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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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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Social Media Isn’t Easy: 5 Reasons Why It’s Worth It

Last week, we reminded everyone that social media isn’t free and recommended five ways to maximize your time and money. This week, we’re addressing another misperception.

How to become a SocialMedia Manager by Urs Steiner via CC BY 2.0

How to become a SocialMedia Manager by Urs Steiner via CC BY 2.0

 

Social media isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. We’re not talking about the act of tweeting itself or posting pictures of your kids on Facebook or Instagramming every meal you eat.

We’re talking about getting social for business, engaging your brand’s communities and developing long-term emotional connections. In other words, creating fans for life.

Related Reading: How Long Does It Take for Social Media Marketing to Start Paying Off?

Here’s 5 reasons why social media is worth it for your business:

  • Find New (Targeted) Customers: In a sea of 2.03 billion social media users*, someone is interested in your products or services. Find the right audience by utilizing hashtags, groups and platforms they’re using.
  • Delight Current Customers: 65% of customers leave over a single poor customer service experience.* Delight your current customers by providing amazing service via social media and beyond.
  • Participate in the Conversation: Customers will talk about you online and share their experiences with others. While you can’t control the conversation,  you can participate and give fans a firsthand account of what’s going on at your company.
  • Deliver Content Straight to Your Fans: 61% of people are more likely to buy from a company that delivers content.* Deliver value to your fans by creating content they love, and you’ll have a better chance of converting them into customers.
  • Turn Fans into Fanatics: Consider this: 53% of people who follow brands on social media are more loyal.* After converting fans into customers, make them fanatics for your brand by delighting them every step of the way. They’ll become your best advertising!

As we said before, social media isn’t easy, but it’s worth it if you do it right. Just remember that it’s a long-term addition to your marketing mix, not an overnight savior for your sales.

If you need help with your social media efforts, from strategy to management, we’d love to chat. There’s nothing that we love more than brands getting social — and getting it right.

Get Social on Social Media

Why is social media worth it for your brand or business?

How much time do you spend on social in a typical week?

Do you have a documented strategy?

What’s your brand’s favorite social media experience so far?

*Statistics via The Inbound Marketing Checklist: 21 Strategies for Growth

Let’s get social,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about social media, strategy or otherwise):
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3 Simple Marketing Tips For Your Next Product Launch

Are you planning a product launch? How is your marketing plan looking? If you’re looking for some tips, then you’ve come to the right place.

We’ve helped startups launch new products over the years, and today I’m going to share three of the most successful methods I’ve seen.

Deadly Sins (Snowglobes), Pure Products USA by See-Ming Lee via CC BY-SA 2.0

Focus on your core

Just for a second, I want you to think about your general fitness and strength. If you are a little out of shape, what’s the one thing you can do to improve it? Strengthening your core is the perfect start, because it affects nearly every other part of your body.

Now let’s apply that analogy to your business. You have to focus on your core audience when planning your new product launch. Talk to them — and only them — in a way which they can relate. Your target audience(s) will give your product launch the momentum it needs to succeed. After the initial excitement, the rest will come to you easier, and you’ll see more sales.

Organize an event

It doesn’t matter whether you are selling a physical product or a service; a launch event can give you the initial boost that you need. Get in touch with your state or city business department and find out if there are any empty premises available.

Look for something striking, perhaps with exposed brickwork or beautiful features. Contact your local steel suppliers to find surplus floor plates for a modern, urban look. They’re good for safety, look fantastic, and can lead people straight into your main sales area. Let the local press know, and invite all your friends, family, and social networks.

Hire a local DJ to set the mood, and a caterer to provide hors d’oeuvres. It’s amazing what a little music and food can do for an event! The bigger buzz you create for your event, the bigger buzz there will be about your product. A launch night is all about adding that extra bit of pizzazz.

Make people an offer they can’t refuse

My final suggestion is to entice people to take action. You should be doing this as early as possible in the process. Advertise your product online, and let people know when they can expect to see it.

Encourage them to sign up by offering them a better deal — 25% off for example — if they give you their email address. Keep in touch with them and offer early access to anyone that wants it. Or you could give away early or exclusive access as a prize to help drum up even more excitement ahead of your launch. Early adopters are always eager to try new products and spread the word to their social circles.

As you get closer to launch day, ramp up their interest with more frequent emails. Don’t overdo it, though. When the big day arrives, relax and enjoy the culmination of your efforts. Best of luck with your new launches, and let us know how your big day goes!

What tip(s) would you add for a successful product launch?

What has been your favorite product launch to date (by you or another brand)?

p.s. Are you planning on launching a new product or service? Let’s discuss a plan to make your big day a success!

Thinking BIG,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about product launches, marketing your services or otherwise):
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Essential Guide To Creating A Memorable Brand For Your Small Business

Branding is all about resonating with your target audience. If you want to cut through the incessant chatter of the online world or make an impact in the offline world, then your brand needs to say a lot about you.

But how do you go about creating a brand that both reflects what you do and that forms a connection with your customers? For small and mid-sized businesses on a budget, it’s a tough job. So we’ve put together this guide to help you find some answers.

Branding by EdgeThreeSixty via CC BY 2.0

Ask yourself who you are

Be honest about your business and who you are. While some companies, such as legal firms and funeral homes, should stick with a serious or solemn image, others can go with a more lighthearted, cheeky or even humorous approach.

This is where small businesses have an advantage. We can position ourselves as local companies who are helping our local economies while battling corporate behemoths who are sending profits far away. This ‘us vs. them’ message can work well; check out the Brew Dog story for inspiration.

“Every brand has a story, and your story is integral to your success.”

Get your target audience right

To create a successful brand, you have to know who you are talking to, so researching your market is an essential part of the process. Find out who your customers are, what they do, and where they live.

Also, look at what they like and what encourages them to respond. What are their fears, hopes and dreams? Once you have learned enough about your target audience(s), you can create a tone of voice that connects with them.


Be consistent

Great branding is consistent. When people see your business, they should know exactly what to expect. So it’s important to reflect the same brand message throughout your organization. Make sure that employees, partners and anyone else spreading your message are using your tone of voice. Look at managed print services that can keep your marketing materials consistent. Give people what they expect, and they will continue to trust and work with you.


Be yourself

As a small business, you face disadvantages when competing against a national or global company. Don’t try to copy their branding and positioning, because you don’t have their resources to achieve the same results.

You have to look for a unique aspect of your business that differentiates you from your competition and let people know what that is. If they beat you on price, then offer value-added services that they can’t possibly match. There will be many things that you can do better than the big players, so figuring those out — and promoting them — is vital to your brand.

Related reading: Mad Men: Master Storytelling in Any Era


Don’t concentrate on winning new customers

Of course, bringing on new customers is always important, but as a small business it’s important to put more energy into retention. Your current clients are the people who buy from you already — and will be likely to buy more in the near future.

If you offer excellent service and forge long-lasting relationships with your current clients, you’ll grow your brand more than spending all of your time chasing potential new customers.

Related reading: Branding is a Feeling, Not a Noun

Do you want to create a memorable brand for your small business? Check out our other branding posts for tips and tricks or get in touch. We’d love to help you tell your brand story.

We give brands a voice,
Jaime

Let’s chat (about your brand, the art of branding or otherwise):
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How Chipotle Sold Sofritas to a Nation of Meat Lovers

A Sofritas burrito from Chipotle

Who can sell braised tofu to a nation of meat lovers? Chipotle can.

The fast casual Mexican food chain introduced Sofritas last year in select markets but faced a serious problem, at least in the US. Americans eat meat — and a lot of it. Who wants some tasty braised tofu?

So Chipotle got creative and came up with the perfect promotion. The company was so sure that people would love Sofritas that it offered you a free meal if you’d try the strange, new menu item. Come in on Monday, January 26th, order Sofritas and receive a free entree of your choice.

Why was this promotion so genius?

  • Serious sales spike: In order to get your free entree, you had to try Sofritas on January 26th. Not only did the restaurant chain enjoy a serious sales spike, it drove traffic through its doors on a traditionally slow day for restaurants — Monday.
  • Easy (but not too easy) redemption: All you had to do to receive your free entree was bring back your receipt, beginning the next day. Easy enough, but I’m sure a lot of people failed to return to collect their freebie, so Chipotle saved some major change.*
  • Spread out the hit: You could redeem your free entree beginning the next day, January 27th, through February 28th, so you had an entire month to cash in. Also, Chipotle spread out its financial hit over a full month instead of losing massive sales in one day.
  • Target the right audience: Why didn’t Chipotle just offer free Sofritas on one day? For all the reasons mentioned above AND who the company was trying to attract. The restaurant chain wanted loyal customers to try a new menu item, casual customers to find a new favorite — and come more often — and new customers to add Chipotle to their restaurant rotation. In other words, people who would continue to give the company business and more than pay for the free meal — not people simply looking for free food.
  • Strong social sharing: How did I find out about this promotion? The same way most did — through social media. Friends like to notify their friends of new opportunities and good deals, so this promotion spread like crazy. Chipotle enjoyed strong digital sentiment and online community growth.

The result? A huge success! The promotion drew so many takers that some restaurants ran out of Sofritas, which did generate a small amount of negative social reaction. (Remember, a ‘good problem’ to have is still a problem.) However, the majority of people who ventured out and tried Sofritas actually liked them. Imagine that!

When you face the daunting challenge of introducing a new product or concept to your audience, remember how Chipotle sold vegan fare to a nation of meat lovers — and they loved it.

Chime In on Chipotle, Tofu, Promotions & More

Did you try Sofritas on January 26, 2015?

If so, did you return to redeem your free entree?

Have you had Sofritas again?

How have you encouraged a skeptical audience to try a new product or service?

*Only 6.6% of on-receipt coupons were redeemed in 2012, per Inmar 2014 Coupon Trends.

An almost pescatarian,
Jaime

Let’s chat (on successful promotions, a new project or otherwise):
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On Writing…

Writing. It’s something we all learned to do at an early age, but some people are more adept at it than others. If you’re trying to improve your writing, here are a few tips I’ve picked up since I started writing at age 3. 🙂

I still love filling notebooks with my thoughts and chicken scratch.

Write often. Then write some more. It’s amazing how much more confident you feel about your writing when you practice, practice, practice. Blogging, notebooks, a journal or your Mac, the platform and audience doesn’t really matter. Just keep writing.

Can’t write? Read. Even if you’re not an avid reader, find something — or someone — you like. It doesn’t have to be business-related or in your field. As much as I enjoy psychology and sociology books, my favorite author of all time is Stephen King, a master of words. I’ve learned so much from reading his works.

“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” –Stephen King

Say something. Seriously. Read what you just wrote and ask yourself what the takeaway is. If you can’t come up with anything, then neither can your audience.

Don’t waste words. While the type of writing depends on your audience, platform and objectives, never waste words. If a word or paragraph doesn’t add anything to your work, leave it out. Being eloquent doesn’t have to mean being wordy.

Dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Proofreading isn’t optional, even in the era of instant publishing and smartphone communication. Poor spelling, grammar and punctuation reflects poorly on the author, no matter what platform. It’s usually helpful to have others proofread your work, but if that’s not possible, at least try to walk away for awhile. It’s amazing what fresh eyes can see.

Grammar can change everything.

So grammar’s not important, huh?
Photo credit: Writers.com (h/t Kathy Yoho)

Beat writer’s block. It happens to anyone who writes sooner or later, but there are actions you can take. Get moving. A brisk walk, an energetic game of basketball or an afternoon hike can be just what you need. They also draw your attention elsewhere. Sometimes when you try so hard to think about something, your brain locks up. It’s not a coincidence that so many great ideas, from novels to solving a client’s issue, happen in the shower or during a run. Think about something else, and the words will probably start flowing again.

Carry a notebook. While I’m old school and love to fill notebooks with my chicken scratch, you may prefer the digital domain. Either way, always carry a notebook (even if it’s your smartphone). You never know when, or where, an idea will strike.

Related reading: Things I Carry: Pen and Paper

Write to your audience. It’s helpful to know who your audience is so you can write to them. Speak in their language, play to their interests and use words they understand. Have you ever read something that seemed like it was written just for you? That’s the power of writing to your audience.

Pay attention. The world is full of writing topics; you just have to see (hear, smell, feel or sense) them. Pay attention to your surroundings, even during mundane tasks. You’ll be surprised what can come out of a walk in the park or your daily commute. I’ve had ideas for blog posts pop into my head while driving through a local metro park and making leg lamp cookies.

What tips would you add?

Where’s your favorite place to write (or read)?

Have you ever read writing outside of your ‘comfort zone’ and loved it?

While we’re all expected to be writers these days, some people just aren’t comfortable putting their thoughts on paper (or screen). Is that you? Then I’d love to work my magic for you

Writing away,
Jaime

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Winning As The Underdog: Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths

I’m only 30 pages into Malcolm Gladwell’s latest, David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, And The Art Of Battling Giants, and I’ve already learned much.

David And Goliath bookcover

Pic credit: Gladwell.com

This highly publicized new book starts off with a bang, taking a closer look at the ultimate underdog story: David vs. Goliath. Upon further review of this epic confrontation, David wasn’t nearly at the disadvantage we all thought he was. Therein lies the answer; oftentimes, the very features that make the favorite the favorite also make him vulnerable. Make sense? Read the book; it’s definitely worth your time.

The very features that make the favorite the favorite also make him vulnerable.

Next, Gladwell moves on to discuss how a small army and an inexperienced basketball team are successful by not going toe-to-toe with their much better, highly favored opponents. That’s noteworthy and can be applied to your business. Do one or two behemoths dominate your industry? Don’t worry, you don’t have to beat them head-to-head. Target a different demographic; offer your customers a different experience.

Target's bulls eye logo

Bulls eye? Target’s famous logo.
Pic credit: Target

Who’s a perfect example of this philosophy? Target. The discount retailer never tried to go head-to-head with Wal-Mart, who has dominated this landscape for years. Instead, Target aimed for a slightly more affluent, design-conscious consumer who still liked to be money-savvy. From the beginning, the discount chain aimed to be invested in its stores’ communities, donating to local charities and giving back to local schools. It also was into being green before being green was cool. Target was a leader in its industry with pushing reusable bags (by offering a 5% discount on each purchase bagged in one) and offering in-store recycling centers.

The irony is now that Target is very competitive with Wal-Mart’s pricing (its calling card), and is even less expensive on some items. In keeping with its philosophy, you’ll never hear Target advertise this fact specifically though. The company is staying true to its vision and will not directly confront Wal-Mart, even when it proves to be superior.

Take a tip from David, Target and all of the other underdogs out there. You don’t have to be big and mighty to win. Sometimes your ‘weaknesses’ turn out to be your biggest strengths, when you use them to your advantage.

How have you outmaneuvered a favored opponent?

How have you turned a supposed weakness into a strength?

Who’s your favorite underdog in history?

Always the underdog,
Jaime

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Who are you talking to?

Determining your target audience can make or break your campaign or message. Basically, who are you talking to? By narrowing down your target audience, you will save money, resources and receive a higher ROI (return on investment).

For example, direct mail can be a great way to break through the clutter of advertising today. A clear message, effective graphics and personalization can all help your marketing piece hit home. However, it won’t do much good if you send your message to recipients who won’t be interested or have no use for your product or service. Also, you’ll end up spending more money than necessary, receiving a low ROI and wasting materials.

A prime example –> I received a direct mail piece from a cable/phone/Internet provider advertising a great rate for new subscribers. The problem? I was already a subscriber, and therefore, not eligible for the rate. Not only did the company waste money, paper and ink, they irritated a good customer. The special rate was well below what I was paying for the same services.

So when you’re planning a new marketing message or campaign, stop and think about who you’re talking to.

–Who is most likely to be interested or have a need for your products or services?
–What is the best way (or ways) to reach this audience?
–What type of message will cause this audience to respond?
–What’s the best call to action for the crowd you’re targeting?

Narrow your focus to the right target audience, and your message is more likely to get through.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Cheers,
Jaime