Forbes.com: The Importance Of Diversifying Your Marketing Plan

Forbes.com: The Importance Of Diversifying Your Marketing Plan

In today’s increasingly digital age, business owners are often preoccupied with marketing tactics that they have heard about and know they need -- most commonly, social media. As marketers, we frequently encounter business owners who come to us asking for help in creating their social media strategies. Often, these clients are so focused on the idea of social media being the most important tactic that they neglect other, more important pieces of their marketing plans.

While no one disagrees that social media is an important and powerful marketing tool, it cannot be the only tool, as many businesses experienced when the largest social media platform, Facebook, recently experienced an outage....

 

Read the full article on Forbes.com 


What Exactly is Marketing?

MARCH 29, 2019

Marketing can be such a nebulous word. It can mean so many different things to different people.

I think marketing means connecting with someone. Connecting with your current customers.  Connecting with potential customers. Even connecting with your employees.So, from my point of view, marketing means communicating with people in such a way that you create a connection.  You create a relatable bond.

You’ve communicated something meaningful, relevant, useful or beautiful to someone such that they want to know more.  Perhaps they feel there is a place for you (your product, your service) in their lives, their work, their homes, their businesses.

In order to communicate clearly, you must cut through the clutter. You must cut your message down to size. You must cut out crap. You must be authentic.  If you do this, you just might stand out in the crowd.

It’s so easy to get caught up in everything: details, facts and figures, competition, marketplace, customer feedback, goals, schedules, budgets, payroll. Everything has its place. The challenge is cutting through all of that to find the most relevant stuff as it relates to communicating and connecting meaningfully. It can be easy to miss something critical that’s right in front of you. That’s where the fresh eyes of a marketing and communications partner can help.  You don’t know what you don’t know, right?

Here’s one final thing to consider: while you’re communicating, take a look at how you are contributing to a better world. How are you giving back to the community? How are you improving the lives of others—customers and employees alike? Think about that. Because the more you contribute, the better the world will be, and the more it will come back to you in abundance.

 

 


Choices vs. Options- The Forgotten Marketing Question

Choices vs. Options- The Forgotten Marketing Question

Consider this; you are standing in the beer aisle of your favorite adult beverage emporium or grocery store. Your mission is clear. You're out to grab two different 6- packs of a really nice and very well done craft brew. So there you are, you're looking at that super hoppy IPA that you've had before that you really like. You're checking out that smooth and malty Scottish Ale your friends are always raving about, and of course you're thinking about that crisp Lager that you've been hearing a lot of good things about as well.

And additionally, there is a host of many other beers that you have never tried or even heard of before, but that look very interesting and quite appealing. I mean all told, there must be at least 100 different selections for you to actually consider.

So with that many beers, the question is how many choices do you truly have? Well, if you said you had at least 100 choices, that number would actually be off by at least 98. Because in reality, and because you are only buying two 6-packs, you would really only have two choices; your choice for 6-pack #1 and your choice for 6-pack #2. It would be those two choices though, that would be coming from a number of options that totaled at least 100.

Here's how it works:

Options are the number things that comprise the consideration set from which we are to make a selection. Choices, however, are actually the number of decisions we have to make that are in direct proportion to the number of selections we will make. Simply put, the number of choices we have is equal to the number of decisions we have to make in making a selection. So, if we have to make three selections, that would require us to make three decisions, and thus we would have three choices. Those three choices however could conceivably come from an infinite number of options.

The distinction between choices and options is an important one to understand, and needs to be taken into consideration as marketers. Unfortunately though and sometimes to the detriment of the products or services being marketed, marketers at times conflate choices with options.

Viewing options as choices and vice versa can potentially lead to marketing efforts that leave potential sales and revenue on the table at best, and that produce less than stellar
results at worst.

Consider our beer purchase scenario. As a beer marketer, it's a given that I need to know the factors that influence or drive my customer's purchase decision. As marketers we are very familiar with the term "purchase decision". However, we often leap-frog right over something that we don't really think all that much about. And that is "choice decision." Choice decision is what actually moves a customer's hand to reach for one specific 6-pack over another. And as the decision that comes first, it's the one leads to the "decision" to purchase that particular 6-pack. The number of competing beer options available can make this choice-decision and ultimately the purchase-decision a much more difficult one to make.

When marketers market from the perspective that having options is the same as making a choice, they run the risk of developing marketing strategies that can be misaligned and that possibly miss the mark. Understanding what the customer wants or needs and how that informs their choice decision, and addressing those wants and needs in the marketing, will lead that customer to choose that particular product or service and purchase it, from among the host of other options.

The goal of marketing is to distinguish and differentiate the products and services we market so that they are no longer viewed as being one of the available options, but instead becomes the clear choice. At Black Rhino Marketing Group, this is our focus for our clients.


Marketing Budgets for Businesses

Marketing Budgets for Businesses

MARCH 29, 2019

 

The big question when it comes to marketing is always, “how much is this going to cost?” Generally speaking, marketing services are perceived as an expensive project and many business owners are hesitant to spend valuable dollars on something that may or may not have the return they hope for.

There are some key things to consider when putting together your marketing budget and finding a marketing partner that will work for you.

Marketing & Advertising line items

Marketing & Advertising are not the same thing. Most business projections have a single category that accounts for both marketing and advertising. And, while they may be related, they are not the same. Simply put Advertising is the amount of money you need to pay to the media you place your campaign in while marketing is the planning, messaging and design behind that campaign. You need both to make a splash, but they really should be viewed as two separate expenses.

 

Average Budgets

For established businesses,The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends spending 7-8% of your gross revenue for businesses under $5 million, and closer to 10% for those over $5 million.For new businesses you should be spending somewhere between 12-20% of your revenue or expected revenue. This percentage of revenue should be split between Marketing and Advertising.

 

Marketing Only portion of budget

 

The marketing only piece of the budget is around 5% of your expected gross revenue. This 5% should be allocated towards things such as the ongoing marketing implementation of a solid foundational strategy. These are the day-to-day tactics that engage your audience, the advertisements you place with specific media and the tactics like email newsletters, video, content and so forth.  You should expect also to use more than 5% on big projects, such as website updates.

However, spending money on these day to day items will certainly be a waste of funds if you do not have a solid foundation.

 

Solid Foundation

In order for your day to day activities to perform well, you will need to invest in a solid marketing foundation, which, since it generally includes the necessary larger projects, will usually cost closer to the 10%.

The foundation includes items like Branding, Strategy, Website and Social Media. Working on these items to create a solid strategy that highlights your best target audience, the messaging and branding for those audiences and putting together a roadmap of strategy pieces paired with the big projects like a website will give you a healthy starting point. Once these things are completed, your day to day activities will have a much higher conversion rate.

 

Consider the cost of client acquisition

When making your marketing budget the most important thing to remember is what your potential ROI will be. Consider what a single new client means to your bottom line. For example: currently you have not built your foundation and you are relying on a sales person to convert customers. You probably see the direct correlation between what you pay that sales person to what the conversion of each customer is. Let’s say you currently spend $2,000 per new customer with your sales rep. and he or she can convert 1 new customer per month. Provided that each new customer is worth more than the $2,000 you spent, you are happy.

But consider this, you built your foundation and were able to add a highly converting website and social media channels in addition to your sales rep. Using the 5% rule, let’s say you spend $1,000 per month on digital media tactics, and can convert 2 additional customers per month. You’ve increased your customers by three times, while only spending a fraction of the cost, and in a shorter time period.

That’s where marketing becomes a savings vs. a spend.

The key is finding a marketing partner who can work with you on the foundational items, but also on a long-term implementation and execution process. This is where you will save the most.

 


Altruism: A Marketing Strategy for the People

Altruism: A Marketing Strategy for the People

 
FEBRUARY 8, 2019

When thinking of ways to market your company, nothing tops free publicity. Many of the best guerrilla marketing campaigns have involve publicity stunts like re-branding announcements. Looking at you, IHOP. But what if I told you there is a way to generate lasting social buzz, revenue, and customer loyalty virtually without spending a dime? That's right, I'm talking about altruistic marketing!

There is no better way to connect with your audience than by tugging at their heartstrings with good ol' genuine compassion. People love to talk about nice things, especially with all the not-so-nice things going on. So when a company reaches out and takes the time to offer assistance to those in need, you can guarantee news will spread fast and customers, old and new, will pour in.

For example, let's say a printing shop offered free black and white resumes for those who provided proof of unemployment. Not only will this deal generate enormous buzz and revenue, but you also get good karma points by helping people down on their luck.

Now, it's not just giving things away for free. Of course that's nice and all but to the idea is to help others in a way that resonates for years to comes.  It's about doing something impactful. Giving out free slurpees for a day does not guarantee returning customers nor social buzz. Selling slurpees that donate 15% of every sale, on the other hand, is way more likely to get people to stop by your shop as opposed to the 7-Eleven across the street.

Altruistic marketing shows that you care about the wellness of society in ways the competition does not. And even if it doesn't get as much buzz as you may have liked, you've still done a good thing with no risk. Now, that's a publicity stunt I can get behind.

 


My Thoughts on My Pillow

My Thoughts on My Pillow

FEBRUARY 1, 2019

We’ve all seen the My Pillow commercials that pepper our television viewing. Mike Lindell touting the best pillows since ever, which will cure what ails you and give you the best sleep of your life. Have you ever noticed that in the commercials, all minority groups are equally represented? Great, right?? Wrong. There are equally zero non-white actors and customers present in the commercials. Well, one commercial features vaguely Latino factory workers in the background. (That didn’t help matters, Mike!) They appear to be really happy to be making pillows. For white people.

I used to find the campiness of these commercials sort of charming. Mike walked that fine line between creepy and endearing, somehow always landing just barely on the endearing side. And I loved the older commercial that told the story of how his pillow dream became a reality. But then I started to notice that all the actors in the commercials were as white as the pillows. All of them! (Save for the aforementioned factory workers.) There are about twelve different actors per commercial. About twelve of them are white. You have to work hard to pull that off in this day and age. What are the auditions like for these commercials? Is there some secret code in the casting call that says, ‘if you’re not white, don’t bother showing up’? Or is there a lot of, ‘thank you, next’ until they get their dozen white pillow ambassadors?

There is even a lack of diversity amongst the white actors. The women are largely blond. Next time you see one of the commercials, count the blonde to brunette ratio. Any brunette woman will tell you that we pay attention to these things. All the comparison commercials where the blonde gets her laundry-dishes-floors cleaner or brighter than the brunette who just can’t quite attain the same levels of gleam. And here in MyPillowLand, with the implication that brunettes (along with all the non-white people of the world) don’t desire or deserve a nice pillow upon which to lay their heads.

My Pillow has been so successful, that now Mike is expanding into other product lines: a mattress topper and most recently, sheets. Mike takes time in his new commercial to let us know that the sheets are made with the best cotton sourced from…wait for it…Africa. Let’s all pause a moment for the irony to stop reverberating. I think my dental fillings are rattling loose.

So Mike…COME ON DUDE! Were you determined to join the ranks of Hollywood movies that STILL, ALWAYS kill off the black character first, or the bridal gown industry that thinks their only customers are white brides who don’t want to have the image of brown-skinned models in a dress they might wear? (Really. It’s a thing. Google “wedding dresses” and check out the images. Put on your sunglasses first. It’s not just the dresses that are overwhelmingly white.)

I have no neat little lesson to tie back into marketing for this entry (other than, don’t do what Mike does). This is just a rant. I’m irritated, vexed, flummoxed by Mike & his Super White Pillows. The end.


Top Marketing Trends of 2019

Top Marketing Trends of 2019

JANUARY 11, 2019| IN MARKETING| BY DANE SANDERS

We'll it's that time of year again when nearly everywhere you look, you'll see the Top XX (insert whatever number you wish here) List of (insert whatever category you wish here). We've all seen these lists before - the top 10 fashion trends for such-n-such year, the top 20 food or restaurant trends for the upcoming year. And of course the top any-given-number of predictions for any-given-category always makes the rounds.

However, considering the current state of affairs we have right now in our country, I think there's only one prediction for 2019 that's fairly safe to make, and I'm going on record of making that prediction; here goes: The top prediction for 2019 is that it's going to be nuts. We'll touch base later this year to see how right or wrong I am.

In the interim, and albeit, maybe a slight bit less interesting, here are some of the top marketing trends that are expected in 2019!

1| Digital Marketing

Virtual and Augmented Reality will be two closely related cousins that you will hear and see more of (no pun intended) in 2019. 1. The World Is Quickly Turning to Virtual (VR) and Augmented Realities (AR). It was only a few short years ago that Pokémon Go created pandemonium with people aimlessly drifting around cities and towns, as well as crashing into each other and vehicles as they consumed this exciting new technology. Although seen by most as a gaming technology, brands as well as the medical community will be using this technology in greater measure to respectively enhance the experience of their customers and achieve greater understanding of medical procedures among patients.

IKEA is a prime example. In 2016, they began experimenting with VR gaming technology and announced the Virtual Reality Kitchen - IKEA VR Experience. This shopping app enabled customers to try various IKEA products prior to purchasing them. With this app, shoppers can see how a customized kitchen will look and feel with a simple click, and are able to easily move around the space while testing out myriad finish or cabinet solutions.

In 2019, it's likely that we’ll see even more brands take these types of major steps using VR and AR to further enhance and add value to the customer experience.

2| Content Marketing

More people will make purchase decisions based on the trust of people they know, and as a result of consuming reputable content versus seeing ads. It's been clear for several years now that people are turning away from traditional ads.

In fact, the top four sources of advertising that are trusted most are: people you know, branded sites, editorial sites, and reviews, according to a Nielsen study from 2015. Traditional ads are pretty close to the bottom of this list, and that hasn’t really changed. To that point, it is expected that 30 percent will be using ad blockers by the end of this year, which means that a company doing traditional ads will miss 30 percent of their target audience right out of the gate. It this to say that marketers shouldn't do traditional ads at all? No not really.

There is still a place for traditional ads, and it will make sense to do them. The key though is that they have to be a lot more relevant, targeted and of value to the consumer. This is one of the reasons we see more companies spending more money on content marketing, and influencer marketing. Another strong tactic is referral partnerships, as well as other tactics that be able to deliver actual value to audiences.

3| Social Media Marketing

In this realm (3) things will be key: Social Listening, Timeliness & Micro-Influencers.

Social Listening: This is really the act of monitoring the web and various social media to find every mention of a brand or any keywords that have been chosen. Included in this wold be untagged brand mentions, industry keywords that suggest there's an interest to buy a product, as well as mentions contained in blogs, discussion forums, and on news sites. The real goals of doing this are to enable better customer service, but also reputation management, as we all know how quickly and negative press even if inaccurate or unfounded can spread, and the consequences it can wreck on a brand. even though there are, of course, many others.

Using social listening for the two things above is expected to gain even more steam, the real trend this year will be using it for lead generation. Right now, only a small number of companies are doing this, but that number is increasing as marketers learn that they can find people (aka potential customers) that looking for the exact same services they offer.

Timeliness: We live in an on-demand, always on world. And in social media this could be more pronounced. So for marketers using social media, this means that real-time communication is vital, and comes in the form of 24/7 customer support, real-time social selling, chatbots, and constant monitoring for a potential social media crisis.

Obviously this is because social media never sleeps. Customers use products, talk about them online, and buy new one at any given moment. This has been going on for some time, and the technology has caught up. We have the tools to look for and find brand mentions in real time, tools that can schedule content to be posted at any specific time, and chatbots that offer help on the spot.

As we move through the year, we'll see consumers who will expect their Twitter complaint to be addressed immediately (and for those companies that do not, it will be glaringly obvious). This concept of timeliness has huge revenue potential, imagine a very realistic scenario in which someone asks in social media “Does anyone know a good so-n-so?” and your company can answer immediately with an offer of your product. In the world we now live in, no one has the desire to wait. People want their problems fixed and their needs met, now.

Micro-Influencers: For the last few years, social media influencers have become a major trend. We now have Instagram stars, Twitter influencers and YouTube millionaires who have millions of followers. Every post, vlog, or tweet they generate is instantly viewed by more people than TV ad folks could ever hope for. The power of social media influencers is huge and the thing is it's growing

But as you can imagine, as the number of these influencers has grown, so have the prices for their services. This is leading more businesses to consider alternatives like micro-influencer marketing.

Different from major influencers, micro-influencers exist in all marketing niches. They have less than 10,000 followers, but most of these followers are truly interested in what they have to say. And they these micro-influencers are very engaged, and are often considered experts in their niche.

Because these smaller player are not sought by big advertisers (yet), they are seen as being trustworthy and down-to-earth. The marketing potential with this group is very high and will be recognized in 2019.

4| B2B Marketing

Companies will further adopt an account-based marketing and sales approach.

For the past few years Account-based marketing (ABM) has been a hot topic in B2B marketing, and 2018 it gained even more steam. Research shows that 92% of firms recognize the value of ABM, so much so that it has been said to be a B2B marketing “must have.” For B2B companies that have extended and complex sales cycles, and that oftentimes involve several stakeholders and high-value transactions, ABM represents a more effective way to generatenew business than relying strictly on an “inbound” approach to lead generation.

To be sure, ABM does require close collaboration and tight alignment with sales, companies are seeing the need to move to account-centric models that span the gulf between marketing, sales, in order to drive client success. The company Engagio terms this as “account-based everything”and defines it as “a strategic go-to-market approach that orchestrates personalized marketing, sales, and success efforts to land and expand at named accounts.” Realizing that repeat business is a large portion of the revenue stream for many companies, expect that account-based marketing and sales strategies will be seen in greater measure this year.

5| B2C Marketing

Voice-Powered Search will continue to grow. With Siri, Alexa, OK-Google and others, voice-powered search was hot in 2018 and the trend will continue to rise this year. While ComScore estimates that half of all searches will be voice-based by 2020, TechCrunch reports that over 47 million adults currently have access to a smart speaker.

With consumers now understanding that the technology makes their lives easier, voice recognition technology is only expected to grow bigger and better. For the minute, voice search is mostly used for necessity. People use these tools the most if their hands are full or when driving. However, as the accuracy gets better and consumers become even more accustomed to having their needs met, expect to see brands competing as they struggle to figure out how to be "heard" in voice searches. To get a lead on this trend, you should think about the differences between a text search and voice search as it relates to the content on your site. Think about what your customers might say, rather than what the might type, when doing a search. A great way to start is by writing short blogs and descriptions of your product in a tone that is more conversational to create content that better connects with a voice search.

So there you have it, our top 5 marketing trends to expect in 2019. We hope for a successful year for you and your company, and would love the opportunity to speak with you and share our knowledge with you one-on-one to help make your year a successful one.


I Haven't Seen That Commercial

I Haven't  Seen That Commercial

OCTOBER 26, 2018

It has come to my attention that I have essentially been living commercial-free for some time now. As a premium subscriber of Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Spotify and Youtube (a collection of logins from friends and acquaintances), the only time I encounter a commercial is when I listen to the radio or watch someone else's television (I don't have cable).

And I'm not alone because I know quite a few people with just one subscription who prefer mindlessly scrolling for something to watch over changing channels or worse, sitting through the commercials. Generally speaking, no one enjoys sitting through commercial breaks during a show they love. That's why binge-watching is a thing.

Humankind has historically opposed commercials. Ever since the invention of DVR, the prototype for home streaming, we gravitated more and more toward ways that would allow us to skip all the ads and enjoy our shows in peace. And as streaming services expand, and they are (here and here), the opportunity to watch commercial-free content also expands. This all leads me to believe that commercials, one of the most effective methods of advertising, are slowly dying. And the internet is to blame.

No, not just online streaming services. The world wide web as a whole. Nowadays, we are overloaded with content and information just from our cell phones. With commercials, repetition is key and with all the memes, scandals, and "fake news" going on, there is little room to generate buzz without being overshadowed.

It might seem strange now, but if you think about it, commercials are definitely not as impactful to pop culture as they used to be. But what will replace commercials in the future? My guess would be social media based campaigns ran through publicity stunts and other guerrilla tactics.

 

 


Should I Say Merry Thanksgiving or Happy Christmas?

Should I Say Merry Thanksgiving or Happy Christmas?

NOVEMBER 9, 2018

I saw my very first Christmas TV ad of the 2018 holiday season on Friday November 2nd around 9p CST. Now I'm not saying that the one I saw last Friday was the very first Christmas TV ad of the 2018 holiday season overall that ran, just the first one that I personally saw. Since seeing that first one just last Friday, I can now say that I have seen countless Christmas ads. Literally countless. I had attempted to keep track of how many I had seen after having seen that first one, and lost track sometime on Saturday evening, at which time I was up to 14 ads. This, given the fact that I had not watched a ton of TV between 9p on Friday and 8p-ish on Saturday.

As one who loves Christmas and looks forward to the Holiday Season, I am always amazed at two things:

1. How quickly the season comes - each year my wife, our kids and I always say the same thing; "I can't believe we're already heading towards Christmas!"

2. How early the Christmas and Holiday ads start running. (lovingly referred to as Christmas Creep)

But is there any truth to this perception of Christmas and Holiday advertising starting earlier and earlier each year? Well the answer is yes...and no. While traditionally, the Christmas and Holiday advertising push usually began a week or so before Thanksgiving, and then began in earnest immediately afterwards on Black Friday, research has shown that many retailers in fact have routinely began their advertising pushes right after Halloween, with a fair number having done so prior to Halloween. So in actuality there really is a rather established history of Christmas and Holiday advertising beginning in October or early November.

However, the fact of the matter is that the perception that holiday advertising is beginning earlier, doesn't actually stem from how early the advertising is first being seen (again research shows Holiday advertising in October & early November has been occurring for quite some time), but rather it stems from the sheer increase in the volume of advertising that is now being seen earlier. This increased volume comes from more, and new, retailers beginning their advertising earlier, as well as from increases the amounts of advertising these advertisers are putting in-market. And of course, what also significantly lends to the perception of the advertising beginning earlier is the increase in the media outlets through which these campaigns are now able to reach us; all forms of broadcast, cable and subscription-service TV & radio, myriad print formats, plus, social media portals, web and mobile...not to mention sponsorships and tradition & digital Out-Of-Home.

So, whether Christmas and Holiday advertising is beginning earlier each year depends on how you look at it...pun intended! But regardless of whether it is or isn't beginning earlier, we at Black Rhino Marketing Group wish you a warm and safe Holiday Season, Seasons Greetings and a Merry Christmas!


Why Hire an External Marketing Team?

Why Hire an External Marketing Team?

NOVEMBER 2, 2018

It’s a busy season. Your in-house team is overloaded and you need a great idea developed in order to complete an important project. You need fresh ideas to bring a fresh, powerful and new concept to the table.

An external marketing team can support your in-house designer to start building a better marketing strategy, also allowing him or her to focus on what they do best for your business.

An external marketing team with extensive experience in different areas is a perfect opportunity for your company to cut unnecessary expenses and build a marketing strategy that works the best for your business. While your in-house team is busy with day-to-day deadlines, the external team can fill the temporary staffing gap. They can take over larger initiatives such as branding and product launching or assist with workflow and ideation.

Hiring an external marketing team will help you grow your department for a short-term solution while hiring full-time employees. Not to mention, it gives your in-house team a chance to learn more and advance their knowledge and skills by collaborating with a team with a more colorful background and broader perspective.

It’s always a great idea for big companies to have an in-house graphic designer for day-to-day tasks, but to complete an important project you'll need a fresh concept that could come from a fresh team. Say, Black Rhino Marketing Group, for example.