Educate, Communicate, Collaborate: Top Takeaways from AMA-STL

What’s new in marketing? Attend a local AMA chapter or conference to find out in a knowledge-packed half-day event! I had the pleasure of being invited to attend the 56th Annual St. Louis American Marketing Association Student Conference. Even with ‘student’ in the title, each generation was represented, bringing with them insight, experience, and a willingness to learn and apply the latest marketing strategies for business success. As has been the norm, content is still a high necessity, but the manner in which it is created and distributed has evolved. Below are the highlights from the presenters from this high-intensity conference.

Matt D’Rion, Worry Free Marketing: How to Achieve Positive Impact with an Effective Website. 5 needed elements include:

  • SEO—search engine optimization, defined as any action taken to attract leads to your website. A missing element for many business owners is the SEO title; the more descriptive this title, the easier it will be for Google to rank, read, and direct your readers.
  • Website Copy—a critical aspect of the user experience (UX). Give your reader something to do. Make the click tabs easy to find and easy to follow. Take your readers on a journey that builds a relationship, serves their needs, and solves their problems.
  • User Experience—you have a few seconds to give your visitor what they need. If they don’t find it FAST, they are gone. Use this opportunity to generate an opportunity to connect, donate, or participate.
  • Lead Generation->Sales Funnel—keep your visitors on the site with calls to action and informative content. Make it simple to move through the sales funnel while building a relationship of trust.

Andrea Olson, Prag’madik: Building a Differentiated Global Brand

Andrea shares her branding expertise with this handy summary of 10 Commandments of Global Branding. While her focus is global, these points are equally significant regardless of whether your audience is local or international:

  • Understand similarities and differences across cultural landscapes
  • Don’t take shortcuts
  • Establish marketing infrastructure locally
  • Embrace integrated marketing communications (technology)
  • Cultivate local partnerships
  • Balance standardization and adaptation
  • Establish operable guidelines (customization)
  • Establish success metrics
  • Leverage core brand elements
  • Adapt and refine continually

Johanna Dettman and Kaysha Hanock, tSunela: How a Digital Marketing Partnership Can Impact Client Retention and Referral Patterns

The team at tSunela discussed blending traditional marketing methods with the social/digital marketing strategies that’s dominating today’s business strategy:

  • Digital marketing is easier to track; traditional marketing is not.
  • Combining both marketing styles allows a business to stay relevant, saves time & money, provides more flexibility, offers an objective perspective, and measures ROI (return on investment).

Their advice when partnering:

  • Don’t hide collaboration from the partnership—let everyone know upfront who is involved with your marketing initiatives.
  • Share research, data, plans, with other team members
  • Provide timelines for project completion
  • Review strategies to ensure consistent communication
  • Define roles of all involved
  • Do not take or accept guarantees: the environment is changing too fast to promise results.
  • Involve traditional and digital marketers in pitch sessions
  • Refer clients to one another as often as possible
  • Keep the focus on the client!

Keynote Speakers Eric Stisser, Sr. VO of Corporate Sales for St. Louis Blues and Jackie Miller, Dir. Of Corporate Sponsorship & Activation for St. Louis Blues.

This team discussed the marketing efforts of the St. Louis Blues Winter Classic. Both speakers mentioned that a lot of time and dedication went into producing a successful event, but the vital factors that emerged were:

  • Be polite, persistent, engaged.
  • Communicate!
  • Look up, not down—look people in the eye and get involved. Talk. Communicate. Leave your cell phone at home and give listeners your full attention.
  • Most of all: remember it’s always a team environment.

The current marketing trends may seem overwhelming but what is emerging is collaboration and cooperation across all spectrums, including marketing styles, generational expertise, and a wiser consumer. What can you bring to your business as a student, business owner or entrepreneur?

Kristen Edens
Kris the Scribbler

There and Back Again: A LinkedIn Journey to Top Contributor

6290003115_7788c41563_qHave you ever wondered what it took to reach Top Contributor and what you really gain from that status? As a recently certified profile writer, I felt it was important to understand the process, but also because I’ve received several questions about the effectiveness of LinkedIn for business. Therefore, I established an experiment to uncover what was required to become a top contributor and what benefits would result from that status.

Before my experiment began, I belonged to 39 groups. I was involved with 10 of those groups to rank in the ‘finding an audience’ and ‘making an impact’. This came from sporadic engagement of four to five times per week, with a few minutes here and there. From those 10 groups, I chose my five favorites based on topic, business-related information and lead potential.

My process began by commenting on 5 to 10 existing discussions and leaving more than ‘great post’ or ‘thanks for sharing’ comments. I wrote 5 or more sentences to answer questions, offer advice or share an experience. I made Top Contributor (TC) in 2 days with each group. Then I started my own discussions on each group. However, initiating discussions alone does not maintain TC status. Depending on the group, I could forgo interaction 2 days before my superior status slipped. I discovered that I could post one discussion and comment on 5 or more existing topics daily without affecting my status. Anything less dropped me to a lower level.

The results: after 30 days of 2+ hours/day, my profile views increased 400% (from 4 to 20 at my peek). I also gained 11 new connections, 10 of which were outside of the USA.

The benefits: Once I reached top contributor, my picture was posted as one of four top contributors. As long as I maintained TC status, my picture remained visible.

My favorite part of the experiment was when other readers appreciated my advice or wisdom or that they ‘totally agreed’ with me. It kept me going.

I received two service inquiries and one said he’ll, “Keep me in mind.” The other never responded after first contact.

The downside: I was sent 16 pieces of junkmail from group members and gained 2 LinkedIn groupies. Before long, the groupies followed the same groups I did and liked or commented on every discussion or comment I made.

I dropped one group at 22 days, another at 28 days. I was burned out by week 3. By day 30, I dreaded the time drain it took to maintain TC and quit commenting as frequently. I became a weak memory in those groups 2 days later.

Lessons learned:

  • Work on one group at a time!
  • Dedicate no more than 30 minutes each day.
  • Explore groups—you aren’t locked in for eternity.
  • Learn what you can! There is A LOT of great people out there who are willing to learn, share and help. That was the part I enjoyed the most. Connect with those that you believe will be beneficial to your growth and knowledge.
  • Move on if desired.

What LinkedIn experiments or discoveries have you made?

Happy writing!

Kris the Scribbler

photo courtesy of Sheila Scarborough

 

 

Image: More than a Brand; it’s How People Perceive Us

Part 4 of the 5-I series

When we set out to build or grow a business, we must develop a brand, a website, a social media presence, and much more to just get us started in today’s marketing world. Something that is overlooked, however, and often used synonymously with brand is image, or the reputation we create for our business and industry.

  • Image, according to Merriam-Webster online is: a mental representation; idea; conception.
  • Further defined for business, corporate image is the personality presented to the public by a person, organization, etc.

Brand, on the other hand, is defined by The American Marketing Association (AMA) as a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.

Therefore, image is the action we take to be seen, heard and remembered. It’s a combination of brand + personality + emotion + professionalism. Your business will soon take on a life of its own as it grows. How you present yourself with that life affects you and your business’s image—from your personal dress code to the content you write for your audience.

Here are some questions to consider with regards to image:

  • What ‘image’ does your industry bring to mind?
    • What is typical?
    • What is expected?
    • Can you stretch the boundaries without alienating your potential clientele or killing your business?
    • What customer service expectations has your industry established?

Now take a look at your business. If your industry has a certain image, how can YOU enhance or bring something new to your niche? On the heels of that, how can you bring your personality into the business and the industry? As an example, in the cooking world, Chef Jamie Oliver made a name for himself as the Naked Chef. THAT grabbed attention! How can you do the same—without getting naked, and within reason—both professionally and personally?

Next, think about how you can express that image through your words, your content and your products and services? Remember, image and brand include your personality and the emotion you deliver to your audience and their needs and pains. Create that solution through your brand and your image, and you’ve got a winning combination. Your website, blog, newsletter, press releases and social media are all ways to put a little you into the scene. These ingredients enrich the know-like-trust relationship that your audience, prospects and leads are craving. Plus, your image enhances your individuality; it demonstrates innovation; the image you develop will inspire your audience and it will be you they remember!

As mentioned in the article, Brand vs. Image…, “Brand and image cannot exist without the other. If one is off balance—the other will follow suit”. Every step and action you take to building your brand and your image makes for plenty of content-worthy material that will keep your business energized.

Do you believe image is as important as brand? Is it more or less difficult to develop than brand? Does developing image come naturally or does it require thought, time and preparation? Let’s hear your thoughts.

Happy writing!

p.s. When I write for businesses, oftentimes I get asked about brand and image and how to incorporate both through their content and copy. Here are some additional articles that aided in my research and which provide several examples.

What is a Brand

Brand vs. Image: What’s the Difference?

The Wow and Pow Of Innovation

In the last blog, I wrote about what it takes to find our individuality as a business owner. On the heels of discovering our individuality is the intense quest to be innovative.

For starters, innovate/innovation is defined as: to introduce something new; the introduction of a new thing or method.

Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? As a consumer, we want to be the first to own it, display it or benefit from it. However, once we’ve purchased the product or service, it’s old before the check clears the bank.

As business owners, we’re so focused on being THE ONE to come up with the newest, greatest thing everyone wants and the fame that goes with it that we lose sight of our purpose. We’re focused so hard on being innovative that we forget our individuality. Just think about how often we see ‘new and improved’ on product labels. ‘New’ is constantly introduced but we’ve become a world where it isn’t enough and, ironically, we can’t keep up. Consider all the magazines, websites, and social media posts that show and tell everything from 101 ways to cook chicken or how to create a low-cost water feature or how to get more traffic to your website.

How did we get so carried away?

I don’t have the answers to that question, but I’ve interviewed, listened to and researched several businesses to provide ideas to make the quest possible.

If you read the last blog on individuality, you’re probably working on rediscovering your individuality, so the next step is to present it in an innovative way. Innovation + individuality can be as simple as a new tagline, a new image (coming soon: part 3 on image), or a new process to something we do every day.

There will always be a standard way to do most things: plant a tree, drive a car, write or send a letter, build a website, but a ‘new or improved’ tool or the approach we provide may make it different, fun, exciting. How often do we hear ‘old is new again’?

Let’s think about tools. A particular tool may be new or very old, or perhaps someone discovered a new use for it. It now becomes exciting and innovative. For example, my mother is terrified of bedbugs. The morning I wrote this blog post, she sent me an article about ‘a traditional Balkan remedy for bedbugs; a centuries-old technique used in Bulgaria, Serbia and other Eastern European countries’. Researchers (and my mother) are now intensely interested in testing this remedy now.

So the same goes for us as business owners. Experiment with ideas—old and new—then share with your world or your crowd.

How does it satisfy their:

  • Needs?
  • Fears?
  • Goals?
  • Vision?
  • Ideals?
  • Curiosity?

It’s up to you to experiment then give it wow & pow through your words, your visibility, and your individuality. What ways can you convince your crowd to take a chance?

Often times, innovation is simply demonstrating that something is possible:

  • Weight loss
  • Quitting smoking
  • Weed-free lawn
  • Acne-free complexion
  • Top Google ranking

That’s why testimonials, before & after pictures, and product or service reviews are so popular. It provides the proof we need before we’re willing to part with our time and money.

Experiment: others may laugh or point fingers for ‘strange’, ideas someone else is doing, but these ideas turn out to be some of the most fun projects or inventions. Stretch your imagination:

  • Crazy ideas
  • Out-of-the-ordinary methods
  • Unexpected results

In the horticulture industry, no-lawn front yards are showing up across the country. Many home owners are ridiculed for removing grass and replacing their yard with pathways, raised-bed gardens, water features, and container gardens. The result: something different (although not entirely new), visually pleasing, relaxing, and therapeutic.

Mistakes: don’t dump an idea because something messed up. Some of our everyday items were the unexpected results of a mistake.

Steven was remodeling a kitchen for his in-laws. During the measurement process, he forgot to add the 3-inches for his tape measure. Though he was angry at himself for the rookie mistake, he pointed it out to his in-laws who said they wanted to keep it. That floor to ceiling space became the perfect storage area for tall items such as cookie sheets, cutting boards and serving trays.

Accidents: did something break, fall or change that taught you something? The typical response when these things happen is to cuss, cry and scream then move on and forget fast. Hold back on the negatives and reexamine the results. Can something new come from the remnants?

Bill is a glassblower. During the process of polishing the rough base of a bowl, it fell and shattered into dozens of pieces. Mike, his neighbor, collected the pieces, smoothed the sharp edges and created mosaic mirrors and stained-glass artwork which he later sold at local art shops and fairs.

Still stuck? Here are ideas from history to inspire you:

An Insult Done Right: In 1853, when Chef George Crum’s fried potatoes received criticism from a hotel guest, he struck back by slicing potatoes super-thin, frying them until they shattered and over-salting them as a way to get back at the customer. The result: the crisp potatoes were a hit and became the snacking sensation now called potato chips.

A Repurposed Invention: Pre-World War 2, coal was used to heat homes. The McVicker Brothers had created a doughy material that was ideal for cleaning soot from the walls. At the end of the war, natural gas phased out coal and therefore, the cleaning dough was no longer needed. The McVickers were on the verge of bankruptcy when they discovered their sister, a teacher, using the material in her classroom as modeling clay. With a few changes and adding color to the dough, the brothers renamed the company and called their creation Play-Doh.

Are you smiling? Do you feel like you can create something from nothing? Here’s an easy answer: yes you can. What looks like a bad idea may actually become the next trend. The challenge is to try and not be afraid to fail, and that’s a saying we’ve all heard for years. Look back on your experiments, mistakes and accidents—can you salvage a new idea from any of these? Even reviewing your original business plan can stir up ideas that were forgotten or not yet implemented.

What innovative ideas does this stir up for you?

Kristen

Keeping Up With the Marketing Madness

How often do you find yourself spending time on the marketing madness required to get your business known-liked-trusted that you have fallen behind on the actual business of your business?

Do you get frustrated with how many times you have to say or write new content that pretty much says the same thing—except in a newer, fresher, livelier way?

Do you wonder who the crazy person is that started this whole thing so you could go out and torture him, her, or them?

I do! I don’t think I’m alone in my rant, but if I am, send me your ideas so I can learn! Though we gripe about it, all this marketing madness must be done if we want to succeed; if we want to help others by doing what we enjoy doing. But the challenge is how? How can we do everything a small business owner must do when most of us are a one-man band?

So while I’m running my business, outsourcing what I can and doing the rest, I’ve come up with a few blood-free secrets that get me through my own snags. As you read, have a paper and pen handy—reading my secrets may trigger thoughts of your own. Write them down and share them below!

  • Reread your business plan and early notes from your planning and idea phase. New ideas can be triggered by rereading your enthusiasm from the early days. Similarly, you may have written something down that you had forgotten about. Not only could it become a blog, social media post or press release, it can mean some new product or service offerings for your business.
  • Review previous elevator speeches, taglines, older content and business summaries. Even though these are previously used bits of content, some can be recycled and revised quicker and easier than creating something entirely new.
  • Search your linked in groups: is there a topic that tackles a new service, idea or problem you can address? As your business grows, your services may have expanded. Listening to your groups and peers will offer ideas to write about, comment on, and possibly establish new offerings with your business.
  • Explore competitor websites—not for plagiarism (NO-NO!) but to remind yourself how and why you are better. That little burst can get the words and ideas flowing.
  • Ask others for ideas. It can be a business associate, a neighbor, a friend, even some teens (if they are readily available as they are in my circles). Share some ideas or struggles you’re dealing with and see what this person has to offer. Ask those that don’t know what you do. Without details, others may have some interesting ideas you never would have thought of on your own.

Does this trigger some possibilities for you? What do you do to stir up marketing ideas? Share them below!