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Mom always said, “Choose your words wisely.”

5/12/2014
Susan Heffron

find-words-31707220Moms give the best marketing advice. At least, my mom always did. As a mom of three, I find that I’m often repeating things to my children that my mom once told me: choose your words wisely; know whom you’re talking to; you only make one first impression. Are these not straight from a Marketing 101 textbook?

Having celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday, and as a tribute to all the moms out there giving their children great “marketing” advice, I thought I’d take my favorite nugget and explore it a bit deeper.

Choose your words wisely

We choose words all the time when we speak and when we write both personally and professionally. Many of us take our words for granted. Let’s face it, we have an endless pool from which to choose and it’s so easy to fall into bad habits of over using our favorites, using unnecessary words, or even using the wrong words at the wrong time. Words are impactful and when chosen wisely, can be very powerful.

Words are no less important when you are marketing your business. Whether you are writing a prospect letter, meeting someone in person for the first time, or creating a website, you always have the same issue — time (and space) is limited and you have to get your message out clearly and quickly.

Whenever I tackle a new writing project, I usually approach it the same way. I am a list maker, and therefore, I make lists. I make lists of words: Words that mean the same thing; words that start with the same letter; keywords in phrases, etc. Sometimes I list famous quotes. And I always list the “key points” that I’m trying to get across. I find that my incessant list making helps me clear the clutter and sift through all the extra stuff to pull out what is most important.

  • I am required to choose my words wisely in all of the projects that I work on. If you’re familiar with developing a website, then you most probably have heard about using keywords.  Using appropriate keywords in your titles, descriptions and content are what help improve your ranking within a search engine results page. If your words are not chosen wisely, your prospects will miss your website.
  • Do you have a tagline for your business? Now here is a challenge: make a resounding statement (in seven words or less) about your business that is clear and memorable. You need to explain your mission, your promise and your brand swiftly and you can only be successful by choosing your words wisely.
  • Have you created an elevator pitch for yourself? How often have you been asked, “What do you do for a living?” We recommend that you craft an explanation that clearly explains what you do for a living and, you should be able to recite it in 30 to 90 seconds. Your goal is not necessarily to “sell” yourself, but rather to grab attention, keep attention and leave your audience clamoring for more. So, choose your words wisely.
  •  Another one of my favorite marketing tools to write is a call to action (CTA). Again, this is a brief statement (aptly named) that calls your audience to take a specific action. If your call is not well defined, transparent and promising, then you have not chosen your words wisely.
  • We spend a great deal of time working on messaging strategies for our clients.  Clear and consistent communication is critical when marketing your business. Your message strategy should start with a brief statement (12 words or less) that is unique, believable, valuable and practical. When constructing this statement, be sure to choose your words wisely.

Whether you are writing (or speaking) personally or professionally, your objective is always the same. You must engage your audience quickly and be as clear and concise as possible. And remember what mom always says,  “Choose your words wisely.”

 

Why you should conduct a marketing communications audit.

4/29/2014
Susan Heffron

We often start with an audit when we begin working with a new client. During the research phase we are learning about the client, their marketplace, and their competitors. Then we delve into their existing marketing and communications including the organization’s branding, printed materials and web presence.

Depending on the client’s needs we may focus more on one area or another, but the goal is to provide an overview of the current situation and a list of specific recommendations for how we can help improve their marketing. The audit itself is not necessarily a huge expense, but it is a huge investment, because it gives the client immediate feedback on what is working and areas that can be improved.

For a website, we would recommend starting with four primary areas:

  • SITE ARCHITECTURE: whether the website utilizes best practices for site architecture including the development of a coherent site map, site hierarchy, logical navigation, and descriptive page names
  • COMPETITION: Review top 10 (or 20 or 30) keywords and conduct a search reviewing the client’s top 3 competitors’ sites and see where the client comes up in SERP (search Engine Results Page)
  • SEO and Local SEO: whether the website utilizes best practices for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) utilizing xml maps, setting up Google Analytics, and creating effective titles, descriptions and alt tags. Depending on the business/industry, local SEO can have a huge potential upside. Especially for any locally-based (or regional) small business or retail establishment, you want to ensure that your site ranks high in your local market. After a quick review we can provide an assessment of what sites you have or have not claimed and can make recommendations for improvement.
  • SOCIAL MEDIA: Depending on the industry/market we review the site’s current social media presence and make recommendations on where they could enhance their branding and engagement

For communications and printed materials, we would start with a review of a company’s logo, all printed materials, branding and messaging. We would focus on how well an organization has established their brand identity, how consistently they manage their brand across their business(es), and provide a specific list of ways to improve the overall marketing communications of the organization.

So if you know that you “need to do something” but are not sure where to start, consider an audit. Once you have the results, your next steps will be more clear and you will know how to use your marketing dollars more wisely.

Why brainstorming is still an effective idea generation tool.

4/16/2014
Susan Heffron

brainstorming session

Example from client brainstorming meeting.

Many people are afraid of the word “brainstorming” but I think it is still one of the best techniques around. Brainstorming was actually developed by Alex Osborn in the 1940s and 1950s when he was frustrated by his employees’ inability to develop creative ideas for new ad campaigns. The theory behind brainstorming is that you diverge and then converge … so what does this mean?

Divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous and free-flowing manner … so many ideas are generated in a short amount of time. After diverging the ideas, we then organize the ideas in a more structured way using convergent thinking. Usually the group is involved in the divergent process, but when it comes to honing in on ideas, it is the management team or key stakeholders that determine the best ideas to implement. During a brainstorming session, no ideas are bad, and people should never put down another persons idea.


What can you use brainstorming for?

  • Name your business, product or service
  • Write a mission or vision statement
  • Generate long-term goals and objectives
  • Develop new marketing or business strategies
  • Solve a particular business problem

Who should participate?

Ideally you want a cross-section of people that includes key stakeholders as well as people on the front line.  You will also want to have decision makers present who will help with buy-in for what you are trying to accomplish. If you’re a small business or sole proprietor, then consider teaming up with a small group of business associates and help each other brainstorm.

The benefits of brainstorming?

The benefits of brainstorming are many, but here are the top reasons:

  • Brainstorming opens up lines of communication between people at different levels in the organization.
  • Brainstorming brings people together and can improve bonding – both within the team and across departments.
  • Brainstorming builds buy-in and excitement for future projects at all levels of management.
  • Brainstorming is fun – and when done right, people leave feeling good about the experience.

There are many techniques you can use for brainstorming. Some of my preferred methods include mind mapping, post-it note exercises, small group brainstorming tasks then regroup and share/build your ideas, and storytelling. Brainstorming does require some advanced planning, and if you considering brainstorming with a larger group, you may want to consider hiring a facilitator to help with planning and to keep the group focused and on task.

 

 

What fall projects are on your list?

9/13/2013
Susan Heffron

Fall leaves turning colorThe last few days were very hot and felt more like summer, though clearly we are entering mid-September! Today is sunny, gorgeous and a little crisper, which is my favorite kind of day. As much as I love summer, barbeques, swimming and the beach, fall is my favorite time of year. Once we get past the “back to school” hurdle, it’s time for apple picking, bike rides, long walks, watching the leaves change, and time to “get back to work.”

Now is a great time to take an inventory of your marketing, if you haven’t done so already. So what do I mean by that? Here is a short list of items that every business should have:

  1. LOGO. Do you have a logo? Did you start on a fledgling budget and never really think your business would take off? Or is your logo so old, that you feel it is outdated? Maybe it’s time to think about a new design?
  2.  STATIONERY. It used to be that everyone ordered printed stationery, envelopes and labels. Now with the Internet and email, most people think it’s not necessary, but it’s still a good idea to have professional looking letterhead. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to look the part. For proposals, cover letters, bills and so many other reasons, stationery is a must.
  3. BROCHURE or other MARKETING MATERIALS. So many people think that a website replaces your marketing materials. I would disagree. It’s still important to have something to leave behind after meeting with a potential client, to give someone as a promotional piece, or as a “take-one” on the counter in your retail space. It is so reasonable to print with low volume digital printing. And you can easily create custom pieces digitally that have more punch.
  4. EMAIL MARKETING. Many small businesses still send mass emails via their standard email application. This is old school. We highly recommend using an email-marketing tool like Mailchimp or Constant Contact for emails with a professional look and feel. Not only that, you will CAN-SPAM compliant (ensuring that your recipients have opted-in) and also get valuable data on open rates, click-throughs and forwards.
  5. WEBSITE. It goes without saying that having a professionally designed website is critical. It is often the first place people look for information about you. Your site should be clear and easy to navigate, with solid content and be graphically pleasing. While you can certainly purchase a standard template, we often recommend custom-designed sites using WordPress, so that your site is uniquely yours.
  6. SOCIAL MEDIA. Social media is no longer an option for your business. Are you staying up to date on the latest trends? Do you have a business Facebook page, a blog, Pinterest or Twitter account? Maybe you’re on Linkedin but not really using it? While it’s not realistic to jump in and do all of these at once, now is a good time to set some goals for what you think you can achieve and go for it.

Take stock in where you are today and where you want to be three months, six months or a year from now. We are happy to help you strategize and achieve your goals, so feel free to give us a call to discuss your marketing needs.