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Manage Your Marketing: The Face Of Your Company

6172572557_6b71064476_mWhether you are a business-to-consumer company or a business-to-business company, it can be advantageous to have a person who to others represents the actual face of your company. There are many reasons for this. The ability to relate your company to a person can make the business seem more human and more accessible. People feel more obligated to remember a person’s name than a company’s name. Assuming the face of your company is likable, reaching out and networking on behalf of your company can become increasingly easier as time goes on.

Of course, like all things in the world of business and marketing, the concept of having a “face of your company” sounds much easier on paper than it is to actually implement. Here are some of the things that need to be considered as your company determines whether your brand can be represented by a single person.

Will the face of your company evolve naturally or will you groom someone?

Sometimes someone naturally situates him or herself as the face of your company. In many cases this will be the founder of your company. This approach worked well for Wendy’s back when founder Dave Thomas was the face and spokesman in all of their ads. Orville Reddenbacher used to talk about his own popcorn in commercials. Steve Jobs was certainly the face (and the soul) of Apple. In the cases of some of our clients, the founder of the company is who people expect to see in corporate videos or at trade shows.

Sometimes it is not as intuitive, however. Perhaps the founder of your company is great at business but not necessarily great at being social. Maybe the founder of the company has been gone for quite some time and someone else needs to grab the torch. In this case, your company must decide if you are going to try to push someone out there as the face of the company. This can be tricky. Not only does everyone in your company need to feel comfortable with being represented by this person, but people beyond your company walls also need to accept this person as someone with whom they can network.

What happens if the face of the company parts ways with the company?

As with all things, it is essential to plan for all possible scenarios when discussing the prospect of assigning a face of your company. Consider the case of Men’s Warehouse. For years and years, George Zimmer, with his deep husky voice, assured television viewers that suits from the Men’s Warehouse were of the highest quality. “You’re going to like the way you look,” he promised. In fact, he “guaranteed it.” He was the face of the company in every sense of the word.

Then, suddenly, he was fired by his own board.

What occurred afterwards was a pretty ugly PR mess for the company. George Zimmer (not surprisingly) did a lot of finger pointing. A lot of dirty laundry was aired that should probably have remained within the company’s walls.

What happens if the face of the company encounters problems that tarnish his or her image?

This is another difficulty that companies must unfortunately weigh carefully. The face of your company, whether the founder, an employee, or a celebrity endorser, represents your brand. What happens if that person creates serious problems like those Tiger Woods experienced a few years ago? It is not just the person representing the company who can be damaged in these scenarios, whether something happens to them or whether they create the problem on their own. The company itself can be damaged. The damage can increase exponentially depending on how the company does (or does not) deal with the situation. Is the response quick and measured or slow and evasive? Shortly after Oscar Pistorius was arrested for allegedly killing his girlfriend, I found a website that belonged to a company with whom Pistorius had been working. The company’s splash page had little guns in the background. The intent of course had been to symbolize the speed of the Olympian, but in the aftermath of the allegations against Pistorius, it was in extremely poor taste.

Do you actually need a face of the company?

This of course is the ultimate question. Consider Zappos. Even though Tony Hsieh, the founder, has made a name for himself, the quality work of his employees as a whole speaks just as loudly. If your marketing consists primarily of social media tactics, it might be better to have a corporate voice instead of a personal voice. As always, as a company you must settle these questions internally and determine what will be best for your brand.

Does your company have a person who has become the “face” of your brand? How did you weigh the pros and cons?

We’d love to hear from you.

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/maysbusinessschool/6172572557/ via Creative Commons

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#FiveTipsFriday Corporate Branding Video

5933249421_0efcae2ecf_mLast week we offered some tips on developing product demo videos. This week we thought we’d stay in the same ballpark and talk about the development of corporate branding videos. In many ways, the process for actually developing the video will be the same as it is for developing a product video. What differs, however, is the amount of thought and preparation that is required when presenting your entire brand in a short message. What do we mean? Well, let us share our five tips and show you!

1. Decide what you want this video to accomplish

Setting the objective for your product demo video is fairly simple. The objective, one would assume, would be to help people better understand your product, including how best to use it and what it can accomplish. A branding video is different. It can show that your company has grown or expanded its capabilities. It can trace the story of your company’s history or it can strive to put a face with the name. Knowing what you want your video to accomplish is an important first step before any work is begun on a script.

2. Make sure everyone in the company is on board with and is aware of the video project

Because this video will be representing your company as a whole, it is essential that everyone understand how your company and your brand is going to be presented and that everyone is comfortable with that message. If your company does not already have a clear top-to-bottom understanding of what/who your brand is, this could be a tricky step.

3. Pick your on-screen talent with care

This can be a delicate issue, but let’s face the facts. Sometimes the people you would most like to have represent your company get a little bit nervous when they have to speak on camera. Make sure you strike a good balance between getting some of the key people from your company on video while also making sure that the video does not present people who seem very uncomfortable on camera.

4. Keep it short

We know you love your brand and that you could talk about it for hours…and hours…and hours. We know it’s tempting to flash company photos in epic style with triumphant music playing in the background. Sadly, most people outside your company walls are not going to find this interesting. While a longer version of a video could be used for an in-house holiday party, the best plan is to keep your video short and to the point. Remember your audience. They most likely want to learn more about you so they can see if they want to do business with you. Make that question easy to answer.

5. Know how you are going to use the video

Finally, before you pick up that video camera (as opposed to a smart phone…ehem), know how you want to use this branding video. How will people access it? How will you promote it? Much of this will be covered when you determine what your objective is. However, deciding how you want to share and promote the video may influence your approach and how you develop the project.

Have you worked on a branding video lately? What would you add to this list?

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/soelin/5933249421/ via Creative Commons


What Advertisers Are Saying About Facebook

In June of 2012, we wrote a post about how Facebook advertisers were not seeing a great return on their investment. In August of this year, AdAge surveyed 1,200 people about their thinking regarding Facebook as a marketing channel. The AdAge article summarizing the study seems to put a more positive spin on the results than what the actual data shows (you can read the AdAge article here), so we thought we’d do our own analysis.

Who is buying Facebook ads?

This was a really interesting part of the survey. The first question asked what relationship the respondent had to the marketing world. The highest percentage of respondents replied they work for an agency. Given that AdAge primarily targets and covers the agency world, this is probably not surprising. The second highest percentage of people handle their own marketing.

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People buying Facebook ads tend to work for smaller companies with smaller marketing budgets, as the following charts illustrate.

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Marketing Segmentation

This part of the survey struck us as slightly confusing. Consider the following two charts, as an example. The first chart indicates that online marketing represents a very small portion of the respondents’ marketing budget, but the second chart indicates that 83% of respondents use Facebook as a marketing channel.

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One wonders if this implies that marketing on Facebook in ways other than advertising is not considered a part of the marketing budget. For example, respondents to question 2 may have been thinking of a Facebook page rather than advertising. On the surface, a Facebook page can seem like it is free, but of course that ignores the time involved to monitor and post content.

This chart also indicates that of marketers who use online tools for their marketing, the majority still rely on Facebook very little.

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The Question of ROI

The other disconnect we found in the survey revolves around the question of ROI. First, take a look at how respondents said they are using Facebook:

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Note that the two objectives most closely aligned with realizing a return on investment – generating sales leads and selling products, rank fairly low in importance. Of those who answered the question (and note that more people skipped this question), 48% said that they use advertising on Facebook to build brand awareness.

And yet…

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Although Facebook is a distant second in terms of generating ROI, one must wonder where that ROI is coming from or how it is being measured if most ads are being used to raise brand awareness. My fear/hypothesis is that the number of “likes” on a page is being used as a metric, which is, of course, not a true measurement of ROI.

The results from this study seem to indicate that small companies with small marketing budgets are to some extent using Facebook as a marketing channel. It would appear that they are only tracking advertisements as expenses, and it would also appear possible that companies are still tracking “likes” as a measurement of return, which is incorrect.

For us, this survey raises more questions than answers regarding what advertisers on Facebook are gaining. What do you think?


Manage Your Marketing: Handling a Crisis

4646842373_b09312f05a_mFor companies, bad press has always been a known enemy. In the past, there were angry customer letters, stories on the nightly news, or critical articles in magazines or newspapers. The one advantage that companies have enjoyed until recently in these scenarios was the luxury of time. There was time to see the problem, time to address it, time to craft a response, and time to get the response out there. Today, with the 24/7 news cycle and the online world that is always “on,” that luxury of time has disappeared. Before you even realize what is happening, a video negatively portraying your company could go viral. A tweet could be shared and spread like wildfire. A blog post blasting  your new product could take over the online world. These are worst case scenarios, but they are possible in today’s world.

Today, there are two kinds of crises that a brand can experience. There are PR crises and there are social media crises. Sometimes a social media crisis can evolve (or devolve) into a real PR crisis, and often a PR crisis can impact a company’s social media presence. However, an actual PR crisis is usually considered to be more significant than a social media crisis, which could be a negative tweet, a negative blog post, or negative feedback on a Facebook page.

As has always been the case for as long as businesses have existed, the best way to prevent any kind of brand crisis is to make sure that your products and services, your customer service, and all parts of your business appear to run flawlessly and with no difficulties. Barring that, however, the best way to enable your company to handle any kind of crisis to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. This is true whether or not your company is currently using social media for any part of your business operations. Here are some steps you can follow to make that happen.

Make sure everyone in your company understands your brand

Sometimes social media crises in particular arise because an employee acts in a way that is incongruous with your brand. Make sure that your HR department understands your brand and your culture so that you can bring in people who will meld well with your company’s culture. Also make sure that everyone is on board with how your company will be represented in any kind of public forum, whether that is a social media platform or a trade show. Your company should have a single voice, and any employee needs to be able to access that voice. This will also come in handy should a crisis occur because everyone will know how to react and what tonality to use.

Create a crisis communications plan

There are two excellent books that can help you with this process. The first is a book called Social Media Crisis Communications (not an affiliate link) by Ann Marie van den Hurk. Although the title accentuates social media, in reality the book covers everything you need to know about setting up a crisis communications plan. The book then offers information on how you can integrate social media into that communications plan if you wish.

The second book that can help you with this process is Olivier Blanchard’s Social Media ROI (not an affiliate link). This book focuses more on how to set up your company’s personnel to be able to handle both a crisis and your social media communications.

Your crisis communications plan should cover all potential scenarios so that when a crisis does occur, you do not have to think about who should do what when. Everything will already be scripted out. Your company could even hold an occasional “fire drill” to make sure everyone understands the process thoroughly. You can never be too prepared.

Watch other companies to see what to do, and what not to do

The books mentioned above offer good examples of what to do (and what not to do) in the face of a crisis. For a first-person account of how to handle a major PR crisis, I’d recommend you give Social Media Strategist (not an affiliate link) by Christopher Barger a read. Barger was on the front lines when GM had to declare bankruptcy a few years back. While his book offers a lot of general pointers as well, reading about his experiences in that very tense situation can be very instructive for your company.

Unfortunately, today, we have to assume that at some point our companies will face a crisis of some kind. Preparation makes this potential seem far less frightening. Knowing your company will be able to deal with what comes your way offers you great power.

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hoha/4646842373 via Creative Commons

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#FiveTipsFriday Product Demo Videos

2607389923_9c0c35c5c6_mIt’s no secret that video is becoming increasingly important as a marketing tool. Ever since Google bought YouTube, video has become a powerful way to drive traffic to websites, add personality to a corporate brand, and of course, demonstrate how products can be used. That being said, there are still right ways and wrong ways to approach the development of product demo videos. For that reason, we thought we’d offer five tips today on how to develop an effective product demo video.

1. Decide how you will promote the video before you start the process

Videos are excellent marketing tools, but they won’t do you any good if people can’t find them. Before you start working on your video, consider how you are going to drive traffic to your new video. Creating a corporate YouTube channel is an easy decision. Where will you place the videos on your site? A videos page makes sense, but making the videos accessible from other pages is often a good idea too. Promoting videos via Facebook pages and now Instagram can work. There are out-of-the-box methods to promote videos as well, including proper usage of QR codes and more.

2. Plan it out, in detail, before you turn on your camera

When we are working on a video, the first thing we do is work on the script. There are a few reasons for this. First, writing the script helps us frame out what we want to cover in the video and how we can cover that information in the most concise way possible. The script can also help us think of what we may need to make the video a reality. Do we need a voice-over talent or a model? What props do we need as we discuss how the product should be used? How long does it take for us to read through the script? This gives us a rough idea of how long the video will be and how much we need to add or cut. It’s far easier to do that with a script than with a fully developed video!

3. Invest in a professional videographer and professional equipment

The temptation these days is to stick your smart phone up into the air, record one of your employees demoing your product, and then post that everywhere. The problem is that the lack of professional quality is easy to spot, and it can reflect poorly on your brand and on your company. This video may be the first encounter someone has with your company. You want to make sure you put your best foot forward.

4. If you use slides with just type, make sure you proofread them

Few things can reflect more poorly on your company than a glaring typo in a video intended to be informative. Make sure you proofread everything before posting your video all over the online world. Ideally, all copy should be proofed before the video is edited together. Proofing the script can assist with this step.

5. Invite someone not heavily involved in the development process to critique the video

This can be a nerve-wracking part of the process, but just as we recommend this step for a website, we also recommend it for video development. A person who is new to the project but who is familiar with the product could pick up anything from mistakes in how the product is being demonstrated to a typo that you did not noticed because the development team was so involved in the details. Make sure that a person bringing fresh eyes and ears to the video understands the chronology and doesn’t find any part of the presentation confusing. You won’t have the luxury of sitting next to every person who watches the video to explain parts that may not be intuitive.

There are many other tips we could share regarding video development but these are some of the most important ones. What would you add to this list? We’d love to hear from you!

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/racum/2607389923/ via Creative Commons

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Always Remember, Your Audience Comes First


Recently, I came upon an article all about how BPA has created a new brand comparison tool. BPA Worldwide verifies audience and media knowledge. Founded in 1931 today the not-for-profit organization audits business and consumer publications throughout the world as well as websites and events. Their new brand report provides media buyers with a report showing verified audience data across all of the publisher’s media channels.

We use BPA audits often in our work and I confess to being quite the BPA geek. On top of that, Larry, the president of our agency, is on the BPAWW board. I was just about ready to write a blog post all about this new tool and how giddy with excitement I was. But then I remembered something. As important as that news is to me, for your company this would likely not be a blip on the radar. BPA audits? Great. Tell me how I can increase my sales.

This issue of catering to the audience comes up again and again, perhaps most especially in the online world. When you start a company Facebook page, you gravitate towards content that you as a company find interesting and/or important. On Twitter, you tend to want to tweet your own blog posts and join chats that have to do with your line of work. We got a question from a client recently asking if we thought it was a good idea to post news about a certain product to their Facebook page even though the product would not be of real interest to the audience they are trying to build there. Our answer was no. Posting product information is interesting to you. If you are worried it wouldn’t interest your audience, you are probably right.

No matter what your business, as you enter this world of increased content creation, you must keep your customers and prospects front and center. What do they need to know? How can you help them? If you are a metalworking company, your customers probably want to know things like how they can increase their manufacturing efficiency and how your products might help with that. If you are a plumber, your customers aren’t going to find a poetic ode to pipes fascinating. They are going to want to know how to diagnose problems, when to call you, when not to try to fix things, and more. Your customers don’t really care about your sales meetings, your company outings, what your company cafeteria served for lunch, or other details relating only to you and your business.

How can you make sure your messaging is on target? Here are a few questions to ask yourself.

1. Does this content address a customer’s problem?

2. Does this content answer a common customer question?

3. Is this content being circulated because I find it interesting or because I think our audience will find it interesting?

4. Would I bring this up at a meeting with a customer or client?

Not only will asking those questions of yourself ensure a higher interest on the part of people who may eventually buy from you, but concentrating on these issues will also serve as incentive to get to know your customers better. Understanding what problems your customers are concerned about can help you serve them better. It might even give you inspiration for a brand new product or service.

So, always remember – when it comes to content, no matter if it is an ad or a blog post, your audience should come first. They are your compass. Follow where they lead.

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thinkmedialabs/6176869823/ via Creative Commons

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Manage Your Marketing: The Role of Research


Full disclosure: I am a research geek. Back when I was in college and grad school, few things would give me a greater thrill than finding one resource and then looking in the bibliography to find even *more* resources. So, when I say that for marketers, research is an essential activity, I suppose you could dismiss this as a mere personal bias. However, at our agency, research is always emphasized as a key first step before doing just about anything. Research, for us, is integral in answering the following questions:

Which tactics should we try?

We have never been proponents of the “Spray and pray” marketing methodology. Time and money are too precious in most companies for this kind of strategy (or lack thereof) to make sense.  There are multiple ways to research answers to this question. We like to research competitors first to see what they are up to, and we also like to talk to publication contacts who have been in the industry for awhile. They can usually give very good insight as to what the audience is like in any given industry. For example, we can learn whether a given industry is more or less likely to react well to online advertising or social media marketing. This research is, of course, completed after objectives have been set so that the proper tactics are being explored in the first place.

What is the size of our market?

Is there room for your company to expand its market share? How much money do customers spend in  your market on an annual basis? These questions come up quite often, particularly when a company is contemplating adding a new product. Research is far better than taking a guess, even though in this case research can represent a heavy investment if you are interested in professionally conducted market research. A front-end investment is better than discovering after the fact that there is nowhere to go but down.

How would the market react to the new product we are thinking of launching?

Again, investing in front-end research (in terms of time and/or money) can seem like a drag when your company is chomping at the bit to launch a new product, or to begin the development of a new product. Again, however, it is far better to discover that there may not be a desire for that product before you go to all of the trouble of investing in product development. There are many ways to research answers to this question,  including surveys or polls of existing customers, researching whether other companies have tried something similar, or even pulling together a “think tank.”

The process of research, like so many other facets of marketing, will be what you make of it. It can be extremely time-consuming or it can be rather painless. It can be extremely expensive if you purchase a report from a leading market research firm or it can be combined with marketing investments you are already making. For example, many publications we work with offer a “reader study” to advertisers, so you can garner a lot of additional information by investing in an ad on which you were already planning to spend money.

Sometimes research can seem like an unrewarding process if you are anxious to spend your time doing other things. No matter what your personal feelings may be about research, we strongly suggest that the problems research can prevent are well worth the investment of time and/or money.

Do you agree?

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#FiveTipsFriday Proofreading

1341295412_c761dfebb4_mIt’s very easy to point out mistakes that other companies make in their marketing material. Heck, even we have been known to point that bony finger of condemnation sometimes. Whether it’s a Facebook ad, a blog post, a print ad, or a brochure, grammar and spelling are signals of quality in the marketing world. We have often waxed poetic here on our blog about the importance of proofreading, but today we thought we’d offer a few tips on how to maximize the effectiveness of your proofreading efforts. We’d love it if you added some tips that work for you as well!

1. Read backwards

One of the hardest things about proofreading is that your brain tells your eyes what to expect to read. Have you ever seen that online meme that looks like gibberish yet you can quickly adapt and read it perfectly? If your eyes and brain can make sense out of what should be nonsense, imagine what tricks you can experience when reading regular English with just a few typos.  To help avoid reading based on expectation, it can be helpful to read each word out of order. You of course want to read the whole thing in the regular way first to make sure it makes sense, but reading the content backwards helps you isolate each individual word and look for spelling errors.

2. Kick out the author

If you think your eyes can play tricks on you as a reader, just imagine what can happen if you are the writer trying to proofread your own work. After all, you know exactly what you want the words to say, and your eyes will confirm that you wrote exactly that. If possible, try to make sure that the proofreader is not the writer. In fact, the fresher the eyes, the better chance you will have at catching mistakes.

3. Don’t forget the obvious

Before you print out your work, do the easiest step – run spellcheck on your computer. Even though this isn’t a perfect tool, it can help give you a head start. Sometimes you can catch grammar mistakes that way as well. Another trick is to do a “find all” for important brand names or trade names. Are they all spelled the same way?

4. Ask yourself questions

We actually created a proofreading library for our clients. Patent numbers, trademarks, and other important information is all there. When we proofread we ask ourselves things relating to that information. “Should that have a registered mark after it?” “Is that patent number the right one?” If you work in a very large company it may be a good idea to write out these questions as part of a proofreading checklist.

5. Read out loud with a proofreading partner

We always proofread in pairs. One person reads the final product and the second person reads along with what our clients have approved. This accomplishes a few things. Reading out loud helps you find places where you stumble over the language being used. If it is not making sense to your ear, it won’t make sense to someone else trying to read it (most likely). Having a second person involved of course doubles your chances of finding mistakes. Finally, reading in pairs makes the “asking questions” step a little less awkward. People may look at you funny if you ask yourself questions and then answer.

These are some of our tips and tricks. What do you do to make sure your content is flaw-free?

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/terryfreedman/1341295412/ via Creative Commons

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Lead Generation is Taking the B2B World By Storm

7040238429_91f32d484c_mLast week we talked about how there may be a “social media boom and bust” coming our way. Companies, we hypothesized, are probably starting to look for more actionable advice, stronger leads, and better ways to convert leads into sales. A recent study by Business.com seems to validate these hypotheses. We learned about the study via this article from B2bOnline.com. Business.com interviewed 500 of their pay-per-lead advertisers in May, 2013 and uncovered some interesting information about how B2B companies are thinking about lead generation today. Here are some of the more interesting bits of data that we pulled from the report.

B2B Purchase Timeline Keeps Getting Longer

According to the report, respondents indicated that the purchase timeline for their customers had increased to about 5.4 months in 2012. We have some clients who have to work with buying cycles that are far longer, sometimes up to two years. Because of this increasingly long buying cycle, companies need to do much more hand-holding and lead nurturing.

Seeking More Solid Information

Likely because of the longer buying cycle and the need to stay in touch with customers, the report indicates that companies are most interested in leads that are tied to a business email address (at the least) and a physical address if possible. In fact, 50% indicated that they now are most looking for leads with a legitimate business email address. This means that companies are not looking for general, broadly defined “lead reports.” They want individuals with names and contact information.

Lead Generation Tools

Although the report mentioned several different lead generation tools, the two options companies seemed to value most were white papers and webinars. Of the companies surveyed, 25.3% said that they consider leads from white papers to be “extremely valuable.” Additionally, 40% of companies polled said that they are interested in investing in webinars as a possible lead generation opportunity.

There are a few important additional points that the report touches on that could be expanded into greater detail. First, lead generation is just the first step. The report also emphasizes the importance of lead nurturing. This means that if your company is planning to invest in something like a white paper or a webinar, you need to have, as part of your plan, a way to nurture those leads over what could be a long period of time.

Another issue the report does not touch on, but one we have discussed before in the context of the “content marketing” buzz, is that generating white papers and webinars can be extremely expensive, not necessarily through various media channels that may help distribute them but through the time it will take your staff to actually create the content.

We have been noticing an increased interest in lead generation opportunities with our own clients over the last year or so, and leading publications in all of the industries we work with have begun expanding their offerings in this area. We will keep you updated as we continue to learn more.

To download the business.com report you can visit this link.

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/peak-internet-marketing/7040238429 via Creative Commons