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posted by Cathy Monetti Sep 29,2016 @ 03:28PM

Marketing Fundamentals in the Age of Revolution

My head spins as I think of the billion ways the science of marketing has changed in the last few years. Our toolbox has become so expansive, the options so varied for creating communications and brand experiences it is as daunting as it is thrilling to consider them.

When you find yourself overwhelmed, remember this bit of good news. Some things haven’t changed—and these truths apply to every business challenge marketing can help address, no matter what the delivery channel.
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Resist the urge to begin with a solution.

It’s so easy to leapfrog to the exciting (and seemingly productive) endgame. It feels efficient, and in this warp-speed competitive landscape, who doesn’t want that? We hear it often as clients come to us with their requests for specific deliverables. We need a TV spot, or a brochure, or a social media campaign. Our response is always the same. What business problem are you trying to solve?

Next, solve the right problem.

This takes hard work. It also requires that you be honest, direct and specific. Ask enough tough questions that you get a clear picture of the challenge you’re dealing with. Things like: Why is this the problem? When did it begin? What caused that? What are the contributing factors today? Is one of those the real issue here?

If you don’t go through the drill-down, you’ll likely end up with a solution that never gets at the cause, and therefore provides short-term relief, at best. It reminds me of an issue we’re dealing with in my neighborhood right now—the fact that our cove on our pretty manmade lake has disappeared since we moved in eight years ago. There’s a plan for digging it out, something about which we are thrilled. We will have water again! But it won’t solve the real problem, which is the silt that flows in every time it rains. Stopping that flow is the real problem to be solved.

Once you’ve drilled down and have identified the right problem, there’s another important question.

Is this an issue marketing can help solve?

Of course we marketers love it when the answer is yes. But so often there is other work to be done before marketing can help. Perhaps the issue is operational, or it could be a substandard product or service. Are employees informed, engaged and able to uphold the brand and its promise? If not, address these issues before spending a dime promoting or you’ll not only waste your marketing budget, you’ll also likely dig a deeper hole. As advertising guru David Ogilvy stated so poignantly: Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster. It’s so true. The last thing you want to do is spread dissatisfaction with your offering or invite customers in for a poor experience.

So the cards are on the table, the contributing issues have been addressed, and it’s time to market. Now what? There’s a lot to consider in developing powerful messaging, a plan for sharing and meaningful opportunities for engagement. But I’ll offer this vital step as a starter.

Look through the lens of your customer first. It sounds so simple, and yet most of the time this is done so half-heartedly—or not at all—much of the work that follows is off base. For most of our Riggs Partners’ clients we recommend bringing on a researcher who can get true and unbiased input from the target audience. And our goal is not to confirm what we suspected. It is always, always to discover something we didn’t already know. (That’s where the proverbial pot o’ gold lies.) When you find that sweet little nugget—that comment or recurring theme or nudge that shifts your perspective, even if just a little bit—begin there. Because now you’ve got something meaningful to work with that will resonate with the folks you are trying to reach.

Even in this age of person-to-person digital communications, developing and deploying a marketing plan is an expensive proposition. Add to this the reality that options for communicating are virtually limitless, and good decision-making becomes an overwhelming process. As in all things, when you’re not sure where to start, start with what you know. Begin with the basics.

*This article was originally featured on Columbia Regional Business Report 

posted by Courtney Fleming Sep 21,2016 @ 03:40PM

Counting Down to CreateAthon

It's hard to believe that our annual CreateAthon is only a month away. This will be Riggs Partners' 19th year of pro bono magic, and my personal third. It's interesting that even though you've done it before, you still get the night-before-the-first-day-of-school-jitters every year. You truly never know exactly what to expect. But every year, it's just as exciting, intense and rewarding as before.

The unfortunate reality is that most nonprofits can't afford professional marketing services, making it difficult for them to convey their purpose and move their mission forward.

That's where we come in.

For one day (24 hours of hands-on work, plus presentations afterwards), we work around the clock to produce a wide range of marketing materials that are as unique as each nonprofit we serve. And remarkably, CreateAthon as a national nonprofit organization has generated more than $24 million in pro bono marketing services for over 1,300 organizations.

CreateAthon plans to deliver $100 million in pro bono marketing services to the nonprofit marketplace by 2020. You can learn more about that here.

In the meantime, take a glimpse through last year's event in the SlideShare below and be on the lookout for more information about our upcoming event on Oct. 20-21.

 

posted by Kevin Smith Aug 31,2016 @ 02:29PM

Start by Thinking Like a Startup

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Established businesses don’t reach out to marketing communications firms like ours when things are fantastic. Typically, something has changed, and not for the better. We get called when sales have dropped, when the brand has become unclear or when past leaders have stepped aside to make way for someone new.

Beyond these conditions, established companies often have other things in common that contribute to lackluster performance. Many times, they lack a clear or a universally understood purpose that drives their organization. We define purpose as an understanding about the difference your enterprise is trying to make in the world.

Examples include:

Johnson and Johnson: To alleviate pain and suffering.

Charles Schwab: To be a relentless ally of the individual investor.

Whole Foods: To provide choices for nourishing the body, the community and the planet.

Without a shared sense of purpose in their organizations, businesses tend to be reactionary. Leaders tend to make decisions slowly. They spend their days, quarters and years trying to respond to shifts in the market, changes in customer or client demands, evolutions in the competitive landscape, and so on. The result is a lack of focus, and the desire to leave open every possible revenue opportunity, product and service line or geographic territory. Not surprisingly, none of these strategies perform adequately.

This dynamic is exacerbated by shifts in today’s business climate. Increasing competition, rising costs of goods and labor, changing customer needs – all are happening at an ever-quickening pace. The good news is that with effective counsel and a willingness to look at making some changes, established companies can become more competitive through a new commitment to their organizational health: taking the time to understand what drives them, what they are best at, and what it takes to get everyone on board with that mission. While it may be more difficult to make these types of strategic redirects in a more mature company, the organization is always made stronger by the effort.

Conversely, we see startup enterprises coming to the table with very intentional thinking as it relates to organizational health. Founders arrive with total clarity about their purpose as an organization, from HR considerations and behavioral expectations to product innovation and customer service. They use purpose as a strategic lens to guide decisions in many key areas.

Corporate Culture: Entrepreneurs understand that a strong culture begins with purpose. They also know that a company’s culture is vital to recruiting talent. Younger employees want more than a paycheck from their employers and demand their work accomplish something that makes them fulfilled.

Product Offering: Should the product line be niche? Appeal to multiple targets? Beyond the market data, effective startups are using organizational intent as a guidepost for making objective and decisive calls.

Sales: When purpose is foremost, so is the selling proposition. Further, expanding from one salesperson to a team is easier when everyone shares a common goal. Successful startups understand the power of a sales team that operates from the same playbook.

Pricing: Should the product be charged at a premium? Or should a certain feature be considered a value-add? Today’s new business leaders know if a price increase means you can better accomplish the mission, yes. If it goes against what the company stands for, no.

Corporate Social Responsibility: No longer a nice-to-do for large companies, startups recognize the importance of aligning their founding principles with work that can be done to support their communities. In mature organizations, CSR program decisions can also be made with the company’s core ideals in mind. For example, Johnson & Johnson provides drugs to underserved communities in the third world.

While startups don’t have the market cornered on building purpose-driven businesses, they are paying more and more attention to the new competitive realities of linking organizational health with business strategy and brand marketing. Firms like ours don’t create a brand’s image. Done well, our job is to reflect what is already there. So when you think about branding, don’t start by thinking about your logo or website. Begin by examining the impact your company wants to make for your employees, your customers and your community. Start by thinking like a startup.

This article originally appeared in the August 15-September 11 issue of Columbia Regional Business Report.

 

posted by Cathy Monetti Aug 18,2016 @ 04:56PM

Change, Nuance and Finding the Sweet Spot

A not-so-secret to success in business is the willingness to evolve. It’s been true from the beginning of time, I suspect, and I am quite sure the requirement has never been more significant than it is in the dynamic world market of today.

I believe so strongly, in fact, change has been a fundamental of our company since its founding nearly 30 years ago. It’s a practice we go about proactively—so much so that a joke around RP is how nice it would be to come in FOR JUST ONE DAY and not feel as if we were starting over.

 Oh, I am proud of that challenge.

 

AND SO IT IS that we’ve spent the summer talking through some newly articulated tenets for our work. I don’t have to tell you of the sea change brand marketing has experienced in the last few years; the digital revolution has not only supported the power shift, it created it. But there are subtle shifts, as well, tiny nuanced considerations that can mean the difference between well considered and invisible.

For example, it’s no surprise a well-designed brand/customer connecting point is the result of smart strategic planning. And yet it’s tempting to issue these like buckshot. There are so many options available to us today, what with endless delivery channels and proclaimed thought leadership and the prevailing belief the world waits (with bated breath) for whatever it is we have to say/sell/do.

But there is a sweet a spot.

Oh, there is a sweet spot and I encourage you to carefully articulate it. Work hard to identify the right time/place/exchange that will create a true brand loyalist—someone who will choose your brand over any other option and, more importantly, will tell others about it.

78272483_thumbnail-749515-edited.jpgA FEW WEEKS AGO we were having this very tenet discussion as we sat around the big kitchen table at the WECO. The question presented to all the Riggers was this: Give an example of a time you were converted to a brand loyalist. What was the brand touchpoint? How did it make you feel? What can we learn from it, and how can it make our work better?

I kicked off the conversation with my own story from the US Open tennis tournament. Sponsored in part by Lexus, VIP parking was available at Flushing Meadows to anyone who arrived in a Lexus or who presented a Lexus key. We zipped past the long, long line of cars waiting to fork over twenty bucks for general parking (on the outskirts of the gigantic tennis complex) and were ushered right in to a sweet spot (pun intended) near the stadium. And it was free.

The message: We, at Lexus, take care of our drivers.

Why it worked: a meaningful benefit ($20 and a great parking space) offered at the perfect time (a premiere event)

But there was also this important nuance: It was on brand for Lexus (luxury brand = VIP)

The conversation that afternoon was fascinating. The stories of brand loyalty were as diverse as our group, although many were of great customer service—a great reminder that even in this day of digital communciations, human exchanges still trump all.

 

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Can you remember a time a brand did something that converted you into a loyalist? 

I’d love to hear the story and share it with our team. Comment below, or send me a note to cathy@riggpartners.com.

posted by Julie Turner Aug 10,2016 @ 03:24PM

Hashtags, the big global event and you.

Let’s be frank for a minute. You can’t get away from hashtags any more and you’ll never be able to again. Whether you’re a lover or hater, hashtags are an integral — and helpful — aspect of the digital landscape.

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With the World Sporting Event That Cannot Legally Be Named without Paying for It upon us, there are several interesting subplots happening in the hashtag world. Let’s look behind the scenes of two social stories currently being battled out.

Twitter vs. U.S. College Football Fans
If you’re going to cheer on a team, say Great Britain, Twitter wanted to be sure you had a tweet-worthy hashtag. That’s why they reallocated the University of Nebraska’s longstanding Go Big Red hashtag (#GBR) and triggered the addition of a British flag to it (creating a temporary #hashflag). Seems easy enough, right?

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Turns out Nebraska fans don’t like it one bit. While the school doesn’t own the hashtag — since you can’t own a hashtag (more on that in a minute) — they’ve been using it for many years. Equally peeved are Purdue University, Eastern Carolina and even SEC stalwarts the University of Georgia Bulldogs. With football season fast approaching, expect #UGA tweets to sport a Ugandan flag for the duration of the Big Sportsing Thing.

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United States Olympic Committee vs. Nonsponsor Marketers
Remember how I said you couldn’t own a hashtag? Apparently you can trademark them as the Committee has pretty effectively done. To prevent ambush marketing, the USOC “advised” brands against marketing that referred to “Olympic results, shares or re-tweets of the official Olympic account, or use of official hashtags including #Rio2016 and #TeamUSA.”

Don’t worry, they’re not going to come after us Everyday Joes — individuals who tag their #phelpsface memes with official hashtags. In fact, the way some brands skirt around the mention is getting them some serious tweetplay.

So what does all of this hashtag fluttery mean for a modern marketer who doesn’t have Super Big World Game aspirations?

Hashtags are here to stay. Not the ones #youandyourfriendsjustmakeup. Real hashtags that integrate varied marketing strategies to multiple audiences in platforms ranging from Instagram to Facebook. Hashtags are indexed by social networks and searchable by anyone. That’s staying power you can harness for free.

However, if your hashtag has grown into a valued brand asset, you now have some means to protect it. You can invest in trademark protection for a hashtag via the United States Patent and Trademark Office. At a cost of about $275 and six months, you can register a trademark though you may experience bumps in the road based on the hashtag content.

In short, hashtags are here to stay. If you’re finally ready to wade in, tread very, very carefully.

 

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By the numbers

youtube is 2nd largest search engine