4 Strategies to Get More Clients for Your Marketing Agency Business

To tell other brands’ stories, you need to get good at telling your own.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When businesses hire an advertising agency or marketing firm, they do it because they want results. The more successful your current clients are as a result of your efforts, the more likely you’ll be to sign new clients based on the strength of your work. While that may sound simple, you know from experience just how much work has to go into crafting successful marketing campaigns.

Of course, to even get that far your agency will have to be able to market itself. You build your brand based on the work that you do for clients, and it’s up to you to decide how that work is presented. If you want to bring in new business, you need to get great at telling your own brand story. Here are a few strategies to do it.

Related: 10 Marketing Strategies to Fuel Your Business Growth

1. Define your target audience.

The very first thing you should do to improve your brand story is deciding exactly who you want to tell it to. While you may take on clients from a number of different industries, it’s difficult to refine your image and improve your brand story without a specific target.

This may limit your appeal in some sectors, but the increased business from your target audience should more than make up for it. Remember, the riches are in the niches!

This target can be as broad or as narrow as you like, but it should define your preferred clientele fairly well. Think about the various types of clients your agency has worked with and which ones you have enjoyed working with the most. Use this to narrow your focus to certain industries, making adjustments to your target description until you have a fairly solid definition of your ideal clients. Once you have a concrete target demographic in mind, you’ll be able to craft your brand story to better appeal to them.

2. What does your audience care about?

If you know who your target audience is, refine your brand story by focusing on the things your audience cares about. If your target is heavily invested in manufacturing, build your brand story about how you can increase product placements and order size. If you’re focused on human resources or worker placement, build up your successes in increasing the popularity of staffing firms. Whether it’s the hospitality industry, hotels or hog farmers, shape your message and your story around the things that will best appeal to those within your key demographic.

3. Appeal to your audience’s motion.

Which is more interesting: a story someone tells about their first pet or a story someone tells about three hours of crunching numbers to locate a missing dollar in the books?

Related: How to Create a Marketing Plan

Unless you have a semi-obsessive fascination with accounting, you likely picked the first option. If you want to really appeal to your target audience, make an appeal to emotion instead of (or alongside) an appeal to logic. Here are some ways you might do that:

  • Tell a joke, or at least use content that has a bit of humor to it.

  • Focus on success stories, especially if they involve success against all odds. Everyone loves an underdog!

  • Treat your brand story like an actual story, drawing in potential clients the way an author would draw in a reader with prose instead of a deluge of facts and figures.

  • Use unconventional, happy imagery in and around your brand information to make your agency and its employees more relatable; add pets or other unexpected factors to the mix if possible.

Keep in mind that these are just examples; you don’t have to check off all (or even any) of these suggestions to make an emotional appeal. The goal is to make your agency more human and relatable to the decision-makers at your potential clients. What do you think is fun and interesting about your workplace? There is a good chance others will find the same things fun and interesting, too.

Related: Need a Business Idea? Here Are 55.

4. Hone your message.

Learn from your successes as well as your failures. Don’t be afraid to ask new clients (and even old ones) about what attracted them to your agency. Find out what really worked for you, what didn’t, and how you can finetune your brand story to draw in even more of your target audience. You don’t have to make big changes or shift your direction with each new client, but be willing to take constructive criticism and make small adjustments as you move forward.

That’s probably one of the biggest keys to telling a better brand story: Realize that you’ll never tell the “best” brand story, no matter how many changes you make. There will always be room for improvement, and you’ll learn new things from every client your agency takes on. Hopefully, you’ll learn enough to get as close to the best version of your agency as you can get.


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The 5-Step Plan for Turning Prospects into Customers

Using this five-step plan can help you write powerful, persuasive copy that attracts your best customers.

4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from Robert W. Bly’s book The Direct Mail Revolution: How to Create Profitable Direct Mail Campaigns in a Digital World. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | IndieBound

In direct marketing, structure is key: If your copy doesn’t follow the formula for persuasion, it won’t work, no matter how creative you get.

There have been numerous formulas for writing persuasive copy throughout the years. The most famous is probably AIDA, which stands for attention, interest, desire, and action. In copywriting seminars, I’ve taught a variation on AIDA known as the motivating sequence.

The following explores the five steps of the motivating sequence:

Step 1: Get Attention

Before your promotion can do anything else, it has to get your prospect’s attention. It must get the prospect to stop, open the envelope, and start reading the materials inside instead of tossing it in the trash. You already know many methods of getting attention and see dozens of them in action every day. In TV and magazine advertising, sex is often used to gain attention for products ranging from soft drinks and cars to diet and exercise programs.

Other options: Make a bold statement, cite a startling statistic, ask a curiosity-arousing question, put a bulky object in the envelope, apply a glossy coating to the envelope and letter, use a pop-up graphic—you get the idea.

Step 2: Identify the Problem or Need

Most products fill a need or solve a problem. But what are the chances that your prospect is thinking about this problem when they get your promotion? Probably not all that great.

So, the first thing you have to do is focus their attention on the need or problem your product addresses. Only then can you talk to them about the solution.

Step 3: Position Your Product as the Solution to the Problem

Once you get the prospect to focus on the problem, the next step is to position your product or service as the solution to that problem. This can be a quick transition. Here’s an example from a fundraising letter from the Red Cross:

Dear Mr. Bly:

Someday, you may need the Red Cross.

But right now, the Red Cross needs you.

It pretty much lays out where the letter will go next, doesn’t it?

Step 4: Offer the Reader Proof

As marketer Mark Joyner points out in his book The Irresistible Offer (John Wiley & Sons, 2005), one of the prospect’s first questions when they receive your promotion is “Why should I believe you?”

You answer that question by offering proof. That proof comes in two flavors.

The first type speaks to your credibility. It convinces the prospect that you are a reputable firm or individual and can therefore be trusted. A diploma from a prestigious medical school displayed prominently on a doctor’s office wall is an example of credibility. In a direct-mail piece for health offers, response improves if the letter is signed by an MD.

The second type of proof has to do with the product and convinces the buyer that your product can do what you say it can do. Testimonials, case histories, reviews, performance graphs, and test results are examples of proof in this category.

Step 5: Ask for Action

The final step is to ask for action. Your goal is usually to generate either an inquiry or an order. To ask for action in direct marketing, we make an offer, or, in other words, what the reader gets when they respond to your promotion and what they have to do to get it.

In a lead-generating direct-mail package, the offer might be as simple as “Mail back the enclosed reply card for our free catalog.” In a mail order online promotion, the offer might be “Click here and enter your credit card information to purchase our product on a 30-day money-back trial basis for $49.95 plus $4.95 shipping and handling.”

I’m willing to wager that every successful piece of copy you’ve ever mailed or emailed follows to some extent the steps in the motivating sequence—even if you’ve never heard of it before. That’s because you have an instinct for how to sell.

So, if you can sell instinctively, then what good are the motivating sequence and other persuasion formulas?

They’re useful because when you have the steps written out in front of you, you can make sure no step is shortchanged or left out—increasing your odds of writing a direct mail winner.

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4 Social Media Strategies That Can Help Bring in 23 Percent More Profits

Everything you need to know about effectively and efficiently targeting your audience through social media.

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

40 percent of the world’s population and 69 percent of Americans aged 18-29 are active users of social media. Social media has revolutionized how companies communicate with, listen to and learn from customers, much like TV advertising did in the 20th century.

A marketing strategy involves identifying a target market, establishing actions to reach that target market and continual analysis and adjustments. A social media strategy, on the other hand, educates engages, and excites your customers and builds brand loyalty. Excited and engaged customers bring in 23 percent more profits. Through video sharing sites customers can quasi-experience products as well, making a purchase more likely. Here are four areas of social media that all entrepreneurs should know.

1. The power of blogging and content marketing.

According to the book M: Marketing, 78 percent of customers prefer to get to know a company through articles rather than ads. Content marketing has six times higher conversion rates and has the potential for a 7.8-X boost in web traffic than other social media tools. In 2018, U.S. adults spent an average of 3 hours, 35 minutes per day on smartphones. Most of this time lends itself towards content marketing. For example, customers spend 11 percent of this time on personal productivity and finances. Customers want content marketing about personal finance management. They want to read it.

If you sell medical devices, you should have articles about any health issue surrounding the problem that your product solves. If you sell makeup, you should have how-to articles about makeup application and likely skin care guides. If you own a restaurant, provide information about food trends, dieting, or perhaps event planning.

Related: Teach Yourself Online Marketing With This Simple Technique

To start a content campaign, figure out what your customers might care about and start writing. Local experts may be happy to provide articles because that is free social media advertising for them. Also, content marketing generated toward a political or charitable cause is impactful because 73 percent of all customers want to buy from companies that communicate upstanding moral philosophies.

2. Read and respond to reviews and complaints.

84 percent of customers trust online reviews. Ask your customers to review your company. You can manually check sites, like Google, or use reputation management software to track online comments and reviews. Respond to comments on social media rapidly! 53 percent of customers from all sites and 72 percent of Twitter customers expect a response in one hour, according to M: Marketing. Social media is now the number one place where customers want their complaints handled. No response or a template response are bad responses. Someone inside your company should personally address each complaint.

3. It’s not just about Facebook anymore.

All other social media channels should be used based on your specific target market. 68 percent of Americans use Facebook. Overall Facebook usage has been slowly declining and may be unprofessional. If you have a good webpage, there is no reason to have a Facebook page. It can confuse and overwhelm customers.  A local farmer’s market announces events, like strawberry picking dates, on different sites like Facebook and Twitter at different times. Confusion and added time searching turn customers away. 32 percent of Americans not on Facebook will give up as well. Stick with a robust homepage.

M: Marketing says that the average cost per click on a Facebook ad is $1.72. There is a 0.77 percent conversion rate on these clicks. That means that it costs $223.37 to gain a customer from Facebook plus the cost to create and manage the ad. You will likely not get a return on this investment although there are exceptions.

Related: 10 Marketing Strategies to Fuel Your Business Growth

Two hundred sixty million people use LinkedIn each month; 40 percent daily. Use it for business-to-business content marketing! LinkedIn users prefer more word count per article than other sites. The most read articles, by more than a factor of three, were articles over 1,900 words. LinkedIn also has the highest conversion rate of all the sites. The lead to conversion rate is 2.74 percent versus Facebook (0.77 percent) and Twitter (0.69 percent).

Since Google bought YouTube, it shows up prominently in searches. Seventy-three percent of Americans use YouTube, the highest percentage of all social media forms. With video, you can engage emotion and excitement better. You can post a how-to and other useful videos. Even incredibly professional companies like the Cleveland Clinic use YouTube to demonstrate their innovations and accolades.

Dr. Dre launched “Beats by Dre” using social media. Instagram was influential in building brand awareness, attracting approximately 2.5 million followers. 35 percent of Americans use Instagram. Instagram, like YouTube, is a place to build excitement quickly.

Sites like Twitter and Pinterest have an audience of less than 35 percent of Americans. Pinterest is a great place to show home décor products and vacation pictures and would be helpful in those markets. Twitter can be a low investment place to respond to user comments rapidly.

Related: How to Land the Digital Marketing Job of Your Dreams

Third-party bloggers are like a combination of content marketing and online reviews. Disney is famous for its use of Disney Moms. A group of 1,300 select moms receive perks, but not compensation, to visit and blog about their experiences. The moms talk about real issues, like dealing with food allergies or what to pack for a day in the park. Third party blogs are more credible and relatable.

4. Use data to learn, analyze and adapt.

An advantage of social media usage is the available data. You can use social media metrics to gauge attitudes, preferences, and trends. Available metrics are hits, page views, bounce rates, click paths, conversion rates and keyword analysis. There are numerous software packages available to examine each metric. Do not put too much weight on keyword optimization. Google regularly changes its search algorithms so sites should never be designed to game the Google system.

Use social media strategically. Make sure you know your target market. Use the tools to communicate in an engaging, informative, and caring way. Content marketing and responding to online reviews are the most important social media tools. Use the available metrics to revise your actions.

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9 Tips for Reigniting Your Marketing Team’s Creativity

Here’s how to get the creative juices flowing when it matters most.

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Being creative 24/7 can be hard, so it stands to reason that your marketing team is not going to be able spin up amazing campaigns every time on demand. Creative wells run dry and often it requires a refill before the ideas start flowing again. Continued pressure and high expectations are not going to produce effective results if your team isn’t given the space to thrive. Here are nine effortless ways you can reignite that creative spark and take your team’s results from stale to stellar.

1. Try a new locale

It’s incredible how much a change of scenery can bring out new ideas. If your marketing team is housed in a small, windowless corner of your office, it might be time to mix it up. Why not treat the team to coffee or breakfast? That way the team can sit down together and brainstorm ideas to deliver on the strategy without the office distractions. Or, order in lunch and take over the boardroom. Whiteboards, smartboards or any kind of blank space allows for uninhibited scribbling and new ideas, accelerating the creative process.

2. Encourage new ideas

The fantastic thing about brainstorming sessions is that it only takes one good idea to spark the imagination of others. That approach can be nurtured and built upon in a brainstorming meeting through the collective minds of the department. Of course, not every idea that comes out of a brainstorming session will be put to good use. But, they can definitely be filed away until a more appropriate time. Create an environment that allows your team to flex their creative muscles and the ideas will come.

Related: 10 Marketing Strategies to Fuel Your Business Growth

3. Put innovation into practice

Just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t. Make sure your team understands that while there are boundaries, they shouldn’t necessarily limit their strategies. Whenever possible give the team autonomy to create outside the box. So whether they opt for a powerful video with a strong storytelling aspect, or launch a unique billboard campaign that drives engagement, be flexible as long as it fits within the confines of your budget and brings the desired results.

4. Spark joy in your space

Ever since Marie Kondo came into our lives, we’ve been letting go of the things that drag us down and holding on to the things that inspire us. The same strategy can be applied to your marketing office. Purge those old monitors that are collecting dust. Find a place for your post-its and HDMI cords. And finally hang up that whiteboard that’s been leaning against the wall. You can apply the same idea to your digital spaces, too. Tidy up your analytics dashboard by removing meaningless metrics. Purge old files you no longer need. Cleaning up your physical and virtual space can give your team the room they need to think and spark creativity.

Related: Teach Yourself Online Marketing With This Simple Technique

5. Take it outside

If your team is facing a creative drought, a little Vitamin D and a dose of mother nature might be just what the doctor ordered. Unfamiliar surroundings paired with movement and free-flowing discussion will help your team think differently than in the confines of your office. It’s a bit of an unorthodox approach to meetings that can inspire your marketing team to come up with previously undiscussed propositions. And, if it doesn’t, you haven’t lost anything by trying. Your team may even benefit in ways you hadn’t planned.

6. Clear up your objectives

If your marketing team (or any team member for that matter) isn’t fully up to speed with the company objectives, their ideas will fall short of the organization’s aims. Make sure that everyone understands your business goals so that every project provides real value for the company as a whole. Having a clear understanding of the big picture, and the part each department plays, will clarify ideas, provide practical direction and give all of your employees a tangible purpose.

7. Encourage cross-pollination

Consider pairing the marketing department with another department in the organization so your team can hear ideas from a completely different perspective. Give everyone ample time to speak and allow them to learn from one another. Someone on the customer success team may be able to offer up an entirely different point of view that the marketing department fails to see because they are operating in different silos within the organization.

Related: How to Create a Marketing Plan

8. Change the context

Sometimes suggestions dry up because people are afraid to look silly. So, change the context. Ask everyone to come up with the most ridiculous ideas possible. Among the outrageous ideas will be some suggestions that just might work. Without pushing the boundaries just a little bit and allowing the team to dream up such ideas, it may never occur to them to speak up in the first place.

9. Give them a break

If the creativity is sparse, then step away. Do other tasks and come back to it. Thinking about a subject too much can put pressure on your brain and make it difficult to stay innovative. Allow your marketing team to move on to something else and revisit the project later in the day or week (deadline permitting). Or give them the afternoon off so they can come in fresh with ideas tomorrow. All work and no play can lead to stress and burnout! Author and creativity expert Kevin Carroll says it best: “For creativity to serve you well, you must exercise it daily.” Make sure you give your team plenty of rest and opportunities to take five while focusing on difficult topics.

No one is an unabated source of innovative ideas. So next time your team is feeling uninspired, take a breather, change your surroundings and look for new ways to reignite that proverbial creative spark.


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3 No-Cost Marketing Tactics You Can Use Right Now to Bring in More Sales

It’s doesn’t matter how good your product is if nobody has heard about it.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You can have the best products and services in your industry. You can have an impressive website. You can have the experience and knowledge that your customers need. You can have all the elements that it takes to grow a business but it won’t happen without good marketing. 

Your marketing plan and efforts are what separates a successful business from those that won’t make it. You can’t generate revenue if no one sees what you offer. You’ve been exposed to good marketing and it’s the reason why you’ve purchased products and services. You see it every day from big brands and companies. 

Marketing can be expensive. You can pay for advertising and hire professionals. But, there are also ways to market your business for free and these strategies can be highly-effective if implemented. You can use these strategies right now to grow your customer base and bring in more sales.

Related: This Is the Main Reason Few Entrepreneurs Achieve Explosive Revenue Growth Online

1. Get interviewed on podcasts.

According to Podcast Insights, 44 percent of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast. On average, 73 million people in the United States listen to podcasts every month. The numbers are even more staggering when you factor in global listenership.

This creates a great marketing opportunity for entrepreneurs.

You have the opportunity to pitch a podcast, get interviewed on that show and market your business to new potential customers. Podcast listeners are great because they’re engaged. They are likelier to subscribe to the guest’s email lists, follow the guest on social media and seriously consider buying the guest’s products and services.

There is no shortage of podcasts you can pitch but many entrepreneurs get it wrong when they pitch. They send pitches that lead with who they are and what they do. No one cares. Instead, lead your pitch with the specific value and takeaways you can bring to that podcaster’s audience.

Show them how you’ll educate their listeners on your topic. You’ll get your chance to promote your business at the end of the show after you’ve added value. That’s how marketing should work, anyhow. You can find shows looking for guests using free services such as Radio Guest List. You can also find shows on iTunes that match your topic and start pitching.

Again, lead with what’s in it for the podcaster.

Related: 7 Tips for Getting Interviewed on Top Podcasts in Your Industry

2. Leverage large audiences. 

If neither your online audience or potential customer base offline is very big, then go where there already is an established audience. The idea is to take your expertise and train someone else’s large audience. That entrepreneur would be willing to agree to this kind of arrangement because of the value their audience would be getting. 

You can train in large Facebook groups. You can create content for large media publications that get millions of monthly visitors. You can do joint-webinars. There are many ways to leverage an already established audience and create a win-win scenario. Use this strategy. It’s free and can get you exposure to millions of people rather quickly.

Related: 4 Things Editors Are Looking When They Read Your Pitch

3. Go deeper with your content. 

Not enough entrepreneurs harness the power of strong content. Good audio, video and written content can be leveraged and repurposed. While it can take some work on the front-end, content will pay dividends to your business by helping potential customers to know, like and trust you. It starts the buying process in their mind. Good content gets shared in many places, which creates word-of-mouth marketing for you. That’s a warmer way to market. 

Don’t skimp. You can give away a lot in your free content and customers will still buy to get handholding and/or the next steps. Creating good content is free and will market your business far and wide when distributed on social media, through media exposure and to your email list. 

If this is going to be a year of explosive growth for your business, you’re going to need to step up your marketing. The good thing is that you can use these three free strategies, and many more, to bring new eyeballs to you and your business. 

Get clear on what you offer and who it’s for. You can then find that group and show them why they should pay attention to you. Use marketing because it works.

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Nacho Fries With That? How Taco Bell and Others Make Branded Content We Devour

Branded content can engage your biggest fans, but you’ll have to rethink what storytelling means now.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Taco Bell recently relaunched its nacho fries with a cosmic bang. In its third faux movie trailer, the fast food chain parodies a sci-fi epic — think “Interstellar” or “Arrival” — to show the world that its menu is expanding rather than contracting. This one, called “Retrieval,” features actor James Marsden, whose road to stardom began in a “Saved by the Bell” spinoff (which seems fitting), and it has fans on social media demanding the release of a feature film.

CMO Marisa Thalberg says that the expectations around the campaign have perhaps been just as great as those around the product, which is any marketer’s dream. So, where are these great expectations coming from? How did Taco Bell build such a buzz?

Well, in the world of fast food, Taco Bell’s nacho fries might be good. They might be really good. That’s for you to decide. But in the world of marketing, Taco Bell’s storytelling is undeniably superb.

A great commercial — in fact, any great piece of branded content — can engage your audience and inspire viewers to action. Well-done branded content will build or strengthen loyalty to your brand. But to accomplish any of this, it must provide a compelling story. As large as the American appetite for T-Bell’s nacho fries might be, it’s tiny compared to the human appetite for great stories. Always seeking stories that resonate, we are obsessed with creating and consuming content in countless forms.

Related: How Brand Storytelling Is the Missing Link to Building a Loyal Community of Followers

It’s not easy for a brand to get noticed amidst the flashy videos and photos endlessly cascading down our news feeds or being projected from our tablets, televisions and mobile devices, but it can be done. If your storytelling isn’t compelling, however, you might as well be shouting into the void.

If you’re a marketer or entrepreneur hoping to tell a better story through branded content, here are three tips from people and brands that have done it before.

1. Find the right spokesfolks.

Consumers are more likely to pay attention to your story if it’s coming from a source they trust. Consider Airbnb’s “Airbnb Magazine,” a travel magazine for the sharing economy, published by the hospitality disruptor in partnership with Hearst.

Unlike most travel magazines, this one highlights real people. Its contributors include top columnists and authors who are experts in their fields. As the magazine continues to circulate, Airbnb fulfills its mission of connecting people who love to travel while adding credibility to its message.

Similarly, Uber partners with local experts in its operating cities to publish its city guides. These local blogs offer relevant stories from Uber’s corporate offices, as well as news and things to do in the area. Its Once Upon a Ride section features real rider stories, including one in which a couple met in an UberPool and later got engaged.

Publishing your own content can be extremely beneficial. Just make sure you get the right voices — whether experts or normal folks — to contribute.

Related: Branded Content vs Developing Content for Brands – What’s the Difference?

2. Give the people a hero.

The most memorable stories always involve a relatable, heroic character of some kind. Hope Horner, CEO and founder of video production company Lemonlight, points to Intuit’s recent campaign as an example of how storytelling can transform a brand’s image. The financial software company has been around for more than 30 years but had never run an ad campaign until 2018. Last year, it decided to invest in a massive effort that included a Super Bowl ad, as well as longer-form video content published on YouTube and Facebook. Its videos centered on the story of a surprisingly relatable giant robot — brought to life in Pixar-like fashion — which represented its various products.

Within days, the campaign had been viewed 16.8 million times. It ultimately lifted brand awareness and favorability significantly among consumers. “Storytelling personifies a brand better than any other tactic,” says Horner. “When audience members relate to a story on a personal level, they remember the brand behind it — and when it comes time to purchase, they give that brand the first shot at their business.”

Related: Win More Business by Copying Nike’s Storytelling Playbook

3. Let audience members choose their own adventure.

In the consumer world, we’re seeing companies like Netflix experiment with innovative storytelling approaches. The content giant’s release of “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” — which allows viewers to select their own narrative path — made headlines for weeks, and it definitely got some marketing junkies more than a little excited. Interactive content can certainly help brands get noticed, too, especially those trying to reach niche audiences.

Related: How to Use Storytelling to Sell Your Brand and Vision

Interactive video gets pretty expensive but if your budget is smaller, there are still innovative ways you can incorporate video content into your marketing. Take, for example, the “Tax Spa” videos from Geico and Vice. The two companies partnered just in time for tax season to enlighten viewers struggling with their taxes and, in an immersive twist that almost feels interactive, to help them relax at the same time. The campaign was an unprecedented success, with viewers, on average, watching at least 83 percent of all four videos.

The ability to tell a compelling story is a competitive advantage for any brand. Capturing consumer attention is only going to get more challenging. Companies that want to grow or maintain market share, regardless of what industry they’re in, will find that great storytelling is an essential ingredient of their branded content.

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These 6 Coffee Marketing Tricks Are a Perfect Blend for Your Cannabis Brand

Cannabis brands can learn a few lessons from the love between customers and specialty coffee

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Green Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Cannabis and coffee are similar industries in many ways.

Both markets grow from a strong love for a plant (cannabis/coffee beans), both have developed a multitude of processing options (THC activation methods/roasting levels) and their customers enjoy a wide variety of consumption methods (flower, concentrates, etc./espresso, drip, cold brew, etc.).

It’s natural for these industries to blend well. Cannabis brands including Willie’s Reserve and Jane West have launched lines of CBD coffees. Investment groups including Canaccord Genuity believe beverages infused with THC and CBD have the potential to become a $600 million market in the next four years.

Savvy cannabis brands should take note of these six artisan coffee branding practices to generate buzz around their cannabis business.

1. Get nerdy about your product.

There’s a pretty good chance that what excites you as a cannabis geek will get your customers geeking out, too, so let your geek flag fly on your menus, website and packaging.

From the plant species to the growing conditions to the harvesting process, coffee and cannabis users alike love to learn more about the plants they cherish. 

Brandywine Coffee Roasters, like many craft coffee brands, inscribes on their packaging every delicious detail of their products, from the farmer’s name to the altitude where the beans grew. Eager readers devour it.

Telling customers the time of harvest doesn’t directly make for a better blunt or cup of coffee, but it creates a connection with the source of the product that enhances the consumer’s overall experience. Whether you grow, process or dispense cannabis, tell the story of how it is crafted for quality and potency.

Related: Do You Drink More Coffee Than Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Other Creative Leaders?

2. Guide your customers to better consumption. 

No matter if they are talking with a budtender or barista, no one likes being clueless about what to order.

Counter Culture Coffee has made coffee education a key component of their brand to save new customers from feeling like idiots. Across the US, Counter Culture cafes feature Training Centers for lessons on home brewing, cupping fundamentals and the long history of coffee culture. Coffee lovers leave confident and Counter Culture Coffee got to be their hero.

The innovative cannabis industry is always exploring new ways to consume the plant, from new processing methods to techy tools like Pax vape pens. Longtime cannabis users may be unaware of innovations that might enhance their established ritual. Think about what they may be missing out on but don’t know to ask about. Listen to your customer and be ready with both answers and suggestions.

3. Create a like-minded community.

As legalization and consumption of cannabis grows across the US, brands need authentic ways to get involved and make a difference. Make it easier for yourself by finding a few collaborative partners — iife and business are both better when you surround yourself with awesome people. The team at Stumptown Coffee in Portland, Oregon, are experts at co-branded collaborations that expand their brand beyond the coffee shop.

Stumptown partnered with Jacobsen Salt Co. to develop a line of coffee salted caramels; blended their cold brew into Mast chocolates and Tillamook ice cream; and went so far as creating a coffee-stout cheddar (yes, cheese!) with Rouge Creamery.

Co-branding introduces a brand to new audiences who may never otherwise learn about them. While cannabis has restrictions coffee roasters don’t need to worry about, there are still plenty of ways to get creative on partnerships with local artisans. 

4. Stand for something more.

Activism is the heritage of the cannabis industry. It’s also common to find roasters driven by more than just profit. Many are cognizant of the environmental and socio-economic repercussions of the plant they love so much. For some, business practices that make a positive impact are integral to their brand identity. 

Grounds & Hounds Coffee, with blends including Morning Walk and Sit & Stay, donates 20 percent of profits to animal rescue groups. Birds & Beans coffee helps to set aside bird-friendly habitats on coffee farms. Turn to your brand values to find innovative ways to make an impact that is true to your brand and will connect with your audience.

Related: Stand Tall for Your Values and Your Cannabis Brand Will Stand Out

5. Stay true to your style.

Finding your own style while staying true to your story and mission will be the foundation of a strong brand in the fast growing cannabis industry.

Celebrate the individuality behind your brand. Feel like waking up to beautifully vivid illustrations? Since their launch in 2015 Brandywine Coffee Roasters has painstakingly screen-printed new artwork onto bags of their coffee. Inspired by their brand theme of “artfully sourced” ingredients, and their close location to the Brandywine School of Illustration, each illustration doubles as an up-sell with designs available as t-shirts, mugs and art prints.

Chicago-based Dark Matter Coffee has taken a different approach to their packaging artwork. Each month, Dark Matter commissions a different artist to develop a bag design. Their colorful, anything-goes approach has resulted in a brand style that delivers instant recognition on retail shelves as the wildest thing in the coffee aisle.

The best way to create a distinct visual style that sticks with customers is to know what your brand stands for and who it is speaking to. After all, your brand design is there to give a warm and friendly Oh hey! to your core audience and invite them to share the wonderful experience your business is hosting.

6. Keep your brand uplifting and energizing.

While society perceives and regulates these two mood-enhancing, benefit-rich plants differently, the passion and celebration behind cannabis and coffee make the growing merger of these two industries a new frontier of possibility for brands.

The growing cannabis industry offers many opportunities unavailable anywhere else. By learning from other industries, and learning from their mistakes as well as their successes, smart cannabusinesses can build their agility to navigate the unique challenges without losing momentum.

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How to Take Advantage of Interactive Marketing Right Now

Brands effectively using interactive-content marketing enjoy a steadily growing customer base.

8 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Interactive content is highly effective because it connects users with a brand on multiple levels. Interactive marketing provides a creative and unique experience that is personalized to each user — this means it keeps their attention longer, it increases excitement and they’ll be more likely to seek it out.

One defining element of interactive marketing is that it gives users some control or influence over their experience, making this content more personal and memorable. Today, many brands are offering interactive-content marketing campaigns that seek to enhance customers’ experiences, boost their engagement, gain more followers and ultimately grow a brand’s customer base.

So how exactly do these tools work and how can brands take advantage of these strategies? Here are five interactive trends your brand should consider using, and some important tips to keep in mind as you plan your interactive marketing strategies for 2019.

Assessments, quizzes and calculators

Interactive assessments offer people ways to give feedback or get more information about your products or your company. Quizzes and polls are also a form of interactive assessment, and can be highly entertaining. People love filling out online quizzes and then sharing the results on social media.

They can be a great way to prompt people to visit your website or social media page. BuzzFeed is well known for their quizzes, and you can hardly scroll through social media without bumping into a few. Quizzes can also be used for more serious topics and can help people recognize the need for your service or product.

Calculators allow users to input information to create numeric answers. These tools are frequently used by companies and brands to help customers estimate and compare the cost of products or features and evaluate the benefits of these options.

Related: How to Use Quizzes for Your Marketing Strategy

Interactive, gamified video

Videos don’t have to be a passive, one-way broadcast, but can be a truly interactive experience. The interactive video has been around for several years, but many users are still unfamiliar with this medium and brands are still figuring out the best ways to harness this trend. For users, gamification appeals to the reward-seeking mechanism built into our brains; thus, it can work well in organizing contests, giveaways or interactive video stories.

For an added bonus, try using a gamified, interactive video for a quiz. Combining an interactive video with a multiple-choice quiz can be a great way to capture attention because it turns passive viewers into active ones. Facebook’s announcement that it’s introducing new features to their video platform to make video content more interactive should encourage more marketers to consider how they can use this medium.

Facebook is using polling from both Live and on-demand videos, as well as gamification for Live, as tools to add new interactive features, such as polls, quiz questions and challenges.

Related: How Gamification Can Improve Customer Loyalty Programs

Augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) has become a buzzword in the world of games (think of the bestselling mobile game Pokémon GO), but AR has potential that goes far beyond gaming. Brands like Amazon, Ikea, Wayfair, Starbucks and Volkswagen are already utilizing AR technologies to increase customer engagement. Coca-Cola has used AR in several of its campaigns, including one with Alipay to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

As with many marketing trends, AR includes various elements to create interesting and engaging products. AR may incorporate 360-degree video and other interactive elements. Take, for example, Oreo’s 360-degree interactive AR video, which allows you to scroll around and see different views as you cascade down an animated river of milk while Oreo treats are being manufactured in a playful, fantastical self-propelled factory.

AR has also changed the way customers approach products in online stores. A 3-dimensional view of a product lets you see it on your own terms. AR apps allow customers to see what products will look like in the real world, giving them a better feel for the product and how it will fit in the home, office or elsewhere. For example, Amazon has introduced its AR view app, so you can take a picture of a room and see how a product will look in your kitchen or living room before you make a purchase.

AR is a great way to create an engaging and memorable marketing experience. It can help encourage sales, but often it’s most effective in building brand awareness and excitement surrounding a product.

Related: 10 Marketing Trends to Watch in 2019

360-Degree Video Content

Many brands are turning to immersive or spherical videos, which are 360-degree videos captured using an omnidirectional camera or a series of cameras. These 360-degree videos allow users to click and drag or move their phones around to explore a virtual space and become immersed in that virtual reality.

This content is powerful because it can combine two routes into immersion and engagement. There’s the first-person exploration, where users have the ability to change the angle or view of what they’re seeing, but there’s also amazing storytelling potential here. As a user navigates a 360-degree video, they’re primed to listen to a backstory about what they’re exploring, or simply hear the sounds that relate to what’s going on in the video. Either way, users are completely immersed and have stronger emotional connections to what they’re experiencing.

Some examples are Google Arts & Culture, which invites users to step into the action of performance and stories, and the New York Times, which is using this medium to give readers an up-close-and-personal view of visually stunning stories.

But this medium also works well for travel-related industries, which is all about the promise of transporting you to a new, exciting place. The Royal Caribbean offers users 360-degree videos in which users can stand on top of one of its largest ships and check out some of its amenities. Another example is Marriott Hotel’s development of “The Teleporter,” a booth that combines virtual reality and 360-degree video streaming to give users an immersive 4D experience of traveling to the far corners of the world.

The 360-degree trend will continue to be adopted by more brands in the coming year, especially those that sell large items like furniture, cars and homes.

Voice-activated technology

Whether they’re playing music, answering questions or setting timers, customers are loving their smart speakers such as Amazon Echo, Google Home or Apple HomePod. These voice-activated speakers are also changing the way people buy products and services and interact with news and information.

But the true “brains” behind the smart speaker are the virtual assistants inside the device. Alexa, Google and Siri are now household names, and people are using them for more than just checking the weather. These voice-activated platforms allow customers to browse and purchase items.

But how can brands create ways to ensure they get noticed in the world of voice-activated technology? Take, for example, how HBO has been working to create applications (known as “skills” on Amazon Echo devices) to promote its shows and characters. It introduced Westworld: The Maze, a choose-your-own-adventure style game for fans of the show “Westworld.”

Brands should be looking for ways to make use of voice-powered technology in their content marketing. Find out how your customers are using their voice-activated assistants. How are these devices making customers’ lives easier? This will help shape effective strategies for using this technology in a way that’s meaningful to your customers.

Also, make sure you optimize your content so that virtual assistants can find it. For instance, when people ask their voice assistants questions, they typically use short phrases like “Mexican food restaurants near me.” Make sure to incorporate similar phrases throughout your company’s content.

Tips for getting the most out of your interactive marketing

This coming year, we’ll likely see more interactive marketing utilizing all of the above mediums. What will set the effective campaigns apart from the mediocre ones will be the ability to create an immersive experience in which users feel engaged, transported and emotionally connected to the brand.

Brands should endeavor to keep their messaging exciting, engaging and focused on the experience they are creating. Sharp, crisp storytelling is a must for grabbing and holding the customer’s attention. These interactive campaigns work best when they incorporate a multimedia approach. The more ways you can engage a person’s senses, the more immersive the experience will be.

Interactive content is especially effective in creating a buzz around a brand or company. It can be incredibly effective at increasing awareness and interest in what a brand is doing. Always consider how you can personalize each user’s experience, whether it’s through quizzes, gamified videos, interactive tools or user-controlled 360-degree video.

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3 Fast Ways To Get Good Press

Whether you’re a publicist or a brand ambassador, these tips will improve your chances of getting your emails returned.

4 min read

Opinions expressed by Green Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

With restrictions on paid media for cannabis companies, earned media (or the publicity you don’t pay for) has become an increasingly important way for brands to get the word out. 

This unusual circumstance has caused many companies to hire public relations specialists, who understand how to place stories in various publications. And even if you can’t afford a publicist, it helps to understand which pitches work and which fall on deaf ears. 

Here are a few tips for companies trying to maximize their PR efforts in the elusive press world.

Related: Should Your Cannabis Company Hire a Publicist?


Know who you’re pitching 

Journalists and editors are bombarded daily with unsolicited calls and emails containing story pitches that don’t match their beat. But PR is not a numbers game. Sending out a story to as many people as possible does not improve your chances of getting it placed. Quite the opposite. Sending stories that don’t make sense for a specific publication or writer is a waste of everyone’s time, and may even lead to your future emails being ignored. 

Instead of email-blasting every publication you can think of, you’ll have better results curating your pitches based on your target publication’s interests and style.

For this reason, you should take the time to get to know the writer and publication you’re pitching. You can be an asset by proposing stories that are relevant to their needs.

Practice quality over quantity by targeting pitches to people who may actually benefit from them, and help keep those inboxes clutter-free(ish).


Be a valuable asset

With the staffs at newsrooms being slashed, journalists appreciate some help from time to time. They value contacts that make their job easier by providing story leads and access. Instead of piling on with story pitches, you should ask what stories they’re working on and, when appropriate, offer to help by providing a quote or inside information. Don’t have a client on hand who matches up? Scan your expansive network and see if there is someone who might be of value to the story, regardless if they are a client or not. In PR, your network is your net worth, so make it work for you.

Related: She Runs One of The Biggest PR Companies in Cannabis. So Why Haven’t You Heard Of Her?

This is beneficial for a few reasons: First, it helps build a relationship with journalists and editors beyond merely pitching. By helping facilitate a story or a lead, you mark yourself as an asset that they’ll want to reach out to in the future.

Creating a relationship of value, even when it doesn’t directly or immediately benefit you or your clients, removes the transactional element from pitching, and makes the experience much more personable.


Tell a good story

Every publicist knows (or should know) the importance of a good press release. In order for it to be effective, it is imperative that they truly know and understand their clients in order to portray them in the best way. Some questions a good publicist asks before writing: What’s their point of difference? What problems do they solve? What are the most interesting personal nuggets you can share about a client? Having those key pieces of information about a client ready to drop at any time is critical for putting out a good press release at a moment’s notice, and for talking about that brand to someone when a good opportunity is present.

Be sure to send your press releases to the right people. Connecting a journalist with a brand that resonates with them helps create a fluid story, ideally with meaning to it.

Related: 12 Cutting-Edge Marijuana Marketing Tactics That Work

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Influencer Marketing Is About Relationships, Not Buying Media

Buying media isn’t a purely transactional activity.

2 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In this video, Entrepreneur Network partner Business Rockstars talks with Nick Ingate, the CMO of advertising company The Projects.

Ingate notes that when involved in media buying, you should keep in mind that it is not a purely transactional activity. It’s also about developing a relationship. 

Ingate emphasizes the importance of working with brands that are forwarding society and doing something that will improve the world. Some campaigns, he mentions, which are particularly prominent in The Projects’s portfolio, are the brands of Equinox and Absolut Elyx.

Click the video to hear more from Ingate and about The Project’s work. 

Related: Success Stems From Self-Belief, so Own Your Power as a Woman Entrepreneur

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