• Steps We’ve Taken To Survive 3 Years In Business

    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.
    • Repeat.

    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.

  • In Defense of Power Naps: How A Pause In Activity Can Boost Marketing Performance

    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.

    Wait. What?

    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.

  • 6 Effective Tips for Visual Storytelling with Video

    Capturing the attention of your audience in the midst of today’s digital clutter is a challenging feat to beat. While video marketing is a strong medium to help increase exposure, there’s no better way to stand out than with visual storytelling.

    So what’s the difference?

    Visual storytelling is more than leveraging video and sound. Storytelling involves the bigger picture of what you’re trying to achieve by captivating emotion and bringing your product to life. It is more than just selling with video. It involves delivering an impactful emotional experience that resonates with the viewer long after the video has been watched.

    Here are 6 tips to help your visual storytelling make your business irresistible:

    Create a Structured Timeline

    As an elementary refresher, every story has a beginning, middle, and end. This same rule should apply to the structure of your video. Without an organized timeline, videos will feel incomplete, fruitless, and even confusing.

    The beginning of your story should introduce characters and set the scene by establishing scenarios and hint at the main idea. The middle of the video should include the action being taken to solve a certain problem, while events simultaneously build off one another. Revealing the outcome and unmasking a solution is the best way to conclude your video storytelling.

    While that sounds like a task for a motion picture screen writer, it’s not. Approach every storytelling project the same way you’d write a paper. Start by documenting the goal of the video, who it should speak to, and what the action should be. Continue with an outline that defines the individual steps (or scenes) in the video and define how the video should perform during each part of the composition. From there you can build out the entire piece.

    Lighting and Backdrops Matter

    There’s nothing worse than watching a low-quality video with distracting backgrounds. All too often, people attempt to use their mobile devices to create a video without controlling the lighting or surrounding scene. The result is an inferior video piece that fails to capture the full attention of the viewer.

    If your story takes place outdoors, be sure the weather conditions are ideal; if there are high winds, dark clouds, or rain, it’s best to reschedule. If you’re shooting indoors, consider investing in lighting equipment and use the three point lighting technique. Good lighting can take your video from looking amateurish to looking clean and professional.

    Also think about your backdrop before diving in. Backdrops can make or break a video, so be sure they’re not distracting or too busy. For example, if you’re interviewing someone, it’s safest to stick to a solid background with muted colors such as gray or dark blue. Don’t attempt to conduct an interview on a busy street unless you have the right sound and lighting to keep the focus on your subject.

    Strategically picking your background can save you a ton of time and make all the difference in the quality of your video.

    Simplicity is Best

    While shooting elaborate scenes with intricate dialogue may sound ideal, communicating a singular idea with a straightforward approach can often be more effective.

    Beautiful footage isn’t essential in video storytelling, especially for beginners. Focus on the product and people in your video rather than capturing irrelevant scenes. This can cause too much “noise” and distract viewers from your the problem you’re trying to solve.

    Additionally, don’t fill your entire video with dialogue. Sometimes fewer words have greater power. Try selecting the most meaningful and influential sound bites that efficiently deliver your message. Clean shots, good audio and powerful music can help tell the rest of the story.

    Be Human and Evoke Emotion

    One of the most crucial – and perhaps the most difficult – elements to visual storytelling is inducing emotion to assist in how to portray a powerful message

    Drawing out feelings of empathy will elicit feelings of trust and loyalty to your brand, so before shooting, ask yourself the following questions:

    • How does your message and brand impacts real lives?
    • What emotions are the customers faces with before being introduced to your product?
    • What emotions do you want them to feel when they find the solution?
    • How do you alter your customer’s skepticism and turn it into hopefulness and joy?

    These questions will establish a baseline to your story’s itinerary and keep viewers engaged and invested. Portraying a powerful message through emotion is essential. It makes a lasting impression, as opposed to simply conveying a marketing message.

    Become a Master Editor

    One of the best ways to enhance your video lies in the editing process. Be sure your cuts are clean and distinct. Don’t get too fancy with transitions. Focusing on lavish transitions may detract from the valuable points you are trying to get across. Additionally, try and pick music that matches the tone of the rest of the story to bring your product to vivid life.

    Determining the length of your video is also imperative. Based off over 564,000 video, Wistia determined the ideal length to be 2 minutes. They also found that engagement is steady up to 2 minutes, meaning a 90-second video will hold a someone’s attention as much as a 30-second one. Naturally, you have to consider where this video will be viewed. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook require shorter video lengths.

    Include a Call To Action

    Like other marketing assets, you’ll want to end your video by prompting your viewer to take action. If they’ve watched your video to the end, they’ve already demonstrated a clear interest. Providing a call to action – or CTA – will drive viewers to take an action. Ideally you’d drive the viewer to a designated landing page where they will provide their contact information, thereby turning them into a lead.

    Other CTA ideas can include inviting viewers to your social media pages, entering contests, free trials, webinars, short forms, or another video. Whatever the end goal is, this is your chance to gather further interest and transition them from a viewer to a customer.

    The exception here would be with a branding piece that revolves around a mood, an inspirational message, or personal story. In that case, your visual story is less about selling or promoting your product, but instead focuses on the value of your brand. The call to action is not overt. Instead, you’re hoping the viewer will have a visceral emotional response to your video that will then be positively associated with your brand. It’s less of a “call to action” and more of “call to emotion”.

    Need help with your video storytelling or other social media management? Contact us today to get started on all your social media needs.

     

  • Divining Point Recognized as Industry Leader

    The marketing world is constantly changing with new innovations and companies on the move. At Diving Point, we act as a guide for your business to help pinpoint areas of your strategy that need improvement to quickly move your business to the top. We specialize in brand identity, digital marketing, content marketing, visual storytelling and social media. In essence, we are a full service team of problem solvers dedicated to your marketing and strategy.

    Clutch, a platform that publishes verified client reviews, spoke to our past clients to get feedback about our process and deliverables. Along with client interviews, Clutch Analysts conducted market research to see how we stack up against our competitors.  We are so excited to announce that we were featured as one of the Top Digital Marketing Agencies in Austin on Clutch!

    Some of our favorite reviews from our Clutch profile are listed below:

    “They have decades of experience in marketing, so they were incredibly detailed, timely, and concise.”

    We were extremely impressed with the value we received and with the thorough and timely delivery of services. We are looking forward to working on bigger projects with them in 2019.”

    “The content strategy and supporting content development work they provided dramatically improved our market visibility and our bottom line”

    “Above all else, I appreciate their ability to listen. I’ve been around this business for 10 years and have worked with firms that don’t always pay attention to their client’s needs. Divining Point internalizes the challenges we communicate to provide creative solutions.”

    Digital Marketing is something that every company needs to embrace. Forbes published an article, which was titled Why Everyone Needs A Digital Marketing Strategythat drives the point home. Essentially, digital marketing gives you insights into your customers and your business which were completely unavailable with traditional marketing mediums.

    That’s not to suggest that traditional methods are outdated or unnecessary. However, digital marketing is now a necessary plank to build the foundation for your entire marketing strategy.

    We are happy that our Clutch reviews reflect the satisfaction of our clients. At Diving Point, we take immense pride in the personal service we provide for our clients, and we do our very best to give them the results they expect.

    Ready to take your business to next level? Give us a call. We’re here to help.

  • 5 Business Lessons We Learned In 2018

    Every year we look back at what we’ve achieved and what we have to look forward to in the new year. In 2018 we experienced growth that allowed us to bring on new team members, and we’ve vastly expanded our abilities to deliver real results for our clients. As 2019 comes rushing in, we’ve decided to share the 5 business lessons we learned in 2018.

    Be Forward Looking

    In 2018 we learned the true value of maintaining revenue projections and doing weekly bookkeeping meetings. New business sales are the lifeblood of any company, and continual cash flow analysis keeps the bottom line in check. We developed strict discipline with watching “cash in / cash out” always with an eye towards the future. It helped us achieve a YOY improvement that didn’t seem possible this time last year.

    If you’re still trying to maintain your books, manage payroll, and crunch all the numbers for taxes and expenses, do yourself a favor and immediately invest in a good bookkeeper. As a business owner you have much better things to do with your time. Divining Point partnered with a bookkeeper (Greeley Street Consulting) who handles all things related to accounting, payroll, and taxes. It’s made all the difference in keeping us solvent.

    Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster. It’s always moving forward over hills and troughs. If you’re still in business today – and you’re not heading for certain dissolution – then you have much to rejoice. But if you’re not executing a proactive strategy for future sales, then you’ll experience dips in your cashflow that could sink your chances for success.

    Celebrate Your Failures

    Sure, your achievements are opportunities to move forward, but your best learning experiences come from failure. In the second quarter of 2018 we made a conscious decision to part ways with some clients who needed a level of service we couldn’t (or wouldn’t) provide or who no longer met the criteria for our ideal client.

    Two months later, two of our larger clients terminated their relationship with us.

    Uh oh.

    The client-agency relationship with these clients was cordial (and appreciated), but they had an underlying cynicism about marketing – and a reluctance to communicate – that hindered our ability to solve their problems.

    Suddenly we were thrown into a tailspin that presented real risk to everything we’d worked for in the first half of the year. We were immediately forced to do two things:

    1. Conduct a thorough postmortem to see what happened and why.
    2. Find new business fast.

    What we learned during the postmortem was not only cathartic, it also helped us quickly generate new business opportunities.

    In retrospect, the loss of clients was the best thing that happened to us in 2018. We were freed from unhealthy client relationships delivering services that drained our time and resources. At the same time, we were given the opportunity to fine tune all of our processes from top to bottom, which in turn enabled us to find success with other clients who needed us. It is a business lesson that made all the difference for our future. 

    Replicate Success

    The unintentional bloodletting of the Summer of 2018 breathed life into our company. It confirmed something we knew all along: an unwilling client isn’t worth the effort. As our favorite prophet of marketing, Don Draper, once said, “You already know about Jesus. He either lives in your heart or he doesn’t”.

    Divining Point prides itself on producing measurable results for companies who believe in the value of a rock solid brand and who work hard to deliver great service from beginning to end. We don’t want to work with a company who scoffs at these concepts or thinks that marketing is just an expensive set of bells and whistles.

    Our greatest success this year was going to market with a new attitude.

    We won’t waste time your time or ours if you can’t see past your biases, honestly communicate with us, and eagerly embrace the change we bring to the table. By replicating this learning, we’ve expanded our client portfolio and improved our service delivery along the way.

    As you can see, your failure can be your greatest success, and you can achieve remarkable growth if you learn from these experiences. Look at your business objectively and see how you can replicate success so that it builds up your company. Don’t dwell on failure. Get better.

    Turnover Happens

    It’s rare these days to have the same team for longer than a couple years. The US is experiencing all time lows in unemployment, and employees have more job opportunities available to them than ever before. Couple this with a young workforce that naturally drifts from position to position until they find their place in the world. It’s natural to experience turnover, but it adds disruption and significant costs to the operation of any business.

    In 2018 Divining Point experienced turnover for a myriad of reasons. In one case we had to remove a toxic presence from the company. Another employee left for personal reasons during the summer when we changed our industry focus. Two other employees accepted generous offers from competitors. We wish them all the best in their future endeavors!

    In every case we amicably ended our relationships. At no point did we have to terminate a position for financial reasons, for which we’re thankful. Each time we replaced these employees with new team members who further strengthened our company.

    The lesson here is be prepared for turnover. It happens. It’s not very fun. It temporarily introduces disorder into the efficient process you’ve worked hard to create. But it’s a hallmark of good leadership – and teamwork – if your company can gracefully and respectfully handle turnover while continuing to deliver results for your customers.

    Complacency Is A Luxury You Can’t Afford

    There are hundreds of cliches you can use to describe entrepreneurship. Expect the unexpected. When life hands you lemons make lemonade. Don’t rest on your laurels. You get the picture.

    Your business is a living organism that is always moving, always evolving, always experiencing setbacks you didn’t predict. You can’t afford to sit back and count money, even when sales are hot and profits are setting records. As soon as you stop hustling you stop growing – and your company begins to crack.

    In 2018 we experienced all the growing pains every company encounters in critical growth years. We never allowed ourselves to be complacent or take anything for granted, and we’re better off as a result.

    2019 is set to be another great year for us.

    We strengthened our SEO capabilities to achieve top rankings through on page and off page techniques. We added a new Creative Director who will take our visual storytelling to a whole new level with exquisite photography and engaging videography. We expanded our capabilities to include email marketing, public relations, online advertising (outside of just social and search), and enhanced our reporting and research methods.

    Need a team to take your business to the next level? Give us a call. We’re here to help.

  • 5 Marketing Methods to Help You Succeed In 2019

    It’s a given that the world of marketing moves fast. Every year brings new marketing methods to engage your buyers. 2019 is no exception. Adapting to the new ground rules each year can be dizzying.

    If you skim the search results for marketing trends in 2019 you’ll see that AI, virtual reality and chatbots are still all the rage. For three years (or more) we’ve heard about the benefits of these new technologies. We don’t deny the power of these new systems, but for most companies these are still inexplicable buzzwords that really don’t make sense for their business.

    Rather than promote bleeding edge programs that verge on science fiction, we present 5 marketing methods to help you succeed in 2019.

    Search Is Still Critical

    As we all know, every purchase starts with a need or a desire.

    Sometimes the urge to buy comes from an organic place: the buyer experiences a real world situation that compels them to find a solution for their needs.

    Other times, the demand for a product or service is generated through the artful use of advertising, which introduces the buyer to something they never knew existed.

    In both cases, the buyer starts the process with online research. That inevitably means they rely on a search engine to find information.

    There is nothing new about search. What’s new in 2019 is where people go to do it.

    It’s not enough to simply write blogs and optimize your site for search engine success. People now use Facebook and Twitter to explore new products. They browse through dozens of images on Pinterest and Instagram. They watch videos on YouTube. They even use voice search (“Hey Siri!”) or visual search to find more information about something they’re looking at directly in front of them.

    Is your company poised to capitalize when your buyer is in the mood to explore? The answer is probably no unless you’re engaging in a sophisticated SEO campaign and regularly pushing content across a wide array of platforms. Even so, many business fail to rank where it matters most.

    Our advice is to quit discounting the most fundamental behavior of buyer psychology. SEO, SEM, social media, and content marketing matter more now than ever before. Invest heavily in a multidimensional strategy that leads buyers to you.

    Expect Fragmentation

    For the last 5 years we witnessed a massive consolidation online. Facebook essentially demolished most of the early competitors in the social media world. Google not only dominated the search engine industry, they also lead the way with online video (YouTube) and digital advertising (formerly AdWords, now Google Ads). Amazon continues to break records for online shopping and now competes for music, entertainment and just about everything else.

    But something predictable happened in 2018. People changed how they consume online media. Thanks to the bitter presidential election in 2016, and as a result of privacy violations across the internet, more and more consumers are diversifying where they spend their time online.

    2019 will bring about more fragmentation in online behavior. People are doing more research on sites that cater to their niche interests. They’re opting in to email lists from companies they trust – while flagging as spam those companies they don’t. They consume considerable amounts of video online all over the internet. They read forums (remember those?) and participate on discussion sites like Reddit. Blogs, podcasts, alternative news sites, the list goes on and on. More profoundly, they’re spending less time on Facebook and Twitter, instead opting for Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Mastodon, Minds, Gab, MeWe, Vero, Signal and more.

    This isn’t to suggest that the Big Three (Facebook, Twitter, and Google) are going anywhere soon. But as personal data becomes a bigger issue for consumers, people will move towards platforms where they can engage with more like-minded users and ensure a modicum of privacy.

    What does that mean for you? Know your audience. Research where they spend their time online and develop a strategy for engaging them all along the way.

    Personalize Your Approach

    You should never send a single email to an entire database of customers. Similarly, you can’t expect a single ad to resonate with all of your buyers. If you speak to all of your customers in the same way you should expect to lose them over time. Buyers are unique. You need to treat them like it.

    Market segmentation is nothing new. Even list segmentation is old news. But are you actually using all of the available tools to speak directly to each individual buyer? Are you appealing to them as individuals and offering them messaging based on their behavior online?

    Remarketing methods, email marketing metrics, Facebook pixel, website behavior tracking… these are but a few of the tools that allow you to analyze the interests and preferences of your buyers. With a CRM and marketing automation platform, you can generate workflows to deliver personalized messages that leads your buyer through the funnel.

    Let’s take this even further for 2019. If you are not developing engaging, original content tailored to the personal preferences of your buyers, you will be missing out on the opportunity to turn customers into brand loyalists. Certainly, buyers buy products because they need them, but brand loyalists buy products because they want them… and they won’t even consider buying from another company. That competitive edge makes your life easier and increases sales.

    Original Engaging Content Means More Than Just A Blog

    Research suggests that the average person is exposed to over 10,000 marketing messages EVERY DAY. Is yours breaking through? We bet the answer is no.

    Everyday people scroll through their social media feed in a somewhat absent minded manner until something stands out. They’re busy. They want to be informed or entertained. They want to be amazed.

    How do you stop the scroll? Make your content awesome!

    If you haven’t taken content marketing seriously up to now, in 2019 you must invest in a strategy that captivates and intrigues your customers. We advise you to think beyond the blog.

    The most engaging forms of content are professional quality photography and video. People by nature are visually oriented. They stop and stare when something captures their attention. This is why billboards are still effective to this day, thousands of years after the first sign was hung for a business. It’s why TV still ranks as the most dominant media form. It’s why YouTube garners billions of users each month.

    We’ll take this even further. If you’re producing brand-related video and photos with a mobile phone it’s highly likely that you’re doing it wrong. Today’s consumers are smarter than that, and they have incredibly high standards for what passes as quality. A poorly lit photo or a sloppily produced video tarnishes your brand. If your product looks less than stellar how does that impact your buyer? It turns them off.

    Diversify Your Ad Strategy

    Earlier on we mentioned fragmentation in media consumption. It’s not that people are no longer using Facebook, Twitter, Google, et al. They’re just not spending as much time there. Much ado has been made about the limited organic reach you get these days on these platforms.

    The cost to reach a greater audience has skyrocketed. It’s a sign of bad times when up to a half of a company’s ad budget goes solely to one company. It’s even more frustrating when these vendors put excessive restrictions on not only WHAT you can advertise but HOW your ad must look.

    The rise in niche sites, independent social platforms, and even new search engines (hello Pinterest!) means there are many more places online to advertise your products. It’s time to explore your options. We’re here to tell you there is life outside of Google and Facebook.

    There are multiple private ad networks that reach industry-specific audiences and capture buyers of niche products. There are influencers and affiliates who can drive sales with a single tweet or shout out in a podcast. And let’s not forget the tried and true standards of the analog ad industry: billboards, radio, TV, magazines, direct mail, and special event sponsorships. All of these methods give you a powerful alternative for reaching your customers.

    Your Brand Still Matters

    At the end of the day you still need a brand. It doesn’t even need to be hip or cute – like so many startups that flood the market. With a strong sense of identity and a good understanding of your buyers, you can use the methods in this blog to reach even more buyers than you did in 2018. While it’s easy to get distracted by shiny new objects like AR/VR and AI, the fundamentals of marketing remain the same.

    What’s changed is the critical requirement to build a diverse strategy. You can’t win the game if you don’t show up to play. Buyers in 2019 will no longer give you a pass for a half-hearted attempt to win their attention. Your New Year resolution should be “Excellence in Marketing”. If you pursue it with intention, you’ll crush your sales goals and succeed while others crash and burn.

    Let Divining Point tackle your marketing strategy, implementation and management. For more information, visit our services page today!

     

  • How To Dominate Your Pinterest Strategy in 2019

    Social media marketing is crucial for brand awareness, customer loyalty, and increasing your overall sales– but we already knew this, right? While Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are strong platforms to utilize, having an active Pinterest account with an effective Pinterest Strategy behind it may be the most valuable tool for different reasons.

    Pinterest currently has 250 million active users. As compelling as this statistic is, we also need to consider how Pinterest is a beneficial tool for SEO purposes, making it a unique and invaluable social platform.

    Here’s how to take advantage of Pinterest’s exclusive offerings for a kickass strategy in 2019:

    Pin Often and Consistently

    Like most social media mediums, having a regular posting schedule is imperative. According to PinCoach, you should be Pinning at least 10x a day. Your Pins should be a mix of native and curated content. Native content is content created from scratch by your brand, while curated content is the gathering of existing content such as blogs, photos, eBooks, etc. RePinning other’s Pins to your boards also shows community engagement.

    Additionally, instead of Pinning all at once, you should Pin sporadically so your content is spread out. Part of Pinterest’s algorithm is based off consistency. Once Pinterest sees you are posting high-quality content that is consistent, your impressions will increase, meaning more users will see your content!

    Allure Your Audience With Vivid Images

    Because Pinterest is such a visual platform – much like Instagram – it’s important to have captivating images. Putting a strong effort towards the quality of your images will make a world of difference.

    Be sure your images are well-lit and in focus. The images you choose are a reflection of your brand imagery, so it pays to put forth extra effort in this regard. .

    Research your industry to learn what kind of images perform the best. For example, in the retail industry instead of posting a photo of the product itself, you can produce 30 percent more clickthroughs and 170 percent higher checkout rates if you use a lifestyle photo of a person wearing or using a product.

    Don’t Forget to Write Detailed Descriptions

    While great images are a necessity, it’s not enough to rely on strong visuals. As we mentioned earlier, Pinterest is a substantial SEO tool. In 500 words, your description should pique your audience’s interest while including keywords. These keywords are picked up by Google, and if you have a strong Pinterest marketing strategy in place, this will ultimately increase your search engine results.

    Writing a solid description doesn’t necessarily mean including a brand name. In fact, 97% of Pinterest descriptions don’t. This is because Pinners are searching for specific terms or items, not brands. Think about humanizing your brand and how your audience is using Pinterest.

     

    Don’t Skip Out on Hashtags

    Hashtags are a great search tool on Pinterest. Hashtags are used to search for the most recent content so you should incorporate both timely and timeless hashtags such as #Christmas and #GiftIdeas. Also be sure to use evergreen hashtags and industry-related hashtags.

    Engage With Other Accounts

    Having a Pinterest marketing strategy is great for SEO, but it should also be treated like other social media platforms. This involves engaging with other accounts including repinning, saving, and liking, other user’s Pins. In turn, this will increase your own engagement.

    Another way to increase engagement is to create a group board where you can invite others in your Pinterest network to contribute with their own pins.

    Use Analytics to Skyrocket Performance

    Monitoring your Pin’s performances can help you learn what’s working and what isn’t. You can then tweak your Pins for optimized results. Be sure to avoid vanity metrics, numbers that are easily manipulated and don’t necessarily provide quality to your brand. Instead, audit which Pins are sending traffic to your website, which should be the ultimate goal.

    Analyzing your successful Pins will also help see how others view your brand and spark ideas for future campaigns. Gaining insight into the demographics and interests of others will assist in providing the right content to the right people.

    With a strong Pinterest Marketing Strategy in place, you can expect to strengthen your brand, drive heavy traffic, and widen product exposure in 2019!

    Need help with your Pinterest Marketing Strategy or other social media management? Contact us today to get started on all your social media needs.

     

  • 5 Ways Deer Season Prep Gets You Ready for Marketing

    If you’re an avid deer hunter, you likely spend the summer months preparing. You’re busy planning, checking your gear and doing research to ensure that you’re ready when the season opens – all the while dreaming of that perfect buck to fill your freezer for the winter.

    Preparing to launch a marketing campaign is actually quite similar.

    Here’s our list of 5 ways that deer season prep is similar to marketing campaign prep. Just like in deer hunting, disorganization in marketing planning will cost you a chance at a good buck…err, we mean good client.    

    1. Sight in Your Marketing Goal

    In deer hunting, you spend plenty of time sighting in your bow or rifle so that you’re ready for clean shots when the season opens. You may only get one shot. You have to hit the mark every time.

    In marketing, this is analogous to ensuring that you’ve defined your campaign goals and know exactly what it means to achieve success. Why are you launching this marketing campaign? Who do you want to attract? What’s your ideal client? Get all of your details straightened out now so that when you launch a campaign you can stay laser-focused on engaging and converting new deals.

    1. Talk to Farmers and Landowners

    Deer hunters know that farmers and landowners are the best resources for deer information. They spend the summer months working the land alongside the deer, so they have good intel on where the big bucks feed, where the does bed down, and where all manner of game frequently visits.

    In marketing terms, this means understanding not only the kinds of clients you want but the kinds of clients you already have. Reach out to your former clients to farm information from them about their thoughts on your services, why they chose you, and what are your strengths and weaknesses. You can also reach out to potential prospects to see what’s on their radar and what pain points they hope to solve. Knowing the lay of the land and the behaviors of your buyers are critical in knowing how to serve them.

    1. Set up Tracking Systems

    The best hunters know that the months before deer season are the best time for setting up cameras and scouting for deer. By researching their behaviors in advance, hunters know which bucks are using the hunting area for their home range when they feed, and which trails they use.

    You can apply this idea to marketing by reviewing your website analytics to understand when visitors come to your site, how long they stay and which pages they explore the most. Subsequently, that information helps you to determine where to add submission forms or offer gated content in exchange for contact information. Ultimately, you want to harvest your site visitor information so you can engage your prospects in a conversation and pull them through the funnel.

    1. Check Your Gear

    Deer hunters know there’s nothing worse than waiting all summer and heading out to the woods only to discover that your stand needs repair or your bow needs tuning. Before the season begins you must check all of your gear and ensure everything’s in working order.

    The same can be said for preparing for your marketing efforts. Do you have a team on hand to manage social media, SEO and your website? Is there a list of usernames and passwords for all of your critical accounts? Are there broken links on your website? Are all of the contact details correct? Do you even have ways to capture leads? Make sure all of your ducks are in a row so that your campaign is successful on the first shot.

    1. Be Patient

    Patience is a virtue and that’s just as true in marketing as it is in deer hunting. Experienced hunters know not to shoot at everything that passes by the blind, but to patiently wait for the right deer to present itself. Sometimes this means waiting quietly for hours, trusting that the right deer will appear – and also having the restraint to take a pass on immature deer, does, or spikes.

    Just like you can’t rush the trophy buck, you can’t rush a good marketing plan. A good marketing plan will take a long-range view and slowly, and steadily, build up traffic and demand so that the right leads come into the funnel. Expecting to see immediate results is analogous to expecting to see a trophy buck five minutes after climbing into the stand. Sometimes you may get lucky. But usually, almost always, you have to be patient and don’t blow your chances.

  • Email Marketing Delivers a 3800% ROI

    We often get asked if email marketing is still relevant in today’s hyper-connected online world. The fact of the matter is, email marketing still delivers substantial performance for companies across both B2B and B2C industries. In general, email marketing generates $38 for every $1 spent, a whopping 3,800 percent ROI. (Source) Below are more specific B2C and B2B Email Marketing Stats.

    5 B2C Email Marketing Statistics (Source)

    1. Only 7% of small-to-medium business (SMBs) use email as a brand-building tool.
    2. Welcome emails are incredibly effective: on average, 320% more revenue is attributed to them on a per email basis than other promotional emails.
    3. Consumers who purchase products through email spend 138% more than those that don’t receive email offers.
    4. Email subscribers are 3x more likely to share content on social media than leads who came through another channel, according to QuickSprout.
    5. 80% of retail professionals indicate that email marketing is their greatest driver of customer retention. Runner-up was social media.

     

    5 B2B Email Marketing Statistics (Source)

    1. Email is the third most influential source of information for B2B audiences, behind only colleague recommendations and industry-specific thought leaders.
    2. 86% of business professionals prefer to use email when communicating for business purposes.
    3. CTRs are 47% higher for B2B email campaigns than B2C email campaigns.
    4. 59% of B2B marketers say email is their most effective channel in terms of revenue generation.
    5. 56 percent of brands using emoji in their email subject lines had a higher open rate, according to a report by Experian.

    And, here’s a chart showing the average email open rate for different industries:

    So how might email marketing be relevant for your business? If you’ve spent weeks collecting business cards and adding the contacts to your CRM, the next logical step is for you to set up a plan that involves regular touches. Remember, these are potential customers, so don’t let them forget about you long after the initial meeting.

    There are a variety of techniques available to get the greatest utilization from email marketing. However, a good place to start is with a newsletter that keeps your prospects and clients updated on the most relevant and exciting news occurring with your business and industry.

    Using an Email Marketing Platform

    Gone are the days when you need to send individual emails all with the same message. These days there are plenty of options to use, however, a few of our favorites are MailChimp, Campaign Monitor and Constant Contact. If your company is using a CRM like Hubspot or Zoho, you can design your email newsletter within these platforms and send it to an existing contact list. An added bonus of using an email marketing application is that you can schedule your emails ahead of time so that they send at just the right moment when your prospect is most likely to open them. Perhaps you want to use the same design for each of your newsletters? You can simply duplicate a previous newsletter and just change up the content, instead of rebuilding it from scratch each time.

    Choosing What to Say

    Now, the good stuff: what to put in your email newsletter? This is your chance to get creative. Yes, you can add your most recent blogs and project updates, but it’s also a chance for you to share any press mentions, new hires, community involvement, upcoming events, fun facts, team photos, or even “words of advice.” Fill your newsletter with info that you as a recipient would be excited to read each month. Providing valuable info will increase the likelihood of people actually opening it and reading it. And don’t’ forget to include linked icons to each of your social media profiles. Your emails are a great way to build up your social media audience.

    Analyzing Newsletter Results for Optimization

    One of the most compelling reasons for using an email marketing platform, like MailChimp, is the ease of use and data collection. The MailChimp dashboard provides stats on how many people opened your email newsletter, which newsletter content pieces received the highest clicks, and more. This data is particularly useful when for improving your email marketing strategy and building newsletters, and the results can help you determine how to optimize your design and what content to include.

    When curating your content, make sure to include information that people want to read and interesting news about your company. Using an online email marketing platform, like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor, can streamline the process of building, sending and analyzing newsletters.

    As a busy CEO, CMO or other C-level executive, we know that your time is valuable and building and managing a newsletter isn’t your top priority. It makes sense to hire an experienced team to manage newsletter tasks, so you can keep leading. As an agency, we at Divining Point employ an email marketing strategy of our own and help clients write, design and deploy newsletters of their own. If you have questions about getting started or just need an extra hand, let us know. We’d be happy to help.  

  • 4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Pause Your Marketing

    There comes a time in a company’s evolution when they decide to pause their marketing and take a break. Common times for these breaks include summer and the weeks around the holidays, when companies are primarily focused on hitting deadlines and getting out of the office for family time. The reasons for this vary, but it usually has something to do with cost, performance, lack of vision, seasonality, or some combination of the above. In some cases, companies switch marketing teams (or employees) so frequently none of their campaigns every achieve liftoff, which in turn costs even more money for the company.

    When we ask clients why they haven’t allotted marketing budget for the upcoming period/months, we often hear excuses like this:

    • We’re heading into our slow period, so we need to save money.
    • We expected greater performance from our marketing team after 90 days.
    • We should have seen some results by now.
    • We’ll spend more budget and expand the scope as soon as we get more leads.
    • We’re not even sure what marketing is doing.

    Have you heard such statements murmured in budgeting meetings? Or have you whispered them yourself under your breath in a planning conversation? If so, we understand. But, we’re here to let you in on a secret to winning at marketing – don’t give up. Just as your competitors are quitting their marketing efforts, stay the course and your perseverance will pay off.

    When your company is tempted to throw in the towel and halt marketing, keep the following truisms in mind:

    Marketing Is More Than Just Hot Leads

    That sounds totally counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Isn’t that what all companies need? Leads; the hotter the better.

    But marketing, especially for services and B2B companies, very rarely yields an immediate wave of hot leads falling through the pipeline. This is particularly true for companies who have not significantly invested in developing their brand and, as a result, own very little market share. If your buyers don’t know you and you don’t have many case studies to support the quality of your work, your marketing must work overtime to build up your brand awareness and lure people to your website to learn more.

    But that’s not all.

    Your marketing must also continue to remind people that your company even exists. Not once. Not twice. Hundreds of times. A first time visitor to your website may be curious about your company and your products or services, but will most likely only be exploring for research purposes and not ready to purchase anything. Even if your buyer is eager to make a buying decision, it’s unlikely they’d take a chance right away with an unknown new player in the industry. Your marketing must consistently work to elevate your brand, remind the buyer about your value, and encourage them to return to your website. That’s how hot leads are formed.

    Guess what happens when you stop marketing? All of that work disappears. Your Top of the Funnel awareness dries up. Your Middle of the Funnel buyers quit returning. Any potential Bottom of the Funnel buyers forget to go back to your website. All the leads you were fostering will dry up and blow away.

    Your Competitors Are Waiting For You To Slow Down

    Going back to the beginning, if you’re a proverbial little fish trying to swim in a sea of big, strong, sharks, then pausing your marketing is analogous to handing more business to your competitors. In a highly competitive industry, the sharks are winning because they’re marketing and selling. They don’t stop swimming when the water gets rough. As a little fish trying to establish your brand, you’re threatening them and eating into their profits. And you better believe that when you stop marketing they won’t hesitate to eat up your market share.

    A more direct example of this is when you pause ads in AdWords, your ad rank drops – thus you sink down the list, thereby giving your competitors a lift in their advertising. Once you do return to run ads again, you end up spending more money to regain the position you once possessed. The same thing applies to SEO. When you stop maintaining onpage and offpage SEO efforts, your rankings drop, thereby raising the rankings of your competitors.

    Taking this a step further, when you stop marketing – even if the marketing isn’t performing like you’d hoped, you are removing your brand and your offer from the marketplace. That creates an opportunity for your competitor to capitalize on this opening. When you pause your marketing you make it even easier for them by removing yourself from the ad auctions and bringing down the cost to compete.

    Marketing Improves Over Time, Even In The Slow Period

    In nearly every case, your marketing should work on a cycle similar to this:

    Design / Launch / Test / Optimize

    In general, your marketing could take upwards of 6-9 months before you ever realize meaningful value. The process should begin with design efforts to develop a strong underlying strategy and a complete – and clear – set of goals. The first 90 days are essentially the first iteration after the launch of your marketing plan. It’s when most marketing teams review their metrics, learn what’s worked best (and least), make course corrections, and relaunch a second round.

    The continuous push for optimization, and improvement, is the hallmark of a good marketing team. Rather than letting anything stagnate, your team should consistently review metrics and make changes as necessary. After 90 days, there will be a body of data to inform the team of how to launch the next marketing campaign – if necessary! Sometimes it makes sense to do more of the same before changing things up in another 90 days.

    Regardless, along the way, your marketing is improving over time as your ad rank improves, your SEO rankings increase, your brand loyalty grows, and your buyers return to your site to engage with the company.

    Marketing Is More Expensive In the Beginning

    If you’re seeing numbers in the red and feeling the urge to pull the plug on your newly launched marketing strategy, just hold tight. Like any new, untested strategy, the first few months might produce some turbulence and feel like more work, and money, than it’s worth. But you can breathe a sigh of relief, because if you stick with your marketing strategy you won’t have to reinvest in setup costs, initial bids, initial tests, etc. As your marketing moves forward, your site will start to rank higher in search results, your ads will be seen by more people (and the right type of people) and your tools will start working together, all of which will, in turn, create a well-oiled marketing machine that produces ROI down the line.

    When choosing a marketing team, make sure to pick one that routinely reviews their efforts and uses the results to optimize your campaigns. You want a team that spends your money like it’s their own and takes action to make your dollar stretch the furthest and work the hardest.