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Creativity Keeps Businesses Booming

Fortunately, working remotely is always an option for our team, but of course, it’s a necessity right now. Although our business office is closed, our home offices are open, and we are continuing to build our clients’ brands.

While COVID-19 is slowing down activities in some markets, it is providing opportunities in others. For example, we recently teamed up with Indiana Historical Society to build an online tool that allows Hoosiers to submit photos, videos and stories documenting how they are dealing with the “new normal” of life amid COVID-19.

We have been helping another one of our clients explain the financial aspects of this new normal on an almost daily basis, developing and distributing e-blast messages to their customers about tax filing and payment extensions, new loan programs, etc. To house the numerous financial updates, we created a COVID-19 Resource Center on their website.

We are also helping a senior living management company promote temporary jobs that have opened up in the wake of COVID-19, and we are documenting the many ways in which they are keeping residents and their loved ones connected despite visiting restrictions.

How are we doing all of this from the comfort of our homes? Here are a few tips and tricks that could help you and your business during this time as well:

Zoom Meetings: Zoom is the most popular video conferencing solution for companies with 500 employees or less. It’s gaining users rapidly amid COVID-19 concerns, adding roughly 2.22 million monthly active users since the start of the year. Allowing us to see each other and communicate face to face brings back a sense of normalcy and “business as usual.” It’s also keeping our company’s collaborative, creative spirit alive and thriving!

Task Lists: When everyone’s operating remotely, it can become easy to lose sight of what we’re all working on. That’s why we’re all sending each other bulleted task lists every morning. We also utilize Trello, which organizes everyone’s tasks in separate boards and lets you track each team member’s progress.

Sharing on Slack: Slack, our office newsfeed, has been our best friend lately. Not only does it allow us to stay in touch, but it’s been a great tool for boosting employee morale in the midst of COVID-19. Sharing pictures of our home offices — and the pets who break into them — is a particularly comforting activity.

Tapping into Creativity: When the mechanical shark kept malfunctioning during the production of Jaws, director Steven Spielberg took a less-is-more approach, making the monster’s presence known through menacing music and underwater point-of-view shots. This creative solution saved the film and made it even better than it would have been before. Think of COVID-19 as the malfunctioning mechanical shark you have to work around in order to keep your business booming.

By Brian Coles 
Chief Marketing Technologist / Owner

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What Does the Future Hold… for Marketing?

There’s been a lot of changes in marketing lately. And we talk about these changes all the time with our clients. But now I’ve been challenged to write them down. So as Zeppelin said, I’m going to “ramble on!”

What is the Future of Websites?

Let’s get real (this is a sales pitch). A website should change — constantly. And a major overhaul should Google Knowledge Paneloccur every 3 – 5 years. That’s the truth. Call us if you need a new website. 

The unknown — well, that’s tricky. I hesitate to write this, because one of our core services is website development and design. Google, which owns 90% of search traffic, has been making tweaks to its search results pages that have caught my (and others’) eye. 

One prime example is that the Google My Business Knowledge Panel is long (see picture). Longer than ever, with all the information you need to make a qualified decision about whether or not to use a company’s service or product. Photos, videos, reviews, location details, Q&A, Google Posts (usually I am out of breath when I say this in person), etc. Plus call to action buttons and information, such as phone numbers, reservation buttons or directions. 

This is on purpose, people. Google wants you to stay on their search page. They serve ads, they make money. You go to a website, they lose money. 

Additionally, zero-click actions, or taking an action from the search results page without clicking on any buttons, are more common. And in the future, I believe all real estate on Google will come with a cost — once the data supports more people converting from Google than your website. 

So, there you have it. Will you pay for Google Space or your website? Which one converts the highest? And do you need a website? Those are questions for the future.

Mobile vs. Desktop Web Traffic

Mobile Vs. Desktop TrafficRemember mobilegeddon? I do. The year was 2015, and everyone was freaking out. Mobile was set to outpace desktop views online. Desktop was on its way out. I remember, because frankly, we were busy — developing mobile-friendly websites.

But here’s the deal. I recently went to a conference where talk was different. Yes, mobile usage is increasing. But, so is desktop. This is fact: we are online more than ever. Right now, as I type on my desktop, my phone is sitting next to me — where it always is. I can’t live without my phone. But I also can’t do everything on my phone — like type this long blog article. 

But don’t take my word for it. Look at our traffic online. Most of our clients are 50-50. Or 40-60 or 70-30. What those numbers apply to doesn’t matter. It shows life in both desktop and mobile — depending on your customer or client.

Mobilegeddon was important but overrated. I fell for it. There, now we can move on.

Electronic Mail Messages or Email

We’ve come a long way since “You’ve got mail.” We call it email nowadays. It’s now a verb, you know. But what is its future? Is it effective?

Remember when you used to hold your email address close to your vest? Now you give it out freely. Or you’ve worked a system to keep the clutter in one email account and important emails in another. I could even write, “Remember when you used to hold your mobile phone number close to your vest?” We’re at that point, right? How many times have you heard, “Text me, it’s the best way to reach me.” But I digress. The point is that email isn’t what it used to be, at least from a marketing standpoint.

So, do I believe it will exist in marketing? Yes, but in a more limited fashion. Remember the word e-blast? Blast out messages to everyone on your list. Gone, or used sparingly. Now it’s segmentation. But you know the word clutter, right? Yeah, that’s real. We get SO much email. I bet I read half or less than half of all non-work-related, non-client-based email. Why? I don’t have time. And you probably don’t either. Unless it’s important. Unless it provides ME something. Or unless I’m over the age of 65. I recently read an article that email is an effective way to reach a senior audience.

The point is, provide value in email. Know your audience. Email may be the communication preference for some but not for all. I use my email to get whitepapers, VIP cards and coupons. But I rarely read your emails. And don’t overdo it. It’s a one way ticket to being ignored or worse too many unsubscribes. Find your frequency and don’t push it.

And did you know, you can target people differently with email addresses? Yes, you can — through Facebook, Google Display and other forms of digital advertising. So don’t NOT ask for the email address, just use it wisely.

Here’s Another Sales Pitch

Creative will always be important. Marketing automation is here to stay. And a lot of good people might be phased out of marketing by machines. Or maybe we’ll just have more to do, more on our plate — as it is the case today. 

There are marketing automation tools for digital advertising, email and social. You name a marketing tactic, there’s automation. CRMs are a must. Heck, I can slap a website up on the Worldwide Web in about 5 minutes. Automation and technology make our life easier (or maybe harder). We’ve adapted. We all use automation and technology. It’s cool. 

But does it make us more effective? I would argue, no. The message and look makes us more effective. They define our brand experience. The automation makes getting the message out to the right people more efficient. Creative sells, taps into emotion, creates the conversion. The more automation, the need for more and better creative.

In my opinion, creatives are marketing and the future of marketing. We’re lucky enough to have 17 creatives on our team — writers, designers, programmers, technologists, buyers, photographers. We’re right-brained, with left-brain reason, and we collaborate to make our clients stand out.

New School, Old School

I’m caught in the middle. I’m old, but I’m young. I’m actually the baby of the family, but I’m a middle child when it comes to marketing. I love digital, but I can’t live without traditional tactics. We buy media this way. It works.

Aside from the obvious tactics, I still love these two. 

You zig, I zag. The talk is around digital, but direct mail is still effective. I just had this conversation with my wife. Remember when you got birthday cards in the mail. It was great. It was a surprise. It felt good. Now I’m old and I only get bills. You CAN still stand out with direct mail. It CAN start conversations. It CAN lead to digital conversions. Don’t always rely on your customer surveys. Word of Mouth and Online are always near the top when it comes to “How did you hear about us?” But something started that process. And I believe direct mail can be that “something.”

Trade shows are undervalued. Nothing beats face-to-face contact. No, not that contact. The contact where you talk back and forth about stuff — like experiences with brands, issues, hesitations. Advertising can’t do that — not digital, not traditional. Technology can’t do that (not yet) — not Zoom, not Facetime, not email. You name it — “It” can not replace in-person conversations. A lot of times, it’s where marketing takes off. “I have a list of leads. What can we do with them?” Insert marketing plan here. It’s undervalued, and it should be part of your plan.

Recap

I’ve said too much but probably not enough. That’s rambling.

By Brian Coles
Chief Marketing Technologist / Owner

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My Copywriting Pet Peeves

Pet peeves. Let’s be honest. We all have them. They’re those annoying little behaviors that, while seemingly normal to everyone else, drive you bonkers.

Being surrounded by the written — or typed — word for the majority of the day, I happen to have collected a number of personal pet peeves when it comes to copywriting.

It should be noted I subscribe to the AP Stylebook frame of mind, so for those writers out there who have their differences of opinion, to each their own.

The following list is in no particular peeve order, but each is nonetheless like nails on a chalkboard to my copyediting brain.

  1. Home in vs. hone in: I bet you’ve heard someone say something like, “Let’s hone in on this goal and really try to hit the mark by the end of the first quarter.” Well, it’s wrong. It should be “home in.” I promise. Whenever using the word “in,” always put “home” before it, not “hone.” I get that it seems weird. But in truth, home as a verb means “to move or be aimed toward a destination or target with great accuracy.” Just like to “home in on.” Now, you can certainly “hone” (or sharpen) your skills. But you can’t “hone in” on your target — nope.
  2. Daylight saving: This is on the list primarily because we just rolled the clocks back for daylight saving time (DST) this fall. I would guess many people don’t know it’s wrong say “daylight savings time.” Don’t believe Wikipedia that says, “Daylight saving time (DST), also daylight savings time (United States).” You are saving time … not savings time. (sigh)
  3. Hyphens: Those little marks sure can make or break you. Heck, there’s a whole section in the AP Stylebook that says “use of the hyphen is far from standardized. It is optional in most cases, a matter of taste, judgment and style sense.” Just in case you weren’t already confused by them. The standard I go by is making sure to hyphenate words that act as adjectives or modifiers for a noun in the specific text. For example: full-time job; high-quality care; first-rate service. When coming after the noun, the modifier is no longer hyphenated, i.e. She has a job that is full time.
  4. Capitalization of titles: This one gets you, every time. People like to capitalize things — they just do. More important. More significant. But in some cases, more wrong. (OK, that was bad grammar, but you get the point.) Only capitalize titles when they are directly before someone’s name. For example: Vice President Public Relations Tiffany Whisner. When the title comes after your name, don’t capitalize it. I am Tiffany Whisner, vice president public relations. Hard to swallow, but if you really want your title capitalized, put it before your name.
  5. Comma, specifically the Oxford comma: I left this one for last. The Oxford comma is also known as the serial comma, and it sparks a lot of debate in the copy community. (Sad, isn’t it?) It’s the final comma in a list of things. AP Style does not require the use of the Oxford comma, and personally, I’m not a fan. I prefer, “The flag is red, white and blue” as opposed to, “The flag is red, white, and blue.” That last comma actually was difficult to even put in the sentence! I ONLY use the Oxford comma when the meaning of the sentence would otherwise be unclear. Now, when you start writing a complex series of words, that’s a different story. While I can’t say using the Oxford comma is wrong … I CAN say it’s a pet peeve. A big one.

Need someone to write or edit your article, blog, brochure, newsletter or website? We can do that for you, among other things. Rest assured your copy will be handled with care, sans the Oxford comma.

By Tiffany Whisner,
Vice President Public Relations

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