Monday, October 27, 2014

Creating the Perfect Ad

We’ve all been there… the newspaper ad deadline is in an hour and we still don’t have ours created yet. So we default to either running the same old, tired ad we’ve been running forever or just putting our logo out there and hoping someone will want to call us based on that. Even worse, we default to age old platitudes that are meaningless to our clients and prospects. Next time you are up against an ad deadline, consider the tips below to make sure your ad is seen and acted upon.

First, take a look at some of your old ads. Do any of them fall victim to the “yeah, me too” test? This is easy to check. Grab the latest ad that you have created (this could be for print or digital), scratch out your company name and logo and put in your competitors name. Is the ad still relevant and true? If so, it’s time to change up your message with some content that will actually hit your client’s hot buttons and make you stand out from the crowd. In the example Google Adwords ads to the right, you’ll see that neither one of these ads are saying anything unique. We could easily swap one headline for the other and the ad would still ring true.

The ads pictured here are for competing offices, however, you could easily switch the names and contact information and the ads would barely change.

If any of your ads pass this test, it is time to start from scratch and create some ads that will get noticed. This isn’t as hard as it seems. Each ad that you create should have 4 basic elements to it: interrupt, engage, educate and offer.

  • Interrupt – The interrupt is your headline. Your headline does not need to sell, it just needs to grab the attention of the reader. A headline should invoke emotion, make a promise, tickle curiosity or shock the reader. A headline can be a question, a statement of fact, a short anecdote or even a single word. As long as it disrupts the reader from what he/she is currently doing, it has done its job. 
  • Engage – Immediately following your headline, should be an engaging sub-headline. The job of your sub-headline is to further engage the reader. You’ve made a bold claim with your headline, now reel them in with a supporting and engaging sub-headline.
  • Educate – The body copy of your ad should be used to educate the reader. You don’t need to give away all your information here, just give them enough to make them want to learn more. This is where we see a lot of advertisements go wrong. It is easy to default to the platitudes that you see in the attorney’s ads above. In business since 1952, high quality, great customer service, experts, etc., however, those items don’t mean much to your prospective clients if you don’t quantify them. Rather than using “experts” define what you mean by expert. Does that mean you’re a specialist in biotechnical litigation because you have a dual degree from Harvard? Does it mean you have tried over 10,000 personal injury cases? Quantify what you mean and educate the customer to get them motivated to take the next step.
  • Offer – Every ad should contain a call to action or an offer. The offer should be relevant to the rest of the marketing piece and should give the reader an easy way to connect with you to receive the information. An offer is not “buy now.” “Buy Now” only works and engages the people who are ready to buy, which is a small percentage of the number of people who will actually see your ad.  An offer that further educates the client, like a whitepaper or other digital download, is a great way to capture the contact information of the prospect which you can then use for marketing purposes in the future.
Creating the perfect ad isn’t impossible. Using the tips above, you’ll create an ad that gets read and brings results. Have you seen a memorable advertisement that got your attention? Did it follow the criteria above? Let us know about it in the comments below.

Using Print to Further Your Marketing Efforts

There is no doubt that the Internet has changed the way small business owners market their business. Digital marketing, like e-newsletters, search engine optimization, social media and search engine marketing, can be a powerful form of advertising.  Even more powerful, however, is digital marketing with a collaborative print marketing effort.

We dedicated 3 of our weekly marketing messages this month to showing you how to make the most of your marketing dollars using both print and digital marketing. In case you missed that series of emails, we have combined them below for a quick tutorial on how to use print to increase your digital footprint.

  • Tip #1: Postcards rule. One of the most powerful marketing strategies today is to promote your website via direct-mail postcards. Postcards serve many purposes. Whether you want to invite people to an upcoming webinar/class or showcase a few of your bestselling products, using a postcard to direct traffic to your website is a great idea. Motivate response with an exclusive offer or personalized URL which will allow you to track your response rate, conversion rate, and ultimate return on investment.
  • Tip #2: Use signage to increase newsletter subscriptions. Whether you run a restaurant, a school, a retail shop or a business to business service based company, chances are good you’ll have a client visit you at your office at some point.  Use in store or in office promotional posters, table tents, hang tags, window clings or other signage to encourage customers to visit your website and sign up for your email newsletter. Include a QR code that links to a mobile optimized page on your site with a short subscription form for a great customer experience. Entice customers to subscribe with an instant money saving coupon that can be emailed directly to them and shown to staff as proof of subscription.
  • Tip #3: Use print to connect you socially.  The digital world is cluttered. Every 60 seconds, 700,000 Google searches are performed, 60 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube and 168 million emails are sent. Making sure that your fan base sees your posts can be a challenge unless you find other ways to promote your social media accounts. Help people find your social media accounts by including your most used and valuable account on your business cards. If you print a newsletter or brochure, include some of your positive yelp or Facebook reviews and encourage readers to view your full profile online.
Finding the right marketing mix is less about your business and more about your customers. Thinking about who they are, how they purchase and what influences them will help you determine how to reach customers with a mix of print and digital advertising.

Have you seen a cool marketing campaign played out online and in print? Let us know about it in the comments below.

When Your Marketing Materials Talk, Does Anybody Listen?

Businesses today have an immense arsenal of marketing materials, ranging from printed material (business cards, brochures, newsletters and direct mail) to digital formats (websites, email marketing and social media). While there is significant potential power in having so many ways to reach customers and prospects, this comes with a responsibility to align all the materials with their interests and behaviors. Marketing materials now bear the burden of being consistent, relevant and beneficial to the intended audience. As marketing guru Seth Godin puts it, “In a world of too many options and too little time, our obvious choice is to just ignore the ordinary stuff.”

Avoiding the ordinary

It may surprise you that avoiding the ordinary is rather simple: know yourself, know your audience, and tell an accurate story clearly.

Know Yourself

Why does your business or organization exist? How would things be different if your business or organization wasn’t operating? What are its core values? Is it an industry leader? The answers to these and similar questions are embodied in your mission and vision statements and tell your target audience exactly what to expect from doing business with you. A mission statement provides focus for marketing activities, while a vision statement describes the business or organization’s future aspirations.

Know Your Audience

Who is your ideal customer? To help answer this question, create a customer profile to include age, gender, job title, ethnicity, marital status, skills, interests, personality traits, values, frustrations, likes and dislikes. Think about who specifically is looking for the products and services you offer rather than everyone you might possibly sell to.

Your target audience can be defined by demographic information – the physical attributes of a population. The most commonly used demographic information for marketing is age, gender, income level, race and ethnicity. Psychographic information adds to demographic information by incorporating the interests, attitudes, opinions, values, lifestyle and personality of a population. Psychographic information is used to predict why a prospect might buy.

Tell Your Story

A business or organization’s story uses clear language and visual images to explain how customers benefit. The focus of the story is on the customer, not on the business or its products and services. Here are some questions that help craft the story:

  • How will your products or services benefit your audience (i.e., what’s in it for me)?
  • What needs do your products or services fulfill? What problems do they solve?
  • What value does your business or organization bring to the audience that can’t be found with your competitors?

Creating a brand identity

The brand identity of your business or organization is embodied in its visual images: logo, printed materials and website.

Taken together, they define the character of your business. Because most successful sales are based on establishing a trusting relationship between buyer and seller, it is important that the brand identity accurately represent the values of the business and that it be consistent across all marketing channels.

Here are some of the elements of brand identity:

  • The promises you make to customers and how well you keep them. Besides the promises related to specific products and services, this also includes overall business practices like meeting deadlines and delivery dates, delivering added value, and the process for solving problems or making good on mistakes.
  • The benefits that accrue to customers from using your products and services. These include tangibles like more time or money and intangibles like enhanced status or greater feeling of security.
  • How you nurture the business relationship. Regular communication via printed and emailed newsletters, social media, personal visits, and personalized messages demonstrate that the relationship with the customer matters to the business.

Brand identity extends to the communication style used by your business or organization to provide information. The elements of communication style are words, grammar, syntax and meaning. The most effective communication style is clear (uses commonly-understood words), economical (uses simple sentence structure), free from jargon and obscure references, and has variety.

All brands have a personality, such as friendly, reserved, classic or contemporary. The brand identity embodies this personality in the choice of visual elements – color palette, typography, symbols, graphics, photographs, logo, and communication style. For a traditional, established business, we suggest using a classic typeface, conservative, rich colors, and a more formal, corporate communication style. In contrast, a contemporary, high-energy company can use more edgy visual elements, a non-traditional typeface, and a friendly, casual communication style.

By carefully establishing your brand identity, all your marketing materials should appear to be coming from the same source over time, creating a sense of dependability in the mind of the customer.

Basic marketing package

A basic marketing package consists of five elements: business cards, company brochure, product and service flyers, newsletter and website.

  • Business cards: Business cards are often the first point of contact for a prospect and start the process of establishing a relationship. To avoid visual clutter, edit the information down to the essentials: company name, address, logo and tagline; the individual’s name, title, preferred ways to contact, and company website. The business card will look best if it has sufficient white space. Consider using the back of the card if needed.

  • Company brochure: The company brochure introduces the company, defines the most important benefits that will accrue to the customer, tells how results have been produced for others, and issues a call to action. It also includes company contact information – company name and logo, address, telephone number, e-mail and website address.
  • Product or service flyer: A product or service flyer defines what the company is selling. It discusses the features and benefits of a single product or service or group of related products and services, and includes photographs and illustrations to attract the reader’s attention and draw him into the message. The flyer needs a call to action and the specific way to make contact about the product or service. Company information – name, logo, address and website address – is also part of the flyer.Newsletter: A newsletter is an effective way to stay in touch with customers and introduce the company to prospects. A rule of thumb is that at least 80% of the information should be of interest and relevant to the customer or prospect, and no more than 20% sales message. The newsletter can be delivered by the USPS or sent through email.
  • Website: Because the company website effectively has no space limitations, it can incorporate all the information from the company brochure and product or service flyers plus tell an expanded version of the company story – its history, specialty area, geographic reach, size and client base. Customers and prospects are free to browse at will for the information they desire.

We are an extension of your marketing department

If you don’t have the time to write, design and/or print your marketing materials, call on us to help. We will work with you to plan the creation of marketing materials, ensure consistent brand identity, and help with any or all of the production steps. To get started, email Brigid to schedule an appointment.

Marketing Messages: 3 Things To Avoid

To improve the quality and effectiveness of the messages in your marketing materials, train yourself to avoid three things:
  1. Listing product or service features without translating them into benefits. This forces the prospect to figure out why a feature is important or how it might be useful. Don’t let this happen – the prospect may miss an important benefit or ascribe a benefit that doesn’t exist. Remember, they’re really only interested in what’s in it for them – so be sure to clearly tell them. To determine the benefits associated with a specific feature, name the feature and say the phrase “what this means is . . .”
  2. Providing vague and unmeasurable benefits. A vague benefit is one that can’t be quantified, such as “reduces costs” or “improves productivity”. Make benefits tangible by attaching a numeric value that prospects can calculate: “reduces costs by $3 per item” or “improves productivity by 37%”. Any business can make a vague claim. Set your business apart by using concrete examples.
  3. Describing benefits in generic or jargon-laden words. A benefit description written in industry jargon risks confusing the prospect and often causes them to lose interest quickly. It also fails to articulate why the benefit is unique. Avoid jargon at all costs, even if you think your target audience is used to technical language.

Act Now! Only 100 Seats Left!

In marketing, a sense of urgency is a technique that gives readers a reason to respond quickly. When reading an advertisement, people have a tendency to procrastinate – to put the ad aside to consider it later. The problem is “later” never comes and the ad is most often forgotten. A sense of urgency helps overcome this tendency by providing a reason to act immediately.

There are two common ways to create a sense of urgency: offer a reward for prompt action, or assess a penalty for not acting. Some examples of a reward include a free gift for responding or a bonus with purchase; an example of a penalty is a limited supply of the product or service being offered or a sale that lasts for a defined period of time.

A sense of urgency works by creating scarcity – the reader must act by a given deadline or be among the established number of people to respond. The sense of urgency can be undermined if the deadline or other conditions are not strictly enforced. In other words, don’t bend the rules if someone responds after the deadline.

Consistent Brand Identity

Brand identity is a new buzz word for describing an old-fashioned marketing concept: consistent use of logo, color, typography and written voice across all printed and digital materials. Consistency allows customers and prospects to recognize communications from your business or organization without having to read a single word. This can be a very powerful tool when competing for the attention of busy decision makers.

Being consistent in how you appear in print and on the web isn’t difficult. Initially there may be an investment of resources, but with discipline, consistency is easy to maintain if everyone understands its importance.

Ask someone you trust to take a few minutes to look at your company’s marketing materials. Then, have a brief meeting so they can report their impressions – we guarantee you’ll find value in the results. Then call us and we’ll help you probe deeper into developing your consistent brand identity.