Content Marketing Is More Powerful Than Ever

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At its core, content marketing is the idea that by creating and distributing high-quality content that is relevant to your products, your services or your brand, you can more easily attract and even retain people who are interested in what you’re selling. If you sell stereo equipment and write a quality blog post about what to look for in a new home theater, you’re more likely to attract new customers by combining that blog with the sales flyer you sent them in the mail.

Put Information in a Format That People Want To Embrace

When people think of content marketing, they usually think of text. While this is true, it’s important not to neglect the visual element. Case in point: pairing your marketing message up with the right visual image can increase the amount of information a reader will retain dramatically. According to one study, people are only 10% likely to remember information they hear 72 hours after they hear it. If that same information is conveyed in a piece of effective, content marketing with a relevant, attention-grabbing image, that number increases to an incredible 65%!

Color Really Does Mean a Lot

Continuing a discussion about the more visual side of content marketing, one of the most important elements that prove these types of marketing collateral can be more effective than ever all comes down to a single word: color. Another study found that if you’re able to include colored visuals in your content marketing (or any marketing for that matter), you instantly increase someone’s willingness to read and experience that content by an astounding 80%.

People Love Learning

Consider the fact that content marketing can be a lot more than just “marketing” – it can be an educational tool, as well. Take infographics, for example – especially since the advent of social media, infographics with rich, striking visuals have quickly proven to be powerful ways to get your message across. In fact, according to one recent study, an infographic is likely to be shared three TIMES more than any other piece of content on social media. When combined with print marketing, you can help establish your brand as an authority in your field to a much larger audience than imagined.

Content Marketing Creates a Higher Return on Investment

If you needed additional reasons to believe that content marketing is stronger than ever, look no further than one of the most important indicators: ROI. Studies have shown that not only does content marketing cost roughly 60% less than traditional outbound marketing like digital ads, but it can also potentially generate THREE TIMES as many leads!

Stats like these go a long way towards proving that content marketing is an excellent way to take your marketing message and present it to your target audience in a way that they’re more than ready to receive. With the right piece of properly designed collateral, you accomplish everything from increasing awareness of your brand to establishing yourself as the real authority you are….. and everything in between. When you consider that 200 million people now use ad blockers as they browse the internet, high-quality, properly designed content is about to become even more important as time goes on.

5 Ballet Business Lessons You Should Make a Point to Learn

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Business has quite a few things in common with ballet. Ballet is just as demanding as business, although in other ways. To succeed as a ballet dancer, one must put in a lot of hours of practice. To succeed in business, one must put in a lot of hours of work. For both, plans and dances must be executed in a precise way or the result will not be ideal. Because of these similarities, several things can be learned from ballet that can be applied to business.

1. Create Your Individual Style

Although there are basic components of ballet that ring true, someone who develops their individual style and dares to try new things is someone who will go further than an individual who sticks to only the basic rules. The same is true in business. If you want to succeed, you must stand out from the crowd. Find your own path that is unique to your goals even though you will be utilizing the same building blocks as everyone else.

2. Continue Learning Throughout Your Career

A great ballet dancer never stops learning new techniques and new dances. They simply cannot stop after they have learned only one dance and be successful. In business, this is also true. You must continue to seek out education. Whether it is another degree or simply a class to help you hone in on a skill set, you should never stop trying to learn more and improve your abilities.

3. Practice Makes Perfect

In ballet, perfection is valued and coveted. To reach this kind of perfection, dancers will practice for days, weeks, months, and years on end. They understand that they have to practice to get better and one day achieve that perfection they desire. In business, the same is true. You may have success the first time you do something, but more often than not, you will have to try again. If you believe in a business idea, keep trying and practicing until you get it right. Practice does, after all, make perfect.

4. Know There is a Place and a Role for Everyone

In a ballet dance that involves multiple people, there is a role for everyone to play. Not everyone can be the main dancer, even if they want to be. Someone has to play the supporting role. In business, it is important to understand this because the same is true. Even if you want to be the top dog on a project or in a company, you have to understand that sometimes you simply have to play another important role.

5. Develop and Build Trust

Trust is a huge component of ballet, especially if you are dancing with a partner. If the two partners do not trust each other, it will be apparent, and the dance will not be as beautiful. In business, it is equally as important to trust your partner. Otherwise, you may not give much effort to the project, or you may hold back and cause the business to suffer. Build trust with those you work with and the business will prosper. Choose not to trust, and it can crumble, just like a ballet routine.

There are several parallels between ballet and business. These lessons learned in the ballet circuit are important because they strengthen the dancer. Learn from these lessons, and you will become a stronger individual in the business world as well.

Sometimes Fresh Eyes Brings a Memorable Camel

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We often say that children look at the world through fresh eyes. Spending time with a child can give you a new perspective on life and how you view the world. While experience is an excellent teacher, fresh eyes can see the tried and true in a way that you may not have considered before. How can you adapt the fresh eyes concept into your business?

Marketing is successful when it gets prospects and customers to sit up and take notice of your service, brand or product. Some of the best commercials are the ones that make us laugh, cry, or even cringe. The problem is that sometimes marketers rely too much on old ideas and the view of experienced sellers and managers instead of looking for fresh eyes on a campaign. A great marketing campaign gives the audience an emotional connection with the company. Emotions give advertising a memory hook; they get remembered.

Hump Day

Remember the “Hump Day” camel commercials that were on TV about a year ago? Do you remember who they were advertising? If you don’t remember, they were advertising GEICO. GEICO specializes in goofy, funny commercials that are easy to remember due to their tone. Insurance is essentially a tedious business, so getting you to remember advertisements and brand names associated with them takes a memory hook. For GEICO, the gecko is one hook that most Americans can recognize and associate with the company. However, if they overused that hook, audiences would get tired of him. Instead, they come up with quirky commercials and throw in a camel to keep you focused and interested in their brand.

Seeing Your Company with Fresh Eyes

Since you cannot see your own company through fresh eyes, it takes some testing to find out how new people respond to your campaigns. Your assumptions about who is interested in your products and why they are interested may be out of date. Periodic testing of your ideas is crucial to keeping your current customers and finding new ones.

Before you run your marketing campaign, test your assumptions on real people to see how they respond. Real people are the target market you are shooting for, therefore if your tests tell you that you won’t get the results you want, you can save yourself a lot of money. Keep tweaking and testing your campaign with real people until you find the right message, image, and concept that will get the response you want. What made the “Hump Day” commercials so funny? They were silly, harmless, and could never happen in the real world.

Find a Way to Shock Your Audience

Shock your audience with unexpected humor, meaning, or entertainment when you market. Find something that will resonate with them and use it to grab their attention. Obviously, any type of shock will only work for so long because it loses its effect after a time. When was the last time you saw a “Hump Day” commercial, anyway?

A Business Perspective on Apple’s Latest MacBook Event

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If you’re interested in the tech world at all, you’re no doubt aware that Apple recently announced the 2016 MacBook Pro – something the company is calling “the best laptop ever made.” Indeed, it’s a unit with a technical specification sheet that can’t help but impress. Objectively, it likely will go down in history as the best laptop the company has released to date. However, some users are suggesting that Apple may be losing the balance between “user experience” and “marketing” in a way that is a bit unfavorable to their end goals.

The 2016 MacBook Pro

The new MacBooks don’t have a standard USB port at all, getting rid of them in favor of the new (and admittedly superior) USB-C. This is a great step towards a much more productive future, but it’s at the expense of the fact that we’re not quite at that future just yet. Case in point: the new iPhone 7 does not have a USB-C port at all. Instead, it uses Apple’s proprietary lightning cable.

This means that if you own both devices and just want to do something as simple as charge your iPhone with your MacBook, you need to purchase an external adapter. To be clear, this is not “the end of the world.” The MacBook Pro is still powerful; it can still be used with the brand new iPhone. However, what used to be a one-step process now requires two, as well as a purchase of additional hardware. This is contrary to the popular mantra of “design for the user experience first, marketing second.” This is the very same mantra Apple built its reputation on.

What Would Steve Jobs Say About All This?

Never one to shy away from “rattling a few cages,” this is one particular case where we don’t actually have to wonder what Steve Jobs may have thought about the steps that modern day Apple just took with the MacBook. He may have actually said it himself, in an interview conducted in the 1990s.

In an interview for the PBS documentary “Triumph of the Nerds,” Steve Jobs talked about how important sales and marketing people are to an organization, but how it’s equally important to keep them separate from the product development process. His argument was that all too often, products go from offering a great, easy experience to being “great and easy… to market.” Innovation, usability, and the overall experience tend to suffer as a result.

In that interview, Jobs said:
“… the people who make the company more successful are the sales and marketing people, and they end up running the companies. And the ‘product people’ get run out of the decision-making forums. The companies forget how to make great products. The product sensibility and product genius that brought them to this monopolistic position gets rotted out by people running these companies who have no conception of a good product vs. a bad product.”

Contrary to popular belief, Steve Jobs didn’t hold an “anti-marketing” stance at all. He supported marketers, and with good reason. Under his watch his own marketing team created some of the most successful campaigns of all time. What Jobs was warning against was the idea that you should always design a product or service for the customer first, and then turn it over to the marketing people to do what they do. When marketing is considered an extension of the product development phase, the positive qualities that brought you to your current position in the first place are often lost.

Warning: Are You Accidentally Shattering Your Brand Continuity?

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At its core, brand continuity is the idea that all communication channels between your brand and your customers (live chat, email, phone calls, etc.) should all look and feel like they’re coming from the same place. It’s the idea that you should strive to give your customers an experience that is as consistent as possible, regardless of how they choose to make contact with you. Successful brand continuity requires you to strike a delicate balance, and if you’re not careful, there are a few ways that you can accidentally shatter all that you’ve worked so hard to build even before you realize you have a problem.

It’s All in the Visuals

One of the more subtle ways to build and maintain brand continuity is also one of the most important, mainly because it can be the easiest to get wrong. You have to make sure that all of your branding from the version of your company logo to things as seemingly insignificant as the font you use are as consistent as possible, regardless of which element of your online and offline presence you’re using. If a version of your company logo is present on your website’s “Help Desk” page, it should be the same version of the logo sent out in your latest email or print marketing materials. Don’t use professional-looking fonts on your website if you’re going to be using Comic Sans MS on your print materials.

You may initially think that this is incredibly easy to miss and in many respects, you’re right. Customers aren’t necessarily paying attention to every last visual element on a page versus a flyer versus a billboard. But, think about it this way: the ones that do notice may be put-off or at least find it odd, which is a feeling you do not want to invoke. Those that don’t notice will still benefit from your strict brand continuity, even if subconsciously.

Getting Everyone on the Same Page

Another way that you can accidentally shatter brand continuity has to do with getting everyone on the same page regarding how your business works. If your website is very clear about one particular policy but your customer service team isn’t, you’re immediately confusing customers every time they pick up the phone. This confusion is especially evident regarding promotions. If an email goes out offering a new sale, you’d better make sure that anyone who answers the phones for your business knows about it and knows what it entails. Otherwise, your customers may get a disappointing experience when it feels like the left hand is unaware of what the right hand is doing, so to speak. It gives the impression that the different parts of your business are operating independently of one another, which is something you don’t want to communicate to prospective buyers.

These are just a couple of ways that you can accidentally harm your brand continuity. Remember, you can never be 100% sure how someone is going to make contact with your business, especially for the first time. So, make sure however they encounter you, it’s equally easy, enjoyable, and helpful.

Moving On Is Not Giving Up

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No business professional in history has ever had a perfect record. Though you only set goals for you and your team with the absolute best of intentions, sometimes you may find yourself coming up short. Everyone from our parents to our teachers to our mentors has told us over and over again to “never give up, never surrender,” when sometimes, you have to do exactly that. The key to coming out all the better for it involves knowing how to identify that moment of surrender when it does arrive, and how to best handle what comes immediately after.

Look for the Signs

The best way to know when to move on from an objective in the world of business involves taking a moment to observe the world around you. How much time have you spent trying to accomplish this task? How much money have you expended trying to do this one particular thing? Would that time, money, and energy be better served if it were reallocated elsewhere within your organization?

At a certain point, you will start to feel diminishing returns. You’ve put your all into something and success is still just as far away as it was when you started. When you have that moment of clarity, the best thing you can do is look deep inside yourself. Do you really believe that you can pull off the challenge in front of you, or do you just hope that you can? If you fall into the latter category, it may be time to move on.

Moving On Doesn’t Mean You’ve Failed

The most important thing to understand about when you should move on from an objective you just can’t quite accomplish has to do with what happens next. If you set a goal for yourself and come up short of that mark, a lot of things have happened -but failure is not one of them.

You can choose to look at it that way if you’d like, but doing so actually limits the power of the moment you have in front of you. Maybe the objective you set wasn’t the right objective in the first place, and everything leading up to this point has been trying to tell you that. It’s a scenario you can see time and time again with some of the most successful companies in the history of business.

Apple, for example, had been set on releasing a smartphone for years – or at least a “smartphone” as per the definition of that term in 2005. Steve Jobs and his team tried, and tried and tried again, and eventually released something called the ROKR E1, a phone designed in conjunction with Motorola that was basically a regular phone with iTunes connectivity built in. The results were disastrous – a rare black mark on Apple’s otherwise top notch record. Jobs had set a goal for himself and had failed to accomplish it the way he wanted.

But instead of saying “Apple and phones are not meant for each other,” he thought differently. He realized that what he really failed to do was find the right hardware company to partner with to achieve this goal. He realized that by handling both the hardware and the software in-house, he could get at what he really wanted in the first place. Apple would go on to release the iPhone less than two years later and the rest, as they say, is history.

In the End

When you set goals for yourself, you always do so with the best of intentions. Remember that Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Sometimes, you need to know when to try harder and when to try something else. However, moving on doesn’t mean that you’re a failure – it just means that you’ve cleared away the cobwebs, reassessed your priorities, and are ready to redirect that energy into something much more positive and appropriate.

Online Marketing With A Little Friendly Competition

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Sometimes it takes a little friendly competition to get your customers engaged. That’s why it’s so common to see freebies, giveaways, and contests posted online and in retail stores. The trick, of course, is finding a contest that your customers are interested in winning. You know your customers best. Selecting a contest to run can be fun for everyone, especially if you can find a way to get your employees excited, too.

Did You Know?
– New campaigns acquire a 34% audience increase on average
– One-third of contest entrants sign up to receive email updates from brands and partners
– Running a mobile contest increases the number of entrants by eight times
– Statistically, the best duration for a contest campaign is 25-60 days

Contest Ideas

One of the funniest and most entertaining ideas is to host a video contest. People are mad about videos these days, and they love to share them on Facebook and other social media sites. According to Social Media Examiner, one such contest by the snack company Doritos brought an immense return. The contest is called “Crash the Super Bowl” and asks customers to create commercials for their chips. Can you just imagine how much fun customers have creating these commercials? Let’s not even begin to discuss the fun of sharing the commercials on Facebook. So while your company may not be as big or popular as Doritos, you can see how this idea can go viral quickly.

Dunkin’ Donuts uses contests to tell customer stories on Twitter. They asked their customers to post how their coffee fits into their day. As you can imagine, many customers came back with responses to this request. Winners starred in their own Dunkin’ Donuts commercial, and these videos were shared on YouTube and Twitter.

Low-Tech Contests

Not all contests need to include high-tech prizes or competitions such as videos. You can ask your followers to compete in Throw Back Thursday competitions with snapshots of them using your products in a funny way or just sending in ideas for how they use your product or service. The goal is engaging as many current and potential customers in your brand, and just plain having fun. If the contest is easy to participate in and offers a prize that fits your niche audience, then you will get a better return. This method of building an audience and cementing relationships with your customers is a proven success. People just want to have fun, and they are busy and stressed. An excuse to join an engaging contest will get them excited.

Kissmetrics offers several ideas that you can adapt to your company to introduce giveaways and contests to your audience. They offer suggestions on how to set up the contest, and how to optimize it and promote it online. Part of the success of a contest is that it can result in user-generated content that you can use during and after the contest to promote your products and brand. Everyone wins because it is fun, engages your audience, and you can get increased traffic and sales as well as new, original content.

Contests are particularly useful during the stressful holiday season when everyone is shopping and spending money. You can offer free products to customers who win, or gift cards that they can use for holiday gifts.

Why It’s Time To Start Paying Attention To Instagram

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When it comes to social media marketing, there are a lot of people who will tell you that there are only two names that you have to concern yourself with: Facebook and Twitter. While the power of these two services as marketing channels is undeniably important, to say that you should ONLY focus on these two platforms is making a grave mistake – particularly concerning where we’re headed.

Case in point: Instagram may not have as many unique users as Facebook or Twitter, but the impressive growth it has shown in a relatively short period of time proves that it is more than worth your effort.

The Importance of Instagram: By the Numbers

Over the last five years alone, Instagram has quickly proven its worth against its larger brethren. Though the social networking site only had 90 million users in its earliest days, that number has since risen to 300 million monthly active users as of 2016.

What’s more than that, Instagram’s user base is incredibly engaged. Not only are these users responsible for sharing over 30 billion (that’s “billion,” with a “B”) photos to date, but more than 70 million photos are being shared every day.

That statistic alone makes Instagram the third most engaged social networking site on planet Earth today. In terms of using social media for effective marketing, “engagement” is pretty much the name of the game.

Instagram is also hugely beneficial for companies that want to increase brand awareness on a global scale. Studies estimate that as of right now, a full 70% of all Instagram users are located OUTSIDE of the United States. To top it off, there will be about 111.6 million American Instagram users by 2019. This means that not only will it allow you to reach a wider audience than ever before, but it will also still allow you to reach those ever-important local markets, too.

Perhaps the most impressive statistic to concern yourself with, though, has more to do with exactly who Instagram allows you to reach. As of 2016, Instagram is used by more Americans between the ages of 12 and 24 years old than any other social network, including Facebook and Twitter. So not only can you reach a larger audience, but you’re also reaching a younger one – particularly important for creating a loyal army of customers now who will be ready and willing to follow you for years to come.

The Bigger Picture

Statistics like these underline a few different things, all of which are crucial in terms of social media marketing. For starters, always be wary of someone who tells you that you only have to focus your efforts in one direction. “Never put all your eggs in one basket” is a mantra that very much applies in terms of social networking, especially because most businesses use at least two social networks every day, often more.

However, the real takeaway from this is that you should always be looking for the next big thing in terms of how and where you’re communicating with your audience. Imagine the results you would see today if you were able to get in on the Facebook revolution from the ground floor. Well, a similar opportunity is currently presenting itself to businesses everywhere in the form of Instagram. Ignoring it now means leaving a lot of money on the table later on.

The Powerful Influence Of Coffee

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Does it ever seem as if you can’t move another step forward without your favorite drink in hand? Coffee fuels many a creative mind in any industry. Whether you are an early morning coffee drinker or need a cup mid-afternoon to reboot your sluggish mind, coffee culture does pair with many of the best developments in business. You might even be the person who has to have a cup of coffee in hand all day long. Here are some coffee thoughts to help you jumpstart your day or keep it going into the wee hours of the morning when you are cramming for a deadline.

Quotes about Coffee

“I believe humans get a lot done, not because we’re smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee.” – Flash Rosenberg

“Actually, this seems to be the basic need of the human heart in nearly every great crisis — a good hot cup of coffee.” — Alexander King

“Without my morning coffee, I’m just like a dried up piece of roast goat.” – Johann Sebastian Bach

“I never laugh until I’ve had my coffee.” – Clark Gable

“As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move, similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle.” – Honore de Balzac

“I don’t really like coffee, she said, but I don’t really like it when my head hits my desk when I fall asleep either.” – Brian Andreas

“Come on, don’t you ever stop and smell the coffee?” – Justina Chen, North of Beautiful

Coffee Influence in Our Culture and Lives

Have you ever sat down and thought about how much coffee has infiltrated our culture and daily lives? Coffee is present at every meeting, event, gathering or celebration. It is a staple in good times and bad and helps stimulate conversation, ease communication, and calm people in the face of the unknown. It is so embedded in our lives that we often take having coffee on hand for granted. Would you ever have a work meeting without coffee for visitors? And don’t you offer every visitor coffee when they arrive?

There is an excellent article on the Scientific American blog (http://bit.ly/2eLnuIQ), “The Culture of Coffee Drinkers,” that discusses the influence of coffee throughout history and in modern times. With the proliferation of Starbucks coffee shops throughout major cities, coffee shops have become meeting places for entrepreneurs, writers, company reps and corporate CEOs who want to meet away from the office. Gourmet coffees have become commonplace.

Using Coffee to Improve Customer and Employee Relationships

It may seem like a “no-brainer,” but coffee can be used as a tool to connect with both employees and customers in your shop or office, and it doesn’t cost much for you to do so. Whether you send your assistant on a coffee run, or have a Keurig in your office for each person to make their own cup, sharing a “cup of joe” will help facilitate discussions about difficult jobs, employee discipline, and new contracts.

A Simple Business Lesson From the Presidential Election

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The 2016 Presidential Election is quickly approaching and, once again, it offers a real “teachable moment” in our nation’s history. Instead of focusing on all of the negativity that seems to be surrounding the United States political system, take a decidedly “glass half full” approach instead.

If running for president were like starting a business (and make no mistake – it basically is), both candidates are providing us with an excellent lesson in customer relations and marketing as we speak.

Know Your Audience

Regardless of what you happen to think about the candidates themselves, one thing is for certain: both candidates know the power of speaking the same language as their target audience. Even though the candidates appear opposed on nearly every issue, it’s hard to deny that they’re each having a tremendous amount of success within their own bases and supporters precisely because they each know what to say and how to say it within their audience. Each candidate regularly draws crowds in the tens of thousands from their most fervent supporters.

However, both candidates are relatively controversial outside of their base supporters, to the point where if they hadn’t made an effort to master and hone these unique voices, they would likely be having trouble establishing momentum at this point. Both of them are still very much “in the game” (against all odds) almost entirely because they’ve taken the time to learn exactly what they need to say and do to build momentum among their own core group of followers.

You Have to Move Past Your Audience at Some Point

Perhaps the biggest lesson that we can learn from the 2016 Presidential Election, however, has to do with growth. While keeping a loyal, enthusiastic customer base is always important, this is only a means to an end – it isn’t the end itself. If you want to continue to grow and evolve as a business, you need to be looking for ways to bring new people into that base and to allow that base to grow. A failure to do so will result in the type of stagnation that will find you spinning your proverbial wheels.

This lesson can be seen throughout the election process as well. Often you’ll see one candidate making a concerted effort to bring as many new voters into their camp as possible, while another seems to be focused on maintaining their existing voters – which can be a problem when you’re running the “business” of a political career.

The raw potential of a single customer for a presidential candidate is inherently limited. Regardless of how passionate someone is, or how much they like you, or how much they’re willing to show their support for you, they can still only vote a single time. Zeroing in on your original, core group of customers with a laser-sharp focus may be an excellent way to make sure they stick around long enough to make that sale (or vote in November), but it doesn’t help you at all regarding expansion.

If you’re so focused on maintaining this core group of followers that you’re willing to alienate everyone who exists outside of your bubble, ultimately you might achieve massive short-term gains, but it’ll be at the expense of your long-term goals. Never be so focused on one group of customers that you’re willing to push another (possibly larger) one away. Understand that ALL businesses require a steady stream of NEW customers to guarantee the growth they need to survive for years to come.