Marketing

Three low-cost tips to boost your business!

3 Low Cost Tips

3 Low Cost Tips

This morning Dionne and I will attend the MA Conference for Women, which I believe is the largest all-women’s conference in the country, attended by over 10,000+ women. It is totally sold out and the headliner is Hillary Clinton. If you have never been, I would recommend you go. We have gone for several years and have always walked away with new inspiration for our business and ways to help our clients.  There are numerous breakout sessions throughout the day, the main convention floor has hundreds of booths, and speakers are amazing.

While some of are clients are larger non-profit agencies and medium-sized businesses, we love working with small businesses as they grow their brand. We feel strongly that no matter what size your company, that you should take your marketing  – and your brand – seriously.

Today’s blog posts focuses on 3 low-cost tips to boost your business. We have three partners in our business: Gina Auger, Creative Director, Dionne Katinas, Art Director and me, Susan Heffron, as Strategic Director. We each have a unique perspective based on our background and experience. So we each chose a tip that we wanted to pass along to you.

#1 STRATEGY – Create personas to better understand your target audience.

Creating personas helps you better understand your target audiences by making you think of them more as individuals than a generic group. It is deeper than just looking at demographics, it is drilling down into what their needs are and how you will solve them.

So how do you develop a persona? Start with basic questions about the demographic and then dig down:

  • Is the persona primarily male or female?
  • What is his/her age?
  • What does he/she do for a living?
  • How much does he/she earn?
  • Where does he/she live?
  • How educated is he/she?
  • Does he/she have a family?
  • How does he/she seek information?
  • Where does he/she shop?
  • What does he/she buy?
  • What problem(s) are they trying to solve?

If you can answer these questions, you are off to a great start.

Much of the information used to develop personas is quantifiable, meaning they have product sales and analytics data that supports their beliefs and creates the personas. Most companies develop 3-5 personas and they will assign them names like John, Nancy, or Amy. This helps them get to know their customers better and then when talking internally about what would Amy want, or what does John need, they all have an instant visual of the exact customer they are talking to.

Once you have developed your personas, and everyone within your organization is thinking in terms of your personas, you can improve your targeting and position, develop better messaging, content and offers, and know that everyone is on the same page in developing a consistent message across all your communications.

#2 CREATIVE – Establish an editorial calendar to plan on-going communication with your clients.

Sustaining consistent and relevant communication with your clients can be a daunting task.  It can be overwhelming to have to think of new blog topics, Facebook postings or articles that would be helpful to your audience. But, let’s face it; social media marketing works and therefore, you must use it.

You can better manage your content marketing by implementing an editorial calendar. A good editorial calendar is a multi-use tool and will make your content marketing efforts work more efficiently by helping you:

  • organize your topics with your timing
  • motivate and inspire new ideas for content
  • communicate with your team
  • keep on track with maintaining a presence in front of your clients
  • draw traffic to your content

Your editorial calendar should consider your whole content marketing strategy. Whether you use LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or any other social media network to draw people to your content, it’s easy to manage this process and integrate your marketing efforts with your editorial calendar.

There are several FREE online sources that provide editorial calendar templates. Search around and find one that works best for you.

http://offers.hubspot.com/blog-editorial-calendar

http://www.bluewiremedia.com.au/editorial-calendar-template

http://coschedule.com/content-marketing-editorial-calendar

 

#3 DESIGN – Develop a style guide to ensure consistent usage of your logo and brand identity.

Branding, logo creation, taglines and slogans start with an idea and hours of creativity, revisions, refinement and decision-making. The final product displays commitment, excellence, and professionalism for the business. You may even decide to take the next steps to legally register and copyright the company’s brand and logo. It doesn’t end there though.

Creating consistency and an overall image that will be recognized across all platforms of marketing and business presentation will convey high standards and professionalism. In order to do this successfully, you will want to have guidelines on your communications to strengthen the brand. A style guide or brand manual is something that will state all the variations of the presentation for the logo and tagline.

A Style Guide will:

  • Help you maintain a level of professionalism for your business
  • Manage how you are viewed by your clients, improving recognition and remembrance
  • Exhibits consistent messaging  and strengthens your brand

The Style Guide should contain:

  • Description and what the brand stands for.
  • How the brand can and cannot be used in different situations.
  • Words relating to the brand
  • Specific colors (CMYK, RGB, Hexadecimal), dimensions, line weights, spacing
  • Defined font specifications
  • Reproduction guidelines (for third party)

A Style Guide will ensure that your logo/brand is positioned in a way that will consistently convey the message you want to present.

If you’re attending the MA Conference for Women, we hope to see you there! If not, we hope these tips and takeaways inspire you!

To learn more about the conference, go to: http://www.maconferenceforwomen.org/

 

Why should you blog for your business?

The origin of the term blog, came from the word “weblog” and was shortened. The precursor to blogging were online usenet groups, email mailing lists (later called elogs), Internet bulletin boards and forums.

I have to admit, when blogging started in the 1990s, I didn’t necessarily see the value in it for me, because most bloggers were people posting online diaries. I just didn’t desire to have an online diary, and didn’t consider how I could use a blog to promote our business. But times have changed!

Today, blogging is one of the major forms of communication used by individuals and companies and millions of people around the world.

Here are some interesting statistics:

  • 6.7 million people blog on blogging sites
  • usblogger has more than 46 million visitors each month
  • For example, 61% of US consumers have made a purchase based on a blog post
  • 23% of time online is spent on blogs and social networks
  • 77% of internet users read blogs

So who are these bloggers?

  • Entreprenuer  – for own business
  • Hobby/interest – blogs for fun
  • Full time or Corporate –  blogs full time job
  • Part-time professional – use blogging to supplement income
  • Community –for a cause, can have many bloggers

So what does it mean for small businesses?

  • Small businesses with blogs generate 126% more leads
  • Interesting content is one of the top 3 reasons why people follow brands on social media
  • 81% of us consumers trust advice and information from blogs
  • Companies that blog have 97% more inbound links
  • B2B marketers use blogs to generate 67% of leads
  • websites with blogs have 434% more indexed pages
  • 61% of us consumers have made a purchase based on a blog post
  • 37% of marketers believe that blogs are the most important type of content marketing

Want to know more statistics about blogging? Here is a great infographic that gives an overview of blogging:

So what are you waiting for? Need help with your blog, email us or give us a call!

Look for the follow-up post in this series where we talk more about getting started with your blog and tips to increase blog traffic.

Mom always said, “Choose your words wisely.”

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.

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.

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?

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.