With this being my first official blog post as a member of the McKinsey Development team, I am weighted with a spirit of excitement AND trepidation. You see, this will on occasion be the canvass of my confessional, as any true blog is. And throwing advice to the four winds brings with it the humbling knowledge that I must apply that same encouragement to myself.
Since this is the busiest time of year, it's almost guaranteed to be a time that we miss opportunities to share our most engaging and spirit-filled content with our audience. The Holiday Season "rings" in an ever-increasing volume of noise and stress. It also offers richly intoxicating experiences: aromas of lovingly prepared food shared at home or work, and childhood memories awakened by a visit to the local Christmas tree lot.
Content is anything and everything about you and your business. It might be a picture, blog post, Facebook message, or Tweet...about what you're thinking, doing, offering and giving. Sharing it consistently with your audience is one of the best ways for them to get to know you better - you the business and you the people behind the business. Share what makes you different and better than the competition. Share your creative and quirky side (a bit of ours in the Halloween image above, when we "reverse trick-or-treated", giving goodies to our clients). And share what makes you human, those things that connect you in a punch-in-face, collective sense to anyone with a beating heart. In other words, share the things that make a potential client decide they simply must choose to do business with you.
Have you hugged your content lately? Simply put, have you taken the time recently to craft and share something from and about your business that opens a window into its soul? I think fear and lack of time cause us to lose opportunities to capture and share stories large and small. I can tell you without reservation that since being welcomed by Crystal McKinsey and company, I have been blown away by my colleague's commitment to our clients and our community. The two are without question intertwined. Growing our business means growing our ability to serve our community. It makes me both proud and introspective, questioning whether I am doing enough. I can tell you I feel at home.
My encouragement to you is to take some time today to dig a bit into your business soul and share it. You'll be glad you did and so will we. Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at McKinsey Development. We wish you and yours a wonderful, peaceful holiday week and weekend. And don't forget to leave room for dessert!
Jeff Crites is the new VP of Digital at McKinsey Development. His consultancy, Brick and Click Solutions, was acquired by MKD in early October, 2013. Jeff, his wife Susan, and their two rescue dogs (Emma and Sophie) happily call Warrenton their home. Jeff, in addition to his work serving MKD clients, is on a mission to find ways to use new digital technologies and platforms to connect and serve the local community we call home. Contact Jeff at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re a small business that can’t spend buckets of money on marketing, then don’t. After you’ve got the basics right – plan your marketing strategy, understand your target market, and polish up your product – resourcefulness and a bit of gumption can help you generate new business. Here are eleven ways to tackle the marketing of your small business:
1) Use social media. And don’t be afraid to have fun with it. People crave valuable content, and social media is a chance to set yourself apart and secure your share of the market. Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, producing your own videos for YouTube, and writing your own blog are creative methods of letting people know about you and your business.
2) Attend networking events. As the adage goes, it’s not what you know, but who you know (which technically ought to be “whom,” but no one cares about the objective case in this case, lamentably). Get out there and network — shake some hands. It doesn’t always lead to instant gratification, but acquiring a strong network will end up having a hugely positive impact on your business.
3) Be newsworthy. A mention of your company in the right media can help deliver your marketing message in a low-cost manner. Look for websites or bloggers covering events in your community. Online pubs, like the patch.com franchise, offer great opportunities to get your news in front of your local customer base. Just take the initiative to contact the right people (perhaps someone you met at one of those networking events) and have a story worth telling.
4) Sponsor a local event or charity. What’s going on in your community? Get to know your ideal customer and think about how and where they spend their time. Sponsor a Little League team or a 5k charity walk/run. It really does make you feel good to support your community, and everyone benefits — you, your staff, your customers, the people you sponsor and, of course, the community at large.
5) Make your message move. You can’t repeat your marketing message often enough. Get your company logo made into a car sticker or magnet, and have your friends, family, and employees be your moving advertisements. It can’t hurt to have the people in your community recognize your insignia, since now they’ll know who to go to for their needs.
6) Host seminars and events. Host your own events and invite your customers and their friends. This is a great way to get to know people, engage with individuals on a personal level, and build and grow deep personal and working relationships.
7) Become a public speaker. Hone your public speaking skills to become an engaging and entertaining speaker. This is an excellent way to demonstrate your expertise to an audience and generate interest in your business.
8) Build alliances with other small businesses. Put together a marketing mastermind group with other non-competitive businesses in your area; share effective low-cost marketing ideas and agree to cross-promote. By collaborating with each other, you can expand your customer base because you’ll be reaching new people.
9) Use email-marketing campaigns. A cost-effective way to connect to customers and prospects is through email marketing. Companies like Constant Contact have hundreds of great-looking design templates so you can send emails that build brand awareness, encourage repeat business, and acquire new customers. This can be used in tandem with social media by announcing your email offers on top social networks with a sign-up link.
10) Don’t let current clients slip away. Being kind to customers is the smartest low-cost marketing you can do. Reach out to your clients with personal and helpful communication on a consistent basis. If you haven’t heard from a customer in a while, send a personalized email inquiring whether all is well. For a customer who has suffered a bad experience, pick up the phone and ask if there is anything you can do.
11) Give it away. Don’t be afraid to give someone a free trial or sample. With all of the choices out there, people are more comfortable purchasing something they have had an opportunity to experience first. Besides, generosity demonstrates trustworthiness, which you need in order to build a healthy relationship with a client.
Have other creative, low-cost marketing ideas for small businesses? Please share below.
We've got a team on the ground at SES New York, and we'll live blog as much as we can. This morning's session on "Bringing Together Paid, Owned and Earned Media" had some great takeaways. Here are a few....
- Web users tend to search for products, brands and services after seeing a display ad. Use a combo of display and PPC for best results.
- Generate fresh and relevant content—it ranks more effectively.
- Infographics rock. Implement and optimize them.
- Don't overlook the power of Google Plus.
Great ways to build backlinks:
- Blogger outreach
- Leveraging relationships
- Social Media Engagement
- Press Releases
Two tools that should be on your social monitoring/outreach list:
Facebook has been in the headlines recently, pulling the wraps of a new search capability that is--depending on who's breaking it down--promising, revolutionary, or just plain creepy.
Regardless of where the new capabilities take Facebook and its products (that means you, dear Facebook user), one undeniable truth remains: this platform, wondrous as it may be at connecting people, showcasing brands, micro-targeting consumers for ads, and fostering engagement among billions (okay, one billion) around the world, is not yours.
We tell clients this all the time, but it bears repeating: every bit of effort you put into Facebook is subject to be rendered irrelevant at any time by the folks in Menlo Park. (Hello, fangates.)
A recent glimpse at my newsfeed hammered the point home once again. The folks at WINC, a radio station in our region, are pretty active on Facebook--and from where I sit, they're doing it right, mixing informative posts with engaging ones, and even tossing in that old Internet standby every once and again.
One recent morning, WINC, a regional (to us, anyway) radio station was using its Facebook space to push out information on an accident that closed a heavily used commuter route. As the image below shows, however, Facebook's Magic Newsfeed Machine ordered these two posts based on something--probably engagement, as in the two comments on the top post--other than the time stamp, displaying a 59-minute-old post on top of a 44-minute-old post.
In many cases, flip-flopping two posts from the same source is no biggie. In this case, it was sort of a biggie.
Note that WINC didn't do anything wrong. The good folks from Winchester, Va. were simply using a tool at their disposal to push out important information to their audience. That's engaging. The fact that the two messages were displayed this way in my feed wasn't the radio station's fault.
It wasn't long ago that Facebook believed--albeit briefly--that displaying posts in chronological order wasn't an important enough feature to include in a profile. The company reversed course, because some folks out there like to see what's happening now in their chosen spheres, as opposed to what the folks in those spheres are interacting with most.
One takeaway for marketers? On Facebook (and on any platform you don't control), remember who makes the rules, and keep that top mind when crafting your strategy. It's tough to go wrong when you're being authentic, transparent, and engaging with your fans/customers/public. But, as the example above shows, even your best-intended engagement efforts can be knocked around when somebody else is running the show.
Early in my career (working long retail hours), I was supervised by a single mom who brought her young son each Thanksgiving day to a homeless shelter to work in their soup kitchen in Washington, D.C. It was a purposeful, thoughtful action to remind her and her son to be grateful for everything they had and that anyone could one day be steps away from the receiving end. In addition to serving on the line, they always brought bags of socks, underwear, and toiletries. That boy is now a man and I often wonder if his holiday tradition remains the same.
I love how celebrities can harness the media and bring folks together to raise significant funds in a few hours. The group demographic eclectic; the energy contagious. Recently I was asked to guest bartend for the Catching Kids in Crisis – a program for our local schools sponsored by the Mental Health Association of Fauquier County. In two hours, after having raised a significant amount, I remember a young businesswoman saying, “I’m sorry it’s not more; it’s what I budgeted for tonight” (thinking that she was not giving enough). I assured her that every dollar counts and made sure she received a genuine thank you. Her money was just as important as the businessman who gave $100.
I grew up listening to threats of shipping my leftovers to the needy children overseas and boycotting certain products because they were hurting people across the world. Mother Teresa was mentioned frequently and I learned about giving until it hurts. Thank goodness! I began volunteering at a young age because it seemed fun (pre-Kindergarten, I remember rolling bandages in the rectory basement with all the church ladies for war torn countries). Although I did not know it at the time, I loved the positive role models I had. I learned lessons of generosity, hospitality, paying it forward, and giving the proverbial shirt off your back – with lots of laughter and fun.
I’m proud to be part of team McKinsey Development because I’m surrounded by pure hearts and generous natures. I’ve seen how we can make a direct impact with a donated video, ad, or website for a nonprofit by sharing our resources, time and talents. We are encouraged to volunteer at least four hours per month – on company time – to give back. Why don’t more businesses adopt this philosophy? Do I work harder because I am inspired? Heck yeah!
I’d rather give than receive; it’s my comfort zone. When I give I experience some kind of euphoria – like those laughing-too-much endorphins. I am blessed to have resources to share what I’ve been given. I’m proud to directly impact three children worldwide: two in Haiti and one in Burundi. I love receiving their letters, drawings, report cards and realizing that if they make it to university, they will, in turn, directly impact their family and their extended family. I’ve been foster mom. I believe in acting locally; thinking globally. I feel that if I’m going to complain, I need to be prepared to roll up my sleeves and assist. Sweat equity has a rewarding Return on Investment.
Let me ask you this:
· What is your comfort zone for giving?
· What would it take to challenge you to step out?
· Who do you give to and what is your criteria?
· Do you practice random acts of kindness?
· Have you paid for the person behind you in the drive-thru (watch in the mirror – it’s so much fun)?
· Do you share your time and talents in addition to your financial resources?
The moral of this free association Thanksgiving weekend blog post is simply a gentle reminder of the power one.” If you are business leader, consider how you can inspire your team to make a difference in your community. If you are an employee, consider proposing adoption of a company volunteer program. Whatever you do, small or large, do something.
Remember the lesson from Aesop’s Fables? One stick is easily broken but a bundle of sticks cannot be broken. Union gives strength.
This blog was inspired by those that lost so much as a result of Hurricane Sandy.
I'll be the first to admit that I have been referred to as obsessive more than once in my life. At times it has been a hindrance, at others an overwhelming advantage.
When it comes to developing a new skill, different people learn and progress at different
rates. The following are a few caveats that I have learned over the years that can be
applied to all aspects of one's life, not just business. For the sake of this entry I'll stick to
something I know well: moving pictures.
When asked to write this blog post a few months back, I challenged myself to view this assignment as a learning opportinity. I wanted to explore a new video skill set and share my findings with our readers (only there are so many new, cutting edge options, I was not sure where to even begin!)
After some soul searching (ok Google searching) I decided to embark on a journey into the world of time-lapse photography. I am going to focus on the journey, not the destination--even now, the journey in my mind is just getting started.
There is a saying that goes around my in-laws’ house, "DAMGI" (pronounced with a
long A). "Don't Ask Me; Google It". So I did. Research is the first step--lots of research.
Getting your resources in line is step one when your going in blind. I’d created what
looked like time-lapses by simply pointing my video camera at something and walking
away. Later I would simply speed up the footage and there you have it. This is not
technically a time lapse. A time lapse is a series of pictures taken every so many
seconds, minutes, or even hours.
Through my research I figured out that I wanted to keep it simple in the beginning,
crawling before I attempted to run. So what would be my second piece of advice?
Don't bite off more than you can chew—especially at the beginning. Take inventory of your
skill-set, materials available, and where you want to take your new skill. Then play!
I settled on using my GoPro for my first time lapses. It is simple, robust, and only
has a few settings for you to mess with. I feel like there is beauty in these limitations,
metaphorically at least. This would be where I teethed.
The internet can be a great source of inspiration--but also an Achilles heel. In other
words, buyer beware. If someone has the time to do a screen-capture tutorial on
whatever your subject is, are they really the person that I want to learn from? I broke
this rule in my journey and it held me up for weeks. It wasn't until I sought out industry
specific tutorials that everything began falling into place.
Use your industry resources and reach out. Discovering who will engage with you will
blow your mind. They may not have time to do a YouTube tutorial, but many successful,
highly visible professionals will answer an email or even take your call if you represent
yourself in the right manner.
Now that you have all of this new knowledge it's time to put it to use. Figure out your
workflow, your process, and refine, refine, refine. If there was a magical process that
everyone used to get here, there would be no point in developing a new skill--anyone
could do it. Figure out what works for you while pulling from your knowledge base.
Finally, experiment. Don't be afraid to fail a few times. Look at the U.S. space program,
for example: learn from your failures and treat them as stepping-stones to your final
Above all, remember, it's a journey, not a destination. And if you do "arrive" so to speak, you've simply arrived right back at the beginning. As MKD Founder Crystal McKinsey is known to say, "great is only great in that moment when it is great--after that, it is simply the new starting point."
When you have all of the pieces in parts in place, its time to share your work and get some feedback. The time lapse piece featured in this blog post chronicles "a day in the life of an MKD videographer." Check it out below and let me know what you think.
It’s not just about liking, blogging, tweeting, and texting. At the beginning of 2012, YouTube reported four billion videos are watched everyday – a 30 percent increase from the previous year. And there’s a lot more than crazy cat videos drawing an audience. With powerhouse companies like Apple, Coca-Cola, and Geico increasing their presence on the video-sharing site, it’s no wonder online video is estimated to be the fastest-growing advertising format in 2012, according to eMarketer.
While some companies choose to simply repurpose their primetime commercials online, others create unique content from product videos to video tutorials to video responses and more. Their hard work usually pays off. Internet Retailer reports that 52 percent of consumers say videos increase their confidence in a purchase.
Not sure if your business has a story to tell? We bet it does. Here are 10 ways your company can utilize moving pictures to engage your audience:
1. Educate: Teach a useful skill or concept that demonstrates your subject
2. Showcase: Take your audience on a visual tour of your organization,
telling your story along the way.
3. Affirm: Let your customers share their own testimonials. These kinds of
stories build your brand's credibility for potential customers.
4. Demonstrate: Show off a new product or service, and why it’s great.
5. Introduce: Get personal. Introduce yourself and your company to
current and potential clients.
6. Train: Used internally, video training modules are cost-effective
opportunities to educate your team.
7. Communicate: The Internet is the new television set. Video pre-roll on
sites like YouTube can strategically place your brand or service in front of
those most likely to use it.
8. Engage: Respond to a client inquiry or social media comment via
9. Review: You are the expert! Video reviews of new products or services
specific to your industry can be a great way to increase site traffic,
demonstrate expertise, and increase your audience.
10. Entertain: Want your message to go viral? Tell a story via video with
theatrical flair. Think music, flash mobs, irony, and parody.
Now that you’ve been thoroughly inspired, let us turn your vision into video. Take a peek at what we do then contact McKinsey Development today for additional information.
And now a message from our Operations Manager...
Let me be blunt. I’m not a formally trained marketer and I’ve never blogged before. However, I came to McKinsey Development, Inc. with many years of team building in administrative, customer service, and volunteer sectors, and I think this diversity makes me a great back office fit. What I lack in formal marketing training, I balance with other transferable skills, including listening and observing. Here’s my Marketing 101 insight from a client’s recent pressure cooker brainstorming session for a year-long marketing campaign. Our goal: a tag line.
Big picture, with detail
The brainstorming process is big picture and big picture people (nine out of 10 times) will get the gold star for the process. Never fear, detail-oriented followers: your insight and brainstorming will still be a worthwhile and substantial contribution. Expect to contribute fully in the process, however, if you are a detail-oriented person, don’t expect to be the hero of the session.
The morning of the brainstorming session, arrive fresh and focused. We recommend that you do not schedule clients or other creative planning on this day. Remember to check your ego at the door – you are truly a team. Beware: if you have dysfunction on your team, it will creep out and join you at the table. Do not invite or allow Murphy to enter the room!
Be vulnerable; be a great listener. Your facilitator may take you down “memory lane” to explore where you’ve been, who your agency is today, and define your vision for the future. Share what ideas come naturally – even if you think it stinks. Know what words you love – have a thesaurus or e-tool ready. Communicate what words you hate, but be fair. The creative comes when you least expect or think about it. (Bedtime tip: keep paper and pen nearby. This sweet spot has launched more campaigns than most will admit!) Post-session, expect to be mentally exhausted.
Originality wins out
Another point: we do not recommend reflecting on all the tag lines from TV commercials or dwell upon future glory, a.k.a. “The Clio Award goes to….” (Although I admit that an occasional reference to Mad Men has assisted our team.) A recent college graduate and former marketing intern shared, “It’s about helping businesses show their passion to the public and achieving the client’s goals. In turn, the client will have maximum market exposure, revenue generating leads, and more traffic on their website and social media hubs.”
We penciled in two hours; it lasted five. (Be flexible; be prepared – emergency snacks and beverages assist in avoiding brain drain and keep those thoughts coming!) In reality, even after five hours, it took another 24 to 48 hours for the principals of the firm to fine-tune and decide on the ONE perfect word for the campaign. Regardless of who thought of the final word, we all won and are now seeing this tag line launched into print and various e-platforms.
Want to know who the "client" was? Hint: Engage.
This past spring, we had the pleasure of hosting Thais Almeida de Oliveira, a Brazilian exchange student attending Highland School, for a one-week internship. She left us with the following insightful and kind words--not to mention an appreciation of the potential that current high school students posess!
Deciding on what to wear my first day at McKinsey Development really got me thinking. Warrenton fashion was something I had to get used to; people don't really dress up or wear heels very often. Coming from a metropolitan city in Brazil and being used to always dressing up I had to stop myself every time I went a little overboard.
As an attempt to fit in on my first day I chose to go with a simple skirt, a shirt, and sandals, but as I got to McKinsey Development and met everyone the way they were dressed struck me, they were all dressed up and wearing heels. High heels!
I believe that shoes express a person’s individuality, and high heels are a symbol of feminine confidence and power. At McKinsey Development, the employees’ professional yet feminine and assertive way of dressing transmitted their progressive, fun, and professional way of working. They express their individuality in their dress code and come every day polished from head to toe, and ready to tackle any marketing campaign.
From their hair to their nails they express who they are and do not settle for what people expect them to be. They are a different type of marketing company; they use innovative marketing strategies to provide their clients with what they need. So when they step into a conference room well dressed and fully packed with their heels the client knows that what follows will be remarkable.
A mentor once told me that if you are not in business to make money, you should not be in business. I have wrestled with this advice for years, vacillating between complete agreement and, well, complete rebellion. Where is the room for service, philanthropy and working towards a greater good in that philosophy? Can't we simply be in the business of "doing what we love?" Of course, I received this advice at a time when I did not have to think about overhead, payroll, taxes and all the other expenses that go into running an organization. It's easy to want to give it all away when you live with relatives and spend all of your free time singing show tunes. But I digress.
The point is, yes, my mentor was right: as business owners, we do need to be in the business of making money. Because there are team member households depending on our organization’s profitability. There are vendors depending on our continued success. And there's also the role we play in boosting the overall business community—a role we take seriously.
Money's Important, But Character Counts
All that established, money--while required to operate and sustain an organization--does not have to be an organization’s character motivator.
What? An organization has character? Absolutely. I tend to view it as a "credit score" of sorts: a combined assessment of organizational philosophy and production quality with the individual behavior and track record of each and every employee over time.
How does an organization build character?
One action at a time.
And, in my opinion, action begins with a commitment to service--from each and every team member.
See, competitors may replicate products, policies and procedures. But the one variable that cannot be replicated precisely is the people.
Speaking of teams and people, that brings me to a note I received today from a vendor. The vendor, unprompted, took time out of her busy schedule to send me a note about one of our McKinsey Development team members. She wrote:
I have been working closely with [awesome team member’s name removed] and simply wanted to let you know that it's been great working with her.
Professional, accountable, open communications. All very refreshing in a day in age where some employees aren't so professional or accountable. A pleasure speaking to someone who does what she says and means what she says. (One can only presume that this kind of culture starts top-down.)
She also asked some very good questions about our how our firm works and how that translates to savings for your organization.
An excellent representative of McKinsey Development.
S. Bregman, Account Executive
The team member the writer was referencing was working from home, so there was no leadership evaluating her telephone behavior. Still, this team member chose to give this vendor the same respect and professional courtesy she would give a client--and/or demonstrate had she been managing this project next to me at the office.
I'd wager to say this team member’s behavior was not financially motivated. It was motivated by a commitment to upholding our organization's service level--and her own personal character commitment.
When your team upholds this level of service, the business (and money) follows.
I'll end by sharing some guidelines for providing exemplary service I've put together and refined over the years. If you have additional points to add--please share!
Guidelines for Providing Exemplary Service
1.) Be a Great Host.
- Greet your guests warmly and genuinely (invite them to sit down, offer to take their coat during the winter months, set out an umbrella bin during rain, offer a choice of beverages during meetings, etc.)
- Never let a guest enter without a proper welcome.
- Never pass a guest without saying hello or smiling as you move through the facility.
- Know who is in your “house.”
- Check on guests regularly (facility walk-throughs).
- Keep the space in tip-top shape for your company (flowers, facility maintenance, general décor).
- Be well groomed and prepared to meet your guest.
2.) Speak in your own voice.
- Be yourself.
- Genuinely connect in conversations (eye contact/ body language).
- Listen to learn.
- Use your own words.
- Speak at an appropriate volume.
3.) Seek out Opportunities to Serve.
- Help before you are asked for help.
4.) Build Community.
- Know your clients by name.
- Show a particularly special interest in guests of clients (friends, relatives and especially children and pets).
- Know the power of an introduction (introduce guests/clients to one another when appropriate).
- Keep the community safe (consistency in upholding procedures, policies and safety regulations).
5.) ABC ~ Always Be Coaching!
- Educate the client (what new programs, products, events or happenings are on the horizon?).
- Become their go-to/trusted source for cutting-edge information.
6.) Make Someone’s Day Every Day!
What gift can you give someone today that will make it a truly special day?
- Gift of time.
- Gift of understanding.
- Gift of patience.
- Gift of education.
- Gift of recognition.
7.) What ‘I can’ do for you…
- Practice the “lost art” of follow-through.
- Rather than I don’t know, or I can’t, go with “what I can do for you is find out…"
- View each interaction as a valuable opportunity to help the client with something they may not have even known was a possibility.
8.) Appreciate Every Transaction and Interaction.
- Large or small, each and every transaction must be gifted time, care and attention to detail.
9.) If I am here, I am here to help…
- Be at your best and ready to serve any time you are onsite, driving a company vehicle, and/or wearing a company uniform. Practice incorporating the pillars of service into your life. In our digitally connected world, personal and professional personas are the same. As employers, it means evaluating both character and competency when building a team. As team members, it means being cognizant of your own character and behavior—on and off the clock.
10.) Add Stars!
Take service to the next level by ”adding stars” to each interaction.
- 1 Star ~ Providing information, details or a patient ear to a client--looking up directions or information, etc., for example.
- 2 Stars ~ Following through on every promise made to a client.
- 3 Stars ~ Unprompted follow-up to an in-person or telephone client interaction.
- 4 Stars ~ Unprompted e-mail or call of care or service to a client.
- 5 Stars ~ Handwritten note to client/voluntary appearance at a client event, recognizing a client’s birthday by sending a note. Sending a handwritten note to a client who has experienced a surgery, loss or who has shared he/she is having a challenging time otherwise.
Remember the power of being a part of the special days in people’s lives. The special days are not always the happy days…but, either way, they will remember.