Author Archives: The Simons Group

Can we please stop using these buzzwords?

Language is fluid and new words come into use, whether invented or repurposed, all the time. This is a good thing, except for when things like this happen:

talking1. Blogosphere. Brad Graham, who’s often credited for coining the term, created “blogosphere” as a joke. And as a joke, it’s great. But when used seriously, essentially to refer to a post on the Internet, it sounds like some drummed-up fear in a sci-fi book. Beware The Blogosphere!

2. Epic. Epics are epic, e.g., “The Odyssey.” Digital campaigns aren’t epic. Concerts aren’t epic. Neither are weekend jogs unless the run takes you across the continent to save a doomed civilization, battle internal and external demons, and change the country forever. Other things that aren’t epic: meals, lines, nights out, failures, naps, movie trailers. Epic Burger is technically Epic, but the burgers are not.

3. Hipster. The word has been used to describe tons of different people with tons of different tastes for tons of years. When used to reveal character about someone or some thing, it does very little – except to probably reveal something about the speaker.

Bad buzzword honorable mentions:

  • Ideation
  • Buzzword

For some horrible-phrase fun, check out Buzz Word Generator. After a few minutes, my favorite generated phrase was: Synergize clicks-and-mortar initiatives. Sounds like some real potential for a cross-brand, open-source, multi-platform embrace with sticky, real-time monitoring for best practices. Or something like that.

Did we miss some awful, horribly overused word or phrase? Let us know below.

New work: Desman Associates website

We recently launched a new website for Desman Associates, a parking and transportation facilities firm. The website is ahead of the curve with a creative and dynamic design evocative of a parking space. The site showcases the company’s extensive portfolio and makes it easy to find key information quickly. Special coding enhances site security and allows Desman to make updates easily.

See more images and visit the live site here.

 

Feed the social media machine… here’s how!

It goes without saying that social media is a hot topic among marketers, especially B2B companies. A lot of them aren’t even sure how a 140 – character tweet will help them promote their businesses – they want a Facebook page and a Twitter profile simply to keep up with the Joneses. Social media comes up in most of my strategic meetings. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a classic four page brochure or an e-newsletter – the prospects or clients will look at me with an expression that makes me think they’re about to say, “Please sir, may I have some more?” Instead, they say, “What about social media?”

First and foremost, I tell them that it’s better not to have a blog, Facebook page, Twitter profile or other social media profile than it is to have their profiles lie dormant. Social media is like a machine that must be fueled and oiled regularly, so you’d better have a strategy lined up before you begin.

Here at The Simons Group, we always have a backlog of posts ready for the inevitable time when everyone gets busy or somebody is on vacation. You may have every intention of posting regularly, but without some advance planning, you’ll find yourself scrambling each time you need to update your blog or Facebook page. I’ve seen it happen to others too many times to let it happen to us, so I wanted to share a few suggestions for stockpiling quality content.

 

Talk to our copywriters. Sometimes you’re too close to your projects, and you can’t see the forest for the trees. Just because something seems obvious to you doesn’t mean it’s obvious to your customer base.

 

Talk to your internal staff. Ask them what difficulties they’ve overcome lately and ask them what they’re hearing from clients, prospects and (possibly most importantly) those who choose the competition over you. If talking to your staff doesn’t yield anything, try a suggestion box for topic ideas.

 
Go back in time. Find an annual event that happened nine months ago and ask, “Event XYZ is coming – Are YOU prepared?”

 
Provide thought leadership. Write about what you wish your customer base already knew before talking to you (this is my favorite option).

Follow these simple steps and you’ll always have a backlog of posts for your social media accounts, even when things go haywire and nobody can create fresh content. Feel free to share your content generation tips with us in the comments below.

When the work’s done, don’t just rest on your laurels

These days, everyone is busy, busy, busy. During Labor Day weekend, I saw multiple family members and friends sending work emails from their smart-phones in an effort to get a jump on the work day. They were making sure everyone had the latest project updates and keeping people in the loop. “It’s busy season,” a friend who works in the construction field said. With work temporarily completed, that person sat down to relax with a huge glass of water and some fruit salad.

Believe it or not, there are a lot of parallels to B2B marketing in that quick story. Every industry has a time of year where the work seems to pile on in droves. Owners, executives and employees alike scramble to make sure everyone knows what’s happening and complete their projects. Industry-specific busy seasons include spring for accounting firms and summer for anyone in architecture, engineering or construction. When I call prospects, it often seems like every time is crunch time. The response I get from each one is virtually the same: “We’re swamped; call me in three months when things calm down.”

During these times, people arrive early, stay late and work their fingers to the bone in between, solving the most difficult challenges they’ll face all year. They know every project inside, outside and upside down. Once that work leaves their desks, though, people tend to make a critical mistake: They rest on their laurels. Just like my friend with her fruit salad and water, most of us just want to take it easy after pushing through a big assignment or busy period at work. But instead of patting themselves on the back, firms and their marketing departments ought to recognize a situation where the stars have perfectly aligned for them:

  • Every detail of every project is fresh in your mind
  • You have great stories to tell about work you’ve recently completed
  • You’re likely to have an influx of cash in a (let’s face it) troubled economy

It really is a unique chance to highlight how you’ve overcome a series of obstacles and provided value at the moment you’re more likely than ever to have some extra cash.  The decision to push yourself and start a new project right after things finally calm down may not be a popular one, but it will ultimately benefit you and your company. Have you ever pushed through the pain at the end of a particularly busy time of the year? Let us know in the comments.

One sweet (unified social media) world

I consider myself a pretty dedicated social media user. I have accounts with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube, just to name a few. When I arrived home from a vacation a few days ago, I looked at my bookmarks and shook my head – it was going to take hours to see what had happened during my time away from the Internet. I wanted to catch up on news from friends, family and more, but it just wasn’t going to happen – I listened to a few songs on YouTube instead.

As I was searching for songs, I remembered that Google had purchased YouTube a few years ago. My mind wandered and I wondered why Google hadn’t somehow merged the two sites, which would have saved me time. Effectively shifting the blame to Google, my thoughts wandered somewhere else – what if we only had one social media outlet altogether? It could essentially merge Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube and all sorts of other social media channels into one website – either Google or Facebook would be the most likely candidate at this point.

The combined site would probably be unwieldy at first, most likely looking like a hodge-podge of wall posts, retweets, product offers, pictures of your cousin’s baby, messages from ex-significant others (yikes!) and notifications that a business associate had checked in at a convention hall. But Facebook’s redesigns have proven that people adapt to change (even if they don’t like it at first) and that tweaks can improve things over time. Other sites might emerge, but we all seem to agree that Friendster, Classmates.com and even MySpace have run their course and that Facebook is the place to interact with friends.

Having everything under one roof would likely pose a lot of challenges from a marketing standpoint. It’s entirely possible that we’ll find ourselves in this scenario, though, as we demand more connectivity from media outlets while our attention spans continue to shrink. Would you be in favor of having only one social media outlet/profile?

What can Google+ do for your business? Part 3 of 3: The cloud workflow

As we wrap up our three part series on Google+ (check out the first and second posts here) we turn today to its potential as a cloud-based organizational system for your company. In a time when many businesses are being asked to do more with less and be as efficient as possible, Google+ could be a cost-effective solution for your business’ organizational needs.

In-house organization: You can turn your company Google+ page into an internal communication tool just as easily as you can make it a modified blasting service. Divide your company into departments, teams based on projects or clients, or the verticals that employees specialize in. This can provide an easy way for a team member to see the latest updates on each of the projects they’re dealing with.

Inter-office collaboration: Businesses often face logistics based issues. Everything is on a deadline, but everyone involved is stretched thin and swamped with work. It doesn’t help if you’re dealing with a committee that has members from different offices and time zones. By having everyone involved in a project commit to updating the project’s status on Google+ even once a day, you can have an open line of communication visible to everyone in each circle and ensure that everyone is on the same page. 
Hopefully, this series has helped you to glean some new ways to utilize the social media landscapes newest tool.  The site is still in beta testing – Google reserves the right to tweak all of these functions, run their SEO equation however they like and use Google Places as they please. The project is still limited to few participants, and Google hasn’t solicited any feedback from me yet, but I plan to make them aware of these potential uses because they could be helpful strategies in the B2B marketing world. How do you see Google+ affecting B2B marketing efforts? Let us know in the comments below.

What can Google+ do for your business? Part 2 of 3: E-communications

One of the hallmarks of Google+ is that you’re actually sharing information with fewer people. The social media tool allows you to place contacts into separate groups called Circles, so users can keep their work colleagues in one group, personal contacts in another group, and so on. Before this segmented approach was available under Google+, we had two choices: Create multiple accounts (all of which need unique content and take time to sign in and out of), or send the same message out through one central account and risk only being relevant to a small percentage of your audience. As part of our three-part series on Google+, we’ll look at how the social media tool can help you target your marketing more effectively.

Vertical targeting: Wouldn’t it be great if every tweet or post was directly relevant to every reader? Google+ will bring us a lot closer to that, since you can create different Circles and place contacts in various groups as you please.

Consider a company that has prospects in every stage of the sales pipeline. Google+ will allow you post pieces introducing your work and trade show invitations to prospects, while targeting incentives to current customers to work with you once again or to refer new business to you.  The ways you can sort your clients and prospects are endless, including location, company size, value of the sale, how much of a priority the target audience is and even the age of the decision-maker.

This isn’t to say that transmission services and segmented Google+ Circles are mutually exclusive. While e-blasting services also allow you to send information to specific verticals – and, unlike Google+, will provide you with analytics – Google+ offers a free supplementary outlet for targeted marketing. What’s more, it’s entirely possible that people are more willing to link with you on a trendy new social media outlet than to sign up for your e-newsletter. Simply put, marketers can use Google+ as a tool to increase the number of people who view their e-communications pieces and opt in to receive more of them in the future.
Remember that not every social media outlet is for every company. Some B2B companies offering five products total don’t need to segment their customer base any further. But for those that could benefit from segmentation, Google+ offers a powerful new way to accomplish that goal.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s entry – Google+ as a cloud-workflow tool.

What can Google+ do for your business? Part 1 of 3: Internet rankings

Google recently announced the beta release of its new social media network, Google+, to a wave of speculation and curiosity. In addition to those seeking to link with friends and family in a new way, there undoubtedly will be those seeking to place a new skill in their social media marketing toolkits. It should be mentioned that businesses aren’t allowed to have profiles yet and that there is no timeline for when it will be opened to them (or the general public, for that matter). I managed to score an invite the night it was announced (not to brag or anything…) and have come up with a few examples of how Google+ might alter the social media landscape from a marketing perspective (at least in its current incarnation – the site is still in beta testing and is likely to continue to evolve).

Up first? Google+’s potential effect on your online rankings.

SEO: Will Google consider your Google+ profile in its SEO equation? Almost certainly – Google’s SEO rankings already include content posted across various social media channels (although using the same content across all channels only counts once). Early word is that Google will weigh a Google+ profile fairly and evenly against profiles on social media rivals Facebook and Twitter, but Google would be within its rights to rank it higher in its own proprietary equation (especially since it doesn’t have to tell anyone what that formula is).

Google Places: Similar to SEO, a robust Google+ profile with your address, phone number, fax number and multiple email addresses might raise your Google Places rank above other similarly qualified entries without that information. Appearing higher in these rankings would be a tremendous boon to companies that are being searched for under terms such as “Chicago construction.” Google+ could easily add a Places feature with tags to function as a sort of secondary SEO content tool.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s entry – Google+ as a transmission tool.

How to use humor in B2B marketing

Humor has its place in the B2B marketing world – yes, you read that right. You and your team probably use it without even realizing it. Cracking a joke with a client and lightening the mood with a prospect are effective techniques for strengthening your bond with them.

You don’t see humor as much in B2B marketing collateral, though, and I think that’s because people haven’t outlined how they want to use it and what they need to avoid. Here are a few hints to get you started.

DO:

Use a light touch. You don’t want your company or product to be laughed at, just one marketing piece in particular.

Choose something that is clearly a joke. If somebody has to work to figure out if you’re kidding or not, then your attempt at humor has failed.

Utilize April Fools’ Day. It’s a day where bizarre ideas can easily be written off. In fact, April Fools’ Day hijinks are often expected in the B2C marketing world.

Maintain the tone and style of your previous communication pieces. Changing your logo or website home page, or turning what’s typically a serious newsletter into a joke riot, can dilute your brand. 

DON’T:

Use anything gross or crass. The goal is to be seen as a firm that is competent enough to be able to crack a joke, not an immature company filled with boorish employees. And don’t think you’re safe if you plaster “Not Safe For Work” in front of a link – it’s still inappropriate and somebody will pay the price.

Base an entire B2B campaign on it. Your company is here to stay and should be promoted as such. A short-lived meme that will be forgotten in two weeks is ill-advised, not to mention a poor use of your budget.

Offer something like a discount from a crazy mascot, only to have customers be disappointed because it was actually an attempt at a joke. Hi, I’m Craaaazy Bob from Bob’s Construction Company and I’m here to make all of your clients and prospects mad at you!

Forget to consider your audience. Who is this really for, you or your client? What can a humorous ad possibly gain you? Will decision makers be turned off by this piece?

Have you ever used humor in an ad or piece of collateral? Let us know how it worked for you in the comments below.

Stuck in a marketing rut? Embrace change and leave your competition in the dust

Sometimes, you just have to call it quits. I hate to do it with prospects and proposals, and I’m guessing you don’t like the thought of abandoning your marketing strategy. If your plan or brand isn’t getting the results you want or the same results it once got, it might be time to move on.

It can be intimidating to venture into the unknown and create new materials. You’re essentially choosing to send you and your brand back to square one, but at least you’re examining what didn’t work and why. It costs time and money to start over – from strategy meetings to creative and print costs. The investment is well worth it, however. Enhancing what works and modifying what doesn’t is critical in a successful marketing campaign.

Consider the alternative: Ignore the metaphorical check-engine light and you’ll fall behind as your engine slows down and doesn’t run as smoothly or, worst-case scenario, grinds to a halt. Clinging to a dated set of collateral and ignoring the evolution of your market is like expecting an old movie to continue winning awards. Sure, “Back to the Future” was great, but the special effects can’t hold a candle to “Avatar”.

That isn’t to say you should change directions every time something doesn’t go your way. Instead, set regular intervals at which you evaluate your campaign and materials with a critical eye. If you get the slightest sense that they’ve fallen behind the times (where there’s smoke, there’s fire), open yourself up to seeing what your options are. This ensures that you never fall behind the competition. The real benefit, though, is that you may come up with a new way to go to market. Groupon sounds like the simplest idea in the world, but only after it was already invented.