CMG

Marketing is a Five Letter Word

Anyone who owns a business will tell you that it’s their baby. They created it with their blood, sweat, and tears. So, it’s understandable that someone would be a little apprehensive about letting an outsider have some creative control.

Marketing is a critical feature of any growing business, but it doesn’t come without the reins being loosened….just a little. The best way to have successful marketing is to trust the process and more importantly – to trust the hands you’ve placed your company in. 

CMG knows what you need, but we also want to know what you WANT. We work with you every step of the way to ensure your marketing is done in a way that produces positive and achievable results. It all starts with a trusting relationship and partnership between us and the client.  

Be Picky

Trusting someone else to care for and watch after your baby is scary. It’s okay to be picky and selective. Have a set of guidelines and criteria. Tell us what’s allowed, and what is absolutely off limits. Having a clearly defined list of things you want and things you most definitely DON’T want, is going to help you create the best marketing plan for YOU. CMG will never give you a box that you need to wiggle and squeeze into. Everyone’s marketing journey is different and we want to make sure that we are providing you with exactly what you want and need. Nothing more, nothing less. 

Be Open 

Boundaries are good, but don’t build them too high. You want to have a goal for your business, but don’t be afraid to take the blinders off. Sometimes it’s okay to hear outside opinions, especially from professionals. We might have a wonderful campaign idea that you never would have thought of, or we could suggest a new brand logo that would only make your business more appealing to your current customers. We suggest things, because we’ve seen it be successful in the past, or it’s a current trend that your business might be missing out on. If you don’t like the idea, that’s perfectly fine, but don’t be afraid to broaden your horizons. Who knows? Us outsiders might open a whole new set of doorways to success for you with our outside perspective. 

Be Trusting

We understand you’re scared and excited and nervous and ready and all the other emotions that come with starting something new. Trusting that we want nothing but the best for you and your business is so important. Every decision we make is not without your consent and 100% approval. Like I said, this is YOUR baby, but it’s okay to let us babysit for a little while you kick up your feet and relax. Trusting you’re in good hands, the right hands, is the first step in allowing your business to grow and become even better than what it is now. CMG proves each month that we are those “right hands” with detailed reporting teaching you about everything that’s being done to increase your confidence and knowledge base as we go. 


Marketing is a five letter word. It’s a scary yet exciting word. It’s a word that offers opportunity, creativity and possibility. It’s trust. CMG is a company that you can trust, because we are a company that cares. We love watching our client succeed and become more than they could have imagined. Marketing is all about being passionate and dedicated to growth and one’s betterment. Trust is about taking that passion and dedication and passing just a little bit of it on to someone else who shares the same goals.

Time vs. Money

We all know the saying “Time is money.” Unfortunately, we can’t create more time in a day, so what if you could utilize the time and money you do have in the most efficient way? 

What is your time spent on now? Posting on social media? Updating Google ads? Rebranding your entire business? Adding a new section to your website? Or, are you so busy working in your business that the idea of having time for marketing seems like a faraway dream? The good news is that Columbia Marketing Group can do all of this for you or even just one of these items if that’s all you need to free up your valuable time. 

However, freed up time isn’t free. The sweet spot you need to find is on a continuum. If you have more time, you can spend less money as you do it yourself or learn to. If you have no time, you need to spend more money to have someone help you. Saving pennies where it matters is important, but when it comes to the success of your business, loosening the purse strings can be a good thing when that money is put in the right hands. Professional marketing hands. Hands that know how to and have a proven process to clear stuff off your plate while continuing to help your business grow. 

Starting or running a business is not as simple as just coming up with a cute name and creating a logo. There is a great deal of work that goes on behind the scenes in order to keep the business alive and thriving. Much of what keeps a business relevant and in the customer’s mind is how often they see or hear about the business in positive ways, meaning how well it’s marketed. 

Marketing yourself comes with a lot of responsibility and commitment. Learning to use the software, creating advertising, and understanding the data is all possible, but it takes time. This is time that many business owners don’t have. But, there’s another saying that comes to mind. “In order to make money, you have to spend money.” 

Let Columbia Marketing Group create your social media strategy and social media posts so you have time to refine your menu. Let us work on your new website so you have time to research new products and services. Let us create a SEO strategy that drives traffic to your site so you can recruit, hire, and train new employees. 

If you’re interested in a free consultation, email me at erica@columbiamarketinggroup.com to take the next step in learning where on that continuum you need to be. 

SEO: The 5 Phases That Make it Successful

SEO is more than just a fun marketing buzzword – it is a crucial addition to your marketing strategy. SEO or Search Engine Optimization is unfortunately one of the most misunderstood marketing terms. According to a study conducted by Weebly.com, 45% of online entrepreneurs don’t understand what SEO means – yet 98% think that being able to be found on Google is important.

Like many other things in the marketing world, implementing and setting up SEO campaigns for success is a process. However, it is a process that is worth your time, energy and marketing dollars.

Utilizing SEO will help you increase your business ranking on Google search results, refine ads, be strategic with ad targeting, increase exposure and gain valuable impressions. However, SEO usually comes hand in hand with patience. None of these results happen immediately. At CMG, we typically set up SEO campaigns to run for six months to twelve months. But this isn’t something we simply implement and forget about – through the entire campaign we monitor progress, evaluate strategy, and make key decisions that set your business up for growth.

So, what exactly does all of that entail? Let’s break it down. Here are the 5 phases of SEO you can expect to see when you partner with CMG for SEO services.

Phase 1: Discovery

The goal of phase 1 is to understand and evaluate where we are starting. To start, we perform a website audit to make sure the website is up to snuff with your competition. (Psst, we offer free website’s audits for non clients to see how your business stacks against it’s competition). During this phase, we will work together to become more familiar with your business, target audience, and goals. We will then compare that to your current site’s content, mapping, code, and keyword density to see what is working and what could be improved. This step usually takes around 30 days.

Phase 2: Strategy

You’ve heard us say it many times, but we’ll say it again: marketing efforts are a waste without strategy. SEO is no exception! During this phase, our team will work to identify opportunities and prioritize. SEO strategy is not a one-size-fits-all. We craft a customized plan unique to your business, your audience, and your goals.

Phase 3: Implementation

This is where things get technical – it’s time to put the plan to action! Phase 3 mainly consists of executing on-site and on-page optimization strategies. This typically consists of cleaning up your site’s code, content, architecture, mapping, keyword usage and much more. Phase 2 and phase 3 combined can take anywhere from 30 to 60 days.

Phase 4: Optimization

The most important rule about strategy is knowing when to adjust it, and at CMG, we are all about pivoting when needed. We are constantly monitoring your campaign, tracking insights and making real-time optimizations that will help you reach your goals. This phase is between 60 and 90 days.

Phase 5: Amplify

We’ve reached the end… but have we? At this point, our team works to take the insights from the optimization phase and amplify them to ensure long-term success. This phase is beneficial as an ongoing effort to say ahead of your competition and to navigate the ever-changing search algorithms. Consumer search trends tend to change, and continual monitoring and optimizing is important to stay relevant. From our experience, this phase is the best place to be: consistent optimizing and amplifying to achieve your business’ goals.

Contact us to learn more about our SEO services.

6 Steps To Creating A Strategic Marketing Plan

It’s Called Strategy.

Everyone and anyone can market a brand or a product. Google can teach anyone the basics of marketing and populate an abundance of “How-Tos” and step-by-step guides. But there is only one effective marketing plan, one that can only be learned through experience and a long list of trials and errors – a strategic marketing plan. 

At CMG, we have been through it all with our clients. We have clients in various different industries and have seen what works and what doesn’t necessarily work for them. Even if in the same industry, no two companies will have the same marketing solutions for their goals. As we grow and add on new clients, we have learned that in order to set each client up for success we have to build a strategy that is unique to them. 

Building a strategy looks different from client to client, but the fundamentals stay the same. Here are 6 steps to get started on building your own strategic marketing plan.

What is your mission?

It’s time to get on the same page with your team. Go back to the basics: What is the mission and vision of your company? Not having a direction from the beginning will lead to chaos from the very start of trying to market your brand or product. Having a clearly defined mission and vision will lead to clearly defined goals you want to reach.

Define your target audience.

 Once clear goals are established based on your unique mission and vision, then you can work backward to create a strategic plan to achieve the goals. This involves breaking down everything from looking at who your target audience and consumer is to where to target geographically and on what platform. Marketing comes with many options, but usually, only a few actually make a difference with your audience.

Some questions to help define your audience:

  • What do they do for work?
  • What do they do on the weekends?
  • Where do they hang out?
  • Do they drive?
  • What decisions are they making right before and after they buy a service?

Set SMART Goals.

We’ve all heard this before – SMART goals. Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely goals. If your goals don’t have these elements, then they will be impossible to track. Take some time to think about how your big picture goals can be broken down into SMART goals.

It’s time to think about messaging.

So you have clearly defined your mission and audience, and have trackable goals – now what? Cue the creativity. What the heck is your messaging going to say? Above all else, your messaging should match your goals – what you say should be reflective of your goals and relatable to your audience. Still stuck on what to say? Think through your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Taking time to think through these different pieces will lead to your key messaging.

Let’s talk tactics.

Messaging is established, now how do you get the message to your audience? There are hundreds of different ways and tools to start putting your message out there. It’s easy to get lost in all of the possibilities, but remember it isn’t about using it all, it is about thinking strategically and utilizing necessary tools based on your company and unique audience. When determining which tactics to use, think about time vs. money and what is actually worth the time. And remember, at the end of the day all the money in the world on marketing tactics is useless if your website is not running properly. 

Track your success.

The thing about strategy is that it never really ends. Tactics, messaging and goals will inevitably change as time goes on. Tracking metrics is the best way to see areas of opportunity or even where your efforts may not be worth the money or time being put into it. Track, analyze, adjust and keep going!

Ready to get even more into the details? We are marketing nerds who thrive off of coffee and talking strategy. Contact us today to get started building a strategic marketing plan.

Outsmart Them. Don’t Outspend Them.

So, you’re thousands of dollars down. You’ve paid top dollar to a reputed ad agency and yet you feel like you’re sitting in a casino playing roulette and seeing everyone else at the table winning. What could have possibly gone wrong?

There are two ways to approach this challenge: blame it on luck, just like an amateur gambler would, or find out the root cause and ensure that your advertising money is working hard for you and getting you the best returns. In a nutshell — you don’t need to outspend your competition, just outsmart ’em.

How do you ensure success when your competition spends marketing dollars like there’s no tomorrow? No matter how deep an organization’s pockets are, the most priceless asset for a brand is the content and messaging that defines it.

Search engine optimization is the name of the game. Every time a potential user searches for you online and finds your competition, you lose a customer, potential revenue, and brand equity. This can be avoided by being true to your brand and the content on your website. SEO isn’t a dark art; it’s simply a way to reinforce your messaging, communicate your product features effectively, and create relevant content that helps customers understand what your brand and product is all about.

A lot of agencies will talk about stuffing your website with keywords. When you hear keyword stuffing, take your bags and run in the opposite direction, because that agency doesn’t believe in your brand, doesn’t believe in research, and definitely doesn’t believe in winning the hearts and minds of customers.

For optimizing your website and increasing traffic without paying top dollar, it’s important to first create content relevant to the brand and the products offered. Maintain clear messaging and make it easier for the users to find the products and features offered. This step is unfortunately skipped by a lot of organizations as they try to make their website “cutting edge.”

Any marketer worth their salt will tell you that content is king. By using the principle of clear messaging, a digital marketing agency can fight a grizzly bear with a toothpick and win. Another important principle to be followed is to add nothing but relevant keywords once the web content has been created. The natural question is: how do you decide which keywords to use?

Option 1: Flip a coin

Option 2: Use digital analytics tools to research and find high volume branded and product-relevant keywords that can be integrated in the web content.

The operative word is “integrated” and not “stuffed.” Let’s assume that the digital marketer choses Option 2 (the sane choice). The immediate result is a website that is primed to succeed in time. Compared to truckloads of marketing dollars spent on creating new campaigns and fancy websites, adherence to the fundamentals mentioned above (and a pinch of common sense) can better set you up for success and return on investment.

At Columbia Marketing Group, we believe in the KISS principle — keep it simple, stupid. We specialize in multiple digital technologies including Facebook, Google, dynamic OTT, weather forecasted marketing automation, geofencingweb development & hosting, and email marketing, to name a few. But we always adhere to marketing fundamentals and create marketing strategies that set our clients up for success — not for a month, not for a quarter, but for years.

Redesigning Masonic Outreach

Cassidy Shearrer - Graphic Designer - Columbia Marketing GroupI am a loud extrovert who loves bright colors. My favorite movie is Point Break (the old one, obviously), and I’ve never met a pink I didn’t like. If it has aliens, glitter, or a crazy costume, I will be interested. So, the shocker of my career at the Business Times Company thus far has most definitely been that I LOVED redesigning a Masonic magazine.

At first, I was skeptical. Aren’t all Masons stuffy traditionalists? Would they be willing to try anything new with their design? I had no idea what to expect from the client, and I hoped to find some common ground so that I could enjoy the process while reviving their brand.

One of the challenges of being a designer is that I’m not making art for myself. Instead, I solve visual communication problems for other people. I have to take off my, literally, rose-colored glasses and look through the lens of the client. What colors work best for their content? What font is best to reach their target audience?

Happily, I found a great partner in the ladies at the Masonic Home of Missouri. We shared a passion for history and generosity. It was very exciting to work for the charitable branch of the organization, knowing my work would help provide financial assistance and health information to people in need.

And best of all, they wanted to revive their brand and give their magazine a facelift to reach a new, younger demographic. Queue up the hot pink! Just kidding. But I did get to use illustrations and develop a brand that gave some structure to their content and made their articles more accessible. We were able to provide them with some top-notch photography and a cohesive brand that makes both Masons and myself proud to display the magazine on coffee tables. Creating strong brands that our clients are proud to show the world is just as exciting as designing in my personal style.

Check out the before and after:

Masonic Outreach - Spring 2016 Cover - Masonic Home of Missouri
Before

Masonic Outreach - Summer 2017 Cover - Masonic Home of Missouri
After

Three Little Ways We Show Our Clients Appreciation

Gratitude goes a long way inside and outside of your office.

We aren’t challenging any Emily Post fanatics’ positions on the handwritten thank you note, but we do favor a few other ways to show gratitude to clients.

What’s Your Love Language?

This is a personality test office. Myers-Briggs to the Enneagram. We’ve tested it. We have the chart hanging in our kitchen.

One of our newer personality assessments centers around love languages. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, the five love languages are quality time, words of affirmation, gift giving, physical touch, and acts of service.

Love languages can be used for personal, romantic, or business settings. It’s all in the application.

Does your client have quality time as their top language? You may want to schedule a longer meeting complemented by lunch.

Is gift giving more their jam? Keep Your clients preferred alcohol and snacks in office. Nothing says ‘I appreciate you,’ like having their favorite drink or snack waiting for them. Not even our spouses do that anymore.

Physical touch is trickier in the work environment, but can still be extended through high fives and handshakes.

Hey, Just Thinking of You…

Our staff loves helping small businesses grow. We think small business is the backbone of a community.

We don’t stop thinking about clients when we leave the office. Our clients are always on our mind, so whenever we see something that reminds us of their business or personal hobbies, we make sure to send it their way.

It’s one of the small ways to say, “Hey, I thought of you.”

See an article or book that might help a client, why not send it over? Who doesn’t love to be thought of?

Consistency is Key

One of the best ways we show appreciation to our clients is being consistent. Consistency lets our clients know they are as appreciated today as they were the day they signed on for our services.

How can you show consistency to those you service?

How do you show your clients you care? As a client, what has an agency done that made you feel appreciated?

Write to us on Facebook or Instagram about how you show your clients love.

 

Jingling All the Way to Post Engagement- How Holiday Content Can Boost Your Brand

The stockings are hung, Santa is at the mall, holiday hits are on the radio… Christmas is here! But I thought this was a blog about marketing, why are we chatting about the holidays? Because seasonal posts may be the answer you need for engaging audiences all over social media. If you are experiencing low user engagement through typical posts on your brand’s social media, fret no longer, we’ve got a solution that might just do the trick.

Here at Columbia Marketing Group we try to implement the 3 E’s when creating content for social media. These E’s are Entertaining, Emotional, and Educational, so ask yourself when you post 1) Is this entertaining? 2) Will this cause an emotional response from the user? 3) Is this educational? If you can get at least one of these E’s in your post, you are likely creating quality content that will help build your brand. Ideally, you would strive to get 2 or even 3 E’s, if possible.

So how do posts about the holidays fit into this equation? Not only do the holidays elicit an emotional response from users, typically excitement or nostalgia, but they are also entertaining, timely, this content is usually easily generated, and often gets higher engagement than a typical post. There’s something about snow on the ground, presents under the tree, and classic films on the silver screen that make you relish in anticipation for what’s to come. When fans and followers see these yuletide posts come across their news feed it allows them to feel these emotions.

This holiday season, Santa is checking his list, not once but twice, so make sure you dot your I’s, cross your T’s and incorporate the 3 E’s into your winter social media strategy. Happy Holidays from the team at Columbia Marketing Group!

 

 

Millennials: Changing the Marketing Game One Day at a Time

Millennials – you can’t go anywhere without hearing about them, including this CMG blog! But, why? Millennials make up 23.3% of the US population right now and companies need to start marketing to this group before it’s too late! Your great aunt on Facebook may say that millennials are lazy, self-righteous, unwilling to work, and self absorbed. Now that may be true for some, but this demographic makes up a huge part of the US workforce and accounts for $65 billion in consumer spending per year. And this will only continue to grow.

Some of you may still be unsure of who actually fits in this generation, you may actually be a millennial yourself.  Millennials include anyone born between the years of 1983 and 1999. These people are highly aware of what images and advertisements they let affect them. They spend much of their day behind a screen, whether computer, phone, or other. So, businesses –  take note!

 

Want to learn more about how to appeal to this stakeholder generation? Here are a few tips:

Avoid “hype” and “fake news”

With so much content out there, advertisers are fighting for digital space, and if you’ve got it, you better make it worthwhile. Millennials aren’t going to waste their time on an ad or site that has low quality images, out of date text, misspelled words, or other errors. They want to get the information they need and get out. Use professional design tips and tricks, incorporate high quality images, and modern fonts and colors. These strategies will increase credibility and attract those hard to get clicks.

Be on the right apps

 

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With so many platforms out there it is easy to misstep when planning on where to advertise. Although Facebook was created to cater towards college students, millennials spend their time elsewhere. Facebook has become increasingly popular for women aged 50+. Millennials still have FB accounts to keep up with extended family or use the popular Facebook Messenger feature, but their time on the platform is scarce and decreasing as other apps become increasingly popular.

Instagram and Snapchat are the winners in the game for millennial attention. These platforms create small bits of information and allow for more creativity and customization for the user. You can check in multiple times throughout the day, you’ll likely never see duplicate or recurring posts, and you are able to keep up with friends 10 seconds at a time. On the other hand, 32% of millennials use Twitter, this is down from years past but this platform is still holding strong for many users. Social media is exceedingly popular not just for millennials but for many age groups. Being present on these outlets is essential for any company striving to have a strong online presence.

 

Cohesive branding is key

Millennials are less likely to follow through with brands that are not cohesive. Companies that have different messages, logos, colors, and images are confusing. Your marketing components should have a common thread that forms a connection in the minds of consumers. If the content that you release is visually related, targeted millennials will form a positive brand image in their minds and are more likely to interact with these companies in the future.

Invest in the right kind of advertising

Millennials are getting force fed information through every outlet they spend their time on. Typical ads are being overlooked all the time, so how do you avoid this? Eye-catching, trendy advertisements such as interactive video are more likely to catch the attention of millennials and others alike.

Avoid something like this!

A few great looking ads make a greater impact than a large number of ads that look “spammy” or like clickbait. Professional ads can leave a lasting impression. Low quality ads that come up and follow you everywhere can leave an even stronger impression in a bad way. Retargeting is a great way to get the attention of potential customers, but these buyers don’t want to see a cheap advertisement. A professional, attractive ad may be all it takes to turn a first (or second, or third!) impression into a lasting relationship. By investing your money in the right ways you are able to form a positive relationship that can turn into future sales.

 

Millennials have a huge amount of buying power, the time to start getting their attention and brand loyalty is now. By following these recommendations, you will start seeing a return from this influential demographic!

If you need to rethink your branding or advertising strategy, contact Columbia Marketing Group today!

State of the YAYA Takeaways

It’s no secret – if you want to successfully market your business to a specific target population, you have to understand the behavior of that target. Businesses constantly fight for the attention of consumers. If your product or service isn’t appealing to the right audience, you’re already losing.

The Youth and Young Adult market (YAYA) is one of the hardest to understand. Perhaps brands want to connect with this market the most. Nearly 31 million people in the USA are between the ages of 18-24. This market is important because these customers demonstrate high brand loyalty. Young adults also have heavy influence on global trends.

Every year, MOJO Ad, a student-staffed advertising agency at the Missouri School of Journalism, presents an in-depth report on the current lifestyles and habits of the YAYA market and how you can develop a positive relationship with them. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the 2017 presentation – applicable to your business whether you target the YAYA market or not.

The Future is Digital           

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Nearly 90 percent of the YAYA market owns a smartphone, and they use it for, well, just about everything. Google and YouTube provide the perfect outlets for teaching young adults new tasks, and social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are becoming primary news sources for YAYA.

MOJO Ad says it’s important to note that YAYA users have a short attention span and demonstrate “hypersensitivity” to anything considered fake or over the top. From this, marketers can take away that a digital message has to be quick, while also connecting the consumer to real emotional and physical benefits your brand can provide.

The Young Adult Market Loves Opinions

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Because of social media, YAYA consumers are surrounded by a world of differing opinions. Less than a third of YAYA consumers are loyal to one news source, and most prefer to get their news from social media sources where news becomes an open marketplace of ideas.

Consider leveraging the power of social media in your favor by creating brand-specific featured stories or using social media influencers like Snapchat’s “Live Story” feature.

YAYA Doesn’t Sleep

via GIPHY

The YAYA market is busy with no time to waste. Because of this, less than half of YAYA consumers say they don’t get enough sleep – a sacrifice they are willing to make if it means balancing a heavy workload.

Additionally, YAYA consumers keep their phone with them in bed so they can check their social media accounts before going to sleep and right when they wake up.

So what’s the takeaway for marketers? You can target the YAYA demographic at any time, day or night. Content posted strategically at odd hours may seem a little strange, but your target may be online at a time of day neither you nor your competitors are leveraging.

If you want more information on the 2017 State of the YAYA report, click here.