Archive for October 2015

Signs That It May Be Time to Change Your Brand

October 30, 2015

As you enter the world of business, you’re told time and again that your brand is essentially everything. It’s the first encounter that most customers have with your organization and it’s your connection to those people, particularly when it comes to establishing the type of meaningful and long-lasting relationship you need to survive. While all of this and more is definitely true, there is one important thing that your brand is NOT: immortal.

Changing your brand may be a difficult decision, but sometimes it is the best chance you have to re-organize your priorities and start anew. There are a few key warning signs that it may be time to change your brand that you should always be on the lookout for.

Time Has Passed and Passed… and Passed…

A lot can happen in a decade. Since 2005 alone, the world saw the rise of the smartphone, the fall (and arguable recovery) of desktop computing, the “death” of physical media and more. If the one thing that you CAN’T say about the last ten years is, “I’ve updated by brand at least once, preferably twice during this period of time,” then you’re looking at a clear-cut sign that it’s time for a change.

So much happens in a decade that without a brand refresh, you run the risk of developing a reputation for being old and stale. Even if you know that isn’t true, relying on the same logo and marketing approach from President Bush’s second term will land you right back there anyway. A brand change or upgrade is a perfect way to start fresh with a bold, new (and most importantly modern) voice.

Your Target Audience is Changing

At some point, any successful business that has operated for an appreciable amount of time needs to deal with a target audience that “ages out” of what attracted them to their business in the first place. If you think of the most successful brands in history, be it Pepsi or Microsoft or something in between, they’ve all had to deal with the same issue at some point in their history.

If despite your best marketing efforts your once steady sales have started to stagnate, or if you just can’t seem to rile up your audience the way you once did no matter what you try, it may be time to rethink your brand and who it is geared towards. Remember that a 30-year-old in 2015, and a 30-year-old in 1965, represent two completely different things and barely resemble one another. If your core audience has gone away, a dramatic change to your brand (but adherence to the values you established in the first place) is a great way to attract the attention of a whole new crop of people in one bold and striking move.

Changing Your Brand Doesn’t Mean Changing Your Vision

These are just a few of the many signs that it may be time to change your brand. Above all else, it’s important to remember that a brand realignment is not an admission of guilt that something went wrong, or defeat in terms of your business in general. Instead, it’s an opportunity. It’s a chance to throw out the old and rise from the ashes like the phoenix, ready to take a new generation of your target audience by storm and impact their lives with your products or services in a much more organic and impacting way.

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Mistakes as Vehicles to Success

October 27, 2015

Accidents and mistakes have given us many advantages that otherwise might have never come about. In fact, experimental accidents have been responsible for many of our scientific and medical advances over the past few centuries. The business world has also learned to take mistakes and failures to heart as learning experiences rather than obstacles. Our mistakes can be viewed as stepping stones to future successes.

Famous singer/song writer Janis Ian recently documented in a blog post several of the mistakes she has made over the years. Describing herself as prone to accidents “in the minefield of life,” she revealed some whopping errors. Three noteworthy examples are refusing the role eventually played by Rhea Pearlman in the hit TV series Cheers, passing on performing at Woodstock, and declining to write the musical score for the blockbuster film, The Graduate.

These were definite mistakes, to be sure. But as serious as these now obvious blunders were, Janis Ian is still doing what she loves and making others happy in the process. She is earning a living writing music and performing, and the world is better for this. None of her mistakes in that minefield have kept her down nor kept the world from enjoying her music.

Isaac Newton’s mother made a mistake that had the potential of altering the history of science. Young Isaac was pulled out of school to help run the family farm, but he was really no good at this, and his mother recognized it. She also knew that he really wanted to finish his schooling. When she realized that this was a far better fit for her son, she found another way to get the farm running as it should and allowed her son to finish school. The world of science is better because of this woman’s mistake being corrected and learned from.

Many stories tell of business successes born after their founders’ prior failures. Macy’s, the department store chain, is one of the largest such chains in the world, but Rowland H. Macy suffered through multiple business failures before learning enough from them to bring him and his family fame and wealth.

Dave Anderson of Famous Dave’s BBQ restaurants was, at one time, a not-so-famous Dave, after experiencing not one, but two business bankruptcies. One of them was as a wholesale florist supplying very large clients like Sears Roebuck. His business grew so rapidly that he failed to keep up with it, and lost the business. But, he learned from his mistakes and personal limitations. Indeed, he describes failure simply as “a learning tool.”

Since Dave knew that he loved making food, a restaurant was an obvious choice, and Famous Dave’s is the famously successful result, but he did not stop there. Anderson also created the LifeSkills Center for Leadership in Minneapolis, investing over a million dollars to start the program for helping at-risk Native American youth. The program focuses on leadership skills–the same skills Dave learned from his previous mistakes.

As author John C. Maxwell put it in his successful book, Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success, your objectives should include this mantra: “Fail early, fail often, and fail forward.” Mistakes should become vehicles, not obstacles. Like Janis Ian, despite mistakes you keep on keeping on. Isaac Newton’s mother learned that correcting mistakes can create value where none appeared to be. Like Rowland H. Macy and Dave Anderson, you build success on the foundation created by prior failures.

As social activist, composer, and singer Bernice Johnson Reagon put it, “Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.â€

Guest Blogging: Fully Understanding This Marketing Best Practice

October 23, 2015

Running a marketing blog as a part of a marketing campaign is practically a requirement in today’s modern world – particularly as Google changes the very foundation of what SEO stands for on a regular basis. One of the many things that Google looks for when ranking sites is how frequently they’re updated. A steady stream of fresh, trustworthy and high quality content will always rank higher than a page updated once a year. This describes a blog pretty efficiently. However, you may not always have time to pen every single entry on a blog yourself. For those situations, guest blogging can certainly come in very handy for a number of reasons.

What is Guest Blogging in Marketing?

As its name suggests, guest blogging involves “making a meal” out of the fact that you are not the one writing a particular blog entry. Not only do you get the benefit of being able to take a day (or week) off to catch up on your backlog, but you also get a huge amount of new attention to your blog thanks to the presence of your guest.

How Does Guest Blogging Help You in Marketing?

For starters, perhaps the biggest benefit of guest blogging is that it can help generate a whole new level of traffic for a site. This is especially true if this guest blogger already has his or her own following, so they’ll be bringing their own audience to your site for the first time. While most of those new visitors will likely leave again to follow the guest blogger across the Internet, many will stay.

Another one of the major benefits of guest blogging is that it helps you build your authority in more ways than one. If the person that you’re having guest blog for your site is well-respected, the very fact that they’re contributing a piece to you at all only serves to lend some much-needed credibility to your enterprise. This is particularly true if you’re just starting out.

Another one of the reasons why guest blogging is so beneficial, particularly in terms of marketing, is because it helps build authority where it matters most – search engines. Gone are the days where you can just stuff a site with keywords and instantly fly to the top of Google results. Google emphasizes pages that are trustworthy over all others now and guest blogging is one of the single most efficient ways to get in on some of that action for yourself. By showing that your site is not only regularly updated with high quality content but also pieces from different authentic, trustworthy voices, the general rank of your entire enterprise will only rise as a result. This means that there will naturally be more eyes on your marketing blogs, which only means increased revenue as a result.

These are just a few of the reasons why guest blogging is, and will remain, a marketing best practice moving forward. Leveraging the power of search engines is all about authority and high quality content – guest blogging is able to deliver this to you in spades. If you’re the type of person who could use a little extra time to keep that steady stream of content flowing, guest blogging also makes perfect sense from the standpoint of your own productivity and efficiency at the same time. There really is no reason why you shouldn’t be exploring this with your marketing materials.

Tips for Mastering Multi-Channel Communications in Your Campaigns

October 16, 2015

You can essentially boil down the goal of any marketing campaign to one impossibly simple core concept: you’re trying to connect to your target audience and communicate a message in the most natural and organic way possible. In today’s modern environment, marketers tend to fall into two distinct camps: those who are sticking to the tried-and-true print technique and those who see digital as the way of the future. The fact of the matter is that these concepts do not have to be mutually exclusive. Learning how to take all of your available options and use them in tandem with one another is a large part of what multi-channel communications are all about.

Let the Customer Discover Your Message on Their Own Terms

For an example of effective multi-channel communication in action, consider what happens after you send out a print item to a customer using direct mail. Logic dictates that you should wait a week or two and send a follow-up message, right? As you’ve already established contact, that follow-up doesn’t have to come in the form of another mailer sent to the customer’s mailbox. It can easily be an e-mail sent to the address for that customer you have on file. Suddenly, you’ve used not one, but two, different channels effectively, allowing the customer a full range of options regarding how and why they respond and continue their journey.

That may be simplifying the situation a bit, but the benefit to the consumer of getting full control over how they’re receiving and responding to your message is what multi-channel communications are all about.

Better Campaigns Mean Better Results

In order to master multi-channel marketing and really put it to good use for your organization, you’ll need to keep a few key things in mind. For starters, you’ll need to establish a single, unified view of your customers across all channels. Any available piece of information will need to be collated together, not only so that each channel seems like a natural extension of the next, but so each channel can allow for the deeper level of customization that attracts customers in the first place.

Another factor to consider has to do with your organization’s ability to create the most consistent experience possible across all of those channels at the same time. When a customer gets an e-mail, sees a mobile ad, and receives a letter in the mail from your campaign, they all need to feel like they’re coming from the same company. One can’t be casual, while the other, stuffy and overly professional. Failure to grasp this basic concept can result in your organization coming across as a bit schizophrenic.

You’ll also need to develop your own in-house multi-channel platform to help keep track of all of these materials. You’ll need things like campaign management software, for example, giving you the ability to execute all aspects of a campaign (including both print and digital materials) all from the same unified workflow. This will also give you a better idea of tweaks that you can be making to your campaign by way of things like predictive and actionable analytics.

Multi-channel communication, in general, just goes to show you that print and digital don’t have to be an "either/or" scenario for marketers. By leveraging all of the tools you have available to you instead of playing favorites, you’ll put you and your team in a much better position to succeed moving forward.

Expressions of Appreciation

October 13, 2015

Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life.
Dr. Christiane Northrup

Have you ever felt under-appreciated? It is unfortunately a common condition in our culture. But, we can do something to combat its ubiquity. Like so many negative influences in our lives, we can turn this around and reverse its influence by doing the exact opposite. Actions may speak louder than words, but some words can have an unforgettable impact. Appreciating the contributions of others and making that appreciation known to them, will not only inspire them, but it will also add remarkable value to your own life.

Expressing appreciation to others is such a simple act that it is frequently overlooked. The opportunity is ignored, or we let it pass on by without saying anything, simply because it might expose our inner self to others. We ignore the potential to connect with someone else in this way because it is easy to do. We take the easy path instead of the better one.

Especially in a job situation, expressed appreciation can make a tremendous difference in job satisfaction and employee productivity. Expressions of gratitude for a job task that was particularly well done shows the recipient that she has made a positive difference. She has contributed something of value to the business. This can have a marked impact on even the least productive employees, as they start to see the importance of their place in the scheme of things.

Some people seem to have a hard time even saying thank you. For them, expressing further appreciation may take a little more effort, but for most of us it is a fairly easy habit to develop. Make no mistake, it really is simply a habit to be kind enough to say thank you, and tell someone why you appreciate their contribution. Good habits like this are fortunately just as easy to develop as the bad ones.

To develop this altruistic habit, simply adjust your thinking to include at least three expressions of gratitude every day. Set this as a goal as you get out of bed. Search your morning for something to be grateful for and someone to thank for it.

I appreciate that you make breakfast for me every day. Thank you for your smile, it inspires me. I love the fact that you are so energetic so early in the day. I wish I didn’t have to go to work so I could spend the whole day with you.

Develop the habit. It’s easy. American philosopher and psychologist William James said, “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.†Fulfilling that craving is not a difficult task, but to develop the habit of doing so may take an adjustment of attitude. We need to stop thinking of gratitude as an incidental byproduct of life and start thinking of it as a worldview. It will condition our responses to be more in line with the importance of this deep craving that all of us share.

All too easy to forget, these expressions of gratitude are very simple ways to get the most out of life by making others, as well as ourselves, feel better about our daily routines.

Staying Relevant in a Social World Means Embracing All It Has to Offer

October 9, 2015

Despite the fact that we’re well into the 21st century at this point, there are many businesses that are truly afraid of addressing exactly what that entails for whatever reason. It is not uncommon to meet a marketer that is still relying on the tried-but-true techniques of yesteryear, while at the same time turning a cold shoulder to the advancements of the last decade: namely, the social media-centric society in which we now live. If you distill the goal of marketing down to its most bare essentials, all professionals operate with the same end result in mind. Marketing is a quest to stay relevant. It’s a battle to keep a brand at the forefront of a customer’s mind and to engage with an audience in new and meaningful way. It’s an attempt to create a world in which the customer cannot fathom living without Product X or Service Y. In the 21st century, that means embracing social media and technology in general.

Social Media is Meaningful

By staying firmly ingrained in the techniques that have always worked in the past, the "old school" segment of the marketing population is forgetting that these new technologies bring with them a huge variety of advancements that can’t be ignored. For starters, social media eliminates much of the guesswork that marketers used to have to contend with. You no longer have to guess which conversations your customers are having and try to interject in any way that you can. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and other sites, you can literally see the conversation as it’s taking place. You don’t have to attempt to steer the conversation in a new direction to attract attention – you can attract attention by contributing meaningful content to something that is already taking place.

If a customer is having an issue with a particular product and posts about it on Twitter, a marketer is, at most, three mouse clicks away from solving that problem and creating a meaningful example of brand engagement at the same time. Social media also tears down the obstacle of geography, creating a world that is literally as large as it’s ever been but figuratively much smaller. Do you want to quickly get a message out to customers in Cleveland, Ohio? Filter Twitter accounts based on location and send away – they’ll receive it in seconds.

Most importantly, social media allows you to make use of one of the most widely used platforms for any type of activity in existence today – mobile. People spend a massive amount of time on their smartphones each day thanks to their ease-of-use, small size, convenience and more. You don’t have to fight for their attention anymore – if you’re putting the right content out in the world using the right social channels, you’ve already got their attention.

Social Media is Not a Replacement

One of the biggest misconceptions that the "old school" marketers have is that social technology, in general, is replacing the way things used to work. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The timeless, best practices that worked in the 50s and 60s still work today. They will always work. Social media and other digital marketing techniques are not a replacement to the techniques that you’ve always depended on, but a compliment to them. When used in conjunction with one another, they’re creating an environment where success is practically a guarantee.

A properly designed direct mail piece will be just as effective in 2025 as it was in 1975. If you also add a hashtag or a QR code or some other type of digital element to that mailer, however, you’re performing the most important task of all: You’ve given the customer an option regarding where and how they’d like to continue the conversation. You’ve included them in the process in a meaningful and organic way and, rest assured, they will thank you for it. That is what social media is all about.

Individuality: Use Your Voice to Emphasize What Makes You Special in a Crowded Marketplace

October 6, 2015

When you begin to create marketing materials and send them out into the world, one of the most important aspects to focus on is your voice. You can describe "voice" in marketing in many ways – from the word choices that you use to the feeling that you’re trying to unlock in your target audience. Even if you’re operating in a crowded marketplace and competition is incredibly stiff, we believe that your voice is one of the best opportunities that you have to emphasize what really makes you special to your readers. By not shying away from this built-in sense of individuality, and instead, embracing it head on, you can really do wonders for your marketing return on investment at the same time.

The Impression That You’re Trying to Create

One of the most important things to understand about your voice in marketing is that it isn’t necessarily something that you can artificially create. It’s something that you’re going to have to find as your business continues to grow and evolve. Once you do discover exactly what that is, however, you’ll want to grab onto it, use it, and refuse to ever let it go.

Consider the example of Nike as a recent example of a powerful voice in action. Nike’s "Find Your Greatness" campaign played up the idea that amazing things typically have small beginnings and sometimes you really only need a simple "push" to unlock your full potential. Obviously, as one of the premiere footwear manufacturers on the planet, the thesis of the campaign itself is, "If you want to be a great athlete, your journey begins with a pair of Nike shoes." But, the use of Nike’s voice as a reflection of their own brand and individuality is unmistakable: what Nike is telling its audience is that the shoes themselves are not necessarily great, but the combination of the shoes and the undying will and perseverance of the individual are what will accomplish great things. Nike’s voice in this case has created an emotional connection with its audience. They aren’t saying, "Buy these shoes because they’re the comfiest or longest lasting shoes that you will ever have." They’re saying, "If you want to accomplish the impossible, step one is buying a pair of Nike shoes."

Is it bold? Yes. Is it almost brash in its confidence? Absolutely. But regardless of whether or not you buy into the marketing line as a consumer, you can’t argue with the fact that it is a startlingly simple campaign that distills what makes Nike unique into one positive message of empowerment.

Your Voice is as Unique as Your Business

Never forget that the form your voice takes depends on the impression that you’re trying to create. If you sell shoes and you want to come off like a friendly neighbor who just happens to be a clothing manufacturer, you would want your marketing language to take a much more casual and flowery approach. If you want to come across as a professional expert, you would essentially go in the other direction and prove yourself trustworthy through word choice. The key is experimenting and finding the voice behind your company and then using it to separate yourself from the rest.

These are just a few of the key reasons why embracing your voice and emphasizing what makes your business unique in marketing are so important. It isn’t necessarily what you sell that makes you successful – it’s how you choose to sell it. There are a million different companies that sell widgets out there, but what is it that really makes people want to buy YOUR widgets above anyone else’s? The answer is your voice. If you can master that, everything else will fall into place.