What We Can Learn From Writing Holiday Wish Lists

As the holiday season approaches, children across the country will sit down with paper and crayon in hand to spell out exactly what they hope to get during the upcoming festivities. This year, Frozen-themed toys are likely to top many lists, as are the latest video games, some popular action figures, and other toys that have been flying off the shelves. Many children will compare notes with their friends at school to get ideas about what to ask for and to see what’s already on other people’s lists. This sharing of ideas is an example of the psychological phenomenon known as ‘the bandwagon effect.’ From the activity of writing a Christmas list itself, to the toys that appear on it, children are influenced by what their peers are doing. This principle impacts all of us, no matter how old we are or what the subject matter is. Regardless of how independent we’d like to think we are, the truth is we’re all heavily influenced by what our peers are doing. According to the bandwagon effect, we’re all more likely to do something, buy something, or use something if others are doing it. We all desire to be part of a larger group, which leads us to follow others to the latest trends and fads. People become more willing to try new products or services when they find that others are trying those products and are happy with the results. For marketing, this can be valuable because it means your products and services can grow organically. Learning how to capitalize on this effect will give you the tools you need to make your products seem appealing to the crowd, which will enhance the bandwagon effect and your potential for word-of-mouth advertising.

How to use the bandwagon effect to your advantage The bandwagon effect is all about convincing people that using your products and services will make them part of an established group of satisfied customers. There are several ways you can leverage this type of advertising.

  • Use customer reviews prominently on your website to show your page visitors that others have been pleased with your products.
  • Use images of satisfied customers on your website.
  • Encourage followers on social media to post pictures and stories of themselves using your products and services and the successes they have had.

You can also use the bandwagon effect to create feelings of belonging among your users. Start by creating spaces for your customers to speak to each other and compare their use of your products and services. Customers can discuss how to grow their own businesses while taking advantage of what your company has to offer. This will encourage people to feel as though they’re part of a special group, encouraging more feelings of loyalty. Facebook groups, user forums, and even just the comment threads on your company blog are good places to begin these conversations. Helping your customers feel as though using your products and services introduces them to a special group can improve brand loyalty and encourage people to continue to use your products. Just like children designing their holiday wish lists, customers enjoy comparing notes with their friends and feeling as though they belong to a particular group. Use the above tips to encourage these types of emotions in your customers, and you should see growth in your brand.

Finding Your Crowd… On Social Media

Finding Your Crowd… On Social Media

Imagine you just moved to a new area. It’s a small city with a bustling population. The local college attracts many young adults to the city, especially on the weekends, while local businesses ensure the professional crowd is also well represented. Being new to the area, you want to find a place to go for dinner where you can meet some locals and start to get to know your new neighbors. Friday afternoon, you head into the first restaurant. It’s bustling with activity and has great music, but at a volume so loud you can barely hear yourself think. You look around and realize that the crowd is mostly college kids. Surely, some of them are great people, but this isn’t really the crowd you’re looking to get to know. You might make a connection or two, but it will likely be significantly harder to form meaningful relationships. So, you head out to the second restaurant. As you walk in, hardly anyone looks up. Most people seem to already be finishing their dinner, and the average age in the place seems to be older than your father. Sure, there are probably some fantastic people here, too, but again, this really isn’t the crowd you’re looking for. You try the next place. You see some people in your age range, but it seems to be a much more family-oriented scene. Most people in the restaurant have young children seated with them. While you love your nieces and nephews, you don’t have children yourself yet, so you wonder how well you’d fit in. You decide to wander on. Finally, you head into the fourth place. You look around and breathe a sigh of relief. This establishment is filled with other professionals in your age range. This will be a great place for you to start to meet people in your new town and hopefully form some meaningful connections that can help you both socially and professionally. So what does all of this have to do with marketing your company?

As the restaurants in our story demonstrate, different places tend to cater to different crowds. They aren’t all interchangeable. The same is true of social media. If you want to increase your odds of connecting with your audience, you have to know what types of social media they like and where they will be found. To accomplish this, you need to know the following: A precise definition of your audience.

Before planning a social strategy, you need to know who you’re trying to reach. This isn’t just a general idea of “people who need XYZ.” Instead, you need a more precise profile, including age, education, position, challenges, responsibilities, and what your prospects are looking for. Who uses each social media platform?

B2B companies tend to put a considerable amount of effort into LinkedIn, because this is the platform for networking professionals and those who are thinking about business. Facebook is dominated by people in a variety of age ranges looking to joke around and chat with friends. Twitter is a continuous conversation. Google+ has the biggest asset for local businesses looking to boost their SEO and odds of being found by local patrons.

Take these two sources of information and combine them to make a social media marketing plan that will help grow your company in ways you never thought possible. When you’re ready to begin a new marketing campaign, contact us. We’re here to help you get started and find success.

Business Lessons From the Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz is an exciting tale that has delighted people for several generations. When young Dorothy is magically transported from her home to the magical land of Oz, she and her companions must outsmart witches and other dangers in an effort to find the famed Wizard of Oz, who they believe can help her find her way home and grant her companions gifts of their own. Upon finally finding the wizard, however, they learn that he is not some great and powerful wizard after all. Instead, he’s just an ordinary man behind a curtain, projecting his voice and image to appear to be a magical being. Still, in the end, Dorothy does learn how to get back home.

The Wizard of Oz and Business There are two key lessons we as business leaders can learn from the wizard. In one situation, he’s an excellent example of what we should do. In the other, he does the exact opposite of what would be appropriate in the business world.

What the wizard gets right In Oz, the wizard regularly projects his voice and opinions for all the kingdom to see. He providers personalized information for each person who visits him. In social media, we’re often asked to be like the man behind the curtain. We must project our voice and opinions in a variety of media, communicating a sense of authority and wisdom. With all the demands of the modern business world, it can be tempting to resort to automation. There are a number of ‘tricks and cheats’ available in the social media world. From programming social responses to buying followers to automating tweets, it’s very easy for those who desire it to completely remove themselves from the actual social media process. If we’re to learn anything from the mysterious wizard, however, it’s important to remember to always have an actual person ‘behind the curtain.’ This will allow us to engage potential leads when they arise and avoid missing opportunities to bring in new customers, which can easily happen if all our responses happen automatically and we aren’t actually monitoring the conversation.

What the wizard gets wrong Although it’s important to remain actually present behind all our social media campaigns, we also need to be authentic. The wizard made the devastating mistake of casting himself as something he wasn’t: a powerful wizard. When those who actually needed his help (like Dorothy and her companions) turned to him, he was virtually powerless to help. If we cast ourselves as something we’re not, nothing will destroy our reputation faster than our customers realizing it. We must always be realistic about our capabilities and strengths. Play up what you can do for customers and be confident in your abilities, but don’t ever let yourself get caught in a web of lies.

What to take away Social marketing is an important part of branding and finding new customers. It requires authenticity. That means broadcasting a solid message based on what you can do for customers and always keeping a person involved with every stage of the campaign to communicate with customers. When you stick to these two rules, you’ll have a great chance of success. Are you ready to get a new campaign started? Come talk to us at Full Court Press. We’d be happy to help you get started.

Building a Championship Team at Work

Postseason baseball is in full swing. After six months and 162 games, only a handful of teams have earned a chance at becoming World Series champions. Putting together a championship-quality roster is no easy task. Tryouts, trades, drafts, and injuries all play a part in the process. Teams must find the right mix of players who can bat, pitch, and field. Just as importantly, though, they must consider team chemistry, too. Is everyone playing together? Are internal rivalries or personality clashes going to get in the way of a cohesive unit? Can those clashes be overcome for the sake of success? In the end, it often takes experience to get it just right.

What businesses can learn from baseball When you set out to select members for your own professional team — your business — you must give it as much thought as a baseball coach and general manager. Sure, you should carefully review resumes and interview candidates, but in doing so, try to avoid the temptation to simply fill a role, rather than building a team. When you fail to evaluate a candidate for their ability to fit in with your company culture and ascribe to your company mission, it’s easy to lose your internal values. This can in turn damage employee morale and employee loyalty. When everyone is concerned with just completing a job, rather than working together as a team, people don’t feel as connected to their workplace.

Why this is dangerous According to Bain & Company, it’s 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an old one. Building a successful business should be focused around delighting your customers, giving them reasons to return, and encouraging them to recommend you to others. Your employees are the ones who interact with these customers every day. They’re the face of the company. When you don’t take the time to develop a strong company culture that encourages employee satisfaction and a positive work environment, you end up putting up a huge roadblock for customer satisfaction.

Choosing your team Work with your current team to develop lists of values and priorities that keep your workplace cohesive and productive. When you’re ready to make a new hire, carefully consider how the person will fit in with the rest of the organization. This will include asking them questions that relate to these specific values. Consider having candidates speak with multiple people at the company or try performing some of the basic tasks they would do if they were hired. The better you can choose your employees, the better you’ll be at building an organization that works as a team and serves your customers with a united front. Have faith and trust in your organization, empowering your employees and making it an overall fantastic place to work and grow. While many organizations realize their customer service will have an enormous impact on their success, they don’t realize that something as intrinsic as their hiring practices can have such a big impact. Give your company a leg up and complement your marketing efforts with a superior, service-oriented company. Get started by making sure each hire you make will be a great fit for your team. You may be surprised how much it pays off.

Do You Know Who You’re Talking To?

Do You Know Who You’re Talking To?

When you sit down to develop marketing materials, you know you’re trying to reach potential customers. If you’re unclear who that might be, however, you could find yourself wasting time, energy, and money. Taking the time to develop your official ‘buyer persona’ can make the task of figuring out how to reach these potential customers significantly easier.

What is a buyer persona? A buyer persona is basically your ideal customer. It’s a profile you develop based on the type of customer you’re trying to attract. This profile includes information about gender, lifestyle, income level, where your ideal customers work, and what jobs they perform. It also contains critical information about what types of problems they face at work and how your company can solve them. A buyer persona might look something like this: Marketing Mike is working to lead his marketing team for his small business. He’s in his late 20s or early 30s and makes about $80,000 a year. Mike is struggling to make his superiors realize the importance of marketing because they’re threatening budget cuts to his department. For a company that focuses on helping clients maximize their marketing efforts while minimizing costs, this buyer persona could provide the critical insight they need to reach Mike and help solve his problem.

How do you develop your buyer personas? Buyer personas provide the basis for all your marketing efforts, so it’s critical to develop them on solid evidence and not just who you ‘think’ would be interested in your product or service. Begin by speaking with your existing customers. Get a feel for who they are and what has brought them to you. Complement this information with some research about the industry, the market, and who is typically using services like those you provide. As you begin to compile these different sources of information, you should start to see some patterns develop. Use these patterns to begin grouping customers into a few different buyer personas. It’s critical that you always seek to learn the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ as you do your research. It’s not enough to know that Marketing Mike wants to find a more affordable way to market. Understanding the motivation behind his drive is what will help you effectively reach him.

How to use your buyer personas Once you’ve established your buyer personas, they’ll run your marketing campaign. You’ll develop content that speaks to the questions and problems your personas are facing. You’ll create promotions and attention-grabbers oriented toward these specific people. Buyer personas give you the additional edge of a targeted approach. No company can be everything for everyone. By developing buyer personas, you’ll know exactly who you’re trying to reach. You’ll have a clear goal and a much better chance of reaching the people who are most likely to buy from you. A successful marketing campaign means reaching your potential customers and making your company’s value to them clear. That task becomes much easier when you know exactly who you’re talking to. Develop your buyer personas to refine your marketing strategy, and you’ll find your chances for a successful campaign improve drastically. If you’re ready to start refining your marketing strategy, contact us today at Full Court Press 207-464-0002 or email at harry@fullcourtpress.biz.

Hitting a Home Run in Business Starts with Your Reputation

Baseball has been an important part of our cultural fabric for more than a century. It makes sense, therefore, that baseball has many lessons it can teach us about managing a business. One of those lessons has to do with managing reputations.

Over the years, baseball has survived scandals and strikes that could have easily crippled it: the 1919 Chicago White Sox throwing the World Series; the strike-shortened 1994 season, when there was no World Series at all; the steroid scandals of more recent times. While the sport hasn’t escaped completely unscathed, it does remain a popular pastime for many who enjoy playing and watching it throughout the summer and fall.

Fortunately, most of us will never have to deal with issues as powerful as those that have hit baseball throughout its history. Even so, managing a company reputation in the digital area can be a very tough responsibility.

Customers can spread information, positive and negative, about your company instantaneously. While it might seem tempting to just bury your head in the sand and hope such criticism goes away, you can’t afford to just ignore what is said about you online. Fortunately, the lessons from baseball tell us that people generally tend to overlook occasional slip-ups or poor experiences if the overall impression of the company is one of value.

The primary step in relationship management should always be to offer customers outstanding value and products. Here are three additional steps you can take to build and maintain an overall positive reputation.

Become an important part of the local community.

Get in front of customers by sponsoring youth sports teams, having a table or booth at local fairs, or sponsoring charity sporting events. Show customers you care, and give them the chance to interact personally with employees to begin building relationships.

Listen to customers online and in market research, and address complaints sincerely and quickly.

This might mean offering to replace defective products, providing coupons or discounts after a poor customer service experience, and issuing refunds when necessary. That might sound like an expensive proposition, but earning a poor reputation online will cost you far more.

Pay close and careful attention to the experience of your customers.

Make it easy for customers to contact you and easy to find resolution to their problems when they do. Too often, customers get passed from person to person or find themselves dealing with frustrating automated systems that are little to no help. Customers want to know they’re more than just an order number. Show them you care about their experience far after the sale.

Just as baseball has discovered over its long and storied history, managing a reputation can be a difficult proposition. But doing so is essential to the continued growth and viability of any organization. Reputation affects marketing success and whether or not people are interested in what you have to sell.

Fortunately, reputation is not always cut and dried. People are often willing to overlook particular problems in favor of value and an overall positive experience. Following the above advice should make it easy for your company to do just that.

What Shakespeare Can Teach Us About Marketing

Shakespeare was a master playwright who continues to entertain audiences centuries after his death. His mastery of the written word has been admired by people throughout the generations and around the world. While he may have never imagined anything like the Internet or modern marketing, there are still a number of lessons Shakespeare can teach us as we set out to master our own marketing techniques.

Becoming a master of words

Words are a major part of any marketing campaign. We all use words to reach our customers, to develop content that will interest them, and to explain why our products and services are superior. Shakespeare teaches us about the power words can have when they’re carefully thought out and used appropriately. People still enjoy reading and watching his plays hundreds of years after they were first performed. That’s because Shakespeare was a master at putting words together so they communicated the point to the audience and engaged them in the content.

Creating plots people can relate to and want to read

Shakespeare wrote for an audience that lived hundreds of years ago. Their life experiences were vastly different than our own. Yet, somehow Shakespeare’s writing appeals to us as much as it appealed to the people of his day. That’s because Shakespeare developed plots that people could relate to on the most intimate levels. His writings involved timeless themes, such as love and jealousy, which are still alive today. Shakespeare completely understood his audience and was able to use the difficulties people face to attract audiences, engage them, and convince them that he sympathized. By building this relationship with the audience, Shakespeare was able to build a loyal following to his brand.

We, too, must answer these same challenge from our own audiences (customers) today. Consumers want to know that companies understand and address their struggles. This helps to build the critical relationship that leads to customer loyalty and improved brand awareness.

Using multiple resources to develop content

No one develops their content in a vacuum. It’s estimated that of Shakespeare’s many plays, only a couple were actually completely original and developed by Shakespeare himself. This means he was frequently drawing inspiration and ideas from other sources of content. He would use these sources of inspiration to help get his own creative juices flowing. He would develop and embellish on the plots, characters, and themes until the works were completely his own, but still had parts that were drawn from other classics.

As content creators and marketers, we must also be willing to draw upon the experience and expertise of others. The marketing world continues to change, and we must all stay on top of the new methods if we want to remain competitive.

Looking at the successful work of others to draw inspiration can offer help with building our own content, too. As we read and see what others do in their marketing campaigns, we gain a better understanding of what we want to write and discuss with potential customers. Content development has become an increasingly important part of marketing. Listening and reading what others have to say can help any marketer start to develop their own voice, the same way Shakespeare found inspiration for his writing.

When you set out to develop your marketing campaign, you’ll likely spend a considerable amount of time reading modern marketing experts and trying to incorporate their wisdom into your own campaign. While these modern marketers will certainly impart a lot of wisdom, don’t discount what the wordsmiths of the past, like Shakespeare, can teach you as well. If you’re ready to jumpstart your marketing campaign, give us a call today at 464-0002 or e-mail me at ed@fullcourtpress.biz

Does Your Advertising Work Together?

Does Your Advertising Work Together?

At first glance, the various platforms used for delivering your marketing messages couldn’t look more different. From social media to bus ads to print or radio ads, each platform has a completely different feel and intended audience. Regardless of the differences, however, it’s critical that your campaigns maintain some key consistencies across every medium.

What’s the purpose of an integrated campaign and what does it look like?

An integrated campaign works to build an audience no matter where the advertisements are seen. The campaign is designed with a common message that’s then tweaked and sent out over a variety of platforms in an effort to attract the attention of customers wherever they’re found.

Integrated campaigns send customers toward a common sales funnel. This means that the social media and direct mail components will both point customers in a common direction (promoting an upcoming sale, for example).

Design consistency is also a must, so customers recognize your brand wherever they may see it. Customers see thousands of advertisements a day. It’s important that they make a quick connection between your ads and your brand, so your brand can become more memorable to them. To accomplish this, use similar colors and designs on bus ads, social media ads, and print ads. This consistency will help you stay in front of your intended audience while simultaneously making it easier for potential customers to interact with you.

So how can you start making more integrated campaigns?

Begin by identifying exactly who you’re targeting and where those people can be found. Develop a common, unifying message, then tailor it to each major platform you intend to include in your campaign. That way, no matter where the customer encounters your brand, they’ll have no trouble entering the sales funnel. This might mean using QR codes in print advertising and prominent, well-labeled links on websites.

One of the biggest challenges many companies run into is maintaining consistency across multiple teams. For example, you might have one team that specializes in print and radio ads, while another group focuses on social media and website advertising. Make sure all your marketing teams understand the common vision and can successfully work together to achieve a collective goal.

As your campaign gets underway, track each portion, so you can successfully gauge where new customers are coming from. This will provide key insights into how well each portion of the campaign is doing and let you know if certain aspects need to be modified or even abandoned altogether.

An integrated marketing campaign is crucial for growing a company and finding new customers in the modern market. Rather than thinking about your various platforms as separate entities, integrating them can lead to higher brand recognition and conversion rates. Keep this in mind and prepare to reach your customers on a much deeper level.

If you’re ready to get started building an integrated campaign, give Full Court Press a call at 464-0002 or drop us an email at harryfcp@maine.rr.com to see how we can help you move forward.

Taking an X-Ray of your Business

Taking an X-Ray of your Business

From the time the x-ray was invented around the turn of the 20th century, people have been fascinated by the capacity of these rays to capture what lies beneath the skin. When the technology is used by doctors, it can help determine if bones are broken, detect disorders or illnesses, or see how well a broken bone is healing.

As business leaders, we must sometimes look at our own businesses with x-ray eyes: uncovering and treating problems beneath the surface before they get out of hand or cause permanent damage.

Uncovering problems

Few businesses run perfectly. As any company grows, it will experience bumps, bruises, and hiccups along the way. Part of running the business involves being able to lead the company through these times, so you can come out the other side stronger and better prepared for the future. Many times, this involves easy fixes. Perhaps a new employee is needed to handle greater demand or a policy might need to be tweaked to adapt to an evolving workflow.

Sometimes, however, problems are not so easy to fix. Take, for example, customer service. We’ve all experienced times (as customers) when we’ve felt like we’re being passed around from person to person, trying to find a simple answer to our question. By the time we get our answer, we’re so frustrated with the process that we end up completely annoyed with the company. This damages the company reputation and may even cause us to stop doing business with them.

As a business leader, you need to realize that these kinds of deep, penetrating problems cannot be fixed with simple, one-size-fits-all solutions. Sometimes, you need to look deeper and see where the ‘bone’ is broken — and how badly — before you can begin to treat the symptoms and heal your company. Only after you have a clearer picture of what’s really going on can you find the right way to fix the problem and make your company stronger for the long run.

Making the repair

If your company is facing a major problem that can’t be fixed easily, don’t be afraid to go back and start over in finding the solution. While it can certainly be intimidating to think about how long the process will take and how much potential revenue you might lose along the way, it’s important to remember that taking the time to complete these repairs properly will make your company stronger over the long haul. This, in turn, will help to boost revenue and make up for lost time. Companies that neglect to make difficult but necessary changes often find themselves losing money (and customers).

So how can you go about fixing tough problems? Start with these steps.1.

1. Sit down and plan out exactly what your end goal will be. Providing higher-quality customer service is one possible example.

2. Work backwards to generate ideas about how this goal can be reached. This will typically involve doing industry research and learning more about what the competition does to accomplish a similar aim.

3. Educate and retrain all members of the organization about the new methods and procedures, so everyone is on the same page, even those who aren’t directly involved with the affected areas.

4.Invite feedback from customers and employees to see how well the changes are working.

Growing a business sometimes means being willing to go back to the drawing board to see how a key part of the business can be changed and repaired to make it stronger in the future. Don’t be afraid to ‘x-ray’ your business and find ways to help it grow in the years to come.

What Marketers Can Learn at the Farmers’ Market

Imagine walking into a farmers’ market. Like many other visitors making their way through the stalls, you’ve become increasingly concerned about where your food comes from and the techniques used to grow it. The farmers’ market offers you a distinct advantage because here you can actually speak with the people who grew or raised the food you’re looking to buy. You can ask them questions.

You approach the first stall. The farmer offers a variety of foods — fruits, vegetables, and even a bit of meat and cheese. You try to ask some questions about what pesticides were used when the plants were growing, what the animals ate, and whether or not the chickens were allowed to roam. The farmer seems annoyed by your questions. He gives you gruff, brief answers that don’t really address your concerns but seem focused instead on getting you to make a purchase or move along.

The next stall is similar, except you note that the prices are about 10%-20% higher. Still, you reach out to the farmer behind the counter and start asking questions. What a difference! The farmer comes out from behind the counter and tells you all about the methods he uses to grow and raise his different livestock and crops. He explains what safeguards he has in place to protect the consumer’s health and the experience he has in the field.

The time comes for you to make a purchase. Who are you more likely to buy from? Is it the farmer who just pushed you to buy or the farmer you’ve begun to trust because of his helpfulness, even if he does charge a few cents more? For most people, the answer is going to be the second. When people form bonds with merchants and begin to feel as though they can trust them, they become increasingly likely to buy from those vendors. This same concept should be incorporated into all your marketing campaigns.

Helping to build a relationship of trust

Becoming a source of answers and an authority in the industry for potential customers is a critical part of building this relationship. This often involves building plenty of valuable content online that customers can turn to when they have questions. Content that adds value helps customers begin to trust a company, their products, and their knowledge of the industry. When a single company has the answers a customer is looking for time and time again, there’s little question who they’ll turn to when they’re ready to make a purchase.

One way to build this kind of relationship is by working to become a regular community figure. Look for events or people you can sponsor to help get your company name in front of potential customers on a regular basis. Being available in person to answer questions for potential customers is one of the best types of marketing.

You should similarly take advantage of networking opportunities and work to establish friendships with many other professionals. As you nurture these relationships, remember that you’re building for the future, too. Even if you don’t get any immediate sales from a contact, they’ll be far more inclined to turn to you in the future if they know you’re someone they can trust.

Taking the time to build relationships with potential customers — by answering their questions, providing them with quality content, and even forming friendships — is a wonderfully easy way to grow your business. People naturally turn to the people they trust in business, so follow the same rules as the helpful farmer in the farmers’ market, and begin to improve your own marketing techniques. For help with your marketing and printing projects call us today at Full Court Press.  207-464-0002.