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Good Marketing Never Forgets the ‘Old Year’

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The New Year is upon us, and with it comes a sense of a “fresh start” — especially if the past 365 days haven’t been particularly good. However, before we can measure progress, we must have an idea of how far we’ve come. Therefore, it’s essential to record the results of past marketing initiatives and reference them from one year to the next.

Understand that every advertising campaign or customer/prospect outreach effort is very much like an experiment. Not only are you interested in results, you’ve got to control for variables.

Necessarily, there will be a “best guess” component to your experimentation based on experience, industry knowledge and instinct. Additionally, some variables will be beyond your control while others are completely invisible to you. But every campaign requires standard, basic decisions. To avoid repeating the same mistakes and to steadily improve results, pay attention to:

  • Audience demographics – Age, gender, ethnicity, income, location … you should have a profile of your target audience before your campaign begins. Say, for instance, 75% of your target audience is male but 50% of the leads generated are female. Such over-performance with women might suggest untapped demand. Yet you’ll never know unless you record who received your messages in the first place.
  • Campaign timing – From “back-to-school” sales for children’s clothing stores, to tax season for CPAs, every industry has a time of year that’s expected to bring in more business. But is it better to advertise a month before the event or just a few days in advance? And the days of the week that you advertise could make a difference in response as well. Will your Monday email blast get lost in the clutter from the weekend? Make identifiable changes from one campaign to the next, and compare results.
  • Types of communications (email, direct mail, radio, social media … etc.?) – The tricky part about comparative analysis of media is that results can be radically different from one to another, yet actual effectiveness could be almost equal. Take for example, the email blast that costs next to nothing per contact, but also brings in very few qualified leads, versus a creative (and expensive) direct mail campaign that nets a much higher percentage of actual sales. It’s only when you try different approaches over time that you can determine which has the greater positive impact on your bottom line.
  • Frequency of contact – One thing we hear commonly hear from clients is that they tried a certain type of advertising and got no response. This often means they mailed a postcard or sent out an email blast—one time and out of the blue—and no one noticed. But people get bombarded by thousands of messages every day. To make an impression, you usually must repeat yourself. However, there is a sweet spot—before diminishing returns on your advertising investment—that you won’t find until there’s a documented history to examine.
  • Tone of the communication – Did your advertising seek to get a chuckle, tug at someone’s heart strings or imply that life as we know it rested on the prospect’s buying decision? Most business owners think they know their customers—and they usually do—but it’s risky to make blanket assumptions about the mindset of others. Certainly, you want to stay within the boundaries of your brand image, but occasionally changing the tenor of your messages may provide valuable marketing insight.

As you go from one campaign to the next, isolate a specific aspect of the communication to change.  You don’t want to change too much. Otherwise, if results are greatly impacted, you won’t know which factor was at work. Plus, if you’ve been getting reasonable ROI from your marketing budget, you don’t want to risk a disastrous result by suddenly changing too much. Your expectation should be incremental improvement. Sure, you might discover an advertising formula that exceeds your wildest hopes, but in the meantime, plan on adjusting and analyzing your marketing plans as long as you’re in business.

 

Ready to kick off your marketing new year? We are!

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!

Building a Reputation Through Volunteering

building-a-reputation

“Oh! I know Ginger!” My team often hears that phrase while talking with people at events around Tampa Bay. When the topic of work comes up and they mention Pinstripe Marketing, they frequently get that response. Years ago, after hearing dozens of those exclamations, our former creative director joked, “Geez, we should have buttons!” A project manager agreed and they decided to arm themselves with a response of their own at the next event. It caught on. Although silly, people would actually wear the buttons, causing others to say “I know Ginger; where’s my button?” or “Who is Ginger? I want a button.”

building reputation through volunteering

I am what many would consider “a habitual joiner.” Perhaps suffering from a severe case of FOMO, I wanted to be involved in everything – professional associations, business organizations, non-profit boards – wherever I could surround myself with people (typical ENFP) and give back to my industry and community. By being involved and serving on boards, I had the opportunity to illustrate my work ethic, organization, communication and marketing skills, and (hopefully) that I was friendly and easy to work with.

Through the relationships I’ve built volunteering, I have met some of my very best friends, business colleagues, and, most importantly for my business, clients. In fact, I can directly trace a significant portion of the agency’s annual revenue to connections made from my volunteer work.

Just recently, we landed a new client in a fast-growing segment of the GPS technology industry. When I asked the vice president of operations how they initially heard about us, he said, “I sent a query out to my circle of trusted associates and your name came back twice.” Similarly, when meeting with a local law firm that week, I asked the same question. The marketing director said, “I asked a group of legal administrators and you were recommended seven times!”

While most professional services firms attribute more than 70% of their business to referrals, I know our involvement in the community is responsible for even more. How do I know? Because we have rarely proactively pursued a client.

However, now is the time to leverage that reputation and implement a business development campaign to strategically target new clients. We’re looking forward to growing the business and building relationships with new clients who will ultimately make new referrals.

I understand that we’re all busy, and over the last several years, I have become more selective about where I spend my time. It’s important to identify what organizations will provide what you’re seeking – more knowledge, more connections, or more passion for a cause. Getting involved and serving in trade associations or volunteer organizations is an excellent way to build a network, particularly for introverts who may cringe at the thought of attending a big networking event or non-profit fundraiser. The idea of “working a room” is unappealing to most, but getting to know a small group of like-minded individuals working toward a common mission creates bonds that last.

I wrote this article because we have been planning for 2017 and analyzing many aspects of our business. This year especially, my involvement in the community has really paid off. So whether you are making resolutions or just looking to approach business development from a different perspective, hopefully this is a good reminder. We always recommend to our clients to stay heavily involved in trade associations and the community – for many reasons. Best of luck capturing more of an audience for your business in the new year!

Oh, and let me know if you want a button. 🙂

 

Below are some resources for getting involved and building your own reputation.

Find a Trade Association

Networking for Introverts

Fundamentals of Serving on a Board

 

The Physics of Marketing

marketing tactics hero headerPeople 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.

The first of these important principles states that “an object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” Or to apply this concept to a sales perspective, people who are not your customers won’t become your customers, and people who are your customers will continue being your customers—unless something happens to them.

Okay, hold the ‘’d’uh.” There’s a reason it’s called the First Law of Motion, or the Law of Inertia. And sometimes, when dealing with a critically important matter (and this is!) it’s best to focus on the basics.

Consider people who are ‘at rest’ as your customers. Newton says you have the physics with you … they want to stay where they are. But what are the “unbalanced forces” that can act upon customers that will cause them to alter their states? This could include a new competitor offering similar goods at lower prices, or one that has a more convenient location or hours. Other things that could get a once happily inert customer moving away from you might be dissatisfaction with a purchase, or an unpleasant encounter with an employee who was having a bad day.

logo design digital marketing

The good news is that it might take more than one incident or changing circumstance to drive a customer away—thanks to Newton’s Second Law of Motion. This says, “Acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass (of the object being accelerated) the greater the amount of force needed (to accelerate the object).” The ‘mass’ in this case, is the thing that holds your customer in place with your business. For lack of a better term, let’s call it “Good Will.” Just as it takes a lot more force to move a boulder than a pebble, it will take more force to overcome years of accumulated good will than a superficial business-client relationship.

Of course, you shouldn’t rely on your accumulated goodwill to withstand all challenges ad infinitum—it’s like a checking account—you must make deposits occasionally. Plus, as the saying goes, “business is business.” There’s a definite “what have you done for me, lately?” mindset among consumers that demands staying on your toes at all times. You should react to the whatever is trying to move the mass of your customers elsewhere.

This brings us to Newton’s Third Law of Motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite re-action.”

The standard demonstration of this theory is a rocket being propelled by a stream of ignited fuel exploding out in the opposite direction. It’s not exactly like this in marketing. Here, it might be better to substitute the word “opposite” with “counter” when describing the response to any marketing initiative. Also—unlike the rocket—the reactions may take many forms.

When someone advertises (exerts force) to move the mass of your customers away from you and toward their business, you’ll probably push back with your own advertising, or perhaps some kind of incentive promotion. But let’s say that you do nothing. Physics will require that something still has to give. For instance, your competitor would have to jettison some other marketing idea to direct his or her resources toward your existing customers.

marketing physics

In other words, there will be consequences for every marketing decision. Your goal is to figure out how to direct any counter reaction so that it helps your business take off, rather than causing something to catastrophically blow up.

Check some of our other articles for more marketing and creative ideas.

Thinking about Stock Photography Choices

Tampa Bay marketing firmIf you’ve spent any time perusing ads or websites of SMBs (or larger companies that don’t do much consumer advertising), you’ve probably seen identical photographs pop up occasionally.  Those are stock photography images — and for a reasonable fee, they are available for just about anyone’s use.

Overexposure of popular images is the most obvious danger of using stock photography. There have been cases of different companies with the same stock photo seeing their ads placed side-by-side ads in a publication. (Whomever did the layout deserved a good spanking!) By and large, however, the relatively miniscule cost of stock photos versus a professional photoshoot can make the risk worthwhile when budget is a factor.

And actually, the embarrassment of seeing a photo of “your” smiling customer service representative apparently moonlighting for an unseemly industry, isn’t really the worst thing that can happen when it comes to using stock photography.

No, the biggest stock photography danger is having an image that doesn’t work with the message that it’s supposed to convey. This could be due to pictures which are so generic that they carry the visual impact of plain beige walls at the local DMV. Or they could be quite interesting images that are, nevertheless, badly mismatched to the message. Unfortunately, this problem comes from the “off-the-rack” nature of stock photography, so to mitigate such inherent deficiencies, here are a five helpful strategies:

  • Be mindful of your brand image – The message in any marketing communication is more than just the words to be read or heard. It should also express your brand’s most important value proposition—e.g. what makes your company special and most inspires people to do business with you. So when you flesh out the theme for your particular marketing piece with imagery, keep in mind that you’ll want to reinforce a specific, clear message and also complement your brand identity

 

  • Let the message drive the process – Before you start looking for images, you’ll need a concept or theme for your ad, brochure, website, etc.  Basically, this means copy first—or at least you should have some headlines and subheads in hand to substantially narrow the image possibilities. This may seem limiting—mostly because it is—and that’s a good thing. The narrower your imagery focus, the less likely you’ll use the same picture as a thousand other companies; and the better the picture reinforces the copy, the more effective your message will be. And if you can’t find a picture that works with your copy, you can alter the wording or look for a new concept … but don’t force it.

 

  • Use search filters – Assuming you’re getting your stock images from one of many online services (Deposit Photos, Shutterstock,  iStockphoto, etc.), how you set your search parameters will greatly affect your ability to find a good image. For example, with or without people, a specific color scheme to match the piece (or your company/logo colors). You can also filter by orientation (horizontal, vertical, square) so that any necessary cropping will be less likely to damage the picture’s visual impact.

 

  • Choose your search key words thoughtfully – Your online search will also require some key words. As a starting point, try to think of a noun to match your target audience. Now throw in a couple of important words from your proposed headline. Next think of a word that could convey a specific benefit or activity associated with the message you’re hoping to convey. Finally throw in a word associated with your brand. Once you do this, you’ll probably get nothing … or nothing useful. But this exercise is still worthwhile in making you cognizant of the parameters you should honor with your key word search. Even as you tweak the word choices, you probably won’t be able to find an image that checks every box. Just make sure not to choose any picture that works in direct opposition to any of the qualities you were originally seeking.

 

  • Get feedback – You’ve looked at the images and headlines together and think you’ve achieved perfect symbiosis for uniformly conveying your message. Now get the opinions of a few people whose marketing judgement you trust. If you ask five people for their opinions, you’ll probably find that two enthusiastically like it, one will say it’s “okay,” another will offer a different concept idea completely, and one won’t get it at all. If so, congratulations, you did alright! Any reaction worse than this, though, you might want to rethink things. Of course, you should take any valid criticisms to heart and make adjustments accordingly.

Unless you have a very robust marketing budget, stock photography will probably be an important element in your marketing materials and online presence. That’s fine. Just as a suit off the rack may not fit as perfectly as a tailored garment, with a little forethought and a critical eye, there’s still no reason you can’t still look very, very good.

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