Monthly Archives

November 2013

Content Marketing – Why it’s Important and 5 Tips for Success

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Today’s consumer has changed and businesses must change the way they market to them.  Welcome to content marketing.  Content marketing is using informative or entertaining content to engage customers and prospects with information that they’ll want to use for it’s own sake. It is a different approach because it does not push or interrupt consumers with direct sales or promotional messages.

What does this mean for us?  Customers frequently start the buying process online with a search and request for information. Businesses that can anticipate the questions and share their expertise will have the best chance of being found online, which can predispose the customer to a sale.  In addition, since peer opinion is a big trigger, brands need to create content that is worth sharing.

“Content that is too product or brand focused does not travel well digitally, whereas content that stands on its own merits as entertainment, storytelling, or education will be shared and passed along.”*

The use of video as a content marketing tactic has increased dramatically in 2013.  Articles containing relevant images gain an average of 94% more total views than articles without images.  Both tweets and Facebook posts with images have significantly higher user engagement rates as those without.

The 5 S’s of Marketable Content

To be effective, you must ensure your content meets the following requirements:

1) Searchable – Search engines prioritize sites that deliver timely content of high quality.

2) Shareable – This will help gain peer approval and boost search rankings.

3) Supportive – Understand your user’s needs, anticipate questions and share your expertise generously.

4) Specialist – Your content must come from within your area of expertise.

5) Sustainable – Create a plan and a process to generate consistent content.

Here are a few final suggestions to meet the content creation challenge. Focus on quality over quantity. Avoid creating content just for content’s sake.  Too much poor quality, rehashed, me-too content may have an adverse effect.  If it is not realistic for you to create content on your own, find credible information platforms and become a curator.  Users still need trusted sources to help sort out information.

For additional industry statistics and tips on goal setting and audience segmentation, check out the full article at: http://curve.gettyimages.com/?isource=foot_tools_Curve

*Rebecca Lieb, Content:  The New Marketing Equation

Trends in Logo Redesign

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The logo is the primary expression of a company’s brand. There is more equity in this single visual asset than any other part of the brand identity. Voice, photographic style, typography, customer service philosophy? All important, but the logo stands as the most visible, most often encountered, and arguably most important of all brand assets. A change to a company’s logo, no matter how small brings with it more discussion, more opinions and more, well, angst, than any other branding, design or communication initiative. And yet, every year, a lot of major corporations and organizations undertake to transform this most sacred of graphics. Some do it well and some stumble but we are not here to pick on the Gap or J.C. Penney, they’ve been abused enough. There is something to be learned, however, about the basic trends in graphic design from taking a look at a small set of logos that received an update or overhaul during 2013.

Logos don’t exist in a vacuum, they are meant to go out into the world and evangelize on behalf of their companies. And these days going out into the world means looking good on everything from a 57×57 pixel iPhone icon to a billboard. This is fueling a trend toward simpler logo designs built with cleaner, often sans serif or slab serif type which is, in general, tracked out farther than usually necessary (the spacing between the letters is wider to prevent run-together at smaller sizes). American Airlines has gone so far as to create a shape only logo. Easily recognizable without all, um, both, those fussy letters to deal with.

LOGOS.indd

Large corporations can be hesitant to make major changes to their logos, often opting for a ‘refresh’ rather than a redesign. Even when the change is major, many companies wisely choose to reference their own history when designing the new logo. Both the new Dow Jones logo and the new Farmers Insurance logo are good examples of this trend. In the case of ING US which underwent a major name change to Voya Financial, the decision was made to keep the orange signature color in order to retain the recognition equity it carries with it from the old brand.

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Four of the major internet brands redesigned their logos in 2013 and all provide great examples of the primary design trend for this year. After a decade of random gradients, bevels, dropshadows, and gel highlights, it appears that the design community has regained it’s sanity and flat design is making a comeback. Probably best illustrated by Apple’s interface design for the iOS 7 operating system, flat design techniques are also clearly demonstrated in the logo redesigns for Yahoo!, bing, Google and especially YouTube.

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Management Perspective

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Marketing lessons from a new puppy.

There’s no better way in my book of gaining renewed perspective on, well, everything, than getting a new puppy (which I just did).  Watching them interact with their new environment is a revelation.

For puppies, almost everything is new, strange, exciting, scary, amazing and changing all the time.  Sounds remarkably like the new world of marketing as it evolves every day, doesn’t it?  Just like puppies, to survive marketers must be open to new things, experiment with them (just not with their mouths), keep and repeat the good, reject the bad and constantly learn and improve.

Puppies approach each day with boundless energy, enthusiasm and a sense of adventure.  They allow for distractions, and take plenty of time to play and sleep.  And they take challenges head on with a sense of optimism and hope for the future – all solid lessons for humans, regardless of their profession.

Watching my new little fuzz ball experience the world soothes the soul and provides valuable lessons on business and life.  If she could, she’d write a self-help book and make millions of dollars.  But she’s too interested in toys, treats and belly scratches to care about money.  And that’s another valuable lesson learned.  Thanks, Tacy.

-Fred

tacysm

The history of Black Friday

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Is there anything more thrilling than the hunt for a good bargain? Probably, but with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday right around the corner gift shopping is at the top of everybody’s list. Most (if not every) Americans know about Black Friday – but do you know when and how it started?

The term “Black Friday” used to have a negative connotation and was started in the 1960’s by police in Philadelphia. They used the term because they dreaded the day for it’s terrible traffic. There wasn’t widespread use of the term by retailers until the mid 70’s though. Now it’s known as the starting-pistol for shopping.

Small Business Saturday – first observed in 2010 was actually started by American Express. It all started with a nationwide radio and TV advertising campaign and has snowballed over the past few years into a day where an estimated $5.5 billion was spent in 2012 at locally owned stores (according to the National Federation of Independent Business). Small Business Saturday has turned into big business for local shops in just a couple of years.

Surprisingly, Cyber-Monday was first recognized as an unofficial shopping holiday in 2005. If you can’t remember, in 2005 the Internet was still pretty slow in peoples homes. So slow in fact that the Monday after Thanksgiving, people would go to work to shop because of the typically faster Internet connection. It’s as simple as that. Cyber-Monday is still seen as a day to shop but shopping is typically done at home now.

That gives a little insight into the bargain-hunting weekend and here are some additional statistics to ponder:

Black Friday Facts

  • The latest Thanksgiving possible means only 25 shopping days between Black Friday (11/29) and Christmas this year, versus 32 days in 2012.
  • Last year, 20% of consumers hadn’t even begun shopping for Christmas by December 22. Another 12% had no plans to spend any money for the holidays whatsoever.
  • Last year, there were Black Friday sales before, during and after Black Friday, and post-Christmas sales for days before Christmas Day. – Time Business & Money
  • 27% of consumers said they’ll be done by Dec. 1, compared with 24% last year. – American Express survey.
  • Holiday spending forecast is a rise of only 2.4% – ShopperTrak
  • Last year shoppers spent $11.2 billion in physical stores on Black Friday, a decline of 1.8% from 2011 – ShopperTrak.
  • Black Friday is not the biggest shopping day of the year – it’s the Saturday before Christmas.

A swing back to credit?

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The world of payments continues its dizzying evolution.  According to the Nilson Report (a payments industry newsletter), debit card spending lost market share to credit cards in the U.S., reversing a trend of more than 20 years.

Some of the reason for this can of course be traced to the effects of the Dodd-Frank Act with its caps on debit card transaction fees and the resultant devaluation of many debit card rewards platforms.  But there are other factors at play as well.

In spite of continued uncertainty in the economy and consumers’ ongoing debt aversion, interest in credit cards is greater than it’s ever been, reaching levels well above those seen prior to the financial meltdown according to Google.  And in an effort to boost revenue, many banks are more heavily promoting credit cards in the wake of the recent significant drop off in the mortgage re-fi boom.

Credit card issuing can be very profitable and although card fees are coming under federal scrutiny, no debit-like caps appear on the immediate horizon.  And cards are a natural, low-barrier cross-sell opportunity for existing bank clients.  Credit card reward value propositions are also morphing, becoming more flexible and robust – especially with cash back options – in response to heightened competition.

Interestingly, according to Equifax, store-branded cards are actually generating more new accounts than are bank-issued cards.  This may be a sign that consumers are considering a wider range of options when it comes to using credit for their personal finances.

This all may be an indication that consumer confidence is in fact on the rise or it may be more a lagging correction in an ever-changing payments market.  Whatever the case, it should be on financial marketers’ radar for 2014.

 

References:

Nilson Report – www.nilsonreport.com/
Google reference from Financial Brand – http://thefinancialbrand.com/35019/google-trends-in-banking-2013/
Equifax – www.equifax.com

Expression on demand recharge.

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Beth is the art director at d.trio.

Art Director. That’s the title on my business card. To people who don’t know better I’ll bet it summons up images of daily creative breakthroughs, someone who does magic with things called pixels and PMS colors. A person obsessed with light and print and what kind of shape certain blocks of type make on a page. Some of that is true but mostly what I do is make sure the communications my agency produces are up to Standards. Corporate Brand Standards, my Agency’s Standards, the Client’s Standards, and, whenever possible, My Standards. There is far more compromise and management of detail in my job than most people would expect. The popular, romantic image of the graphic designer is that of the artist who designs engagingly simple, perfectly complicated logos and beautiful websites all day. Lost in that image is the fact that most clients also need statement stuffers and whitepapers and tiny animated gifs for the Google ad network. There is less magic in this job than most people would like to know. But there is some. There is a way of thinking about space and light and color that has to be second nature. You need to be a little clairvoyant in this job, to be able to show people that thing that lives inside their own heads, but a better version of it, a more polished version of it, a more useful version of it. You need the perfect expression of the project goal. You need inspiration on demand, on schedule, on budget. And, oh yeah, everyone in the room has an opinion, from the client to the AE to the client’s wife’s cousin. All this can take it’s toll on a working designer who deals with multiple clients with myriad needs every single day, and who, like everyone else, never has enough time.

How to replenish that stock of inspiration? Look around. Find people who love what they do, who do it well, who look at things differently. Don’t copy, never copy, but seek out those people and places and works that let your mind breathe. Because it’s in that intake of breath that inspiration grows.

Here are few of my go to websites when I need to take a deep breath:

AlexandraFranzen.com – Alex spends her time being really good at helping other people be better. And sometimes the way she looks at the world and her willingness to speak truth is exactly the kind of mind bend I need.

DeviantArt.com – art takes many forms, and most of them can be found here.

ilovetypography.com – because I’m a little obsessed with typography and I feel at home here.

Curve from Getty Images – solid information plus beautiful images. Win.

Pinterest Design Boards – Duh.

TheOatmeal.com – because funny is good, but funny and smart is perfect.

Put on your best Christmas expressions kids.

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by Melinda Moore – senior designer at d.trio

Well it’s that time of year again, the designing of the annual Christmas card. Ever since my husband and I have been married (almost 18 years) we have sent out a photo Christmas card. Our family and friends are always commenting to me how much they look forward to our card, can’t wait to see how we’ve changed, and what we will do next. I’m not saying our cards are spectacular or anything, but I guess being a designer I started putting extra effort into picking out our clothes, paper, or shape of our card thinking it was a personal reflection of my design skills… and I didn’t want people to think I sucked. As my family has grown from just my husband and I, to our four daughters, our Christmas Card has evolved into a family affair; an expression of our family. The girls talk about “what should we do this year?” and help assemble outfits, and think of ideas, while my husband only asks “what do I have to wear?”. Here are a few samples of Christmas cards past… of course no one gets a glimpse of this years card until December… that’s the rule.

mmxmas-th

 

New Business Development Tips

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by Victoria Hoshal – d.trio’s director of business development

Best practices for new business development hold true across multiple industries – whether you are a marketing agency selling your services or medical device company selling in the B2B space.

I found a good overview on today’s challenging new business environment: http://www.brainrider.com/better-b2b-marketing/business-development-best-practice/

Although focused on the agency world, another article with great thinking is:  http://migroup.com/news_&_media/mercer_newbiz.pdf

I liked the tactical and organized approach to organic growth via existing clients and customers, as well as the idea of going after the customers/accounts you really want.

Here are some additional tips, based on my experience selling marketing agency services and before that, starting and running a small business.

When you are thinking about your organization’s new business opportunities:

  • Balance holistic thinking with focused tactics.  For example, the ability to assess (holistically) your universe of potential sales is necessary to any new business development.  However, within that view, focus on your best targets.  Better to have 5 highly-vetted, “good fit” targets than 20 “maybes.”  As per the Mercer Group article, find and pursue the customers YOU REALLY WANT.
  • Sell to your strengths – the best way to win a new customer is to show them where you truly outshine your competitors in either expertise or product.
  • This is also a way to filter customers that may not fit with your services. If it seems too much of a stretch, it probably is.  Your time and reputation are important – don’t waste them.
  • Don’t ignore your current or past customers.  Current customers can be a great source of referrals. Plan on visiting with them at least once a year for a “catch-up.”   Thank them for their business and ask for more. Ask them for referrals to other divisions or colleagues and other companies.
  • Plan a similar meeting with former customers. Recapturing a lapsed customer is typically MUCH faster and more productive of your time than acquiring a new client.
  • Interview your sales team for consistency of key messages and pitch points.  It’s important for everyone to start with the same brand story, regardless of needed versioning.  You might be surprised at what you learn.

When pitching a prospective customer:

  • Say “thank you for your time” at the beginning of the meeting.  Manners are important AND appreciated.
  • Remember it’s all about the customer.  Consider their business, their needs, tailor your approach accordingly.  This means paying attention to how much you talk about your company/your team, etc…..You’ll need to balance your sales pitch accordingly.
  • Conduct your due diligence and research ahead of the meeting so that you can plan discovery questions and stay on track.
  • Be able to articulate your competitive advantages, clearly and concisely.  Be sure you’ve tailored your value proposition to be relevant to the prospect.
  • Say thank you again at the close of the meeting.  Make the last impression a positive one. A further follow-up with a hand-written thank you note creates a longer-lasting impression.

Happy Hunting!

Featured work: whitepapers

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With content development being the buzz of the decade, the humble whitepaper has had a renaissance of late. And they’re not just white anymore. Brands are using the full range of their corporate look and feel to make certain that every touchpoint with a consumer is another opportunity to breed familiarity with the brand. d.trio works on a lot of thought leadership content for various clients and recently we designed and copyedited a timely whitepaper for GE Capital.

Titled “Driving shopper engagement through digital technology”, the whitepaper focuses on omni-channel shopping. And, as you can see, it feels much more like a brochure than like the whitepapers of the past – incorporating enticing images and bright infographics into the mix to create a more interesting read.

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