on its operational commitments. For example, if “Maintain customer satisfaction 24/7” is your tagline, prove it to patrons in the way your handle things like complaints, merchandise delivery, and service quality.

Be responsive
The last thing you want is bad press, so don’t let word-of-mouth tarnish the reputation you’ve spent years, if not decades, building and growing. Be quick in handling customer inquiries as well as questions from any other relevant party. Think regulators, business partners, activists, and consumer groups.

Respect privacy
Build solid privacy practices in the way your company operates, especially when it comes to archiving online data. In this age, everything business-related is kept on the “cloud,” so make sure your cloud provider has implemented effective policies to safeguard your company’s data, as well as your customers’ private information.

Cultivate your client base
To grow your business, you must cultivate your clientele. These include your existing and past customers, along with a mishmash of interested parties ranging from prospects to social media followers. It’s important to cultivate fans because, while some may be unable to buy your product or service today, they definitely will in the future. Plus, they’ll encourage their friends to do the same.

Polish your reputation
Don’t spare any opportunity to polish your reputation, establish authority in your industry, or seize on a good PR occasion. Being authentic also means burnishing that authenticity every now and then, so everyone will take notice, including your competitors.

Times They are a Changin’

If your business is planning to rebrand itself (whether through a name change, a new logo, a business merger, or some other means), remember the name and/or logo is not the only thing that changes. Rebranding can be a large-scale operation that involves effort from multiple departments. While your to-do list may seem endless, here are a few of the top items to consider to ensure your rebranding process runs smoothly:

  • Create a list of all printed collateral that needs to be updated (such as letterhead, envelopes, business cards, flyers, brochures, labels, forms, notepads, and packaging). Give us a call anytime if you have questions about turnaround times, company colors, logo changes, quantity purchase discounts, or anything else related to your printing needs.
  • Update your trade show booth, banners, posters, giveaways, company pens, name-tags, and other trade show related materials.
  • Keep customers in the loop by mailing “we’re changing our name” postcards, including a blurb in your newsletter, and providing social media mentions (among other things).
  • Update employee bios. Add your new name to each employee’s company bio to show the transition. For example, “Mark Davis has worked at XYZ Company since it was founded in 1989, when it was called ABC Company.”
  • Change your name and logo on invoices, accounting templates, quote preparation software, and other types of reporting software.
  • If you’re considering a web domain name change, make sure the new domain name is available before switching, and then set up your old web address to forward automatically to your new website to ensure a smooth transition.
  • Update email addresses and consider using an auto-responder to remind people to update their email address books. Also update email signatures and inform readers your address will be changing so they can update their spam blockers — especially if you send email newsletters.
  • Ensure your phone service provider has the correct company name, so it shows up correctly on caller ID.
  • Inform all professional organizations, business groups, subscription services, and other interested parties of your name change.
  • Update on-hold marketing messages and voice mail messages. Consider using both names with a greeting such as: “Thanks for calling XYZ Company, formerly known as ABC Company.”

We know that rebranding can be a daunting task, but you don’t need to go it alone. Our team of printing professionals can help you every step of the way. When it comes to updating your print collateral, we’re here to help, from developing creative new ideas to carrying the finished products to your document storage area. Give us a call today.

Your Competition Wants Your Customers

Competition is a part of business life. Some would argue that competition forces businesses to strive to get better at what they do for the fear of losing customers to rivals. Losing a few customers periodically is inevitable. However, losing too many (especially your best customers) must be avoided at all costs.

For most businesses, the top 20% of their customers account for 80% (or more) of their profits. While much thought and strategy typically go into bringing in new customers, not enough is spent on retaining existing customers. That’s where the real gold lies.

It may be a little uncomfortable to think that some of your best customers might be looking at making a change, but it’s something you must consider if you want to avoid having it become a reality. Everyone talks about taking care of their customers, but in many instances that’s a phrase not truly backed up with action. To build a fence around your customers and keep them far away from the prying arms of your competitors, you mus truly care, protect, and guide them.

Gather customer feedback on an ongoing basis.

Most businesses put a lot of hard work into getting a new customer. But after they become a customer, little effort is put into nurturing that relationship. A customer should never be taken for granted.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day operation of your business and lose touch with what’s happening outside your doors in the marketplace. Phone calls and emails to customers can be a great way to communicate and stay connected. But to do it on a large scale can be unrealistic. Informative company newsletters and surveys can help keep your customers up-to-date and give them a way to express their needs and concerns. These efforts can provide an early warning system to catch a customer jumping ship before it happens.

Tell them what you do.

Your competitors will do anything to steal your customers, including promising the moon. You know that some of these are false claims or teasers to get their foot in the door. Some of your customers may not know that. Your job is not only to provide a great product and service but also to continually remind customers about the value you provide that your competitors can’t match. If you don’t tell them, no one else will either.

Informing your customers through educational marketing content is a powerful way to keep them engaged while differentiating your company as one that truly cares about their success (not just your own).

Where are the weaknesses?

To help plug the holes in your business, start thinking about things from your competitors’ point of view. After all, they’re always looking for any weaknesses they can exploit, so you should, too. That way, you can shore up your weak spots before they get out of hand and, in the process, strengthen your position in the marketplace.

To discover your weaknesses, talk with your customers. Ask them about the areas you could improve. Stay up-to-date with industry trends that could create a possible gap in your defenses, too. You can’t buy every bit of technology as soon as it hits the market, but you can stay informed so you can address concerns with your customers when they arise. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. Be proactive in your customer communication.

“There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” ~ Sam Walton, Wal-Mart

Customer retention starts with providing great service and value. Getting to the top is hard work, but staying there requires just as much effort. Being aware of the competition while shoring up the weak areas in your business can go a long way in helping keep your customers coming back.

Monopolies and the lack of competition aren’t in anyone’s best interest. Keeping your best customers satisfied is. Use competition as a motivating factor to continually improve your services. Communicating with and showing appreciation for your customers will give you an invisible force field to keep the competition out of your backyard.

How to Produce Stellar Ad Copy in the Post-PC Era

These days, the Internet has asserted its ubiquity on everything from social media and e-commerce to the way consumers communicate and get information. That said, printing and paper-based marketing are still strong — and that’s not about to change anytime soon. In this context, it’s either you adapt your ad copy to a mix of printing and digital or see your business fall by the wayside.

We don’t want that last part, do we?

Here are a few key items to consider as you gradually reshuffle your mixture of print and electronic copy.

Understand the cross-device reality
The first thing to understand is the notion of “cross-device” reality. That means your ad content must be accessible and sharable across devices as diverse as personal computers, tablets, smartphones, and notebooks, as well as on the printed page. For example, if you produce a sales letter you plan to mail and make accessible online, make sure you also make it readable on mobile devices. Specialists call this “responsive design,” meaning you optimize your content to be viewable on all types of devices.

Don’t forget shrink-proof paragraphs
Create shorter paragraphs to prevent the shrinkage that typically happens when you move from one browser to another or from a desktop to a smartphone or tablet. Believe it or not, a six or seven line paragraph on a desktop computer might appear fuzzy on a handheld device, turning it into an unreadable chunk that could only confuse and exacerbate your prospects and customers. So make your paragraphs concise and straight to the point. Ideally, you’ll want to limit yourself to around 250-400 characters. If possible, you can even adopt the “Twitter rule” and make the paragraph less than or equal to 140 characters.

Speak to the device
Marketers always say it’s all about content, content, content. It may be time to start thinking device, device, device. But remember that good old paper-based copy doesn’t come with device-compatibility constraints. That’s one reason experts continue to recommend non-electronic promotion as an added tactic. For electronic messaging, though, it’s imperative to consider your audience and the various devices they use to access it.

For example, someone checking your ad copy on a smartphone could be at a party or on their way home. Conversely, promotional content you send via desktop email will be read by consumers at work, home, school, and so forth. You get the point. The reader can’t be on the go with their PC. The issue of device compatibility is so important that even Google has spoken about it. The bottom line: adapt your ad copy to your target audience, their preferences, and the devices on which they’re more likely to read your ad copy.

Love modularity
Make your ad copy modular. You won’t regret it. Modular text is content that is not clearly stated in the initial ad copy, but that unfolds when the user shows interest in it or explores it. For example, say you run a fashion e-commerce portal and are running a campaign offering discounts on shoes. You can place modular content next to the footwear, so shoppers interested in, say, matching pants and shirts can buy these items as well.

Heed the power of structure
Structure is very important when it comes to producing stellar ad copy. The buzzword in the industry is content choreography, meaning the way you embed things like text, audio, video, and infographics into your content. You can structure your ad content the way you want, but make sure you keep three key things in mind: a clear description of your product or service; benefits or added value; and a call to action.

Is Guerrilla Marketing Dead?

You may think guerrilla marketing is dead, but really it’s evolved with the times. If you haven’t done the same, then you need to take a leap forward to get the most impact from your marketing dollars.

What is Guerrilla Marketing?
Jay Conrad Levinson coined the term guerrilla marketing in 1984

with the release of his book, Guerrilla Advertising. In military terms, guerrilla refers to an unconventional form of warfare used by armed civilians, often against a force with superior numbers and weaponry. It relies on surprise, sabotage, and the ability to hide among a crowd. Guerrilla marketing is a take on advertising that uses similar tactics to gain attention.

The primary advantage of guerrilla marketing is its ability to increase a marketer’s impact using less costly resources than traditional advertising. It relies on high energy, imagination, and ingenuity. The idea is to take your customers by surprise, make a lasting impression, and create the kind of buzz that gets people talking.

The following two examples will help you wrap your mind around this strategy:

1) A new, locally based beverage company posted creative flyers on light poles and other public structures all around town. These flyers looked more like graffiti than advertising. Nobody even knew what it was all about, but the images stayed in their minds. After approximately three months of bombarding the public with these images, a billboard was displayed which used the same images, but also identified the company and the product. A brand was created before anyone knew what the brand was for. This is guerrilla marketing.

2) Compare this to a strategy used by a national research organization. They created billboards and took out full-page magazine ads that compared a neurological disorder with child abduction. These fundraising advertisements included the organization’s name and contact information. The shock factor backfired and complainants formed organized protests. This isn’t guerrilla marketing. It’s simply disrespectful and in poor taste. There is a difference.

How Has Guerrilla Marketing Evolved?
If you visit Jay’s site, you’ll see that guerrilla marketing is alive and well and evolving with the times. Guerrilla marketing is online — and you should be, too. Guerrilla marketing values permission-based marketing strategies — and you should, too. Guerrilla marketing uses popular culture to make an impression — and you should, too. Guerrilla marketing emphasizes ethical communications that are also creative and unique. And that’s exactly what you need!

When guerrilla marketing first became a hit, consumers were inundated with “professional” advertisements on television, radio, magazines, and newspapers. Now, it seems anywhere and everywhere we turn we encounter ads — they’re even in public restrooms! If we were numb before, we’re deadened now.

Advertising and “traditional” marketing just doesn’t have the impact it should for the dollars companies spend. And it’s no wonder when there’s so much advertising in so many places that it seems we never get a break from it. Guerrilla marketing breaks through all that clutter by being different. Not just different from your competitors, but different from its own past.

How Can You Use Guerrilla Marketing?
You can use guerrilla marketing to get the scattered attention of your target customers by becoming a bit more creative in the ways you reach out to them. Surprise them. Capture their interest. Offer something of real value.

Remember guerrilla warfare. You can’t rush success. Guerrillas knew that. Civilians battling a superior force with superior arms would spend years, decades, even generations fighting for what they believed in with whatever means they had. Take a lesson from them.

First, know that your business is worth fighting for. Second, you won’t win the success you want instantly. Third, you need to build your credibility with your target audience (i.e. the civilians you’re saving), not with your competitors (i.e. the superior force).

With these three things in mind, break out of the marketing box you’ve fallen into and prioritize communicating with your customers. Surprise them with how helpful, genuine, and trustworthy you can be. Sabotage the competition by offering a better value with better intentions. Don’t be afraid to blend in and mingle with your customers. After all, they are the only ones who really matter. Be one of them. Help them. Build a future with them.

This isn’t a battle for sovereignty or freedom. It’s a battle for the hearts and minds of your customers. The secret isn’t a parlor trick or a timely fad. You can’t take their trust. They have to give it to you. You have to earn your customers’ trust. If you can do that, then you can evolve into the future with them right by your side.

We Guarantee It!

What benefit is a guarantee if nobody knows about it? Not only does a guarantee show confidence in your products and offer peace of mind to customers, but it may also give potential customers added incentive to purchase your product over another. A guarantee can be printed as a standalone certificate, added to a label, or included on all types of business signage, flyers, business stationery, receipts, marketing materials, website, email signatures, product packaging, yellow pages ad, and more.

 

Here are a few tips when promoting a guarantee:

  • Compare your guarantee to your competition. If your competitors don’t offer a guarantee, this is an extra reason to promote your guarantee heavily.
  • Create a unique tagline or slogan that focuses on your company’s strengths, such as: “Hassle-Free Returns” or “Receive your lunch order within 30 minutes or it’s free.”
  • Clearly explain your guarantee terms. For example: “We provide a hassle-free, money-back guarantee within 30 days of purchase.”
  • Test your guarantee with a small target audience. If you’re nervous about implementing it, test the results again.

If you’d like creative ideas on how to spread the word about your guarantee, we’d love to help. Give us a call today!