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

 

via GIPHY

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           

via GIPHY

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

via GIPHY

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.

27 Must Know Digital Marketing Terms

I don’t know about you, but, when I can’t decide what to eat for lunch, I Google “food near me”. Once I find something that sounds good, I click “get directions” and Google takes me to wherever I need to go so I don’t have to navigate and get lost. Most of the time, if I have either horrible food or really good food, I want to give my two cents by writing a review online about whatever it is I had for lunch. Let’s not forget about the obligatory artsy Instagram photo of my neatly arranged sushi.

Let’s face it – the internet is becoming more and more prominent in our everyday lives. Guess what that means? Consumers are using the internet to help them make their purchasing decisions. In fact, in 2015, 64 cents of every dollar from in-store sales was influenced by the internet. WHOA!

If that’s not a game changer for your business strategy, I don’t know what is.

The world of digital marketing and advertising is one where trends change on a daily basis and growth never stops. With information at our fingertips 24/7, sometimes the internet and the world of digital marketing terms can be overwhelming. On top of that, its full of “industry speak” or specialized terms and phrases that most normal human beings don’t understand.

From SEO to PPC, we’ve developed straight-forward, jargon-free explanations of common digital marketing terms. Being familiar with these can help you navigate the digital world more efficiently, gain more insight, and get more value out of your online marketing. After reading this guide, you’ll have fewer things to Google – you’re welcome.


Industry “Jargon”

Explanation

Display

Banner Ads

Digital

Internet

Social Media

Facebook, Twitter

Tweet

A post on Twitter

Target Audience

Your Customers

SEO

Being found in Google

Paid Search/PPC

The sponsored ads in Google results

Online Reputation Management

Online reviews and Google listings

Mobile Conquesting

Ads on apps (in a specific location)

PreRoll

Video ads

Organic

Un-Paid

Reach

How many people saw it

Engagement

How many people liked/commented

Impression

A view of an ad

IP Targeting

Showing ads to specific people, at their home

Retargeting

Showing ads to people who visited your website

Web presence

Your company’s brand online

Ad Placement

The space on a website where your ad will appear

Ad Inventory

The ad spaces for sale on websites

Ad exchange

The technology that puts your ads on websites

Ad Network

A group of websites relevant to your customer

Behavioral targeting

Showing banner ads to people based on their online activity

Keyword targeting

Showing banner ads to people searching specific terms

Conversion

Someone took an action on your site (usually, filled out a form)

View-Through Visit

Someone saw your ad, didn’t click, then came to the website a different way

Content Management System/CMS

How your website is edited

WordPress

Our favorite CMS

The Basics Part One: Targeted Display and Retargeting

Year after year, digital remains the fastest-growing category in U.S. advertising spending. eMarketer predicts that in 2017, digital advertising will surpass television advertising for the first time in history.

In Part One of our Digital Advertising basics series, we break down the banner ad. Learn what your options are and how to get started reaching your potential customers online.

Digital Advertising Gold Standard: Targeted Display

Targeted display advertising, also known as programmatic advertising, refers to what you may know as “banner ads.”

A CMG-designed display ad: A 728x90, one of the most common sizes.
A CMG-designed display ad: A 728×90, one of the most common sizes.

Think of targeted display as your Internet billboard. But, instead of paying for views of every driver on a highway, your digital “billboard” will only be shown to a specified audience who meet highly granular demographic and geographic criteria.

For example: if your primary customers are wealthy women who live in Columbia and have children between the ages of 13-18, then you can run a targeted display campaign that will:

  • Show ads only to people in Columbia, MO
  • Run on websites where wealthy women with teenage children frequent (an Ad Network)
  • Show ads to wealthy women who have recently visited relevant websites (Behavioral Targeting)
  • Show ads to wealthy women who have recently searched online for relevant terms (Keyword Targeting)

Display ads can be a variety of sizes, and they typically appear at the top, bottom, or sides of a website. Small sizes also appear on mobile apps. You’ve seen them – check out MSN.com, CNN.com, HGTV.com, and thousands of others to see examples of display advertising.

A 300x250 display ad on MSN.com
A 300×250 display ad on MSN.com

How to Get Started

Targeted display campaigns are typically run by agencies, so you’ll need to find a partner you trust. You’ll pay by impressions, which are views of your ads.

Considerations

Timeframe

Expect a minimum campaign length – usually three months. Digital campaigns are cumulative; once people begin responding to your display ads, then your campaign will grow. Depending on your product and the customer’s purchase journey, longer campaigns may make sense.  Make sure you have a digital expert planning your strategy.

Roark Aluminum display ad
A CMG-designed skyscraper display ad (160×600)

Concept and Creative

Will the agency you hire to launch you targeted display campaign also create your display ads?  Will there be an extra fee?  Do they have a proven track record of success? Ask to see samples of effective display ads they’ve designed.

How often can creative be changed?

If you have a new promotion, how nimble can the agency be in revising your display ads? Will there be a fee every time? Your ads are a very important factor in the success of your campaign, so know your options before committing.

Where is traffic being driven?

If your website is up-to-date, fantastic (see note below about the critical importance of your website). But you also may want to create a landing page on your website designed specifically to convince people who clicked on your ad to take another action (usually, filling out a form). A digital expert can help you optimize a landing page and maximize return on investment.

How do I know if the campaign is successful?

Your agency should provide you a regular report. The beauty of your digital billboard, as opposed to a real billboard, is that you’ll know exactly how many people saw it, clicked on it, and then took another action when they arrived at your website.

The “Click Through Rate,” or the rate of people clicking on the ad who saw it, is a metric you can measure against industry benchmarks. The national average CTR is 0.07%, so if you achieve higher than that, you’re doing well.

Impressions build your brand. Clicks are a measure of interest; conversions are a measure of strong interest/intent to buy. You should also track your sales and any other metric you set at the beginning of the campaign as an indicator of success.

Animated Ads: The Latest in Catching Attention

Ask your ad designers about animating your ads with HTML5. Motion and multiple frames are all options – but expect an additional fee. It can be worth it to catch attention and drive up clicks.

Digital Advertising MUST HAVE for 2017: Retargeting

Smart phone ownership is skyrocketing. Consumers have an unlimited amount of resources available for product research in the palm of their hand – and they’re doing their homework.

Over 95% of people who visit a landing page do not fill out a form or take an action on the first visit. So how do you get them back? Retargeting.

Also known as remarketing – retargeting is showing display (banner) ads to people who visited your website but then left.

It may seem a little “big brother,” but retargeting is highly effective at returning people to your website, driving action, and nurturing them toward a sale.

Note: Facebook Retargeting Is Different

If you look at a book on Amazon and then see that same book in an ad on a Washington Post article you’re reading – that is traditional, display retargeting.

I viewed this fireplace insert two days ago. Amazon is retargeting me.
I viewed this fireplace insert two days ago. Amazon is retargeting me.

You may also see that book from Amazon in your Facebook feed. That is also retargeting, but it would not be included in your display retargeting budget. Facebook retargeting will need to be purchased as a separate campaign.

Recap: BARK

Ready to try display advertising? Remember BARK:

  • Behavioral Targeting
  • Ad Network
  • Retargeting
  • Keyword Targeting

With a combination of those digital targeting strategies, stellar creative, and the right digital media buying partner – you’ll join thousands of other advertisers finding ROI with targeted display.


First Thing’s First: Pretty Up Your Website

A CMG designed and developed website which has been highly effective in converting leads.
A CMG designed and developed website which has been highly effective in converting leads.

Internet ads drive traffic to your website (as do all other forms of advertising). If you’re spending money on digital advertising, make sure you’re driving traffic to a website that is top notch.

Your website needs:

  • Responsive design, meaning that it adapts to fit any screen size. In 2017, this will essentially mandatory for success
  • A modern design overall
  • Clear calls to action and easy ways that potential customers can request more information.
  • Clean, high resolution branding elements (your logo, photography)
  • Simple navigation
  • Content optimized for the digital experience (brief, visually spaced text, with headline usage, bullet points, etc).
  • If you sell products on your website, your e-commerce process needs to be streamlined and easy to navigate.

Although other more minute factors affect website success, those seven items are the basic web elements we recommend addressing before beginning a digital ad campaign.

Marketer’s Guide to Generation Names by Birth Year

I never attend a new client meeting or prepare a proposal without doing my homework. Who is the target audience? What is their lifestyle like? How do they consume information, and on what devices? What would we anticipate their buying journey to be for this particular product or service?

A tip for this kind of research – you need to have your generation names down pat. Most of the good marketing and consumer studies refer to age demographics by generation name. Here’s a quick guide:

Quick Guide to Generation Names by Year of Birth

GI Generation: Born 1901 – 1926
Mature/Silents: Born 1927 – 1945
Baby Boomers: Born 1945 – 1964
Generation X: Born 1965 – 1980
Generation Y (Millennials): Born 1981 – 2000
Generation Z (Boomlets): Born after 2001

MarketingTeacher.com has a really excellent tutorial about these generations with all kinds of details about beliefs, personality traits, buying habits, and more of each generation. Find that tutorial here.

Tips for Running Online Contests

With our three publications under one roof, we strive to give our readers quality content they’re interested in. In fact, we love our dedicated readers so much, we like to do special things for them whether it’s throwing a party (hello, free food and adult beverages!) or giving away awesome prizes. It’s a win-win situation for everyone – we get to make our readers happy, local businesses get promoted and a few lucky people get free stuff!

It’s nearly impossible to run a contest or promotion without doing it online. We’re so connected and on our devices anyway, why not enter your name or email for a prize, right? What do you have to lose?

Running contests online is a great way to increase your fan engagement and enthusiasm for your business. However, it requires a lot of initial planning so that the contest runs smoothly.

Here are a few steps for running a winning online contest:

1.HAVE A GOAL IN MIND

Running an online contest is a perfect opportunity to gather information that could benefit you. If you aren’t collecting information, you should be! What is the purpose of the contest? Are you trying to get newsletter subscriptions, expose certain products, gain Twitter followers or Facebook fans, or increase brand recognition? Knowing what your desired results are will help guide the planning process.

2. DECIDE WHAT THE PRIZE WILL BE

Does your prize encourage your demographic to enter? Nobody needs more cozies and branded clickable pens.

3. CHOOSE WHAT KIND OF PROMOTION YOU WANT TO HAVE

Our favorite platform to use for running any form of contest online is Woobox. It has the capability many types of promotions. When creating a contest, it’s important to know what kind of promotion you’re wanting to do. Check out all of the options here. We typically like to run sweepstakes for giving away prizes and polls for anything that involves voting.

4. MAKE A LANDING PAGE

Create a landing page to direct people to. This could be a Facebook app landing page, a post on your website, etc. The landing page should house all of the information about the contest – what it is, how to enter, the timeframe, and the rules.

5. BE CLEAR

Include Terms & Conditions outlining the contest rules. Include a privacy policy stating how entrant information will be used.

6. PROMOTE

No matter how great the giveaway, your content won’t promote itself. Consider using paid options on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to help spread the word.