Pull Back the Curtain: Providing a Backstage Glimpse of Your Company

thinkstockphotos-78741687One of the primary objectives of any marketing campaign you run has nothing to do with selling your product or service. While these will always be important, equally necessary is your ability to sell yourself as a company. People want to know more about the people who work in your business and the values and ideals that you have. They want to be able to look at you as an authority. Pulling back the curtain and providing a “backstage” glimpse into your product or service is one of the single, best ways to accomplish both of these things at the same time.

The Benefits of the Backstage Approach

One of the major benefits of this type of “backstage” approach is that it helps position you as a true authority on a particular topic. It’s one thing for you to SAY that a product performs X, Y, and Z functions – it’s another thing entirely to prove it by providing an unprecedented look into the design and development process. You can shed insight on your decision-making process, for example, helping them to not only SEE what your product does but WHY.

Taking a “backstage” approach to marketing also helps to strengthen the intimate, organic connection you’re able to create with your target audience – thus helping to build brand loyalty. Think about it from the perspective of the entertainment industry, as celebrities, in particular, are masters at this. DVDs are filled with hours of special features outlining how a scene was shot, how a script was written, how a special effect was pulled off and more. This instantly makes something that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make seem smaller and more intimate, while letting audiences take their experience to a whole new level at the same time. Providing a similar look into your own operation will have the same effect for you, too.

Pulling Back the Curtain

Unless you’re launching a product that is shrouded in complete secrecy, you can start pulling back the curtain pretty much right away. Even if it’s something as simple as updating a weekly blog post with sketches, schematics, and other materials from the research and development phase, this will go a long way towards increasing transparency across the board. Have employees talk about the specific work they’re doing on a daily basis and how even though they’re all working separately, they’re all contributing to a larger whole.

This startlingly simple approach helps to close the gap in between business and customer, making a customer actually feel like they’re a natural part of the process. When you combine this with all of your other marketing techniques, you’re looking at a striking amount of loyalty built just from publicizing activities that were already going on behind closed doors anyway.

These are just a few of the many reasons why providing a “backstage” glimpse can help bring your product or service to life. Not only does it help provide a valuable context to the particular product or service that you’re trying to sell, but it also helps build a strong, positive impression of your company. People will stop seeing you as a faceless entity and will start looking at you more like the living, breathing, hardworking people that you really are. This will only deepen the connection that you have with your target audience and make interaction more meaningful in the future.

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The Foundation of Your Content Marketing Strategy

thinkstockphotos-474114289According to a recent survey conducted by Gleanster Research, managing the overall content creation process was the single biggest challenge that most medium- and large-sized companies faced on a daily basis. To make matters worse, 36 percent of respondents indicated that they were missing deadlines on a regular basis, significantly derailing their efforts as a result.

Luckily, the exact cause of these types of issues also happens to be one that is easily avoided. By creating an editorial calendar, you essentially create the backbone of your entire content marketing strategy. Your entire team can reap the benefits in a number of important ways.

Why You Need an Editorial Calendar

On the surface, an editorial calendar is a calendar that outlines the specific due dates for all important content launches well into the future. It’s a wonderful, visual way to see where you stand and what you need to do in terms of your short-term and long-term goals.

Underneath, however, it’s an invaluable resource to start putting better content out into the world immediately. Think of it like a daily planner – each day you know what type of content is going to be launching, who is going to be writing it, what important details are going to be included, and more. It’s an opportunity to take this resource and bend it to your existing workflow. Instead of laying down guidelines for your team and forcing them to adjust the way they like to work to meet this new tool, the tool itself is inherently malleable by design.

An editorial calendar is also a great way to plan for the entire process of content creation from start to finish. Everything from idea conception to publishing is all handled through one centralized point of access, not only giving you all of the benefits of firm project management but also helping with communication. Everybody can be on the same page at the same time (no pun intended) because all they have to do is check the calendar to see where they’ve been, where they are, and where they’re supposed to be going next. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Forming the Backbone of Your Future Content Planning

Once you’ve had the chance to get your editorial calendar up and running, you’ll have access to a wide range of different benefits that would be difficult to get in any other way. For starters, a calendar allows you to custom build your content marketing strategy for specific audiences in a much easier way than ever before. Based on user preferences and behaviors you can clearly outline what types of content are making their way to which channels and, more importantly, when.

An editorial calendar also gives you the ability to plan keywords well in advance, letting you design the content around the keywords your users are paying attention to, rather than trying to cram those keywords into a piece once it is already finished.

These are among the many reasons why taking the effort to create an editorial calendar is well worth your time. The great thing about it is that it is a resource you only have to build once. As soon as your editorial calendar is up and running, everything from creating content to distribution becomes significantly less challenging and the results that you’re after are well within your reach.

What Are These New Facebook Reactions and What Do They Mean for My Business?

thinkstockphotos-515786505A few months ago, Mark Zuckerberg treated his staff to a movie night. The film…Pixar’s Inside Out. The Facebook staff watched in confused amazement wondering who these emotions were and more importantly, where is the big, blue and white like-button thumb? A few individuals voiced what everyone else was thinking…wouldn’t it be swell if Facebook allowed people to have more than one possible emotional reaction to the things they see and read?

A legendary hack-a-thon ensued, spanning an entire month. The result? We now have the choice to not just like something, but to LOVE something, laugh at something, or express shock, sadness and anger. To express our new emotions, all we have to do is hover over the traditional blue and white thumb and six new emojis emerge. For mobile users, simply hold down the thumb and your new emojis will appear.

From a social standpoint, we are all feeling liberated at our ability to express more than one emotion without the necessity of typing out a complete thought. But what does this mean for businesses and people marketing on Facebook? Quite a bit actually…

Aside from the obvious point that you can now identify and quantify how many people feel about your post, there are some handy things you can now do as a business owner that may give you an upper hand with your competition. Because these emotional responses are public, you can do some recon work and check out how people are reacting to your competitors’ content as well. Based on your gathered intel, you can now customize your content to better reflect what people are interested in.

This new functionality can also enable you to get more bang for your buck while advertising on Facebook. If you go to your Insights page on Facebook, you can access data on people’s reactions to each post. If one or more posts are engaging more individuals or are loved by more individuals, you can choose to boost that post for a fee. This takes the guesswork out of deciding where to spend your advertising dollars.

We are all well aware of the reality that it’s just not realistic that you’re going to “like” every post that makes it into your feed because sooner or later the content will be about some atrocity that’s being committed that you want to stop. So, instead of liking the post, you, like most people, just keep scrolling. It’s not that the post was not engaging, it’s just that people don’t want to “like” the content. With the new reactions, people can express sadness or anger at the content of the post, letting them know that it was read and stirred some emotion. The upside for your business is that you can post more meaningful content about issues that are important to them and not worry about losing points for attention because all of the reactions count as “likes” on your page.

People love to go negative on social media if they feel they’re not being heard. The reaction emojis can now help you avoid negative comments in your feed if something is not going quite right with your company. Have you ever had one of those days when your server goes down or your payment processing company is having issues? It can really derail your day and cause some ruffled feathers with your customers. ┬áNext time this happens, try pinning a post to the top of your page explaining the situation and perhaps offering a discount to anyone who was inconvenienced by the event. Ask them to show some love to your company by clicking the heart emoji and watch a potentially negative experience turn into an opportunity to engage in a positive way with your customers.

As these reactions catch on, you can be sure more creative ideas will begin to flow on using them to benefit your company. You may even try holding a competition for a free giveaway while also showing people how to use the new reaction emojis. Ask people to show some love in exchange for a free product or service that you offer. Not only will you boost your likes, you will also make people loyal fans. Get creative and have fun. After all, it’s what the new emojis are all about.

Time Management for Entrepreneurs: Stop Killing Time and Start Investing Time

“The way we measure productivity is flawed. People checking their BlackBerry over dinner is not the measure of productivity.”

– Timothy Ferriss

thinkstockphotos-494286264At the end of each day, do you take stock of what you’ve done and feel as though you were constantly busy, but you can’t for the life of you figure out how your time was spent? As days turn into weeks and weeks into months…we often feel exhausted, but with no real accomplishments to show for our efforts.

The problem is, most people see time as an infinite resource. They approach life like they’re driving down the street and miss a Starbucks, but happy in their knowledge that there’s another one a mile down the road. Likewise, we always think “tomorrow is another day” and promise ourselves we’ll keep track of our time and use it wisely then. This mindset is the best way to never accomplish what you want in life.

When we think of money, though, our mindset is a bit different. Our society encourages us to work hard when you’re young and invest your money so that when you retire and no longer make money, you’ll have that nest egg to spend. If you invest in your time, though, really spectacular things can happen.

Understand your productivity cycles.

Ernest Hemingway wrote in the morning because that was his most creative time of the day. Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, on the other hand, reportedly didn’t get out of bed before 11:00 am, preferring to work late into the night. Having a solid understanding and respect for when you are at your most productive will enable you to reserve your most important work for when you’re at your mental best.

Make a list of the most important things you want to accomplish.

Making a list of the things you need to accomplish can help us overcome what’s called the Zeigarnik Effect. No, it’s not a mosquito-borne virus. You’ve experienced the Zeigarnik Effect on those nights you can’t sleep because you’re endlessly trying to remember everything you need to do and keep it organized in your mind. This happens during the day as well, when you’re trying to concentrate on the task at hand, but your mind is still whirring in the background keeping your list organized. Give your brain a break and write it all down. Take a few minutes to prioritize those items for better efficiency.

Do the most important things first each day.

By doing the most important things first, you can always be assured that something important is done each day. Night owls, fret not, you can still save the most brain-intensive or creativity-intensive items for those 2:00 am writing sessions, just make sure that if something absolutely needs to be done in the morning, it gets done.

Don’t discount small blocks of time.

As a society, we’ve taken to killing time on our phones during those periods of time when standing in line, or commuting on a bus or train. Time is too valuable to kill! Instead of checking Facebook while waiting for your coffee, identify things on your list that take up small amounts of time and get those done while you’re waiting instead.

Finally, schedule in some down time for yourself. Nothing kills productivity more than a burned-out mind. Take a look at how you’re spending your time and see how you can better spend it using these easy tips.

Anticipation is Your Friend: The Art of Teasing a Product or Service Before a Proper Launch

thinkstockphotos-77740401All of your print marketing materials should be designed to evoke an emotional response. Most of the time when you’re marketing a product or service, your goal is to convince people to spend money on what it is that you have to offer AFTER the fact. This is time consuming and isn’t always successful, especially in a crowded sea of competitors. But what if there was a way for you to start your print marketing momentum well in advance of the actual product or service’s release? What if there was a way to build so much momentum leading up to that day that all of the hard work from a marketing perspective had already been done for you?

Luckily, there is a way to accomplish all of this and more. By spending your marketing dollars pre-emptively and teasing the launch of your product or service well in advance, you can build the type of hype that will continue to pay dividends for a lifetime.

The Most Efficient Marketing Engine on the Planet – Disney

Perhaps the most powerful marketing machine in existence belongs to The Walt Disney Company – and this isn’t just because they seem to have unlimited financial resources at their disposal. Consider the masterful way that they built anticipation for “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.” Starting a full year out from the premiere of the movie, a teaser trailer was released to build anticipation. Since that opening salvo, we were bombarded with a steady stream of marketing content, from tie-in comic books to a toy launch event that was treated as a national holiday, and more. Anticipation for a new “Star Wars” film could not have been higher going into its release, but what did all of that marketing really tell us about the film itself?

The answer is “not much.” People knew what it was called, knew who was in it, knew it had the words “Star Wars” in the title and very little else. So, why was the hype going into the release of the film so massive if people actually knew next to nothing about it, let alone whether or not it would be good? Because of the power of “anticipation” in action.

Little By Little

When building anticipation for a product or service ahead of its release, the key is to understand just how powerful saying very little can actually be. You don’t want a print marketing material to literally say “this is what this does and this is why you want it.” Doing so removes the air of mystery from the proceedings, which is one of the key ingredients when building anticipation. You need to focus on core images or small facts that only hint at a much larger whole. You want people to say to themselves “I NEED to know more about what this is,” because at that point you’ve got their attention. Once you have their attention, the actual product or service itself can help make sure that you never let go.

Focus On the Problem, Not the Solution

Say you had a product or service that made it easier for stay-at-home moms to get the kids off to school in the morning. If you wanted to build anticipation in your print marketing materials, you might focus on that particular problem above all else. The different waves of your campaign would be devoted to essentially confirming what they already know – “kids tend to not be cooperative in the morning, if only you had more hours in a day, it’s difficult to manage your own schedule and theirs at the same time, etc.” Then, you might tease with a bold statement like, “We’re about to change all that. Stay tuned for more information,” and continue to hit them with additional marketing materials in the run-up to the actual launch.

Not only have you appealed to their sentiments and hinted at how you’re about to change their lives in an emotional way, but you’ve also begun to build anticipation at the same time. The great thing about anticipation is that it tends to snowball – if you can get a customer excited today, your focus can then become on KEEPING them excited, which is significantly easier and less time consuming than getting their attention in the first place.

Anticipation is one of the single best assets that you have in your quest to connect with your target audience in new and meaningful ways. If you can play the “anticipation game” in the right way, you won’t have to worry about convincing people to engage with your product or service when it launches. They’ll come directly to you – they practically won’t be able to help themselves.

How Social Media Changes Everything in Terms of Customer Engagement

thinkstockphotos-522734329Customer engagement has always been one of the primary contributing factors when it comes to strengthening a brand or growing a business, but this is especially true in an era where social media rules the day. The conversation between a business and its customers is more important than ever, but the actual mechanism through which that conversation is unfolding has changed dramatically in a short period of time. When it comes to customer engagement and social media, there are a number of important things to keep in mind.

All Eyes Are On You

Perhaps the biggest factor to understand when it comes to social media and customer engagement is the idea that a conversation between a business and its customers is both more intimate and more public than it has ever been. If a customer has a positive experience with a representative of your brand on their Twitter page, they’re never more than a mouse-click away from telling all of their friends about it. The reverse is also true – a negative experience on a site like Facebook can have huge potential ramifications due to the public nature of that conversation in the first place.

If you search for your brand’s name on Twitter and see users talking about an issue they’re having, you can easily interject with some troubleshooting tips to help them get the most from their product or service. Not only did you solve their problem, but they also didn’t have to ask for help – this is a “win-win” scenario as far as customer engagement is concerned.

There Are No More Small Problems

Consider the public relations nightmare that Entenmann’s created for itself, for example. One day, a social media marketer at Entenmann’s hopped on Twitter, looked at the current worldwide trending topics and noticed that one happened to be #notguilty. Sensing an opportunity to both interject into a popular conversation and craft a pretty solid pun at the same time, the brand sent out a tweet asking who was “#notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want.”

The issue with this is that, as it turns out, the #notguilty hashtag was created as a result of the highly controversial Casey Anthony trial – the verdict of which had just come down earlier that day. Suddenly a seemingly innocuous tweet about snack cakes turned into a national nightmare for the brand as they were seen as obtuse at best and highly insensitive at worst – all of which could have been avoided had the marketer just clicked on the hashtag to see what it was actually referring to. This is the type of major issue that simply didn’t exist five years ago before social media became such a permanent fixture in our lives.

These are just a few of the many ways that social media has changed just about everything in terms of customer engagement in the digital age. We believe that success in this field requires a deeper understanding of the game that you’re now playing as a business owner, so to speak. It’s now easier than ever to pay attention to the conversations that your customers are having with one another and interject in positive and meaningful ways. This is a two-way street, however – one wrong move and you’re potentially looking at a PR nightmare on a massive scale, so making sure that you’re always putting your best foot forward is more important than ever.

What Mountain Biking Can Teach You About Business Strategy

thinkstockphotos-506550504If you’ve ever been on a mountain bike and felt the exhilaration of barreling down some well-worn single-track, you’ve likely also felt the pain of crashing headfirst into a tree. You might’ve sat there dazed, thinking, “what went wrong?” while you picked the leaves out of your helmet. You were trying so hard to avoid hitting that tree. How could you have hit it? The answer is really kind of crazy.

The most successful mountain bikers stick to these simple words of wisdom – “look where you want to go.” For some strange reason, your brain sees you looking at something and interprets that as, ” I want.” So, your brain does its’ best to give you what you’re paying all that attention to. If you’re cruising down the road staring at a tree chanting, “please don’t hit that” under your breath, chances are, you’re going to look yourself straight into that tree. To avoid the tree, you simply have to look at the road you want to travel.

These same words of wisdom can have many applications in life, especially when it comes to your business strategy. How many times have you heard of businesses failing for one reason or another? Is it possible that the owners’ focus was not on the success of the business, but rather on the fear of failure? Did those owners “look” their businesses off of a cliff because they were so afraid of failing? Probably.

Like those successful mountain bikers, the most successful business owners focus on success and not on failure. They have a clear view of the path they want their business to take. They have a clear view of the customers they want to serve. They have a clear view of what their business is about. How do they get that focus? It’s really a three-step process.

Re-train Your Mind

As human beings, we have a natural fear of the unknown. If you’ve never done this particular business, you have very little idea of the exact plan that will make your business profitable. This is scary, no doubt. But, if you can train your mind to be ok with that unknown, you can focus your energies on the success of your business, rather than sitting in the fear of the unknown. How do you do that? Well, a good way to start is to understand when that fear starts talking to you; when the only thing going on in your head is worry. Understanding that that is fear and saying to yourself, “I don’t know what’s going to happen and I’m ok with that,” can turn off the worry and allow you to focus on success.

Create Your Path

Before you start your business, and periodically after that (think one-year plans), sit down for a few hours and write about your business. What is your product or service about? Who does your product or service appeal to? Where do these people hang out? How can you reach them? Having a clear understanding of these things will help you focus your marketing energies moving forward.

Travel Your Path

Now that you’re looking towards the path of success, you can move forward. You have the time and energy to focus on the discrete marketing strategies that will make your business a success. Whether it’s shooting YouTube videos about what you do, or traveling to meet with the people that you want to serve, you have the right mindset to go about making your business a success.