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Five Houston Topics that Might Affect Your Business

Houston, Texas is a great place for any business these days. A diverse economy, growing population and favorable tax rates are just a few reasons that are contributing to the success of both small and large companies in the greater Houston area.

With that being said, there are unique traits and trends in Houston that affect your business. You need to be aware of these external factors specific to Houston in order to give your company the best chance to grow and prosper.

So whether you own an established business or are new to the area, here are five trends in Houston that you should definitely take into account in the upcoming year that will likely affect your company (whether you like it or not):

1. Shifting Demographics

Houston is now considered to be one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in America. You might be thinking “that’s a wide variety of consumers, how can I appeal to different groups?” It’s important to note that Houston is one of the least integrated cities in the States, according to several sources. So if you expect to capture customers from the Hispanic demographic, for example, do your homework and make sure you have brand visibility where it reaches that specific audience. Demographic factors in Houston aren’t just limited to ethnicity, but to age as well. Houston is quickly becoming a “Millennial Magnet”, due to it’s well paying job market and reasonable cost of living. Houston is now among the top 10 cities in America with the fastest-growing Millennial population (ages 18-34), with a 25% increase in Millennials from 2000-2013. Some of the key areas for businesses seeking to tap into the Millennial market are mobile technology, social media and an individualized marketing approach. The Millennial explosion is is expected to continue and you should consider how to use this fact to benefit your business.

2. Changes in Weather

The climate in Houston can be classified as “humid subtropical,” making the weather very unpredictable at times. This can make planning for seasonal trends in Houston particularly challenging. Businesses need to be aware that Houston is prone to severe, potentially disastrous weather that includes tornadoes, tropical storms and even hurricanes. Hurricane season usually begins around the first of June and can last for months. Hurricane Ike had a lingering negative effect on the Houston-area economy after it hit in September, 2008. A particularly rainy season adversely affected outdoor-related businesses this spring. Having a contingency plans for adverse weather is recommended.

3. Football Season

The state of Texas is synonymous with football, and the city of Houston is no exception. Houston is home to the National Football League’s Houston Texans. The Texans attracted the 10th most fans in attendance for 2015, despite below average team performance. In addition, local fans avidly follow their college teams, including the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M, University of Houston, Baylor, Texas Christian, Rice and many more throughout the region. And Friday nights are traditionally high school football’s domain in the state. Over 54,000 fans attended the 2014 Texas 6A Championship, more than most of the college football bowls attracted during the same period.

Football season in Houston provides a great opportunity for businesses in terms of marketing. Some of the ways that businesses can leverage football season to their advantage are embracing a football theme for your space, offering Game Day discounts and engaging with fans that might be potential customers on social media.

4. The Local Livestock Show & Rodeo

You might not realize it, but rodeo season is one of the major trends in Houston that affect your business. The Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show is the largest rodeo in America. In 2010, the most recent for which the numbers are available, the HLS&R added approximately $320 million in economic output and $475 million in net sales for local businesses. It also generated the equivalent of 7,000 full time jobs during the three week period, making it an event that businesses in Houston shouldn’t ignore. Plan ahead and think of potential ways to use Houstonian’s rodeo experience to best benefit your business. Building a relationship with HLS&R, or smaller, more strategically located events and festivals around the area, could be a boon to your business.

5. The Super Bowl and NCAA Championships

Houston has become an epicenter for major professional and college sporting events. The city is set to host the NCAA men’s basketball championship in April of 2016, along with the NFL Super Bowl in February of 2017. In fact, Verizon has spent upwards of $173 million on a new and improved cell phone infrastructure in anticipation of the increased tourism these events are expected to bring. City officials and major corporations are extremely eager to showcase Houston during these events. What better time for local businesses to take advantage of the increased foot traffic and visibility? Major sporting events like these are expected to be one of the increasing trends in Houston, so make sure to have special marketing campaigns and promotions during these events to maximize your sales and brand exposure.

So there you have it, some of the major trends in Houston that will affect your business both in the near and longer term. By being aware of Houston’s shifting demographics, seasonal climate trends and major local events, you’ll know how best to position your business for success in one of the most beautiful, dynamic cities in the US.

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10 Scary Digital Marketing Mistakes You DON’T Want to Make

Halloween is right around the corner, but here in Houston, it’s not ghosts and ghouls were afraid of, it’s bad marketing. So bring your tablet around the campfire and check out these 10 very scary digital marketing mistakes you most definitely DON’T want to make.

1. Failing to Understand Your Audience

Come on now, it’s 2015. With all of the different ways there are to engage with, and learn about your audience there’s no excuse for not understanding them. And even if your target audience is zombies, if your base thinks you’re out of touch you can bet they won’t be paying you any attention.

2. Not Having Defined Goals

This is one of the scariest digital marketing mistakes you can make, because having ill defined marketing goals can throw a whole campaign out of whack. If you don’t know what you want to achieve with your marketing, you risk choosing a marketing technique that is ineffective for the situation, or else not tracking the proper metrics to allow you to accurately see whether the campaign was a success or a failure. You’ll be marketing-walking dead, wandering aimlessly, arms outstretched.

3. You’re Trying Too Much

No one expects you to become a marketing superhero overnight, especially if you’re just starting out. Think of yourself as more like a marketing Karate Kid instead. Start small, and see what works. Wax on. Wax off. Learn how to A/B test your campaigns, and you’ll be able to identify what works best for you in no time.

4. You Have Unrealistic Expectations

The internet is really a wonderful thing. While you’re reading this post you could, in mere seconds, order that gorilla costume you wanted for Halloween, and have it appear at your doorstep tomorrow morning. Instant gratification at it’s finest. But (unfortunately) digital marketing doesn’t work like ordering a gorilla costume online. It takes time.

Often times advertisers get frustrated with a digital campaign when it doesn’t immediately yield results. But let’s use this as an example, the average social media campaign takes six months before it shows results. That’s a lot of tweets, but patience pays off in the end.

5. Not Budgeting Properly

Creating a digital advertising budget can seem daunting to the uninitiated, but it’s really quite simple. So simple that even the slowest of digital marketing zombies could follow it.

6. Too Much Social Media

When it comes to social media, your business doesn’t need to be everywhere. As long as you’re engaging your audience where it counts. Pick one or two social media sites that are most appropriate for your strategy and stick with them! Professional businesses seem to do best on sites like Twitter and LinkedIn, while restaurants and retail stores, for example, might find a more welcoming audience on Facebook or Instagram.

Wherever you choose to get social, don’t post too much, lest you see your audience begin to tune you out, and your social pages turn into digital ghost towns.

7. You Don’t Understand the Importance of Content

Creating content and/or blogging not only helps you get found online but it helps educate your customers and position you as a leader in your industry. And even more, it works for driving conversions! In fact, inbound marketing drives 54% more leads into your marketing funnel than traditional methods.

8. You Don’t Understand Keywords

Keyword stuffing is a terrifying digital marketing mistake, and there is a lot to learn about how keywords work today. It’s more about the quality and placement of your keywords and not the quantity. Search engines algorithms have gotten smarter and are ranking your website based on how useful viewers find the content, not by how many times a keyword appears. Brush up on your SEO best practices and watch your site climb the ranks today!

9. You’re Not Thinking About Mobile

Mobilegeddon — Google’s latest algorithm update — was six months ago, and if you haven’t optimized your site for mobile yet, you are seriously harming your search engine rankings, and regardless of what updates are made to the search engines we know that mobile matters today more than any other time. With 60% of internet access mostly mobile, it might even matter more than any other format.

10. You’re Not Tracking Your Efforts

One of the biggest advantages that digital marketing has over other mediums is its enhanced ability to track the success (or failure) of your marketing efforts, so that you may improve future campaigns based on what did/didn’t work in the past. It’s what separates a banner ad from skywriting.

So there you have it. Can you identify if your business is making any of these fatal digital marketing mistakes? Heed these warnings, and begin to improve your overall digital strategy today. If you dare!

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Email Marketing Best Practices: It Starts with the Subject Line

Email marketing is one of the most effective, and economical ways to reach out to your business’ target audience. And, just as the headline plays an important role in content marketing, so does the subject line in email marketing. Keep reading for some email subject line best practices that are sure to call attention.

Your Subject Line: The Ultimate Call to Action

Email subject lines are your ultimate calls-to-action. A full 35% of email recipients will open an email, just on its subject line alone, so a strong subject line can be just the push you need to drive conversions.

Personalization Matters

“Names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Dale Carnegie’s influential words remain as relevant today as they did 100 years ago. They’re possibly even more important in the digital realm, which can seem cold and impersonal all too easily.

Whenever possible, personalize the subject line of your email. Not only does this simple practice increase open rates by 2.6%, is just might brighten someone’s day.

The Words You Include Matter

Some words are better than others, that’s no secret. But the words you use in your email subject line can affect everything from open and click rates, to how many people unsubscribe from your mailing list. So choose wisely. And be sure to check out this list from mailup.com of some common email subject line words, and how they perform in the wild.

Keep It Short

Subject lines with fewer than 10 characters have an open rate of 58%. Enough said.

Don’t Be Deceptive

It might seem like a good idea, but you know who adds tags like FWD and RE to email subjects when they don’t belong? Spammers. Not only are deceptive subject lines annoying, but they can hurt your entire campaign: once enough recipients mark your email as spam, emails from that address will begin to be filtered by the service provider’s spam filter. That’s definitely something you want to avoid.

Be Very Specific

Instead, opt to tell the reader exactly what the email is about. Your subject line is your email marketing call-to-action, remember. And just like any other CTA, specificity is key. For example, if you’re business is running a Fall sale, don’t simply put “Sale!” in the subject line, use something like “Jon, You Can Save Up To 50% at [your store] Now Through Oct 31.”

Don’t Recycle the Same Subject Lines

If you’re using the same subject line over and over again, people will begin to tune it out. Unlike other forms of marketing, repetition will do you no favors when it comes to email. Opening, reading, and acting/responding to an email is a much more active process than say, hearing an ad on the radio. And people are busy. So keep your content fresh.

Some More Things To Try

Using brackets or unicode to set off words or phrases may lend urgency or emphasis to your message. While one copywriter found that putting her company name in brackets [Like This] at the end of the subjects lines gained a boost in open rates, your mileage may vary. Likewise for unicode symbols.

Ultimately these are aesthetic choices, and whether you should use them or not depends on your message, and most importantly, the preferences of your target audience. If they might like it, give it a try.

Now that you’ve brushed up on your email marketing subject line skills, get out there and send some emails. Experiment with a few A/B tests, and find what works best for you.

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Is Your Business Haunted by Poor Online Reviews?

As a small business, you know all too well how important word-of-mouth marketing can be for your reputation and bottom line. In this age of internet revolution, poor online reviews can leave a nasty mark on your online presence. But sometimes, these unfavorable reviews show up even when your business has done nothing wrong, simply because the reviewer, for whatever reason, wants to inflict unnecessary harm on the business to be spiteful.

Regardless of the reason, justified or not, business owners know that you can’t please everyone; there are some customers that will never be happy, and one bad client is worse than hundreds of happy ones.

People are relying heavily on reviews found on online review sites like Yelp, and the quality and quantity of these reviews can dramatically affect your business’s ROI. With online reviews being a critical part of your business’s reputation, it’s important to understand the best ways to deal with negative reviews.

What to Do With a Business That Already Has Poor Reviews?

It’s time to embrace managing your business’s online reputation as part of your marketing strategy. Whether you want to believe it or not, reviews can make or break a small business. BrightLocal’s 2015 Local Customer Review Survey just found that 87% of potential customers won’t even consider a business with low ratings. So, what do you do if you already have poor reviews?

First, go to the source. Look past the review for a moment and determine what your business needs to do to improve. Was the review bashing your customer service? If so, did they mention or describe who the employee was that gave them poor service? It may be worthwhile to speak with that person to get their side of the story, and take further action if necessary. Your employees need to understand that you’re running business, providing a service, or product, and they must always act in a professional and friendly manner. 

One thing you should NEVER do is pay for companies to “remove” your bad reviews. We have remove in quotation marks because once it’s out there in the Twitterverse, it can never be fully removed. Unfortunately, most people who review businesses fall into one of two extreme categories: they either loved the business or they absolutely detested it. Most people who fall in between those two sentiments don’t tend to take the time to write reviews. What this means for you is, customers that had a terrible experience see to it that everyone knows about it. If they find out you’ve “removed” their review, they may continue to post negative feedback on multiple social media and review platforms. 

Instead of trying to buy the reviewer’s silence, try to handle the situation with great customer service. Respond to the negative comment publicly, address their issues, and offer a way to remedy the problem. This will not only show the reviewer, but potential customers looking at your reviews, that you’re paying attention and care about customer satisfaction. Oftentimes the reviewer can make amendments to their review. If you respond to a negative post, it’s not uncommon for the reviewer to update their review with a better rating and a less biased opinion. Conversely, this can work the other way, where a once good review turns sour based on more recent experiences.

Paying the Price for Paying For Reviews

Positive online reviews are the crucial lifeblood of your business’s online reputation. However, going to any lengths to get a good review — like paying for it — can land you in hot water. Take for example the true and cautionary story of Catskills hotel, Union Street Guest House. This boutique hotel wanted positive reviews so badly that they went so far as to create a policy where they’d fine guests $500 for every bad review. Below is their policy:

“If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at USGH there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH placed on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event. If you stay here to attend a wedding anywhere in the area and leave us a negative review on any internet site you agree to a $500 fine for each negative review.”

So you may think that this hotel has a clear reputation full of positive four and five star reviews, right? Wrong. The internet has a way of banding together in certain unethical situations like this and the backlash from their ridiculous policy has led them to mostly 1-star reviews on Yelp and tons of negative PR. So, can online reviews hurt business? Most certainly. This hotel’s determination to land great online reviews by any means necessary resulted in an epic, widely covered, backfire.

Moreover, it’s most certainly not a best practice to write fake reviews, and will only temporarily deceive your customers. They’ll find out firsthand if your business is actually worth those stars. In fact, in New York, 19 companies were forced to pay $350,000 in penalties for misleading practices.

Lastly, don’t let one bad apple spoil your bunch…of reviews. Dilute negative reviews with positive ones. Of course, we’re not suggesting you go home and write a bunch of great reviews for your business under fake Yelp accounts. Simply encourage happy customers to share their experiences with others. Be careful not to outright ask for reviews, as this may lead customers to feel like they’re being used as a promotional vehicle. Instead, encourage engagement.

Many customers are more than happy to help out local businesses that they think are great. The BrightLocal study previously mentioned found that 73% of customers form an opinion after reading 1-6 reviews, and 69% believe that reviews older than three months are no longer relevant. So take a deep breath, that bad review will be watered down by great ones in no time.

Best Practices for Dealing with Bad Reviews

So, you’ve got a bad review. The way in which you handle it can turn the bad review into a nightmare, or hopefully, a positive exchange in which the reviewer’s complaints are mitigated. Here are a few rules for handling bad online reviews:

  • Respond in a Timely Manner: Monitoring your reviews will allow you to respond to negative posts promptly. Reply directly on the comment to make things right. Offer apologies, and encourage the customer to give your business a second chance, perhaps with an incentive to come back, like a 20% off offer.
  • NEVER Respond in Anger: We get it — this business is your baby and you may get defensive if someone has a less-than-stellar experience. Take a moment to compose yourself before you reply to a negative review. Many businesses have responded in anger, and it has cost them dearly. Often times reviewers exaggerate their experience or make things up completely to heighten the severity of the review. This can be incredibly frustrating and embarrassing, but being professional and avoiding replies out of anger or aggression is important. Replying in a defensive or belittling manner can compromise your business’s reputation and worsen an already bad review. Instead, apologize and offer to make things better with a refund or special offer.
  • Issue a Response From the Owner/Manager: This will make the reviewer feel as if their opinion was important enough to be handled by someone in charge. It’ll also show the reviewer or potential customers that you take customer service and satisfaction seriously and you want to make sure all clients leave your establishment feeling happy.
  • Encourage Engagement: While you don’t want to flatout ask for positive reviews, you can encourage interaction by subtly driving awareness that you’re on review sites like Yelp, but stopping short of asking for a review. Ways to do that include posting signs and stickers around your business that encourage people to find you on review sites and including a call-to-action on your promotional materials that lead people to these sites. As long as you aren’t specifically soliciting positive reviews, you aren’t violating any official policies. Your main goal should be to get people talking.

The Moral of the Story

You crave success. You know that your product or service is exemplary, now you just need to get it into the right hands and have the people attached to those hands write you great reviews! But, the internet can be a harsh and dark place and sometimes that’s not what happens. Don’t let one bad review define your business. Address it properly and in a timely manner to diffuse any bad feelings.

You have happy customers, and you know how they feel about your business, but for reasons unknown to you, they aren’t writing reviews. So, it’s harmless to write those reviews for them, right? Wrong! Crafting fake reviews sets you up for all sorts of backlash; there are much better ways of getting good reviews.

Instead of desperately asking for, paying for, or removing bad reviews — take a look at your digital marketing plan and how you can begin to harbor organic, positive reviews. Ultimately, the moral of the story is simple. Provide a great product or service, the best customer service you possibly can, and do it consistently. Engage with your clients, value their opinions, even when they’re negative or constructive. Take those bad reviews as opportunities for improvement. Doing these things will naturally result in great reviews. And there is nothing more satisfying than earning four or five star reviews that you didn’t pay for.

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Why Fall Doesn’t Mean a Fall in Purchases – Tapping Into Seasonal Changes

We can learn a lot from the aspen tree. Unlike other trees, aspen leaves have flat stems which allow them to bend and not break. They also change with the seasons, going from a bright green in the summer, to yellowish-amber during the fall and when all the leaves have fallen, the bark of the aspen carries out photosynthesis which gives it energy in the cold winters, a process usually reserved for leaves. Being able to adapt with the seasons gives the aspen longevity; a lesson many businesses could learn from.

While fall is known for being that in-between time when consumer money spends more time in their pockets than purchasing your goods and services, many smart marketers have learned to tap into seasonal changes to offer deals and promotions in order to ensure fall doesn’t mean a fall in purchases. In this post we’ll discuss a few quick tips to get your customers spending with you this season.

Who’s Spending During Fall?

Most establishments experience some ebb and flow in business, and in many cases these fluctuations correspond with the seasons. Depending on your industry, you may notice that consumer spending peaks during certain seasons. For a lawncare or landscaping company that may be the spring or summer, or maybe as a small boutique, your busy season is around the holidays as people start to buy presents for loved ones.

Now that the warmer weather is starting to dissipate, you may assume that consumer spending is following suit. Summer is over, the kids are back in school, and vacation memories have already been made. It’s time to amp up your Q4 marketing strategies for a new season. Many people claim fall is their favorite season and with the anticipation of the holidays a few months away, consumers are in high spirits, and looking to get gifts crossed off their Christmas lists. 

The first day of fall, 2015 landed on September 23, and it ends December 21. This nearly three-month season is marked by cooler temperatures and shorter daylight hours. And contrary to what you may think, according to a 2014 Gallup poll, during the fall months, average daily consumer spending is up. The poll asked more than 14,000 U.S. adults about their discretionary spending, polling them on the amount they spent “yesterday” in stores, restaurants, gas stations or online — not counting home and vehicle purchases, or normal monthly bills.

What they found is daily discretionary spending averaged $95 in November, up from $91 in 2013, and well above the averages found in 2009-2012. Moreover, the October-to-November increase of $6 is the largest in six years. In previous years, spending has remained stable from October to November. Before 2014, consumer spending had increased by $3 or more — between these two months — only twice, in 2010 and 2013, since Gallup began this daily tracking in 2008. However, spending typically increases in December, with an average increase over the past six December’s of $6. 

What this shows us is that consumers are getting over the slump of the recession and starting to spend more money on discretionary things like restaurants and novelty items. It’s simple to forget that fall is really the “holiday season.” Winter doesn’t start until December 22, and by then, most consumers will already have all of Santa’s gifts purchased. In fact, while Christmas  and Kwanzaa are technically in winter, Hanukkah, a holiday celebrated by 5.5 million Americans, is in fall this year (Dec. 6-14).

It’s also important to note, partaking in Black Friday isn’t for every business. In fact, a study found that early holiday promotions are actually eating away at Black Friday sales. Many big box stores like Target, WalMart and Macy’s have extended their Black Friday sales to start earlier. “Their purpose is to make sure they get their share of the wallet before the competition,” said founder of ShopperTrak, Bill Martin. The research company expects sales to rise 3.8% this season. “It’s becoming a bigger part of how retailers do business,” he said. Furthermore, based on a ShopperTrak chart, 7 of the 10 Top Traffic Days and Top Sales Days land in the fall.

So consider reaching all those proactive holiday shoppers by starting your holiday marketing early. Brands have already begun lining up promotions in store, online, via newsletters, and for some, their mobile apps, meaning there will be deals aplenty for shoppers this season.

Focus on Savings and Keywords

No matter your industry, positioning your marketing with seasonal weather trends in mind can help throughout the slower season. Life is expensive; and people are always on the lookout for promotions, ways to save, and exclusive offers for the upcoming holiday. This is where tying fall activities into the mix comes into play.

Use buzzworthy keywords to reach the right audience. Knowing your demographic is half the battle. Once you know what your customer wants and is looking for, tie that into your promotions. For example, wouldn’t it be clever if a local coffee shop offered a complimentary cup of coffee for customers every time the Dallas Cowboys won? Now you’re tying in consumers’ love of football, with their desire for a warm beverage on a cool fall day. And once you’ve got them in your store, they’ll end up getting a donut to dip into that coffee, or hang out for a while, grab another drink and maybe even lunch?! And all it cost you was a small cup o’ joe.

Promotions like that not only create goodwill in your community, they bring in new business. Sharing your #CoffeeForCowboys promotion via social media channels will also encourage customers to engage with your brand, posting a picture of their lovely latte and scone, checking into your shop, and sharing their positive experience with their friends and family on social media.

Embrace Fall Holidays and Activities

Think Halloween festivities, the comeback of football season, and everyone’s favorite time to break their diets — Thanksgiving. These major fall events can be tied into promotions. For example, during the Thanksgiving season try sending out thank you cards or emails offering your customers savings in gratitude.

Just like any season, one’s profits during the fall can fluctuate. Instead of dreading this time of year, embrace the changes and use the uncertainty to your advantage by offering unique sales. For example, a creative hardware store owner may offer a special promotion revolving around the snow, or lack thereof. As a gimmick to lure buyers, create engagement, and start conversations, the store may offer to refund the entire purchase price of a new snowblower if a certain amount of snow does not fall that winter. If the snow does fall, however, all sales are final, and the shop was able to sell all their snow blowers at full price.

Businesses that offer creative seasonal promotion like this usually do their homework before they make seemingly outlandish offers. So, based on previous data, the hardware store owner might know that only twice in the last 100 years has the designated amount of snow not fallen, and therefore their odds of having to buy back the customers’ snowblowers are extremely small.

Autumn has a lot of other smaller holidays that are sprinkled throughout the season as well.  Columbus Day, Daylight Savings, Veterans Day, First Day of Fall, and Small Business Saturday are a few great ones. These are the perfect opportunities to offer one-day deals or flash sales.

Using seasonal imagery is another great way to grab attention. The changing of the leaves, pumpkins, crafts, the reds, browns and oranges—these are all fall staples.

Final Words on Fall

The imagery associated with the season is recognizable and gives way to fun concepts for themed campaigns on your social media channels, content and website. Sales and promotions should be part of your marketing strategy this season, as there are so many great ways of incorporating fall activities into your offers. This could mean a promotion you announce in your newsletter, a coupon code you post on your website, or a sale graphic you promote via social media. For ten great and simple fall promotions you can steal for your small business, check out this article from webs.

Using a little creativity can go a long way during this festive lead up to winter. We hope these ideas give you some inspiration for your fall marketing efforts that you and your customers can both benefit from. If you’re looking for even more marketing tips and tricks for the change in seasons check out our top ten list of holiday advertising mistakes many Houston businesses make.

 

 

Top Marketing and Advertising Quotes from Around the Web

As marketers and advertisers, we’d be nowhere without our talent for creating engaging content and implementing cutting-edge marketing strategies. That’s why we’re always looking for that spark of inspiration that can help us out along the way.

We’ve put together some of our favorite quotes about marketing and advertising – feel free to leave your favorites in the comments below.

On the Importance of Understanding Your Audience

“We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in & be what people are interested in.” – Craig Davis

“Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.” – Howard Luck Gossage

“If you want to understand how a lion hunts don’t go to the zoo. Go to the jungle.” – Jim Stengel

On Social Media and Creating Great Content

“Social media is about the people. Not about your business. Provide for the people and the people will provide for you.” – Matt Goulart

“Social media is about sociology and psychology more than technology” – Brian Solis

“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is — it is what consumers tell each other it is.” – Scott Cook

“Content is anything that adds value to the reader’s life.” – Avinash Kaushik

On Creativity

“Creativity is one of the last remaining legal ways of gaining an unfair advantage over the competition.”      – Ed McCabe

“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” – John Maynard Keynes

On Thinking Outside the Box

“In advertising, not to be different is virtually suicidal.” – Bill Bernbach

There you have it. We hope these quotes help get your creative juices flowing. For some extra motivation, let us leave you with the timeless words of Andy Warhol: “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

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Five Infographics That Will Change Your Online Strategy

If seeing is believing, the following five infographics will make you a believer. They present ideas, tips, facts, and figures that can improve your online presence and inspire your next marketing campaign—all provided by some of the top leaders in their fields. Their nifty graphics and attention to hard data will help your business flourish on the Internet.

1. The Client’s Guide to Creating a Website

Your website is your face to the world. An unattractive site can send searchers packing. A beautifully designed, interactive, and well-curated site can increase your views and have your audience coming back for more—but making this perfect website is more than just picking a site name and writing out text. Great websites take time, goals, research, creativity and professionality to launch. In this infographic by Reed Design Group, learn how you can build and design a site from the ground up that will captivate and inspire.

2. What Is Digital Marketing

With so many new advertising avenues, it can be hard to keep up with all the buzzwords. “Digital marketing” is often believed to be just one of those all encompassing ways to say online advertising. However, Ashdown Group’s infographic dispels this rumor by breaking down what really occurs when you invest in digital marketing and why it matters to your business. This helpful graphic also explains the smaller points of digital marketing that make all the difference including sitemaps, reports, and webmaster tools.

3. 11 Reasons to Care About Mobile Performance in 2015

Did you know that 1.2 billion people use their phones to access the web? This infographic by Web Performance Today does. And if that is not enough for you to want to know more about what your business can do in the mobile arena, they give you eleven more reasons to get started with your mobile campaign. For example, do you know why 97% of mobile shopping carts are abandoned? It’s often because of slowness and experience. That’s just one way this graphic will show you how to improve your website for a new type of viewer.

4. 10 Social Media Marketing Trends to Watch Out for in 2015

A new year brings new trends. CJG Digital Marketing created a breakdown of the ten most important social media behaviors to watch for. It even explains what is and isn’t working in terms of B2B social media marketing. And if you’re looking for what is new and ahead of it’s time, check out the last tip which shows the newest social media sites that are slowly catching on.

5. Understanding Consumers Local Search Behavior

Google is the king of all things online, so why not trust their fact based infographics. With this informative graph curated by Think With Google, small businesses and those looking to target specific locals can learn a thing or two about how consumers use Google to seek out local businesses, products, and services. After all, four out of five people want advertisements that are customized to their location or home ZIP code. Knowing how best to optimize your search listings can open your business up to nearby customers and visitors.

Putting Visuals to Work

Staying up to date on online trends and best practices can be tough on any business. With so many facts and figures as well as conflicting opinions, there is just too much to sort through. But by utilizing informative infographics from reliable sources, you can get the breakdown on what is important for your digital or mobile marketing and online presence.

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Pairing Radio with Paid Search

PPCpay-per-click-written-on-blackboard-000046727366_SmallRadio advertising is at a curious impasse. On one hand, research has proven that radio advertising provides marketers with the biggest bang for their buck in terms of ROI, providing up to $23.21 in increased revenue for every $1 spent on advertising.

Yet despite its impressive returns and the fact that consumers spend around 15% of their time listening to the radio every week, a typical marketing budget only sets aside around 8% of its budget for radio advertising.
The reason: tracking. Despite being a visceral, engaging medium with a proven track record, the non-digital nature of the medium means that it can’t provide the kind of analytic data that marketers need to continue improving upon their efforts.
To get around this, advertisers can combine their radio marketing with an online paid search campaign, also known as pay-per-click (PPC) campaign. This has the effect of potentiating both markets, while giving some hard, analyzable data to radio.

How Radio Pairs with PPC

Take a look at this case study by SEER. By incorporating targeting keywords into the radio copy, the click rate of their online ads jumped by 124% in just one month. Coincidence? It would seem not. A month after the radio campaign was ended (while the PPC campaign continued) click rates dropped in frequency comparable to the original rise.

Additionally, the radio campaign correlated with increased conversions, and organic web traffic.

The Benefits

We see then that there are two distinct benefits to combining radio with a PPC campaign.

  • It augments an existing online campaign, increasing the effectiveness of both.

  • It provides a way for marketers to hold radio accountable. Spikes in traffic, ad clicks, and conversion can be measured against radio, giving a clearer picture of how listeners are responding.

How to Get the Most From Your Radio + PPC Campaign

To ensure that your radio campaign is helping to drive ad clicks, make sure the verbiage of your ad focuses on the keywords your PPC campaign is targeting. Additionally, using a call to action in your radio campaign that directs listeners to do further research online will help to increase organic traffic, along with clicks.

PPC advertising has a notoriously low click rate, so anything that can help advertisers increase clicks, and subsequently conversions is hugely beneficial. Add to that radio’s high ROI, and it’s ability to increase organic traffic too, and you’ve got a winning combo that should be in any serious marketer’s tool belt.

How the Heat Affects Consumer Behavior in Houston

With temperatures soaring and the sun blazing down, there is no escaping the Summer weather in Houston. Most Texans claim that they aren’t fazed by the scorching heat. However, business owners and marketers in the area must understand how the heat affects customers and their purchasing decisions.

The Psychology of Hot Temperatures

Psychologists and market analysts have long asserted that temperature plays a direct role in how a person acts. For example, research from PsychCentral states that higher temperatures reduce depression but raise aggression levels.

Despite this, many businesses only pay attention to the weather and consumer psychology when they are working with the elements or selling seasonal products. The truth is, nearly every business experiences some repercussion from the heat.

Here are four major considerations Houston businesses and advertising leaders should capitalizing with when the temperatures heat up.

1) Location Matters

Summer in Houston is different from anywhere else in America; while 75° in Maine might make for a great day at the beach, it’s downright chilly for a summer’s day in Houston. This means that a one-size-fits-all marketing approach is doomed to fail. As Weather Unlocked explains, how a consumer experiences temperature directly affects their shopping patterns (i.e. visiting brick and mortar stores instead of online shopping).

In Houston, where comfortable summer temperatures are regularly in the upper 90s, advertisers must learn to “speak heat,” Texas-style. Viewers will not react positively, for example, to ads using a ploy such as “escape the heat” when it’s 79°. In other words, knowing your locale’s temperature profile is essential to good marketing.

2) Don’t Underestimate Projection Bias

On a hot day, there is little better than streaming through the Houston streets in a convertible with the top down. However, car dealers rarely can sell convertibles in the hottest months. That’s because shoppers often fall prey to “projection bias.” As Psychology Today explains, “projection bias” occurs when a consumer purposely does not make a purchase because of the weather. The convertible dealer (as well as the pool seller and sunscreen vendor) will have better luck shortly before the weather turns hot, when a consumer’s projection bias has him or her anticipating the hot weather rather than experiencing it.

3) The Optimal Temperature for eCommerce

Another common misconception is that online shopping decreases in the summer as Houston shoppers take to the streets. On the contrary, as one study shows, there was an increase of  46% in consumers searching online stores when temperatures increased from 68° to 77°. This is likely due to the fact that warmer weather ups the mood and makes people feel more at ease with purchasing an item they have no physical connection with.

4) Reduce Your Discounts

Harvard Business Review claims that warm weather also increases a perceived value. Those shopping in a hot room were more likely to buy versus those in a cold room. Just like online purchasing, it is because purchasing heat is connected to emotional warmth. And in return, shoppers will put a higher value on the item. Summer blow out sales, especially with larger products such as furniture, have little impact when consumers would be mentally ready to buy regardless of a hot Houston day.

Creating a Hot Weather Strategy

Research clearly shows a direct correlation between weather and consumer behavior, especially directly related to heat and extreme temperatures. However, just as no two customers are the same, your business’s weather-based plans should be flexible and malleable. The best and most effective way to design a weather strategy is to instead research your own data.

Using historical sales reports or your own knowledge, track how extreme temperatures may have created a real impact in your shoppers behaviors. Compare a surge or downturn in sales with weather websites such as Weather Underground, where you can determine your weather triggers (or meteorological events that cause a change in consumer behavior). You may be surprised to see shifts in consumer behaviors directly related to a hot, Houston day.

Heating Up Sales

When the weather heats up, Houston business owners shouldn’t sweat. Basic consumer psychology has shown that while heat may play a direct role in purchasing decisions, it is largely regional and can have a perception bias. Furthermore, a warm day may even cause a weather trigger that can bypass clearance sales or spur online shopping. By understanding how your business may be affected by the rising mercury, you too can ride the summer shopping heatwave.

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25 Reasons Email Marketing Still Works!

In the world of marketing and advertising, it is important to be on top of the newest trending marketing strategy in order to reach consumers. However, as many new strategies have emerged, it’s critical to not forget the powerful effects of email marketing.

Leading companies like Amazon prove that email is still relevant by harnessing the power of targeted marketing on a daily basis, reminding us how much success you can have by simply growing and utilizing your email list.

In case you need more convincing, here are 25 reasons why email marketing not only still works for businesses of all sizes, but should be an important part of every marketing plan:

  1. Practically everyone uses email! There are approximately 2.5 billion email users worldwide.
  2. Email marketing has the ability to be very targeted and specific. When you send information to your database you’ll have the opportunity to reach any segment of your list you want.
  3. People are more likely to see your marketing messages when you send them via email. Emails for business-to-business (B2B) marketers typically achieve a 27.97% open rate.
  4. Email is mobile friendly. As mobile usage increases, more and more people are accessing their email on their devices providing you with more of an opportunity to reach consumers on the go. Just make sure your message is optimized for mobile so your recipients can actually read your message.
  5. The possibilities to grow your email list to tens of thousands of subscribers are seemingly endless. With email marketing, there is virtually nothing limiting you from expanding your database. Mail Chimp confirms that there is no limit to how large your email list can be but it is recommended that you use a high volume plan to ensure your campaigns run smoothly.
  6. It’s easy to create a personalized approach. Instead of sending generic messages to your entire list, you have the ability to segment and deliver specific content that certain groups are most likely to engage with.
  7. Following examples set by email marketing leaders like Amazon, you can store data about your target market and keep track of what your audience does so you can create offers and content that can meet a need or establish a solution to a problem they may have.
  8. Email helps to keep your audience informed about the latest news and offers you provide allowing them to feel more comfortable with your company and connected to your brand. Last year Nielsen released a report that indicated 28% of U.S. online shoppers subscribe to store or product emails in order to stay informed.
  9. Personalized email messages are the core of an effective marketing plan. Tools like Retention Science help marketers understand consumer data in order to create powerful personalized messages that build customer loyalty.
  10. It’s one of the most inexpensive forms of marketing, but it’s still very effective. The cost associated with email marketing depends on how many subscribers are receiving your messages.
  11. It is not required that you hire someone to help you with email marketing in order to become successful. By practicing simple, yet effective tactics, you can launch your own email campaigns and a strategy for success while maintaining your marketing budget.
  12. Unlike SMS marketing where the reader may incur a charge, emails are free to users regardless of the number of messages they receive. This gives the recipient a much higher incentive to open your emails since they have nothing to lose.
  13. It’s common knowledge that people are more likely to make a purchase when they have a coupon. Email coupons also help your prospects save money and drive online and in-store sales.
  14. You can use emails to promote yourself across a wide audience instead of purchasing expensive ad space on other websites.
  15. Emails are less likely to interrupt a prospect, who is probably checking his or her email several times a day anyway. The average person checks email 15 times per day more or less, increasing the chances of seeing your email message regardless of when you send it.
  16. In addition to people checking their email multiple times per day, it’s harder to ignore email messages than it would be to skip over a radio or television advertisement.
  17. Email marketing allows you to build good rapport with customers so they can look forward to receiving notifications and opening your emails to see what you have to say. Brands that maintain good customer loyalty by emailing prospects regularly include: Apple, AT&T, Hyundai, Ford and Google to name a few.
  18. It also paves the way for interactive marketing where recipients can forward your messages to their network and share the content with friends.
  19. You can insert specific, targeted calls to action in each message to help prompt readers to take action.
  20. Email marketing is a simple way to motivate prospects to make a purchase. According to the Direct Marketing Association, two out of three consumers have made a purchase as a result of an email.
  21. Recipients can easily click links and pull up products and services directly from the email message.
  22. Emails help remind people about sales, offers and products they are interested in.
  23. Unlike face-to-face sales, email marketing puts less direct pressure on the prospect to make a purchase so when they do buy, it feels like the choice was based more on their own decision and not a marketing ploy.
  24. You can create urgency through your email marketing campaigns by implementing limited time offers to help urge prospects to buy.
  25. At least 60% marketers say email marketing is producing ROI.

Email marketing is by no means a thing of the past. It’s affordable, easy-to-use and flexible allowing you to take a personalized approach when trying to reach prospects.

It’s important to stick with a platform that is easy to use and delivers analytics you need. The direct communication that email offers between you and a recipient is seemingly priceless. With more than 60% of marketers and advertisers finding success, email is still alive and well for you to utilize for years to come.