19 September 2019
It’s no surprise: we all work hard to ensure our departments and companies are running as lean as possible, building flexible teams of multitaskers. The upside? The latest user-friendly technology and trends make it easier than ever to do things yourself. The technology is amazing. Things that less than a generation ago required teams of professionals or months of effort—from animation to finding a relationship—now can be programmed, automated and executed at the touch of a button. Or a swipe on a touch screen. It’s a brave new world. What a time to be alive (and all that). Less than sure about how to use all these new tricks and toys? Good news: there’s probably a video tutorial, cheat sheet or simple hack just a few keystrokes away. But is the do-it-yourself route the best thing for your company? We see the DIY urge most often in specialized disciplines, or where final results or performance expertise can be highly subjective. Why hire a professional photographer when somebody already on the team has a perfectly good camera? Who can really say that John’s homemade eggrolls aren’t as good as the caterer’s? To make do with the assets you have—they seem experienced enough, right?—is a tempting choice. But before you decide to trust an enthusiastic amateur with a professional job, consider: Are the savings worth the hidden costs? What you save upfront in professional fees may get eaten up by lost time or compatibility issues with other systems. The web design your neighbor’s friend can do on the side might look spectacular. But can it connect to your inventory system? Is the quality the same? Some basic tasks, like uploading a video or social post, are either completed or they’re not. But most projects in this business need to perform to a higher standard. A repaired computer that works but runs slowly causes inefficiency and costs you money. A product spec sheet with great copy but factual errors can cost you a sale. Or a customer. Can you count on delivery? People tend to give priority to assignments that are the most important … to them. A good product at a fair price is of no value to your operation if you don’t have it when and where you need it. There’s a story about a famous photographer at a dinner party. After the main course, her host comments, “I’ve admired your work in many magazines. You must have a terrific camera.” The photographer replies, “I enjoyed the dinner. You must have a great stove.” If there’s an app for that, maybe you technically can do anything. If there’s a friend of a relative who knows someone who can help, maybe they’re the asset you need. Maybe not. But nobody can do everything, at least not well. And not when your success—and your reputation—are on the line.
13 September 2019
If you’ve ever sat through a long meeting debating the relative merits of the headline in concept #2 versus the color choice in #7 (or maybe with the design of concept #16?), then you’ve seen firsthand how approaching a marketing challenge from too many angles is basically like not approaching it at all. Everybody likes choice, but too many options at decision time often have the effect of leaving your brand team confused and your creative team demoralized. So how do we ensure we’re considering the best ideas without trying to execute all of them at once? Even more important, how to can you learn to ask for and expect only the top-drawer concepts—the top three, the mind-blowing two—rather than the entire pool of a dozen or more your team started with? It hinges first on a solid brief. By outlining the specific challenge and strategy, the creative team can zero in on the best, brightest solution from the beginning. There may be refinements along the way, but the surest way to get where you’re going is always knowing where you ultimately want to be from the start. Your creative team shares this responsibility. When they know and understand the market situation and the strategy you’ve set, you can challenge them to bring you the strongest ideas and best executions—the solutions you actually need. Trust the team’s expertise. At the end of the day, your creative team’s skills and experience are your most valuable assets. To get the most from your investment in them, you must first value their experience as much as their work—it’s the surest way to free them (even challenge and motivate them) to do their best work. Expect a focused presentation. How many concepts do you want in the meeting? The correct answer is the fewer the better. When the brief is on target, the creative product likely will be, too. Asking for too many second-tier ideas from the reject pile takes the focus away from stronger concepts—and makes it tough to execute any of the strong candidates at the highest level. Shouldn’t they have a back-up plan? Of course. And trust us, they’ve got one (likely more than one). But a word of caution … you really only want to see these under certain circumstances: The idea supporting the initial presentation misses the mark in a way that wasn’t anticipated in the brief. The secondary idea takes a completely different approach than the one they’re leading with. At the end of the day, it’s all about the process—the challenges your team has already navigated and solved, the tough (sometimes ruthless) creative decisions that have already occurred along the way. A strong creative team will have curated and selected only the best and most effective work long before it’s unveiled to you on presentation day.
04 September 2019
Amidst these days of digital dominance, it’s rare to find a business that doesn’t understand—and try to capitalize on—the importance of good SEO. In fact, you’ll find that most organizations, regardless of size, agree it’s among the most vital factors for long-term success. And yet there are still some that are missing the mark on having a solid SEO strategy in place. Some without a targeted plan at all. Others who’ve just let it slide a little (or a lot). There are countless experts and articles underlining the tactics, trends and tools that still matter—and more important, that still work. SEO is alive and well, so why would any business push it to the back burner? Or worse, ignore it or table it entirely? It’s a long-term strategy. SEO takes commitment, especially from key stakeholders within a company. When it comes to digital tactics, oftentimes the mindset is to simply deliver instant traffic and hit all the desired key performance indicators. *brushing off hands* “Mission accomplished,” they think. In reality, a strong digital media strategy is more complex than that. Of course, all the paid methods such as Facebook ads, Display and Search provide instant gratification. But the critical connection is the one between your SEO strategy and your marketing efforts—meaning, are they working in conjunction? There’s a wealth of keyword information to be had from just one search campaign … including deeper insight into which keywords are actually driving conversions. It lacks a tangible objective. Crazy as it sounds, there are businesses out there that don’t know what their goals are—or have trouble articulating them in a way that can be capitalized upon. Maybe those goals have changed. Just like with paid campaigns, a business needs to have clear KPIs attached to their SEO efforts. Think about what you want to accomplish from your SEO: Generate more organic leads? Increase the number of people reading your content? Create a better user experience? Secure higher placements? Once those details are identified, a clear SEO strategy can be crafted (or adjusted). It’s overwhelming. Many times, companies just don’t know where to start. They know their business objectives, but maybe not how to translate them into SEO objectives. Or an established business has an old SEO plan that doesn’t seem to be delivering the way it once did. Regardless of SEO experience or history, the best thing to do in these situations is to run a comprehensive SEO site audit. This in-depth assessment can uncover items that need to be addressed, added or fixed in order to ensure your site ranks well in a search—presumably, higher than it was before the audit. It can also improve your site’s overall user experience and increase conversions from other sources of traffic such as Google Ads or social media. Getting Started: The place to start often is with a site audit. Through this process, you and your team will identify opportunities to better align your online presence with your business objectives. Then you can track the metrics you’ll use to measure success. SEO is never a one-off project. It’s a continuing process of responding to your customer preferences and user behavior, and adjusting to changes in both the online and competitive environments.