Are You Missing the Boat with Social Media?

28011015990_8ff191ee0f_bSocial media is buzz word on everyone’s lips, yet it remains a mystery to many people. According to Social Media Examiner, 97% of marketers are currently participating in social media—but 85% of participants aren’t sure what social media tools are the best to use. I can’t tell you how many times I get a phone call from a business saying that social media doesn’t work for them and can I help. Of course I can help and I do because CreativeWorks Marketing has been helping companies succeed in the “social” space for years. I thought I’d take this opportunity to demystify social media for you – explain what it is and how best to use it.

What is social media?

Many people are under the mistaken impression that the content posted on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and the like is social media because we’re using the term generically to describe any online content. Let’s look at what social media really is. The word social refers to interacting with people by sharing and receiving information. Media refers to which virtual community, platform, application or network the interaction takes place.

How can you use social media effectively?

Social media is an extremely effective way to connect with your audience and build relationships. It’s about useful, relevant and engaging conversations. Ask questions, encourage comments and opinions. It’s not a broadcast channel for you to bombard your audience with highly generic content that they will surely ignore. Audiences respond to conversation, not promotion. Conversation seems genuine while promotion is perceived as an advertising ploy. Social media is a meeting place and an integral part of the brand and customer experience.

  • Set goals and objectives
  • Make sure your content aligns with your message
  • Ask questions that start a conversation
  • Respond promptly
  • Share your expertise
  • Provide value
  • Monitor, track and evaluate

Ask yourself these questions before posting content on social media

Many people feel compelled to post, even when they have nothing to say. There must be a purpose and objectives.

  • Who is my audience?
  • What platforms are they using?
  • What type of content should we be posting?
  • Is our content personalized for our audience?
  • Are our social media posts aligned with our messaging?
  • Are we engaging our audience?
  • How can we measure our results?

Is social media for you?

92% of marketers say they have increased exposure through social media, and 80% see positive results for traffic (Social Media Examiner). When used effectively social media offers real opportunities for growth, engagement, increased brand recognition, customer loyalty, improved customer experiences, decreased marketing costs, improved search engine rankings, increased inbound traffic and higher conversion rates. Social media is important for every business! There are over 3 billion internet users and over 2 billion of them have active social media accounts (wearesocial.net).

However, as you no doubt have discovered, an effective social media campaign is very complex with many variables. Contact CreativeWorks Marketing. We have a great deal of experience creating social media strategies as well as ongoing social media services (writing and posting). Let us put you on the path to social media success.

5 Tips to Increasing Your Business’s Online Reputation

feedback-1977986_960_720With almost all business being conducted online it’s no wonder that businesses, not just individuals, are concerned about what the ‘online world’ is saying about them. From sites where employees can review their managers to social reviews speaking about brand experience, businesses today need to consider adding reputation management to their online marketing mix.

Reputation management, or online reputation management (ORM) as it’s also referred to, controls how others see you when they look for you online. It allows you to take control of the online conversation. A multi-pronged process, reputation management analyzes, establishes, protects, restores and monitors your brand’s image online. Negative items online can seriously impact your company’s reputation. Reputation management can bury the negative material found on the Internet, defeating it with more positive material to improve your credibility and customers’ trust in you.

The importance of reputation management

Reputation management should be a top priority for any business. You’ve worked hard to build your business but one negative review can negatively impact your company’s reputation and bottom line. We all know that your buyers turn to the Internet when looking for a business and/or to read reviews about your business. And they believe what they read, take a look at these stats:

  • When looking for a local business, 97% of people read online reviews (BIA Kelsey)
  • 92% of users will use a local business if it has a 4 star rating (BrightLocal)
  • 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (Forbes)
  • 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more(BrightLocal)
  • Two out of three people see the Internet as the most reliable source of information about a person or a business (Edelman Insights)

Now that you know the stats on how important it is to your business, here are a few tips I’d like to share with you about how to increase your business’s online reputation:

  1. How do you identify and monitor the issues? You’ll need the talent and resources to identify and monitor your company’s reputation on an ongoing basis, as this is not a one-time deal to defeat any negative material and create and promote positive content that will give your company a great online image. At CreativeWorks Marketing we provide Reputation Management Services and can help identify and monitor your online reputation.
  2. What is your company’s online reputation? The first thing we need to do is to determine how others see you when they look for you online. Is your brand and image being perceived in the way that you had envisioned? We scour, search and monitor websites, social media platforms and review sites on an ongoing basis.
  3. We get your story out there. The best way to promote a positive image or to counteract a negative comment is to get your story out there. Positive, accurate content is needed on an ongoing basis to create and/or improve your online presence – blogs, videos, podcasts, ebooks… You control the story.
  4. Promote your company on social media. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook… You need to be where ever your customers live. And social media sites will help your search engine results rankings which can positively impact your online reputation.
  5. Search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is very important to reputation management. It can be used to help potential customers find you and to emphasize positive information about your company. SEO is an excellent tactic when trying to bury a negative comment. The negative comment is pushed down and supplanted by positive content, minimizing or eliminating its effect.

Don’t take a chance with your company’s reputation! CreativeWorks Marketing can identify and monitor your online reputation, deal with any negative material found on the Internet and promote a positive image that will inspire customers to do business with you. We know how important your business is to you and we will make every effort see that your reputation is stellar and that you control your digital footprint. Contact us today.

Building a Cohesive Brand Identity

489783302I know companies understand that they need to have a brand, but many miss the mark on creating a cohesive brand identity. Although many may see this as ‘fluff’, creating a strong brand identity can be a complicated process that’s difficult to master.

As I tell many of my clients, brand identity is not just a logo; it’s the entire visual language that your company uses to communicate with its audience. It’s the art of portraying the right message and making a lasting, first impression.

Brand identity answers the questions what do you want your story to be and how do you want to be perceived in the marketplace? I’ve outlined below 7 steps that will I hope will help you in developing a cohesive brand identity:

  1. Review your current brand and your competition: Think about how your brand is being perceived in the marketplace and whether the message you’re delivering is clearly understood and reaching your target audience. It’s not enough to just review your brand; you need to understand what you’re up against. Have you done your market research? If not, now is the time.
  2. Audit your audience: Know your audience! Build a brand around what they want (not what youwant). It’s a competitive world out there. If your customers don’t find what they’re looking for from you, they will find it from someone else.
  3. Choose your theme: Choose your theme wisely. A well-conceived theme creates a powerful and effective communication platform which will deliver a higher ROI. A theme is compelling and engaging because it’s able to communicate your brand identity more effectively. It takes brand identity to a whole new level.
  4. Develop a consistent colour palette: Your colour palette is typically defined by the colours in your logo and is the foundation of your visual brand identity. The colours don’t have to be identical to those in your logo but should complement them. Very important – your colour palette must work well with your website and printed material.
  5. Don’t go overboard with fonts: There are hundreds of fonts to choose from but don’t go overboard using too many fonts that may look creative but are difficult to read. Less is more. You can use a different font for headlines than for body text, but the font must be easy to read, and be consistent across your website and print materials.
  6. Use custom design elements: Looking off-the-shelf isn’t going to help you stand out. Custom design elements can be a huge asset to your brand identity. A professional graphic designer can create your logo and various elements of your website. The images don’t have to be the same throughout your website and print materials but all of the visuals should contribute to a consistent look and feel.
  7. Use a consistent tone of voice: You can’t tell your story without words. It’s important to give a great deal of thought to what style of writing will be consistent with the image that you want to portray in the marketplace and mesh well with your imagery. Consistency is key to a successful brand identity. A professional writer will be able to understand your voice and produce work consistent with it.

Every company needs a cohesive brand identity to compete in the marketplace but many miss the mark because they attempt it on their own. You need a professional marketing agency with strategists, graphic designers and professional writers. CreativeWorks Marketing has over 20 years of experience helping companies like yours build cohesive brand identities. Give us a call today and maximize your return on investment.

The Secret to Marketing Campaign Success: Plan, Plan & Plan Some More

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Failing to plan is planning to fail.

-Alan Lakein

Successful marketing campaigns don’t just happen; they take careful planning and a lot of time and effort. They’re focused, tactical initiatives designed to achieve specific marketing objectives. Successful marketing campaigns are thoroughly researched, focused on the details and executed perfectly. And, they must answer these seven questions:

  1. What are your goals and objectives?

The first thing you need to do is to clearly define your goals and objectives. Do you want to build or enhance your brand? Launch a new product? Introduce a new service? All of these goals and objectives are attainable with the right marketing campaign, and would vary depending on the needs of your business.

  1. Who is your target audience?

A marketing campaign is all about reaching customers, but who are they? Do market research to define your target audience, understand your customers, their preferences and why they come to you. Learn how your customers define your brand and how they compare you with your competition. Speak to your customers, use focus groups, surveys… You’ll understand what people will buy, why they’ll buy it and how to incite them to buy.

  1. Who is your competition?

Identifying your competition helps you understand more about your own business and how best to market yourself. Competitive analysis is your secret weapon. Who is your competition? How is your competition different than you? What are they doing that you’re not? How are they perceived in the marketplace? These are a few questions you should be asking yourself when analyzing your competitors.

  1. What differentiates you from your competition?

Now that you know who your competition is and have a better understanding of them, you can clearly define what differentiates you from your competition. What is your value proposition? Is your product offering more aligned with your customers’ preferences? Are your prices more competitive? The more information you know, the better you’ll be able to differentiate yourself from them.

  1. What’s your budget?

Before you begin planning how to reach your target audience, you must first establish your budget. On the basis of how much you have to spend, decisions can be made on which channels will deliver the best bang for your buck.

  1. How will you reach your audience?

There are many ways to reach an audience, many types of messaging and many avenues with which to deliver the message – social media, email, SEO/SEM, sponsored links, banners, newsletters, radio, television, newspapers, magazines, billboards, signage, sponsorships… The channel(s) ultimately chosen will be dictated by the goals and objectives of the marketing campaign, your target audience and your budget.

  1. Was your marketing campaign successful?

The key to measuring the success of your marketing campaign is monitoring and measuring. What were the sales numbers? Increases in revenue? Downloads? Subscriptions? Calls? Increased traffic to your website? Click throughs? Conversions?

Launching a marketing campaign is a long and complicated process that requires a professional touch. Each step along the way has to be carefully planned, executed and measured. CreativeWorks Marketing has over 20 years of experience designing, executing and measuring successful marketing campaigns. Take advantage of our knowledge and expertise. Give us a call and let’s discuss your next marketing campaign.

 

 

Research PART II: Competitive Analysis: Secret Weapon – The Mystery Shopper

In our last blog we discussed Market Research – Your Roadmap for Success. Today I’m going to delve into competitive analysis and more specifically, using mystery shopping to conduct competitive research. This blog will explain the importance of mystery shopping as a key approach to learning about how your business can be differentiated and why it’s equally important to hire a professional to conduct mystery shopping research.

Do you know your competition? How are they different from you? What are they doing that you’re not? How are they perceived in the marketplace? More than any other marketing approach, I have found that conducting a competitive analysis for our clients has proven time and time again to be so crucial to the success of a marketing strategy. Mystery shopping is a tried and true research method used to conduct competitive research.

What is mystery shopping?

Mystery shopping is a research methodology that uses trained, professional mystery shoppers (not your mother, your aunt or your junior marketing assistant) acting as prospective customers to ascertain particular aspects of your competitors’ businesses. While posing as customers, mystery shoppers perform a series of assigned tasks designed to elicit a particular type of behaviour or information. They observe, measure and report back on their findings.

Types of mystery shopping

Mystery shoppers may employ several techniques to achieve their goals.

  • Visit in person
  • Make phone calls
  • Send emails
  • Create custom ‘customer’ websites

How mystery shopping can benefit your company

In order to fully understand how to compete in the marketplace you must first understand your competitors:

  • What are they offering?
  • What are their prices?
  • What is their value proposition?
  • What is their brand experience like?
  • How is their online experience?
  • How effective is their customer service?

Once you understand your competitors you can make informed business decisions on how to differentiate your company. And you can use mystery shoppers to see how your company fares against the competition using the same set of criteria.

Use a professional agency to conduct mystery shopping research

It’s very important to use a professional agency when conducting mystery shopping research. There is a strategy to competitive research. Based on the information you’re trying to elicit, you pre-assign tasks to the mystery shoppers. They must be professional or they will be detected, wasting whatever time and money you’ve invested in the effort. The information they return needs to be analyzed and a marketing plan created on the basis of those results.

Market Research – Your Roadmap for Success

What exactly is market research? Why is this powerful tool important for your business? Market research provides valuable insights on what people will buy, why they’ll buy it, and how to incite them to buy. It’s also used to answer the age-old question, why do your customers choose YOU? In this blog, I’ll highlight why market research is so critical to your business, as well as provide you with key reasons why you’ll need to hire a professional marketing agency for unbiased research.

Why conduct market research?

Market research sets your company up for success by providing the information that you need to make informed business decisions. Experience alone is not enough; arm yourself with research and facts to understand your market and your customers. Market research can help you:

  • Understand your customers and their preferences
  • Identify potential issues you may not be aware of
  • Understand how your customers define your brand
  • Identify ways they value the services/products you provide
  • Learn how your customers compare you with your competitors
  • Test new products/services and/or new markets
  • Gauge the success of a new advertising campaign
  • Identify performance, pricing and/or promotion opportunities
  • Monitor the competition in your market
  • Keep up with the changing marketplace and economy
  • Mitigate risk in your business decisions

Market research methods

When conducting market research, there are basically two types of methodologies:

  1. Qualitative researchis information that comes from conducting deep “quality” research through the use of discussion guides, and is typically gathered via phone interviews, face-to-face interviews, or focus groups. Questions are typically developed by use of a discussion guide outlining issues or concerns you’d like your customers to weigh in on. The answers can help you understand why they chose your company to work with, what they value in your service/product, what they think of your brand, and how they respond to your marketing/advertising. This type of research is best used when you want to understand the needs of your customer so you can better target your marketing and messaging to their needs and values.
  2. Quantitative research is usually numeric, and done through a survey. It is far less detailed and there is no discussion with actual customers. It involves sending out a survey to customers and gathering statistical information, which can then be extrapolated to give you averages and percentages, e.g. 9 out of 10 customers are satisfied with your level of customer service. This type of research is best used for measuring customer feedback on an ad or a new service, or the launch of a new offering.

What unbiased research means

Almost every business owner I know says that they know their customers, that they speak to them on a regular basis and if there was a problem, their customers would tell them. Sorry to say, but this is rarely the case. Just like we don’t tell the server that the food was really bad, our customers may very well give us a truthful answer, but more likely they will give us a version of the truth. When a third party speaks with your customers, they feel this is their opportunity to really share the “truth” without hurting any feelings. If you are asking your customers directly then this is 100% biased research and is considered invalid because you have a vested interest in them being satisfied customers. Unbiased research doesn’t allow opinions, nor preconceived notions or preferences to affect the research. It is conducted with an entirely open mind and not biased in any way towards a desired outcome.

Market research benefits to your business

We’ve been conducting market research for almost two decades and I know how it can positively impact a business by providing actionable insights that can act as a catalyst for organizational growth. These insights will equip you for better decision-making and provide you with a greater understanding of customers, and competitors. Market research can help you to maximize the potential of your current business activities and create a roadmap for targeted marketing strategies and future growth. Every business, large or small, can benefit from having market research in their arsenal. 

Use a professional agency to conduct market research for your company

Market research is not a DYI project. It’s very time consuming and requires trained and skilled resources to perform, analyze and deliver results without any research bias. Set your business up for success and hire a professional marketing agency with proven processes, resources and analytics to maximize the potential of your market research.

CreativeWorks Marketing will work with you as a trusted partner in achieving your business goals. As a first step, we’ll establish clearly defined goals for market research in addition to determining what you need to know and why. We’ll perform, analyze and deliver results of the highest quality and keep the data confidential. Contact us today and let’s discuss how market research can benefit your company.

Earth Day – 4 Key Elements of a Cause Marketing Campaign

Cause marketing refers to the alignment of a brand with a cause that produces profitable and societal benefits for both. Today, consumers want to know what your company stands for and what you’re doing to make the world a better place. As a result, for many brands, cause marketing is now becoming the norm rather than the exception. You may be surprised to learn that cause marketing was first introduced in 1976. The two trail blazers involved were the Marriott Corporation and the March of Dimes. They worked together to promote the Marriott’s family entertainment complex in Santa Clara, California while raising funds for the March of Dimes. The campaign was a success for both parties and cause marketing was born.

In celebration of Earth Day this April 22nd, I’d like to encourage you to consider launching cause marketing campaign this year, and I’ve outlined the four key elements of one for you to consider:

  1. Simple, inspiring message: What you call your campaign matters. It should be simple, descriptive of your initiative and inspire you to want to participate. Motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson teamed up with the environmental organization The Nature Conservancy with its cause marketing campaign “Renew the Ride”. This campaign was designed to mobilize Harley Davidson’s global community of riders to raise funds for the planting of 50 million trees worldwide by 2025 so that the open road can be preserved for future generations of riders.
  1. Visual storytelling: Studies show that people read only about 20% of today’s web pages and are driven more by an image or short video than they are by anything else. Coke and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) teamed up to support the conservation of polar bears with their Arctic Home campaign. Who among you hasn’t been moved by the wonderful video spots that Coke and the WWF have created about polar bears? Those videos move us more than any written story could.
  1. Social sharing, ‘earnedmedia: The most effective cause marketing campaigns develop multiple media designed to maximize the effectiveness of each channel. Dell is doing a great job inspiring people to care more about the health of our oceans and marine wildlife through its support of actor Adrian Grenier’s the Lonely Whale Foundation. The campaign has gained great momentum thanks to Instagram, YouTube and other social media platforms. And, Coke and the WWF used the web, apps, social media, text messaging and other technology to drive brand awareness for the Arctic Home campaign.
  1. Big world issues, small personal action: While most cause marketing campaigns are calling people’s attention to a big issue, they need to inspire them to take a small personal action. Habitat for Humanity is working towards a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. They teamed up with Home Depot. As part of an employee engagement campaign, Home Depot employees can volunteer to work on a Habitat for Humanity project while being paid by Home Depot. This small personal action of volunteering makes a big difference in improving big world issues.

I believe cause marketing has many benefits for your business including positioning your brand to stand out from the rest while at the same time helping a cause and ‘doing the right thing’.

Is cause marketing important to a brand? 87% of consumers would switch from one brand to another if the other brand was associated with a good cause, according to a Cone Cause Evolution Survey. Is a cause marketing campaign right for your company and your brand? It’s certainly worth considering.