Reaffirming our approach as we enter our 19th year in business

To say that I’ve been incredibly fulfilled by Next-Mark’s run would be an understatement. Embarking on our 19th year in business, I am more energized than ever helping clients maximize their business with strategic marketing. I also can’t praise my team enough for their creativity, commitment to collaboration, and willingness to support each other.

I want to take this opportunity to share with all our clients, colleagues, and friends a list of the values and goals that have made us successful for almost 20 years, with a little something new for 2023.

Joseph Grano

President and Founder, Next-Mark

Kindness
This is the single most important foundation on which our firm is built. It’s about more than professional courtesy in engaging with clients and employees. Kindness is core to our approach in everything we do as a partner.

Transparency and Honesty

We’ve never felt comfortable hiding things or misleading. The same goes for the work we do at Next-Mark – it’s about communicating clearly and honestly about our work and how it will help our clients succeed.

Managing Expectations

Though many businesses want an “explosion” of sales from one ad placement, strategic marketing is not a sprint. Rather, it’s about developing the full arc of a campaign that hits milestones throughout the marketing funnel. Sometimes that means telling clients something they don’t want to hear, but we feel a deep responsibility to make sure their goals are achievable and optimal.

Focus

Nobody here at Next-Mark is content with churning out mediocre work. From creative direction to content creation to assembling a robust media list, we focus on maximizing our capabilities.

Collaboration and Consensus

While many agencies produce quality creative work, it’s our experience that many miss out on allowing the client to take an active role in the process. Ultimately, business leaders have key insights into how the brand should be expressed. Input from our clients ensures a more effective final product.

Fostering Creativity

A lot of organizations spend too much time systematizing or commoditizing creativity. At Next-Mark, our success is built on giving each of our team members the space to be creative without fear of criticism or failure. We let the creative process breathe and flow so that results are fresh, innovative, and successful.

Passion for Excellence

You can’t teach someone to have high standards for their work. That’s why at Next-Mark, we pride ourselves on assembling a team of people who assume a deep responsibility for producing work that exceeds client expectations. We check our egos at the door and relish the opportunity to do what it takes to achieve a high-quality and successful product.

Seeking Knowledge

As marketing practices evolve, we stay ahead of the curve, committed to adding to our arsenal of strategies and innovative technologies to ensure clients’ success.

Community Partnerships

In the last few years, the Next-Mark team has been privileged to work with many governmental and nonprofit organizations. Working with these clients is rewarding and a way to give something back to the place we call home.

Building New Relationships

Nothing beats a handshake, a smile, and a conversation when it comes to building new relationships. That’s why the Next-Mark team is active in professional associations, meeting with governmental representatives, and participating in community events.

Be Courageous

For 2023, we asked ourselves what we could do to take our team and success to the next level. Entering our 19th year in business and with decades of combined experience, we are primed to push the envelope with our approach. We will embrace more creative risks, say “yes” to new challenges, and encourage our clients to push themselves outside of their comfort zones.Many thanks to each and every person and organization that has joined Next-Mark on our journey. We are beyond thrilled to see where it leads us next!If we can help, please give us a call at 941.544.2765 or email us to get in touch. For more information about all of our capabilities, view our Digital LookBook.

Turbo-charging Your Business Processes

A quick guide to what Salesforce solutions can do for your business

As CRM software platforms continue to become more prevalent across every industry, a relatively new problem has arisen: What CRM software is right for me? For years, businesses only had 2-3 options to choose from to give them a competitive advantage. Though we have nearly a dozen platforms to choose from today that range from collaborative, analytical, and operational, the Salesforce platform has risen to the top of the industry on the strength of its powerful tools.

Though we at Next-Mark have experience with a variety of CRM platforms, our 75+ implementations in the Salesforce ecosystem have given us the insight that it is, in fact, the industry standard. Simply put, the platform helps turbo-charge a business process, especially when it lacks a systematized template to make it run more smoothly. More than just a marketing tool, Salesforce opens up possibilities across any industry, any department, and any process. Here are the biggest things Salesforce can help a business do:

1. Streamline

In the days before computers sat on every desk in an office, a company’s personnel had to navigate a labyrinth of departments and know which people handled which piece of the sales or operational puzzle. The same issue exists today but has become more complex even as personnel no longer have to hand-deliver documents or information. Salesforce is one of the strongest CRM platforms for streamlining these processes so that sales, finance, operational, and other departments can focus on the functions that generate value. For a recent client, we designed a CPQ (Cost-Price-Quote) integration that generated renewal forms, saving the sales and finance teams time that would otherwise have been spent requesting, retrieving, sending and entering data.

2. Automate

Even when looking at extraordinarily organized, top-performing personnel, most business processes in the modern day require an amount of juggling that simply isn’t sustainable. Client files can be chock full of project notes, timelines, deadlines and contact info. With Salesforce’s tools, any business process or data capture system can be automated to reduce the human errors that become more likely as personnel attempt to manage more and more projects. Automation can give an organization real-time reporting that’s tailored to whatever period of time works best for them. Are sales meetings occurring every Monday morning? A Salesforce integration can generate an automatic roundup of current leads. Is a client’s contract up for renewal in 5 weeks? Salesforce can automate the creation and execution of renewal contracts that help ensure clients don’t go elsewhere.

3. More Data, More Nuance

As part of Salesforce’s ability to capture and organize data, companies then have the ability to conduct much more thorough and actionable analyses of what’s working and what’s not. For many businesses, sales strategies are left largely to each individual sales rep to devise on their own. Naturally, some sales reps have a greater total quantity of sales while others have a higher percentage of sales per capita. Were these regional differences, a function of tactics, a by-product of timing? With more data comes more nuanced modifications to a sales strategy. Often times, we find that the key is to unlock some untapped synergy between departments, whether it’s linking an Account Executive with a Business Development Representative, or the Finance Department with the Sales Department.

We could spend weeks exploring the ins and outs of just one of our Salesforce integrations, and if you’d like to take a deep dive into some of them, we suggest you read our case studies. But a Salesforce integration is only as good as the team implementing it. It’s a complicated platform, and the right team should have a clear system in place to ensure an implementation strategy meets the specific needs of your business. Customized and maximized integrations require intensive discovery, a methodical build, meticulous testing, and a collaborative deployment phase fueled by client empowerment.

For us at Next-Mark, we also have the added advantage of being able to bridge the gap between Salesforce and marketing initiatives. This means your visual identity and brand voice can be fully integrated into the Salesforce integrations, ensuring a seamless experience for sales leads.

If you are curious about what Salesforce can do for your business and how we can integrate it with your marketing needs, feel free to reach out! We love to geek out on this stuff and love welcoming new businesses into the Salesforce ecosystem. You can also check out our Salesforce profile on the Salesforce App Exchange.

Visit Next-Mark’s latest Case Studies to learn more about how Next-Mark can transform your Salesforce Environments

As Sarasota’s only certified Salesforce Partner, we at Next-Mark are uniquely positioned to help you understand what to look for when integrating the Salesforce software into your business. Salesforce is a powerful tool to add to your analytics, but with that great power comes a great responsibility to leverage the data correctly so that it increases your bottom line rather than clouding your sales flow with more noise.

For years, we’ve been helping clients in a variety of fields—from healthcare to ride shares to publishers—utilize the platform to unleash the full potential of their client relationships by maximizing their digital marketing environments. When it’s time for you to choose a Salesforce partner, here are some insights we’ve learned about the competencies you should look for:

1. Good Listener

No two businesses are built the same, even when in the same industry and offering the same service. It’s important that you find a Salesforce partner that takes the time to listen carefully and conscientiously to your organization’s specific needs. We have seen too many times how a templated approach to digital marketing solutions prevents businesses from standing out from the crowd. In the end, our job is to translate your unique business processes into the Salesforce platform, which is only maximized when it aligns with your needs. In addition, a strong start to a Salesforce migration ensures a solid architecture to build future processes on.

2. A Strategic Planner

The integration of Salesforce is not a simple, short-term solution to your organization’s needs. Managing, tracking and automating requires frequent upkeep over the duration of the process, which is comprised of a long string of milestones. Make sure your Salesforce partner demonstrates an understanding of how those milestones are achieved and tracked over the full breadth of your relationship, with KPIs established early on. In addition, make sure to choose a Salesforce partner with a proven track record of long-term client relationships, as this helps reveal a partner’s ability to reliably evolve and grow in tandem with your organization.

3. A Team Player

A large component of Salesforce implementation is your organization’s ability to navigate the platform. The right partner, rather than keep you in the dark and keep the expertise to themselves, should exercise patience and enthusiasm when walking you through the software’s capabilities and utilization. That’s why at Next-Mark we developed our Next Methodology for Salesforce implementation, which lays out our collaborative approach from the initial conversation to the go-live result and emphasizes a educational dialogue along that entire journey to ensure our Salesforce clients know how to utilize the platform. In  addition to helping foster transparency and open communication, this collaborative approach inevitably leads to more creative use of the software. The more perspectives from knowledgeable users, the more new ideas and techniques can be leveraged to make the team stronger than any single individual.


Getting Personal, Seventeen Years and Counting . . .

As we complete our 17th year in business and reflect on the year that was for Next-Mark, I keep coming back to one word: grateful.

2021 was a milestone year for our business. For that, I have to thank the existing clients who maintained their relationships with us, the new clients who put their faith in us, and our insightful, creative staff who always gave their best to each and every one of them.

2021 also was the year Next-Mark “came home” in a sense. After 16 years of meeting the needs of mostly national and international clients, we found ourselves also working in our own backyard, as various local organizations and governments came to us for communications support. As a Southwest Florida business, it has been immensely rewarding to participate in the betterment of our local communities and be part of such a vibrant, growing area.

Last year also saw a significant progression of our newest endeavor, as a certified Salesforce partner. We obviously filled a need, as we continue to help a growing list of national and international clients bridge the gap between strategic content and full utilization of their Salesforce Customer Relationship Management platform, enabling them to work smarter and more efficiently.

This combination of serving existing clients in fresh ways, helping new clients recharge their marketing communications, and developing additional capabilities ourselves has built a powerful platform for Next-Mark in 2022. It is one we greatly appreciate and intend to build upon.

Our goals for 2022 include:

  • Continue to build our team and continue to serve our evolving client base
  • Build on our capabilities as a certified Salesforce partner
  • Partner with our clients locally, nationally, and internationally in bolstering their brand promise and value proposition.

So, thank you to all who got us here. I look forward to seeing how far we all can go. If we can be of help, feel free to contact me directly at josephgrano@next-mark.com or at 941.544.2765.

The Value of Event Marketing

Today’s marketing ecosystem is focused on any number of metrics, analytics and other quantifiable measures of outreach and leads. A marketing professional’s workflow might include charts, graphs and reports with cold numbers—and rightfully so, since these facets of a marketing plan give a marketing professional the data needed to design effective e-blasts, press releases, landing pages, social media posts and other measurable impressions. But as much as these numbers have helped take campaigns to the next level in the digital age, the value of in-person engagement cannot be overlooked.

A 2018 market study by Bizzabo, an event marketing platform, found that 91 percent of overperforming businesses place a greater emphasis on live events than their average and underperforming competitors. In addition, the same study found that 87 percent of C-Suite executives believe live events play an essential role in their company’s success. That’s why live events are one of the most impactful tools we use at Next-Mark to create strong B2B and B2C connections.

Event marketing, also known as experiential marketing, is a type of marketing that includes trade shows, product launches/demos, seminars or grand openings, to name a few. And as we all learned first-hand over the last year and a half, web-based events can also serve as a serviceable placeholder. All of these forms of engagement leverage the power of human interaction to create a more impactful impression on prospective customers and clients, helping to foster a more robust, holistic brand awareness. In short, an event helps our clients show their brand rather than just tell.

At Next-Mark, we pride ourselves on the work we have done, helping clients produce a variety of event marketing initiatives in our home city of Sarasota, Florida and across the nation. Most recently, our Sol of the Circle event series played an integral role in further promoting St. Armands Circle and boosting the destination’s marketing initiatives. As a vibrant cultural center that is part of the illustrious Ringling legacy in the Sarasota region, we felt that a live event series was a perfect opportunity to help develop the brand of the Circle, as a destination for entertainment and recreation across a diverse set of target groups. The series ran through the summer and included monthly live music nights, outdoor yoga activations, unique Family Day events and culminated with Sarasota Arts LIVE, which featured live performances from some of the biggest performance art institutions in Sarasota.

These events aimed to show St. Armands Circle’s target audiences that the Circle is a dynamic venue worth returning to and spending a memorable day among family and friends. The series allowed restaurants, bars and retailers to present a cohesive, unified experience to visitors centered on the sights and sounds of the historic commercial district. The visitors themselves were provided a dynamic, diverse occasion to not only stop at one destination, but also immerse themselves in a culturally meaningful, live experience. A 2016 study by the Event Marketing Institute corroborates the impact of a vibrant live event: 98 percent of event attendees feel more inclined to use a product or service after attending the event, while 84 percent say it gives them a more positive view of the brand, product or service.

Another benefit of event marketing is the ability to attract media coverage from magazines, newspapers, websites and social media influencers. Known as “earned content” in the marketing industry, this kind of coverage signals to your target audience that an objective, third-party entity has found your client’s product, brand or service to be noteworthy. In the case of Sol of the Circle, Next-Mark was able to secure mentions in several publications, including a feature article about the Sarasota Arts LIVE event in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Looking to the future of marketing trends, the Bizzabo study found that 57 percent of overperforming companies plan on increasing their budget for event marketing. It all goes to show that the digital marketing tools available to us are only one piece of the overall puzzle. Ultimately, humans are social creatures and derive more comprehensive impressions from in-person engagement. Nothing beats the power of a positive live experience.

Messaging Is Core to Your Marketing Success

Just as it’s possible to hear without listening, it’s also possible to talk without communicating.

Though seemingly obvious, this is, unfortunately, a concept that businesses and organizations can sometimes fail to consider in the rush to get a product/service/cause “out there.” The result can be a race that’s over before it starts, as it’s hard to make up the ground lost in a poor beginning.

That’s why we encourage our clients to start engagements with the development of a strategic messaging platform or architecture. This document, created cooperatively, grounds communications and propels meaningful outreach to the right audiences at the right time with the right persuasive language.

As an agreement among all involved as to goals, targets and messaging, the document creates a common voice and magnifies it. It also brings everything to focus on the future.

The truth is that a good many our clients have found their messaging hasn’t grown with them. Instead, as they have evolved, their communications have stood pat, unreflective of the scope of what the business or organization has come to be and now can do for customers, clients or communities.

It’s also a great motivator; as key executives, sales staff and other stakeholders feel the excitement of creating new and inclusive, something that will help them do a better job and their company to succeed.

For clients choosing this path, it’s also a way to save time, money and effort. With core messaging already agreed upon, there’s no need to start over for each project or project segment, stressing over getting the words right. They are already there, along with guiding position and value statements and a brand promise to be fulfilled.

The Marketing Playbook reminds us that messaging can have more of an impact than almost anything else in business. When driven by strategy and consensus, we like to say, it also can be a source of rejuvenation and a springboard for advancement in the marketplace.

So, think of it as that deep breath before you dive off the board, the one that gives you clarity of purpose and confidence that you’re ready to succeed.

If you’re ready to explore the deep waters of meaningful communications, let us know. We would love to be your guides.


10 Tips For Optimizing and Growing Your Social Media Success  

Utilizing social media as a tool for personal branding and driving business growth is no longer optional for marketers and business professionals. With millions of users spending hours each day on social media, there’s an undeniable opportunity, but getting started or improving on existing results can be daunting. To help, we’ve put together 10 tips for optimizing and growing your social media success.

Keep reading for more information about social media trends, relevant platforms and expert advice on how to step up your social media game.

Keep Up with Social Media

Social media has always been part of the marketing conversation. But this past year has proven that it’s here to stay. Social usage has increased dramatically and new users continue to grow. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram became crucial in communication and social interaction since in-person meetings became nonexistent. Having a business presence on social media is essential in B2B and B2C opportunities and is key to spreading awareness and promoting your product or service.

Quick Facts:

  • American social media users spend an average of 2.7 hours per day on social media
  • 54% of B2B marketers say they’ve generated leads from social media
  • Only 26% of companies integrate social media into their strategies

Why Social Media Matters

Besides promoting your business, social media can help you meet several business goals, including:

  • Better connect with and serve your customers
  • Improve your search engine ranking (SEO)
  • Reduce advertising costs and increase your overall ROI  
  • Foster and deepen relationships with target audience members and your community

Identify Your Target Audience

Your target audience is a specific group of people who
are most likely to want or need your product.

Three reasons to define your target audience:

  1. Ensure you’re creating the right content for the right people.
  2. Better understand how to create content that connects the benefits of your brand to what reader needs.
  3. Increase conversions ‘low hanging fruit’ customers

Know Where You Fit – Social Platforms

Not all social media platforms are created equal. Knowing the idiosyncrasies and landscape of each individual platform will help you make the best decision on where to focus your efforts, the kind of content to post and the type of users on each.

  • Average monthly users: 2.7B
  • Largest age group: 25-34 (26.3%)
  • Medium focused almost every form of content, especially news and promotions
  • Robust features and uses, including text, images, video, shopping
  • Supports feed or stories
  • Average monthly users: 1B
  • Largest age group: 25-34 (33.1%)
  • Medium focused on imagery
  • Text, images, video, shopping
  • Supports feed or stories
  • Average monthly users: 400M+
  • Largest age group: 30-49
  • The average user earns $70k
  • Medium focused on saving product photos and inspirational content
  • Feed and Board display with imagery, texts, links
  • Exclusively business/B2B audience
  • Medium focuses on content and thought leadership
  • Images, text, call to actions all on feed display and stories
  • Average monthly users: 187M
  • Largest age group: 30-49 (44%)
  • Medium on instant communication, news and user interactions
  • Text, video, images on a feed, but story features now being added
  • Average monthly users: 100M
  • Largest age group 18-24
  • Short form video and minimal text

10 Tips to Amplify Your Social Media Impact

1. Optimize Your Profile

Can my potential customers find my profile and what do they see when they arrive?

Audit Your Profile – Ask Yourself
  • Is my brand consistent?
  • Does my bio accurately communicate my company’s value?
  • Am I using relevant hashtags in my bio?
  • Is there a call to action?
  • What should I link to? (Lnk.bio vs. company site vs. landing pages)

2. Don’t Oversell

Great salespeople don’t sell; they listen and solve their customer’s problems. Create compelling content, hone your value proposition and connect with your audience meaningfully.

A great value proposition should:

  • Communicate why someone should do business with you
  • Be short and easy to understand
  • Define what you do
  • Explain how your business eliminates a pain point for your potential customers

3. Find Your Voice

Your brand voice is the distinct personality your brand takes on in its communications.

People connect with people – If your brand were a real person, what would they sound like?

Tips for finding your brand voice:

  • Think of 10 adjectives to describe your brand – then pick your top 4
  • Consider your target audience and the vocabulary they use
  • Write like a person talks, not like a business robot

4. Be Consistent

For your audience to recognize and build a relationship with your brand, you must be consistent with your use of social media

Content consistency establishes your credibility, builds trust, and strengthens your reputation.

How to build consistency:

  1. Create a social media content calendar
  2. Maintain a post frequency you can handle
  3. Schedule your posts in advance

Why is consistency so important?

  • Your business will stay top of mind
  • It helps you to build authority in your niche
  • It is easier to maintain
  • Your audience will be more engaged
  • You will generate more leads
  • Social media algorithms favor you
  • You will cultivate loyal brand fans
  • Your audience will trust you

5. Plan Your Content With A Content Calendar

Find a system and content schedule that works for you.

  • Sometimes the biggest hurdle to social media success is knowing what to post
  • Consider the types of content you want to share

Example: share project photos every Monday, promotion every Wednesday, behind the scenes every Saturday, etc.

  • Create the calendar in advance, then carve out time to create/film
  • With the right plan in place, you can batch content a few times per month or one month ahead

6. Engage With Your Community

Without engagement, social media is just media. Social Media Engagement is all about building an online community and it can affect everything from brand awareness to customer loyalty.

Social media engagement metrics include:

  • Likes and Favorites
  • Comments, DMs, and Replies
  • Shares and Retweets
  • Saves and Clicks
  • Reviews, Mentions and Tags

Tips for your business to earn engagement:

  • Respond to all comments
  • Ask your followers questions via captions, stories, or polls
  • Reply to reviews, both positive and negative
  • Participate in industry conversations in Facebook Groups or on Twitter
  • Comment on posts from other accounts you follow or on posts from relevant hashtags

7. Leverage New Features – Stories & LIVE are your friend

Social media platforms often incentivize users to explore new features by giving them additional power to reach more people.

These new features are often underserved by marketers but have high user engagement.

Benefits of Stories and LIVE:
  • Fewer brands use these features, so there’s less competition
  • High audience reach and engagement
  • Social media users who watch a brands story are more likely to see those same brands’ feed posts
  • The algorithm favors individuals and brands who use their new features

8. Use Personalized Landing Pages In Your Social Strategy

Personalized landing pages are web pages on a company’s website about a specific service, product or offer – with a call to action designed to convert a customer to the next stage in the buying process

How can we use them on Social Media?

  • Sales team social profiles can be a significant driver of traffic to a company’s website. Direct that traffic to pages that educate and convert 
  • Landing pages are an excellent place for those engaging with your post to learn more about your company’s products – Share links alongside compelling content
  • Prospects will journey to a company’s website from bio links on sales team member profiles – Swap out bio links to a relevant landing page for decreased bounce and higher sales conversions

9. Use free tools to make better, more engaging content

A great social media post is eye-catching, relevant and visually appealing. For large brands, social media managers, sales teams and designers all work to create this content together. Unfortunately, this often isn’t an option for small to medium-sized businesses or those without the support of a marketing agency.

Free online tools can make your content shine and help create a consistent brand for bootstrapping social teams. Our top free tools:

Canva – This design platform makes designing beautiful social media images and other kinds of assets easy. With free and premium plans, there’s something for everyone (https://www.canva.com/)

Photopea – An online knock off of photoshop, this free website is excellent for individuals who need to adjust images quickly and inexpensively (https://www.photopea.com/)

Unsplash, Pexels, and others – These free imagery libraries have millions of free, copyright-free photos on nearly any subject (http://unsplash.com/)

Hashtag Generators – These can allow you to find highly-used, relevant hashtags in your area or industry 

Viralpep – This basic free tool allows users to schedule up to 20 social media posts for a variety of platforms, including Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram and more (https://www.viralpep.com/free)

10. Seek buy-in and resources from company leaders

No man or woman is an island. For sales teams to be effective, they need top-down support. Remember, only 26% of companies integrate social media into their strategies, which often leaves those responsible for social management underserved.

For individuals and teams looking to improve their company’s social presence and, as a result, sales, there needs to be a level of investment from company administrators or leaders.

Make a plan, identify needs and seek support:
  • A marketing agency partner
  • What content can leaders or marketing teams create for social media managers each month?
  • Blogs, videos, infographics, interviews, imagery, lead magnets
  • Social media management tools for measuring success and scheduling posts
  • Leaders encouraging all members of an organization to support social messaging

Final Thoughts

Social media is only a small component to an effective and robust marketing strategy. While it’s important to give social media the time and attention it needs to be effective, there’s many other things to consider. Additionally, content and tactics from other marketing arms of your business can be integrated into your social strategy. When you have a cohesive marketing plan and are promoting high-quality content, there’s unlimited potential for growth.

Want to learn more about Next-Mark’s marketing, branding and social media services? Contact us today!


Here we are—a whole year since the pandemic began to pick up speed in the U.S.  Lockdowns and working from home became the new norm while businesses learned how to adapt in a fast-changing world. 

In the blink of an eye, many marketing professionals were forced to revisit their strategies.  Marketing isn’t just about selling a product. It’s about creating an experience and many of these consumer experiences were disrupted. Though things looked bleak a year ago, businesses can still thrive if they apply what’s been learned about the changing world and consumer needs. So, after a year of COVID, what have we learned regarding marketing? What is still relevant and what needs to change? Here are six tips for marketing in the post-pandemic world.

1. Keep up with Social Media

Social media has always been part of the marketing conversation. But this past year has proven that it’s here to stay. Social usage has increased dramatically and new users continue to grow. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram became crucial in communication and social interaction since in-person meetings became nonexistent. Having a business presence on social media is essential in B2B and B2C opportunities and is key to spreading awareness and promoting your product or service.

2. Show Empathy

The approach to messaging has undergone a substantial shift due to flashbulb events and cultural changes in 2020. To remain relevant and show respect regardless of background, financial status or circumstance, show empathy within your messaging and promotions strategy. Use encouraging messages on social, offer your support in local community outreach programs or sponsor events like food banks. Many people are looking for a helping hand which provides an important opportunity for any business to lend a helping hand, and as a by-product, potentially gain community exposure and establish a strong customer-company bond. Establishing programs that give back to the community and getting employees involved has been proven to increase office morale and drive employee advocacy.

3. Invest in SEO

Digital marketing is heavily reliant on an efficient SEO strategy. Major corporations are investing more in search engine optimization, with the average consumer shopping more online. Digital channels are becoming more and more crowded, fueling greater website competition.  Small businesses especially need to invest in SEO to stand out from the noise and traffic of their larger competitors. Creating engaging, concise content is key to encouraging engagement and driving more clicks to your website.

4. Professional PR Practices

When it comes to PR in a post-pandemic world, showing high ethics and professional morals needs to be an intricate part of all communications. Also, be sensitive about your content.  Some have lost their jobs and loved ones. Always be researching the current state of your community and stay relevant.  Virtual meetings will also continue to be an option for years to come. Without a face-to-face set up, keeping the media’s attention can be difficult.  Instead, bring your story to light through social media, e-commerce platforms, your website, add the press release as a blog or share your own content on as many platforms as possible.

5. Innovative Content

To survive change on a worldwide scale, you need to be an innovator. Innovation arises from need and needs have certainly changed within the past year. Consumer expectations were already on the rise before Covid-19 and now they expect experiences to be even more personalized. This is where creative and innovative content is key. Create a fast and convenient user experience. What kind of visual journey will keep users engaged and want to learn more?

6. Create Experiences

Marketers need to be storytellers. What journey will the consumer embark on leading to closing a sale or onboarding a new client? The customer journey has been disrupted in many industries this past year, requiring new and creative ways to engage customers primarily online. Run exclusive deals and offers that get people interested by issuing exclusive coupon codes. Use Facebook and Google ads to broaden your reach across the country with strong and eye-catching creative showcasing your product or service. Reach out to existing customers and run referral offers where people receive discounts for each person they refer to you. The creative ideas businesses can think of to interact with their customers and create memorable experiences are endless.

For those up to the challenge, the coming years will be bright. Most people run from change, but change is truly inevitable, especially in the marketing world.  Those with the willingness to learn, grow and adapt will come out on top and prove to be more resilient than they ever thought possible.  The post-pandemic world will be what we choose to make it, so let’s make it great.

Three Reasons Why Your Marketing & PR Needs an Integrated Approach

PR has quickly become an essential component to any business’s marketing strategy – Here’s why an integrated and proactive plan delivers better results


The craft of public relations or PR has always been considered an ambiguous term by those outside the industry. A quick Google Trends search confirms this, as many of the top trending searches around PR include phrases like “what is,” “definition” and other similar terms. Those unfamiliar with the inner-workings of PR might hear the word and imagine celebrity crisis management campaigns or wordy press releases.

Individuals more familiar with the inner-workings of PR, like business leaders and seasoned marketers, know the value of strong communications strategies but may not be aware of the recent shift top agencies have made towards a new model. This new model called integrated PR or integrated communications is more efficient and leads to greater long-term success.

But first, what is PR?

The Public Relations Society of America qualifies the term as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

PR professionals are communicators and storytellers. They work with brands or companies to portray them in a positive light through various communications tactics, which help build trust with their audience and communities. This exercise accelerates brand awareness and, if done effectively, can help form positive, meaningful ties, which drive engagement and business success.

Isn’t that the same end goal as a marketing campaign?

PR practitioners and marketers share common ground – spreading awareness, engaging consumers, and driving performance; however, historically, these two entities have worked separately, relying on different tactics. This holds true for most agencies, as well as across companies of all sizes. Unfortunately, this approach leaves a lot to be desired, as an integrated approach often yields more significant success.

Why an integrated approach is the “future of PR”

Creating a strong, unified brand is top of mind for leading businesses. This is only possible through consistent messaging and design. Having a unique brand voice that speaks to your audience is crucial.

With this in mind, imagine the issues created when marketing professionals, designers and PR practitioners work independently with no coordination. This is why an integrated approach to PR is best.

1. Seamless Experience For Your Audience

Having an integrated PR plan means key communications and marketing components are aligned and their messaging is consistent across all channels. With media pitches, digital ads, social media posts, and other strongly linked elements, the message is clear and compelling. This builds credibility and brand authority while creating a seamless experience for audience members.

2. Shared Resources Make Your Campaigns More Effective

The classic saying “content is king” is more relevant than ever. Creating a stream of compelling content is a never-ending battle for marketers and PR pros alike, which is why shared resources can help ease the burden on individual teams and improve success. For example, your marketing team discovered that your company’s workforce leads its industry in diversity. It has designed an infographic that explains this and will be sharing it on social media. While this would undoubtedly draw positive engagement from followers, it could have been used alongside a press release announcing this success if shared with the company’s PR team. On the other hand, press releases being created by a company’s communications team have the added versatility to be converted into blog posts, newsletter content and social media announcements.

3. Navigating Pay For Play Opportunities

While many media outlets still have a strong separation of editorial and sales teams, there has been a significant shift of late that has increased the likelihood of your next press pitch being met with an invoice. Pay-for-play media opportunities are often a major roadblock for PR professionals tasked with generating organic media coverage. Because most PR agencies operate on retainer and do not budget for marketing “buys” they generally are only left with the option to decline and move on. With integrated marketing plans in place, there’s greater efficiency in allocating advertising into these kinds of opportunities as they occur. Moreover, the relationships marketers often form with media outlet sales personnel can typically be leveraged to garner organic news coverage with an integrated team.

There are countless reasons to integrate your communications and marketing teams. It is even more critical to have open communication lines between your business’s marketing and PR arms if relying on an agency or multiple agency partners. Better yet, having a unified, cohesive team under one roof can bring even greater efficiency to your business, drive higher engagement among key audiences and most importantly, enhance the bottom line.

Next-mark was created by the belief that exceptional branding, marketing and public relations should be aligned. Our in-house team of talented creatives, data-driven marketing experts and passionate PR professionals work in unison to accomplish client directives and exceed their individual goals. Curious how an integrated communications and marketing plan can help your business? Contact us today

Next-Mark wins big at 2021 ADDY Awards

The Sarasota-based marketing and communications agency earns four awards for creative excellence, including a coveted “Judges’ Choice” honor


Next-Mark, a full-service marketing and communications agency serving clients in Florida and nationwide, announced on March 15, 202 it was awarded four ADDY® Awards at the Advertising Federation’s annual award ceremony hosted by AdFed, the Florida Suncoast’s regional AAF club.

The awards span multiple categories that directly impacted Next-Mark client’s business success and include: 

  • Judges’ Choice – Professional | A LookBook to Showcase Architecture, Sweet Sparkman Architecture & Interiors
  • Gold Addy – Sales & Marketing: Brochure | A LookBook to Showcase Architecture, Sweet Sparkman Architecture & Interiors
  • Silver Addy – Cross Platform: Integrated Branded Content Campaign | Embodying an Architect Brand Story, Sweet Sparkman Architecture & Interiors
  • Silver Addy – Cross Platform: Integrated Branded Content Campaign | Migrating a Brand to Virtual Market, Medecision

“Delivering strategic marketing and impactful creative content for clients is always our top priority,” said Next-Mark president and founder, Joseph S. Grano, Jr. “To be recognized by our peers for this work is an honor and a testament to our results-driven process, as well as the forward-thinking of our team.”

Next-Mark client, Sweet Sparkman Architecture & Interiors, garnered three total awards, including a Judges’ Award, Gold ADDY and Silver ADDY for its digital LookBook and an Integrated Content Campaign. Headquartered in Sarasota, Florida, Sweet Sparkman is the area’s premier multi-disciplinary architecture and planning firm specializing in community-oriented projects and high-end residential, as well as interior design.

Next-Mark’s work for another major client, Medecision, earned a Silver ADDY award as well, this one in the cross-platform category for an Integrated Branded Content Campaign called “Migrating a Brand to Virtual Market.” Medecision, an integrated health solutions company whose mission is to “drive a revolution in healthcare,” relies on Next-Mark as a creative, collaborative partner to help it deliver its promise to more than 50 million members in its partner network.