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If you want your business to succeed, a powerful marketing department is essential, new research finds.

Strong marketing departments help businesses thrive in both the short term and the long term, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Marketing.

“Structurally, the marketing department not only improves performance by increasing a firm’s capability to perform marketing activities, but also directly increases performance, because they influence the strategic decisions made by the top management team and direct their attention to marketplace issues,” Hui (Sophia) Feng, the study’s lead author and assistant professor of marketing at Iowa State University, said in a statement.

Researchers designed the study to measure marketing department power, and a company’s ability to build and leverage brand equity and customer relationships, by developing a new scale using publicly available data for more than 600 firms in the United States over a 16-year period.

To determine the marketing department’s power, researchers compared head count, compensation, number of responsibilities and rank of job titles of marketing executives to executives in each business’s top management team.

The study discovered that despite a worry that marketing departments have been losing influence in recent years, its power has actually increased. [5 Proven Marketing Tactics to Gain (and Keep) Local Customers ]

“Not only did it increase for firms that didn’t have a marketing department before and created one later, but also for firms that already have a marketing department,” Feng said.

To help measure whether specific company outcomes, such as sales, are a direct result of advertising or social media campaigns, researchers compared how well businesses used available resources to build brands and customer relationships, and their ability to turn those resources into cash flow. This allowed the study’s authors to estimate an organizations’ return on investment in building and leveraging its brand and customer relationships.

The research revealed that strong marketing department power is associated with strong short-term and long-term firm performance.

Feng said the study show that businesses should not be short-sighted and cut marketing budgets and staff because of a crisis or poor quarterly figures.

“Managers need to look beyond one quarter or one year and see marketing is important,” Feng said.

Although there are both short- and long-term benefits of strong marketing departments, company leaders need to keep in mind that it does take time and resources to build brands and customer relationships and that the return on that investment is not immediate. However, once the brand is established, businesses can leverage it to generate more cash flow, the research shows.

Feng said the study’s results have a clear message for businesses.

“It’s very straightforward — invest more in marketing and give marketing a stronger voice in the top management team,” she said. “It’s convincing evidence for marketing professionals to justify an increase in the budget and staff, request more seats and influence in the firm’s top management team, and show that powerful marketing departments create value both in the short-term profitability and long-term shareholder value.”

The study was co-authored by Neil Morgan and Lopo Rego, professors at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.

How to Stand Out on Social Media For MArketing Plan To Success

The busy holiday season can make or break many retailers’ annual revenue goals. Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar store or an e-commerce business, the upcoming weeks will be critical for driving those important year-end sales.

Although you’re probably already relying heavily on social media to spread the word about holiday promotions, focusing on visual platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube can take your marketing efforts to the next level. That’s because images are an incredibly powerful communication tool: According to an MIT study, the human brain can process and identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds.

“It’s anthropological,” said Apu Gupta, CEO of visual social media marketing platform Curalate. “Our ancestors communicated through pictures on cave walls, and now we’re doing the same thing [on social media]. There are so many things competing for our attention today, and you need shortcuts to process it. Images allow us to do that. They’re mental shortcuts that allow us to understand our world better and faster.”

If you want to use visual marketing to your advantage this holiday season, follow these expert social media tips. [Picturing Success: How Photo-Sharing Can Boost Social Marketing]

Use eye-catching images. Product images can be extremely valuable on social media, but if those pictures are small, uninteresting or low-quality, you’re doing more harm than good to your brand. Noelle Federico, chief financial officer of stock photo provider Dreamstime, advised using bright, vibrant images that jump out and catch consumers’ eyes.

“All of your social content has to have visual appeal and draw attention,” Federico told Business News Daily. “Pictures that aren’t done well or don’t look good [will only] deter people from shopping [your brand].”

Create video content. Video content is taking center stage in year-round marketing campaigns, and the holidays are no exception.A recent survey by premium video marketplace Tremor Video found that more than half of all consumers ages 18 to 34, and about 80 percent of consumers over age 35, describe product videos as very or extremely motivating when deciding what to purchase. According to the survey, consumers seek out videos of consumers opening, examining and using a product, as well as product comparisons.

“Leverage unboxing videos as part of your holiday marketing strategy,” said Ariane Gut, vice president and head of insights and analytics at Tremor Video. “To make them look authentic, enroll the help of actual customers or social media influencers instead of trying to recreate one yourself.”

Because consumers are increasingly using mobile devices to consume video content, Gut also advised optimizing your video for smaller screens. You can do this by leveraging short-form content, creating shorter ads that mimic content, and including close-up, clutter-free shots, Gut said.

Incorporate user-generated images. User-generated content from real consumers is perhaps even more powerful than brand-produced images, Gupta said. Customers love getting recognized by their favorite companies on social media, and in most cases, they’re happy to create and share content to be used by a brand.

“During the holiday season, it’s advantageous to run promotions that are all about your fans creating content,” Gupta said. “Having people take photos [of your products] around the holiday season that show how much they’re enjoying them is a great way to spread awareness.”

“By running a holiday social media campaign, you can almost guarantee an increase in sales,” added Nicole Bandklayder, co-founder and chief marketing officer of jewelry retailer Bijouxx Jewels. “[For example, host] a contest to win something, and [to enter], you have to post a photo with the campaign hashtag.”

If you do decide to run a contest, Bandklayder said, make sure to publicize it well across all social platforms, to ensure your followers know about it.

Pay attention to your analytics. As with any marketing effort, keeping a close eye on your metrics — to discover what works and what doesn’t — is the key to creating holiday social media campaigns that stick. This is especially true on Pinterest, where most pinned photos are taken and shared from brand websites, Gupta said. If your followers are sharing photos of specific products, you can use those insights to plan your next move.

“You can learn a lot just by observing which photos [customers] take from your brand and share,” Gupta said. “[If you see] what’s trending for you are holiday photos or photos of sweaters, [you can] use that to inform your advertising this holiday season and make better decisions.”

Holiday Shopping Experience

Until recently, holiday shopping was typically a planned event. You picked a day to head to the malls or department stores, spent a few hours (or more) browsing the selections, and, with any luck, came home with bags full of purchases.

That’s all changed in recent years; instead of daylong, in-store shopping marathons, today’s consumers are squeezing mobile shopping “moments” into their everyday lives. According to recent Google and Ipsos MediaCT data, 54 percent of holiday shoppers plan to shop on their smartphones in their spare time throughout the whole season, rather than cramming it all in on Black Friday weekend.

This trend toward shorter, more purposeful mobile shopping sessions has led to an uptick in mobile sales: Smartphone shopping has increased by 64 percent over the last year, and nearly a third of all online purchases now happen on mobile phones. So if your 2015 holiday marketing strategy only focuses on the “big” shopping days, you’re going to miss out.

“The time to start reaching these holiday shoppers is now,” Matt Lawson, Google’s director of performance ads marketing, wrote in an article about the research. “We found that 61 percent of shoppers will have already started researching their purchases before Thanksgiving weekend, up 17 percent from last year. [However,] the majority of purchasing will take place later into the holiday season. There is no longer a sense of urgency, since every day is a shopping day.”

Even when consumers do visit local stores to do their shopping, they’re still using their mobile devices to research and make purchases. Google found that 52 percent of shoppers will use their smartphones for holiday shopping before visiting stores, and more than 80 percent will consult their phones while in stores.

What does this mean for small businesses? Whether you’re an e-tailer or a brick-and-mortar store, you should strive to provide consumers with a great mobile experience this holiday season.

“[There is] potential to connect with customers in the I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I-want-to-do or I-want-to-buy moments when [they] are making decisions,” said Claire Mudd, director of small business marketing for Google. “Mobile is changing the way we live, and changing the type of information customers expect from businesses online. When mobile users head to the Web, [you should] be there, be useful and be quick.”

Mudd cited three examples of local businesses that have taken these tips to heart and optimized their mobile presence for their customers.

Be there. Today’s consumers want the full scoop on your business before they decide to shop with you. Google data revealed that consumers are 38 percent more likely to visit and 29 percent more likely to consider purchasing from businesses that have complete online listings. Mudd advised updating your listings with seasonal information, hours and photos to make sure would-be visitors have all the information they need to make that decision. For instance, Connecticut-based Lyman Orchards has brought its 18th-century, family-owned business into the modern era by using Google My Business to provide driving directions, hours of operation and contact information so people know when and how to reach the company.

Be useful. Shoppers consult a wide range of online resources in their holiday research, including video content. In fact, 26 percent of shoppers say videos are their go-to source for gift ideas, and 32 percent plan to use video more this year to help with holiday purchases. Businesses like online craft-supply store Blitsy create useful YouTube tutorials that encourage shoppers to purchase the company’s products and create the crafts seen on the videos. Any business can take advantage of this medium to tell the company’s story, share how-tos and inspire viewers, Mudd said.

Be quick. The best time to optimize the mobile version of your website was yesterday. Consumers have very little patience for slow-loading, unresponsive or out-of-date pages, so it’s important to invest time and resources into a mobile-friendly site. Print Syndicate, for example, showcases its latest seasonal designs on its three e-commerce-brand sites, and allows customers to search, view and purchase products with just a few swipes on their mobile devices.

Tips for Best Bet Paid Marketing

As a business owner, you want your company to succeed. Investing in marketing is vital to that success, but many small businesses can’t splurge on — or spare the time for — high-priced advertising campaigns.

A report by Brandmuscle, local marketing software company, found that nearly half of the 860 small businesses surveyed spend $5,000 or less on marketing each year, and one-third spend less than 10 percent of their time on marketing activities.

To make the most of your time and money, here are five effective local marketing tactics that are easy and affordable for your small business.

Business owners know that customers are searching for companies online, and yet many local businesses are reluctant to adopt digital methods, like social media, SEO and even a basic business website. The Brandmuscle survey found that business owners still find digital media to be complicated: While Facebook may be a successful platform, with an increased usage by businesses of 21 percent over the past few years, LinkedIn is primarily employed for personal, not business accounts, and Twitter is too confusing for business owners, survey results showed.

“Many small businesses are so overwhelmed by the number of choices and the level of effort required to maintain [digital marketing] programs that they do nothing,” said Clarke Smith, chief strategy officer of Brandmuscle. “We advise starting small. Talk to customers [and ask] how do they find you today? What types of information would be helpful to them? Are they price-driven? What social channels do they use?”

Aaron Boggs, president of RevLocal, a digital marketing agency, called for the use of search marketing, a type of online marketing that expands a company’s digital presence in search engines.

“Local businesses need to do more with less, and search marketing is no exception,” he said.

First-time freebies

For businesses that are looking to generate new leads, offering potential customers a free product or service for their first visit is a surefire way to bring people into the store. Brian Mattingly, founder and CEO of marketing services and technology franchise Welcomemat Services, said that a no-strings-attached gift to kick off a customer relationship will create a sense of loyalty, but only when it’s with the right audience.

“Loyalty starts with targeting a consumer group that is not just looking for a deal but has a need for your business or service, and of course, they must live near the business,” Mattingly said. “The perfect example of the ‘right’ customer includes someone who recently moved into a new neighborhood or a couple that just became parents.”

Special promotions

Brick-and-mortar businesses have a unique opportunity to host special promotional events for their local communities. Chris Elliott, CEO of Beef ‘O’ Brady’s sports pub franchise, said that on the 20th of each month, his restaurants host a “customer appreciation day,” when guests can come in and redeem a scratch-off card for a chance to win free food.

Elliot said foot traffic increases 11 percent during customer appreciation days. He said he believes customers keep coming back because the owner of each restaurant personally hands them their scratch-off cards and thanks them for their patronage, thereby establishing a personal connection.

“The emotional engagement is the key,” Elliot said. “If you know the customers — if you know their families and their kids’ names, and engage with them on a personal level — you’re going to form a connection that is going to give you an edge and lead to a lifelong customer. That makes a huge difference. You have to have the same loyalty to your customers as you expect from them when you put a customer loyalty program in place. It has to work both ways, or else you’re going to miss the mark and won’t see the same level of return on the investment.”

Sponsorships and local events

Like the promotions described above, local events and sponsorships allow companies to give back while building personal relationships with their communities and customers. Of the integrated marketing campaigns that Brandmuscle looked at, 46 percent included community sponsorship and 44 percent included a local event. According to the survey, these sponsorships and events were among the most frequently used marketing tactics, with three of four respondents using these methods for their businesses.

The survey suggested that companies invest more of their marketing dollars in sponsorships and events to build up their brand presence.


When most people think of rebranding, they think of a big, time-consuming overhaul that requires a huge investment. But rebranding can be as simple as modernizing your logo, switching your slogan or even just updating your company website. Doing something just slightly different from your status quo will pique customers’ interest and make them want to learn more.

“The effects of a comprehensive, well-executed rebranding have shown tremendous benefit across the board,” said Dan Antonelli, CEO and creative director of advertising agency Graphic D-Signs. “Whether it’s creating a great experience with an intuitive and responsive website design or crafting a logo that makes customers crack a smile each time they see it, marketing needs to have emotion.”

Regardless of the tactics you choose, you should schedule a set time devoted to marketing activities, even if it’s only an hour a week, said Brandmuscle’s Smith.

Online Business to Success Tips

It may still be back-to-school season, but retailers and consumers alike are already starting to get a jump on holiday shopping. To get the most out of this year’s holiday season, businesses should be targeting shoppers both online and offline, new research finds.

According to the study from marketing agency Epsilon, 87 percent of consumers are at least somewhat likely to shop at brick-and-mortar stores this holiday season. That doesn’t mean, however, that they won’t be doing their fair share of online shopping as well. More than three-quarters of the consumers surveyed said they are likely to make purchases online, while 54 percent said they likely will look in-store for a product and then go online to find the best deal.

Tom Edwards, the chief digital officer for the Agency for Epsilon, said that the location where consumers are shopping for the upcoming holiday season is less important than how they are getting there.

“Leading up to the holiday season, retailers need to continue to focus on creating consistent and contextually relevant experiences for consumers across devices, time and media,” Edwards said in a statement. “If they’re not engaging in this manner, they risk losing out on their share of holiday shopping budgets.”

While businesses have increased their digital marketing campaigns in recent years, direct mail still sways shoppers. The study discovered that 77 percent of those surveyed said advertisements received by mail will have at least “some influence” on their holiday buying decisions, compared to 41 percent who said online banner ads would sway their buying decisions.

The study’s authors said shoppers are often influenced by direct mail because it usually contains an offer or discount and because the format allows for them to review the material on their own schedules. Edwards said retailers need to apply what consumers appreciate about direct mail to online efforts.

“To improve the level of influence from online advertising efforts, retailers need to leverage offline and online insights to create personalized experiences that take into account consumers’ desire for offers or discounts,” Edwards said. “Utilizing a more targeted approach to online advertising will also create a more compelling and engaging cross-channel experience for consumers.”

Despite the influence of direct mail, email marketing remains a critical channel for retailers wanting to connect with consumers. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said an email sent directly from a brand will have at least some influence on their holiday buying decisions. In all, email sent directly from a brand is the type of advertising that influences the greatest percentage of holiday shoppers, the study showed.

The researchers said shoppers tend to like this type of advertisement because it’s personal and the emails they receive tend to be from brands the consumers like.

In the end, customer experience will be the silver bullet to winning this holiday season, said Adam Miller, vice president of retail industry strategy for Epsilon.

“Each holiday season comes with its share of unknowns, but 2016 appears to have great opportunity for success with thoughtful planning and the use of powerful data to understand your customers’ needs,” Miller said. “Map a thorough customer-journey experience to ensure you’ve thought of every possible touch point to win over shoppers and create an experience that elevates your customers’ interaction with your brand.”