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Marketing Must Haves for 2018

content marketing

In the 2018 race to the top of relevant search results, companies of every shape and size will be adding more to their online experience. Simply having a website and a few Google Ads isn’t going to be enough to conquer the world of online marketing. And, if you don’t follow a comprehensive approach to strengthen your digital marketing mix, you may fall behind your competition.

The 4 Must Haves

“Must Have” is a great phrase. It implies necessity. And, it’s exactly why the marketing must haves for this year should not get pushed aside for another year.

  1. Website Optimization for Mobile Devices

Last year, mobile and tablet devices accounted for more than half of internet usage worldwide. This comes as no surprise, because sales in mobile devices have been growing exponentially since the inception of the iPhone.

Optimization for mobile devices goes beyond responsive design. It tackles mobile issues, such as connectivity, distractions, and smaller screens. The best website designs will resemble mobile apps.

Rather than struggle to read broken text and awkward drop-down menus, 61% of visitors to sites without optimization will leave the page. That’s a lot of opportunity lost! But, if the site is optimized, 67% of consumers are more likely to use a service or buy a product.

  1. Content strategy

Late in 2015, Google released a major update to its search parameters that included: frequent site updates, relevant content, and links to and from other credible sites. This was meant to eliminate poorly performing search results that gave irrelevant and outdated content to their users.

Over the past two years, Google continued to change many of the parameters to fit the needs of its users. Now, search engine optimization feels like shifting sands beneath our feet. A strong content strategy can provide some solid ground.

Company websites need to become a resource for all consumers—past, present and potential. This means frequent updates with articles, blogs, and case studies. Companies also need to develop relationships with media outlets and provide frequent press releases. Over time, this strategy improves search results and user engagement.

  1. Video

Dwell time is another parameter for Google’s search rankings. A “sticky site” can have visitors reading great articles, but what they would really prefer is to watch a video instead.

Videos provide an entertaining way for visitors to get more content, faster. A company’s brand message can be conveyed within seconds! The key here is entertaining, because visitors have a short attention span and they won’t watch bad videos. Professionally produced videos give an air of credibility and class, as well as faster brand recall.

What makes an entertaining video? It has to be interesting, relevant and useful. Tell a story. Present a narrative. Quality graphics, animation, professional photography, scripts, and production can make most subjects entertaining, even one about logarithms.

  1. Email list

Email marketing is still the most cost-effective way to reach your target market. According to MarketingSherpa, over 60% of consumers are open to weekly promotional emails and 91% prefer email promotions to other forms of advertising.

It’s time to clean up your current email marketing list. It’s time to grow it throughout the year, adding the leads you receive via tradeshows, website inquiries, and sales leads. Don’t forget to include your weekly or monthly email newsletters in your content strategy.

Maybe in a Year or Two…

Augmented and virtual reality is being used more and more on mobile devices. Some of the biggest companies in the world, IKEA, Facebook and Apple, are using these advanced technologies to capture the attention of more consumers, which means they are making it more mainstream for other companies to follow. Maybe in a year or two, we’ll be talking about them as must haves, but for now, this is the year to really focus on some core, online best practices.

If you don’t know where to start with content strategy, shoot us an email and we can help.

Keep It Fresh!

content marketing news

No one likes stale bread, stale news, or stale anything. Neither does the Googlebot. Savvy marketers know that the Googlebot looks beyond keywords embedded within a website. The Googlebot looks for frequent content updates to websites, often found in blogs, videos, press releases, and case studies. They call it crawling. These frequent updates increase the chances that a site will be placed higher in the search results.

It makes perfect sense if you think about it, because embedded keywords alone won’t bring the best search results. The world’s biggest and best search engine reaches around the globe for new and interesting content to fulfill their users’ search parameters. The trick is to keep your site fresh and looking new.

DIY

The do-it-yourself method of updating the company blog, special events, success stories, and general news requires planning and commitment of many employee hours. Let’s not forget, it also requires some creativity, which means you need to step away from the noise of the day and devote three or four hours to writing one piece.

Before publishing it, always remember to edit your material, either a couple times by yourself or have one of your coworkers help you. It’s hard to get your thoughts on the page to read exactly how you want them (even for seasoned professional writers), so please be careful when you do-it-yourself.

Time Is Money

Hiring a firm to do the writing also means you’re hiring them to plan, organize, and execute it. The cost may seem out of reach at first, but when you add up all the hours you would be spending on a properly run plan, you’ll see that it will make you money over the long-run. If you’re the owner of the company or head of marketing, that time spent writing could be time spent doing more pressing work and contributing to the bottom line.

Here’s a good example. In one week, your company may need to write a blog post and a press release. These take a professional writer less than 10 hours to complete. On average, it will take an inexperienced writer double that time.

Some Accounting Required

If you do the math, you’ll see how hiring a firm to handle the constant flow of updates to your site can save you money. More importantly, it will allow you to focus on what you do best, so you can increase revenue and profit.

Within a month or two of frequent updates, the Googlebot will reward your company by ranking it higher than before. Trust us. We’ve seen it happen, time and again. Let us know if we can help.

b2b marketing

Maybe You Should Write a Blog

St. Petersburg online reputation managementAre you publishing your own business-related blog?  Maybe you’ve looked at the endless array of verbiage already on the web and wondered why you should add more. We get that, but we’re going to try to talk you into it anyway.

Your blog is about your business, not the millions of others on the Internet. You don’t stop talking just because billions of other people are already flapping their gums, do you? You’ve got something to say, and a blog could be an effective way to be heard by a receptive audience.

A blog shouldn’t be that hard for you to write. Blogs can be short; 250 – 500 words is perfect. You shouldn’t have to do (much) research because you are the expert! Keep the focus narrow then write as though you’re explaining something to a client or new employee.  If you aren’t confident of your grammar, spelling or construction, let someone with those skills clean it up for you. (Your friends at Pinstripe can help!) The goal is to convey interesting information in a way that’s easily digestible. You don’t have to wow anyone with your literary style.

A blog enhances your relationship with customers. This is a simple way to turn your expertise into a resource that’s easily accessible by your clients. Your willingness to make this effort, along with your display of knowledge, builds trust. Writing about things to which customers can relate helps you connect on a personal/human level.

A blog helps improve how your website is ranked by search engines. Google and other search engines like to see that a website isn’t just sitting stagnant on the web. Regular updating indicates the website is dynamic and has worthwhile content. Adding a blog or two a week is a good way to accomplish this.

Blogs work well with other social media. Having a new blog gives you something to tweet about, or to mention on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. Then the more the article gets retweeted, liked or shared, the more traffic is generated for your website … with stronger PR for your company.

A blog can re-enforce marketing campaigns. Your promotions will be directing customers to make a purchase, but a blog can come in handy for delivering a more subtle, thoughtful message that complements the advertising. Share an anecdote or interesting statistics that help highlight the value of your offerings in a way that makes prospective customers think and understand as they work toward a buying decision.

A blog can help explain “who you are.” Many companies have mission statements, but lofty words are often vague. A blog lets you continually sharpen and define that message so that everyone associated with your business—whether it’s clients, employees, suppliers or investors — grasps the issues you believe are important.

Do we have you convinced to give it a try? If so, you might like to check out “The Anatomy of a Perfect Blog Post: The Data on Headlines, Length, Images and More” as a helpful, how-to article.

Should Your Business Have a Newsletter?

enews_news
“We need a newsletter.” Perhaps no four words so fill the hearts of marketing communication staffs with dread. That’s because company newsletters always seem to be the spur-of-the-moment brainchild of underutilized executives, who — having left this rotting corpse of an idea on someone else’s doorstep — immediately scurry off to attend their regular duties (probably clogging sinks and putting sugar in gas tanks).

 

Okay, maybe that intro is a little over-the-top and not quite fair (after all, this article is in a newsletter) but we’re trying to flip the mindset on newsletters from automatic “yes” to skeptical “maybe.” They can indeed be worthwhile vehicles for building rapport with customers, channel partners, employees and others, but they can also easily become a burdensome waste of time that ends in embarrassing surrender

 

Here are five questions that must be answered with a solid affirmative before committing to producing a regular newsletter. (And it IS a commitment to your audience, even though 80% or more of them may never read it.)

  • Will it provide ongoing support for achieving your overall marketing objectives? You should think of a newsletter the way publishers think of any periodical: they expect them to run forever. This means you don’t want to create a new newsletter only in conjunction with an occasional or unique occurrence (i.e. new product or service) or business change (i.e. a merger) that takes place within a limited time. Sure, you should publicize such things in email alerts, press releases, ads, blogs, even articles in an existing newsletter … anything … except a separate publication. Newsletters need a permanent theme and then should help you do something that will always need to be done, namely keep vital audiences connected to your organization.
  • Will it always offer value to your audience? If you ask yourself whether someone would be better off by having read your proposed newsletter, you can probably always rationalize a “yes.” (After all, you wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on your weekly sales specials!) But will the audience readily perceive the value of your proposed newsletter’s content? Before you get too far along, ask some objective (and honest) people how they would feel about receiving the newsletter in their inboxes.
  • Will you have enough content? True, there are no rules about how long a newsletter has to be, but realistically, the first one will kind of set the standard. Before starting a newsletter, businesses often have a lot of share-worthy information stockpiled. However, if they get too ambitious with the frequency or amount of content up front, it will evaporate surprisingly fast. Editorial staff will be left scratching their heads as deadlines loom. Make sure you will always have an adequate amount of worthwhile information in the pipeline before going forward with a newsletter.
  • Do you have the resources to produce it? Don’t be fooled, a newsletter requires a real investment. Do you have people with the skill and talent to produce a newsletter? If yes, the second question is whether those people have the time. Then, will you be able to reliably get it to your readership? Finally, what sort of ROI can you expect? If you’re going to publish a newsletter, it should be done well … as it will be a very visible representation of your company. Poor quality and haphazard delivery will not speak well of your business.
  • Will you, personally, enthusiastically read it? If everything is a “yes” up to this point, you have some real momentum going in favor of a newsletter, but before pulling the trigger, pause. Think about your own inbox and everything you are expected to read or want to read every day. Now think of where the proposed newsletter would sit on your list of things to peruse. If you, as a chief executive, won’t read your own newsletter with interest, how could you expect other audiences to do so?

If you answered yes to these questions and are ready to start your newsletter, let’s talk!

 

Do-It-Yourself Video: Stephen Spielberg or Ed Wood Jr.?

Tampa Bay video production
There are many reasons you might want to create a corporate video for your business—video blogging, demonstrating a new product, offering a tour of your premises. The good news is that this form of communication has never been more accessible and easy to use than it is today. Many modern smartphones deliver higher quality video than some professional cameras of just 25 years ago. Additionally, there are inexpensive video-editing programs that will let you trim footage, add special effects, lay sound tracks and include graphics that can be mastered in just a few hours.

On the other hand, it’s still very easy to produce a very bad video, and all of today’s technology and editing capabilities sometimes give amateur film-makers a false sense of security. If you’re going to produce a video for your company, here are 10 steps for improving the process.

  • Have a clear purpose for your video. Before you dedicate a single pixel to your production, know what message you’re trying to convey and focus your energy on presenting that communication as concisely and effectively as possible.
  • Write a script. This will get you thinking about location, the people (“talent”) you will need, necessary props, and any graphics you may wish to create. If this is going to be a short production, you may not need an official script to share with others, but it’s important to have an outline so everything will proceed smoothly. Chances are, you’ll be taking people away from their regular duties so don’t waste anyone’s time by having to figure things out while on the set.
  • Make sure you’ll have adequate lighting.  When people think of poor-quality video, bad lighting is one thing that comes immediately to mind. You’ll need to take pains to overcome the shadows, sickly hues or graininess that often comes from inadequate indoor lighting. If at all practical, the best option may be stay near windows or to go outside in the sunlight. Not only will the lighting be great, it will add a certain freshness to your work.
  • Focus on sound quality. First try to shoot in isolation from background noise. If indoors, disconnect phones, intercom systems, computer alerts, etc. Let others know that you’re filming and to be quiet if they’re nearby. Next, have microphones for people who will be speaking on camera; external mics simply don’t sound very good. Also, as you film, stop to do a sound check. No one wants to sit down to edit video and discover there’s no audio.
  • Avoid extended shots of ‘talking heads.’ Having a single person talking on screen for a long time (20 seconds or more) gets monotonous. Consider using B-roll (secondary footage to appear on screen in accompaniment of narration) as a good way to change things up. If nothing else, at least change the camera angle.
  • Be careful with ‘jump cuts.’ It used to be a no-no to have someone talking on screen with an obvious edit taking place right in the middle of their speaking, but some film-makers like the effect. A good guide as to what’s acceptable might be that the break appears to be an artistic choice, rather than something you’re hoping to get away with.
  • Let the talent ‘act natural.’ If you want someone to be terrible on camera, just tell them to “act natural,” so don’t ever say those words … and yet … The best approach is to tell the person being filmed to just “talk to you.” Then turn the camera on and let them go. If they mess up, you can always fix it in editing (and maybe with some B-roll). And don’t be too critical. Nobody’s a professional here.
  • Change up the angle of action scenes. Just as is the case with the talking heads, you don’t want to linger too long on any single shot, even if the subjects are engaged in an on-screen activity. Change the angle of the shot, or consider a semi close-up of a participant’s face.
  • Make sure your anchorperson or narrator speaks clearly. You want inflection in your speaker’s voice but don’t overdo it. (This is an amateur corporate video, not Shakespeare’s King Lear.) He or she should speak at a good pace but fully enunciate each word. It’s also usually best to avoid thick accents.
  • Don’t worry about “it.” When you finish work on your video, there will inevitably be something that bothers you … something that you would like to have done differently or that didn’t come out the way you imagined. Remember, when people view your film, they’ll only see what you show them on screen. They’ll never know all the “shoulda, woulda, couldas” that are floating around in your own hyper-critical head. Simply learn from your experience … you’ll get better with time.
  • Hire a consultant. If you’re producing weekly or monthly blogs and want to be able to do your video in house, but also want to do a great job, consider hiring a video consultant like Pinstripe Marketing, who will give you advice on location, lighting, equipment, audio, and editing programs to suit your purpose. They can even point you in the direction of stock footage and music to spice up your videos. Spending a little money up front on a pro consultant can help your videos stand out and make sure you are not wasting money on costly errors.

Want some help producing a corporate video? We’re ready!

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