Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thinking Out of the Box

While the phrase “thinking out of the box” has just moved past tired status and is inching its way up toward cliché, the concept will never go out of style. Why? Because creative thinking can yield some very simple albeit very effective advertising strategies.

According to our friends in the Ad Freak department of AdWeek.com, a British farmer was denied permission to advertise his topsoil business on billboards near his farm. So he stenciled his logo on a heard of sheared sheep on the property as a way to catch similar attention (as well as perhaps subtly extend a metaphorical middle finger to whatever governing body denied the permitting).

Although this budding creative genius was able to let his mind run free, thinking creatively doesn’t often come naturally for everyone, and even for those who are naturals, the wheels occasionally get blocked. If you’re having trouble thinking out of the box about advertising or any business issue that needs a creative solution, next time try this: Jot down a list of eight or 10 random nouns, select one—how about “lamb chops” in honor of our British farmer—and think of as many characteristics, concepts and ideas relating to lamb chops as you can in five minutes. Then go back to your real issue and see if a slight temporary rewiring of your brain hasn’t taken effect. In many cases, the short exercise simply frees up the rigid thinking that has kept your creativity at bay.

For those of you with continued ad-related creative brain freeze even after this exercise, you have an alternative, and it’s called Ryan William’s Agency. Mobile warm-blooded signage might not be right for your business, but creativity is what we do; we can help you with an effective strategy and an affordable campaign.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tips for Boosting Fans on Your Facebook Business Page

Whether you like it or not and use it for your business or not, Facebook is the real deal. Statistics show that 90 percent of consumers trust recommendations from people they know and that the majority of consumers spend more after a friend’s recommendation than they do shopping on their own. The key to spreading your business gospel is acquiring an ever-growing audience—your Facebook fan base. Here are some tricks of the trade.

1. Determine if Facebook is, in fact, a good fit for your business.

It is possible that your customers don’t participate in social media. If your market is the senior crowd, for example, your efforts might be better spent elsewhere. However, a Facebook page is free and there are some seniors who are savvy to social media. In addition, seniors have children and grandchildren who do use the medium and can help you connect indirectly with your market. See, you’re not really off the hook.

2. Engage with your fans.

Unless the information you provide is consistently entertaining or useful, if you don’t engage in conversation with your fans, sooner or later they’re going to fall off, which leads to them forgetting about you, which leads to fewer sales and fewer recommendations. Thank your fans when they compliment your service. Apologize when they criticize. Talk to them about everything in between.

3. Offer your fans incentives to stay current with your page.

Statistics indicate that the majority of Facebook business fans are so to begin with for the incentives: discounts, coupons, contests to win products or services, etc. Give your fans reasons to keep up with your business other than simply the social aspect of the medium. Along these same lines, offer incentives for becoming a fan. Again, coupons and other discounts work well but also newsletters and email blasts promising those same discounts work too.

4. Take advantage of the social aspect of the medium.

There's no stronger recommendation than one from a personal friend. Add the “Share” button to every post you make, and, again, if it makes sense, offer incentives to fans for sharing your post.

5. Advertise on Facebook.

As incredible as this sounds, Facebook is fast on the heels of Google and Yahoo for the most visited site in cyber space and is expected to overtake them both within a year or so. That doesn’t mean that people are using Facebook in the same way they use search engines. But it does mean that Google will likely not be the largest potential pool of new and existing customers forever. How you market to that pool via Facebook, of course, differs than how you market to them via the giant search engine. But take advantage of the audience. Again, it’s free.

6. Consider creating a landing page for your Facebook fan page rather than the run-of-the-mill comment threads that comprise most business pages.

New visitors and fans can easily click through to the comment threads, but a landing page is a great way to offer additional information about your business as well as create a call to action or highlight discounts, coupons and contests, etc.

The technology of social media is evolving incredibly fast and there’s a school of thought that Facebook might peter out in the not-too-distant future and be replaced by … who knows what. But at Ryan William’s Agency, the consensus is that it ain’t happening this year, and likely not next, and probably not the year after that. So, in the meantime, what other marketing and advertising vehicle have you got that potentially can reach the numbers that Facebook can, and for free? Even if you’re one of the believers that there is an end in site for Facebook, there’s still a whole heck of a lot of gravy left in this train before the theoretical demise of its usefulness. And at Ryan William’s, we can show you how to squeeze every last drop out of it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Really pretty ad. Does it work?

Last week the RWA team was reorganizing our library of work in preparation for several upcoming pitches. Although we haven’t been in business nearly as long as J. Walter or Ogilvy, we’ve already maxed out one server, a portfolio and our sample storage racks. Whew! A lot of ads have come through the portals of RWA.

As we prepared our portfolio for presentation to these prospective new clients, it occurred to the creative minds at RWA that we clearly had two categories of ads: those that make the portfolio and those that don’t. The ones our new prospects will see displayed in all their splendor are the ones that are slick and pretty, with innovative headlines and really cool graphics. They’re the ones that took home the awards at the ADDYs, the ones that we like to frame and put on the walls and boast to our friends “Yeah, that’s one of ours.”

Sure, they are great ads, but the ads that don’t make the portfolio often have the best stories behind them. They’re not pretty, but man! Did they make the phone ring, or what?!?!

Most progressive business owners want to see equally progressive ads representing their business, but overlooking the power of a plainer ad might mean you’re overlooking potential sales. It’s sort of like high school dating. Sure the cheerleader looks good on the surface, but that girl with the glasses who is head of the class is probably a better bet. Just saying…

Sometimes the plainer, more straight-forward ad is also a better bet. The classic example of this is an ad that legendary copywriter John Caples wrote in 1926 for a music school.

No one would argue that the ad is an ADDY contender, but it is widely considered one of the most successful ads of all times.

Why? Because it spoke to its audience is a straight-forward manner about just what they wanted to hear. The appeal of being able to sit down at a piano and amaze your friends after a few lessons at the school was and still is irresistible. Think about it. Isn’t that what anyone interested in playing the piano dreams of?

As creative professionals, we’ll always love ads that are new and fresh, the slick, the pretty, the cheerleader ads. But, every once in a while it’s wise to take a page from the history books. Ads don’t always have to be pretty to make the phone ring.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Subtlety Sells in Online Marketing

Ever know someone in a social situation who constantly talks about himself or is always working some angle for his benefit at your expense? It usually doesn’t take too long before you begin avoiding a person like that. While you expect a salesman during a sales call to try to sell you something, most people aren’t fond of getting sold by friends or acquaintances.

Social media is largely the same way. Individuals follow on Twitter, friend and fan on Facebook, read blogs, watch YouTube videos, etc. mostly to be entertained and to garner information. If you try to hard sell this audience, it takes only a click for them to make you go away and there are thousands of others ready to take your place.

The key to social media is that it’s social. You must engage your audience in conversation. As tempting as it is to tweet about your sale or tell that person on LinkedIn to call you because you’re an attorney and can help him with his issue, don’t. Simply talk to your audience like you would an acquaintance at a cocktail party. Here are some more tips to getting your message across without hitting anyone over the head.

Offer value.
Rather than selling that person on LinkedIn your legal services, post a link to some information that pertains to that person’s issue. The more useful information you provide through social media, the more people will remember you as the go-to source for help.

Respond to negative and positive comments.
Don’t delete negative comments; respond to them thoughtfully and apologize. Deleted comments are likely to get louder somewhere else. On the flip side, thank people who post praise for your product or service. This kind of positive reinforcement makes your audience feel good and keeps the praise alive for an additional period of time.

Entertain and surprise.
Followers of social media love to be entertained and surprised. Both are great vehicles to elicit fans and followers of your message. Think of an author or pundit on television, etc. who you regularly look for to hear what he’s going to say next. You can become that person or entity to a great many individuals.

Ask questions
By posting questions, you’re inviting conversation, which keeps your message alive and stimulates your audience. One-way information is fine some of the time, but mix it up occasionally.

Be transparent.
Nobody likes a fake and that goes for businesses as well as individuals. The more you share, the more your audience will believe you and look forward to your next post.

At Ryan William’s Agency, we’re regularly tweeting and blogging and posting on Facebook and the like for a number of clients who recognize the importance of social media, but are busy running their companies, and we do it for our agency as well. It’s one of the keys today of running a successful business. (Subtle, huh?)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Tips for Successful Marketing at Tradeshows, Conferences, Sales Meetings and Other Business Exhibitions

Exhibiting your product or service at an industry event seems straight forward. But unless you prepare a solid game plan in advance, you can spend big bucks with no appreciable impact on sales. Here are some tips to think about:

1. Establish a solid reason for participating in the first place.
In this economic climate, money is tight for even the most successful companies. Exhibiting at a tradeshow or other similar event because “you always have” doesn’t cut the mustard anymore. Clearly define and focus your objectives and determine if the show is worthy of the time and money to exhibit.

2. Select appropriate events.
One of the goals of an event planner is to get as many businesses as possible to participate—i.e. sell booth space. Unless you’re RJ Reynolds trying to exhibit at an American Lung Association tradeshow, chances are the show is going to let you in. Make sure you really need to be there. Is it a consumer event or B2B? What percentage of your customers will likely be attending? Will your competitors be there? What kind of impact might result if you don’t attend?

3. Set a hard budget and allocate it specifically.
Big events with lots of industry colleagues together all in one place tend to take on a festive quality, which can lead to lapses in judgment. Whipping out the corporate credit card for unexpected expenses—from big unplanned dinners with associates to last-minute promotions pushed by the show planners, etc.—may be money you wouldn’t spend under different circumstances. Unless something comes up during the show that really makes sense on which to spend additional funds, stick to the budget.

4. Market your business prior to the event.
Be sure to market to current and potential customers well in advance of the event. Direct mail, ads in trade publications, blurbs on your website, blog and Facebook business page, etc. that broadcast your booth number, specials for writing business at the show and basic reminders that you’ll be exhibiting are effective at enticing your customers to visit you during the event.

5. Create a clean and simple exhibition.
Tradeshows and the like promote a lot of competition for your customers’ attention. While flashy often attracts at the outset, the business message can easily be lost. Certainly try to pop among the throngs of exhibitors, but don’t confuse your customers. Keep the design and navigation simple.

6. Create and promote some type of hands-on customer participation.
If at all possible, put your product or service into the hands of your customer to try out. Signage, looping videos, displayed product, take-away literature and sales speak are all great, but every exhibit at the event has them. Stand out from the crowd and create some type of live interaction between your customer and your product. If you manufacture fishing lures, create an area where customers can cast them. If you’re a locksmith, let customers cut keys.

7. Be sure your exhibit is comfortable to approach and enter, and that your sales technique is appropriate.
Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. Does your exhibit draw in visitors naturally or is there some kind of metaphorical hoop through which to jump; and is it your plan to allow visitors to warm up to speaking with a representative or to immediately pounce on them with your ten-second elevator pitch? Eliminate barriers between your exhibit and your customers and customize your sales pitch for the type of customer attending the event.

8. Take adequate notes and record contact information during the event, and always follow up with your customers immediately afterward while your company is still fresh in their mind.
Whether phone calls, emails or direct mail, always follow up with your visitors. They’re the hottest lead for new business that you have at that time. And every day that passes following the event, cools off the lead dramatically.

Tradeshows, conferences, sales meetings and other industry events are a great way to directly reach your market in one fell swoop if you approach them correctly. At Ryan William’s Agency, we’ve been helping small to midsize businesses not only market and advertise themselves through the unique use of print, online, social media, and radio and television, but we’ve been preparing them for the “Big Show” as well, and we can help you too.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Has Newspaper Advertising Become Obsolete?

There’s no doubt about it: With the advent of the Internet, newspaper readership, in general, is dramatically waning—especially where dailies are concerned. Many papers around the country have folded and the remaining players have staffs and newspapers that are likely a fraction of their former size. However, there still are benefits to newspaper advertising and situations when buying display space makes sense.

When making your advertising decisions, think about the following to help determine if newspapers might fit into your campaign.

* A newspaper ad is tangible, and concepts read from a hard copy versus other mediums, especially electronic, are often easier to understand and remember. That’s one of the reasons why, still to this day, most anything created electronically that absolutely must be free of errors includes a round of proofing on paper.

* A newspaper ad tends to hold the reader’s attention longer than some other forms of advertising. Sure, you can always turn the page, but electronic media encourages taking in smaller bits of information faster than the concept of reading a newspaper. A new Web page or television station is just a click away. People tend to take time with a newspaper.

* Studies indicate that newspaper readers are generally an older, better educated and more affluent demographic, which, depending on your product or service, can be a real advantage.

* An upside to the newspaper industry shrinking is that there are fewer ads against which to compete, so you can expect better exposure than in the past.

* Consider where very large companies—those who likely know best where to spend their ad dollars--advertise. Online? Of course. Television? Radio? Certainly. However, open your daily paper and you’ll see they are there as well. Why? Because given the right timing, display size and a product or service suitable for a newspaper’s primary demographic, newspaper ads pull.

Sure there are a lot snazzier, sexier medias to advertise in these days, but don’t count newspaper out of your media mix. Print can still play a very effective part of your company’s marketing plan given the right message aimed at the right audience. Not sure who or what that is? We know some people who can help you with that.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Facing down Facebook: Do you really need fans for your business?

Over our favorite takeout lunch last week – Tuna Bombs from Jon Smith Subs – we got into a conversation about using Facebook to promote businesses.

“What do I need a Facebook page for?” Our client asked.

Ah, there it is. The question on the minds of over half the small business owners in the United States who have, to date, bucked the trend and refused to bow to the frenzy of Facebook. These companies remain fanless and friendless, but is that really such a bad thing? What are fans and friends gonna do for your company?

A lot, most experts agree, assuming, of course, that you do Facebook right. And that, for the other half of small business owners who do have company pages on Facebook, is the biggest challenge of all.

First, though, the original question: What do you need a Facebook page for? Well, the latest count of Facebook users stands around 500 million. That means 1 out of every 13 people on the face of the earth use Facebook with half of them logging on every day. So, suppose we told you your company could have the potential of reaching a fraction of 500 million people – let’s say just .00001% of them – for free. That’s 5,000 people and you don’t have to spend a dime. How much would it cost you to reach 5,000 people on TV or in the newspaper? It sure wouldn’t be free.

So, at the very least you should have a Facebook page because… it’s free! If you get one sale from someone who found you on Facebook, the return on investment blows away any other form of marketing.

We’re not encouraging you to just post a Facebook page and leave it there to gather dust. You’re going to have to put a little effort into this, but figuring out what to put on Facebook is not as daunting as it might seem. The main thing to consider is your audience. Who do you want to talk to? This isn’t much different than marketing on any other medium. If you want to talk to men about power tools, chances are you wouldn’t run a TV ad on Dr. Phil. It’s just not the right message for the audience. So, figure out who you’re talking to and fine-tune your messages to those people. Still stuck on a Facebook strategy? Inc Magazine has some great tips for creating an effective Facebook page.

If you need further inspiration, check out these 20 companies that have awesome Facebook pages.

Good luck getting on Facebook. Look us up when you get there. We’ll be your biggest fans!