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You Can Build a Narrative for Your Company

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For businesses big and small, it’s not enough to say, “This is what we make” or “This is what we do.” It’s generic and outdated. People are looking for authenticity and value—a brand they can trust. And the best way to show them is through a corporate narrative.

Building a narrative comes from a shift in thinking away from the what the competition is doing, what the customer focus groups are saying, and what the industry landscape looks like. A narrative is a strategic positioning of the company, using its history, its employees, the location and its future. Combined, these explain why the company exists and why it’s unique.

Strategic Positioning

Without getting political, the current controversy surrounding Nike is more than a PR stunt. Sure, Nike’s online sales jumped 31% after the Kaepernick ads appeared, but they have also returned to pre-campaign levels after the buzz had faded. These ads are a continuation of their narrative, “Just do it.”

Nike’s narrative started in 1988 and it goes beyond, “We make great shoes.” It focuses on athletes and their need to believe in themselves: “We’ll make the best sporting equipment and all you have to do is believe in yourself.” By using Kaepernick, they pay homage to other high caliber athletes who made their own protests, the most famous of which was Muhamad Ali, and were punished for it. It’s about inspiration, not about product.

Okay, enough about the controversy, let’s look deeper into building a corporate narrative.

Value over Features and Benefits

The features and benefits of a product or service are no longer enticing to potential customers or clients. They’re all the same. It’s the value that’s the differentiator. Value motivates consumers to look deeper and see who the company truly is.

A company’s value begins with its mission and vision:

  • Who they are.
  • What they believe in.
  • What they believe is possible.

This is about having a purpose and sharing that purpose with others, or having others share it with them.

IBM’s “Smarter Planet”campaign began in 2008 and is a great example of a modern corporate narrative. It came from IBM’s mission and core set of values. It shares their sense of purpose and how that purpose can be achieved. It’s also inclusive – very inclusive – and describes a sense of shared responsibility.

Corporate Narrative for a Small Company

Small companies don’t work on the world stage or have enormous marketing budgets, but they can build their own narrative. Even start-ups and relatively young companies can do this. All they need to do is take a look at their mission and what they believe in. What’s their purpose? Their purpose is what they can share with customers.

Slogans and logos help visually expand the chosen narrative, like giving it wings. Content marketing strategies help reinforce the message. To customers experiencing these , the value of the company becomes remarkable, something exciting to talk about. The brand is no longer generic—it’s authentic. Best of all, the story continues to grow with each connection made.

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.

Keep It Fresh!

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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.

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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?

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“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!

 

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