3 Business Success Trends for 2014

take the plungeWelcome to 2014. This year will be more competitive. This year, the marketing din is going to get a lot louder. This year is also going to be the year you get savvy about marketing your small or medium size business. To help you do so, here are three trends that will affect the business landscape, and your own bottom lines.

Social Media Is Not Optional. The days of just dipping your toe in the social media waters are long gone (circa 2011). You’re either engaged in social media marketing or you’re not, and – trust me on this one – you have to be engaged. No modern, effective marketing plan is complete without a social media component. Get expert advice on how to start. Pick your platforms with care. Develop a content strategy that is authentic to your brand and develop protocols and best practices for conversing with your followers. When all of that is done, then you can jump into the social media pool. (Remember, no toe dipping. This year calls for a full on, no hesitation cannon ball into the deep end – but you have to plan it out first.)

The Value of Public Relations Is Growing. While publishers may be consolidating media outlets, the ironic twist is the demand for quality content is disproportionately expanding. What this means for your brand is opportunity; opportunity to develop meaningful content and, more importantly, content people want to share. One caveat – that content must rarely be brand-centric. While the content should be relevant to your space, it cannot put your brand front-and-center if you want it to be seen as authoritative, authentic and of innate value to the public. PR is increasingly going to require a mix of earned and owned media, but that owned media – if executed well – can pay significant dividends. This content marketing (or brand journalism) trend is growing rapidly, and your public relations advisor or team needs to be leading the charge.

Smartphones Are Windows to the World. As mobile access continues to become part of everyone’s new normal, brands need to consider how to engage their consumer audiences via this medium. A responsive designed website is just the start of ensuring your brand and/or products are accessible on any mobile device. You’ll also want to track your website’s analytics to monitor your level of mobile web traffic and adjust your marketing efforts accordingly. Additionally, opt-in SMS text messaging campaigns and branded Apps are two mobile marketing tools we’ll be seeing more of in the year ahead.

These and other tactics are the new business as usual tools. More and more, companies will need to adapt to the latest technologies if they want to engage with their audiences. Meanwhile, the New Year offers new challenges and ample opportunity. On behalf of everyone at Kimball Communications, may your businesses find success in overcoming the former and excel at leveraging the latter.

Advertisements

Becoming Mobile and Social – Reflections from the IMCA Creative Forum

Finding really valuable take-aways from industry conferences can be a challenge. I went into the IMCA Creative Forum in Atlanta on Feb. 21 with a vested interest (full disclosure: I am on the IMCA board), but also some anticipation to learn more about everything from mobile marketing to social media integration.

Jon Beber of BilltoMobile opened the forum with insight into the incredible impact mobile marketing will have on our lives and the strategies of marketing and communications pros – smart phones, not computers, will drive everyday life and “PC analytics will not work with smart phones.” Mobile marketing needs to be part of the integrated communications mix.

James Wisdom, Director of New Media at Aflac, was a great follow-up with “The Power of Authenticity.” In this context, he discussed Aflac’s response to customer services issues raised on Facebook and their use of the Facebook Causes app: “If social media is talking about a cause, people are okay getting hammered about it.” More information I could use.

John Coombe of Liberty Mutual built on those ideas, describing their success with the Liberty Responsibility Project. He explained how this helped Liberty overcome consumer distrust about insurance and raised brand awareness 50 percent. They engaged customers in a dialogue and celebrated their customers’ responsibility – engaging over 10 million unique visitors. He also pointed out that 67% of agents are engaged in social media. That’s a tidbit that will help.

These are all great ideas and tidbits of information, but how do I sell these to my clients who may be timid or help them pitch their forward-thinking communications ideas to management? No worry – it was Sam Harrison up next with great tools for pitching ideas, all built on that great David Olgivy quote: “Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea until its presented to them by a good salesperson.” And he added 5 ideas for pitching ideas to management, emphasizing that “passion is a transfer of enthusiasm.”

After lunch, Tom Pytel of Allied World showed how his in-house creative team breaks through the marketing boredom and never lets budget limit creativity. Innovating collateral is not specifically relevant to my work, but it was inspiring to all of us who may be tempted to succumb to mediocrity.

And finally Howard Yermish (he claims to be the only one by that name) on “Internet Marketing, Creativity and Stravinsky.” He captured my interest with: “If you think you can control the flow of information from point A to point B, the Internet will kill you,” and kept on with an inspiring, hour-long presentation on unlocking our creativity using lessons from composers. We then broke into groups to put the theories to the test.

As you can probably tell, I walked away from the Creative Forum bursting with new ideas, my left and right brain feeling some connection. Not only did I gain practical information on mobile marketing and more, but I was inspired to push our clients with bolder ideas – and I have better tools to sell them on these ideas.