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F is for Friendships

Finding Friends Along the Way.

photo 3 copyI recently read that Americans live to work but that Europeans work to live. I’ve thought about that quite a bit. I do think that as a culture we put ourselves into our work and often wrap our identities up with what we do to pay the bills. The question, “What do you do?” translates into how do you make a living and is used as a way to size up someone we’ve just met. As a single mother who owns her own business I do find that many of my friendships are born from my work experience. My staff and clients all become my friends. It’s hard to find the time (or the energy) to get out and do new things when you work long hours, often including weekends. Makes sense that social media has become such an integral part of our day — it’s a way to feel connected while we’re working so hard!

Recently, two friends that I’ve really enjoyed in my life have moved on with their lives — and therefore out of mine. I’ll miss seeing their cheerful faces on a regular basis, and already feel the void of the special camaraderie we shared. But, I applaud them for finding the courage to embrace new paths and wish them complete satisfaction and happiness with their respective decisions. Here’s to making the most of our workaday worlds, and to enjoying the friends we make along the way… for as long as they may last.

 

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E is for Exceeding Expectations…?

Elevate Your Brand.

photo 2 copyHow many times have you read this phrase in a marketing brochure or on a web site: “We will meet or exceed your expectations.”? What, exactly does that mean? The problem with this kind of canned marketing language is that not only does it do zip to build your brand — it’s a real buzz kill. Words and phrases like this do nothing to distinguish you and, therefore, elevate your brand. Think about it. This common phrase can be (and unfortunately is) used by virtually any business or service organization. I could say it as an Ad Agency,(in fact, a lot of marketers do use this phrase which is not a good sign for what you can expect in terms of creative product), the law firm around the corner, the caterer down the street, the florist across town, the salon, the landscaping company, the bank, the insurance agency, the auto body shop — you get the idea — can all use this phrase. The fact that it can be used by anyone renders it virtually meaningless from a brand marketing standpoint. The whole point to establishing a strong brand is to determine what makes you different. AND, to find a way to express that difference to your audience. It doesn’t have to be clever necessarily, but it does have to be unique.

Part of establishing and elevating your brand is showing (not telling) your tribe what their experience with you will be like. Apple is a brilliant example of this. Their TV spots literally “show don’t tell” you what you’ll experience when you purchase one of their products. Set to catchy tunes with barely any voice over, after just thirty seconds you come away thinking, “I want one of those (iPhones, iPads, iPods) – it looks like so much fun.”

One of the hardest things to do in marketing is to say a lot with a little. It’s the real trick of branding. Empty words are like empty calories, they just take up space and make you look puffy. Boil it down to it’s essence and then push it out there in as many places as you can. Do your best to stay away from language that pretty much anyone and their brother could use with the same drab, meaningless tone. Above all, don’t be afraid to be uniquely you. If you’re quirky and you know it, be quirky. It has much more brand power than being a clone.

 

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D is for Diddly Squat

How to Get Marketing Results.

photfgsdfgo 3So many times when I meet with a potential new client they come in with a sort of shrug and uncertainty about my profession. A story will unfold about how they had worked with this group or that outfit and nothing ever came of it. Or, maybe they just handled their marketing themselves and based their strategy upon the enthusiasm of a media rep or two. They bemoan how much money was spent and how they got nothing from it. I always ask, are you sure? Is it possible you received benefits but just weren’t able to measure them? That’s one possible scenario: that efforts were made, exposure was had, but the results were intangible. The other, more likely, scenario is that there was no strategic plan, no integrated marketing strategy tied to specific goals and objectives with a clear and realistic budget. Because, when all those things are in place, marketing works. It’s really that simple. You have to spend enough to be in all the places you need to be so that the people you’re trying to woo actually know who you are, and you need to have specific goals that allow you to measure the results.

Let’s say you’re a landscaping company and you service both commercial and residential accounts. Last year, you had a huge project that tilted your residential revenues off the scale, so you know that this year you need to replace that loss. So, there! We have a goal: to increase residential sales by x %. So our strategy incorporates tools and tactics to meet that goal. We determine where we’re going to focus and we build a strong database. We design a unique and highly creative direct mail campaign that speaks to our target audience where they live. And, we support that with a strong brand awareness campaign placed strategically in the mediums that we know they subscribe to or visit.

Voila, at the end of the year residential sales are up substantially. With good creative and a strong integrated marketing strategy you’ll end up with a lot more than diddly squat.

 

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B is for Brand

What is a Brand anyway?

sdfgThese days, a lot of us throw ‘brand’ around like it’s some kind of magic word. Half the time, I swear people aren’t speaking the same language. Some people use the word ‘brand’ as a synonym for ‘logo.’ Some people use it synonymous with public relations. Others think it’s something to do with their online presence and website.

The truth is, your Brand is your promise and needs to be reflected in all of these things. It’s the experience you offer that is unique. It’s what a customer comes away with when they purchase your product or service. Take Nike. Just do it. What are they getting at here? They want you to get active, get fit, feel good and wear their merchandise while you’re doing it. A lot went into boiling that all down to a cool logo that everyone now refers to as “the swish,” which evokes action, and a potent tag line that inspires action. I’m sure the branding team who developed this sturdy, sustainable brand went through a lot of options before they landed on the winner.

When you think about your Brand, think about what makes you different. Think about how you can succinctly communicate that to your target audience. Think about how you want to be perceived and how you can inspire people to do business with you. But do think about it. And make sure that all your marketing communications point back to, and support, your brand promise.

And — keep it simple (that’s the hard part). Just do it.

 

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C is for Clarity

What’s your point?

photo 1 copyGetting clear on your brand message is essential to successful marketing. If you’re all turned on by Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites, that’s cool; but are you clear about how you’re using these tools? Are you strategic in how you post? Are you always pointing back to your brand promise? There are many advantages to using social media, and for some businesses there are more benefits than for others. A financial institution may have less to gain by spending a lot of time in these spaces than a retail establishment or an entertainment venue, for example. But these tools do help build a tribe when used well.

The key is Clarity. Who are you? What do you stand for and how do you want your followers to respond or benefit from what you’re sharing? Getting clear eliminates the noise. And we all know how much comes across our own desks each day; it can get pretty noisy. Some folks are crazy for social media because “it’s free.” But if you’re spending a lot of time posting about irrelevant things that don’t support your brand or create real sales for your company, how much is that really costing you and your business?

If, on the other hand, your social media plan is clearly integrated with a well thought out marketing plan then you’re on the right path. You’re contributing to your brand which is distinguishing you in the marketplace. And as you do this, you’re gathering a strong tribe of people who care about what you have to say. And when they care, they listen — instead of tuning you out. When you’re clear, you’re focused and what you send out comes back to you in spades. (And, that’s a good thing.)

 

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A is for Advertising

Print Advertising Is Not Dead.

Untitled19With all the marketing and social media options available today, many people and marketing pundits are advocating that traditional print advertising is becoming obsolete. Shame on them! Advertising is still one of the best ways to shape your message and support your brand. A good strategy at the local and regional level can really boost sales for small and medium sized businesses and professional services organizations.

A good ad — one that makes an effective impact — has a strong headline, utilizes well-written supportive body copy and incorporates a clean, inviting design. So many ads today are created by the media outlets and sold as a “value-added” bonus as a way to boost ad sales. I say there is very little of value when your ad consists of your logo as a headline, a list of what you do, and your address. Where’s the message? Where’s the emotional appeal to your target audience? Knowing who you’re trying to reach is so important when you’re vying with so many other media messages. You simply have to be relevant. Good Advertising is an Art, not something you just slap together because you know how to use a design program.

So while I truly believe that print advertising still holds a solid place in any good marketing strategy, it has to be well crafted. And, ideally, your print advertising is conceived as a campaign with a single minded focus to each ad and an overall objective or goal for the campaign. So, before you ask your local paper or magazine to create a “one off” ad for you for free, make sure you give some thought to what will resonate best with your target audience, and how you can inspire them to take the desired action you’re seeking.

Better yet, find a really good strategic agency with a strong creative portfolio. That’s a sure way to bring your advertising to life.