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Top Pinstripe Blog Posts of 2016

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We have enjoyed a tremendous year at Pinstripe! One thing we really enjoy is sharing information about creating great marketing and communications to grow your business. Throughout 2016, we have written hundreds of articles, and it’s always interesting to see what pieces you like most. Our most popular posts are always our client spotlights – you really like to learn about some of our favorite people! Features about Pinstripe projects and case studies also generate a lot of readership. But the ones that prove most valuable are the ‘how to’ articles – so in case you missed one, or just want a refresher, here are the top 15 articles of 2016!

 

15. Logo Design and Corporate Identity Manuals

The history of graphic design is extensive and can be traced back hundreds of years. For the sake of this article, we are going to focus on graphic design as it was forming during the industrial era, and how the appearance and growth of corporations affected one aspect of graphic design in particular – logos.

 

14. Do You Have Your Elevator Speech Ready?

You and a stranger are standing in a hotel lobby waiting for an elevator. He has the appearance of a fine, upstanding chap and you’re in an affable mood so you comment on what a nice day it is. He’s welcoming of conversation. Additional pleasantries ensue, followed by introductions and the customary handshake. The elevator finally arrives and just as you and your new friend step inside, he asks about your business.

It’s time for the ‘elevator speech.’

 

13. Trade Shows: To Participate or Not … That’s the Last Question

At some point, you may hear of a trade show for your industry and entertain the notion of attending. The immediate question is whether such an excursion would be a worthwhile investment of time, effort and money.  Reaching that determination will require carefully considered answers to several other questions, first.

 

12.The Physics of Marketing

People may tell you that marketing is “more art than science.” And at first blush, this assertion seems valid. Consider the stimulating imagery and compelling prose that accompanies a typical advertising campaign. However, when it comes to attracting and keeping customers, we should take instruction from Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion.

 

11. Proposals – Advice from the Selection Committee

Recently, Pinstripe Marketing attended a webinar hosted by the Society of Marketing Professionals (SMPS) Tampa Bay called “Secrets of the Selection Process,” by Gary Coover. The course was designed to enlighten us about creating a proposal as well as presenting the proposal to the selection committee, and we came away with a few great tips that we thought we would share.

 

10. How to Leave an Effective Voicemail Message

When trying to reach someone, having to leave a voicemail (VM) message can be very frustrating. The exercise is especially tiresome if you’re in sales—leaving message after message with little hope of a callback. Pessimistically you go through the motions; repeating words you’ve said countless times before.

 

9. Social Media Superhero: Tips for Curating Social Content

Social media accounts for businesses are now the norm rather than the exception, so keeping up-to-date with your posts is something that must be done on a regular basis. We understand that this is time-consuming and is yet another item to add to your to-do list, but below are some tips for streamlining the process and keeping your content interesting and fresh.

 

8. Online Marketing: 5 Things That Most Smart People Don’t Know

Online marketing is one of those things that’s easy to start, but difficult to do correctly. That’s because the internet makes it easy for people with little or no experience to present themselves as experts and give lots of bad advice. It’s bad enough when this bad advice doesn’t produce results, but in many cases, it can even harm your business for the long term. Just like with medical and legal decisions, it’s not what you know about marketing that gets you in trouble—it’s what you don’t know. These tips will help you avoid making some of the common marketing mistakes that a lot of smart people make simply because they followed bad advice from someone who presented themselves as an expert.

 

7. Copy vs. Graphics: Bickering Spouses of Advertising?

In this age of social media, viral videos and search engine optimization (SEO), the role of imagery and copy in marketing is like ever-present background noise. And yet from billboards to websites, the healthy marriage of copy and graphics is almost always a critical component in the successful execution of promotional efforts.

 

6. The Importance of a Trademark Search

A trademark is a name, word or logo used to indicate the source of a product or service. While a “trademark” technically refers to a brand used on goods and products (e.g., coffee, sneakers, jewelry), a “service mark” refers to a brand used in connection with services (e.g., restaurant services, insurance services, accounting services). Almost every company imaginable has a trademark or service mark – either the name of the company advertised to the public or the name of its product.

 

5. Writing a Compelling Biography

If it hasn’t already happened—don’t be surprised one day to have someone ask you for your bio (e.g. short biography). Employers often want them for the “About Us” or “Our Professionals” sections of their web sites. Bios may be needed for a press release announcing an important new hire. Meeting planners ask for bios of important guests or speakers at conventions and conferences. If you have your vital information on hand and ready to go at a moment’s notice, you’ll earn the sincere appreciation of a lot of people … and may save yourself some embarrassment.

 

4. Tips for Hiring a Professional Photographer

At some point in our lives, we all need a professional photographer. Whether you need a photo for your web site, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, product shots for your business or photos for your wedding, there are some things that are best left to the pros. Here are some tips for hiring the right photographer for your business needs.

 

3. How to Sell a White Elephant

From time to time, we’ll find it necessary to sell something that might lead one to question the sanity of anyone who buys it. This could be a product, a service, or even an investment opportunity that’s missing readily apparent value. While a challenge, successfully unloading (or rather, locating a buyer), is often just a matter of looking at the offering a bit differently ourselves, and then getting a prospective customer to see it the same way.

 

2. Utilizing Nostalgia and Vernacular in Graphic Design

Graphic design as a promotional tool dates back to the 19th century, when the earliest form of graphic design relied solely on typography to make a point. During these early days, text, font style, and font size were the main vehicles of emphasis; you can see how designers started playing with different typefaces and boldness to draw attention to certain information. Over the years, as graphic design became more prominent, methods and styles evolved. People in the advertising industry began to experiment with different techniques to attract attention to products, as well as instill confidence in them and the companies that sold them.

 

And the most popular article of 2016 is…

1. What Makes a Business Card “Cool”?

If you’re someone whose work puts in you in contact with new people on a regular basis, you probably have a substantial supply of business cards. Doubtlessly, you also have a nice collection of business cards from the professionals you meet. Perhaps you’ve encountered one or two that caused you to pause and examine it more closely, thinking “Wow, that’s a cool card!”

 

Based on this list, it appears you’re just as nerdy as we are. 🙂

 

If you’d like to receive our articles right to your inbox, you can sign up here AND receive a complimentary copy of our Guide to Public Relations.

 

THANK YOU for giving us the opportunity to be a small part of your marketing initiatives. We wish you the very best for a healthy and prosperous 2017!

Online Marketing: 5 Things That Most Smart People Don’t Know

Online marketing is one of those things that’s easy to start, but difficult to do correctly. That’s because the internet makes it easy for people with little or no experience to present themselves as experts and give lots of bad advice. It’s bad enough when this bad advice doesn’t produce results, but in many cases, it can even harm your business for the long term. Just like with medical and legal decisions, it’s not what you know about marketing that gets you in trouble—it’s what you don’t know. The tips below will help you avoid making some of the common marketing mistakes that a lot of smart people make simply because they followed bad advice from someone who presented themselves as an expert.

Meta tags have no direct impact on ranking

Despite what most people believe, meta tags like the keyword and description tags have zero direct impact on ranking in the search results. In fact, so many people held this misconception, that Google made a formal announcement way back in 2009, yet the myth remains. I want to note that I said no direct impact; that’s because the contents of the meta description tag display in the search results and that can have an impact on click through rates, which can have an effect on ranking. I stopped using the meta keyword tag over a decade ago, and you should too. While I do still pay attention to the meta description tag, the only reason is to improve click through rates. You can stop obsessing about meta tags and put your energy into more productive SEO techniques.

Skip manipulative linking schemes

While we’re on the topic of SEO, the most important factor in Google’s ranking algorithm is quantity and quality of links from other websites pointing to yours. Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there were no rules. Reciprocal link exchanges, comment spam, link wheels…everything was fair game. But as quickly as new techniques have popped up, Google has deemed them to be against their webmaster guidelines. The most recent example was a penalty they handed out to bloggers who linked to websites in exchange for free products.

Today, manipulative link building techniques won’t even work in Narnia, let alone in the real world.

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Google’s algorithm has become so advanced that they can quickly identify attempts to artificially manipulate ranking, but they don’t just ignore those attempts—they now penalize both the website linked to and the site linked from by dropping them from the search results. Called the Penguin Update, this means even people searching for your company name in Google won’t be able to find your website! And don’t get the idea that you’ll try to get away with it until you get caught, and then fix it. Many websites that got hit with Google’s Penguin update are still waiting to recover several years later. Is that a risk you’re willing to take? Instead of “cheating” by using artificial links, focus on producing amazing content that other people feel compelled to link to.

Start building an email list now

You might have thought “there’s no point in starting an email list yet because my website doesn’t get enough traffic yet.” That line of thinking is backwards. What do you have to gain by waiting? Think about it like this—mail services like Aweber will cost less than you probably spend on coffee each month, and you can get everything set up in less than an hour. Sending out a quick email to drive subscribers back to your newest blog post might take 5 minutes, if that. So even if you just have a handful of subscribers, it can have a significant impact on your website traffic. More importantly, your email list enables you to contact your subscribers with special offers when you need to generate a quick influx of revenue. Your email list is one of the most powerful resources in your online marketing toolbox, and the sooner you start building it, the sooner you can start multiplying your results.

You don’t need to be on every social network

It’s tempting to try to build a following on all of the major social networks, but unless you have a marketing team and a hefty budget, you can’t do it effectively. Each social network has its own nuances to learn, and it takes time to find your flow and acquire followers. Spreading your time too thin by trying to build a following on every network will only hamper your long-term growth. You’ll achieve better results, and you’ll achieve them more quickly by focusing on one social network at a time. Build up a loyal and engaged following on one network, and only after you’re producing consistent results, can you replicate the process on another network while maintaining activity on previously established networks.

Never rely on your gut

A lot of business owners think they’ll just “know” how their online marketing is performing. The fact is that you simply can’t rely on your gut. Sure, it’s easy to identify exactly how many customers come in as the result of a coupon without using special tools, but online marketing is a lot more complex. Even with the proper tools, it can be difficult to track precisely. There are so many variables involved all at once; SEO, PPC, social media, content marketing, banner ads, email marketing and more, and it can sometimes take weeks or even months to see results. If you’re relying on your gut, how do you know where a sudden surge in sales came from? Was it the result of a new Google algorithm? A seasonal change? A viral post, or particularly effective email subject line? Multiple activities from multiple channels could be a factor at the same time, which is why it’s so important to use the proper tools to track your online marketing efforts. That way, you can change or eliminate the underperforming activities while increasing the activities that are performing well. You have so many free tools available to track the performance of your online marketing efforts, including Google analytics, Google Search Console, and Bing Webmaster Tools, so it would be foolish not to use them.

 

About Jeremy Knauff

Jeremy Knauff is the founder of Spartan Media, a proud father, husband, and US Marine Corps veteran. He has spent over 15 years helping businesses of all sizes to make their mark online, and today, he’s busy building his own media empire. 

We’re proud to call him a Pinstripe partner!

Six Steps for Managing Your Business’ Online Reputation

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There was once a time when you could have a bad day, justifiably lose patience with a customer, or unavoidably fail to deliver as promised, and those rare transgressions would be little noted nor long remembered. And anyone making it his life’s work to badmouth your business was readily identifiable and had to back up his accusations, meaning the occasional crank was easily recognized as such by the public.

Those days are gone. Now, thanks to Internet, every alleged flaw in your products, services, or business operations can be logged with anonymity and then recalled by everyone—indefinitely besmirching your organization’s reputation.  What can a conscientious business owner do? Here are six relatively easy steps to help protect your brand from online mudslinging:

  • Find out what people are saying. It may turn out that the Internet barely knows your company exists (that’s a different issue) but it could also be that nearly every reference to your business comes with a negative connotation. You really won’t know unless you do occasional web searches using different engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo … etc.) to find your company’s name. Helpful Tip: As you type your business name into Google Search, see how autocomplete tries to anticipate your next few words. If words like ‘rip-off,’ ‘scam,’ or ‘rude’ show up, then you have a big problem!
  • Automate searches and alerts – The Internet never sleeps, but fortunately you have some tools available to keep watch over the Web even when you do. RSS feeds and Google Alerts can be set up to let you know anytime your company gets an online mention.
  • Look out for impostors – Masquerading as someone else online is ridiculously easy to do. A virtual ‘doppelganger’ can call itself by any name it chooses and, by lifting a few online pictures, can present itself as anyone. You can make sure no one is passing himself off as your business by taking a few unique images from your company’s website or social media, and running them through Imageraider.com to see if they appear anywhere they aren’t supposed to be. Also www.knowem.com has a tool to let you know if your social media name is being used without your knowledge.
  • Be the first, best source of your own information – Keeping your website up-to-date and filled with lots of client-pertinent information helps ensure its prominent place in search results. Construct your site to anticipate common inquiries by including pages for careers/jobs, locations, news, headquarters/contact information and coupons/offers/discounts. Also, a company news section or blog—with new content added frequently—will help keep your site at the top of search-engine listings, well above any potentially negative content.
  •  Don’t let negative publicity or complaints fester – When you see something negative about your company—possibly in an online review or even an interactive forum you set up yourself—respond quickly. However, you must take extreme care to be polite (no matter how unreasonable the charge) and make it clear that first-class operation of your business is top priority. You may not always be able to smooth the ruffled feathers of the complainant, but you can still impress others with your thoughtfulness. And if your business did make a mistake, own up to it.
  • Make online reputation management (ORM) someone’s responsibility – Some things just have to be done—like cleaning restrooms or emptying garbage.  The easiest way to make sure the necessary ‘housekeeping’ gets done is make ORM monitoring apart of the ongoing job duties of someone within your organization.

Nobody’s perfect, and where criticisms are justified, take them to heart and make corrections. As always, the best defense of your reputation is to be as good as you can be in all aspects of business operation. As long as you’re doing that, your risk of being widely maligned is relatively minimal. As for unhappy instances that still might arise, just remember: negative information might not ever go away, but it can be overwhelmed by enough good works to make isolated bad reports very insignificant by comparison.

Related Posts:

The Positive Side of Negative Comments

Ginger Reichl Discusses Online Reputation Management with 8 On Your Side 

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Building Client Centric Plots When Writing Content

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The book 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them came at the perfect time for us. Over the last couple of years, content writing has become more about the story and less about “keyword stuffing.” As we discussed in a previous article, during this time Google has learned how to read and distinguish between a well-written article with useful information and an article that is written solely for the purpose of capturing Google’s own attention. The reason Google does this is because it wants the user to find the most relevant content for the terms they are searching. A happy user is Google’s ultimate goal and should be yours as well. These are your prospective clients.

masterplotsFor this reason, content writing is about conveying pertinent, useful, interesting information to your readers. What better way to capture your current and prospective clients’ attention than by making them the heroes of your story? This is the direction we’ve taken in the last couple of years, and it’s working. We have seen firsthand that stories about people are more engaging and generate more traffic. Make the client the protagonist, tell a great story, and you captivate people. This is why 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them arrived on our bookshelf at the perfect time. We needed some solid story-telling background.

The essential point that Tobias makes in the book is that plot is not merely a skeleton or a framework that supports the story – it is an integral part of every single aspect of the story, such that it cannot be removed, lest the story disintegrate into nothing. There are two encompassing, general plots, which can then be broken down into many more, of which Tobias discusses twenty. The two plots are:

  • Force = power, strength, physicality = body = tragedy = forza = action
  • Fraud = wit, cleverness, mentality = mind = comedy = forda = mind

Of the 20 plots that Tobias discusses, we thought that two were most useful for content writing – action and adventure. If we apply these two plots to content writing for business, it will assist us in organizing our content into more compelling stories that draw readers (potential clients or referral sources) in and urge them to read more. Note that although we would love to be the hero, let’s face it, the client is always the hero, so move over and let them shine.

One of our personal favorites is the plot where the client has a lofty goal and while they are trying to achieve that goal, an obstacle is set in their way. The client’s team is then challenged to overcome the obstacle in order to reach their goal. Of course, the story isn’t satisfying if there is complete failure, so we avoid those (remember, always make the client look good!), but when the protagonist is challenged and claims victory, this is exciting for everyone involved, and the story is more interesting. This is the kind of story everyone tells at the water cooler on Monday morning. It’s a good story because it gives people a thrill. Affect people’s emotions and you will reach them on a more personal level.

If you are writing content for your business or your clients, we recommend reading 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them to derive some interesting insights into weaving stories into your content. Sometimes it is difficult to come up with interesting, captivating content, so this may be just what you need to spice up your writing and give you a fresh perspective.

Below are some more storytelling in content marketing articles to help you navigate this challenging and fascinating realm of writing:

iScoop – The art of storytelling in 6 content marketing context questions

Fast Company – Six Rules for Great Storytelling from a Moth-Approved Master of the Form

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