Archive for the ‘B2B Focus’ Category

Six Things You Need to Know Right Now About Google Ads

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Advertising on Google is Changing. Here’s What You Need To Know.

Earlier this summer, Google announced that it was going to consolidate and rebrand its various advertising products. Gone would be Google AdWords and Google DoubleClick. In their place, one unified platform: Google Ads. Given the scope of the advertising behemoth’s current product lineup, the move probably makes sense. After all, Google advertising has changed dramatically since AdWords was first introduced way back in 2000 (yeah, 18 years ago).

The company needed a brand that accurately reflected its robust offering, which now includes search, display, map, video, in-app, and more. But that wasn’t the only big news to come out of Mountain View. In addition to the modified moniker, the tech giant has some pretty big things up its sleeve. Let’s jump in.

 

  1. Responsive Search Ads

Google’s push toward machine learning has made its way to search in the form of responsive search ads. With responsive ads, you’ll provide 15 headlines and four descriptions. From there, Google will test different permutations of headline and description to identify the optimal combinations.

The concept has some marketers scratching their heads. To be sure, it flips the traditional headline/body content model in the way that it pairs content without respect to context, but it’s really only a technical change. You’ll still need to write engaging content, now you just need to make sure that each line can stand on its own.

The exciting thing about responsive search is how it will learn to serve the best message to searchers based on the keywords they search for, the device they use, their past browsing behavior, and other signals. While responsive search hasn’t been rolled out universally, the format is poised to make a big splash during the second half of 2018 and beyond.

 

  1. Three Headlines. Two Descriptions.

Responsive ads weren’t the only change to Google’s flagship advertising platform. In late August, search introduced a third 30-character headline and a second 90-character description. It all adds up to this: You now have more space to tell your story.

There’s just one catch: The third headline and the second description won’t appear on 100 percent of search impressions. What does that mean for marketers? Not a whole lot, but you will want to make sure that this bonus space doesn’t contain critical content.

By the same token, however, you definitely don’t want to ignore this change. Marketers who don’t take advantage of the new headline space will have their URL displayed in place of a third headline. This looks weird, of course, because the URL is already listed below the headline in Search ads. Take heed. Write new headlines.

 

  1. Smart Campaigns

Not every business has a marketing department. Not every business has a website. But almost every business can benefit from Google Ads in some way. Enter Google Smart Campaigns.

Smart Campaigns will be the default campaign type for new advertisers in Google Ads. Built on the same technology as Google’s other entry-level advertising solution, AdWords Express, Smart Campaigns are almost entirely automated. From messaging to delivery, Smart Campaigns attempt to provide a turnkey advertising management experience based on the product or service being advertised and the goal the advertiser sets (i.e. calls, visits, form submissions).

Like Mailchimp and others before it, Smart Campaigns also ventures into the world of turnkey landing pages. Designed to simplify the development process, these landing pages use machine learning to pull information about your offering directly from the ad, and match that information to your on-page creative. Because Google will host both the ad and the landing page, conversion tracking is built-in to the experience.

Sounds like a slam dunk, right? Well, it’s not quite that simple. All that convenience comes at a price. Sure, Smart Campaigns will get you up and running quickly. They’ll even take care of a lot of the technical work. But who’s manning the ship? How do you know if you’re getting the right clicks? How do you know if you’re paying too much? Google’s assumptions will probably get you results. They will definitely spend your money.

Interested in quickly testing landing page variations? Check out Google Optimize, a slightly more involved, but significantly more comprehensive solution. With just a bit of code, Google Optimize allows you to A/B test headlines, contact forms, and more. And what will all this testing get you? Higher conversion rates.

 

  1. Mobile Speed Score (It’s Not Just For SEO!)

First, let’s state the obvious: Page speed can have a dramatic impact on your conversion rate. After all, isn’t that why Google gave us PageSpeed Insights?

Sure, but wouldn’t it be nice to view that data without leaving the Google Ads platform? Now you can! Google recently announced the introduction of Mobile Landing Page Speed Score column on the Landing Pages page within Google Ads. This tool scores landing pages for speed on a ten-point scale.

What’s more? The tool takes ad performance into account when ascribing a score, and it does so based on a number of factors, including the relationship between page speed and the potential conversion rate.

So why does this matter? Previously, understanding a site’s speed required a tedious back-and-forth process: Read a report in analytics, look for benchmarks, make adjustments to the page, and see if your performance improves. Rinse and repeat. With Google’s Mobile Landing Page Speed Score, you can view your performance directly through Google Ads.

 

  1. Video and Video Advertising on the Rise 

Last year, TechCrunch reported that more than a billion hours of video are watched on YouTube every day. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Add to that the fact that 64 percent of users are more likely to buy a product online after watching a video and you’ve got a pretty convincing case to jump on the video bandwagon.

So it comes as no surprise that Google is expanding its TrueView YouTube advertising platform. What’s TrueView? You know those video ads that run before the videos you want to see? Those are TrueView in-stream ads. What about those video ads that show up in YouTube search results? Those are TrueView discovery ads.

Okay, so what’s changing? Last spring Google announced a new TrueView bidding strategy called TrueView for reach, which basically combines in-stream ads with a CPM bidding strategy (cost per thousand impressions). So why does that matter? CPM can be a more cost-efficient way to hit prospects with your video content. Also of note, Google is introducing a TrueView for action, which allows marketers to place headline and call-to-action overlays on their video content.

Also of note to video marketers, Google recently introduced a smart-bidding strategy called Maximize Lift. Powered by machine learning, Maximize Lift automatically adjusts bids to maximize the impact video ads have on brand perception throughout the consumer journey. The information on this is still a bit vague, but it sounds a bit like an automated bidding strategy designed to increase frequency among those viewers most likely to take action.

What does all this mean for marketers? Well, if you haven’t already considered how video can play into your marketing strategy, it’s probably time to do so.

 

  1. Lead Ads On YouTube

Ads drive website visits and website visits drive leads, right? Well, that’s one way to do it, but now there’s another way: Lead ads. Think about it this way: Simplify the lead generation process by relocating the contact form from a landing page to the site of the advertising impression. Then, tie in with the platform serving that impression—Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.—to simplify the fulfillment process via pre-populated forms.

While this may fly in the face of the traditional “get them to the website” thinking, anyone who’s run lead ads on Facebook or LinkedIn already knows that they can significantly increase lead capture rates. So it’s been a little baffling that Google didn’t have a comparable offering. Late to the party or not, Google is currently testing lead ads on YouTube, and a wider release is expected later this fall.

 

Done dabbling? If you’ve tried Google Ads but want to take your digital marketing to the next level, contact our team of digital marketing experts to get started today!

 

Akimbo — Zeroing in on Cost of Acquisition

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Akimbo Card is a prepaid debit card service developed for family budgeting. When Akimbo came to us, they were looking for strategy and creative that would not only improve app downloads and card activations but also maximize ad spend to the right audiences in order to lower cost of acquisition of new registrants. To solve this problem, we developed app, search, display and social ads targeting three unique audiences and tested for click-through rate, cost per click and cost per acquisition. With weekly campaign management, messaging revisions and audience adjustments, we were able to increase enrollments by more than 150% while lowering cost of acquisition by nearly 50%.

 “The Robot Creative team has been fantastic to work with. They iterate quickly to maximize your marketing budget, and have lowered our customer acquisition cost by nearly 50%,” said Houston Frost, Akimbo Senior VP of Corporate Development and Prepaid Products.

 

Where should I host my small business WordPress website?

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We work with a lot of small and medium-sized businesses on their websites. The most common platform we develop in is WordPress, and we are regularly asked “Do you do hosting?” and “Where should I host the website?” Here are a few of the more common questions and answers around website hosting.

Do I need something special to host a WordPress website?
A basic WordPress website doesn’t require any fancy configurations on the hosting side. In fact, almost every hosting environment is already able to host a WordPress site. The one thing that might be “off” by default and need to be turned “on” is the SQL Server, but most hosts already have this option baked in to even the most simplistic of plans.

Who should you use for WordPress hosting? Can I stay with my current host?
There are WordPress-specific hosts. The top three WordPress-specific hosts that we have worked with are WP Engine, Pressable and Lightningbase. All three of these companies specialize in hosting for WordPress. Large hosting companies such as Godaddy, Hostgator and Rackspace have added WordPress offerings, but they do not have the same focus as companies who specialize in WordPress. It is also possible to host on internal servers and dedicated servers. We prefer the companies that specialize in WordPress hosting because you get the benefit of their expertise.

What makes WordPress-specific hosts different?
Speed – These hosting companies have servers which are optimized for WordPress. WordPress is a great platform, but there can be some performance issues with slow loading speeds, which can be critical when considering Google’s increasing emphasis on speed in ranking for SEO. WordPress-specific hosts have the servers configured to combat slow load times.

Security – Because WordPress is the most widely used content management system, it is an easy target for attacks. Yes, your small business website could be the target of a hacking attempt. It happens all too often. These attacks are automated by robots which scan the internet looking for known vulnerabilities. You don’t have to make anyone mad for them to come after you. It’s completely impersonal and opportunistic. While they can’t always keep all the bad guys out, companies that specialize in WordPress hosting can help automatically apply WordPress updates and patches to ensure that you’re site is as safe as possible.

Tools – When you offer one product or service, it allows you to specialize. Many of the WordPress hosts offer a variety of useful tools. One example is a complimentary staging environment (which allows you to rapidly duplicate the website and work on a copy instead of the live site for large changes or updates). You can always set up a staging server and manually move a copy over, but the automation tools can be incredible time-savers.

Expertise – Many hosting companies attempt to differentiate on customer service, but that can be a challenge when every website is built with different technology. We have found that WordPress-specific hosts have the ability to help trouble shoot technical difficulties, even in the development of the site.

What if we have sophisticated hosting needs?
We have been impressed by the capabilities of the hosts we have worked with. Many have been able to accommodate unusual hosting needs and requests. Not all of the services will be listed on their marketing websites, so take advantage of their eager sales teams to ask questions and get help with their solutions and alternative suggestions.

We are here to help.
If you would like to discuss a new WordPress website or the redesign of an existing site, contact us today.

Four Tools to Help Flip the B2B Lead Generation Model

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In years past, the goal of the digital marketer was to drive web traffic. Prevailing wisdom taught us that an increase in traffic would lead to an increase in the number of contact form submissions. It was a passive strategy at its core: Build a campaign and wait for the leads to come rolling in. As Tom Petty aptly reminds us, however, the waiting is the hardest part.

But imagine if your web traffic visitors were real people walking into a retail store. Would you ignore them until they walked up to the counter? Of course not. You would approach them and offer your assistance. Today’s blog will look at four tools that give you the ability to approach your site visitors in the same way.

 

IP Tracking:

As the name implies, IP tracking tools examine the IP addresses of inbound web traffic to determine the owner of the visiting network. In other words, they tell you what companies are visiting your site. Sounds cool, right? We thought so too, and after we piloted IP tracking with one of our IT clients, we immediately saw its potential for lead generation across all B2B categories.

In addition to telling us which companies are visiting a site, IP tracking ties in with Google Analytics to identify the individual pages that a company viewed and how they got to those pages (ie. organic vs. specific paid campaigns). Armed with this information, our clients’ sales teams can now send personalized outreach emails to company decision makers about relevant products or services.

Ready to get started? We recommend an IP tracking solution called Leadfeeder.  While there are a number of platforms on the market, we like Leadfeeder for its easy setup, useful integrations and straightforward reporting.

 

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation sounds complicated, but it’s actually quite simple. Essentially, it is a process of simplifying tasks like social posts, emails, etc. For B2B clients, marketing automation can leverage a customer’s CRM to streamline email outreach through the CRM or integrations with third-party tools like MailChimp.

Combined with IP tracking and a little bit of research, marketing automation can open up some amazing possibilities. For example, you might create a series of emails that go out to decision makers at companies visiting your website. These emails can be tailored to the product or service that a particular company was investigating. Within these emails you might include a link to register for an upcoming webinar, download a case study or white paper, or connect with the sales team to schedule a one-on-one demo or consultation.

Marketing automation can also help you understand why visitors aren’t filling out a contact form. If a lead downloaded a free tool but hasn’t taken further action, you can send a series of tips and reminders about the benefits of the tool. This can help remind a lead to take the next action or get in touch if they have questions about how to use the tool.

At the end of the day, the goal of marketing automation is to move leads and contacts down the sales funnel toward a buying decision without taxing sales reps to do more outreach on luke-warm leads.

 

Live Chat

Live chat has evolved to become an increasingly useful tool in the B2B marketer’s playbook. In addition to giving site visitors the opportunity to ask questions without ever leaving their browser, today’s live chat solutions can be combined with inbound call/text campaigns that give potential customers the ability to communicate with you how and when they are most comfortable. Going a step further, many tools allow you to proactively start a conversation with site visitors, allowing you to initiate calls or emails, schedule demos and capture leads even faster.

Worried about after-hours staffing? Many live chat services allow you to turn your chat into a lead gen tool when your in-house team has logged out. There are outsourced service providers who offer an answering service to take messages, or the chat can be used to capture initial questions and prompt the site visitor to leave a message for future reply. Your inbound team will then be able to come in each morning and respond to leads that self-generated overnight.

 

Remarketing

In today’s over-saturated, multi-screen media environment, it’s difficult to break through to your target audience. But what if we focus on the ones that are already visiting your website? Remarketing allows you to tag site visitors, or visitors to a particular landing page, and then follow them around the web with digital display advertising.

If someone visits your website, looks at a few pages and then leaves without filling out a contact form, remarketing can help stick ads in front of them while they’re browsing other sites. Like the couch that follows you around the web after you looked at the IKEA site, you can remind these potential leads about your services, increasing the likelihood of return site traffic and contact form submission.

Focusing a portion of your advertising budget on potential customers that have previously visited your site results in higher conversion rates to lead capture, some studies showing a doubling effect.

 

There Is No Magic Bullet

It’s about building smart, layered, marketing campaigns to increase the delivery of relevant content to your target audience when they are in a buying mindset. Try a few of these ideas out and we promise, your sales team will thank you.

 

Want to learn more? Contact us today for a consultation on our outsourced marketing solutions for B2B businesses.

What It Really Means to Think “Mobile First”

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How many times have you looked at your phone today? Between quick glances, email, text messages, videos and checking in on social media, by the end of the day, you and every one of your customers spend nearly three and a half hours looking at your phones. [Inc]

We all know this shift to mobile is happening, and you’ve probably heard marketers use the phrase “mobile first” for a while now. But what does it ACTUALLY mean? Simply put, it means planning for mobile devices before desktops. But what is simple to say might require dramatic shifts in established marketing and design processes.

Here are some of the main changes your organization must make to remain relevant in the new “mobile first” world.

Speed is Everything

The first requirement in a mobile world is speed. Over the past several years, Google has been prioritizing mobile speed more and more when calculating search engine rankings. Analyzing mobile web traffic Google has found that 53% of mobile visitors will abandon a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load, yet the average mobile page load time for sites is an agonizing 22 seconds.

WordPress has come to dominate the Internet over the past few years, supporting more than 25% of the world’s websites. [Forbes] While WordPress is a great platform to build a website on, it can be slow out of the box. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to help increase your site’s page speed. An easy way to get started, regardless of your platform,  is to test your site with Google’s Page Speed Test. It will tell you exactly where to focus to improve your site speed.

If you are starting a new website, you might even look beyond WordPress. There are a myriad of new mobile frameworks designed to improve mobile speed and user experience like FICTOAN, Beauter, Vanilla framework, Bulma and more.

Not Your Grandma’s Brand

If you manage to pass the speed test, your audience will find you, but what is their first impression of your brand online?

Social media and digital advertising are constantly changing. Over the past few years Facebook has made several changes to how profile photos appear on posts. Just this year, they changed the cropping that shows on your brand’s page from the square crop to a smaller circular crop. For some brands this meant their logos were awkwardly chopped off.

Moving forward, businesses are going to continue to face new challenges as their logo appears on new and changing platforms. While it’s very customary to have horizontal and stacked versions of your logo, the mobile first version of logo design will require brands to keep sizes in mind that maintain their readability on small mobile devices, and in a variety of different shapes, such as circles, squares and rectangles.

Just as websites are built for responsive designs where elements rearrange and disappear depending on the size, it’s also time to embrace responsive logos. On a responsive logo with an icon, text and tag line, each of the elements would be present at large sizes, and then the proportions might change with the text and tag line even dropping off as the logo gets used in smaller and smaller spaces. Brands that have a compact logo mark that they can use with or without the type treatment currently have a leg up in the social landscape.

If you really want to take it to the next level, you can even make it dance. Many digital platforms are starting to support animated logos. These present new options to explore and accentuate your brand’s identity in ways that catch mobile viewer’s attention as they scroll and swipe their way through content.

The single color logo cut out of vinyl is a thing of the past. It’s time to rethink how your brand is making use of its real estate in the mobile and digital world.

Developing the Right Content

Speaking of tight real estate, emerging platforms continue to decrease character limits and add all types of new restrictions for brands operating on them. To stay relevant among these changing landscapes will require new approaches to creating your content and messaging.

Start by flipping the dynamic from designing for large format pieces first, to designing for smaller mobile areas. Historically, a company profile would be developed in a longer format (750 words or so) and then whittled down to (250 and 150 character versions). It’s a very different approach to intentionally try to limit content and then build it back up for different mediums.

When in doubt, keep things simple. Focus on the core of your message and then build on it as you expand into additional content areas. If you can communicate your core messaging it in less than 6 seconds, or within 40 characters you’ll know you’re on the right track.

Finally, to maximize your website’s search engine compatibility, you will also have to begin writing differently. The first step in writing for web is to do your keyword research and find out what your audience is searching for. Then you can make sure those keywords and phrases are imbedded into the language of your copy. You also need to make sure that text is “live” and not baked into images, and ensure that it’s written in a conversational tone to answer the types of questions your audience would ask a friend or colleague, such as: “Where’s the best place to get…?” or “How do I…?” Highlight the most meaningful information in your content (like products, prices and hours) for search engines and virtual assistants by using rich data markups, which are back end code to call out critical pieces of information to search engines.

Looking Forward

From a wider perspective, not much has actually changed about what information your audiences want and need, but the way that information is being delivered continues to change at ever an increasing pace.

Focusing on mobile first requires bite size content that most companies are not accustomed to, but it is easy to embrace by focusing on the core of your message and objectives.

Have questions about how to put mobile first in your marketing? Let us help>

Jumping In or Just Dipping Your Toe Into Digital?

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Are you ready to jump in or still wondering how to get started with digital advertising? Are you trying to evaluate whether it should be a more important focus in your marketing plan? With the incredible amount of data for targeting and reporting ROI, digital advertising is easily scalable to increase sales and generate new leads.

With so many mediums to run ads on, it is important to understand each medium and the benefits of going digital. Defined as any kind of marketing that is digitally displayed, common types include:

  • Social Ads
  • Desktop and Mobile Display Ads
  • Search Ads (Google, Yahoo/Bing)
  • Email Marketing
  • Interest-based Gmail Ads
  • Streaming Radio Ads
  • Video Advertising
  • In-Game & In-App Advertising
  • Influencer Marketing
  • SMS and OTT Messaging

No matter what platform, network or medium you choose, the benefits of digital advertising over traditional media are readily apparent.

1.    Audience Micro-Targeting

Go beyond geographic and demographic targeting. From interest-based targeting to placements on sites your audience likes to retargeting, audience segmenting options for digital advertising are truly powerful and unlike other forms of traditional advertising. If you want to reach graduates of UTSA who have pet frogs and drive Mini Coopers, we can probably do that.

2.    Sleuth-Like Tracking

If you can’t measure results of a campaign, how can you determine success? Using pixels, custom URLS and tracking codes, digital advertising can provide crystal-clear clarity into campaign ROI. No need to collect returned postcards or rely on the front desk to ask, “How did you hear about us?”

3.    Real-Time Updates

Unlike most forms of traditional advertising (i.e. direct mail, print, billboards), digital advertising allows for easier optimization over time and at a much lower cost. As you track performance, you can optimize campaigns by adjusting bids, testing new headline copy and updating ad placements. There is no need to wait for the next issue and no cost to “reprint vinyl.”

Setting Your Campaign Up For Success

Many of our clients own mid-sized businesses and don’t have unlimited advertising budgets. When every dollar counts, digital advertising proves to be more flexible, provides a better ROI and demonstrates more reliable tracking mechanisms than traditional mediums. Are you ready to try digital advertising? Let’s talk >

How is Your Brand Adapting to the Latest Facebook “Fake News” Changes?

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Did you notice a change this month in how your posts look on Facebook? If you typically adjust the copy and images on web links when you post to Facebook, and are noticing those options are no longer there, then you’ve been caught in the crossfire of Facebook’s war on fake news.

How it Used to Work
When you posted a link to your website on Facebook, you had an option to change the photos and text for the post if you didn’t like what popped up. Unfortunately people abused this feature leading to all sorts of misleading images and “click-bait” style headlines being attached to news articles and other content,. That is what we now know as Fake News.

How it Works Now
Now Facebook auto-generates the headline and copy from the web page or article, without the option to manually change them. However, that doesn’t mean your content strategy is dead. There are steps you can take to get current and work within Facebook’s new system.

What You Can Do
Facebook pulls the information for the posts you create much the same way that Google does when your site shows up in search results. And just like you can optimize your site for search engines, you can optimize the appearance of your links on social media.

There is code that can be added to the back end of your web site to tell Facebook (and other social platforms) which copy and image to use. This code can be preset for the entire website (for example, to pull the top image, or to pull the logo). Or it can be customized on each page, by specifying which image you would like used from a particular page or post (it could be the top image, one from a gallery or one further down the page).

The same kinds of options exist for the copy. You may want to pull in the page title or the headline or the subhead or the first paragraph. Or maybe you want to be able to specify it from page to page.

You have the control to do this, but it isn’t something that you will do through Facebook, it’s something that you will do by updating the code on your website.

Facebook is Just the Start
Facebook led the charge against fake news and they know its affecting legitimate businesses.

“By removing the ability to customize link metadata (i.e. headline, description, image) from all link sharing entry points on Facebook, we are eliminating a channel that has been abused to post false news. We also understand that many publishers have workflows that rely on overwriting link preview metadata to customize how their content appears to audiences on Facebook. We’re committed to a solution that supports them.”
-Facebook Developer Blog

But it’s only a matter of time until other social media platforms like LinkedIn or even Pinterest start putting in these types of restrictions to fight against the spread of fake news. So now’s the time to adjust your strategy . Don’t get caught with bad images and copy on your social links.

Not Sure if This Will Affect Your Business?

  • Do you promote content from your site such as blog posts, news articles or key pages?
  • Do you use paid social advertising to direct traffic to your website?
  • Do you have events that you share or promote via social media?
  • Do you have a social media strategy, or plan to build one in the future?
  • Do you use PR services that promote your company in the news?
  • Do you or any key members of your business write guest Op-Eds, blogs or other pieces of content for other sites?
  • Do other people or businesses regularly link to your website on social media?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then your business is going to be affected by these changes.

Need Help?
Whether you’re building a new website, or just managing your current one, you should always have a knowledgeable web partner. Firms which aren’t used to providing technical website updates might not know how to make the back end changes that you’ll need to stay up to date with this changing landscape, or how to give the level of control you need from page to page.

If you need any help with your website or social media marketing, please contact us for more information.

What Makes an Ideal Client?

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We recently did a check in and reset with one of our oldest clients. We wanted to make sure that we were being the best creative partner that we could be, and our amazing client responded by saying that they wanted to be the best customer as well. We valued the discussion that came out so much that we decided it was worth a blog post.

Passion

One of our core values is passion. We hire people who love what they do and who want to work on projects they are passionate about. We love to work with clients who are equally passionate about what they do. We want to see passion for the business, passion for the processes and passion about the results!

Clear Goals

We love it when our clients have clear goals for themselves, their business and for us. In the absence of goals, we are just making things look pretty. Marketing should be driven by clear goals and metrics, and we believe it is our responsibility to coach our clients through this process. Don’t we all want to be able to say these dollars have been well spent?

Deadlines

We have learned that deadlines keep everyone on task. When there is a deadline, we all stay on time, on budget and focused on the goals. When too much time passes, a project inevitably evolves, leading to change orders and rework (which can be costly and annoying for everyone involved). A client that can not only set deadlines, but meet them for their own deliverables as well, is an ideal customer.

Decent Budgets

We are not a freelance shop, and we don’t work with unpaid interns, so our pricing is directly related to our labor. I’m not going to say that we can’t get excited about some quick and dirty projects, but we are all passionate about what we do, so we sure do love to have the budget to be able to shine.

Timely Payment

We are NOT passionate about having to follow up for payment. In fact, we are pretty sure that a fairy dies every time we need to make a collection call. We work our butts off to hit deadlines and be incredibly responsive. The least a client can do to repay the energy and effort is to pay in a timely manner.

Ability to Make Decisions

This requires either direct access to the decision maker or empowerment of the internal team to move projects forward. Nothing is more painful than seeing an annual plan finally get approved six months into the fiscal year!

Direct Communication

We love direct communication, and it really helps when the client’s internal teams operate with a similar culture. Our whole team is trained to welcome feedback with open arms, so it kills us when people tip toe around. We are not sensitive. Go ahead and blurt it out. Ask the questions. Even if you need to tell us you think something is crap. We promise to do the same.

Collaboration

This is another one of our core values. Openness, honesty and transparency are all critical to us. We want to work with clients who respect our opinions, view us as partners and are willing to engage in healthy dialog.

Respect for Our Business

We are running as business here as well. It seems strange that such a point should need to be acknowledged, but it does. We are all out to deliver a product or service we believe in, but we want to pay our employees well and make a good living. Just as our clients work towards a profit margin, we should be entitled to the same.

Open to Creative Exploration

Creativity is more of a process than a destination. It really helps when clients feel comfortable taking creative leaps and allow us to explore different conceptual directions. This creative trust expands naturally as our client relationships evolve, but it helps to start out with a certain amount of it in the beginning.

Realistic Expectations

Every once in a while, someone comes along who expects us to have a bat phone with a designer, copywriter and developer waiting for their incoming calls. We are fortunate to have enough work that we don’t have people sitting idle. We do production schedules a week in advance, but always allot time for urgent client needs. A client who can respect the concept of a first-in, first-out production schedule for non-emergencies is most appreciated.

Say Thank You

Never underestimate the power of a simple thank you. We do great work for a variety of different personalities, and we know when they are happy. But it’s amazing how great a genuine thank you feels. (The very best thank you might come with cookies.)

Interested in learning more about what makes us tick? Visit the about section of our website to learn more about who we are and how we work.

Measure Ad Performance with the Right Metrics

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Metrics_eblastHow do you know if your advertising is working?

Determining the effectiveness of your advertising can be tricky. Advertising reports typically focus on reach and impressions, but do these numbers actually mean anything for your business? Does your advertising address your business goals?

Determine your business goals first

Having a large number of impressions can be great if your goal is to generate awareness. Let’s say, however, that you want to grow your sales. Measuring impressions is like counting how many people walk by your store, whether or not they come in and purchase anything.

In order to measure the effectiveness of your advertising, you have to first define your business goals. Your business goals can span from gaining new customers to upselling existing customers to educating about a cause. Once you have clear goals, then you can find the best tracking method.

Start tracking

No matter your ad spend or method of advertising, you can implement some form of tracking to measure results.

Digital advertising offers infinite methods of tracking, from simple Google Analytics tools to more complex, customizable options. These analytics allow you to see what happens beyond the click – including how long visitors stay on your site, how many pages they view and whether they submit a contact form. You can track these results back to the individual ad or ad platform.

If you are using more traditional advertising methods, consider using tactics such as redeemable coupons or unique tracking phone numbers.

At the very least, keep a post-it note handy and tally up every time someone mentions your ad. Most CRM (customer resource management) software allows you to track sales or customers back to your advertising. This might mean that you have to train your staff to ask every customer how they heard about your company, but this will help you find out which forms of advertising are working.

Compare your results to your expenses

The last piece of this puzzle is the tracking of your expenses. Don’t throw everything into one general advertising budget. Itemize your advertising spend for every activity using a CRM software or by working with your accounting office. You can’t fully evaluate your ad performance if you don’t take your spend into account.

Review your results!

All of this work amounts to nothing if you don’t review the results on a regular basis. Evaluating these numbers monthly, quarterly or annually will help you make more educated decisions on where to invest your advertising dollars. Plan to make changes and optimize your approach with the ads and platforms that are performing best.

Ready to leave impressions behind and start focusing on the metrics that show results?

At Robot Creative, we understand the importance of advertising for results. Our team will help you identify the metrics that make sense for your business. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation today.

Can Anyone Hear You on Facebook Anymore?

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Facebook_eblastFacebook pages for businesses just became websites.

That’s right. Facebook used to be a great way to be seen. Getting large numbers of page likes once meant that anything you posted would be seen. Facebook was great for business.

However, Facebook changed its visibility algorithm.  Now, whether your page has 10 likes or 10,000 likes, very few people will ever see any of your posts or updates. Users will not see updates from businesses unless they turn notifications on for them (which is hard for a casual user to find and must be done for each individual page that a user chooses to follow).

If you don’t want your Facebook page to become obsolete, here are a few ways to gain some of your reach back.

Buy your reach.

While posts are out, ads are in. Advertising on Facebook allows you to buy back that reach you lost when Facebook changed its policies. Facebook ads allow you to:

  • Promote your page’s social posts.
  • Target people based on their behaviors, likes and demographics.
  • Advertise to people who are similar to your current followers.
  • Advertise affordably. Throw $50 at it – you’ll be surprised how far that goes.

Find your cheerleaders.

These are your super-fans, the ones who love your business so much that they can’t help but talk about it. They’ve already noticed that your page has disappeared from their newsfeeds and have chosen to receive notifications from your page. Find ways to get them to share your content and to encourage their friends to do the same.

Make them come back.

Give your followers a reason to check your page regularly, whether they turn on their notifications or not.  Post contests, coupons, offers and event details to your Facebook page. Come up with something compelling, useful and beneficial to keep them coming back for more.

Become your business’ ambassador.

Facebook’s algorithm prevents businesses from appearing in newsfeeds, but people’s updates have not disappeared. You and your employees can share your business page, news, press releases and updates from your personal pages. You could even post in groups for more specialized targeting.

Turn it into a customer service hub.

Encourage activity on your Facebook page by turning it into a customer service support center.  Ask for people to check in and leave reviews so you can engage with them. Your reach will grow by getting people to your page to submit reviews.

Use your physical space and other media to drive traffic to your Facebook page.

Direct customers to your Facebook page using in-store advertising and signage, links from your company website or other online advertising. All roads to your Facebook page are good roads to your Facebook page.

Get endorsements.

Your new viewers can come from other pages’ viewers. News outlets, partners, vendors, non-profits and organizations can share their reach with you – all you have to do is have them share your posts or mention you in a post (with a link to your page). If they have super-fans, their fans could easily become yours.

Facebook pages for businesses might not be what they once were, but that doesn’t mean that they are obsolete or useless. They can be quite helpful as a part of your overall marketing strategy. As Facebook evolves and changes, so must our strategies.

Need help with your advertising and marketing strategies?

Learn more about our advertising and marketing services and contact us for a consultation today.

Why We Love WordPress

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welovewordpress_graphicChoosing a content management system (CMS) to help manage, maintain and update a website is one of the most important decisions to make when building a new website. Content management systems exist to make managing a website easier than ever before. However, the wrong CMS can cause difficulties when editing content or updating plugins, be challenging and costly for non-developers to learn, become expensive over time and have limited functionality and community support.

Navigating through these many content management systems can be time consuming and confusing, so we’ve done the research for you. For us, the clear winner is WordPress, and here’s why we love it.

It’s Widely Used

WordPress is currently the most popular website platform in the world, comprising 49.6% of existing websites and 60% of all CMS’ as of January 2015. As the most popular content management system, support and resources are widely available and easy to find. You won’t get locked into a proprietary system or stuck with a website that only a small handful of developers know how to update as you move forward.

It’s User Friendly

Originally designed as a blogging software that even the most novice user could get set up and running easily on their own, WordPress makes managing a website easy for any non-developer with little or no training. WordPress websites provide clients with the ability to do everything from making simple content updates to building advanced page layouts, all in an easily digestible framework. Where some content management systems require either backend development experience or significant training, we find most users can be up and running on WordPress with under an hour of training.

It’s Flexible

Out of the box, WordPress allows us to develop powerful custom designs (WordPress call these “themes”) and advanced page layouts. It’s surprising to find that many content management systems are still limited in their layout possibilities. If there’s a need for additional functionality (galleries, forms, lead capture, custom menus, menus and more), an existing solution can typically be found. When a custom solution is called for, it can easily be worked into the WordPress framework.

It’s Cost Effective

WordPress is free! That’s right, there are no initial costs and no ongoing licensing costs for the platform itself. While we do find that using a specialized WordPress host can help with performance and maintenance of the site, a WordPress website can be hosted on most standard hosting platforms. The widespread usage of WordPress has led to lots of competition from vendors and supporting resources, making it very cost effective to maintain.

It’s Mobile and Google Friendly

While many proprietary systems are still struggling with updating their technology to work with the latest responsive frameworks, WordPress is already mobile-ready and search engine friendly. With Google recently updating their search algorithm to rank mobile-ready sites higher than other sites, having a mobile-ready website is of the utmost importance for any company.

Choose Robot for your WordPress website

At Robot Creative, we understand that an established web presence is vital to the future of any business. Our team has extensive experience planning, designing and building WordPress (and non-WordPress!) websites that work with our clients’ goals and marketing initiatives.

We offer a wide range of responsive design options that will help your business stay ahead of changing technologies and ensure the longevity and scalability of your website into the future. If you’re interested in developing a new website with WordPress, or updating your current site to use WordPress, please contact us by sending a project request.

When your brand speaks, what does it say?

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Your brand is like your business’ personality. You may have created it yourself, you may have hired a branding company to develop it, or perhaps it has evolved unintentionally. However it was developed, this is your brand.

If you aren’t managing your brand, it may begin to communicate information you didn’t anticipate or don’t want. These “brand fibs” can take on many forms – some are subtle and some are more obvious. The following are common brand missteps to look for and avoid.

Aren’t you a bit underdressed?
The foundation of a company revolves around its mission statement and business goals – it’s at the core of why you’re in business in the first place. All your branding decisions should be in alignment with these goals. By veering away from who you’ve said you are and what you are about, you’ve just broken your promise to your customer. Let’s say, for example, you are a high-end custom home builder. You’ve done a good job of creating an office and work environment that echoes luxury. Your products and services are superior to your competitors, and your target audience has a high level of education and income. If your branding communicates a less-than-average quality and speaks at a level lower than that of your audience, disconnection occurs. This affects the perceived value of your offering and how much your potential customers are willing to pay for it.

What’s with the shifty behavior?
This is probably the most common mistake made by small businesses. Using and applying your brand to all your marketing materials, business cards, stationery items, website, etc. should be done with consistency. The regular visual and verbal reinforcement of your brand leads to higher recognition and memorability for your company. By changing up brand elements on various mediums, you can dilute your overall brand and lose out on potential customers knowing who you are and what you’re about. For example, if your branding colors are Pantone shades of blue and gray, don’t let John in accounting change his business card to deep purple and yellow because those are the colors of his college alma mater. Even more subtle variances in things, like inconsistent use of font selections, can chip away at the strength a consistent brand can communicate to your audience. This shifty brand behavior also affects the perception of trust from your customers – they’re not sure what to expect if your brand is all over the place.

1997 called and wants its color palette back.
An issue can arise if what you are communicating with your brand is not as applicable as it used to be. Industries are constantly evolving and moving forward and your brand needs to move with it. Let’s say you started your dot com company in the 1990s and haven’t made any updates to your overall branding since. Does your brochure or website have phrases like “Surfing the world wide web” and “The information super highway”? Are there dial-up modems in photos, and a high concentration of beveled buttons with drop-shadows? You get the idea. If you aren’t moving with your industry, your industry (and competition) are leaving you behind.

So is all of this really that big of a deal?

Will I go out of business if I use a different shade of orange on my website than on my brochures or if I use Comic Sans on my letterhead? Maybe not, but in an increasingly competitive market, you will probably lose ground (and business) with your competition that has a similar, clearly branded offering. In addition, some brand missteps will affect customer perception more than others, but continued and cumulative veering from your brand can cause lasting and sometimes permanent damage to your overall company image.

Brand Audits and How They Work

At Robot, one way we evaluate a company’s brand alignment is to perform a brand audit. It’s an exercise we use to inform whether your brand needs some minor tweaking or a complete overhaul.

Our full brand audit package starts with target audience profiling and user perception surveys. The results confirm who you’re selling to and what your current brand is communicating. Along with this information, we review all your marketing materials (both visual and messaging) to determine where there may be alignment issues with your brand. Finally, we provide recommendations on what materials are working for your brand – and which ones are not working and in need of a refresh. More times than not, companies have a solid brand base to work from and just need some guidance or rework on a few pieces of collateral.

Maintaining a consistent brand is hard work. Sometimes it’s very obvious to a company/owner that their brand is not working together or is not quite aligned with the business and mission goals. They’re just not sure how to get back on course or fix it. In other instances, you may not even realize what your brand is communicating with your marketing efforts. Remember, your brand is always talking. Every touchpoint factors into the perception of your company.

If you suspect your brand has alignment conflicts, contact Robot for a brand audit to make sure your brand is saying what you want it to and need it to say!

Learn more about how Robot can help with branding >>

Does your website work on a phone? Your Google rankings may have just fallen.

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RobotNews_May2015_Graphics_On April 21, 2015, Google announced that it would boost the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on search results. With this update, Google recognizes that a growing number of mobile users need web content that adapts to mobile devices. As a result, Google has begun to exclude non-mobile-friendly web pages from mobile search engine results.

What options do you have?

 1. Do nothing: Make no adjustments to your current website
Taking no immediate action is an option, but it may be a risky long-term decision. Many companies have already upgraded to mobile-friendly websites, and others that continue to make adjustments will climb the ranks of Google’s mobile search results. If you do nothing to upgrade your website, keep a close eye on your site’s rankings and analytics to ensure you aren’t losing your edge in the marketplace.

2. Add some mobility: Create a separate mobile website for your mobile audience
Mobile websites offer an alternate version of your site that is tailored to the needs of your mobile audience. These websites are usually limited to a few important, minimally designed pages. Mobile websites typically exist independently of the full website, only loading when a user views the site from a mobile device. This option makes it possible to have a useful and reliable mobile-friendly presence, although it does have a downside: the maintenance of two separate websites can be daunting, especially when it comes to frequent content updates and additions.

3. Adapt to mobile and beyond: Update your existing website to a responsive design
As mobile usage continues to grow and exceed traditional PC usage, there are many benefits to owning a responsive website. Having a responsive site allows you to meet your audiences’ technological needs, while permitting users to experience your website content and features in an ideal format. With the creation of new mobile gadgets (smart watches, multi-use tablets, touch screen car computer displays), Google is expected to release further updates to their search-results algorithm. A responsive website will be able to easily adapt to these new devices as they gain popularity.

Does your website meet the requirements?
Click this link to check if your company website passes the Google Mobile-Friendly Test.

At Robot Creative, we understand that an established web presence is vital to the future of any business. Our team has extensive experience planning, designing and building mobile-friendly websites that work with our client’s goals and marketing initiatives. From custom designs to mobile sites, we offer a wide range of responsive design options that will help your business stay ahead of changing technologies and ensure the longevity and scalability of your website into the future.

 

Robot Interactive’s 10 Must-Reads – May 2015

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  1. Your internet is getting an update. Faster page loads. Smaller footprint. More Secure.
  2. Google Glass now has a competitor. If you don’t get a pair, we’ll still think you’re smart.
  3. Bringing laughter to your day.
  4. If you’re not prototyping, you’re doing it wrong.
  5. 10K video is just around the corner here.
  6. Interesting read for future developers.
  7. Here are some web design trends to look out for in 2015.
  8. Where is the fold in terms of responsive design? Well, its complicated.
  9. Here is a strategy for streamlining Web Font Loading.
  10. Curious what grid Microsoft uses for their site? Look no further.

Responsive Emails – Adapting to Your Mobile Audience

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Responsive_emailby CJ Wolfe

Once upon a time, email was predominately a desktop experience. With mobile devices becoming the standard choice for retrieving online information, it would be wise to assume that traditional email will also evolve.

So where does email fit into the ever-growing portable online presence? Consider these eye-opening statistics:

  • 48% of total email opens occurred on a mobile phone or tablet in Q2 2014 (Experian’s Quarterly Email Benchmarking Report)
  • 30% of consumers now read their email exclusively on mobile devices (Yesmail “Email Compass: The Mobile Effect”, 2013)
  • Mobile email opens have grown by 180% in three years (Campaign Monitor, Email Interaction Across Mobile and Desktop (Q1 2014)
  • Checking email has become a key part of mobile device users’ daily routine. In fact, 91% of consumers check their email at least once per day on their smartphones, making it the most used functionality (ExactTarget Mobile Behavior Report, 2014).
  • Check out more stats and a great infographic>>

As email tools and applications continue adapting to our existing online universe, the types of content they can interpret and decipher is always expanding. One method that has caught traction in the past few years when it comes to company email marketing is the implementation of responsive emails.

What’s a Responsive Email?

Like responsive websites, responsive emails adapt to the devices that they are viewed on – with the goal of providing users with a less cluttered and more ideal online experience.

Attributes of a responsive email include:

  • Layouts that can change from multi-column to single-column on the fly
  • Font sizes that change depending on the size of the screen
  • Elements that can be hidden or shown depending on the platform on which the email is viewed (image-based buttons, for example)
  • Bigger buttons that are farther apart, making larger “tap targets”

 

With recent statistics, it’s safe to conclude that incorporating the usage of responsive emails is no longer optional. Many email marketers state that they are using responsive design in company materials to meet their clients growing mobile needs.

Is it time you started using responsive emails to communicate with your growing mobile audience?

Responsive Logos – a Study in Scalability and Branding

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by Andrew Watson

A recent project by London based designer Joe Harrison, shows an experiment with the logos of some major brands and how they might adapt to a responsive environment. Responsive web design has gained a lot of traction in the past few years to address the widespread use of mobile devices and tablets that require information to be viewed in a different way than a traditional computer monitor – at smaller sizes, different aspect ratios and flexible orientations.

Most designers create stacked and horizontal versions of a company’s logo to accommodate different uses. This project is fascinating because it shows how a logo can scale in response to a device while proving that a solid brand is recognizable even in it’s simplest form.

Visit the site http://responsivelogos.co.uk and drag your browser window left to right to see how these logos scale. I love it when you get to the smallest version and it’s just the logo mark and color. The brand still comes through – super cool!

How would your logo respond?

It’s Not Social Media – It’s Social Advertising

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Social_results

Social Advertising is Rapidly Expanding and Evolving
All of the social mediums are rapidly expanding their advertising offerings. The start-up goal of most mediums to expand a user base and deliver a solid experience has now evolved into a market that is trying to monetize itself. Advertising is the vehicle that social media sites are using to pay back their investors. That’s great news for marketers and businesses.

You don’t need to have a social presence to advertise!
That’s right, you don’t need to have an engaging twitter account or manage a Facebook page to be using social media as an advertising platform. Ads that show in your target customers’ news feeds can link back to your website or to other locations. There’s no need to maintain a dynamic social presence for an ad to be effective. If that’s holding you back – think again.

The Major Mediums at a Glance
Facebook has the longest-standing, and most robust social advertising platform. It has great targeting options and fantastic analytics. Their platform is so intense that they have even created an “advanced advertising” offering, which includes look-alike audience profiling and re-marketing, among other things.

LinkedIn and Twitter have offered the ability to pay to promote posts / tweets for some time. Twitter is taking it to new levels. They recently launched a robust set of additions to their offerings which include: more sophisticated audience management (including look-alike targeting), graphic buttons which encourage click throughs (buy now or learn more), and twitter cards, which can include rich media to give tweets more impact.

Instagram and Pinterest have been running pilot programs with large advertisers, and both tease marketers with holding pages.

Excellent Targeting
Each medium has its own strengths in terms of targeting. Facebook has robust demographics and geo-targeting, but the ability to target based on interests and other liked pages offers deeper psychographic targeting than most list service companies have even been able to provide.

LinkedIn’s combination of geo-targeting + industry + job title allows precise targeting of professionals that is invaluable to B2Bs. We are finding an ability to reach specific groups that we have never been able to target effectively through print or other mediums. The closest opportunities in the past have been trade shows or other trade publications, and the costs of social ads are minuscule in comparison.

Minimal Costs for Serious Reach
Which brings us to the price, which cannot be beat. We have reached 20,000 with $20 on some accounts. We have seen the dramatic reach that can be achieved, so a common recommendation of ours is to “throw $100 at it” and see what happens. These results are not unusual for social advertising…for now.

Not Likely to Last
Which brings us to the sad reality that these prices are not likely to last. The marketplace is immature. It can be compared to the early days of AdWords. As businesses and advertisers gradually tested and moved budgets over to the AdWords platform, there was a period of a few years where the ROI on AdWords was just incredible for many advertisers. The market has since matured, the major players have all established their footing and those deals are hard to come by. As marketers make a mad dash to get their customers set up with social advertising, there will be a fleeting period during which some businesses could really get incredible results at rock bottom prices.

Interested in learning more about what social media can do for you?
Contact Robot Creative for more information.

LegalPRO Software Branding, Collateral and Website Development

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IGN_websiteBRP_websiteLegalPRO develops, sells and supports legal software products. To support the growth of LegalPRO’s most popular product, BankruptcyPRO, and to assist cross-promotion efforts for other products, Robot developed a cohesive suite of brands, brochures, tradeshow materials and integrated websites for the parent company and its products.

Websites for BankruptcyPRO and I-Got-Notices, two software products, were part of an all-encompasing brand overhaul for LegalPRO in which the spirit, energy, and accessibility of a small team were captured through an updated website and accompanying collateral materials.

LegalPRO’s “big enough, but not too big” size and flexibility were the key messages communicated through team highlights, approachable language and selective use of hand-drawn graphics to emphasize the approachable nature of the LegalPRO team.

Robot also created a company overview brochure that carries across the same style of imagery and the message of individualized service. The LegalPRO team is a big focus in the brochure and is introduced with a fun, personable approach, representative of the company brand. Illustrated headshot photos with brief personal bios provide a snapshot of each individual’s personality.

LegalPRO’s company culture and attentive customer service set them apart from the industry. The new branding and sales tools highlight these key differentiators and provide end users with a company overview that is in-line with its approachable attitude and personalized service.  

Cultivating Interest and Sales for Hunting in a Farmer's World

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HIAFW_bookBusiness advisor and author John F. Dini released Hunting in a Farmer’s World in 2013 to the acclaim of critics and business owners nationwide. With its unique insight into the minds of entrepreneurs, the ground-breaking business book has received numerous awards and top reviews from some of the nation’s greatest business authors and experts.

Robot Creative contributed to the brand development and launch of the book, producing the book’s cover design, graphic illustrations used throughout the interior pages, a responsive website design with a lead capture strategy and a social media approach that includes community development and paid social advertising.

The website promotes the book and, through social media integration, builds a community of “hunters”. The site’s features include:

  • A lead capture strategy
  • An interactive quiz for users to gauge where they fall on the farmer/hunter spectrum (and share their results via social media)
  • Story sharing for the hunter community – users can share their own stories and read about the experiences of their peers
  • Incredible testimonials from respected business leaders like Seth Godin, Marty Zwelling and Gino Wickman
  • Excerpts from the book

Hunting in a Farmer’s World has proven to resonate deeply with entrepreneurs. Robot’s marketing and promotional efforts aim to capture that enthusiasm, transform readers into loyal members of the “hunting community” and encourage them to share the book with others.

 

 

Cultivating Interest and Sales for Hunting in a Farmer’s World

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HIAFW_bookBusiness advisor and author John F. Dini released Hunting in a Farmer’s World in 2013 to the acclaim of critics and business owners nationwide. With its unique insight into the minds of entrepreneurs, the ground-breaking business book has received numerous awards and top reviews from some of the nation’s greatest business authors and experts.

Robot Creative contributed to the brand development and launch of the book, producing the book’s cover design, graphic illustrations used throughout the interior pages, a responsive website design with a lead capture strategy and a social media approach that includes community development and paid social advertising.

The website promotes the book and, through social media integration, builds a community of “hunters”. The site’s features include:

  • A lead capture strategy
  • An interactive quiz for users to gauge where they fall on the farmer/hunter spectrum (and share their results via social media)
  • Story sharing for the hunter community – users can share their own stories and read about the experiences of their peers
  • Incredible testimonials from respected business leaders like Seth Godin, Marty Zwelling and Gino Wickman
  • Excerpts from the book

Hunting in a Farmer’s World has proven to resonate deeply with entrepreneurs. Robot’s marketing and promotional efforts aim to capture that enthusiasm, transform readers into loyal members of the “hunting community” and encourage them to share the book with others.

 

 

Travis Commercial Real Estate Brand and Website Update

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TC_LOGOTravis Commercial Real Estate Services, a leading commercial real estate company in San Antonio, wanted to refresh their overall brand and website.

The goal of the rebrand was to slowly transition, rather than radically reinvent the logo, mindful of the investment required to apply the brand across signage throughout the city.

Logo and Stationery
travis_stationeryWhile maintaining the original mark and overall type arrangement, Robot updated the typography of the logo and replaced a drab khaki with a brighter, fresher shade of green. A bold pattern was added to a new stationery package, and a secondary color palette was developed.

Website Updates
The updated logo and color palette are pulled into the design of the new website, along with refreshed content and new photography. Technical upgrades to the website included:

  • Integration with third-party property search tools, allowing for automated refreshing of current property listings
  • Responsive design, allowing users to access the site using mobile devices and tablets
  • An easy-to-use content management system, making it possible for Travis Commercial to update copy and photos throughout the site

travis-responsive

 

Branding Goes Through The Roof

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Roof Monitor™, a revolutionary product for the roofing industry, reached out to Robot Creative to create a cohesive, memorable brand and marketing approach for their product launch.

Brand Strategy
As a new technology, one of the main goals of the product launch was education. It was critical for Roof Monitor’s target market to quickly understand the product and its benefits. A straightforward and memorable name combined with a descriptive tagline immediately convey the message behind the product and its purpose. Robot reinforced the distinctive color and shape of the Roof Monitor sensors in every aspect of the design for the brand, from the logo to the illustrations to the infographics used in collateral materials.

Website and Social Media
Robot developed a responsive website to tell the Roof Monitor story that seamlessly transitions from a desktop computer to a tablet or other mobile device. Additionally, Robot established a foundation for Roof Monitor’s online social media platforms, including strategy, graphics and initial post design for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Product Launch
The product launch coincided with a major industry trade show. Robot Creative provided event strategy, designed graphics for a 20’x20′ island exhibit and developed related collateral materials.  Specialty invitations enticed industry leaders to an exclusive preview dinner, and social media countdowns created buzz leading up to the event. A feature article was timed for release in one of the industry’s most prominent trade publications in the weeks following the launch event.

Don’t Be A 5-Second Site: How To Write For The Web

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Upcoming Marketing Mastery Series Presentation for the American Marketing Association (AMA) San Antonio Chapter
Presented by Brittany Tradup
Marketing Director, Robot Creative

How much time do you really spend reading a single web page? Odds are, you haven’t read one in years. If you are like most users, you probably scan a web page in 30 seconds or less with a purpose, looking for specific content. If you don’t find it quickly, you move on. Reading on a screen or monitor is very different from reading a printed piece, so web writing needs to be approached differently.

  • Write real website content that will engage users and get them to take action
  • Review best practices for search-engine friendly content to get users to your site
  • Understand what customers want from your site and make it easy for them to find what they need

DATE: Thursday, February 6th, 2014
TIME: 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
LOCATION:
TriPoint – Meeting Room 1
3233 N St Mary’s St
San Antonio, TX 78212
Register Now

COST*
AMA Members – $15 (with member-only promo code)
AMA Nonmembers/Guests – $20
AMA Student Members – $15 (with member-only promo code)

Walk-ins accepted on a first-come/first serve basis. Additional $5 at the door. VISA, MasterCard and American Express accepted.

* Attendees registering as members are subject to verification. All memberships must be current and in good standing, or will be subject to the non-member fee. Late Cancellation and No-Show Policy in effect.

RSVP by Monday, February 3rd, 5 p.m.

Top 5 Google AdWords Mistakes

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Anyone can be up and running with Google AdWords in just a few minutes. Let’s face it though – what makes it super cool, also makes it dangerous! After reviewing dozens of accounts, we’ve identified 5 common mistakes that businesses make when setting up their AdWords campaigns. These mistakes can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars a month and/or result in lost click opportunities.

Not Taking Advantage of Targeting Options
Google very cleverly provides a system of account organization that makes it possible for businesses to create targeted campaigns and allocate budgets. More than half of the accounts we’ve reviewed, however, have only one campaign with one ad group and one ad variation that shows up for all keywords and links to the company’s homepage. Businesses are using a blanket approach instead of considering how an ad will specifically address what a user is searching for. Users are more likely to click on an ad if it contains their search phrase, so you should create ad groups that group similar search phrases and link to specific pages on your site related to those search phrases – not to your homepage.

Arbitrary Budgeting
With no more strategy than, “This is what I think we can afford,” a business will arbitrarily set a daily budget, not taking into account what the campaign requires to be successful. With this approach, campaigns may shut off after just a couple of clicks a day and will quickly be deemed unsuccessful. A more strategic approach involves understanding the search popularity of keywords along with the expected cost per click for a geographic area and setting click goals based on your conversion rate. You should also look at AdWords as a part of your overall media budget and make adjustments based on the ROI of each initiative. You may find that AdWords gets a much better return than other media and deserves a much higher percentage of your budget.

Falling for the Default
Google wants you to get clicks – that’s how they make money. Most of the default settings in AdWords are designed to be broad reaching, such as Display Network and broad match keyword matching. If you aren’t careful, your budget can max out quickly on irrelevant clicks that just result in a high cost per conversion. Because most small businesses work with a limited budget, the concern should be quality over quantity of clicks. We usually recommend a conservative approach in the beginning with very targeted settings that you can open up as you evaluate the success of the campaign.

Lack of Tracking
While many businesses that try Google AdWords have Google Analytics installed on their websites, they often don’t have the two accounts linked. This is a simple step – as long as both are set up under the same Google account. The importance of this step shouldn’t be overlooked because it allows distinction between paid and unpaid Google search traffic. Analytics show detailed traffic information (including average time on site, bounce rates and average page views) on a campaign level, an ad variation level and a keyword level, so the performance of AdWords ads should never be in question! More importantly than site analytics, you should also have a method for tracking your sales and customer contact from AdWords ads – even if it’s just tick-marks on a notepad when you ask, “How did you hear about us?”. Set a baseline before you start, and review results on a regular basis, so you can measure the return on your AdWords investment.

Set It and Forget It
This is probably the single most critical mistake a business can make with any advertising initiative, but especially one that is so easy to review and adjust. The keywords you select, the ads you write, the settings you apply, the cost-per-click bids you set, the competition and countless other factors are all subject to regular evaluation and changes. Because every one of these factors is easily trackable, you should review your account on a regular basis, at least monthly in the beginning. Look at it as a fine-tuning process that has the potential to get big results.

Google AdWords is a powerful small business marketing tool that can be deceptively simple to set up right “out of the box”. If you really want to harness its power, approach your campaigns strategically and take the time to get to know the system. It will pay off with highly effective advertising that gets results.

Beginner’s Verse for Search Engine Marketing

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This is Part I of ROBOT’s “Search Engine Folklore: Two Tales of Fact and Fiction”.

begginers
Myths, legends and lies abound in the Land of Search Engine Marketing. Some of these stories are true (FACTs), but many are false (FICTION). We’ve compiled the most common tales to help set the record straight.

Designed for the apprentice seeking basic information on search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click advertising, “Beginner’s Verse” is a collection of short stories will enlighten readers with answers to frequently asked questions. Read “Master’s Manual” for more advanced topics.

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Fiction: There is a formula to getting ranked on search engines.

There is no set formula to SEO that everyone knows about. Every search engine competes to be the best search engine for users, so each has a unique method for ranking – and they don’t publish it. Just remember that if a method was published everyone would do it. Marketing companies are always trying to figure out what search engines are up to, and there are some widely accepted best practices. But don’t buy into any tales involving the ONE RIGHT WAY unless it’s published by search engines directly.

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Fiction: Hiring an SEO company will guarantee a #1 ranking.

For organic searches, no legitimate company is going to guarantee placement for a competitive keyword. If your name or product name is unique, you can probably expect to rank for those. For general and competitive search terms, however, you are going to be up against a lot of competitors who are making many of the same efforts. Make sure the company you work with has the right keyword goals in mind. Shooting to rank for slightly less competitive keywords can be a great way to get results. For paid search results, it’s an open market, so if you are willing to pay for it, you can get in the top position for any keyword.

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Fiction: SEO is all about putting the right keywords in your site.

While you should certainly consider the keywords and search phrases for which you would like to be found, search engines don’t put much trust in keywords alone anymore. They want to see that you are providing the information for which users are searching. Your site’s navigation, headlines, internal links and other factors help search engines determine the hierarchy of the information on your site and to understand what your site is about. If your information is clear, addressing what users are looking for, keywords will naturally be included in prominent places.

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Fact: Website changes are necessary to improve your rankings.

Search Engine Optimization is, at its core, “optimizing” your website to make it search engine-friendly. While there are a number of off-site factors that can affect your search engine rankings (such as incoming links and competition), most websites require changes. These can be as simple as increasing keyword concentration in content or as extensive as restructuring navigation and rewriting content.

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Fiction: Results are immediate.

While this statement is true for pay per click campaigns (once you setup your account, your ad will show up almost immediately), the statement is NOT true for organic search engine results. Search engines regularly crawl through the web, indexing sites as they go. It may take as long as 30-60 days before search engines find and update your rankings, and your positions may fluctuate drastically for a few more months before they level off.

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Fact: Search Engine Marketing requires regular, ongoing maintenance.

Organic search engine optimization and pay per click search advertising campaigns both require ongoing attention in order to get continued results. On the organic side, search engines are finding new sites everyday, and they are also regularly improving their methods for ranking websites. With sponsored search or pay per click campaigns, your competitors are constantly adjusting their bids to improve their ad positions. A sustained effort by someone who follows the latest trends, monitors your progress and makes necessary recommendations and adjustments can keep you ahead of the curve.

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Fact: You will need to hand off access to your accounts if you work with an outside marketing company.

Every search engine marketing company works differently. Some are setup to give you full access and full transparency, charging you separately for their services. Others use their own proprietary systems and/or mark up the cost of the clicks, and these companies generally provide less transparency. Each is a valid way of doing business, but make sure you know what you are getting into and whether you will retain any setup or access if you decide to end your contract.

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Fiction: Submitting your site to search engines will help you get ranked.

In the early days of SEO, submitting your site with your primary keywords to search engines was a critical step in the process. Search engines are now less inclined to believe the information you provide in your submission. They crawl the Internet and rank websites based on their own methods. They look closely at your content and what sites are linking to you to decide how your site will be ranked. While it still isn’t a bad idea to let search engines know you are there, you should focus on submitting your sitemap (see “Master’s Manual”).

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Fiction: Paying to be ranked high in directories will help you rank better in search engines.

Links to your website from relevant directories can be beneficial for your site because they confirm for search engines that your content is valuable for the item or service in that directory. However, your position on the page in that directory likely has no impact on your position in organic search results. Rather than spending your entire budget on one directory listing, your best bet is to develop an overall link strategy (see “Getting links to my site…” below)

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Fact: Getting links to your site from other sites will help your ranking.

Links to your site from a website related to your business work as referrals and legitimize the content on your website to search engines. Not just any link will do! Develop a link strategy that includes paid and free directory listings, links from partner or affiliate websites and any other relevant incoming links you can arrange. Look for links from websites that rank high in search results themselves, and beware of link farms that contain hundreds of links to irrelevant websites. These sites are often blacklisted by search engines, and links from these sites can actually hurt your rankings! Also, the text in the link (known as anchor text) should contain keywords if possible, rather than just your website URL.

Looking for more thrilling tales that will test your skills as a master of SEO? See the “Master’s Manual for Search Engine Marketing”, which addresses more advanced topics, from programming considerations to social media.

Master’s Manual for Search Engine Marketing

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This is Part II of “Search Engine Folklore: Two Tales of Fact and Fiction”.

manual
Myths, legends and lies abound in the Land of Search Engine Marketing.
Some of these stories are true (FACTs), but many are false (FICTION). We’ve compiled the most common tales to help set the record straight.

With thrilling tales that will test your skills and knowledge, Master’s Manual addresses the advanced topics of Search Engine Marketing, from programming considerations to social media. For more basic topics, read “Beginner’s Verse”.

fiction
Using social media outlets (such as YouTube for videos and Flickr for photos) will improve your rankings.

From a link networking perspective, videos or photos that are linked back to your website from high-ranking sites like YouTube and Flickr can benefit your rankings on search engines. However, unless your video or photo is really popular on these sites and ranks high for your keywords within the site search directories, your search engine rankings likely don’t get more benefit than the link itself provides. Focus on developing excellent content on your website and securing incoming links from relevant, high-ranking websites. If YouTube and Flickr help you develop and publish your content, that’s great. Don’t just use them for ranking in search engines, though!

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Your web host can affect your ranking results.

If your site loads very slowly, doesn’t load at all or experiences down time, search engines will catch on and will not be likely to recommend your site to searchers. Consider this before hosting your site yourself, and look for a quality hosting solution that meets your technical requirements, including bandwidth, traffic, multimedia, server requests, etc.

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Other websites’ bad practices can affect your site ranking.

Hosting companies often host many websites on the same IP address – known as shared hosting package. If you share an IP address with a website that has been blacklisted by search engines, your site ranking could also be negatively affected. If you would like to keep control in your hands, consider asking your hosting company for a dedicated IP address.

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How your site is programmed can affect your ranking results.

Different programming languages may or may not be search engine-friendly. For example, Flash content is generally heavy on images, and search engines rely heavily on text to understand the content on a web page. An alternative way to achieve movement and interest on a site is to use jQuery, which is a much more search engine-friendly language. This is just one example of how programming can affect how search engines view your site. Consider the goals of your site, and then look for alternative ways you can achieve those goals with the features and functionality.

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Your content management system can affect your ranking.

Content management systems (CMS) come in many forms and levels of sophistication. They usually make it very easy for anyone to edit copy and change photos, but they may not provide the necessary accessibility to the code of your site to apply metatags (title, description and keywords) or they may not organize pages in your site so that search engines can easily understand the overall site structure. Page generators often create URLS that aren’t search engine-friendly (see below). Consider whether you really need CMS, and if you do, choose one that has been recognized in the industry as SEO-friendly.

fiction
Your site will rank the same in San Antonio, Texas as it does in San Francisco, California.

Over the last couple of years, search engines have adjusted their ranking methods to account for the geographic location of the person searching (based on IP address) relative to the companies listed in the results. After all, it doesn’t make sense for someone living in Seattle to search for a plumber and get results that include companies from Chicago. This helps local businesses, but can be a challenge to those doing business nationally and internationally. Your SEO company should consider different strategies to help your rankings depending on whether you are trying to rank locally, regionally, nationally or internationally. And keep an eye on your statistics to see where your traffic is coming from!

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A new website or updated website can only improve your rankings.

If you are modifying your website, moving it to a new domain or building a new one, don’t just forget about the old URLs. Search engines don’t like things to move or change without explanation. If a search engine crawls a page and can’t find it, this reflects poorly on the rest of the website because it tells the search engine that the site is poorly maintained and that other pages might likely be broken as well. If pages are removed or moved, use server-side 301 redirects to ensure that users and search engines are redirected to the right page.

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Your site URL matters.

A site or page URL provides a short summary of the content on that page, so the more descriptive (and intelligible) it is, the better. So URLs such as www.sanantoniodrycleaning.com will naturally rank better than www.mcgibbinscleaning.com.

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Submitting a sitemap to search engines can help your interior/secondary pages get indexed faster.

Search engines find your site by crawling the web, following links to your site from other websites and looking at site submissions that are sent in. Most Incoming links will be directed at the homepage of the site and don’t provide a detailed picture of all the other pages on it. To index interior pages of a website, and to understand the hierarchy of information on a website, search engines rely on the navigation and/or other links within your site to point them there. To speed up the process, you can create and submit search-engine friendly sitemaps.

fiction
Creating duplicate versions of your site increases your odds of being found by search engines.

Search engines consider it to be shady or dishonest behavior to have duplicate content, known as “mirrored” or “cloned” content, in several places. Such behavior, intentional or not, can lead to your site being blacklisted by search engines. If you use several different domain names to promote your site, make sure you designate one as the primary and redirect the others to it using server-side 301 redirects, or create unique content on each site.

Seeking more basic information on search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click advertising? See the “Beginner’s Verse for Search Engine Marketing” for a collection of stories that will enlighten you with answers to frequently asked questions.

Securing a Web Presence

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Background
ThreadStrong is a self-paced, e-Learning solution, designed by Denim Group experts, to help developers understand and apply the principles of secure application development. ROBOT built the ThreadStrong website as a multi-purpose site: 1) as a sales tool/online brochure to which Denim Group could direct leads to more information about the product, and 2) as a front-door for prospects looking for application security training. ROBOT built the site to be search engine-friendly from the start, so we employed much of the SEO strategy during the site development.

Challenges

  • Search Terms – Both “e-Learning” and “application security” go by many different names (i.e. virtual training, computer-based training, software security, etc).
  • Competition – ThreadStrong has several direct and indirect competitors on a national and international level.

Strategy

  • Keyword Development – Keyword research determined which phrases and keyword variations were used most often in searches. Because broader terms, such as “application security training”, were the most popular, and very few people actually search for “e-Learning”, we decided to focus our efforts on addressing the broader need of application security training.
  • Content Development – Keyword research also helped shape the site structure during development. Messaging focuses on why e-Learning was an important component of an overall training program. Goal keywords were also incorporated into the site content, including page headers and image tags.
  • Link Strategy – ROBOT developed and implemented a link strategy, which included an industry-targeted social media approach specific to ThreadStrong. Denim Group principals are heavily involved in the application security industry and are active social media participants. Denim Group experts reached out to other industry experts through blogs and other social media to get links back to the ThreadStrong website.
  • Google AdWords Setup – ROBOT set up a campaign within Denim Group’s AdWords account to drive immediate traffic while waiting for search engines to organically index the site (which can usually take up to 90 days).

Results
Threadstrong is being found for over 200 search phrases including “application security training”, “secure coding in .net” and “secure software training courses”. Search engine traffic in the past 3 months increased by 55% from the same 3 months last year, with visitors from 22 countries around the world.

 

10 Reasons NOT to Outsource Your Marketing

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Partnering with a marketing firm, creative firm or ad agency can be a really rewarding experience.  But outsourcing isn’t right for every business. Our last article gave 10 reasons why you should outsource, and this counterpart gives 10 reasons why you should not outsource.

1. You are not prepared to respond to growth
The purpose of working with an outsourced firm should be to increase business. If your organization isn’t equipped to deal with rapid growth, then you might want to get your resources in place before trying to boost your sales.

2. You don’t have a designated point of contact 
Managing an outsourced team may be simpler than managing an internal team, but someone still has to do it.  Be prepared to participate. Client involvement is a critical success factor of the marketing process – don’t expect good results if you work with a firm that can “do it all” without your input.

3. You aren’t willing to let go
If you aren’t willing to trust an outsider with your marketing, do not outsource to a full-fledged firm. Hire freelancers and the cheapest production labor that you can find. You will pay a lot more for solid advice and experience – don’t bother paying more unless you are going to be receptive to it.

4. You aren’t prepared to give it 6 months to 1 year
Whether you are hiring an internal marketing department or outsourcing, be realistic with your expectations with regard to timeframes. While there are some short term efforts that can lead to immediate boosts in sales, many marketing efforts take time to develop and then track. Be prepared both mentally and financially to commit to a trial period of at least 6 months to 1 year.

5. Your team has trouble reaching consensus internally
There’s no point in having a team of talent standing ready in the wings if you aren’t able to reach consensus within your firm. A single dedicated point of contact can help streamline communications, but even better is a single decision maker with the responsibility to report back to the management team on critical items.

6. You are not open to spending money to make money
Hiring anyone costs money. Be prepared to set goals and hold whoever you are working with accountable – whether that’s an internal hire or external/outsourced arrangement. Look at your marketing, design and advertising as investments. Choose carefully, always consider the ROI and monitor results regularly.

7. Your busy schedule keeps you from meeting regularly 
Since you are generally paying for services on a monthly basis, it’s important to be able to meet and communicate on a regular basis. If you can keep your appointments, you will do great. If the nature of your business causes you to reschedule often and/or have trouble scheduling, you might wind up paying for time that is never used.

8. You already have marketing resources provided to you
If your business is a franchise or a distributorship with materials and planning available to you at no cost or little cost, it might not make sense to outsource. You may wish the materials were better or that the headquarters were more on the ball, but consider the costs of doing it yourself carefully and try to work with your providers before making an investment on your own.

9. You don’t need marketing
Seems crazy, right? While it is rare, some cases do exist. Some firms just don’t need the kind of marketing that requires an outside firm. Some examples: you work exclusively through a regulated bidding process; you have too small of a staff to be able to follow up on leads or to deliver product; you are content with where your business is and are not interested in growth.

10. You need tons and tons of marketing
There is a point at which businesses can reach critical mass with their marketing efforts. At that point, it might make sense to begin to bring some or all of the marketing initiatives in-house. You can always bring in an associate marketing person to handle the organizational side of the relationship, or hire an executive level Marketing Director who will have autonomy to make marketing decisions independently. At the far end of the spectrum, an entire department can be installed to deal with all aspects of the organization’s marketing.

Whether you are outsourcing or hiring an internal marketing department, it will help to be prepared, committed and very self-aware of your own organizational challenges. And if you aren’t sure if you are ready to outsource or not, just be up front with any known issues when initially interviewing a partner-firm. That firm will appreciate the directness, and may even be able to offer advice and solutions to some of your challenges. Whatever your decision – best wishes for your marketing in 2008!

10 Reasons to Outsource Your Marketing Department

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1. Multidisciplinary team at a fraction of the cost
A single marketing director’s salary can range from $30,000 (right out of school) to six figures (with more experience). And then you are limited to one person’s experience, skill sets and personality type. A full-fledged marketing department ideally includes researchers, strategic marketing professionals, writers, designers, photographers, project managers, etc., all adding their own specialized skills to the marketing efforts of a company.

2. Easier to hold accountable, reprimand and let go
Your marketing needs and budgets will likely vary and evolve as the business grows or changes. If your business is evolving rapidly, outsourcing allows you to retain the skill sets that you need at any given time, without the HR repercussions for letting them go. And if you’ve ever tried to manage a truly creative person… you might already know how fun that can be.

3. Collective wisdom and experience of working with a variety of clients
Some of the most creative marketing solutions and out of the box thinking can come from experiences in other industries. You can take advantage of the diverse experiences and practices that “your team” gains with their other clients.

4. They have the organizational systems, so you don’t need to create them
One of the main struggles with marketing can be organizing all of the ideas, deadlines and project plans. A marketing firm will have experience juggling all of your ideas and guiding you through the process of plan development and implementation.

5. State of the art equipment that you don’t have to buy
A fully outfitted design station starts at $5000 and requires yearly updates. And that doesn’t include scanners, high end printers, photography equipment, and a variety of other needs. Don’t underestimate the costs of outfitting a marketing or design department internally.

6. Stay current on industry trends
If you are in a highly competitive industry, currency can provide you with a marketing edge over your competition. You don’t need to pay for the training, certifications and continuing education that is required to stay current – just look for a marketing firm that can demonstrate that they support ongoing education.

7. Easier budgeting
Many business owners spend an incredible amount of time chasing ideas that can easily be discussed in a single meeting. A seasoned marketing firm will be accustomed to back of the napkin estimates and can quickly run through ROI scenarios so that you can hone in on the realistic ideas.

8. Network of reliable vendors & someone to manage them
Your outsourced marketing department will have resources that extend beyond their walls. The buying power and the relationships that they bring to the table can be invaluable resources.

9. Increase your reach and visibility by extending your network of contacts
The vendors you work with will become an extension of your team. The relationships you build can lead to champions for your business, additional opportunities and ultimately revenue.

10. Keep your marketing efforts moving forward, even with other distractions in your business
Whether your organization is experiencing a full on crisis, or just having a busy month, marketing activities and planning are long term activities that are easy to push to the bottom of the to-do list. An outsourced firm can ensure timely delivery of your initiatives, regardless of what else may be going on in the business.

Consider your growth goals, current staff, management capabilities and resources carefully before making the decision to implement an involved marketing plan on your own – outsourcing might just be the answer to your marketing dreams. If you aren’t quite sure, our next issue will deal with some of the reasons that we would not recommend outsourcing.

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