Aug 07 2019
Your press release is ready, and you’ve prepped for the buzz. Your public relations strategy is primed and set for launch. Now what?
Public Relations – even in 2019 – is more than just a press release. While PR and marketing are similar in nature, they have very different goals.
The main goal of PR is to boost reputation, which doesn’t always impact sales. Conversely, the goal of marketing is to drive sales.
Yes, digital marketing plays a critical role in a brand’s success in this day and age. However, neglecting your public relations strategy can set you back if you ignore it completely.
Here are 5 PR mistakes to avoid to help enhance your brand’s image and boost your reputation.
Neglecting the Importance of Timing
The importance of timing cannot be understated. Sending a press release at the right time makes all the difference between getting your story published in ten major publications or finding your breaking news stuck in the back of a rural print newspaper.
When planning your press release, it’s important to be mindful of journalists’ time. Generally the best time to send out a media release is Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday morning, when they’re more likely to be at their desks.
If your news is urgent, you should send your press release right away. But if you wait too long, your story will be old news and it won’t be covered.If your story isn’t urgent, pick the best time to send it out. Consider other stories going on that won’t overshadow yours. If necessary, you should hold off for a few days.
Also consider where you want the news to be featured. For example, if you’re hoping to get featured in a monthly magazine, journalist’s deadlines are usually three months in advance. If you want it to appear on the 6 o’clock news, plan enough time for a camera crew to take shoot footage and edit it before the news airs.
Avoiding Distribution Companies
To thrive as a small business, you need press coverage. Unfortunately, building a contact list doesn’t come naturally and can take a large chunk of your time. If your press release isn’t seen, people won’t know about your business, which completely defeats the purpose of creating a press release in the first place.
Utilizing a PR distribution company as part of your PR strategy can increase the success of your brand launch and make more efficient use of your time. PR distribution companies have various lists and resources to which they send your press release. You can count on them to effectively disperse your newsworthy article.
Assuming the Media Will Write About You
Setting realistic expectations is imperative in the world of media. Whether your public relations strategy involves a PR distribution company or you plan on doing it yourself, don’t assume you’ll make the news.
Even if you have an amazing product or a revolutionary idea, there’s no guarantee that journalists will write about it. Building a reputation is something that takes a lot of time and effort, and humility goes a long way when dealing with the media.
In order to get noticed, you have to be newsworthy. In order to be newsworthy, you have to write an eye-catching headline and structure your press release in a way that fits the news format.
Your headline should grab attention and be easy to read. Which reads better to you?
“Boy Spends 7 Days in Jungle Eating Snails and Drinking Rainwater While Trekking 300 Miles To Home”
“Boy Lost in Jungle Eats Snails and Drinks Rainwater To Survive”
If your public relations strategy doesn’t involve writing like a journalist, you should stop and reconsider. The higher purpose of the media is to tell the news. But ultimately, they want readers.
Disregarding SEO Alignment
Just like content marketing, digital PR can help your brand’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Whenever you send a press release, popular publications will write about your business and include a backlink to your site. With backlinking being a bread and butter technique for SEO, garnering links from authoritative websites helps achieve unprecedented search rankings.
Additionally, focus on creating trending and relevant content to further increase your search rankings. It’s important to ensure your content is fully-optimized with high-traffic keywords to help Google register that your content is relevant to the audience you’re targeting. This also substantially increases your click-through rate and drives more traffic to your site.
Failure to Track
Monitoring your PR performance is just as important as tracking digital advertising. While it’s sometimes difficult to gauge acquisition and ROI from your public relations strategy, there are tools available to help you connect the dots.
Digital monitoring tools allow you to track where your content is being shared and how often it was picked up. With digital monitoring, you can also gauge the performance of your press release and analyze what worked and what didn’t. By reviewing the data, you can apply these learnings on your next press release and continue to build on your public relations strategy.
If your public relations strategy is successful, you should see new backlinks from multiple media outlets, as well as influencers and partners who continue to share the story. If this isn’t happening, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Want to make the news? Give us a call. We’re here to help.
Jul 21 2019
A web design scam is making the rounds and landed in our inbox. Here is how we handled it, and what you should know to protect yourselves.
An inquiry for a new project came through our website. It seemed harmless enough. It’s not unusual to get requests for our services, and we do our best to respond to them in a professional manner.
Upon engaging the new lead, we were sent a scope that appeared to be from someone familiar with the web design process.
The scammer said:
“l have a Auto painting company business and i need an information website to promote my business, so i need you to check out this site but i need something more perfect than this if its possible.
i need you to get me an estimate based on the site i gave you to check out, the estimate should include hosting and i want the same page as the site i gave you to check out and i have a private project consultant, he has the text content and the logos for the site. Note:
- I want the same number of pages with the example site i gave you to check excluding blogs.
- I want only English language
- I don’t have a domain yet but i want you to purchase a domain name www.al-qayyumauto.biz Or www.al-qayyumautos.me
- i will be proving the images, logos and content for the site
I will be waiting for your email for the estimate”
What followed was a list of features and directions to use X Theme.
Sounds great, right? The bad grammar and urgency should have been our first sign of things to come, but who doesn’t want a motivated prospect?
Red Flag #1
At Divining Point we use a consultative process to establish a partnership with each client. We take our time to discuss the purpose of a website, the design requirements, and the user experience that will ultimately lead to conversions.
We are also reluctant to quote exact pricing without ensuring we have a full understanding of a client’s needs. There’s no point in rushing the process if a project isn’t fully assessed.
In order to gauge the level of seriousness with this prospect, we sent over a very rough ballpark with the following caveat:
“We need to speak with you further to properly define the scope and learn more about your business. How did you hear about us?”
The Scammer sent back:
“Thank you for your email. I haven’t paid the project consultant that have the logos and content for the site so i would be Making the total payment of $XX,XXX and would deduct $X,XXX payment for my website design and the remaining you would help me send it to the project consultant that has the text content and the logo for my website so once he has the $X,XXX he would send the text content and logo needed for my website to you also the funds would be sent to him via Bank deposit into his account,and also a tip of $XXX for the stress.Thank you once again and God bless you!”
A full upfront payment from which we’re going to cut 50% and pay a third party the other half, plus a tip? We knew something was fishy, but we had yet to discover this was a web design scam.
Red Flag #2
Our Founder, Coy West, sent back the following request:
“Thanks again for sending in the website inquiry to us. Can you send me the
Almost immediately we received:
“Thank you for your email .I will send you the details but I would like to know the credit card processor you are usingand your cell phone number.”
Coy merely said that all invoices and payments are made using QuickBooks, which is pretty standard for many businesses. Our Founder’s cell phone number is already in his email signature.
“Okay sound Good !
Name .. David Vend
Business name .. Dvend auto
Address .. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Also the business address is the same thing with the billing address please get back to me before issuing the invoice!”
They still didn’t send us a phone number.
Red Flag #3
As is standard, we researched online and didn’t find a “David Vend” in Columbus, Ohio. Additionally, no company registered as Dvend Auto turned up in online searches.
We searched the physical address and learned it is listed to a wholesale auto sales company with multiple complaints from the Better Business Bureau. A deeper dive into the company showed that the business had changed names and ownership multiple times. To an unsuspecting small business, it would seem plausible the new website project was simply another rebranding effort.
At this point, we decided to slow down the process way down. There was no need to rush.
It Gets Weird
The next day our Founder received a text at 2:09am on his cell phone.
“Hello Coy this is david.Please confirm to me if you receive my text”
Coy was preparing to travel out of town for a funeral. The next morning at 5:05am, he responded that he received the text message. The scammer immediately responded:
“Great I would like to proceed by making the full payment can you make the invoice so I can pay it?”
Coy informed him of his travel plans and said he’d get back to him later.
“Okay I will be waiting for hear from you”
At 4:32am the next morning, Coy received another text.
“Good Morning ., I am still waiting for invoice so we can proceed”
Does this guy ever sleep?
How This Web Design Scam Works
Scams come in all shapes and sizes. Everyone by now has received friendly emails from a Nigerian Prince claiming to send money directly to their bank account. Robocalls, phishing, and malware attacks are now a part of everyday life. But a web design scam was new to us.
We searched for www.al-qayyumauto.biz and www.al-qayyumautos.me and discovered another fine gent who’d encountered the same hoax.
Had we rushed to process the full upfront payment, we would have been party to credit card fraud, since the scammer most likely uses a stolen credit card. The “private project consultant”, to whom we would have sent 50% of the money (plus a tip!), is most likely the scammer himself.
By preying on a small business, we speculate that the scammer(s) found a way to have someone else process a stolen credit card and then launder a portion of the money, which is sent directly to them.
For any company eager to get paid, this web design scam presents a real threat to their business. You’d be on the hook for credit card fraud, money laundering, and all the money when the authorities come to investigate.
The Weirdness Didn’t Stop
Upon discovering the scam, Coy sent a text:
“After a thorough review, we are unable to fulfill your design requests. Best of luck to you.”
Two hours later:
“why do you say that?You are the only one i want to handle my website,What is the problem”
Twenty minutes later:
“Hello Am waiting for you to reply me”
Thirty minutes later:
“i will be making upfront payment .I want you to handle my project please dont say No”
Many more texts followed for another hour until they finally stopped.
If It Seems Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is
This web design scam is probably the first of many more to come. Businesses of all sizes get excited when a prospect appears out of nowhere ready to move forward. Whereas we might recommend keeping a new business deal moving forward, we also urge extreme caution when a prospect comes on too strong and doesn’t demonstrate any apparent due diligence.
Even if it isn’t a scam, there are problems associated with failing to establish a clearly defined scope and good working relationship with the client. The stability of your company and the success of each project depends on moving at a measured pace that doesn’t introduce risk for you or your client.
Need a team with a professional approach? Give us a call. We’re here to help.
Jul 08 2019
Photo Credit: Disney/Pixar
The new episode of Toy Story introduces us to Forky, a seemingly worthless kid’s toy made from materials most of us would regard as trash. However, for marketers, Forky’s story and the development of his character is an object lesson in creating buyer personas.
Let’s start with the obvious. If you haven’t watched Toy Story 4 yet, stop reading and go see it.
It’s a tough sell to get people to watch sequels, especially the fourth installment in a series made for kids. However, TS4 is quite possibly the funniest animated movie to come out in quite some time thanks to the pitiful and incredibly relatable Forky.
Who is Forky?
The main human child in the movie, Bonnie, struggles with anxiety, nervousness and loneliness during kindergarten orientation. Using a hodge-podge mix of craft materials, she creates a figurine, named Forky, to keep her company using a spork, pipe cleaners, and popsicle sticks.
The concept of Forky is all too familiar with parents whose kids come home everyday from school with a wide variety of junky objects. The intent of these “toys” is temporary. Keep the kids entertained during the day doing something fun within the limits of their motor skills and creative capabilities.
By becoming a toy, Forky is animated for a higher purpose: make the child happy.
The audience is treated to a character that is instantly endearing. He’s cute. He’s imperfect. He struggles with the existential crisis of being crafted from single-use materials. He carries the burden of having to be a toy without the luxury of being manufactured to perform like one. Forky’s sole desire is to go where he belongs: in the dumpster.
In what is quite possibly the funniest line of the movie, Woody introduces him by his name Forky, to which Forky replies, “I’M TRASH”.
Aren’t we all, Forky?
How Forky Extends the Pixar Brand
The story of how Forky was developed is simple enough. The Pixar team was talking about toys and the frustration all parents experience when your kids ignore the toys you buy for them in favor of the box they came in. The Pixar team fully invested themselves in the story of this fragile character once they settled on him being a spork – which in its own right is the laughing stock of the plastic utensil world.
Pixar doesn’t take chances with the Toy Story franchise. It was their first feature film, and it is one of the most critically-acclaimed animated movies in history. To put it simply, if there was no Toy Story, there most likely would be no Pixar as we know it today. Tarnishing the Toy Story brand in turn sullies the value of Pixar.
They never set out just to tell a cute story. The subplots in their movies are metaphors for our own lives, and each character must be relatable to the extent that the viewer passionately identifies with them. In many ways they face the same challenges we do every day. Their achievements inspire us. When they win, we win.
Forky is unique. He takes us where no other animated character has been. He’s neurotic. He’s anxious. He has a complex. He’s imperfect. He struggles to perform. He falls apart. He’s innocent and gullible. He asks the philosophical questions we all ask ourselves. “Why am I alive?”
In short, Forky is all of us.
How Does Forky Relate to Marketing?
As stated above, Pixar takes their brand very seriously. They also understand their audience really well. It’s not enough to say their movies appeal to “kids”. It goes well beyond that.
Who makes the ultimate decision to take kids to the movies and buy them merchandise? Parents. And in that regard, Pixar focuses on an experience that adults can also appreciate.
Every Pixar movie is unique, and it could be argued that every movie has its own audience. While Toy Story tells a story that resonates with a wide variety of viewers, other titles like Brave, Coco, and WALL-E do not. Nevertheless, Pixar strives to explore themes and develop creative details that will connect with the emotions and motivations of each viewer hooked by the original storylines of the characters.
This product segmentation allows Pixar to broaden their brand to more viewers, thereby expanding market share. By differentiating their movies along unique interests for different target audiences, they end up bringing more viewers to their flagship products with universal appeal, like Toy Story, and the characters that represent all of us, like Forky.
In marketing terms, knowing your audience and making products that speak directly to them increases the odds they’ll buy other products from you that are meant for the general population. In order to do that, you must understand the specific features and benefits of your products that meet the needs for each of these sub-audiences. That knowledge comes from creating buyer personas.
Knowing Your Audience Means Knowing What Moves Them
Buyer Personas, otherwise known as Customer Personas, are semi-fictional representations of the buyers for which each product is developed. It encompasses all of the personal motivations that inspires them to buy.
Creating buyer personas quite literally means writing up an archetype of that buyer. Who are they? What is their place in life? What do they do? What do they want? More importantly, what do they need, and what benefits will your product provide for them?
Creating buyer personas allows you, the marketer, to learn how to tell your brand story in a way that resonates with them on an emotional level. By understanding your buyer, you master the ability to position your product or service in a way that introduces it with the most impact. Additionally, you discover how to align your entire organization so that it brings that buyer (and many others) to invest in more products or services within your brand.
While it’s unknown by us if Pixar goes to through the prerequisite of creating buyer personas, they certainly invest the time and energy to carefully explore how their movies and characters appeal to different viewers. Every detail must be authentic. Every running gag must connect with the comedic and cultural sensibilities of the viewer. Every setting has to conform within the premise of the storyline.
This deep creative process also gives them the insight they need to develop characters that represent all of us, like Forky.
Forky Is a Marketer’s Dream
Forky’s struggles are similar to all of ours in this modern world. Anxious? Check. Confused? You bet. Struggling to find our true calling? Absolutely. Pixar skillfully took the irony of the “trash as toy” concept and applied it to what they know about their viewers across every target segment.
Like Toy Story, The Incredibles, and Monsters Inc, the three flagships of the Pixar brand, Forky’s story connects all of us together through the emotion of feeling lost in this world, thrust into it against our will, compelled by a higher calling we didn’t really ask for…. And seeming not quite sure we’re designed to succeed.
Forky is such a sensation that an entirely new line of merchandise has emerged from our neurotic little friend. Let’s not forget, Forky is a spork with popsicle legs and wire cleaner arms. He’s a toy made by a 5-year-old using the scraps of the craft bin. And yet, most ironically, you can buy your very own Forky toy online for about $20.
How’s that for powerful marketing?
Need a team to help define your buyer personas? Give us a call. We’re here to help.
Jul 05 2019
“My favorite part about being creative and assembling things in novel and respectful ways is seeing the client be blown away by our vision.”
These words were spoken by Jon Taylor, our Creative Director and all things visionary. See what else he had to say when we sat down with him and spoke on managing creative assets, working at Divining Point, and decompression!
We know you cover a lot of ground at DP, but can you explain exactly what you do here?
Being the Creative Director, I oversee all the creative initiatives. I make sure we have a creative vision at a higher level and work it out whether it’s a design brief, website, photoshoot, or even written text. I’m basically paid to be critical and point out flaws. If I say, “it’s good, I love it,” I feel I’ve failed at that task. There’s always room for improvement.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
I like being creative. My favorite part about being creative and assembling things in novel and respectful ways is seeing the client be blown away by our vision.
What is your least favorite thing about your job?
I know most would say having their ideas adulterated, but I’ve been doing it for so long that it doesn’t bother me. One part of the process that bothers me is if I fall in love with a vision and it’s changed to the point where the vision is gone. In these cases, I will come up with an entirely new vision, ultimately breaking up with the other one and no one likes a breakup.
What was a recent obstacle you had to overcome? What were you thinking during this?
Working on a website recently I had to realize that the solution for a client’s sales system that I came up with – which was beautiful – wasn’t attainable in their scope. I had to go back to the drawing board and come up with something new, but that was also unattainable. Ultimately, the solution from the technical side seemed to destroy the whole vision in my head, and that’s still an ongoing problem.
If you could tell clients looking for creative work to be done, what advice would you give them?
I would say don’t start with who YOU are but who your customers are. When you’re creating a business, it needs to be about who you are. But when you’re getting into the creatives and trying to push sales it needs to be focused on your customers and who they are because that’s who’s going to fall in love with your brand.
What are your thoughts on the importance of collaborating and bridging the gap between other team members such as social media specialists and the marketing strategist?
If I had my own way, everyone would be involved at one point or another. That doesn’t always work out because of heavy work loads at a smaller agency, but I really like when everyone gets involved because I thrive with criticism and different viewpoints. Everyone brings baggage to the table and unpacking all of that creates a better product.
What advice would you give to someone just entering this role?
Check your ego at the door. You are not a badass. Most entering a position like a Creative Director feel they have something to prove. In reality, when you let go of that and let yourself flow as part of a team and accept criticism with grace, then you will create really beautiful things.
What recommendations would you give to clients to help streamline the process between their vision and your process?
It’s a mutual trust. The moment you don’t feel your creative team trusts you, is the moment you need a new creative team. They need to trust you and likewise– the creatives need to trust the clients. That needs to be taken seriously and not dismissed because it goes against your ideas.
What’s your favorite thing about working on the DP team?
The levels of trust. I lean into things that aren’t traditional employee traits, like laziness. I think it’s an important part but has to be structured. This is the right culture for that. I also lean into criticism and alternate ways of thinking about things. That doesn’t always work in other agencies because other agencies are systematic, and it’s worked out really well for me here.
For example, in a branding meeting I’m not going to ask the same questions, even though it may seem systematic. My questions depend on the needs of the clients.
What are your favorite ways to decompress outside of work?
I like to travel… a lot. I’m really into extreme stuff. A lot of times I’ll shut everything out of my life and relax and that’s when I find I’m the most decompressed.
Need to a creative force to take your marketing to the next level? Give us a call. We’re here to help.
Jun 25 2019
We know it’s unusual for a blog about freedom and patriotism to be on a marketing agency’s website. Most people would urge us to simply stick to the business side of things. However, the history of American Independence relates to marketing in many ways.
A Little History…
The day we celebrate as Independence Day happened on July 4, 1776. To permanently proclaim their separation from England, the Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776 to draft and adopt the Declaration of Independence. America was born.
It’s worth noting this was thirteen years before the US Constitution was ratified, which set our country on a path towards freedom, equal rights, due process and checks and balances. And while disputes over these issues still exist today, we all enjoy the right to self-determination.
The Declaration of Independence foreshadowed the Bill of Rights that followed. Thomas Jefferson wrote:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
So, Wait. How Does This Apply to Marketing?
Marketing is a vehicle that carries people to discover happiness.
That’s an audacious statement, isn’t it?
Happiness isn’t solely the result of buying things, although it’s inarguable that great products do in fact bring joy to our lives.
Services like medical treatments, legal representation, and home repair give us relief, which in turn leads to happiness.
Social causes, non-profit organizations, and educational opportunities help us fulfill a sense of purpose in our lives, which also leads to happiness.
Good food, entertainment, new music (or classic!), art and humor energize us to keep pushing forward every day. Happiness.
All of these things are discoverable thanks to the marketing efforts of the companies and non-profits who provide them for the public.
Marketing Is a Shortcut in the Pursuit of Happiness
Imagine for a moment what your life would be like if all promotional activity suddenly came to a stop.
You’d be left to research things on your own. You’d reluctantly rely on the advice or recommendation of those around you. You would undoubtedly experience disappointment (or worse) as you test new products and services by trial and error.
It’s a sloppy and unhappy way to find the information, goods and services you need to live your best life.
That knee replacement you need? Your Pop told you to visit a doctor fifteen miles away. Little did you know there’s a better doctor just two miles down the road.
Pest control? You learned that you could sprinkle coffee grounds around your house to ward off ants from your home. Too bad it doesn’t prevent rodents from raiding your pantry every day. Who do you call to stop that?
You spent $20 for a new shirt at the store in your neighborhood. You could have bought a better one for half the cost just a few miles away.
Word of mouth and self-exploration are fraught with flaws.
Marketing gives us a direct path to learn new ways to improve our lives. It also helps us avoid shady businesses and subpar quality.
How many times have you avoided buying a bad product because you responded to an ad for another one? You can thank marketing for that.
How many times have you received speedy repair service or learned how to fix it yourself by reading a blog online? You can thank marketing for that.
The Fourth of July is More Than Just Fireworks
Independence Day is a celebration of the birth of our nation. It is a celebration of our freedom to be who you want to be. While our country still struggles to equitably apply these liberties for all citizens, we ultimately share the privilege of living in a country where you can pursue happiness through the freedom of choice. That decision-making process is simplified thanks to marketing.
From all of us at Divining Point, we wish you a safe and happyFourth of July!
Our CEO, Coy West, considers the Fourth of July his favorite holiday.
“What’s not to love about explosions and beer?”
Want to make an impact with your marketing? Give us a call. We’re here to help.
Jun 25 2019
The competition for attention is fierce. Merely having something to say doesn’t mean people will notice you.
It’s estimated that the average American sees up to 5,000 advertisements every day. Most of these ads are image based, which means we are bombarded with hundreds of photographic messages every hour.
You may have the best product in the world with the best story behind it, but that doesn’t mean anyone will give your brand, your story, or your company two seconds of their precious attention. Often, the best you can hope for is a fleeting glance.
Honestly, who can blame them? You’re asking for the one thing that matters most to people: time.
People scroll through Facebook and Instagram at the speed of light. They vacantly drive past hundreds of billboards every day. They sit idly watching television, hit the mute button and walk to the kitchen during commercial breaks. They’re searching for something impactful, something meaningful to grab their attention.
When a buyer experiences your marketing they make a split-second subconscious decision about how much time they want to give you. All too often they turn away.
Simply put, no one has the the mental bandwidth for an uninspiring pitch.
They only stop and look when something stands out. That precious moment is only earned through the power of great photography.
Why Custom Photography Matters
It’s easy to find an image on a stock website that you feel tells the world who you are. Before you do that though, let me caution you: your brand is more than a product or a service.
Your brand is your story.
There are reasons why people choose one burger shop over another. They buy Nike instead of Adidas. They drive a Chevy instead of a Ford. There’s a reason why people choose you rather than a competitor.
You might think it’s price or location or even because you spent the most on marketing and advertising. All of that certainly helps. But in reality, the real reason people choose your brand and find it so appealing is because they feel like they know your company intimately. You’ve become friends.
The choice to invest in custom photography is the decision to boldly tell your story in an original and heartwarming way that establishes a deep connection with the viewer. Each image gives you a unique place in the world and in people’s hearts. It is a specific moment in time directly relevant to your brand’s story. The context is purely yours.
Stock photos, while beautiful in their own right, are taken in a way that gets used and reused for commercial purposes. As such, the image is applied in ways that lose its original context. It’s a flat representation of your brand.
Even worse is when the stock photo you selected to tell your story appears in another company’s marketing… sometimes even your competitors’.
Show me something new
Lest you call us hypocrites, we use stock photos, too. Our blog is full of them. But when it comes to representing who we truly are, what we do, and what our brand means, we break out equipment to shoot something original.
That’s because we know that the secret to great marketing is to produce photos that present what we do in a way that is different than what people experience every day.
Subscription box services perfectly illustrate this philosophy. To demonstrate their products, they purposely lay out each piece in an orderly fashion on a clean table. These companies know that the lives of average people are not so clean and tidy. The presentation is so appealing you’re driven to say, “I want that!” because who doesn’t want a box of products that could bring some kind of order to your life?
Everyday we see flowers, dogs and children from our normal vantage point. We tilt our heads down to look at them. However, when seen from the ground, that same flower, dog, or child suddenly becomes fascinating. We’re not used to seeing them from that angle, and when we do our eyes are opened to discover these commonplace objects in new and unfamiliar ways. The same technique applies when we seeing tall things from above.
Almost everything can be shown in a different way to make it interesting. From oilfield services to medical procedures, everything can be presented in a manner that catches the viewer off guard and forces them to take a second look. The images linger. The meaning is processed for days.
Applied to marketing, when you use custom photography your brand leaves an indelible mark on the viewer that inspires top of mind awareness and a long lasting impression. Sales are directly correlated to the amount of time the buyer spends on a website. When a photo ignites the imagination of your buyer they move forward to buy.
The thought and attention to detail that is put into an image finds its way into the emotional center of your customer’s brain. It connects with them in ways that a stock photo cannot. People prefer quality over inferior value, and they’re naturally moved to take action when they see it.
The key to quality photography involves lighting a photo in a way that makes it interesting, carefully setting the scene, and posing the subjects in ways that both follow and break the rules of composition in order to create compelling visual interest. These little details matter. When applied to your brand, it tells a story that is unique to you.
When a photo is well lit, when it’s clear, when it’s obviously not just a selfie, people automatically assign a higher value to what that photo represents.
What is your brand worth? What is the service you provide worth? What are you worth? Honestly, you are worth great photography.
Need to a marketing team to help you “stop the scroll”? Give us a call. We’re here to help.
May 31 2019
We sat down with Jordania Nelson, Divining Points’ Digital Marketing Specialist and master of all things related to PR, social media and content. She shared a few tips for business owners and let us know what she loves most about working in Austin.
You’ve been in marketing for awhile now. Tell us what led you down this career path.
Originally, I went to school to be a reporter and ultimately wanted to be a news anchor. I was working in the newsroom, and honestly I hated it. I was hired on as a reporter and was also on the assignment desk at the same time. I was getting a lot of press releases, so I had the chance to see both sides of it. I decided to focus on public relations and graduated with a Public Relations and Advertising degree.
So this was a better fit for you?
I feel like going into PR and digital marketing was a better direction for me, and they were very much the same in many ways.
How has your experience prepared you for what you’re doing at Divining Point today?
We manage public relations and write press releases for our clients, so having that background helped me with copywriting and content. Essentially, selling an idea.
So you understand what is newsworthy, and from the perspective of a marketer you’re able to translate that into what you’re doing for clients today?
What do you see happening in digital marketing these days that excites you the most?
The only constant in Marketing is change. Anticipating those changes at all times, diving into new trends in marketing, and researching new things every day. That’s exciting to me.
Do you see anything happening that is important for business owners to know today?
Organic is diminishing, and it’s mostly all paid reach today. When I first started marketing you could still get quite a bit of reach with organic. Now there’s so much clutter, it’s not as powerful as it used to be.
How is that helpful for businesses in today’s market?
I think it’s important for clients to know that social media is branding, and yes, you’re going to get organic traffic from it, but ultimately you need to pay to see real results. It’s just not the same these days without a budget behind it.
What’s one of the biggest mistakes you see businesses making with regard to their marketing?
Assuming that they’re going to get results right away. Sometimes businesses make the mistake of putting money in, not seeing immediate results, then cutting budget right away. It’s not a week’s process. It’s not even a month’s process. It takes six months to a year to see growth. My advice is to manage your expectations and be patient.
Let’s pivot to over to something more personal… You’re a bit of a travel nut, and you’ve had the chance to roam around the US a bit. Having lived in other cities, what do you enjoy most about working in Austin?
The first thing that comes to mind is the food! We have amazing food here, and if I could have my dream job it would be to write about food all day!
Other than that, I think it’s the variety of people here in Austin. Whenever I go out the conversation usually starts with “Where are you from?”. If someone answers “Austin”, they’re a unicorn. I love the cultural mix here and learning about where everyone is from.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to move here and maybe start a career in marketing?
Since it is such a large tech hub, I would say get as much experience as you can before coming here. It’s pretty competitive. Do your research and learn as much as possible. If employers see that you are up to date, that will go a long way to getting hired quickly.
Okay, and for any business owner who might be reading this, what are a couple tips you would give them to step up their marketing?
Definitely hire experts! Don’t think you can do it alone… and maybe you can, but you shouldn’t, because it’s so time consuming to do it right and stay focused on your business. That’s a really big one.
Need to a marketing team so you can stay focused on what matters most? Give us a call. We’re here to help.
May 27 2019
Successful businesses understand the value of a solid marketing process. They’re living proof. Without sound planning and a steady routine, businesses crash and burn. You can’t wing it forever without making irreparable mistakes.
Years of hard work and brand value are quickly erased when a company decides to eschew the fundamentals of sound marketing. What follows is a steady decline in website traffic, stagnating sales, and the abyss of negative cash flow.
An army would never rush into battle without a strategy. So why do so many businesses skip proper planning?
It’s Not So Simple
Companies are doomed to repeat mistakes when they’ve benefitted from a lucky streak. Enamored with their success, they fail to objectively analyze the true reasons for their achievement. They repeat the same steps over and over in the fruitless pursuit of the fleeting victory they once enjoyed. Lightning never strikes twice.
In other cases, business owners use “busy-ness” as an excuse to skip the hard work of marketing. It’s understandable. Everyone is busy. Especially business owners. But if you’re too busy to plan for success, you will eventually be too busy shutting down your company. There’s no justification for doing things wrong.
Businesses without a process engage in “reactive” management practices. Every decision is a last minute fire drill responding to crisis. It demoralizes your employees. It exhausts your partners. And believe it or not, your customers know.
The strongest brands are proactive. They create a strategy. They stick to a plan.
Successful Marketing Starts With A Plan
You are far more likely to succeed when you have a plan for success. This is made possible by using a marketing process. Failure to use a process equals failure to plan. Failure to plan means shooting from the hip.
The steps to the Marketing Process are:
- Define Your Mission
- Analysis & Research
- Define Your Strategy
- Set Your Marketing Mix
- Execute Your Campaigns
- Analyze & Optimize
Define Your Mission
Simply put, this step answers the questions of “What is your company’s purpose?” and “What do you need to do?”. While these seem like straightforward and enduring objectives, your mission will always be determined by a variety of factors:
- What is our brand?
- What are our values?
- What is our culture?
- What value do we offer?
- What is happening in the market?
- How stable is our company?
Analysis & Research
This tends to be the phase that companies rush or ignore.
Many business owners think they have a solid handle on their place in the market, but the fact of the matter is there is constant pressure being applied to your operation from internal and external forces. If you do not routinely assess your position and your weaknesses, you will overlook opportunities and threats that could change your standing.
There are a variety of analytical exercises to help with this phase:
There are many others, including some that are specific to your industry. Whether you frequently perform these tasks or not, an extensive amount of research should be conducted during each marketing cycle.
The market is moving. Consumer interests change. Sales volume is fluid. If you’re not looking at historical data and reviewing the world around you, you won’t be able to make smart decisions on how to proceed.
Define Your Strategy
Imaging a scene from an old war movie. Generals and admirals are standing around a map. They know their mission. They’ve assessed their ranks and their competition. Looking intently at the enemy’s position on the table, they run through hypothetical strategies and discuss each scenario objectively.
Much like the military, every business is subject to a wide range of benefits and consequences for every step they take. Defining your strategy allows you to identify your position, set marketing goals, determine your target audience and establish KPIs.
You may have used the same strategy since your company’s formation. If it still works, then so be it. However, we recommend running through the scenarios every time you reach this stage in the process. It’s quite likely the landscape will change one day, and you’ll be too far along to change course when it happens.
Set Your Marketing Mix
For business owners who are merely winging it, this is the step where they normally start their “process”. When there is no plan and no proper process, this step usually takes the form of a last minute email blast or hastily structured social media campaign with jumbled messaging and a poorly executed strategy.
Product – the product or service to be sold.
Price – how much the product or service costs
Place – the means with which to deliver the product or service
Promotion – the effort to promote the sale of the product or service
It’s during this stage that decisions are made on what tactics will be used to convey the value of the product or service. Is it an ad campaign? Is it a social media strategy? Is it supported with email? Does traditional media factor into the equation?
Many business owners understand this part of the process. They’ve probably even executed campaigns on their own. But as the fourth step in the marketing process, if they haven’t thoroughly performed the first three steps, their odds for success are limited.
Execute Your Campaigns
This phase takes up a significant amount of the time defined as “marketing”. Assets are created. Designs are produced. Messaging is written. Campaigns are structured. All of the busy work of marketing happens here.
Controlling and managing your marketing plan occurs during this phase, and it consists of multiple sub-processes that involve back and forth communication between the business owner, the marketing team, and vendors and contractors.
At Divining Point we frequently see companies who launch seemingly effective campaigns. Peaking into analytics, however, we discover there are no methods of tracking conversions. In some cases, the term “conversion” is a poorly defined conclusion. We caution companies to ensure that ROI can be tracked all the way from the bottom of the funnel up to the source that feeds it at the top.
Analyze & Optimize
For some agencies, this phase of the marketing process is a subset of the Execution phase. Divining Point breaks this out into its own step. Monitoring performance during and after a campaign is a crucial and time-consuming step that impacts the short-term success of a campaign and the overall long-term success of a company.
As stated above, if conversions and tracking are set up appropriately, a company can let the data be their guide towards optimization. Much like the scientific method, testing and analyzing is an iterative cycle that pushes a campaign towards greater success. You can efficiently change course if you know where to direct your attention.
The logical conclusion of this phase ends with reporting and further analysis. End of the Month (or End of the Quarter) meetings typically revolve around the metrics collected at the end of promotional efforts. The marketing process now starts over.
NEWS FLASH: The Plan Is Always Evolving
Using a disciplined routine to the marketing process allows your business to stay focused and ahead of the competition. At the end of each cycle, a new plan is developed based on the findings from the steps above.
Sounds complicated? It doesn’t have to be.
Once you’ve developed the marketing process and documented your work, a company can deftly roll from campaign to campaign while staying fully aware of market conditions and threats to their business. This is especially true for companies with a firm understanding of their brand, their buyers, and their value in the world.
Need to a team to build your marketing process? Give us a call. We’re here to help.
Apr 22 2019
Each April is a critical anniversary for Divining Point. This year we join the ranks of businesses who made it past the three-year mark. It’s a dubious distinction born from a grim reality. 30% of businesses fail in the first year.
Unfortunately, the numbers aren’t much better for the second, third, or fifth years. In most cases, the demise of a company is directly related to management and leadership failures that lead to poor decisions. Funny thing is…
We’re Actually 6 Years Old
Divining Point started in 2013 as a consultancy. Like many startups, we had something we wanted to share with the world. After 3 years of hustling in this gig we call marketing, we formally launched as an LLC in April of 2016. For us, that’s the birth date of our agency, even if we act a little older.
We reached the important one year mark in 2017 and shared a story about the lessons of being a nimble little shop. One year later, we felt pretty sure of ourselves and revealed a formula that seemed to work for us. A series of missteps in the summer of 2018 left us nursing our wounds and brushing dirt off our chins. Through it all, we can confidently say that staying true to our values is what keeps us in business today.
There are lessons worth learning from anyone still in operation after three years. We certainly don’t corner the market on business wisdom. Our simple goal here is to continue the tradition of sharing what we do so that others may find success.
Don’t Have All the Answers
Our clients come to us because they need a solution to a problem. Since each case is unique, we come to the table as a partner in search of the answers. In that regard, there’s no merit in being a “know it all”. Biases, assumptions, and preconceptions are completely unproductive.
At Divining Point – both internally and externally – we acknowledge we don’t have all the answers. If you’re looking for a marketing agency with “silver bullets”, we’re not your team. For starters, silver bullets don’t even work that well. Secondly, a silver bullet really only works for one problem (werewolves and monsters) and isn’t helpful for those of us in the real world.
It may be frustrating to work with a person who happily says “I don’t know” or “maybe” when asked tough questions about pernicious marketing challenges. It’s even more disappointing to put your faith in a team who fails to deliver on the promises they made during the sales phase of an engagement.
If you want to stay in business, our advice is don’t sell a bag of goods just to close a deal. There’s no quicker way to lose a precious client and earn a bad reputation. You can’t afford to do either. You’re better off taking a different approach.
In our case, we’re convinced that the best way to deliver value is to employ the scientific method to marketing. In fact, our process is broadly summarized like this:
- We ask questions.
- We do research.
- We develop a plan.
- We test the plan.
- We document performance.
- We analyze the results.
- We optimize.
Along the way we discover all the answers. In most cases we let the data tell us what works and what should change. In some cases, we depend on research, intuition and experience to guide our decisions. It’s not as quick or easy as the claims made by people with a “proven process” and “guaranteed results”. However, in the end you can rest assured that we’ll find a solution that works reliably for you.
Professionalism Is Not an Option
Austin is known as a fairly casual city. “Keep Austin Weird” is not just a catchy slogan. It’s a mantra to do things on our own terms in the spirit of individualism. As a result, it’s not uncommon to find shorts and sandals sitting at the same conference table with suits and ties. That’s quite alright with us.
Dress codes and corporate protocols are up to each business owner. What works for you could be a disaster in another industry. We recommend ignoring the universal standards of “professionalism” in all ways but one: your actions.
Acting professionally is not an option. It’s a mandate.
It’s become quite common for companies to take a lax attitude with the treatment of their clients. Some days it seems like the rules of decorum were scrapped in favor of “what’s natural”, “what feels good”, “what’s convenient” or “what’s in my best interest”.
The result is a broken dynamic of relationships that were once built on respect, trust and integrity. We’ve seen this first-hand with vendors and customers who’ve been burned too many times in the past by marketing agencies that ignored and disrespected them at every turn.
The rules of professionalism vary depending on the source. In some cases, there is an emphasis on professional attire. But as Austin illustrates, great business can occur regardless of the clothes. Professionalism is an intangible set of behaviors that looks something like this:
- Treat your customers with respect, even when they behave poorly.
- Follow through on your commitments.
- Address people properly.
- Practice quick, responsive communication.
- Avoid drama.
- Be competent.
- Practice empathy.
Even if you have a casual business model, a reputation for professionalism will always win you more fans and referrals. People want to be heard and supported. Acting like a professional will build faith in you and contribute to the long term success of your business.
DO Take No for An Answer
We take issue with the old saying “Don’t take no for an answer”. It’s an audacious way of making people yield to your will. This tired motivational phrase is especially common in sales, where inexperienced salespeople waste time and energy trying to force a “no” into a “yes”. Why even bother? There are hundreds of other customers who are ready, willing and able to move forward.
Let’s analyze what happens when you indiscriminately overcome all objections.
What if a person isn’t qualified or capable of doing what you want them to? You force them to act. They fail. They blame you. You’re left with the decision to continue supporting them or, even worse, walking away in shame.
What if you’re actually making a bad recommendation? They put their faith in you, despite their better judgment. Your plan fails. You’ve lost the trust and respect of the other person, and you’ve most likely created some costly consequences for you and them.
What if you’re forcing a deal with a difficult customer and they accept? Congratulations, you’ve got the sale. Guess what? You’re stuck with them now. You have no one to blame but yourself.
What if your plan is good but an even better one exists? You’ve lost an opportunity to demonstrate competency and deliver outstanding value to the customer. Businesses with a reputation for mediocrity don’t last long.
There are plenty of hypotheticals you can explore here, but ultimately you run the risk of jeopardizing your relationships, your business and your long-term success when you “don’t take no for an answer”.
Here’s a better alternative: be objective, be humble, and be open to the possibility that you may be wrong. Don’t be a fool. Sometimes “no” is a good thing. It may not serve your immediate goals or stroke your ego, but your needs matter less when it comes to doing great work for a good client in a healthy business relationship.
Beware of Fire Ants
Every business has to decide who they want to serve. Our advice is to be cautious of the “low value / high needs” client that doesn’t appreciate your time, your quality, or your worth. We call them “Fire Ants”.
For those of you outside of the South, fire ants (also known as the Red Imported Fire Ant) are an invasive species known for their aggression and destructiveness. They’re little. They’re unpleasant. They bite like hell. Sound familiar?
Fire Ant clients typically have a large amount of needs with very little budget. They scrutinize every single expense in an attempt to get you to lower your price. Conversely, they expect you to give them a higher level of service that doesn’t correlate with your negotiated agreement.
With Fire Ants, communication is poor, sometimes non-existent. Many of them micromanage your project or, even worse, are completely uninvolved until after you’ve performed your service – at which point they want changes. Every request is urgent. Every revision should be free. Every project turns into a spiraling cycle of scope creep that leaves you and your business in disarray.
To be fair, these clients have genuine needs. They should work with a team that can fulfill them. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be you. The perceived opportunities associated with Fire Ants are not worth the cost and headaches they bring. The best way to avoid being bitten is to prevent them from getting close in the first place.
Don’t take offense if you’re a Fire Ant. From what we can tell, most clients don’t recognize how destructive their behaviors can be. They just want the service or product “they thought” they were going to get. Therein lies the rub. Despite the best efforts of many businesses to clearly define the terms of engagement, Fire Ant clients have unrealistic expectations and an unwillingness to accept anything less than their demands. They don’t take no for an answer.
Bigger Things To Come
On this anniversary we’re blessed to work with terrific clients throughout the United States, including Alaska. Our footprint has expanded along with our team size and service offerings. We practice all of the learning lessons we espoused in our previous blogs, and it continues to serve us well. We’re optimistic that our best days are ahead of us.
While we work with businesses of just about any size, we look for the characteristics we think will bring about success and a long-term partnership. Our clients appreciate the power of a good brand. They value quality service, and they conduct business in a way that inspires loyalty with their clients. Are you a business like that? Contact us today. We’re here to help.
Apr 15 2019
Every day Americans attempt to cram more productivity into fewer hours. It usually occurs at the expense of efficiency. What appears to be “business” on the surface is usually nothing more than “busy-ness” at its core. Neither are alike in any way.
Rather than taking a break for a much needed rest, or even getting up to stretch, most people keep pushing themselves and everyone around them to do more, more, more. We recommend taking a nap rather than overextending yourself. And while it may seem like a stretch to apply the benefits of napping to marketing performance, much can be gained from a short pause in activity.
That’s right. Napping.
Marketing performance is a difficult pursuit where the ground rules change and the goal posts move every day. To coin a phrase from Mr. Dooley, marketing ain’t bean-bag. It requires creativity, analysis, technical skills, constant maintenance, and even a fair bit of damage control.
In the end, the credit for success usually lands in someone else’s lap – for example: the party animals in the Sales Department. However, blame for failure almost always comes back to marketing.
In that regard, the fresh ideas you need to get ahead only come from fresh minds, which brings us back to napping.
It’s no secret that Divining Point employs a unique model that gives us an edge. While we’re not a certified Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), we embrace many of its standards. To us, and for your benefit, we only focus on what matters most: marketing performance. What matters least is where we are, when we do it, how we do it, or why we do it the way we do. Ultimately, your goals are met. You succeed. We succeed.
At Divining Point, we take naps. You should, too.
The Benefits of Rest
Much has been written about the relationship between sleep and achievement. It’s directly analogous to marketing performance in more ways than one.
The National Sleep Foundation offers this key benefit of napping:
“Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%.”
You’re probably thinking: “Isn’t that just sleeping on the job?”
No. It’s being ready for the job.
If you consider that tiredness is a response to over activity and burnout is a complete crash, as an organism your business requires periods of quiet where you can refocus your efforts and avoid the negative effects of oversaturation.
Putting this in marketing terms:
Your marketing efforts not only deplete your company’s resources, they also strain your customers. Constantly shouting about your brand eventually turns people away. Pushing, pushing, PUSHING your buyers with the same message and the same methods forces them to run away and land in some other company’s arms.
Think of It Like Flighting
Flighting is a cyclical technique to advertise your brand. It involves running your ads, then turning them off, and then turning them back on with new value propositions.
Recent theory suggests that flighting is bad for business, but we beg to differ. For seasonal businesses (like travel or apparel brands), flighting makes complete sense. It shifts the focus to those times when sales are more likely to occur. But for other industries, flighting – or a hiatus – can be just as beneficial.
Take into consideration the negative effects of oversaturation, which is no doubt the result of continuous promotions and advertising. If you spread your marketing efforts too thinly over a longer period of time, you lose the ability to make an impact on the buyers you desire most.
If you continue to bang the drum everywhere all the time your audience will tune you out and opt out of your ads. This is the equivalent of strapping a muzzle to your face.
Similarly, if you don’t focus your efforts to target your specific buyers, and if you don’t tailor your message specifically for them, you waste money and resources on activities that will never yield an ROI.
Do You Seriously Take Naps?
Yes, we do. Our team works long hours when it makes sense. We also take naps when it makes sense. It all contributes to marketing performance.
When looking at your marketing strategy, you can’t effectively be “ON” all the time without incurring some cost – literal or otherwise.
New platforms, new techniques, new campaigns, new products, new seasons, new trends, new staff… these are the ever-shifting sands in the terrain. Staying engaged in the push is paramount. But strategic pauses are a restorative force that moves you faster and further than your worn out competition.
Don’t deceive yourself into thinking this is a wholesale termination of marketing. That’s not good. Instead this is the agile refocusing, redirecting, and restructuring of your marketing campaigns in a way that provides relief for you and for your customer.
The end result is a higher level of marketing performance.
Need a full-service team to chart your marketing strategy? Contact us today. We’re here to help.