Sometimes Fresh Eyes Brings a Memorable Camel

thinkstockphotos-152158115We often say that children look at the world through fresh eyes. Spending time with a child can give you a new perspective on life and how you view the world. While experience is an excellent teacher, fresh eyes can see the tried and true in a way that you may not have considered before. How can you adapt the fresh eyes concept into your business?

Marketing is successful when it gets prospects and customers to sit up and take notice of your service, brand or product. Some of the best commercials are the ones that make us laugh, cry, or even cringe. The problem is that sometimes marketers rely too much on old ideas and the view of experienced sellers and managers instead of looking for fresh eyes on a campaign. A great marketing campaign gives the audience an emotional connection with the company. Emotions give advertising a memory hook; they get remembered.

Hump Day

Remember the “Hump Day” camel commercials that were on TV about a year ago? Do you remember who they were advertising? If you don’t remember, they were advertising GEICO. GEICO specializes in goofy, funny commercials that are easy to remember due to their tone. Insurance is essentially a tedious business, so getting you to remember advertisements and brand names associated with them takes a memory hook. For GEICO, the gecko is one hook that most Americans can recognize and associate with the company. However, if they overused that hook, audiences would get tired of him. Instead, they come up with quirky commercials and throw in a camel to keep you focused and interested in their brand.

Seeing Your Company with Fresh Eyes

Since you cannot see your own company through fresh eyes, it takes some testing to find out how new people respond to your campaigns. Your assumptions about who is interested in your products and why they are interested may be out of date. Periodic testing of your ideas is crucial to keeping your current customers and finding new ones.

Before you run your marketing campaign, test your assumptions on real people to see how they respond. Real people are the target market you are shooting for, therefore if your tests tell you that you won’t get the results you want, you can save yourself a lot of money. Keep tweaking and testing your campaign with real people until you find the right message, image, and concept that will get the response you want. What made the “Hump Day” commercials so funny? They were silly, harmless, and could never happen in the real world.

Find a Way to Shock Your Audience

Shock your audience with unexpected humor, meaning, or entertainment when you market. Find something that will resonate with them and use it to grab their attention. Obviously, any type of shock will only work for so long because it loses its effect after a time. When was the last time you saw a “Hump Day” commercial, anyway?

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A Simple Business Lesson From the Presidential Election

thinkstockphotos-544350060The 2016 Presidential Election is quickly approaching and, once again, it offers a real “teachable moment” in our nation’s history. Instead of focusing on all of the negativity that seems to be surrounding the United States political system, take a decidedly “glass half full” approach instead.

If running for president were like starting a business (and make no mistake – it basically is), both candidates are providing us with an excellent lesson in customer relations and marketing as we speak.

Know Your Audience

Regardless of what you happen to think about the candidates themselves, one thing is for certain: both candidates know the power of speaking the same language as their target audience. Even though the candidates appear opposed on nearly every issue, it’s hard to deny that they’re each having a tremendous amount of success within their own bases and supporters precisely because they each know what to say and how to say it within their audience. Each candidate regularly draws crowds in the tens of thousands from their most fervent supporters.

However, both candidates are relatively controversial outside of their base supporters, to the point where if they hadn’t made an effort to master and hone these unique voices, they would likely be having trouble establishing momentum at this point. Both of them are still very much “in the game” (against all odds) almost entirely because they’ve taken the time to learn exactly what they need to say and do to build momentum among their own core group of followers.

You Have to Move Past Your Audience at Some Point

Perhaps the biggest lesson that we can learn from the 2016 Presidential Election, however, has to do with growth. While keeping a loyal, enthusiastic customer base is always important, this is only a means to an end – it isn’t the end itself. If you want to continue to grow and evolve as a business, you need to be looking for ways to bring new people into that base and to allow that base to grow. A failure to do so will result in the type of stagnation that will find you spinning your proverbial wheels.

This lesson can be seen throughout the election process as well. Often you’ll see one candidate making a concerted effort to bring as many new voters into their camp as possible, while another seems to be focused on maintaining their existing voters – which can be a problem when you’re running the “business” of a political career.

The raw potential of a single customer for a presidential candidate is inherently limited. Regardless of how passionate someone is, or how much they like you, or how much they’re willing to show their support for you, they can still only vote a single time. Zeroing in on your original, core group of customers with a laser-sharp focus may be an excellent way to make sure they stick around long enough to make that sale (or vote in November), but it doesn’t help you at all regarding expansion.

If you’re so focused on maintaining this core group of followers that you’re willing to alienate everyone who exists outside of your bubble, ultimately you might achieve massive short-term gains, but it’ll be at the expense of your long-term goals. Never be so focused on one group of customers that you’re willing to push another (possibly larger) one away. Understand that ALL businesses require a steady stream of NEW customers to guarantee the growth they need to survive for years to come.

Finding the Recipe for Successful Marketing

Sara was excited. Her grandmother had just given her the recipe for her famous peanut butter cookies, and she could not wait to make them for her friends at school. She had never been much of a cook, but she figured that with the recipe she should be ok. After all, how hard could it be?

Sara enters the kitchen and begins to gather her ingredients. She notices that the recipe says she needs two bowls, but when she looks in the cabinet and sees that she only has one, she figures that should be ok. She then sees that she needs some baking soda, but only has baking powder– that should be close enough.

Sara begins to get everything into the bowls. The recipe calls for her to mix the sugar with some softened butter, so she sticks the butter in the microwave. Thirty seconds later, the the butter is just a puddle. Well, that will make it even easier to mix it into the recipe, right?

Twenty minutes later, she sticks everything into the oven and triumphantly sets the timer. When she returns after the ding, she pulls them out eagerly and then stops. Wait a minute, these do not look right. They did not rise properly and just look ‘off’. Confused, Sara thought back to her cooking. Did those little details about the butter and baking soda really matter that much? She supposed so. She decided to try again the next day. Tonight, she would pick up some more butter and some baking soda.

Developing Your Marketing Recipe

If you have ever made cookies, you most likely noted Sara’s mistakes right away. You knew that those cookies would not turn out right. Recipes use very specific ingredients because they have particular roles. If you do not use the right ingredients then the food will not act the way it is supposed to.

When you are creating a marketing campaign, you will similarly need to follow a recipe. The difference is that you will need to develop the recipe yourself. You know that you need a variety of different ingredients, such as direct mail, social media, online content, and paid advertising. You then need to mix these different techniques together to engage your intended audience and create the perfect recipe.

Often, determining the exact recipe of success will require some experimenting. You will need to explore where your customers spend their time online and what types of information they are seeking. What types of designs and offers do they respond to best in direct mail? What social media platforms are the most important to them?

Unlike with baking cookies, when you mess up a marketing recipe, it will often not be as obvious that there was an error. If most of your marketing campaign has a decent amount of success, you might not notice right away that your paid advertising campaign was not bringing in customers unless you closely monitor your different channels. If you do not identify the problem, however, you risk needlessly spending money.

To be successful in marketing, you are going to combine several different techniques into a unique recipe that helps to get your message in front of the right people at the right time. To ‘taste’ the recipe, however, you need to make sure that you regularly use analytics to gauge how well the campaign works together. You can use this data to refine your efforts and become even more successful.

Creating a successful marketing campaign does require careful thought and the precise combination of different parts. If you are interested in starting a new campaign, contact us today to get started.

The Four Key Steps to Successful Branding Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond

Here’s a marketing truth that bears repeating: Your brand is one of the most powerful weapons you have in your quest not only to attract the widest possible audience, but to differentiate yourself from the competition in a meaningful way. While the type of brand you’re trying to build may vary as your company grows and evolves, the steps you’ll use to create and cultivate that brand won’t. Here are four key steps to successful branding that are just as useful today as they will be tomorrow, a year from now, and beyond.

1. Make Marketing Decisions with Your Customers in Mind

Just as you wouldn’t attempt to offer a service or release a product your target audience wouldn’t want, try to keep this same thought in mind when planning your marketing campaigns and branding strategy. Do your target customers respond well to direct mail materials? Are they the type of people who like “larger than life” materials like print billboards? These are all questions you’ll need to continually address and re-address moving forward.

2. Simple, Simple, Simple

One of the keys to building a successful brand is the ability to communicate the company’s core values clearly and concisely. Keep it simple. Never use ten words when five will do. If you can communicate the idea behind what your brand stands for in an image, you may not even need to use words at all. Communicate your branding message in the simplest possible way for the best results.

3. Your Brand is Your Brand is Your Brand

Though your brand may naturally evolve as your business changes, it’s important to take things slowly. If all of your marketing materials reflect one version of your brand in Quarter 1 and a completely different version in Quarter 4, you’re going to develop a bit of a schizophrenic reputation among the people you’re trying to reach. If you make changes that are too drastic too quickly, you run the risk of confusing your brand with itself and creating the image that you’re actually two different companies. For an example of this idea in action, consider the mess Netflix went through when it attempted to split off its DVD-by-mail and Internet streaming components into two separate entities in 2011.

4. Consistency in Language and Intention

Every piece of marketing you put out into the world needs to feel like it’s coming from the same company. Start by developing a “style guide” that you’ll use moving forward. For example, if you write your direct mail materials at a specific reading level, include that in your style guide. Provide a list of acceptable fonts, color palettes, and guidelines for proper logo usage. Consistency is a key way to show people your brand knows what it’s doing without actually saying those words.

As your company ages, it’s naturally going to change and evolve over time. The products and services you’re releasing today will scarcely resemble the ones you offer ten years down the line. One thing, however, will never change, and that’s the power of your brand. No matter what the future holds, the four key steps to successful branding outlined above will never go out of style.

What, Exactly, is Content Marketing?

You’ve probably heard all the buzz about content marketing, yet may still be wondering what, exactly, it is. Content marketing is simply the new form of marketing that uses informative content, rather than blatant sales pitches, to attract potential customers. Instead of proverbially bashing people over the head with whatever you’re trying to sell, content marketing entices them to come to you to learn more about your product, services, and brand.

So, how the heck do you do that?

Create a two-way conversation.

Old-school advertising was pretty much a one-way street with the company doing all the talking. Content marketing turns it into a two-way conversation by actively engaging the audience. Do this by encouraging comments on your blog posts and social media sites, holding contests, or otherwise reaching out to your audience for input.

Keep up your end of the bargain.

Asking for audience participation is good, but it’s not so good if you do nothing with the information you gleaned. Reply to audience comments; respond to their requests and needs. Perhaps a certain aspect of your website keeps getting the same complaint. Hold up your end of the conversation by acknowledging the issue and perhaps even tweaking whatever’s wrong to better fill people’s needs.

Make it easy to find you.

Of course, you won’t have any conversations at all if people can’t find you. In addition to a user-friendly company website, you should set up a blog and accounts on your chosen social media platforms that all easily link back to your website. When you share a blog post or add new information to your website, share the link across your social media channels.

You don’t have to go nuts and join every single social media platform out there. Instead, focus on the ones where your target audience is most likely to tread. Learn more by analyzing the social media habits of your target demographic, then go where those folks go.

Fuel your audience with quality content.

Keeping your audience engaged means keeping up a steady flow of quality content. Again, you don’t have to go nuts trying to post something new and exciting every five minutes, but you do want to add fuel to your content marketing fire with fresh content on a regular basis.

Note the keyword “quality” here. Provide content that’s polished, informative, compelling, and even entertaining. While text may make up a good chunk of your content, also take advantage of the power of pictures and videos. Include them in related posts, or let them fly solo if they say all they need to say on their own.

Since people are none too fond of reading the same stuff again and again, make sure you cover a variety of different topics that are relevant to your audience.

Don’t bombard your audience.

Bombarding your audience can consist of that aforementioned strategy of beating them over the head to “buy, buy, buy” with every post you create. But it can also include posting at such a rapid and fanatical rate that your audience has no time to absorb, respond, or even breathe.

More is not necessarily better, especially if the more is of poor quality. Over-posting can not only mar your reputation as a professional, but it can backfire in a big way. Instead of being attracted to your company, you may instead find your audience fleeing in droves, leaving you with no one left to talk to but yourself.

Mastering the art of attraction is just one aspect of content marketing, but it’s one of the most essential for eventual success.

How Social Media Can Help With Market Research

Anyone who has ever worked in marketing understands the value of market research. Solid research can teach you about your intended audience and what your customers are looking for, which will allow you to grow your company and position it for success.

Imagine if nearly everything you needed to know about your customer base existed in a single space, and all you needed to do was find a way to listen to the conversation. Well, it is — and you can. That space is social media.

Social media (and the Internet in general) has come to dominate nearly half the globe. Customers use the Internet to communicate and connect with each other and the brands they want to do business with. These customers are telling you what you need to know about the needs of your intended audience. Here are a few ways you can put social media to work for you.

Pay attention to how your customers speak

You likely already know you should be monitoring social sites for mentions of your brand in case customers register complaints or talk about experiences they had with you. There’s more you can get out of these basic brand mentions, though.

Pay attention to how people speak about your company and the services you provide. Listen to what your customers are mentioning as the most important aspects in their buying experience. What matters the most when developing customer loyalty? What draws people to your products and services? What causes them to go to your competitors? This insight will help you improve the customer experience and better meet their needs.

Get quick results for surveys

Rather than spending weeks or months gathering data from surveys and study groups, you can use social media to learn about your customers significantly quicker. Pose questions to your followers, and encourage customers to share experiences with your brand to get a feel for what matters most to them.

In many ways, the information you glean from social media might be even more valuable than what you learn from focus groups. Nearly 3/4 of all people with Internet access use social media in some form. Using social media for your research, therefore, has the potential to help you gain a much more complete picture of industry trends and customer preferences.

Using social media for your surveys can also be a fantastic way to control costs related to social research. There are a variety of free tools available across a number of social platforms, but even the ones that have a cost tend to be more cost-efficient than spending the time and money to conduct surveys and poll focus groups.

Get real-time results

Traditional surveys often take several weeks or months to process and analyze. When you use social media to gather this important information, you get your answers in real time. This can help you implement positive changes for your customers and take advantage of the information you learned, while remaining confident that trends have not yet shifted.

Social media is a valuable tool for market research. It can help you learn more about your customers so you can better meet their needs and grow your business. Once you gather that information, spring into action with marketing that speaks directly to them. We can help! Give us a call at 847-768-2679 for design and print assistance.