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  • Ask these 5 questions before you hire a marketing agency

    Brands choose to work with us for a number of reasons – to assess and fine tune the look and feel of their brand, to leverage their expertise with a targeted PR strategy, or to fill the role of an objective team that manages all things marketing, to name a few. But just as we ask ourselves with each new client if they’re the right fit for Fluent, we encourage anyone who’s considering working with a marketing agency to do their homework and know what questions to ask to determine if the partnership will be an effective one. In your initial meetings with a potential marketing agency, ask them the following questions to help figure out if they’re the right fit for you. What industries do you work with? You might be interviewing a well-respected agency with a killer track record, but if they specialize in sports marketing and your business is a law firm, at the very least there’s going to be a learning curve. There are benefits to agencies with varied experience (they might be more apt to incorporate new techniques they’ve had success with in other industries) but a marketer who is familiar with your industry will be able to jump in with a clear understanding of your business, and often has the appropriate connections and expertise to get things moving quickly. To further understand where they excel, ask your prospective agency for case studies and client references on past projects for a sense of how they work and what kind of projects they’ve tackled with success. What measurement tools or tactics do you use? As an integrated marketing agency, we use unique measurement tools for our different services, but we always have a system in place to track the success of our efforts. Some are more cut and dry – online analytics can clearly reflect traffic, views, click through rate, etc. – while other efforts like PR can be more of an ongoing investment that will pay off in the long run. Whatever we’re working on, we want to be able to demonstrate to our clients that our efforts have had an impact, and any agency you choose to work with should be able to provide comprehensive reports to demonstrate the return on your investment. What type of interaction will we have throughout this project? There isn’t necessarily a “right” answer to this question, but there’s one that might be the best fit for you personally, and it’s best to set expectations ahead of time so that you understand the process moving forward. We like to have official meetings with our clients at least once a month to keep things on track, and we’re in regular communication about ongoing projects the rest of the time. Scheduled check-in sessions can keep you updated on progress and provide clarity on any questions or concerns you have sooner rather than later. Who will be assigned to my team? Have a clear understanding before you agree to a partnership of who will be your daily point person moving forward. Agency members often collaborate on projects, which can lead to great ideas and successful campaigns, but you want to be sure you’re not handed off to an intern as soon as you sign on – and you want to know that you get along with the person you’ll be working most closely with. Agencies should be comfortable with transparency from the start about who will manage your account and what team members might contribute to working on your account once you’re a client. What will this whole process look like? Maybe you’re new to outsourcing your marketing, or maybe you’ve worked with an agency before and know what’s worked well, and what definitely hasn’t. Keeping in mind that each project is unique in its own way, we can communicate with potential clients pretty early on what a relationship with us will look like based on what we hear from them about the reason they’re engaging us. We always begin with a “deep dive” or strategy session that allows us to really assess a client’s current efforts, what’s working and what’s not, and where we’ll be able to make a difference. Your prospective agency should be able to provide you with a general overview of how your relationship would play out after hearing your project goals, budget and timeline.

  • 4 big lessons we’ve learned from Covid and BLM in a few short months

    If you’re paying attention, you know that the worlds of public relations and marketing are already different from what they were in March. It’s become clear that consumers have withstood a cosmic shift in priorities since the beginning of the global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. In just a few short months, what have we learned? 1. Be Ready To Respond Perhaps one of the biggest changes in the industry caused by COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests is the expectation for brands and companies to have the right answer IN the moment. The age of carefully crafting a response over a period of a few days is gone. Today, 70% of consumers expect brands to stand up for social issues, while 46% pay close attention to a brand’s social responsibility efforts when they buy a product. They want to hear your plan first. This is a lesson for anyone in leadership or communications. When the next crisis or social movement is brought into the spotlight, are you ready to react swiftly? Start meeting with stakeholders and outlining where your company stands on various issues. Role play scenarios and prepare statements in advance. Even if the situations never arise, the lesson here is to develop a proactive system internally that enables you to offer your audiences transparency and swift responses. Additionally, you’ll want to have actions ready to accompany those statements. Back up your words with realistic plans that can be put into action. Plan for the short and long game and ways you can be both proactive and reactive. 2. Transparency Is Expected We mentioned transparency, and it’s a critical lesson. There’s no longer room for compromise. Consumers do not have the patience for posturing. They expect transparency and perhaps above all things, accountability. When Westbrook-based clothing manufacturer American Roots was facing an expected 70% loss of revenue in mid-March, they were immediately transparent in showing how they were shifting their business to create PPE. The company was sincere and open about their determination to not only help during the pandemic but to also keep their employees working. In July, when one of their employees tested positive for COVID-19, American Roots confronted the issue head-on, releasing the following statement on Facebook: To Our Family, Friends, Supporters, & Advocates: We are writing to let you know that on Friday, July 10, an American Roots (AR) team member tested positive for COVID-19. Upon hearing this news, we immediately informed all American Roots employees, local and CDC State Officials, and promptly closed the factory at 1:30 p.m. for rigorous cleaning and sanitization in accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. On Saturday, July 11, two additional team members tested positive for COVID-19. It’s important to note that all three team members contracted the virus from individuals who do not work at American Roots. All three team members are under quarantine and doing well. We pray for swift recoveries. As a precautionary step, American Roots will implement testing for all employees starting Tuesday, July 14; when the factory re-opens, and regular operations resume. We are in close contact with local and state CDC officials to ensure the health and safety of our employees remains the top priority and proper shipping protocols are followed. All products are inspected, bagged and sealed, then boxed for maximum safety. We want to say a heartfelt thank you to our employees and customers for their understanding as we work through this and continue to provide high quality, much needed PPE products during this trying time in our Nation’s history. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call or email us: 207-854-4098 info@americanrootswear.com Love to all. In Solidarity, Whitney Reynolds Waxman & Ben Waxman Co-Owners American Roots The company continued to update consumers on their Facebook page, even after testing revealed an additional 8 employees had contracted COVID-19. The second posting drew over 180 positive reactions and more than 30 comments expressing support. American Roots was not only transparent about the positive tests among their workforce, but they were also clear about what they were doing to address the issue. They detailed their cleaning plans and made it clear that employee safety was their first and foremost priority. In the end, their honesty and transparency paid off. And fortunately, their safety and sanitation protocols, in addition to quick action, kept the virus from further spreading throughout their workplace. 3. Increased Ability To Be Vulnerable When it comes to many social issues, it’s entirely possible that you don’t know the answer, or aren’t sure how to address it. The beauty of the demand for transparency is that you are allowed to say you don’t know. Sure, you need to raise the game when it comes to sharing best practices and what you stand for. But if you’re struggling to find the right words, all you need to do is say so. If you’re honest about your values and struggle with how to respond correctly, your audience will tell you what they want and need from you. 4. Carry These Lessons Forward The best way you can respond to the lessons we’ve learned from the pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement is to outline how to keep your company from going back to business as usual. You’ve probably heard that we won’t be going back to normal anytime soon, but will instead have to find a “new normal.” Let these lessons help guide you into your new normal. Be prepared, transparent, and accountable, and it’s likely your company will head into its next challenge stronger than before.

  • Should you outsource your marketing or keep it in-house?

    Some companies are intimidated by the idea of hiring an outside marketing agency. Many believe they don’t need outside support because they have a marketing person (or team) in-house. The reality is, agencies like ours regularly work with businesses of all types — from smaller businesses who aren’t ready to hire a full-time marketer to larger companies who are looking for ways to fill in gaps or amplify what their internal marketing team is already doing. Before turning to an outside marketing agency, it’s important to consider the challenges your in-house talent might be facing. Does their skillset align with what you are asking of them? Or are there some projects you aren’t pursuing because you don’t have the manpower or the time? Taking stock of your marketing department’s strengths and weaknesses can make the decision to hire an outside agency a bit easier. Whether you’re interested in hiring an agency to take over all your marketing efforts or just to increase your department’s bandwidth, here are some of the top ways in which working with an outsourced marketing department can benefit your business: Diverse expertise While your solitary marketing director may be exceptional at his or her job, it’s hard for one person to provide the diverse skill set that an agency can offer. An outsourced marketing team is generally made up of a small group of people, most often with varied experience and expertise, that work together to provide a scope of services that meet all of your marketing needs. You don’t have to worry that what’s out of your director’s wheelhouse or, let’s be real, what they’re just not interested in, might be consistently pushed to the back burner. Objectivity You know your brand inside and out. This has its benefits, but from a marketing perspective, sometimes fresh eyes are just what you need. It can be hard for employees to separate themselves from their work in a way that allows for constructive, objective feedback and input on marketing projects. An outside firm tells it like it is, and often provides insight that can kick your marketing plan into gear. Cross-industry insight With an outside agency, you’re receiving a team of marketing experts with experience from a variety of industries. This array of experience often leads to the type of out-of-the-box thinking that can take your marketing strategy to a new level. Agency professionals have seen what works and what doesn’t, and their breadth of expertise can bring insight on a variety of new ideas, including things like opportunities for cross-promotion and cobranding your content. Cost According to Salary.com, the current average salary for a marketing director in the U.S. is $143,467. With a full-time employee, you’ll need to take into consideration things like health insurance, retirement benefits, and overhead cost of space and equipment. Beyond those costs, consider the need for additional employees to get the job done. Most marketing directors operate at a high level, developing a strategy and managing your marketing plan, while a junior level employee actually executes these efforts. For the best results, you’ll want to budget for at least two marketing employees to both develop and execute an effective strategy. An outsourced marketing department, on the other hand, comes with none of the overhead of an in-house employee. Your monthly retainer covers all your costs, without the hassle of investing in new equipment or paying for vacation time. Want the best of both worlds? Marketing is never one-size-fits-all, but working with an outside agency can help determine the marketing structure that works for you while helping your business accomplish its goals. Take the time to analyze your marketing department’s needs, as well as any current or future initiatives that you’d like to achieve. If you discover your in-house team lacks time or specific expertise, it may be time to enlist outside help. For many of our clients, this was where they found themselves before we came in. We’re happy to serve as an extension of an in-house team that can help with as much or as little as your business needs.

  • The Marketing Audit: What. Why. How?

    Q1 is a great time to stop, take a close look at your marketing and communications efforts, measure and reflect. Even the most robust and savvy in-house marketing team may find it challenging to review their own marketing program. It’s difficult to bring objectivity to our own decisions. Enter the marketing audit — an opportunity to ask an independent party to evaluate all facets of your company’s marketing and/or communications efforts. It’s an important step in the marketing planning process. As either your very first step, or as a next step before investing more in your marketing efforts, investing in an audit is a smart and efficient way to deliver greater marketing ROI. Why should I pursue a marketing audit? Just like your CPA or business consultant will audit your financials, a marketing audit is an independent evaluation by a qualified marketing consultant or agency. The goal is to understand what’s working and what’s not working. A comprehensive marketing audit will: reveal any positioning issues that might be hindering your overall success reveal any internal issues impacting your marketing or communications success refine your marketing and communications strategies to align with your current goals analyze the effectiveness of your current marketing or communications tactics. What are the benefits of a marketing audit? The two major benefits of a marketing audit include: the opportunity to gather up-to-date feedback from a marketing professional who brings objectivity to the findings, and the insights on which to build a strong foundation for all future marketing plans and execution. What factors will be analyzed as part of a marketing audit? The marketing audit can certainly be customized to be as exhaustive as your company demands, but there are a few essentials to make the audit meaningful: Positioning review – an audit of your brand and all available external materials that communicate your brand (logo, identity materials, sales letters, ads, etc.). The goal is to reveal any areas that might cause confusion or mistrust with your audience(s). Competitor review – an audit of your key competitors’ brands and any readily available marketing materials. The goal is to understand their strategy and unique selling proposition as a basis for differentiating from your competition. Online presence review – a review of your website, blog, social media presence and online advertising. The goal is to assess alignment with your brand positioning and effectiveness at engaging your prospects in a variety of online environments. Marketing communications plan review – a review of your most recent marketing plan or tactics. The goal is to provide an opportunity to review your marketing and communications efforts and any available data on effectiveness. The deliverable of a marketing audit is a written findings report that provides the marketing consultant or agency’s findings in the key areas above, as well as their expert perceptions and recommendations for next steps. When should you conduct a marketing audit? A marketing audit will deliver valuable feedback at any stage of your business’ life cycle. If you think of the marketing audit as a precursor to taking a bigger marketing dive, often the timing is ideal in Q4 as you begin planning your marketing budget. But any audit is better than never auditing! Armed with the knowledge your team receives from the audit, your team can proceed with marketing planning, budgeting and execution with confidence that you’ve maximized every aspect of your marketing program. Learn more about marketing strategy and planning.

  • Fluent IMC receives awards recognizing national communications campaign

    Fluent IMC, was recognized last week at the Maine Public Relations Council’s Golden Arrow Awards for its work in 2019, receiving a Gold Award and two Honorable Mentions. The Golden Arrows recognize the best work of communications, public relations and marketing professionals, and student practitioners based in Maine. Additionally, at Hospice of Southern Maine’s Annual Meeting last week, Fluent was the recipient of Home Care & Hospice Alliance of Maine’s Media Award for its promotion of Hospice of Southern Maine’s virtual reality training tool that earned expansive national coverage and subsequent nationwide speaking engagements for key staff. From MPRC, Fluent received a Gold Award for its submission with the University of New England in the Media Relations category for Clay Lab, the Virtual Reality of Dying Process for client Hospice of Southern Maine. Fluent also received two Honorable Mentions: one for the OTELCO Lightwave Fiber Broadband Expansion Campaign in the Paid/Earned/Owned category, and one for the Home Hospice Care Impact Video in the Video/Podcast category. Fluent Founder Marnie Grumbach received the President’s Award for her work with MPRC. #Awards #GoldenArrows #MPRC

  • Emily Broadbent promoted to Account Manager

    “Emily is incredibly valuable to Fluent’s team. She contributes the ideal mix of a strategic mindset, creative vision, organization and most importantly to us — responsiveness and attention to our valued clients. I am excited to see Emily excel in this role as Fluent continues to grow,” said founder Marnie Grumbach. Emily previously held the position of PR & Digital Strategist at Fluent. She is well known in the southern Maine community for her passion for independent business and her active role on the board of Portland Buy Local. Emily has worked with a variety of Maine-based clients ranging from hospitality to healthcare. Prior to joining Fluent in 2017, Emily held positions with gBritt PR and Coffee by Design. Originally from Pennsylvania, Emily received her BA in Advertising & Public Relations from Loyola University Chicago before moving to Maine. She is a resident of Cape Elizabeth.

  • How to market a boring business

    We’ve heard this one more than once: “what we do is so boring, it’s pretty hard to make us look interesting.” As professional services marketers, we’re not strangers to some seriously dry, technical and complex businesses and services. Income tax planning. Business valuation analysis. Succession Planning. Commercial electrical design-build. Financial services. Not every business has a sleek, sexy product and the backing of a big consumer brand like Apple. Sure, it can be a challenge to find creative ways to engage your audience as a service-based organization. But if you think marketing efforts won’t be effective because your services are too boring, the problem likely lays in your understanding of your audience. Marketing your boring business requires a little strategic thinking so you can start reaching the right audience with the messages they care about. If you’re deeply interested in something, it’s anything but boring. Here are three ways to shift your thinking: 1. Recognize that to the RIGHT audience, your services are anything but boring If your client is wondering how to solve a major problem and you offer a solution, there is absolutely nothing boring about what you do. You’re the lifesaver. But to effectively solve their problems, you need to fully understand your audience. Figure out the questions they are asking themselves about how to do their own jobs better and then identify key themes that help answer those questions. There are countless examples of some pretty boring products and services that have succeeded in engaging their audience. GoToMeeting, which is run by Citrix, uses Twitter to engage with its audience in a client-focused way. The online meetings company fills its Twitterstream with useful content—things like a video series featuring some of its favorite customers. What about a domain registrar business? Yawn. GoDaddy separated itself from the competition by never being afraid to attract attention to its fun, humorous and over-the-top brand. GoDaddy realized that it could never help customers get an edge in their businesses if it did not find a way to get an edge of its own as a marketer. 2. Bring boring ideas to life with great stories Essential services are never boring.  How frequently do you think to yourself, “I’m so happy to have access to clean and safe water.” And yet you are grateful for it – at least you would be if you considered the alternative. Highlight the importance of what you do. Tell stories about what life would be like without your offering. Think about an example of a great success you’ve had in the recent past. To craft a great story, start by giving some background information that illustrates how your client’s business was facing challenges before your solution. Be very specific in discussing why exactly your solution worked so well and how the client was able to benefit. When did they start seeing results and what exactly did those results look like? What about the ripple effect for their business? Are they able to solve important problems within their industry, partly due to your contribution? Remember that people respond well to a concise, conversational tone are highly visual—they love hearing great stories in combination with compelling pictures or perhaps even a video. Adding visuals helps them to recall your stories for a longer time and can add emotion. Visual content helps your case studies come alive for the reader. 3. Get creative with how you communicate your boring service So you’ve got a seemingly boring service, but you’ve identified the right audience and how your service solves their problem. Awesome. Now you need to get creative. Not only is this how you get the audience’s attention, it’s how you establish your brand as cutting edge. Identify marketing initiatives that get your brand out, AND help your audience. Think highly-valuable educational content to teach them how to do something better, or how to avoid a crisis for their business. Furthermore, get creative about how you distribute that content: A LinkedIn ad campaign, a share-worthy video for your social channels, a presentation at the next trade show? Aside from content, you can differentiate yourself from “boring” with some unexpected branding tactics: develop a fun, go-to event; get creative with your next presentation and make it anything but another dull PowerPoint. Make your audience care about what you do by using a bit of creativity to craft compelling stories that they find appealing. If you don’t have a creative hat, or the time to put it on, turn to a marketing professional for some creative strategy and delivery. Sources: http://writtent.com/blog/25-success-tips-for-writing-irresistible-customer-success-stories/ http://tech.co/content-marketing-boring-service-2015-04

  • How to get your story covered by local TV

    As an integrated firm, PR is a big part of our day-to-day work for clients. We’re often asked if a client’s idea will interest a local TV station. Part of earning media coverage is knowing what, how and to whom a story is a good fit. TV isn’t the right fit for every idea. There are a few key elements we look at to best frame a story for local TV news coverage. Figure out if you have a TV-worthy story We know your business is a big deal to you, but the reality is that even if you’re running the most interesting company in the world, or hosting an event that is exciting for your organization, that alone doesn’t necessarily make it newsworthy or a good fit for TV coverage. TV assignment editors are thinking about “Why now?” and “What makes this stand out?” or “What’s the connection to my viewers/readers?” when they’re considering accepting your pitch as a story. Try to think about your situation from an outsider’s perspective – when you turn your local news channel on, what stories are you genuinely interested in, without having any connection to them? To figure out what might make your story more appealing, consider the following: Timeliness. What timely connection makes your story relevant now? Do you have a big event coming up? Are you launching a new product or division that will solve a problem for a certain audience? Is there a national holiday that ties in with the story you want to tell? For example, pitching a cyber security expert to talk about online safety will usually need a clear news hook for a TV news team. In this case, you’d want to pitch a cyber security client to explain data breaches timed around national headlines of a major corporation’s data breach, or around national cyber security awareness month. Format. Are you pitching a morning news team or a magazine-style talk show? These are important distinctions that will dramatically affect pitching success. A talk show is more likely to take a human interest or features style story while a news show obviously wants just that – news. Provide supporting material. If your story can be backed by facts, especially statistics that support your message, make sure to include those when developing your pitch to the media. Supporting evidence makes your story more credible and helps the producers put a story together much faster. Learn what isn’t newsworthy. Things like new hire announcements or events that have already happened aren’t likely to gain coverage on your local news. Consider pitching these to appropriate print outlets instead. Choose a strong spokesperson This may seem obvious, but even the most professional speakers can get nervous when it comes to being on TV. Ensure that whoever will represent your company in a potential interview feels confident enough to speak with authority about the topic at hand and won’t go off script in an undesired way. If you have past coverage of them, that can help demonstrate to the station you’re pitching that they’ll be a good interviewee. If you have visuals, share them TV is a visual outlet, and reporters are going to be thinking about this when you approach them with a story. If you have supporting props, engaging signage, or B-roll that can accompany your interview, include a mention of that in your pitch. “No” isn’t always a negative Be selective about what you pitch and remember that if a TV station passes, not all hope is lost. There is value in building strong connections with media producers over time. By offering solid pitches and helpful content, your organization will be well-positioned when the right story comes along. Even better, often there is a seed of another story idea within your pitch. An interesting spin-off story may be the result of an initial pitch that was ditched. In our world, that’s still a win. If you need help framing your story, get in touch for a free brainstorming session to talk shop about earning media coverage.

  • Video + storytelling = A branding win-win

    We recently had the privilege of helping Levey Day School with a messaging campaign. This amazing little school has a powerful parent network that came together as brand ambassadors. Their unique stories are at the heart of why word-of-mouth-marketing will never die. It’s because we TRUST our friends. They are real. We see something of ourselves in each of them. They’re relatable, honest and trustworthy. What better way to raise this school’s visibility? What makes this simple, no-frills video campaign so powerful? Storytelling. It reminded me of a blog post I wrote many years ago about the power of the human brain and how we process and recall stories. As I read through it, very little needed to be updated, other than the fact that today, video content is by far the most engaging form of social media content. As you prep your next campaign, remember that your story doesn’t need to be elaborate — just real. Below are my take-aways from Neuro Web Design by Weinschenk: People love hearing stories. Think about it. Children grow up hearing stories. Weinschenk explains that we naturally communicate the events of our daily life in the form of stories. You may not consider yourself to be a story-teller, but most of our communication tells a series of events in the form of a story. She also explains that we recall more of the information if the content is broken into digestible chunks. People are visual. Did you know that the visual part of your brain takes up half of its processing power? Weinschenk explains that this is why most of us remember things we see visually. This is a powerful statistic for marketers. When it’s tempting to create a text-heavy piece to get as much information in front of your audience as possible, remember that people will recall the information if it’s presented in shorter chunks with heavy use of imagery. People are attracted and respond to stories + pictures. Try incorporating a story-telling tone to your web or marketing content and add more photos. Together, the appeal of a photo coupled with an interesting story will draw your reader in and help them recall (and hopefully retell the story to others – word of mouth advertising isn’t dead!) the information for a longer period of time. Weinschenk’s book is targeted toward web designers, but the concepts can be applied to video, printed marketing collateral, proposals or presentations. Think about your company’s work and your successes over the past year. Can you tell a story about how your services helped your client or improved your community? Did you use a novel process to take a project from start to finish? A great first step for developing marketing concepts is to spend the time identifying potential stories and think about how the story might help solve your customer’s business challenges.

  • It’s annual planning season…the hap-happiest season of all

    It’s October. Q1 will be here in a flash. Now is the time for budgeting, planning and getting 2020 in order. ‘Tis the season for helping our clients develop a thoughtful, integrated marketing communications plan. Here at Fluent IMC, we’re fairly preachy about the importance of strategy and planning before jumping into tactics. Because how can you budget without a plan? And how can you plan without goals? How do you prioritize goals without a strategy? Without a plan, you’re a reactive marketer. We get it. Things change throughout the year. Unexpected directives crop up. We believe in developing a proactive plan, implementing it and adjusting as needed – if needed. Don’t start off a new year aimlessly. Before we dive into the key components of an annual strategy, let’s take a minute to discuss why annual planning is important. The exercise alone forces your leadership team to take a detailed look at your target audience and organizational goals as well as the effectiveness of your current marketing efforts. Taking this time to come together, reflect, plan and brainstorm is critical before jumping to tactics. It might be fun to jump in the car and just drive, with no plan or map, but realistically — who has time or gas to waste? The act of putting a plan on paper works to keep your team focused by solidifying ideas and establishing timelines. This ensures that everyone on your team and any outside consultants are aligned on marketing objectives and efforts. It will also give you clarity and a framework for answering advertising, sponsorship or marketing requests throughout the year. 1. Goals: Big-Picture and Short-Term Different organizations have different goals and it’s important for every strategy to clearly define what these goals are. Ultimately, your audience and tactics are tied to reaching these goals. Working with a number of professional service clients, we can safely say that these goals vary broadly. All goals should have a solid connection to the firm’s bottom line but vary with the maturity, industry and culture of the organization. For example, we find more mature professional service firms are focused on staying relevant, brand awareness and client retention. Smaller, fast growing firms often have very specific financial and business development goals, such as reaching a specific level of revenue, or obtaining a specific amount of leads per quarter. Others want to break into new geographic markets. Some simply want to clear up confusion about their brand in the marketplace. Some goals are “big-picture” and may take years to achieve. Others are shorter term and can be met quickly with the right tactics. 2. Target Audience/Market Do you know your audience? Are there segments? How many decision makers? A useful strategy includes a clear and concise description of your target audience. Some clients truly believe that because they are willing to sell their services to anyone, they shouldn’t limit themselves. We believe that being specific is most effective. Tailoring your efforts to the interests of your buyers is a much more powerful way to engage, educate, add value and ultimately sell your services based upon credibility and trust. One way to stay focused on your audience is to use Personas — fictional characters that represent your ideal target market, their interests, their pain points and why they need your services. They help you quickly remember and relate to your audience. Once you have your audience, it’s time to understand their needs and how your service is going to meet those needs. 3. Positioning Statement This step may seem insignificant, because it’s inward facing. However, a positioning statement brings it all together into one powerful statement to serve as an ongoing guide. The formula for a positioning statement is made up of four distinct parts: the target market, the point differentiation, the frame of reference and the reason. Embrace the effort and reflection it takes to deliver a high-quality positioning statement. The target market is so important we included it as our second component (see above). The point of differentiation is what sets your product/service offering apart from the competition. This is what makes your product or service unique. The frame of reference is the specific market the company is competing in. And, finally, the reason (or reason to believe) is the reason people should believe the other parts of you positioning statement. 4. What’s Worked (and What Hasn’t) + What to Aspire To Before you spend time developing new marketing campaigns and creative, it’s important to have a baseline of your competition, to see what’s out there, what’s working and what isn’t. We do this by identifying a client’s top competitors, reviewing their brand assets, and reviewing non-competitive “aspirational” brands in similar industries, but in other markets. Depending on the industry or the size of your company, benchmarking may be useful. This involves evaluating the data of successful companies within the same industry as yours and comparing their successes (and failures) to your own efforts. The data you’ll be interested in can often be found in the Annual Report of publicly traded companies. These reports provide a wealth of information for entrepreneurs and businesses to utilize such as gross and net income, financial margins and operating budget expenditures. While no two companies are financially the same, this can give you a starting place to help you calculate how best to invest your revenue. It might seem strange to include what hasn’t worked. To us, it’s common sense to be honest about past efforts and potential pitfalls to avoid. Another tool to measure how your business stacks up to competitors is Share of Voice. This is calculated by taking overall mentions of your brand, along with your competitors and measuring the portion of those mentions that belongs to you and each of your competitors, individually. We use this to get a sense of the biggest players in our clients’ industries, and to see where they fall in that ranking. Next Steps So now that you have a solid strategy in place, you’re ready to get tactical. For every tactic, you should be able to justify its importance by revisiting how it fits into the annual strategy you’ve worked hard to create. Be sure to include measurable objectives for each goal and plan to check in on your progress by reviewing analytics at least quarterly. Need an outsider’s perspective on your 2020 marketing plan? Fill out the form below to get in touch. What is your name and organization? What is your email address? Tell us briefly about your business. Who is your audience? Are you looking for long term support or a short term campaign? What are your top objectives in working with a marketing agency? For example: brand awareness, media coverage, lead generation Do you have experience working with a marketing agency? What is your estimated annual marketing budget for hiring an outside agency? Anything else you want to share with us? Would you be interested in a free 30 minute integrated marketing brainstorm session over the phone? CAPTCHA Phone This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged. Δ

  • How to measure your PR program’s effectiveness

    The ROI of public relations has been elusive for many communications pros, mainly because returns on a brand awareness investment have historically not been easy to calculate financially. This has been a barrier for brands that are new to a communications program. Whether the goal is measuring financial ROI or just trying to understand the overall value of a program, thankfully today’s PR tools give us the power to provide clients with better measurement of their earned media program. Any client considering hiring a PR firm should ask about the measurement and analytics available throughout a campaign. Earned media is coverage that you don’t pay for or create yourself. In our line of work, we earn media coverage by developing relationships with members of the media (journalists, reporters, influencers, brand affiliates, etc.), and providing them with our clients’ ideas, expertise, innovative works or brand stories to serve as valuable content for their own audiences. When these efforts result in coverage for our clients, there are a number of steps we take to measure success. First things first, we track all media coverage. We provide our clients with a comprehensive overview of earned media coverage over a particular period of time (monthly, quarterly, annually). That allows us to take a closer look at the media outlets our stories have appeared in, and to calculate potential reach by evaluating circulation and readership. For all clients, we audit their current brand reach before engaging us and identify a baseline. We measure as we go and then compare our progress against where they started. Share of Voice examines a brand’s visibility in relation to its competitors. We look at all coverage on any number of designated topics or brands during a certain period, and calculate the percentage of that space that is occupied by each, including our client. Along with share of voice, many monitoring tools allow us to track sentiment, so we can get a sense of whether coverage is positive, negative, or neutral. For many of the clients we work with, the goal isn’t always to drive high traffic to their website. It’s often to build brand awareness, position our clients as thought leaders within their industry, and encourage a follow up visit from members of a specific target audience. That being said, website analytics can be a great way to track when visitors arrive at a client’s website from a link included in a specific online story. It’s also common to see a boost in website traffic after a piece of earned media runs, even if the visitors aren’t arriving specifically from a link included in the story. Advertising Value Equivalency, or AVE, is the practice of calculating the value of earned media based on the going advertising rates for the publication that ran that media. In its simplest form, AVE considers the cost for an ad of similar size and finds the value for this piece of earned coverage. A common criticism for measuring AVE comes from the opinion that third party credibility earned through PR efforts is typically considered to be more trustworthy than paid advertising, and should therefore have a greater value. To date, no industry standards have been put into place, so methods for calculating AVE can vary widely across the industry. While we don’t rely on AVE exclusively to measure the success of our efforts, our media reporting tools do allow us to track it for clients. Finally, we always seeks ways to leverage our clients’ media coverage through their brand channels. When clients fully maximize their earned media placements, we can also measure audience engagement on social media to identify the themes or topics that spark conversation or drive web traffic.

  • Email Marketing: Dinosaur or Superhero?

    We all know the basics of old-school email marketing: drip, drip, drip. Email fatigue. Unsubscribe. We’re often asked by clients: is email marketing worth our time? They argue that audiences are so overwhelmed by their burgeoning inboxes, it’s nearly impossible to cut through all that clutter with a brand message. They hate the burdensome task of curating content for a monthly or quarterly e-newsletter. They aren’t seeing compelling analytics. Eventually, the effort falls by the wayside in favor of shinier marketing initiatives, email contact lists go stale and for many, email is no longer an important part of the marketing mix. It’s a common scenario and understandably so – why invest time in a marketing effort that’s not resulting in any obvious engagement with your audience? We argue that when done right, email is actually a powerful marketing tool, for both branding and business development. And the time suck argument? That’s where automation is your friend. What is email automation and why does it matter? Email automation allows you to automatically send out an email at a certain time or when triggered by a specific action. For example, let’s say you have a downloadable ebook that lives on your website. It’s on a specific topic that relates to a service you offer, so you know the downloader might be a potential future customer. With email automation, you can set up an email introducing your business to be sent out as soon as the download is complete. You can then schedule another one going out a week later that provides links to a blog post that might be relevant to the user, on a topic related to the initial ebook theme. You get the idea. Instead of dripping on your audience with old-fashioned e-newsletters and content they likely aren’t interested in, you set up email automation workflows based upon the visitor’s initial engagement. In this case, the ebook. From there, you get more sophisticated with the timing of the emails, the content and eventually, you offer a call-to-action, such as a free consultation. Automated email campaigns, or “‘lead nurturing campaigns,” are designed to continue targeting this specific lead by providing reminders that encourage the downloader to re-engage with your business. This type of targeted outreach is personalized and relevant to a specific user’s actions and therefore serves as both a branding and a relationship building tool. You’re keeping your audience engaged with email content that is targeted specifically to their actions and the stage they’re at in their relationship with your business. The term “lead nurturing” often comes up when discussing email automation, and that’s exactly what the goal is. Many of the leads you bring in through various sources are potential customers that aren’t ready to commit quite yet. Through email automation, you can spend minimal time providing these leads with additional resources and educational materials that can turn them into paying clients. That all sounds great, but how do you get email addresses to begin with? New leads can come from a lot of places – social media, your blog or website, events you attend, or any type of advertising you do. The foundation of inbound marketing is to attract visitors to an engaging landing page on your website where they submit their email address via a form. One method of advertising we focus on is Pay-per-Click ads (or “paid search”). With PPC, advertisers can bid on keywords their target audience is likely to search for and set the amount they’re willing to pay for each time someone clicks on their ad. Ads appear as the sponsored content we’re used to seeing at the top of our Google, Yahoo, etc. search results. Advertisers only pay when a user clicks on their ad, and because the keywords are so targeted, this results in high quality leads. These ad campaigns might promote content, such as the ebook mentioned above, or general brand awareness. Once new audiences reach your website through PPC ads, you’ll want to engage them with a form or downloadable content to gauge their interests, and work them into your lead nurturing strategy. Getting started with email automation can look like a simple “welcome” email workflow using email platforms such as MailChimp or Constant Contact. More robust automation campaigns might be a better fit for HubSpot (which we use often) or Pardot. Emails should be concise, offer valuable information and include a CTA (call-to-action) directing the reader to stay engaged within your brand’s ecosystem. Forget long quarterly e-newsletters. Figure out your audience’s interests and serve them everything from videos to blog posts to case studies. These are important touchpoints that keep your helpful brand materials at the top of their inbox. Learn more about the digital marketing services we offer, and get in touch if you need help figuring out the best ways to grow and engage your audience.

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