5 reasons you should keep the ‘enemy’ closer in marketing

Image via Fortune3.com

The saying goes, “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” Ok ‘enemy’ is a strong word – competitor is more appropriate. When it comes to marketing, it’s crucial to keep your eye on what the competitor has going on. Don’t get me wrong, never get so wrapped up in the competitor that you lose sight of your brand’s core values, identity and goals, but do realize the value in keeping tabs on what your competitor has going on for a number of reasons.

1. Size up your competitor
Before you even start your marketing, you need a clear sense of what you’re up against. Does your budget compare to theirs? If not, you’ll need to find a way to capitalize off of the options available to you. Is your brand not as personal as theirs? Find a way to personalize your brand. And so on and so forth.

2. Learn
You can use your competitor’s marketing efforts as a learning experience. Research to see if you can get data on how well their work was received and find out what people think they did right and what they did wrong.  This will be able to help you avoid similar mistakes, and it may also allow you the opportunity to capitalize off of a failing effort from your competitor. It’s usually pretty easy to Google an ad and get a results list full of opinions.

3. Avoid being a copycat
It’s quite common and disappointing to find that the great idea that you had for a campaign has already been done. But what would make this even worse would be to find that your competitor has done it. Don’t be a copycat, even if it’s by accident. Take note of what your competitor is doing and what they have done so that you don’t make the mistake of doing it, too.

4. Don’t miss the train
Has your competitor caught whiff of a nuance that works exceptionally well for your category? Of course you can’t copy it exactly, but is there a way that you can jump on board while bringing your own special touch to the table? You won’t know if you don’t know about the nuance in the first place.

5. You’re in battle!
It’s you against them, and just like in any other competition, it’s always important to anticipate your competitor’s next move. You can’t do this without at least having knowledge of their past plays. Also, if your component comes at you head-on, you need a clear understanding of not only their marketing, but their business as well, so that you can be prepared to retaliate.

Football teams watch footage of their competitors’ games for a reason! Be prepared when you enter the market and stay ready for action if you’re already in the market by getting a good understanding of what your competitor has going on.

Happy marketing!

How do you keep track of your competitors’ efforts? Leave a comment and share!


How are you defining your target audience?

Image via The Bilerico Project

It’s simple. Different people want, need, seek out and require different things, thus the way you communicate one idea must be crafted in a way that can be available, understood, appreciated and relatable to the specific group you’re talking to.

My last boss wouldn’t settle for the usual demographic info, you know, “mid-upper class female age 35-50 living in the southeastern part of the country”, instead she wanted us to really KNOW who we were developing products for and who we were marketing to.  This idea was simple and it was genius.

So you have this brilliant marketing strategy developed and you can’t wait to get things underway. Ask yourself some questions about the product or service you’re marketing and most importantly, ask yourself some questions about the people who you want to use this product or service and consider how they’re gonna get it. Consider as many things as possible about this person and his or her life that will give you a better understanding of how your marketing plans will be received.

Let’s look at a made-up example. I am selling the little cleaning wipes for eyeglasses. Normally, I’d say, my target audience is anyone who wears glasses and I need to get these things in the optometrist’s office and in drug stores next to the eye drops and reading glasses. Let’s dive in a deeper, though.

There’s Dave.
42 years old, attorney, bringing in about 75K, has a wife, two kids and a golden retriever. His favorite sport is baseball and he relies pretty heavily on his wife to help with anything that doesn’t involve law or sports. He likes what he likes and his glasses are a classic black Kenneth Cole frame.

There’s Michelle.
18 years old, college student, frequents nightclubs, coffee shops and has a part time job as a server. She has a very small budget that basically only allows for coffee, pitiful meals and cute shoes here and there. She loves technology and goes to sleep with her cell phone in her hand. Her style is all over the place and her glasses are funky polka-dot frames.

Dave and Michelle have two things in common. They wear glasses and they have a ton going on. So that means that they probably don’t have time to buy wipes for their glasses and they problem stick to using their shirts or any type of fabric they can find to clean them. So who do you suppose would get these things for them? Probably Dave’s wife and Michelle’s mom. Let’s say she’s the same person. Let’s call her Marie.

Marie is 40. She’s a schoolteacher. She has a husband who’s an attorney, one kid in college and another in high school. She has a dog. She loves to cook and she loves reality TV. Between work and home, she has a lot of people relying on her. She manages the household finances and tries to plan engaging lesson plans for her students.  She dabbles in social media, but she’s still learning. Marie does not wear glasses.

We want Marie to buy these eyeglass wipes for her family. Since she has a lot going on AND she does not wear glasses, we need to get these wipes in front of her, we can’t wait for her to seek them out, because she has a thousand other things to worry about.

Why don’t we consider a creative near-register POP display with jump-out copy like:
“Are you seeing things clearly? When’s the last time you replaced your eyeglass wipes?” Ok, that’s pretty lame, but you get the point. Something to remind her how it important it is that she buy these for her husband and daughter.

She likes reality TV, so we need to make note of that for our media buying. Maybe we don’t have enough money to do commercials, so maybe we look into getting ads on blogs that are heavy on the reality TV reviews.

She has a kid in college, so let’s reach out to see if anyone is interested in partnering to build some college care packages to advertise to moms.

She’s into social media, so let’s meet her there, too. And so on, and so forth. My point is to really think about who the person is that you want to reach, and not some census-eque demographic information. The insight and the results that you gain will be invaluable.

Marketing on a budget

Every day, people have great ideas for new business ventures, but are often deterred by a lack of funding. Some people are able to press forward regardless, but then find themselves puzzled about how to promote their brand with little to no money for marketing efforts. I thought I’d share some ideas for people to realize that even though having a bigger budget – or a budget period – for marketing can help tremendously, don’t feel helpless if you don’t have the resources that others have. Here are a few low-cost or free suggestions to get a marketing campaign underway.

Social media
This is a big one. There is so much opportunity to promote your brand online for free. Don’t feel like you HAVE to buy Facebook and Twitter ads. You can do just as an effective job getting exposure out of these sites by just using their free capabilities. The thing to remember is that your content has to be compelling! Use your brain and think both in and outside of the box to come up with simple, creative ideas to develop appealing content. If fitting, it would also be a good idea to start a blog. If you have a website, house the blog within the website; however, if you can’t afford to get one developed yet, then you can start one for free online. Pushing out content through different media can get exposure for your company. Consider all of the social media platforms available to you (YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Instagram, StumbleUpon, etc) and take advantage of all of those that are appropriate for your brand. Do this in a thoughtful, strategic way and you can get your brand some needed attention. There are also a bunch of free tools to help you manage your campaigns, like HootSuite.

Provide internship opportunities
Providing students with internships is a great way to get great talent and assistance for your marketing needs. I’d especially suggest seeking out interns for graphic design and content creation, since they would be generating great work for their portfolios. Be sure to let them know up front that the opportunity does not offer payment. However, if you can offer payment, that would make the deal even sweeter and it would make it easier to find an intern. If you can’t afford payment, then any other incentive (free products/services, great networking opportunities, trips, etc) that you can offer would help a lot. I also think that you should offer a letter of recommendation at the close of the internship.

Network, network, network
Networking is a great tool for small biz owners. Establishing lines of communication with individuals/companies that complement your business can set you up for a great “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” opportunity. Networking is also a great way to come into contact with individuals who may serve as great resources for you. You’d be amaze by how much you can learn by simply following someone on Twitter or through connecting on LinkedIn. Any opportunity that you can find to attend an event that is related to your business, go. These provide more opportunity for networking. Can’t afford business cards? No problem. Make sure you phone is fully charged and ready to go, and if someone should ask for a business card, you can tell a harmless white lie and say, “I just gave out last one and my batch hasn’t arrived yet. Do you mind if I just get your information?”

If you provide a product or service that you create yourself, then you can create a press kit for a fairly reasonable price. Type up a press release and make whatever it is that you offer and put it together in the most creative and cost-effective way possible. Deliver it, if possible, yourself to the individuals whom you’d like to have it and follow up with them via email to make sure they got it and to thank them for taking the time to look at it.

It costs you nothing to ask for someone’s contact information at an event. Keep track of every contact that you get. I suggest creating a massive, organized spreadsheet so that you can create a database of contact information. It also costs you nothing to type up a press release and send it out. If you can’t afford a email marketing service, then this is a simple way to do it yourself. If your contacts are organized digitally, then all you have to do is pull in all of the email addresses you have stored (they should all be in one column) and BCC the individuals and send out your press releases. While a service provider would be able to provide you with data such as bounce rates, clicks, etc. you can gauge how successful the email was by recording the number of hits your blog or website had before and after the email was sent out.

Brand ambassadors
By brand ambassadors, I mean well-connected individuals who can spread the word about your business by word-of-mouth. If it’s in your budget, you can do something so simple as to go get a few T-shirts made with your company’s name, slogan and an eye-catching tagline. Give them to your brand ambassadors and ask them to wear them whenever they might be in a place where your target audience can be found (a gym or fitness class, the grocery store, at a casual bar in a part of town where the patrons are members of your target audience, etc.). Make sure the brand ambassadors are actually supporting you and are into your business so that they can be sincere when telling people about it.

Viral marketing
There have been plenty of videos to hit the internet that spread like wildfire. If you can come up with a tasteful, creative way to call attention to your brand through an attention-grabbing video, this could be a fun and exciting way to get the word out about your brand.

In closing, I’d like to share a campaign by Leo Burnett that I thought was brilliant that used viral, social media, flyers and want ads – all cost-effective methods- to ignite a campaign that helped to save a public library and in turn, won the agency great recognition.

Book Burning Party – Troy Library from Leo Burnett Detroit on Vimeo.

10 reasons your brand leaves a bad first impression

Image via WP Clipart

First impressions are important. People say don’t judge a book by its cover, but when you first encounter something, especially something that is requesting your time, attention and/or money, you better believe the cover will be judged and it better be perfect. With that said, I wanted to stress how the simplest things can leave a bad first impression for your brand.

Cluttered, unappealing website design
Putting too much stuff (stuff=copy, banner ads, images, etc) on your website’s homepage can be overwhelming to a person who is making their first contact with your brand and consequently, could turn them away. Also, if your website looks like it was just thrown together without any consideration for organization, logic or style, that can have a negative reflection on your brand. If you have a smaller budget for web design, at least consider getting advice on how to organize and lay out your site from someone who knows their stuff.

Low-quality images and advertisements
In case you haven’t noticed, pictures have become a big deal. From Pinterest to Instagram, people are looking at and engaging with hundreds of images everyday. With this new phenomenon, consumers are encountering their introductions to brands everyday, just not necessarily through a platform that the brand itself houses. Therefore, all of the images associated with your brand need to be of high quality, so that if Jane Smith happens to pin it, and her all of her 120 followers on Pinterest see it, they won’t be left with a negative impression.

Grammatical errors in your copy
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to proofread. If your site is visually appealing and organized perfectly, but contains a glaring spelling error, a first-time visitor may get a bad impression. Not to say that they won’t ever want to have anything to do with your brand, but any chance you can avoid giving consumers (as skeptical as they already are) something negative to say about your brand, take it! I’ve even posted grammatical errors, and I understand that it happens – but always try to avoid it. When possible, always try to have anything that is disseminated or made public on behalf your brand proofed for errors.

Missing elements that are generally expected and sought out
If you’re in retail, chances are consumers that encounter your brand will want to know about the return policy. If you’re in the food industry, chances are consumers that encounter your brand will want to know about ingredients. Provide the consumer with everything that they might need to determine whether or not they’d like to pursue a “relationship” with your brand or company. Leaving out pertinent information could leave a negative first impression with someone exposed to your brand for the first time. I think that it’s important to be as transparent and helpful as possible.

Website malfunctions, broken links
Always double-check the links that you send out. If a person is taking the time to open up an email that you’ve sent them, the link that they click on from the email should get them the results that they’re expecting. The same thing is true with printed materials. Always be sure to double-check and double-check again any URLs or email addresses that you have listed.

Also, it crucial to do (at a minimum) weekly audits of your site to be sure that everything is showing up as you intended. Broken links and dropped images can leave a negative impression.

Poor social media efforts
If a person first encounters your brand through a social media network, only to find that you haven’t made any updates in two weeks, they will very likely become disinterested and move on without subscribing or following. Develop interesting, relevant social media content and post it consistently so that if someone encounters it, they’ll immediately want to join in the conversation and learn more.

Poor customer service
One of the biggest things that can deter consumers from making repeat encounters with a company or a brand is bad customer service. Not only will it leave a horrible first impression, but in this age where people can share their horrible experiences with the masses, one bad customer service incident can lead to negative first impressions of your brand to millions of consumers. It is so important to train your team (and I mean your entire team) on the proper tactics to use when dealing with customers.

Lack of cleanliness and order
If you have a physical, brick and mortar location, it’s so important to ensure that the environment is as welcoming and clean as possible. A person’s first encounter should not be an unattractive display of littered cigarette butts. Always make sure that both the outside and inside of your establishment are both clean and organized. If you have a website only, make sure that your categories make sense and that your consumers will be able to get to what they’re looking for easily.

Pushiness or nonchalance
If you have a team of individuals whose job is to get your brand’s name out there, they should be trained on how to effectively inform people about the brand without being pushy, but at the same time, have a level of enthusiasm about what they’re doing that interests and intrigues whomever they’re speaking to. We’ve all heard tales of the “pushy salesman” and that is not how you want your brand to be presented. You also don’t want it to be presented by someone who looks completely detached and uninterested.

People pay attention to ratings. While there is nothing that you can do about ratings that have already been submitted, you need to address the low ratings and see what you can do to make them better. Don’t just ignore them and don’t spend time trying to make the consumer understand why their review isn’t indicative of the brand/company/product, etc. If a person goes on your site for the first time and reads a negative review, but then sees a comment from a representative of your company apologizing and stating what will be done to try to make things better, there won’t be as bad a first impression left.

Are people just scrolling over your social media content?

Image via Firing Squad

So you’ve got the message, social media is important, and if you aren’t tweeting, posting, pinning, blogging, etc, then you may very well be failing your brand. With so much hype around the importance of social media, it’s easy to be an eager beaver and dive right in without stopping to think about what you’re actually doing. Consider the following when reviewing your social media practices.

1. What benefit does it serve the reader/engager? Is your social media content serving a purpose? Remember quality over quantity! Don’t put stuff out there just for the sake of doing it! This is something that is crucial to go over with your social media team/department if you have one. Don’t just tell your team that they need to post twice a day and tweet five times a day and leave it at that. True, your content needs to be consistent, but it needs to be appealing and relevant, too. Consider some questions.

  • Will it teach my audience something new?
  • Will it be a helpful reminder?
  • Will it save my audience money?
  • Will it make my audience laugh?
  • Will it make my audience think?
  • Will it provide something that my audience has been asking for? Or something they’d appreciate?
  • Will it solve a problem?
  • Will it shed light on something else that will teach, remind, entertain, etc, etc.
  • Is it a means to an end? (teasers, part of a larger campaign goal, etc)

2.    Will the reader/engager understand it?
People spend their entire day working and thinking, your social media content should not present them with yet another “task” that the have to figure out.

3.    Are the cows coming home?
Are you saying something that you’ve said over and over and over and over and…? Well, you get the point. I know, you have a story to tell and you have messages to convey, but are you presenting those stories and messages the exact same way or are you keeping them new and interesting? Are you translating those messages in different terms that your consumer will not only find new and interesting, but also in a way that they will be able to understand and relate to?

4.    Does it make sense for your brand?
I know, social media is supposed to be the “hip” new thing and so you want to make sure that your content matches the channel. Don’t get me wrong, this is important; however, it is important to find a balance between making sure your content is relevant to the channel it’s presented through and SIMULTANEOUSLY relevant to your brand and what people expect from it. Sure, everyone loves a little shock value every now and then, but don’t reach too far. Be able to reel things in to a common factor that makes sense.

5.    Don’t sign up if you don’t qualify
There are social media networks popping up left and right, and these new ‘next-big-things’ are accompanied by articles and blog posts about why you should be using them all. Maybe you have a brand that should, in fact, be represented on all of these sites – but maybe you don’t. Think about whether or not a presence on a specific site makes sense for your brand and what you offer before signing up and devoting the manpower and money.

6.    Is it a repost, retweet, share, or quote – again?
It’s definitely okay to repost, retweet, share, quote, etc. But make sure that’s not all you’re doing. You have to provide some original content.

7.    Are you begging?
If you are, stop it. Please. No, seriously. We all want followers. We do, I do, too. But begging people to share your content all day, everyday is just not okay. It’s okay to encourage people to share your content every now and then, but when you start to sound like a broken record, your brand can come off as a little desperate. Do you want a larger following? Ok, well, what’s your incentive? Are you running a contest? Are you pushing out content that deserves a larger following? Remember, patience is important. If your content is good, keep putting it out there and be patient. People will catch on.



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