I am Determined, Unwavering…

Back in the day (WAY back in the day) I was a waitress at Red Lobster. It was a fantastic college gig…I went to school full time mon-friday, I would then work a friday night, saturday all day, and sunday lunch, and I’d leave with enough cash to pay my rent and utilities for an entire month (a cozy 2-bedroom apt. in beautiful Hyde Park, Cincinnati, I might add!) What I remember most though about that job is not the money (or those cheddar biscuits smothered in butter), it was a lady I worked with. She was loaded with personality….she always made the best of a bad  night (and there were plenty of those.) She always stayed positive, which was something to be said because she was diagnosed with extreme diabetes. She became very sick, she disappeared for about 2 months, and when she came back to work she was skin and bones. She used to say “I am determined, unwavering…” either out loud or under her breath. She would ALWAYS say it….so much so that it has been burned into my memory. She didn’t work my last night there, and I wish she had, I never got to say good bye and thank her for her endless positive outlook on life…. and of course a really great “one-liner” that would stay with me over the next 10 years, and easily into the next 50.

Life is challenging, life is tough. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with an illness that’s seemingly out of your control, you’ve lost a loved one, you’ve lost your job, you’ve lost a big account, you’ve lost your home, you’ve lost your way….strength is something we all have and “tomorrow” is a chance we all get. We all have a rough road, it just looks different for each of us. I’ve carried the “I am determined, unwavering….” philosophy thru my big move to chicago (all on my own), relationships that failed miserably, lost opportunities, financial struggles as I worked my way thru my career, and my career in general. And for all of the truly hard times, times where I only had my own shoulder to cry on, I am grateful.

To be “Determined, Unwavering…” to me means the following:

1. Don’t relive the past. Who you were when you were 15 is not who you are today. I only reflect on my past when I need some extra motivation to keep moving forward. I recall the individuals who said I “wasn’t fast enough” “wasn’t smart enough” “wasn’t cool enough” (What does that even mean???) “wasn’t talented enough” and then all of a sudden I have this extreme desire to prove all of them wrong….the huge mountain that I hesitated to climb suddenly became a tiny bump in the road. It’s the best immediate injection of super-fueled motivation you can get! Pushing the freight train forward every single day is exhausting…occasionally, one needs motivational assistance. Once you’ve got it, don’t waste one more precious second on the past, focus on the future.

2. People come and go…and that’s perfectly alright. For every 10 people you build a relationship with, 9 of them are almost surely going to exit stage left. It’s nothing to be sad about, it simply is what it is. No hard feelings…. it’s human nature. The best part…. that one person left standing is, what I would consider, a phenomenal human being who ‘gets’ you, is there for you, supports you, and is willing to stick it out for the long haul. They include you in their life, they tell you the truth, they return your call, they always RSVP, they don’t give you excuses, they support your decisions, they never lose touch with you, they take you to the airport (Seinfeld, anyone??) They are AWESOME :) And they are worth waiting for….to persevere in a determined, unwavering fashion, you’re going to need them :)

3. Set goals and achieve them. No excuses. Without goals, life is pretty dull. Sadly, it took me a VERY long time to get into the swing of things. I actually believed that I couldn’t do anything…I walked around in a cloud of “I just can’t do it.” Weird, and sad. I missed out on a lot of opportunity. Slowly  but surely, I started setting goals and trying to achieve them. Once I started achieving them, I quickly became addicted. That alone changed my life completely. Turns out, I am smart…I am fast…I am talented. Goals, and achieving them, are the absolute BEST thing you can do for yourself.

4. And finally, believe in yourself. No one else is responsible for doing that for you. Be determined, unwavering… no matter what happens. Roll the dice every now and then, you’ll lose some…but you’ll also win some, too. Believing in yourself just might be the key to happiness. Believing only leads to good things:)

“I am determined, unwavering….” I know this is 10 years too late, but Thank You Helen. Funny how words can shape your entire being :)

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Google Analytics: The Cherry on my Strategic “Digital Lead Generation, Conversion Obsessed, Sales Producing” Marketing Campaign Sundae

What did I learn from my google analytics training?? That I’m an idiot for not taking advantage of GA sooner.

With that being said, it’s time to move forward and utilize its customizable reports and tracking features to their full potential. My job relies heavily on measuring marketing campaign effectiveness. My marketing duties are essentially this: create the concept and messaging for a campaign, design the campaign, launch the campaign, measure the campaign. …(the BEST job in the world if you ask me!) On a monthly basis, I measure various aspects of the campaigns, the most important being LEADS. Salesforce.com is a fabulous database that gets me about 80% there….with Google Analytics, I finally have that elusive 20%.

Our main lead generation source is our website. For the most part, all of my marketing campaigns lead interested parties to our site in hopes that they will take their interest a step further and submit a “lead” regarding a particular product. Digital leads are EXTREMELY valuable to me. I am constantly pursuing better methods of reaching the right people at the right time to get the best possible lead. Currently, the quality of our leads is quite good! But how do you increase that number without acquiring your fair share of “bad” leads? My very basic plan: utilize google analytics to measure, learn, and take action.

Here’s how I’m going to use GA to improve campaign success:

1. GA has four categories that I am NOW obsessed with: Audience, Traffic Source, Content, and Conversions. Every month I look at new users vs. returning visitors….every month I look at where these people are coming from (so insightful! I’m getting more leads from our LinkedIn company profile than I am from a PAID marketing service I use….needless to say I won’t be paying much longer) …the Content section…well, I wasn’t really using as much as I should have…and Conversions, um, shamefully, I wasn’t using that at all. Thanks to my GA training, I will be.

2. Setting up GOALS: again, another wonderful feature I wasn’t using. One of the goals I will be establishing is tracking the number of conversions that take place after our lead form is submitted, which is located on our Contact Us page.

Another GOAL I’ll be setting up are conversions from our PPC campaign, which are currently not even linked to our GA account!

I’m also going to set up a GOAL for New vs. Returning visitors…. I want to increase that conversion rate because one of my main objectives for our website is to make it a resource that visitors continually reference. I want our returning visitors % to increase, as well as our overall site visits.

3. GA allows you to create customizable reports…who knew! I’ve spent hours gathering data from Sources alone…I’m constantly looking at Direct Traffic, Referrals, and Search gathering information on how many people visited our site typing in our URL, what sites are referring traffic (Very important when determining ROI) and whether paid search or organic search is generating more traffic and, eventually, leads. Now I can create my own report that automatically pulls those numbers for me, comparing this year to last year in one press of a button! Bliss :)

4. Taking advantage of Campaigns: so I’ve been doing this the hard way. I’ve been creating my own custom URL thru our website platform (which isn’t ideal, but it’s worked) and then typing that custom URL into Pages to see how many hits that URL received.  With Campaigns, it will automatically measure clicks from a custom URL (created by GA) with defined (I define it) traffic source info. Again, Bliss :)

5. GA was super helpful in painting a clearer picture for specific keywords used in google search that led people directly to our site…GA gave me the top 100 most used keywords. Why is this helpful? Now I can see non-branded keywords that rank poorly that, moving forward, I may consider incorporating into my PPC program…it may ALSO help me write a BETTER negative keywords list! Which of course helps me reduce PPC costs while reaching the most targeted and interested parties. I can ALSO remove the branded keywords from the list to determine HOW EFFECTIVE our SEO optimization is….Good stuff!

I could go on and on and on about all the new things I’ll be using GA for…. So many tracking and reporting features for AdWords, Campaigns, tagging campaigns with UTMs, visitor page path analysis, etc. Not to mention setting up conversion goals for our e-commerce section…yikes.  I think, though, these topics are for another day. Who wants to read 8 more pages?? I know I don’t wanna write 8 more pages :) The 5 action items listed above are what I’m focusing on first!

Hopefully this helps, or maybe provides SOME insight, on your own campaign tracking initiatives. Personally, for me, I don’t love analytics. Not gonna lie…I’d rather be doing ANYTHING else than pulling reports and staring at pie charts. If I had my way, I’d be designing campaigns all day long! However, a key component to my marketing campaigns WORKING and me proving that they work (delivering the goods, as I like to say) has everything to do with pulling reports and staring at pie charts. It is a necessary evil for me…. ROI is always going to be front-and-center. For me, at the end of the day, I want to show that the marketing campaigns I create, design and launch pay off in spades. The numbers are the only way to prove that I’m reaching the right people at the right time, and that every penny I spend is accounted for. Lucky for me, Google Analytics is extremely user-friendly and gives me everything I need to put results in front of management :)

I strongly suggest getting GA training, for me it was the difference between scratching the surface and getting a deep understanding of features and functionality.

How do you use GA? I’d love to hear it! Feel free to post your own experience on how it has helped you make sense of your marketing initiatives (and marketing spend!)

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DIY: The Look of Lomo Photography

 

BEFORE

I think this week I’ll share one of my MOST favorite photoshop techniques: the “look of lomo.” I apply this technique to a lot of my own personal photos, to me this look has a brightly colored vintage effect…one that makes any average photo look amazing :) Lomo photography comes from the lomo camera, which was apparently created in the early ‘90s. The look involves a soft focus, a vignette around the picture, and highly vibrant (yet vintage looking) images… which is achieved by photoshop’s Curves, Unsharp Mask and altering the LAB Lightness contrast.

AFTER with Lomo Technique

Here’s how you do it (this is greatly simplified from a tutorial I followed):

1. Create your vignette: Grab your lasso tool, change the feather to 100px, and draw a not so perfect circle around your image. Then go to SELECT>Invert. Now go to IMAGE>Adjustment>Levels. I select the middle triangle and gradually move towards the right….make as dark or as light as you’d like. This process creates a nice dark and mysterious vignette around the edges of the image.

2. Adjust your CURVES: Go to LAYER>New Adjustment Layer>Curves. A box will pop up, click OK. In the curves box that is now to the right of your screen, make that diagonal line an “s” (I recommend a very slight “s” shape…the more pronounced your “s” shape is, the brighter and more blown-out your image may look.)

3. Create a FILL of BLACK: Go to LAYER>New Fill Layer>Solid Color. A box will pop up, in the MODE drop down, select HUE….in the OPACITY box, type in 30%….click OK….the color box should pop up, select BLACK.

4. FLATTEN YOUR IMAGE…it’s good to flatten at this point. Go to LAYERS>Flatten.

5. UNSHARP your Image: Here’s what really makes your photo look cool….Go to IMAGE>Mode>LAB.Once you’ve changed your image color mode to LAB, go to your CHANNELS box (on the right) and click on LIGHTNESS. Now go to FILTER>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask. You can play around with these settings…at this point, it’s your own personal preference. Once you’ve adjusted and are happy with the results, click OK. Click back over to LAB (you had Lightness selected, remember?) Now your image is color again. Change your color mode back over to RGB.

6. Ta Da!!!!! Beautiful and very cool. Now you can adjust further if you’d like…sometimes I adjust the levels again…sometimes I leave as is.

Try this photo technique on some every day photos….or some wedding photos….or pictures of your kids! It makes your average photos look very impressive and professional. Enjoy!

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SUBMIT!: Web Leads 101

To me, a company’s website is, in a sense, the “Silent Salesperson” who’s ready to assist you 24 hours a day. The web never sleeps, never takes a vacation, never calls in sick….it’s always there ready to educate, answer your question, provide documentation, and most importantly, guide you to a sale. If you want to purchase 100 widgets at 3am, you can do so. The “Silent Salesperson” is the hardest working employee you have…unless of course, it isn’t optimized to do all of the above. If your website can’t hold your visitor’s hand and assist them in every possible way, thus leading to a sale, then in my opinion it is simply a black hole you throw money into and never see a dime in return…it becomes a waste of space AND a perfectly good domain name.

Hundreds, maybe thousands of people, visit your website every day. Is your site fully optimized to assist them? Think of all the many questions a web visitor might ask….can your site answer their questions quickly??? What are all the things a visitor might look for….does your site make it easy for them to find??? And the million dollar question….what if they want to BUY? Can they???

Take a hard look at your company’s website. Is there an easy and efficient way to get interested parties to buy…or, maybe take a few steps back in the process…is there a good way to get those interested parties into your database so that your Inside Sales team can follow up?  Google Analytics may have some tough numbers for you to swallow….if your web traffic is HIGH but your website leads are very LOW, you may have a case of missed opportunities.

You can make some very minor, yet significant, changes to your web pages that allow new and potential customers to SUBMIT their “request” to be processed immediately, thus drastically increasing lead generation and sales overall.

If you have beautiful product pages with no obvious “Next-Steps” that lead to a sale, consider the below:

1. Implement a Call-to-Action on every product page. Essentially, there is a box of text dedicated to asking some pertinent questions like “Looking for more product information? Looking for a quote? Click here!”

2. The “Click Here” takes you to a very simple contact us form that is dynamically built according to what you’re looking for. For example…if you’re looking for a quote on product, very specific information is asked of you to fill out and SUBMIT. If you’re looking for more product information, different information is asked of you to fill out and SUBMIT. Make sure you’re asking what is reasonable.

3. The submitted information goes directly into your database where it is processed within 24 hours by your sales team. This information, once submitted, has now become a web lead. This web lead will then hopefully become a business opportunity that eventually results in a sale.

You now have a system in place to gather information from your many daily web visitors! Before the web was a “missed opportunity,” now it is your primary source for lead generation, and ultimately, building new relationships with new customers.

Some advice from someone’s who’s been there-done that:

  • Keep your forms short and to-the-point. Don’t ask for too much information, like someone’s address when it’s not needed to go to the next level. Asking for too much too soon can be off-putting. If your form is too long, you can forget about anyone filling it out. Remember that they’re dealing with a website, and NOT a real person….willingness to provide information is limited.
  • Make sure you have an EXCELLENT web support company (or a web guru on staff) to program your form directly into your database. My experience is with salesforce.com. This automated form submission is FABULOUS!!! And worth every penny J
  • Don’t forget to create a solid internal lead processing structure for when the leads do come in….who follows up? What steps do they follow? This is crucial to ensure that the lead doesn’t get lost.
  • Regardless of how vast and wide your website is, make sure there are “breadcrumbs” everywhere leading your visitors to where you want them to be…in my case, it was the submission form. If they talk to us, we can talk to them….and so begins our very basic web lead generation process.
  • Lead source label!! If the lead comes from your website, it needs to be classified as such. This lead label automates for me via the form and is crucial for my end of month reports.
  • When building your form, be sure to ask “How did you hear about us?” This allows you to get a little more information that may add some ROI to your many marketing initiatives, i.e. email blasts, print advertising, LinkedIn, etc.Here’s what I care about: I want to know how many leads I get from all digital sources, but most importantly, I want to know how many qualified leads are submitted thru the website and are directly submitted into my database for tracking and follow-up. And ultimately, at the end of the day, I want to see how many leads converted to a sale, which in turn justifies my marketing spend.

So….get your website lead form up and running, automate your form submission into your database, implement an internal lead processing structure, build your reports, track your results, and START MEASURING!

FEEDBACK?? Please post! Would love to hear how other marketing professionals generate leads and track them!

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To FAX or Not to FAX, that is ALWAYS my Question….

I have a love/hate relationship with fax blasts. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you get amazing response rates…sometimes you get tons of phone calls from angry fax recipients asking to be taken off your fax list. Yep…I’ve sent fax blasts where we started receiving angry calls within 2 minutes of the fax going out. I would sit there and think “why don’t these people want my expertly designed fax blasts with targeted and pertinent messaging???” Every call was a knife in the heart. After having a few of these experiences, I started logging all the reasons I heard as to WHY people didn’t want fax blasts.

Top 3 reasons why your customer DOESN’T want a fax from you:

  • There may be charges on their end to receive your fax (it does come thru the phone line, after all)
  • It ties up their phone line (customers have a HUGE problem with you hijacking their phone line)
  • You’ve just sent them information they don’t care about
  • They don’t recall ever opting in to your fax blasts

Now here’s where I’m torn….fax blasts are super direct, more so than any mailer or email you could send. Chances are, the fax machine is in a very visible and important place, so someone is definitely going to see it. It’s fast…your message, your promotion, your Call to Action, whatever….it’s going to get to your customer within minutes of you sending it. It’s cheap….sending a fax is more cost effective than sending a mailer, possibly even cheaper than sending an email…it’s definitely a communication vehicle that can’t be discounted.

Here’s some stats I can’t ignore:

I ran a customer satisfaction survey via fax to roughly 500 contacts. Within 2 days, I had received 129 completely filled out surveys. Within 5 days, I had received another 62. So within 5 business days of my fax going out, I had a 38% response rate. That’s pretty damn fast. And, I had all this valuable customer feedback that I needed for a very low cost! So like I said… love/hate relationship.

My Top 3 reasons to consider fax blasts:

1. FAST

2. Very Targeted (assuming you have a list of customers who have opted in for fax blasts)

3. Cheap (what marketing budget doesn’t love cheap?? I know mine does!)

Thinking of trying out a fax blast campaign? Consider this….

I’ve found that you really have to look at your industry to determine if fax blasts are the way to go. At my previous job, I was dealing with veterinarians and very busy hospitals. Yes, my faxes were received quickly and most people responded positively…but…I also received some angry calls because my fax blast tied up their phone line and THEIR customers couldn’t get through. Needless to say, I pulled back on the fax blasts leaving only the continuing education fax we sent out on a monthly basis.

Before that job, I worked at an Association where fax blasts really weren’t the way to go to reach members….direct mail was.

Just recently, I sent out a fax blast to motor repair shops….yes, I am now in the industrial manufacturing industry. The fax was in regards to our upcoming trade show… “Visit our Booth!” The message was simple, the fax went out a week before the show, and it targeted the registered attendees for the show who all opted in for faxes…that’s about as targeted as you can get. The intention of this fax is help drive more traffic to our booth….I hope to hear good things!

Just a few more pointers…

1. Design your fax blast in black and white….that’s how your customer will receive it anyways.

2. If you use images, make them Black and White images in photoshop, and up the contrast. This will help the image fax better.

3. Don’t forget your Opt-out verbiage at the very bottom. You must provide a number they can call to opt-out if they so choose to.

Maybe you’ll love the fax blast, maybe you’ll hate it…I always say it’s worth a try :) Good luck!

Check out my design portfolio on Coroflot.com at http://www.coroflot.com/heatherb_design for some design inspiration!

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All You Need is Love: A Positive ReBranding

You know what I love about “love?” It changes everything. It says everything you need to say…it heals the wounded…it re-builds what’s been destroyed…and it’s the most powerful POSITIVE visual image you could possibly put out there into our vast universe. What communicates better than love? It is my own personal appreciation and respect for “love” that inspired me to use it as the key ingredient in re-branding my company’s industry presence.

It was a perfect match, really. My company existed in the veterinary industry, and the veterinary industry exists to not only “love” animals, but love them enough to save them. Love actually runs rampant in this great industry. Ask any veterinarian why they chose to be a veterinarian….most of them (if not all of them) would probably tell you it’s because they love animals and only want to take care of them. So, taking the essence of what makes this industry tick, I set forth to change the image of my company via print and digital marketing.

What I did was quite simple…I adopted the heart shape into my company’s name. I got rid of the heavy dark blue’s and made everything a crisp bright white…I even had the animals in our print ads wear a heart-shaped collar…I implemented headlines such as “Making sure that quality medicine leads to more quality time”…I wanted this message to be crystal clear: we love animals, too. We come to work every day thinking about what’s best for animals…and what quality products can we continually add to our portfolio that we KNOW can save lives AND benefit the veterinarian’s practice by being economical to operate? Featuring our new logo with the heart shape, and putting the patient in all our marketing efforts, was to me the winning combination. Communicating visually to our target audience hinged on making that pivotal emotional connection between the patient, the purchaser (veterinarian) and the product.

What I found interesting was that utilizing the heart shape in my design concepts, and putting the patient front and center, also set my company apart from the competition. The medical industry, whether it be human or animal, can be a cold industry VISUALLY speaking. These fields are loaded with marketing materials, print ads, and web sites filled with machines and lots and lots of text. Machines like hematology and chemistry analyzers, for example, are key to a successful diagnosis….crucial to ultimately saving animal lives….but I noticed that these marketing examples were rather cold in design and boring to look at, not to mention wordy. Where are the animals? Where are the pictures of these machines actually being used on animals? And where is the sense of caring and emotion that this industry is so heavily built on? In a sea of emotionless advertising, a cuddly patient with a heart-felt message really stood out.

I put my campaign out there…and the results were just as I had hoped. One of our competitors even copied the heart shape idea! And as a marketing person, I was of course, flattered :) People always notice something positive, something good. Ultimately, we’re all trying to do the same thing…sell product. We have the same type of products that everyone else is selling…so what makes us different? How do we get mindshare over our competitors? My approach was to change the way we looked by exploding into the market place promoting our excellent product portfolio, our exceptional customer service, and our LOVE for animals. If I was a veterinarian, personally, I’d want to do business with a company that felt the way I felt about animals…I put animals first, I want a company who does the same. I’d build a relationship with a company who wasn’t ALWAYS trying to sell me something, but rather support me in my tireless daily mission of saving animals and keeping them healthy. That’s exactly what my company set forth to do…and I believe my marketing efforts communicated just that. The emotional connection is often times overlooked in marketing, but I say this….we are humans, humans “feel”, and whether we like to admit it or not, we often make all our decisions based on emotion. Never underestimate the emotional bond that you can create with marketing…it is essential to a successful and meaningful campaign with long-lasting results!

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The Hummingbird Theory: Accomplish the “impossible” and happiness will follow

Hummingbirds are a symbol for “accomplishing that which seems impossible and will teach you how to find the miracle of joyful living from your own life circumstances” (according to a website I stumbled upon)… I like that! We can’t have enough reminders that life is tough, and something you have to conquer successfully…or not successfully (hey, it happens), on a daily basis. Accomplishing the impossible (or so you think) is the best feeling in the world! And the best part, each accomplishment came with an unforgettable learning experience, i.e. long, arduous road loaded with potholes, orange construction cones, crazy drivers…you get my point. The Hummingbird theory is that regardless of how hard the road was, it ultimately leads to happiness. Whether it be a personal or professional learning experience, I cherish all of them…the good and ESPECIALLY the bad. I’ve definitely had my share of accomplishing the impossible, and as a result…life is VERY good :)

I thought the Hummingbird was a nice visual segway to a new part of my life which, of course, includes blogging about my favorite subject again…Design & Marketing.

It’s been 210 days since my last blog post…yikes…..and in that time, I’ve accepted a new job and I’ve had a beautiful baby boy…two of my biggest accomplishments to date! And the last couple of months have been filled with a treasure trove of new learning experiences within the marketing and communications arena…and I’ve been dying to blog about them! But a break was needed and re-prioritization was necessary… it was time to have a family and RELAX just a little bit :) A new concept for me all together. Blogging was put on the back burner to focus on my new job, cuddle with my new baby, sleep in on the weekends, Go on long walks with my husband, take up some new hobbies…it’s been an amazing few months! No complaints.

Now I think it’s a good time to get back on the wagon and start blogging again. Maybe not everyday, but definitely once a week. I have lots to write about…and hopefully they are topics that provide insight, aid in direction, spark some creativity, add value in some meaningful way, or just inspire a fellow marketer and/or designer. All us marketing people need to stick together…We should all be in the game to help each other whenever and however possible.

My posts are of my own experiences learning from the ground up and making mistakes just like everyone else. Please comment! Feedback is always welcome :) And if you haven’t subscribed yet, do so! I get lots of emails asking me for design assistance and my marketing “opinion”…My email inbox is always open, so feel free to ask!

It’s good to be back blogging on my own little soap box in cyberspace!

Posted in Inspire Design, Marketing Strategy: Success and Failure, PR: The Art of Positive Communication, Thoughts, Accomplishments, News, etc. | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment