Inbound & Down: Certified to Help Clients Achieve Success

What a week! Between working the polls and planning a conference, we managed to renew our Inbound marketing certification for another year. As an Inbound Certified company, we’re positioned to help you navigate the ins and outs of the Buyer’s Journey.

Inbound Certified_CCC_Jaime Shine

What’s Inbound marketing? We’re glad you asked. Check out the blog post we wrote last year showcasing this new way of thinking in action, how it works and how it can help your brand. The basics are the same, but new ideas and research continue to come along. That’s why we wanted to make sure we’re up-to-date and can offer your business the best ways to succeed in our crowded, fast-paced world.

If you’re struggling to reach your target audience, let’s talk about your buyer personas. Who are they? Do you know their pain points and biggest challenges? What stage are they at in the Buyer’s Journey?

We would love to help you attract visitors, convert them into leads, close sales with customers and delight them into promoters. Learn more about how inbound marketing works, and then contact us so we can help you achieve success.

Cheers!

p.s. Interested in becoming Inbound Certified? Learn more about the course, certification and who it can help.

Still officially certified,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about Inbound, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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5 Books Every Small Business Owner Should Read

We’re big readers here at CCC. As Mr. King reminds us below, that’s a good thing because we’re writers, and we like to be well-versed at our craft. Reading is important even if you don’t write though. Business professionals and owners everywhere can benefit from knowledge and experience shared in a good book.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write. Simple as that.”  -Stephen King

business books on a bookshelf

A selection of business reads by UNCG Research via CC BY-SA 2.0 http://bit.ly/2eE8A47

So let’s have a book swap! Below we’ve shared 5 books that have helped us in business (in no particular order), and we’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments.

  1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking — Studies show that introverts are one-third to half of the U.S. population, and this book tells you how to embrace their personality and management style to improve your corporate culture and team. Introvert or not, every business professional needs to read this book.
  2. Death to All Sacred Cows — The most common negative review we’ve seen about this book is that its content is old news. Then why do so many businesses large and small still adhere to sacred cows for no reason? Beliefs such as, “The customer’s always right” can put you out of business. Read this book before that happens to you.
  3. David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, And The Art Of Battling Giants — Let’s be honest; any book by Malcolm Gladwell is a good choice, but we loved this one. David And Goliath shows how perceived underdogs may not be underdogs at all. This is a great read for small business owners everywhere who are wondering how to compete against bigger and better-funded opponents.
  4. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? The business world is constantly changing, and Seth Godin shows you how to be a linchpin. This book will help guide your career in corporate America or on your own, making you indispensable to bosses, organizations, business partners and clients. (Similar to Gladwell, any Godin book is a good and worthwhile read.)
  5. It’s Not About the Coffee — “We’re in the people business serving coffee, not the coffee business serving people.” Howard Behar talks about taking a people-centric approach and treating employees, business partners and clients as people — not revenue sources, assets or labor costs. It’s crazy how many businesses don’t understand this concept, and the results you’ll achieve once you do.

BONUS: Things a Little Bird Told Me — Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, takes readers along on his unpredictable journey and shares smart business lessons along the way. He focuses on the power of creativity and how to harness it to achieve success.

As we were compiling this list, we kept coming up with additional suggestions. As bookworms, it’s difficult to limit any reading list to five recommendations! We’re sure we missed some, but that’s the beauty of reading lists — they’re constantly evolving.

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”  -Stephen King

What books have helped you in business or in life?

Have you read a children’s or YA book that’s relevant in your adult life?

What’s your favorite literature genre?

Your favorite bookworm,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about good books, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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Does Your Small Business Have a Contingency Plan?

In preparation of the 2016 election, I recently attended my second year of Precinct Election Official (PEO) training by the local Board of Elections (BOE). In addition to keeping up with new developments, it’s helpful to review the massive amounts of information prior to each election.

What are the massive amounts of information? In addition to job duties and how machines work — contingency plans. The BOE has contingency plans for nearly any situation. Does your small business have contingency plans?

Does your small business have a contingency plan?

Why does your small business need a contingency plan?

  • You lose your largest client. Will you be able to stay afloat while you work to bring in new customers? Or is your business spread out enough to absorb such a hit?
  • Your niche market runs dry. Some markets are more volatile than others, but this could happen to nearly any industry or vertical market. (For example, look at how hard the Great Recession hit the construction industry.) It’s always a good idea to diversify your clientele enough to withstand market fluctuations.
  • You experience a medical emergency or illness. Nearly 80% of small businesses are self-employed individuals. (NASE) Will your small business be able to run without you? For how long? Do you have an exit plan?
  • Your area is hit with a natural disaster or extended power outage. Would you be able to continue to serve your clients? Is your business included in your emergency preparedness kit/plans?
  • You see an unexpected opportunity in the marketplace. How quickly can you add a product or service? Perhaps you’re seeing a decrease in demand for one of your key products or services. Can you switch your focus while still staying true to your brand? Agility is a valuable asset in the small business world.

Related Reading: 4 Lessons Learned in 4 Years as an Entrepreneur

You need to be prepared to handle unexpected obstacles in your business, from marketplace changes to health issues. While none of us can be prepared for everything, having a contingency plan for your small business will ensure a smoother ride when you encounter a future roadblock — or  a black hole.

Your Turn

What other situations should your small business be prepared for?

Have you switched the focus of your small business or changed businesses?

What other advice would you give to small business owners regarding contingency plans?

Still a scout at heart,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about contingency plans, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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What Makes a Successful Public Speaker? These 3 Key Points

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a networking luncheon hosted by my alma mater’s alumni association. While I always look forward to meeting fellow Flashes, I was particularly interested in hearing our city’s mayor speak.

Kent State University Alumni Association Akron Networking Luncheon

Yours truly (second from left) enjoying the Akron Networking Luncheon with fellow Golden Flashes. (Photo used with permission: http://bit.ly/2dxyTIs)

Mayor Horrigan was as good as I thought he would be, which made me think about what makes public speakers successful.

Start with Common Ground — The mayor was a Kent State alumni like the attendees, so he started off reliving his time at the university. As he was talking about a pivotal moment early in his college career, I found myself thinking back to my time at the school and the impact it has had on my life. By starting with what you have in common, you begin to develop a deeper connection with your audience.

Have a Conversation — While the person in front of the room is doing most, if not all, of the speaking, that doesn’t mean you have to be formal or talk down to your audience. Use language your listeners are familiar with, avoiding unnecessary jargon or technical terms. Interact with your audience as much as you can, given the environment, and leave enough time for a Q and A session. Oftentimes that is the most memorable part of the event due to the diversity of voices and ideas included.

Step Away from the PowerPoint — I’m a big fan of visual aids when appropriate, but the PowerPoint may be the most abused aid, or crutch, of all time. The next time you’re speaking to a group, forgo the PowerPoint and let your creativity take over. Use a giant notepad or wall size Post-It Notes to convey key points. Share a short video or photos to embed a special message or moment into your audience’s minds. Some of the best talks I’ve given and attended had no visual aids at all.

As I was kicking around this article in my head, I came across a fantastic article from Forbes on the same subject. It’s worth a read, Adele fan or not!

Public Speaking Spotlight

What tips would you recommend to a public speaker?

Do you take your audience into consideration when speaking or do you have a ‘signature style?’

What is the best talk that you’ve given and attended? Feel free to link to videos or transcripts in the comments!

Speaking on public speaking,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about public speaking, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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To Give or Not To Give: A 4-Year Journey

I regularly check the Popular Content section on the sidebar of this blog to see what readers are enjoying the most. This valuable information helps me plan future topics or encourages me to tackle previous topics from another angle or with updates. One post that always shows up is To Give or Not To Give…, a look at my first platelets donation experience, so I wanted to share more about my experience since this post.

Donating platelets at the American Red Cross

A lot has happened since my previous post four years ago. I’ve become a regular platelets donor, averaging 12 donations a year, and notching 18 visits in 2015. I’ve accepted the fact that I freeze during my donations, wrapping up in blankets and utilizing a large heating pad (and hot pack to squeeze). I do seem to set off the monitor a little less frequently now, so my mummifying attempts seem to be working. 🙂

As noted above, I try to make it to my local DC (donation center) monthly, which is a little easier to do with a couple of Red Cross updates. The Blood Donor app is so convenient! It allows you to schedule platelets donations online, review your donation history, manage appointments and track your donations, among other tasks. Rapid Pass is a time-saver, as it allows you to answer the interview questions in advance on the day of your appointment. It’s not available via mobile, but it is a nice way to cut down on the time you spend at the facility.

Changes have been made to the actual donation process too. In the past year, the Red Cross has gone back to a two-needle donation process: blood is drawn from one arm and returned in your other arm after having your platelets (and possibly plasma) removed. Unfortunately my body didn’t take to the two-arm process at all, so my DC accepts my donations via a one-arm donation.

After taking a few months off, I’m starting to donate monthly again. I realize others donate more, up to the maximum of 24 times per year, but that seems to be too much for my body to handle. Last fall, I started to have issues during donations, so the Red Cross stopped taking plasma during my platelets donations, which has helped immensely.

I’m continuing to monitor how my body handles donations going forward but am looking forward to making regular monthly donations again. The Blood Donor app, Rapid Pass and returning to a one-arm donation process have helped me continue to help others in need. Curious? Visit http://www.redcrossblood.org/platelets to learn more about the platelets donation process.

Your Feedback Requested

Do you donate blood, platelets, plasma or a platelets/plasma combination?

Do you react to the anticoagulant by sneezing frequently? (I just made it through my first donation without needing TUMS!)

What do you think of the two-arm collection process vs. the one-arm?

Have you experienced any side effects from donating?

To all fellow donors, thank you!

Jaime

Let’s chat (about platelets donations, paying it forward or otherwise):
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2016 Olympic Marketing Game Winners

So many athletes won big at this year’s Olympics, delivering their best performances on the world’s biggest stage. Who won the 2016 Olympic Marketing Games?

Gold

Under Armour, Rule Yourself 

This popular brand has done the best job of taking advantage of changes to Rule 40. It submitted a marketing plan in accordance with the (slightly) relaxed restrictions and advertised its sponsorship of Michael Phelps and other athletes without ever using Olympic intellectual property (IP), which isn’t allowed by non-sponsors. This video alone is nearing 11,000,000 views, has been shared over 68,000 times and has an average watch duration of 1:21 (for a 1:31 video). The best part? Under Armour’s Olympic marketing efforts are part of a larger overall campaign, so the brand receives an A+ for cohesiveness.

Olympic Marketing: A Balancing Act for Brands

Silver

Visa, The Swim

While The Carpool to Rio was an impressive spot, Visa grabbed our attention with its nod to refugee Yusra Mardini’s incredible journey to becoming an Olympian. As an official sponsor, the company has a heavy presence leading up to and during the Games, and this year was no different. This video alone racked up nearly 5,000,000 views, 715 shares and an average view duration of 29 seconds for a 30-second spot.

Super Bowl 50: Winners & Losers on the Big Stage

Bronze

Mini USA, Defy Labels

This spot initially caught our eye on TV, and we love the message behind it. We’ve all been labeled in our lives, oftentimes unfairly or based on stereotypes. It also fits in with the company’s product line, which defies expectations based on its size. Mini USA is an official Olympic sponsor, so the company can use Olympic IP throughout its campaign. The TV spot had a 98.12% average view rate (top 5 overall), and this video (one of a series) has captured nearly 18,500 views and 847 shares.

Now that we’ve handed out our medals, let us know your Olympic Marketing Champions. Which ads or overall campaigns caught your attention?

An Olympics (& marketing) fan,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about the Olympics, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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Olympic Marketing: A Balancing Act for Brands

The Olympics are an opportunity of a lifetime, not only for athletes but for marketers too. Unfortunately, that dream can quickly turn into a nightmare for brands who aren’t official Olympic sponsors.

How Startups and Small Businesses Can Achieve Olympic Glory

In 2012, we talked about the limitations of companies who weren’t official sponsors (rumored to cost upward of $25 million) to benefit from the Olympics in any capacity.

“Athletes were barred from tweeting about non-official sponsors, and non-sponsors were not allowed to feature Olympic athletes that they had sponsorship deals with in ads.”  –Adweek

Heading into the 2016 Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made changes to Rule 40, which the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) adopted. These revisions allow non-official sponsors to endorse Olympic athletes and run ad campaigns featuring them while also allowing athletes to tweet about non-official sponsors.

There are rules to these more relaxed revisions, of course. Brands and athletes had to submit waivers to the USOC by January 27, 2016, to have their marketing and social media campaigns approved, and ads had to begin running before March 27, 2016. Also, non-sponsor brands and athletes promoting them are not allowed to use Olympic intellectual property (IP), which includes the Olympic rings and terms such as Olympics, Rio 2016 and gold.

How the Olympics’ New Advertising Rules Will Impact Athletes and Brands in Rio

How can your small business or startup achieve Olympic glory?

  • Throw an Olympic watch party that ties in your products or services. Invite clients, customers, prospects and employees to join in the fun (and share their good times on social).
  • Reference the Olympic spirit or other aspects of the games in your social media content without using Olympic IP, which includes official hashtags. (Under Armour has done a great job in this area!)
  • Announce a customer loyalty program to capitalize on the excitement of the games and create momentum for a strong second half.
  • Hold internal competitions for employees, physical and/or job-related, complete with decorations, cool prizes and food. Competitors have to eat, right? 🙂

Olympic Feedback

What are your thoughts on Rule 40: too strict, too relaxed or just right?

Should brands who are not official sponsors be able to use Olympic IP, including hashtags?

Will these restrictions impact future Olympic sponsorship deals?

What other ways can small businesses and startups get in on the Olympic spirit?

An Olympics fan,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about the Olympics, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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4 Things That Social Media Can’t (or Shouldn’t) Do

The power of social media is impressive, but it can’t (or shouldn’t) do everything for your company or brand. Other areas need to carry their own weight too.

4 Things That Social Media Can't (or Shouldn't) Do

Here are four things that social media can’t do for your brand:

  • Fix a bad product — Product is king, at least in the sense that any advertising or marketing can’t fix a faulty product. Social media makes it even more important to provide quality products and services. Now customers have a forum to provide real-time feedback on their purchase, which potential customers around your community and the world can see. If you’re consistently receiving negative feedback on your social media channels, don’t try to cover it up. Fix the problem (i.e. the faulty product or service), and your social media conversations will be a lot more pleasant.
  • Replace a website — Social media helps level the playing field and opens up a world of opportunity to startups and small businesses. That doesn’t mean that it should be your only digital presence. A user-friendly, mobile-optimized website should be your first priority. Think of your online presence as a wheel. Your website should be the center with your social presences branching out from it. Your website is owned space whereas you’re renting your Facebook Page and other social spaces.

Related Reading: A Simple Step-by-Step Guide to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  • Provide all of your website traffic — A well-built, easy-to-navigate website optimized for search engines is a win-win situation for your business. It draws traffic through search, even when you’re not working, and provides a welcoming place for prospects and customers to learn more about you online. While social is a great way to drive traffic, it can’t be expected to make up for a poorly performing website.
  • Be your entire marketing mix — Social media is a type of marketing, but it shouldn’t comprise your entire marketing mix. Depending on what you do, there are a number of excellent marketing opportunities, including on a limited budget. While so many people are on social media today, you’ll still miss potential customers by limiting yourself to social media marketing only. Know where your target audience spends its time to understand where you should be spending your marketing dollars.

Related Reading: 4 Retro Ways to Connect with Modern Audiences

We love social media and encourage brands to utilize this powerful tool. However, there’s a whole world out there, so don’t miss out on opportunities because you’re only getting social on social — and not anywhere else.

What else shouldn’t you expect social media to do for your brand or company?

What are your favorite marketing mediums besides social media?

Getting social online and off,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about social media, your marketing needs or otherwise):
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4 Retro Ways to Connect with Modern Audiences

Everywhere we look lately, from entertainment to business, what’s old is new again. Well established franchises are selling out movie theaters, the toy aisle is straight out of the eighties and businesses everywhere are turning back the clock to stand out in this fast-paced, digital world.

Clearly Conveyed Communications -- We give you a voice.

How can you go retro to connect with customers and grow your business today?

Make it personal with a handwritten note. When you receive a handwritten note, card or letter, it feels more personal. The recipient will appreciate that you took the time to put your thoughts on paper. The next time you want to thank a loyal customer or employee, don’t send an email. Jot down why you appreciate the recipient and how much you value the relationship, job he’s doing, etc. A little writing will go a long way!

How House of Cards is Winning the Marketing Game

Develop long-term relationships. Relationship marketing is a buzzword today, but the concept is straight out of a bygone era. Take the time to get to know your clients and employees, business partners and vendors. Let them know you’re in it for the long haul, not just a short-term sale. People want to do business with people they trust and that takes time to develop.

Give your audience your undivided attention. Viewers loved the alcohol carts in offices on Mad Men, but many of them missed the point. The ad men (and few women) would sit down and spend time with their clients when they stopped in. They weren’t too busy running from meeting to meeting to listen to their clients’ challenges and concerns. Many creative solutions were born over Old Fashioneds with no outside interruptions.

Mad Men: Master Storytelling In Any Era

Embrace paper in the digital age. In an age of email and the cloud, using paper is one way to grab recipients’ waning attention. Feature direct mail in your next marketing campaign, and reorder your physical business cards. In fact, go old school — embossing, engraving, bold lettering and colors set off with white space — to stand out from your competition. Going all digital removes your audience’s sense of touch, which limits their sensory experience while interacting with your brand.

In Summary

Handwritten notes, developing long-term relationships, giving your undivided attention and embracing paper will help you connect with today’s audiences. Don’t be afraid to be different, even if that means being inspired by a bygone era.

We’re grabbing our fedoras to head out for Old Fashioneds and Vodka Martinis with clients. Care to join us?

Embracing the future with help from the past,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about building relationships, your communications needs or otherwise):
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