Today, the compilation of accurate data about customers and competitors is an indispensable tool for any organization. We understand that the process of conducting market research can often appear overwhelming, however, the dividends it yields are priceless. With that being said, here are five reasons why market research is a must for business success.

  1. It Elevates your Messaging and Communication

All too often, companies find themselves talking at consumers rather than to them. There’s a big difference. Market research is an invaluable and effective way to test concepts and key messages to evaluate those customers and prospects relate to best. With this information in hand, you can create content that resonates and determine how best to get that content to the people who matter.

  1. It Can Optimize Your Brand Strategy and Positioning 

Every company’s goal is to position itself uniquely in the marketplace in a way that puts them ahead of the competition. Quantitative and qualitative marketing research can be used to identify where your brand is positioned compared to your competitors, what metrics you should be tracking over time and what brand benefits matter most to your target market.

  1. It Fosters Better Decision Making

In today’s rapidly shifting market landscape, the ability to make effective data-driven decisions is crucial for all business operations. Having the right information at your fingertips can help you go forward with confidence, validating what you know to be true and minimizing the risk of getting it wrong.

  1. You Gain Better Insight on Target Customers

 One of the biggest returns you get from effective market research is that it compels you to actively listen and to engage with your customers on a personal level. This in turn enables you to more accurately assess their needs and identify potential holes in customer satisfaction so you can make necessary adjustments to better serve them. Significantly, when you can communicate at this level, it shows you not only know your customers and prospects but you also respect them, not wasting their time with incessant and unnecessary communications.

  1. It Allows You to Remain Relevant and Future Focused

You may be familiar with the phrase “adapt or perish.” This can certainly apply to businesses and brands, as well as individuals. Conducting regular market research helps ensure that your brand stands the test of time, looking past short-term gain and evolving as necessary to survive and prosper.

In the modern global market, marketing research is not only useful but essential. Put it at the top of your marketing to-do list. Trust us, you’ll be glad you did.

As social and political issues overwhelm the media, companies are working harder than ever to cut through the clamor and grab the attention of their desired consumers. Interestingly, this cacophony has led to the liberation of graphic design. Visual marketing and advertising trends soaring in popularity are perhaps best characterized by a feeling of daring independence — strict structures are crumbling, wacky effects reign supreme and colors are flashier and louder than ever!. Graphic designers seem to have gone back to their roots as artists, experimenting and mutating previously worn-out practices.

Let’s explore some of these trends that, in some ways, are giving voice to the myriad emotions felt by many around the world.

Distorted effects
Think overlapping images, multiple light sources and “glitching” photos. Known as distorted effects, these design features are coloring everything from movie posters to retail advertisements. The result is a gritty image that can feel dark and somewhat ominous. However, when paired with bright colors it can exude a modern, edgy appeal.

Creative use of negative space

Even the use of negative space — the blank area surrounding an object — is being elevated in 2018. Negative space is often hailed as the most important part of an image, and traditionally it has been used to draw viewers to a focal point. However, graphic designers are once again flipping the script on this institution. Now, we’re seeing images merge with negative space to create a secondary feature that not only attracts the eye, but also inspires the imagination.

Broken, or cropped typography

Utilizing negative space has also proved popular in typography. It’s tough to erase parts of letters, or space them far apart and on multiple lines, while maintaining readability. When utilized correctly, however, the treatment can entice viewers to take a little more time and absorb the piece. The effect is futuristic and can be worth the risk when applied in the right context.

Bright colors and gradients

This year, muted colors are being shoved to the side by vibrant, bold palettes that shout for attention. We see this visual particularly being used in gradients, with colors gradually transforming and shifting into each other. Designers are also using this effect to incorporate various shapes and textures, creating an interesting visual that can benefit companies with a playful, lively brand personality.

Although these trends certainly won’t work for all businesses or industries, brands looking to garner attention can benefit by giving their designers freedom to break away from the traditional mold and draw outside the lines, both literally and figuratively. However, companies also need to evaluate the longevity of these trends and whether they fit with their mission, vision and values.

Are you contemplating a visual refresh? Give us a call and let’s talk.

 

 

 

 

When we hear from a client who refers to us as their partner, we take it personally. That’s because a true partnership infers ideals and concepts we value. To us, partnership means:
  • Effective collaboration with constructive give and take. Client insights into their own businesses and markets are prized pieces of the puzzle when creating high-return campaigns. Likewise, our insights into marketing techniques and trends are necessary to complete the picture. It takes both perspectives.
  • Respect for each other’s unique skills and knowledge. Good partners have complementary talents and mutual admiration.
  • Open exchange of ideas and concerns. It is important that strong opinions not go unexpressed. Healthy exchange is the cornerstone of creative conversation.
  • Support for each other’s success. True partnerships are a bond that buoys each participant to be better.
  • Help through challenges. Problem-solving is a team sport, and effective partnerships are a catalyst for resolution.
  • Reliability and trust. Knowing you can depend on your partner to come through reduces anxiety and enables you to concentrate on your own duties and workload.
  • Responsible use of resources and respect for each other’s time. The best partnerships stand firmly on integrity and consideration.
  • Shared passion and commitment to achieving goals. Excitement and dedication fuel mutual success.
  • Being each other’s champion. Everybody needs a steadfast friend – and cheerleader.
  • Truth in all things. Partnerships require honesty. It’s critical that all participants work with the truth – and the same truth – for any endeavor to be successful.
Most importantly for us is being the type of partner the individual client needs, working to create the specific relationship that brings the most value to them. There’s a lot involved, but also a lot to gain in building a lasting partnership.

It’s easy to focus solely on external marketing — after all, businesses need to satisfy current customers and garner new clients to remain profitable. However, internal communication is paramount to engage personnel, stimulate positive behaviors and support marketing objectives with other audiences.  Here are a few reasons why employee communication is more important than ever:

Aligns Messaging

Think of everyone who works for your company as an unofficial spokesperson; the knowledge they share can help fuel sales or improve experiences for customers. This is particularly important in large, service-oriented companies where employees of all levels continually interact with clients (think of a hospital or chain of coffee shops). When employees are informed and engaged, they are more likely to be positive brand ambassadors. They’ll speak highly of your organization, share exciting information with friends, families and customers, and help advance communications goals.

Retains Talent

The days of employees staying at one job for 20+ years are over. Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce and research shows that they are nearly three times more likely to switch companies than any other age group. Avoid costly turnover and boost retention with strategic internal communication efforts.

Here are a few ways to engage your employees, help them feel emotionally connected to their work and ensure they will stick around for the long run. As always, strategies and tools will vary depending on the size of your organization.

  • Maintain an employee intranet with news and updates
  • Develop a printed publication featuring employee accomplishments and impact
  • Send out a regular newsletter with need-to-know information
  • Create recognition programs that connect employees with leadership

Garners Fresh Ideas and Perspectives

Use internal communication tools to invite feedback from your workforce. When you encourage employees to voice their opinions anonymously, you’re able to validate direction and use their responses as an important step in the research process. Whether you’re testing messaging, trying out a new website feature or deciding which topics to focus on in a publication, establishing a dialogue with your employees is a great way to encourage collaboration.

When executed strategically, internal communication can help advance organizational objectives and equip employees with the information they require to remain connected and devoted to your company. Do you need help launching an employee communications program? Let us help you get started!

Your company is suddenly mired in a negative situation with potentially serious repercussions. While a chill grasps your heart, a slew of questions assault your brain. What’s your first step? Who are the decision makers? When and how should you respond to the media? Who should do it? Then what?

Most organizations likely will be confronted with some sort of a crisis communications challenge, whether internally or externally. With thorough preparation and an efficient response, however, you will be able to shape the appropriate, successfully navigate challenging times and maybe even come out the better for it.

Following are some core principles of crisis communications. The biggest takeaway, however, is this: Be prepared. That is, don’t wait for a disaster to strike. Look deep into the organization, acknowledge vulnerabilities and honestly confront them. Time-consuming? Yes. Painful? Most certainly? Necessary? Absolutely.

C – Choose the Right Tools
While the resources you employ will differ with each situation, make sure you always have: a core team of leaders to vet strategies, share insight and provide approvals; established communications channels and methods through which you’ll relay messages to internal and/or external audiences; and a messaging document approved by leadership and stakeholders. Other tools, such as support resources for staff, can be added as necessitated by the crisis.

R – Reveal the Facts
Before you act, you need to assess the particular situation to fully understand the crisis at hand. Knowledge is power, and gathering intelligence is crucial to your success. Fully understanding the facts, the players involved and any outside influences will help you objectively create meaningful conversation and collaboration. Once the facts are gathered, you’ll need to develop a communications strategy to address the issue in a timely manner.

I – Instill Trust and Tell the Truth
Demonstrating your ability to objectively listen and make informed decisions in a crisis communications situation will develop trust, both within your organization and with the public. If you respect each internal and external stakeholder’s position and perception of the situation, you are more likely to resolve the issue in an expedient and proficient manner. This also will ensure that you address all concerns and offer timely, effective and valid solutions that will cultivate sustainable results.

You don’t have to share every irrelevant detail, but what you say must be the truth. If you don’t know what that truth is yet, say so. Don’t guess. There’s usually no going back once you’ve said the wrong thing – intentionally or unintentionally.

S – Streamline Processes
Crises easily can get worse, so you’ll need to act fast. Make sure every step of your reaction plan is concise, clear and detailed. Each person involved should be aware of his or her responsibilities, the actions they need to take, to whom they will report and whom they should or shouldn’t contact. Checklists are an efficient way to keep team members on track. Craft your media responses in advance, even if the chance of reporter inquiries is small; if the issue does make it into the spotlight, you’ll be able to respond quickly and consistently.

I – Institute Change
Your job isn’t over when the media moves on to the next story. Crises test core organizational responses, procedures and culture, and it’s a communicator’s job to help drive transformational growth. Debrief after the event to address and identify issues that emerged. Consider alternative scenarios and establish effective action plans that address weaknesses.

S – Sustain Confidence
As an organization, it’s important to follow through on promises made during a crisis. Committing to needed change and effectively communicating it to the audiences involved can instill trust and restore confidence in your company.

There is so much more involved, of course, and so many specifics among the generalities.

Preparing for, and learning from, crisis communications situations benefit us as professional communicators, leaders and team members in any organization. Though crises always will impose an element of chaos, preparation and a solid communications plan provide the anchor you need to make the right decisions and create the groundwork to sustain the conversation and continuously grow.

Contact us for additional insight into how your organization can successfully and effectively manage crisis situations.

What if your ideal consumer was able to interact with your product, marketing material and content – all in real time? Augmented reality is enhancing customer interaction in ways that have proven to be both effective and lucrative.

Let’s explore the fundamentals of AR and how it can be used to bolster digital marketing and communications.

AR vs. VR

While virtual reality diverts us from our world, augmented reality digitally enhances it. Users enter the realm of VR by wearing a video headset equipped with technology that creates a computer-generated simulation. While immersed in VR, you can explore space, float above the New York skyline, become a soldier on a battlefield and experience thousands of other scenarios — all from the comfort of your home. (Read our recent blog to learn how companies are engaging consumers with VR).

Augmented reality, on the other hand, integrates or “layers” digital enhancements on top of the user’s real world experiences. It is considered more accessible to the average consumer, as it can be accessed via smart phones, tablets and laptops.

Implementation and application

Not surprisingly, many companies realize the potential of this technology and have since incorporated it into their marketing strategies. Pepsi Max won awards for its creative implementation of augmented reality in its Unbelievable #LiveForNow campaign, which turned a tedious bus stop into a visual adventure. Space ships appeared in the London sky, creatures smashed through the sidewalk and a tiger plodded toward onlookers. While users may not have been fooled by the stunts, they were certainly impressed and entertained. The campaign has garnered national acclaim, generating nearly 8 million views on YouTube and thousands of social media comments, shares and engagements.

Ikea has also integrated augmented reality into their customer experience. The Ikea Place app enables furniture to virtually appear in a person’s own home, giving them a preview of how the piece would look in their space before purchasing it. This foray into augmented reality is a key example of how technology can be used to ease the purchasing process and drive sales. Ikea recognized an age-old problem with furniture buying and thus provided a truly innovative solution. 

Looking to the future

When executed effectively, augmented reality is a breath of fresh air for consumers inundated with print and digital advertisements. Rather than simply delivering a message, AR gives companies the opportunity to simplify processes, solve common problems and directly engage customers with their products. Customers also benefit from this exchange. Imagine virtually trying on clothes or testing a popular shade of lipstick, without having to step foot into a store. As the technology continues to develop and companies adapt to the expanded digital environment, expect the bridge between the digital world and the “real” world to magnify.

Looking for innovative marketing solutions? Give us a call and prepare for powerful results.

 

Welcome to 2018!

A new year is always a time of reflection and an opportunity for rededication. Thirteen years ago a leap of faith became a business as Next-Mark, a different type of marketing communications company, emerged. Drawing heavily on our extensive experience and deep understanding of the business world, we created a truly solutions-based organization founded on best practices that aligned with our clients’ needs.

Here are a few thoughts on our business experiences from the year past and some foresight for the year ahead.

True Wisdom is Knowing What You Don’t Know

Socrates said it; we adhere to it. That’s why we stick to our core competencies – strategic marketing and planning, creative strategy and execution, digital marketing, public relations and social media. We play to those strengths as we act as a true collaborative partner with our clients. 

Commitment Requires Flexibility

We shape and develop client relationships for the long haul. We stick with our partners through thick and thin, understanding the dynamics of their business cycles and maximizing their resources. Equally significant is the role we play in sustaining their long-term vision, helping them stay on course and navigate through the occasional obstacle.

We Collaborate with our Clients for Their Enduring Success

We are extremely fortunate to serve diverse clientele. Whether they’re a $5 billion global enterprise or a small business in our neighborhood, our clients have one thing in common; the desire to develop deep roots in their industry and an appreciation of our role. This enables us to leverage what we have learned guiding brands and establishing marketing best practices on national, regional and local levels.

Winning in Business is a Team Sport

For us, this means careful collaboration with clients and heavy reliance on our own strong base of talented and experienced staff. We work hard to recruit and retain highly skilled individuals who bring unique talent and tenacity to the table.

Just Do it

Smaller businesses need to recognize that they don’t have to be a global leader, like Nike, to be a “brand.” What they require is simply something that differentiates their product, service or organization from the competition and the means to drive that message to the right audiences in the right way. That’s where we come in. We help our clients be good stewards of their intellectual property and purveyors of their brand, while assuring alignment with their value proposition and profit model.

It’s All About the Story

Our overriding goal for each client is to spark meaningful conversations about their brands, and with each bit of content or visual asset we develop, their stories become our own. Our success and our clients’ are thus inextricably linked – and more powerful for the partnership.

We invite you to scroll through our new Online LookBook to see a snapshot of our work as well as our extensive scope of services.

Contact us to begin that powerful conversation that will reinvigorate your brand and connect you with your audience. 

For many, the year’s end evokes a time of reflection, renewal and reinvention. As we weigh what we did right and what we could have done better, learning from missteps and owning them, we can work to rebuild or strengthen a foundation for sustainable success.

As professional marketers, strategic planners and digital communications experts, however, we know that such self-analysis is not enough. It also requires foresight and a knowledge of what’s to come and what it may mean for the individual person or organization.

Think of this stage as surfing. You study the water, using your knowledge and experience to detect any submerged dangers and then calculate when to stand up and get in front of the new wave(s) that will deliver you safely to shore.

What will it take to master the marketing waves in 2018? Here are a few important considerations as we look to a New Year of trends, strategies and tactics.

1. A Strategic Mindset: This is critical to marketing success. A strategic mindset is more than rhetoric; it encompasses a disciplined approach to every aspect of what we do as professional marketing communicators. This means we must assess every initiative, tactic or campaign from a strategic perspective that looks not only at the bigger picture but also creates a positive and sustainable difference.

2. Ability To Ride The Transformative Digital Groundswell: Yes, digital is here to stay. However, we still need to recharge our digital efforts and continually refresh our digital know-how to embrace the next surge of digital tools.

3. Creative That Is Bold And Measurable: We need to move beyond being a steward of creativity to become a purveyor of ideas that not only go beyond creative exposure but also are measurable, creating new insights into a business. As professional marketers, we have a fiduciary responsibility to not only nurture the creative process but also build creative that truly moves the needle.

4. Real And Consistent Metrics: The reality is that we all value metrics as a compass for our results and overall direction. However, it may be time to refocus our efforts on optimizing our metrics to focus on a clearer measurement of our overall success. There is a lot of valuable information at our fingertips, and we must make the best use of it all.

5. Social Media Measured By Engagement, Not Raw Numbers: We must think beyond “likes” and emojis to consider the long-term engagement we want to cultivate within our sphere of influence. To do this effectively, we must provide candid, respecting opinions and create opportunities for open dialogue.

6. Street-Level Promotion: Of course, digital marketing activities are important, but are your products/services understood at street level? Is there a passion for your brand that transcends a transaction and builds a fundamental understanding? Be street level. A marketing plan must resonate on Main Street as much as in the virtual world.

7. An Advocate Of Your Brand Promise: Don’t just be a purveyor of your product or service. A brand’s marketing must connect with the consumer both functionally and emotionally to truly differentiate it from competitors.

8. Public Relations: Good ol’ PR is still critical if done well. This means taking every opportunity — from new hires to big changes — to deliver real news that helps keep your company top of mind and build relationships both with consumers and media outlets.

9. Valuable Content: Content marketing is a powerful tool. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are providing truly relevant and useful content to your prospects and customers to help them solve their issues.

10. Thought Leadership: Thought leadership is at the core of every message and should be part of a company’s DNA. Positioning a company or its leadership as an expert in its industry dovetails with effective content marketing to solidify image and open doors to consumers.

This is the time to clear out any cobwebs and shake off any obstructions to needed change (“We’ve always done it this way”) and marketing creativity (“Management will never go for this”). It’s also the time to ramp up excitement for what no doubt will be another significant year in marketing communications.

This article authored by Joseph Grano appeared on Forbes.com

Nowadays, having a dynamic social media presence is critical for success. However, in order to reach your desired level of success on social, you must have a specific strategy to ensure your content reaches the largest audience possible. Whether you’re new to the world of social media marketing or not, it’s no secret that getting noticed on social media can be tough. Even the world’s most clever marketing content won’t do you or your business much good if no one else is seeing it.

Thus, here are our top 4 ways to increase content exposure on social media.

  1. Fully understand the platforms

Before you start to look for one-size-fits-all ideas and tactics that you can start implementing, it’s important to focus on the unique nature of each individual platform. Content shouldn’t be promoted the same on Instagram and Twitter because they aren’t always going to be perfectly compatible. Your audience doesn’t use them the same way, so you probably shouldn’t either.

  1. Utilize visual content

There’s a massive amount of potential being wasted by a lot of business owners when it comes to content creation. Adding a visual component to your content is going to get it more views, period. The only thing that you need to be thinking about at this point is what kind of visual content you’re going to use. For instance, live videos are a great way to create content with an authentic, intimate feel built right in. And if you’re operating with a humble marketing budget, live videos have the added benefit of being a low-cost option.

  1. Monitor the Metrics

While it may not be the most exciting topic, it is one of the most important. Without a heavy focus on metrics, your marketing efforts essentially amount to using your best guess at what’s working and what isn’t. If you’re looking for ways to increase your content’s exposure, the process actually becomes pretty simple. Try out a variety of different styles of content. Then track the data on each separate strategy using platform specific tools, focusing on metrics like exposure and reach. Once you’ve collected the data, create and publish more content that’s designed to capitalize on what your audience is engaging with.

  1. Consider Paid Advertisements

Ads on social are not like any other ads online. Why? Because they have massive upside. Facebook and Instagram ads have some of the best returns in the paid advertising game. You get access to plenty of people who actively engage with your brand. It’s essentially a way to hijack a curated list of people in your demographic who want your product/service. It’s hard to think of anything that’ll offer your content more exposure than that.

 

Why not take every step possible to increase your content’s exposure on social by building a marketing strategy that prioritizes data, industry understanding and execution. If we can help you with your social strategy, let us know!

For years, we’ve been trumpeting the value of “content marketing,” that is, the consistent generation and distribution of content that customers and prospects find relevant and useful. During that time, we’ve seen a number of companies attempt to hop on the content bandwagon – only to fall off again when they missed the mark.

Whether your organization is on the sidelines or leading the parade, here are some trends we’re seeing that you may wish to consider as you create and/or tweak your strategic marketing plan for 2018.

  • Real writing. By that we mean the products of professional writers. Companies that staff or outsource content creation by trained professionals will have a leg up. Not only will they have better content, but it will be generated more quickly by people accustomed to deadlines and adept at story telling.
  • Real thought. For instance, one of the marketing flavors of the day is the infographic. Ostensibly a vehicle for disseminating complex information in an understandable form, many of this ilk appear to so cluttered that it requires an advanced engineering degree to sort out. It’s not enough to have content – in any form – it must be content created with the reader in mind and promoted in the right way to the right audience(s).
  • Real time. There are two factors at work here. First, it appears that organizations are creating content less on a hard schedule – “We need a blog every Friday!” – and more when they have something worthwhile to say. This is a good thing. Just as with press releases, less can be so much more. The second factor involves the growth of livestreaming of video. Look for more as, according to a widely reported survey, more than 80 percent of respondents said they would rather watch a live video from a brand than read a blog.
  • Real accountability. Whether you take our advice of employing professional writers or not, make sure someone is in charge of your content creation, blogging, social media, etc. That person should have the long view of your goals and assure that all supporting documentation moves those goals along.
  • Real commitment. Content marketing is only as powerful as the effort behind it. For instance, what comes to mind when you’re on a company’s web site and discover it hasn’t posted a blog, a press release, a white paper, etc. in months? Or there’s no original content, just pass-alongs of someone else’s thinking? Not exactly confidence inspiring, is it? The point is that, as with any worthwhile endeavor, you must be in it to win it.

Content marketing is not to be taken lightly. It requires purpose, planning and follow-through. Though the journey takes time and energy, however, the destination promises significant rewards.

Let us know if we can help you get there.