OUR MUSINGS

There is Still Time to Plan for a Great 2016

startup-photosIf you find yourself well into this new year without a finalized marketing communications plan, or have been frustrated in past years with plans that don’t produce the results you want, don’t worry. It’s not too late to develop a plan that meets your marketing and sales objectives plus helps you accomplish as much as you can with your budgets. But you must act fast – especially if you want to maximize your impact in 2016.

The key to effective marketing communications planning is to use a proven, repeatable planning process. We recommend the Research, Planning, Implementation and Evaluation (RPIE) method endorsed by major marketing and public relations associations, including the Public Relations Society of America. This four step approach allows you to tackle projects, especially campaigns with several moving parts, in the most strategic, intelligent and measurable ways possible.

STEP 1: Research

Start with research to understand and define each opportunity or issue you face. You may need to use more than one method – primary/secondary, formal/informal and quantitative/qualitative – to really understand who you need to reach, what you want your target audience to do and what type of messages need to be communicated.

STEP 2: Planning

To be successful in marketing and public relations, it’s important to plan the work, then work the plan. Planning begins with setting clear objectives for each opportunity you want to address, then creating the framework to meet each objective. Perhaps you want to increase booth traffic at your company’s trade show exhibits this year. Or maybe your company is introducing a new product to the market. Whatever your goals, you must first identify target audiences, objectives, strategies, messaging and budget allocation to determine the right mix of integrated activities to get the results you need.

STEP 3: Implementation

The most common mistake we see is when companies bypass the research and planning stages and jump directly to implementation. For most marketers, creating ads, brochures, websites, trade show graphics, and generating public relations campaigns is the most fun part of the process. After all, this is when the ideas really come to life. Skipping the first two steps of this process, however, is a slippery slope. More often than not, collateral and campaigns implemented without proper research and planning do not produce the desired results and don’t meet bigger picture objectives such as strengthening a company’s brand. Our experience has shown that investing the necessary time to research and plan, combined with strong project management, are the keys to ensuring each project is on strategy, on time and on (or under) budget and meets the objective.

STEP 4: Evaluation

Measurement is an often forgotten, yet oh-so-important step in the marketing communications cycle. Campaigns are an investment of time, money and other resources. It’s important to know how these investments performed. Evaluation of a campaign’s effectiveness and measurement of the results also becomes a very valuable tool for planning future programs because it clearly identifies which tactics worked best. If you need help with planning or just want a second opinion, let us know. We’d love to discuss how we can help you make some noise in 2016.

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Creating a Campaign That Gets Inside Their Heads

When marketing to technically-minded people, it’s absolutely vital to understand where they’re coming from and what they want and need. Without that basic information and the resulting ability to talk in their language, any creative campaign will fall short of capturing their interest.

Once the appropriate research has been done, it’s time to move on to the fun stuff. A strong creative campaign can come from anywhere and the unlikeliest sources can oftentimes provide your best options. To capitalize on this, as many people as possible should participate in the initial brainstorming sessions for a new campaign. The entire team should be provided with an overview of the information gathered on the target market and then given a couple of days to see what they can come up with.

When it’s time to hold the first brainstorming meeting, a casual environment goes a long way in encouraging unbridled creativity. There are no bad ideas at this early stage. An entirely unrealistic, off-the-wall suggestion might be just the springboard needed to discover a truly unique approach. Maintaining a light air and allowing participants to throw out ‘bad’ options will go a long way in drawing out the highest possible levels of creativity.

As the brainstorming session draws to a close, the goal should be to have three to five solid concepts. As these options are evaluated, a smaller team of employees should explore what each of them would say to your audience. What ideas are most closely linked to the benefits you can provide to potential customers? Which will grab a target’s attention and pop into their head for days to come? Are there unintentionally negative connotations to any of the possible campaigns? Carefully answering these questions will draw you to the best option for achieving your goals.

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Lessons Learned From Pubcon 2014

pubcon

Digital Communications Associate Austin Hostetter recently spent a week at Pubcon 2014 as part of his role on our team. Here are his thoughts on the event.

There are few things that can trump spending an entire work week in Las Vegas (at least in my opinion), which is exactly what I was able to do for the first week of October. My journey, however, was not to test my luck at the slots in hopes of winning big, but to enhance my knowledge of all things digital marketing related at the 15th annual Pubcon conference (which, let’s be honest, is just as fun as winning at the slots for a social media guy like me).

Pubcon is a yearly convergence where professionals from all areas of the digital marketing arena – SEO, SEM, social media, creative/design, content writing, etc. – gather to network with each other, hear from industry experts and grow in their knowledge of today’s latest marketing trends and techniques. Entering its 15th year of existence, this annual conference is recognized by Forbes, Inc., and Huffington Post as a must attend event for anyone in the field.

To give you the best summary I can on the week’s happenings, I’ve compiled the main takeaways I left the conference with, compiled from the keynote speakers, breakout sessions with industry thought leaders, and special Q&A opportunities I participated in each day. Here are the main points every marketer should know in today’s digital landscape.

Strong content is a must
If there’s one thing that all digital marketing boils down to, it’s this: content, content, content. Online efforts can no longer be defined as “just showing up.” As you compete with everyone and everything for the attention of your customers, developing strong, noticeable content that creates a dynamic story around your brand is an absolute must in today’s marketing world. Utilizing your social accounts to push original content from sources/mediums like blogs, videos, and apps — and creating content that can be a marketed resource on its own and not a simple PR push or product promotion — is the key equation to online marketing success. This type of strong content builds a relationship with your user by giving them useful information that doesn’t always promote your products or services. Building a relationship first will lead to a sale in the future; once a strong connection is made, your company will be an obvious choice when the decision to purchase is made.

Everything is heading towards mobile, including advertising
Mobile is the next frontier. Everything from design to content building is already being shaped by the growing use of mobile to consume everything digital. The biggest indicator of this point was Facebook’s rollout of its new Audience Network. The Facebook Audience Network, which was first mentioned by the social network in April but was officially released during Pubcon, offers app developers and Facebook advertisers the opportunity to expand ad campaigns to mobile apps. The push into mobile advertising is a simple one; Facebook’s ads manager will integrate its targeting factors to show an ad in mobile apps that are relevant to the audiences chosen on Facebook – making it extremely simple for marketers to expand the reach of their content.

Start by telling a story, support it with data
If you took all of the transcripts of every presentation given at Pubcon, the word that would appear more than any other is storytelling. “Journeys” and “stories” are the buzzwords in today’s marketing arena and are spouted at every conference across the country, however, that doesn’t mean the ideas behind these new trends aren’t completely accurate. Empathy and emotions speak louder than hard facts and data, and should therefore be forefront of any digital content. Social media is about peer-to-peer interaction, which means businesses have to change up their usual idea of B2C and B2B efforts. Peer-to-peer marketing involves shaping a narrative around every idea you convey. From there, you can utilize any data you’ve collected on target markets to push your narratives to the audiences they would appeal most to.

The whole purpose of sending team members to this type of conference is not just to gain knowledge, but to also execute that knowledge on a real-time basis. After my return from Vegas, I debriefed with the entire dgs team during a Digital Learning Lunch and discussed how this knowledge can be applied agency-wide when working with our clients. We are always engaged with thought leaders and industry professionals to push the envelope on improving our services for clients day after day.

For more information on this year’s Pubcon or on plans for next year’s conference, click here.

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Why Use Google+?

If you’ve ever attended a conference, luncheon, or workshop, marketers are always stressing the importance of using Google+ as part of a social media strategy. You most likely have heard things like:

“It is the next big social media network.”

“The number of people using Google+ keeps growing.”

“Google+ is the future of social media.”

Although the validity of these individual statements are up for debate, one overarching theme holds true: Google+ is an important piece of the social media puzzle.

It is a piece of the puzzle that is typically overlooked due to the lack of a user base that fits the target market for most companies. A large number of people who have Google+ accounts have no idea that they even have one (if you have a Gmail or YouTube account, you have one). When you wake up in the morning or before going to bed, most people take a look at Facebook and Twitter, not Google+. Since it is not a staple in most people’s daily life, it has the perception of being a network that is used by marketers to talk about marketing.

Although you audience doesn’t typically use Google+ multiple times per day, there is a hidden benefit that is typically overlooked by many companies. Companies that use Google+ obtain an advantage in the world of search. Google essentially rewards those who use their service by offering special search features reserved only for Google+ users.

If you haven’t noticed already, your search and web history is being tracked each time you are online. Google knows what websites you visit, what you searched for last night, and can even predict what you might search for in the future. Using this knowledge, Google aims to provide the best answer to any question you might have. Since your Google+ account is tied to your overarching Google account, Google places a high value on the content that is published on its own native social platform.

Content that is published on Google+ is essentially given bonus points when it comes to search engine rankings. The bump in search engine rankings comes down to the variables in Google’s algorithm (which is always changing and improving to make the search experience more user friendly) and how the social aspect of search is growing.

Though it may seem counterintuitive to publish content on a platform that is not used by your target market, it can actually increase your search ranking and in turn increase traffic to your website. If you aren’t using Google+ already, you should give it a try and start publishing content today. It will put you ahead of the other companies in your industry and keep you on the cutting edge of the integration of social and search results.

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