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Signature Stories

Story telling has become an important element of branding a business and promoting products/services. These stories are often aligned with the firm’s mission and vision statements and therefore create the foundation for external, but also internal, communications.

The rationale for signature stories’ effectiveness over simply stating facts is simple: it’s part of our cultural DNA. People have been telling stories to entertain and educate for millenia, especially when there was no opportunity to preserve information via scriptures. Still, stories can create a connection between customers and businesses on an emotional level. They make it possible to experience facts in a subtle and less intrusive way and they truly make a company unique.

Internally, signature stories help employees to better understand corporate communications and strategies. They can create pride, loyalty, and improve productivity as a result. Making sure employment policies and business structures/strategies align with the signature story is vital. A business promoting fair trade and sustainability should make sure emplyees are treated fairly and the business complies to environmental standards.

There are many additional reasons why signature stories are beneficial. They can help with crisis communications, create multiplier effects, and more. Find additional arguments on this list of 14 reasons your brand needs a signature story.

According to David Aeker, American Marketing Association, signature stories need to be (1) Intruigung, (2) Authentic, (3) Involving, and (4) Strategic. This is certainly a challenge, so learn more about how to write excellent signature stories here.

Marketing ABC’s for Small Businesses

When selling a product or service, marketing is the center point of success. From well established companies to start-ups, marketing helps you find your brand identity and establish yourself in the marketplace. There are several basic marketing strategies businesses can implement instantaneously without much effort and external support.

Establishing direct contact with your target audience is often the most effective and affordable way of advertisement.  Attend networking events with other professionals to build connections with colleagues in the industry and to inform them about what you do. Depending on your product/service, you could give out free samples to break the ice. These samples range from appetizers to brochures demonstrating your expertise. They help potential clients assess the quality of your products/services, but they can also create demand for products/services.

The virtual representation of your product is just as important as the physical. The marketing world today has taken to the internet, which means an online presence is a must-have. Having a professional webpage explaining your products/services has become an essential element and creating one has never been easier thanks to several online services. Ensuring your company’s webpage is mobile friendly is another milestone as the majority of people are now researching products and services on their phones and tablets.

Similar rules apply to your social media presence.  Creating social media pages on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest is a great way to reach your audience in a beyond targeted way. Every platform has its specific characteristics and many have a rather homogenous audience when it comes to age, geography, gender, and interests. Facebook is always a good start, especially as it gives potential clients the opportunity to interact with the company online. This interaction has become the new customer service, so actively cultivating your social media presence with posts and responses is necessary.

Once this has become a daily habit you can consider paid digital advertisement, although running a SWOT analysis once a year will help you determine where you currently stand, where you want to be, and how to get there. Generally, being organized, patient, and consistent are marketing virtues to value. Start with your marketing ABC, let it work for some time, evaluate results, and then adjust piece by piece by adding the D-Z of marketing.

Customer Service in a Digital World

We touched on customer service in one of our blogs a while back, and we would like to use this opportunity to share a new emerging form of customer service with you.

The number of social media users is continuously increasing and at the same rate, their behavior is changing. In fact, according to Nielson, the Facebook messenger app was the fastest growing app in 2015. The behavioral change can be seen in that people now utilize Facebook messenger rather than ordinary text messages to chat with their friends and family. Additionally, more often customers would now rather reach out to companies on social media platforms than contacting the traditional customer service department. As a matter of fact, 67% of consumers have utilized a company’s social media presence to solicit a customer service response. Social Media has now become a fully recognized customer service tool for various businesses such as Starbucks, Nike, and Wal-Mart.

Facebook reacted to these trends and has undertaken several update to turn this platform into a full service customer hub. Among these changes are the “call to action” button that allows customers an easy way to get in touch and make updates on the direct messaging system. Now companies can track response rates and can even earn a badge based on how quickly that company responds to customer inquiries.

Many large corporations now have staff available 24/7 to ensure immediate response to customer inquiries on social media. This is especially important when operating globally, taking different time zones into consideration. However, Facebook as a customer service tool is not only important for multinationals, but also for small and medium sized companies.

To use this new tool successfully, follow some simple guidelines to ensure satisfied customers. First, make this platform a place where customers are encouraged to engage and feel comfortable reaching out to you. Often companies post questions or utilize online competitions to engage the customer. Make your customer feel like a part of your “family”. Secondly, companies need to ensure quick replies. Especially when utilizing social media, customers expect a fast reply. This not only applies to customer complaints, but also to positive statements made by satisfied customers. This leads me to the last point: let your customer know you value their opinion. Regardless of the nature of the comment, always reply in a friendly and professional manner and try to solve your customers’ issues in a timely manner. The way you interact with your customers can truly affect your business, because customer experience will ultimately increase or decrease your sales.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/miketempleman/2015/12/22/how-facebook-is-becoming-a-customer-service-hub/#1708a2fe758c

http://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2016/02/01/5-ways-to-turn-facebook-messenger-into-your-best-customer-service-tool/#f88f7ac5d9e7

The Rate of Return

Marketing agencies are frequently confronted with questions regarding the rate of return (ROI) of our service. People are used to investing a set amount of funds on the stock market and receiving a clear cut ROI statement at the end of a specified period. There is either a positive (profit) or negative (loss) ROI depending on the performance of the stocks. An investment is either successful or it is not. Period.

This is not the case in marketing. Marketing involves a process; a process that potentially necessitates an extensive amount of time. This amount of time depends on the nature of the campaign. Advertising a holiday special can be done quickly and the success be measured relatively well. People either respond to the special offer, or they don’t. A sustainable marketing campaign aiming at creating long-term brand awareness and permanently increased profits is more complicated and hardly measurable in the short and medium-term.

Brand awareness takes place in people’s heads. It increases the likelihood of individuals choosing one product over another. This decision is not only based on the quality and price of the good or service, but depends especially on the overall perception an individual has about a company or organization. A sustainable marketing campaign will shape a whole bundle of feelings towards a company and establish the company as prime choice in people’s heads. This process takes time as people don’t change their consumption habits from one day to another. There is a reason you have a favorite desert.

Just because sales does not increase immediately after the start of your marketing campaign does not mean the campaign isn’t working. It is working on a subconscious level! Brand awareness must be built step by step. Just imagine convincing a person using all kinds of Apple products from using a Samsung Galaxy or vice versa. A well executed campaign can actually do this – as long as it delivers a consistent message over a certain period of time. The length of this time period depends on the good or service. People tend to be more faithful towards certain products/services (car make), but not at all towards others (cable providers).

This brings us back to the main topic: the rate of return. How can you measure developments happening in your subconscious? Does one person’s subconscious influence the purchasing behavior the same way another person’s subconscious does? And these are only internal developments. What about all of the external factors influencing an individual’s behavior? Having a degree in economics helps me to maneuver the fine line between humanistic disciplines and natural sciences. I am a social scientist, trained to analyze human behavior using mathematical models, especially regression analyses. Being able to mathematically predict human behavior is the holy grail of economists. You can certainly account for specific external influences like taxes, unemployment, technological developments, and family; yet, it is impossible to account for everything (!) happening around you.

These are the two reasons why marketing agencies cannot seriously promise a certain rate of return. Successful marketing takes time, and the gradual and mostly subconscious developments taking place in your mind can hardly be measured, especially if taking into account countless external factors. Patience is a virtue for a reason.

Reaching an Audience via Social Media

Establishing a connection between your brand and your target audience via social media is becoming more and more challenging due to the growing quantity of platforms and respective flood of posts and information.

The goal is to create an exciting post where your target audience will want to engage and share. Determining the platform to best reach your customers is key. You can create engaging content through creating meaningful content, sharing an informative graphic or by posting an emotional video message. Listen, inform and ask questions. Every audience is different and has its own favorite communication channel and style. A mixture of certain platforms and styles can be the best solution.

In the meantime, keep your eyes open for brand advocates. Who are your most faithful and devoted customers? These customers are more likely to share your content, and by doing so, recommend your product and increase your credibility. The same applies to your employees. Let them be a part of your campaign by sharing content with them to increase your brand reach effectively and quickly.

Learn more on reaching your audience via social media from Forbes:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnhall/2014/02/23/nice-to-finally-meet-you-3-ways-to-reach-your-target-audience-on-social/

Keeping up with Social Media Marketing

One of the first things to remember is just as with any form of marketing; timing can play a big role in success.  Try to share your social media posts at the best times possible.
Recent studies have not confirmed exact times that are optimal for posting, but there is data gathered by the data analytics firm SumAll that give a guideline for Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and more. Google+ tends to lead off the day with optimal posting time between 9 a.m.  to 11 a.m. Twitter and Facebook are at their best when you post mid-day from 1p.m. to 4 p.m. followed by Instagram closing out the business day between  5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Lastly Pinterest and Tumbler are best suited to post between 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Keep in mind each social media platform has their own definitive audience. We may all utilize more than one platform, however we tend to be more loyal to the platform that best suits our personality and interests. For example; those who use Facebook tend to prefer pictures and short messages, and loyal Google+ users are passionate about brands, as well as keeping up to date with industry trends.
Don’t discount E-Blasts just yet. Continue to grow your email list, because it is still a viable communication tool. 
Email is still a preferred form of communication within all types of business and is still a major asset for your marketing strategy. You can grow your email list easily by simply providing a sign-up form on your website and Facebook. Creating these are easy with many app options available.  You can also boost subscribers by offering incentives such as contesting or exclusive offers to those who join your email list.
Learn more on social media strategy from Entrepreneur: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/235906

5 Deadliest Sins of Marketing

We all want to make our mark in business, and to make sure our business gets noticed. But what makes a successful message, and what is really “too much”? One very notable publication addresses these issues; and here is our highlight of that article. INC. Magazine tells us there are 5 important “sins” that businesses can commit when attempting to get their message out there:

  • Vanity; don’t make the message all about you all the time. Engage your potential customers with issues that they may feel will directly affect them.
  • Authority; avoid just presenting your business as the authority on a subject or service. Make sure that your reach out to your potential customers on a more personal level. They need to feel a connection with your business, rather than just the facts.
  • Insincerity; Stray from making promises your business cannot keep at this time. Never “cry wolf”, or your respect and trust from your customers are quickly lost, and harder to regain.
  • Puffery; Is your message based on reality? Or is it just a bunch of fluff and hype to make your business look cool? Again, if you do not honestly present your business you will lose the trust and respect necessary to grow your business.
  • Finally Gimmickery; everyone enjoys a good laugh. Just remember that trying too hard to be funny could backfire. Try to avoid making every message contain a “gag” of some kind.

These are just a few highlights of a great message at: http://www.inc.com/minds-zetlin/5-deadliest-marketing-sins.html  we invite you to read more.