Archive for April 2014

29 April, 2014 11:37

April 29, 2014

People enjoy feeling as though they belong. It’s a part of our universal desire to form strong bonds with other people and feel connected to those around us. From student clubs to neighborhood organizations, this desire plays out across our nation in a variety of settings.

This desire also has a firm place in marketing. One of the best ways to encourage brand loyalty involves encouraging customers to feel as though they’re part of an exclusive group when they use your brand. When people feel connected to your company and to other users, they’re more likely to become repeat customers and even recommend your brand to others. Few companies have enjoyed the success Facebook has in this regard.

The early days of Facebook

Back when Facebook was first developed, it was available only to users at colleges and universities, and they had to have a .edu email address to register. This effort to create a distinctive market resulted in a very strong community among Facebook users. Many users today still reminisce about the early days when their parents and grandparents weren’t registered and it was just a way to communicate with their college friends. In many ways, the desire to belong to this exclusive ‘club’ of Facebook users helped the company grow exponentially.

Revising the Facebook exclusivity

After a few years of immense popularity with the college-age crowd, Facebook began to open registration up to people outside their original targeted demographic. At first, this upset many people who had eagerly waited until their college years to join, only to find that everyone else could now, too. In recent years, there have been some reports of the younger generations leaving as they search for a platform that allows them to converse with their friends without their parents and grandparents seeing their comments. Overall, however, the platform has continued to grow. This is because the developers have taken the time to still encourage feelings of community among users, even though everyone can now join.

How have they managed to maintain this feeling?

  1. Newsfeeds update users to their friends’ activities as soon as they log in. This offers a unique way to stay in contact with friends and family. Users know they would lose all this information if they were to leave.
  1. Games and similar activities encourage users to work together on the platform for entertainment, connecting people by common interests within the platform.
  1. Since Facebook use is so prevalent, the default is to use the platform. People expect to be able to connect and communicate with others through it. Those who don’t have a page risk losing out on a key form of communication.

How businesses can learn from Facebook

Facebook has managed to build a community so strong that it appeals to nearly every demographic. Few companies will have the reach to accomplish this, but they will be able to strengthen their own connections to encourage customer loyalty and retention.

For example, try building portions of your company website that allow and encourage communication between customers. You can occasionally interject advice as needed, but in general try to keep the conversations between end-users, to encourage a connection between your customers.

Loyalty programs and rewards programs are also helpful. By offering prizes to those who use your products and services regularly, you’ll show your appreciation and encourage customers to return to earn more. Publicly rewarding customers, such as showcasing particular people for their loyalty, can also help enhance brand loyalty. Even promotions such as free t-shirts can help customers feel connected to your company.

Facebook has shown the business world what is possible when a brand manages to build such a strong sense of community that users cannot imagine doing without it. Companies of all sizes can take some of the lessons to heart and begin to build their own communities. If you’re interested in developing materials to help reach your consumer base and encourage them to be a part of your community, reach out to us. We’d be happy to help you!

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25 April, 2014 16:59

April 25, 2014

Whether you love it or hate it, chances are at some point you’ve eaten at McDonald’s. This corporation was a major cornerstone of the building of the fast food industry and is currently one of the symbols of the exportation of American culture around the world. Perhaps what is most remarkable about the success of the franchise is how unremarkable it is. The restaurants serve burgers and french fries. Yet somehow, out of all the burger joints available, the one started by the McDonald brothers in San Bernardino, California, has gone on to serve roughly 68 million customers per day. How did this happen, and what can other business leaders learn from the company?

The history of McDonald’s

McDonald’s was first opened by the McDonald brothers in 1940. The little restaurant served burgers and placed an emphasis on quick service, putting the fast food principles developed by White Castle to work for themselves. By 1955, the restaurant became a corporation led by aggressive businessman, Ray Kroc. Kroc is credited with taking what was a successful burger joint to the popular glory it now enjoys. Kroc was known for his risk taking and lofty goals that allowed him to lead the corporation.

How Ray Kroc made a burger franchise into a global phenomenon

Professionals have spent years analyzing the business decisions of Ray Kroc. Few disagree that he was a genius, even though his feud with the McDonald brothers certainly earned him some animosity. Two particular traits tend to be cited by those exploring the reasons for the success of the corporation:

– Attention to details
– Passion for the business

Attention to details

Kroc did not allow a single detail of the burger making process to go un-analyzed. He even broke down the process of putting a patty and toppings into a bun to see if he could improve it. He ended up essentially creating an assembly line for putting together sandwiches, which lives on in McDonald’s restaurants today. Kroc worked to develop teamwork within each restaurant and even constructed the customer service model that includes a smile when greeting patrons.

Other businesses should put the same consideration into their own companies. This doesn’t mean micromanaging the company, but rather looking for ways to improve the company from the ground up.

As a business owner, explore each level of your business to see what can be improved. Research the consumer base and gain deeper insights into their challenges, so you can see how your company can better help them. Similarly, research customer experiences with the company to see how customer service can be improved. Look for answers to questions such as:

  • How long do customers have to wait for responses to inquires?
  • How efficient are customer service lines?
  • Do customers tend to get passed from person to person before receiving an answer?

Passion for the business

Kroc had a passion for building his business. He believed in dreaming big while always working to improve the business. In the world of making burgers, Kroc had a vision of turning McDonald’s into a major franchise, and he worked to make that happen. He was also willing to take risks, which included betting on the likelihood of customers taking to the casual, fast-food model over the common sit down and more formal dining experience.

Try translating this passion into your own business. Your enthusiasm should be contagious. No one wants to support a company that doesn’t have a clear vision, a plan for getting there, and a confident leader who seems capable of getting the business to these new heights. Use your industry knowledge and foresight to anticipate customer desires and needs, and show a true eagerness to encourage your entire team to work toward the shared vision.

Success isn’t dependent on developing something extraordinary. Sometimes, it’s leaders doing extraordinary things with ordinary ideas that can make a company great. If an empire can be built out of burgers and fries, the right business prowess can offer anyone the chance to have success. Keeping Ray Kroc’s mantras of paying attention to details and a passion for business in mind can help you get on the path to bringing your own company to the top. If you’re looking for ways to get started growing your company vision, contact us to see how we can help you get your message out.

22 April, 2014 11:08

April 22, 2014

Savvy marketers know that direct mail offers a cost-effective and potentially profitable marketing method — but in order to work, it must be done right! In fact, some of today’s most innovative and creative advertising is sent through the mail, according to Entrepreneur magazine.

An effective direct-mail campaign can accomplish several goals, including:

  • Generating leads
  • Attracting new customers
  • Engaging with current customers
  • Expanding the reach of your brand
  • Producing profits

Here are the top five secrets of successful direct mailers.

1. Focus, Focus, and More Focus

The success of any direct-mail campaign depends in large part on your audience, so you need to target the right people. A direct-marketing rule known as the 60-30-10 states that 60% of success depends on the list, 30% depends on the offer you present, and 10% lies in creative elements. This highlights the importance of choosing the right list for your mailing.

If you’re building your own list, start with your past and current customers. After all, they’re a known factor — they’ve purchased your product or service before, and you probably already have all of their info. (If you don’t, now’s the time to start collecting it!)

If you’re purchasing or creating a list, consider your target audience’s characteristics carefully. Who’s your "ideal" customer? Look at demographics such as age, gender, locale, interests, buying patterns, climate, and leisure activities when compiling your mailing list. The more specifically targeted you can get, the better.

2. Keep it Updated

If it’s been a while since you updated your customer data, a direct mailing is a good place to start. People change addresses more than you might think! Simply add a request for address corrections onto the label; the post office will send undeliverable mail back with the recipient’s new address. It costs a bit more, but doing this at least once per year keeps your database updated.

3. Determine Your Goal

What do you want this particular campaign to achieve? Do you want to generate orders, build your brand, or produce leads? Setting a clear, measurable objective will help you drive the creative portion of your campaign. If your goals are too broad, your message is likely to be vague — and less effective — as well.

4. Grab their Attention

You only have a few seconds to grab their attention — and if you don’t, they won’t even open the envelope. Take a look at your own mail; what are you most likely to open? Are you enticed by offers of "FREE MONEY!" or "AMAZING PRIZES!"? Probably not, and your audience is similarly jaded to cheesy, gimmicky headlines. Instead, pique their interest with a creative headline, interesting use of color, a hand-addressed envelope, or a bit of humor. In other words, go for elements that stereotypical "junk mail" doesn’t have.

5. Develop a Relevant Offer

Now that you’ve gotten your customer to open the mail, present them with an offer that appeals to them. Here’s where knowing your audience is key. Be brief, but include the information they need to make an on-the-spot decision. Why do they need your product? How will your service benefit them? Testimonials from satisfied customers can be powerful in this capacity.

Above all else, make it easy for them to respond. Provide multiple contact channels, including a website, email address, and phone number, but don’t leave it at that. Always (ALWAYS) include a call to action. Tell them to call, email, or visit your website. Remember, if you don’t tell them what you want them to do, they simply won’t do it.

19 April, 2014 18:14

April 19, 2014

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care.
About some you will say, "I don’t choose to go there."
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.


And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening, too.

OH!
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!

The opening lines of Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! have been read by graduating students, entrepreneurs, and business professionals alike. The words are inspirational, calling upon each of us to contemplate what we’re capable of accomplishing. Even the most monotonous worker will find that the language can stir something deep inside them, propelling them to try to accomplish great things. Beyond just the immediate emotions the words stir within the reader, however, Dr. Seuss’s wisdom about success and inspiration also rings true at a much deeper level.

You’re on your own. And you know what you know. / And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

Business leaders need to have confidence in their own knowledge and direction. When you’re at the helm of a company, you cannot rely on others to tell you what you can accomplish or what direction your should take. It doesn’t do your business any good to copy another company, no matter how successful that company may be. Instead, use the knowledge and experience you have about your industry to plot your own course. Find a specific industry niche that you can uniquely fill and work to build a company with that specialty in mind.

With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, / you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

Like anything else, there are plenty of ways to cheat in business. There are ways to take advantage of people, to steal, to doctor books. While taking these shortcuts might pay off in the short term, such actions can come back to haunt you in the long run. Major corporations have been brought down by uncovered cheating scandals. On a small scale, burning bridges with possible connections only makes it harder to build a business, not easier. You might find you need to change course, relocate and establish yourself elsewhere, or take some unbeaten paths to success, but that’s ok. Don’t be afraid to set off on your own path, even if it takes you ‘straight out of town.’

And when things start to happen, / don’t worry. Don’t stew. / Just go right along. / You’ll start happening, too.

It can be difficult to see everyone around you start to become successful. This doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that you won’t succeed. If you’re pulling in clients and slowly growing your business, you’re on the path to success, and you will ‘start happening.’ Sometimes, it just takes a little time to see fantastic results. Be realistic about your goals and the progress of your company, but don’t begin to despair over what others are accomplishing.

Dr. Seuss’s words of wisdom can apply to everyone, from students to successful business leaders. Taking the time to listen to the entertaining rhymes can help inspire you and encourage you to accomplish your dreams. If you’re looking for more advice or help with growing your business through marketing, reach out to us. We would be happy to help you get started on the right path.

15 April, 2014 12:29

April 15, 2014

When you’re trying to build your business, it’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of the hunt — for new customers, that is. However, as studies from the Harvard Business School show, focusing attention on existing customers and increasing retention rates by just 5% will increase your profits by 25% to 95%!

Of course, savvy business owners know there’s a fine line between keeping in touch and being a bit… well… annoying, or even worse, stalky.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes: How many e-mails do you want to receive every day? How many phone calls do you want to take? Sure, persistence is important in cultivating your customer base, but overdoing it can prove counterproductive by annoying the very customers you’re trying to reach. Here’s how to find the right balance.

Make it Personal

Who doesn’t like to receive a personalized card or handwritten note in the mail? There’s a world of difference between sending out an impersonal flyer or form letter and a customized note printed on attractive cardstock. Which would you be more likely to open and read?

Send personalized updates on the "regular" occasions — clients’ birthdays, anniversaries, major holidays, and the like — but also consider spicing it up a bit by sending a note or card when they don’t expect it. After all, most businesses send appreciation cards and letters during the winter holidays, so that’s just par for the course. Stand out by also picking a random date to surprise them.

Loyalty Programs

And speaking of dates, choose a day with significance for your customer — like their birthday or the anniversary of their first major purchase from your business — and use that occasion to automatically enroll them in a loyalty program. All you have to do is send an email letting them know you’ve enrolled them into your "VIP" program, or whatever you choose to call it.

Why automatically? Because a key to successful loyalty programs lies in making it as effortless for your customers as possible, without requiring them to take any extra steps or actions.

Artificial Advancement

The other key to successful loyalty programs lies in creating what’s known as "artificial advancement" toward a goal or milestone. A 2006 study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that customers who received punch cards as part of a loyalty program were more likely to become repeat customers if they were given a head start toward reaching a goal. For instance, many coffee shops offer loyalty cards that give a customer a stamp for each coffee drink they buy, then reward them with a free drink once they’ve accrued 10 stamps.

Researchers found that customers were almost three times more likely to use their punch cards — and spend money at a business — if at least two stamps were already present on the card when they first received it. Apparently, customers like to feel that they’re already well on their way to receiving awards!

Make Contacts Worth Their While

Whether it’s in an e-mail, through a printed newsletter, or on a sales call, providing customers with information they can use adds value to your communications and eliminates the annoyance factor. Offering industry news, community updates, or other data that’s relevant and useful to your customers goes a long way toward transforming the way they perceive your marketing efforts. A professionally written and well-designed direct mail piece sent a few times a year that’s packed with info they can use is always welcome.

If you keep your communications relevant, concise, respectful, useful, and personalized, you’ll never have to worry about being too persistent.

11 April, 2014 17:30

April 11, 2014

Pickup games are the basis of many fond childhood memories — or nightmares, depending on who you ask. Whether the neighborhood children preferred to play games of basketball, baseball, or hockey, standing in line while waiting for the ‘captains’ to select you could be pure torture. Those with a bit of athletic prowess would eagerly wait to see if they were going to be on the same team as their friends. Those with a bit less skill crossed their fingers that they wouldn’t be picked last.

What made picking those teams so stressful

Children understand that the team you choose matters. The team will decide whether you’ll emerge victorious or go home to dinner with your tail between your legs. Growing up, being picked first was an honor. It meant the other kids respected your abilities. Being picked last was something to be avoided.

Team captains would fight to fill out their teams with people who could successfully fill each position on the court or field. Even a casual game, like a snowball fight, needed players who had certain skills. No captain worth their salt would pick just anyone.

While those picked at the end might rather repress these memories, they do have to admit that the captains tended to know what they were doing. Those of us in business can learn something from them.

Why the team matters

Whatever the sport, the teams would work together to devise some kind of strategy under the leadership of their captain. Yet, no matter how talented that captain was or how genius their game strategies were, they couldn’t win on their own. They still needed the talents and help of everyone else on the team. The same goes for business.

Countless startups get so wrapped into their vision and dreams for the future that they neglect building their own team to help them get there. However, just like a childhood sports team, a business won’t succeed if it relies solely on the grand plans or talents of one person. As important as developing the ideas and plan for the company may be, carefully picking the team to get you there is just as (if not more) important.

Picking your team

Captains of sports teams pick players based on where they can play on the field. They work to get a variety of skills on the team. In baseball, it doesn’t do much good to have a team of hitters if no one can field. Similarly, in business, it’s important to pick members with various talents and strengths to create a complete picture.

Begin by outlining who is needed to help the business grow. Find people who share your vision and can help fill in your own gaps, so you can work on building your company’s future. Different people will bring different ideas to the table, which will challenge you to develop and grow as a team.

Success for startups (and even more established companies) often depends heavily on the types of people the company founders surround themselves with. Fresh people bring fresh ideas, and no person can fill every role.

Rather than trying to be everything for your company, focus instead on building a strong team that can work together to take your company to the top. Just like the kids from childhood sports games understood, strategy and big plans will only get you so far. Sometimes who you pick will make the most difference.

When you’re ready to build your marketing team, we can help you make smart decisions about your strategy and how your team will work to reach your customers.

8 April, 2014 17:21

April 8, 2014

For many of us, the idea of the small town is iconic. For some, it embodies the place where they grew up or currently live. For others, it represents more of an ideal than anything based on personal experience. In any case, quintessential small town life presents a business model we all can learn from.

Main Street

Every small town, it seems, has a Main Street — a place dotted with mom-and-pop shops, each with its own inviting display, encouraging people to stop in and check out their wares. The bakery or candy shop often has samples out front for people to stop by and taste as they walk down the street. The neighborhood grocer knows the patrons by name and has a variety of appealing fruits and vegetables right out front. The local cafe offers places for people to sit outside and engage with others as they pass by.

The ‘Main Street’ of the Internet

For many people, this real life type of Main Street is just a figment of their imagination or a distant memory of days gone by. Their reality is comprised more of national brands and busy shopping malls. What marketers have increasingly found, however, is that customers find it more appealing to shop on websites that contain many of the popular features of these once commonplace Main Streets than websites that don’t. Even though the world has become more interconnected and people are increasingly more accustomed to the hustle of city life, the desire to feel welcomed into a place of business and valued as a customer never goes away.

What businesses can learn from the mom-and-pop shops of the past

The secrets to success for the shops of Main Street continue to work today. The stores of Main Street made every customer feel welcome to stop and check out their place of business right from the street. These welcoming shops would also offer a variety of samples customers could try in order to see if a particular product would work for them.

As you think about your own company, take a close look at your website, physical place of business, and advertising materials. Are each of these designed to encourage customers to see what you have to offer? Do you offer customers incentives such as discounts, free samples, or rewards for using your business?

One of biggest lessons that modern companies can learn from the past, however, is personalization. Main Street business owners took the time to learn the names of their customers and greet them personally when they entered the shop. You should strive to accomplish a similar effect online and off.

Start by keeping careful records of how customers use your website. Responsive sites that can remember what a customer looked at the last time they visited or what they bought in the past tend to encourage more repeat business than those that don’t.

Train your in-store representatives to remember what customers say when they enter the shop to provide them with an individualized experience.

Such personalization can even extend to your marketing materials. For example, consider using variable data to personalize your direct mail campaigns and targeted mailings to reach niche buyers who may be interested in the products or services you sell.

While the ultimate Main Street might no longer exist for many people, the desire for finding welcoming shops that remember our names has not gone away. Incorporating as many of these values as possible into your marketing efforts can impress customers and help build relationships around trust and loyalty.

We can help you find ways to express these values in your marketing materials, so reach out to us today!