The world of advertising and marketing is an ever-changing animal, evolving at faster rates than ever witnessed before as marketers continue to explore the vast expanse of the digital landscape. For that reason (and many others), it’s wise to stay on top of the trends when developing your strategic planning from one year to the next. Since the New Year is particularly NEW, it’s the perfect time to take a peek at a few of the hottest marketing trends that will be ruling the business world over the course of the coming months… and years. The future is NOW and if you’re not already incorporating the following tools to your marketing arsenal, you may want to seriously consider what they could do for your company’s brand in 2019 and beyond…

  1. Traditional Advertising Gives Way to Influencers and Content Marketing: While it seems there will always be a place for traditional advertising, the move towards connecting with influencers and having them connect with your target audience continues to gain steam. Brands will team up with celebrities, YouTubers and bloggers to gain a little clout and credibility. Content marketing is another way of positioning your company and/or product as a must have. Develop and distribute relevant content consistently – not just on your own website, but also on others as a guest contributor. Editors of online publications are often on the lookout for great content that allows them to share new insights with their readers. If done properly, content marketing can not only position your company for success, but it can also position its leadership members (for whom the content can be ghost-written, if needed) as industry experts. Pair those two things with the ever-growing love affair consumers have with social media and you’ve got a recipe for success for digital marketing in 2019.
  2. A Personal Touch Trumps Technology: Although automation has made life SO much easier for countless marketers, it’s important that your brand retains is unique “voice” and dedication to the customer experience. A more conversational tone in content marketing, email marketing and social media paired with tactics geared toward engagement will aid in this, as will a dedicated effort to balance the somewhat impersonal nature of automation by putting a human face on your company whenever possible – through face-to-face interactions and phone calls to webinars, speaking engagements and experiential marketing.
  3. Voice Search is Surging: While the phrase “Google it!” remains entirely viable, the calls for Alexa, Siri and Cortana to search for our most burning queries are rapidly rising. By 2020, ComScore estimates that 50% of all search-based queries will be made by voice. And since people tend to speak differently than they might text, this is another important reason to begin infusing a more conversational tone to your copywriting. You’ll also want to think like your target audience, begin researching the most common searches related to your industry/services/product line, and start creating cornerstone content that will begin leading your target audience TO YOU.
  4. Amplify Your UI experience with Chatbots: Of course, chatbots are nothing new, but the way they interface with website visitors is evolving. Again, a more conversational tone comes into play as more and more companies are using chatbots to not only act as data collectors and to encourage engagement, but also as a friendly extension of their brand image. Research comes into play once more as you try to predict the conversations your guests might want to have with your chatbot – including the questions they might ask and the pleasant responses they will receive. If done properly, it will amplify your UI experience AND enhance your guest’s customer service experience – aiding in conversions from prospect to viable consumer.
  5. Creativity is (STILL) King: As the internet becomes an ever-increasingly busy marketplace – with more and more competitors vying for the same target audience – the need to find new ways to stand out is potentially greater than ever before. Creativity and innovation serve as the barkers on the sidewalks of old – beckoning potential customers to “step inside” your website and see what’s new. Video is currently one of the most powerful tools in your creativity arsenal – particularly video that provides “news they can use” and something they are likely to share with others. White papers are another terrific tool – once again, research is your friend when trying to gain insight to your target audience’s collective mindset – helping you to predict what they might want most to learn about. You can also combine the two concepts for the development of a webinar. The point is, it’s vital to be proactive in the enhancement of your content in such a way that will consistently DRIVE traffic to your website AND keep them there.

Don’t miss out on potential customers in the New Year! The award-winning team at Woodall Creative Group welcomes the chance to help your company implement any and all of the above marketing trends to your digital strategy in 2019. We’d love to start a dialogue with you to learn what your needs and wishes are for the coming year and well into the future. Call us today at (706) 658-0244, email us at info@woodallcreative.com or fill out our convenient online contact form and one of our team members will be in touch with you shortly!

Sources:  Forbes and Advertoscope 

October proves an excellent time of year for companies to tweak their marketing calendar and nail down an incredible campaign or two (or more) leading into the holidays and the end of the year. It’s also a great opportunity to start giving shape to your marketing calendar for the COMING year. Unfortunately, October is ALSO 10 months into the year… following a change of seasons when the days grow shorter and nights grow longer… and your team may have their eyes firmly fixed on the holidays ahead and all of the promise a new year holds. Creative juices may have slowed to a trickle, BUT all hope is not lost. There are a number of ways to get those creative juices flowing again all while building a solid team, a sense of excitement and a series of marketing campaigns that are so good… they’re scary!

It’s ALIVE… ALIVE!!!

Rather than merely “Frankensteining” together pieces and parts of ideas all by yourself to round out this year’s marketing calendar, brainstorming proves a terrific tool for bringing a team together around a common goal, encouraging the creation and sharing of ideas, and getting everyone excited about the remainder of this year and the year to come. Some important ways to facilitate an effective brainstorming session are:

  • Communicate clearly WHEN and WHERE the brainstorming session is set to take place, as well as WHAT you expect everyone to bring to the table (enthusiasm, ideas, statistics, etc…)
  • Have well-defined objectives set for your meeting. If you can clear everyone’s calendars for an entire day, you may want to tackle the end of the year’s marketing campaigns for the first half of the meeting, take a break and then reconvene to get a jump on NEXT year’s marketing calendar. In the event that you can only get a few hours out of everyone, you may want to schedule TWO meetings instead of just one.
  • Consider providing beverages, snacks and lunch to help recharge your people and fuel new ideas. Since sugar creates a sense of energy and euphoria, you may want to set out a couple of bowls throughout the room.
  • Create a theme for your meeting. By creating a theme, you could make your brainstorm session seem more like a celebration than a chore. You want everyone entering the room in the right frame of mind – ready to have some fun.
  • Provide plenty of breaks and time to stretch those legs. It’s important to let your meeting attendees break away from time to time to check their emails/voicemails, answer nature’s call and clear their heads so that when they return to the room, they’re ready to get their head back into the game.
  • Start your meeting with a fun team-building game. By kicking off your brainstorming session with a strong sense of teamwork and a little laughter, you’re setting your meeting up for success. Several AWESOME ideas are bound to come out of your time together.
  • Consider having a break-out session or two. Assign smaller teams for break-out sessions to help flesh out ideas. Some people are more likely to speak up and share their ideas among a smaller group. These ideas can then be brought back to the collective.
  • Embrace the concept that there ARE no bad ideas. Everyone in that room is likely to believe that their idea is the most creative and most worthy of being selected. Practice your poker face and use only words of encouragement. Once you shoot someone’s idea down, they are more likely to pull back and stop engaging with the group. Record all of the ideas and take a vote at the end of the meeting for the ones everyone likes best/believes will produce the best results.

Find Someone to Be the Hyde to Your Jekyll

A truly effective creative partner will serve as an extension of your own marketing team – almost like two halves of one whole (but in this case, one doesn’t have to be good while the other is evil – they can BOTH be good). You may elect to bring them in prior to the brainstorming session – not only will they bring GREAT original ideas to the table, but they will bring a fresh “outsiders” perspective to the meeting. Although, if you elect to bring them in AFTER your brainstorming session, they can flesh out and implement the ideas your team has brought to light. The BEST creative partners (like the award-winning team at Woodall Creative Group) will find ways to take those ideas and supercharge them for maximum benefit based on delivery mode(s), target audience and the strength of your messaging/images. When all is said and done (and we’ve done our job properly), you’ll be like Dr. Jekyll after Mr. Hyde’s had a night out on the town exclaiming, “WOW! I can’t believe we did all that!”

Are you ready to create marketing campaigns that are so good, they’re scary? Contact Woodall Creative Group at design@woodallcreative.com, call us at 706-658-0244 or fill out our convenient online contact form for frightfully stunning results!

Although marketing is an extremely wise investment when trying to build your company’s unique brand image and grow your bottom line, client base and reputation in the marketplace, not all forms of marketing call for large sums of cash to help get your story out there. As a marketing agency with more than 25 years, dozens of awards and a diverse roster of clients to its credit, Woodall Creative Group has not only guided its clients into using cost-effective – and sometimes cost-free – marketing tools, but has also applied all of the following tips to grow their own business. So let’s count down the 10 Marketing Tips That Don’t Cost a Dime:

  1. Be Proactive in the Marketing of Your Business: The first – and most important – bit of advice regarding marketing is to DO IT! All too often, companies allow the marketing of their brand to take a backseat to more pressing matters – only to learn later that they should have never taken their foot off the gas. Plan a marketing calendar – keeping it active and fairly steady year-round with spikes in activity leading into your most lucrative months or seasons. Never fly by the seat of your pants – your company’s success is far too important for that.
  2. Identify and Leverage your Competitive Advantage: Really focus on what makes your company special. What sets it apart from the competition? Next, ask yourself “What do prospective clients have to gain from this advantage?” Are you the least expensive or most experienced? Do you provide top-notch customer service or a proprietary product? Do you offer extended hours or specialized services? While gaining insights to your own business, become a student of your competitors in order to discover what you can do or provide that they cannot and then weave it into all of your messaging – from copy on your website to prospect communications to talking points at network events. Make your competitive advantage an integral part of your overall brand and remain consistent in your use of that advantage in all digital and traditional marketing.
  3. Make Sure Prospective Customers Can Find You: Did you know that nearly half of U.S. adults said they have Googled someone before doing business with them? With so much research being conducted online before a prospect ever picks up a phone or sets foot inside your brick-and-mortar location, you need to make sure your company is listed anywhere and everywhere possible. There are a wide variety of free options, such as social media sites, city business directories and websites like Google Local, YellowPages.com, BizHwy.com and more. If you’re a member of a Chamber of Commerce or industry-specific organization, make sure your company is listed in their online directory. Take care to research keywords that will help get your company noticed and weave them into your business description in every directory and take full advantage of each listing – filling out as much information as you can in hopes of driving traffic to your website and through your front door.
  4. They Like You, They Really Like You: You know when you’ve had a great customer interaction, or when they’ve had a positive experience. Don’t be shy! Ask for a positive review. If your company is set up for reviews on Facebook, ask your customers to share their experience with others. If you are on a site like Yelp, TripAdvisor or an industry-specific review site, ask them to review you there. Did you know that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation and 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more? It’s worth it to ask, and it might make that customer feel special to know they’re doing something to help a local small business. Even better, the best reviews can be repurposed as client testimonies for use on your website, in social media posts, in newsletters, as references to potential clients and more!
  5. Word of Mouth Still Reigns Supreme: In addition to reviews, you can also ask your best customers to serve as ambassadors and directly refer your company to friends, family, business associates, neighbors, church members, anyone and everyone who will listen. You can also take it one step further and look to your affiliates to do the same in a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” spirit of doing business. Related companies within the same or similar industries make great referrals, such as a dentist referring a patient to an orthodontist, an architect referring a client to an engineer or builder, etc… Make relationship building a major part of your marketing strategy. If you don’t have a referral rewards program in place, considering adding one to cultivate and reward referrals. Fostering a solid referral stream is one of the most effective ways to grow a business.
  6. Set Your Sights on Being an Industry Expert: It’s not enough to be the best at what you do – you have to let others know that you’re the best at what you do. Start positioning your company and members of its leadership team as experts in your industry. Create a personal brand for each expert in your company. Network, write blogs, create webinars, book speaking engagements, submit your work for awards, offer yourself as a source for local journalists and more in order to share your knowledge and grow your brand.
  7. Narrow Down Your Target Audience: While casting a wider net CAN work in catching customers, it’s far from ideal. Instead, really drill down to define your target audience – for instance, companies that might benefit from a relationship with your company. Identify the “Top 20” with which you’d like to get a foot in the door to start. Become familiar with each of their businesses and all of the key players you’d like to reach. When you do market to them, do so in a personal, authentic and approachable way while conveying your all-important brand image and communicating CLEARLY why they should do business with you.
  8. The Show Must Go On: Once you’ve narrowed down your target audience and begun making contact, meetings with prospects should soon follow. But don’t just hand over a proposal, thank them for their time and be on your merry way at the end of the meeting. Use this opportunity to set a date for the NEXT meeting. Before the next meeting takes place, keep the dialogue going in order to stay top of mind for that prospect and continue to build on that initial relationship. Chances are, you’re not the ONLY one in your industry with whom they’ve set a meeting. Stay in the game by sending a follow-up email and/or making a follow-up call, sharing relevant blogs, adding them to your e-newsletter database and more. All of these can be pre-designed and set to a schedule so it doesn’t require a lot of extra thought on your part. Just make sure these follow-ups feel fresh and personalized, rather than canned.
  9. Place an Emphasis on Long-Term Client Retention: In the pursuit of new customers, the existing customer is sometimes lost in the mix. A large part of your marketing calendar should include marketing to CURRENT customers with a goal of building long-term relationships. Let them know you appreciate them. BUILD on that existing relationship by offering additional services that could benefit them. After all, a happy customer is one of the best marketing tools you can have!
  10. Market, Rinse, Repeat: Once your marketing calendar is starting to wind down, it’s time to start building another one. Don’t take your eye off the ball. Track what elements worked and what didn’t. For those that didn’t work as well as you’d hoped, ask yourself WHY and consider tweaking those elements in hopes of achieving better results the next go-around. Build your new marketing calendar to be even stronger and more robust that the last.

When you ARE ready to invest part of your annual budget into marketing – from cutting edge digital means to tried-and-true traditional methods and everything in between – Woodall Creative Group welcomes the opportunity to add your company to our growing list of satisfied customers!

Statistics Source

The Importance of Consistency and Multiple Touchpoints in Marketing

Rolling out an effective marketing plan is not unlike planting season on a farm. If executed properly, you’ll get to reap the rewards later for all of the preparation and promoting you do today. Just like at a farm, you till the soil, sow your seeds, keep watch to ensure growth and prepare for the harvest.

Dr. Jeffrey Lant – professor, author of more than 60 books and internationally renowned expert on the subjects of marketing, business development, copywriting and more – put forth the “Rule of Seven” marketing principle decades ago. The principle dictates that it takes an average of seven touchpoints before a customer remembers your brand message and feels compelled to act.  That’s a lot of marketing seeds to plant. While the advent of the internet and social media has served to speed up the process considerably from the original 18-month period for the Rule of Seven to take root, there are a number of things to take into consideration when planting those seeds…

Tilling the Soil: When planning your marketing campaign, make an effort to really stir things up. Do your research to see if there’s an audience segment you may have missed with prior campaigns who might be the next great thing for your brand. Also, dig DEEP to come up with a marketing campaign that will really grab your intended audience’s attention. Phone it in, and that will not only come through in your less-than-stellar messaging – but also in customer’s response.

“In a crowded marketplace, you want your message to stand out,” said Tracy Woodall, founder of Metro Atlanta-based Woodall Creative Group. “Be sure to outline all of the differentiators that set your company apart from the competition – everything that makes you ‘special.’ Stay true to the look and feel of previous campaigns for brand consistency, unless it’s time for a complete company rebrand – which is an excellent way to really shake things up and attract members from a new, previously underserved market.

Sowing the Seeds: Once you have a fairly clear plan in place, it’s time to start sowing the seeds through the design of your campaign and identification of the various modes of delivery you will use to reach your audience. Rather than planting just ONE kind of seed, use a variety of means to get your message out there. Think of the rows in your garden as streams of communication: website, digital marketing, e-mail marketing, social media, direct mail, print ads, TV commercials, radio ads, billboards, promotional items, experiential marketing and MORE. Because today’s marketplace is so crowded and noisy, multiple touchpoints are the key to success. Don’t merely select one avenue at one time – it will be the marketing equivalent of shouting into the wind. After you’ve identified the best modes of delivery, start creating designs to fit.

“If design is not your strength, consider outsourcing to an agency,” shared Woodall. “You may be highly skilled at identifying your audience, brainstorming ideas and media buying, but if you’re lacking in the design department – your entire campaign will suffer. To compound matters, you may even be compromising your company’s brand image. Professionally designed digital and print pieces can have a completely opposite effect, propelling your brand in a positive direction in the eyes of your audience.”

Keep Watch to Ensure Growth: Once you launch your campaign, don’t take your eye off the ball. Track results and make adjustments when necessary. If you notice that your digital efforts are really taking off, whereas your print campaign might be falling short – you may want to reallocate any remaining budget to the digital side for continued traction.

“Many companies miss this step,” said Woodall. “They send their campaign out into the world, then watch their sales results to measure its success. There are a variety of ways to track results and measure success – not merely by watching one’s bottom line. “

Prepare for the Harvest: Another often overlooked step many companies miss is to communicate the upcoming campaign to its employees. It’s SO IMPORTANT to share your marketing direction with the folks in the trenches.

“An internal campaign rollout is a great way to get team members excited and to encourage them to reinforce that same messaging to customers,” suggests Woodall. “Try to practice patience. The results won’t always be immediate. However, if your marketing campaign is truly successful, your employees will be better prepared for a bountiful harvest of happy customers. Not to mention the fact that your product or service had better live up to the hype, or that new customer you just worked so hard to earn might not return in the future.”

Begin Planning for Next Year’s Planting Season:  Once your campaign has hit the market and you’ve begun to reap the rewards of your hard work, it’s not time to rest on your laurels. It’s time to start projecting and laying the groundwork for NEXT YEAR’S marketing campaign.

“Take a look at your tracking to assess what worked and what didn’t,” said Woodall. “If everything worked, pat yourself on the back and determine what had the strongest impact on your campaign’s success: mode of delivery, audience identification, the message itself or a combination of all of the above. If some elements were stronger than others, start considering ways to make the weaker elements stronger the next go-around for even BETTER results next year.”

Woodall Creative Group is a trusted resource for marketing managers and company leaders throughout the Southeast seeking a creative partner to share their company’s unique brand story with the world. If you need help planning for a harvest of your own, contact the team at Woodall Creative Group at 706-658-0244, info@woodallcreative.com or via our convenient online contact form. To learn more about what we do and sneak a peek inside our extensive portfolio, visit www.woodallcreative.com.

Is it better to be a small fish in a big pond (where you risk getting gobbled up by bigger fishes) OR to be a big fish in a small pond? It’s a question more and more brands are asking themselves these days. Continuous evolution is the key to survival. Take for instance the recent, tragic case of Toys “R” Us, Inc. One might believe that they had found their niche as THE biggest toy store chain in the world. Unfortunately, its inability to evolve due to mismanaged debt and growing competition from retailers like Walmart have apparently led to its untimely demise – at least here in the U.S. When you read the lamenting tales of bloggers and journalists who grew up as “Toys “R” Us Kids,” it’s clear that the final blow to Toys “R” Us’ success was something deeper… they lost that personal touch – that ability to connect with its audience and make them believe that they, too, should be a “Toys “R” Us Kid.”

The American Marketing Association (AMA) suggests that “as personalization increases, brands will find growth opportunities in niches rather than mass markets.” Trying to be everything to everyone is seemingly only working for Amazon these days. Personalized marketing involves a combination of data analysis and digital technology to deliver personal, targeted messaging to current and prospective customers. In doing so in an effective way, sometimes your niche finds YOU. Through tracking, it should become clear who is responding and to what they are responding. One way to go about it might be to use that knowledge to help find your niche, and then consider a rebrand to fit.

From logo and website to an across the board digital marketing plan, a strategic marketing partner like Woodall Creative Group can not only help you determine that core audience and the messaging they want to hear but can also design a rebrand to which your niche will respond.  Our team was called upon by longtime client, Kids ‘R’ Kids Learning Academies, in 2010 to help them change the way they were perceived in the market. Virtually since the company’s launch, Kids ‘R’ Kids had used a logo at their schools all across the nation that reflected a more playful vibe. Due to the evolution of their business and the changing perception of early education in the marketplace, Woodall Creative Group revamped their brand from an image related mainly to childcare to that of an elite learning academy – which their new logo reflected. This, in turn, impacted all of their collateral material, signage, messaging, website and more, and eight later, Kids ‘R’ Kids continues to reap the rewards of this gutsy move.

Entrepreneur Magazine has outlined the following five qualities for any good niche:

  1. It takes you where you want to go—in other words, it conforms to your long-term vision.
  2. Somebody else wants it—namely, customers.
  3. It’s carefully planned.
  4. It’s one-of-a-kind, the “only game in town.” – NOTE: While WCG agrees that this an ideal, it’s often a tall order for most brands, particularly in larger cities. However, we firmly believe that just about any company can find something unique that they have to offer their target audience… something that strongly distinguishes them from their competition.
  5. It evolves, allowing you to develop different profit centers and still retain the core business, thus ensuring long-term success.

In today’s world, companies need to resist the age-old practice of casting a broad net and employing shotgun marketing tactics. Instead, consider using these tools to determine your niche:

  • Begin with what YOU want. Define who your ideal customer might be.
  • Next, determine whether or not your product AND your brand image is a good fit for your ideal customer. You may own a cookware retail shop, but your NICHE could be “affluent aspiring chefs”. Your product line should reflect that, as should your messaging and brand image. To enhance your standing among that core group (and increase the level of personalization), you could begin marketing cooking workshops on social media.
  • Now it’s time to start a dialogue. You may conduct a focus group or actually TALK to people who fit your idea of the ideal customer. Find out what they want and how you can improve. This step may involve several layers to determine if you’re ready to pull the trigger or head back to the drawing board.
  • Now that you’ve done your homework, it’s time to take your plan to the implementation stage. This is where your creative partner will prove most helpful as they design a rebrand to fit your niche.

Need help determining your niche and designing a rebrand to fit?  Woodall Creative Group and our talented team of designers, content specialists and account managers welcome the chance to help you! Contact us TODAY to schedule an evaluation of your current brand image and target audience! We can be reached at 706-658-0244, info@woodallcreative.com or via our convenient online contact form.

Build a Brand Story You Believe In… And Your Customers Will Follow.

All great brand stories involve a love affair of sorts. Entrepreneurs with a burning passion for the work they were doing, product they were making or service they were providing launched companies that could withstand the test of time. A young Henry Ford’s fascination with taking watches apart and putting them back together again would one day give birth to the Ford Motor Company® and the assembly line technique of mass production that is still used in manufacturing today. A cook named Harland Sanders scratched the names of 12 herbs and spices into the back of his kitchen door, perfected a recipe for fried chicken that he first sold out of a roadside restaurant in Kentucky, adopted the name Colonel Sanders and launched a company that now boasts over 20,500 KFC® restaurants in more than 125 countries around the world. We could go on and on about pharmacist Dr. John Pemberton and his invention of Coca-Cola® or how two guys named Steve (Jobs and Wozniak) built a computer in a garage, never dreaming that the company they created – Apple, Inc.® – would one day boast one of the most recognizable logos on the planet and a net worth of $752 billion (and rising.) Every company has a (brand) story to tell, so make sure yours is a good one!

Whether you are the founder of the company, the experienced marketing manager or newly hired, it’s important to not only LOVE the brand with which you’re associated, but to also BELIEVE in it.

If you’re a seasoned veteran at the company, at one time – likely in the very beginning – there was a fire in your belly and a skip in your step every time you went to work. You want your customers to feel that same sense of excitement when they go to buy your product or service – whether it’s a hamburger, wrinkle cream, ticket for a cruise or sports car. If your company doesn’t have a brand story (or the current one isn’t a brand story that you LOVE), get to the root of what inspired your company’s creation and all of the special moments that fueled its evolution. Use that to inspire your brand story – from the copy on your website, the text inside a brochure, the words your salesforce utters… even down to the colors, typeface and images you use in all of your marketing efforts. Then use that brand story to sell an EXPERIENCE rather than a service, market a LIFESTYLE rather than a product.

A well-conceived and compelling brand story can give your company purpose and vision, while aiding in its position and perception in the marketplace. At Woodall Creative Group, we dive deep to learn everything we can about the clients we serve to make sure their brand story is serving them well. If it isn’t, we can help them rebrand the company by developing a brand story that is SO GOOD it will make them fall back in love with their company, the products/services they sell and the customers they serve… and vice-versa! Once the new brand story is in place, our team can help plot out a strategic marketing plan to get the word out about all of the exciting changes.

Ask yourself… Do you love your company’s brand story? If not, it’s time to start brainstorming a new one with Woodall Creative Group!

To schedule a meeting, call us at 706-658-0244 or CONTACT US online.