May 13, 2013
Who doesn’t love receiving junk mail? If you’re like me, your heart flutters a little when you open that mailbox and it’s filled with boilerplate credit card offers, especially when they bless you with a brand new variant on how to misspell your name. That envelope is totally not going directly to your trash can without a second look. No sir-ee.
The experience of an unwanted deluge of direct mail is familiar–but even more importantly, it’s a valuable example for designing your own mailers.
You don’t open mail that doesn’t give you a reason to open it. If there’s nothing distinct about a piece of mail, you toss it. If there’s no promise of benefits uniquely tailored for you, that marketer’s money (and potential sale) is going down the drain.
But there are ways to get people excited to open the mail you send them. And I’d like to tell you what they are:
You’re spending the money to create a direct mail campaign and taking the time to address the pieces. And rightfully so. There’s just something about getting mail signed, sealed and delivered to you tangibly.
And you know that it’s more than just a piece of mail. So your copy needs to be just right. It needs to reflect your business, capture your audience’s attention, and be equally as witty, funny or moving.
That’s a lot of weight on your shoulders. But follow these simple steps to help you achieve direct mail copy success.
First, be concise. People want you to get to the point. Right now. Maybe even yesterday. They don’t have time to try to figure out what you’re talking about. And then give specifics. If you’re saving them money, tell them exactly how much. Your audience doesn’t want to have to fill in the blanks.
Also, what words attract your attention? Don’t you just love things that are free? How about exclusive information or offers? Plus, who doesn’t love a guarantee? Using those types of words in your direct mail piece will grab your audience’s attention and keep it there.
Finally, when you’re phrasing copy, make sure to gear it toward your customer. Which sounds better? “At X company, we have brand new equipment.” OR “You need top of the line equipment to get the job done. We have you covered.”
Simply directing the message back at customers by starting with the word “You” reminds them why they need your services. It makes them feel included.
So remember: be concise, use words that grab attention, and cater to your customer when you’re writing copy.
Do you have any other tips for writing the perfect direct mail message? Leave your ideas in the comment section below. Thanks for watching.
May 6, 2013
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
It was a while ago when I overheard one person ask another, “When is Employee Appreciation Day?” After giving it some thought, I decided that I didn’t really want to know when it was because every day should be Employee Appreciation Day.
Your company should strive to foster a culture of recognition and acknowledgement. I’m not saying you should go bonkers with lavish celebrations every day for your employees, but you’d be surprised at how far a genuine acknowledgement of someone else’s contributions goes.
Of course, if you want to do something a little extra, perks such as free food, happy hour, half-day off with pay, gift cards, flowers or a personal note are always welcomed gestures. Employees who feel appreciated are more likely to stick with your company longer, work harder and pay it forward by recognizing and appreciating others. The ROI of employee appreciation is too great to ignore.
And since I appreciate you taking the time to read this article, here’s some (free) food for thought from a 2012 study conducted by Globoforce:
More employees in the U.S. work for companies that have recognition programs, and more of them are being recognized as part of those programs.
Employees who are recognized regularly are more satisfied with their work in the company, feel more appreciated by management and are more apt to love their jobs.
Employees are more likely to consider leaving a job for a company that recognizes their employees. In fact, most of them have done just that.
An overwhelming majority of workers said that being recognized motivates them in their work, and another majority said they would work harder if they were better recognized.
While many employees do feel they have a strong and positive company culture, even more indicated that company culture is an important factor to them.
Is your company celebrating Employee Appreciation Day every day? Tell us what you think is going well and what could be improved upon.
April 29, 2013
Bringing interns into your business these days is quite common. And finding marketing interns isn’t much of a challenge. You can easily recruit an intern by using online college job boards, career fairs and other events where potential interns might network.
The more important question: should your business hire a marketing intern in the first place? What value can a marketing intern bring to the table? Let’s break down three reasons you should consider adding a marketing intern to your team—and then cover a few reasons that don’t cut the mustard.
Many marketing interns will have bountiful experience working with social media and at least a passing familiarity with other marketing tools. If you recruit them from local colleges, it’s likely they will have learned about online business practices and how to curate a professional social media presence from their classwork.
In fact, in many instances you and your team might learn as much from your intern as they learn from you. A good marketing intern will offer perspective and fresh insight into your existing online presence and marketing endeavors.
Internship programs are a great way to vet or nurture future employees. If you offer a great experience and the intern performs well, you’ve shortcut the hiring process, and will be able to bypass much on-the-job training, too. In this sense, an internship is almost like an eight-week interview.
This is a good reason to put a lot of effort into finding a great marketing intern in the first place. Make sure you have a culture fit, because while you might be stuck with them forever, an intern who doesn’t work well with your existing team will not a great future employee make—even if they’re highly competent otherwise.
Finally, marketing interns are usually highly motivated and enthusiastic, because if they apply, they truly want to be at your company. By definition, they aren’t there for the pay—they are there to contribute, prove themselves and gain job experience.
If you allow them to, interns can add value to your team, bring in fresh ideas and be a vibrant addition to your company culture.
Here’s the caveat: None of the above perks are worth much if you hire an intern for the wrong reasons. For example, if you’re hiring an intern just to outsource your coffee-fetching and pencil-sharpening to a new bottom rung, rethink your decision.
If you want a valuable intern, you must first allow them to contribute in interesting and valuable ways. Think about THEIR position: what would they happily gain in exchange for a meager income? The answer is marketable experience that’s attractive to future companies and helps them grow professionally.
If you aren’t letting marketing interns contribute, as well as helping to guide them by providing a support network, you aren’t going to gain much from them. Your intern might quit or perform poorly, and they certainly won’t evangelize for your company within their network. But the biggest tragedy is that you won’t benefit from an intern’s ideas, input and perspective.
At this point, one might object that hiring a marketing intern seems like a lot of work. And that’s correct. If you’re hoping to gain long-term value from your interns and internship program, it’ll take effort both during the hiring process and throughout the internship.
Interns aren’t a simple fix to your organization’s chores. Internships need to be a fair exchange of value. If you offer a great work environment, real experience and a structure for accountability, a marketing internship is a great idea, and you’ll be happy you made the investment.
How has your business benefited from hiring interns?
April 22, 2013
It’s a glaring question that stares back at you from your business’s company Facebook Page. “What’s new, Firespring?” So many thoughts come to mind, but none of them seem quite right. Next, you log onto the Twitter account. And with just 140 characters, you’ve got to get it just right with less words.
So you panic. How do you make your post sound less like you, and more like your company? And even then, what is your company’s voice? Use these tips to find help find your business’s social media voice.
It’s easy to find your voice in real life. You have opinions, emotions and characteristics that make you unique. But what about on social media?
Suddenly, you’re speaking on behalf of an entire business. And carrying the weight of trying to brand and market your company can be stressful. But a few simple steps can change that.
It all starts with planning. Your social media audience wants to feel a connection to your business through social media. That’s impossible if your posts don’t garner consistency. Set a list of guidelines for your company’s voice on social media. Who do you want to be?
Even if multiple people post to your social media sites, make me feel like I’m talking to one person, and one business. It doesn’t matter if Joe is 10 times more outgoing than Sally. Both of their posts made on your business’s behalf need to match.
Next, make sure you’re using your social media voice to do just what it says… be social. Shouting information from your social sites and then walking away is like talking to a brick wall. Boooorrring. And when people don’t find the answers or conversation they crave, they’ll leave. It’s as simple as the unfollow or unlike button.
Finally, quality trumps quantity any day. Some of the best big social media brands do it right with meaningful posts less often.
Sure, consistency is key. But as an audience member, I don’t want to read your posts that don’t evoke any feelings. I want to be moved, I want to laugh or I want to connect. Give me something to talk about with your posts.
How have you discovered your social media voice? Let us know in the comment section below. Thanks for watching.
April 15, 2013
“Practice what you preach.”
You’ve probably heard that countless times throughout your life. Maybe in the movies, or even a silky smooth voice reiterated it for you. But in the professional world, what good are you if you don’t actually practice what you preach?
I guess we preach a few different things at Firespring. Hard work. Truly caring—well, maybe in other words. And giving employees a work environment they look forward to every day.
We don’t want every organization to be just like us—we just want you to start thinking about who you want to be. What are your core values that make you who you are?
Make them known.
We work hard to make sure life is right at Firespring. Since seeing is such a large part of believing, take a look at what makes us Firespring.
April 8, 2013
Does your company have a place where The Creatives sit? Or have you designated a select few as The Creatives? It’s a term typically reserved for the right-brained among us. But really, it doesn’t matter which side of the brain you favor—everybody has the potential to create.
Your “creative department” should really encompass your whole company and include every employee. Can you imagine telling anyone, “No need to bring up new ideas, original thoughts or interesting observations. Your job is to maintain the status quo.”
If you’ve said something like this, you can stop reading—you’re probably not interested in fostering creativity in your workplace. But if you’d like to get more in touch with your right brain, I have a few ideas for you. I won’t be sharing Excel spreadsheets or analytics because, frankly, those things make my right brain hurt.
I will tell you what gets my creative juices jazzed. Here are five ways to encourage your imaginative side.
This is the first and possibly hardest step. We tend to put people into boxes. Writers and designers, to the right. Engineers and scientists, to the left. If you like words and pictures, you get to create. If you like numbers and spreadsheets, you get to be a nerd (which I mean in the coolest of ways). But one of the most scientific men to ever walk the planet said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Einstein was a creative nerd—imagine that. Everybody has the ability to be creative. Imagination just manifests itself in different ways.
Learn to enjoy your own company. Highly creative people appreciate solitude as a creativity generator. Quiet time allows you to contemplate, recharge and let your mind wander. Take this one step further and carry a journal or use a notes app on your phone. When you have a quiet moment and a lightbulb idea strikes, jot it down before you lose it.
Seems inconsistent—first I tell you “be alone” and then I say “get with people.” That’s because both can stimulate creativity. Your alone time allows your imagination to breathe. But once you have ideas rattling around, it’s good to get them out. Organize a brainstorming session. Talk with friends over coffee. Discussing your newly developed ideas helps inspire more ideas.
Literally. The cube farm is still the workplace structure of choice for many companies, but let’s be honest—it’s not exactly the most inspirational. If you need to do some heavy-duty brainstorming or creative thinking, get out. Change your scenery. Say hi to nature. Quit staring at your gray walls and go find something that makes your neurons fire.
When’s the last time you finger-painted? Squished Pla-Doh between your fingers? Or blew bubbles in the backyard? Most of us need more recess in our workdays. Look at kids—they play without inhibition. They don’t worry about being wrong. Somewhere on the way to adulthood, we lose the ability to create without fear of rejection. I believe that when we unleash our inner child, we get some of that back.
Now we want to know—what inspires you?
April 1, 2013
At Firespring it’s a rare occasion that we hire the wrong person. Making sure everyone is a right fit and molds well with our company culture is a top priority.
Part of that company culture is working hard—and in return rewarding hard work. So we wanted to share a few ways we’re continually keeping company culture at the forefront, and some of the events and incentives we hold to do just that.
Oh, and this was all in the month of March.
Sometimes telling your employees you appreciate them is as easy as bringing in lunch and dessert. Mix it with an offbeat “holiday” and you’re golden.
That’s what we did on Pi Day (3.14.2013). While 3.14 pies can’t feed our office without multiplying them, we had enough pizza and pies to feed a small army.
Things got a little wild mid-March. We made a lunch date with the Lincoln Children’s Zoo who brought some of their finest friends to visit with us.
You can think locally to add some spice in the workplace. What business or organization around town can you work with to bring in something new and fun to the office?
Embracing the true spirit of March Madness, we held our own tournament. Having shuffle board and pool, ping pong and foosball tables makes it hard to avoid the madness. We created four separate brackets for each “sport,” then had an in-office FAC where all the championship games were played.
Luckily no bones were broken.
While your company doesn’t have to go to these extremes, start paying attention to what your employees are passionate about—and build from there.
The key to creating great company culture is having a workplace that doesn’t always feel like just that—work. Try to build an environment your employees look forward to coming to every day.
Trust us—happy employees = hard workers.
March 25, 2013
Did you hear that sad wailing sound about 10 days ago? It was the loud cry of news junkies bemoaning Google Reader’s impending death on July 1 of this year. There’s been a lot of buzz online about Google’s decision, and some fanatical Google Reader supporters even put together a petition to try to keep the RSS reader alive—they garnered more than 50,000 signatures in just a few hours. No dice, though. Google says that its decision was based on declining usage, plus the company wants to concentrate on fewer products.
The demise of the service has left many searching for alternatives. Luckily, for the avid RSS users out there, there’s a solid pool of alternatives to choose from. If you’re a Google Reader fan who’s now in the market for a new RSS aggregator and feed reader service, here are a few of the best options.
This option may be the most popular—a half million people signed up for Feedly within 48 hours of Google’s announcement. When you first launch Feedly, it displays a menu of featured websites covering several categories. You can subscribe to recommended feeds, import or search for your own content to subscribe to, and even save articles for later offline reading.
Feedly currently uses Google Reader for many of its back end functions; however they say that a clone of current Google Reader functionality is in development and will be ready by the time Google Reader shuts down. One bonus: From a visual perspective, Feedly’s mobile apps have a striking display.
Flipboard is already a popular newsreader and social network hub, but it has no desktop or browser-based component. Still, if you have an iOS or Android device, Flipboard is an excellent option because you can organize content, then flip through it like a magazine. Users simply create an account with Flipboard, then sign in to their Facebook, Google+ and Twitter accounts to be fully connected. Flipboard’s strength is in its magazine-like layout, plus it’s easy to customize.
This RSS aggregator’s user base has exploded since the announcement of Google Reader’s demise. Free users can follow up to 12 sites, share content publicly through a blurblog, and more. Premium users get unlimited site subscription, more privacy options for their blurblog, a text view for stories and more frequent feed updates. Newsblur is a fairly small operation and has been swamped with new users, so it’s experienced a bit of a slowdown. But it has a solid iOS app, and everything should be up to speed once its user base stabilizes.
Taptu’s mantra is that it lets users “DJ their Streams,” meaning you can tailor your streams to your interests. Just log in with a social media account and select from a set of predefined streams or import your own material. The web app delivers a fairly traditional reader experience while the mobile apps offer up your content in horizontal ribbons of article tiles that can be reorganized, colored and customized. If you’re not a heavy RSS user and have a smaller number of feeds to manage, Taptu is user-friendly reader to navigate.
How about you—do you have any suggestions for other alternatives to Google Reader? What do you currently use for your RSS reader?
March 18, 2013
While you may want to start rocking out to Led Zeppelin and “get the led out,” we have something else in mind. It’s time to cut what’s not working with your company’s copywriting and focus on what can get you new business. Maybe even get the (sales) leads out.
Quality copywriting is imperative to starting a relationship building conversation with your customers and prospects, and to keep that conversation going. Check out these five tips to add a little spice to your copywriting that could drum up some new business for organization.
Great copywriters start their process with their audience in mind. You need to consider the people who will read your copy before you write it. What topics will interest them, which references will stick in their minds and which will pass right through? Put some brainstorming power focused on your target audience so your copy has the right direction.
The more precise your language, the more interesting your copy. For example, “searing” is a better choice than “hot.” And “shivery” is more telling than “cold.” (Well-chosen) word to the wise: great copywriting revolves around specificity. Anyone can put drab words on a page—so put extra effort into language that will hang around your audience’s mind a little longer.
A little reconnaissance would do you good. You’ll be a better copywriter—and marketer—if you use social media as a listening tool.
B2B copywriters should check out prospects’ Facebook Pages and Twitter accounts. Use the language they use, and drop the keywords they’re dropping. This technique is one of the simplest ways to subtly insert your company into their discussions.
It doesn’t matter who your prospect is—every consumer is filled to the brim with marketing messages. Overloaded by constant pitches from you and your competitors, prospects can only give you seconds of their attention. Seconds! So be brief. You won’t have much time before they move on to someone else’s copy.
When you’re trying to sell your product or recruit new clients for your services, it’s easy to get wrapped up in yourself. But for stronger copy, redirect your focus on the reader. Write with “you” more than “I” or “we” and they’ll pay more attention.
Communication between your company and its customers is important, because customers notice when your business puts effort into reaching them. Besides prioritizing communication to keep customers happy, it also forms the cornerstone of a good lead generation strategy. Put simply: show customers you’re speaking their language and you’ll be in the money.
What’s been getting the lead out of the current state of your copywriting? Rock on.
March 11, 2013
If you peruse the aisles at the local liquor store you’ll notice a curious (or clawed, or cold-blooded, or canine) trend. More often than not, winemakers market their vinos with labels featuring animals. They’ve built their brands around the cute and cuddly or the fierce and furry because they want to attract attention. More specifically, they want to attract female shoppers’ attention, since more women buy groceries than men.
It’s too simplistic to say that all wine-drinking women prefer to sip from a bottle with an animal printed on it. Winemakers need to master the delicate balance between connecting with their target prospects (women) without alienating others (men). And so do you.
The importance of creating marketing campaigns tailored to suit prospective customers is obvious. You can’t offend by fixating on or simplifying gender—but you can’t ignore it either. Here’s our advice for effectively marketing to women without alienating men.
Marketers and small business owners often make a fatal marketing mistake: they underestimate female consumers. Demographic studies show that in almost every market women make most buying decisions. Even in stereotypically “male” product categories, like cars or televisions, women sway purchasing decisions. Don’t exclude women in your marketing materials. Appeal to them instead.
To start with, work from a few basic trends among female consumers. (But remember that these features aren’t true for every prospect.) Most female consumers won’t hesitate to ask for input or advice. Make sure your sales team and customer service reps have expert answers ready for them.
Most women also do their homework before buying. Is your presence on review sites like Yelp positive? Will your website answer their questions—or raise more?
Pay special attention to social media too. Women consistently outnumber men on social sharing sites. If you want your product to appeal to women, your business better be active on Facebook and Twitter. Finally, eco-friendly products and environmentally conscious businesses fare particularly well with female consumers. Highlight any green business practices.
Avoid any marketing campaign that relies on clichés or stereotypes. A direct mail piece in a pastel envelope won’t win you new female customers. Ad campaigns that speak exclusively to men will alienate women, and vice versa. Aim instead for gender-neutral design and packaging like Apple’s. Steer clear of insults, don’t oversimplify consumer preferences and avoid generalizations about your customers.
Increasing your market share involves designing marketing pieces that appeal to women as well as men. Set out to create a campaign that speaks to both sets of buyers.