How Focused are You on Your Audience?

Audience Development is a core, fundamental aspect of marketing today.  New clients often come to us without an effective strategy for finding and engaging with their audience. They simply haven’t realized their audience is an asset, and that there is a significant reward to be earned by building and nurturing that audience.

This focus on audience is the subject of Jeffrey Rohrs’ book, “Audience: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans & Followers.” It is highly recommended reading for any of our clients interested in connecting with their audience. In his book, Rohrs discusses how consumers today decide for themselves whether or not they want to become a part of an specific audience, and how their “attention, action, and loyalty have to be earned by all those who want it.”

We’ve helped many of our amazing clients let go of the old assumption that paid media still trumps all, and have begun implementing solid marketing strategies that combine Content Strategy with Audience Development.

If you’re trying to increase the number of likes, followers, and subscribers of your company, we’d love to sit down and chat with you. Get in touch with us by clicking here.

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5 Rules of Grammar You Can Ignore on Your Website

Usually when I am writing for websites, or advising others in the same pursuit, I pay very close attention to the rules of grammar in order to avoid sounding like an idiot on the web. This is generally a good rule. However, there are times when it is more effective to sound like a relatable human and not your sixth grade English teacher who never seemed to be able to connect with her audience. Here are 5 rules of grammar that are okay to break when writing for your website:

1.       Ending a sentence with a preposition. We all know it’s grammatically correct to write “There are many colors of pen with which you can sign our petition.” Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a stuffy petition. Your website reader will probably respond better to something like, “There are tons of pen colors you may sign our petition with.”

2.       Using some slang words. Sometimes it’s okay, or even encouraged, to use slang words in order to appeal to your audience, show your social relevance, or avoid sounding like an out-of-touch robot. However, if you wouldn’t be comfortable using the word or phrase in, say, the company of your pastor or a new client, don’t put it on your website. If you’re a skateboard company, DO write “we have sick new boards in inventory!” Refrain from writing, “we just received bitchin new boards.” Oh dear, I’ve just broken my own rule.

3.       Beginning a sentence with ‘And’ or ‘But.’ Typically this is still a no-no in my book, unless you truly are striving for a conversational tone. For example, I won’t start a sentence with ‘and’ if I am writing a PDF of standard procedures. But I will start a sentence with ‘but’ if I am trying to show my reader what I sound like during normal conversation. And I might even do it more than once if I think I’m being witty.

4.       Using incomplete sentences. According to your grammar book, you shouldn’t use fragments ever because they don’t make sense when taken out of context and they do make your writing seem choppy. Sometimes, however, they just fit. For example, you tell your reader “Have you been saving for retirement but aren’t sure if it’s going to be enough? We understand.” Well, taken out of context, “we understand” doesn’t mean anything, but in this case it tells your reader you know what they are going through and want to help, in a lot less words.

5.       Using contractions. It used to be the case that in business writing you would never use contractions because they were not seen as part of formal speech. While some companies may choose to stick to this credo, less formal establishments may want to move away from this style of writing for the web. For example, it is perfectly normal for a law office to want to appear sophisticated, thorough, and of course, a company to be taken seriously. On the other hand, a health food store may want to seem warmer and more casual to its customer base. There is no right or wrong answer here, but do think about what your audience is expecting to hear from you.

I could go on, as most writers I know have very sharp opinions when it comes to grammar, but I promised I would only give you 5 Grammar Rules to Break. As a bonus, I would like to give you one rule of grammar NEVER to break, and that is misspelling. No one thinks it’s kewl to make that mistake. 

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The 9 W’s: What Kind of Marketing Do I Need?

If we were in Oz it would be easy to find and follow the yellow brick road, with its wide, gold path glimmering in the sunlight all the way to profits and success. But if you don’t even know where you are, how can you begin to find the right path? The answer lies in the 9 W’s.

It’s exciting gearing up to rebrand a logo, create a new website, or plan a marketing campaign strategy. But sometimes it’s not so easy to figure out which of these is most beneficial and where your money will be best spent, especially with a limited budget or timeline.

Sitting through client calls and meetings I’ve seen my fair share of clients come in with ideas and goals that are about 4 steps ahead of where they are at the moment. I think in all areas of life it’s important to take stock of your current situation first, especially when it pertains to your business. While each and every company is unique, there are some questions that should be answered initially to point you to the right path.

I’m sure just about everyone is familiar with the term: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How?

Unfortunately not everyone has answers to these questions when they pertain to a business model or strategy. ‘Pop’ by Sam Horn sums it up perfectly when she says we must be clear about the 9 W’s. Ask yourself these questions when preparing for the next marketing push.

  • What am I offering?
  • What problem does my idea or offering solve?
  • Why is it worth trying and buying?
  • Who is my target audience?
  • Who am I and what are my credentials?
  • Who are my competitors and how am I different from them?
  • What resistance or objections will people have to this?
  • What is the purpose of my pitch?
  • When, where and how do I want people to take action?

If you don’t have clear answers to these questions already, this is probably where you need to begin. At Spot Color Marketing we work with clients in all phases of business growth. Before we begin delving into the thick of things, we like to perform a website, business, or marketing audit. This allows us to help you answer those questions and helps us put together a detailed strategy and plan for our client. We can help you find your yellow brick road and get all the way to Oz…er, success.

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3 Questions to Ask Yourself When Selecting Photography for Your Website

Our clients often ask us about graphics and photos for their website. Should they use stock imagery? Hire a professional photographer? The answer depends on a few different factors. Let’s take a quick look at three of the most important questions to ask yourself when selecting photography for your website project.

1. How quickly do you need the images?

The turnaround for getting stock images can be very quick, depending on how much time you spend searching and deciding on the images you want. There are many stock imagery websites out there, and it doesn’t take long to set up a free account, search for images in their database using keywords, purchase the image, and then immediately download the image to your computer.

Hiring a local, professional photographer takes a little more time for planning and execution. Depending on the photographer’s schedule, you can most likely get a photo shoot scheduled within 1-2 weeks and have access to the final images within a week after that.

2. How important is it to be unique from your competition and accurately reflect your specific people, locations, events, equipment, etc.?

Digital Marketing Agency Portland
Stereotypical stock images can make it difficult for you to communicate unique value propositions because your website ends up looking like everyone else’s.

It can be a real challenge for companies, both for-profit and non-profit, to find stock images that feature the specific qualities that make them so unique. We’ve all seen the stereotypical stock image of the business team with big smiles and freshly whitened teeth just a few too many times.

Let’s quickly summarize the two types of stock imagery:
Rights-Managed & Royalty-Free.

With Rights-Managed images, the photographer is paid a royalty and there are limits set for the dates and number of times the image can be used. This does increase the uniqueness of your image in the market, but does require a much higher budget.

With Royalty-Free images, you can always spend extra time searching for those that don’t have a “stock image” look, or spend extra money on more stylized images from special collections, but remember that anyone who purchases a Royalty-Free image is free to use the image unlimited times for many different purposes. This means your website is probably not the only one out there with that same image (does that friendly-looking lady with the headset really work at all of those different companies?).

Another important factor to consider before purchasing stock images is the size / proportion of the image and where the image will be used. You may have found the perfect stock image for your website: it’s a standard horizontal shot of a family playing together on the beach. But what if the image is going to be used on your website’s horizontal banner, which is extremely wide and not very tall? After cropping the family image to fit in the wide banner, the only visible part would be the kids heads, while all that’s seen of the mom and dad are arms and shoulders – not exactly the look you were going for. 

Digital Marketing Agency Portland

When you hire a professional photographer, you’re paying for their technical expertise and creativity, which means you can work with them to customize the specific content, colors, layout, etc. A good photographer will be able to capture the mood and passion behind your company, and work with you to creatively highlight your products or services. When you discuss your needs with your photographer, be sure to talk about where your images will be used, and any specific sizing and placement that would work best.

3. What is your budget?

Digital Marketing Agency Portland
A good photographer knows how to collaborate with you so your company’s personality is seen through your photos.

Your budget often dictates which options are open to you. Royalty-Free stock images are attractive to small businesses that are on a limited budget and are willing to accept the downside that their images are not unique and may be used by others. Many businesses will use stock photography until hiring a professional photographer is in their budget.

Every business that desires to use custom photography should, at the very least, check out the galleries of a few local photographers and get some estimates. Many small businesses are surprised when they find out how affordable a small custom photo package with a 1-hr photo session and 10-20 photos can be. Many times it is in the same ballpark as a similar quantity of unique stock photos. Professional photographers can also provide business portraits, store photos, and product photography.

Whether you choose stock photos or professional photos, be sure you use images that target your specific audience and complement your content. High quality photography can play a big role in your marketing campaigns and draw positive attention to your business. At Spot Color, we can help you choose the best stock images, or we can set up a custom photo shoot with you and your team.

We’d love to sit down with you and offer you a free consultation to discuss your website and your business goals – contact us today and let’s talk!

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Calls to Action: What Should Your Reader Do?

Clients oftentimes ask us what they can be doing to increase sales, drive more traffic to their website, increase their social media presence, etc. Though every client, business and industry is different, there is one thing we recommend to each and every client who walks through our doors: Calls to Action.

What are calls to action? Click here to learn more about calls to action. Call us now to schedule a calls to action seminar. A call to action tells your viewer what to do with the information you’ve given them. What you don’t want is for your potential customer to read your raving testimonials, fall in love with your products, and then say, “Okay, but what now?” Without a clear invitation to take the next step, they might just go somewhere else that makes it easier for them to figure out what to do.

There are countless examples of successful calls to action, and many more unsuccessful ones. Here are a couple we think work well, and why.

1. Digital Marketing Agency PortlandThis call to action (from our client PAHU) gives a reason why you should do what they’re asking, then right after they’ve convinced you, give you the next step at the click of a button. Easy.

2. This call to action is ideal because it’s specific, unique, and of course, for a good cause, taken from the site we gifted for Schoolhouse Supplies, a local non-profit we love. This is a feel-good button. The clickee gets instant gratitude from the verbiage of this call to action disguised as his or her own idea. Digital Marketing Agency Portland

3. This call to action is actually two-in-one. First we get the viewer to identify as an Oregonian or Washingtonian, then we show them plans available to them. Now they’re halfway to signing up for a plan and we only had to get them to the home page. (Taken from Warshauer Agency, a great client of ours!) Digital Marketing Agency Portland

 A few other things to note:

  • Leave some space. You want your call to action to be noticeable. While it doesn’t have to isolated, it’s better if it’s clear where your viewer should click.
  • Make sure it works. The worst thing you could do is ask your viewer to do something, then have a broken link or lack of functionality.
  • Avoid negatives. Keep your calls in the positive. Use “Sign-up for our Newsletter!” instead of “Don’t miss out on our Newsletter!” You don’t want your viewer to feel scolded or bullied into following your advice.
  • Don’t write a novel. Keep it short and sweet. If you’re going to use a hyperlink, underline part of the phrase. i.e. Click here to learn more about our services is too long for a button. Instead, tell them what you want them to do (learn more about your services) then make the hyperlink or button short with Learn More or Click Here.

Above all, don’t make your viewer do absolutely everything. Reward them for finding you, provide them with rich and up-to-date content, and then tell them how they can take the next step. Just think of how frustrating it is to sift through six inside pages, follow link after link, and still wonder how to buy the darn thing. Websites are like drive-thrus; if your customer wanted to come into your store and browse, they would. They visited your website for the quick and dirty stuff to inform them what to do!


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Social Media for Small Businesses: 101

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…oh my! With the abundance of social media platforms to choose from, it can be confusing to know when — and what — to post for your business. Though there is contrasting information everywhere, Spot Color would like to share posting guidelines we (generally) live by.

1. Facebook

How often should I post? Research suggests posting to Facebook 1-4 times per week. You will increase likes with one post a day, yet you will lose engagement if you are posting more than once a day. Apparently users like to know you’re there, but not barraging them with information. So save your daily post for something worthy. Quality of posts is more important than quantity.

What time should I post? Facebook tends to have the most observers during the work day (next blog post: How to Increase Productivity perhaps?) but there is a definite spike in user activity around 7:00 p.m. With that in mind, we suggest posting around lunch time and right after rush hour.

What should I post? We like to break topics down into categories. Though this scratches the surface of an endless realm of posting possibilities, we feel that if you’re within these guidelines, you’re probably on the right track.

  • Links to Products: Be sure to include a photo of the product and a reason why your reader should care about it. This could mean an anecdote, product history, trend data, etc. Be sure to post only the cream of the product crop or your readers will be annoyed that the only thing you seem to be communicating is “buy, buy buy.”
  • Links to Outside Articles: By linking to articles that discuss current events, trends, history, or what-have-you, you can offer your customers a glimpse into the soul of your organization. For example, you sell shoes, so you post an article about what the ladies were wearing 60 years ago and what aspects of those styles have remained timeless. Pair it with side by side photos of styles that have survived the marketing
  • Something Funny: Unless your product or service is no laughing matter, don’t be afraid to show your company’s lighter side. For example, you are an IT firm and you post this:
  • Shout-outs to Friends & Followers: It’s always nice to know you exist. Friend some of your Facebook “likes” and mention them in posts where you can. For example, you have a sale in-store, snap photos, tag them and post. Voila! Your customers feel you value them as individual people.

2. Twitter

How often should I tweet? Research says you should tweet 4 – 5 times per day. If this is too hard to manage, shoot for at least once or twice per day.

What time should I post? 

  • The highest percentage of retweets happens around 5 p.m. EST
  • The highest percentage of people who click on links happens between noon and 6 p.m. EST
  • Twitter usage spikes towards the end of the week and on weekends.

What should I tweet? Because of the 160 character limit, tweets should be quick shout-outs or retweets, links to relevant articles that share something in common with your company, and to announce sales, promotions or events.

3. Pinterest

Visuals are everything here. This would be a great place to post interesting product shots. Make sure to use accurate descriptions and integrate keywords.

4. Instagram

Instagram is the place to highlight the people of your company and their lifestyle. You want to show who your company is. Take shots of products in the warehouse, or an employee putting something out on a rack. Maybe snap a photo of the “lunchers” in the break room. However, Instagram is for the young and filtered; if you work in a dingy basement, perhaps skip posting the work environment on this social media site.

5. LinkedIn

Posting on LinkedIn is less important than making sure your company page is up-to-date. Be sure to upload your logo, accurately and thoroughly describe your services and update important information that changes.

Most importantly… your social media platforms should speak to your company’s values and let your customers and clients know you want to engage in conversation with them. An interesting stream of information might just be the thing to set you apart from your competitors.

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