A collection of marketing and marketing communications articles covering various marketing topics.

Developing the Optimal Value Proposition that Drives Market Success

For a business to achieve market success, it must create superior value for their customers, collaborators, and the organization. Peter Drucker, famed management theorist, stated that the purpose of business is to create a customer and that business enterprise has only two functions, marketing and innovation. Thus, the responsibility of creating value and winning customers falls on the shoulders of marketing.

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The Three-Step Writing Process in Business Communication

Effective business writing is important to a company because it helps create efficient communication that leads to increased productivity, faster problem solving, stronger decision-making, and increased profits. It also helps boost the organizations credibility.

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10 newsletter writing tips for effective newsletters

10 Newsletter Writing Tips For Effective Articles

Newsletters are still an effective way to communicate your company or brand with your customers. They allow you to position yourself as an expert in your industry as well as promote your products and services. Newsletters, if done correctly, can be a very powerful tool in your marketing communications tool box. This daily marketing tip discusses 10 newsletter writing tips for effective newsletters.

10 Newsletter Writing Tips

This is not a conclusive list on writing newsletters, but I have used these ideas to craft effective newsletters for clients many times. The list of tips is good to use for both printed newsletters and digital newsletters.

  1. Provide useful information: Give your audience valuable and useful information. Teach them something new or give them interesting information about your industry. Consider writing about how to use a new product or service you provide. Avoid a hard sell by filling your newsletter with advertisement and promotions. This is a guaranteed way to lose readers’ interest.
  2. Inject personality into your writing style: Readers are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages per day. So cut through the clutter and be remembered by letting your personality shine with a conversational tone. However, be careful and not use of slang unless your audience understands the slang. Humor is always welcomed, but only in articles where it would be beneficial, but be careful not to be insulting or culturally incecitive.
  3. Research: There’s nothing that kills your credibility faster than an article written with incorrect information. When providing statistical information, be sure to research the information and cite your source directly in the article or as a footnote.
  4. Avoid jargon: If you’re writing a newsletter on cats, and you happen to be veterinarian, you may be tempted to use medical terms relating to the little kitty’s. Unless your audience is a group of veterinarians, do not use technical language, or jargon. Your average reader will not be able to understand your content. So, avoid industry specific jargon (technical speak) unless you are certain your audience will understand it.
  5. Brevity is king: Certainly you have come across individuals who can talk your ear off. These individuals write as they speak, they just ramble. Don’t ramble. Be brief and concise.
  6. Use chunking: Chunking refers to arranging information into small “bite sized” bits of information. Often times it may be a bullet list, a side bar, or numbered list. This breaks up the copy and focuses the reader on the important, information in your article.
  7. Use images: The web is a visual medium and humans are visual creatures. Use images to illustrate your article and attract and keep readers attention. Samples of images could include photography, infographics, graphs, illustrations, or charts.
  8. Write a good headline to attract readers: Headlines are what attract attention. If you write a bad headline, chances are your article will be ignored. Headlines that do well are ones that focus on self-interest and news items. See this article titled, “4 Headline Types that Generate Reader Interest” to learn more about writing article headlines.
  9. Respect copyright laws: It is easy to find an article we like on the internet and just copy and paste it into our documents. However, these articles are copyrighted by the author. The same goes for artwork and photography. Unless the article or artwork states that you may reproduce them, assume they are copyrighted material. Ask for written permission to use them or write your own original work and purchase the photos and art. If you do not, you may find yourself in a legal hot water!
  10. Proof read!: Spell check is great, but spell check does not catch syntax and homonyms. Proof read your work. You will be glad you did and so will your reader. It is a good idea to have someone other than yourself review your work, because, often, it is more difficult to proof your own work since you are used to seeing it. If you do not have someone to help you proof your work, begin proofing it yourself by reading it backwards, beginning at the end of the article. This will help you to pay attention to the words.

Next Steps

Writing newsletters, both digital and for print, are both fun and rewarding if they are done properly. These 10 newsletter writing tips are suggestions for writing good, effective content to engage your reader. I have both written hundreds of newsletter articles and have won several design awards for newsletter design. If you have any newsletter writing tips of your own that have been successful in your own wiring, please share them in the comment section.

Lead Generation Path Way

Prioritizing Your Lead Generation Strategy – Part 3 of 3 in a Series

In part 1 of this 3 part series, I discussed Setting Lead Generation Metrics for your lead generation strategy. In part 2, I talked about Establishing Lead Generation Goals and using the S.M.A.R.T method to write goals.

In part 3, the final part to this series, I discuss 4 categories of prioritization for your lead generation objectives along with several types of tactical communication vehicles to help communicate your message that drives leads.

Looking back to part 1, you assembled your lead generation team and answered several important questions for setting key metrics. You and your team also identified areas of focus from these questions. Now it is time to categorize, prioritize, and generate your leads. We’ll begin by prioritizing your leads into the categories listed below.

Lead Generation Category Breakdown

Is your lead generation priority to:

  • Generate awareness
  • Acquire prospects
  • Nurture prospects
  • Qualify sales readiness

Category Explanation:

Generating awareness allows prospects to learn more about your business and expertise. Generating awareness activities may include:

  • Creating content for your website
  • Blogging
  • News stories about your business
  • Press Releases
  • Tradeshows
  • Community events
  • Seminars
  • Social Media networks
  • Search Engine Marketing, like PPC
  • Paid email broadcasts

Acquiring prospects is the process of prospects identifying themselves by giving you permission to contact them. This can occur through:

  • Landing pages on your website
  • Business card collections at trade shows and events
  • Calls directly from prospects
  • Direct mail responses

Note that acquiring prospects typically occurs through the generating awareness phase. When awareness is created about your business or product, interested prospects will inquire for more information through several types of communication channels.

Nurturing requires prospects to actively engage with your content. Content can include videos on your website or third party websites. Content may also include blog postings, infographics, or webinars.

Qualifying sales readiness is where the prospect meets a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) definition and signals sales readiness. (See Sidebar for more on MQL)

A few ways to qualify a prospects sales readiness include, but are not limited too:

  • Providing quotes
  • Giving DEMOS
  • Product/solution webinars
  • Consultation
  • Providing trials

Once you identified priorities to these four categories, the next step is to develop your tactical marketing strategy. Tactical marketing is the “how is it going to get done” part of your strategy. How will you communicate your marketing message to prospects to generate awareness, acquire, nurture, and qualify them?

Below is a list of various types of marketing communication vehicles to carry out the tactical strategy. Note, this is a partial list.

  • Website
  • Direct Mail
  • Email Broadcasts
  • Social Media
  • Event Marketing
  • Search Engine Marketing (Pay-per-click ads)
  • Company Blog
  • Video

SIDEBAR: What is a Marketing Qualified Lead (MGL)?

A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is a lead generated by one of your tactical strategies that your marketing team feels it is a qualified lead. It is a lead that is pushed to the sales team based on predetermined set of metrics. For more information on identifying and qualifying MQL’s, see this article titled, “7 Steps to Defining a Marketing-Qualified Lead (MQL).”

Next Steps

Generating leads takes some planning. Gather your lead generation team, which could be your marketing and sales team or just a few key stakeholders of your small business. Identify your objectives based on a set of key metric questions, prioritize, and execute your strategy.

Measure the success and quality of you leads throughout the process. If you find that you are not meeting your objectives, analyze the reasons why and make adjustments to your plan to correct for the deficiencies.

Custromer Reviews

6 Ideas for Improving and Avoiding Negative Customer Reviews

To survive and thrive in today’s digital, customer-driven, market environment, you need to stay one step ahead of your customers. Customer’s, empowered with social media and consumer reviews sites, can help build your business or destroy your business with their online reviews.

According to the 2105 BrightLocal Consumer Review Survey, 92% of consumers read online reviews before making a purchasing decision. That’s up from 88% in 2014. Star ratings are the number 1 factor consumers use for judging a business. Of those considering making a purchasing decision based on start ratings, 13% will only consider buying from a business with a 1 or 2 star rating. Restaurants and Café’s are most vulnerable to review-conscious customers were 60% of consumers make their decision to visit a food establishment based on the reviews.

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Source: BrightLocal.com

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Source: BrightLocal.com

Knowing how to manage online reviews is critical to the survival of your business. Below are some tips and ideas for managing online reviews and developing a positive review culture with your customers.

6 Ideas for Improving and Avoiding Negative Customer Reviews

Provide Excellent Customer Service
If you begin with a good foundation in customer service, getting positive reviews will be easy. Listen to your customers, be attentive to their needs, and being pleasant all factor in to having excellent customer service. When customers are treated well, fairly, and with urgency, then they are more inclined to give positive reviews.

Under Promise, Over Deliver
This goes together with providing excellent customer service. Going the “extra mile” (working extra hard for the customer) has its rewards. Customers are pleasantly surprised by your actions and reciprocate  by providing good, positive feedback.

Ask Customer for Reviews
When you’re providing excellent customer service and going above and beyond to accommodate your customers, then it’s time to ask for the review. Simply ask them if they would consider leaving you a good review if they liked the service received while at your place of business. To make it convenient for your customer, offer free WiFi so they can use their mobile devices while at your business.

Make Reviewing Your Business Easy
Provide links to your review sites on your website, emails and newsletters. Also, add all social media and review site icons on in-store displays or advertisements you mail to your customer list. Consider adding QR Codes to your in-store signs and displays or direct mail pieces so customers can easily access your review sites with a single scan of their mobile device.

Ask Family and Friends for Reviews
If you have done business with family and friends then ask them to review your business. There’s nothing wrong with getting a little help from friends and family, especially if you do not have any reviews yet and you need to build your online review presence.

Respond Quickly to Negative Reviews
If you receive a negative review, respond quickly and with facts, not emotions. Keep your cool and respond professionally and politely. If you can solve a customer’s problem, do so by having them reach you privately via email or calling the business. Help them work through the reason they gave you a bad review in the first place. Once you can solve their problem, you can ask them to reconsider the negative review and either remove it or change it.

Next Steps

Customer have who are unhappy with a business or product will not only tell friends and family, they will tell the world via online review sites and social media. Be proactive with your online reviews. Make a plan to check the review sites you are on. If you see something that is not flattering about your business, work on correcting it immediately. Remain professional and have patience as this process can take time.

who needs and advertising agency

Who Needs An Advertising Agency?

While traveling on business, I struck up a conversation with a colleague of mine about today’s business climate and the overall health of his industry. After a brief discussion I asked, “Who handles your marketing communications?” He smiled wryly and said, “We do it ourselves.” He reached into his briefcase and with great pride handed me a sample of his work. He explained how wonderful computer programs are that offer companies an alternative to hiring agencies. His marketing literature was grotesque.

The rest of the trip, I pondered his literature and mindset. It occurred to me that one of the biggest threats facing the advertising industry comes from those who believe they can do it themselves. It begs the question, “Is the price of custom work still valuable to the average client?” For some the answer is, “No.” I wondered what might be driving this point of view.

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Six Ways Retailers Can Cut Through Holiday Marketing Noise and Ad Clutter

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday kicking off the “official” holiday shopping season this week, retailers and brands scramble to get their marketing messages broadcast across a variety of channels. Their hopes, to cut through the copious amounts of #holidaymarketing noise and clutter and be noticed by consumers.

There’s a reason retailers like Kmart and Walmart begin there holiday marketing in September. These mega retailers want their messages heard, ahead of the rest of the holiday marketing noise and ad clutter that will soon overwhelm consumers. While the exact number of messages consumers are exposed to is unknown, Adage.com puts it in the neighborhood of 250 to 5,000 daily messages. And that number is increasing as advertisers and marketers push out messages through every electronic orifice they can find. Unfortunately, Madison Avenues answer to the overwhelming amount of marketing messages is to add more noise and clutter through unique advertising channels.

Major retailers like Kmart, Best Buy, and Amazon.com have the marketing budgets to cut through the clutter and get a larger piece of the holiday spending pie. This leaves small, local, business who don’t have deep packets, scrambling to catch the crumbs. While holiday marketing, in itself, may not be enough for these local operations to cut through the large retailers clutter busting marketing budgets, there are some initiatives that can help them get a bigger piece of the holiday spending pie.

Some of the following ideas may take some time to get up to speed; others can be deployed fairly quickly, giving hope for those retailers who have been on Santa’s nice list to avoid receiving coal in their holiday profit stockings:

Six Holiday Marketing Noise and Ad Clutter Cutters

Be Authentic
Being authentic in today’s consumer driven digital market is paramount to your success. Representing yourself and your product/service in a genuine manner is good for business, and your bottom line. According to a 2014 study by Cohn & Wolfe on Authenticity, communicating honesty about a brands product or service outweighs the firm’s brand appeal, product utility, and popularity. Additionally, the study revealed that 63% of global consumers would buy from a brand they perceived as authentic.

Differentiate Yourself

Chances are that at some point you’ve heard the best way to stand out of the crowed, and avoid clutter, is to be different or differentiate yourself for other brands. This is a sure way to cut through clutter and stand out from the competition.

Take Whole Foods, the grocery store, for example. They go beyond just being a grocery store. Whole Foods is also a content generator and thought leader in the industry.

They understand their customers and share ideas and content that is not boastful. They also focus on local stores, taking away that big chain feeling, making each store feel inviting and customers welcomed.

Create Value

There’s nothing more mismatched about a brand, product, or offering that doesn’t offer it’s customers value. First, you need to know what your customers want, and offer them exactly that.

One of my marketing clients owns and operates a Chinese Restaurant; she literally mingles with guests and talks to them about the food they ordered; about what they like and dislike. She goes so far as to observe and check the trash bin for their discarded food items. From this qualitative data, my client is able to learn what her customers value and what they don’t.

Changing her menu based on her discovery helped her create new food product offerings and generate more share of wallet per customer.

Sell value first, features second. If you don’t know what your customers value, you won’t know what to feature.

Be Unpredictable

When Starbucks announced, this holiday season, it was forgoing the traditional Christmas themed cups and opting for a more, generic, red cup, it seemed to outrage some people initially. This sparked a frenzy on social media and even a lead an American evangelist and internet personality to post a video to Facebook in outrage over the red cups.

The “negative” publicity and unpredictable act brought more attention to Starbucks. There was actually a backlash against the backlash! And I don’t think the free publicity hurt the behemoth coffee retailer; they reported a 9% increase in U.S. sales and 18% gain in revenue for the 4th quarter this year. Not too shabby!

Use Remarketing Campaigns

A quick and easy way to cut through digital clutter and noise is to deploy a remarketing campaign. Remarketing is a way to get your ad in front of individuals who have visited your site, but did not make a purchase. In turn, when web surfer’s type in key words or visit other sites after visiting yours, they are presented with purpose driven display advertising about your product or service, reminding them about your business and all your offerings.

Remarketing is a good way to create meaningful digital advertising that is relevant to the potential customers needs versus irrelevant banner ads or link ads that provide no purpose at all. Plus, it’s quick and easy to deploy.

Direct Mail is not dead!

According to the CMO Council, 51% of consumers prefer receiving their marketing material from local shops via direct mail. According to a business.com article, direct mail has the highest rate of attracting new customers; 34%.

While marketers have shifted their attention toward more digital delivery channels, like email marketing and app. based marketing, direct mail is still the more personal approach, giving consumers a tangible piece to hold in their hands and feel.

Providing value to direct mail can increase its stickiness, or desire to be kept longer by the consumer. Direct mail is also cost effective and can be quickly deployed, in time for your holiday marketing.

 

By no means are the above ideas an exhaustive list of “what to do’s” to cut through the holiday marketing noise. However, they serve more as a primer to get your creative juices flowing. While this holiday season is upon us and you will need to act fast to deploy most of these ideas, it’s not a bad idea to start planning for next year, now.

If you have any additional thoughts on how to cut through this holidays marketing noise, please do share them in the comment section. I would like to learn more about your ideas and thoughts.

 

 

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4 Headline Types that Generate Reader Interest

Marketers are faced with the challenge of getting their content read, both offline and online. Consumers are exposed to roughly 1,500 ads or brand communications daily, making it difficult for marketers to cut through the clutter of information. Aside from creative marketing and design strategies, and interesting, eye-catching visuals, Marketers need to rely on effective headlines to gain readers attention, drawing them into the body copy, in hopes the reader will react to the copy by performing an action, such as make a purchase or visit a website.

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Developing a Social Media Process - Article Featured Image

Developing a Social Media Process for your Business

Social media has exploded exponentially over the past few years. Many marketers find themselves rushing to start a plan or strategy without really understanding how to use social media or how social media can help their company. While some marketers believe social media is a platform for direct sales, others see social media as a communications vehicle to listen to and engage their customers. Which ever school of thought you may subscribe to, one thing is for certain, without a social media process, your online marketing efforts faces an uphill battle.

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Marketing-Laws-and-Regulations-in-the-U.S. Featured Image

Marketing Laws and Regulations in the U.S.

As marketers, we often develop tunnel vision in our work, focusing strictly on the strategic or creative side of marketing projects. We sometimes, unintentionally, overlook the legal aspects that could stop our campaigns (and careers) dead in their tracks. As marketers, it’s our responsibility to know and understand the marketing laws and regulations that can affect marketing activities and the laws protecting consumers. If we ignore these laws, we can end up paying a hefty price in legal fee’s, loss of company revenues, reputation, and even our jobs.

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