Award-winning Bay Runner turns one March 2

Ridership continues to grow and surpass expectations as the inaugural year for the complimentary open-air trolley service the Bay Runner is marked Thursday, March 2. Over 150,800 passengers have experienced the award-winning Bay Runner during the first 12 months of operation.

Sarasota, FL (March 1, 2023):  Ridership continues to grow and surpass expectations as the inaugural year for the complimentary open-air trolley service the Bay Runner is marked Thursday, March 2. Over 150,800 passengers have experienced the award-winning Bay Runner during the first 12 months of operation.  

“The popularity of the Bay Runner is greater than we could have imagined,” said Planning Director Steve Cover whose parking, mobility and transportation teams implemented the  City Commission’s vision of a free shuttle service to help alleviate traffic congestion between downtown and Lido Beach.  “People in Sarasota truly want to live more and drive less. The Bay Runner is a unique experiential service that is relaxing, fun and helps get vehicles off the road and reduce emissions in our beautiful coastal community.”

From the first day of service on March 2, 2022 when an impressive 208 passengers tried the Bay Runner, the trolley has become increasingly popular. In April 2022, the monthly ridership was 14,291. By February 2023, it grew to 17,000 passengers.

“The Bay Runner is a convenient, safe, and stress-free option to travel between the mainland and barrier islands,” said Mayor Kyle Battie.  “By opting to leave their vehicle behind and ride the trolley, each passenger is doing their part to reduce traffic congestion and that’s significant, especially during peak season. We’re proud of the Bay Runner’s success and want to keep the momentum going.”

The Bay Runner provides free service on a fixed route along Main Street through downtown, over the John Ringling Bridge, around St. Armands Circle and to Lido Beach and Ted Sperling Park. 

Service is available every day of the year from 8 a.m. to midnight.  A route map is available at A mobile app with real time tracking and arrival information can be downloaded via the Apple App Store and Google Play.

The Bay Runner carries 28 passengers, is equipped with a wheelchair boarding lift and transports bicycles.

The service is operated by CPR Medical Transport, the same company that runs the popular Siesta Key Breeze trolley.

The City Commission partnered with the Downtown Improvement District (DID), St. Armands Business Improvement District (BID), Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and City staff to launch the trolley service. In addition to City economic development funds, and a $1.5 million FDOT grant, the DID and BID each allocate $50,000 annually toward the initial three-year program.

“We understand the important role the Bay Runner is playing with mobility,” said City Manager Marlon Brown. “We are reviewing all potential funding sources to ensure the trolley continues.”

The trolley, plus micromobility options, were identified through citizen input during the creation of the City’s first transportation master plan, Sarasota in Motion, adopted by the City Commission in 2020.

Just two weeks after the Bay Runner launch, the City rolled out a new e-scooter/bicycle rental program to provide quick, convenient mobility. Veo, the operator, is reporting record demand in Sarasota with 127,753 total trips taken between March 2022 and January 2023. Many riders incorporate the Bay Runner and Veo to reach their destination, by taking the trolley then a scooter or vice versa for the first or last mile of their trip.

The City’s trolley and e-scooter/bike rental programs were honored together in June 2022 by the International Parking & Mobility Institute (IPMI) with an Award of Excellence for innovation with a mobility program.

The Bay Runner also received four prestigious awards this month from the American Advertising Federation for creativity and excellence in branding and marketing provided by Sarasota-based marketing firm Next-Mark.


About the City of Sarasota:  Distinguished by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top 10 Best Places to Live in the U.S. and the number one place in Florida, the City of Sarasota is a diverse and inclusive community located on Florida’s Suncoast with 56,000 year-round residents, several internationally recognized cultural arts venues, stunning sunsets along Lido Beach and Major League spring training baseball with the Baltimore Orioles. Learn more about us at www.SarasotaFL.Gov


The Sarasota-based marketing and communications agency earns a company record of 17 awards for creative excellence

SARASOTA, Fla. – Next-Mark, a full-service marketing and communications agency serving clients in Florida and nationwide, announces it earned a company record of 17 ADDY® Awards at the Advertising Federation’s annual competition hosted by AdFed, the Florida Suncoast’s regional AAF club. 

The awards span multiple categories that directly impacted the success of Next-Mark’s clients. Clients for whom Next-Mark won awards include The City of Sarasota Bay Runner Trolley, Willis Smith Construction, The City of Sarasota Downtown Improvement District, Sweet Sparkman Architecture and Interiors, Sarasota Rising, and Elsevier. Categories of excellence included integrated marketing campaigns, video, ambient media, branded content, and digital media, among others. 

Specific work recognized included the launch of the City of Sarasota Bay Runner Trolley, The City of Sarasota Downtown Improvement District Brand Launch, Sarasota Rising Brand Launch, four Willis Smith videos, Sweet Sparkman Architecture and Interiors architectural videos, and Elsevier tradeshow design. 

“We are committed to delivering impactful creative content driven by a strategic business approach across client categories,” said Next-Mark president and founder, Joseph S. Grano, Jr. “To be recognized by our peers is a testament to our results-driven process, as well as the commitment of our team in delivering exceptional work on behalf of our clients. 

About Next-Mark

Next-Mark, LLC is a full-service, award-winning marketing communications agency based in Sarasota, FL. It helps business leaders beat their growth targets by delivering better competitive insights, more powerful branding, stronger strategies and faster results. Breaking away from the constraints of traditional marketing service organizations, the Next-Mark team facilitates new conversations about a client’s brand, integrating experience, analytics and innovation in developing strategic marketing solutions to meet clients’ individual needs. Next-Mark focuses on internationally and nationally recognized brands along with growing companies across a broad spectrum of categories, including healthcare, technology, hospitality and entertainment, technology, tourism, retail, destination, real estate, environmental, marine products and tourism. With clients from Beverly Hills to Amsterdam, its roster includes industry leaders such as Comcast/NBC, LexisNexis, Elsevier, Neuroflow, Nuance Communications, CMX/Cinebistro, Medecision, CGI, California Pizza Kitchen, along with Florida-based clients including The City of Sarasota, Willis Smith Construction, St. Armands Circle, Sweet Sparkman Architecture and Interiors, Sun Protection of Florida, Yarnall Moving and Storage, CitySide Apartments, and The Met Sarasota among others. For more information, visit its website at


Making Social Media Social

Social Media is still at the forefront of an integrated marketing communications strategy. The struggle is real, as businesses continue to be challenged by their positioning within the social media ecosystem. Whether your goal is the be a social media influencer, an industry thought leader, or a go-to resource for information and news, we are here to help. For many businesses, social media can seem like an afterthought that’s too far removed from their service offering or product to be worth the effort. It’s confusing, it’s always changing, and there’s rarely a straight line between social media content and revenue. But social media is a “front door” to your business, often the first thing prospective clients and employees see when deciding if your “brand” speaks to them. That’s why it’s important that your social media channels have curb appeal, structure, and thought put into the way your organization’s story is told in real-time. We have partnered with numerous organizations across business categories in optimizing their social media within the context of their overall marketing direction. We are always happy to provide an audit of your social media and provide solutions to optimize your efforts. Let us know if we can help.

– Joseph Grano

President and Founder, Next-Mark

Here are 7 tips to help make your social media make sense and maximize your brand.

While branded content helps drive a consistent, professional message to your audience, too much-branded content can make your organization or business appear boring. You can make your brand more personable and approachable by mixing in posts that feature team members out in the field or showcase a slice of life at the office. Remember, it’s social media, and organic posts often drive more audience engagement than branded content.

Curate “Evergreen” Posts
But it’s all about balance! That branded content we mentioned earlier is an important part of driving your core messaging. It’s where you can repeat themes related to your mission, vision, service offerings, and more. The “evergreen” in “evergreen posts” refers more specifically to the fact that these posts aren’t tied to any specific date. They’re broad and are viable at any time, as opposed to organic content which is more “in the now.”

Video is King
Simply put, a video plays on an even greater amount of emotional appeal than a single image. In a well-produced 15-second video, an organization can capture a client’s journey, express their values, and speak directly to their target market without even adding a voiceover. But even with “organic” videos shot on a decent smartphone, they simply get more clicks, views, and engagement because they force scrollers to stop and pay attention.

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.

Rule of 9s
When you click on a business or organization’s Instagram account, the first thing you see after their brief bio, link, and spotlighted reels is the thing that everyone uses Instagram for: PICTURES. Without getting into neuroscience, the human brain loves things in 3s, so it’s important to ensure most of your first 9 images tell a consistent story. A good mix of colorful, professional imagery with organic content helps you tell a well-rounded story in the first 9 posts.

Likes vs. Engagement
This distinction causes a lot of confusion for businesses and organizations. While likes are a simple, easily understood metric, engagement is a more nuanced formula that takes into account likes, shares, and a little metric on Facebook called “People Talking About This.” Engagement metrics paint a more complete picture of how much awareness your brand is generating and is more akin to tracking “word of mouth” buzz in your audience.

Integrate Your Story
With all the nuances of each platform, it becomes all the more difficult to keep it all “on brand.” Every single post does not have to explicitly allude to your organization’s values, mission, vision, service or product offerings, but a random sampling of your posts should come close to hitting all the most important messaging points and language of your brand.

The Medium is the Message
This refers to the way a media channel can determine the way a message is conveyed. What this means for social media is that it’s important to consider the mainstream usage of the channel. For example, Twitter has gradually become a platform for breaking news and stories, while Instagram has become saturated with influencers and professional content creators. Make sure you’re using the right content for the right platform.

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

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.


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

Next-Mark Shares Prize With City

Bay Runner marketing campaign nets agency international prize

SARASOTA, FLORIDA – As part of the International Parking & Mobility Institute’s (IPMI) annual Awards of Excellence, the City of Sarasota and Next-Mark, LLC have taken home top prize in the “Innovation in a Mobility, Transportation or Parking Program” category for the Bay Runner Trolley.

The free trolley operates seven days a week from 8 a.m. to midnight and has seen ridership in the tens of thousands thanks in part to the success of the robust, impactful and creative marketing campaign created by the downtown marketing agency, Next-Mark, LLC. “More than anything, we were really invested in helping the trolley program garner strong ridership numbers,” says Next-Mark founder Joe Grano, “but an award like this is really humbling and reflects the energy we put into this project.”

The award recognizes projects in five categories that all “reflect the zeitgeist in their originality, creativity, and responsiveness to owner goals, user needs, and social and environmental impact,” according to the IPMI. As one juror commented, “the motto of ‘Live more, drive less’ is perfectly put into practice with this experiential journey,” while the award announcement also cited robust print, TV and in-person advertising as a vital component of the program’s selection for the award.

“It truly takes a village to successfully execute something this big,” says City of Sarasota parking manager Mark Lyons. That “village” was comprised of the city, the Downtown Improvement District, the St. Armands Business Improvement District, and the Florida Department of Transportation, who all contributed funding and insight into the program. “And, of course, hats off to the team at Next-Mark for helping the Bay Runner exceed our expectations,” continues Lyons.

To view the full listing of awards, visit the IPMI website here.

ABOUT NEXT-MARK, LLC: Based in downtown Sarasota, Next-Mark, LLC is a full-service marketing agency that specializes in marketing communications, marketing strategy, public relations, content development, brand strategy and Salesforce services. With both local and national clients, Next-Mark brings a high level of creativity and professionalism to every campaign, regardless of industry or scope.

Marketing The Invisible: 4 Tips to Effectively Market a Service-Based Business

If the entire production output of the service economy were compiled into an empty 10,000-sq-ft. warehouse, that warehouse would still have 10,000-sq-ft. of empty space. That’s because, unlike the manufacturing economy that produces cameras, clothing and candles, the service economy produces no tangible goods.

According to Frances X. Frei of the Harvard Business School, this means a service business’s offerings must be focused on the customer experience rather than on the intrinsic characteristics of a product’s utility. Since a customer’s experience is difficult to quantify, service businesses often have a difficult time conceptualizing a message that can clearly communicate how their service will add value to their customers’ lives. After all, how do you measure “convenience,” “entertainment,” or “peace of mind”?

The key to addressing the challenge isn’t always simple, and that’s before a service business even arrives at the equally important step of designing a tactical plan. With that, here are 5 tips to effectively market a service-based business.

1. Define what you do.

This seemingly innocuous task can elicit crickets from service providers, who often have no clear idea of what they do beyond one or two fundamental actions. For example, a web designer designs websites (obviously), but the process of designing the website might also involve discovery sessions to discern a client’s needs, several rounds of client feedback, regular site maintenance, and incorporating different functions into the site. It’s important to have a clear understanding of a business process that can then be clearly delineated for customers. The most important places to explain these processes are on a website, in social media bios, or on introductory print collateral.

2. Make the case for your value.

Like item #1, a value proposition can be difficult for a service provider to compose because there’s no tangible product. A plumber, for example, most commonly uses their skill to repair existing items like toilets, faucets or bathtubs, as opposed to selling the toilets, faucets or bathtubs themselves. So, a plumber might be “selling” their expertise to get the job done, their professionalism in arriving on time and keeping the worksite clean, and/or selling the client the peace of mind that their plumbing will operate smoothly for years to come. In some cases, the effects of the service might have measurable results like greater sales, reduced operating costs, or, as in the example of the plumber, reduced water bills. Tactically, some things to consider incorporating into a marketing plan to help make the case for your value are client testimonials, concise taglines, and images that depict the kind of satisfaction your service can provide.

3. Pamper your repeat customers.

Everyone wants to grow their business, but getting new customers is more expensive than keeping the ones you already have. It’s important to commit resources in a marketing budget to customer retention instead of focusing exclusively on new leads. Especially when providing services that have maintenance capabilities built into the initial offerings, it’s important to nurture existing client relationships to maintain their awareness of the full scope of your offerings. An A/C company might make a sale for installation, for example, but it’s the maintenance that helps support the livelihoods of technicians and will ensure the customers return to that A/C company when they need a new system in 10 years. Some ways to pamper your repeat customers are with regular follow-ups via phone or email, newsletters to keep them up to date on new services or offerings, referral bonuses or discounts, or brief emails to celebrate birthdays or milestones.

4. Establish your expertise.

Simply put, you can do something for your customers that they cannot do for themselves, most often because they lack the know-how. The more you can demonstrate your services require specialized skills and experience, the more trust you can build in existing and prospective customers. It’s important to let people know not just what you do, but all of the time and specialized training it took for you to become proficient at it. Does your service require extensive schooling? Have you practiced your service in multiple industries? How many years of professional experience do you have? Are you a leader in your field? These are questions your customers will want answered whether they ask them out loud or not. Some ways to answer them are with white papers, case studies, blogs/vlogs, editorial commentary, or speaking engagements.

Ultimately, all of these tips are designed to help service businesses make their intangible offerings seem more real. It’s about connecting with your customers in a dialogue in which you can walk them through their journey with you. As that guide, it’s important to communicate clearly, be relatable, demonstrate that you understand their needs and that you are just the person to meet their needs.

Are you a business operating in the service economy? If so, reach out to Next-Mark to see what we can do for you. We’ve worked extensively with clients in banking, medical services, government agencies, public sector, nonprofit organizations, design firms, and professional trades.

Some years ago, we were part of a PR professionals meeting held at a local daily newspaper. While we were waiting for the session to begin, a biz reporter popped in to thank us—yeah, we were surprised too. In essence, this reporter told us he was glad when a company was represented by an agency because, when left to their own devices, they often didn’t know how to work with the media.

That holes true today even as media forms and platforms have emerged and changed radically over the past few years, each with its own purpose, process and potential value.

Ultimately, that’s the gap we work to bridge every day, keeping clients connected to an ever-changing collection of dots to create and maintain a favorable public image and grow market share. In that pursuit, we have developed a process that is both solid and flexible, grounded yet nimble. And it works.

A Strong Beginning

It starts with research. Before our first substantive meeting with the client, we dig into their organization’s existing media to get a customer’s perspective and find gaps in their messaging.

After that comes a strategic messaging meeting, where we explore how a company wishes to be perceived with our proprietary method.

From there, we work hands-on with the client to compile the nuts and bolts of a messaging strategy to build a thought leadership position through content and implement a media strategy across platforms and vehicles, choosing the right message at the right time with the right language.

Client Education

All along the way, there’s client education, because it’s true most owners and managers are too busy with their day jobs to care about the kind of deliverable we’re producing. They just want to know that it’s working.

For instance, we recently created a virtual press kit for a client who was curious about its purpose. The answer (to us) is simple: To make everything as easy as possible for the inquiring media outlet. The press kit is a snapshot of the company today, including its leadership, services/capabilities, history, contact info, story pitches, topics on which they are qualified to comment, and so on. Whether shared as a hardcopy or digitally, it’s a calling card to meet with local media and an introduction to those beyond earshot. And, since it’s professionally designed to represent the company’s character and personality, it makes a concise, compelling first impression.

More than just a convenience for reporters; now, it’s fodder for today’s understaffed outlets. Other tried-and-still-true methodologies are video (in spades) and social media (a must). Bottom line: It’s all about removing every conceivable hurdle between our client and media.

Ongoing Evaluation

Underlying all PR efforts is an insightful assessment of emerging outreach avenues. This involves keeping track of trends and measuring their worth to each client. In 2022, these trends include:

Sponsored Content

This entails material in a print or online publication that resembles the publication’s editorial content but is placed there, and paid for, by the advertiser. We know what you’re thinking: “Nobody reads this content”. But according to Reuters, 75 percent of consumers say they will engage with whatever well-written content interests them, sponsored or not. So, it’s a great option for some when employed strategically.

The Pitch

“Pitching” a story or an event to an outlet has changed in many ways, with mass email going the way of the dodo. Today, the process must be driven by research and based on a compelling, relevant, personalized story concept. That takes specialized knowledge of how editorial teams work to know how to grab their attention.

Enter the Influencer

It’s a fact: A teenager in Iowa with 100,000 followers on Instagram can have a profound impact on your brand. It’s also a bit unnerving: If your fingers aren’t on the pulse of so-called influencers, there could be forces at work against you. There’s an art to dealing with influencers, figuring out who they are, their level of actual credibility and whether they’re just in it for the free stuff. With the right connections to the right people, though, outreach to bloggers and influencers can be effective, especially for openings and product launches that match their areas of purported expertise.

Consumer Reviews

Unhappy customers today have scores of places to voice their dissatisfaction. With more consumers relying on reviews to make their buying decisions, it’s important that your organization stay true to its brand promise. This will reduce the risk of bad reviews and allow you to collect your own testimonials to display proudly and prominently on your own channels. In addition, responding to reviews is a great opportunity to engage directly with clients to thank them for their input or personally invite them back in to make up for a bad review.

Benchmarks in Perception


Unless yours is the only feed store in Cowtown, people are going to compare your organization to others. Most are going to start online. Your website and social channels will tell a consumer right away how seriously you take your business. Quality content and good design build trust and respect. Decades-old web design templets, outdated fonts and grammatical errors can hurt your image. You can keep it simple, but professionalism is communicated with clear content that’s in your unique voice.

Consistency and Frequency

A lack of these is poison, especially when it comes to social media and online presence. As with personal relationships, it takes consistent, frequent engagement to build/reinforce trust. Does your company finish what it starts? Does it regularly have something worth saying? Is its project list up to date? A lack of effort in communicating an answer to these questions can make a company seem like it’s barely getting by or doesn’t have the time to consider the ease of their customers’ journey.

If we’ve spurred your interest or encouraged you to dig deeper into opportunities, give us a call. We’re always available for a chat and always open to a new mutually beneficial relationship.

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.

In Conversation Series with Bonnie Merrill Limbach

Our In Conversation series continues with another look inside the mind of one of our many talented marketing communications pros. In this edition, we explore the career of Director of Communication Strategy, Bonnie Merrill Limbach. Read on to find out how Bonnie came into the marketing field and some insider tips on the importance of a comprehensive marketing strategy. 

Tell us about your background, and how you chose communications as a career.

I’m a born storyteller, perhaps because of my Appalachian heritage, and I have loved to write for as long as I could do it. Thus, when I finally got the opportunity to go to college full time (and because I haven’t the attention span to write a novel), Mass Communications called my name. By the end of my sophomore year, I was editor of the school newspaper and president of the state collegiate press association, so the passion seemed mutual. For decades now, our love story has continued through stints in journalism, corporate and crisis communications and marketing. 

Why is strategic messaging so vital to organizations?

Strategic messaging is purposeful and persuasive communication, and the sheer process of developing it is, in my opinion, its primary strength. It forces leaders to hit the pause button for a little while to really think about where the company/organization/governmental entity has been, is and wants to go. It’s amazing how often our clients have discovered that they’ve been too busy succeeding to actually take advantage of it, communicating their evolution and truly preparing for the next level. 

Many organizations get caught up in the ever-changing, fast-paced nature of digital marketing tools. What do businesses miss when they fail to enter into a messaging exercise?

Digital marketing tools give companies unprecedented reach. But, without a solid knowledge of the various tools, their purpose, and their users, companies can wind up standing out in the wrong way. Without a unified approach to string all the tools together, a company can end up reaching the wrong audience with the wrong message at the wrong time. Creating an affinity for your brand, it requires mindfulness of whom a company is targeting, and how they prefer to be communicated to. A messaging exercise explores all of these components and gives an organization a cohesive strategy.

You’ve provided messaging counsel for businesses, governmental agencies and politicians. What’s at the core of drafting a messaging platform, regardless of the entity you’re drafting it for?

As Lewis Carroll famously noted (and strategists like to quote): “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” A platform gives you clear direction, a pathway to follow. Key components are messaging goals, desired positioning in the market, a strong value proposition and a brand promise only you can make to set you apart and clearly show differentiators. Key messaging then can be developed with supporting points to create and maintain a consistent voice. 

A messaging session can sometimes feel like conducting a “DNA” eval on an organization. Is this a fruitful analogy? Why or why not?

I see it more as a therapy session. DNA denotes something you’re stuck with from birth, for good or for bad. A messaging exercise is a dynamic process, a deep look into both structure and personality, with decisions made that can change or accelerate a chosen course. It’s a matter of taking control vs. stasis.

We know a messaging document can help a client understand their own organization, but how does a messaging document improve an agency’s ability to generate deliverables?

An approved messaging document is a ticket on an express train. No back and forth is needed, and, with also approved strategies and tactics, work can be completed expeditiously and with – again – purpose, moving steadily toward stated goals. 

What is the greatest advice you have for companies approaching a strategic messaging exercise?

 Specifically, I would say don’t forget the people in the trenches, that is, those in sales, customer service, etc., who actually deal with prospects and customers. Their input can be invaluable. In general, I would say to relax and enjoy the introspection and honest evaluation of the organization and its potential. I honestly can’t remember a client who didn’t find the process enlightening. That’s our goal, and, so far, we’ve succeeded.