My Last Post

Goodbye!…on the Affinity Express blog.

If that's not making you sad, don't tell me. I'm immensely sad to leave: not just leave a blog that I've nurtured lovingly over two years, but to leave a job that I was extremely happy at, and a boss who made work fun each day and who's become one of my best friends.

I have learned so much over the last two years: seriously, I don't think I've ever learned so much in any other period of my life. It was exciting to be in this dynamic industry, to work in a business that's aligned with my work (marketing!) so I can understand and be thrilled about the services we provide. It was a pleasure to meet (whether in person or online!) and learn from so many colleagues and clients.

And especially, it was amazing working in the marketing department with Kelly and Mel: never have I worked in another team that was so in sync (even though we're all in different countries!); where even disagreements were fun and productive.

I'm glad we've found another Marketing Manager who's brilliant and driven and fits well with the team; who has strengths different from mine and will push Affinity Express into new directions. But I'm sure Kriti will have her own post up here soon, so I won't steal her thunder.

I'll continue to write about marketing here and I hope you'll continue reading me, and I'm happy to chat on Twitter.

And I know Affinity Express will continue to do exciting stuff and the blogging team here will continue to dispense great advice, so I'm definitely going to continue reading this blog. You'll also catch me hanging about in the comments section here, so I won't say goodbye!


Optimize Your LinkedIn Company Page

Did you set up a company page on LinkedIn and then wonder what to do with it? Here's a quick and easy guide to optimizing your company page. If you've forgotten how to edit the page, you need to click on "Admin Tools" on the top right.

Overview Page

When you set up your page, upload your company logo as a 50x50 image. Fill in your company description. Don't just copy-paste from your boilerplate. I did, and it looked like this . . .

LinkedIn Page: Company Overview (the boring version)

The result is big blocks of text that I doubt you'd want to read through. So I edited it and kept it brief and simple, but added our services in "Specialties."

LinkedIn Page: Company Overview (the customized version)

If you want rules to follow, here they are:

  • Go by what your audience will want to read. If you want to attract job-seekers, add a line or two about the company culture. For customers, focus on your products.
  • Use short paragraphs.
  • Incorporate bullet points to break up lists (which unfortunately, LinkedIn's formatting doesn't allow, so I used a hyphen and spaces).
  • Put the most important and interesting information first, so that it's above-the-fold and entices the user to click on "more."
  • Use keywords, so you're easier to find when someone does a LinkedIn search for products/services that you offer.

Products/Services Page: Description and Spotlight

The products tab is for you to promote your products (or services , as in our case). Here too, you need a description. Keep it a description of your services rather than of your company. Again, make it short and use keywords. Now, cover photos or what LinkedIn calls the Product and Service Spotlight. Unlike on Facebook, these work more like banners and you can link them to a landing page. LinkedIn also lets you create up to three of these. So think carefully about what you want to put up here.

Here are some ideas:

  • Products you want to showcase, linking to your product page
  • Photos of your customers, linking to case studies or testimonials
  • Photos of employees, linking to your careers page or employee testimonials
  • Images of your other social media profiles, linking to them

LinkedIn Products/Services: description, cover photo and profile picture

We used this space to speak to each of our three audiences: prospects interested in our services, current customers and others looking for design and marketing advice, and prospective employees. So our first image, as you see above, depicts our products and services. The next refers users to our blog, and the last to our careers page.

LinkedIn Product and Service Spotlight: Affinity Express Blog

LinkedIn Product and Service Spotlight: Affinity Express Careers

As you can see, we kept the background in each image similar so that there is a cohesive link through the pictures, even though each is otherwise very different from the others.

Also, if you have YouTube videos, don't forget to link to one so that it's embedded on the LinkedIn page.

Products or Services

Now it's time to add products or services. LinkedIn lets you add an icon or image for each product or service. (And please don't add products without a visual: your page will look ugly.)

We designed custom icons for each service, making our page nice and colorful. But if you look carefully, the color of each icon reflects a color on our logo. Different and interesting, but consistent with your brand, is the way to go. (Not just for LinkedIn, but for all your marketing.)

LinkedIn Products or Services Icons

Apart from the icon, for each service we added a short description and a call to action with an email address. I'd advise you to do the same, so that prospects immediately know how to contact you.

LinkedIn Product or Service Description

Once you're done adding products or services, go back to the Products (or Services) page, and at the bottom, pick the services you want to highlight. The order you put them in is the order in which they'll appear on your page.

And that's it--your LinkedIn page is ready. Oh, one last step--share it with your contacts so they can follow you and recommend your products and services.

I love LinkedIn's new Company Page features, since they offer a lot of scope in playing around with words and with images. As a design company, it's a great opportunity for us to showcase our expertise--and whatever your business, you can use photos and other visuals, videos and well-written copy to create an interesting profile, making people want to follow you, work with you and buy from you.


Getting Your Voice Right in Content Marketing

Develop your own unique brand voiceWriting marketing content isn't as simple as putting your thoughts on paper. Even after you've figured out what your audience wants and what you should talk about, you need to figure out what your voice should be like.

Plus, you want a different tone of voice for say, a press release versus a tweet, even if it's the same person writing both or the same team working collaboratively on the press release and taking turns at the Twitter account. How do you ensure you come across as the voice of the brand as opposed to the person you are?

Step one: what's your blogging persona?

The first step is to lay out what your brand sounds like (even if it's just your own personal brand), and if it sounds different in a press release versus in a tweet (if it doesn't that's okay—just make sure that's right for your audience and you're still playing to the strengths of both media. For my money, I'd prefer to see a press release that looks like a bunch of tweets than a tweet that looks like a line off a press release.)

Put together the "author persona" of each type of content. Basically, ask yourself what kind of person they presumably are:

  • Are they reserved and conservative or loud and bold?
  • What are their interests? Not just in real life, but what are their topics of interest to write about?
  • What's their way of approaching content? What's the unique perspective they offer?
  • What kind of words would they use? Think of adjectives like meaningful, actionable, wacky, gross, totally.
  • Would they use shorter sentences or longer ones?
  • Would they be more likely to use exclamation points or semicolons (or both)?

Step two: wear that persona as you write.

There are several ways in which you can do it, depending on who's writing your content.

If you have one person per voice, that becomes easier. For example, on this blog, I'm the snarky irreverent one with the outsider's perspective. Kelly is the measured voice of reason who comments on the juxtaposition of marketing and design. Mel is the creative guy, Ken is the experienced CEO who talks about the company's vision and highbrow stuff like that.

But I don't bring the snark to work when I'm writing an email announcement to our customers: then I put on the more professional "company" voice. So if you're one person working on different pieces of content that require different tones of voice, spend a few minutes when you begin writing putting yourself into that persona.

Step three: edit out anything inconsistent with your brand voice.

But writing within a persona is tricky, and sometimes you won't get it right in one go. This is when it's important to distance yourself from the piece and come back to it with a fresh perspective. Then review it with a critical eye towards the tone of voice. Think back to step one and the characteristics of your brand voice: is what you've written consistent with it?

If you have someone to review your work, or if you're editing someone else's work, it's a bit easier. Kelly has sometimes pulled me back from being profane, and I've warned her when I think she's encroaching on my turf by being snarky herself. But don't edit out the edginess: that's what makes your voice unique.

How do you make sure you're using a consistent voice in your marketing?


Health Services Ads

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Make Your Fans Work for You

Celebrate your biggest fanThe power of word of mouth is that it isn't a marketing channel the way other marketing channels are. It's your customer recommending you to other people and automatically comes with more credibility than a press release or a post on your company blog. And one of the most wonderful things social media has done is that it has amplified the power of word of mouth.

But that doesn't mean you sit down and do nothing. That fan who touts your services does it because she loves your services, but that doesn't mean you can't help her along. That doesn't mean she wouldn't appreciate a thank-you. Take it a notch further. Make your customers and fans feel really special. Make them proud to associate with you and make them want to boast about you.

Here is a 6-step guide to making your fans work for you.

1. Find your biggest fans

Which customers simply love your product and can't stop talking about it? Which followers most often retweet and repin your stuff? Which readers comment most actively on your blog? If you don't yet know, find out!

2. Thank them

Duh. But seriously, do this. Whether it's an email thanking you for your service, or a tweet recommending you to another follower, don't forget to thank your fans. Even send them a handwritten thank-you note once in a while.

3 Give them something to share

Even your biggest evangelists need something to work with. Create material they'd look good sharing: blog posts with tons of good info, interesting case studies of customers using your product, videos of customers using your product, pictures of your team working on something cool.

Like all the other tips, this isn't something that is, or should be, limited to social media. At events, hand out t-shirts or cool gifts that evoke your brand. I'd put up a branded calendar, for instance, if it had amazing photos. Try something that works well with your brand, so it's not just the logo that makes people think of you. For example, we send some people embroidered holiday cards for a special greeting; some get tumblers or bags. Heck, throw them a party. Make sure you have a photographer or two and share the pictures with the attendees.

4. Make it easy for them to share

Put sharing buttons on your posts and pages, tweet links to your posts, pin your pictures ... put yourself out there and let your fans find you and share your stuff. If you want them to manually tweet your posts, they might just move on to the next cool site.

Constant Contact All Star Award for 20115. Give them something to be proud of

When I was a little girl, I got a letter proclaiming me a member of the Maggi Club. I also got a button to wear. Grown-up me may look on this as a cheap marketing gimmick, but ten-year-old me was thrilled!

Reward your fans and give them something to share at the same time. We started the Social Star program this year, and every month, a fan gets chosen and receives a special gift from us. Recently, Constant Contact gave out their All Star recognition and we got one. They give these out to 10% of their customers and I bet most of them talked about it more than once.

6. Deliver on their expectations

All of the above won't help you if you don't provide a great product and/or excellent service. It only means that you will fail even more spectacularly if you do fail.

And once in a while, do something that completely blows them away. That goes so far beyond their expectations they can't stop talking about it.


Marketing Metrics Every CMO Should Track

Marketing metrics every CMO should know!

CMOs (and CEOs) are focused on the big picture, while the rest of us lower down the totem pole get our hands dirty. (Well, except for Kelly, who loves getting her hands dirty. Figuratively speaking.) The big picture does emerge out of the small details, and that gorgeous Monet is, if you stand close enough, made up of blobs of paint.

But when you're more focused on managing your people and putting together your marketing strategy, it can be easy to lose sight of the details. Here are some details that it pays to never lose sight of, because they paint a very real picture (that's my last metaphor, I promise!) of your marketing performance.

1.  Visits to Your Sites/Profiles

I don't mean you should write down last week's number of website visits on your cuff, but you should know whether the number is closer to 1,000 or 20,000, and whether it's growing or otherwise. You should also roughly know the number of relevant visits. For example, we get a lot of visitors from India because we have an office here, but we don't offer our services in India, so for my purposes, the relevant number is the number of visitors from North America.

2.  Most Popular Content

One easy way to know if you're attracting the right kind of visitors (the ever-elusive prospects) is to see what content is popular. Is your "jobs" page more popular than the page that lists your services?

The other thing your popular content is telling you is what your visitors are looking for. Are they ignoring your PDF downloads and just viewing the videos? Are the views on that well-researched, thoughtful exposition of the industry languishing and your quick, tongue-in-cheek response to a competitor unexpectedly proving popular? This tells you what kind of content you should spend your team's time and your marketing dollars on. With a caveat, which comes next.

3.  Search Terms

This is another way to find out what visitors are looking for. Knowing that your post on widgets is popular doesn't give you the true picture unless you also know that most visitors get to the post by searching [blue widget picture] or some combination thereof. Search terms also tell you what your customers want ([free face wash samples] or [anna dress in 18)] and sometimes, what they think about you ([yourcompany sucks] or [yourcompany testimonials]).

4.  Who's Linking to You

If you know nothing about SEO, you should know this: links from good sites help. If you haven't seen an increase in good links lately, ask your team why. Look at websites who link to you and make sure those are links you want. Then tell your team what kind of links you should be having more of.

5.  Followers

How many followers (blog and newsletter subscribers, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, LinkedIn followers etc.) do you have and how are they changing month-to-month? If a number suddenly changes dramatically, you need to know why. As with web visits, look into the kind of followers: demographics, industry, engagement (are they silent or do they comment? Do they click on emails or respond to calls-to-action? What times of day and days of week are they most active?) etc.

6.  Who's Talking Trash About You

Ask your team to send you reports on a regular basis, and do regular searches yourself. You need to know of a) dissatisfied customers, b) disgruntled employees or ex-employees causing trouble, and c) competitors spreading tales about you. There may or may not be something you can do, especially in the cases of b and c, but you should definitely be aware of the problem.

(What can you do in case of b and c? The most effective way to counteract false claims or trolling is to have lots of positive mentions. If your social media marketing team is doing their job, your detractors should be hard to find among the sea of happy customers. Which brings us to…)

7.  Who Are Your Biggest Fans

Who regularly engages with you on Twitter and recommends you to their fans? Who comments regularly and positively on your blog and on Facebook? Which customers write to you saying they can't do without your product or service? Thank those people, appreciate them, and reward them. These are your evangelists.

Especially keep an eye out for fans with big fan bases: the popular blogger, the Twitter celebrity, the conference speaker. Keep them happy. Don't do anything to rouse their ire, and if you do, fix it quickly.

And when you plan a new product or improvement, these are the people you can turn to for help, for testing and feedback.

8.  Complaints

The flip side of #7. Keep an eye on the number of complaints you get and find out what's happening if you see it increase. Also see who is complaining, as above, and appease the ones with the biggest influence. (I'm not advocating ignoring the rest, but you absolutely cannot afford to make a mistake with this lot.) Don't forget to look at the content of the complaints: if more people are suddenly complaining about late deliveries, that might be worth looking into.

9.  Leads

This is both arguably the most important and the most basic, and if you know nothing else on this list you should know this. How many leads do you get each month, and has that been increasing over time? Where do the leads come from (e.g., internet search, word-of-mouth, ads etc.)? What is the cost of each leads and the average cost of leads by source?

10. Best and Worst Performing Channels/Activities

Do you know how well each channel is doing? You can define "channel" as you want: if you have fewer activities, Facebook and Twitter might be separate channels, and if you have more, you can club all social media together. Do this in a way that makes sense to you. Now, you need three numbers:

  1. The number of leads from each channel
  2. The revenue from each lead
  3. The cost of the channel

This gives you both the cost of each lead (3/1) as well as the return on each channel [(1*2)-3]. Compare them, and find out which channels are your most efficient. If there is a lot of difference between your best and your worst performing channels, consider killing the latter and using the budget on the former.

(Of course, there are better and more sophisticated ways of calculating ROI, and if you're doing that already, good for you!)

This is all very basic, and most CMOs would be aware of this already. If you're not, start now.


Top Seven Cloud-based Tools I Use Every Week

What, this isnOur business relies pretty heavily on two tools built by our teams: IDEA (Interactive Digital Entry Assistant) and AESB (Affinity Express Service Bureau). AESB is used by many of our news publisher and retailer clients to order print design, while IDEA is currently used by everyone else and for all other services. (We have written about IDEA here.)

Our tech team is working on a big revamp of AESB that will make it smarter and cooler and way more amazing than before. Hearing our people rave about how our cloud-based tool will revolutionize the business and make our clients' lives easier made me think of all the awesome online tools that are already in use in other industries. I, personally, rely heavily on these seven. They have all the usual advantages of web tools—they are fast and can be accessed from anywhere. (Also, most of them are free or have free versions, except Constant Contact.) But more than that, they are easy to use and fairly intuitive and they serve my needs awesomely.

Gmail

Affinity Express recently transitioned from using Outlook to Gmail, and after some whining (Where's my Word-like formatting? Why can't I Ctrl+Enter to send the email? Why can't I look at my email when the network's down for a minute?), I got around to it pretty quickly. I've used Gmail for personal correspondence for ages, so that wasn't very difficult. And there are many reasons why Gmail is better:

  • It's so much faster. It's a shame that I can't go make myself tea while waiting for my email to open, but still…
  • It's lightweight. Outlook used to bring down my laptop once a week. Gmail doesn't  blink at the 4000 emails in my Reading folder.
  • It's on the web! I don't have to turn on my work-laptop on a Saturday: I can just pause the game on my personal-laptop and check my email.
  • The search function is so excellent.
  • Labels! Cross-labeling! Again, makes it so much easier to find stuff.

WordPress

Duh. But seriously, having used Blogger for years, I'm constantly amazed at how easy and comprehensive WordPress is. One of my favorite things is the ability to have the writing tool on full screen and pour in my thoughts without any distractions. And while there are some things I wish they'd do better, I totally acknowledge that WordPress is awesome.

Social Mention

I use Google Alerts to keep track of our brand mentions, but I use Social Mention a couple of times a week. It picks up stuff that Google doesn't seem to know about.

HubSpot's Marketing Grader

I have used the Marketing Grader since it used to be a bunch of separate Graders, and while it isn't always accurate, it helps to mark your progress as well as indicate what you might be doing wrong.

Constant Contact

I have used Constant Contact for email marketing for several years, and while I've complained in the past about it being difficult to use, they have improved a lot in the past year or so. I wish it was faster, but I build newsletters and email announcements (or holiday cards) on it several times a month and am pretty pleased with the interface.

Remember the Milk

When I first heard of the site I was skeptical: they just send you reminders? That's it? But I've used it to keep track of personal tasks (pay bills, call the plumber) and it works very well. It's very easy to use, you can share tasks with someone else (like your spouse or roommate), and it sends you an email reminder. Even though I use Google Calendars and phone reminders, I still prefer Remember the Milk for this purpose.

Google Docs

Funnily enough, my husband and I communicate online quite a bit, and we use Google Docs to keep track of things such as our finances (tracking expenses, keeping a running list of movies we want to watch, sharing flight or train tickets). So when we transitioned from Outlook to Google last year, I was glad to start using Google Docs in office too.

I am going to continue to use Word because of its Track Changes feature (Google's Revision History just isn't as nifty), but Google Docs is easier to share lists that others can add to.

What is your recommendation for a hot online tool that I should try out?


Print Ads for Restaurants

Here's another round-up of ads our team worked on. (Yes, we work on more than food ads, but those seem to catch my attention most.) I have had this ad filed away for a long time, to use in the right post. I love how the food takes center stage, and that picture just makes me dizzy with hunger. They kept the copy minimal (but right on target) and just let the picture do the talking.

Seafood ad

This ad, in contrast, has a lot more going on with multiple attractions and a coupon vying for attention, but a skillful use of space, colors and fonts helps to keep it from being cluttered. Typically, you would not want to use all-caps so liberally but it seems to work here.

 

Print ad for restaurant

 

Using bright green and red, this ad takes the signalling effect of color seriously: but of course, the colors are derived from the restaurant's logo. The design is similar to the previous ad, but the effect of individual cards to announce the features of each meal is well done. Designers have to lay out a path for viewers' eyes and this was done effectively here. The name of the restaurant is dominant and the ribbons bring attention to the offers. Putting the coupons at the top is unexpected but works like the cherry on the top of dessert.

 

Ad for Fortune House

More vibrant use of color: the yellows and reds signal that this is a fast-food place even before you see the word "deli." It's smart to include a map helping customers find their way to your restaurant! The use of colors from the logo in broad swaths gives them direction on where to look to absorb all the important content. Deli ad This ad was created for the holiday season, which explains the line of holly. I love how while the desserts are shown as well as mentioned in the copy, the coffee is merely shown in the picture. (Well, it is a cafe.) The holiday theme is artfully advanced with the subtle background and the content, including a suggestion about gift certificates--very smart. Ad for cafe Check out more food ads here.

Now the big question: which of these do you like most? My favorite, of course, is the first, but don't let that bias you. Kelly likes the last one best but she's a big coffee drinker (and loves creating desserts).


"Visual Marketing": the Book

Visual Marketing bookAs a marketer in the business of advertising and marketing design, I was intrigued when I first heard of the book Visual Marketing, and I was glad to get my hands on it. The premise of the book is both exciting and unoriginal: that visuals have as much to do with marketing as copy or sound is of course, well recognized, and has been used to great effect by advertisers and marketers alike. This book, however, is about visual marketing in the new world of online media: so it is infographics, web design, apps and games that take the center stage along with logos, signs, banners, print mailers and business cards—and thankfully, there isn't a TV ad in sight.

Yet this isn't a graphic design book: in fact, some of the examples deal with copy or an interesting business name, making the point that all the elements of marketing go hand in hand and are most effective when they all work together to enforce the message.

Some of the examples are truly innovative and not merely visually: a recording studio sends out a promotional vinyl record with where the cardboard album jacket doubles as a record player. One of my favorites is an artist's business card that folds to look like a painting on an easel.

The biggest letdown of the book is that it's not in color. Many of the examples just don't come through as effectively: my delight at discovering Help Remedies (which I had seen in a Duane Reade in New York) as an example of effective packaging design was somewhat dampened by the fact that grayscale just doesn't convey the vibrant, stand-out feel of the packaging.

Another petty complaint is that the book could have been shorter, and used only the most exciting of these examples. A few of the examples seem a little commonplace and repetitive, taking away from the inspiration that the best ones provide. A shorter book would have been an easier and more engaging read.


Build Your Brand on Social Media

Have you started out on social media but aren't quite sure what to do with it? Do you wonder how you're ever going to show your business's competence and expertise in 140 characters? Or how to get people interested in your industry to follow you?

I provide some answers in this post at the Search Engine People blog. A taste:

Answer Questions

Answering questions from people about the way your industry or business functions is a sure-fire way of making yourself look like an expert (provided you actually know the answers). Look through topics related to your business on sites like Quora and LinkedIn and set up a saved search on Twitter and look at hashtags. Join industry forums and participate in discussions. Use web search and Google alerts to find more questions on those topics. Don't just answer for the sake of getting your name in: you need to actually add something informative to the discussion.

What else can you do? Read the blog post to find out!


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