Category Archives: Community

Communications plan or connections plan. Using connection planning to target and engage customers during the buying cycle.

When most marketers develop a communications plan, they start with their product or service, determining the target audience that represents the greatest revenue opportunity.  Smart marketers dig deeper to identify target insights, high-opportunity vertical segments or underdeveloped regions.

But if you want your marketing to go a step further and truly engage with customers, you should establish rich connections based on where they are in the purchase cycle.  This dimension is especially important if you are promoting a product with a long sales cycle, or a B2B brand.

For a prospect to consider selecting your brand, you must first establish a base level of knowledge and trust.  One quarter of the U.S. respondents to Edelman’s 11th Annual Trust Barometer indicated that they needed to hear something about a company 6+ times before they believe it.  Note that they said “hear,” not “be exposed to.”  With advertising exposure exceeding 3,000 messages per day, it is critical that marketers connect with prospects, rather than simply shout at them.

To start creating a connection plan, consider how your brand relates to prospects in each of these stages:

Unaware and Unengaged:  This is the largest, but also the most passive target group.  They have unmet needs, but have yet to begin actively looking for a solution.

Increasingly Interested:  This group has started to show interest in your category and may be attending trade shows, beginning to read relevant articles or looking for informational webinars.

Actively Searching:  Prospects who are actively searching are driven by a pressing need.  They are researching specific solutions and beginning to establish impressions of brands that best fit that need.

Confirming Credentials and Chemistry: This group is actively going through the RFP process (whether formal or not), narrowing their options and determining which brand has the right solution at the right price.

Establishing the Relationship:  Communications shouldn’t stop when the sale is made.  The value that current users place on the relationship will make or break both referrals and incremental sales.

By customizing the media and message to align with each of these stages in the purchase cycle, marketers will have the foundation for a powerful, multi-touchpoint connection plan.

–          Pamela J. Alvord, EVP Managing Director of Strategy and Operations

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Thank you for sharing.

Part of the creative’s job these days is to develop ways to encourage sharing a new campaign. It’s no longer enough to create brilliant creative that connects with the audience. Now, creative needs to be so powerful that it encourages “engagement” and “sharing.”

Is there a formula for creating engaging, shareable creative? No, but there are some guidelines. And they must be followed by more than just the folks in the creative department. In fact, it requires everyone who touches the project to make it happen.

A) Creative must be easy to share. That means unlocking the content and putting Share buttons on it (not on a Web page) so that the components can live beyond the page. This allows the audience to take ownership of the content and share it with their friends the way they actually use the Web.

A video that only lives on a Web page isn’t easily shareable to Facebook aficionados who are used to sharing YouTube videos on their wall. And allowing bloggers to embed your content on their blog gives them partial ownership and will generate more interest than requiring them to post a link and send their readers off their site.

B) Make your strategy relevant. Messages like the “best,” “cheapest,” and the “most value for your money” aren’t going to cut it in the world of social sharing. You have to get on the level of your consumer and stop talking down at them. Relate to them with something that is fun or has emotional meaning, and you’re more likely to find them sharing your message with their peers.

C) Be inclusive and honest. People can smell an aloof fake a mile away. Especially the connectors who are the ones that share content socially.

D) Don’t execute just to the media plan. Get into the minds of consumers and think about their behavior and how they will interact with your campaign.

E) All this isn’t enough if the creative is weak. Last year it might have been, when few marketers were in the social sphere. Now that the novelty of social marketing has worn off, creative must be entertaining and provocative.

What are you doing to make your creative shareable?

— Jimmy Gilmore, Senior Writer


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Rattlesnakes and Mullets?

As a business-school student, I dreamed of the day I would graduate and work in the glamorous world of advertising…where my days would be filled with photo shoots, wardrobe selections, high-profile events with clients, and TV commercials at exotic locations; then reality HIT!

During the last two years, I have been tasked to search for local events for my clients to sponsor. Frequently, I come across the most peculiar events that surprisingly hundreds of folks attend annually. And, I would ask myself, “Why on earth would you attend a rattlesnake festival, mullet (as in the fish, not the hairstyle) rodeo or agricultural festival for fun?”

The fact is, these events are deeply rooted in the backbone of American small towns. Typically, these events are aligned with the history and prosperity of the town, and are a huge source of pride for its residents.  As a “city-dweller,” I have definitely grown to appreciate the warmth of the small-town communities as they unite and support each other during the planning and execution of these events.

The truth is, during these hard economic times, many consumers are no longer enamored with the big shiny commercials or sleek catchphrases; nor do they aspire to have more than what they can truly afford. Consumers want honesty, trust, and the support of their community. Consumers want to know that they are getting value for their money and that the brands they choose are truly invested in the wellbeing of their fellow neighbors. And what better way to support a community than by sponsoring and investing in the local culture in order to build a long-lasting relationship with the residents of that town.

I cannot count the numerous “thank-yous” and appreciation notes my clients have received from local governments and residents for our support of their town; it means a lot to them.

So, I may not be on a TV commercial set by the beach, but I have the satisfaction of knowing that I’m  not only helping my clients advertise their service and products…but, more importantly, I’m helping small communities maintain their culture, which is more than I could have asked for in a career.

— Karla Chambers, Account Executive


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Community service and the small business

I believe in serving the community where you live and work. Not everyone can do this, because the pressures of everyday living provide little or no time. However, as a business owner, I think you have an obligation to do so.

For many years, I did not know how to go about it. I always thought my business was too small, or I didn’t know the right people. Which organizations do you pick? How do I know they would even be interested in my contribution? Speaking of contributions, add in the fact that I always thought you had to write a very large check – which I could not support. So I stayed frozen in limbo-land, periodically feeling guilty about my lack of community support or involvement.

That is, until I got involved with Atlanta’s Partnership Against Domestic Violence, where I was able to offer the services of my advertising agency to help the non-profit develop a communications plan. Then it struck me – I don’t necessarily have to write a big check to be noticed – I can provide the services of my company and perform community service in an in-kind way.  That’s not rocket science, and a lot of small-business owners already know this, but it may be news to some.

For the last few years I have been contributing agency time and talent to a few worthwhile community organizations. And now I serve on the board of some of them – where writing a check is expected.

The larger message is this: once the community provides an environment where your business can thrive, you owe it to give back. It’s not just money that talks – it’s time, talent, and belief that you will make a difference.

— Rena Kilgannon, Principal

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