Five tips for your next customer appreciation party

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There’s no question that customers are the driving force behind your business, but any good businessperson knows that the relationship with a client should last far beyond the initial sale or interaction.

Former customers are not only future customers, they’re the most important source of new customers you’ll ever have. That’s why wining and dining them every once in a while after you’ve gotten their business makes good business sense.

There are all kinds of ways your brand could throw a customer appreciation party –– cocktail parties, happy hours, in-store events –– but here are a few ideas that you should keep in mind no matter what type of event you are planning.

Personalize the invite

By all means you should send out an invite through email, and post it on all of your social media accounts. But in the age of mass messaging, an online invitation doesn’t always convince somebody that they’re truly wanted at a party. To make it more personal, you should follow up with a phone call or direct message to let them know that you’d love to see them at the party. In other words, try to make them feel special. Reaching out to customers individually and emphasizing your desire to see them always goes a long way.

Get your affiliate network involved

Parties for customers are a great opportunity to get affiliates involved. Partnering with your affiliates is a chance to combine customer bases and get in front of an audience you haven’t tapped into yet. But just as important, it reduces your costs because you can get your affiliates to help pay for the party!

Give them a plus one (or two)

Encourage your customers to bring friends along. After all, there’s no better way to get new customers than through existing ones.

Fancy works. But so does casual.

A cocktail hour featuring catered hors d’oeuvres is good, but so is a summer barbecue with burgers, hot dogs and ice cold beverages. The food is appreciated, but it’s not the main reason people are attending the event, so don’t stress out too much about it.

Greet everyone!

It’s only appropriate that you at least say “Hi” to the people you invited to the party. You’re the host and they expect to at least spend a few moments conversing with you. Similarly, they’ll understand that, because you’re the host, you can’t spend the whole time talking to them. It would also be ideal to remember something about the customer and their relationship with your business; but, nonetheless, a little bit of time spent with each guest truly goes a long way.

About Sam Lauron: Sam Lauron is a Communications Associate at Manzer Communications. She supports clients with digital marketing, social media, blogging and tech PR activities. Manzer Communications provides digital PR and marketing services in Austin, Denver and Houston and for any national brands seeking rapid, sustained growth. Some of the services provided include content marketing, social media strategy and ad buys, email marketing, and media relations.

Six ways to make direct mail work for your business

Back in the day, the only way to get your marketing material in front of potential customers was directly through their mailbox.

Fast forward to the era of email, websites and mobile apps and you now see less direct mail than you used to. Translation? It’s an opportunity to be one of the few in your market who uses direct mail to get in front of potential customers!

How can you leverage snail mail to build your customer base and make the process pay for itself and then some? Here are six ways to make direct mail work for your business:

Personalize

An important rule of direct mail is to make it as personalized as possible for the recipient. That means having their name on the address rather than “Resident” or “Homeowner.” If you have access to a direct mail service that hand-writes short notes then this can be an effective way to drive up open rates and prospect engagement; it’s a more expensive option and best used on occasion to keep the homeowner intrigued. Nobody can pass up a handwritten letter!

Relevant

In every aspect of marketing your brand it is important to know your audience — and direct mail marketing is no different. Make sure you’ve done your research and are targeting the right communities when sending out your mailers. You want the people receiving the mail to think of your promotional material as useful or relevant to their lifestyle or general needs to decrease the chances of it getting tossed into the trash.

Commitment

A general rule of thumb in marketing is that it takes 5-7 touch points with a prospect to be remembered. When launching a direct mail campaign, you should plan on running it for the entire year to get the best results.

Patience

It takes time to see a return on your investment in any marketing or advertising initiative. At any given time direct mail will yield less than a 1% response rate, and of that you may close 25% of those leads. Prepare yourself for the long haul. It will pay off over time!

Budget

Make sure you know what you can afford to do in order to keep your marketing campaign sustainable. If you send out 1,000 postcards and blow your budget then you’ll be dead in the water. Better to start small and build your empire over time.

Call-to-action

Perhaps most important of all, you need to give your audience a reason to contact you by providing a call-to-action (CTA). For instance, you can offer a special deal if they like your page on Facebook or follow you on Instagram – building your social media following while also providing a CTA! Change up your CTA to see which ones work better than others. Regardless of your offer, make sure you provide your phone number, website and email to make it easy for them to reach you.

About Sam Lauron: Sam Lauron is a Communications Associate at Manzer Communications. She supports clients with digital marketing, social media, blogging and tech PR activities. Manzer Communications provides digital PR and marketing services in Austin, Denver and Houston and for any national brands seeking rapid, sustained growth. Some of the services provided include content marketing, social media strategy and ad buys, email marketing, and media relations.

 

 

Five reasons you need an editorial calendar for your brand blogging

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Most corporate marketers understand that blogging is a leading content marketing activity for B2B brands. It’s perhaps the best tool for establishing thought leadership, driving website traffic, improving organic search engine rankings, and generating leads.

The key to effective corporate blogging is consistency and frequency. According to Hubspot, B2B companies that publish 16 monthly posts get 3.5x the website traffic as compared to companies that publish only occasionally.

This volume of content creation requires preparation and hard work. How do you make sure your blog is continually fed quality content? With an editorial calendar!

In simple terms, an editorial calendar is nothing more than a written schedule of the specific content you intend to write and publish for the upcoming month, quarter or year created in advance. The process of building an editorial calendar is called “ideation,” a fancy word for brainstorming.

Here are five reasons you need an editorial calendar for your corporate blog:

Roadmap for content production

It’s important for the blog manager to layout a roadmap for all writers. This roadmap – which includes a list of the specific post titles you intend to write — generally covers time periods ranging from monthly to quarterly or even yearly, depending on how much time you can devote in advance to ideation.

The vast majority of the content outlined in your editorial calendar should be entertaining or informational in nature. Ten to 15 percent of your blog posts, however, should be promotional with strong calls-to-action for other content (white papers, eBooks, webinars) that can take the prospect deeper down the sales funnel. The goal, however, is to not alienate your readers with too much blatant promotion.

Maintain corporate tone

Every organization has a somewhat unique voice – your corporate tone. An editorial calendar is the right tool for helping establish the corporate tone of your blog. In setting the tone, you should follow your company’s overall brand guidelines and identify the primary buyer personas to whom you want to appeal. Once that’s accomplished, the editorial calendar helps ensure you are writing about topics of interest to your buyer personas with a corporate tone that is consistent with the overall brand. In other words, if you work in an enterprise software company that serves the financial industry and appeals to VPs of technology, then the corporate tone you ultimately adopt should be professional and focused on the big-picture so the executives can see the value of your solution to their company as a whole, not for the network administrator’s daily work flow.

Delegation of tasks

An editorial calendar is as helpful to a small company with one blogger as it is for marketing managers with large teams and multiple contributors. One of the biggest challenges in working with a large team of writers, however, is in setting and enforcing multiple deadlines across a large team that could be staffed with both internal and external contributors. An editorial calendar allows you to specify the content to be created, manage writers and ensure deadlines are met.

Content diversification

Variety is the spice of life – and your corporate blog. As such, your editorial calendar should reflect content divided in various categories driven by what is of value to your primary buyer personas. Group your content ideas assigned to these categories and buyer personas, and if possible, keep a tally of how much content you are producing for each of them and what traffic each post generates.

To get and keep more readers, you need a few different types of content – news, opinion, surveys, promotions, infographics, etc. This ensures the content on your blog doesn’t become predictable and boring. A well-planned editorial calendar helps make sure you’re producing a steady-stream of diverse content, reaching as many people as possible in the process.

Transparency and accountability

Like most corporate activities, transparency is important to a successful blog. Every contributor should be able to see clearly what content is planned for the upcoming weeks and months and who is responsible for each piece of content. A well-maintained editorial calendar facilitates this level of transparency and helps your team stay focused on your blogging goals.

It’s important to remember that an editorial calendar is a fluid, living document. It is meant to be regularly updated to incorporate new content ideas as business circumstances change. But with a pre-planned calendar of content, you’ll work smarter, not harder, at building the long-term success of your corporate blog.

Trade Show Marketing Tips

Trade show 1 shutterstock_248312503.jpgMany B2B companies look to trade shows as a way to find new business and expand their brand awareness. It should come as no surprise then that the average B2B brand invests nearly 40% of its total marketing spend on them.

What many B2B companies may not realize is that they can dramatically impact their ROI on trade shows with proper planning, adequate resourcing and thorough follow-up.

In our white paper, “Your Roadmap to B2B Trade Show Success,” we provide a blueprint for turning your next trade show marketing into the most successful one ever.

To give you a sneak peek of the trade show white paper, we have included some of the topics below:

Research to find the right trade show

Not enough B2B companies research which trade shows are right for them. Should you go to the largest — and most expensive — trade show in your industry or something a little more affordable? The answer depends upon your risk tolerance, potential budget and ambitions.

Speaking of money

It’s always wise to set up a budget for your trade show initiative or you may find yourself spending way too much for the potential for leads and brand awareness. The budget should be realistic and take into account current cost for booth design and build, travel and lodging, client entertainment, etc.

Who’s in charge?

Maybe the most important asset in your trade show initiative is the person in charge. You should assign a project manager to steer the trade show marketing initiative to ensure the resources from internal and external stakeholders are in alignment with the overall brand strategy and meeting key deadlines.

Staffing

Staffing your trade show booth with employees who truly thrive on customer service and can operate on little sleep and in chaotic environments is a must. Trade shows don’t end at 5pm and a lot of important schmoozing with key customers takes place over dinner and drinks. Make sure your employees are not only articulate on your product and service initiatives but are also able to act professionally after a glass or two of wine.

Marketing

Your B2B trade show marketing collateral is what customers and prospects will take home with them so make sure it is well-designed and reflective of your company’s approved brand strategy — from both a visual and written perspective. If you are showing a demo, be sure you have product sheets for the product(s) on hand and that the demo is staffed by a competent technical expert or you may have a failure to launch episode when it really counts.

Social media

Twitter and LinkedIn are the go-to social media platforms for B2B trade shows. Twitter is perfect for following the ebb-and-flow of conversations about the trade show. You should share your own company’s latest innovations and offers but also share other relevant industry information to encourage others to follow you and share your insights with their networks. LinkedIn is a great way to connect with prospects and influencers while LinkedIn Pulse can help you gain some thought leadership with well-timed posts. Whatever you do, don’t try to follow somebody just to pitch them a sale as that flies in the face of generally accepted social media behavior.

Don’t forget PR

Media outreach is still a great way to establish your brand’s credibility and get more visitors to your trade show booth. To ensure you get a fair shot at media coverage it’s wise to reach out in advance to key journalists who are planning to attend the event. Try to set up face-to-face meetings at your booth so they can talk to your executives. If you are launching a new product, it may be easier to set meetings with media. Bottom line: Don’t let the trade show get away from you without at least having coffee with one or two influential journalists.

Follow-up

You are at the trade show to get more leads, so don’t forget this important step! Take every business card and enter it into your CRM daily; be sure to assign each contact a status inside your CRM. If it’s a hot lead, then make sure the lead is assigned to sales for immediate follow-up. Tire-kicker leads should be assigned to your drip marketing program for alerts on new products, discounts, webinars, etc. The key is to not lose track of any leads or your whole trade show ROI will suffer.

 

Should your business be on Snapchat?

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Marketing a business requires the ability to adapt and stay up to date on a wide variety of marketing tools to keep in touch with current customers and find new prospects. Snapchat is rapidly becoming a new social media advertising tool that marketers have to pay attention to if they want to reach millennials.

According to a recent article by Bloomberg, Snapchat has 150 million daily users, which is even more than Twitter! Nearly one in five Americans will use Snapchat this year alone, and eMarketer states that the mobile app is anticipated to grow by 27 percent. Around 44 percent of Snapchat users are between the ages of 13 and 24, according to a survey by Variety.

Needless to say, the audience potential for Snapchat is huge!

However, before investing your time, energy and even budget into Snapchat, you should learn more about the app’s marketing potential and whether it’s a good fit for your brand. Here are a few things to know about Snapchat advertising and how you can use it to grow your audience:

Promote your business

B2C businesses could benefit by using geofilters to promote themselves to people in a local community. By using an inexpensive, on-demand geofilter to promote an event, like a President’s Day sale, you’d raise awareness from all sorts of people in the surrounding areas of your store. People snapchatting in the area will see and possibly use the filter, which their friends would in turn see, thus spreading the word about your sale to a potentially larger audience. A key to your success is to market the right product or service to your target millennial audience; no sense in running a special on retirement centers to twentysomethings!  

The option to create a sponsored national geofilter is also available, but you’ll have to be prepared for a big hit to your budget. Sponsored geofilters can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars; according to Snapchat, however, national geofilters typically reach 40 to 60 percent of the daily Snapchat users, which explains the higher price point. This is a great way for large businesses to advertise, but it’s not a practical option for smaller businesses.

Unique content

Thanks to Snapchat’s features that allow you to use filters, unique drawings and text to enhance a photo or video, you have the ability to create unique and engaging content. To stay top-of-mind with your followers, you should add these photos and videos to your “story,” which allows those who are following you to see your “snaps” for 24 hours. Doing so is completely free, so any small or medium businesses (SMB) are able to afford keeping their prospects interested and engaged at a fairly low cost — just the time you spend coming up with entertaining content!

To appeal to the younger audience that uses the platform the most, businesses need to create a steady stream of fun pictures and videos. Fresh, unique and funny content is more much shearable than outright sales overtures. Create a nice video of the inside of your store, or take funny pictures of staff to humanize and personalize your brand; that may in turn make prospects more likely to do business with your company!

Engage directly

One of the best things about using Snapchat for business is personally getting to send messages to those who reach out to you. If a follower sends your business a “snap” responding to a story or of them at your store, you have the ability to respond to them individually with something fun and personalized. In any social media platform, it’s important that companies converse with their audience, and Snapchat makes that engagement simple and entertaining like no other social media platform can.

Personalize your brand

Your audience needs to understand that there’s more to your company than a logo and a transaction. There’s so much more that goes into your company’s culture and history, but sometimes it can be hard to show that side of your business to customers. Snapchat is one of the best ways to connect more personally with prospects and humanize your brand. Show your unique company culture, traditions and products that make your brand special in a fun way and you’ll be rocking the Snapchat game in no time!

Get started!

Want to be ahead of the game and appeal to millennial consumers? Consider setting up a Snapchat account for your business and then put the account info on your business card. Who knows how many more young people you can reach if you just make the jump? Again, make sure your brand is in alignment with the buyer personas typically found on Snapchat or you will surely end up firing blanks. Knowing they can can ‘snap’ you with you on any pre or post-sale questions could give you a truly unique advantage over the competition.
About Kris Bushong: Kris is a student at Texas State University in San Marcos and a marketing communications intern at Manzer Communications. She supports clients with digital marketing, social media, blogging and tech PR activities. Manzer Communications provides digital PR and marketing services in Austin, Denver and Houston and for any national brands seeking rapid, sustained growth. Some of the services provided include content marketing, social media strategy and ad buys, email marketing, and media relations.

Things to do in 2017 for your B2B brand

bigstock-124408637If you’re a marketing professional working on behalf of a B2B company, you understand the marketing challenges that can come with trying to sell to other companies. Establishing your brand’s reputation and gaining the trust of customers and prospects is the best way to win market share and beat back the competition in the long run.

So with that in mind, what can you do to ensure your B2B brand is showing your business’ strengths and building trust with your audience? Here are four great ways to improve your company’s brand in 2017.

Start a blog

Blogging is essential to building a brand’s status into an industry leader. If you want your company to appear credible and attract more traffic, there has to be a steady stream of valuable content coming from your website. According to a study by HubSpot, B2B companies who post at least 11 blogs per month get almost three times more traffic to their websites than those who posted one or no blogs per month.

By producing blog posts that are relevant to your target audience and add value to their businesses, you are establishing yourself as a company that’s capable of giving industry advice and aligning your brand as an important source of information. The same HubSpot study revealed that companies who post to their blog at least sixteen times per month get 4.5 times more leads than those who post under four times per month. And every marketing professional knows that it takes more leads to get more conversions and move the needle on sales growth.

Blog posts are also a great way to drive SEO. By following best SEO practices — adding relevant keywords with hypertext links, alt tags for your images and keyword driven titles —  you improve your website’s ability to be found on search engines when somebody is looking for your products and services.

Rethink your social media strategy

How is your company using social media? Do you make the occasional post to Twitter or LinkedIn and forget about continuing the conversation and come back to it weeks or months after? Or are you consistently making posts and creating a following of customers, prospects and influencers?

If you want to up your social media game and attract more website traffic and awareness for your brand, then you may want to get more strategic in your approach. Start by researching your target audience. What sort of pages do they follow on social media and why? What are these pages offering the people you want to engage with? Are their media outlets they follow and you should to? Do they “like” or share certain kinds of content over others? With this knowledge, you can develop a social media content strategy that will attract the exact people you want to visit your site and, with any luck, convert into hot leads.

For most B2B companies, the social media strategy and execution is very different from B2C companies. Because you’re catering to people in a business setting instead of marketing directly to consumers, you are often forced to adopt a more professional, facts-driven persona than what a typical B2C brand can use. That said, you are still free to create your own approach as long as it is in synch with your customers and prospects.

The most fruitful social media platform for B2B marketing is LinkedIn. The content you share can and should include your weekly blog posts, articles you read from the media or other influencers, content from your customers, important events impacting your industry such as trade shows, and more.

Not to be neglected are platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Twitter has become a go-to social network for media and influencers so ignore it at your peril. If attending a trade show is part of your annual marketing strategy then make sure to use Twitter to record your experiences and observations from the trade show floor. You can also retweet other trade show attendees — customers, prospects and influencers — to further advance your brand awareness and deepen your customer engagement.

Facebook is the wildcard of B2B social media strategy. At this point, Facebook lags LinkedIn and Twitter as a B2B platform but that may not be for long. It’s the world’s largest social platform with nearly 1.2 billion active users. The social network is hands down the best advertising platform and has the incredibly accurate demographic targeting. It’s only a matter of time before Facebook becomes a go-to resource for B2B companies as well.

No matter the platform, however, if you are not paying to boost the reach of your social media activities you are missing the boat. At one point it was possible to organically grow the reach of a brand on social media. Those days are long gone. So in 2017 you would be wise to research the various social media networks and how to optimize their advertising platforms to maximize your effectiveness.  

More inbound

Successful B2B brands have figured out how to drive new leads from the web. What does that mean exactly? Inbound marketing refers to a strategy of creating content across a wide variety of company owned and branded assets — website, landing pages, social media, white papers

If “content is king”, then consistency is the queen. Without consistency in your message, your brand seems confusing and unaligned, making people less likely to do business with your company.

Along with message consistency, you should regularly post on your blog and social media channels to drive the most amount of traffic as possible to your website and build a relationship with your customer base. Posting consistently keeps you top-of-mind with your customers and gives the impression that your company is stable enough to put time and effort into their online presence.

Improve your website

The importance of having a great website is easily overlooked. Yet it’s the first thing prospects usually see, and they judge you heavily on its appearance and quality of information provided. Like it or not, your brand is represented by your website, so it should portray your company just as you want to be perceived.

Ask yourself – Does your website still reflect your current goals and message? Is it downloading fast and does it feature fresh content such as white papers, case studies and current call-to-actions? Is the website traffic growing over time and capturing new leads? If you answered “no” to any these questions, it is time to revamp your website.

You could always do this yourself by using a user-friendly platform like Wix or SquareSpace. If you are on WordPress, however, you may be better served by purchasing a dynamic, easily-maintained template and have a developer assist you with any back-end programming. That said, if you don’t have much graphic and web design experience in-house, it makes more sense to hire an outside web design agency to get the job done right.

About Kris Bushong: Kris is a student at Texas State University in San Marcos and a marketing communications intern at Manzer Communications. She supports clients with social media, blogging and tech PR activities. Manzer Communications has offices in Austin, Denver and Houston and provides digital marketing and PR services for tech companies seeking rapid, sustained growth. Some of the services provided include content marketing, social media strategy and ad buys, email marketing, and media relations.

How to counter fake news

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In today’s world where fake news stories spread false information about people and companies for the sake of driving website traffic or pushing a particular political agenda, the role of public relations has become increasingly vital. In order to protect the reputations of those who are being made victims to the fake news epidemic, immediate preventative and reactive steps must be taken.

Pepsico is a shining example of the effects that fake news can have. According to CBS News, Trump supporters vowed to boycott all Pepsico products due to the CEO, Indra Nooyi, supposedly telling those who supported the candidate to “take their business elsewhere”. While these reports were false, Pepsico still experienced a drastic drop in their stock value; there’s a reasonable indication that the Trump supporter boycott had an impact on that.

It is essential that companies are equipped to defend their reputation at any time, even if they aren’t a global brand. The reactions to the fake news must be timely, accurate and proportionate to the threat at hand. It’s also important to proactively market yourself and gain a cushion of goodwill. Here’s what you should be doing to protect your brand from damage in the case of fake news, and defend yourself if your brand falls victim to it.

Be timely

In the case of fake news coming out against your brand, you must respond in a timely manner or risk losing control of the narrative and damage to your brand credibility. The initial response should be immediate, even within the first hour of a fake news story surfacing and getting traction in social media. Waiting much longer to gather your company’s key stakeholder groups — marketing, corporate communications, legal — could allow fake news enough time to take root in the public consciousness and begin cycling through social media channels. You owe it your customers, investors and employees to act immediately and decisively in today’s 24/7 news cycle where rumor and fact can intermingle.

Respond accurately

While a timely response is always important, what’s equally important is ensuring that your responses are accurate. Any facts you use to refute the fake news should come from verifiable, reputable sources that will stand up to the scrutiny of both the media and key stakeholders. While taking the “high road” is always a must when responding to a fake news event, it doesn’t mean you have to keep your hands tied behind your back either. You are defending your brand and reputation, after all, so going on the offensive to protect your interests while at the same time calling into question the legitimacy of the fake news source is completely acceptable.

React proportionately

When responding to fake news, consider the proportion of your reaction. How far has the news spread? Is it surfacing on a marginal online publication frequented by conspiracy theorists or is it in a well-known media outlet? Are you seeing any negative impact to your brand in the form of negative reviews or calls for boycotts?

Calling a press conference or issuing a statement for a thinly spread or non-threatening rumor could only serve to spread the rumor further. If, however, social media channels are buzzing about how terrible your company is for some unfounded acts or positions it never took then the best way forward is to mobilize your company’s resources and start addressing the fake news everywhere practicable.

Do you have to respond to every nasty tweet or Facebook post? No, but don’t allow them to go unanswered either without a measured response. Look for ways to talk directly to your customers as keeping their trust is critical and they can, in turn, become your most passionate defenders.

Stay on message

A company’s response must be strategic, taking into consideration the potential for damage to the brand’s reputation and even its revenue and stock value. While the need for a speedy response is paramount, as mentioned earlier, it’s critical the key message be well crafted. The message can and should refute the fake news but do so in a sincere way that can be customized to the needs of key stakeholders like customers, employees and investors

A company should ensure the message gets into the hands of each employee with responsibility over an outbound communication channel such as social media, press relations, investor relations, etc.

A company responding to a fake news event can even rely upon its crisis communications strategy and go into crisis mode in order to design and deploy the right message to the right channel as quickly as possible. Finally, ensure the message gets into the hands of the C-suite as you don’t want your CEO to fall into a trap during a TV interview about a different topic by saying something off-message that adds fuel to the fake news fire. 

Be proactive

Perhaps the best way to protect yourself from the potential damage fake news can cause is to work proactively to build goodwill among your customers, employees and investors. In other words, look for ways to be open, honest and helpful with your key stakeholders.

While fake news is designed to malign your brand and cause significant damage, having a loyal customer following on social media will prove to be a powerful firewall against inflammatory fake news.

About Kris BushongKris is an intern at Manzer Communications. With offices in Austin and Denver offering digital marketing communications and PR to tech startups and fast-growth enterprises, Manzer Communications is a leader in designing effective lead-gen campaigns that help companies reach their strategic growth goals. Kris is also a student at Texas State University and a participant in the PRSA Bateman Case Study Competition.

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