What Captain Kirk Teaches Us About Business

30 06 2015

Even among those who haven’t followed the Star Trekfranchise, Captain Kirk and William Shatner (the actor who played him) are household names. Whether you’re a lifelong Trekkie or only know the character’s name in passing, here are six Captain Kirk/William Shatner quotes we found particularly inspiring for marketing and business professionals.

“Genius doesn’t work on an assembly line basis… You can’t simply say, ‘Today I will be brilliant.'”

When starting out or working your way up in business, you must acknowledge that you don’t know everything there is to know about your industry. You’re not going to wake up one morning with the experience to be an industry leader. Instead, you must be willing to study and learn as you go.

“You either believe in yourself or you don’t.”

Running a business is never a sure thing. Chances are when you start your own company you’ll find yourself facing skepticism from many different people. If you want to be successful, however, you have to believe in yourself. You must be honest about the faith you have in yourself. If you truly think you can do this, then develop your business plan and prepare to jump in feet first.

“There’s another way to survive — mutual trust and help.”

Building a business is not a single-handed endeavor. If you want your business to thrive — and not just survive — you must be willing to trust those running the business with you. When starting out, make sure your first hires are trustworthy people who share your vision. Choose candidates you know you can trust completely to have the good of the company at heart.

“Sometimes a feeling is all we humans have to go on.”

Sure, predicting the right moment to launch a company or introduce a new product or service involves studying trends, but it also requires a finely tuned intuition. Sometimes, all you have to go on in business is a gut feeling. If you have reasons to support those instincts, don’t be afraid to listen to them.

“If I can have honesty, it’s easier to overlook mistakes.”

This quote speaks to the importance of transparency in everything a business does. No business leader is perfect. Sometimes you’ll make mistakes. You’ll make the wrong call. When you’re transparent with your employees about what happened, they’ll be far more likely to continue to trust you and your judgement.

“A captain of a ship, no matter his rank, must follow the book.”

Even if you’re the founder and CEO, you don’t want to place yourself in a separate category than everyone else at your company. Sure, it might be easier to circumvent particular processes or rules, but when you do so, everyone notices. People naturally struggle to feel connected to and loyal to leaders who play by different rules than the ones they set for everyone below them. Show your employees you’re all on the same team by following the same rules. The result will be far greater coherence within your team.

Building and successfully running a company can be a challenge for anyone. Those who enjoy the character of Captain Kirk, however, will find a considerable amount of wisdom about how to be successful in the quotes from the captain and from the actor, William Shatner. Consider some of the wisdom above and see how you can apply it to your own company. If you’re interested in improving your marketing efforts, contact us today. We’d be happy to help you get started.

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The Four Key Steps to Successful Branding Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond

26 06 2015

Here’s a marketing truth that bears repeating: Your brand is one of the most powerful weapons you have in your quest not only to attract the widest possible audience, but to differentiate yourself from the competition in a meaningful way. While the type of brand you’re trying to build may vary as your company grows and evolves, the steps you’ll use to create and cultivate that brand won’t. Here are four key steps to successful branding that are just as useful today as they will be tomorrow, a year from now, and beyond.

1. Make Marketing Decisions with Your Customers in Mind

Just as you wouldn’t attempt to offer a service or release a product your target audience wouldn’t want, try to keep this same thought in mind when planning your marketing campaigns and branding strategy. Do your target customers respond well to direct mail materials? Are they the type of people who like “larger than life” materials like print billboards? These are all questions you’ll need to continually address and re-address moving forward.

2. Simple, Simple, Simple

One of the keys to building a successful brand is the ability to communicate the company’s core values clearly and concisely. Keep it simple. Never use ten words when five will do. If you can communicate the idea behind what your brand stands for in an image, you may not even need to use words at all. Communicate your branding message in the simplest possible way for the best results.

3. Your Brand is Your Brand is Your Brand

Though your brand may naturally evolve as your business changes, it’s important to take things slowly. If all of your marketing materials reflect one version of your brand in Quarter 1 and a completely different version in Quarter 4, you’re going to develop a bit of a schizophrenic reputation among the people you’re trying to reach. If you make changes that are too drastic too quickly, you run the risk of confusing your brand with itself and creating the image that you’re actually two different companies. For an example of this idea in action, consider the mess Netflix went through when it attempted to split off its DVD-by-mail and Internet streaming components into two separate entities in 2011.

4. Consistency in Language and Intention

Every piece of marketing you put out into the world needs to feel like it’s coming from the same company. Start by developing a “style guide” that you’ll use moving forward. For example, if you write your direct mail materials at a specific reading level, include that in your style guide. Provide a list of acceptable fonts, color palettes, and guidelines for proper logo usage. Consistency is a key way to show people your brand knows what it’s doing without actually saying those words.

As your company ages, it’s naturally going to change and evolve over time. The products and services you’re releasing today will scarcely resemble the ones you offer ten years down the line. One thing, however, will never change, and that’s the power of your brand. No matter what the future holds, the four key steps to successful branding outlined above will never go out of style.





Monet and Picasso: There’s Room for You, Too

23 06 2015

There are people who love art and can explain to you in-depth what you should know about some of the greatest artists. They can break down for you the differences in style and how the artists used different brush strokes to create the final image. These art aficionados can look at a painting and tell you the style it was painted in and the likely artist.

For the rest of us, trying to keep track of all the names and theories behind great art can feel a bit overwhelming. While all of us can appreciate the work that goes into the creation of a beautiful painting, trying to analyze the different styles can be a challenge. For outsiders looking in at the art world, it can feel as though the industry is completely saturated. There are so many different styles and forms that it can seem impossible for any new ideas to be developed. Yet somehow, each generation manages to come up with unique art ideas that resonate with different people.

The significance of Monet and Picasso

If you asked most people to list some well-known artists, most would list off famous names like Monet and Picasso. What’s interesting, though, is that these artists are immensely different from each other. They painted different subjects, lived in different countries and political situations, and their art was vastly different. The similarities might be easier to describe than the differences, with it largely boiling down to: they were both famous and talented artists.

If you have talent, the industry will make room.

Monet and Picasso approached art from different perspectives. They each expressed what they knew in different ways. Monet took a more traditional route, creating beautiful paintings that closely resembled the objects and scenes that were being depicted. Picasso, on the other hand, took liberties with shapes, colors, and designs to capture the emotion and motivations behind the scene being shown.

Both, however, demonstrated incredible talent. Regardless of a person’s individual taste, it’s impossible to overlook the abilities of each of these artists. That’s what has allowed them to rise to the top of the art world. They’re famous enough that even those who don’t spend vacations touring art museums recognize their names.

The inspiration for business professionals

Like Picasso and Monet, when you have the talent, an industry will make room for you. These artists are often regarded as leaders within their respective styles, meaning they often took untraveled paths in their quest to reach the top. Their names are remembered because of the paths they forged and the beauty they created.

If you’re talented in your industry and have the skills needed to show genuine expertise, you can also find your place within your market. No industry or market is so crowded it can’t make room for you. To reach this desired summit, you need to prepare.

  • Know what makes you different.
  • Determine how you can translate your proposition for customers.

When you take the time to set yourself apart from the rest of the industry and have the talent to back up your desires, you can succeed. If the world of famous artists is big enough to house the incredible diverse talents of Monet and Picasso, your industry can support you as well.





The Power of Personalization

19 06 2015

Print marketing is still one of the best and most effective ways to connect with your target audience and create brand awareness on a large scale. For starters, print marketing is tangible — you’re giving a person something they can hold in their hands and, more importantly, something they can pass along to a friend or family member.

Despite the many benefits of print marketing as a medium, many people still seem to miss one of its most powerful and most natural tools: personalization. When you take a look at just how effective personalization can be, you’ll be shocked you weren’t embracing it in the past.

Personalization: By the Numbers

In 2012, the industry organization InfoTrends conducted a study on marketing communication. It revealed several interesting facts, all of which are important to know when planning your next marketing campaign. The good news is that print marketing is alive and well, even in an era where everyone carries a smartphone or other type of mobile device with them at all times.

The better news is that marketing materials featuring high levels of personalization yield a dramatically higher ROI over ones sent out in a uniform or more generic manner.

The InfoTrends survey covered more than 1,000 businesses in 10 industries. Nearly two thirds used personalization or segmentation techniques to increase response and conversion rates. One of the respondents who used personalized print materials exclusively experienced a response rate of around 6% and a conversion rate of over 16%. Compare this with the average 2% response rate more generic materials generate, and the power of personalization becomes abundantly clear.

Things get even more impressive when you combine personalization with other best practices of modern marketing, like combining print and digital to reach a wider audience. For example, the respondents who utilized print and e-mail materials with high levels of personalization reported a response rate of 7.6% and a conversion rate of over 18%.

Why Personalization Matters

When you personalize your marketing materials, you’re taking that extra step to show your target audience how much you really care about them. Instead of addressing a direct mail brochure with the generic and calculated “Dear Sir or Madame,” you can take advantage of the basic technique of including their name — which, keep in mind, is information you already have if you’re sending them something in the mail.

Believe it or not, this does go a long way. It instantly creates a much more organic connection with the person reading your materials and subconsciously separates your mailer from others that may not be personalized at all.

Personalized print marketing is also inherently more impressive than personalized digital materials of the same variety. Everyone has a computer, and they know how quickly you can change an e-mail to include a name. Changing a print mailer, however, takes a little more thought and effort (though not as much as you’d think). Your effort will definitely be appreciated by the recipient.

Not only is print marketing alive and well, but one of its most powerful assets is something many businesses aren’t even using. Personalizing your print materials will go a long way toward creating a more meaningful and long-lasting connection with your target audience and increasing your ROI.





Learning to Dream Again

16 06 2015

The next time you find yourself in the company of preschool-age children, ask them what they want to be when they grow up. Children are known for dreaming big. In a class of 20 students, you might find yourself surrounded by several future astronauts, firefighters, teachers, ballerinas, doctors, and scientists. Their little minds can be inspiring for us adults.

Children dream uninhibitedly. They dream about things the rest of us find unobtainable. Too often, we think about all the obstacles in our way and allow our minds to entertain the “what ifs,” rather than the “why nots.” As we mature, our goals need to be more realistic for our skills and abilities, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop reaching for the stars.

We need to remember our childhood innocence when it comes to our dreams. It’s the only way we’ll ever accomplish all the things we’re truly capable of achieving.

As Gloria Steinem says, “Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”

No one ever made it to the top of their industry by limiting themselves on what they were capable of accomplishing. Instead, you need to imagine the heights your business might be able to reach if you allow yourself to really dream big.

Of course, as a professional, your dreaming must take a slightly more predictable path. You must not only have the end goal in mind, but you must also be able to determine what you need to do to reach the desired end result.

Identify what you’d like to accomplish professionally

These goals can look vastly different. If you’re a small business owner, you might have a desired income you’d like to see from your business, or perhaps you want to have enough income to open another branch in a neighboring city. If you work for a company, maybe you want to reach the c-suite or gain the experience you need to start your own company. This is where you should be inspired by the dreams of those in the under age five crowd. Allow your mind to imagine where you’d like to be in 5, 10, or 20 years.

Outline a path you need to take to accomplish this goal

Once you know where you want to go, it’s time to outline the steps needed to get there. This includes setting small and incremental goals throughout your journey. If you want to reach a new position within your company, consider what type of education and experience you’ll need to obtain along the way. If you’ve started a business, learn about better business practices to bring in new customers and encourage them to stay. For example, set:

  • goals for identifying and appealing to your ideal customer audience
  • goals for improving the business website
  • goals for improving customer experience
  • goals for using inbound marketing and new digital marketing
  • goals for integrating digital marketing with traditional marketing practices

Once you know what you need to do to reach your goals, you’ll be able to confidently set out on the path toward accomplishing them.

The path to success requires thinking outside the box and being willing to dream big. Children are excellent examples for us to think about what we might actually be capable of accomplishing if we don’t get overwhelmed by the potential obstacles. Too often we limit ourselves unnecessarily. Take a lesson from the smallest members of society and learn how to dream unfettered. If you’re interested in starting a new marketing campaign to help your business reach its goals, reach out to us today. We’d be happy to help you get started.





Integrating Social Media and Print: Leveraging the Best of Both Worlds to Your Advantage

12 06 2015

It’s certainly no secret that social media is increasingly becoming one of the single most important tools to connect with your target audience in the most meaningful ways possible. After all, sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more have hundreds of millions of unique users who are actively engaged in social activities on a daily basis. It would be a shame to let such a valuable resource go to waste.

At the same time, you certainly don’t want to neglect your print campaign. It’s still one of the most effective marketing weapons in your arsenal and always will be. So how do you ensure you’re paying equal attention to both print and social media?

The answer is simple: integrate social media into your print campaign and leverage the benefits both have to offer.

Grab Attention and Refuse to Let it Go

In today’s crowded marketplace, the goal of any campaign is to grab the attention of prospective customers. You aren’t just trying to sell a product or service — you’re trying to quickly show why your product or service is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest.

Integrating social media elements into your print campaigns is one of the best ways to accomplish that. It allows you to get your message in front of more people in the places they’re most comfortable holding that conversation.

For an example of this concept in action, consider the hashtag. People use hashtags for everything from highlighting key words and phrases in a post to finding trends, joining ongoing conversations, and adding a definitive statement at the end of a sentence. By including a hashtag at the end of your print mailer, you’re giving your customers multiple options regarding how they can join the conversation and communicate with your brand. If they’d like to continue to learn more about your product or service via the hashtag, they can always do so. If not, they can continue their exposure by way of the print materials the same way they always have.

In essence, you’re giving them choices, which is one of the best ways to grab their attention and refuse to let it go.

Tracking Success

Integrating social media and print is also a great, easy way to track the success of a particular campaign over a long-term basis. Consider putting a unique hashtag on the end of each print piece you mail. If messages with that hashtag are then retweeted 200,000 times on Twitter, you know your message is being received loud and clear and that your target audience is more than willing to continue the conversation online.

Digital and print marketing don’t have to be independent of one another. Anyone who tells you it’s a “one or the other” proposition is wrong. Print and digital are both great at accomplishing their own things, or even the same things in different ways. By integrating social media and print together, you’re combining the benefits of both platforms into one environment and are truly creating a “best of both worlds” scenario.





Hopping Aboard the Bandwagon

9 06 2015

The bandwagon effect is nothing new. Scientists have been amazed for decades by the propensity for people to follow the lead of others. It seems to dominate our lives in so many ways! We become more likely to buy products our friends buy, and we even find ourselves ascribing to the opinions and beliefs of those around us. This psychological phenomenon might be one of the most interesting and influential topics of study in the field of neuro-marketing.

An excellent example in the world of public opinion can be found in the Oxford Journals, dating back to 1977. This experiment used two groups of questionnaires to study participants. Each contained the same four questions, but one set of questions was accompanied by recent public poll results regarding answers to the question. The study found that those in blue collar trades seemed to react negatively in opinion and response rate to the addition of the polls, while white collar workers reacted positively in both of these areas.

The findings of this study have been cited numerous times and have been used as a foundation for subsequent studies on the notion of the bandwagon effect. A study as recent as 2013 sought to determine how influential the bandwagon effect is on voting. The study, published in the Journal of Psychology, found that the opinions and votes of participants were similarly impacted by the behavior of others.

Why do we care so much about what others say and think?

We all want to feel as though we’re part of a group. Put yourself back in high school for a second. You walk into school, put your backpack in your locker, and likely begin to search for your friends. Whether a jock, a bookworm, or a rocker, everyone had their own clique. Even the ‘outsiders’ seemed to have their own group of like-minded people. As people, we enjoy feeling as though we’re part of a greater society.

Our desire to be part of a group impacts everything from our shopping behavior to the social media platforms we join and the content we seek. It explains why that latest cat meme went viral and why various fads seem to arise and disappear overnight.

It can also be a powerful tool for marketers. When you harness the power of the bandwagon effect, you can create the recipe for a successful marketing plan or product launch.

Take social media, for example. These digital platforms are excellent for your customers to let their friends know they like your brand. People are more likely to be attracted to and follow brands their friends follow because of the bandwagon effect. When companies advertise who follows them on social media, it works to create a strong social media community where people regularly converse and engage with the brand. It can also help to encourage others to like the brand.

Similarly, people are far more inclined to try new products if they see others buying them. If you’re running a sale, for example, indicating the percentage of your product that has been bought, particularly as the numbers get higher, can actually help drive new people to make a purchase.

As scientists have been telling us for decades, the bandwagon effect can be a powerful motivator for people interested in making a purchasing decision. Keep the power of groups in mind as you design your next marketing campaign and see how you can leverage this power yourself. Contact us today to get your new marketing campaign started.