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  • Future changes by Google make it essential to encrypt your website

    Google has been slowly rolling out changes to its search algorithm as well as the Google Chrome Browser that favor encrypted websites. This month, they’ll roll out a major change with Chrome 56: a “Not Secure” label to any non encrypted website. This label will be to the left of the website’s URL. This most recent change will eventually lead to non-encrypted websites having a red triangle warning symbol along with the label “Not Secure” to the left of the URL. How to tell if your website is encrypted? Websites with encryption have https:// instead of http:// in the beginning of their URL. Generally speaking, if users browse your website with http:// then your website is not using an SSL Certificate, which encrypts the website. How do you encrypt your website? Encrypting your website is not a major undertaking but should be done by an experienced website developer. The SSL has to be installed onto the server where your website is hosted. Redirects then need to be put in place to redirect the old http:// urls to the new https:// ones. The last step in the process is letting the major search engines know that your website has been moved. Need help encrypting your company’s website? We work exclusively with the WordPress content management system and can help you encrypt your company’s website. Drop us a line.

  • 4 pillars of a solid marketing strategy

    Here at Fluent IMC, we’re fairly preachy about the importance of strategy and planning before jumping into tactics. We recognize that some clients don’t require an exhaustive research and strategy phase, while others come to us with more complex issues that make a deeper dive necessary. Each strategy is unique to the industry, goals and target audience of the company but some key components and themes remain constant. Don’t wander aimlessly. Before we dive into the key components, let’s take a minute to discuss why strategy and planning is important. The exercise alone forces your leadership team to take a detailed look at your target audience, 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 resources 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 of the maturity, industry and culture of the organization. For example, we find more mature professional service firms are focused on staying relevant and want to target younger demographics. 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 buyer? 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) Another tip is to research what works for other companies. Depending on the industry, one thing to potentially include within What Works is a powerful tool called a Benchmark. Benchmarking includes the data of successful companies within the same industry as yours. One common place to grab that data is from the Annual Report of publically traded companies. This document provides 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. So now you have a solid strategy in place, you’re ready to get tactical. For every tactic, you should be able to justify how it fits into the strategy you’ve worked hard to create. Want to schedule a free 30 minute brainstorming session with us? 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 Name This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged. Δ

  • How’s Your Online Hygiene? 3 ways to keep it healthy

    Our Online Marketing Director Peter Anania shares tips for keeping your online presence clean and healthy… You’ve probably heard of ‘brand hygiene’ — the basic efforts your company should make to preserve and enhance your brand. Don’t forget your ‘online hygiene.’ Considering the value of your website to your overall brand, the health and vitality of your online presence is crucial. Here are 3 key areas of online brand maintenance: 1. CLEAN UP GOOGLE+, BING PLACES & YAHOO LOCAL Here’s a key take-away: whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, ensure your company’s Google+ page is properly filled out. You have a right to be confused because Google+ is largely seen as a failed social media platform that little to no one uses. So why care about Google+? Don’t forget that Google accounts for roughly ~70% of all U.S. online searches. Google holds this market share by always improving the user experience (UX) of their platform and a big part of UX is getting users highly relevant information fast. In the future Google will increasingly leverage Google+ to give users information without ever having to visit your site. At a bare minimum this means your phone number, photos of your company and your logo will be listed. Beyond Google+ your company should consider properly filling your Bing Local and Yahoo Places listing. These two platforms have a significant share of that remaining ~30% of search traffic. 2. PRIORITIZE YOUR WEBSITE DESIGN & USER EXPERIENCE Think mobile. You’ve heard the usual buzzwords, “mobile first,” “mobile ready” and “responsive” when referring to website design. These aren’t new. Truly thinking mobile goes beyond simply having a responsive design and transcends into functionality and site performance. As far as functionality is concerned, leave no stone unturned by adhering to HTML best practices like making phone numbers tap-to-call. Optimize for speed. It’s crucial to thinking mobile. Websites need to load fast no matter the users connection. This means streamlining the website’s code as well as the structure of that code. Properly compressing images also have a major impact on increasing site speed. Stay away from pre-made templates. Have you noticed that a lot of websites are starting to look the same? Stand out by staying away from designers and developers that use premade templates to build websites. In recent years there has been a proliferation of template-based websites. This is where the designer, developer or even web agency simply buys a premade template and customizes it with the clients’ logos and colors. These template based websites are a great fit for very small budgets, but they tend to look just that: low-budget. That’s not going to enhance your brand. If you can afford it, seek a talented team that codes and design each website from ground up. Your brand identity will thank you and your website will be truly unique. Beyond design, template based websites have major user experience and performance issues. This is mainly due to the fact that the same template design will be used for thousands to hundreds of thousands of sites. So developers building these themes use a massive amount of code in a ‘one size fits all approach’. This means for bloated code and a slower loading website. 3. MAKE THE MOST OF ON-PAGE SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION On-page search engine optimization (SEO) refers to crafting the elements of a web page in a way that will have the highest impact when indexed by a search engine. As this is a post on ‘online hygiene’ and not solely SEO, let’s stick with a few basics. One thing to remember is to never compromise the quality of your content, brand and message for sake of SEO. It is important that each page of your website has properly filled out and tags. These tags not only tell Google what your page is about but they also are very commonly what Google uses to display your page in search engine results. There are alsotags for images and links as well as “alternative attributes of an image tags”, the latter having more of an impact on SEO then the former. Regardless of their SEO impact it is important to fill these tags out properly as they also improve accessibility of the website. HTML is meant to be structured much like an outline with headers, sub headers and lists. Making the most of these structure will not only help optimize the page but it will also make it more readable for the user. It is important to remember to only use my main header of per page. Use subheaders and so on to divide your content into sections. Make use of ordered and unordered lists when logical. NEXT STEPS If you’re not sure where to focus your online hygiene efforts, an annual online audit is a useful way to reveal areas of improvement, and prioritize the weak spots. Better yet, revisit these three areas quarterly to give your online hygiene the care and attention to keep it healthy. Learn more about marketing and online audits.

  • On-air and online: Make the most of your ad buy with a media mix

    MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA Advertising is all about top-of-mind awareness. Even though most (if not every) company wants top-of-mind awareness, B2B marketing directors and business owners sometimes shy away from broadcast advertising, usually because: They personally don’t listen to the radio or watch TV. They believe their buyers do all of their research and buying online. They believe that their audience doesn’t make buying decisions based upon what they hear on TV or radio. Their target audience is a very narrow, specific group of buyers, and they don’t believe mass media is a smart way to reach that narrow group, and… It’s expensive. Or at least more expensive than “free” marketing channels like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. As an advocate of multi-channel marketing, my advice is simple: prioritize a media mix. While we’re certainly proponents of a strong online presence, digital marketing doesn’t necessarily mean “no broadcast.” The days of hearing a message at a frequency of 3 times before acting on it is now 7 or 8 times. Digital, broadcast and even print (depending upon the demographics) all contribute to that frequency. To reach a business listener, broadcast advertising may hold some unforeseen opportunities. For example, talk radio stations draw a following of educated, affluent, white-collar listeners. Television advertising allows you to reach your target at precise times of the day, when they are likely to watch news or business-related programming. Online/social media ads have robust targeting capabilities, driving traffic to your website to capture sales leads. All of these channels allow you to completely customize your message to build brand awareness or promote specific activities like business events, recruiting efforts or the roll out of a new product/service. Here are some tricks for integrating your broadcast advertising campaign with other media: Do some research. Remember that YOU might not necessarily represent your target audience. Spend some time identifying the characteristics of your preferred clients and then align the media that are best suited to reach them. ask your station representative for station qualitative information including qualitative rankers. Most stations have access to research and are able to not only provide basic ratings, but ratings and where the station ranks in the market geared toward a specific demographic or target. Instead of asking for a full media kit with a lot of information that is not useful to you, ask for station coverage maps to make sure you are hitting your target geographic areas and station line-up information. There are many national companies that no longer want to be affiliated with “controversial” programming. Write a great script. Be smart about the length of the ad (:30 ads are not necessarily half the cost of a :60) and use those seconds to write a compelling, memorable message. Write a strong call-to-action that’s easy to remember. Integrate your on-air message with your online marketing by driving listeners to a web URL (make sure it’s short, easy to spell and easy to remember). Ask the media partner to integrate. Many stations are able to contribute to an integrated campaign by using Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc…even broadcast station websites are another place to gain extra exposure. Stations have also been using their texting lines to help with recruitment. Mention a station text number in your broadcast ad with a keyword and you receive an automated response back with more information or a link to an application. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Most advertising sales executives are willing to get creative to support your marketing strategy. Negotiate an integrated social media marketing campaign timed around your upcoming event or launch. Ask the station to run mentions on their Twitter and Facebook pages that support your ad. Be your own publicist. If your message is compelling and timely enough, ask the station about live liners and on-air mentions within the context of their programming. If you are comfortable being interviewed, ask about getting an in-studio appearance. This is a great way to get exposure and to establish yourself as an expert, while reinforcing the message you’re advertising. It’s wise to stretch your marketing and advertising budget, so don’t be afraid to ask for more than you expect. Learn more about advertising campaigns and media buying and how an integrated approach can support your marketing goals.

  • IMC at work: How we integrate sound PR practices with digital marketing

    We sort of hate buzz words, but there’s one we’re willing to use liberally: integrated. And we love having the chance to see an integrated strategy in action. Our client, Quantive Business Valuations, allowed us to chat about their integrated strategy for aligning traditional PR with their existing digital marketing program. We’re seeing exciting results, but first here’s the back story… The Situation: Our client is Quantive, a business consulting company that provides independent valuation services to a national client base. With a solid brand, a multi-channel marketing strategy that includes online advertising, and an active blog, they had an impressive marketing program in place. However, a closer look at their goals and target audience segments revealed a key area of opportunity: reaching referral sources. While online advertising was effectively driving leads from one key segment, business owners, it wasn’t an effective strategy for reaching attorneys, bankers, financial advisors and accountants – the Centers of Influence (COIs) that drive recurring leads for valuation services. While Quantive had already established a local referral network, they lacked the bandwidth to fully nurture those relationships and needed help growing the network, while they continued developing the network via face-to-face meetings. They asked Fluent IMC to develop a plan for enhancing their credibility in front of these important COIs. The Integrated Strategy: The nature of Quantive’s work is complex and analytical. With a brand voice that’s conversational, yet authoritative, and a robust inventory of blog content that ranged from thought leadership to how-to pieces, the client had a sound online strategy in place. Keeping in mind our goal of increasing awareness amongst B2B referral sources, who respond favorably to credible third party influencers, Fluent IMC brought the power of traditional public relations into the mix. We knew they had the expertise necessary to resonate with business and trade media, and the writing chops to produce quality content. We started by revamping their blog content into larger story ideas, customized it by audience and industry and queried the client for their insights on current trends. Matching that knowledge with a prioritized list of geographic markets and industry trades, we set forth building new editorial relationships. The IMC Result: When we launched our PR effort, Quantive had no editorial relationships. In the first phase of our engagement, which is ongoing, we successfully pitched feature articles in several national trade magazines, numerous authored pieces in leading statewide business publications in the client’s core markets and a feature interview with the founder in a leading online news publication. Not only are we gaining exposure across all of those third party influencers’ social channels, we’re fully integrating the PR wins with Quantive’s already active blog. Along with gaining traction online, the client is also receiving direct contact from business owners and COIs, proving that the exposure is expanding their name recognition. Finally, in addition to these earned impressions, we’ve developed new relationships with journalists and are setting the stage for even more activity as the PR program continues to grow. Thanks again to Dan and his team at Quantive for allowing us to support such a great brand. We’re not only helping to expand awareness of their expertise, we’re growing their online engagement amongst targeted audiences and increasing their organic SEO with every PR win. Learn more about integrating PR with digital marketing.

  • What is a brand worth, really?

    A brand is an investment. Time. Brainpower. Creativity. Consistency. And money. Businesses that invest in their brand want to know: is it worth it? Who better to ask about the value of a brand than the ones who actually determine business value? We’re turning to Dan Doran, Founder of Quantive Business Valuations, to find out if a brand really does impact what a business is worth. Q: It’s safe to say you’ve seen in all. When you begin the valuation process, do you look at branding and marketing materials as part of your analysis? A: Absolutely. I mean for all intents we are talking about the “curb appeal” of a company. Think for a moment about the curb appeal of a house: you literally go through a series of judgments about a house in that first instant you see it. Is it well cared for? Do the owner’s know what they are doing? Am I more likely than not to find problems inside? I think there is a similar process we go through when looking at a company…we go through those same snap judgments. In my case as a valuation professional, I’m trying to get a feel for how well cared for this company is. As a consumer it’s probably the opposite: I’m wondering how well the company will care for me. Q: Businesses debate when to refresh or completely overhaul their brand. Do you have advice on when rebranding is a good idea, strategically? A: Well I do think that it comes down to a question of ROI.  How will the “refresh” return value?   In same cases it can be a really low bar. Here’s an example:  last year we were engaged to value a trucking company that was preparing for a sale.  The company has no website.  Every employee used some variation on truckerCo1@hotmail.com. What was my immediate reaction?  Probably the same as every new customer:  why on earth hasn’t this company joined the modern world?  My actual series of thoughts: I begin thinking that their books are probably a mess and their trucks are old and broken down. This company absolutely needs to invest in some curb appeal if they are contemplating a sale. Every business seller wants the highest price for their business, so the brand will make a big impact on what a buyer is willing to pay. Stated more broadly, I think a refresh makes sense the moment your brand doesn’t fully convey your company’s values, beliefs, or unique selling proposition. Q: Quantive has a strong brand, too. You clearly believe in the value of branding. Why are you investing in it? A: Most of our clients do their homework, and in most cases people are going to meet Quantive (the brand) before they meet anyone on our team. People come to us with big “bet the company” issues… the type of issues that are life events. With that in mind, I want our brand to convey what we are:  well spoken, thoughtful, technically competent… And yet, approachable.   Ultimately clients should feel comfortable that we know what we are doing, and also that we speak plain English and not financial non-sense. If the above all works out as planned, people should feel like they know us before we ever meet. Q: So how do you actually quantify the value of a brand? A: Generally speaking, brand value is an element of “enterprise value” – or the value of the entire company.  Think of it this way:  without the rest of the company, does the brand have value on a stand-alone basis? In most cases, no. That being said there are some reasons to value a brand on its own, such as determining lost profits in litigation, in order to meet financial reporting requirements, or in some instances to sell the brand as a stand-alone asset. There are some specific models used to value brands.  These models tend to be similar to appraising other assets (i.e. market approach, income approach, cost approach).  Without belaboring the detail (we’ll save that for the next interview!), valuing a brand involves us: comparing it to the value of other similar brands developing an income approach model, perhaps using a “relief of royalty” analysis determining the cost to develop the brand Parting thoughts: Many thanks to Dan at Quantive for talking with us about valuation and branding. As a marketer (so naturally, a brand enthusiast), I will always encourage my clients to invest in their brand, even when the ROI is difficult to measure. Whether you are attracting new clients, retaining your best relationships or planning ahead to grow or even sell your business, a solid brand will significantly enhance your efforts. Learn more about developing or refining your brand.

  • Are you strategic about your referral network?

    You have a strategy for reaching prospective clients. What about for reaching your referral sources? For many B2B professionals, referral sources (or “centers of influence”) are often just as important as your clients. They help fuel your business’ economic engine and bring you some of your most desirable clients. Even if you have a loyal referral network in place, don’t underestimate the power of a little planning. Think of your referral relationships as a segment of your larger target audience. Here’s how to develop a sound strategy for not only staying top-of-mind with your referral sources, but for showing them some love in return. TARGET AUDIENCE, PART 1: IDENTIFY YOUR IDEAL CLIENTS If you can’t describe your ideal client, how can you expect others to refer them to you? Ask yourself what kind of challenges your clients face. Make a list of some of the best client engagements to use as examples. Create a list of “trigger phrases” that you have heard clients and prospects actually say. Understanding these stories and pain points is information that will help your referral sources help you. TARGET AUDIENCE, PART 2: IDENTIFY YOUR IDEAL REFERRAL SOURCES Like any marketing plan, the first step to building a referral marketing program is to identify your ideal referral sources. Think about who it is that your client is communicating with before coming to you. Their Attorney? Banker? Realtor? General Contractor? These are the businesses within your industry who serve the same clients—meet your most powerful referral sources. Don’t forget about trade associations. Quality membership associations that welcome your involvement present another avenue for meeting new referral sources. Satisfied clients may also be potential referral sources. If they are raving about your work, then they’re in a position to promote your services within their network. COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY: EDUCATE YOUR REFERRAL SOURCES Never assume that your potential referral sources intuitively know who to refer to you or how to refer them. New referral sources might be willing to help you, but you need to take the laboring oar and educate them on your goals. This is partly a business development effort, where relationship building is key. Request a meeting, coffee or lunch and simply describe what you’re trying accomplish and who you want to reach. This could be as simple as letting them know you have capacity for new clients, or that you’re trying to break into a new industry. Provide them with helpful (and easy to share) materials that demonstrate your expertise and/or services. NURTURING STRATEGY: PROVIDE VALUE Strong long-term relationships are a two-way street. Referral marketing isn’t just about getting new leads for you—it is equally important for you to find ways to help them, too. Just like you asked them to listen to your objectives, take the time to ask them how you can help support theirs. They may benefit from introductions within your industry group. Or perhaps you can provide training to their employees or clients at a discounted rate (or gratis). You could also team up to host a co-branded seminar with your referral partner, helping them promote their expertise to your audience. This can provide a powerful boost to their reputation in the industry. TACTICS FOR STAYING IN TOUCH Part of building long-term relationships is simply keeping in contact. Follow up with a handwritten “thank you” note after they send you a new referral (whether the lead converts or not). Schedule consistent contact with your referral sources, either through an email nurturing program, e-newsletters, traditional newsletters or personal emails or notes. If possible, meet your referral source in-person from time to time. One easy way to stay in contact is to give them a “shout out” on social media by recognizing something they accomplished or promoting the quality of their services. Strong referral relationships can have a huge ROI. They’re helping your business succeed and deserve your care and attention. If a referral source is particularly important to you, you might invite them to a special event every year—just to celebrate the relationship. Take a long-term approach that focuses on creating real referral relationships with genuine give and take. Don’t forget to treat this segment of your audience like any other: with the focus and dedication to not only earn their support, but the commitment to nurture your prized referral relationships for the long-term. Learn more about building an integrated strategy to reach your audience. Sources http://www.cba.org/Publications-Resources/CBA-Practice-Link/2015-(1)/2014/Five-Keys-to-Building-a-Referral-Marketing-Program http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog/educating-referral-sources/ http://www.bourncreative.com/5-marketing-tips-to-build-a-referral-based-business/

  • B2B marketing survey reveals how the C-suite makes buying decisions

    LAST YEAR, TWO THIRDS MORE BUYERS RELIED ON CONTENT TO MAKE BUYING DECISIONS THAN IN 2014. As a B2B marketer, my clients turn to me for guidance on how to reach their buyers. With so many different methods for reaching them, and marketing budgets that aren’t limitless, we all want to know: just how are your prospects making their important buying decisions? Sophisticated buyers do their homework before making an important buying decision. They research industry trends and seek out credible sources to help them solve their business problems. They may turn to their professional network for a referral, but they’ll also fully vet that professional through online research. So just how are they conducting their research? Demand Gen Report released a survey, 2015 Content Preferences Survey, which collected data about how professional buyers engaged with content before making buying decisions.  32% of the survey respondents held C-level or VP-level positions in their company.  Two thirds more buyers rely on content to make buying decisions than did in 2014. With these stats in hand, it’s clear that content creation is an important method for reaching clients. Content is a broad term, though, so let’s get more specific. Let’s talk about the reported preferences for content types. Then we’ll talk about how buyers reported to find their preferred content. Which Types Of Content Do Buyers Prefer? During the research process, buyers prefer white papers, E-Books, and webinars If you want to connect with buyers, then it is absolutely worth investing time in long form content types, like a case study, to communicate how your services can help them solve their problems. White papers, E-Books, and webinars are three great ways to showcase that information. Buyers prefer content that is prescriptive and introductory Instead of selling your prospect, take the time to educate them. Provide content that helps them learn what they need to know to make a good decision. Buyers like to have related content packaged together Instead of releasing a mish-mash of content that a buyer has to dig through to find what they’re looking for, make their life easier. Take the time to package related content together. You’ll save them from wasting time doing tedious research.  In other words, you’ll be a hero. How Do Buyers Find the Content They Trust? Tablet and mobile use is becoming more common 60% of the survey respondents said they occasionally or frequently used a tablet to view content, so keep in mind that your content is going to be viewed on different sized screens. Make sure your own website for hosting content is responsive. (2015 Content Preferences Survey) Most buyers start the research process with a web search, and then go to social media later in the buying cycle SEO is still important. Content creation will help you compete in the web search space, making your expertise easier to find – for both new contacts or for the prospect who already knows your name, but is vetting your expertise online. Email, LinkedIn, and Twitter are the platforms respondents of this survey said they shared content the most. (2015 Content Preferences Survey) Buyers will spend more than an hour with an analyst report or an E-Book If you want an hour of a buyer’s attention, then writing an analyst report, or an E-Book, is a great way to make that happen. These can be laborious to create, but the sections of content showcase your depth of knowledge and can be broken down and leveraged for a variety of other marketing initiatives. Most Buyers will look at three to five pieces of content before interacting with a sales person Refer back to the types of content buyers prefer so you can make those three to five pieces worthwhile! Many thanks to Demand Gen for surveying professional buyers once again in 2015 and updating us on how buyers communicate online. With this current knowledge in hand, how will you educate your buyers in 2016? Learn more about reaching your audience of buyers through smart integrated marketing communications strategies. Source: 2015 Content Preferences Survey

  • Is co-branding your content a good idea?

    Partnering with another professional expert can be a powerful way to not only demonstrate your expertise, but to vastly expand your reach – either to new geographic markets in which the partner has a presence, or to new types of prospects. It’s all well and good to ask your best referral source to partner on producing a valuable piece of content, but make sure the idea is backed by a sound strategy and the tactics to pay it off. When is it Beneficial for You to Co-author Content? Co-branded content ideally brings together two professionals with different audiences and similar goals. It brings your expertise to a new audience and brings a new expert voice to your existing audience. This adds value to both audiences as long as the collaboration creates content that relates to them all. It’s important to have similar goals when co-branding content. Take a look at your mission statement and compare it with your potential brand partner. If you share related goals the co-branded content will have a powerful impact on clients or prospects and will be beneficial to you and your co-branding partner. What are the Benefits of Co-authoring Content? Reach new audiences. You have an audience that trusts you. But how can you quickly add to their numbers and gain the trust of a larger audience within your industry? Producing content with another trusted expert will offer you the trust of their audience and the opportunity to spread your message further in short order. Reach influencers. Co-branding content with others in your industry should not be viewed as “working with the competition.” Instead, think of it as a way to build authority to what you are saying. Influencers within your industry will be more likely to distribute your content when it has the added credibility of another expert in the industry. Cross promotions. The brilliance of working with another company on co-branded content and cross-promotions is that you get more results for less effort. In a cross-promotion, you are both trying to reach the same market, and you can combine your marketing budgets to reach them. Market positioning. Co-branding strategies can be used to enhance your position in the industry. Mastercard is using co-branded content to position itself as a thought leader in the smart cities space. It has partnered with Skift X to produce a series of videos and microsites that explore the future of urban mobility. Skift X is a travel news publisher and marketing platform that runs the Skift Global Forum—a conference known as the “Ted of travel.” It can help Mastercard position itself as a thought leader while at the same time bolstering its own position in the creative business and travel market. How to Drive Traffic to Each Other’s Platforms Social media. Tag your co-branding partner in your Tweet or mention them in your LinkedIn or Facebook post to promote a webinar or shared landing page or some other piece of co-branded content. Webinars. Live video presentations with both partners help to promote the partnership of the brands and give them an opportunity to tell customers about their shared goals and ideas. Linked-In groups. The leading B2B marketing platform is LinkedIn. According to the Kissmetrics Blog, LinkedIn is responsible for over 80% of the social media leads for businesses. Microsoft is leading the way with using LinkedIn Groups to establish conversations relating to their products, such as Skype for Business and Microsoft Office. Shared landing page. If you are co-branding content you don’t necessarily have to make the choice between hosting the content on your platform or your partner’s platform. Create a shared landing page for your co-branded content by featuring both company logos on the page and being sure to name the companies within the content itself. Then offer a download or signup of some kind to drive traffic to both partner platforms. Be mindful that any type of partnership or sharing of your brand may expose you to risks. Vet your partners carefully and be mindful that their own brand reputation could impact your own. With so many benefits to co-branded content, it’s time for you to find a partner and start implementing some of these traffic strategies for your business. Sources: https://contently.com/strategist/2015/11/19/how-skift-is-transforming-b2b-travel-content/ 7 Advanced LinkedIn Strategies for B2B Marketing by Neil Patel 5 B2B Brands That Rock LinkedIn — The Content Strategist About | Skift Global Forum Want to schedule a free 30 minute brainstorming session with us? 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 Δ

  • Writing a media pitch can be tricky. 4 ways to get it right.

    You have a wealth of knowledge in your industry. Why can it be so difficult to get the press we desire? Thanks to social channels, not only can you be seen and heard all around the world, but so can everyone else. So how do you actually connect with the media to stand out amongst the crowd? It may seem simple, but it can be tricky. You need to perfect your pitch. Here are some do’s and don’ts: DO: Personalize We live in the digital age, which means journalists can receive pitches through multiple different outlets. Can you imagine how many pitches a journalist receives per day? Some receive so many, they’re forced to delete most just to save valuable space in their inbox. Make yours stand out by personalizing the pitch to the journalist. Get to know their beat and figure out why their audience would be interested in your idea. Remember, journalists are people too and clogging up their inboxes with automated emails that have no relevance to them can be a poor reflection on you and your brand. Not every interaction with journalists should be pitching an article or event. Try to develop a relationship. Be helpful. Become an actively engaged member of their audience. For example, comment on one of their stories with something as simple as “Great story. This truly is a dilemma for small businesses and I hope you’ll cover more on this topic.” Trust us, they’ll notice! DON’T: Puff up your pitch Make your pitch easy to understand by clearly stating the 5 W’s: Who, What, When, Where and Why. Ensure that your pitch is timely, relevant to the journalist and their audience, and newsworthy. Keep your pitch clear and concise. Most journalists are on a deadline. They simply won’t waste valuable time trying to sort through fluffy adjectives included in your pitch. DO: Emphasize your expertise Prove to the journalist that you and/or your company are the leading experts in your industry. Demonstrate that you’ve been following trends by including relevant statistics. Tell them about your own social following. This doesn’t mean that you should include other coverage of the same news you’re trying to pitch. But if you’ve written on a theme and have seen success in driving traffic to your own social platforms, share it. Better yet, explain how you’ll drive traffic to their platform by co-promoting the piece. Not only do they want to be the first or most informed journalist on a valuable news story, they want confidence that it will be successful online. So make sure you’re marketing your expertise on a truly newsworthy subject that has value to their readership and channels, not your popularity. DON’T: Take the Shotgun Approach Quality over quantity. The same rule applies to pitching the media. Sending out mass-quantities of the same generic pitch isn’t an effective use of your time. Taking the shotgun approach to your pitch takes away the personalization that journalists prefer. The shotgun approach can also increase your chance of making embarrassing mistakes, such as sending a pitch to a journalist that says “Dear ” or “Dear Cathy” when the journalist’s name is Sue. Spending time and genuine effort building relationships with journalists and building quality pitches will ensure that, over time, you’ll earn the coverage. It’s called earned media for a reason. Customizing your pitch will yield a higher ROI on your PR efforts over time. Even journalists recognize that pitching isn’t easy. We love these tips (a few are fairly amusing!) from Mashable. Yes, there are endless opportunities to be seen and heard in our digital age. But earning that coverage takes time, strategy and a true commitment to making a journalist’s job a little easier with a solid pitch.

  • 5 Tips for Effectively Integrating Blogging and PR

    by Trevor Jones, VP of Business Development at GWI In small companies, we often have to get our message out with relatively small marketing budgets. The good news is that the age of content marketing has given us more tools than ever to accomplish our goals without breaking the bank. By effectively combining your blog and social channels with some well thought our public relations efforts, you can effectively get your message out and raise your brand awareness without spending lots of money on media. Sounds good, right? There are a few things you need before you get started. The first is something to announce that your audience will care about enough to read and share, an important element of what HubSpot calls remarkable content. This could be a new product or service that will help people in their business or daily life, or it could be something that you provide for free, like a white paper, report, or E-Book. If it’s not remarkable, don’t waste your time announcing it. In addition to something remarkable, you’ll need the basic tools of PR, a media contact list, a well-written press release, and talking points if you’re lucky enough to get a call for an interview about your story. Once you have these elements ready to go, the next step is to create a campaign in which your PR and content marketing work together and complement each other to enhance your message. Use these tips to help you do that. Take your news story direct with your blog: One of the most beautiful aspects of content marketing is the opportunity it gives you to tell the story your way. Also, your blog probably has many followers that don’t read your press releases or the newspapers that may or may not write a story. Take a few minutes to re-write a post in your voice that shares the news story directly with your audience. Make sure you dispense with all of the arcane formatting, language and “about sections” that are typical of press releases. Go deep on your news story in the blog. Your blog is your opportunity to give your story depth, whereas the press release is an executive summary. I usually spread this effort over multiple posts, adding more color with each post. When we announce a new network, we’ll generally issue a press release and 4 or more blog posts about it: one post might provide historical context, one a behind-the-scenes look, one a customer’s personal story, and so on. Then, we spread these stories out over weeks or a couple of months. This builds frequency, gives your story dimension, and gives you more content for your marketing. Occasionally your blog, not a press release, is the best vehicle for your story. Sometimes I read a release from our PR consultant and it’s obvious to me that I’m going to modify it and take it directly to the blog, without posting in on the press releases section of our website at all. This happens a lot with follow-up press releases that are really designed to get a second bump in press coverage from one of our bigger stories, like this post. Sometimes the blog is just a better place for direct consumption of content by the public, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t release it directly to the media. Don’t forget to use press releases to promote “big rock” content. You’ve worked hard to create the e-books, white papers, and other long-form content you use to drive conversions. No doubt you do a lot to promote them on your blog and in your social networks, but they’re worth more than that! The effort you put into creating that remarkable content is newsworthy and should be promoted with a press release. With a little luck and some relationship building, you could find that your anchor content has a much bigger audience. The best example of this that I’ve been involved in at GWI is the paper our CEO wrote providing 10 recommendations for improving broadband in Maine. The release of that paper was covered in both news stories and a favorable editorial in major Maine newspapers and business publications. Make sure to cross-link relevant blog posts from your press releases. Link building may be dead, but there is still an opportunity to breathe new life into blog posts that are relevant to a news story by linking them from your press release, even if the only place those links appear online is the news releases section of your site. This provides news reporters covering your story additional background, gives visitors to your web site another way to discover important content, and lets search engines know that you feel the linked posts are important. Definitely do this if your posts contain original research or hard data that supports your news story. So there you have it. Give a few of these strategies a try next time you have a product or content to launch.  I think you’ll find that your launches are more successful and satisfying and leads and sales start to climb.  The final step, by the way, is the most important one: go back and do it over and over again. Trevor Jones is Vice President of Business Development at GWI and has been a major author and editor of the GWI Blog, with over 200 posts on technology issues in four years. He also writes personal blogs on marketing and outdoor activities.

  • The anatomy of a broadcast ad that sells

    Anyone can write a script for a broadcast ad. It’s only 30 seconds of copy…how hard can it be? The truth is, the less time you have to convey a message the harder it is to be effective. Writing ad scripts that can effectively drive traffic to your website and convert ad viewers and listeners into customers is an art. It’s also a challenge for even the most seasoned copywriters and advertising creative directors. Before you send your ad script to the TV or radio production team, make sure you’ve considered these key elements to make the most of your advertising spend: A clear message. Viewers and listeners can only consume so much information in a 30 or 60 second ad. What do you want them to know after consuming this information? TV ads rely primarily on images to communicate. If you mute your ad and you can’t tell what the ad is selling, you need to rethink your strategy. Sure, the narration and visuals need to work together, but confusing or visually over-stimulating graphics combined with a weak script will add up to a losing ad. Most radio audiences are working, driving, exercising or otherwise occupied while listening. Make the message and call-to-action easy enough for them to recall later. An attention-grabbing intro. The lead of your ad is like the headline of a print ad. It’s your chance to grab their attention. Will the first 4-5 seconds of your ad hold the viewer or listener’s attention? Will it speak to them about a product or service that will solve their problems? Or is it time to change the station or take a TV break to grab another beer? Short, digestible sentences. Again, you only have 30 or 60 seconds. There is no time for extra language. Write short, concise, easy-to-understand sentences. If you’re struggling with the length of your script, type your ad in 16 point Times New Roman, all caps, double-spaced. A half-page is about 30 seconds; a full page is about 60 seconds. Benefits. Tell your audience how the product or service will benefit them. You’re not just selling an associate’s degree program. You’re selling a degree program that will: benefit A) save them time and money by accepting transfer credits from other colleges and benefit B) give them the knowledge, confidence and credentials to get a better job and earn even more money. A call to action. You want your audience to do something. That’s the point of the ad, right? Gone are the days of repeating your phone number and address over and over. Include your web address in the ad and have your contact info easily accessible online. Make sure that the web address is the company name and easy to remember. If your custom URL is hard to say and spell, it’s going to be hard for them to remember. Rethink hyphens or clever spellings. Time to get creative. Now that you have the elements of an ad script, you need a strategy for your ad campaign, and then you can start writing. The following are a few broadcast advertising red flags. Avoid these and you’re well on your way to a unique ad that converts: The ad that sounds like all other ads. If you listen to other ads for inspiration, or ask your advertising sales rep to write the script for you (most will), be on the lookout for script copy that sounds like your competitor. This is particularly risky in small markets. A message that’s off-brand. Your campaign should be consistent with your brand. What does your website or other marketing collateral communicate? Your broadcast ads may be focused on a particular promotion or the announcement of a new service, but the closing message should include some elements of your brand messaging to reinforce your unique selling proposition. The cutesy ad featuring your grandkids. Of course your grandchildren are adorable. But that doesn’t mean your audience will be ga-ga over a 4-year old narrator who can’t yet articulate simple sentences. Most viewers find this ad concept to not only be annoying, but totally confusing and often impossible to understand. If the average business owner is camera shy and isn’t ready for prime time, it’s still not worth wasting your advertising budget on ads that simply don’t make sense. If you’re selling playground equipment, that’s different. But most kid actor ads have nothing to do with the product or service. And worse, they can’t explain the benefits because they can’t talk. Be very careful about this strategy. The ad written by Captain Obvious. Don’t spend your 30 seconds telling your audience about your knowledgeable, trained and friendly staff or the fact that your company has been around since 1972. So what? Sure, it can be reassuring to a potential customer to know that you’re a reputable, honest business, but they will gather that information from other sources. Stating the obvious isn’t a compelling message and doesn’t transition into a meaningful call-to-action. Again, what are you selling? Don’t settle for filler ad copy. The low-cost leader ad strategy. “We guarantee the lowest price and nobody beats our prices.” Actually…if I had the time to scour the Internet looking for deals, I bet I can find someone cheaper. But do you really only want to compete on price? Highlighting price is tricky as prices often change, but there is always going to be someone out there ready to beat your price for the business. Think very carefully about the message you’re sending by positioning yourself as the cheapest gig in town. The mumbo-jumbo loaded with jargon ad. One of the hardest things to do when developing an advertising strategy and script is to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Check out our blog post on how to determine your target audience. Guess what? They’re almost never you! Just because you listen to one radio station or binge watch Downton Abbey on the weekends doesn’t mean your audience does. The same is true for industry jargon. Be careful about acronyms that mean something to you (my favorite: SEO or search engine optimization. It means something to me but outside of my industry, it’s confusing). The old saying K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is a tried and true lesson. A few final tips for writing your highly effective broadcast ad: Make sure background music doesn’t overpower your message and beware of the latest music licensing rules. Read the script out loud to your colleagues, family and friends. And lastly, weed out any clichés that weaken your message and credibility. Learn more about developing integrated advertising campaigns.

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