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If you’re like many businesses trying to sell your product or services in today’s extremely competitive market, you already know the importance of getting the word out. You’ve got several choices on how you can best do this. And since this is literally our full-time job, we have plenty of answers to help you out.

One of our loyal readers recently submitted a question that we think many of you are wondering about yourselves.

WeCanHelpQ: I’m interested in turning my hobby into a full-time business. Where do I even begin to get the word out so I can make some money?

A: That’s awesome. Congratulations! In today’s technology-driven world there are many options for you to market your business. But before we think about how, you need to think about who.

Who are you selling to? Knowing your audience is an essential part of knowing how you’re going to market.

For example, if you’re trying to sell to a specific demographic, consider how they get their information. Do they pick up the daily paper every morning? Turn to social media? Listen to talk radio or go directly to the Internet to look something up? Once you figure out who you’re selling to, figuring out how you’re going to reach them is easy.

Let’s say you’re a physical therapist here in the Hill Country and you’re seeking to expand the number of patients you treat.

  1. Look at your current clientele. What do they come to you most for? Sports injuries? Accident rehabilitation? Age- or health-related wear and tear? And how far do they travel to get to you?
  1. How did your customers come to know you? Were you referred by other patients or doctors?
  1. Think about why you would come to you. What makes your company stand out against others offering similar services?

Getting your name and information out to general doctors’ offices and even fellow physical therapists is essential for referrals. Other doctors may not be able to help, but if you’re available they most likely will tell their prospective patient to come to you. It’s considerate to do the same for them. Customer referrals are extremely strong as well. If you have someone exceptionally pleased with your service, ask them if you can use them in marketing campaigns.

But just like strong referrals can push your business forward, so can your company branding—an attractive, clean logo can do wonders for you. Put that thing everywhere: business cards, letterheads, pens and notepads you pass out, on your store sign up front, on staff shirts, EVERYWHERE. Not sure where to start with that? We can help you. Give us a shout.

If you have a question on how to get people knocking at your business door, email us at denise at rudkin productions dot com.

Marketing Collateral 101

By Meg Guillory Burke

Our daily lives are saturated with advertisements and marketing messages. Practically everywhere you look someone is trying to capture your attention and sell you on the idea that what they have to offer is the best of the best. Estimates now show the average American sees over 3,000 of these messages every day, talk about overload! As a business in today’s market you are probably wondering how you are supposed to stand out in this crowded marketplace long enough to earn your potential customer’s hard earned dollar… well, it all starts with your marketing collateral!

What the heck is marketing collateral anyway?

Basically, marketing collateral is any Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 4.53.15 PMprinted element used to promote and sell your ideas, goods and services. Smaller businesses may have basic marketing collateral such as business cards, letterhead, envelopes and perhaps a brochure or a flyer; while larger businesses may have sales kits, catalogs, mail-outs, data sheets, charts and graphs, specialty products and more.

Whether your business is small or large, your marketing collateral is used to visually communicate who you are and what you do, to your target consumer. Your marketing collateral acts as part of your sales team and represent you to the public, so make them as good as your finances allow.

How do you create effective marketing collateral?

Set a goal.   Initially you must decide what each of your collateral pieces will be used for. Your business cards provide pertinent contact information and may be used in initial meetings with potential customers. A brochure may provide a brief overview of your company’s benefits and capabilities; while flyers or direct mailers could be used to promote a special event or sale. Letterhead and envelopes support brand identity and may be used for follow up communication or invoicing. Sales kits provide a more detailed insight into your business and/or services and can work as a secondary form of communication to keep your business top-of-mind and recognizable.

Develop a theme. Each element of your marketing collateral must work to convey
your company image and collectively. Implementing a consistent theme throughout creates brand recognition or an awareness of your business’ existence and availability. People buy from who they know; generally the more recognized brands achieve the most sales.

Consider your audience.  Most businesses have a specific target. A simple way to Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 4.53.47 PMdetermine your target consumer is to ask yourself who, what, when, where, why and how questions.

  • Who is your end user?
  • What do they do?
  • When would they seek your services or products?
  • Where do they live?
  • Why should they choose your business?
  • How can you reach them?

Answering these questions help you understand your audience’s demographics and psychographics, or what drives them to buy.

Determine your message.  Once you have determined who you are selling to, you must be able to inform them about what you are selling and then motivate them to make the purchase from you and not your competition.

It is imperative that your information and facts are accurate and truthful. Use proper grammar and check spelling and punctuation, something as simple as a misspelled word can reflect poorly on your company’s image. Include a call to action or incentive for your audience, such as a discount or special reward, as a way to track the return on your collateral investment. You can even generate a sense of trust by including past client testimonials or listing any performance recognitions your products or services may have received.

Remember to keep the message simple. Your marketing materials have a matter of seconds to capture someone’s attention, so make sure the benefits of doing business with your company can be comprehended quickly without causing any confusion.

Implement strong creative.  Are your marketing materials attractive and engaging? Do they persuade the potential buyer to inquire further? The look and feel of your materials greatly affects whether or not you make the sale, so every detail matters.Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 4.54.36 PM

There are countless ways to visually communicate your message and achieve a one of a kind look. For example, on a brochure, flyer or sales kit, use graphic elements, charts or graphs to make facts such as your capabilities, costs and/or business location stand out. Use photography or images to suggest reality in your customer’s mind. Then, add captions to help convey necessary details.

A unique shape or size can make your brochure stick out in a stack of hundreds. A catchy or humorous slogan could make your business memorable.

Even the paper stock you print your materials on can set it apart from your competition. Really, the possibilities are endless when it comes to creativity, just be sure these creative aspects compliment your overall message and are consistent.

Don’t forget to include your logo on everything! Continually use the same color selections and font styles on all your materials. An inconsistent look can confuse your customer and negate your brand’s identity.

Seek help.  Not everyone is creative and witty; don’t let this defeat the effectiveness of your collateral! There is no shame in seeking help. Hiring a third party, such as an advertising agency, who offers solutions for copywriting, editing, creative development and market research can greatly improve your chances of creating successful marketing collateral.

You are now equipped with all the necessary knowledge to create outstanding, eye-catching, unique marketing collateral elements! Just remember, businesses are a dime a dozen, but with proper research and a savvy strategy, your business can stand out from the crowd!

#Hashtag Trend: How Your Brand Can Benefit From The Internet’s New Symbol of ‘Cool’

by Ivonne Vega

hashtags

Image source:  http://www.wix.com/blog/2013/10/what-are-hashtags-and-how-to-use-them-on-social-media/ 

By now the use of the “#” symbol is as ubiquitous as the flurry of store signage along the freeway calling our attention on where to spend our money. Depending on the user, the hashtag can reach beyond its original purpose of pooling together like images and content to now dictating the current trending topics, or in a more flippant instance provide a sarcastic/funny call out in a tweet or post. Hashtags are now akin to a cursor directing us where to spend our attention as we browse online. They signal out what will be on everyone’s lips around the water cooler. How does the #hashtag trend relate to a company doing marketing for their brand? Well, “marketing,” as Seth Godin said “is a contest for people’s attention.”

No other social media forum can attest to this better than Twitter. Since 2009, Twitter has adopted to placing hyper linked hashtags in front of topics and filtrating the most popular ones to its homepage. They devised a way to find out where everyone’s attention was focused on. Now users of Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are also taking penchant to them and conversations online are centering on these popular topics. This is where your company can come in to develop, track and engage the hashtags in that social space to capture the attention of your target audience.

However, just like driving, the use of hashtags must be used with precaution and measure to maximize a positive viral effect and minimize disastrous results. Think of a drivers manual you absolutely must crack open before you can even put the key in the ignition as we look at some of the best practices for the uses of hashtags.

10 Do’s and Don’ts of Hashtags in Your Social Media Strategy

Source: http://media.about.com/od/toolsfornewsmedia/fl/How-to-Use-Hashtags-in-Your-Social-Media-Strategy.htm

1. Don’t Forget The Hashtags

The first rule of hashtags is to add them. To everything. You probably already know that Twitter, Facebook and Google+ all support hashtags but did you know Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, Tumblr and even Kickstarter, among others, also support hashtags? Add your hashtag to every post, without exception, or you’re missing an opportunity to generate buzz and grow your audience.

2. Strategize Your Hashtags

Hashtags have become a part of our daily vocabulary, so much so that you’ll find hashtags used in everything from TV commercials to everyday conversations friends are having in person without even being on the computer. What you typically find on social media sites are people who just want to add their opinion or a witty remark using hashtags or, worse, a company that is missing out on an opportunity because it chose random hashtags that have no strategy behind them. You need a hashtag that’s more significant than #NotCoolMan, unless you also own an air conditioning repair service.

3. Use Short Hashtags

How often have you seen #HashtagsThatAreSoLongTheyShouldBeBanned? Use short hashtags that are easy to read and actually have a chance of being retweeted. The longer your hashtags, the harder they are to read and the more real estate they take up in your post’s character limits. You’re not trying to be funny just to get a quick laugh, you want to use a hashtag that will be seen, is short enough to make retweeting easy and could end up trending.

4. Don’t Use the Same Hashtags

If you use the same hashtags over and over again, you’re not going to gain as much traction as you would if you varied up your hashtags. It’s easy for a media company to slap #news at the end of a post. That hashtag will get lost in a timeline full of #news hashtags but it also dilutes the power of hashtags by not capitalizing on what the post is truly covering.

5. Don’t Use More Than Two Hashtags Per Post

Statistics show that posts with more than two hashtags perform worse than those with only one or two. As this infographic shows , tweets with one or two hashtags have 21% higher engagement than those posts that are loaded with hashtags.

6. Break Out Your Hashtags on the Weekends

Surveys show hashtags are hot on the weekends, with engagement rates for brands being 17% higher on Saturdays and Sundays. However, most companies are missing out because they take the weekends off. If you can’t have someone manning your social media accounts on the weekends, use a scheduler like TweetDeck or HootSuite to plan your weekend posts with hashtags ahead of time.

7. Take Advantage of Trending Hashtags

You know #AmericanIdol is going to be a trending hashtag on the nights the show airs. Take advantage of the trending hashtags. If your website has an interview with one of the contestants on your YouTube channel, promote it and tag that update with #AmericanIdol. Keep an eye on what is trending now to see if you can get your content in front of the millions of eyes watching for that hashtag too.

8. Interact with Other Users Using Hashtags

Want to expose your social media accounts to potential followers and fans? Join the conversation. Interact with other users using your hashtags and dive right in when you can contribute to a trending hashtag. Social media isn’t a one-sided platform. You will develop a more loyal, long-lasting following if you interact with your audience.

9. Ask for Retweets not RTs

You want your followers to retweet you so your hashtag gets passed around. Just ask … but do it properly. Stats show asking for retweets by spelling out the word “retweet” pull in retweets that are 23 times higher than the average. And posts that ask for an RT only perform 10 times higher.

10. Track Your Hashtags

You spent a lot of time coming up with the right hashtags so how do you know if your strategy is working or if you need to tweak it? Track your hashtags to see their peaks and plummets. This will help you see what types of hashtags are working for you and which ones should be #retired.

(Bonus) #AlwaysCheckYourHashtags

As some brands can attest to, jumping in too quickly on a trending hashtag without checking out what it’s referencing to can land you in some hot water. Using a hashtag representing say, a divisive political debacle or pressing social cause, to plug your brand can adversely create bad publicity for you whether it’s done knowingly or unknowingly. The kind of bad publicity where you have to continuously apologize to everyone, other media outlets pick up on your error and virally spread it, and you write a note on your desk in big, fat, red letters saying “#AlwaysCheckYourHashtags.” So, do a little research and map out where your tentative hashtag is coming from and use your sound judgment if it can get you to where you want to go to: at the forefront of your audience’s attention.

 

 

Five Reasons Companies Should Have A Blog

5_Reasons_Company_Blog

Do you have a business? Do you are virtual presence? If you answered yes to both those questions then this post is for you.

Blogging has become an essential tool for all companies, big or small. This is where you are able to connect with your clients and provided them with an ‘added value’ for being business with you.

1. A blog helps increase your SEOs as it puts your company name in the inter-web and lets the search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc.) locate you when someone researches about products and services similar to the ones that you offer.

2. A blog can also help you exchange ideas and information with your clients. Who else can, after all, tell you about the needs and requirements of your clients but they themselves. It allows them to connect with you and be part of your company.

3. Do you have ideas which compliment your company objective but are not necessarily directly related to them? Do you have an opinion or views regarding government policies affecting your company? Would you want a platform to share them with your clients and associates? A blog can be a great platform to do so. You have to maintain the professional boundaries but do not have to be  limited by your profession as such.

4. Since your clients are able to connect with you and know you as more than just a name or a brand the chances of repeat business multiple exponentially. It is all about customer-relationships in this competitive market.

5. A press release is mostly read by a trade analyst. The chances of your real customers reading it would probably depend on the industry.  However, it is safe to that a blog would have a farther reach and also an internet footprint which would increase its accessibility to new and current clients. Lastly, a blog would give the readers an instant opportunity to give their feedback, react and/or share it.

Hopefully we have conviced you to start a blog for your company, if you already don’t have one. If you have any other questions or need help with setting up the blog give us a call at 830-249-1744.

Until next time,

RP Team

Small Town Advertising – How do you do it?


By Kathy Rudkin

shutterstock_132470147Many people wish they lived in the reclusive existence portrayed in a Norman Rockwell town. You know the type – the ones he usually depicted in his paintings showing the quaint historical town with people relaxing at the sidewalk cafes with their faithful dogs beside them. Or the scene of the beautiful serene river where the children are playing and families are having an afternoon picnic, free from the hustle and bustle of city living. Sound familiar? The Texas Hill Country… obviously a great place to live and the reason many of us chose to move here. However, this same small town quaintness can also poise a challenge when it comes to making a living and promoting your business.

Marketing in a small town can be similar to throwing Jell-O on a wall… how do you do it and make it stick? How do you grow your business with limited resources, limited mediums within a limited market?

As we all know, the Hill Country has a different way of life as well as conducting business; therefore, many “traditional” methods of advertising – just don’t work here. Getting to know your community and how the market works will give you an edge in knowing how to reach them.

Many years ago, I ran across an advertising poem that made a profound impact on me. It is as accurate today as it was the day I read it:

Why Is It?

A man wakes up after sleeping

under an advertised blanket,

on an advertised mattress,

pulls off advertised pajamas,

bathes in an advertised shower,

shaves with an advertised razor,

brushes his teeth with advertised toothpaste,

washes with advertised soap,

puts on advertised clothes,

drinks a cup of advertised coffee,

drives to work in an advertised car,

and then, refuses to advertise,

believing it doesn’t pay.

Later when business is poor,

he advertises it for sale.

Why is this?

(author unknown)

 Owning an advertising agency, I frequently see clients who are desperate and on their last effort to make their businesses work. I am often amazed at what they have – or more likely have not – done to insure the success of their businesses.

In the last 16 years, we have work many different types of clients and have been exposed to many industries. Not only do we handle national clients with large budgets, but also the “mom and pop” type businesses that comes in for help on a local flyer. Regardless of the size, the key marketing essentials that work for a million dollar account are the same basic essentials that work for the local company with limited funds. The key is to prioritize, stop wasting dollars, stay consistent and get a plan. Many times in our effort to save money, we actually spend more in the long run.

  1. Logo: In a small community, this is probably your best-spent advertising dollars. You want to appear “legitimate” and therefore creating a professional logo is crucial. Many times, I am astonished to see what people consider a “logo.” Refrain for having the 10th grader down the street, who can use a rudimental graphic program, build your most important aspect of your business – your branding. Really think about how your logo is going to be used, who you target market is, and what message you are trying to convey. This tells who you are and what you do. Don’t make people guess what you do. The logo should tell it.

Your result should be vibrant, vital and purpose-driven logo that reflects your company. Once determined – stick with it. This is your brand and a representation of your company. From this point forward, all your materials should be consistent in look, feel and color. When people see it, they immediately recognize it and know what you do. It becomes part of the community.

  1. Branding: Once your logo & color scheme is determined, your next step will be branding – letterhead, business cards, signs, specialty packaging such bags, tags & other in-store items. Again, consistency! Handing out business cards that you have printed off your home computer and crookedly cut – don’t portray an image of professionalism. Business cards are one of the least expensive items you can produce. For under a $100, you can have professional cards that represent and tell what your business does –many times it is your first and only impression to your customer.

In a small town, quality signage is critical as well as one of the most important aspects of bringing awareness to your business. How often have we driven by and noticed the hand painted sign by the business owners themselves and immediately base a poor opinion about their business, just by the sign. If you don’t have budget to hire a graphic artist or an advertising agency to help you with this project, most sign companies do have design departments that can walk you through this phase of marketing and get you positioned in the community right off the bat.

  1. Advertising: How do I get my message out? In small community, there are ways to reach your market.
    1. Websites: This immediately establishes creditability and can be its own marketing tool. In today’s market, we are Internet driven. For example… you make an appointment with a doctor, you go online… want to see a concert, you go on line…looking for tile, you go online. We are a generation driven by, as well legitimize businesses, based on the look and feel of their websites. Again, put some of your advertising dollars into this. The cheapest avenue is not necessarily the best avenue. They are many companies out there toting themselves as “web development companies.” Look at their website! If their website is poor, than it is a waste of money. Research who you use, get references, look at their portfolios, visit with customers who have used them and bid it out. Be sure to tell your web developer of future growth and your future wish list. This ensures that your design can grow with you. A good website should last your 2 to 3 years before needing a fresh look.
    1. Newspaper: There are many ways to reach out in small markets. Newspaper and direct mail being a large percent of your annual budgeting. We are surrounded by small communities in this area, which have loyal readers and reasonable rates for display ads. Local newspapers, typically have a loyal reader that takes the paper for several reasons; 1.) to see what going on in their local government, 2.) find local activities and local businesses to use, and 3.) to see who made the paper that they know. The goal in newspaper is to stand out. Don’t crowd your ad with everything in your store trying to get the most bang for your buck. This is a common mistake and will blend you right in with the rest of the paper, basically throwing away your advertising dollars.  Don’t be afraid of white space and clever headlines. Add spot color to pop off the page. Spend a little more to get a larger ad. Position it in the right area – request where you would like your ad to fall in the paper.  And last, but not least, don’t limit yourself.  Expand your advertising dollars to other regional areas – go into other town newspapers as well.
    1. Direct Mail: What better way to get your product out then to hand pick your user and tailor your message specifically to them – having plenty of real estate to do it. Did you know that you can produce a 6 x 11 postcard and inexpensively as you can a 4 x 5?

There are many secrets to direct mail that can make a significant difference in getting noticed. First, get an eye-catching message. Think it through. Don’t waste money, get a professional involved. If no one responds to your direct mail, then you didn’t save money.

You will only have a split second to catch someone’s attention and only the clever, colorful and best-designed pieces make the cut.  Go large – a 6 x 11 postcard towers over the standard #10 envelope and mails under 20¢ bulk rate. Print on a 100# cover instead of a coated card stock – you will save hundreds of dollars by simply choosing your paper correctly. And most of all, hire a mailing house for your list, labeling and your postage.

Your list is the most important part of your direct mail. You need to narrow down who your market really is and sharpen that down to a primary target market and a secondary market. You also do not have to do all the mailing in one mail out. For budget purposes, buy your entire list to save money on the minimal list cost, but mail in increments as your finances allow. This also allows you to tract what is working. If you own a business that you can give a discount or an incentive, this is always helpful in the tracking and future planning of campaigns. Be sure that you have realistic expectations. A successful direct mail piece should generate a response rate of 2-4%.

Many people try to save money by doing their own labels and mailing themselves. This could not be further for the truth. You are paying first-call postage as well as your valuable time spent doing it. A mailing house in the long run will save you money. Mailing houses are set up to mail in large quantities. They have systems that ink jet the address right on the card as well as the postal bar code. This will significantly drop your postage costs by simply adding the bar code. In fact, it drops is so much that it will typically pay for the cost of the mailing service. Also, most mail houses have established bulk rate permit numbers that they will let you use. This will also be a substantial savings going bulk. They do require you to pay the postage at the time of mailing to use their permit number. Keep in mind; if you are promoting an event, bulk rate mailing takes longer to be received so you will need to adequately back out the date you need them to arrive in homes.

Your business can grow substantially through consistent advertising, having a marketing plan as well as community involvement and word of mouth. Your goal is to prove that you are resource and not just someone providing another unnecessary service. Walt Disney said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” Advertising is doing.

In the next few months, we will be addressing many other avenues for marketing in a small community such as: PR, radio and TV, billboards, specialty items, events, other local resources as well as community involvement.

Those of us who enjoy the peace and serenity of living in a small town atmosphere still need to address and realize that our chosen lifestyle demands success and long-term growth in our business… our livelihood.