Employee Engagement: 6 Ways to Show You Care

shutterstock_187237550Recognizing hard-working and loyal employees makes good business sense in more ways than one. Staff turnover has a negative impact on employee morale and overall productivity, not to mention company revenue.

Given the costs of recruiting and training, one study estimates that it costs six to nine months’ salary on average to replace a salaried employee. Other research reveals it costs 16% of annual salary to replace lower-wage earners, meaning that you’d pay over $3,000 to hire and train a new $10/hour employee.

All of this underscores it’s better to spend a little on recognizing employees rather than a lot when replacing them. And with options for every budget, promotional items and professionally produced materials are a great place to start. Some tips:

  1. Recognize your highest achievers with plaques, certificates and engraved signs.
  2. Provide workers with logoed apparel such as caps, shirts and jackets, or with branded bags. These can be used not only as rewards but also as special gifts presented at company picnics, golf outings or executive retreats. Of course, you can also use branded clothing to identify staffers on the selling floor or to distinguish your team at trade shows or other special events.
  3. Identify consumer-facing employees with business cards, and support their sales and presentation efforts with well-designed business materials. You’ll strengthen their sense of engagement and enhance their professionalism.
  4. Reward employees with desk accessories as well as calendars identified with your company name and logo. Water bottles and flash drives are other popular items.
  5. Provide staff members with coffee mugs that commemorate a company milestone and, while you’re at it, stock your conference room or kitchen with them to put your best face forward when entertaining guests.
  6. Create professionally produced employee manuals to enhance engagement and help assure compliance to company policies. When following these tips, you’ll increase employee morale and build your brand. Consider that all items worn or used outside your workplace will spread your company name and logo to the public.

Ready to explore your options with promotional products? Give us a call; we’re good at it!

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4 Surefire Ways to More Memorable Videos

shutterstock_232938910If video isn’t yet part of your content marketing mix, there’s ample evidence it should be. According to Cisco, videos will account for 69% of all consumer Internet traffic by 2017.

An ideal medium for content marketing, videos engage, educate and encourage viewers to buy. In fact, a recent consumer survey by Animoto reveals 73% of people are more likely to make a purchase after watching an online video that explains a product or service.

So, how best to make the most of this opportunity in support of your content marketing? Some tips on creating and distributing videos:

  1. Keep it simple … and inexpensive. With a video camera, smartphone or tablet, some natural lighting, a quiet space and a little planning, you can produce great results on a modest budget.
  2. Get more for less. Consider videotaping at an event such as a trade show where your experts, satisfied customers and a product demonstration all converge. One shoot, with the right editing, could yield several videos.
  3. Share and share alike. Add your video to your website, link it in emails and e-newsletters, incorporate it into a topic-specific blogs and post it on social media channels – all while suggesting that viewers share your content with their friends!
  4. Remember video’s unique capabilities. Above all, videos are great at demonstrations. No other medium, for example, would be better for a paint store to show do-it-yourselfers how to stain a wood deck.

Some parting advice? Watch the clock. Ideally, your video will get to the point quickly, as viewers will give you only 5-10 seconds to convince them to keep watching. It should time out at 30 seconds to two minutes in length, and conclude with a call-to-action that urges viewers to visit a website, download a white paper, contact you for more information or otherwise take a next step toward cementing their relationship with you. An exception? A how-to video should be just as long as it takes to give proper instructions to those actively seeking the information.

Need help with videos or other tactics in content marketing? Contact us today.

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Get ‘Graphic’ with Your Content

shutterstock_218826733You may not know them by name, but you’ll certainly recognize one by sight: infographics are visual representations of data intended to present information quickly and clearly.

“Infographics can explain the unexplainable,” says Karl Gude, former infographics director at Newsweek magazine and The Associated Press. “Complex data tables, numbers and locations instantly come alive.”

Of course, the increasing popularity of infographics should come as no surprise. Properly executed, they offer multiple benefits to content marketers:

  • They attract attention. A visual interpretation of your brand or other message, infographics combine data, pictures and words in an eye-catching and oftentimes fun format!
  • They’re accessible. Infographics can connect your message with an audience that may be unreachable via text formats, providing information to a target that might not otherwise be consumed.
  • They’re easily shared. Readily passed on from follower to follower via social media sites like Facebook, infographics offer excellent viral potential, which is the holy grail among most content marketers.
  • They’re readily repurposed. Because infographics are easy to share on any medium, they’re great content for email outreach and social posts or printed for direct mail campaigns.
  • They boost SEO. As more and more people share and link to your infographic from their websites, blogs or social pages, you gain not only a larger audience but also higher rankings for your website on search engines.

One word of caution if proceeding with this content marketing tactic: A poorly crafted infographic can hurt an organization’s credibility. “They do take work and a specific set of skills,” says Gude.

For assistance with creating your infographics, contact us today.


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Think ‘Ink’ for Content Marketing

shutterstock_234358672Before you go all in with digital channels when distributing your content, consider this: People like print! According to a survey by Two Sides, 70% of people say they prefer paper communications rather than reading off of a screen.

And with print, you’ll not only satisfy the preferences of many in your target audience, you’ll also sidestep the online clutter that diminishes the efforts of many digital-only competitors.

Now that you’ve spent the time, effort and money to create relevant content, follow these tips to make sure it gets noticed … and stays remembered:

  • Team it with digital. Combine print and digital tactics for increased response. Savvy content marketers use printed materials to point readers to online content — and vice versa.
  • Aim with precision. With today’s mailing lists, you can pinpoint your best direct mail audiences while eliminating wasted deliveries to those who are not likely to be interested in your offer.
  • Customize it. Response rates to custom direct marketing campaigns are, on average, over four times greater than generic, one-size-fits-all messages, says Caslon. So take advantage of variable data printing to individualize your envelopes and letters with names, text and images to reflect gender, interests and purchase history and more.
  • Toughen it up. Printed materials often can be as “viral” as digital content when passed from friend to friend. Make sure your pieces hold up to the added wear and tear. Thicker paper stock is one solution; waterproof or laminated finishes, and heavy-duty bindings are others.
  • Catch the eye. Help your printed pieces stand out with metallic and pearlescent pigments. Or consider foil stamping or embossing for special events or high-end product launches. Other solutions include gloss UV and glitter coatings to add luster, or glow-in-the-dark or fluorescent that set a different mood.

Whether thinking ink, digital or both for your content marketing, also think of us. We can help.

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Content Marketing Metrics That Matter

shutterstock_275980292When initiating any marketing campaign, it makes good sense to track your progress – or lack thereof. Through quantitative measurements or metrics, you can determine if your efforts are achieving the desired results … or are off course and in need of an alternate strategy.

But which metrics can best measure the effectiveness of content marketing – an initiative by which you create valuable and relevant content targeted to a specific audience with the objective of changing or maintaining their behavior?

Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, recommends that the number of email subscribers should be first on your list when evaluating content marketing. “Focus for nine to twelve months on building a subscriber base through consistent, compelling content,” says Joe. “The holy grail of content marketing metrics, if there is one, is the subscriber.”

Of course, others marketers are ready for more comprehensive measures. Consumption metrics, for example, determine via click-through rates, downloads and other data the number of viewers who consume your content, the channels they use, and the frequency of their consumption.

Also useful, retention metrics help you measure your effectiveness in holding a viewer’s interest. Google Analytics, for example, reveals the percentage of returning visitors who return to your website.

Sharing metrics let you know what content is being shared, by whom, and in what manner. For Facebook, Twitter and other social media, a resource like SharedCount can help quantify the “likes,” retweets and “shares” of your posts.

There’s more, of course. Depending on the size and sophistication or your content marketing campaign, you can measure its effectiveness through metrics for leads, sales, production and costs, including ROI or the return on your investment.

Need assistance in initiating or measuring your content marketing? We can help, call us today.

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Content Marketing and SMBs: What’s Trending

shutterstock_245818678We recently reached out to Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, for his views on what’s trending in content marketing. He shared his insights into the challenges to and opportunities for creating valuable and relevant material with the goal of changing or maintaining a behavior. Here are some of his thoughts for small and medium-sized business (SMBs) marketers:

SMBs are gaining greater opportunity. “There are no barriers to entry for publishing anymore,” reports Joe. “Any SMB can publish content without heavy investment to try to build a loyal audience.”

More channels mean even more clutter. “Whereas before we had nine, now we have hundreds,” says Joe. “So it becomes more challenging to cut through the clutter. Podcasts have exploded as more consumers look for audio content. Also, a number of SMBs are looking at print as one of the best ways to reach target audiences with all of the online clutter.”

Beginners should start small. “Start with a blog, podcast or video channel,” relates Joe. “Then use your social media channels to distribute that content. Start telling a story that positions you as the leading expert in your particular niche.”

Build a loyal following. “The best way to build an audience,” says Joe, “is to create an offer that people need to sign up for with an email address, and then deliver on that promise with, say, a weekly newsletter. With this data, you can start to tell what’s different between those who subscribe to your content versus non-subscribers.”

Consistency is key. “Look at repurposing much of your content,” advises Joe. “For example, a blog post can become an audio podcast, or a video series transcribed into a blog post. Think up front about all the different ways you can take one content effort and retell that story to reach a new audience.”

Need help with creating content that’s both powerful and engaging? Please give us a call.

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Email Marketing: Measure Once . . . Then Measure Again

shutterstock_257627848Increase conversion rates. Improve lead generation. Grow email list size. These are the top three email marketing objectives in the coming year for the small and mid-sized businesses we polled in a recent research study. Just 12% of respondents called themselves “very successful” with achieving their important objectives, and 21% admitted to being “somewhat unsuccessful.”

How these organizations measure success may vary. According to the Direct Marketing Association’s 2015 Response Rate Report, email has the lowest cost-per-acquisition of all the media in the study when house lists of current customers are used . . . however it also suffers from one of the lowest response rates.

Click rates were lowest for lead generation emails sent to prospect lists (3-4%) and highest for B-to-B emails sent to house lists (17-18%) in the DMA study. For 36% of respondents, the primary purpose of emails sent to house lists was to make a direct sale. For emails sent to prospect lists, 62% say the main purpose was lead generation.

Like any marketing channel, email marketing follows a “test, measure, refine” improvement process that gets marketers closer to reaching their goals. What can you do in enhance your results?

  • Keep your list clean. Before removing anyone from your list who isn’t opening your emails, try to re-engage. A subject line like, “Because We Miss You,” personalizes your message that can include a special offer to encourage interaction. With multiple consecutive “un-opens,” you should remove them from your list, along with any undeliverable addresses.
  • Commit to split testing. Take a small percentage of your total list, and send half of the test group one email version while the other half gets another. Pick one variable: subject line, content, image or offer, for example. Then send the version that gets the most opens or clicks to your remaining subscriber list.
  • Now test some more. Identifying the best times and days of the week to send your emails starts with understanding the needs and expectations of your subscribers. You learn more by varying your deployments and analyzing performance. Also consider a short survey to ask subscribers about frequency and subject matter preferences.
  • Embrace a multi-channel strategy. Email can be a fast, affordable and effective channel for most marketers . . . and is best when part of an integrated engagement strategy. According to the DMA study, 44% of their survey respondents use three or more channels for their marketing efforts. In these instances, the most popular channels tend to be email, direct mail and social media.

Ask us for a free copy of Email List Growth from the Small to Medium-sized Business Perspective for more tips and important insights.



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Email List Growth: It’s as Hard as It Seems

shutterstock_172545941Email remains attractive to marketers for its affordability, immediacy and effectiveness. Best of all, you know your subscribers have given you permission to contact them which means there is implied interest in what you’re offering.

“Growing your list is tough but so worthwhile,” says Brian Neufeld, CMO and co-founder of ActiveDEMAND, a Canadian-based marketing automation software company. “You need to treat contact lists as a valuable asset. It costs time and money to acquire contacts. For example, collecting business cards and badge scans from a trade show where you paid to be, only to have those contacts end up at the bottom of a desk draw is a complete waste. If your average cost to obtain a contact is $10 and your list is 1,000 strong, you have a $10,000 asset you can leverage to earn a return.”

According to our recent study, SMBs rank content downloads (43%) and access to value-added website pages (43%) as the two most effective tactics for building contacts; they also score among the easiest to execute. About one-third say they value events for list-building.

Most email list growth tactics require a registration form to capture new subscriber information – an essential piece to information downloads and “premium” website content like case studies, informational guides, tip sheets or videos. The number of fields in the form may vary, but the optimization principles remain the same: fewer fields generate more, less qualified subscribers. More fields generate fewer, more qualified subscribers.

What to capture? MarketingSherpa says nine of 10 marketers agree the most important data to collect is an email address followed by name, phone number and lead source. Additional information to capture in a long form would be company name, address and postal code.

Want to learn more? Ask us for a free copy of Email List Growth from the Small to Medium-sized Business Perspective for more insights into how SMBs will overcome new challenges to email list growth.

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Content Marketing: 5 Tactics That Educate and Engage

shutterstock_231340918Chances are, your chief competitors are doing their share of content marketing. About half of small and medium-sized business marketers (SMBs) we recently surveyed in partnership with an independent research firm are increasing content marketing budgets; just 7% scaling back.

Creating engaging content is job #1. Here are five tactical ways to deliver it to your key audiences:

1. Offer proof through case studies. Identified as the most effective tactic by more than half (55%) of our survey respondents, articles and case studies are readily distributed through blogs, emails and websites. Among survey subjects, they’re also considered one of the easiest tactics to execute.

2. Capture leads with videos. Considered by three out of five SMBs to be the most difficult type of content to create, videos are also evaluated as most effective by 45% in our study. To simplify video production, find ways to maximize your time and effort. One shoot, with the right editing, can yield multiple videos.

3. Increase interest with infographics. Think integration when using infographics, rated the third most effective type of content by our survey takers. Share yours via your blog, direct mail or email campaigns. And pull out specific statistics as Facebook posts, linking back to the full infographic on your website.

4. Educate with white papers. Used primarily by business-to-business marketers, white papers or educational guides are best when presenting ideas in depth or delivering a point-of-view on relevant and timely issues. It also helps to know your target audience’s format preference: Some may prefer a printed copy, while others may opt for an electronic download.

5. Gather intelligence with webinars. The devil is in the details with webinars and is most likely why they rank just behind videos as the most difficult type of content to produce, according to our survey respondents. On the plus side? Event registration forms capture prospect and customer data on the front end, whether registrants actually attend or not.

Need assistance with creating or distributing your valuable content through print and digital channels? Let us know; we can help. And contact us for a free copy of our 2015 research report, Content Marketing Trends from the Small and Medium-sized Business Perspective.

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Case Study: Using Cross-Media to Gain New Business

shutterstock target groups

Eager to test the power of cross-media marketing, a small professional services company launched a multi-channel marketing campaign to specific vertical markets that were largely untapped.

Two primary goals were set: 1) Create awareness of the company’s capabilities, and 2) Generate sales leads.

The audience was a house list of clients and prospects. Both decision makers and decision influencers were targeted.

The campaign was developed around the theme, “Grow your Business During the Upcoming Spring/Summer Months.”  The incentive to experience the campaign was a free gift — the choice of a t-shirt also designed with the growth theme.

An email was sent to drive prospects to a personalized URL (PURL) to claim the free gift. Non-responders were sent a personalized “reminder” postcard via mail. The PURL was used for both tracking and audience segmentation.

Once on the site, respondents could choose a t-shirt and were asked to provide information on their biggest business challenge and to supply or validate their email address.

An automated thank you email was sent, and contacts were prioritized for sales follow-up. Company sales personnel then made follow-up phone calls to verify the business challenge and make a sales appointment.

Results? Within the first 60 days, $37,600 in business closed with $15,500 additional pipeline activity. The PURL helped the company learn more about its prospects. PURL visit rates totaled 11.9% of decision makers and 10.4% of decision influencers. Online survey completion boasted an impressive 52.7% of decision makers and 31.89% decision influencers.

Overall, the firm also confirmed two important “best practices” to continue in future campaigns:

  • Use PURLs to effectively track and segment an audience.
  • Include a compelling offer to drive engagement.

Let us know how we can help you reach your business goals through strategic marketing campaigns.

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