Monday, June 19, 2017

Marketing question of the week: Is billboard advertising worth the expense?





With all of the constant buzz about the importance of websites, SEO and social media in your advertising strategy, you may not have considered billboards. In fact, being so fully immersed in our screen culture may have led you to believe that billboards are better off on the chopping block. 

This is not, however, the case. And that’s good. Because it would require a really huge chopping block and rather sizable knife. 

Even though our devices have allowed us to work more remotely, they’ve also fostered in a more mobile way of living. And with mobility comes driving. You see where we’re going here.

Bottom line - Americans are spending lot of time in the car. 


Check out these statistics from The American Driving Survey taken in 2015:

  • The average American spends 20 hours each week in the car traveling over 200 miles.
  • Americans tend to drive more during fall months- an average of 31.5 miles daily- and drive the least during winter months- 26.2 miles daily.
  • Americans ages 30-49 drive the most out of any age group, an annual average of 13,506 miles.
  • Midwesterners and Southerners drive more miles annually- an average of 11,295.

Yeah, okay. So what if people are driving a lot? Big deal, you say. That doesn’t mean they’re looking at the billboards. 

How can I be sure that billboard advertising is still an effective part of my advertising strategy?


Well, honestly, it may not be. Like all forms of advertising, you have to spend some time determining the best ways to reach your ideal demographic. For example, if you’re offering assistance services to shut-ins who never leave their homes, then a billboard isn’t going to be all that effective.

But seriously…

The most recent research on this was the 2013 Arbitron National In-Car study. And according to this research, billboard advertising was still making an impact on American drivers. And it was a pretty BIG impact.

 Here’s what they found:

  • 75% intentionally looked at billboard messages while driving and then later 40% patronized an event or restaurant being advertised
  • 56% who found a billboard funny mentioned it in a conversation
  • 37% report looking at an outdoor ad most of (if not EVERY) time they it
  • 28% noted a website address and 26% noted a phone number written on a billboard

So then it comes back down to whether a billboard is worth it for your business. It really depends upon your marketing budget and what you want to achieve. 

Generally speaking, billboards are more effective in increasing brand awareness than generating sales. 


And keep in mind that the cost of renting a billboard will depend on several factors, including the size of the billboard that you are looking to rent, as well as its location. (Location, location, location.)

So if you want to really get noticed, discuss your options with the experts. They just may advise that you throw yourself into traffic. 

On a billboard, that is.



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Marketing question of the week: What is the best type of collateral for my business?




Websites are terrific, aren’t they? The answer is yes. (Well, most of them.)

Great as they are though, websites are not all that tangible. 


At least, not until technology makes them so. So until such a time comes, it’s important that you have marketing collateral for your business. Not only does collateral give you tangible documents that increase your credence and professional status, but they’re the ultimate informational tool while simultaneously reminding the customer to BUY. They’re sneaky that way. 

There’s a whole slew of collateral advertising to be had out there. So which one(s) will suit your business best? Well, let’s take a look. 



BUSINESS CARDS 

Whether you’re B2B or B2C, the business card is an essential piece of advertising collateral. So that means you need them. Period. And not those stodgy black print on white stock that serve better as a table shim. Technology offers up a smorgasbord of options for business cards - so beyond the pertinent info, you can throw on a picture of yourself, your business, or your pet iguana. Whatever is gonna make it stand out. (Within reason, of course.) If it’s all too overwhelming, get yourself a solid designer. 

BROCHURES

These are better suited for B2B than B2C and can be anything from a single folded sheet to a catalogue. Ideally something in between; to avoid either under- or overwhelming the client. The idea with a brochure is to have something to leave behind after a sales presentation, to stack on the counter at your business, to send as a direct mail or to give to people who want more information about your business.  

POSTCARDS 

It’s hard to go wrong with postcards. They’re effective because they give a quick flash of your product or service in action with some brief into about your business. Think short attention span. Plus, business postcards are economical - meaning they’re relatively cheap. And they can become instant coupons. You don’t even have to add water and stir.

FLYERS 

Do you want to entice people to spend money at your business? If not, you can skip this part. But if you answered yes, then pop out some flyers (in digital and printed form) about upcoming events at your business or trade shows in which your business will be exhibiting/participating. If you’re a B2C, include any sales you’ll be having to get them into your store or on your website.

PRODUCT SPECS SHEETS 

These one-page sheets of detailed information (size, weight, different components, different materials, etc.) for each of your products really only makes sense if you’re selling or manufacturing complex products. You can bypass this if you’re providing a service. No one needs to know Zesty the Clown’s shoe size.

NEWSLETTERS 

Newsletters and other public relations, in both snail mail and email form, give information on trends in the industry, news and reviews of your new products and services, testimonials from happy customers, or just plain interesting articles that your customers may enjoy. 

PRESS KIT 

If you have a business that you believe is worthy of attention from the press for all of the right reasons (like it’s first-of-its-kind, quickly gaining popularity or is wildly unique) - then it’s a great idea to have a press kit on your website. This is a downloadable zip folder with your logo, pitch letter, press release, company fact sheet, product fact sheet, business cards, articles written about your company and background info on the business. Then if the media deems you buzz worthy, they can easily download this info.



FREEBIES, SAMPLES, BLING 

People love free stuff.  And it can be anything. Put your logo on a freebie and people will remember the name of your business in a positive way. Try to make it something useful like a keychain or a flashlight rather than something frivolous, like a miniature singing bass to mount on a wall. Unless you’re selling those.

Ultimately, the type of collateral you choose has to make the most sense for you business. 

For example:

  • When and where will your prospects prefer to receive the information you’re offering?
  • Do you have a brick-and-mortar affair where it makes sense to distribute marketing documents in flyer form? 
  • When is email a better option? 
  • Do you want serious prospects to have to log in to your website to access certain data, such as white papers? 
  • Does your company have a sales team who can hand out marketing documents?

If you’re still unsure, worry not. Marketing/design experts can help sort it all out for you. They can advise you the most effective and economical route for your collateral marketing needs -  while discouraging you from plastering your spinach-laden winning smile all over your business cards. (Technology does have its drawbacks.)


Why Your 404 Error Page Is An Important Part of Your Web Design




Have you ever stopped to consider the importance of the 404 error page? Or have you turned away in repulsion - paralyzed by nail-biting fear that having such a page will expose your website as imperfect? 

The reality is, as long as humans are running things, no website is perfect. Someone will invariably drop the ball at some point and then, bam! A visitor or potential customer comes face-to-face with your 404 error page.

You can liken it to the collapse of modern civilization. Or you can see it as an opportunity. (Your immediate choice will depend to some degree on your personality but we recommend the latter.)

The 404 error page can be hugely utilitarian, yet it’s one of the most neglected web design elements that exists. 


Rather than envisioning your 404 page as a giant slap in the face to your visitor, recognize it for its brilliant ability to actually keep the visitor on your site. 

Remember, the sole function of this page is to tell the user where to go next (hint - it’s somewhere else on your site) and thus can be incorporated into your website design in a way that’s both creative and functional. After all, they’re not mutually exclusive.

Calm the user.


Here’s the scenario.


A visitor has typed in what s/he believes is your URL and is ready to land on your page in a quick and efficient manner. But a mistyped URL, or a slight variation in it, may land them on your 404 page instead. Remain calm.

Throughout it all, there’s consistency. Even the most unique 404 page can still retain the style and visual language of the rest of your site will help to establish a sense of familiarity while simultaneously encouraging your visitor to explore.

You can tell the user, in simple and plain language, why the page doesn’t exist. Encourage them to check their spelling and then give it another shot. If they land on it again, design in the option of reporting the error. 

Feel free to soften the blow by tossing in some humor. (If humor’s not your thing, find a writer who can do it for you.) Your 404 page needn’t by chock full of borderline frightening technical jargon. Unless your users are into that sort of thing. (Some are.) 



This is a great example of a 404 page that’s pretty funny and still maintains the feel and design of Steve’s site. The user gets a good sense of Steve’s sense of humor, while still having access to rest of the site. Trauma averted.








Give the user a solution.


Sure, a cool graphic with some amusing text can be soothing. But you don’t want the visitors to get a good laugh and then move on to some other hilarious side-splitting site. Your goal is to keep users on your site as long as possible, so give them some solutions to keep them from leaving.

For example:

  • If the visitor came to your site from another website, provide a link to your homepage so that they can get familiar with what you’re offering.

  • If someone has found a faulty link on your site, don’t you want to know about it? Include contact information which will allow them to send you a message. Maybe even ask them which page they came from and link they followed.

  • Including a menu allows the user to target their desired location rather going off willy nilly. It can also help to retain the overall design of your site so it’s not a total departure from your brand.

  • If the page has been moved, you can give the user the option of searching for its whereabouts by including a search bar.

  • And finally, you can provide a link to post archives also aides the user in finding what they’re looking for much faster.

The example below from Jamie Huskisson is a great example of providing a link to post archives while incorporating some funny text.



Check your broken links.


Ideally, your 404 page isn’t going to be viewed by very many people.

To further avoid this situation, keep checking for broken links within your site. We suggest checking your site for missing articles, videos, pictures, etc. about once per month. Maybe more if you have a lot of content.

But just remember that “stuff” still happens.


By making your 404 page user-friendly and memorable, you have an opportunity communicate in a new way with your audience. And your visitors are far less likely to stray from you - which is really the whole point of the page. So don’t underestimate this elusive page.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Marketing Question of the Week: What's A Good Way to Gauge Customer Satisfaction?




Ask yourself this. Are your customers happy? 

A good indicator of this is to track your customer referral numbers. If you already have a slew of customer referrals, you’re obviously doing something right and your customers are satisfied. Otherwise they wouldn’t be running around singing your praises. So you can keep on keepin’ on with what you’re doing.

If your referral numbers aren’t as high as you’d like though - or if they’ve dropped - then your customers are either indifferent (meh) about your company, or they’re not happy with it. 


Neither of these situations is going to generate customer referrals. The latter might even create customer deferrals. 

You want customer referrals because they are the one marketing effort in which 90% of customers actually trust. (Which once could surmise means that 90% of people trust their friends and family to guide them well, while the other 10% believe their friends or family to have sketchy opinions. We’re not going to delve into relationship stuff.)

The bottom line - you definitely don’t want your customers disliking you. 
Duh.

But indifference isn’t a whole lot better. 

You want your customers to be enthusiastic and feel good about you. You want them to be loyal. Here’s why:
  • It costs a lot more to acquire new customers than to retain current customers. 
  • Repeat customers typically spend anywhere far more than new customers do. 
  • Loyal customers will give you customer referrals.
Then there’s these stats from Referral Saasquatch - a company that specializes in referral marketing:
  • 65% of new business comes from referrals – New York Times
  • 92% of respondents trusted referrals from people they knew – Nielsen
  • People are 4 times more likely to buy when referred by a friend – Nielsen
  • Non-cash incentives are 24% more effective at boosting performance than cash incentives – University of Chicago 
  • Offering a reward increases referral likelihood, but the size of the reward does not matter – American Marketing Association
  • The LifeTime Value of a new referral customer is 16% higher – Wharton School of Business
  • 83% of consumers are willing to refer after a positive experience—yet only 29% actually do – Texas Tech
Yep. 

Customer loyalty is vital to the success of your business. 

And this is another reason to track your customer referrals. They will indicate how loyal your customers are. 

If your numbers are low, you may want to consider setting up a simple system that rewards clients for referring friends to your business, like half off a product or service. Or you could set up a customer loyalty program in the form of punch cards, point systems or tiered rewards. These incentives keep your customers coming back and developing a relationship with you. 


So first, you want customer referrals. And then you want to keep tracking them because doing so is an inexpensive way to determine how happy your customers are and whether they’re going to stick with you. 

If only other relationships were that easy. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

How Outsourcing Your Marketing Efforts Saves You Time And Money Over DIY




If you’re just starting out and don’t have a lot of capital, the notion of DIY marketing is probably pretty appealing. And maybe you just need to get the ball rolling. Makes sense. Particularly if your product or service is of a very specified niche. (Think wealth management consulting in Appalachia or pork rinds for the Israeli market.)

You may have already decided that the dabble in DYI is only temporary until you have the resources to go the professional route. That’s great. The only caveat is, will you eventually make the shift? 

It can seem like DIY saves you a lot of money on your marketing efforts.


And you may not be eager to opt in for professional services down the road. But you have to ask yourself - what’s the true cost of DIY?

There are a slew of reasons to consider hiring professional marketers, all of which will save you money in the long term.

First of all, consumers are getting pickier. 

That’s because people have a bunch of choices and they’re getting easily overwhelmed. Faced with the vast array of cushioned toilet seats, for example, they can become nearly paralyzed with indecision. 
So only those brands that are able to anticipate consumer needs and then deliver real-time solutions are going to get noticed. And once you’re noticed, you’ll want to monitor and deliver customer experiences through advanced marketing technology like marketing automation, PPC advertising and display retargeting. 

Unless you’re a whiz who can get a freakishly effective grasp on this technology over lunch, you’ll want to put this in the hands of marketing professionals.

Messaging is the thing these days.

Professional marketers will help you to:

  • articulate the value that your business brings to the marketplace.  
  • discover the key benefits you offer.
  • differentiate you from your competition. 
  • establish proof points and net takeaways.

The professionals are keenly aware of changes in the marketplace and know the best ways to apply your marketing in response to them. Even if your core messaging doesn’t change, how you communicate it might.

See, it’s tough to be objective about all of this without some outsider perspective. A professional marketer will see the larger picture and help you whittle it down to the most important messages you need to build your marketing foundation.

So maybe you’re starting to see the value of bringing in the pros. Yet, there’s still some hesitation. So in an attempt to cut a few more corners, you arrive at this conclusion:

Well, I can do at least go DIY on my website and logo. Right? 

Of course you can!

With today’s dazzling technology, you can build a site with zero experience using an interface. Mind you, it’s an easy sort of non-technical interface by which you’ll be limited, thus making it tough to make customizations that you may need to best represent your business and serve your customers. But who cares?

What’s more, it’s easy to use a basic template to implement your business content. And with the money you save using this template, it’s nearly guaranteed to deliver an amateurish result once executed. (Go ahead and incorporate that brightly colored bubble font to really pack a punch.
People love the 1970s.)

Plus, DIY web builders are difficult to optimize.

This is a HUGE benefit if you’re a member of the teeny tiny renegade counter-culture that thinks optimization is overrated.

As for logo design, you could outsource it to a design competition website instead of a professional. This is a great option for the adventurous type that wants the most popular - though not the BEST - logo design provided by amateur designers who may or may not have plagiarized it. So go for it, risk takers!

Okay. Obviously, we’re being sarcastic.

Yeah, a website build and logo design are going to require some upfront cost. But the heavy payback comes with the positive first impression they’ll make on potential customers. People can usually tell when a website and logo are the product of a DIY venture. 

And here’s another thing to consider. When you use an online DIY system, whom do you call when something goes wrong, you need additional help, or you need information about best practices? 

Yourself. That’s who.

So it turns out that affordable DIY marketing is actually… expensive.

When you run a do-it-yourself marketing program, you’ve given yourself another job. Instead of filling your calendar with meetings with decision makers that could be hugely beneficial, you’re busy pulling your hair out while managing and executing an editorial calendar. It will save you time, money and STRESS to entrust a marketing professional to manage and execute that editorial calendar.

Think about it.

If a tree on your property needed to be removed, would you grab a saw and do it? Well, maybe. If you’re a tree-cutting service. In which case you would know better than to use just a saw.

The point is, you started your business because it’s your passion, it’s in your wheel house and it’s where you excel. So why not get back to doing it? With a skilled marketing team to back you up, the possibility of growth is endless.  


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Why does it cost so much to hire a photographer for the day? Marketing Question of the Week from LeDuc Creative Co.


If the price of hiring a photographer sends you running for the hills, take pause. It’s not that photographers are divas. Most of them aren’t. There’s actually a lot that goes into the cost of hiring a photographer.

So before you assume your photographer snaps the camera a few times before sauntering home to lounge Scrooge McDuck style in a room full of money, take a moment to look at the full picture.

There are many factors that go into pricing out a photographer. For instance:


1. How closely the photographer will (or will not) be directed. 


Consider these questions:

   Are there detailed parameters that you need the photographer to follow to a tee?

   Will there be an art director, point person, decision maker and/or any support staff to the photographer?

   Will you allow the photographer to exercise discretion with design, composition, lighting, angles, etc. or will you be directing that?

The answers to those questions will determine how much extra work is required of the photographer.

2. A change in scope or plans.


If there’s a chance that the scope of the project will change - and come on, there’s always a chance - the photographer will include this in the contract. That means he or she will be reimbursed for any extra shots, travel, or usage that come up as the shoot progresses.

And just as the scope can change, so too can plans. Especially where Mother Nature is concerned. When shots are weather-dependent and Mother Nature is cranky, then scheduling problems can arise. There’s usually a weather contingency in a contract for outdoor work, but flexibility is required on both sides in this situation to keep the peace and avoid fluctuations in pricing.

3. The post production and image editing after-party.


This is where the magic happens. And there can be a considerable amount of time that goes into the “digital darkroom” for the photographer.

Once the photographer has captured the images, the real work begins. The images need to be downloaded from the camera flash card and then sorted, selected, cropped, sized and adjusted in other ways before they are ready for your use. This is the behind-the-scenes work that may be included in a photographer’s hourly rate, or comes at an additional cost itemized in your estimate.

It’s important to hammer out the details of this part of the process with the photographer because the file management, cataloging, image prep and delivery that come standard do NOT include extensive color correction, editing, or retouching.

Although it can be expensive, hiring a photographer is so much more than taking “purty pictures” of your business and your employees.

It’s crucial in being able to:

        get impressive profile head shots

        have prospective customers put a face with a name

        accurately depict the size of your company

        keep your social media content fresh

        develop your unique brand


So it pays for itself pretty quickly. And how much can you say that about any more?  

How do I know when, or even IF, my logo needs redesign? Marketing Question of the Week from LeDuc Creative Co.


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via GIPHY

Your logo is the face of your brand.


It’s the first thing people see when they encounter your brand, and it’s what they’ll continue to see every time after that. In other words, your logo is your front man/woman. 


It needs to make a good first impression. And it then needs to make a lasting one.



If it’s doing both, skip the redesign. For now. But if it’s not, consider the reasons.


Is it too old/complex?


An outdated logo is easy to spot. Even for those who don’t have an eye for design. And it’ll come across as stale, irrelevant and/or unappealing.

If you’ve had your logo since the Carter Administration, you may have developed a deep (albeit blind) love for it. But that ancient italicized font or bubbly text isn’t doing it for anybody else. And if it was created before the age of the internet, it may also be too complex to translate well to digital.

No matter how iconic your logo, it will always represent the design standards, norms and trends from the time it was created. And at some point, it WILL be outdated. It may already be.


Is your company growing or evolving?


When you started out, you may not have had the capital to get a solid logo design. So you did it on the fly just to get something out there. And it may have even served you well during those lean years. But now, not so much. Although Apple has one of the most highly identifiable logos, you’d never recognize the brand from their original logo.

The hard truth is that no logo can remain relevant forever. Your growing company may also be evolving to offer new services and products, and that’s good stuff. But it’s the sort of good stuff that may leave your company’s original logo looking a lot less relevant


So if your logo is outdated, too complex, or no longer relevant, then it’s time to consider a redesign.


Just remember to avoid what’s trendy unless you want your new logo to look hopelessly outdated in a few years. And if there’s any sort of nostalgic connection to your logo, consider preserving some of that historical significance rather than reinventing the wheel.

Keep in mind where else your logo will appear - be it on a billboard, in a magazine ad or on the side of your delivery van - and how will it translate there.


And if you have a highly identifiable logo, tread lightly.

Revamping the design can easily drain a logo of its considerable power and meaning. Think “update”.

Google, for example, is constantly updating their logo with the subtle sort of changes that give it new flair, but don’t startle anyone. They’re more like your uncle who is in theater wearing a little stage makeup, rather than your uncle who drives a big rig showing up for the Halloween party in full drag.

Whatever your plans for logo redesign, be sure to consider how you’ll maintain your brand identity while giving your logo a more modern feel.

It’s like a facelift for your brand and you don’t want to botch it.