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Producing Great Content: Approach it Like a Shark

“Content is key!” We’ve all heard that ringing through the blogosphere. It’s the chic battlecry of the online marketing front. The only downside is that it doesn’t actually contextualize this glaring issue. What kind of content? Where do we turn for ideas? Geeze, where do we even begin?

It’s a lot to think about, and it only weighs heavier because of its increasing importance. Look around you, there are hundreds, thousands of armies fighting on this crowded battlefield. And to the victors go the spoils. In this case, we’re fighting not just for success but for survival. We’re fighting for the attentions of readers, customers, brand loyalists and more. This passive group sits on the sidelines, demanding that we entertain and engage them. If we fail, your competitor is but a click away.

Producing Great Content - Approach it Like a Shark

Rising to the top of this arena takes an aggressive campaign strategy. This article is meant to reignite your fighting spirit and point you in the right direction, but you know your business better than us. You know your audience better than us. And if your data is lacking, it’s time to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

For inspiration, let’s take a dip into a different sort of battlefield, one that is just as barbarous as your online realm: the ocean, where the most cutthroat survivalist is the shark.

Approaching content creation like a shark proves to be a surprisingly effective analogy. As content creators, we’re like sharks. We need to stay agile and keep swimming. Being disappointed frustrated with customer interaction is one thing, but doing something to improve it takes action.

So how did sharks become the perfect underwater predator? Through evolution. As a brand, you need to be constantly looking for ways to stay on your toes, ways to change and adapt the content you produce. What are we doing to interact with our customers? What kind of posts are we making?

Make no mistake, content is still key. It’s still imperative for your business’ online strategy, but it’s also more challenging. Here are some tips to help you navigate these waters. Like a shark.

The Conceptual Stage:

Define Your Goals –

Sharks are focussed creatures. They exist to feed and reproduce, thus perpetuating their underwater reign. As a brand, you need to have a similar focus on a specific set of goals.

Some of these goals are obvious: you want to increase interaction, traffic, and profits. But can you make this any more specific? If you’re darting back and forth between different schools of fish, you’re never going to eat. Keeping your goals well defined allows you to monitor progress while tailoring your content to a precise target market. It’s easier to figure out what a particular group of people gravitate towards than it is to predict the purchasing habits and preferences of the entire internet conglomerate.

Define Your Story –

Once your goals are defined, you need to figure out how to attract your intended audience. What thematic angles will your brand focus on? What will be most relevant and applicable to your audience? Defining the rules and regulations of content creation ensures that your brand identity remains consistent — just make sure it doesn’t become a straightjacket.

It’s helpful to ask how your customers perceive your brand. Is their image something we want to reinforce or something we want to change? A lot of this hinges on the tone your brand uses to tell its story. Does your shark swim with grace or an intended rigidity? Would you benefit by adjusting your formula?

Here’s a good example: next time you’re out shopping, take a look at the hairstyling aisles. You’ll notice that some brands, like Bed Head, advertise their products as “super charged,” and “indulgent.” Your hair gel options are “Control Freak,” “Headrush,” “Spoil Me,” among others. There’s a palpable energy behind these product and they clearly want a high-octane audience.

Contrast this with Garnier Fructis, a brand that advertises “smoothness,” “control,” and “sleekness.” It’s the same basic product, but a completely different tone of voice. Each brand is adjusting their tone to attract the audience they want. They’re narrowing the pool and increasing their adeptness.

Along with tone comes Point of View. Your content needs to engage with your audience, not stand in opposition to them. How do they see the world? Is this reflected in your posts? If not, consider changing your approach. Provide them with something that they already associate themselves with.

Ensure Your Efficiency –

Sharks are the perfect hunting machines because they’re efficient. Their streamlined approach allows them to adjust and move quickly, and your team needs to operate similarly. This is where our trusted shark analogy falls a little short — we’re setting our sights a little bit higher than this oceanic predator. As the most efficient creature under the sea, they don’t have to worry about organization. Plus, they’re not exactly running a business. The fish we’re trying to catch are a little more cunning.

Efficiency can be achieved through strong management and organization. This is the only way to keep your pool of content creators consistent with your brand’s stated goals. A shark is only a shark when it acts as a single entity.

Make sure you play to your strengths as well. Outline roles and responsibilities so your shark doesn’t choke while on the prowl. Make sure your best writers are the ones writing the most. Who produces the best social media content? Find them and assign them this task.

Organization also ensures that you’ll find well-populated waters. It’s a competitive ocean out there, and you need to figure out which platform will be most successful for your content. Is it a lengthy blog post? Store it on your website and give your customers links. Is it a funny picture? Facebook may be your best bet.

Where to Look / What to Think About:

This is all great advice, but where are you supposed to go for the results you want? Especially when they require more ambition, precision, and engagement than ever before. Creating content is only getting more difficult — audiences’ standards for engaging blog posts, witty tweets, and high quality video is only becoming harder to satisfy.

Yet the answer may be closer than you think. It comes back to point of view — how is your insight unique? What angle can you take that is different?

Before You Get Started:

You’re creating valuable content, but you want it to be branded content. Helpful information is at its best when it propels your business forward in some way. But remember, your followers and fans are already on board. They know the drill. What if you end up driving them away instead of attracting them? If you throw your net a little wider and put a little less focus on yourself, you’ll catch a more attractive variety of customers.

It’s a hard tightrope to walk. There’s a place for advertising and there’s a place for branded content. Your content needs to be educational, entertaining, and applicable, but not too self-aggrandizing. No one wants to share a traditional advertisement, so don’t approach your content in this manner. It’s an opportunity to serve, so keep your calls to action subtle or subtextual.

Here are some quick examples:

Charmin Toilet App:

- How does a toilet paper company engage with their clients? By providing a tongue in cheek service. They created the SitOrSquat app to help people find and review public restrooms. Unorthodox, but extremely effective.

British Airways #Lookup Campaign:

- British Airways’ #lookup campaign isn’t your typical advertisement either. Large screens show a Honey I Blew Up the Kid sized child pointing at an airplane flying overhead, correctly identifying its flight number and destination. We notice the ingenuity more than the brand, because it’s so interesting and new.

Professional Experiences:

How much do we really know about any given job? What we’ve seen in movies? What we can logically deduce on our own? In the end, it’s probably a drop in a professional bucket. It may be helpful to tell your audience what you actually do. Providing personal stories about your industry or company can be great structural supports for long form content. What’s become commonplace for you is still a novel conceit for the rest of your world — and if your audience is interested in your company, your insight is bound to intrigue them. Not every fun fact will spawn a successful blog post, but insight can add a unique and shareable element to any piece of content.

FAQs and Professional Insight:

You’ve been doing this for a while. You’re bound to have fielded similar questions during your time on the job, and those questions will likely come up again…unless you create content to answer these questions in a new and interesting way. Customers almost always seek out information online before making a purchase, and you have the opportunity to fill their knowledge gaps before they even encounter a problem. In the end, it’s two fish with one bite — you’ll be producing informative content and reducing the time you spend answering common questions.

Just look at what Colgate was able to do with their Oral and Dental Health Resource Center: They’ve used their professional experience to create a convenient source for all things dental. Visitors will come with questions and leave with both answers and a very positive impression of Colgate.

What are Others Saying?

Even if your brand exists in a popular industry, you’ll have a different point of view than your competitors. Before you can express it you need to be aware of what these competitors are talking about. Social media is a great way to find out — what do they believe, who are they following, and what issues are they concerned about? More importantly, what are your customers interested in?

Believe it or not, auto-fill searches are great places to start. Typing keywords into Google, YouTube, and Yahoo will allow you to test the waters and see what kind of bait audiences are hungry for. It’s possible to repurpose content and information that already exists as long as you filter it through your own professional lens. You’ll be able to provide insight unique to you and your audience. Let this audience know how this information impacts them specifically. Why will they care?

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4 Tips to Make Your Event a Success

The great thing about event planning is that the basic guidelines are similar for all events whether they be private or public, small or big, low-cost or extravagant. We are going to take a look at the four basic aspects of every event (1) venue and location, (2) food, (3) decor, and (4) experience while highlighting events that have successfully executed these particular event details.

Finding the perfect location can be somewhat overwhelming, but is definitely important to fostering attendance. The key is selecting a venue that is pleasing aesthetically, but is also functional in purpose.

For example, if you look at the most attended events in the United States, the Indianapolis 500 is right up there with around 300,000 people in attendance each year. Why is this? Because the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has 257,325 permanent seats alone, making room for even more bystanders. Not only does the Indianapolis 500 understand the importance of great entertainment, but also the importance of having a venue of adequate size to support their following. Even though your event may not have hundreds of thousands of people wanting to attend, having a venue that has adequate space is crucial.

In addition to having a venue of appropriate size, you will want to think about the venue’s location. The International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, Georgia is ranked as one of the US’s top 50 events. You could attribute this event’s popularity to the beautiful cherry blossom trees, but most likely it’s the event’s understanding of location importance. Holding the event in Macon is the perfect location, given that this southern city has around 300,000 Yoshino cherry trees in bloom during the time of the event. Besides contributing to the event’s overall theme, this designated location makes it convenient for the South’s cherry blossom-loving people to attend.

Food is an integral part of your event given the ability it has to carry-out the event experience. An excellent example of well thought-out cuisine is the Oscar after party referred to as the Governor’s Ball. For the past 20 years, world-renowned chef Wolfgang Puck has been catering this glamorous event, thus repeatedly creating the stars’ favorite dishes. Celebrities are sure to attend this event knowing that Chef Puck has been preparing their favorite “Smoked Salmon Oscar Matzo” all afternoon. Not only has a strong tradition been implemented, but Wolfgang has also found a way to integrate the event’s theme into the food by including Oscar phrases and images into the dishes.

The Governor’s Ball is also in touch with their audience as they provide vegan and vegetarian courses, a popular dietary preference amongst Hollywood Stars. However, knowing the stars have had a long, exhausting day behind cameras and glam squads, Chef Puck is sure to include hearty, satisfying dishes for the attendees.

Let’s face it, most of you will not be having meals catered by world-famous chefs; however, in order to make your event as successful as possible, you can use food as a way to strengthen your theme and encourage attendance by serving appealing dishes.

Use the decorations and overall design of your event to inspire and excite those in attendance. There is no better way to implement a particular theme or create a certain ambiance than there is with decorations. Some of the best events are those that have a theme, then coordinate the design elements in respect to that theme.

Each year the Advisory Board of Special Events gives awards to exceptional private events. One of the recent winning events was a pool-themed bar mitzvah for a young boy who has a passion for swimming. What made this bar mitzvah such a stellar event was the cohesive theme that was creatively implemented in every detail. Everything from the dance floor, to the tablescapes, to the lighting, to the pool towel favors mirrored the pool theme in a tactful, modern, and cute way.

Another example of great event design was the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club’s Closing Social that had a Cuban sugar plantation theme. What made the decorations and design of this event so successful was the choice of a subtle theme, which served more as an inspiration and direction for the decor than a theme. The deep red colors, cigar boxes, and tropical greenery was just enough to create the desired classy Cuban plantation ambiance.

Although these events are a bit large in scale, decorations can be done well even if you are on a budget–all it takes is a little thought and planning.

Nothing is more indicative of a successful event than the overall experience the attendees are able to walk away with. However, what type of experience you are looking to create differs depending on the nature of your event.

Look at Mardi Gras, one of the most recognized, wildly exciting celebrations in the world. Whether you’re collecting beads, watching the parade with a drink in hand, or participating in the community clean-up afterwards, Mardi Gras is an excellent example of an event that exudes fun in every detail.

Another heavily-followed event is the Boston Marathon, cultivating years and years of athletic inspiration. What contributes to the success of the Boston Marathon versus other national marathons is their excellent marketing tactics that convey the event in such a way that emulates prestige and accomplishment. Whether you’re participating or watching, it’s a given you will walk away from this event feeling inspired.

If anything, you want your attendees to walk away from your event having had a valuable experience. This is the goal for most corporate events and seminars. Take a look at the Online Marketing Summit, one of the largest events for online marketing gurus. Not only is this day-long event in the beautiful area of Southern California, but attendees walk away with more industry knowledge than they came in with. The event coordinators take special care in planning educational seminars, bringing in industry professionals, and providing valuable networking opportunities to make the Online Marketing Summit an event you definitely don’t want to miss out on.

Each of these events highlighted above is very different in their purpose, but all were successful in their own way. This was done by selecting the perfect venue in the right location, serving great food their attendees find delicious, decorating to create a certain ambiance, or fostering a particular event experience. Regardless of your industry, budget, or purpose, you too will have a successful event by simply focusing on the basics!

 

Sources:

http://www.onlinemarketingsummit.com/

http://specialevents.com/

http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/

http://www.merrylbrownevents.com/

http://www.creativeeventsandoccasions.com/

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Are You Ready for the 2014 Freedom Festival?

Namify certainly is. In fact, we just printed the 2014 Freedom Festival collector pins for Provo City.

2014 Freedom Festival with Provo City Mayor John Curtis

The sun is out, and the weather is coming around. Get ready for all of the summer festivities in Utah County this year. Namify will definitely be there!

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5 Things That Make a Good Company Slogan

Do you recognize these slogans?

“I’m lovin’ it.”

“Just do it”

“We’ll leave the light on for you”

“15 minutes could save you 15 percent or more on car insurance”

“Have it your way”

“The happiest place on Earth”

“The breakfast of champions”

These 7 slogans are just a small sample of a huge array of successful advertising campaigns centered around company slogans. Though you may never have been to Disneyland or poured a bowl of Wheaties, the fact remains that you know who a company is and what their product is. Say you need new car insurance: GEICO will certainly be happy you know it exists. That’s one reason it spends so much effort into getting you to remember its slogan.

 

5 Things That Make a Good Company Slogan

Most companies consider their slogans a success when a group of people in their target audience can instantly identify it or even quote it back. So how do you go about creating that type of slogan? Here are a few key elements:

Keep it Short

Most people don’t make it a habit of memorizing lots of words. If your slogan looks more like your mission statement, then it is much too long. Most agencies recommend keeping your slogan to fewer than eight words in order to help it stick.

Be Honest

Years ago, a company’s slogan could promise the moon to its customers. Sensationalism was more than welcome and false promises were the name of the game. However, in today’s world, people expect honesty and transparency. Your slogan needs to promise people only what you can actually deliver. If you fail to live up to your own advertising, social media backchannels will certainly come back to haunt you.

Match it to Your Logo

Some of the best slogans are designed not only as part of the company’s advertising campaign, but also as part of the company’s logo. Take time to include the slogan with the logo so the two are melded together. Your logo tends to hold a lot of brand power and your slogan can either ride that wave or enhance it.

Tell a Story

Your slogan needs to tell a story. For a lot of companies, the name alone doesn’t mean a whole lot. Disneyland is just the name of a place until the slogan tells you a story (it’s the happiest place on Earth!). Motel 6 is just a place to stay until the slogan tells you a story (the lights are on, come whenever and check in!). Whatever your brand or your message, tell a story to consumers through the use of a slogan.

Make it Catchy

To be fair, a great slogan doesn’t have to be catchy, but it certainly helps. Rhythm, rhyme, and wit can instantly enhance your slogan’s ability to be remembered and to spread as far as possible. Try brainstorming a few different brand ideas and stories, and it shouldn’t take long to put something clever together.

When creating your new company slogan, take the time to research competitor slogans. The last thing you want to do is be guilty of copyright or trademark infringement. During this process, you’ll also be able to see what your competitors are telling your market. At that time when you’ll be able to decide whether to market the same way or fill a potential customer need by way of your slogan.

To recap, sit down with your employees, executive team, or agency and brainstorm. Talk honestly about what your company offers, what its story is, and what your brand stands for. Then, truncate it into a catchy, short version to share with the world. Your slogan becomes who you are. It’s worth time and at least a few drafts.

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Planning an Event on a Budget

Event planning is a process. And when you have a budget, it’s that much more of a process; however, the outcome is definitely worth it. If you put the time in, you’ll find you can create a pretty successful event without breaking the bank.

The first thing you’ll want to do is nail down what kind of event it is you’re looking to create. Parties, dances, and races are just a few examples of kinds of events you could create. From there, the needs of the event will help you organize your ideas into a reality.

Know Your Audience

  • Entrance Fees – Keep in mind how much money your target audience may have. If they are younger, students, or without a career you’ll want to ensure your prices are not too high or you may not get a very good turnout.

  • Giveaways/Prizes – what kind of items is your target audience going to actually be interested in and what items would they throw away the minute they get home.

  • Decoration – know what would be considered amazing, over the top, or lame to a certain demographic.

Find Your Venue

Think of places you might be able to negotiate a lower cost or even get for free. Using places that are owned by people you know can help you haggle the price lower as well. Places to think about, depending on the event, might be:

  • A Park

  • A School Gym

  • Rental Spaces

  • Zoos and Amusement Parks – larger groups can get discounts

  • Museum

Speakers/Entertainment

You might be able to get free speakers and entertainers if you have a very well-planned and thought out idea for your event. If you seem passionate enough about your event, and for good reason – perhaps a portion of the proceeds are going to a non-profit – people will be willing to help.

Finding Sponsors & Partners

Look for sponsors that have a brand that relates to your event in some way. Example: A running shoe company for a 5k race. Sponsors may help pay for expenses or provide giveaways and prizes if they deem your event a good place to advertise their brand.

Partners can help with things like food and drinks at your event. You can easily find companies that want to come to events and sell their items. It is a win-win situation, you get food and drinks covered, and they get more business.

Budget Tips

Budgets are difficult because it’s hard to get everything you’ve ever wanted for an event while staying on track financially.

  • Keep Track – If you write down everything you’re planning on getting and how much the estimated cost will be it can help you stay on track. Also, once you figure out what the actual price is you can add that to your list to ensure the budget is on track.

  • Do Your Research – Find out how much everything on your planning list will actually cost, and factor that into your budget.

  • Look for Opportunities – As stated previously, opportunities such as relationships can help you get items at a cheaper price or even for free. Think about the people you know and how they might be able to help you when planning for an event.

  • Consider the Time of Day – Holding an event in the early afternoon, just after lunch and before dinner, makes it possible to only provide snacks to the guests rather than a full meal.

A budget may seem like a difficult barrier to throwing the greatest event of the year; but really, you could end up finding the best additions to your event by doing some research and working with other companies in the area.

 

Sources:

http://blog.weemss.com/post/2867-12-steps-to-organising-your-event-with-zero-budget#.UyiqBoW2nrY

http://www.streetdirectory.com/travel_guide/16994/family/5_event_planning_ideas_for_a_very_tight_budget.html

http://tracysevents.com/budgeting/155/how-to-create-an-event-budget/

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Why Event Planners Should be Attending Trade Shows

Event Planners & Trade Shows

According to the Times Square Alliance, each year more than 1 million people attend the New Years Eve party on Time Square to watch the ball drop. Television coverage reaches the hundreds of millions worldwide. Could you imagine being the event planner in charge of something like that?

How about the Consumer Electronics Fair in Las Vegas? Or Comic Con in San Diego? Both tally more than 150,000 attendees. Could you imagine planning for enough bathrooms and fire escapes?

Luckily, most organizations aren’t in charge of events this big, but events are a reality for most organizations whether large or small. Event planners are the savvy minds behind successful events, but how do they know how to make an event a success? Comic Con brand-vangelists spend 12 months raving about the amazing event they attend each year; and if they ever went to a Comic Con that didn’t meet their standards, there would be a problem. Event planners need to know what is hip, popular, trendy, fun, and engaging for their audiences if they have any hope of pulling off a successful event.

One standard practice all event planners should adopt is attending trade shows.

Most event planners will frequent catered dinners, company parties, and entertainment venues to get ideas on what keep people engaged, but very few do their “research” at trade shows. This could be a grave oversight, because trade shows provide a mecca for event planning schooling.

On the surface, trade shows are just one massive event — and sometimes an expensive one; however, on closer inspection, you’ll notice trade shows have hundreds of events built into them. Panel discussions, dinners, and speakers provide mini-events as sub-parts of the bigger event. Once again though, if you stop there, you’re still missing out.

The best event planners can attend a trade show and realize that each and every booth is hosting its own event.

If you’re at the CES in Vegas, that equates to more than 3,000 individual events happening simultaneously under the umbrella of an even bigger event.

Cool, huh?

So, with that as the case, how should an event planner learn from the experience? By taking note of which “events” are running well and which ones aren’t. Which activities are engaging people? Which giveaways are attracting attention? Which events are bustling metropolises and which are out-populated by the Sahara Desert? Spend time writing things down. Ask people at the various events why they chose to invest their time participating in certain activities and avoided others. The reality of the situation is, event planners need to see both successful events and unsuccessful events on a regular basis to help them design the best events possible for their organizations. Trade shows liberally provide both good and bad events–often, on the same day, in the same room.

So, if you’re into event planning, take a break from your standard schedule of catered dinner observations and wedding reception crashing and buy a ticket to a local trade show. If you employ an event planner, send them an email and let them know about their next research projects.

Events are a competitive industry. Your event needs to be a top priority in a world trying to capitalize on a person’s time. Last year’s tactics may not work this year. Check out a trade show and see the latest and greatest event techniques and bring home the knowledge, so your event can bring in the following.

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Hispanics in the USA

hispanic-market

Hispanic Population in USAThe Hispanic population in America has been growing rapidly. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about ¼ of the population is now Hispanic These 48 million people account for $1 trillion of U.S. buying power. That is a lot of influence on the market; so, calling all marketers! Want to find out what this Hispanic demographic is purchasing?

Popular items purchased by U.S. Hispanics include categories such as food, shoes, gift cards, and technology. The reason Hispanics are such an influence on the U.S. market has to do with a disposable income; Hispanics between the ages of 20 and 29 have about $10,000 less debt than other Millennials. This lack of debt entices them to spend nearly the same amount of money as they make annually.

The kind of shows and amount of time spent watching television have been considered for this demographic as well. The trouble for U.S. producers is that stereotyping can get a good laugh from much of their audience, but for the U.S. Hispanic, the stereotypical roles portrayed in shows like “Modern Family,” are not as funny, which steers them to watch other shows instead.

Hispanics are also known to be extremely brand loyal. This should be a cause for excitement for marketers. Here is a demographic that spends a lot of money each year…AND they are brand loyal. It’s time to consider the U.S. Hispanic as a target demographic. Learn more about their spending habits by reading the following article.

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Ways to Increase Customer Loyalty

How to Increase Customer Loyalty

It’s easy to say that the key to customer, and employee, loyalty is fostering strong relationships, but it’s more difficult to actually implement this advice.

There are plenty of existing models to study and learn from. I know people who refuse to drive anything but a Ford vehicle. People who will only shop at one particular grocery store. Those with favorite clothing brands and stores. (For some great points about the Disney Company’s strategies to increase customer loyalty, here’s a great article over at Kissmetrics.)

This February, one of the most successful brand imports of all time celebrated the 50 year anniversary of when it arrived on American shores. After the brand’s popularity increased in England, it landed in the waiting arms and witnessed the screaming lungs of American youth. This target demographic embraced the brand’s messages and became immediate advocates for its success. This is the kind of loyalty that survives generations with those initial fans promoting the brand to their children and grandchildren.

Adam Gopnik describes the brand anniversary as one of “uncanny auspiciousness: the Jubilee of an institution that has lasted far longer than many thought possible, transcending its native place in Britain to become a source of constant, almost unbroken reassurance to the entire world.”

We’re talking, of course, about The Beatles.

As a fan of The Beatles, it seems a bit blasphemous to think of these four very individualistic gentleman as a homogenous brand. Each of the Fab Four was dedicated to different agendas and pursued them passionately. Despite this, many applicable lessons can be gathered from their exploits as a whole. The fact remains that they were, and remain, one of the most popular and influential groups, or brands, to ever spot the musical landscape. Even as The Beatles’ overall “message” evolved radically during their decade-long tenure, fan loyalty never wavered. While their advocacy of social and political issues or their shifts in musical output represent huge changes for a brand, they were natural extensions of the brand’s fluidity. Fans, or customers, remained loyal because The Beatles’ brand stayed genuine and consistent with the changing times.

In celebration of The Beatles’ 50-year anniversary, we’ve compiled a list of ways to increase customer loyalty for your own brand. While not always directly influenced by the band’s actions, the list is intended to help your brand or business achieve a lasting impact. Just like The Beatles.

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“Got to Get You Into My Life”

Be Genuine

Make genuine relationships your priority:

  • Customer loyalty will improve once you become more than just a place that offers goods and services. If you offer additional benefits, customers will be less likely to go elsewhere, even if the prices are lower.
  • It may seem outdated, but isn’t the golden rule a surprisingly apt consideration? How would you want to be treated by a business? Odds are others will empathize and appreciate your efforts to do similarly. You rely on these customers, but make sure you’re not simply using them. According to Jerry Acuff, author of The Relationship Edge, your brand’s customer relations are “as or more important than making the sale.”
  • Curiosity may have killed the cat, but the customer is more resilient:
  • Be curious about your clientele — This doesn’t mean striking up a personal, one-on-one conversation with each individual, but be aware of their common concerns and provide forums where they can be addressed.
  • Surveys and efficient feedback lines are great ways to be aware of a customer’s needs and concerns. On a more limited level, hire the best employees for the job — employees that will take customer relationships to task and ask heartfelt, curious questions.

Apologies are Important:

  • No single individual is perfect, so why would a large collection of them be any different? Make sure you’re prepared to answer for any mistakes in an efficient and compassionate manner.
  • The complicated nature of this resolution process changes from industry to industry. It may require some sort of formal documentation, but should always start with a genuine, emotionally resonant apology.
  • It’s not hard for a customer to recognize an insincere apology, especially when this is what they’re familiar with. A friendly assessment of the issue can go a long way.

Be Ready to Serve:

  • Don’t let employees hide behind technology. As soon as a potential customer comes into contact with your brand, an employee should be ready to meet, greet, and treat them.
  • This is true for employees on the phone or physically present in your location. If they’re alert and prepared they can address problems as soon as possible.

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“Come Together”

Work Together

Be Adaptable:

  • One-sided relationships between your brand and your customers will fail every time. Be willing to accept anything you project — if you listen to customers, you can work together to build something effective and worthwhile, something that patrons will value and return to. This is only possible if you’re willing to be a little vulnerable and adaptable. Admitting any weaknesses or limitations is a great place to start.

You’re Not the Only One Bringing Cards to the Table:

  • Don’t assume you know what every customer wants. Just because you’ve done your research and created a business that offers a valuable service doesn’t mean you have all the answers. If you’re open minded to feedback, customers will be open to helping you improve sales and your entire bottom line.
  • Customer appreciation often leads to loyalty. Always be looking for ways to entice new customers, but don’t neglect the customers that helped you in the beginning. 80% of business usually comes from 20% of your clientele, so give them reasons to come back.

Communication:

  • Provide real conversations instead of a steady barrage of sales pitches. This requires listening and analysis. Listen for specific needs and nuances in customer requests so you can give them the best possible product, not just the next one on the docket.
  • Communication doesn’t always have to be a form of advertising. Genuine interaction acts as a huge incentive for their loyalty. Social media can be a great way to express your personality through casual interaction.

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“Getting Better”

Be Helpful (Legitimately helpful)

Great Customer Service:

  • Don’t be afraid to go the extra mile and ensure truly positive experiences for your customers. As stated above, having easy avenues for communication is a great way to facilitate feedback both positive and negative. Only then can you make the necessary changes.
  • Depending on what products your business provides, it may be helpful to follow up with customers once they’ve received it. Don’t be pushy and flood their inboxes with survey after survey, but do show that you’re interested. A single survey highlighting the item or service is a great place to start. Phone calls can be a great way to show that you’re interested and want them to enjoy the product just as much as you do.

Recommend Competitors:

  • I know, this seems counterintuitive. But building relationships requires human empathy, not checkbook-pounding rhetoric. Don’t be afraid to recommend alternatives, even if it’s not you. This is how you become a valuable advisor, not just a salesperson. Once you show that you care, you’ll be the first place the customer checks next time you can fill a need.

Customer Incentives:

  • Customers will appreciate a little bit of icing on the cake. You’ve built a strong and appealing foundation, but it doesn’t hurt to provide a tangible confirmation of your value. Occasional coupons are great options.
  • Even if your business is perfect, easing the financial burden is a great way to secure repeat business and loyalty. Once the customer knows their return trip will come with a discount, why would they stay away? And if your employees impress them all over again, the cycle will continue.

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“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

Be Proud

Pride in Consistency:

  • When it comes to your brand, don’t be turned off by a little conformity. Enforcing specific standards for customer interaction means that all employees will treat customers valuably. This way, customers won’t abandon you once their favorite employee moves on.
  • This takes specific regulations, dedication, and a strict emphasis on training. It’s not as easy as letting the troops run wild, but if it fits into your business model, then it’s worth the effort.
  • Consistency is crucial once you’ve established your reputation. Customer expectations are formed fast and any cracks in the mold can send them elsewhere.

Strive for Perfection:

  • All businesses want to have the perfect product, the Holy Grail of their industry. Instead of spending all your time chasing this elusive title, provide the most perfect possible product for your customers.
  • When you provide a product that is “designed and tested to perform perfectly within circumstances you can reasonably foresee,” the customers will remember this and return in the future.

Deliver the Best:

  • The longer a customer has to wait to receive their product, the more time they have to second guess their decision. This may result in them choosing a competitive source the next time around.
  • Expectations have gone through the roof with recent technological developments — people would riot if you asked them to sit through a dial tone when connecting to the internet. Google Fiber is becoming the new dream. If Amazon Prime will provide free 2-day shipping, don’t ask customers to wait too much longer.
  • Along with this, a tasteful package will help customers set you apart from the competition. The product case doesn’t have to be over the top, just make sure it is presentable and shows care. Customers notice the little things.

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“All Together Now”

The Employee Factor

Contagious Employee Loyalty:

  • Employee loyalty often translates to customer loyalty. It’s not hard to tell when employees genuinely enjoy their job and customers will support this.
  • At the very least, make sure that your business is running smoothly. This is a great way to gain your employee’s trust and appreciation and help them feel proud about working for your company. Once they’re on board, you can build something together instead of managing only from the top down.

Train Employees Thoroughly:

  • In my opinion, a manager is doing their best when they train and delegate themselves out of a job. Don’t sit around and be lazy, but make sure that your employees are prepared for anything.
  • Training exercises should be regular and entertaining so employees have a vision for the future. When you give them a why, not just a what you can build and foster a loyal, hardworking community.
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What You Need to Know About Branding Your Blog

Branding Your Blog

Deciding to brand a blog is easy. Even making the jump towards becoming “branded” is easy — as soon as you decide on a particular theme, you’ve taken a resolute step towards branding. In fact, as soon as your blog becomes more than just a personal document meant for posterity, you’ve placed yourself on the path.

There are distinct benefits to branding your blog and branding it well. Successful blogs stake claims on defined regions of internet real estate resulting in higher traffic and a larger collection of regular visitors. Once readers realize what niche your blog occupies, they will not only stay but return.

Why and how to brand your blogBlogs with a clearly defined brand create an almost Pavlovian response from readers. Before they read a tweet or open an email, they already know what to expect — keen industry insight, sports analysis, gluten free cooking tips. It doesn’t matter what your brand is, only that you remain consistent. Your blog makes promises and they need to be upheld. In terms of establishing a brand, what’s written on a blog is written in stone (unless it’s deleted, of course).

The real challenge lies in elevating a simple blog into a meaningful and influential brand. This status isn’t easy but can be expedited through careful planning and strategic development. Take the time to decide on what exactly you want your brand to be. Once a decision is reached, stick to it!

Easier said than done, right?

Here is a list of questions and expectations to take into account in the planning phase.

What to Expect from Your Branded Blog

1. What are your goals?:

The planning phase is the best time to outline your goals for your blog. Everyone wants their kid to grow up to be president, but competition is fierce. Realistic goals are key. If you’re a sports writer, go ahead and dream about overshadowing ESPN.com, but realize that measuring success in this way isn’t exactly reasonable.

Do you want to be a leader, a challenger, or a follower? The order isn’t meant to be hierarchical but provide some direction while you’re conceptualizing. Susan Gunelius provides great definitions for each over about About.com.

Market Leader: These guys usually arrived first or spent their time curating their blog into the best option. Either way, they have the largest readership and hold the majority of the market share for their target demographic. Unless you’re the first out of the gate, achieving this position requires a very well established brand and sphere of influence. Attracting an audience this large isn’t easy and requires the continual dedication of your time, money, and resources.

Market Challenger: This is the main opposition to the market leader’s incumbent status. With the market leader already being so popular, the challenger has to not only mimic their tactics but also reveal weaknesses in their system. The best way to gain traction is to patch these holes with your own brand. Even when you’re entering the same battleground, your brand needs to be distinguishable from the competition.

Market Follower: This brand is satisfied with residual traffic. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as this position often has the most wiggle room and freedom. They fill the same niche as the market leader but need to do more than just keep their fingers crossed that stragglers will end up on their site. Still look for ways to be unique even if you model your brand after others in the blogosphere.

2. Identify your niche and stick to it:

If you’re taking the time to brand your blog, you probably want it to be more than a monthly excursion into the blogosphere. Find something specific that you enjoy writing about, but not something you’ll get burned out on. What’s your passion? When you — on an individual scale, the person pounding the keys — are enthusiastic about the content, it helps add a level of humanity to the words.

A subject like “film” may seem narrow enough, but it may be beneficial to dilute it even further. Understand that you’re competing against literally hundreds of other blogs tackling the same issue. Can you offer insight on women in film? Science fiction films from the 1950s? Loyalty will increase once your brand is recognized as a trusted authority and not another shoddy resource.

3. Do your work, do your research:

When starting out, it’s helpful to take a look at your competitors. It’s likely that there are already dozens of them, at the very least. This could potentially lead to a case of oversaturation, but it also provides a unique opportunity for your fledgling blog. Study their formula and see what gaps in their model need to be filled. Can you provide a more comprehensive opinion or reflect a viewpoint that isn’t really expressed?

Placing yourself next to other blogs allows you to see differentiations in each model. Don’t try to stomp them out or replace them, but supplement what they’re already offering. The blogosphere is a horizontal playing field and there will be a receptive audience to your point of view as long as you have one.

4. What’s your promise?:

The brand you choose for your blog becomes a symbol for the content you create. But if you’re actively building the signifier, what’s your signified? What do you actually stand for? Brands are built, in part, by the consumers watching their growth. They develop impressions about what your brand will offer and come to expect certain things.

Define what this promise is. What is your blog offering that others aren’t? Who is your target audience, and what issues will you be addressing? Even if the field is crowded, what promise does your unique point of view suggest? Define it, regularly state it, and don’t waver. Once you determine which information you’ll be hitting out of the park, point your bat to the fences and get ready to swing.

5. What’s your personality?:

Your blog should communicate a personality as well as a promise. For detailed tips on how to exemplify your brand’s personality, check out this earlier article we published. All the questions we raise should be asked by you as development begins. To summarize, it’s helpful to think of your brand (and blog) as an actual person — What do they dress like? How do they speak?

6. Make your identity clear:

It should be pretty obvious by now that customers, blog readers, in this case, want consistency. This isn’t only in content, but presentation as well. Once you choose an identity for your blog, make sure that the visual representations of your brand make an impact on their own. Brand design and brand philosophies have an extremely strong relationship.

Whether it be layout or social media posts, everything should build towards the bigger whole. Consistency creates brand awareness, recognition, recall, trial, loyalty, and, ultimately, advocacy. These readers become your readers for life. Make sure you have recognizable and consistent designs across all platforms. Even minute details like color and shape communicate brand emotion.

Persistence is Key:

Developing your brand is only the first step. You then have to promote your brand until you have an audience and they know your core messages by heart. This requires no short amount of persistence. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your blog definitely won’t be. Don’t rely on success right out of the gate — branding and promoting a blog is a marathon, not a sprint. Publish new content furiously, then reach out to influential internet personalities to help market your brand.

This can be tricky — they’re not going to give you the benefit of the doubt, so don’t expect it. Content is key. Have the content to support and reflect your brand promise. When reaching out to others, make sure you provide a service. Guest posts on successful blogs in your market can be a great way to get your name out there. Comment on other blogs while keeping your tone and quality consistent.

Eventually, traffic to your blog will increase and your brand will be spread. It’s imperative that you have the bloggy infrastructure to keep them invested and interested. If you stop posting or become mundane your readers will go elsewhere. You’re a shark — if you stop swimming and hunting you’ll sink to the bottom and expire into obscurity.

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7 Event Planning Apps You Should Be Using

Top Apps for Event Planning

When it comes to planning an event, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. From the guest list and invites, to the venue and food, to the advertising and promotion, event planning details are everywhere. Here is a list of some of the best event planning apps to make planning, organizing, and executing your event a little easier.

1. Mood Board

In the early stages of event planning, communicating and organizing the hundreds of ideas in your head can be difficult. Use Mood Board to place all you inspirational photos, color schemes, phrases, and graphics in one place. This is an efficient way to turn event planning into a visually pleasing, organized, and inspiring process.

2. Rhonna Designs

Graphics are important for events, especially when you’re needing to design invitations, place cards, fliers, pamphlets, etc. Rhonna Designs is a great app for everything regarding graphic design and photography. User-friendly and stylistically pleasing, this app will ensure you get the best graphics for your event.

3. Yellow Pages

With an endless variety of options, picking a venue is one of the most daunting tasks when it comes to event planning. A convenient way to browse venues in your area is by using the basic Yellow Pages app. You can conveniently filter your searches while looking at the venues’ location, distance, and directions. By doing so, you’ll find the perfect venue while simultaneously saving your guests unnecessary travel time.

4. myBanquet

For an event to run smoothly, it is crucial all the event logistics are sorted out beforehand. By using myBanquet, managing your guests and seating arrangements becomes convenient and easy. The app produces a full guest list that records whether guests have responded to the RSVP and arrived at the event. You can also avoid awkward seating situations by planning out your seating arrangements prior to the event. Just select the table size and shape, then virtually place guests’ names around the table.

5. Event Planning for Your Business

This app is filled with informative videos to serve as a guide while organizing, advertising, planning, and budgeting for your next company party. In addition, there are available addons to download that allow use of documents such as vendor and caterer contracts, PR letters, and event planning agreements required for most large events. If you’re needing any advice or direction, use Event Planning for Your Business as your personal hand-held event consultant.

6. Entry Manager

This is a great app for managing tickets and guest attendance. After scanning tickets with your smartphone, Entry Manager will automatically check-off guests on the guest list. Analyzing event data becomes extra convenient and easy as you can view data regarding ticket sales, number of attendants, and various attendance statistics. This data can then be used to guide decisions made at your next event.

7. CapsuleCam

The whole “your event didn’t truly happen unless there are pictures to prove it” mentality is not too far from the truth in today’s world inundated with social media. CapsuleCam is a great way to collect and share photos taken by a variety of individuals at an event or party. No one likes constantly reminding people to send in their photos, but with this app, you won’t have to. For those planning ongoing events, it’s obvious that photographs are one of the best ways to generate buzz and create success for the next event.

Be sure to take advantage of the many event planning apps! It’s apparent that not only will these apps save you time, but they also will lead to a more successful, stress-reduced event planning experience.

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