High School Loyalty and Brand Community

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There’s something about high school that inspires loyalty for decades after graduation. For an outsider looking in, it can be difficult to understand why people care so much about their past high school experiences. Whether it’s journeying hundreds of miles for a high school reunion or feeling offended when someone insults the old sports hero, high school loyalties run deep for many people.

Why?

High schools have built an incredibly strong community within their walls. The students have countless shared experiences together, from classes and teachers to events and activities. These common moments help to tie the collective memories together.

This same sense of community, which helps bring high schools such strong loyalty, can also prove helpful in the business world. Building brand loyalty can lead to higher numbers of repeat customers and more referrals, both of which are excellent for the bottom line. Here’s how to go about building a community around your brand.

Create shared experiences

Help customers get to know each other and your representatives. Host get-togethers and customer events. Get involved in your local community. Raise money for a national charity, or sponsor regional fundraising events. All of these are fantastic ways to bring your customers together, improve your reputation, and get your brand in front of new potential customers. They’re also great conversation starters with followers later on social media or in blog posts.

Encourage connections

Invite existing customers to tell stories about using your products or services on various social media platforms. Have contests where people take pictures of themselves with your product or share stories of how your service helped them. This type of sharing builds credibility for your brand and helps participating customers feel more connected to your company. It helps encourage a concept known as the ‘bandwagon effect,’ where people are more likely to try a product or service when they see others doing so. Having customers share their experiences with your brand helps all customers and potential customers see themselves as a part of a desirable group, which increases loyalty.

Highlight clients and employees

Show prospects the people behind the reviews and the employees who will be helping them succeed. Highlighting past clients and employees in this manner serves two purposes. First, the person highlighted will enjoy and appreciate the attention cast upon them. And second, other customers will feel a connection to the person and thereby feel a strong connection to your brand.

Building a strong community around your brand can help tremendously when building brand loyalty. Just like a high school looking to encourage its alumni to come out and root for the home team, creating a strong loyalty can serve your company well for years to come. Keep the above three tips in mind and start coming up with ideas to build loyalty for your brand.

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The Importance of Reputation Management

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Companies used to be able to control a large portion of their message through advertising. Now, thanks to digital media, online reviews, and customers doing their own research, creating and maintaining a positive image requires much more subtlety and work.

The importance of a positive image

Customers naturally want to do business with companies they feel they can trust. They want to know a brand performs well, will meet their needs, and will be there to help with any problems that arise. A strong brand presence can be a fantastic advertising tool. It helps to spread your reach and encourage new prospects to become paying customers. But just as a positive review can boost sales, a negative one can spread like wildfire through social networks and hurt a reputation — and the bottom line.

Steps to foster a positive reputation

    1. Focus on the customer experience. When customers feel valued and trust that service is a genuine priority, they become much more likely to return and recommend your brand to others.
    1. Focus marketing efforts on providing value for customers. Customers today research companies before making a purchase, so be that reliable source of information they can turn to for answers to their questions.
    1. Build a community around your brand. Encourage customers to interact with you and with each other through social media and real life events. Strong communities build loyalty and positive associations.
  1. Anticipate people leaving reviews on the major review sites. Take the time to upload pictures and provide information, so the review sites show a complete picture. Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews.

How to handle a negative review

Most well-established companies do end up getting the occasional negative review. It’s impossible to please everyone all the time. You’ll probably have at least one customer who thinks you should have done something differently, so it’s important not to panic if someone writes something less than friendly on either a review site, social media, or a blog. It’s also not the time to get defensive and start a battle of words. Instead, take the opportunity to demonstrate the professionalism and commitment to customer satisfaction your brand advertises.

Respond to the negative review personally, saying how sorry you were the customer didn’t have a good experience. Restate your commitment to making the customer happy and offer to rectify the situation. Contact the customer offline whenever possible, and see if the situation can be improved. Discounts on future services, money back, and sometimes even just an apology can help smooth over hurt feelings and improve the relationship between customer and company.

In certain situations, you might not want to apologize. Say, for example, the customer complains about something that’s a critical part of your brand. Rather than apologize, try restating your company’s goals. Apologies should be genuine. If you have nothing to apologize for, then stick with being professional and courteous to the customer.

If the situation is resolved completely, you can ask the customer to remove the negative review. You can also post another reply to the review, saying you were glad you were able to work with the customer to resolve the issue.

By making your efforts to satisfy the customer public, you’re advertising your commitment to customer care. People understand that even the best companies make mistakes. It’s the steps taken to correct these mistakes that matter.

Managing your brand’s reputation will have an enormous impact on the trust potential customers feel. Understanding the factors that go into reputation management in the digital age can help you better leverage technology to improve how you’re seen online.

What Relay Teams Can Teach Us About Teamwork

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Few people exemplify skill and teamwork better than a well-coached relay team. Whether at the Olympic Games or a high school track meet, the relays are often one of the most exciting events.

Relay teams typically consist of four of the most highly skilled runners at a particular distance. But skill alone isn’t enough. The teams must practice together to get their timing and execution just right. It takes a great deal of teamwork to win a relay event.

In a relay race, runners must pass the baton from one to the next within a predefined zone. If they fail to make the handoff within that zone, they are disqualified. At the same time, the runner receiving the baton cannot start their leg of the race from a complete stop. The amount of time they’d lose would be astronomical. That means the runner handing off the baton and the runner receiving the baton must time their running perfectly so that the second runner can pick up speed while still receiving the baton within the zone. This requires a level of precision that can only be developed with practice and considerable communication. When a team masters this aspect of running a relay and combines it with phenomenal skill, they can accomplishes incredible things.

How running a relay relates to running a business

Like running a relay race, running a successful business requires more than just having talented people. You could hire people who are absolutely genius in their respective roles, but if they can’t communicate well together, they won’t accomplish much.

Building a successful team in a professional environment requires finding employees who can accomplish their jobs effectively, but also fit together as a group. When a relay team is working together, they understand how their roles fit together to form a cohesive unit. The same is true of your organization. Everyone on your team must be clear about their individual role and how it relates to the end goals of the organization.

The handoff

As with a relay team, the handoff is critical in business, too. Every member of the team has their own job to do, and handoffs dictate how well potential leads and prospects are passed from one department or team to the next. When these handoffs are handled well, leads are moved seamlessly down the sales funnel, and relationships develop and grow.

The perfect handoff occurs when the members of the team know how to communicate with one another. They understand each other’s respective roles and strengths and know how to work together for the betterment of the team. For example, in a team with weak communication, the marketing department might hand off a lead to the sales team before that lead is ready to move along. However, when the two departments communicate and understand each other better, they improve their handoff skills, boosting the odds of conversion and success.

Track and field can be a source of entertainment, but also inspiration. The next time you see the sport, watch carefully how well the relay team fits together. Use some of their insight when planning your hires and organizing your business.

What a Symphony Orchestra Can Teach Us About Harmony and Marketing

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We all have some type of music we find pleasing to the ear. For some, it’s classical. Others prefer rock, hip hop, pop, or jazz. But no matter what type of music we enjoy, there’s something about a symphony orchestra that seems to draw admirers from a wide variety of musical backgrounds and tastes.

An orchestra brings harmony to life. Its beauty comes from the different sections — woodwinds, percussion, strings, and brass — working together to create something spectacular. If just one person or one section is out of tune or out of line, the entire piece can fall flat. The same is true in your marketing.

The importance of harmony in marketing

Just like an orchestra, marketing works best when every member of the team works together to perfectly complement the others. In today’s busy world, countless platforms vie for your audience’s attention. Print media, inbound marketing, social media, PPC ads, retargeting ads, radio advertising, and more all seek at least some portion of the metaphoric pie.

Too often, we try to meet these demands by randomly throwing content at all of these different platforms. We see each platform as a checklist of requirements, rather than a resource to be leveraged. By finding harmony in the platforms we use to carry out our plans, we stand a far greater chance for success from our marketing efforts. The key to creating this harmony is five-fold:

  1. Develop the central message for the new marketing campaign.
  2. Identify the key characteristics of buyers the marketing campaign will target, including where those people will be found.
  3. Use these characteristics to prioritize your advertising platforms and decide which ones will receive a greater share of the budget.
  4. Develop the campaign with all of the platforms pointing toward a common goal, such as leading buyers to a particular promotional webpage.
  5. Use common colors, language, and themes across the different platforms to create a unified brand.

Take the time to learn how different platforms complement each other, such as how social media can drive people toward the inbound content on your website. This will enhance your efforts and your reach. Marketing works best when different platforms are used in unison to create a common message for prospective customers. When marketing is performed well, it can make people sit up and pay attention.

Finding the right rhythm in your marketing requires careful analysis and planning. When you can accomplish this, you’ll see far better results from your marketing campaigns. If you’re interested in developing a successful new marketing campaign, contact us today. We’d be happy to help you get started.

The Role of Gamification in Marketing

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For many of us, increasing visitor engagement is an important goal for the new year. Marketing today revolves around building relationships with prospective customers. When a prospective client sees you as an authority, they’re far more likely to convert and buy from you.

Improving visitor engagement on your website, through social media, and in person can help boost brand loyalty and build relationships that lead to sales. Gamification is a growing trend in making that happen. The process works by encouraging prospects to interact with your brand through various games and competitions.

What you should know about gamification

Gamification is quickly gaining steam among some of the largest brands in the world. Of the largest 2,000 companies in the world, more than 70 percent had used at least one form of gamification by the end of 2014. Fifty one percent of American adults also say that when competition is added to their everyday activities, they become more likely to pay attention to their behavior in those areas.

The vendors of various gamification programs claim that companies can see a 100 percent to 150 percent improvement in engagement on their websites simply by including gamification in their marketing.

Customers have begun to expect companies to work on developing relationships with them. Gamification is an easy way to build these kinds of relationships while also providing some fun and a reason to return. Even more appealing is that many games can also be used to encourage players to tell their friends about their progress on the game. This can be a wonderful form of advertising.

How gamification works

Gamification can take a number of different forms. Think, for example, about the popular McDonald’s Monopoly game. Consumers receive game pieces with various meals, increasing their odds of winning some awesome prizes.

Not all gamification efforts include glamorous prizes, but they still encourage customers to participate. For example, producers of the TV show Psych created Club Psych, an online arcade that allowed users to play different games and complete challenges based on the television show. Users could earn points and challenge their friends. The effort led to a 30 percent increase in traffic, a 50 percent increase in sales, a 130 percent increase in page views, and an overall reach of more than 40 million people.

Nike + was also an immense success. People could use the company’s app to track their physical fitness and share it with others on social media. The app tracks fitness data to help people see their personal improvements or compete with others from anywhere in the world.

Gamification keeps people involved and uses their desire for challenge, competition, and fun to bring them back over and over again. Best of all, it doesn’t have to be extravagant or over the top. Offering prizes to people who collect all four of a particular month’s direct mail fliers or having a search for clues on a website to qualify for a coupon can help boost engagement without much cost.

Gamification helps turn marketing and attracting attention into a game. It boosts loyalty and conversions. If you’re interested in learning more about how to start a marketing campaign to maximize customer engagement, contact us today. We’d be happy to help you get started.

5 Ways to Increase Visitor Engagement in 2015

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As you prepare your marketing plans for the year, one of your chief priorities should be website visitor engagement. As engagement increases, so do brand loyalty and conversions. Engagement helps page visitors begin to build a relationship with your brand. This in turn helps to increase their trust in what you have to say and makes them more likely to end up buying from you. Here are a handful of changes you can make to greatly enhance your visitor engagement and see measurable changes in 2015.

Make content easily shareable

Encourage page visitors to interact with your brand by sharing your content. You can accomplish this by making your content interesting and easy to broadcast across various social channels. Enable social share buttons on every piece of content you produce, and share the content yourself on a variety of social networks. If your content provides high value and is timely, readers will be more likely to want to share that information with their connections.

Use gamification and promotions

Use fun contests and games to encourage page visitors to remain on your website and tell others about your brand. There are a number of different types of games and promotions you can use. For example, have customers solve puzzles to earn coupons. Encourage them to share your brand with friends to earn points. Run contests on your social media pages that invite people to tell stories about their successes with your brand. Use these opportunities to encourage communication and build a relationship between page visitors and your company.

Encourage feedback

When customers know their opinions are valued, they’re more likely to feel loyal to your brand. Customers appreciate companies that go the extra mile to help them and make their experiences memorable. Encourage this level of engagement by letting customers vote on different topics they’d like to have featured on your website, leave reviews of your products and services for others to see, and offer opinions and feedback about your brand and their experience with it. Your page visitors will enjoy having their voices heard, and you’ll gain better insight on your customers, which can help you improve your marketing and customer service efforts.

Remember customers

Work with your website developers to create a website that will remember customers and their preferences when they return. Simple things, such as automatically filling out forms or remembering products that the customer looked at the last time they visited, can be excellent for boosting engagement. Such conveniences will make it easier for customers to convert, while at the same time helping them feel as though the services they’re receiving from you are personalized to their specific needs.

Make recommendations

In addition to remembering customers when they return to your website, add functionality that provides solid recommendations based on past purchases, too. Consider websites such as Amazon that offer recommendations based on the buying habits of others who have bought similar products in the past. These services encourage people to dive deeper into the website, increasing their interaction and improving the odds they will convert. Similarly, make sure your calls-to-action always fit well with the topic and intended audience of the content you’re presenting.

Increasing visitor engagement on your website can help your brand take its marketing efforts to new levels for 2015. Keep the above tips in mind, and see how you start building stronger company loyalty in the new year. If you’re ready to start developing a new marketing campaign, contact us today to get started.

Business Lessons from Willy Wonka

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The story of Willy Wonka is a classic childhood favorite that people have loved for generations. From the books to the original movie version that was adapted in 1971 to its latest incarnation in 2005, the idea of this fantastic chocolate factory has entertained and delighted children of all ages.

The story follows young Charlie Bucket, who manages to find one of five golden tickets hidden in delicious Wonka Bars. These tickets give the winners a tour of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate. The five winners receive their prize tours, during which the other prize winners are eliminated one by one because of their poor behavior. Only Charlie manages to pass all the tests for honesty. In the end, it’s revealed that his true prize will be the chocolate factory itself.

For us in the business world, the story of Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory is much more valuable than mere entertainment. It can teach us many lessons about successfully running a company. Here are just a few that every business owner should note.

The importance of innovation

Willy Wonka ran one of the most prized and valued chocolate companies in the world, with children of all ages eagerly consuming the chocolate in an effort to find the bars containing the sought-after golden tickets. One of the key reasons for the popularity of the brand was the sheer innovation of the factory’s products. Whether an ‘everlasting gobstopper’ or ‘three-course-dinner’ gum, the treats created at the Wonka factory were unique and delicious. The ability of the factory to remain a trendsetter of the candy world led customers to remain loyal fans.

We, too, must continue to look for ways to innovate and better meet the needs of customers. Being content with the same products and services will not help our brands become industry leaders or help us find loyal customers.

Promotions can be the key to successful advertising

Customers and companies alike enjoy promotions, making them a fantastic marketing tool. While most companies will never enjoy the publicity Willy Wonka’s factory enjoyed, with the competition and winners being featured on the news, it’s still possible for nearly any promotion or loyalty program to gain traction. Social media can be a major asset in promoting such a program. Reward your customers and encourage them to return time and again. This is a wonderful way to gain name recognition and build loyalty.

The value of honesty

Willy Wonka managed to cultivate a superior business plan because he knew how to select workers, and he chose Charlie because of his honesty. The boy impressed the chocolatier because he turned down offers of money in favor of being completely forthright, impressing Wonka. Wonka knew that this boy had the values that would enable the factory to continue to grow.

We, too, should always look for employees and leaders who value honesty and integrity. A positive reputation will help build a culture of trust. In turn, this will help enhance the cohesiveness among the staff and encourage communication.

The story of Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory has delighted people for generations. Next time you watch one of the movies or read the books, take the time to learn a bit about business from Mr. Wonka. If you’re ready to start building a new marketing campaign, contact us for help getting started.