Clearly, the retail industry is at a crossroads. From the compression of storefronts to the explosion of online options, retail marketers have never been more challenged and somewhat overwhelmed in developing viable marketing strategies and tactics that will resonate with retail consumers. Know-how, innovation and ideation don’t seem to be enough to change the retail marketing game in this ever-evolving climate. It’s time to do more than just check the box but to re-think, re-imagine redefine retail marketing.

Here is some re-thinking every retail marketing professional should entertain.

They’re not customers, they’re clients. It’s time to think of the retail consumer as more than another transactional notch in our marketing belt, but as clients with needs, wants and likes that we need to do more than satisfy, but build and maintain a renewed and trusted relationship with. Retail leader, Nordstrom has been a longtime proponent of this. They not only see a customer as a client, they build real relationships with throughout the retail experience and beyond.

It’s about the experience, Yes, online retail options provide convenience and service levels that satisfy many of the needs retail consumers, but retail clients still want to touch and feel. It’s time to think about the retail experience before anything else. What motivates a retail client to think beyond shopping to a retail excursion, which may include more than a purchase but the creation of a memory. This excursion may include a meal, a family activity, an event or another engagement that becomes a shareable moment. The retail experience has a lot more to do with the environment, the culture, the brand promise rather than just another day at the mall. When we look at the latest retail development projects, we are seeing new levels or innovation that includes more than a retail anchor but a combination of offerings under one retail space. Retail marketers must now provide marketing communications solutions that rise to this evolving physical space creating a renewed retail experience.

Integrate or perish. There now needs to be a new obsession with the traditional marketing mix that moves beyond our comfort zone, but to a newly defined professional marketing DNA. Integration needs to be an obsession where marketing communications is part of a fine-tuned ecosystem that unites all facets of marketing including customer service, advertising, social media, public relations, events, digital interface, mobile and more. This holistic approach will transcend traditional marketing tactics and create a new professional mindset and a re-tooled approach to all marketing efforts.

Reconsider demographics. Not only do demographics matter, but they also provide insight into the heart of retail clients, yet the retail industry continues to be one-dimensional in their approach. Retail marketers need to refocus their efforts beyond what they perceive as their demographic sweet spot, but consider a psychographic approach that includes sources of motivation that transcends traditional demographic thinking. It’s time to understand what retail clients are passionate about and what they expect from each retail experience. Retail marketers now need to harvest emerging segments move beyond traditional demographic targeting.

Brands still matter. The retail revolution requires far more than a brand refresh but should include a brand audit that defines a new threshold for your brand promise. Beyond measuring brand recognition and other traditional brand metrics, its time to obsess about brand loyalty, you’re inherent brand promise and a timely examination of your brand’s perception in the marketplace. A brand audit is a re-examination of the inherent traits your brand possesses and how it does or does not resonate with your audience. The brand audit needs to be a 360 degree process that includes all of your internal and external publics benchmarking your current brand perception and then re-examining your brand on a regular basis.

Every day is a brand new day for retail marketing professionals, where talent, creativity and imagination will always prevail. If we make retail experiential, the best bricks and mortar or digital interface will only enhance the overall client experience and refocus the retail mindset to the next generation of consumers.

This article was published on Forbes.com, authored by Joseph Grano

Social media is here to stay. Not only does it empower your brand, it creates a sustainable, lasting conversation about your product or service. There are few in business today who won’t acknowledge the impact social media has made in marketing communications

However, the greatest challenge organizations are currently facing is the integration of social media into their overall marketing strategy. Whether it’s public relations, advertising, sales or any other marketing function, social media needs to be integrated in order to create a synergistic partnership with your overall marketing communications strategy. To do this, we must go beyond hashtags and routine postings to develop strategic positioning of social media in concert with your entire marketing communications plan.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Social media content must be transparent. It must be shared openly and visibly throughout your organization as it builds on your brand story to reach internal and external stakeholders. This simply means internal sharing of social media content and strategy which then builds stronger integration with your overall marketing strategy. Transparency will then not only build trust but create new levels of synergy for your marketing and social media.
  • Social media is not a subordinated marketing function. Social media should not be only one function within the marketing mix, like public relations or advertising. It must be an equal function among others, possessing its own sphere of influence, strategy and metrics. Social media will then be leverage with the same emphasis on strategy and business impact.
  • Social media must be integrated into every marketing decision. You can’t just “check the box” with social media – it takes planning, competency and seasoned management to maintain. When integrated, social media then becomes synergistic and builds on a holistic marketing approach. Many organizations prove that a coordinated approach to any business function will yield meaningful results.
  • Social media metrics must transcend likes and numbers of followers. Social media metrics must be built on true and sustainable engagement. We must transcend hashtags and inflated likes to those true followers who have an affinity for your brand. This is important in order to leverage social media to engage, converse and transact. Social media will then align with your brand loyalty, which will yield sustainable results.
  • Social media should not be an exception. For example, a well-known company recently wanted to make a large announcement and the social media team determined that they needed to place this announcement on social media first, without any regard to public relations or overall marketing communication strategy. In fact, this effort ended up costing the organization front-page exclusive coverage because it already had appeared on social media. It would have been better served to make this announcement coordinated with all marketing functions including strategic communications, sales and marketing, among others.
  • Social media content must not be developed in isolation. Social media messages built in a vacuum rarely resonate or have a long-term impact. This isolation has the potential of costing and defraying the overall value of your marketing communications initiatives. True social media synergy means building a consensus within your organization when formulating social media messaging and content. This can be accomplished by a more formal social media planning process, stronger internal planning around social media initiatives outside of the marketing communications team and prioritization of social media as measurable business function.

As social media has evolved, so must we. It’s not a fad or a trend – it is a marketing communications function that has a viable impact on your business. When every marketing function comes together, it creates an integrated synergistic marketing strategy. Leveraging your social media footprint across the marketing continuum will not only positively impact your brand awareness, but will build new business relationships.

This article was written by Next-Mark Founder and President and appeared on Forbes.com

It’s always a challenge to not come across as preachy, but rather to provide a moral compass to what you do in business. In an age of change and challenges, how do we take the high yet profitable road as marketing professionals and business leaders? Through experience, I have learned that the choices we make, the example we set and the values we uphold are recognized and often times applauded by all internal and external stakeholders.

Marketing is a very powerful tool, but like any business practice, it needs to be guided by a system of values driven by what is right and what is wrong. Your judgment is more than a barometer; it embodies who you are and what you stand for. The end game is to transcend persuasive messaging and provide a message that adheres to your organization’s belief system. This system must be more than a moral compass but embody the essence of your brand.

Here are some guiding principles to remember:

  • Stick to your core competencies. If you focus on what you do best, it will always translate into not only the greatest and most profitable path, but also one that is responsible and in the best interest of your clients. As we see many times in business, brands that trade down their product offering for a cheaper alternative or dilute their brand promise often fail or suffer a setback.
  • Stay on message. It is critical to develop a messaging strategy that aligns with your unique values. This will keep your content in check and ethical yet still persuasive and engaging.
  • Be careful of short-term gains. Remember your short-term decisions will have long-term consequences. Every message you curate or campaign you launch will create a legacy for your brand. Companies that try to create shockwaves in the market or spend resources just for attention oftentimes lose their long-term momentum or dilute their equity in the marketplace. Choose wisely.
  • Protect your brand assets. Your brand is your essence; it embodies who you are and what you stand for. Be an exceptional steward for your brand and it will translate into an appropriate and compelling brand story.
  • Give back. Remember to give back not only to the greater community but also to your team and clients; these are your real assets that need to be nurtured and protected. Your rapport with them needs to be open, honest and authentic. They are looking to you for guidance and support – it’s a responsibility that needs to be embraced.
  • Remember it’s not always about you. As marketers, we spend a lot of time touting our offering and forget we would be valueless without our clients. It’s critical to first think about your clients and their needs before your own and how they will benefit from our offering. Our clients are not only critical assets but are valuable partners.
  • When times get tough, it’s time to start listening. It may be time to embark on a listening tour to gauge how you’re being perceived and solicit candid feedback from your sphere of influence – both internally and externally.
  • To earn respect, you must give respect. Remember that to gain the respect of others, you must first earn it. This can be accomplished by solid communications and managing expectations of all influencers. The result will be worth the effort and will resonate with all of your public audiences.

Taking the high road may not always be the most profitable one, but in the long run, you will win the race. As professionals, we are responsible for what we market and how we market it. Ultimately, we must own the choices we make and sustain a profit in the process.

This post was featured on Forbes.com

Keeping marketing communications fresh is always a conundrum for business professionals. To do this, you must continually bring new vigor and energy to your strategies. The rumblings heard most in marketing communications today are about the need for innovation and ideation that not only bring awareness but create new revenue growth. Here are some insights to consider as you build your marketing communications roadmap for the rest of the year.

  • Nurture your brand asset. Your brand is your No. 1 asset and the core of everything you do. Your unique brand identity and the values tied to it will continue to be the primary drivers of your business and its success. From always staying true to your brand promise to refreshing your brand playbook, a focus here will help take you far. It’s critical to understand the essence of your brand in order to create a sustainable brand promise. Specifically, brands need to be dynamic and continually reinvented to represent an authentic and timely story. Whether it’s your visual brand identity or your brand promise, your brand is a reflection of who you are as an organization, not simply what products or services you offer.
  • The buck stops with messaging strategy. Without a messaging strategy that sets you apart from your competition, all the words in the world can’t help you succeed. Think key messages and support points, solutions that meet needs, and benefits rather than features. Without a strategy in place, you cannot deliver the consistency in messaging that is central to staking out your territory and building your business. If you don’t have a clear messaging strategy in place, it’s critical to embark on a formal or informal process with stakeholders to create a messaging platform that will resonate with your audience.
  • It may be time to consider a social media makeover. Your business has probably been on social media for a while now, so you have history and analytics to measure what is or is not working and the platforms that are and are not right for you. Make the needed changes early, while planning your overall marketing strategy. Although there are many emerging social media sites, it may be time to fine tune what you already have in place by reinvigorating your message, expanding your audience or refreshing your visual presence on that platform. Most importantly, invest in your social content with compelling, fact-based and shareable information, rather than just churning the same content over and over again.
  • Be aware of the “fluff factor.” It pays to do a “fluff check” to ensure that your messaging and communications are depending on more than superlatives (and, heaven forbid, hyperbole) to convey the value of your products and services. Replace useless adjectives with solid benefits. Be careful of overstating or exaggerating your offering and then later trying to defend your position. Authenticity will always resonate with your audience.
  • Make innovation a part of your marketing DNA. Innovation has made its way back into the buzzword lexicon as a prized attribute. The world is changing quickly, and people want to align themselves with businesses that not only keep up with change but also anticipate it. It’s worth asking: Are you missing a chance to position your product or service in this light? If so, what course will you follow to correct this deficit and what resources need to be dedicated to move to the next level of innovation?
  • Optimize your trade show presence. With trade shows today, less can equal more as companies are being far more strategic in their choice of venues and closely tracking their costs per lead. By putting increased focus on pre-show traffic generation, successful companies are ensuring worthwhile exhibition experiences. They key to your success will be in how you engage your audience prior to the event versus just showing up and expecting to generate traffic. Instead, spend time on pre-show targeted communications, social media posts and appointment setting prior to the event.
  • Make your events strategic. Whether events are external or internal, they require consistency in messaging and energy behind message delivery. Event management requires the same strategic methodology as all your communications, ensuring you take advantage of each and every opportunity to establish your brand identity. At the core of every successful event is a comprehensive project plan with a flow of activities and objectives; without this in place, your event will just be another date on the calendar and not a true networking or relationship building endeavor.
  • Content still matters. Tired of hearing that “content is king”? Then think of it as your servant – a means to share your expertise and solidify your industry knowledge in a helpful way. Content helps you prove what you say about yourself with white papers, case studies, how-to videos, fact sheets, etc. Once a theoretical concept, content management is now a marketing necessity.
  • Align with the experts. There’s an art to knowing what you don’t know and it’s as important in marketing as it is to any endeavor. Every organization should ensure that its core competencies in marketing align with its tactics and goals and seek outside experts when needs and skills don’t match up. It’s the best way to save time and money while protecting your professional image.
  • Build partnerships. Are there strategic marketing communications partners just waiting to join forces with you to further both your businesses? It’s quite possible there are and teaming up with those organizations can produce exponential benefits. Whether it’s a local complementary business partner or a national high-end entity, the whole will always be greater than the sum of its parts.
Effective marketing communications mean constantly re-examining your core messages, strategies and assets. Think of it as a dynamic process and you will find the road ahead a lot less congested.
This article by Joseph Grano was recently published on Forbes.com.

Mr. Grano will be a regular featured columnist on Forbes.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SARASOTA, Fl. (February 22, 2017) — Joseph Grano, President and Founder of Sarasota-based full-service marketing, creative strategy and communications company, Next-Mark, LLC, has been selected by the Forbes Agency Council, an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies.
Mr. Grano joins other Forbes Agency Council members, who are hand-selected to become part of a curated network of successful peers providing the opportunity to publish industry-related articles and short tips on marketing communications topics to be published on Forbes.com. His first article is now at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2017/02/22/10-insights-to-consider-as-you-plan-your-marketing-communications-roadmap/

Scott Gerber, founder of Forbes Councils, says, “We are honored to welcome Joseph Grano into the community. Our mission with Forbes Councils is to curate successful professionals from every industry, creating a vetted, social capital-driven network that helps every member make an even greater impact on the business world.”

“I am thrilled to be among the select few invited to publish on Forbes.com providing information relevant to marketing communications professionals and organizations seeking marketing communications guidance and advice,” said Joseph Grano. “We are thrilled to have Forbes as a strategic partner,” Grano added.

About Next-Mark
Next-Mark was founded in 2005 to help client organizations reach their full potential through marketing success. Breaking away from the constraints of traditional marketing service organizations, the Next-Mark team facilitates new conversations about their client brands integrating experience, analytics and innovation in developing strategic marketing solutions to meet clients’ individual needs. Next-Mark focuses on internationally and nationally recognized brands along with growing companies across a broad spectrum of categories, including healthcare, hospitality and entertainment, technology, retail, real estate, environmental, marine products and tourism, among others. With clients from Alaska to The Netherlands, its roster includes industry leaders such as LexisNexis, Elsevier, Nuance Communications, Cinebistro, Cobb Luxury Theatres, Yarnall Moving and Storage, Coldwell Banker, California Pizza Kitchen, CitySide Apartments, Bainbridge Financial, Paragon Solutions among many others. For more information, visit their website at www.next-mark.com.

About Forbes Councils
Forbes partnered with the founders of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to launch Forbes Councils, invitation-only communities for world-class business professionals in a variety of industries. Members, who are hand-selected by each Council’s community team, receive personalized introductions to each other based on their specific needs and gain access to a wide range of business benefits and services, including best-in-class concierge teams, personalized connections, peer-to-peer learning, a business services marketplace, and the opportunity to share thought leadership content on Forbes.com. For more information about Forbes Agency Council, visit forbescouncils.com.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017 – Today, I was honored to speak before the Florida Public Relations Association on the topic of “Building and Sustaining a Thought Leadership Platform.”

While creating the presentation, I remembered a conversation with one of our international clients, who said that, in Europe, “knowledge leader” was the preferred term. The more I thought about it, the more I tended to understand. After all, anyone can have a thought or make you think; not everyone can convey valuable knowledge.
So who or what is a “knowledge leader”? Simply put, that person or organization is the go-to for information in their field of expertise. They are people and companies others trust to be credible, have vision and – most importantly – provide answers to their questions or solutions to problems.
Online, these sources are our bookmarks, our favorites, the ones that take just a few letters in our URL bar. They’re places we go for technical advice, enlightening information, industry updates or surefire recipes. They’re the places we go with confidence of good results.
Before you can position yourself or your organization as a knowledge leader, however, you have to know you’re attempting to lead. Like all things PR, it starts with the audience, understanding their businesses, their values and needs and what will resonate with them. Thought leadership, however, also requires introspection, that is, knowing your own organization and the knowledge equity you most likely already have amassed.
Ultimately, thought leadership is a form of content marketing in which you tap into the talent, experience and passion inside your organization to answer the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience on a particular topic or in a particular area. The goal is to systematically and consistently provide content that is:
  • Useful and engaging
  • Sustainable, current and curated
  • Authentic, concise and fact-based
  • Appropriate for your audience(s)
And don’t be afraid to take risks, whether it’s with infusions of humor or a unique view of the future. Those are the kind of things that come up in normal conversations and should come up here.
As I told my audience at the presentation, this may be a lot easier than they think, as they – no matter where they are in their careers – and their organizations – no matter the stage of their evolution – already have a wealth of experience, passion and knowledge that probably isn’t being promoted to its full potential.
Understanding those resources is the first step in building a thought leadership platform. The next step is determining your core messaging. Opinions may vary but core facts do not. When creating such a platform for our clients, we take a hard look at what they’re saying about themselves, what others are saying about them and what competitors say in comparison. Then we establish a common language, with the proof points, to help guide us and our clients going forward. A critical part of this is getting your current communications up to date with who you are now. It continues to amaze how many organizations have outgrown their messaging or are delivering conflicting information in different media. This creates the most substantial roadblock to a thought leadership content management strategy.
Once you know whom you’re talking to and what you want to tell them, you can tap into that deep well of expertise to build an arsenal of thought leadership assets and choose the right medium for its distribution, aiming at the heart of clients’ and prospects’ share of mind. And, remember, as communications visionary Marshall McLuhan said a half century ago, “the medium is the message.” That is, the form of a message has influence on the ways in which that message will be perceived. Decades later, it has never been more true, as there are now so many outlets and likely no one uses them all.
However, whatever the medium, emails to white papers, eBooks to video, checklists to FAQs, you want to be your target audience’s source of knowledge whenever they think about . . . you fill in the blank.
Among key tactics in creating thought leadership that drives results are:
  • Identify topics that align with your brand
  • Identify the questions customers and prospects are asking and answer them in multiple formats
  • Create value in the process
  • Provide the type of information a reader will want to pass on or comment about to others.
Is it worth all the work? Absolutely. A strong thought/knowledge leadership program creates an affinity for your brand, enables your content to start a conversation early in the consumer journey and develops a higher level of intimacy with your audience.
There are, of course, many ways to measure the success of your content management program, such as online metrics, open and response rates, page hits, etc. It is also important, however, to take note of both formal and informal conversations about your brand – listening to, learning from and taking the pulse of, your clients and prospects.
Before leaders set out to promote their images and their companies’ messages, they need to control the original content around their brands. By focusing on thought leadership, you can surround yourself and your audience with the right kind of content – content that’s valuable, educational and engaging. As thought leadership continues to grow in popularity (and as the base of successful public relations strategies), agencies will need to adjust their budgets to allow for greater thought leadership development and execution.

Whether you are planning a small business meeting, dinner reception, a large-scale tradeshow presence or any other type of internal or external corporate event, there are important factors to consider. Whatever the event, however, the overall goal remains the same: developing and enhancing relationships. To help you achieve that goal, here are 10 best practices to guide you in creating corporate events that shine the best light on your organization and make others’ participation worthwhile.

1. Communications Strategy: Have a solid strategy for the event, with a clear view of what you hope to achieve. Make sure your message is clear. Tell invitees what they can expect at the meeting, who will be presenting and what they stand to gain. Tell them how they will benefit, that is, will it help them solve a problem, enhance their knowledge or skill set, access key leaders in the field or simply enjoy themselves? Plan your communication campaign well in advance, giving attendees plenty of time to learn about it and meet registration or RSVP deadlines. If you have a hotel room block secured, work backward from cut-off dates to build interest and fill rooms. Know your audience and the types of communication to which they most likely will respond. From on-line hype videos to old-school direct mail, put together an arsenal that will work for that audience and your event. And don’t forget about your post-event communications to further grow those relationships.

2. Vendors: Lock in third-party vendor contracts early in the process. You don’t want any question as to their commitment to your event. This includes the hotel room block, speakers (and their travel/ hotel accommodations), catering service, banquet space or restaurants, meeting space, transportation service, audiovisual equipment team, bartenders and whatever else it will take.

3. Content: Make your event count with fresh content. It’s important not to take your attendees out of their offices for events with the same information year after year. Ensure the material is new and relevant to their needs. Are there any new systems, products or strategies your attendees need to know about? Are there industry trailblazers from outside your organization who can offer new insights and inspire attendance? For external events, everyone from your company should be well versed on your core messages to assure that attendees walk away with a clear vision of your brand. Your brand strategy should be integral with the event, consistent in messaging from beginning to end.

4. Event Strategy: Organize the information. It really helps to have a dedicated employee to coordinate all logistics in one place. Having too many cooks in the kitchen can cause confusion. This person keeps track of guest arrival and departure times, travel information, hotel rooms, special requests, contact information, intel about each guest, meal choices, special needs or dietary restrictions, emergency contact information and any other important information. Once on site, make sure all staff helping with events has this detailed information readily available. Having all of this information in an organized binder with the manifest, extra copies of agenda (and having more than one copy of this entire binder) is extremely beneficial during the event, especially if it is large enough to require multiple staff members to run it. There is nothing worse than staff that cannot respond to a guest’s needs. Event staff members should be “walking information booths” who can answer questions or at least be able to look it up in an accessible place. Staff helpers should have regular meetings before an event to walk through every step of the event, work out wrinkles and assign clear responsibilities.

5. Attrition deadlines: When securing hotel accommodations, special attention must be paid to the attrition clause in the contract. Attrition can be a costly and unnecessary expense, as your organization will be held responsible for unused room nights. This can be avoided. A best practice is to offer incentives such as a discount for early reservations so you can meet your cutoff dates. Make the registration deadline a week to 10 days ahead of the cutoff so you can release any rooms from your room block by then. There will always be last-minute registrants trying to get their names on the rooming list, so you might want to leave a few rooms open.

6. Environment: The environment should be visually stimulating, comfortable and impressive. It also should match the intention of the meeting. How well you run an event is representative of how well you can run your business, and the ambience can paint a picture of the service prospects stand to gain. Some questions to be answered when attempting to roll out the red carpet within budgetary limits: Is the area and or seating comfortable? Is the temperature too warm, too cool? Will you provide a strong WiFi signal for the convenience of guests? Are the A/V tools you need for your meeting working correctly? If not, is there someone available who can assist so that your presentation runs smoothly and seamlessly? Are the bathrooms easily accessible and are there enough? Will you have a clean-up crew to manage trash? Have all of this sorted out BEFORE the event.

7. Networking: Sometimes conferences are so jam-packed that participants don’t have enough time for networking and engaging in important conversations that may come up. Don’t forget to carve out space for this. If offering a multiple-day conference, leave one night open for smaller group dine-arounds to provide networking opportunities. Always include a Q&A session. Consider small-group discussions to explore how participants might implement key strategies or takeaways from the topics and speakers.

8. Cost Control: With events, costs can get way out of control fast! One of the ways companies can stay within budget is by planning well in advance. Reserving a meeting space or room block well in advance is going to secure better pricing. Additionally, if you plan multiple events each year, you might consider establishing an agreement with a hotel or event space to secure a corporate rate, rather than a variable rate. If you’re ordering promotional giveaway items at your event, can you buy in bulk for multiple events to secure a better price-per-item ratio? If your audio-visual needs are too expensive, is there equipment you can purchase and set up on your own instead of renting? Food and beverage too pricy? Is there a deli that does a knock-out job on catering and food presentation? Cost-sensitivity for guests should be a consideration, as well. If your guests are responsible for expensing their own hotel and travel, choosing the right hotel is crucial.

9. Things to “Know Before You Go”: This is a necessary one-to-two pager you send to registered guests prior to the event, giving them detailed information. Participants need to know exactly what to expect when they arrive, where to go, start times, special instructions, etc. This should be emailed (or posted on an event website) a minimum of two weeks in advance. Include airport and hotel information (include WiFi codes), parking, transportation information, meal locations (and hours), dress code, items to bring, information on outings and, most important, contact info. Make sure to include the cell phone number and email address of the event coordinator’s and any other needed contacts. Is there an event station or registration booth they need to check-in with as soon as they arrive? Don’t leave them hanging for any part of the event, wondering what to do or where to be.

10. Making it Memorable: Do something that is unique, fun or thoughtful that will make them remember you. I once attended a barbecue reception at the Ritz, where I received a bottle of pork rub spices the sponsor had put together themselves, with The Ritz monogrammed on the container. I will always remember the event and the woman who prepared the bottles because it was such a nice touch. (I went home and made chicken that weekend with the spices, and it was delicious.) You might want to have a welcome committee greet attendees at the hotel (or pick them up at the airport) and give them a gift bag with a few essentials, such as bottled water, a small snack pack, notepad, pen and a giveaway branded item, such as a luggage tag, a voucher for a free glass of wine or appetizer somewhere within walking distance or a power bank to charge a cell phone. (Functional items are better than tchotchkes.) Ask yourself: What can you do for them that makes them feel like you know who they are and you care? The answer can take you far.

 

Written by Stephanie Heidemann

It’s time to check in with the pundits. No, not THOSE pundits. They’ve said enough already! We’re talking about the marketing communications types and what they see looming for 2017.

While many are ecstatic about the potential for concepts such as virtual reality, programmatic buying, native advertising and chatbots, we thought we’d share a few of their more meat-and-potatoes thoughts.

 

1. Companies will continue to wake up to the concept of content marketing with a renewed focus on thought leadership. They also will seek out the right people and right schedule for creating quality content that resonates and sparks a conversation about their brand.


2. Millennials will continue to rule
. From leveraging in-store apps to creating ads that cater to that generation’s collective mindset, marketers will be thinking young.

3. Companies will spend more on social media
, personalizing content, focusing their messages to smaller groups and, increasingly, mining and analyzing data from social channels to better target and time their outreach.

 

4. About that outreach: Video will continue its tremendous growth as the go-to vehicle for messaging, and content is expected to improve.

 

5. Events marketing and promotion will increase, as companies join the crowds, speaking to them in their chosen venues.

 

6. Some companies will tackle the complicated task of reaching consumers through all of the electronic devices they use daily, especially smart phones, working to assure the messaging fits the medium.

 

7. Marketers shouldn’t let email fall by the wayside in the flurry of new media and devices that will continue to explode.

 

8. Bloggers will retain their importance as influencers in certain niches and should be a valued part of outreach in those areas.

 

9. While (good) writing remains important, graphic designers will take on a heightened role, as consumer preference for visuals (slideshares, infographics, etc.) over text continues to grow.

There you have it: some areas of general agreement for navigating an ever-evolving marketing landscape.
Which leads us to OUR tip for marketing in 2017:
10. Prepare to see ongoing change in marketing media and techniques but don’t be blinded by shiny, new objects. The next big thing may not be the right thing for your organization. No matter how fast and how far marketing can go, success always will depend on how well you know your customers and what appeals to them.

Revelation: We have an inordinate obsession with the letter C.

For instance (we could have said “consider,” but there’s such a thing as overkill), we pride ourselves on:

  • Creativity – but not just for creativity’s sake. Rather, we channel our creativity in ways that make our clients stand out in their markets and industry. It’s all about them, not us.
  • Cooperation – with full understanding that client representatives may be operating within their own constraints. Be it brand standards, budget and/or other mandate or restriction, we incorporate these considerations while striving for maximum impact.
  • Consultation – or not, as the client wishes. Whether the client wants to stay at the helm or puts us in the captain’s seat, we are comfortable in either role.
  • Content – but far more than blocks of text. We believe in a certain kind of alchemy, one that turns words into profits by creating meaningful copy that gets noticed, repeated and acknowledged.
  • Commitment – to always doing our best to help our clients be their best. Admittedly it’s cliché (with no capital C), but we are passionate about our work – and it shows.
  • Collaboration – that creates a strong messaging foundation. In most cases, we start a client engagement with a discovery session to define where that organization has been, is now and wants to be. You’d be surprised how much we can uncover in just a short time.
  • Connections – that generate customer engagement and loyalty for our clients. It’s all about finding that sweet spot in which a bond can be formed.
  • Currency – not the monetary kind, though we obviously are in favor of a good cash flow. This means that we keep up with all the current marketing trends and vehicles, deciding, and anticipating, what will work best for each individual organization.
  • Conversation – that is sustained. This is a particularly big one for us and it is twofold: Next-Mark with our clients and our clients with their prospects and customers.
  • Caring – that goes beyond mere pride in our work. We know our clients are entrusting us with a bit of their future, and we are gratified and humbled by this responsibility.

We understand the critical path to our client’s marketing success.  Give us a call if we can help.