Emerging Online Marketing Strategies for 2014

As 2013 comes to an end, marketers are thinking about trends and strategies that have made an impact and show potential for the coming year. We followed some global marketing gurus online to get insights on the approaches that are going to be important in 2014.

These are the suggestions for the future:

Focus on “social” as the new marketing mantra

There is a shift in the way marketers are achieving their goals. According to the 2013 CMO Survey, there has been 28% increase in emphasis on diversification strategies, the most important of which is organic growth. This explains the expanded focus on social media. Organic growth requires wide, viral reach and few other marketing techniques offer it to the same degree as social.
Kohl’s Facebook page skyrocketed to well over a million fans with their promotional campaign asking them to vote for schools to give out $10 million in charity.

Kohl's facebook campaign Read more of this post

Small Business Marketing Ideas from the Big Brands

As a marketer, do you dream of having a big brand and the budget that goes along with it? Well, you may be surprised how much you can take from major companies and their tactics to improve the results for your marketing at a small company.

To set the stage, the top trends for 2014 predicted by Forbes are:

  • Content marketing continues to grow. Marketing to the masses through techniques like ads on TV or radio is becoming less effective. Producing valuable, engaging content designed for specific audiences yields better results.
  • Diversity is important to social media marketing. New sites are introduced constantly. Brands have to operate on several to reach the most potential customers, increasing overall complexity.
  • Images and visuals perform best. Many of the emerging social media sites are visual. Furthermore, most blog posts that are shared extensively incorporate arresting images. Infographics have become more common.
  • Less is more. As a result of our hyper-connectivity and highly-digitized lives, consumers are craving simpler campaigns and messaging. The most successful ads and content are likely to be the ones that are easy to digest.
  • Duracell Commercial Featuring Derrick Coleman of the Seattle Seahawks

    The newest Duracell commercial features Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman, who triumphed over his hearing impairment

    Mobile-friendly content is essential. Forbes notes that “87 percent of connected devices sold by 2017 will be tablets and smartphones.” It is important to provide an acceptable experience to users on these devices.

  • SEO and social work together. The goal of search engines is to provide the most relevant and high-quality content, so Google and others factor in the social shares that content gets when delivering organic search rankings. That is why many companies are including social share plugins and encouraging visitors to share content.

Considering the trends and priorities, there is some general advice small businesses should follow:

Read more of this post

The Small Business Dream

179115363Standing at the Lincoln Memorial 51 years ago on August 28th, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered one of  America’s top speeches of the 20th century. “I have a dream” became an iconic speech and statement for thousands of adults, children and civil right enthusiasts. The speech instilled a sense of urgency, bravery and desire to never give up on the dream.

As a business professional, you had a dream. Whether that was to own a business or launch the first digital campaign for a nationally-recognized organization, your dream started with a simple idea and developed into a business.

For Affinity Express our vision was to evolve into the small business marketing platform, which means we empower our clients to reach millions of small-to-medium businesses (SMB). SMBs have a need for design for advertising and digital marketing services to connect and engage their customers.

Digital services, which includes website and mobile site design, social media platforms, email, video and more, are crucial for businesses looking to establish an online presence. Video marketing, in particular, is a great way to reach new and existing customers.

Creating and shooting a video may seem like a daunting project but, with today’s technology, you can pick up your cell phone and shoot a video in moments. Here are a few great articles and videos we found to help get you started:

  • “Every time you say, ‘I don’t have time’ what you are really saying is that it (your dream) isn’t a priority in your business,” states James Wedmore. Read more about the “Five Essential Videos every Business Needs.”
  • Online video editors are provided to you at low cost or no cost. YouTube offers a simple editor and it always helps when you get a few tips.
  • Perhaps you are camera shy or feel nervous about editing a video. This is a great alternative: Make your own commercial.

With these statistics and great tips, we hope you find yourself one step closer to making your business’s dream a visual reality.

In order to understand the questions and concerns that arise with creating a video, I have decided to develop and produce my first marketing video. Check back next week on my progress and, if you have any tips to share, I love to hear from you. Until next week!

Nirmal Kumar, Retirement

NirmalKumar_Jan20On June 4, 2003, Nirmal Kumar began his career at Affinity Express as a quality controller. During his 11 years of employment, he contributed to the quality control team and assisted with training new hires on U.S. culture. Nirmal is the first Global Advertising Services employee to be employed for more than a decade. Soon after achieving this milestone, Nirmal made the decision to retire. Nirmal looks forward to spending time with his wife, Rama and son, Roshan, visiting historical and religious landmarks and playing his drums and guitars on a daily basis. Thank you for the 11 years of dedication and hard work, Nirmal. Enjoy your retirement!

2014 Small Business Marketing Trends–Infographic

It’s a new year and everyone has opinions on what 2014 will mean for marketers. Here’s our take on the trends along with some statistics you may find useful for decision making. Let’s hope we’re all toasting our success as December rolls around!

In the meantime, what trends are you betting on?

2014 Marketing Trends Infographic

Many thanks to the sources of the statistics above: Emarketer, Small Business Trends, Secret W Business, Marketing Charts, Masterful Marketing, Social Media Today.

Super Digi-Bowl I, Small Business Video Challenge

Super Bowl kicks off in 19 days with the first outdoor, cold-weather super bowl in New Jersey. Super Bowl XLVIII will also be the first time two states, New York and New Jersey, proudly co-host the game. A 47 year tradition of NFC and AFC rivalry, Super Bowl has opened the doors to quite a few American “largest” facts including:

● Second day of highest U.S. food consumption

● Most watch television broadcast

● Most expensive commercial airtime

According to USA Today, FOX is charging around $4 million for 30 seconds of commercial time and that does not include production costs. For many small businesses, spending that much money for 30 seconds is unthinkable. Yet for companies like Coca-Cola, millions of consumers watching and the social media buzz is worth it. Small businesses are also looking to create buzz and what better way to do this than social media? So let the games begin!

Affinity Express welcomes you to the first “Small Business Digi-Bowl!” Submit  your 15-30 second commercials for your company to Affinity Express by kick-off on Super Bowl Sunday, February 2nd  and watch as we air them beginning February 10th on our NEW website and social media sites including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. You can earn the title of “Digi-Bowl Champ” and/or “Fan Favorite.”

Producing films can be done at very low cost and even from your cell phone. Here are a few tips to get you started:

        ● Get close and shoot horizontally

        ● 5 Tips for Creating Video

        ● Make Marketing Videos with your iPhone

Best of luck and we can’t wait to see what you share!

Promote Your New Website–Free!

Whether you are launching or revamping, going live with a new website is an exciting event for your business. The promotion should begin in advance of the launch and go beyond the date when the site goes live. In fact, you can get generate buzz and anticipation of the coming change and improvements as much as three months in advance and two months afterward.

Here are a few tips before you before you announce the site is up and running. 1) Test the website and ensure all the features are working, pages load properly, etc. 2) Get a fresh set of eyes to look and ensure visuals and copy are effective. 3) Set up Google Analytics to track visitors and find out what is being viewed and what visitors find valuable.

Website DesignOnce you have taken these steps, here are some free ways you can promote your website and drive up traffic.

  • Alert your internal team. Make sure the sales and customer service teams are notified ahead of time on the details of your plan and equip them with approved communications to ensure consistency.
  • Generate a press release. Distribute to your local outlets and/or any niche publications that might be interested in your company. Alert newspapers, magazines, websites, bloggers, business journals and other media. Some free press release sites are PRLog.org and PRWeb.com. These releases might get picked up by some media outlets and they can help your search engine optimization by providing links back to your site. Focus on your website’s unique selling points, why the content is relevant to visitors, the launch date and what makes it different from competitor sites. Read more of this post

A New Face for Affinity Express’s Blog

164190220As the new year begins, changes are to be expected. One of these changes was taking the job opportunity as the    marketing manager for Affinity Express. Joining the team is an exciting transition as I will assist in executing marketing  strategies in several areas including trade shows, e-marketing, social media, outreach campaigns and communications. I look forward to a successful and challenging future in this role.

As I began writing my first Affinity Express blog post, I was reminded of Kelly Glass’s blog on “Marketing Resolutions  for the New Year” and I started my own “Marketing Resolutions for 2014.”

Resolution 1: Understand and develop plans to be a “data activist” vs a “data analyst.”

Background: According to eWeek, formerly PC Week, interpreting data will help a company gain a deeper understanding of customer habits by identifying trends in their online viewing, social media posting and purchasing behaviors.

Action Plan: My goal will be to learn, identify and understand our client needs and pain points when it comes to executing and delivering digital marketing and how Affinity Express can provide solutions.

Resolution 2: Embrace my personal writing style as I create high-quality content for Affinity Express’s blog that is applicable to the specific industries, which in turn creates action items for readers.

Background: The Nielsen Group and Yahoo Small Business blogging statistics state 81% of consumers trust advice and information from blogs and 77% of Internet users read blogs.

Action Plan: With this in mind, I will dedicate my time to researching and developing content that is relevant to our followers and will overcome the primary challenges of blogging in 2014

55% producing enough content

● 47% producing content that engages

● 69% dedicating time to write and self-edit content

Resolution 3: As marketers move through the ever-changing digital era, we need to monitor posts and gauge customer sentiment.

Background: CMO.com recognizes “Reputation Management Joins the Big Leagues” as the rise of social media has created a transparency of organizations and high customer expectations.

Action Plan: I plan on allotting daily time to “being present” and transparent as I learn about the clients and brands that are the foundation of Affinity Express’s success.

My resolutions are set as I begin the New Year with Affinity Express, but I would like to add Resolutions 4 and 5, so I am turning to our readers for your advice.

● What suggestions do you have for starting in a new marketing position?

● What books, newsletters and/or blogs would you suggest I read? For the industry? Marketing profession? My personal favorite is the “Book of BusinessAwesome” by Scott Stratten.

End of my journey

with Affinity Express.

My journey on this blog has been full of interesting new topics and beautiful experiences. Each week, I learned something new from our girlaudience and that helped me immensely in fine tuning my efforts.

Another huge support came from my colleague and mentor, Kelly Glass, who guided me every step of the way. Our posts are planned during our Monday morning sessions, when we discuss the coming week’s projects, new events and business updates. Our blog posts have helped all of us grow every day as responsive marketers who try their best to be in touch with the changing environments of our audiences and share tips, quotes from market leaders and relevant facts to help them plan and implement marketing campaigns more effectively.

I am sad that this is my last post as I end my journey with Affinity Express but am happy to have gained this wonderful experience and made great connections with all our readers. I will continue to write about trending marketing strategies here and hope you enjoy my posts. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.

I wish all the best to the entire team of Affinity Express and hope they continue exploring new horizons and that the Marketing Team continues to share content that is valued and appreciated by all the readers. Goodbyes have become a thing of the past in our virtual world so I will see you around!

Wishing you all a very happy New Year!

Top New Year Blog Post Ideas for Small Businesses

The start of  a new year can be a very interesting and important time for your business blog.New Year visual Since the holidays have some of the highest online activity, it is a great opportunity for you to connect with followers and customers. What topics will interest audiences at this time? Here are some tips to write your blog posts:

Offer giveaways

Holidays are about sharing good wishes so offer free consultations, downloadable e-books with tips, examples from the industry and how-to advice to potential customers. Deals for a limited time are sure to draw attention. Use your blog to introduce new services or available product upgrades to a select number of people initially to create buzz. You can also share special offers and coupons from your e-commerce sites on your blog to advertize to different audiences from your usual channels at no cost.

Share numbers to gain confidence

You have the statistics on products and services that were hits with your customers in the past year. Reveal these numbers in your blog along with insights on why and how you plan to continue to cater to customers’ special needs and individual tastes. Read more of this post

Happy Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa 2013

We wish all our clients and associates a very Happy Kwanzaa.

Merry Christmas

Christmas (2013) visual

All of us at Affinity Express wish you health, happiness and hope this holiday season. Merry Christmas!

10 Marketing Books to Add to Your Holiday Gift List

Books make fantastic gifts but it is tough to choose the right ones. To help you narrow the choice down for the marketers, customers, partners and vendors on your list or even for you, these are our favorite marketing books.

Book covers for blog

1. Youtility: Why Smart Companies Are Helping, Not Selling

As Jay Baer discusses, “The difference between helping and selling is just 2 letters. But those letters make all the difference. Your company needs to become a YOUtility. Sell something and you make a customer. Help someone and you make a customer for life.” The book advocates a marketing strategy that creates devoted customers by providing something to them which is genuinely and inherently useful.

2. Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break Through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less

In today’s age, when customers are very connected and aware about the latest products, services and tools in the market, you can’t interrupt them with mediocre or irrelevant content or sales pitches—they simply switch off! Joe Pulizzi is one of the world’s leading experts on content marketing and he explains how to draw prospects and customers in by creating information with which they actually want to engage. The book is an excellent guide to get all the tools to start creating and disseminating content that leads directly to greater profits and growth.
Joe Pulizzi emphasizes we focus far too much on channels first: from blogs and Facebook to Pinterest and all the others out there today, but content marketing is about the context, customer and relevance that matters.

3. Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking

This book is packed with straightforward advice and great humor. Andy Sernovitz asks a simple question, “What would people prefer—Love or Money?” He answers that you can buy advertising, which is paying people to talk about you. But when you earn word of mouth, people talk out of love rather than money. And this love grows and builds over time. Your cost of customer acquisition starts to drop as your fans and followers bring in new customers for free. Great companies reinvest these savings into more reasons to talk, which begins to snowball into an unbeatable competitive advantage that carries them through both good times and bad.

4. Return On Influence: The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing

Return on Influence explores how brands are identifying and leveraging social media marketers to build product awareness, brand buzz and new sales.
In this revolutionary book, marketing consultant Mark W. Schaefer explains how to use social networking and influence marketing to achieve the following goals:

  • In-depth explanations of the sources of online influence and how they can work for or against you
  • Interviews with more than 50 experts, including tech blogger Robert Scoble, Influence author Robert Cialdini and industry thought leaders such as Mitch Joel, Jay Baer and Christopher S. Penn
  • Practical, actionable tips to increase your own personal power and online influence
  • More than a dozen original social influence marketing case studies

5. Riches in Niches: How to Get Rich in Your Niche

Finding a tight market niche where you and your business stand out is the most challenging aspect of marketing for most people. You may not have heard of Riches in Niches, but it’s the go-to book that marketing experts give their clients when the subject turns to how to find a profitable market niche. Susan Friedman focuses on 7 strategies for success in her book to help you position yourself as an expert, which she terms “nichepreneur”. The niche marketing strategies include:

  • Create a name
  • Build media muscle
  • Move movers, shake shakers
  • Catch writing fever
  • Produce products
  • Share wisdom
  • Offer services

6. Defending Your Brand: How Smart Companies Use Defensive Strategy to Deal with Competitive Attacks

Defending business is critical for companies of all sizes. If you fail at continual growth, you will miss your objectives. If you fail defending your business, you can lose everything. In this book, Tim Calkins reviews why the defensive strategy is so important and explains how a company can meet a competitive threat with a strong and effective defense plan. He shows businesses how to understand and get competitive intelligence; how to determine if companies are at risk; and how to blunt competitors’ efforts. This book also provides insight into what the established players are likely to do when you launch your new venture. Before introducing a new product, it is important to think about how the existing companies will respond and then adjust your launch plan accordingly.

7. The Shopper Economy: The New Way to Achieve Marketplace Success by Turning Behavior into Currency

The Shopper Economy helps marketers capture and monetize customer interactions. Liz Crawford, a leading marketing innovator and consumer behavior analyst, gives a fast-paced and comprehensive look at how the unprecedented availability of information is a boon to brands, because it lets shoppers watch and share ads, recommend products and interact with brands and each other.
Crawford demonstrates how brands like 7-Eleven, Carnival Cruises and Kia are using Shopkick, Foursquare and other platforms to empower consumers by encouraging and rewarding everyday activities—entering a store, messaging, recommending, “Liking”, playing and more. From these examples you will learn how to:

  • Measure and assess accurately the value of shoppers’ activities
  • Translate the four key shopper behaviors—attention, participation, advocacy and loyalty—into “shopper currency,” real and virtual rewards that have measurable value to buyers and sellers
  • Improve your business’s ROI in shopper marketing by avoiding activity-for activity’s sake and other common pitfalls
  • Align your brand more seamlessly with your shoppers’ own personal “brands”

The book focuses on a new phenomenon in which, in addition to shoppers purchasing brands, brands are purchasing shoppers’ behavior. The author discusses a new dynamic where shoppers can actually earn value in exchange for displaying one of four behaviors: paying attention, participating, advocating or committing. None of these behaviors directly involve purchases. The shopper can earn value by simply behaving.

8. The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself

People trust the recommendations of friends, family members, colleagues or even strangers with similar tastes over anything thrust at them by faceless companies. John Jantsch offers practical techniques for harnessing the power of referrals to ensure a steady flow of new customers. Keep those customers happy and they will refer your business to even more customers. Some of Jantsch’s strategies include:

  • Talk with your customers; not at them. Thanks to social networking sites, companies of any size have the opportunity to engage with their customers as never before—but the key is listening.
  • The sales team is the most important part of your marketing team. Sales people are the company’s main link to customers, who are the main source of referrals. That’s why getting them on board with your referral strategy is critical.
  • You should educate your customers. Referrals are only helpful if they’re given to the right people. Tell customers who they should be talking to.

This smart and practical guide is essential reading for companies looking to grow without fat marketing budgets.

9. Sexy Little Numbers: How to Grow Your Business Using the Data You Already Have

Today, everything we do creates data and the volumes are enormous. Every time someone views something online, enters search on Google or even surfs the web on a smart phone, another chunk gets added—in real time—to the multibillion gigabyte (and growing) trove of data that can help us better understand and predict consumer behavior. We no longer need expertise in math or statistics or even expensive modeling software to get the most out of all these revealing consumer insights. A revolution in data analysis is underway and the methods and tools for aggregating and analyzing this “data deluge” are suddenly far simpler, less expensive and more precise than they were.
In Sexy Little Numbers, Dmitri Maex reveals how you can turn data into actionable strategies that drive real growth and revenue. He makes the case that if you look differently at the existing data you have about your customers you can improve: 1) your strategy, 2) the tactics you use to carry out your strategy and 3) the execution of your tactics.

10. The Constant Contact Guide to Email Marketing

Email marketing is an incredibly cost-effective marketing tool. But it can also be a challenge because the inbox is a hostile environment. Whether your email is noteworthy or an annoying waste of your customers’ time depends on your ability to stick with the fundamentals of good marketing and authentic relationship-building. With The Constant Contact Guide to Email Marketing, you’ll learn to avoid the common mistakes of email marketing, give your customers content they love and combine an effective email marketing strategy with your traditional marketing efforts, giving you way more bang for your marketing buck.

If you currently use Constant Contact as your email marketing system, this book is a must-read so that you can get the most out of it. However, this marketing book isn’t just for Constant Contact customers. It’s for any business that wants to do email marketing right.

Have you come across any interesting marketing books this year? I hope you enjoy browsing these books as much as I enjoyed putting the list together for you! I wish you all happy and healthy holidays!

Marketing Resolutions for the New Year

New Year CatAs I get ready to take a few days off around the holidays, I was thinking about 2014 and what I want to do differently to continually challenge myself. Plus, I am in the process of welcoming a new team member and saying goodbye to one who has become a terrific asset and friend. So I created a list of marketing resolutions to capitalize on what has changed and developed in 2013.

  • Enhance and leverage the brand. We used a strategy agency to help us hone our plans for the next three to five years in terms of new markets and services. Not every company has the resources to do this and it was a first for Affinity Express as well. But that means we have an excellent opportunity to make sure we are completely integrated. We can reorient everything we do around our brand and the promise it carries. As Marketing Thingy suggests, marketers should go beyond advertising to every communication piece, the structure of our offices, the forms we use and programs we develop. The point is to use the brand like a lens to view everything we do. Even if you didn’t revisit your strategy like we did, you can still focus on integrating your brand.
  • Produce great content. We have been deep into content marketing for a while now but I’d like to broaden to more formats and increase visual marketing this year. There is a good rationale as nearly 40% of U.S. companies use blogs for marketing purposes and companies that blog have 55% more website visitors. On top of that, 90% of companies market with custom content today. Content marketing is less expensive and more effective than traditional mass marketing and it is more appropriate for the digital era. If you are seen as an expert on relevant topics, you will build a larger following. The components of a content marketing plan are:
  1. Read more of this post

Our Favorite Ads of This Holiday Season . . . So Far

Regardless of your industry, this time of the year is all about engaging your audiences with holiday greetings that connect with them and spread the joy of the season. It is a great opportunity to show the personality of your organization to customers. With that in mind, we looked for some ads that have brilliantly captured the holiday spirit, ranging from playful to magical.

Video ads:

Harvey Nichols: Sorry, I Spent It On Myself
The luxury department store, Harvey Nichols, designed a tongue-in-cheek ad. Rather than make viewers sentimental, they instead suggest we should think only of ourselves while shopping this season.

Read more of this post

Build a Compelling Elevator Pitch for Your Business

Whether you are selling your products or services, looking for investors or simply updating your Aunt Sally on what you do at a holiday party, you need an elevator pitch. It is not a tagline or description of your industry. As Chris O’Leary states, “an effective elevator pitch is designed to give the audience just enough information that they will have a sense of what you are talking about and want to know more.”

The term comes from the concept that you might find yourself in an elevator with the perfect prospect, investor, etc., and only have the time of the journey to entice them about what you do.

The first thing to know is that, when crafting an elevator pitch, you have to write it down. And you will revise it multiple times before you are done. You should also say every new version out loud because it is supposed to be a verbal pitch and has to flow properly.

Second, the target length can vary but most experts suggest an elevator pitch should be no longer than 30 seconds.

Elevator PitchThird, you will have to customize your elevator pitch for specific audiences, but there are certain elements you should include for an effective elevator pitch.

  • Address the problem or pain that your business addresses.
  • Follow up with how your solve it.
  • Detail who has this challenge (i.e., the target market).
  • Explain how big the market is for the solution.
  • Stress the main benefit you provide.
  • Figure out what makes your company different.
  • Make it exciting.

The goal is to intrigue and engage, versus telling someone all there is to know about you. You can’t be everything to everyone so determine your niche and go for it. You should also have a hook (e.g., you could ask a question, “Have you ever felt held back by lack of time and wished you could clone yourself so you could get everything done, when you want it done, the way you want it done?”). Think about why you are in business and what gets you motivated and out of bed in the morning. That should be included in the elevator pitch. Another point to consider is your specific qualifications to solve the problem and/or the people behind your business such as prominent investors, board members, associations or business partners.

Here are two examples from Business Plans Kit for Dummies.

  1. “I’m a health-information specialist. I produce a world-class newsletter, send email updates and establish client relationships in an effort to support health and wellness for people 50 and older. Working with individuals, HMOs, physicians and health and fitness centers, my business is a leading player in helping people maintain healthy lifestyles by providing summaries of medical advances and practical lifestyle advice, as well as access to leading medical professionals.”
  2. “Our business translates medical breakthroughs into people language for the fast-growing 50-plus age group nationwide. Basically, we shrink the latest medical findings into news capsules that we feature in a monthly newsletter. Our subscribers include HMOs, clinics, and fitness centers—plus 15,000 individuals who receive targeted emails addressing specific health conditions. We’ve won advertising commitments from more than 50 marketers who want to reach our audience of health-conscious older Americans.”

The second paragraph starts with a sentence about the company’s innovative product and audience. The next sentence talks about how the business works. The third sentence refers how the company makes money and the forth illustrates the acceptance of the market. It is less self-centered and clunky (e.g., “health-information specialist”), with no jargon so it is the better option.

The Business and Entrepreneurship Center offers a template for building an elevator pitch:

  1. [Name of your company] provides [name your products or services] for [describe the segment of the market you will serve] who [describe the problem this solves].
  2. [Enter one sentence that tells why this business is needed and by whom.]
  3. [Make a statement about the size and/or growth trend of the industry.]
  4. [Write a sentence or two, no more, to address your qualifications to run the business.]
  5. [Make an honest, upbeat, substantive and credible claim about the business potential in terms of sales or profitability.]

One of my pet peeves is industry lingo and complicated language. If you are a yogurt shop, don’t talk about different types of bacteria, talk about how you offer a healthy and delicious snack. Try to eliminate techno-speak and convoluted terms or you potentially alienate your audience and anyone who is not in the business. The elevator pitch should be delivered with enthusiasm and in easy-to-understand language.

You should also be specific whenever possible versus tossing around general statements such as “we’re going to take the market by storm.” Yawn.

Once you have your pitch polished, practice it constantly. You have to do this until it comes out naturally and is second nature to you.

You should also get feedback on the pitch from employees, stakeholders and others not as close to the business as you to ensure it is clear and compelling.

The final elevator pitch should be shared with all employees and reinforced constantly so there is one message for the organization. Recently, we designed business cards with our elevator pitch on the front and major service categories on the back. These were distributed at a sales meeting we had in Atlantic City with new hires and existing team members.

For more help, this YouTube video clip from Tim Berry offers tips on crafting the elevator pitch.

Ultimately, the goal of the elevator pitch is to generate interest, prompt questions and begin to develop a relationship with the listener. It helps you introduce yourself and break the ice in networking situations. You can also use your elevator pitch to clarify the target audience and business goals for your own use and become more confident in business settings.

When was the last time you polished your elevator pitch?

Designing Call-to-Action Buttons that Customers Click

For most businesses, online customers are critical. Any optimizations you make on your website are more valuable than those you make to any individual marketing efforts because all of your campaigns eventually lead visitors there. Calls-to-action (CTAs) are the elements that you want your visitors to notice and click on in your business website and landing pages. To that end, we need to understand the psychology of visitors to effectively design and place CTA buttons. There are some universal facts that can guide you.

A CTA button has four important items to consider: size, message (text), placement and color.

Keep the CTA buttons to an appropriate size

The size of an element relative to its surroundings indicates its importance. Decide the importance of other web page actions and size your CTA buttons accordingly. Your CTA buttons will definitely get more attention if they are larger than the other buttons on the page.

This Skype website page clearly distinguishes its CTA button with the large size and different color from the surrounding environment.

CTA Skype

The logo could be placed higher on the page, but visitors’ eyes will be drawn to the CTA button because of the size. Read more of this post

Small Business Holiday Greetings

According to a Constant Contact holiday survey, 31% of small businesses say winter is their busiest season, 65% expect 2013 revenues to exceed those of 2012 and 52% say holiday customers become repeat, loyal customers. With this data in mind, why wouldn’t you use holiday greetings to thank customers and prospects while building relationships, increasing sales and acquiring new customers?

The custom of sending greeting cards can be traced back to the ancient Chinese, who exchanged messages of good will for the new year, as noted by the Greeting Card Association. The early Egyptians shared greetings on papyrus scrolls. The first published Christmas cards appeared in London in 1843, when Sir Henry Cole hired the artist John Calcott Horsley to design a card that could be sent to friends.

Award-Winning Embroidered Holiday Card

Every year, Affinity Express selects a famous painting to interpret in embroidery and creates a small number of cards. For the 2012 card, we featured van Gogh’s “The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum” and won a Golden Needle Award from Stitches Magazine!

Holiday cards for businesses should include:

  • Logo and slogan or tagline
  • Contact information
  • Social media profiles
  • Website address

Your greeting should be generic to avoid offending anyone’s beliefs but you do want to stand out in the pile of messages your customers and prospects receive. Ruff Haus Design has some advice on crafting holiday sentiments:

  1. Save time by ordering pre-printed cards. Standard greetings are okay, but sign cards and, if possible, address them by hand.
  2. Tailor your approach. You should spend more time adding a personal note for the best customers.
  3. Leverage email. It is acceptable to send email greetings, although it is better to make the salutation specific to the person rather than “Dear Customer”.

Some examples of wording that businesses can use are as follows:

  • Thank you for being our valued customer. We wish you a beautiful holiday season and blissful year’s end.
  • Sending you warm wishes of gratitude this holiday season for your ongoing business, support and referrals. Happy Holidays!
  • Best wishes for a happy holiday season and our sincere thanks for your loyalty and goodwill throughout the year.

Facetivus is the offering from Iris Worldwide, which featured videos of staffers getting eggnog, pies and various other items thrown at their faces in the name of charity. For each video play racked up, the agency donated a dollar to Hurricane Sandy relief.

Holiday cards can be created cost effectively and professionally at these websites:

VistaPrint Holiday Card Option

This is one of the many options available from VistaPrint for printing.

Since the major cost in ordering cards is in the set-up, the Small Business Advisor notes that you will probably find that adding another 50 or 100 is a nominal cost, especially compared to placing a second new order later. And you never know when a card will break through and generate a sale.

During the holidays, you shouldn’t limit yourself to reaching customers through greeting cards. You can also write letters to give thanks for whatever your clients did for you in the past year, describe plans or aspirations for the next year, include some news about your company or the year’s activities and provide an invitation or other call to action (e.g., test a product, receive a free gift or sample, get new information, etc.).

It is even better to reach out in multiple ways to stay top-of-mind. Build on printed cards with:

  • Ecards. Keep greetings brief (30 to 60 seconds at most) and engaging for best results. You could show images or video of your offices or stores and employees.
DrafFCB Holiday Card

DraftFCB deserved some recognition for their innovative holiday greeting in 2011. If you typed your address into a snow globe, a picture of your house appeared. Then it would snow in front of your home!

  • Enewsletters. Offer suggestions on how to use your products to solve problems or improve enjoyment of the holidays (e.g., wrapping tips, recipes, shipping deadlines, etc.). For example, if your products make great last-minute gifts, reinforce how stress is reduced by having them on-hand.
  • Gifts. It is not critical to spend a lot on items as long as they are perceived as valuable to customers and/or tie in with your business. For example, if you are selling festive apparel for the holidays, an “emergency kit” of safety pins, bandages, stain remover and more that women can stash in their purses could work.
  • Coupons/discounts. Along with your thank-you messages, send out encouragement for future purchases. If you distribute offers via email, be sure to share them on social media as well. You can encourage people to share the promotions with their family and friends.
  • Social media greetings. Tweet and post on all your profiles. You can show a personal side with photos of employee holiday parties or customers using your products. If you can publish tips for the holidays, your will position yourself as a resource for customers.
  • Mobile greetings. Happy holiday messages can be sent with last-minute gift ideas or solutions, as well as images of new product releases and special savings that can be redeemed using smartphones.
Western Carolina University Holiday Greeting

Western Carolina University created a long-form greeting that paints a wonderful picture of the culture and campus.

  • In-store and invoices. Hand out greeting cards at the checkout with discounts for post-holiday shopping to show your gratitude for purchases. If you print and mail invoices, you can include cards and coupons in the same envelope.
  • In-store events. Host a gathering for your customers. To make it even more attractive, offer babysitting and free gift-wrapping. Depending on the time of day, you can serve wine or hot cider and finger foods. A hair salon could offer discounts on products and reward points for booking hair and spa appointments for the future.

How do you thank customers and spread holiday cheer at this time of the year? How has this changed from print to digital or multichannel formats?

Affinity Express Digital Card 2012

Affinity Express emails a digital card every year to express our gratitude while showing what we can do for clients.

Engage Audiences with Targeted Advertising on Social Media

As social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn become the daily haunts of millions of consumers; businesses are increasingly targeting visualadvertising on them to target audiences with specific demographics, social connections, interests and habits. According to Business Insider, “Social networks are an interesting advertising channel as they offer enormous user bases and deep databases. And they have high engagement and desirable demographics. Americans were spending an average of 12 hours per month on social networks as of July 2012, with 18-24 year olds averaging 20 hours.”

Here is how marketers can use these three top social media channels to effectively reach potential customers and improve their social media marketing ROI.

Use targeting tactics to reach prospects on Facebook

Companies tailor their Facebook marketing campaigns to match users’ interests and activities using data gleaned from their conversations, profiles and behavior. There are specific techniques that can be used to reach prospects on Facebook:

  • Precise interest targeting lets you define your ideal audience by what they are interested in, using terms people have used in their Facebook timelines. These may be drawn from their listed interests, activities, education and job titles, pages they like or groups to which they belong.
  • Broad category targeting allows you to more easily and accurately reach your intended audience. When you choose to target your ad or sponsored content using a broad category, it will be shown to people who’ve included information in their timelines relevant to that category.

Broad categories allow marketers to design extremely relevant ads with a new level of insight. Here are some broad categories that highlight the unique targeting opportunities available for Facebook advertisers:

  1. Currently Traveling
  2. Small Business Owners
  3. Engaged (6 months)
  4. Expecting Parents
  5. Long-Distance Relationship
  6. Parents (children 13 to 15 years old)
  7. Blackberry Mobile Users
  • Custom Audiences is another form of targeting on Facebook. It lets advertisers find their offline audiences among people who are on Facebook. Using email addresses, phone numbers, Facebook user IDs or app user IDs to find matches, Custom Audiences let you find the exact people you want to reach. For example, people share their email addresses when buying products from e-commerce websites. The websites can send these details to Facebook and ask the social network to find those people and target them anonymously with ads on their news-feed, using knowledge about their purchases to upsell or cross-sell products.
  • Action spec targeting allows marketers to target Facebook ads to users based on their app activity. This type of targeting is useful for any advertising campaign on Facebook. It leverages user actions to create highly-personalized advertising experiences, which is critical for maximizing user engagement. For example, with You can set up Facebook ads to trigger the specific actions you want from audiences.

Facebook targeted ads

Choose the page, place, app or event you want to promote and under ‘What would you like to do?’ you can:

  • Get more page likes: Reach people who aren’t connected to your Page yet. You’ll be asked to design your ad including headline, body text and image.
  • Promote page posts: Promote specific posts; giving you increased reach and increasing your chance of placement in news feeds.
  • Get new users: Get more app installs for your Facebook App. Your ads will show to people who are more likely to install your apps.
  • Increase attendance: Increase your Facebook Event responses. Your ads will appear to people more likely to join your events.
  • Advanced options: See all creative and bidding options in one place. You can toggle your bidding options between CPM and CPC.

After creating your Facebook ads, you can define the desired profiles that will get to see your ads. Facebook provides detailed targeting tips to better reach specific profiles.

Listen before advertising on Twitter

Previously, there was no way to share tailored tweets to a select group of people but now advertisers can target their account and tweets by:

  1. Keywords in timeline
  2. Interest
  3. Geography
  4. Gender
  5. Similarity to existing followers
  6. Device (e.g., mobile, desktop, etc.)
  7. Keyword search results

This functionality allows brands to reach specific audiences on Twitter without showing ads to all followers. For example, if a chain of stores plans different launch dates for several locations, then it can send tailored messages at various times, customized for the users. Mobile app providers who only want to reach customers on one device such as smartphones can do so without also sending the message to desktop users.

Twitter targeted tweet

Advertisers are also using various social listening tools to identify and group Twitter users commenting on particular subjects. Radian6 is one such tool that employs a Boolean formula (mathematical algorithm) for the keyword phrases chosen, which makes it easier to pull and quantify results later. You can customize your filtering preferences by language, media type, region and more.
Businesses can use Promoted Accounts to build active communities of followers who are advocates and influencers for their businesses. Promoted Tweets broaden the reach of their messages and help them engage with users who are not yet following them based on a variety of powerful targeting options.

If you can tweet, you can advertise on Twitter. All you need is a Twitter account and a credit card. You’re in control of your ads, the audience you want to reach and, of course, your budget. Best of all, you will only be charged when people follow your promoted account or retweet, reply, favorite or click on your promoted tweets.

Target professionals through LinkedIn

As a business networking site, LinkedIn has a unique ability to reach audiences by targeting their professional identities. This can be a big advantage for B2B marketers, especially because they can reach professionals quickly and programmatically. Along with targeting options for ads, the network also offers sponsored updates that allow companies to promote their content to specific audiences on LinkedIn in a similar manner as companies post sponsored tweets on Twitter and promote page posts on Facebook.

The targeting options offered by LinkedIn are detailed and specific. Brands can select audiences by companies, titles, job functions and seniority levels, in addition to the other geo-targeting options available on other platforms.

LinkedIn targeting

When showing targeted ads, LinkedIn places up to three ads in each slot on the website. Ads are placed on the:

  • Profile Pages: when members view the profile of other LinkedIn members.
  • Home Pages: the pages members see when they sign in to LinkedIn.
  • Inboxes: the pages where members see messages and invitations to connect.
  • Search Results Pages: the pages that result when members are searched for by name.
  • Groups: when members view pages in their group.

LinkedIn targeted ads

While creating ads, you can choose targeted member profiles based on their industries, job functions, seniority, geography, etc. You see an estimate of the audience size you’re able to reach. LinkedIn won’t show your ad to members who don’t meet the targeting criteria you specify.

Create ads with clear and compelling messages to get maximum clicks. LinkedIn ads are made up of headlines, descriptions, URLs and images.

  • Headline: Choose headlines that grab the attention of your target audiences. Think about their professional status, issues that they discuss in groups and their priorities to be able to connect immediately.
  • Description: Think about why your prospects would notice your ads. Provide offers that have strong appeal and highlight benefits, whitepapers and content, free trials or demos. Adding active call-to-action phrases like try, download, sign up or get a quote can help improve conversions.
  • Image: Include relevant images with bright colors to capture the attention of your audience. The maximum size of images is 50 pixels wide by 50 pixels high, so be sure that your images are clear at this size.

Beyond the information in this article, it is important to note that we need a balance in our marketing strategy. A healthy mix of advertising along with great content including videos, music, blogs, case studies and testimonials on social media is the best recipe for success. Along with spending dollars on targeted ad campaigns, marketers need to invest in sharing interesting stories that people want to watch/listen/share in their circles.

How do you plan to use social media to target your potential customers?

Happy Bonifacio Day

Bonifacio Day 2013 visual

Affinity Express wishes all its team members in the Philippines a Happy Bonifacio Day.

Happy Thanksgiving 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

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