Friday, February 5, 2016

Email Marketing: Is it Right for Your Small Business?

Any kind of marketing in an economy that is still sluggishly recovering is not easy. But if you think marketing a profitable business is tough, imagine how hard it is for a non-profit that is completely dependent on donations. Dreams4Kids is one such non-profit that succeeds primarily with email marketing. Their motto is "replacing charity with opportunity," and they do just that by stimulating participation and community involvement.

The most famous quote by cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead is, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Dreams4Kids is this kind of forward-thinking small group, and its success is directly linked to its marketing campaigns. While Margaret Mead's quote bears remembering, it is also true that the engine that drives such successful enterprises is marketing, and with non-profits, donors are the spark that runs the engine.

Marketing through email has been around for quite a while now. It is basically the online version of a direct mail letter--the electronic counterpart to postal letters, fliers, and brochures that have been used and are still being used so successfully. Combining your print marketing with your email marketing just makes sense.

Some of the advantages email marketing has are obvious. Emails are fast and cheap. They can deliver your message almost immediately at almost no cost, and have literally no negative environmental impact. That is quite a bargain. But there are some less obvious benefits, too. With email, you can track whether your mail is getting opened or not. That is valuable information for any marketing campaign. After all, the trick is still getting your message opened and read. If you can determine which messages are getting opened, you have a head start in adjusting the campaign.

What actually works?

How does a non-profit like Dreams4Kids successfully market using email? They follow some easy guidelines that any small business can employ.

1. Decide what kind of campaign you want. Emails can be regularly scheduled newsletters or more sporadic announcements linked to specific events. Both are beneficial and should be considered. But, if you try the latter, be sure your timing is appropriate. The reader must have time to react, but not too much time.

2. Know your target audience. This is an important step in getting those emails opened and read. Whatever is in your email, it has to be relevant to the clients' interests or you are wasting your time.

3. Provide value. Once it is open, your email must provide something valuable to the reader, whether it is a discount coupon, an announcement of a product launch, or some other information that the client has an established interest in. This is where the mantra comes from: Content is king. The content must have value. Determine what your customers' questions are and then answer them before they are asked. That provides value.

4. Be brief and to the point. Rambling messages rarely get read completely today. One such email could doom all your subsequent emails to the delete button without being opened.

5. Use images to attract the reader's eye and maintain interest. A picture really is worth 1,000 words.

6. Use a mobile-friendly email template. If you still think today's technology is mostly limited to desktop computers, think again. Technology statistics website says that Apple Computer's iPad sales top $1.6 billion quarterly. Worldwide tablet sales by all manufacturers are now over 50 million units quarterly. The days of the desktop's supremacy are now well behind us. Your emails have to be easily read on tablets and smartphones or your campaign is doomed from the start.

Using email in conjunction with your print marketing really can work for you so that your business becomes part of your customers' conversations. If Dreams4Kids can effectively use email to attract donors, you can use it to attract and keep customers for your business.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Re-Branding of Curious George

Many people are unaware of the origins of Curious George. For the youngsters who love the books and TV show today, George is just an adorable little monkey who happens to live with a man in a yellow hat. The children watch as George gets himself into all kinds of trouble, learning along with him how to problem solve.

The stories didn't begin that way, though.

When the very first Curious George stories came out back in the 1940s, George was a monkey who had lived in Africa. The man with the yellow hat tricked George into coming out of hiding by playing on his curiosity. He originally planned to take George back to Europe and put him in the zoo. Instead, the two began to develop a relationship.

It's interesting to note the prevailing opinions of the time. Many people looked at explorers who went into the jungle as heroes. They wouldn't have had as many negative associations with an explorer kidnapping a monkey from the jungle as we would today.

The new books that children read today came out in the 1990s. These later books don't really talk about how George came to live with the man in the yellow hat. The authors of these later books, which are modeled after the original books, focus on George's curiosity and how he manages to solve his problems. The authors of the newer books recognized that people today wouldn't appreciate the story of the man with the yellow hat kidnapping George from the jungle.

When the newer books and television series first came out, the authors focused on creating a fun story centered around a lovable monkey and the trouble he could create. Rather than focus on how the monkey and the man with the yellow hat came together, they just developed an entertaining story focused around the present.

You could say this was a re-branding of Curious George -- and it was a complete success.

Successfully framing your company for success

When you set out to market your company to your customers, you must understand your audience and what they seek. The new audience of preschoolers in the 1990s and 2000s wanted an entertaining character without the baggage that came with the original, so that's what the authors delivered.

Similarly, you should familiarize yourself with your customers enough to predict what's going to resonate most with them. Use this to guide your marketing and re-branding efforts. Audiences might change over the years, particularly if your company's been around for several decades, so don't be afraid to shed parts of your original message and add in something new if it will help you reach your customers.

When it comes to advertising, nothing matters more than understanding your audience. Those familiar with the saga of Curious George will find the comparisons between the popular monkey and the marketing campaigns of evolving companies intriguing. If you're interested in developing a new marketing campaign, speak to us today. We'd be happy to help you get started.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Print Marketing Techniques that Have Stood the Test of Time

In marketing, everyone's always looking for the "next big thing." Whatever your business, you're probably looking for that bold, new method no one else has thought of before to connect with your target audience in a new and meaningful way. Yet even with all of today's shiny, new marketing channels and techniques, some classic print marketing ideas are just as relevant today as they were way back when. What's more, they're also a great way to inject your modern campaign with some old-school flair.

Sign Spinners

Sign spinners are making a huge impression in today's marketplace, but the idea itself isn't as new as you might think. Though sign spinners took a bit of a back seat as new digital techniques rose to prominence in the last few years, it's actually an idea that's been around for decades. The premise is simple: you literally have someone stand out in front of your store with a bright, colorful sign they spin in all sorts of different ways. People driving by can't help but notice the sign spinner's skills, which also means they can't help but notice the sign.

This old-school technique is effective for that very reason: it's unavoidable. If you're stopped at a red light, make no mistake, you will absolutely pay attention to what that sign spinner is up to. If he's doing his job right, that means you'll also now be aware of the business or brand he's promoting.

Print Materials with Long Copy

For years, experts have told us that nobody pays attention to long copy anymore. Instead, they want everything in short, manageable bursts. Social networks like Twitter operate on this very premise and have seen a huge amount of success because of it.

But shorter isn't always better. Print materials with long copy are still a great way to make an impact, as you're going out of your way to give your customer all the information they need up front to make an informed decision. As long as that copy is effectively written and contains the appropriate call to action, it can be just as successful at generating leads and conversions as that short flyer you created with all those colorful graphics.

Everything Old Is New Again

Marketing trends are cyclical. A great new technique is seen as effective and is adopted by everyone. Soon, the general population grows tired, and the hunt for the "next big thing" begins. Those old techniques are abandoned in favor of something new, before coming back into fashion again eventually.

By embracing these older print marketing techniques, you're doing more than just leveraging the fact that they were, are, and always will be effective in their own right. You're injecting your marketing with a much needed breath of fresh air that will truly help set your campaign apart from the competition. That's the type of meaningful advantage you need to focus on if you want to get the most sets of eyes in front of your brand.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What Captain Kirk Teaches Us About Business

Even among those who haven't followed the Star Trek franchise, Captain Kirk and William Shatner (the actor who played him) are household names. Whether you're a lifelong Trekkie or only know the character's name in passing, here are six Captain Kirk/William Shatner quotes we found particularly inspiring for marketing and business professionals.

"Genius doesn't work on an assembly line basis... You can't simply say, 'Today I will be brilliant.'"

When starting out or working your way up in business, you must acknowledge that you don't know everything there is to know about your industry. You're not going to wake up one morning with the experience to be an industry leader. Instead, you must be willing to study and learn as you go.

"You either believe in yourself or you don't."

Running a business is never a sure thing. Chances are when you start your own company you'll find yourself facing skepticism from many different people. If you want to be successful, however, you have to believe in yourself. You must be honest about the faith you have in yourself. If you truly think you can do this, then develop your business plan and prepare to jump in feet first.

"There's another way to survive -- mutual trust and help."

Building a business is not a single-handed endeavor. If you want your business to thrive -- and not just survive -- you must be willing to trust those running the business with you. When starting out, make sure your first hires are trustworthy people who share your vision. Choose candidates you know you can trust completely to have the good of the company at heart.

"Sometimes a feeling is all we humans have to go on."

Sure, predicting the right moment to launch a company or introduce a new product or service involves studying trends, but it also requires a finely tuned intuition. Sometimes, all you have to go on in business is a gut feeling. If you have reasons to support those instincts, don't be afraid to listen to them.

"If I can have honesty, it's easier to overlook mistakes."

This quote speaks to the importance of transparency in everything a business does. No business leader is perfect. Sometimes you'll make mistakes. You'll make the wrong call. When you're transparent with your employees about what happened, they'll be far more likely to continue to trust you and your judgement.

"A captain of a ship, no matter his rank, must follow the book."

Even if you're the founder and CEO, you don't want to place yourself in a separate category than everyone else at your company. Sure, it might be easier to circumvent particular processes or rules, but when you do so, everyone notices. People naturally struggle to feel connected to and loyal to leaders who play by different rules than the ones they set for everyone below them. Show your employees you're all on the same team by following the same rules. The result will be far greater coherence within your team.

Building and successfully running a company can be a challenge for anyone. Those who enjoy the character of Captain Kirk, however, will find a considerable amount of wisdom about how to be successful in the quotes from the captain and from the actor, William Shatner. Consider some of the wisdom above and see how you can apply it to your own company. If you're interested in improving your marketing efforts, contact us today. We'd be happy to help you get started.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Monet and Picasso: There's Room for You, Too

There are people who love art and can explain to you in-depth what you should know about some of the greatest artists. They can break down for you the differences in style and how the artists used different brush strokes to create the final image. These art aficionados can look at a painting and tell you the style it was painted in and the likely artist.

For the rest of us, trying to keep track of all the names and theories behind great art can feel a bit overwhelming. While all of us can appreciate the work that goes into the creation of a beautiful painting, trying to analyze the different styles can be a challenge. For outsiders looking in at the art world, it can feel as though the industry is completely saturated. There are so many different styles and forms that it can seem impossible for any new ideas to be developed. Yet somehow, each generation manages to come up with unique art ideas that resonate with different people.

The significance of Monet and Picasso

If you asked most people to list some well-known artists, most would list off famous names like Monet and Picasso. What's interesting, though, is that these artists are immensely different from each other. They painted different subjects, lived in different countries and political situations, and their art was vastly different. The similarities might be easier to describe than the differences, with it largely boiling down to: they were both famous and talented artists.

If you have talent, the industry will make room.

Monet and Picasso approached art from different perspectives. They each expressed what they knew in different ways. Monet took a more traditional route, creating beautiful paintings that closely resembled the objects and scenes that were being depicted. Picasso, on the other hand, took liberties with shapes, colors, and designs to capture the emotion and motivations behind the scene being shown.

Both, however, demonstrated incredible talent. Regardless of a personĂ¢€™s individual taste, it's impossible to overlook the abilities of each of these artists. That's what has allowed them to rise to the top of the art world. They're famous enough that even those who don't spend vacations touring art museums recognize their names.

The inspiration for business professionals

Like Picasso and Monet, when you have the talent, an industry will make room for you. These artists are often regarded as leaders within their respective styles, meaning they often took untraveled paths in their quest to reach the top. Their names are remembered because of the paths they forged and the beauty they created.

If you're talented in your industry and have the skills needed to show genuine expertise, you can also find your place within your market. No industry or market is so crowded it can't make room for you. To reach this desired summit, you need to prepare.

  • Know what makes you different.

  • Determine how you can translate your proposition for customers.

When you take the time to set yourself apart from the rest of the industry and have the talent to back up your desires, you can succeed. If the world of famous artists is big enough to house the incredible diverse talents of Monet and Picasso, your industry can support you as well.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Learning to Dream Again

The next time you find yourself in the company of preschool-age children, ask them what they want to be when they grow up. Children are known for dreaming big. In a class of 20 students, you might find yourself surrounded by several future astronauts, firefighters, teachers, ballerinas, doctors, and scientists. Their little minds can be inspiring for us adults.

Children dream uninhibitedly. They dream about things the rest of us find unobtainable. Too often, we think about all the obstacles in our way and allow our minds to entertain the "what ifs," rather than the "why nots." As we mature, our goals need to be more realistic for our skills and abilities, but that doesn't mean we have to stop reaching for the stars.

We need to remember our childhood innocence when it comes to our dreams. It's the only way we'll ever accomplish all the things we're truly capable of achieving.

As Gloria Steinem says, "Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning."

No one ever made it to the top of their industry by limiting themselves on what they were capable of accomplishing. Instead, you need to imagine the heights your business might be able to reach if you allow yourself to really dream big.

Of course, as a professional, your dreaming must take a slightly more predictable path. You must not only have the end goal in mind, but you must also be able to determine what you need to do to reach the desired end result.

Identify what you'd like to accomplish professionally

These goals can look vastly different. If you're a small business owner, you might have a desired income you'd like to see from your business, or perhaps you want to have enough income to open another branch in a neighboring city. If you work for a company, maybe you want to reach the c-suite or gain the experience you need to start your own company. This is where you should be inspired by the dreams of those in the under age five crowd. Allow your mind to imagine where you'd like to be in 5, 10, or 20 years.

Outline a path you need to take to accomplish this goal

Once you know where you want to go, it's time to outline the steps needed to get there. This includes setting small and incremental goals throughout your journey. If you want to reach a new position within your company, consider what type of education and experience you'll need to obtain along the way. If you've started a business, learn about better business practices to bring in new customers and encourage them to stay. For example, set:

  • goals for identifying and appealing to your ideal customer audience

  • goals for improving the business website

  • goals for improving customer experience

  • goals for using inbound marketing and new digital marketing

  • goals for integrating digital marketing with traditional marketing practices

Once you know what you need to do to reach your goals, you'll be able to confidently set out on the path toward accomplishing them.

The path to success requires thinking outside the box and being willing to dream big. Children are excellent examples for us to think about what we might actually be capable of accomplishing if we don't get overwhelmed by the potential obstacles. Too often we limit ourselves unnecessarily. Take a lesson from the smallest members of society and learn how to dream unfettered. If you're interested in starting a new marketing campaign to help your business reach its goals, reach out to us today. We'd be happy to help you get started.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Ever Wondered Just How Effective a Call to Action Really Is?

While it's true the larger goal of your marketing efforts involves spreading the word about the products or services you sell, this isn't the only thing you're trying to accomplish. Gently guiding your customers through the various stages of the sales funnel, from the moment they begin looking for a solution to the moment they choose to do business with you, is arguably even more important. When it comes to that particular goal, perhaps the most important weapon in your arsenal is and will always be the call to action.

What Is a Call to Action?

A call to action is some type of statement, link, or graphic that provides potential customers with instructions regarding exactly what you'd like them to do next. It may be as simple as telling a customer to provide their phone number so you can contact them and discuss their options further. If your site runs a blog containing helpful articles that are relevant to your brand, the call to action might be "Click here to read more about this interesting new study we found." Regardless of the wording, the intention is clear. You're telling the customer exactly which step they should take next, all the while moving them closer and closer to an eventual sale.

Calls to action are incredibly effective when done properly. According to a case study conducted in 2013 by Inbound Marketing Blog, one company was able to generate up to 12 times more new, high-quality leads per month after effective calls to action were placed on various types of marketing materials.

Tips for Effective Calls to Action

Though calls to action are incredibly important, they're also something you can do "wrong" if you proceed in exactly the wrong way. For effective calls to action, you need to consider where a customer is in the sales process when they're viewing a particular type of content. Is your customer discovering your brand for the first time by way of a direct mailer? An effective call to action in that scenario might be something akin to "Visit this URL or call this number to find out more."

Did your customer just arrive at the general landing page for your brand? A better use of the call to action here might be "Click here to read this article about how effective these types of products can really be."

When customers discover your brand or are exposed to your marketing message for the first time, they're in an inherently impressionable state. At the end of the day, they just want to confirm for themselves that they're making the right decision regarding how they're about to spend their hard-earned money. By inserting properly designed, well-placed calls to action in your marketing materials, you can not only increase the quality of the leads you generate but also gently guide those leads through the sales funnel until they reach the point where they're ready to buy.