SARASOTA, Fla. (May 13, 2015) – Next-Mark, a full-service marketing, creative strategy and communications agency in Sarasota, is relocating to accommodate its growing staff and business expansion.

Currently occupying space on South Osprey Avenue, the firm will be moving to the downtown Sarasota core at Five Points to take over suite 100 at 40 South Pineapple.

“We have experienced significant business growth over the past two years and will be moving our corporate headquarters effective July 1,” said Joseph Grano, Next-Mark founder and president. “Our new facility will include increased square footage and a collaborative workspace, along with a number of client-focused amenities,” he added. “We are very excited about our future and the potential to help more local companies and organizations grow and succeed.”

About Next-Mark
Next-Mark was founded in 2005 to help client organizations reach their full potential through marketing communications and creative success. Breaking away from the constraints of traditional marketing service organizations, the Next-Mark team facilitates powerful conversations about their clients’ brands, integrating experience, analytics and innovation to develop 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, technology, retail, hospitality, 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, Westfield Corporation, Yarnall Moving and Storage Solutions, CitySide SRQ, California Pizza Kitchen, Ad-Vance Talent Solutions, DOCs of Sarasota, Florida Cataract and Ascom Wireless among many others. For more information, visit

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According to a 2012 Nielsen social media report, nearly half of all U.S. consumers are using social media to ask questions, report satisfaction or complain. This can be daunting as many organizations have multiple social media pages with thousands of followers on each one. However, providing attentive customer service on social media sites does not need to be stressful if you are prepared and organized.

Many social media managers are relieved to see positive and neutral comments and feel no real urgency to respond to them. However, responding to positive comments is an easy win and shows users that your brand is polite, ready and willing to engage with the public on social media. Mentioning a person by name and tagging them is a great way to create a courteous atmosphere and show positive feedback is well received.

Questions are another form of consumer feedback that should be answered as quickly and politely as possible. This will build trust with your audience.

Now it’s time to address the elephant in the room: What to do when presented with negative feedback. It’s inevitable that some unhappy customer will take to social media to express grievances with your product or service. We know it can be hard to keep a level head especially when someone is attacking the reputation of the company you work so hard for. However it’s important to respond calmly, timely and respectfully. Add a personal touch to the response to avoid sounding robotic. Perhaps give them your direct line so they don’t explain their issues to someone who has no context of the situation. This will also make the customer feel like their needs are heard and they are a valuable enough customer to warrant a personal response.

How about dealing with truly offensive of vulgar comments? That’s a tough one, but one of the worst things you can do is ignore them; this will not make them go away. The best way to minimize this is to call it out, monitor it closely and intervene when necessary. Maybe it would behoove you to write up a social media code of conduct and refer to it in times of need. Perhaps include a clause on reserving the right to delete offensive comments when they get out of hand.

Any brand that has a social media presence should be prepared to offer social customer service on its social media channels. Whether you want them to or not, customers will talk about your brand and seek help on social media so it is best to be prepared and have a system in place. It’s important to learn as you go. Don’t be afraid to say thank you to positive feedback and learn from negative feedback. Maintaining successful customer service on social media can be as simple as checking in on your pages two to three times per day and responding to comments.


2015 will be a big year for marketing – one of understanding and engagement. As we kick off the New Year, it’s imperative that we truly understand our audiences and use that knowledge to connect and engage with them.

To keep up in 2015, take a look at the top 10 trends you’ll want to consider as the year unfolds:

1. Content to Conversation

Content is conversation that creates community – and that fuels business sustainability. It’s no surprise that many businesses have built a strong foundation by incorporating meaningful and interesting content. One of the most important trends for this year is taking substantive content and creating a meaningful conversation, which, in turn, will lead to high levels of engagement.

2. Influencers are Critical

Influencers are more important than ever as social media continues to evolve. As more brands explore social media, businesses must nurture the ambassadors already in their corner and empower them to carry their brand’s message forward.

3. Understand the “Experience Economy”

Few companies sell just products anymore. The companies that do are the big guys: Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and supermarket chains. Consumers go to those stores to buy things they need at low prices. It’s that simple – and hard to compete against. But, those that do compete are companies that promote experiences. For example, Vineyard Vines doesn’t sell T-shirts; it sells a lifestyle. Tiffany’s isn’t selling diamonds; it’s selling a look. Can you create an experience that sells?

4. Social Media Evolution

We continue to see more options than ever before with social media. Stay current by evaluating which platforms and formats are best for your brand. You’ll want to use social channels that hit your target markets and best align with your message.

5. Align Your Values

It’s time to ask yourself what you value as an organization and make sure those values are reflected in your messaging. Companies that do not adhere to the basic standards of respect, courtesy and cooperation within their organizations can create a toxic environment that spreads beyond its own walls into the marketplace. This also involves building loyalty and trust both internally and externally with coworkers, customers, vendors and anyone else who comes within your sphere of operations.

6. Think “Ecosystem”

All of your marketing efforts should work together — each supporting the other and all feeding off the conversations mentioned earlier. The goal is to get all marketing channels in sync to create a balanced and flourishing brand environment.

7. Focus on the Long-Term

A focus on the long-term is essential as effective marketing most often is a process of evolution, not a “big bang.” Decisions you make today may not show results until later, but good decisions are worth the patience and time it takes to bear fruit.

8. Communicate Visually

Looks matter. A powerful visual brand identity is central to a lasting first impression. Consumers pay attention to logos, colors and other visual aspects, whether they realize it or not, and what they see in the first few seconds can permanently shape how they perceive your organization.

9. PR is Stronger than Ever

PR is back. For a minute, it looked like diminished newspaper readership and the availability of social media had the potential to displace good ol’ earned media. But, it’s hard to deny the credibility of a strong third-party. Ensure that the story they tell is the right one by preparing your messaging strategy ahead of time and staying on top of your outreach efforts throughout the campaign.

10. Remember: Marketing is an Investment.

It’s not just something that falls in the expense column and it’s certainly not a luxury. It’s a process that involves cooperation from all of your stakeholders. But it’s worth it. Don’t wait to make that investment in your company and its future.

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It’s no secret that advertisers are constantly looking for new ways to share content and engage consumers. In addition to creating valuable content for their readers, advertisers are trying to find ways to incorporate content into platforms and sites their consumers are already visiting regularly, but not in the form of a banner ad.

Imagine yourself scrolling through your Facebook feed. Have you ever noticed posts by brands that look exactly like your friend’s posts?

If you answered yes, then you’ve been exposed to native advertising. These types of ads are shared as posts rather than banner ads or commercials, which allows advertisers to seamlessly integrate their content into the feeds their consumers already subscribed to.

Although native advertising strays away from traditional mass media messaging, it leverages your brand as a thought leader and provides your consumers with relevant content they actually care to read.

Social platforms are a great place to integrate native advertising, but partnerships with leading news sites are another interesting option. One example of this was the Game of Thrones quiz created by Buzzfeed and HBO. Although it doesn’t scream “advertising,” the strategic campaign engaged consumers while promoting the show.

Whether your brand shares interesting content on social media or creates quirky quizzes on popular websites, one thing is key: relevancy. Your consumers are actively searching for content that not only appeals to their interests, but also matters to them at that particular moment in time. Now we’re not saying you need to be a mind reader here, but stay ahead of your audience by crafting content that appeals to current news, culture and entertainment.

What’s your go-to marketing strategy? Have you dabbled in native advertising?




At Next-Mark, we believe in engagement. To us, that means to get the attention of viable prospects, start meaningful conversations and, ultimately, create mutually beneficial, ongoing relationships. For trade shows, this engagement is a process that should begin well before anyone steps up to your booth.

As we prepare for the fall trade show season, we thought we’d give you an inside look at what is an extremely front-loaded endeavor.


It all starts with a powerful idea, something that will help you stand out and encourage interest. That involves knowing what you’re going to do and the products and services you’re going to introduce/highlight as far in advance as possible. Your plan should be cohesive, with all pieces fitting together to tell a complete story.

Everyone knows there’s an art to effective use of pre-show ads, public relations, email and social media to create awareness and fill your show appointment schedule. What many companies forget, however, is that that art should be grounded in the sciences of persuasive communication and strategic messaging. No matter how inventive your concept, there’s always a way to tell/remind the audience why they need your product, not just where they can pick up a t-shirt.

Okay, picking up a t-shirt can be a draw. People love swag, so having something for them to toss in their show bag can be a plus. That said, the point is to have it go home with them, making the cut when they decide what to pack.

Another hot draw is “gamification,” in which game thinking and mechanics are used to create competitive activities, or “spin-to-wins” that incorporate industry language and market characteristics.

Though not new, video and digital communications can also be powerful at trade shows. When concise and well produced, these visuals can create a pause that opens the door to engagement. In this same vein, value-added materials such as topical white papers and case studies made available at shows can be the “keeper” you’re looking for while establishing your company as an expert.

Starting early also gives you time to volunteer that expertise with participation in panels and sessions, partnering with clients to present case studies, introducing ways to solve common problems or giving your organization’s take on industry issues.

And while these active participants are getting ready for the spotlight, take the time to build a strong show team with a diverse group of people who can address a wide variety of questions and issues. Make sure every member of that team knows your goals and is trained in your messaging.

Finally, this is also the time to create your post-show follow-up plan – that is, just what exactly you’re going to do with all those names you’ve collected, leads you’ve identified and promises you’ve made.

At the Show

It’s easy to get caught up in the energy (or lack of same) at an exposition and forget some key concepts of engagement. Remember to:

  • Build on demonstrations, giveaways and games with a good conversation about your products. You (and/or your agency) came up with all those good ideas to attract participants; don’t forget why you did it.
  • Keep in mind that this is just the beginning of what could become a long-term relationship. Strive to establish your expertise and attentiveness to needs with each and every person you engage.
  • Unless you might be called to perform brain surgery at any moment, turn off your phone and forget your email. The most important thing you have to do that day could be walking past you.

Trade shows can be physically exhausting and being “on” all the time can be emotionally draining. Still, it all will be over with soon enough, and the rewards can be significant. Keeping your eye on the prize (prospects) and your mind on your task (engagement) can make the hours fly – and dollars flow.


After taking a quick look at your post-show plan and tweaking it, if necessary, execute it immediately, while the show and conversations are still top of mind.

Once that’s done, as we’ve advised before, catalog your lessons learned and use them to create an even stronger plan for next time.


We Know Trade Shows

At Next-Mark, we have extensive experience developing, designing and managing trade shows in a broad range of industries.

Here are few:

Health Information Management Society

International Association of Chiefs of Police

Radiology Society of North America

American Health Information Association

Miami International Boat Show

American Pediatrics Association

Fort Lauderdale Boat Show

American Health Insurance Plans

Caroline Early Joins Agency with Extensive PR Background

SARASOTA, Fla. (September 3, 2014) – Next-Mark, a full-service marketing agency in Sarasota, today announced the appointment of Caroline Early as its strategic communications manager. At Next-Mark, Caroline’s primary focus is to manage public relations, oversee brand strategy and develop social media content for clients.

“Caroline comes to Next-Mark with an extensive background in strategic communications,” said Next-Mark president Joseph Grano. “As we continue to work with a variety of brands within our community and internationally, we’re pleased to add another level of public relations and marketing expertise to our team.”

Caroline previously served as the Public Relations Specialist for Voalte, a healthcare technology company headquartered in Sarasota. Originally hailing from the Midwest, Caroline received her master’s degree in public relations from Syracuse University before relocating to Florida to pursue a career in strategic communications.

“Next-Mark has achieved incredible success for its clients,” said Next-Mark strategic communications manager Caroline Early. “I’m excited to join such a collaborative and dynamic agency in our community.”

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 takes an transformational marketing communications approach, integrating our 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, 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 Westfield Malls, Ad-Vance Talent Solutions, DOCs of Sarasota, Nuance Communications, California Pizza Kitchens, LexisNexis, Ascom Wireless, The Rivolta Group, Elsevier Health Science and Nuance Communications, among many others.  For more information, visit their website at

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Quick: which is more creative, the billion-dollar multinational corporation with established market positions in competitive markets all over the world or the scrappy start-up with ten employees in a loft and a foosball table in the corner?

If you’re like most people, you probably assume it’s the start-up. After all, everyone knows that start-ups are fueled by the creative vision of their founders.

But what if someone told you that popular concept of creativity—chaotic, harried, stressed, small-scale—has nothing to do with the actual science and practice of creativity. And worse yet, most businesses are sorely lacking in creativity, whether they have two employees or twenty thousand.

Experts are just now beginning to understand how creativity works and how powerful it can be in the business world. The problem is that so few businesses understand how to correctly identify creative people and create an environment that fosters creativity.

According to Natalie Nixon in Inc. magazine, the idea that creativity “just happens” and is driven by flights of fancy and emotion doesn’t reflect the reality of creativity. Nixon is the director of strategic design MBA program and Philadelphia University. According to her research, creativity is actually a discipline. It takes practice and thrives in a structured environment. In practical terms, this means making an effort to provide time and space for people to be creative.

Google is a great example of a company that works hard to foster creativity. The tech giant famously has a department where people are paid to dream up the robots and tech products of the future. This department is where Google Glass and the Google self-driving car were born.

The fact is, most companies don’t recognize the creativity of their own employees and do little to encourage it. Instead of providing a venue for employees to exercise creativity, many companies have built cultures that are based on rules, division of responsibility, and above all, relentless productivity. The same employees who might grumble about following the latest departmental procedures are likely going home and mastering all sorts of creative pursuits, whether it’s scrap-booking, gardening, painting, photography, or any other art form.

So, is your company creative enough? If your company has created a culture that is open to new experiences and ideas, where people have structured time to engage in the act of pure creativity, then you are likely reaping the rewards of a creative workforce.

If this doesn’t describe your workplace, it’s likely that you’re company is missing out of the tremendous competitive advantage of creativity.

Communications for Citrus Park, Brandon and Countryside Malls, along with

Westfield, Sarasota properties, to be managed by Sarasota-based firm

Sarasota, Fla., June 19, 2014 – Southwest Florida full-service marketing, communications and business strategy firm Next-Mark, LLC, has been named communications agency of record by Westfield Malls, Tampa. Under the agreement, Next-Mark will provide corporate communications support for Westfield’s Citrus Park and Brandon properties in Hillsborough County and its Countryside Mall in Clearwater. Next-Mark currently oversees public relations and social media for the developer’s two Westfield Sarasota properties.

“We are pleased to partner with Next-Mark in our communications initiatives,” said Westfield, Tampa Marketing Director Dawn Arvidson. “We continue to see new development at our Tampa Bay locations, and our decision to retain Next-Mark ensures our message will be communicated properly in our region.”

“With more than 120 shopping centers, including the new World Trade Center Mall, Westfield is one of the leading retail developers worldwide,” said Joseph Grano, Next-Mark president and founder. “We look forward to working with the Westfield team to promote their unique destinations in the Tampa Bay area.”

About Next-Mark, LLC

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 takes an transformational marketing communications approach, integrating our experience, analytics and innovation in developing strategic marketing solutions to meet clients’ individual needs. A full-service agency, Next-Mark focuses on internationally and nationally recognized brands along with growing companies across a broad spectrum of categories, including healthcare, technology, retail, real estate, environmental, marine products and tourism, among others. With clients from Alaska to Sweden, its roster includes industry leaders such as Nuance Communications, LexisNexis, Ascom Wireless, Westfield Malls, The Rivolta Group, Elsevier Health Sciences and Nuance Communications, among many others. For more information, visit their website at

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For Immediate Release

Sarasota, Fla., June 18, 2014 – Next-Mark is pleased to announce the appointment of Austen Legler to the position of social media and public relations manager. A graduate of Rollins College, he will be responsible for developing public relations and social media strategies across client categories.

“Austen brings a wealth of experience having managed social media strategies in both for-profit and not-for-profit settings,” said Next-Mark president Joseph Grano. “We continue to build our public relations and social media management capabilities with the addition of several key clients.”



Here at Next-Mark, we work in the social media space all the time—just like your company probably does, and 99.9% of the world’s big brands—so we’re in a great position to see one of the fundamental disconnects between marketing and social media.

Social media has taken marketing by storm and changed forever the way brands interact with their customers. Simply, social media has taken a traditionally one-way monologue, where marketers talk at their customers and prospects, and turned it into a two-way conversation, with customers talking among themselves and to the brand itself.

The result has been an intoxicating brew of information and dialogue that marketers have a hard time resisting. After all, what marketer could resist interacting directly with customers and prospects?

But as Jorge Aguilar and Abhishek Mehta argue in Branding Magazine, it’s easy to go too far down the social media rabbit hole. Why? Because social media engagement is not necessarily connected to sales—and the marketer’s job is to build the brand and drive sales goals. As they say, “Love is not enough.” Simply knowing that someone likes a brand is less meaningful than understanding the behaviors that stem from that like.

So what’s a marketer to do? The key is to align your marketing with your sales goals, and then take advantage of all the tools out there that can help you bring social media into line with sales goals. It’s not enough to simply know that a person “liked” your Facebook page, for example. You need to know more: Is that person a current customer? How did they get to your Facebook page?

To be a truly effective, social media engagement needs to combined with marketing data that can uncover actionable data and potential sales. Something as simple identifying the purchasing habits of your own Facebook fans, including who “liked” your page but hasn’t bought anything by looking at transactional data, can turn a bland metric into a powerful sales driver.

It’s OK to be loved—but it’s better to be loved while you’re increasing sales!