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Spotlight On: Rachel Barrett, Director of Marketing at Shorecrest

We love stories and people, so we thought it would be really interesting to start featuring some of our most favorite people in a monthly Spotlight column. We regularly feature clients, Pinstripe Marketing employees, partners, and community members who have touched our lives in some way.

This Spotlight is on Rachel Barrett, Director of Marketing and Communications at Shorecrest Preparatory School. Rachel is not just a wonderful client, she is a really great person too. Now you can meet her for yourself.

Rachel MartinRachel Barrett

Director of Marketing and Communication

Shorecrest Preparatory School

St. Petersburg, FL

www.shorecrest.org

Years in this position: 1.5

Years in this industry: 10

What is the first marketing project you remember?

I was charged with planning a ladies tea for a group of alumni at Savannah Country Day School where I worked in the Development Office. When I asked about the budget for the event my boss told me, “Spend what you need.” $5,000 later I had the finest rented china, tablecloths, and gourmet cookies for a group of about 25 women. It was a charming event, but cost about 10x what we’d budgeted. I learned that, while autonomy is something I value and appreciate, sometimes you must give – and get – specific instructions before charging ahead!

What do you like most about marketing?

The sheer variety! In my role I get to write, design, code, analyze data, study psychology, take risks, lead, follow, work independently, collaborate, etc. And the field is always evolving – there is always something new to learn.

What challenges does your industry face?

In education, there’s the struggle of balancing best practices based on the latest brain research of child development versus what parents experienced as students just a generation ago. Sometimes parents expect school to be the same experience for their children as it was for them, though the world is an entirely different place. Educators also face the pressure of our data-driven society. Things like test scores and one-dimensional student assessments can compete against goals that are difficult to measure like a child’s social-emotional health, resilience, understanding over memorization, etc. For me, working at a place like Shorecrest with such an incredible group of teachers, I think our faculty and administration do an exemplary job of balancing those demands, which in turn gives our marketing team the tools we need to communicate effectively with our current and prospective families.

What marketing resources do you recommend?

Seth Godin is my marketing crush; my favorite of his books is All Marketers are Liars. I also am a huge fan of Hubspot’s blog and training materials. Staying connected with peers and fellow marketers on LinkedIn and Twitter is also a great way to see what other professionals are discussing and sharing.

 If you could give one piece of advice to Tampa Bay companies, what would it be?

Partner with a school. It could be through a service project mentoring at-risk students, through sponsoring a department or team that aligns with your company’s mission, providing guest experts for a class discussion, there are so many ways that businesses and schools can form mutually beneficial relationships. The more our communities invest in education, the stronger our area is for recruiting employees with families, the stronger our future workforce, the list goes on. 

What are your hobbies?

I love to run and bike. Almost as much as I love to eat and drink. I’m also really trying to get into gardening, but I seem to kill everything I attempt to cultivate.

Last book you read?

The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff.

Thank you, Rachel, for taking the time out of your schedule to answer a few questions to give our readers some insight into the life of a preparatory school marketing director! We can’t wait to see what you do next.

If you’d like to be featured in the Pinstripe Spotlight, just let us know!

Six Steps for Managing Your Business’ Online Reputation

St. Petersburg online reputation management

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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Identifying Your Ideal Client Profile for Business Growth

Tampa Bay marketing firm

Does it matter who your customers are? As long as there are plenty of people clamoring for your products or services, that’s got to be fantastic, right? Actually, the ideal customers are only those that best allow you or your company to meet its true objective.

True objective … that’s the key thing here. Let’s be honest; for some (or most), the number one goal is making money. For others, charities for instance, the goal may be to improve people’s lives. A few others may want to educate or increase public awareness of important issues. Whatever the objective, the idea is to maximize the frequency and quantity of its attainment with the least possible expenditure of resources. And as we all come to realize at a certain point, some customers are just not worth the effort to keep.

It’s a matter or opportunity cost. The time/effort/money that you devote for one client represents time/effort/money that you could not provide to another. It’s ROI: some customers are going to be better investments than others. Of course, the tricky part is making sure you actually have a more profitable client waiting in the wings if you begin doubting the worth of the customer you do have. After all, the customer who provides some profitable reward for your work is better than not having any reward at all. You will want to identify who your “best” customers are and then steadily transition your client base to one more closely resembling the ideal client profile.

So what makes a good client? In general, here are three key characteristics:

  • They will truly benefit from your products or services. While this may seem obvious, many business owners take the attitude of “If they’re buying, we’re selling!” The problem with this approach is that the customer can’t ever be satisfied. You’ll expend a lot of resources trying to make them happy (with a square peg for a round hole) before you or they give just give up. Then you get to live with them sharing their negative assessments of your organization to anyone who will listen.
  • They won’t require exceptions to your rules. Understand, we’re not talking about value-added service, or going the extra mile to make a customer happy. Those are business differentiators that promote customer loyalty and deliver great word-of-mouth advertising. Rather, what you must avoid is agreeing to provide a level of service to one client that you offer to no one else (i.e. outside your normal service area, hours of business, billing process … etc.). The increase in gross income probably won’t adequately compensate for the disruption to established procedures or morale.
  • They represent the opportunity for repeat business. It’s always more profitable to serve existing customers than try to get news ones. Therefore, target your marketing to prospects who will stay with you for years rather than those who are more apt to be “one and done.”

The bottom line is that you want customers who make you feel good about what you do; clients who let you work with a spring in your step rather than beating you up over every penny’s worth of service. So, how do you get more of the good ones, and fewer of the less desirable sort? That’s where the profile comes in. The good news is that you’re already familiar with it.

Simply take some time to review your current and former client lists. Or if you focus on retail customers who come and go without a lot of personal interaction, sit down with employees who deal with them on a daily basis. Start identifying those that meet the criteria of a good customer as listed above – those that fit culturally with the work you want to do and are profitable. What demographic characteristics do they have in common? Are they mostly from a particular industry or similar industries? Are they of a certain size or business maturity? Are they driven to your business by a common need that other, less desirable customers don’t seem to share as much? Write down everything you come up with. That will be the profile you want!

Once you have an idea of what your ideal client is like, then you can start building marketing campaigns that target those individuals specifically. Over time, you should find you that you’ve successfully negotiated the “out-with-the-bad, in-with-the-good” maneuver.

 

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Tips for Stress-Free Website Design and Redesign

Tampa Bay web design companyYour company’s website is the heart of your business. It’s where people go to find you, connect with you, contact you, and admire your work. It is one of your most important assets, the hub of all communication, and it should define your brand. Because your website is such a pivotal piece of who you are and what you do, you want it to be beautiful, functional – the best it can be. Thus, hiring a web design company is a big decision, and starting on that web design project can be a daunting task.  If you have a lot of content, images, and functionalities that add complexity to the project, the task may seem even more tremendous. However, it does not have to loom so large. Here are some tips for a smoother, quicker web design process.

The most important factor in determining the timeliness and simplicity of even the most complex web design project is organization. Each web design project manager may have a different approach, but the below are some basic ideas.

  • Organize your folder structure – you should have separate folders for content and graphics. Organize them by page and name them according to function and/or placement. Consult your design firm’s project manager to determine their recommended format for organization.
  • Communication – Conveying your ideas and your vision clearly and succinctly to your web designer or project manager is essential. Prepare for your first meeting by researching some sample websites  or elements that you admire. This is a crucial part of conveying your vision to the creatives involved in the process. They are inherently visual people and sharing visual cues – perhaps picking pieces of different sites that you really like – will give them ideas that will help them create the best possible site for you.
  • Read the contract – Every web design and development firm will have a unique contract. Fully understanding the contract is the first step to great communication. There may be time limitations and protocol for revisions. These are in place to ensure a timely, smooth project, so make sure you understand the process and ask questions if anything is unclear.
  • Ask questions – Another path to great communication is thorough understanding. If you don’t understand something, ask for clarification. This will keep communication flowing and eliminate the fear that comes with loss of control. However, be prepared to step back and let your design firm guide the process – this is why you hired them.
  • Stepping back – You hired a web design and development firm for many reasons. They know what they are doing. The good ones care about your business. They want you to succeed. They are creative. For all of these reasons and more, you should be able to trust your design firm when they offer advice. Sometimes this means you must take a step back from the minutiae of your design and see the bigger picture. Being able to do this will save you time and money.
website design

We recently finished a gorgeous website design for Southern Roots Realty at southernrootsrealty.com.

The web design process can be truly rewarding. If you hire the right design firm, you will have the opportunity to work with creatives who can make your vision come true, an incredibly satisfying process for all parties involved. Do your research and make sure you not only love the firm’s portfolio, but that you are able to communicate comfortably with the team. Next to organization, communication is most important! Good luck with your project, and be sure to check out some of our other articles about web design and development.

 

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Maintaining Connections – Keep Up to Date with Your Network

Tampa Bay social media agency
We were pretty wowed by a speaker at a recent Association of Legal Administrators Business Partner Showcase and felt compelled to share some of his insights. Not only was Ari Kaplan an engaging speaker, what he had to say was so valuable that we remained fairly riveted throughout his presentation. Whether or not it was the content of the presentation that made it riveting, his dynamic personality, or a combination of both, we left feeling as if we had just been given a gem of information.

The gem of information was simple, really – keep in touch, and keep it interesting. There are many ways of doing this. He reminded us that “half the battle is just showing up,” in fact, he practically screamed it. This woke up those in the audience who were dozing off, and the rest of us, well, we were nodding our heads, thinking, “it really is that simple.” After all, we had made that small effort to show up at this event, and already we were patting ourselves on the back for it.

Keep in Touch

We all lead busy lives for a multitude of reasons – work, family, hobbies, vacations, etc. Sometimes, in the midst of our busy lives, we forget to keep in touch with people. At the heart of this is friendship, but keeping in touch with business contacts can be equally as fulfilling, and often much more lucrative. Kaplan recommends making it a point to reach out to a business contact at least once a day in some form or another, and he gives some great advice on how to do so.

  • If you’re traveling to another city, contact a current business acquaintance, or even reach out to a complete stranger whose work you admire, alumni from your school, or a recommendation from a colleague. Introduce yourself. Ask them out to coffee. You won’t die if they say no, and if they say yes, you have just opened a new door for yourself. Even if they say no, you have put yourself on their radar. This is part of the “half the battle is just showing up.” By reaching out, you showed up.
  • Use Connections on LinkedIn – an integrated tool that alerts you to what is happening in the work and lives of your connections. Even better – it gives you a button to click on that will auto-populate a message to that person congratulating them on a promotion or saying Happy Birthday. Customize these messages, of course, but half the work has already been done for you! You may have also noticed updates in your feed about contacts being mentioned in the news. Use that as an opportunity to connect. Read the article for great insight into their accomplishments, knowledge, and news.
social media marketing connections

Keep in touch with LinkedIn Connections.

  • Send postcards – this also falls under “keep it interesting.” Kaplan suggests sending a cool or fun postcard from the place you are visiting. Send to someone with whom you haven’t communicated in a while, just to say hello. Send to a current prospect to let them know you’re thinking of them. People like to receive postcards, and your gesture brings you back to the forefront of their mind.

Keep it Interesting

Kaplan asked us, “what makes you interesting?” We turned to our neighbors and told them what makes us interesting. For some it was hobbies and interests, for others it was an ability or talent. Whatever it was, Kaplan asked us to use it to our advantage. To be interesting is to be remembered. This goes for what makes you as a person interesting as well as interesting actions you take to get noticed. Sending a postcard is one of those things, but can you think of others? What about sending out cool marketing materials that really highlight your business – an auto-playing video card or a deck of cards with your images? Think about what you would like to receive – something useful and interesting – and use that to get attention and be remembered.

Since the event, we have been busy setting lunch dates and coming up with cool ideas for our clients. We reach out to new acquaintances more often and we attend events more often. If nothing more, we are making some great new friends, but we already know that friends make the best clients.

Ari Kaplan is a leading legal industry analyst, writer and speaker. To learn more about Ari, visit his website at www.arikaplanadvisors.com.