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4 Questions Every Business Should Be Asking This Time of Year

Well, October is here and Fall is officially upon us.  You know what this means – the holidays are quickly approaching as is the end of the year.  Yep, I said it; 2014 is coming to a close and 2015 will be here before we know it.  It seems like October is that magical month when businesses take a long hard look at what they’ve accomplished throughout the year, what they can wrap up in the last few months and begin planning for the new year.  I recently wrote a post about the 2 Must-Haves for Every Online Marketing Plan in 2015 and I’ve received quite a bit of feedback on that post.  So today I wanted to follow that up by sharing with you some of the questions that every business should be considering this year as it relates to a marketing strategy.

Strategic Marketing Plan

 

What Are Our Big Wins So Far This Year?

Think about the first 9 months.  What are the 3-4 big wins that stand out to you?  Maybe it’s a big deal that you closed or a social media marketing campaign that was very well received.  What did you accomplish that helped you or your business move closer to where you want to be?  Whatever it was, take a moment to think about why it was successful.  All too often, we get caught up in the day-to-day stuff and forget to take a step back to evaluate things.  And I’ve got news for you, if you don’t get this done in October there’s no way it’s happening in November or December.  We all know how crazy that time of the year can get, so take the time to search for those golden nuggets NOW and learn from them.

Where Did We Come Up Short?

No doubt, there will be some areas over your overall marketing plan or business strategy where you’ve fallen a bit short.  It’s much easier and more beneficial to identify those things now rather than at the end of the year.  Let me cover that again, think about and begin dealing with your shortcomings NOW rather than at the end of the year.  Sometimes we get too caught up in moving forward forward forward, that we forget to look back at things we might be able to easily fix now.  Maybe earlier in the year you were working on a website redesign and rushed things a bit when it came to the content development convincing yourself you’d come back to it later in the year.  Well, now’s that time.  Or perhaps you were thinking about getting some commercial photography work done for your new product line to update your online catalog, but just didn’t get around to it.   It’s important to identify these things now, and I will tell you why on my next point.

How Will You Make the Most of the Next 3 Months?

After taking a step back to look at your big wins and places where you fell short, think about how these things fit in with what’s left of your 2014 marketing plan.  What can you learn from these successes and setbacks so far to make the most of where you’re going next?  Your answers to these questions my change the plan moving forward.  Perhaps your original marketing budget didn’t have enough built in for social media marketing or hadn’t taken into consideration the benefits you might get from producing an online video to follow up with the one you rolled out in quarter 2 that was so successful.  While it’s always important to stay on budget, where you allocate that budget needs to always be open for review and discussion especially this late into the year.  And I’ll tell you one thing – doing things the same way you have always done them in the past is a recipe for getting left in the dust of your competition.  In other words, just because you spent X on a TV commercial or radio ad last year around the holidays and included that same budget this year doesn’t mean it’s in your best interest.

What’s The Plan for 2015?

Now that you’ve taken some time to look at the first 3/4 of the year and make sure you’re on the right track for the last quarter, it’s time to turn your attention to next year.  The good news is that by answering the first 3 questions, it will make building out your 2015 marketing strategy much easier.  Start by visualizing where you want your business to be at the beginning of the new year.  Let’s say the New Year starts off with a bang and everything is going great – what does that picture look like for your company?  Now, ask yourself that same thing about the end of the year next year.  Next it’s time to work backwards – what do you need to do to connect the dots from the most successful year beginning to the most successful year end?  Identify the mini-goals that need to be achieved along the way so you have nice, bite-sized chunks to tackle one at a time.  If you’re in the right business, answering these questions is sure to get you excited for new year.  After all, there’s no reason why it can’t be your best yet.

Answer These Questions NOW

I am going to wrap things up by echoing what I said earlier.  NOW is the time to answer these questions. I say this for 3 simple reasons:

1. It’s not too late to get back on track even if 2014 isn’t finishing the way you had hoped.

2. It’s never too early to start planning for the new year.

3. End of year/holiday craziness will soon ensue.

Need help with your strategic marketing plan?  Here’s how we can help

Apple iPhone 6, Being First vs Being the Best

iPhone 6 from Apple.com

Photo of iPhone 6 from Apple.com

After the recent iPhone 6 launch event, I can’t help but pause to take note of everything Apple does right. I know it gets said a lot, but they truly are an amazing company with the ultimate brand and marketing strategy. They just “get it” when so many other companies don’t and come up big where others fall short.

Following the event, I came across this article that pointed out three things that makes Apple stand out – trust, taste and utility. In the article, Steve Lohr is mainly talking about the Apple watch, but I wanted to offer my take on these three values and cover an additional point that makes Apple stand out to me

People Trust Apple

Apple has created a brand that people trust. For the most part, when someone buys an Apple phone like the iPhone 6, they know that it’s going to work correctly and be easy to use. They trust that Apple took their time to do the research needed to put out the best phone on the market. Apple has created a brand that is simple, sleek and delivers products that are sexy. And if there are any issues, Apple always seems to do whatever it takes to get it right. As the article I referenced above mentions, it’s not uncommon for loyal Apple customers to even go out of the way to defend the brand and its products when they do make mistakes. One thing is for sure, when it comes to technology, this company has earned the ultimate level of trust.

Question: What is your brand?  And do people trust it?  Get more info on branding development here.

Apple Has Great Taste

When it comes to design, it just doesn’t get any better than the iPhone 6, 6 Plus and the Apple Watch. This new lineup of products nails the design element again – all the way across the board. I really questioned some of the wearables that I’ve seen from other companies such as Samsung, but as soon as I saw the Apple watch I knew things would be different. I immediately thought, “now there’s a techy watch that I’d actually wear.” With all of the different bands and styles – the Apple Watch looks to be elegant but highly functional. With it’s release date being early 2015, there are still some questions to be answered, though I have a feeling Apple is going to come in and set the new bar when it comes to expectations from wearable technology.

Apple Products Work

Apple products “just work.” This has been said time and time again. Apple has a reputation for delivering products that function exactly as they should right out of the box with a very minimal learning curve and quick setup times. The iPad is a perfect example of an Apple product that has been proven to be incredibly easy to use for kids just over 1 year old all the way to the elderly. The best word to describe the usability factor would be “intuitive.” What I mean by that is that things work just the way you’d expect them to.

It’s Not Always About Being First. It’s Always About Being Best.

When it comes to marketing strategy and execution, Apple gets it’s not about being the first, it’s about being the best.  Many other phones have come to market with larger screens over the past couple years and wearables like the Apple Watch are no longer something new. Apple could have rushed to market with these devices I’m sure, but they take the time to do it right. They understand that it’s not about having good design; it’s about having great design. Apple understands that when it comes to marketing, having a well thought out strategy makes all the difference in the world. There’s a reason the Apple events like the iPhone 6 launch get the exposure they do. It’s because Apple won’t settle for anything but the best.

Wrapping It All Up

Over the next few weeks, there will no doubt be a lot of buzz as the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices ship and consumers get their hands on them for the first time. Sales numbers will be astronomical as they always are leading right into this holiday season. And while it may seem like Apple is this gigantic company (which they are) I can’t help but think about how any business couldn’t help but see success by focusing tirelessly on all of these things. All the way from Apple’s brand identity to its marketing strategy they work and work until it’s right.

While a large part of these Apple events is all about launching new products and driving sales, when you pay attention to everything that goes into it there are so many learning opportunities. I challenge you to think about how you might be able to apply some of these values to your business. I know I certainly have and will continue to do so.

Get more: Find this article helpful?  Let’s talk business marketing strategy.

Why I Am Focused On My Content Marketing Strategy

Focal Point Video Marketing

As of late, I have really been making it a point to focus on the content marketing strategy for my business.  Having been in the marketing industry for over 25 years, it only seems natural to begin to share some of my thoughts, opinions and stories via my company blog.  You see, for a long time I have been known to my network as the “video guy” and while video production is definitely one of our core services here at Focal Point, there’s so much more to the story. It has always been my passion to build an Digital Marketing Agency that is truly engaged in the success of each client.

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What’s All The Buzz About Drone Videos?

Opinion Post:

 

Being a video production company in Indianapolis, we get a lot of questions about the latest technology and trends in video marketing.  Here lately, there’s a very hot topic that keeps getting brought up – drones being used for video.  It’s no surprise as drones are being discussed more in the media and showing up more at events as they become more affordable to the masses. Today, I am going share my opinion on the matter and offer some advice when it comes to video marketing.

Drones or Helicopters with Cameras?

First of all, let me just start by saying that I don’t particularly care for the word “drone” as it relates to video production.  If you ask me, the word “drone” just has a negative connotation that comes along with it and I think that has led to much of the controversy surrounding  the use of drones in the video industry.  Once you start to think of “drones” as what they really are – remote control helicopters with cameras (unmanned aerial vehicles), suddenly the perception is different.  You see, flying helicopters with cameras really isn’t that foreign in the video production industry.  After all, news channels have been flying around capturing shots on video for years.  The big change is that now these helicopters are unmanned and now they’re being offered at a price point that’s more reasonable to the general public.  This is attracting more novice videographers and hobbyists thus leading to some of the drone controversy.

How Are Drones Being Used

One thing is for sure, drones (flying helicopters with cameras) are capturing some amazing aerial shots for video.  Here recently, this video from a 4th of July celebration went viral on YouTube with over 9 million views.

While this is more of a “fun” use of a drone for hobbyist style footage, just stop for a minute to think about the potential for drones to be used for video tours of golf courses or for real estate development.  It opens up a whole new aspect of HD video production that was previously too costly for many businesses.

But the more the idea of drones being used for commercial video production services is discussed, the more the regulations from the FAA are interpreted to mean that such use of drones is illegal…at least right now.  While there is still some gray area, it’s understood that “the FAA states that any commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles — that is, use without recreational or hobbyist intent — is illegal.”  So, what exactly crosses the line between recreational use or hobbyist intent and commercial use?  Is it solely the ability to make money?

Here’s What I think About Drones

In my opinion, that’s where the FAA really needs to come up with a clearer definition and more realistic ruling that’s fair.  I question how using a drone as a tool to produce an HD quality video for a business is any different than any other piece of equipment that might be necessary.  Sure, there’s the concern for privacy and safety, but isn’t that a concern with real helicopters or other videos shot in the a public forum?  It’s for these reasons things such as media releases, waivers and permits exist.  I think the methods/tools for regulating the use of drones in a commercial setting already exist.  It’s just a matter of the FAA making an informed ruling on how these apply to this new technology….and as one might expect I anticipate that will take far too long.

DJI Phantom Vision

Photo of DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus from DJI.com

 

 

 

Photo of the DSLR Octo from Cinedrones.

Photo of the DSLR Octo from Cinedrones.

So What Happens Next?

As this recent article on drone entrepreneurs suggests, the video production industry is not going to wait for the laws to catch up.  As the technology continues to advance, the price points continue to become more affordable and the trend continues to catch on – drones are going to make their way into commercial video production.  Eventually the laws will be forced to adapt to the technology rather than the technology adapting to the laws.

How Do Drones Fit Your Video Marketing Strategy?

I love new technology just as much as the next person, but sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest while losing site of your video marketing strategy.  There’s a lot of buzz around drones in the video industry right now, but until some things are sorted out the risk doesn’t outweigh the reward for most commercial applications.  What I mean by that is that if you’re struggling to get videos completed or measuring the results of a recent video marketing campaign – then trying to figure out if you should be investing in a drone for anything other than recreational use shouldn’t be a business priority.

5 Key Marketing Ingredients That Led To ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Success

Photo from ALSA.org home page

Photo from ALSA.org home page

The ALS #IceBucketChallenge is a huge success.  A success in raising not only awareness, but some serious money to fight a very serious disease.  Sure, there are some people who just don’t get it and are quick to criticize the way some have completed their “challenge.”  But the one thing no one can deny is the effectiveness of this campaign.

So, what makes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge so effective?  I think it all comes down to these 5 key ingredients…

1. Engage & Empower Your Audience

Without a doubt, the most important thing the ALS Association did was engage and empower their audience.  Not only did they give people a chance to make a difference, they gave them a way to quickly and easily reach others to do the same through a “challenge.”  Combine this with the importance of the cause and other ingredients below then it becomes easy to understand why this campaign is such a success.

Think About This:
How can you give your customers the power to spread the message for you?  Maybe it’s a referral program.  Maybe it’s an online contest.  Whatever it is, your customers need to be armed with the knowledge and ability to act as brand advocates.  Make it easy to love your business and easy to tell others about it.

2. Predictable, Yet Suspenseful

People love things that are predictable.  It’s one of the core reasons that television shows like Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy have withstood the test of time.  They follow the same formula episode after episode and it’s incredibly effective.  People know what to expect and there’s something to be said for that.  At the same time, there’s the suspense of wondering who will, how much money it will be and how the game will play out on any given night.  Suspense is a equally as effective as predictability and the reason people keep coming back for more.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge combines predictability with the feeling of suspense.  When you scroll through your newsfeed and see 10 different friends doing the challenge you already know few things.  You know they’re probably going to accept the challenge, you know they’re likely going to dump a bucket of ice water on their head and you know they’ll probably challenge others to do the same.  For the most part, the videos follow the same formula over and over…

Yet there’s still a great deal of suspense.  You want to see if the person will actually dump the bucket on their head, wonder how big it will be, and might even be curious who they’ll challenge next.  These are the reasons why if you’ve spent any time on social media over the last few weeks you’ve probably watched several of the ALS #icebucketchallenge videos.  Even though people know what is going to happen in the video, they still want to see how it all ends.

Think About This:
What can you add to your business’s online marketing plan that is predictable, yet keeps people coming back for more?  One great example of this is Moz’s (formerly SEO Moz) Whiteboard Friday.  Every Friday, you can expect to watch a video to see Rand Fishkin or another member of the Moz team explaining business search engine optimization strategies using a whiteboard and markers to illustrate key points.  Just as much as the key ingredients are the same week after week, the content changes just enough to keep people coming back for more.

I challenge you to think about a concept or series similar to Whiteboard Friday that allows your audience to quickly get a feel for your company and the services provided.

3. Key Point: There’s No Substitute for Good Old Fashioned Fun

The ice bucket challenge is raising a great deal of awareness for a very worthy cause and a lot of it just comes back to good old-fashioned fun.  There’s just something fun about dumping ice and water on your head.  There’s something fun about challenging others to see if they will do the same.   This is a big part of the reason so many kids and families are getting involved.  It’s a fun experience to share together that ultimately supports a very worthy cause.  At the end of the day, everyone wants to have fun and it’s even better when you feel great doing it.

Think About This:
What can you do to make your brand fun?  Is working with your company an enjoyable experience?   Maybe you can identify parts of your business process that may be perceived as “boring” by employees or customers.  Take a few moments to think about how you could make those areas fun.  It could make all the difference.

4. Clear Call To Action

Donate to ALS.  That is the call-to-action.   For the most part, the “rules” seem to be understood that if you accept the challenge you donation $10 to ALS and if you decline you donate $100 to ALS. Now, yes, there has been a lot of debate about whether or not you have to donate if you accept the challenge of dumping ice water on your hand, but most people still understand that a donation is what actually makes a difference.

Think About This:
Let’s bring this one back to your website.  If someone comes to your website, is it clear what you want them to do?  Sign up for an email campaign, fill out a quote request, download a free guide?  Maybe these are your top 3 objectives.  But, what if you picked just one and built your entire site around that one objective?  Let’s say you want to grow your list of subscribers.  As one marketer found out,  a homepage website redesign could mean a 300% increase in sign-ups.  With results like that, I’d say it’s worth giving it a try for at least a month.

5. Harness The Power of Video Marketing

Would a similar challenge that required writing a few sentences about why you donated to ALS and challenging others to do the same be as effective as making a video?  Maybe, but it’s not likely.  There are 2 reasons why video was the perfect medium for the #icebucketchallenge – videos are easy to make (ok, ok so you may have to find a bucket and some ice and get a little messy) and they’re easy to watch.

In a previous blog, I talked about the importance of using images and videos as part of your social marketing strategy.  Using video as part of this ALS cause marketing campaign was absolutely the right call.  The videos automatically play on Facebook, they’re easy to edit on Instagram, they’re a bigger part of Google Plus with its YouTube integration and they’re even getting more plays via Twitter.  While not every video is award-winning or even well planned, in many cases they’re still far more effective than words when it comes to getting people to take action.  And when it comes to making donations to ALS, people are taking action like never before.  As reported on 8/22/14, over $41 million has been donated to ALS in less than 1 month.

From the NY Times on 8/22/14:

“Donations to the A.L.S. Association, a Washington-based nonprofit that funds global research to find treatments and a cure for the disease, have surged since the challenge started trending in late July. The group said Thursday morning that it had received $41.8 million in donations from July 29 until Aug. 21.

More than 739,000 new donors have given money to the association. That’s more than double the $19.4 million in total contributions the association received during the year that ended Jan. 31, 2013, according to a filing with the Internal Revenue Service.”

Update: As of August 25th, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has raised over $79 million dollars!

Think About This:
Does your company have an online video marketing strategy?  Have you considered how much easier it might be to show your product work rather than try to explain it?  A marketing report near the end of 2013 showed that 1 in 2 consumers say YouTube videos have influenced a purchase decision.  Among other things that influence purchase decisions are blogs and social media sites.   So imagine if you combine it all by making video a core part of your social media marketing strategy.  It just makes sense.

I Challenge You…

I challenge you to think about what has made the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge such a social media marketing success.  I challenge you to consider how you can apply elements of that success to your online marketing strategy.  But most importantly, I challenge you to take a few minutes to learn more about ALS and make a donation if you haven’t already.

5 Key Marketing Ingredients That Led To ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Success

Photo from ALSA.org home page

Photo from ALSA.org home page

The ALS #IceBucketChallenge is a huge success.  A success in raising not only awareness, but some serious money to fight a very serious disease.  Sure, there are some people who just don’t get it and are quick to criticize the way some have completed their “challenge.”  But the one thing no one can deny is the effectiveness of this campaign.

So, what makes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge so effective?  I think it all comes down to these 5 key ingredients…

1. Engage & Empower Your Audience

Without a doubt, the most important thing the ALS Association did was engage and empower their audience.  Not only did they give people a chance to make a difference, they gave them a way to quickly and easily reach others to do the same through a “challenge.”  Combine this with the importance of the cause and other ingredients below then it becomes easy to understand why this campaign is such a success.

Think About This:
How can you give your customers the power to spread the message for you?  Maybe it’s a referral program.  Maybe it’s an online contest.  Whatever it is, your customers need to be armed with the knowledge and ability to act as brand advocates.  Make it easy to love your business and easy to tell others about it.

2. Predictable, Yet Suspenseful

People love things that are predictable.  It’s one of the core reasons that television shows like Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy have withstood the test of time.  They follow the same formula episode after episode and it’s incredibly effective.  People know what to expect and there’s something to be said for that.  At the same time, there’s the suspense of wondering who will, how much money it will be and how the game will play out on any given night.  Suspense is a equally as effective as predictability and the reason people keep coming back for more.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge combines predictability with the feeling of suspense.  When you scroll through your newsfeed and see 10 different friends doing the challenge you already know few things.  You know they’re probably going to accept the challenge, you know they’re likely going to dump a bucket of ice water on their head and you know they’ll probably challenge others to do the same.  For the most part, the videos follow the same formula over and over…

Yet there’s still a great deal of suspense.  You want to see if the person will actually dump the bucket on their head, wonder how big it will be, and might even be curious who they’ll challenge next.  These are the reasons why if you’ve spent any time on social media over the last few weeks you’ve probably watched several of the ALS #icebucketchallenge videos.  Even though people know what is going to happen in the video, they still want to see how it all ends.

Think About This:
What can you add to your business’s online marketing plan that is predictable, yet keeps people coming back for more?  One great example of this is Moz’s (formerly SEO Moz) Whiteboard Friday.  Every Friday, you can expect to watch a video to see Rand Fishkin or another member of the Moz team explaining business search engine optimization strategies using a whiteboard and markers to illustrate key points.  Just as much as the key ingredients are the same week after week, the content changes just enough to keep people coming back for more.

I challenge you to think about a concept or series similar to Whiteboard Friday that allows your audience to quickly get a feel for your company and the services provided.

3. Key Point: There’s No Substitute for Good Old Fashioned Fun

The ice bucket challenge is raising a great deal of awareness for a very worthy cause and a lot of it just comes back to good old-fashioned fun.  There’s just something fun about dumping ice and water on your head.  There’s something fun about challenging others to see if they will do the same.   This is a big part of the reason so many kids and families are getting involved.  It’s a fun experience to share together that ultimately supports a very worthy cause.  At the end of the day, everyone wants to have fun and it’s even better when you feel great doing it.

Think About This:
What can you do to make your brand fun?  Is working with your company an enjoyable experience?   Maybe you can identify parts of your business process that may be perceived as “boring” by employees or customers.  Take a few moments to think about how you could make those areas fun.  It could make all the difference.

4. Clear Call To Action

Donate to ALS.  That is the call-to-action.   For the most part, the “rules” seem to be understood that if you accept the challenge you donation $10 to ALS and if you decline you donate $100 to ALS. Now, yes, there has been a lot of debate about whether or not you have to donate if you accept the challenge of dumping ice water on your hand, but most people still understand that a donation is what actually makes a difference.

Think About This:
Let’s bring this one back to your website.  If someone comes to your website, is it clear what you want them to do?  Sign up for an email campaign, fill out a quote request, download a free guide?  Maybe these are your top 3 objectives.  But, what if you picked just one and built your entire site around that one objective?  Let’s say you want to grow your list of subscribers.  As one marketer found out,  a homepage website redesign could mean a 300% increase in sign-ups.  With results like that, I’d say it’s worth giving it a try for at least a month.

5. Harness The Power of Video Marketing

Would a similar challenge that required writing a few sentences about why you donated to ALS and challenging others to do the same be as effective as making a video?  Maybe, but it’s not likely.  There are 2 reasons why video was the perfect medium for the #icebucketchallenge – videos are easy to make (ok, ok so you may have to find a bucket and some ice and get a little messy) and they’re easy to watch.

In a previous blog, I talked about the importance of using images and videos as part of your social marketing strategy.  Using video as part of this ALS cause marketing campaign was absolutely the right call.  The videos automatically play on Facebook, they’re easy to edit on Instagram, they’re a bigger part of Google Plus with its YouTube integration and they’re even getting more plays via Twitter.  While not every video is award-winning or even well planned, in many cases they’re still far more effective than words when it comes to getting people to take action.  And when it comes to making donations to ALS, people are taking action like never before.  As reported on 8/22/14, over $41 million has been donated to ALS in less than 1 month.

From the NY Times on 8/22/14:

“Donations to the A.L.S. Association, a Washington-based nonprofit that funds global research to find treatments and a cure for the disease, have surged since the challenge started trending in late July. The group said Thursday morning that it had received $41.8 million in donations from July 29 until Aug. 21.

More than 739,000 new donors have given money to the association. That’s more than double the $19.4 million in total contributions the association received during the year that ended Jan. 31, 2013, according to a filing with the Internal Revenue Service.”

Update: As of August 25th, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has raised over $79 million dollars!

Think About This:
Does your company have an online video marketing strategy?  Have you considered how much easier it might be to show your product work rather than try to explain it?  A marketing report near the end of 2013 showed that 1 in 2 consumers say YouTube videos have influenced a purchase decision.  Among other things that influence purchase decisions are blogs and social media sites.   So imagine if you combine it all by making video a core part of your social media marketing strategy.  It just makes sense.

I Challenge You…

I challenge you to think about what has made the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge such a social media marketing success.  I challenge you to consider how you can apply elements of that success to your online marketing strategy.  But most importantly, I challenge you to take a few minutes to learn more about ALS and make a donation if you haven’t already.