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Why Small Businesses Can Forget About Omnichannel Marketing

Why Small Businesses Can Forget About Omnichannel Marketing

If you follow any sort of marketing news at all, you’ve at least heard about omnichannel marketing. This gold standard of marketing is often touted as a must-do strategy for any business that wants to crush its goals. The problem is, the omnichannel approach is simply out of reach for millions—maybe even the majority—of businesses in the United States.

What is Omnichannel Marketing?

You can Google the term “omnichannel marketing” and receive tons of dry definitions, but that’s not why you’re here! To be frank: omnichannel marketing is when a company is all up in your business. You get a text message about a sale from Banana Republic while you’re in their store. You receive an abandoned cart email an hour after you decided not to buy those shoes. And those damn Amazon ads follow you EVERYWHERE online.

With so many devices connected to us these days, companies can identify and target us in many ways. If it all feels a bit big brother, that’s because it is! Add in the power and trackability of the internet, and you’ve got a massive amount of data that tells the story of you.

From your hobbies to your brand preferences and everything in between, it’s recorded into databases. This data creates a profile of who you are and, subsequently, how to sell you stuff. Grocery stores have been doing this for years through their “value cards.” They track everything we buy under the guise of offering discounts and then sell us out to manufacturers. Offering us coupons to buy the manufacturers’ competitors’ products is not a coincidence.

Why Omnichannel Marketing Won’t Work for Small Businesses

Let’s face it—omnichannel marketing is not a viable option for small businesses. True omnichannel marketing relies on data, and the analysis of large amounts of data requires the use of AI. Most small businesses can’t afford to invest in the platforms using this kind of AI technology. Not to mention, you have to pay to access the databases that are collecting the information in the first place. Big data is not the playground of even the largest family-owned business or non-tech startup.

Even if you had the money to invest in this kind of AI, would it make sense to? Even if you have a brick-and-mortar storefront or shop, how much foot traffic do you get on the average day? A massive chain store can use the power of AI to target thousands of people across the nation anytime they come in. But if you’re a single store or even a local chain, you just won’t have the numbers to make that investment pay off.

So what’s a small business owner to do?

Use Multichannel Marketing To Its Fullest

Now being villified by marketing snobs, multichannel marketing was the previous gold standard. This strategy delivers the company’s message on multiple channels—like social media, email marketing, direct mail, etc.—to reach as many people as possible. Being present on many channels makes sense, as not every person is present on every channel. The problem comes when people are lazy with their messaging (or just time-strapped).

Multichannel marketing campaigns aren’t inherently bad. Reaching your customers—consistently—where they are is always a good thing. You just have to build a strategy on how to best deliver your message to your audience using the channels and tools available to you. Strengthening and being strategic with your multichannel marketing can create impressive results.

In the past, multichannel marketing was a lengthy, manual process. Because of the time it took, companies often distributed the same content on every channel. The lack of true strategy around what message is delivered on which platform equated to a “spray and pray” method. There was no consideration for the content an Instagram user is most likely to view and engage with versus the content that works best via email.

Now, there are social scheduling tools that not only help you plan content in advance, but help you tailor your posts on each platform. On Hootsuite, for example, you can include hashtags on Instagram posts but remove them from LinkedIn. Email marketing tools have also come a long way, with some even offering workflow builders to automate sequences and follow up.

Using an all-in-one tool like Hubspot can be expensive, but it’s usually still WAY cheaper than trying to use an omnichannel AI platform. With Hubspot and others like it, you can trigger emails from website actions, build automated workflows, and use your database to its fullest. (I’m not a Hubspot rep—it’s just the product I have the most experience with!)

Side note: A marketing audit can help tailor your multichannel strategy and point you in the right direction. For example, if you’re posting consistently on Instagram but your target audience isn’t there, you’re wasting time and resources! You can either try to audit on your own or work with a professional who specializes in audits and strategy.

Fake Omnichannel Marketing With a Little Manual Labor

You also should think outside the box and develop ways to use the data you keep on your customers and prospects. If you’re an oil change service, pull a list of everyone who came in 3-4 months ago. Then send them a personalized email with a $20 coupon. If you’re a wedding photographer, send a text message to all clients within the past year and offer them a referral bonus.

The trick is to really look at the data you have access to and brainstorm ways to use it to your advantage. (P.S. Please don’t ever sell this data to outside companies. That’s a sure way to tank your reputation.)

If you’re one of the millions of small business owners in the U.S. and you want the best marketing you can get, I have one thing for you to remember. One man’s treasure is another man’s trash! Meaning: the gold standard for the Fortune 500 isn’t going to do you any good. Build your strategy, focus on your own business goals, and you’ll be on the right track!

18 Marketing Activities to Promote Your Small Business

18 Marketing Activities to Promote Your Small Business

How do you promote your small business? Some of the items on this list might seem like no-brainers, while others may be truly enlightening. Even if you already know about these activities, this list is a good reminder of all the ways to drive marketing for small businesses. It’s broken out by category for easier perusing. Enjoy!

Web/SEO

1. Establish a web presence with clear, concise copy. Speak to your target audience and talk about the problems you solve for them.

2. Publish SEO optimized content consistently. For most businesses, this would be in the form of blog posts.

3. Show social proof of the solutions you offer. Publishing testimonials (with permission!) is a great way to do so.

Social Media

4. Develop a content repurposing strategy. Break your long form content into digestible chunks for social posts in various formats.

5. Post consistently. Create a content calendar and use scheduling tools so that you can create content in batches when you have time.

6. Engage, tag, comment, and respond! Social media is just that—social—so you should be engaging with your network.

7. Use video (like Reels) and live feeds to humanize your brand. People like people, so show the faces behind your company’s name.

8. Join groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, then be active. Post your own content, ask questions, and comment on others’ posts.

Email

9. The first step is to actually collect email addresses! Set up ways to obtain this information—new customer forms, surveys, digital giveaways (aka lead magnets), etc.

10. Deploy an email newsletter with helpful content. This should be information of value to your target audience, so minimal selling!

Sales Collateral

11. Print (yes print!) business cards. Include a QR code on them to drive traffic to your website for more information.

12. Create direct mail campaigns to take grab people’s attention. You’ll catch their eye a lot easier in their mailbox than in their inbox, where there is a LOT more competition.

Local Marketing

12. Set up a Google My Business page. Millions of people are searching for your services, so make sure you can be easily found!

13. Be active in your community. Attend local networking events and join the Chamber of Commerce in your area.

14. Support local organizations that align with your brand values and sponsor their events.

Public Relations

15. Create a referral program so that your customers can market for you.

16. Submit guest posts to blogs that your audience reads. Look to partner with other businesses that share your target audience.

17. Appear on a podcast. Again, focus on interviews that your target audience will hear.

Customer Experience

18. Provide expert, white glove service to each customer. Solve any problems quickly and express your gratitude for their support. A happy customer is the best salesperson!

Small Business? Here’s How to Build Your Marketing Team

Small Business? Here’s How to Build Your Marketing Team

Just like marketing in general, it’s good to have a strategy when it comes to building your marketing team. You need to be purposeful when deciding who to hire—if your team is unbalanced you’ll have a difficult time getting all tasks completed. Even if you decide to outsource some or all of your marketing activities, this guide should help you identify the best partner.

Determining the Structure of Your Marketing Team

The exact structure of your team will depend on your business goals. For example, if you’re primarily focused on lead generation, you’ll want more resources devoted to content creation. This includes blogs, video content, ebooks, checklists, etc). You also need to maintain your digital presence, including your website and regular posting on your social media accounts. Another content focus should be developing lead magnet activities like email marketing sequences and value-driven webinars.

On the other hand, if your main goal is branding (aka getting your name out there), youll have different priorities. You still want to maintain your online presence but you’ll also want to have resources focused on tactics that engage the community. This could include event sponsorship (local or virtual), public relations, and thought leadership. Thought leadership is particularly effective if you want to build your brand’s reputation as a leading expert.

It’s easy to imagine that each priority will have a different person responsible. Yet for most small and even midsized businesses this just isn’t possible. Not only for the obvious financial reasons, but also because each responsibility isn’t typically a full 40 hour per week job. A better way to structure the team is by grouping tasks based on the skills needed to complete them – like graphic design or analysis. Most people are skilled in multiple areas, so your designer might also be tech-savvy and lead your webinars. Or a writer might also be adept at creating and managing campaign schedules.

The Types of People You Need On Your Marketing Team

Someone who makes decisions. If you’re building the team, this is likely one of your roles. Having one person in charge of the department is important to operations. Someone needs to be the final say on what needs to be done and who is going to do it. It’s also helpful for others in the organization to have a single point of contact for all department communications. In a small business, the decision maker for marketing might even be the President or CEO! Just remember that unless your background is in marketing, you should hire well so that you can listen to and trust your team’s recommendations.

Someone who loves planning and organization. This trait is extremely important in marketing because we’re responsible for so many tasks and have a lot of balls in the air. There’s no point in developing well thought-out campaigns if you blow the deadlines. This person is a great candidate to learn all about your tech stack – the software and programs that assist your marketing activities. Maybe you use a social media scheduler and build campaign schedules in Airtable. Whatever way you track all your marketing tasks, someone needs to be aware of the daily to-do list and keep things running smoothly.

Someone who writes well. Writing is a critical skill that applies to every single touchpoint of your marketing. It’s hard enough to write clear copy that engages your audience, but throwing SEO optimization into the mix challenges even the most seasoned cooywriter. Even if creating long form content isnt a priority, you shouldnt ignore the power of communication. It’s just as challenging (if not more so) to craft short yet compelling copy for an ad as it is to draft a 1,500 word blog post. Being able to write well is my top most desired skill when interviewing marketing staff because its not something thats easy to teach on the fly.

Someone with design skills. I’m a believer that you either have an eye for design or you don’t. I’m not talking about classically trained skills – some people just know what looks good and what doesn’t. Specific programs like the Adobe Creative Suite can be taught (and there’s always Canva). But without someone who has a basic eye for design, you’ll struggle a LOT when creating pleasing social posts or presentations for clients. As a side note, if you’re just starting out and need a brand identity suite (including a logo), you should consider hiring a professional. That’s usually not a task for an entry-level designer.

Someone who is tech-savvy. This person doesn’t necessarily have to be on your marketing team if you have an IT department. But as previously mentioned, there are so many martech tools available and someone should be able to figure out which ones to use and how best to use them. Not to mention navigating all the different social media platforms and the backend of your website, which can be a beast all on its own! Again, unless you’re building the most basic website, I recommend engaging with a professional web design company to develop your site and get it done right. Your staff can then make updates and maintain the site once the structure is built.

Someone who is analytical. Not all marketers are right-brained creative types! It takes a logical mind to analyze the myriad data available from marketing activities and determine what it all means. Each social media platform will give you analytics on your posts, the audience you’re reaching, your engagement, and more. You’ll have similar analytics from your website and email marketing platforms. And then there are more manual activities, like tracking exposure from event sponsorship or media mentions. The best analysts will be able to draw conclusions from all this data and use that information to direct your future activities.

General Traits All Marketers Should Have

To me, the top desired traits in a marketing team member are innovation and creativity. Both are indicators of someone who is able to think outside the box and come up with unique solutions. Along this path of thinking, you should look for someone who has initiative and is willing to take risks. Once they’re trained and have an understanding of how the department and company operate, they will be able to suggest new ideas and implement those ideas (with your approval). If they are a naturally risk-averse person, they might not be open-minded enough to truly innovate. You need someone who is willing to suggest big moves that lead to big payoffs.

Other helpful traits I’ve identified over the years include an interest in watching industry trends, good research skills, and a commitment to learning more and improving their skills. And of course the traits that apply to all positions – organization, attention to detail, time management, punctuality, and a generally good attitude – are valued in marketing as well!

Even if you’re hiring for an entry level position, you should look for candidates with work experience. Before you get up in arms about that statement, I don’t mean required industry experience! Entry level should mean exactly that. But candidates who have prior experience in retail, food service, and other customer service positions will already have some of the skills necessary to be great in marketing. If a candidate has a marketing internship on their resume, definitely snatch them up! This is golden experience that built on their education and opened their eyes to real-world marketing operations.

What If I Can’t Afford a Marketing Team?

If your business is very small or you’re just starting out, you might not be able to hire multiple people for marketing activities. I’m sure it’s tempting to try to do it yourself, but again, unless your background is in marketing, don’t fall into this trap! Marketing is more than just posting on Instagram and calling it a day. You need a strategy that is aligned with your business goals and tactics that bring the strategy to fruition. And even if your background IS in marketing, you have many other business tasks that only you, as the owner, can take care of. It’s best to invest in staff that are solely devoted to marketing.

If you can’t afford an entire team, you can start with just one full-time marketing hire. Look for someone with the organizational skills and initiative necessary to keep everything on task. Content creation, like writing and design, can be outsourced easily. You can even outsource your marketing strategy by partnering with a fractional CMO—an expert whose time you pay for only as much as you need it. This person should work to learn as much about your business and your goals as possible. Then they can craft a strategic marketing plan and work as an extension of your business to guide your marketing efforts.

If you’re tempted to skip marketing altogether to save money, I’ll simply wish you luck on your venture. You’re gonna need it!

The Secret to Building Customer Loyalty

The Secret to Building Customer Loyalty

How strong is your customer loyalty? Do your customers return to you as soon as they need your services or products? Or do they shop around for the lowest price or most convenient path?

If you know me at all, you know that I am a Coca-Cola fanatic. I will not drink Pepsi. If a restaurant doesn’t serve Coke, I drink water. But a little-known fact about me is that I used to drink Pepsi! When I was in high school, there were only Pepsi machines around the campus and I was fine substituting while on campus.

Since then, I’ve been choosing to drink Coke. I’ve convinced myself that anything less is just worthless (even Coke Zero). Psychologically, I just know that Coke is the best. What led to me becoming so loyal to Coke?

Short answer: consistency.

Using Consistency to Build Customer Loyalty

The secret to building customer loyalty is being consistent. Not just in any one area, but in ALL touchpoints.

1. Visual branding

Coca-Cola was the most common consistency example cited in my printing classes. It’s the brand that was always used to emphasize the importance of reproducing an exact color on any and every substrate. From cardboard boxes to magazine ads to aluminum cans, Coke red is always consistent. They even had their own PMS color created just for them!

Beyond the color, Coke has had the same font for their logo since 1886. It’s been tweaked slightly over the years, but the script has remained largely the same for almost 140 years. This type of consistency means that the image is instantly recognizable to consumers.

2. Brand Reputation and Values

Reputation is difficult to control in a lot of ways. It’s the expression of what a collective thinking is about your brand, and it can be incredibly challenging to change a bad reputation. However, reputation is strongly tied to your brand’s values.

Continuing the Coke example, their values include bringing people together. Ads are always about sharing a Coke with someone and use emotional marketing to resonate with consumers. The name campaign (where they printed names on bottles) was an innovative way to encourage people to buy and share Coke. Yet it fit right into their desire to bring people together.

When people know what you stand for and you’re consistent about representing your brand, they’re more likely to feel good about supporting you.

3. Product or Service Quality

No matter where you travel in the world, you can find a Coke. It’s always refreshing and always delicious!

This is not to say that it’s the same formula everywhere you go. Just like McDonald’s has different menu items to better serve customers in other cultures and countries, Coke has slight differences depending on where you go. (For example, Mexican Coke is renowned for its use of real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.)

But the point remains that, regional differences aside, you always know what to expect. I can buy a Coke at my local grocery store and get the same taste as I’d get from a gas station in Colorado. That’s consistency, and the guarantee of getting what I want every single time has cemented my customer loyalty.

Products aren’t the only thing that can be consistent. Service providers should also strive for consistent quality through every experience. If your maid service is sometimes fantastic and other times lackluster, you’re more likely to explore other options. But if they’re on top of things every single time they visit, you’ll be so happy that you’ll have no need to see what else is out there.

4. Product Placement

If your company is a B2C business serving consumers, you need to be consistent in where they can find you. I know that I can go into pretty much any retail establishment in the United States and find a Coke. Even if you’re a niche business that crafts vegan hemp dog collars, you should have your product always available where your customers expect you. If you sell on your website, you’d better make sure your site doesn’t go down. If you sell at a retailer, you should have a stocking schedule that allows for representation. Nothing is more disappointing than expecting to get what you want and having it be unavailable.

5. Customer Experience

This is your area to shine! The experience is paramount to building customer loyalty. Consider your buyer’s journey and the decisions they make that lead them to your product or service. Then look at every touchpoint between the decision to purchase and the transaction being complete. Have you provided excellent service? Have you delighted the customer with little details? Do these things every time and for every interaction, and you’ll have a customer for life.

When people know what to expect and know they’ll get it every time, you’ll build a loyal following who call you first when they need you. Better yet, you’re their ONLY call because nothing else compares. Build customer loyalty with consistency and you’ll win every time!

7 Customer Appreciation Tactics to Show Gratitude Year-round

7 Customer Appreciation Tactics to Show Gratitude Year-round

This post was contributed by Sadie Aram for Silverbrook Marketing.

Celebrating gratitude is one of the most fulfilling parts of the holiday season. Although it’s fun giving gifts during the holidays, remember that appreciation should happen year-round—especially when it comes to your customers. After all, they play a crucial role in your company’s success. No matter the size of your business, implementing a strong customer appreciation strategy can set you apart from your competitors.

Think of going the extra mile for your customers like a chain reaction. When you openly recognize a customer’s value, they become more loyal to your business, increasing your customer retention. Loyal customers are also more likely to refer your business to their friends and family (and referrals are also likely to be star customers).

If customer appreciation isn’t on your radar, it could be one reason you’re losing customers. Almost 70% of buyers abandon a company because they believe the company doesn’t care about them, compared to less than 15% of buyers who abandon a company due to product or service dissatisfaction. Fortunately, upgrading your customer appreciation efforts can start with these 7 tips.

1. Handwrite thank you notes.

In a world where commerce is highly digital, showing authentic gratitude can go a long way. Sending a personalized letter is a great approach! It shows your customer that there’s a human behind the company that wants to form a connection. If you’re short on time, try drafting automated emails for specific occasions instead. You could thank customers for recent purchases or even celebrate milestones like their “customer-versary.”

2. Spotlight loyal clients.

Promoting customers or businesses on social media and via email can be equally fun and productive. You do this by posting a customer’s story, highlighting a rave review, or grabbing an existing bio if your clients are other businesses. By consistently featuring supporters, you make customers feel good while also creating content for your company.

3. Give discounts and freebies.

Gifts of any size are sure to flatter your customers. It can be as small as a coupon for their next order, a free sample with their purchase, or branded swag like a t-shirt or a mug. If you’re feeling extra gracious, offer an upgrade to their current service or send them their favorite product free of charge. Remember to be thoughtful; consider sending your handwritten note with the gift to deliver the full package.

4. Build a loyalty program.

Loyalty programs are an effective way to express your gratitude to your most supportive customers. Discounts on future purchases, early access to new products, and other perks are sure to keep your customers happy and coming back for more. Programs can be based on different tiers of membership, points earned from each purchase, or a simple “punch card” approach.

5. Encourage (and reward) referrals.

Incorporating a referral program is one of the most highly praised marketing methods, as it generates several quality leads per customer. Like a loyalty program, a referral program is beneficial to both your customers and your business. As mentioned before, regular clients are likely to recommend your company to others. Since that helps your business, why not reward both parties for it? Cash back and free service offers are foolproof ways to encourage customers to refer a contact to your company.

6. Correct your mistakes.

Since there are humans behind every business, occasional mistakes are inevitable. While you can’t go back in time to prevent the mistake, you can control how you take accountability and apologize. In fact, 78% of customers will forgive a mistake if their customer experience is excellent. You can quickly turn a customer’s poor experience around by promptly fixing the problem and going beyond what was initially asked.

7. Give back to a cause close to your customers.

Free stuff can be the way to some people’s hearts, but customer loyalty runs much deeper to others. Show your consumer base that you care by donating to a charity that aligns with their values. You could even consider making a few small donations in each client’s honor to show that they played a role in the support. Having a consistent corporate social responsibility initiative can also contribute to a strong brand identity.

These tactics are a great way to foster beneficial relationships with your clients, but they’re not a “one-and-done” deal. Practice gratitude frequently and genuinely to send the right message to your customers.

4 Dynamic Marketing Strategies to Entice Students to Higher Education

4 Dynamic Marketing Strategies to Entice Students to Higher Education

This guest post was written by Sadie Aram for Silverbrook Marketing.

The United States is home to over 4,000 higher education institutions, and each one is competing for the attention of prospective students. If that doesn’t produce enough stress already, college enrollment numbers have been on a decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, it’s important for higher education marketing teams to implement engaging and effective campaigns to reach future attendees. If you’re struggling to spread the word about what your school has to offer, make sure you have these four strategies in your marketing plan.

1. Personalize the experience.

Use emotional marketing to connect with potential students. They will be better able to see themselves at a school that recognizes and addresses their unique needs. Tailor your message to specific groups based on marketing personas developed from existing demographic data. A persona is a semi-fictional description of your ideal candidate that can help you envision the audience you’re appealing to. It can look something like this:

“Alexis is a 19-year-old high school senior. She is a section leader for the marching band and excels in her honors classes. She hopes to pursue a career in engineering when she is older. Alexis values a strong community and hopes to have security in her adult life.”

Each student has a different motive for pursuing higher education, so your institution should develop multiple personas appealing to small groups with like interests. For example, you wouldn’t market to a high school student the same way you would market to a mother looking to further her education.

2. Spotlight success.

College is no small commitment to make, so students want to get a glimpse of what’s waiting for them. Showcase student, faculty, and alumni achievement to demonstrate to prospective students the influence that their education could have on their future.

Showcasing success doesn’t require someone to be the next Albert Einstein or Brad Pitt. Are professors conducting innovative research? Are alumni holding impressive positions at high-profile companies? Are student organizations making an impact on the world? These are all feats to celebrate, and they could be strong factors in someone’s decision to choose your school.

And don’t stop at academic success! Any achievement—whether in athletics, art, entertainment, etc.—is a great way to spotlight your institution in a positive way.

3. Highlight the numbers.

When making critical decisions, we tend to rely on data evidence to inform our choices. Numbers help prove the effectiveness of your institution in a tangible way. Data reinforces your school’s success, and numbers are easier to consume than a chunk of text that portrays the same information.

Does your college have an impressive selection of majors and minors? A high freshman retention rate? A small student-to-professor ratio? Don’t be afraid to brag and show them off! Have general facts and figures easily accessible as well, such as total number of students, price of tuition, and average test scores of admitted students.

4. Adopt a digital-focused approach.

Most of today’s students belong to Generation Z, a group characterized by more digital media usage than ever before. Establishing a space for your institution in the digital world is a foolproof strategy for grabbing your audience’s attention. Here are a few ways to do so:

  • Build a responsive website: Your website is often the first place students will look for more information about your school. Additionally, over half of internet traffic comes from mobile devices. Because of this, be sure that your website is well-organized and mobile-friendly. Make requesting more information easy and use your website as a gateway for your other digital platforms.
  • Improve SEO: Most people rely on search engines like Google to find the information they need. However, 75% of Google users don’t click past the first page of results, so search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial to your digital success. You can bolster your SEO rankings by producing a variety of content and researching the best keywords to incorporate, but this is a highly technical field. The best results often come from the help of an expert.
  • Email with intention: Students prefer email over direct mail, but you don’t want to end up in their spam folder. Remember to personalize your messages to peak your reader’s interest. You can streamline this process by using email automation software like Constant Contact or Mailchimp.
  • Stay active on social media: A recent study showed that 94% of Gen Z use social media, so it’s a no-brainer that you should, too. Be sure you’re frequently posting consistent content to entice your audience. Consider posting various formats and subjects, including photos of campus, infographics, videos, and live streams.
  • Leverage user-generated content: Amplifying images, videos, reviews, and other assets created by your followers is a great way to influence potential students. Having many different viewpoints from your connections gives your brand an authentic presence and gives students an exclusive look into the university lifestyle.

What do you think? Have you tried these strategies? Are there any that I missed? We’d love to hear from you!

How to Generate Publicity for Your Company with HARO

How to Generate Publicity for Your Company with HARO

This article was contributed by Sadie Aram for Silverbrook Marketing.

Are you struggling to find the missing piece of your marketing strategy? Introducing your new secret weapon: HARO. Although some would argue that marketing and public relations are separate entities, there’s no doubt that the two go hand in hand. If you’re a public relations beginner, don’t worry—with the right techniques, you can be a HARO pro in no time.

What is HARO?

HARO, which stands for “Help A Reporter Out,” is a mailing list where reporters submit queries to connect with sources that can give information to use in their articles. Think of it like a dating app—if you have the insight that a journalist is looking for, then it’s a match! Using HARO is a more efficient way to secure media coverage than spending hours writing the perfect press release and blindly sending it to journalists who rummage through hundreds of emails per day.

Receiving press exposure is an effective way to amplify your business without paying a cent; it just requires a bit of time and effort. A simple quote can make your company visible to a new, wider audience, which will set you apart from your competitors. Earning mentions from the media can increase the credibility of your business, allowing you to become an opinion leader in your field.

How Do I Use HARO?

To use HARO, you must sign up to become a source. Create a free account using your name, email address, and company name and act on relevant queries as frequently as you like. HARO is made possible by mutual trust and support, so be sure to read the rules for sources before replying to queries. Once registered, you will receive three emails each weekday at 5:35 a.m., 12:35 p.m., and 5:35 p.m. Each email will contain requests categorized by industry, like business, sports, education, and more. You can also choose to receive industry-specific emails. Here are a few examples from the HARO Twitter, where urgent requests are posted:

“Seeking experts to provide information on how often credit card declines occur, and how to prevent it from happening in the first place.”

“Seeking the latest tools, gadgets, etc. for coffee and tea lovers who brew the perfect cup at home.”

“Seeking experts to discuss career planning as a parent”

“Seeking people with enormous Halloween decorations.”

Top Tips for Using HARO

As you can see, requests can vary greatly. While mastering HARO takes experience over time, here are a few dos and don’ts to follow when getting started:

  • DO act fast: Journalism is fast-moving and queries are time sensitive. Improve the chances of your response being chosen by moving just as fast! Read HARO emails as soon as they are sent and compose a response once you find a relevant request.
  • DO keep it concise: Giving a reporter exactly what they need is the best way to get noticed. Leave out “fluffy,” distracting information that steers attention away from the real message. Consider including direct quotes so journalists can pull directly from your response.
  • DO include the full package: Attach a headshot, a short bio, and other appropriate details like your contact information and your company’s website. Avoid asking for an additional comment or interview, though. We’re still in the fast lane!
  • DON’T reply to every request: Always double-check that you meet the requirements and bring the right expertise to the table. If your reply is irrelevant to the query, your response will go straight to the journalist’s trash bin. It’s okay to wait for the right query—especially if you have a unique angle for their story.
  • DON’T do it for the backlinks: If a writer uses you as a source, they will often link back to your website. Yes, this is beneficial to your website’s search engine optimization (SEO), but it shouldn’t be the leading motive of your HARO responses. Think of it as a plus for helping reporters get the quotes they need for their next articles.
  • DON’T self-promote: Unless a query is specifically asking about a certain product or service (i.e. “Seeking gift ideas for doctors and other medical professionals”), leave sales out of your response. More than half of publishers will decline a pitch that’s too promotional. Respond with value and focus on what your expertise can contribute to the topic.

Stay Involved

While incorporating HARO into your marketing routine, keep in mind that your first response will likely not get your company into the New York Times. While it may take a few attempts to secure media coverage, be consistent with HARO to see the best results. When a journalist uses your response, say thank you and share the article on your social media pages. Developing a relationship with a journalist can help you land more placements in the future!

Boost Your Giving Tuesday Campaign with These 8 Tips

Boost Your Giving Tuesday Campaign with These 8 Tips

This guest post was written by Sadie Aram for Silverbrook Marketing.

Autumn has arrived, which means the giving season is fast approaching. Nearly a third of annual giving occurs in the last month of the year, and the best way to kickstart charitable contributions to your organization is with a Giving Tuesday campaign.

Celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday is a generosity movement that amplifies charity across the globe. Last year, supporters donated almost 3 billion dollars across 80 countries. With Giving Tuesday coming up on its 10th anniversary, contributions will likely increase in 2022. Now is the perfect time to start engaging your donors by planning a Giving Tuesday marketing campaign. Use these 8 tips to develop your strategy.

1. Don’t forget the basics.

If you are accepting monetary donations, make sure to set up your collection system before you start your marketing campaign. If you opt for a third-party collection platform like Donorbox, GoFundMe, or Paypal, make a test donation to ensure that your donation page is working. Once you’ve confirmed that your page is working, include the donation link in easy-to-find places, like the organization’s website and social media bios.

2. Define your goal.

Having measurable and attainable goals will allow you to track the progress of your campaign and evaluate your strategy for optimization in the future. Once set, you can share your donation goals with your stakeholders so they can see how impactful their contribution will be.

3. Stay on brand.

Maintaining brand consistency during your Giving Tuesday campaign is crucial, as your goal should align with your existing tone and voice. The visual identity of your brand should stay true to your organization’s previous posts and emails. Don’t confuse your audience; make them identify with you even more than before.

4. Start early.

A successful Giving Tuesday requires careful planning, and the earlier you begin, the better your campaign will be. Most importantly, determine the best way to reach your audience and engage your target donors more effectively. This could be through social media, email marketing, direct mail, a live event, or a mix of channels.

Even though Giving Tuesday falls on November 29 this year, it’s a good idea to introduce Giving Tuesday to your audience soon to build up the hype of the upcoming movement. And always promote your cause in your communications! Tell your audience what their donations will support and make them feel like part of an important cause.

5. Use social media to amplify your cause.

Giving Tuesday revolves around the idea of online giving, so use your social media platforms to spread the word. Don’t wait to post until Giving Tuesday, though. Build awareness before the occasion and educate your followers on the best ways to support your nonprofit. Some best practices for your social media campaign include but are not limited to:

  • Providing a clear call to action (donate, volunteer, repost, etc.)
  • Using the Giving Tuesday logo in your graphics.
  • Leveraging timely and fundraising-centered hashtags such as #GivingTuesday, #CommunityOutreach, #DonateNow, #Nonprofits, and more.
  • Creating captivating graphics that include information about your causes and goals for Giving Tuesday.
  • Update your supporters on the progress your organization has made because of its fundraising efforts.
  • Posting videos and live streaming events as they are happening (they capture the user’s attention longer than a graphic).

6. Polish your email marketing strategy.

Social media isn’t the only digital marketing channel that you should utilize this Giving Tuesday. 99% of email users check their inbox daily, and over half of users check their email before checking their social media accounts. Like your social media strategy, identify the occasion to your contacts before Giving Tuesday. Your email campaign should include a clear call to action and updates on fundraising progress. Email is the perfect opportunity to tell an engaging story and explain the benefits of donating to your cause. Here is a loose timeline for your Giving Tuesday emails. Each message should build upon the last:

  • One month before Giving Tuesday: Introduce your participation in Giving Tuesday and your donation goal. Start telling your story and the reasons why your cause is important.
  • One week before Giving Tuesday: Acknowledge your contact’s previous support for your organization. Continue your storytelling and describe how a certain dollar amount will impact your organization ($25 can do X, $50 can give x).
  • One day before Giving Tuesday: Remind supporters that the occasion is soon. Build upon your previous email. Make sure you have confirmation emails thanking your donors.
  • Morning of Giving Tuesday: “Today is the day!” Ensure that your request is clear and has a defined call to action.
  • During Giving Tuesday: Update contacts on fundraising progress. Whether you have met your goal or not, encourage more support!
  • After Giving Tuesday: Report your final numbers and thank supporters for their final contribution. Encourage them to contribute even if they weren’t able to on Giving Tuesday.

7. Say thank you.

After your Giving Tuesday success, it’s important to send a thank you note to your donors. Handwritten notes are the most personalized approach, but they may be a logistically difficult. An email can send the same message with ease, and some supporters may also appreciate a social media shoutout. Regardless of the way you show your gratitude, this step is crucial and should occur immediately after the event. It reinforces the organization’s relationship with the supporter and can increase donor retention.

8. Measure your success.

Like any campaign, you should evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your Giving Tuesday strategy. What worked? What didn’t? What should you change for the next donation campaign? After all, Giving Tuesday is only the start of the most popular season for charitable gifts and some content can be reused throughout December.

Need more help to boost your Giving Tuesday Campaign? Book a call with Sarah to build a custom strategy for your organization.

How to Guarantee Consistency with a Brand Style Guide

How to Guarantee Consistency with a Brand Style Guide

Take a few seconds to think of your favorite company. What comes to mind? Perhaps you’re imagining a specific logo, a color, or even a slogan. It only takes a quick thought to visualize the company, but what is the key to making it so recognizable? The answer is a style guide that bundles a brand’s identity into one rulebook. Yes, having a “rulebook” for your brand may sound intimidating, but a style guide is a foolproof foundation for building brand consistency.

What is a style guide?

A style guide is a reference document that specifies all visual aspects of your brand. It provides universal instructions on how your brand should (and shouldn’t) be portrayed to your audiences. Key components of a style guide include colors, logos, typography, and imagery that aligns with your brand’s identity. A well-executed style guide also identifies the intended tone and voice of brand messaging, encompassing all aspects of your brand identity.

Your style guide gives direction to any type of content for your company, including presentations, business cards, social media posts, and more. Your style guide should not only be used internally by employees but also shared with external partners to ensure that they are representing your brand correctly.

Why should your company have a style guide?

Consistency is key when creating content for your business. A recent study reported that consistent presentation of a brand has been seen to increase revenue by 33%. A style guide that outlines the standard visual elements of a brand can ensure that all your company’s content maintains a cohesive look and feel. Keeping your branding consistent also increases the awareness of your company. If your content conflicts with each other, your customers may feel confused and less acquainted with the brand.

Remember how it only took a few seconds to visualize your favorite company? Consistent branding plays a crucial role in audience recognition. As a small business, building brand awareness can be a challenge. A style guide is the first step in making your business identifiable to your customers.

While developing a style guide may seem like a tedious process, it will save you time in the long run. Having a style guide will streamline your content creation. When visual guidelines are clear to your employees and partners, there’s more time to focus on creative content rather than spending time deciding what design elements look best every time.

Components of a great style guide

Brand Story: Include a summary of your company, its offerings, its mission and vision statements, and its core values.  Your brand story can also introduce tone and voice, intended audiences, and explanations behind the company name and tagline. Putting this information at the forefront of your style guide establishes the brand’s foundation and helps users understand the basics of your company.

Logo: It’s important to specify guidelines for perhaps the most iconic part of a brand. Include all approved versions of your company logo in your style guide along with proper sizing and proportion information. Give clear directions on how much spacing the logo needs in relation to other visual content. If you offer your logo in different colors, make sure to include the correct usage of each variation.

Color: Your brand should have no more than four primary colors. In addition to adding color swatches to your style guide, you should also add all information needed to reproduce the colors accurately. This means including RGB and HEX codes for digital assets, CMYK codes for print assets, and Pantone values (though Adobe is making it difficult to use these).

Typography: Like colors, your number of brand fonts should be limited. In your style guide, note the fonts and their usages. What font should be used for headings? And for paragraphs? What sizes should be used? There’s a lot that goes into typography choices that a seasoned designer could assist you with.

Imagery: Define the genre of images and illustrations that you want your brand to utilize. Whether your company is represented by dramatic action shots or family-oriented portraits, it’s important to outline best practices for these types of visuals. To do this, you should include photos your company has used in the past. You can also display stock photos that represent your brand identity.

The “Don’ts”: Including how NOT to represent your brand can be just as helpful as outlining what you DO want. Don’t be afraid to specify incorrect usage of your logo, color palette, typography, or imagery so those mistakes won’t manifest in your content.

The above are the main components of a good style guide, but the contents don’t have to stop there. The more specific your style guide is, the more consistent and efficient your content strategy will be. Keep in mind that implementing a style guide doesn’t happen overnight. The guide should be enforced throughout your company, both internally and externally, to guarantee success. Make it a habit to refer to the style guide when creating any type of content. Then, you’ll be one step closer to achieving the brand awareness that your company is looking for.

Interested in creating a style guide for your company? Book a call with Sarah today to learn more.

What Is a Fractional CMO?

What Is a Fractional CMO?

A fractional chief marketing officer (or fractional CMO) can be a huge boon for your business. This title applies to an executive-level contractor who provides strategic marketing support. The “fractional” part describes how the contractor divides their time between various companies.

This part-time, outsourced addition to the marketing staff can help determine strategy and manage implementation of marketing plans. They can provide objective, expert opinions about the current state of the marketing department, including processes, initiatives, and staff structure.

A fractional CMO can perform a range of tasks, like conducting a marketing audit or developing a strategic plan. They can also perform managerial duties as they oversee the tactical work that an existing marketing team takes on.

What Are the Benefits of a Fractional CMO?

There are many reasons why a fractional CMO would be the best choice for a business. When it comes to business expenses, the obvious benefits are the same for all contractors.

First, the considerably long and expensive hiring process for executive-level workers can be saved. A fractional CMO needs no company onboarding and can engage immediately.

Next, by using an outsourced consultant, the company saves money on the financial burden of a full-time employee (payroll, taxes, insurance, etc.). This translates to savings on overhead expenses (which is what marketing is commonly categorized as).

Consider the tasks you assign to your team, as well. In most organizations, administrative work is spread across multiple employees. By eliminating all administrative tasks from the top marketing employee, a business can pay for only as much expertise as they need. This ability to scale up or down as needed will give a much better ROI on the marketing executive position.

There are more specific benefits to a fractional CMO, too. An objective contractor can analyze the business goals and provide strategic guidance without the politics that come from internal pressure. They can work to further those goals proactively and develop a tactical plan that follows the strategy.

A fractional CMO can also be a leader, manager, and teacher. Marketing staff can work with an expert who teaches them to work efficiently toward common goals. The team will be able to learn from years of marketing experience across many categories, like marketing operations, digital marketing, brand management, and more.

What might be the biggest benefit for small to mid-size businesses is the ability of the fractional CMO to remove the marketing burden from the CEO or another leader who doesn’t specialize in marketing. If a business is able to accomplish their marketing goals with 5 hours a week of strategic guidance, this could relieve 3x that burden from someone who must work harder to achieve the same (or worse) results.

Interested in exploring a fractional CMO arrangement? Book a call with Sarah today to learn more.