Strategic Planning

Lately, We Just Don’t Communicate

Imagine your business is about to launch a new campaign. You are sending out an e-blast to give your customers 20% off their next purchase. You’re confident this will be one of your company’s most successful ventures to date. On the day of the launch, your office is flooded with emails and phone calls regarding your new offering, and while you’re ecstatic, your team is frantic. But why?

While your campaign was crafted to a tee, the internal communications to your staff informing them of the upcoming campaign and its details were non-existent.

There are two sides to any marketing campaign. External marketing allows you to get your message across to your intended audience, and internal marketing allows you to effectively market your campaign within your organization. In order for any marketing campaign to be successful, you need to create a plan for both.

We all know that running a new campaign can be time-consuming and we get wrapped up in the details and often don’t take the time to keep our staff up to date. In order to ensure a successful campaign however, you’ll need to bring your staff up to speed so they know how they are impacted and what, if anything, they need to do.

Here are a few key tips on how to effectively prepare your staff for an upcoming marketing campaign:

Give Advanced Notice

After working with your marketing team to develop a new idea for a campaign, share it with your staff. If a new campaign is being implemented without staff members knowing all the details, it’s easy to get the message confused. Sharing your ideas for the new campaign will allow staff to prepare, and will also encourage them to contribute their own thoughts and ideas towards the new campaign.

Provide Supporting Materials

After giving your team the heads up about the new campaign, it’s time to get ready to launch. Depending on what kind of campaign it is, you will need to provide your team with supporting materials that will allow them to carry it out as you had intended. For example, if you are promoting a new service for your clients and they are encouraged to call in and inquire about it, prepare a script for your front line staff. If calls should be directed to your sales department, then the person answering the phone needs to know where to direct the call. The more informed they are, the increase in likelihood of a successful campaign.

Measurement Matters

It’s one thing to let your staff know about a new campaign; you also need to follow through with them about it. Ask them how the campaign is going; are they getting a lot of calls/emails/website requests? If your team is dealing with customers directly, you need to communicate with them effectively so you can measure the success of your new campaign.

Share Success

Your campaign has just ended and of course, it was a hit! Share this success with your team. Not only will sharing the success encourage your employees, it will also give you a chance to evaluate what went well, and discuss how you can create an even stronger campaign the next time around.

In order to effectively market any campaign to your customers, you need to be prepared to market it internally as well. Keep your staff in the loop when launching your next campaign; you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes.

The Social Media Election

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been glued to the American presidential election since it began to heat up earlier this year. This election is different from others for a number of reasons. For the first time ever, a woman is the Democratic nominee for president. Her opponent, the leader of the Republican Party, is loudly entering the political arena for the first time. Whatever the outcome is tonight, the 2016 election will be looked upon as a “social media election”.

In the 2012 American presidential election, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were the first candidates who really used social media to gauge voter interest in their campaigns. Facebook was a reliable channel for distributing key campaign messages for both parties, and Twitter was just starting to make waves. Obama successfully generated almost 20 million more followers than Romney did on the platform, and secured the presidency in November of that year. Obama’s victory tweet after winning the election became the most retweeted piece of content on the platform up to that point.

While social media had a huge influence on the last election, nothing can top how it’s altered the current presidential race. The two candidates have been using social media for years, thus allowing voters to tap into their past posts. Take this tweet by Donald Trump, for example:

Somehow I can’t see Ronald Reagan saying something like this.

The use of social media allows presidential candidates to give minute-by-minute updates on their campaign and gives voters direct access into their professional and private lives. Donald Trump has been successful in using his Twitter account to influence his voters throughout his presidential campaign. His brash language and brutal honesty has positioned him as a “no-nonsense” candidate. While some voters find this behavior unsettling, he has appealed to the untapped demographic of American voters who want to abolish political correctness.

Hilary Clinton might not be as “honest” as Donald Trump, but she also has an impressive social media presence. Her slogan “#ImWithHer” has been shared millions of times all over social media. Due to her large celebrity fan base, Democratic social media influencers like Katy Perry and Lena Dunham continue to share supportive messages and images.

Trump relies heavily on his Twitter account while Clinton has broadened her social media presence through Snapchat, blogs and apps. While running completely different campaigns, both candidates have secured a huge social media following. Twitter and Facebook accounts are free to use, but don’t let that fool you into thinking social media hasn’t cost each campaign dearly. Donald Trump’s campaign spent $200,000 to purchase the promoted hashtag of the day, allowing it to be seen from every Twitter user in the U.S. through sponsored posts and the trending hashtags sidebar.

What has me so concerned as a marketer is that social media has provided voters with an inside look into the candidates, but it might not be the most reliable way to judge a future president. As we all know, social media is great for storytelling but that doesn’t mean it always reflects reality. One thing I have noticed throughout this entire campaign is that we’ve begun to lose sight of the actual issues at hand. Stories about Donald Trump’s latest misogynistic tweets are as much of a story as the crisis in Aleppo. While social media has played an important role in this election, it’s important to note that it is not the only factor Americans should be looking into when electing their next president.

So where do we go from here? I think it’s safe to say that neither candidate will have their own true voice on social media if they are elected President of The United States.

From a marketing standpoint, both these candidates have utilized social media to their advantage by creating consistent content marketing campaigns to appeal to their voters. However, voters in the United States need to consider that a candidate’s social media personality is likely to change once they have been elected, so they need to be confident in their candidate as a leader, not a tweeter.

Marketing Needs PR: Handling Crisis

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed more and more of a convergence between marketing and PR. The shift comes, I feel, as a result of the increasingly blurred lines between advertising and public relations as I mentioned in a previous blog, but also in part because marketing is so much more in the public eye than ever before as a result of personal brands.

As marketers today, it’s not uncommon for us to look at influencers, sponsor social content, and engage bloggers with opportunities to invest our marketing budgets. These approaches, one could argue, would typically have been part of a PR campaign, but with this paradigm shift many of us in marketing are taking note and making sure our marketing strategies include public relations.

The need for PR as part of your marketing can be highlighted in a situation of crisis. We see it almost daily: big brands make headlines after a bad social media post or a viral video, and because now bad social means bad PR and bad PR can mean a loss in customer and brand loyalty, these PR crises can become marketing nightmares.

As marketers, we need to have resources at hand to handle any scandal or branding nightmare. It’s important to have a plan in place should a crisis develop. In true PR fashion, but with a marketing twist, here are my tips for handling a branding crisis.

 Act quickly- but not recklessly

Once you’ve heard the bad news, it’s important to gather your team and address the situation. Find out what went wrong, and how you can fix it. If you speak first, you control the story, but it’s important that you have all the accurate information you need before you release any information to the public.

Take responsibility

While you might not feel like this was your fault, if your company was in any way responsible for this crisis, it’s important to take ownership. Shifting the blame around just makes consumers think you are dishonest and untrustworthy.

Create a solution

After you have received all the information needed and have accepted the fact that you need to apologize to the public for what has transpired, you need to come up with a solution. People want to know that you see where things went wrong, and you know how to fix it. After apologizing for your company’s wrongdoing, outline how you are going to ensure this never happens again. Once people know that you are fixing the problem, they will begin to move on.

 Rebuild

In the moment, it feels like this situation will completely ruin your business, but it’s important to remember that eventually, a new scandal comes along and people will forget about your organization’s indiscretion. In your effort to rebuild your brand, focus on creating positive buzz for your company, especially if it counteracts the original scandal.

I hope scandal never erupts in your business, but better to be prepared, which is why I advise clients to have a crisis PR plan in place as part of their marketing strategy. This will allow your business to act quickly and effectively, making sure your organization and brand comes out unscathed.

The Rise of Digital Marketing

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 1.26.20 PMThe digital world is tied directly to data, and data is everywhere. When it comes to marketing, data informs marketers about audiences, their interests, intentions, and where they choose to interact. I believe that being able to analyze big data, create original content and having a sound digital strategy are three key factors a company should consider while aiming for success in the current digital climate.

Big Data

Because of the rise in available data, digital media has become an incredibly integrated part of consumers’ daily lives, and digital platforms are constantly updating themselves in order to provide the best user experience.

Being able to analyze and report data is a key component to any marketing strategy (at least it should be). Everything will be enhanced by the growth of big data – get ready!

Content

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “content is King”. When content is relevant and interesting, consumers cannot wait to read and share your brand’s content. This includes video content too (Instagram recently introduced a looping feature on their videos!).

Also, blogs are making a comeback because SEO matters now more than ever, and you need content to post on your social media sites – what better content than your own, right?

Digital Strategy

The changing digital landscape means digital marketing is constantly evolving, and marketers, like myself, are forced to learn how to use new software, how to use different platforms (including mobile), how to apply new techniques, and how to manage and optimize marketing efforts.

Location matters more now too. As the Internet grows at an incomprehensible rate, users are looking for more local experiences. We’ve seen the emergence of companies, like Uber and UberX, providing local goods and services at the push of a button. Being able to offer customers a local experience (that’s easily accessible via their smartphone – think convenience) keeps you relevant. This means we should see a rise in the amount of geo-targeted advertising, and social content created.

Content creation, SEO, and social media, shouldn’t be treated as specific departments, but rather as skills that exist inherently within your marketing agency (or internal marketing team).

What does this mean for businesses today?

Before you, or your company, settle on a marketing budget, I recommend you look at the latest trends and technology, and understand which of these your customers use so you can create a plan that leverages all available data. The success of today’s marketing campaigns largely relies on sound marketing strategies that have adopted new digital technologies.

If you’re unsure of where to start or if your marketing strategy is outdated, please contact me at info@creativeworksmarketing.ca to see how I can help your business.

Does your company have a digital strategy in place? What are your biggest challenges with digital marketing? Comment and share your thoughts with me!

Tradeshow Strategy – Tips on How to Make Your Next Tradeshow a Success

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 11.53.18 AMYou have 4 seconds to engage someone that’s walking by, and distractions are everywhere – what do you do to grab their attention first?

Tradeshow Tips

Write a Strategy

Before reserving a booth at an industry tradeshow, ask yourself and your team, “What are we trying to accomplish by going to this tradeshow?” Tradeshows can be rewarding and can demonstrate true ROI if you do it right and are clear about what you want out of it.

Attempting to attract an audience to your booth can prove to be challenging and we all know tradeshows can be extremely expensive, so set tangible objectives, that can measured as outcomes. Without objectives, how else will you know if the tradeshow was successful? Whether your desired outcome is to generate buzz, increase brand awareness, build customer relationships, share industry knowledge, network, or gain leads, relying on random traffic in the room is not the wisest strategy (especially when most tradeshow attendees already have an idea of which booths they plan to visit before they get to the show). If you don’t set out measureable objectives, you wont have a clear understanding of how your booth performed.

It’s important to be intentional and create a booth that attracts the right people, so you can more easily reach your tradeshow goals. I recommend you try some, or all, of the following:

Preshow Outreach

Contact your regular customers, local contacts and existing prospects, and, if you can get access to the list of registered show attendees, contact them too! Make appointments by reaching out through direct mail, email, or the phone.

Stand Up

Most exhibitor staff sit behind tables. Don’t do that! Get up, and engage with people – that’s what you’re there for. Either push the table against a wall or leave chairs out of your booth set up.

Stand Out

Tradeshows are an investment of money and time. If you’re making the investment, try to grab a good location (the better locations will be more expensive), and brand your booth. Your actual booth itself is a silent salesperson – it speaks for you and your brand when you’re not able to, so it pays to have a pretty booth in a great location. TV screens, or interactive touch screens are a great way to grab attention and share your key messages!

Signage

Something else to consider is having a benefit-oriented sign that can be seen from down an aisle on the showroom floor. It should have verbiage that gives prospective clients a reason to stop and showcases a solution to a customer problem. Your signage should also answer the question all potential customers will be asking themselves – “What’s in it for me?” Don’t be afraid to be specific – it will weed out anyone who isn’t your target.

Offer Incentive

In order to attract the right people, you have to know your attendees. Make sure your incentive speaks to your target market and offers them something they want so they have a reason to come to your booth. Promotional items will impact how show attendees perceive you. Investing in promotional items that are as unique and high quality as your offering will pay off. Whether its swag, a game, a discount, or free services, special gifts say “thank you for coming by.”

Social Media Live Feeds

Tradeshows are an “in-person” event, but social media should still play a part. Let your clients and prospective clients know where your booth is and what you’re up to over social media. Being active on social media during the show will help you connect with attendees and those who couldn’t make it to the event.

It’s common for events to have their own Twitter hashtag, so participants can communicate with one another from the showroom floor.

Promote the Tradeshow Like It’s Your Own Event

Every year tradeshows drive thousands of people to different events. Exhibitors can pay for passes to give to great customers, prospective customers, or media, to join you. The show organizers will be promoting the event themselves (which in turn promotes you by association), so give back to your partner by promoting them.

Follow Up AFTER the Show

You need to respond to leads really quickly! Key in business cards right at the show, and follow up either later that day, or early the next morning.

If a lead calls you first, do NOT wait – call them back immediately!

Do you create a strategy for your tradeshows? Do you have the same strategy every year? How do you measure the success of your tradeshows? Do you have any tips you would like to share? Please feel free to leave questions or comments in the comment section – I’d love to hear your stories!

Case Study: How a customer analysis saved thousands for a B2B client

consumer-analysisLooking for the “wow” factor in your business is not always about what you want your company to be for your customers, but very often, it is more about what your customers value about your company. As a first step to creating powerful strategic marketing plans, we always recommend market research to our clients. Market research, specifically customer analysis, is the most powerful tool marketers have for really finding out first hand exactly what your customers value and why they choose you over your competitors.

Many companies want this business intelligence and feel they can “do it themselves” with an email survey or direct mail piece. Well, with almost 20 years in the business, I can tell you that research obtained by “doing it yourself” is truly invalid research. Research needs to be conducted by an unbiased third party who can listen and respond without prejudice or emotion.

I’d like to share with you the big wow factor that came as a result of the research we conducted as the first leg in a strategic marketing project. We’ll call this company ABC Consulting. Prior to our engagement, they were about to “press the button” on several online marketing tactics including investing heavily in a new website with interactive capabilities and launching into social media networking sites. We convinced the client to “hold off” on implementing these tactics until after we conducted a competitive analysis and customer analysis. They took our recommendation and decided to hold off and are eternally thankful that they did. It is true, as with most qualitative research, that the truth lies in asking the “right” questions and so we personally spoke to our client’s customers, asking them a host of custom questions to determine not only what they value in the service they are receiving, but how they feel what they are getting differs from other competitors.

There was not one customer we spoke to that values online communication, stating that they never visit ABC Consulting’s website, and have no need for social media. What do they value? Personal calls, face-to-face meetings, etc. The result of this research is a 180 degree shift from what our client had determined was what their customers’ wanted. As I have said in many of my blogs holds particularly true here: no tactics before you understand who your audience is, and what they value. If our client had executed their online tactics, what type of success do you think they would have had? My guess is none, as their customers never visit their website and new customers search for this service in other ways, but not online.

The research revealed many values, behaviours, wants and needs of ABC Consulting’s customers and competitors, but none stronger than a 180 degree shift in thinking!

With this research in hand we are now able to develop a targeted and strategic plan, rooted in solid research, and our client will save the thousands of dollars they were about to spend on the wrong tactics: tactics that were rooted in guess work and marketing pressure to conform.

My take-away for all business owners is to take the time to get to really know your customers, NOT through your own personal dealings but through someone else’s eyes and the result could be a game changer!

When was the last time your company conducted third party qualitative research? Do you think you need to conduct research before you execute a new marketing initiative? Are you willing to try new tactics without knowing what your customers value? I look forward to you sharing your thoughts in our comment section.

Click here for more information. 

Marketing Trend Predictions for 2015

2015 TrendsNearing the end of 2014, we sat down to make a few marketing trend predictions as to what brands should be on the lookout for in 2015. Here are our predictions:

Shareable Social Content

Be informed about what your audiences like and where they spend time. In 2015 brands will have to delve into customization and personalization for social channels, because the most shareable content (thus the most beneficial for your business!) is content with social value.

Original Content Marketing

Using content to market is an old strategy that has always been around. However, the topic of content marketing seemed to attract an abundance of attention in 2014, with regards to efficacy and about how hard it can be to produce quality content in large qualities. Marketers have been challenged to create more original content for more channels (websites, social, blog, newsletters and more) that is also valuable and educational.

Inbound Marketing

Similar to content marketing, inbound marketing relies on earning people’s interest instead of buying it. Creating quality content will attract people to your company and/or product. By aligning your published content with your customers’ interests, you will naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert and close over time. Publish the right content in the right place at the right time, and your brand will become relevant and valuable to your customers.

It’s a Smartphone World

Simply put, more people are spending time on mobile. Millennials especially – their phones never leave their side (it’s rare). Information and images should be optimized for mobile viewing. It may even be a good idea to start with mobile and plan to scale up content for desktops and laptops!

Use Video to Cement Relationships

Yes, video production if done professionally is expensive and time-consuming, but it really is worth it. Good content is conversational and creates a “human” aspect to a brand. Not only will brands have to explore more creative ways to produce content, they will also have to understand how to be trustworthy and authentic. Their chosen content, matched with a human touch, will help build the trusting relationships that help consumers keep brands at the forefront of their minds.

Advanced Analytics

In 2015 we should expect to see companies adopting data-driven strategies that go beyond accessing “big data” to actually integrating that data into everyday marketing decisions, campaign strategy, and product development. Brands will dig deep to uncover those actionable insights they can leverage to generate growth, sales, and identify prospects.

Do our predictions make sense to your business? Which trends would you like to implement in 2015? What are your predictions for 2015? Share your predictions with us in the comment section.