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Thursday, December 18, 2014

And To All, A Good Night...

Hello, Pushing The Envelope readers!

Our blog will be on a holiday hiatus until January 7, 2015. We wish you a fabulous holiday season and we'll see you in January with all new weekly content!

All the best,

Bob and Susan

6 Tips to Mingle (and Jingle) Your Way Through Your Office Holiday Party

It’s here! 
The last weekend before the holidays. And the last opportunity for your office to throw a party or maybe for your boss to invite your department out for drinks. 
Excited? Apprehensive? Feeling like bailing? Whatever you may be feeling about holiday celebrations in your office, here are 6 tips to help you make it through the activities before you head off to your loved ones’ holiday festivities:

 1.  Don’t go on an empty stomach.

Your employer may spring for hors d'oeuvres or even shell out for a lavish meal, but it’s still a good idea to have a bite (or two) before you arrive. Wine can sneak up on the best of us, and managing being intoxicated with managing showing your boss your social side can backfire before you realize having that third glass of cabernet sauvignon was a faux pas.

Besides, you’re there to mingle, and mingling with food isn’t always a pretty sight.

2.   Reach out to coworkers you don’t know well or don’t know at all.
You may go through your typical day at work and have direct contact with 3-5 people. You may email that guy in Accounting on a weekly basis, but not know that he teaches accounting classes online after work. You may see that one woman who always wear that one blazer every Tuesday, but have no clue what her name is or which department she works in. Why not use your office holiday gathering to reach out to people outside the small circle of those you know? Rapport among coworkers makes for a happier, more productive workplace.
Who knows? That woman in that blazer may be on the other side of that desk when you’re interviewing for a promotion.

3. Recognize diversity.
It’s important that no one feels excluded or overlooked. While it may seem like a good idea to plan a party or activity that specifically represents every affiliation, it’s a better idea to go for neutrality.The holiday season and the end of a productive year for a business are reasons for everyone to celebrate; make it comfortable for everyone to do so.
Focus on what you share with coworkers with religious and cultural affiliations that are different than yours. What is something you all share? Maybe it's a laugh about ugly holiday sweaters. 

 4. Be sensitive to diverse dietary needs.
While many in your office may want to hold a holiday gathering at a fancy steakhouse, think about the lack of options such a place may offer to vegetarians or vegans. “They can just have a salad” isn’t exactly the most welcoming mindset; we all enjoy having several options to choose from when we dine out. Work with restaurants, event halls or catering companies to design a menu that makes everyone in the office feel included and appreciated in your office celebrations.
You could possibly find a new dish you like and make a new friend.

5. Avoid business talk. Enjoy the gathering. 
You may be interested in hearing client feedback on the project you submitted earlier in the week or confirming the date of your holiday bonus, but don’t corner your boss or anyone from HR about them. Attending an office holiday gathering with the agenda of getting such information can be perceived as rude or tacky. Instead, take the time to talk to your boss and coworkers about their interests outside of the office and enjoy seeing them in an entirely new light.
That light might include a disco ball over a dance floor.

6. When it’s time for you to leave, be sure to say goodbye.
 You’ve managed your wine intake, you’ve met new people, you’ve helped to make it comfortable for everyone to enjoy the party and have options to eat and you’ve possibly seen your boss dance under a disco ball. Unless you’re hitting the after party with your coworkers, it’s time to say goodbye. Shake hands, give hugs and thank your boss and those who helped organize the gathering. It’s the polite thing to do and will surely be warmly received.

Happy holidays from all of us here at RME360! 

By: Susan Gail Taylor, Social Media Manager and Copywriter at RME360

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Jingle All The Way to Successful Holiday Marketing

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, but the holiday shopping season hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down. What does that mean for your business? Hold on to that marketing steering wheel; it’s time to drive those sales home! The end of the year is mere weeks away, so let your holiday marketing wrap up your brand's 2014 with a red shiny bow. 

Need help tying that bow? Check out these tips:

1.     Hark! The user-generated content sings

According to a recent MIT study, the human brain can process and identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds. According to our collective common knowledge about people, we love to post photos of ourselves. So why not combine the two for your holiday marketing a la Starbucks style? Take a look at the coffee conglomerate’s cover photos album on Facebook and you’ll find several photos taken by fans a*k*a brand advocates. These photos add a layer of authenticity to Starbucks’ marketing, a layer that prompts fans to feel more connected to the brand. Fans whose photos are used feel valued and appreciate the interaction. Fans who see those photos feel more motivated to follow a brand that pays attention to and interacts with them.

Here’s an example of one of their user-generated cover photos:

And here’s how popular it was:

2.     It came upon the holiday video

Not a Christmas goes by without me thinking of my beloved late brother. And inevitably during the holiday season, I run across the Folgers commercial online when big brother Peter comes home to visit for the holidays and his sweet baby sister bounds down the stairs to see him. The soft sell in this video stands in the shadow of the overarching tone of family and holiday cheer. That cheer is of course celebrated over Folgers coffee; after all, Folgers isn’t selling feelings and big brothers. But what makes that commercial memorable? (I’m 36 years old and still remember it from my childhood.) The sense of family and the opportunity Folgers took to showcase a special sibling bond to create a holiday moment fit for Hallmark.

3.     Deck the local halls

What holiday traditions, events and trends are popular in your market? What makes prospects and clients in your market different than other markets? Recognize how holidays impact your market and who your prospects and clients are; by doing so, you can create messaging personalized just for them so that you increase the likelihood of appeal.

4.     Carol of the call to action

So you’ve created effective holiday messaging via videos, direct mail, social media and/or other preferred marketing outlets, but what have you asked your prospects and clients to do after reading the message? Don’t leave them hanging like ornaments on a Christmas tree; provide them with clear instruction on how to interact with you. Of course you would like for them to call your office, visit your website or stop by to see you, but what other actions can they take that will immediately benefit them? Encourage them to download a piece of targeted content such as a white paper or an ebook. Or direct them to a personalized landing page with more information about their particular need. 

By: Susan Gail Taylor, Social Media Manager and Copywriter at RME360

Thursday, November 13, 2014

How to Use Postcards to Generate Leads and Website Traffic

When compared to traditional letter invitations, postcards aren’t the best choice to promote seminars. However, what they can provide is a cost-effective way to generate website traffic and additional leads if done effectively.

Here are a few tips to consider before you start your next direct mail campaign with postcards:  

·        Use the right list: The first and most important step is to find and work with an experienced and credible list broker. Make sure the addresses are up-to-date (no more than 60 days since the last update) and have been run through the National Change of Address (NCOA) system. You will have the choice of renting the list for one-time use or multiple use. If you know your market well (and the zip codes of your market) and you’re going to mail postcards consistently for 6 months or more, you should buy the list for multiple use.

·        Personalize: Be sure to work with a printing company that can personalize the first name of person on the mailing list on every card. This is above and beyond just the address block.

·        Get right to the point:  Postcards get delivered in a format that's ready to read. Take advantage of this by making the biggest benefit you offer the first thing the reader sees. This will make them want to read the rest of your postcard. (Example: “John, are you retired or retiring soon? You have options!”)

·        Sell the right thing: Marketing postcards are most effective when they are used to generate website traffic or interest. (Example: “Call me today for a free retirement planning consultation and receive a copy of my free report.”)

·        Make it easy to respond: Be sure your company phone number and website address are both easy to read and find on the postcard. And, because most people get their mail after they get home from work, you should consider getting an after-hours answering service. People prefer talking to another person – not a machine – so if you’re going to invest in postcard marketing, invest in a live 24-hour phone answering service to capture your leads.

By: Susan Gail Taylor, Social Media Manager and Copywriter at RME360

Thursday, October 30, 2014

3 Digital Marketing Tools for Your Brand's 2015 Toolkit

If you’re an effective marketer, I bet you’ve been thinking about your upcoming digital marketing plan for 2015. And with thoughts of new strategies and trends naturally comes thoughts of tools. What are the latest tools? Which do my competitors have in their toolkits? What changes do I need to make in how I use my tools?

Be it for blogging, content curation, email automation or social media management, the list of available tools can seem infinite and so can the desire to upgrade your current tools of choice. It’s easy to fall under the spell of all things trendy, but what is your foremost concern: using what’s trendy or using what helps you market most effectively?  

Check out these 3 simple ideas for your digital marketing toolkit and consider how they may be able to help you market better:

1.      Unbounce
Marketing itself as a “code-free zone,” this digital marketing tool allows even the most novice marketers to create well-designed landing pages without the help of designers or IT. Unbounce is a simple tool that provides you with drag and drop options among other design options so you can create, publish and test your landing pages. 
Savvy marketers know that higher conversion rates come from landing pages, not company websites. 96% of your website visitors are not ready to make a purchase. Messaging that is more targeted and relevant to the visitor--messaging that you see on landing pages--drives the higher conversion rates. The more landing pages you have, the more opportunities you'll have to generate leads and fill your sales funnel.

 2.      Vsnap

“Vsnap makes customers smile.” This line on Vsnap’s homepage is an honest summary of the tool’s premise. It seeks to establish or reinforce face-to-face connections that are a critical part of business relationships. The tool allows you to record 60 second video messages and send them to clients, prospects or new social media followers via Twitter, LinkedIn or email. You can use a webcam, an iPhone, an Android or a tablet to record your message, and the use of this tool can increase close rates by 34% In today’s digital environment, brands must rely on more human, more authentic means of communication if they want to truly connect and engage with their audiences. Remember when you wanted to send a thank you card to a customer for a recent lunch meeting, but you didn’t have any around the office? You could’ve sent a Vsnap. That time you connected with a prospect on Twitter? A Vsnap could’ve solidified that connection better than a simple tweet.  

3.      Hearsay Social

 It’s hard not to hear about a company started by executives from Starbucks and Microsoft. This social media management platform caters to corporate/local brands, clients that have a national presence and local franchises. The web-based software allows the two halves of each client to coordinate their social media posts and presence: the corporate half can monitor local engagement, including detailed analytics and posts that may step outside of corporate or industry guidelines, and the local half has the ability to manage their own social media posts.

If you’re part of a brand that relies heavily on local franchises and you’re looking for a digital marketing tool that allows you to centralize your social media efforts, Hearsay Social may be the newest addition to your toolkit. 

By: Susan Gail Taylor, Social Media Manager and Copywriter at RME360

Thursday, October 23, 2014

6 Tips for Building Lasting Client Relationships

 Do your favorite brands interact with you on social media? Do they show their appreciation of your patronage? Do they give you the "wow" factor at each point of service?

If they want to build lasting relationships with you, then they should be doing these things and more. And if you aren’t providing such things in an effort to build meaningful relationships with your clients, then it’s time to make immediate changes. Use the following tips to help you provide amazing service so that you can wrap the story and reputation of your brand around each client and prospect.

  • Celebrate milestones with clients. This sounds simple, huh? But often we find ourselves too busy to remember birthdays, anniversaries or other important milestones our clients celebrate. Make time to send a card or to send a VSnap video via social media or email for such dates. (VSnap allows you to record 60 second personalized videos, a technique that can help you establish a connection and create trust.) 
  • Remember that not every call should be a sales call.  If a client thinks you only call to sell her something new, you won’t be able to establish a meaningful relationship.  Find other opportunities to call clients and provide value to your service. Invite them to lunch to say thank you for their business, send them links to articles relevant to their businesses or call them to discuss best practices for a product or service you provide. Try to have multiple client touches throughout the year. 

  • Don’t hinge your entire relationship on digital communication.  It’s very easy to rely on e-mail as the primary relationship tool, but remember that clients need to hear your voice and see your face, both of which add a personal touch and go a long way toward deepening client relationships.
  • Exceed your clients’ expectations with the “wow” factor. One of the best ways to develop a meaningful relationship with your clients is to give them 1) exceptional service and 2) exceptional results. Don’t oversell yourself and don’t promise more than you can deliver, but set expectations that provide you with opportunities to excite your clients. Think about the last time a brand left you saying “wow.” Did a representative call you by your first name? Did he tweet about your business from his company’s profile? Did she deliver a product or document to you because you couldn’t come into the office? Did he send you a goody basket with a handwritten note? Remember how you’ve been dazzled by exceptional service and recreate such moments for your clients.
  • Inspire your team with best practices. So now that you’ve recalled how you were dazzled, inspire your team to do the same by discussing best practices. One of the most powerful ways to continue with providing the “wow” factor is to share ideas on how to do so with your employees and/or colleagues. Bring in breakfast one morning and sit down with your team to listen to their ideas and to pass on yours as well. Talking about these ideas can increase the chances that providing “wow” factors become a standard for your brand.
  • Find common ground. Do you and a client both love sports? Do you both have aging parents? Do you both enjoy the same activities outside of the office? Talk with them about such common ground issues; having something to talk about other than the business you are collaborating on makes working together on both sides much more gratifying.

By: Susan Gail Taylor, Social Media Manager and Copywriter at RME360

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

10 Tips for Dominating Your Next Trade Show

You may be gearing up to attend a trade show to raise awareness of your brand, promote a new product or service and/or to provide your team with professional development opportunities. Whatever your goal(s) may be, trade show marketing is like any other marketing strategy: it's an investment that requires planning and preparation if you expect a positive ROI. 

Here are 10 tips to help you get started: 
  1. Use your social media outlets marketing before, during and after the show.  Tweet about your experience using the trade show’s hashtag. Post photos of show activities on your company’s Facebook and LinkedIn; you can also use these for marketing purposes later. Blog about key takeaways, especially if you are a speaker at the show.
  2. Choose the right trade show and send the right people. Decide the purpose for attending and then match that purpose with the staff who will maximize the takeaway value.
  3. Pay attention to the informal meetings. People who you meet in the hallway, other vendors, and participants at dinner or at the cocktail hour can be the most important folks you’ll meet.
  4. Use a bowl to collect business cards as part of a raffle. It’s a great way to collect names, phone numbers and email addresses.
  5. Keep detailed lists of who you met and what you discussed. This will help you when you follow up. 
  6. Set up meetings and events in advanced. Schedule dinners and/or plan a cocktail reception and invite a handful of potential clients. Make a brief presentation, but create a relaxed environment.
  7. Give away technology prizes during your raffle. Such prizes are always popular with attendees, and the raffle can increase your engagement. 
  8. Ask about being a speaker/presenter at the event as part of your sponsor package. It’s a great way to brand yourself as an expert in your field and it will provide social media opportunities for you before, during and after the event as well.  
  9. Mail and email every name on the attendee list. By sending relevant messaging before and after the show, you can reach top of mind awareness among prospective clients. 
  10. Follow up with every lead in a timely manner and with relevant informationA prompt, professional and personalized response can make make your company stand out from the competition who may take days or weeks to respond.
By: Susan Gail Taylor, Social Media Manager and Copywriter at RME360

Friday, October 10, 2014

"You Are My Cup of Tea": How to Create Fabulous Customer Experiences

Do you create fabulous experiences for your customers? Is your brand their cup of tea?

Check out this infographic for tips of how to improve your customers’ experience with you. Click here for the enlarged image. 

By: Susan Gail Taylor, Social Media Manager and Copywriter at RME360

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Summertime and the...'s easy!

Yes, summer is in full swing. And if you're like many financial professionals, you've throttled back your marketing and lead generation activities - this despite the fact that it's a proven fact that consumers continue to respond to direct marketing campaigns. (See my June 2nd blog post: Debunking the Myth about Summer Seminars).

If you're among the savvy minority of producers who are keeping up their marketing momentum and continuing prospecting efforts throughout the summer months - BRAVO!If, however, you're "taking the summer off" and aren't investing in your marketing, at least take this time to review your marketing results from the first 6 months of 2014. Marketing and prospecting, like investing, is a process and cycle. If you aren't tracking what you're spending your marketing dollars on - and the results of those investments - this is the time to do so. Then, calculate your ROI.

If the ROI on your marketing dollars is 200% or more, you're doing things right and you should use the summer to set in place a marketing plan and strategy to capitalize on your past results. 

If the ROI is less than 200%, something's broken. Identify what's not working and consult with a trusted colleague or marketing professional to help you find out why a specific marketing campaign failed and then put in place a plan to fix it. 

REMEMBER THIS: When it comes to direct mail (be it lead generation, appointment setting or seminar marketing), if consumers aren't responding, they are sending you a clear message: your offer stinks!

There is a myriad of reasons why a campaign fails. Perhaps you promoted a seminar and didn't offer a free meal or held your seminar at a library. What list did you use? Is the list accurate and up-to-date? Did you offer something as an incentive to respond? (Note: a "free consultation" isn't an incentive; a gift card is an incentive!)

If you're not sure what to do, find a person or company with experience in financial services marketing and ask them to review your failed campaigns. If they're worth their salt, they will be able to give you feedback and recommendations that can improve your results.

Bottom line? Use the summer months to develop a marketing plan that will help you finish the year strong. Collect and analyze data from your marketing and use that data to drive your marketing investments. Finally, find a marketing partner to help you with lead generation activities. Focus on what you do best and outsource tasks that take you away from getting face-to-face with motivated and qualified prospects.

Marketing is an investment - treat it like one!

Have a happy and safe summer!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Publish or Perish!

Social media is undoubtedly a powerful tool for business-to-business (B2B) marketing, but businesses that aren’t using it strategically are missing out on opportunities to engage with their prospects and clients and to meet and exceed their business goals. One way to leverage the power of social media is to publish meaningful original content. The culture of search engine optimization (SEO) almost demands such content; thin content and unfocused lists of links once served as ways to boost your search rankings, but search algorithm changes now highlight quality content as the preferred method for improving users’ experiences with search results. To get your piece of the marketing pie—or the marketing cupcake in this metaphor—compose your own content and publish it in optimized digital spaces so you can earn the cherries on top: the clients.
Give your marketing a credible foundation. Content is king, and your content should provide substance to your business as a brand. Differentiate yourself from your competitors and establish your credibility by taking a stance on issues of interest among your target audience and by sharing your expert opinion. Think of the content you share now and why you do so. Is it because you trust the source of information and want to pass it along? Why not be the trusted source of information instead? Speaking of a trusted source of information, Ryan Roslansky, Head of Content Products at LinkedIn, notes that members should publish because the content “will become a part of their professional identity. So if someone looks up your profile, it’ll be there. It’s a great way to show your knowledge and expertise.” Be the expert. Be the cupcake.
Use multiple social media platforms that make sense for your business. Consider your objectives with social media and what others in your industry are doing with it before you select and strategically use your profiles. Do you want to use your content to engage with prospects, clients and industry leaders in real-time dialogue? Use Twitter to quickly interact with those audiences and to contribute meaningful information to industry-focused dialogue. Do you want to use your content to connect with decision makers? LinkedIn is the gold star standard when it comes to professional networking. Publish blog posts about trends, news and issues that may impact your prospects and clients. Identify companies you’d like to meet with and join LinkedIn groups to which decision makers belong.  Do you want to use your content to give your business a more human feel? Facebook provides a digital space to post videos and videos, allowing more personal and/or targeted interactions with your audiences. The platform’s Boosted Posts promote your business to more targeted audiences that you define. While these platforms can be used for a variety of reasons, these ideas serve as the icing on the cupcake when it comes to connecting with your audience.
Optimize your digital space.  Merely having online real estate as a place to house your content is not enough in today’s digital age. You want prospects and clients to actually find your content, not for it to be lost among your competition’s attempts to bake their own marketing cupcakes. Search engine optimization is crucial to promoting that space and connecting with your target audience. Your website should be accessible to not only that audience, but also search engine robots; those robots can’t see web pages like your audience can and SEO helps the engine discover what your site is about and what information will be most helpful to users. Your business’ name, address and phone number should be located on each page of your website and on your Google+ Local listing.  This information should be in text format, not in a picture file. Your city and state names should be included in the title tag, meta description and in the content pages as appropriate. Google uses a combination of positive reviews, proximity to the searcher, number of citations and other factors to order local results.  Improve these elements and your local rankings will improve, driving more prospects to your website and other digital real estates where they can view your content. If optimization is something you are unfamiliar with, a marketing expert specializing in digital strategy can help you implement these sprinkles on your marketing cupcake.

Stay current and relevant in your industry. The content you compose and publish can include information on your company’s mission, products and services as well as experience you bring to the industry table. Keep your content professional and targeted; don’t post content that is not focused on building an audience, relationships and a reputation as an expert in the field.   Earn your cherries on top of your cupcake and ask that your company support you in doing so.

Don’t let the dessert ruin the supper! Your online integrity is sacred. Your content should reflect your actual business philosophy and practices. Social media and content marketing are not like movies with building facades but no real substance. In the same way that videos can go viral on the web, your reputation can go viral as well – but that knife cuts both ways. So, put together a strategy for your social media and content marketing, and if you’re not sure how to get started, find a social media strategist to help you. It’s worth the investment and can make the difference between a strategy that drives new customers to your business or the loss of revenue and reputation – both online and off.

By: Susan Gail Taylor, Marketing Coordinator and Copywriter at RME360

Monday, June 2, 2014

Debunking the Myth about Summer Seminars

For as long as financial advisors have been using social dinner seminars to get in front of a consistent flow of qualified prospects, there has been a persistent myth: “People don’t go to seminars during the summer.” Good marketers listen to consumers and base their approach on data, behaviors and trends. 

HERE ARE THE FACTS: A comprehensive review of seminars marketed for the months of June, July and August in both 2012 and 2013 shows that over 90,000 reservations were taken!

Your target audience does not suspend their financial planning needs, concerns or issues during the summer - or at any other time of the year for that matter. They need your help, advice and solutions year round.

Makes total sense right?

When I recently asked a group of advisors their motivation to conduct summer seminars, the overwhelming response was, “Because they work.” The next most common reason was because so many other advisors take the summer off and that gives them a big advantage!Another theme that emerged in these discussions was the importance of maintaining production momentum. One advisor confessed the obvious, “I know from personal experience that it takes an average of 30 to 60 days to convert a seminar prospect to a client. If I was to take two or three months off during the summer I’d be hard pressed to meet my personal and business goals.” 

One advisor added, “Marketing and lead generation is all about being consistant. Starting and stopping my marketing based on months of the calendar is short-term thinking. I know that marketing is an investment. I need to be in front of prospects every month of the year. After all, if they (prospects) aren’t meeting with me, chances are, they are meeting with someone else.”

Bottom line, financial advisors who continue their marketing efforts throughout the year will see more prospects, increase their client-base and generate the highest revenues. Avoid the “summer seminars don’t work” myth. Listen to the consumer –all successful marketers do.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The New Reality: Financial Advisors MUST integrate social media in their marketing - or suffer the consequences!

According to Google, 74 percent of all affluent baby boomers will use their search engine to research a company or service provider before responding to an advertisement or promotion.

There is no question that technology has changed the way society communicates.  Social networking has unbelievably enriched our lives.  With every wonderful evolution we are able to access more people and more information faster, yet with each step towards getting answers faster, it takes longer to establish a true relationship.

How do you, as business professionals who are dependent on face-to-face meetings, establish credibility and trust in a society that develops first encounters online? What can advisors who haven’t embraced the digital era do to start making the web work for them?

You need to understand and embrace social marketing, develop a strategy and integrate it with your other marketing tactics.

Online social networking is a form of social media used for interacting with other individuals or groups with common interests.  These interests can be dating, sports, education, professional networking or entertainment. Today, word of mouth marketing takes place on social networks and is called social media marketing.  The object of social media marketing is to get people to recommend you to friends, family and co-workers.

That said, once you are ready to embrace social marketing, you need to develop a strategy and be engaged. You can’t simply set up Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter profiles and expect people to come to you. It’s crucial to be an active participant. In order to create awareness, you must reach out and ask people to connect with you. You also need to have a consistent voice.  Content is king. It’s important to post, comment and interact consistently. 

The more active you are on social media, the more you will establish that you are a credible person who has a personality, is a thought leader and a subject matter expert. 

As a financial advisors, having an active and up-to-date presence on the web is CRITICAL to generating new leads now and in the future.