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More is Not Merrier in the Marketing Creative Process

How many people should have input into the creative aspects of a marketing message? Is that too difficult a question to ask? Let’s see. We’ll start at the point after we’re committed to a project and we have a clear objective in mind. Now let’s invite people until we get everyone we need.

Start with a project manager. That’s the person who will see that the final product remains true to the original objective. Honestly, she or he will be more of a traffic cop than anything else, but that’s still an important function. You may need someone to say, “It’s okay to think outside the box, but at least be able to see the box.” (1)

Many copywriters and designers (graphic artists, web builders, video- editors … etc.) would subtract the project manager and put the number back at one—meaning themselves with the writer or designer only along to take their direction. They’re all equally vital, though, so we’ll include copy writer, designer and project manager. (3)

The next person we’ll add to the ideal creative group is a “brand champion” for the organization. She or he will make sure concept and execution stay consistent with the company’s identity and that the work delivers a consistent, over-arching value proposition. (4)

Finally, in many cases, we have someone who knows and understands the audience. This key person ensures messaging is on target and that the likeliest reaction will be the one that’s desired. Sometimes the project manager or brand champion serves this role, but we’ll include that person here to complete our team. (5)

That’s five. Were you expecting more? Possibly there could be, if the project has a lot of components and there’s more work to be done than a small team could handle. But, really, five people handling creative development is usually all you need. Now you could have fewer, when there’s a talented, very knowledgeable person fulfilling multiple roles. On the whole, though, five is good … and those few people need to stay in their lanes and communicate well and often!

After the creative team presents its work, an ultimate decision maker ought to grade the work as pass-fail. Maybe, but only maybe, this individual can suggest a tweak here or there, but usually it’s better to trust the judgement of paid professionals. To the extent that others must be involved, let them focus on considerations such as ROI and opportunity costs, or whether statements are factual and should be made public.

But what about the wisdom of crowds? Isn’t it true that the more eyes that are on a project, the more likely something will be discovered that needs changing. Plus, good ideas can come from anywhere, so let’s give lots of people a voice, right? Um, no. Here are excellent reasons why too many cooks make an unpalatable meal:

  • Lack of responsibility – One reason involving many people in any project usually results in declining quality is diffusion of responsibility. When one or two people are going to have to answer for an outcome, they’ll give it their best effort. Conversely, it’s a lot easier for a bunch of people to shrug off failure as not their fault.
  • Subjectivitis – That may not be real word, but marketing professionals certainly know the disease! (An example would be insisting on a model wearing a green cap rather than blue when company colors are green AND blue.) The signature illness of frustrated creatives, subjectivitis can deliver the death of a thousand cuts to any project—especially if the afflicted is too high on the food chain to be rightfully ignored or over-ruled.
  • Worry warts – Expanding the creative input group too much will inevitably bring in the person who wonders—frequently and aloud—what such-and-such higher up will think. Here’s the thing: such-and-such higher up is NOT the target audience! A worry wart’s entire contribution to the creative process is making good people second-guess themselves. This is counter-productive and should be avoided at all costs.
  • Mission creep – The more people involved with a marketing project, the more likely someone will want their pet interest addressed in the messaging. Soon, rather than a concise message crafted for a specific audience, you’ll have multiple thoughts competing for attention. And because copy and imagery needs to reinforce a single message to be most effective, the result ends up an ugly Frankenstein’s monster of mixed parts.
  • Proving worth – This happens when people realize they have no business being involved in the creative process, yet feel pressured to contribute. Sadly, they are dragged into a meeting or sent an email in which they’re asked their thoughts. To get back to their real duties, they’re compelled to offer the first thing off the top of their heads, after which some other poor soul is forced to take their half-baked ideas seriously.
  • Off script – This is when we bring someone into the creative process late who has her or his own ideas, quirks and sensibilities and really couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks. Such people either need to be involved at the very beginning of the process—before it goes to the creative team—or they should be kept out completely.

This might be the point you thought we’d back off that five number and hedge our bet. But, no, we’ve thought this through and experienced the repercussions of all of these downfalls. Keep in mind, there are plenty of other jobs associated with marketing for all the folks outside the creative process. For instance, someone needs to analyze the results of every campaign. Others can choose where ads will run and how often. There are surveys and focus groups to be conducted … all sorts of things. But you shouldn’t have your CFO doubling as a creative director any more than you would have your graphic artist making decisions about acquisitions and mergers.

Marketing Must Haves for 2018

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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.

Plan to Remember the New Year When It Becomes Old

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How well do you remember 2016? Yes, we do mean 2016. And we might ask the same thing about 2015 –and the preceding years as well—going all the way back to the day you started your business.

Of course, we know you remember some things very well—like when you hired a great employee, or fired a lousy one. You can probably recollect landing a super customer or being driven nuts by one that was irrationally demanding. You’ll remember good times for sales and bad times … and a lot of other standout occurrences too. Your marketing though, what do you remember about your marketing?

Okay, we’ll lower the bar to merely recalling the year that’s just now ending. Many business owners might say 2017 is fresh in their memories, but is it? We’ll grant that you’re likely to be aware of how your most recent marketing budget was spent, but did you track the details of each marketing project and advertising campaign? Can you figure out which specific ad or communication went to which audience and when? Do you know the response rates?

Let’s say you did keep excellent records of what you did for marketing in 2017. Congratulations, truly! We can’t stress enough how good it is that you’re tracking how your promotional dollars are spent and understanding the results that they are providing. But effective marketing is a long-term journey, and the more years you have to compare, the better you’ll be able to plan how to advertise in the coming year. Without stats from 2016, 2017 can’t tell you nearly enough to help you make wiser decisions.

Still, everyone has to begin somewhere. So, if tracking your marketing dollars isn’t something you’ve been doing, resolve to do so in 2018. And if you find that being on your own in tracking and analyzing ROI of your marketing dollars is a bit too daunting, remember that you don’t have to be on your own. Your friends at Pinstripe are always available to help.


10 Lessons from ‘A Christmas Story’ Applied to Marketing

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Even if you don’t do it yourself, you probably know at least one person who sees the word, “fragile” and goes on to loudly pronounce it “fra-gee-LAY.” Such is the ubiquitous influence of the nostalgic 1984 film, A Christmas Story.

So, in the spirit of the season, we thought we’d shoehorn the movie into a newsletter article. Fortunately for our purposes, many scenes from A Christmas Story truly can teach business owners and managers something about effective marketing.

We aren’t going to give you a synopsis because we figure nearly everyone in the U.S. has seen this movie at least 20 times. That’s why we think we’re safe writing this piece. However, for the three people who haven’t seen it—consider yourself spoiler alerted. And to those folks, do yourself a favor: watch the movie. (It really is a funny, warm film). Now, without further ado, here are 10 lessons:

Don’t waste effort on the wrong audience. Young Ralphie wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Most of the movie is centered on him trying to persuade certain people that he should have one. But consider the targets of his messaging: his overly protective mother (remember how she dresses her youngest son for outdoors?); a school teacher who was most concerned that her students keep nice margins; and an overworked department-store Santa. None of these people were going to be a receptive audience to Raphie’s message.

How you express yourself does matter. Sometimes we say, “Fudge!” (only we don’t say “fudge”). When this happens, we can turn customers off or even get a hostile reaction. This is especially true in today’s hypersensitive, PC world. Always carefully craft your marketing communications to accomplish an objective rather than rashly blurting out something counterproductive. Keep in mind that social media can be especially dangerous because of the speed at which communications are spread.

Some brands are recognized as leaving a bad taste in your mouth. If you think brand ID doesn’t carry weight, consider Raphie’s concern about which bar soap his mother would use to wash his mouth out (Palmolive’s “nice piquant” vs. Lifebuoy potentially causing him to go blind). No business can do much if its products and services are used in an improper manner, but you can be vigilant as to how your brand is perceived by the public and do everything possible to protect and enhance its image.

Rethink showing off that “major award.” It’s easy to be distracted about what aspect of your business should be front and center in your marketing communications. If some new development at your company doesn’t support your brand and validate your value proposition, it probably isn’t worth publicizing … and making a big deal of it could cause you to look silly, like the leg lamp does for Ralphie’s father.

Following the crowd can leave you stuck all alone. What your company excels at doing may not be the same thing that your competitors do well. (In fact, it’s better if you’re unique!) Don’t let yourself be “triple-dog-dared” into abandoning your true value proposition because you think you need to be all things to all people. “Me too” is never a compelling message; stick to communicating what you do best or you’ll find yourself abandoned in the cold.

Be true to yourself. Don’t let the expectations of others force you into a ridiculous bunny costume—figuratively speaking … or literally. Remember Ralphie’s bunny costume, a gift from his aunt? He looked and felt ridiculous. If you can’t sell what you’re offering and be yourself doing it, then you should probably be in another business. As a business owner, incorporate your personal style into your brand to help make it special. If you do good work, you’ll find your niche—and you’ll have a lot more fun.branding strategy

Know what you really want. Most business owners know they should do “marketing.” As a result, they may sit down with an agency or their in-house marketing staff to create a campaign. At some point, someone should pose the question as to what the objective is. This requires identifying a promising target audience, setting tangible goals so that success can be measured, and then coming up with a step-by-step plan. Anything less, and you may as well mumble that you want a football. Poor Ralphie had to say something to Santa.

Marketing professionals will usually let you take the creative lead (if you insist). Ralphie had given up hope that he would get that BB gun because no one seemed responsive to his plea. Yet the Old Man comes through at the end. That’s something to keep in mind when making creative suggestions to marketing professionals. They really are listening to your ideas … but may desperately hope to change your mind. Ultimately, however, you’re the boss and your team will want you to be happy (placated). But beware, getting your way could be dangerous because …

You really could “shoot your eye out.” That didn’t quite happen to Ralphie but he did end up with broken glasses. Just think about it. If you’re paying people to market your business—and they presumably know more about marketing than you—why would you ignore their advice? That’s like going to a doctor and then prescribing your own treatment.

Be open to new ideas. Sometimes the neighbor’s dogs eat the Christmas turkey and you must come up with an alternative plan. When such things happen, Plan B may turn out better than you ever expected—like roast duck at a Chinese restaurant. Why wait until a disaster strikes to try something new and innovative? If you’re consistent with your brand, properly target your audience, and can deliver a compelling message, try something different!

We can help you navigate these 10 lessons – just let us know how by dropping a line here.

The Five P Chords of B2B Messaging

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Many popular songs are recorded using only a few guitar chords. For instance, Wild Thing by The Troggs, Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Sweet Home Alabama by Lynryd Skynryd use only three. No, they are not the same three chords—and there are others to choose from—but the point is you don’t have to hit a lot of notes to make sweet marketing music. In fact, if your company mostly serves other businesses, you can build a nice messaging repertoire from just five.

What makes this even easier to grasp is that you don’t need to remember “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” or to “FACE” the music. Thanks to the Microsoft Word thesaurus, all our B2B messaging chords start with a P. And so, without further fanfare, here they are:

P1 – Profitability
An appeal to profitability is inherent in most B2B marketing. That’s superficially obvious, but there’s real psychology going on. Business owners seek better margins because of what additional dollars represent to them as individuals. Unless we’re dealing with Scrooge McDuck (who just wants great wealth to roll around in) money is only a means to an end. For most business owners, the goal is to provide well for themselves and their families. Others enjoy the competition that comes with building a successful business. And some people simply love what they do and want to keep doing it. When you offer to help improve profitability, your target audience can translate that into assistance in achieving their highest aspirations.

P2 – Productivity
Improved productivity typically increases profitability, true, but it may also mean a less onerous work day for business owners and/or their employees. Then, maybe, the pay-off becomes better work-life balance instead of a bulging bottom line. Regardless of where your B2B customers find the value, any time you can help them attain higher productivity using the same (or fewer) resources, you’ll have rapt listeners.

P3– Performance
A company’s performance usually boils down to how favorably customers evaluate the experience of doing business with it. This could mean assessing the quality/value of the provided products, noting the responsiveness of staff, or enjoying a comfortable and safe commercial environment. By helping businesses perform better, you empower them to strengthen their own client bases by gaining greater loyalty from their customers. If you can do this for your business clients, they will be all ears.

P4 – Provision
As you’re doubtlessly aware, there are aspects of running an organization that you don’t have the time, expertise or inclination to do as well as you should. This might be anything from watering plants to installing a computer network. How could the service or services provided by your company free up your customers to devote more time to what they do best? The answer to this question is well worth sounding off in your marketing communications.

P5 – Peace of Mind
Secretary of Defense James Mattis was asked what keeps him up at night. He confidently replied, “Nothing. I keep other people awake a night.” Well, good for him. As for the rest of us—especially those running a business—there are plenty of worries to keep us from enjoying a good night’s sleep. Telling your customers how you can provide them with a little more “peace of mind” is practically singing them a lullaby.

But what about another P, namely, Price? It’s going to be important, but unless you’re sure you’re offering a deal that your competitors will find it hard to match, it may not be a marketing note you want to strike too often. Sales prospects will either find your price acceptable or they won’t, and unless you’re Wal-Mart, price isn’t going to make you special. For the most part, you’ll play a more memorable B2B tune with your own original composition.

Bonus P – Pinstripe
If you need a little help, give the Pinstripe team a call!

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