Category Archives: Online advertising

Storytelling: It’s not just for kids!

cute kid

Storytelling and public relations go hand-in-hand. It’s a huge part of what we do. How do you tell your story in a compelling way? It’s difficult to explain what makes a story “sellable,” but there are many ways to tell a great story. Whether you’re pitching to the media or selling your marketing director on a new campaign idea, you must present your case in a way that resonates with your audience.

Using suspense is one way to intrigue your audience. Don’t give away all the answers right away. Build your case and leave some key points for the end of your pitch. Wrap up your presentation with a strong closing argument and your audience will be happy to hear the answers.

Another strategy is to use emotion to convince your audience. Have you seen the commercials that feature pets that look after us and make our lives better? Do they stick with you? If so, it might be because they tug at your heartstrings, and for a moment, you slow down and connect, whether with a memory or with the characters involved.

Those feelings and situations connect us because so many of us can relate to those stories. We want to stick around until the end in hopes of a happy ending. Don’t be afraid to connect with your audience by adding emotional elements to your pitch.

What do you think is the key to telling a great story? Share your tips in the comments below.

Ad analytics: What you need to know

question-markMany online publications have ad space for sale. If you do it right, advertising in a popular publication can be a great opportunity to increase your business.

Before buying ad space, be sure to ask the publication the following questions:

  1. How many subscribers do you have?
  2. On average, how many people open the email?
  3. How did ads in that position perform in the past?
  4. If people click on my ad, will you provide their email addresses and/or other contact information?

Use this information to decide if the publication is right for you. For example, if you find out the pub in question has only 32 subscribers, you may want to look elsewhere.

After you purchase a spot and run an ad, it’s important to know if your ad is working effectively. To do this, the publication should provide you with accurate, reliable analytics. Be sure that you receive the following:

  1. How many people opened the email?
  2. How many people viewed your ad?
  3. How many total clicks did the ad receive?
  4. How many unique clicks did the ad receive?

These are the numbers you really need to gauge how the ad is doing. For example, if you are receiving a high amount of views, but a low number of clicks, you may want to realign your strategy.

It’s also helpful if the publication reports the best-performing ad, as well as how many clicks that ad received, so that you can gauge how your ad is performing compared to others.

Have you advertised in online publications? If so, what was your experience? Let us know in the comments below.

Making Your Social Media Matter

Few small businesses today question the marketing ROI of sites like Facebook and Twitter. Still, many small firms remain stuck in an awkward adolescence, unsure how to best use social media to engage their customers and integrate these standard tools with their overall business strategies.

But why?

While many small business owners realize it’s no longer sufficient simply to have a Facebook page, LinkedIn profile or Twitter handle, they often find themselves asking “now what?” after signing up for a social media account. For many, taking the social network plunge can be a daunting undertaking.  But it’s not impossible if you keep these two concepts in mind.

Read more…

Get out the vote: What the election taught us about combining traditional and new marketing strategies effectively

Earlier this year, 5 million people bought the newest iPhone in its first weekend of availability. Last year, more than 11 million Harry Potter fans bought an opening-day ticket to the final installment of the popular movie franchise. Neither of these tectonic cultural movements registered anywhere near the turnout of a U.S. presidential election, which saw 125 million voters cast their vote (give or take – I think some folks in Florida are still waiting for their turn). Election Day offered keen insights into the culture of our country, not the least of which are the most effective marketing strategies of our social networking world.

Marketing has always been a part of elections and reflective of the technology of the day. From the original campaign buttons William McKinley used during his 1896 presidential campaigns to the whistle-stop tours along U.S. railways throughout the 19th and 20th centuries to the judicious tweets from President Barack Obama leading up to his re-election, leveraging innovative marketing tools to win big is as ubiquitous as kissing babies and shaking hands.

In 2008, then-presidential hopeful Barack Obama gathered an immense number of micro donations through social media, which he rolled over into effective traditional marketing campaigns. In 2012, he wasn’t alone in complementing traditional marketing with more cutting-edge tactics. Republican challenger Mitt Romney employed similar voter outreach and made it a much tighter race than John McCain’s organizers had during the previous election by fumbling opportunities to incorporate new marketing strategies.

The sooner businesses embrace the lessons presidential elections teach us about mixing traditional marketing strategies with newer ones, the farther ahead of their competition they will be. While newsletters, direct mail, brochures and advertisements allow you to deliver your message, social networks like Twitter and Facebook become tools that allow your business to present its casual, relaxed and human side.

New media is built around interaction within the community. Let your supporters work for you. President Obama generated both money and interest by presenting a call to action that involved his supporters spreading the word. There is no better recommendation than that of someone freely and willingly putting you in front of people you might otherwise not have touched.

We’d love to hear how you’re absorbing new marketing strategies into your traditional ones? Tell us about it in the comments section.


Pinterest: It’s more than pretty pictures

I have a confession to make: I can’t stop using Pinterest. Since I signed up, I barely go on Facebook anymore. Instead, I spend hours filling my pinboards with photos of cute dresses, Crock-Pot® recipes and kitchen cabinets made from reclaimed wood. It’s become an obsession.

According to recent stats, my Pinterest addiction is totally normal. The startup hit the 10 million user mark faster than any social media site in history, digital business analytics source comScore reports, and is rapidly approaching 20 million users.

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Your website: The great differentiator

Many companies are spending time and money to create customized websites that show off their products and services, and what makes them unique.  Once you get customers on your website, it helps to offer content that adds extra value. Even if clients don’t want a personal relationship with your company, they want to know you understand their needs.

Read more…

5 must-read grammar tips

In homage to The Oatmeal’s charming illustration of the perils of 10 commonly misspelled and misused words, I present five of my very (least) favorite grammar missteps.

Enjoy some more words and phrases you or someone you know is using incorrectly, whether it’s in everyday conversation or in marketing materials and other business communications.

Let’s dive right in.

1. Champing at the bit.

While the phrase itself isn’t that sophisticated, knowing the right way to say it can elevate your grammatical street cred.

Margo: Theodore! They finally started stocking Beaujolais Nouveau at that lovely little bistro down the way!

Theodore: Thank heavens, Margo, I’ve been chomping at the bit to get another taste of that delicious wine!

Theodore’s heart was in the right place, but his words weren’t.

A truly fancy tongue turner would have said “champing at the bit.” Champing implies impatience, which is at the heart of the sentiment behind this phrase.

2. Comprise versus compose

Here’s another example of striking out on a home-run pitch. Comprise is one of those elusive words that rarely finds the right moment to pop out from underground.

How many times have you seen or heard “comprise” used this way?

The guest list is comprised of dignitaries and noblemen.

The AP Stylebook says that comprise means, “To contain, to include all or embrace.” It also notes that “comprise” is best used in the active voice, followed by a direct object. If you want to use “comprise” in this situation, say:

The guest list comprises dignitaries and noblemen.

3. For all intents and purposes

This phrase has been misused orally for so long that society has just decided to accept its mutation. Resist.

Wrong: For all intensive purposes, that cat has replaced Kathy’s oldest daughter.

Right: For all intents and purposes, that cat is spoiled rotten.

4.  Allusion and illusion

Although both words carry with them an air of the mysterious, they aren’t interchangeable.

An allusion is a reference, when something is mentioned. An illusion is deceitful – it tricks the senses by producing a false impression.

The 5-inch heels gave the illusion that Gwen was as tall as Jim.

Dave alluded to the fact that he was out of money.

5. Espresso

Just because it makes your mind race doesn’t mean you can mispronounce its name. There’s no “x” in there, people.

If you didn’t know these already, don’t sweat it – you’re not alone. That’s why we’re here.

Season’s greetings

Why should businesses send greeting cards? For the same reason they invest time and money into many other marketing strategies – to keep in touch with customers and prospects.

With the holiday season coming up, now is a great time to send a friendly e-card to your contacts. Follow these tips to create an e-card your customers will want to read (and check out this link for more inspiration or to get started on your own project).

Develop your strategy early. Don’t wait until the last minute to determine the type of e-card you want to send.  E-cards build relationships with your customers by showing them that you care enough to remember, so a card that’s thrown together won’t cut it.

Give them thanks. People like to be appreciated. By catering to this need, you encourage them to think about the wonderful service and products you provide. If your marketing strategy includes a promotion or giveaway, let your e-card recipients know that because they’re valued customers, they’re automatically entered for the prize, or tell them how to enter.

Make it count. Your e-card should be memorable, exciting, fun or humorous. Personalize your message for your recipients.  This is your chance to be creative and get your message across.

Know your audience. Depending on who you’re sending e-cards to, you may want to divide your email lists into segments, such as current customers, potential customers, past customers, friends and family of customers, and referrals. If you segment your email blast list, consider changing the graphic design to appeal to each group. If you send to everyone, make sure the email blast is generic enough to relate to all groups.

Stay on budget. E-cards are less expensive than sending a physical card, since you save on printing and postage costs. This means you can construct stunning graphics or videos to include with your message, while staying within a reasonable budget.

You can send e-cards for holidays, to give thanks to customers, for birthdays, or just to let your contacts know you’re thinking of them. Instead of sending another boring email, try shaking up your marketing with an e-card.

You’ve Got Mail!

Once upon a time, I loved to hear these words. Today, the average consumer receives close to 100 emails a day. Who has time to read all of them?

If you’re considering an email campaign, the last thing you want is for readers to hit delete when your message lands in their inboxes. Here are some tips for crafting a great e-blast:

Understand your audience. Figure out why readers subscribe to your e-blast and what they want from it. Are they current customers, prospects, referral sources or professional colleagues? Do they want tutorials on using your products, industry insights or updates about your company’s work? Talk to your subscribers and research industry competitors’ e-communications to get ideas for your e-blast content.

Don’t just blast for blasting’s sake. When companies send generic, uninteresting content, recipients will eventually stop opening the emails. Your email should include valuable content — think quality before quantity. Brainstorm topics and stories involving your company or industry. By sending e-blasts with interesting information and relevant offers, you’ll build trust within your email list.

Get your message across. Even if you have a great topic for your e-blast, your company will look sloppy and unprofessional if it’s written poorly. Outline your key discussion points before you write, and keep your copy short and sweet. Try to avoid using buzzwords or jargon unfamiliar to your reader. If the reader doesn’t understand, you may discourage them from reading other emails from you. Finally, think of a clever title that reflects the email’s content and is less than one line. If you don’t have a seasoned writer in-house, enlist professional help to make sure your content is well-written and error-free.

Spice it up. Adding visual appeal to your email with images, graphics or videos helps entice your reader to spend time on your email. There’s no hard-and-fast rule for the ratio between copy and images, but a good rule of thumb is 25 percent images and 75 percent copy. A good designer can craft an e-blast that showcases your message and draws the reader in with inviting visuals.

Track your stats. After you’ve sent your e-blast, track which emails are being read and which ones are being skipped over. By adjusting your strategy, you’ll encourage your reader to act.

Website planning – 4 questions to ask yourself

Customers ask us all the time, “What should I have on my website?”  There is no universal set of rules.  Each business has different needs, and part of our job is working with clients to figure out their unique needs. 

If you are thinking of creating your first website or evolving your current site, there are a few simple questions that you can ask yourself to get pointed in the right direction. 

Can I afford a website?

The first question that you may ask yourself is, “Can I afford a website?”  The question that you should be asking yourself is, “Can I afford not to have a site?”  In today’s connected world, websites play a central role in how you market your business.  When a consumer wants to learn more about a service or a product, one of the first things they do is perform an Internet search to start gathering information.

If you are not online, or your web presence is not up to par, you will ultimately lose business to your competitors that are.  If you want to build a great website, you will need to spend some money.  Don’t cut corners– If consumers think that your site is unprofessional, they will feel the same way about your company.

What will my website be used for?

Will your site just provide basic information?  If so, then the essential screens of home, contact us and a products/services page may fit the bill.  Will your sales staff use your website as a sales tool?  In that case, think about incorporating testimonials, case studies and a portfolio. Will you use your site to inform your customers and prospects?  Consider a blog as well as screens for news, events, media, publication and outside resources. 

The lists of uses for your website are endless, and so are the solutions.  You need to think like your prospects and anticipate what they will need out of your site. 

Who will my website audience be?

Is your target audience retired or nearing retirement?  If so, you may need to have a high-contrast site where visitors can select a larger type size.  What computer equipment will they likely have?  If your target audience consists of IT personnel with high-tech computer equipment, your website will be much different than if you are trying to communicate with mass consumers.  What is the education level of your audience?  If your audience has limited literacy and language skills, you must ensure that your copy is accessible to them.  The most successful sites communicate with their audiences on their audience’s terms.

How do you want people to get to your site?

Will you and your sales staff direct consumers and prospects to your site, or will you want them to find you through organic searches?  If you want them to find you, consider search engine optimization (SEO).  The surest bet for SEO is to make sure that your content is aimed at human beings, not search engine spiders.   The algorithms for search engine spiders are constantly changing, but they always take into account the distinction between sites with useful information and sites that only pander to search engines. 

Although there is a lot more that goes into the creation of a website, the basic takeaway is that you have to think like your end user.  Customers and prospects pay attention to a great website that speaks to them on their terms, while not-so-great sites get ignored.   Giving your audience what they need will ultimately help you achieve your sales goals.