What to do if your sales slump in the summer

For some tourism oriented businesses, summer is an incredible time of year. For many businesses, however, sales slump as customers leave for summer getaways or stay home because of the heat.

Instead of rushing to place your products on sale to lure customers out of their air-conditioned homes to your store or restaurant, we encourage you to use your extra time to think tactically about your business and your marketing strategy.

Why does your business slow down this time of year? If it’s slow because your customers are traveling, think about ways that you can appeal to them. You could host a vacation photo contest through social media or engage them through an e-book giveaway contest.

If you own a restaurant, you could dedicate this time to write a cookbook, do some catering or experiment with new menu options. If you own a boutique, think about creating an online shop or channeling your marketing efforts to online sales.

If your target customers are not vacationing –speak to them. Do stay-cation themed marketing and give them advice about how they can soak up relaxation in their own backyard. Become their local tour guide as you promote your business to them. When your messaging relates to your customers, you build brand loyalty. An easy way to tap into this loyalty is to speak to your customer’s hometown pride.

You can also use other summertime events to market your products. For example, if you are a clothing retailer, you can table at local street fairs and festivals. No events nearby? Create them. Kid-friendly events are a bonus as many parents struggle to find activities in the summer. We are particularly impressed with a local restaurant owner who created a family-friendly summer music and art series and increased traffic around all the local businesses surrounding hers.

Even if your marketing strategy is polished, there are always ways that you can delve deeper into data and testing. Capitalize on your extra time by coming up with new ways to reach customers. Curate your Instagram feed, build your Facebook audience and create videos using your iPhone about your product. Write some blog posts that you can deploy throughout the year.

Organize your email lists and make sure that they are segmented properly. You could even take this time to employ an a/b testing campaign.

To grow your email list, host a give-away. This can provide you with more data about your target customer and grow your social media reach and website traffic.

Instead of letting the slow pace of summer panic you, think of it as a great time to reinvest in your marketing strategy and further strengthen your brand.

We hope you enjoy the rest of your summer (and maybe even come up with new and innovative ways to brand your business)!

The ROI of Simple Messaging

Many business owners come to Erreco Strategies because they are too intimate with their product and feel they need help creating a message that will resonate with and excite their target audience. We always start by asking if they’ve listened to their customers. Effective conversion is a two-step process. First, find out what your customers want or need, and then tell your customers how your product fulfills their wants and needs in the simplest way possible.

Online listening is a great way to get quick, initial information about your customers. We recommend setting up Google Alerts for keywords relating to your business so that you know when a customer writes a review about your business or your competitors’ business. Online listening sites like socialmention are also helpful. Other effective means of listening to your customers include focus groups, surveys, and simple old-fashioned phone calls.

After you’ve listened and feel confident that you know what your customers want (versus what you think they want), it’s time to create simple messaging. People want to pay their problems (or pain points) away, so give them advice that they can trust that feeds upon their values, desires, needs and wants.

For a best practice for translating a complicated business into a product that is human centered, head to the Simple website.

Simple is a web-based solution that translates banking into what loose change and dollars really mean for customers – dreams, savings, the future, and life’s little indulgences. It budgets for you and reveals what is “safe in your account to spend.” The homepage highlights customers who have used the bank and app to turn their life around through saving. To top it off, Simple’s website uses imagery that portrays the convenience (and even indulgence) of its online budgeting solution by depicting a customer doing his/her banking in front of a whipped cream topped slice of strawberry rhubarb cake.

The bottom line:  With minimal text, Simple reveals itself as a trusted resource for people hoping to do good things with their money.

In the journalism business, there is an old saying “don’t use million dollar words.” It (literally) pays to have a clear, concise message that relates to readers. Excessive wordiness detracts from the story and the same goes for your product. Consumers don’t notice the words that may impress peers who work in your industry. What they do notice is what your product can do for them. These words need to be clear and concise – you don’t have many chances or much time to convert a customer these days!

To drive this point home, the Corporate Executive Board of Harvard Business Review measured how consumers interact with web driven marketing and one of the biggest drivers of “stickiness” or point of sales was how easy it was for customers to learn credible information about a product, weigh their purchase options, and make a decision.

If your product is technical, it helps to convert its technical aspects into how those specs influence the results your customers will achieve with your product. For example, the Harvard Business Review compared the stickiness of a) one camera brand that only revealed tech stats on its website to b) another camera brand that broke down how customers could use their camera for different styles of photography. Unsurprisingly, consumers chose camera b because the marketers made their customers’ decision simple by telling them what the camera would achieve for them rather than leaving it up to them to figure it out. Again, life is busy, especially online. When tough decisions are simplified, your business almost always benefits.

Happy messaging and remember, keep it simple!

 

 

 

Tips for developing excellent content marketing that bolsters your bottom line

When I help clients plan their marketing strategy, I always tell them to think about how each marketing function they embark upon is tied to their bottom line and to make decisions accordingly.

Note:  Your organization’s bottom line is tied to customer conversions in the form of a purchase, a donation, behavior change, or a vote, depending on who you are. As such, your customer may be a customer, constituent, or donor. For purposes of this post, I will use the terms “customer” and “conversion” as global terms.

Strong content marketing is the crux of a good marketing mix that bolsters your bottom line. With an average attention span of 8.25 seconds (yes, the internet has reduced our chance to catch people’s attention from a 30-second elevator pitch to a mere sentence or hashtag) your content should be targeted, consistent, and geared toward establishing a relationship with prospective customers. After all, good relationships are what lead to customer conversions (most people date a while before they marry).

Since we live behind our mobile phones and computers as much (if not more) than we do in front of our actual customers, it’s easy to forget that we are really talking to the people behind these devices, but it’s imperative that we remember. After all, thanks to the online domain, ten-thousand dollars spent on content marketing can generate the same amount of sales that about $75,000 of television advertising would according to this Hubspot article.

At Erreco Strategies, we always start by making sure our clients’ content is dynamic, shareable, and engaging to ensure that it will catch the attention of current and prospective customers. We disseminate this content in numerous ways, tracking analytics carefully. Finally, we use this information to hone our messaging, dissemination, and strategy to get even more conversions with time.

We’ve noticed that when people start a marketing campaign, they expect dissemination, analytics, metrics, and optimization to hold the answers to obtaining and converting leads. This often results in rushing through the content to get to the answers. Unfortunately, this weakens what should be the strongest part of their marketing campaign. After all, when your content is great, your analytics have a good foundation to stand on.

How many times do you think to yourself, “What should I DO to reach new customers?” versus “What should I SAY to reach new customers?” In real life, we never start a conversation with a customer before we know what we intend to say. Online, it’s easy to muddle this order because the environment is artificial, fast-moving, and highly technical.

So, take comfort in knowing that by spending a some extra time to craft incredible content, you will always be making a good move. Here are some tips:

1. Be empathetic. Get into the heads and hearts of your customers and speak to their passion, goals, and pain points.

How do you know if they donate to a particular cause based on personal experience if you don’t ask them? And how would you possibly know that they know 10-15 prospective customers to refer to you who have had the same experience?

How do you know that they leave work at approximately 5:17 p.m. each day, thus driving by the same electronic billboard on the freeway at 5:28 p.m., missing the message you thought they were getting before it switched to a different company at 5:26 p.m.?

Figure these things out by having focus groups with, and sending surveys to your customers. Brainstorm with your staff and ask them to put themselves in your customers’ shoes. Or, if you are short on time, pick up the phone and call an existing customer or two.

Some of the best content marketing not only captures a customer’s worldview, but also enhances it. We don’t always know exactly how we feel or what we need until someone talks it through with us…but we can’t talk it through if we don’t know how our customer feels.

2. Make it about them. Customers like to know that you are thinking about them. Use social media to ask a question. Then, don’t forget to respond when they answer. We find that there is some nervousness around this concept because organizations want to avoid negative comments, so start safe. The question can be as generic as “We at __________ hope you have a happy Friday. How are you spending your weekend?” Once you feel more comfortable (most customers are nice), make your posts more on-topic to your company and its products or mission.

Also, tag specific customers in photos or posts that you know are particularly meaningful so they engage with you versus pass you by (just make sure you have all the needed photo permissions). We all like it when we know that others are thinking about us. To this point, profiling customers is also very powerful.

3. Speak to them. If you were standing face-to-face with a customer, you would talk in the first person. Do that on social media, too. People almost always automatically switch to the third person when talking about their businesses. See how distant the previous sentence felt? (Try again:  We almost always automatically switch to the third person when talking about our businesses.)

4. Give them expert information for free. A great way to get return traffic from customers or potential customers is by publishing a blog regularly which can educate your audience about what you are expert in, share your company’s values, or reveal your talents as a trendsetter. Make it shareable by speaking to your customers’ pain points, passions, goals, and hearts (using empathy) so that they feel compelled to share your great solutions with their friends.  Bonus:  Require an email for customers to unlock longer content. This can build your email list and further expand the value of your marketing efforts.

5. Optimize your website the old-fashioned way. Once your visitors click on your website, your content should take them on a logical journey as they learn about your business and discover what you or your product(s)/service(s) will do for them. This journey will build their trust for your business, which is the first component to any healthy relationship. Your expertly crafted and entertaining website will have visitors returning again and again, which will drive up your SEO (search engine optimization) ranking. Note:  Websites that have high traffic and cross links have a higher chance of attracting new visitors through online searches. Approximately 80% of customers use a search engine to find out more about a brand.

Too often, people focus on keywords to optimize their SEO, making their content sound manufactured and empty. This destroys all of the aforementioned value that good content marketing creates. The sad thing is, traffic and cross links began to outweigh keywords in SEO when mobile searches became more and more prevalent. Unfortunately, this means that the resources companies put into keywords in the first place have lost their value. In short, good content never goes out of style, but optimization tricks do.

6. Test it out. If you’ve engaged with your customers through focus groups, surveys, and/or phone calls and are still unsure which version of your great content will resonate most, it’s okay to disseminate a few different messages and then hone. This is one of the many instances where analytics come in to play.

Let’s part with this message…

Marketing, marketing tools, and analytics are indeed getting more complicated by the minute, but writing good content involves excellent research, revision, and some extra time. These tactics are timeless and do not change with new technology. If you are curious about the rest, here is a handy article that we think is a good introduction to analytics… but don’t read it until your content shines!

Build a loyal customer base through the power of human emotion

young-people-on-phoneAt Erreco Strategies we get many requests from businesses about how they want to hone their online presence and use it to attract more customers. While this is undoubtedly important in this age of fast-paced technology and ever-revolving apps, it is important to remember that the crux of marketing is about connecting with people. The best and greatest advertising schemes percolate our emotions. They teach us what we want out of our lives and highlight our aspirations. Good marketing is much more than the sum of its social media metrics (although they really help). It fuels our souls and becomes a part of our identity.

This Forbes article  speaks to the power of relationship marketing, a marketing strategy that some businesses use to build steady, trust-worthy and positive relationships with customers.

In the post, Forbes interviews Jay Deutsch, the CEO of BDA, the largest branded merchandising agency in the United States. His 300-million-dollar company has made merchandise for Coca-Cola, the MLB and Bank of America.

Deutsch is a firm practitioner of relationship marketing and has etched out a fortune helping large corporations make merchandise that engages their customers. In a digital world, he argues that merchandise allows customers to touch, feel and wear a particular brand. The company’s brand becomes threaded into their identity.

Unsurprisingly, the most effective driver of customer loyalty and pillar of relationship marketing is face-to-face interaction. How many restaurants are you loyal to, not only because you like their food, but because you like their service? And maybe you have one shoe boutique that you keep returning to not because its products are well-priced, but because the owner knows you buy name and has personally stretched a new pair of leather boots for you?

In a world that seems to be getting faster and busier, it pays to be able to welcome your customers, honor their time and get to know them.

If you own a brick and mortar business, the environment that you cultivate in your store can also build relationships with your clientele. Take for example, Anthropologie, a chain store that utilizes local designers and decorators to cultivate a store that makes customers feel unique. The store is dressed up like a moving window display and feels like a worldly, comfortable, cozy and artistic home. Anthropologie’s target customer is an affluent woman between 30 and 40 years old and their products, merchandising and catalogues thrive at cultivating an emotional relationship with their customers. Customers buy knick-knacks and clothing out of their emotional attachment to the store’s brand which helps them envision their ideal life.

Relationship marketing teaches us that is it pays to be intimate with your target customer’s desires and world outlook. Don’t get us wrong, social media and digital marketing are incredibly important in today’s marketing landscape, but digital strategy should be forged with relationships in mind. Who is behind the mobile phone or computer screen you are targeting? How do you want them to feel? What can you say to engage them online with your brand (remember social media is powerful because it has the potential to be two-way).

Whether you’re sending a text message, making a social media post, sending an email, or face-to-face, remember, the best marketing tactics are highly personal.

The Marketing Forecast for 2017

Nearly half of the world’s population uses the internet either on a mobile device or a computer. Because of this, digital marketing is expected to play and even bigger role in 2017 than it did in 2016. Hold onto your smart phone as we explore the digital trends predicted to be big in 2017.

(1) Mobile will be the center of marketing. People log onto Facebook, check their email and browse the web at an increasing rate on their phones, tablets and smart watches. More than 50% of Google searches take place on mobile devices. It is vital that your website is optimized for mobile use so that you can drive business to your brand. SEO is also vastly improved if your website is mobile friendly.

(2) Twitter is reorienting itself from a social media site to a news site. What does this mean for you? Save your advertising dollars for Facebook, and in some cases, Instagram. Facebook ads currently surpass Google ads for value. While you are promoting your company on Facebook, build a relationship with your followers. Sharing information that you find valuable on a personal level (mission oriented posts) will make your customers want to share your posts. Social media is just that–social. Show customers your personal side and they will engage with your brand.

(3) There are over seven billion people in the world and 31% of those people use social media. Today, users don’t just pick up their phones to use social media and put them down–-they linger on their social media platforms and increasingly experience the world through the lens of those platforms. Figure out high traffic times for your brand by making use of the analytics social media platforms have to offer, and strengthen your reach with paid advertising at those times. If you find your customers/donors/constituents when they are looking for you, they are much more likely to convert.

Good news:  Social media platforms are continuing to optimize their analytics to go deeper– moving from reporting number of likes, for example, to reporting the attributes of the people who generally “like” you. But, you don’t have to wait for them, at Erreco Strategies, we can show you how to collect this type of information yourself!

(4) Try a combination of short-form and long-form content marketing. While shorter blog posts (under 350 words) get more eyeballs from consumers and are a great tool to make an initial impression, try educational or story-based blogposts with 500+ words to build trust with your audience, depict your expertise and result in more shares and ultimately conversions. SEO also improves when you pass the 500 word threshold.

(5) Video content is on trend. You can capture your own short videos with your smart phone and use subtitles instead of audio to send a quick, captivating and charming message to your customers.

(6) Personalize your content based on who you are targeting and the channels you are using. For example, when using Instagram, rely on strong visuals rather than  written content. If you are using Twitter, speak to journalists by using short news bites  (see tip #3).

Information for this article was derived from our own experience, at Forbes , Forbes again and the National. Happy New Year!

How to bring holiday flair to your social media accounts

Before you whip up the eggnog, frost the sugar cookies or decorate your tree, let’s talk about bringing Christmas flare to your social media accounts.

As stated before in this blog, social media is a fantastic way to create free advertising through content that engages potential customers and contests are a great way to do this. Check out these christmas contest ideas from the Rignite blog.

Our favorite idea from this blog is a Facebook comment give-away – where you ask your followers a question like what is favorite part of christmas and they get entered in a raffle to win one of your products. This way you are spreading holiday cheer and building brand engagement.

Evision Media suggests creating a holiday cover page on your Facebook profile and using holiday themed hashtags like #diy, #stockingstuffers, #holidays, #newyears. They also recommend engaging in a 12 days of Christmas promotion with special promotions on each day.

Check out the Sprinklr Blog for these five trailblazing social media holiday marketing campaigns. You can’t beat the creativity of an interactive shopping video debuted by Kate Spade staring Anna Kendrick. (Not a cheap marketing scheme!)

And last, but not least, we loved the social media holiday marketing advice offered Shortstack from 12 social media marketing experts.

“The holidays provide businesses with a way to connect with their audience on a more human level…because they allow us to communicate as people who share similar traditions, or they allow us to talk about what makes us unique,” Ann Handley, the chief content officer of Marketing Profs said.  “How that might play out: Show how the people in your company celebrate or honor certain traditions, to give your fans and prospects an idea of the people and personalities that make your company what it is. It’s also a great time to showcase any charitable activities your company might participate in.”

Another idea that we loved from this blog involved engaging your customers by asking them to post old family holiday pictures on your Facebook page.

Happy Holidays from the Erreco Strategies Team!

How to be surprised and thrive

Ten years ago, taxi-cabs were still being hailed and movie rental places were the place to be on a Saturday night with your family in tow.

And now, a new generation of multi-billion dollar companies including Uber, Netflix and AirBnB have over taken the taxi-cab, movie rental and hotel industries. They thrive because of risk and are known as disruptive companies because they disrupt old ways of commerce.

They are transforming the economy into one that is more based on fluid, unspecialized labor that individuals can do on a freelance or contract basis.

At Erreco, we loved this interview with Tania Luna, a Suprisologist, featured in The Washington Post. Luna helps companies embrace the silver lining of change.

Luna states that learning how to prosper in ambiguity and uncertainty is critical for workers and companies regardless of whether they are disruptive companies or brick and mortar businesses.

Surprise is also critical for individuals to live fruitful lives — think of your most memorable moments — how many of them involved the delight of surprise?

 To deal with uncertainty in the marketplace, Luna suggests that companies look at surprise as an opportunity rather than as a threat — embracing this mindset involves embracing change and understanding that nothing is permanent. Life is temporal, life is fleeting and what worked for your business yesterday may not work today, but run away with your creativity and devise an even better strategy. Allow your surprises to be a moment of growth.

She encourages company executives to be attune to what is happening with the market — be present with ambiguity and just listen to it, don’t react hastily.

And she states that it is important to  be transparent with your workers and your shareholders. Make sure everyone knows about your business goals, priorities and struggles so that when you are moving at a fast speed, members of your organization have more autonomy to make decisions that will benefit your company. This transparency also builds trust, respect and company loyalty. She also notes that more information means more security in a time of insecurity. Nothing incites panic like a lack of communication.

Luna used to be a control freak until she embraced the art of surprise. The Washington Post quotes her saying, “I may feel more secure if I plan everything, control everything. But I’ll feel more joyful, connected and alive if I embrace the things around me that I can’t control or predict.”

The Art of Brand Naming

“A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet,” is perhaps one of the most famous lines written by William Shakespeare. In it, he writes that a name is just a name, but names have great power according to modern psychology.

Indeed, they can make or break a brand or product.

Good names should be evocative of the qualities that you hope to advertise and pack a memorable punch.

Alexandra Watkins owns a branding company in the bay area entitled, “Eat My Words.” She claims that a brand name is the greatest investment that you can make in your company and has created the names for a frozen yogurt company, “Spoon Me,” a dating website, “Jazzed,” and an janitorial service company, “Eat my Dust.”

Watkins claims that good brand names should be suggestive, meaningful, contain imagery, and be emotional — after all, tugging at those heartstrings is the secret to advertising.

People are attracted to concepts that they understand and know like love, happiness, longevity and truth.

Many popular brand names for cars evoke luxury or speed like Lexus, Corvette or Jaguar. Hershey’s Kisses are affectionate, Three Musketeers are adventurous and Reese’s are smooth with peanut butter filling. Ghirardelli chocolate simply sounds like decadence.

Before you think up the name for your company or product — sense how it will feel first. Brainstorm short, sweet, simple and emotive words that pack a punch. Try mixing them up and combining them.

It might help to have a naming party with people who are closely involved with your company or to create an inspiration board with images to capture what you hope for your name to convey.

Bring out the mood lighting and vino for this creative task.  Once you are armed with the right brand name, you are ready for the races!

Information for this blog post was found in these articles: http://www.inc.com/peter-economy/secrets-of-creating-great-brand-names-with-buzz.html, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/11/14/whats-in-a-brand-name and http://www.marketingtechnews.net/news/2013/may/17/11-tips-for-creating-great-brand-names/.

How Hidden Designs Can Boost Brand Engagement

Remember when quarters started showing up in your pockets commemorating our 50 states? Did you all of a sudden look twice at your coins? A lot of folks did– profiting the federal government three billion dollars (so far) in coins that collectors have taken out of circulation.

What little thing can you do for your brand or product to create a stir? Here’s an article for inspiration– excuse us while we go find a cork with dancing martians.:http://mashable.com/2015/08/06/hidden-subliminal-design/

How you get the best bang for your buck with social media

Roughly 78 percent of Americans have at least one social media profile and your business Facebook, Twitter or Instagram profile equates to free marketing if you handle it skillfully.

But, it takes two to tango on social media. Your ability to reach customers on social media is closely tied to how your might build relationships with them through a face-to-face interaction. Engagement and personal relationships should be your first priority when you create your business account on social media.

You should engage your followers. In real life, this equates to buying someone a cup of coffee or hosting a reception. But, in the world of social media, this can be anything from a survey, to a photo contest, to an intriguing question for your audience.

When timing promotions, ask yourself, “Is this how I would time this if I were in a crowded room with this person/target audience?” If it feels too forward, work on relationships with your audience a bit longer. 

If  many of your posts are hard sells or promotions, Facebook will decrease your reach or the amount of followers who will see your posts in their feed. (The site’s mission is to promote a social environment rather than a marketplace environment for their users.) But if your posts elicit comments and likes, your reach will expand and when you do endeavor that promotion, it will reach an ever wider pool of people.

Pro-tip: comment on your follower’s comments. Even though they are your own, Facebook still interprets them as follower engagement.

Here is an article that sums up these concepts well.

And another article from Forbes that articulate the social media trends of 2016.