Tag Archives for " Marketing "

Six Ways To Improve Your Work-From-Home Videos

video blog header final min scaled

Working from home has become much more acceptable in the age of digital communication, and has become a necessity for many as we are in a period of social distancing. But if you are somebody whose job typically involves putting in face time with clients, customers, or employees, working from home can feel extremely restrictive. Creating videos can be a great way to provide important messaging and strategy updates while still offering the familiar face-to-face feel youare used to. 

Here are a few tips to ensure your videos will communicate your message clearly and effectively with a level of quality that will inspire confidence during these uncertain times.

1. Framing

Framing is a vital aspect of making any video. Fortunately, whether using your cellphone or a DSLR camera, most recording devices today already have a grid feature to help you get started.

Video Blog Framing 1

First, if you plan on recording with a mobile device, you'll need to decide if you want to shoot in portrait or landscape mode. Portrait mode is great for videos that will be watched exclusively on mobile devices, but landscape is ideal for TV and desktop monitors. DSLR cameras work a little differently since the default mode is landscape for shooting video. Consider which platform your audience is most likely to use, and then be consistent in each subsequent video you produce from home.

Next, you will want to think about your background. It should be distraction-free and not overly busy, so your audience stays focused on you and your message. A simple, unadorned wall, empty room, or a bookshelf behind you will do the trick!

Finally, make sure you are  centered on the screen, which is where the grid feature comes in handy. Activating the grid setting on your recording device divides your screen into six boxes. All you need to do is position yourself in the centre grid. If your camera doesn't have this feature, try to position yourself in the centre of the frame with the camera at or slightly below eye-level, and align your eyes one-third of the way down from the top of the frame.

Video Blog Framing 2

Make sure you don't have too much (left) or too little (middle) headroom when framing your video. The image on the right has the perfect amount of headroom.

Video Blog Framing 3

The Rule of Thirds can help you frame your video if your camera offers a grid setting.

2. Stability

Shaky handheld videos are the biggest giveaway of an amateur production. Whether filming with a mobile phone, tablet, webcam, or DSLR camera, try to ensure that your camera is steady.

To steady your camera, you can invest in a small tripod designed for your recording device. These are inexpensive, but if you are pressed for time - you can also place your device on a solid location such as a table, countertop, or windowsill. When using a phone to record, you can even use a piece of furniture, or lean it against a coffee mug if need be. Just about anything is better than having a shaky video when trying to make a good impression.

To help with consistency for future videos you might film, a good tip is to mark the spot where you placed your recording device or tripod.

Video Blog Stability 1
Video Blog Stability 2

3. Lighting

Lighting is everything! Your lighting can make or break your video, which is why you need to be conscious of your background and lighting conditions before you begin filming.

Placing your camera in front of a window is a great way to leverage the beautiful, natural, and 100% free light source we all have available called the sun. If you don’t have access to natural light in your home or in the room where you are filming, placing a table lamp or reading lamp behind your camera can also do the trick.

In a pinch, you can also use your computer monitor as a light source by simply opening a blank white page and turning your brightness up. While you don't want your background to be too dark, make sure that the brightest source of light in the room is in front of you, so you don’t get lost in a blinding glow.

Video Blog Lighting 1

Don't get lost in a blinding glow! Avoid having your background too bright.

Video Blog Lighting 2

The brightest source of light in the room should always be in front of you.

4. Audio

Having good audio is just as important as capturing good video. If you are going the extra mile and recording using an external microphone - always test your sound before you record! The last thing you want is to have recorded an entire video you love, only to find out your audio wasn’t working or was too low.

Before you start recording, you need to be conscious of any background noise that may obscure your spoken sound, such as whining fans, humming refrigerators, pets, nearby traffic, construction, etc. Take whatever steps you can to remove or reduce these sources of ambient noise.

Try to position your recording device or microphone no more than 3-4 feet away, and be sure to speak loudly and clearly, projecting your voice towards your recording device. By following these steps, you’ll be sure to sound just as good as you look!

5. Post-Production & Filters

While it can be tempting to use your camera’s built-in or app-based filters to soften up your features or add some creativity to your video, it's easy to go overboard. Remember, the goal is to make this look professional, so the best approach is to avoid filters, keeping the bells and whistles to a minimum, and focusing more on crafting a concise and effective message. 

Video Blog Filters 1 e1585854576288

Avoid filters if you are going for a professional look.

That said, a simple “auto adjustment” filter within your phone’s photo setting is probably adequate to balance out the colours and brightness. If you’re using a DSLR camera, you can set your focus, ISO, and white balance to “auto,” which should provide the same effect. If you are comfortable using iMovie or other external editing software, adding a lower-third title or additional text to emphasize specific points in the video can be a nice touch.

Also, consider adding subtitles to your video. These are a great idea if you are worried about your audio, and especially beneficial if you are planning to post your video on social media sites where viewers tend to scroll past if they can’t understand the message without sound. Adding subtitles can sometimes be a time-consuming task, but there are a few convenient online tools such as Rev.com, Camtasia, Filmora, and others that can do a good chunk of the work for you!

6. Makeup

Spending even a few minutes in front of a camera causes major stress for most people and may cause you to sweat. That, coupled with naturally occurring skin oils and possibly a light source (such as a lamp) pointing at you, will make your face appear shiny on camera. This makes things uncomfortable for the person making the video and can be distracting for those watching it.

The best way to control this is by using makeup - particularly, translucent powder. Translucent powder is a colorless, sheer facial powder that is usually used to set makeup. However, even if you do not wear makeup, applying a bit of translucent powder on your face can go a long way in helping you control shine, reduce glare and give your complexion a matte finish. Aparichi TV and Pull My Focus have uploaded some very helpful tutorials of how you can incorporate makeup in your video-making process.

Conclusion

Videos are playing an increasingly important role in helping us weather the storms of social distancing and stay-at-home work in our business lives. Hopefully, these tips will help you hone your DIY video production skills and provide more professional, engaging, and persuasive results . For more tips and recommendations, like and follow Think2Grow on any of our social media platforms. 

Please share any ideas or thoughts you may have on this topic and contact us if we can assist in any way. To get notified when new articles are published, please hit the button! Until then, stay safe and happy video making!

Travis Pulchinski sq scaled

Travis Pulchinski, Creative Director, Think2Grow Marketing
A lifelong love of film and video has drawn Travis towards the production of digital multimedia, where he can engage with both the practical and theoretical aspects that contribute to the creation of unique and engaging audiovisual content.

Market Segmentation: A Critical Ingredient of B2B Marketing

Market Segmentation
Market Segmentation

When it comes to factors that accelerate growth in a B2B business, one of the most powerful is having well-defined market segmentation.

Big consumer brands have known this for decades and have the process down to a science. They know their target audiences inside and out, and how to position their products for optimal success in any given market. By combining precise geographic, demographic, behavioral, and psychographic data, they understand who will buy their products, where, how, and why. With some focus and energy, you can too!

Many B2B companies don’t pay enough attention to this critical aspect of marketing. Some rely on intuition or "gut feel," which leads to missed opportunities and inefficiency.

Everything in sales and marketing revolves around increasing the probability of closing more deals in less time. Accurate segmentation has a dramatic impact because the more relevant you are to prospects – the better your chances of engaging with them.

What is Market Segmentation?

Investopia defines market segmentation as “the aggregating of prospective buyers into groups (segments) that have common needs and will respond similarly to a marketing action. Market segmentation enables companies to target different categories of prospects who perceive the value of your products and services differently from one another.

Generally, three criteria can be used to identify different market segments: 1) Homogeneity – common needs within a segment; 2) Distinction – unique from other groups; and 3) Reaction – similar responses to your marketing.”

It’s all about clearly defining your target audiences and then communicating in ways that will persuade them to consider your products or services.

Why is Market Segmentation Critical?

You may have heard the adage that people like to buy, but they hate being sold to. This is slightly paraphrased, but the idea is one we can all relate to. We become bitterly annoyed with marketing when what’s being pushed is not relevant.

Market segmentation is crucial because it helps make sure the people you contact can actually benefit from what you’re selling. Put another way – market segmentation ensures you are talking to the right people about the right things.

The Basic Building Blocks

When doing the research to build your segmentation strategy, the following essential ingredients should be included in your framework. Answering as many of these questions as possible will get you off to a great start.

  • The “Sandbox”
    What markets do you want to serve geographically? This can be local only, specific cities, provinces/states, regions, or countries. You need to make sure that if you plan to expand rapidly, you can provide the levels of sales coverage, delivery, and support required.
  • Addressable Market
    Often one of the toughest questions to answer is, "what is your overall market size by segment?" Fortunately, online government data and other industry research (free or paid) are often available online. Ultimately, you want to know if there is enough potential business accessible to support your sales goals.
  • Account Characteristics
    What industries are they in, and what clients do they serve? What type of organization aligns best with your offering – SMB, Enterprise, Government, Not-For-Profit?  What do these companies look like in terms of annual revenues, employee counts, etc.? How do they operate? 
  • Market Adjacencies
    Are there sub-segments within your target markets? How do you define them? Are there closely related industries in their ecosystems worth pursuing? Are there partners you work with that have access to customers you want to pursue?
  • Buyer Profiles
    Who are the buyers and influencers in the companies you are trying to sell to? What are their roles and titles? What problems could you solve for them? Where do they connect with peers? Where do they get sources of information related to your offerings? More sophisticated marketers will build “personas” as a way of describing the people in target audiences. Always remember - you may be trying to break into new accounts, but you are still selling to human beings!
  • Buying Behaviours
    What processes do they typically use to buy – formal procurement, informal? When do they buy – is it seasonal, based on specific events, or random? This will not be the same for every company you approach, but often there are discernable patterns in specific industries. Government procurement is an excellent example because it's typically rigid and based on a Request-for-Proposal (RFP) purchasing process.

Precise marketing segmentation helps build the foundation needed to develop your market positioning, messaging, and most everything else that follows. It’s also important to think about market segmentation in the context of your product capabilities and the competitive landscape.

Conclusion

Virtually everything in B2B marketing revolves around precisely defining your target audience and their sub-segments. Taking a shotgun approach to the market simply won’t work in the long-run. Investing in market segmentation upfront is guaranteed to improve results, save time, and reduce costs! Like most things, how you define your target market will evolve over time. It's a good idea to review and refresh your segmentation definitions during your strategic marketing planning cycles.

Please share any ideas or thoughts you may have on this topic and contact us if we can assist in any way. To get notified when new articles are published, please hit the button!

rf google

Randy Fougere, President, Think2Grow Marketing
With a passion for building brand awareness and lead generation, I started Think2Grow for B2B clients looking to accelerate growth through better marketing strategy and execution - something I have been doing for more than 30 years now.

A Strategic Marketing Plan Needs 6 Essential Inputs

Strategic Marketing Plan
Strategic Marketing Plan

Creating a marketing plan is not easy. But, building an effective strategic marketing plan is even harder. It’s common for many marketers to think of their quarterly or yearly plan as a mere collection of activities, most of which carry over from previous periods. Many fail to consider the important context needed and only focus on tactics - this is not a strategic approach and seldom leads to great results.

In a recent post called "Marketing Plans – 5 Steps to Better Planning and Execution," we suggested a strategic planning framework to help organize your thoughts. Here we will focus on mapping out some key essential inputs to use when developing a strategic marketing plan. Ideally, this background information forms the underlying guideposts that shape your strategy and directly link to selecting an optimal mix of activities and messaging.

What are Essential Inputs?

At a high level, the essential inputs are a collection of your historical marketing results, what you do, what makes you different, your market segmentation, the competition, and how you are positioned in the marketplace. Regardless of industry, these inputs are quite universal and will be broken down in more detail below. This is not an all-inclusive list, but covers the most important elements.

If you have been in business a while, you likely have most of the essential inputs figured out. However, it’s surprising how many companies don’t have them documented, readily available, and current. If creating a marketing plan for the first time, you really can’t begin without them. It’s a good idea to create a “Marketing Playbook” document, so the information is all in one place. Also, be sure to review and validate them before starting any plan in the future.

#1 Historical Results

  • This first essential input is actually more of a process, and a critical one that is often ignored. Take time to analyze your previous marketing results and metrics to understand what they mean and how you can improve.
  • The help point out gaps in your marketing program, weak messaging, or ineffective call-to-actions. The data may suggest you stop doing things that aren’t working and start doing more of the activities that are having an impact.
  • Having a good handle on where you have been, should also help you think more creatively about marketing ideas you haven't tried that might work well.

#2 Product Definitions

  • To build a strategic marketing plan, you should start with a fresh look at what you sell, which of course is why you’re in business in the first place. Revisit the products and services you want to focus on – are they clearly defined? Have they changed, or improved since your last plan?
  • Make sure the product documents, collateral, and digital content you will use in your campaigns and selling efforts are up-to-date and clearly articulated.
  • Ensure that anything describing your offering promotes positive outcomes and value – not just features. Keep it customer-focused.

#3 Value Proposition

  • ​If you don’t have a formal Value Proposition or Unique Selling Proposition (USP) for your company, create one! If you have one already, pull it out and make sure it’s still relevant.
  • A Value Proposition is basically a definition of what your company does, for whom, and how it’s different - preferably better than alternatives available in your respective markets.
  • Your Value Proposition should always be on your mind when building the key themes and messaging you will use to communicate with your prospects and customers.

#4 Market Segmentation

  • One of the most crucial and fundamental elements of any strategic marketing plan is having a clear understanding of your market as a whole and the well-defined sub-segments within it.
  • Segmentation will vary depending on your industry but for most B2B companies, it makes sense to group target accounts by attributes such as industry, geographic location, company size, key buyers, the buying process, and the problems you help them solve. See our article "Market Segmentation: Starting Point of Effective B2B Marketing."
  • With B2C and Direct-to-Consumer marketing, segmentation is more personal and typically based on geographic, demographic (i.e. age, gender, occupation) psychographic (i.e lifestyle, values, personality) and behavioral factors.
  • When you tightly define your segments, the messages you create will be more relevant, which greatly increases your chances of getting noticed and generating leads.

#5 Competitive Landscape

  • Besides macro factors such as the economy, regulatory constraints, or market saturation, the strongest external force working against you is the competition.
  • You need to know who they are at all times within your segments. You also need to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and how to position against them to win.
  • Make a point of regularly conducting win-loss analyses to learn how you can compete more effectively.

#6 Themes and Messaging

  • With the information gathered and analyzed during the first four inputs, you are now ready to build the distinct themes and messages for the segments you want to pursue.
  • Take time to be creative and get outside help if you need it. Your messaging needs to break through the clutter and be compelling enough to create interest and opportunities.
  • If your company has core values that form important points of your differentiation, be sure to weave those in as well.
  • Use your messaging clearly and consistently throughout your marketing communications.

A Strategic Marketing Plan is Worth the Effort!

If you think this exercise is a lot of work – you are absolutely right. But building a strategic marketing plan and executing it takes, time and energy and comes at a price. When you do your “homework” upfront and have a strong foundation to draw upon, you significantly improve your probability of success!

Please share any ideas or thoughts you may have on this topic and contact us if we can assist in any way. To get notified when new articles are published, please hit the button!

rf google

Randy Fougere, President, Think2Grow Marketing
With a passion for building brand awareness and lead generation, I started Think2Grow for B2B clients looking to accelerate growth through better marketing strategy and execution - something I have been doing for more than 30 years now.

Marketing Plans – 5 Steps to Better Planning and Execution

Marketing Plans Thumb
Marketing Plans

In the famous words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Most people understand that proper planning is a crucial ingredient of success, but creating and executing successful marketing plans is a real challenge for most companies. This principle also impacts sales, human resources, operations, and all other major business functions. Although few would argue against the merits of preparation, many companies don't step back and carve out the time needed to do it properly.

Numerous studies show a massive disconnect between their strategic marketing and business plans and the intended results. The statistics range from a dismal 3% to a paltry 33% success rate. Although there are many other specific factors, the following are key reasons why things usually go wrong from the planning perspective:

  • Lack of planning experience or a solid planning process.
  • Not enough research and data used in the decision-making.
  • Not enough detail put into the plan.
  • Unrealistic goals relative to the available resources.
  • Lack of buy-in from those who will execute the plan.
  • A weak or non-existent governance process.

5-Step Marketing Management Framework

To help make your planning more structured and effective – you might benefit from the following framework. The basic premise is that you start at the most strategic level of thinking. Then you continually break things down into more tactical activities. Everything should align closely with your key inputs and business goals. 

Marketing Plans

Building better marketing plans requires some Essential Inputs that form the foundation when selecting your activities and mapping out how you will achieve them. If you don't have these inputs or haven't revisited them lately, some homework should be done first.

Arguably, this is a one-time event, but things often change over a year and sometimes during a quarter. At the very least, it’s wise to re-validate your data and assumptions before the real planning begins

Basic Guidelines for Marketing Plans

#1 Business Goals

These are the goals you are planning to reach during an upcoming period. Marketing examples could include things like the number of leads created, website and social media engagement targets, or brand building metrics. There can also be important large-scale strategic goals, such as deploying a marketing automation tool or hiring for several key roles during a quarter.

During this phase, you also need to estimate the time, cost, and energy it will take to achieve your plan. Make sure the budget and resources are abundant enough to get the work done. Being unrealistic about your goals is a recipe for failure.


#2 Focus Areas

This step defines the major Focus Areas that need attention during the execution period. What are the most important “big buckets” of your plan, and how do they align with your Business Goals? If you look at the examples in the framework, you would be right in assuming that these stay relatively consistent. However, there will be varying degrees of effort put into these Focus Areas at any given time since you can’t do everything at once. Usually, there are 4-6 of these in total.


#3 Major Initiatives

Major Initiatives feed into and support your Focus Areas. For example, if you need to create more brand awareness this year, your Major Initiatives may include things such as SEO and content marketing, social media, digital advertising, public relations, or events.

These can also be more programmatic. Let’s say client retention is an issue for your company and a Focus Area this quarter. In this example, Major Initiatives might include creating programs to improve communications with your customers, such as a newsletter, or a rewards program to help increase loyalty.


#4 Project Plans

Specific project planning is the area where many fall short. There is often a good high-level plan with the right mix of Major Initiatives, but a lack of detailed thinking at the activity and resource levels. By not working through this concisely, it’s easy to underestimate the work needed to execute effectively and on schedule.

When you hear “it took longer than we thought,” – it typically means a lack of detail in the planning phase. Whether it’s MS-Excel, MS-Project, or an online tool such as Teamwork (a personal favorite), the marketing team needs to map out the many moving parts of each Major Initiative to clearly understand who will do what, and when. Contingencies also need to be considered since priorities can change over time.


#5 Execution

To keep your Project Plans on track and running smoothly, you need a good project management process and strong governance. As mentioned earlier, you should employ a tracking tool to measure progress.

You also need regularly scheduled checkpoint meetings. Weekly usually works best while executing a quarterly plan, plus a monthly touchpoint and a longer 1 to 2-day yearly session. I can hear the groaning, but investing in this process is where the rubber meets the road. A steady cadence helps you identify and resolve issues before they side-swipe your projects and allows for mid-stream adjustments.

The final and critical aspect of execution involves measuring results and outcomes, analyzing the data, and making improvements for the upcoming period. This step may also lead you to "stop, do more, or try something different" decisions.

Conclusion

When you use a disciplined approach to create and execute achievable marketing plans that align with your goals, you will get better results! Putting in the time and effort upfront reduces frustration and provides better clarity, resource management, predictability, and desired outcomes. 

Please share any ideas or thoughts you may have on this topic and contact us if we can assist in any way. To get notified when new articles are published, please hit the button!

rf google

Randy Fougere, President, Think2Grow Marketing
With a passion for building brand awareness and lead generation, I started Think2Grow for B2B clients looking to accelerate growth through better marketing strategy and execution - something I have been doing for more than 30 years now.

Email Checklist – Save Your Sanity and Send with Confidence!

Email Checklist

Email Checklist

Everyone has done it. You send an important email, and something just doesn’t feel right. Now long gone, you instinctively open it to discover a silly typoo inthe subject line. Doh! And that’s just one of dozens of things that cango wrong.

When it comes to mass emailing, both your personal and brandreputations are on the line with every click of the send key. That’s whywe’ve put together this sanity-saving email checklist. Don’t let anembarrassing or potentially damaging email ruin your day!We’llassume you have already gone through the process of thinking throughyour email. That you know your target audience, the objective, and thekey points you want to get across. There are great articles out thereoutlining best practices for writing an effective email. Here, weaddress the mechanics of setting up and confidently delivering yourmessage.

Email Checklist Summary

We have designed our process for marketing automation systems, but much of it applies to any email that is important and will be widely distributed, regardless of where it originates. We divided our email checklist into sections that seem to flow well with our standard process, and they should be fairly universal. Also, there may be steps that don’t apply depending on what system you use, but most should.

Planning

  • Decide what your end goal is and be sure to usethe appropriate metrics to track its success.
  • Carefullyselect your targeted audience based on your desired outcomes. Keep inmind there can be multiple segments based on your desiredresults.
  • Define the type of email you want to use. Isit a single-use or part of a campaign? If the latter, sketch out yourcampaign and workflows first.
  • What layout will youselect? Engage your audience with an appropriate eye-catching layout,one that will entice click-through. Are your readerscompelled?

Content Preparation

  • Create the subject line. Arguably the mostimportant element of your email and it should be thoughtfullywritten.
  • Create strong preview messages, ones that willcompel the reader to open your email.Compose email copy thatconsists of clear and short sentences that are jargon-free. Make yourcontent easily digestible.
  • Compose your email in a wordprocessor first. Editing in MS-Word is far easier than in most emailsystems.
  • Finalize the layout by making sure all linksare clearly identifiable as links, your message is focused, and nounnecessary choices are presented. Lastly is your brand easilyrecognizable by the from name and email address?
  • Read! Read and re-read your email.  Proof your email content for any errors, such as spelling and grammar, and inaccurate information. As a rule of thumb, proofing your email from the bottom-up, at least once, will help you pinpoint any mistakes that might have been missed. Tools like Grammarly and Hemingway to improve the quality and readability.
  • When proofing your email, make surethe message relates to the target audience, is easy to read and clear,and will engage or persuade.
  • If you want to run acampaign that includes multiple emails, write the variations at the sametime.

Email Setup

  • When running a campaign with multiple pieces ofcontent, set that up first.
  • If you are driving readersto a landing page or form, create a unique form for trackingpurposes.
  • Set up the appropriate automated workflowsand notifications in your system.
  • Create preview text which is a subheading to your subject line that many email clients display.
  • Personalize your email with therecipient’s first name, if possible.
  • Select the “fromname” field which can be a company or personal name.
  • Enter the “from” and “reply-to” email addresses.
  • Type the content of your message into the email systemtemplate, or copy and paste (text only) from elsewhere.
  • Add images, links, landing page and call-to-action buttons asrequired.
  • Using the built-in tools and augmenting with HTML where needed, format your email as desired.

EmailEnhancements

  • Make it easy for yourreader to interact with your email by adding a call-to-action buttongoing to a form, download, or landing page.
  • Addimages/graphics that will help support your written content and mainemail message.
  • Take into consideration subscribers withimages turned off – will they be able to make sense of the email and acton it?
  • Compare your email content and selected imagesso that they both work together to encourage the reader to act. Alwaysask yourself, do your images support the main message?
  • Use links as needed making sure they are clearly identifiableas links.
  • If applicable, make social sharing andconnecting easy by providing the relevant icons.

System Setup

  • At this point, you are now ready to create youremail campaign. You can now add your email to a specific campaign (ifsupported by the platform you will use.)
  • Give youremail a name that will help you find it later should you want to resendor clone it.
  • Is your email authentication in place? Besure this is done prior to launching your email. Automate workflows ifapplicable.
  • Review each template field and personalizeit wherever you can (with fallback for missing fields).
  • Ensure you have a recognizable “from” field. This will addvalidity to the recipient and reduce the risk of your email being seenas junk mail or even spam.
  • Ensure your “reply-to” fieldhas an email address – again, this will increase the validity of youremail.
  • Remember to remember your “text only” emailversion.  This too must be checked and verified for any errors.
  • You are ready to select your recipient list(s). Make listsbased on how contacts have interacted with your organization.  Do youhave donors? Volunteers? Employees? Separate lists can keep yourmessages to them on point.
  • This is also the perfecttime to exclude recipients, if applicable, from a particular email list.Remember your message must be applicable to therecipient!

Optimization

  • Most email systems provide options for SEO. If youare using a landing page, optimize your URL name, keywords, tags, andimages.
  • Ensure your email is optimized for mobiledevices, such as smartphones and tablets.
  • Use yoursystem’s render testing feature to see how your email will appear onvarious email clients.
  • Test your forms, automatedworkflows, and notifications to make sure they work.

FinalReview

  • Prior to launching youremail it’s a great idea to send a test email to major email clients.This will allow for the opportunity to make any last-minutecorrections.
  • Never assume that your email will beviewed on one device – test your email on multiple devices ensuring therecipient will receive the desired layout.
  • Check onelast time for any possible errors such as spelling, grammar or any otherglaring mistakes. Thoroughly proof email one last time, this includesany links within your email.A second set of eyes can only assistwith this process.  Have someone else proof your email.
  • Are your images working? Test image loads and make sure youhave included “alt tags.”If applicable, test automation.
  • Check one last time that your email is purpose-driven, kind andthoughtful.
  • Exhale and hit “send!”

Deliverability

  • Are you familiar with privacy laws? Now is a goodtime to familiarize yourself if you are not. Respect CASL and otheremail legislation.
  • Overuse of anything can easilyderail your campaign – be careful with the use of sales buzzwords,unnecessary caps, bolding and exclamation points.
  • Ensure your email system inserts your corporate information,along with unsubscribe and opt-in options. Or, do it manually.
  • Ensure your email system has DKIM and SP records to increase deliverability, which should only be needed one time.
  • Make sure your email is not coming across as spam to junk filters or readers.
  • Set up a text version of your message and an HTML option as well to increase coverage.
  • Build your recipients list from individual contacts or otherlists. Take care with this and triple-check yourchoices.

Finally, the laststep!It’s time to double-check the checklist, hit send, andrelax!There are few things worse for a marketer, or anyone forthat matter, than sending a mass email you wish you could take back.Unfortunately, once you hit the enter key, the damage is done. We’vestarted using this email checklist ourselves and always find many thingsto fix or refine during the process. Like anything else, the more you doit, the more habitual it becomes. Hopefully, this can help you send moreimpactful emails and reduce some anxiety.

Marketing Plan Detail – Knowing How Much is Enough

Marketing Plan Detail
Marketing Plan Detail

When it comes to marketing plan detail, it makes sense to document tasks and milestones to manage your initiatives effectively. But, knowing how much detail is enough can be a tough question to answer.

Also, it’s not specific to marketing as it applies to any complex plan. Finding the right balance can make the difference between completing your work on time, the way you want to – or not!

Too little detail will lead to critical steps being left out, and this often results in bad execution, quality issues, do-overs and delays. Are you a master of logic with an incredible memory? If not, you can’t possibly keep track of every step of the process. As the adage goes “fail to plan, plan to fail.” On the flip side, when the plan is so granular that you get bogged down in the minutia, your time will spiral out of control, and things become overwhelming.

Whether the level of marketing plan detail is too vast or too vague, the outcome is usually the same. A cycle develops of repeatedly pushing out due dates. The management of your plan becomes a frustrating exercise that can undermine the confidence of you, your team, and your manager.

Find Your Marketing Plan Detail Balance

Given the importance of finding the right balance of marketing plan detail, it seems worth an investment of time and thought up front. Here are some ideas that may help:

Learning from the Past:
Analyze similar projects and campaigns you have run in the past. In marketing, we tend to do many of the same things quarter after quarter. Think about the key steps and the level of detail you outlined previously. Was it too much, or not enough? Learn from this and use what you uncover moving forward. You can save time if you have already created project plans in the past. The goal here is balance. You want to execute your plan well, with the least amount of detail needed.

Think Milestones:
Think about the “big buckets” in your plan and use them as starting points. You can always break things down into finer bits if you need to. Let’s use the example of creating a new piece of content. There is likely a milestone for “final approval” near the end. If there is only one sign-off, a task called “gain final approval” is just fine. However, if there are multiple stakeholders – you may want a separate task for each person involved. By starting at the top and then breaking the detail down, you will be aware of the key things that must get done.

Define the Line:
It’s helpful to identify what types of tasks need more detail. Everyone on the team should understand what a task “is” and “is not.” You can use a time-based characteristic such as “tasks take longer than 30 minutes to complete.” Not a hard rule, but usually activities taking 15 or 20 minutes don’t require a lot of thought.

You might have a criterion to ignore logically implied tasks. For example, “share the results of our latest campaign” doesn’t require sub-tasks such as “open PowerPoint, create a slide deck, post it to our Intranet, and send a link to everyone.” Most of these steps are intuitive.

Whether it’s time, the number of sub-tasks, or logical implication, think about your past experiences and try to come up with definitions that make sense.

Adapt and Adjust:
Finding the right balance of detail is tough, especially when managing a team because everyone thinks differently about the planning process. You need to account for personal differences. I would err on the side of too much detail rather than too little. You can always condense later, and you don’t get a second chance to remember something important after the fact. As long as your level of detail works well for you, stick with it. If not, refine along the way. Planning is an iterative process that takes time, so be patient.

Why it Matters

By using these guidelines when thinking about marketing plan detail, you should improve execution and reduce some anxiety. If you don’t, chances are you will spend more time later revising your project lists and eventually running out of time.

In a role where one of your primary functions is planning and executing, your reputation depends on your ability to deliver. Having the right mix of marketing plan detail can help you achieve your goals with greater ease and consistency.

Communication Briefs – What Are They? Why Should I Bother?

Communication Briefs
Communication Briefs

Communication briefs have been around since the very early days of Marketing. There are many variations on the theme depending who uses them and for what purpose.

For example, the inputs for designing a logo are different from those needed to write a whitepaper. You will also see the term itself used interchangeably as a “creative brief,” “marketing brief,” or simply, a “brief.” I prefer the word “communication” in it because that’s what it ends up being all about.

Call it what you will, the purpose is the same. A communication brief is a document that’s coupled with a formal process. The intent is to provide whoever creates some form of content, with the context and specific information needed to convey a message to the right target audience – in the most impactful way possible. It also provides the client or internal stakeholders a view of what will take place.

Communication briefs are used between clients and agencies, or other service providers. They are often used within larger marketing departments in some form or other. Personally, I believe they should always be done because it forces you to think carefully about the project. That leads to a higher quality product and better results.

We have provided a template of our communication brief here if you want to modify and use it for your purposes. This version is used with existing clients where we already know the background – the company, products, customer insights, competitors, and so on. You will certainly want to add this additional information on a first project.

Advantages of Using Communication Briefs

Yes, they take time, and who likes documentation right? However, when you invest the time up front, the job will be far easier, the client will be happier, and you will create a superior deliverable. I’ve cited some of the high-level benefits already, but some of the other advantages that communication briefs offer are as follows:

Better Alignment:

  • goals and objectives have been discussed and clearly understood by all involved
  • the timing and process for completing the content have been established and agreed to by everyone – this makes sure reasonable expectations have been set on both sides
  • everybody working on the project knows exactly what their respective roles will be during the process

Better Process:

  • makes sure you have the transfer of knowledge needed to do the work – you can’t create anything useful without this!
  • there is an explicit approval process – this always ends up being shorter and easier with a communication brief
  • You build a repository that can be drawn upon for similar work – this saves a good deal of time later

Better Quality:

  • regardless of the medium, the most important reason to use a communication brief is to create the strongest messaging for the target audience you can
  • going through the process in a collaborative way brings more perspective and ideas to the table
  • allows for more consistent messaging since you have previous briefs from similar projects to reference – you may end up making adjustments though based on previous results

Unacceptable, Lame and Over-Used Excuses!

Assuming the CRM “house” is in order, no salesperson worth the title should have a reason to make any of the following claims. If they are, I suspect it’s part of a larger issue. As you will see, I’m being a bit playful with this. But I know sales managers continue to get these excuses because I occasionally still hear them in my travels.

I hope some of this has been helpful. If you are so inclined, please share any thoughts or experiences you have on this topic. Contact us if we can help in any way, or offer some quick advice. Subscribe? If you want to receive notification of future Think2Grow blogs, fill in the subscribe section on the sidebar above. To follow us on your favorite social feed, select it below.

Document Important Things or Pay The Price!

Document
Document

Think about how many times you communicate in a given day or week. Between email, phone calls, meetings, texting, and hallway chats, it’s a wonder any of us remember anything.

I was recently doing a “media buy” for a client and although the process was well managed and on track, there was a problem. At the last minute, we found out that the launch date and even the publication itself were different than what was originally proposed. Without going into painful detail, it was a communication breakdown that caused a great deal of confusion and stress for all parties involved and it could have been avoided with a simple email. Unfortunately, nobody took a few minutes to document any of the conversation and as it turned out, the information was important.

The root cause of the situation was a conference call that took place nearly 8 weeks before the proposed launch date. I don’t remember having that conversation, but apparently we talked about changing the original plan for more impact. A week following that call, I was given an insertion order to sign and a creative deadline that aligned with the initial plan. I signed it and never gave it a second thought. The process moved forward but when we started revising the final design and copy, it became clear something was wrong.

It’s not impossible we discussed the change and I was either not paying close enough attention, or I misunderstood. But that’s not how I remember it. In my mind, there was no reason to suspect anything was amiss. In a perfect world, the meeting organizer or vendor in this case, would have simply documented the highlights of the conversation and send it to us so everyone was clear.

This situation worked out fine in the end, but the lesson was a good reminder for us all. People don’t have perfect memories and information, especially on phone calls, can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. When you have a call or meeting to discuss key milestones, action items, or other information that has significance – get it in writing and make sure it’s fully clarified!

If you’re leading a process in a situation like this, document the key points immediately after the call while it’s still fresh in your mind. It only takes a few minutes and you will save a lot of time and grief later on.

Increasing Sales – The Marketing Metric That Matters!

Increasing Sales
Increasing Sales

​For years, I have heard the debates about where the line should be drawn between sales and marketing. In fairness, marketing is often misunderstood.

Ask 5 senior people in a company what marketing means to them and you’ll likely get 5 different answers. Sure, there are the 5-7 “Ps” of Marketing (depending on when you learned them). Yes, it’s about building segmentation, awareness, engagement and many other core activities. But, these are all a means to an end. That “end” ultimately is abut increasing sales!

We marketers love numbers. With the digital era in full swing, we have become mesmerized by an array of website, SEO, and social media statistics. Of course, the analytics are critical. But, let’s not lose sight of what counts most at the end of the day – leads, opportunities, and closed business. These metrics matter most to your executive. They dictate your budget, how many people you can hire and how your personal performance will be viewed.

​In simple terms, marketing is responsible for all activities that eventually create well-qualified opportunities. Of course, sales then needs to step in to get those deals nurtured and closed. Marketing is usually not tasked to find 100% of all new leads. There is also sales prospecting and account management, but marketing often helps impact these as well. When marketing works, the funnel increases. When you have a good sales team and processes, the win rate increases.

Increasing Sales Comic

​Showing Marketing’s Impact on Increasing Sales

​The Internet has drastically changed the dynamics of traditional sales and marketing functions. Marketing leaders are becoming even more accountable for revenue impact so they must keep their “eyes on the prize” in driving and showing better financial results. Here are a few suggestions that can help:

  • ​Make sure your strategy doesn’t fall into the trap of “activity for activity’s sake.” Think about each part of your plan and keep asking “how will this help build new business and when?” Look at all you do through a lens of results rather than tactics. It doesn’t matter if you lean more towards social media, email marketing, events, or telesales – as long as you stay focused on the end-game. This includes programs that stimulate existing customer growth as well.
  • As part of your planning, make sure you have a handle on the sales pipeline requirements. Also, get to know your conversion rates intimately. Be definitive about the contribution expected from marketing. Define and agree on how many leads and opportunities are realistic based on your resources and historical data. Once you know that, plan using these numbers as guideposts. 
  • Learn the timing of when your initiatives and campaigns will turn into leads. This will depend on many factors including your industry, buying patterns and the average length of your sales cycle. What you plan this quarter, may not impact sales for many quarters to come. Taking this lag-time into account is crucial when presenting your forecasts and results.
  • Be diligent about showing marketing’s impact on revenue. For every new deal your company lands, make sure you figure out how the client found you, how your brand was reinforced and what convinced them to buy. You should know where prospects are coming from, and the role marketing played to attract them. Train sales to get these insights early and document them in CRM. If you have a marketing automation tool, it can do much of the tracking for you, The more information you can have to show your team’s impact on the top-line, the better!
  • Think “Customer Lifetime Value” or CLV. If you don’t know your average CLV – figure it out. There‘s a huge difference between counting a $5,000. initial order compared to $300,000. over the next 2 years. Some would say Marketing’s role ended with the original order because sales and operations carried the ball from there. But I would argue marketing continues to contribute through brand reinforcement, sales enablement, and customer communications, and more importantly, that $300.000 client wouldn’t exist if not for Marketing bringing them in the door.
  • Finally, if you are a marketing leader, re-build your team’s culture to become more concerned about sales results rather than just Twitter impressions or Facebook likes. If your people are on a bonus plan, you may want to consider tying some of the variable compensation to the number of new leads and opportunities created in a given period. This helps sharpen the focus and promotes a tighter alignment with sales.

​Business owners and CEOs I talk with are naturally obsessed with growth, and they have a hard time connecting the dots between that and their marketing investments. With B2B, the sales cycles tend to be longer and more involved, making this even more challenging. Marketers need to realize that increasing sales should always be the prime objective. When they can show how their efforts link to this overarching goal, their value in any organization will take a sharp turn for the better.