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Lessons B2C and B2B Companies Can Learn from Smart Brands

smart brands

In February of this year, I met with 35 brand certified peers. During our time together, we shared some of our favorite brands and talked about why those brands stood out to us.

My favorite brand was Disney because of its family-oriented focus. It’s about making people happy: its stories have happy endings and its service model creates extraordinary experiences. The brand has been consistent since brothers Walt and Roy founded the company in 1929.

Some of the group’s favorite brands included Adidas, Tom’s Shoes, Nike, BMW, Sephora, Trader Joe’s, LL Bean, Marshall’s|TJ Maxx, Red Bull, Vitamix, Guinness, Always, Tesla, Google, Apple, Lyft, US Marines, and Southwest Airlines. In listening to the stories of why these smart brands stood out and why they rose to the top of our minds, some similarities began to surface. There are some lessons to be learned from these smart brands for both consumer-oriented companies and business-to-business brands.

Lesson #1 – Have a strong commitment and understanding of why your business exists and how it contributes to the betterment of your target audience and/or the world.

Lesson #2 – Altruism can be a business driver. Stand for something greater than your products or services. Pay it forward.

Lesson #3 – Create an internal environment that is inclusive and where people feel empowered. Make employees your #1 brand ambassadors.

Lesson #4 – Make sure your company’s brand strategy and business strategy are aligned.

Lesson #5 – Create a consistent customer experience at all touch points — online, on the phone, in person.

Lesson #6 – Establish standards when involving third-party resellers in representing your company’s brand.

Lesson #7 – Stand behind your target customers, enrich their world and empower them to achieve their best.

Lesson #8 – Reinvent your product and service offering to continue to deliver upon your commitment to your customers.

Lesson #9 – Provide meaningful experiences that remain in the heart of your customers for life.

Lesson #10 – Really understand who your customers are and embrace what is important to them.

Lesson # 11 – Walk the walk and live and treat others in a manner that is consistent with your brand. Empower employees to do the same.

Lesson #12 – Stand behind the products and services you offer with a guarantee, knowledgeable employees and quality service.

Think about how you can apply some of the lessons above to strengthen your company’s brand to become the preferred brand amongst your target market.

Need help with your brand development? We can help! Contact us today to develop a brand that will ignite your business — guaranteed.

 

How to Build an Online Marketing Fire

Knowing how to build a fire is just as essential for survival in the online marketing world as it is in the wilderness. A blazing campfire provides warmth, light and a way to cook food. The fire you want to build online increases awareness and generates online leads.

Fire-Starting Tools

To start a fire in the great outdoors, you typically need a match and strike board, a piece of flint and steel or a magnifying glass and the sun. In marketing, we consider having a well-defined brand and a strategic plan as the bare necessities to ignite the flame for your business.

Your audience needs to understand who you are as a company, what you stand for and why you’re in business. Without a well-thought-out brand, you run the risk of looking like and sounding like your competitors, and you will be stuck in a continuous lowest-price-wins battle. Without a strategic plan, you’re wandering through the wilderness battling the unexpected and rather than focusing on what you need to do to reach your goals.

Tinder

No matter where you are, creating a flame can be a lot of hard work — and it’s all for naught if there is no tinder to catch the flame.

In digital marketing, your “tinder” would be your website. Your website is the hub, or the core of all your online marketing efforts. For your website to attract and retain traffic — or “catch fire” — it must be optimized for search engines, easy-to-use and appealing. Without a well-optimized and user-friendly website, you will end up rubbing two sticks together all night long with no results.

However, while tinder catches fire easily, the fire quickly dies out without added support.

Kindling

When building a fire, you need materials that provide more substance than tinder provides to keep the flame burning long enough for your fuel wood to catch. This is where kindling comes in.

In marketing, you can use search engine optimization (SEO) and online advertising. When following best practices, SEO and online advertising can quickly and easily increase awareness and direct traffic to your website. Just as kindling must be dry to work, your website and online ads must be optimized with keywords to work.

Fuel Wood

The fuel wood might take a little longer to catch fire, but it is what ultimately keeps your fire hot and burning. And if you notice your fire is starting to die down, you can throw more fuel wood on top to keep it going. In marketing, fuel wood is a mix of owned and earned channels.

Content marketing is one owned channel that can help “fuel the flame,” and it includes pieces such as white papers, case studies, e-books or webinars. Advertising such as print, TV or radio also add to the discussion, increase awareness and even drive website traffic. Additionally, email marketing can help nurture the fire and keep it going.

Public relations is one example of an earned “fuel” or channel. When your company receives media coverage from third-party sources, it helps boost your credibility and increase “buzz”. Word of mouth — whether it’s in person or online via social media — is also earned, and it can be a very powerful tool to build a blazing fire.

Building a fire is not as easy as it first appears. It involves a lot of knowledge, preparation, tools and hard work—similar to effective online marketing campaigns. Luckily, the GREENCREST team is ready to support you! Contact us today to get started.

 

10 Tips for an Effective Marketing Booth

You signed up to have a marketing booth at a trade show, networking event or festival. Now what? What can you do to generate new business leads or meet potential new talent? You have to be strategic, plan ahead and bring your marketing A-game!

Successful Marketing Booth Ideas

Here are ten tips that will help you draw more traffic to your marketing booth, engage with more event attendees, and generate sales leads.

  1. Before the event, send an email and/or direct mail piece to prospects that may attend the event. Let them know where your booth will be located and what benefits they will receive from visiting you.
  2. Design a professional, attractive booth that catches the attention of passersby.
  3. Make information easy to find and digest. Add professional banners, posters or an informational wall structure to help people understand who you are and what you do — even if they don’t talk to you. Engaging or interactive technology elements such as a video are a bonus!
  4. Be helpful or entertaining. A fun game, massage chairs, interactive technology and raffles for big-ticket items will help draw traffic to your booth and increase awareness of your presence.
  5. Don’t give too much away for free. Instead, collect visitor information in exchange for your big attraction. Have an information card or a form on an iPad that they can complete. Use this information to follow up with visitors after the event.
  6. Be sure you have company literature and information available that you can pass out to visitors who are interested in your product or service.
  7. Make sure your employees aren’t standing behind your booth the whole time. They should be out in front, engaging with visitors and passersby. Also, make sure each worker has their business cards handy.
  8. Give away promotional items that people can use on a daily basis, such as pens, sticky notes or calendars. This will serve as a constant reminder and keep your company top-of-mind.
  9. Have at least two people run the booth in case one person needs to step away periodically. A third person can stop by the other booths for additional networking.
  10. To further increase company awareness at the event, be an event sponsor. Depending on your sponsorship level, you can have your company logo included in ads for the event, on event banners, in the event program, mentioned in promotional emails and/or mentioned on stage.

Need professional assistance with your trade show or marketing booth? Contact the GREENCREST experts!

 

New SMART Goals to Help Generate Creativity

 

Use SMART goals to help with creativity

You’ve heard of the age-old SMART goals acronym — smart, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely — but sticking to such rigid guidelines can sometimes stifle creative thinking and idea development.

We’ve created a new set of SMART goals to help you improve your creative output.

S: Stretch

Stretch your mind. Don’t go back to your usual way of generating ideas. Instead, do something different or unique. Think outside the box — way outside the box! Even your craziest ideas could have some great, realistic components that you can use.

M: Meditate

Our minds are constantly muddled with hundreds of thoughts each day. Take some time to focus on the present moment and pause the other thoughts in your head. The inner peace that comes with meditation doesn’t just help your health, it can help you be more creative and generate better ideas.

A: Ask for Help

Feeling stuck? Reach out to a colleague, friend, family member or even a stranger, and ask for their opinion. The feedback you receive could trigger a whole new series of ideas you hadn’t previous considered.

R: Relax

Have you ever noticed that some of your best ideas seem to pop up in the middle of the night or while you’re taking a shower? The best ideas aren’t usually created when you’re under stress, so take a step back, relax, and let all the information sink in. You may be surprised with what other ideas may come up.

T: Transform

You’ve used the first four parts of our new SMART goals to help generate a list full of information and ideas — now it’s time to take that information and transform it into your final, creative product.

Need help developing creative marketing solutions? We can help! Contact the GREENCREST team with all of your marketing and advertising needs.

 

Why Digital Marketing Is Changing the Landscape

Why digital marketing is changing how companies compete

In every industry, traditional business models are being challenged. Uber and car-sharing services have upended the traditional taxi model. Airbnb is eroding a travel industry long dominated by hotels. And the home services market is no different. Learn why digital marketing is changing how companies compete.

Recently GREENCREST hosted a Google Partners event to reveal consumer trends and how businesses in the home services industry need to adapt to serve changing consumer behavior.

Here are a few consumer trends affecting the home services industry you should know:

Decline in Repeat and Referral Business

Across the country, fewer consumers are returning to service providers they have used in the past.

Wondering why you’re seeing that decline? We are seeing an unprecedented shift in consumer trends.

Rather than calling friends and family for referrals, consumers are searching online. And almost half of searchers are using a mobile phone between other daily activities. Your prospective clients may be standing in line at the grocery store, waiting for a coffee order or cooking tonight’s dinner when inspiration strikes for a kitchen remodel.

Growth of Search Relevance

When inspiration strikes and the searching begins, consumers look to search engine results pages (SERPs) for relevant results. Companies ranking higher in search results are faring better because consumers associate placement on Google search results with quality. The logic is this: the higher a company is on search results, the better the company must be.

Contrary to what you might have thought, only 15 percent of consumers begin their search using ratings and review sites. But that doesn’t mean that reviews aren’t important: 82 percent of consumers say reviews are important when choosing a home service business.

Rise in Expectations

Consumers are demanding faster service: 50 percent of individuals searching for home services companies from their mobile phone called within one hour. Many are looking for same-day and next-day appointments — scheduling weeks out just doesn’t cut it with today’s consumer.

Shift in Demographics

What’s driving changing consumer behavior? Some will say that the answer lies in the surging impact of mobile phones. Now, more searches occur on mobile phones than on desktops. With increased access to technology, consumers can now access more information about your business in less time than ever before.

But, that’s not the whole story. The age and composition of households is changing, too. Millennials now head more households than Generation X. By 2018, millennials will head 21.6 million households, an increase from 13.3 million households in 2013.

Invasion of Digital

Not sure how to respond to these turbulent consumer trends and the invasion of digital channels? We’re here to help! Whether you need to launch a brand new digital marketing campaign or just need to enhance an existing Google AdWords account, we have the talent and resources to get your campaigns humming. As a Google Partner certified in multiple Google disciplines, we understand the best practices that will improve your website and online advertising — ultimately increasing your website traffic and your bottom line.

Need help developing and executing a digital marketing strategy? Let us help you create the right plan for your business! Contact the GREENCREST experts today!

 

Three Public Relations Rules to Live By

 

Try these public relations rules to live by.

Public relations is an essential part of any marketing plan. Good PR work can build brand awareness and a positive public image. Poor PR work can destroy all of that hard work almost instantly.

Successful public relations efforts are often the result of extensive planning, good research and producing quality work. These three public relations rules to live by will help your company achieve its marketing goals and establish your team as pros in the industry.

1. Plan Ahead and Be Prepared

Public relations requires much preparation and planning. Before you push forward with any ideas, you have to have a well-defined public relations strategy. That strategy becomes your plan — your roadmap — for how you plan to elevate your brand through public relations.

It’s also important for your company’s PR team to plan for various projects and to always expect the unexpected. Obstacles will always arise last minute, so you need to have a backup plan. For example, if you are sending out a press release about a new product and you learn that a competitor is doing the same, you need to be able to change the messaging and timing, as appropriate, to ensure that your message is heard and seen above all the others out there.

2. Do your Research

Good public relations requires a lot of research. You need to spend time getting to know the media and the reporters and researching relevant information about your business’s industry — third-party statistics or research that backs up your information. Without solid research, story pitches, press releases and other PR work can fall flat.

Proper research also includes learning about and getting to know the right reporters and contacts. Connect with reporters in your industry. Read their stories and engage with them. Building relationships with the media is one of the best things you can do to get a reporter to listen to you.

It is also important to stay up to date on what is happening in your industry and who is reporting about those topics. While doing research can be time-intensive, it is a crucial part of good PR and can result in more media placements and positive press.

3. Produce Quality, Not Quantity

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of PR and think that a thousand mentions are better than a few strategic placements. But believe it or not, your business will be more successful if you focus on quality, not quantity.

Identify 10 to 15 media contacts who write about your industry and who deliver news to audiences that your business cares about. This helps ensure your work and the media outlets are the right fit!

Public relations can be challenging, and GREENCREST can help! Let us create a comprehensive marketing and public relations plan for your company! Contact the GREENCREST experts today!

Why Video Marketing Should Play a Lead Role in Your Marketing Strategy

Add video marketing to your marketing strategy.

By now, the increased use of video marketing doesn’t come as a surprise. Like social media, digital, and content marketing, video marketing is an important element that you don’t want to leave out of your marketing strategy. This trend has specifically been growing in business-to-business (B2B) marketing, with a study from the Content Marketing Institute finding that almost 80 percent of B2B marketers are using video as part of their strategies.

While the rise of video marketing content is clear, what’s not is the growing importance and potential it brings to marketers and their clients. Some people assume you can only use video on social media or that it only matters if you want people to follow a link from the video to your site, but that is no longer the case.

How to incorporate video into your content

While video is most commonly seen on YouTube and other social media sites, it’s been becoming increasingly popular on websites, blogs and more. Adding a video to the homepage of your website or including video testimonials within company blogs can almost automatically help increase your overall SEO and online engagement. Viewers are more inclined to watch a video from a company leader talking about the history of the brand than they are in reading long paragraphs of text.

Videos help attract and maintain the attention of your visitors and allow them to engage on a more personal level with your company and brand. However, you want to make sure you’re using videos appropriately and timely. Rather than having a video on every page, think of where video content would make the most sense to engage your audience. Again, having the company’s CEO discuss why he started this business in a video on the About Us page makes a lot more sense than having a video of someone explaining travel directions on the Contact Us page.

What you can learn from video content

Most people assume video marketing isn’t as beneficial because you can only track people that click a link from the video, but this is false. There is a lot that marketers can learn about users from video content including how long they watched the video, if they interacted with it at all through likes or comments, and even who was watching. Of course, being able to track if your videos are bringing people to your site is very important, but it’s not the only way to gauge their effectiveness.

Considering additional metrics and tracking a variety of measurements can be helpful if your company’s goals reach past website visits or conversions. For example, seeing how long your videos are being viewed or if they’re being played through from start to finish will give you more insight into whether they’re helping increase your brand awareness. Seeing who is viewing your videos will help you realize potential or returning customers that you can build into your database and work on strengthening the relationship.

“Real-time” or relatable content is starting to take over the marketing and advertising world, and for a good reason. People want to feel connected to a company or brand and get the real-life messages that they may not get from just reading through your website. Video marketing improves overall engagement and user experience because it allows users to see the faces, stories and meaning behind the products or brands.

Contact the team at GREENCREST if you are interested in adding video content into your marketing, advertising and social media strategies. We’re happy to help!

 

3 Tips for Mastering Content Marketing

Enhance your content marketing strategy.

Content marketing is an effective way to provide valuable, relevant content to your audience and should be top-of-mind when creating your marketing plan. When done correctly, it can help you retain an audience, generate leads and drive profitable customer action.

Use the tips below to help you master your content marketing strategy this year.

Tell a Story

Storytelling is the best way to help others connect with your brand. Empathize with your audience and make them part of the story. No matter what type of content you decide to use (blog, infographic, e-book, video — the list goes on!), use your content to incite emotion and engage your audience.

Promote Your Content

You’ve written a beautiful piece of content for your audience — now what? Now, you have to make sure your audience will see that content. Take the time to create a well thought out promotion strategy using a mix of organic (social media, email marketing, SEO) and paid (Google AdWords, Facebook and LinkedIn advertising) promotion.

Analyze and Adjust

You’ve invested a lot of time in the creation and promotion of your content, so make sure it’s working effectively. Analyze your content on a short-term basis and look for trends in the successful versus unsuccessful content you’ve created. Then, adjust your content marketing plan to optimize what’s working. It’s not enough to just analyze your content marketing efforts — make sure you actually DO something with the data you’ve collected.

Need help developing and executing your content marketing? Let us help you create the right plan and content for your business! Contact the GREENCREST experts today!

 

Taking Control of the Customer Experience

 

taking control of the customer experience

Did you know that 80 percent of companies say they deliver great service, but only 8 percent of their customers agree? Whoa! That is a big gap. Customer service and customer experience should be the No. 1 thing on CEOs’ minds. Eighty-nine percent of marketers believe that they will be competing on customer experience by the end of 2017.

Here is the reality… Customer satisfaction is not driven by the customer service that companies say they deliver. How customers feel about their interaction with a company reveals the authenticity of great service.

The truth is, it is easier to be average today and harder to be exceptional. How is your company creating memorable moments that customers share openly within their circles of influence? What drives your customers’ experience? The journey begins by understanding your company’s aspirational anchor. This is followed by knowing what is valuable to the markets you serve. Understanding that value begins with having an intimate understanding of your customers’ world and what is important to them.

Aspirational Anchor

What is the commitment the company aspires to fulfill? For example: Does your company strive for there-for-you service, 24/7/365 accessibility, 100 percent system reliability, on time—every time performance, reduction of energy costs by 50 percent, 25 percent greater production efficiency, etc? This aspiration must be embraced companywide and supported by the board, owners and other influencers who will earmark investments to drive the customer experience. When you start with a solid commitment, you can stop reacting to the market and start shaping it.

Customer Personas

Most companies have a mix of customers. Some may be defined by industry segment, some by size, some by geographic location, others by direct, end-user and distributors.  Whatever the case, creating personas of these various customer segments gets you closer to understanding the environments, needs, obstacles, decision-making drivers and desires of each one. Create a visual understanding or humanize each customer-type to immerse yourself in your customers’ world and allow your team to get a clear picture in their minds to better understand how the company can make a positive impact and experience.

 Customer Journey Mapping

Once you intimately understand your customers and their environments, you can begin to map out the customers’ buying journey — and it will be remarkably different for some of your customer segments. What is important to them? What are they concerned about? How do they discover new solutions? What information do they seek? Who else do they involve in the decision-making process? You need to figure out how you can be with them throughout the journey. Pre-existing problem, during the discovery phase, as they research solutions, as they narrow down potential offerings, as they present options to others involved in decision-making, during the close, post purchase and so on.

It takes work to rally true believers. By addressing the core needs of your customers who are likely being overlooked by everyone else, you can create raving fans. The first step is yours to take.  Make sure your company can compete on customer experience.

 

When Opportunity Knocks, Be Sure Your Brand Value is Ready

Brand Value

As a business owner, you want to be as prepared as possible should someone come courting to buy your business or for when you are ready to sell it. There is a lot of preparation involved and much of that advice comes from attorneys, lenders, financial planners and brokers on how to position your company to achieve the best multiple.

But don’t forget the marketing side of that equation: How well you are known in the marketplace, your company reputation, proprietary trade names or processes all adds value at the end of the day.  It factors into how well you played the game of business while it was under your leadership. This equates to brand value. For companies such as Coca-Cola, Apple, Google and Starbucks, brand value trumps book value by leaps and bounds.

So how do you get your business value to increase based on your brand value? Great question. It starts with winning in mind. Every industry has a multiple average. Brand value represents the multiple that can be attributed to future sales generated from brand loyalty. Your company can fall on either side of that industry average. Your goal from a marketing perspective should be focused on scoring an above average rating and to be considered best in class in order to increase your potential multiple. It is easier to be average today and harder to be exceptional at what you do. How can you be exceptional?

Know What It Takes to Be in the Lead

Be proactive rather than reactive. When you rethink best practices, you stop reacting to the market and start shaping it. Have a keen understanding of what makes your company different. Understand how your product or service offering is different from what is available in the market. Understand why what you are offering is important to potential customers. Ask them. Why should they choose your company? Address core needs that are overlooked by everyone else in your market space. Lead somewhere exceptional. Own the mind share.

 Look Like the Leader

Start by investing in your business. Do an inventory of your marketing and how you measure up to others in the industry. Do you look like the leader? Your online marketing should be solid, including an up-to-date website that is competitive and well-optimized to compete online. You should have a strategy for generating and tracking online leads, and, if possible, know what share of online opportunities you receive.

How do you present your products or services? Do you create a memorable experience or just appear like a “me, too?” Are your trade publications regularly including your company in editorial coverage? Build brand assets by naming and trademarking your processes. This allows you to be the only one in your industry that can offer the iPhone® or iPad®, or proprietary ingredients, or own the search algorithms, or loyalty club that has millions of members.

Act Like a Leader

Operationalize your unique brand position. Build an internal and external culture that breeds brand ambassadors. Create processes around what it takes to deliver first-in-class service. Communicate with passion and ad nauseam what the company brand stands for and why it is important to assure brand clarity, educate and inspire all employees to live the brand. Also, keep customers and their needs a top priority. Figure out what it will take to earn a customer’s trust and business for life. Then hang on to those customers for dear life.

At the time of sale on the balance sheet, these are all considered intangible assets. These intangible assets have been known to push the value of your company 30 to 70 percent beyond book value. So, while it does take some initial investment, the return can be greater than investments in tangible assets such as real estate, inventory, equipment and the like. Focusing on the intangible assets may make more sense, both practically and economically. Investing in building brand value can produce nice rewards when your time comes to cash in on your business investment.