Game Faces

Game Faces

You’ve heard it from everyone, your colleagues, other business owners, your dog- networking is fundamental to growing your business. That means you need to get out there, meet new people and introduce yourself and your business to everyone.

That seems like an easy thing to do, and it is certainly an easy thing to suggest for someone to do. But the reality for many small business owners is that we are paralyzed by fear, or our expectations are never met, or, sometimes, we are having a bad day and don’t want to socialize. Whatever the reason, sometimes we just don’t want to go to that event.

Entrepreneurs are often caught up in trying to make the best impression, trying to make sure we meet everyone- and all the right people. We end up losing touch with who we are as individuals and everything becomes about the business. Many of us are also perfectionists, so when we attend an event – we want to make sure our elevator pitch is perfect, we are on top of our game and we are feeling good.

The thing is, nothing is ever perfect. And that’s ok.

This week I had an event lined up that I was initially very excited about attending, but as the week began and the date of the event crept closer I became more and more worried about attending. You see, over the weekend, my dog accidently smashed his very large (Great Dane) head into mine- and his canine tooth punctured the skin of my forehead. This giant gash on my face was an unforeseen accident- and it completely derailed my enthusiasm most things  in life (having a crazy bad headache will do that) and especially for the event later this week. As the week wore on and my face and eyes began to swell up more and more, and the bruising began to develop I was mortified that I would have to go to an event and meet people- I mean, what a first impression!

While I went through my week feeling like Sloth from Goonies, I looked for ways out of attending and even tried to convince myself it wasn’t going to be a worthwhile event.  I was still talking myself out of it in the car in the parking lot outside the event. I took one last look at my bruised- but thankfully much less swollen face in the visor mirror, took a deep breath and decided to go in.

And, I am glad I did.

It was a great event, I met a bunch of people and made a ton of new connections. That last breath in the car was the “let all the worry go” breath- and it worked. It worked like it always does. And I was able to go in there, be myself and talk about my business. Was it perfect? Certainly not. Did that matter? No.

So listen, the point here is, I know it can be hard and there are a million reasons why you don’t want to go to the networking event. But, if I can do it with a head wound and swollen face- then you can do it.

Breathe. Let the worry go. Put your game face on. You’ve got this.


The Power of Direct Mail Marketing

The Power of Direct Mail Marketing

Say what you want, but direct mail remains to be the the true marketing channel hero. Direct Marketing gives businesses, especially retail businesses, the opportunity to “get physical” with their audience and connect on a more “human level” with the use of printed mail. Now, I’m not saying that Digital Marketing is a total bust, I’m all about speed and technology, but after reading these facts, I’m starting to think that direct marketing has some secret weapons. See for yourself:

  • Just 42% of marketers say they are able to measure social media ROI.[1]
  • Less than half (45%) feel like their Facebook efforts are working, though 52% choose it as their most important platform.[2]
  • Nearly one in four commercial emails in the U.S. land in a spam folder or go missing, with inbox placement falling from 87% in 2014 to 76% in 2015.[2]

Ad blocking tools, unpredictable pay-per-click costs and strict email filters are a few of the realities that marketers face when executing a digital email campaign, ultimately challenging their marketing efforts. But anyway, I won’t continue scaring you with the Digital Marketing ghost, instead, let’s get to the good stuff…

First things first: Mail gets noticed.

 Coming from personal experience, I have the tendency to check my mail box every single day once I get home. Aside from being nosey and wanting to see if my Amazon packages have arrived, checking for mail has been habitual ever since I can remember, and it seems like I’m not the only one. According to the Canada Post report, Breaking Through the Noise, consumers say they are more likely to notice and read direct mail (53%) than email (26%) because it’s more tangible, more visible, they receive way too many emails or simply prefer to read print.

If this isn’t proof enough, here are other findings that should cause my fellow marketers (both large and small) to take notice and consider using direct mail more often:

Direct mail surprises

Like mentioned before, checking the mail is a part of most people’s “coming home” routine while checking email is much less routine-oriented occurring throughout the day or not at all. Because of this, marketers can receive positive feedback when their audience checks their mailbox and receives a promotional ad.

Direct mail is persistent

 Physical, tangible mail has the affect of both immediate and impulsive purchases and is able to influence a purchasing decision quite fast. Direct mail also serves as a visible reminder throughout your audiences “purchase journey” until your audience is ready to make their decision on buying your product.

With direct mail, your audience is more likely to pass along flyers, promotional brochures or other special mail offers than they would with email. You may be surprised to know that the “personally shared” value of direct marketing beats that of digital channels: 32% people say they’ve passed along direct mail ads versus both email ads (26%) and social promotions (22%).[4]

Direct mail is simply persuasive

How many times have you gotten a coupon through the mail and thought, “I gotta take advantage of this asap!” well, you’d be surprised to know that one in two people say that they have purchased a product in-store over the past six months as a result of a direct mail ad[5] (I’ll be honest and go ahead and say I’m that one). Additionally, direct mail is an effective way to drive traffic to online properties such as websites or landing pages. Once again, tangible items cause more of an influence than any digital content. It’s actually quite simple: direct mail significantly outperforms digital when it comes to driving traffic to retail stores

In conclusion, whether it’s a pizza flyer on the refrigerator or a catalog on the coffee table, our personal habits at home keep mail present and visible. So if you think direct marketing is a thing from the past, think again my friend. By combining the targeting ability of direct mail with a visually engaging website page, your business, big or small, can achieve breakthrough results!

 

1, 2 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, Social Media Examiner

3 Deliverability Benchmark Report, Return Path, 2015  

4, 5 Direct Mail Omnibus, Canada Post/Harris Decima, 2014


Why You Need A Brand Style Guide

Why You Need A Brand Style Guide

So, you just spent a ton of time, money and effort getting a logo created for your company. Feels like a big relief, right? You can sit back with your margarita and let all the world’s worries pass you by, right? No! Get up, finish that margarita (let’s not waste now), and get back to work! There is so much more that needs to be done to protect your brand!

This, my friend, is where the brand style guide comes in. I’m about to get technical here, so bear with me.

brand style guide sets the tone of your business and defines proper usage of your brand. This is just as important for small organizations as it is for any larger ones. It is a resource that defines your brand and makes sure that no matter what media platform you are using, people know who you are. This ensures that no matter who has access to your brand, be it your mom, your printer, your agency, your dog (no judgment), they will know exactly how to present the brand you worked so hard on.

This is great and all, but what’s in a brand style guide?

Don’t worry, I got you. Most brand guidelines will have the following:

  • Logo
  • Color Palette
  • Fonts
  • Iconography
  • Photography
  • Brand Voice and Tone

If you want to get fancy, (like, bowtie on a dog fancy) and I know you do, you can throw these into the mix:

  • Core values
  • Mission
  • Guidelines for print and marketing collateral

Dropping some more knowledge

THE LOGO

Your logo is like your first name. It’s who you are. And if someone mispronounces your name, it can get weird (I'm looking at you, Geoff).

Same goes for your logo. A proper style guide will outline logo usage and placement to enforce that no stretching, skewing, or distortion occurs. This will also address how to keep your logo's presence or dominance when paired with other content. It proves an important resource for any designers working on collateral, web developers who might be placing your logo online and for printers working with your brand. It will also address when and how to use primary, secondary, and tertiary logos, should your brand be a little more in-depth.

COLOR PALETTE

Red is red is red, right? How dare you. You need to lock that color down. If you want to get something printed, or have a website, or embroider that big beautiful logo on your dog sweater, you’re going to need the correct Pantone, CMYK, RGB values and hex codes for your brand colors. Otherwise, things could get real awkward, like the time you accidentally added that red sock to your load of white undies.

TYPOGRAPHY

I know that Microsoft Word loves Times New Roman, but is that the font you so carefully picked out? Let’s hope not. A strong typography section in a style guide eliminates the guesswork. This allows designers and web developers to work more quickly, eliminating headache and keeping your brand and messaging consistent.

CONSISTENCY IS KEY

No one see Coca-Cola or Target running around throwing burnt orange (hopefully) onto their branding. It’s because they know the important of brand consistency.

The primary goal of a style guide to keep your brand consistent. It’s important for big brands, but it is even more important for small businesses as they grow. If your branding and messaging are all over the place, your audience will have a difficult time following your story. Putting the time and effort into your brand now, will save you from having to play catch up later.

 


The Things People Say (Why Customer Listening is Critical)

The Things People Say (Why Customer Listening is Critical)

Last week we held a Focus Group Event.  If you’ve ever done or been in a focus group, you wouldn’t apply the word “event” to it right?  Focus groups are usually in a boring conference room, with boring food, and people sitting around a conference table.  Often a one-way mirror for observers.

Well, this one was certainly not that.  It was a terrific, fun event. No kidding. Now, I’m not going to go into details, because I think that would be giving away something pretty cool and unique we’ve discovered.  But I will show you some photos—of our guests actually enjoying an evening of socializing AND participating in focus groups.  If you want to know how we pulled that off, you’ll just have to contact us—sorry! Suffice it to say, we were really proud of it; our client was ecstatic and now he’s got some major fans.  That’s a big win, win, win!

So let’s talk about Focus Groups.  Or what I’d rather call it: Customer Listening.

Customer Listening is fascinating.  Enlightening. Oftentimes surprising.  And always absolutely critical.  That is if you want your product/service/marketing to be relevant and ring true to your actual customer; and if you want to find out whether or not your product/service/marketing is solid or needs some changes (that’s something you want, right?  Boy I hope so!).

Customer Listening can take several forms:

  1. Surveys
  2. Phone Interviews
  3. In-person interviews
  4. Focus groups

Whatever form it takes, your goal is to LEARN.  And you do that by ASKING and LISTENING.  When you’re with them in real time, you’ll want to listen carefully and probe—pull those emerging threads of insight that just might take you beyond your list of questions to some unexpected golden nugget.  I’ve actually heard taglines emerge…straight from the customer’s mouth.  What could be better—more real?

What questions?  It really depends on who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish, but here are just a few that are always insightful.

(NOTE: replace “we” with “company, service or product”):

  • How are we performing overall?
  • What makes us stand out from the competition—how are we different, what do we do really well?
  • Any special stories about working with us—ie tough problems solved?
  • What can we be doing better, add or change?
  • Would you recommend us? Why/why not?
  • If you could describe us in one short sentence, what would you say?
  • How did you find out about us?
  • If it’s a new company/product/service: How do you find out about others in the marketplace—where do you go for information, what steps do you take?
  • What key criteria do you use to select a company/service/product in this market?

Goodness, this barely scratches the surface.  It’s undeniable, we love Customer Listening, because the things people say are priceless. So if you want to know more (or you’re dying to find out about our super-duper cool Focus Group Event idea), just reach out.  We’d be happy to ask you questions and listen to you!