5 Tips to Make Your Marketing Message More Effective in 2016

When it comes to marketing, some things, like consistency and quality content, should never change. What DOES change is the how and where your content is shared.  Here are some of the best practices of 2016 to make your message more effective and get the best response from your target audience.

  1. Make it mobile. More and more shoppers are turning to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to research a product, compare deals, finding a store and make a purchase. Ensure your website is mobile-friendly. Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many still aren’t.
  2. Make it searchable. SEO, Search Engine Optimization, is a game-changing tool for marketers. The best way to build your SEO ranking? Visual content.
  3. Make it visual. Pictures, infographics and video are much more engaging than plain text and therefore make a search more relevant to any consumer.
  4. Make it constant. Having a constant social media presence is vital to the survival of your business. One caveat: social media shouldn’t be used for self-promotion but rather as a way to engage users and build brand trust.
  5. Make it personal. In 2016, personalized one-to-one marketing is a requirement to acquire and retain loyal customers. Collecting key data from consumers by tracking past purchases, getting newsletter sign-ups and engaging users through social media will result in more emotionally connected customers who will help drive word-of-mouth referrals and online reviews.

Stumped for content or don’t have time? Call JigSaw at 410.215.9049 or email info@jigsawmarketingsolutions.com to see how we can help.


5 Reasons Our Clients Make Us Grateful

JigSaw may not be a Fortune 500 firm, but we definitely consider ourselves fortunate to work with so many people who motivate us in big and small ways.  So in keeping with the Thanksgiving season, this month’s blog shares five of the reasons we are thankful for YOU. And from our homes to yours, we wish you a wonderful holiday with family and friends!

  1. We learn fun facts. The JigSaw team develops content for social media platforms for some of our clients. To keep followers engaged, we often “think outside of the box” and come up with posts that though informational, may be a little bit quirky. For instance, we recently learned from creating a Center for the Arts post that Bruce Lee was the cha-cha champion of Hong Kong before he became a Kung Fu legend. That’s really interesting and we would never have known that without the opportunity to research it for a client.
  2. We gain appreciation for what we have. JigSaw has several non-profit clients and we often help promote fundraisers that support the work they do. Seeing the difference these organizations make in people’s lives is a real eye-opener. One example: At a benefit for Harford Family House, we heard how a formerly homeless mother was able to get a job to provide for her two young daughters once she had housing. And after discovering she was walking two miles each way to get her kids to daycare and herself to work, Harford Family House made arrangements for her to receive a car, too. That family’s life was changed because someone heard about and supported a fundraiser. It’s gratifying to know that in a small way, our efforts play a role in helping those in need.
  3. We utilize their services. We may provide business services, but the JigSaw team is also in need of services at times—some of which our clients provide! We have had the opportunity to try new restaurants, purchase unique gifts and even receive chiropractic care thanks to some of our clients. One of our newest clients, Habitat for Humanity, will be opening a ReStore in the spring, and you can be sure we will both be donating and shopping at this fantastic retail space specializing in re-selling home accessories and building supplies.
  4. We get to see new places. Whether it’s traveling to a meeting or going to an event, our clients make it possible for us to get out and about. We have been able to discover new spots in D.C. Rockville, and even in Baltimore. Helping with public relations for our client Doors Open Baltimore, we learned about some historical structures and little known museums right in our own hometown. Bonus: the event offered the ability to tour these places for free!
  5. Sometimes it’s the little things. One of the best parts of our work is the face time we spend with clients. Really!  We love getting to know you, and ultimately, that helps us find the best ways to promote your business. A favorite for us is the happy greeting we always receive from the office dogs at Carl’s Door Service. We look forward to shaking paws every month.

Invest in Sponsorships and Harvest the Opportunities

Sponsorship marketing is one of the easiest, most affordable ways for a small business to gain exposure. In return for financial support or a donation of products, services or even time, a business sponsor receives benefits that include advertising to a niche audience (with the potential to boost sales), exposure for the company, an enhanced reputation within the community and, in some instances, a tax deduction, too!

Businesses most often sponsor non-profit organizations, community events or individuals. There are various ways to be a sponsor, each with its own advantages.  Among the options are:

Pro Bono Service (also called “In-Kind Sponsorship)-Find another company or non-profit organization that requires your services, and do the job free of charge in exchange for publicity. This helps generate brand awareness for only the price of time.

Cash Donations– Since larger non-profit organizations typically base the level of publicity they give on the amount donated, the impact of a cash donation depends on how much cash you can give.  A less pricey option might be to advertise in the event program.

Prize or Auction Donations-These may be the best sponsorship opportunity for small businesses since you determine the value, whether of a gift certificate or actual product/service. Plus, winners of the prize or auction get the chance to try your product/service for free, so they become qualified leads.

Provide Meeting/Event Space– You can enjoy the perks of being a sponsor when you offer real estate to host the event, even if it’s your company parking lot. A good example: Allow organizers of a local charity run to set up spot-a-pots, sign-in tables, etc. on your lot and your business gets visited by lots of prospective customers.

Now that you know the benefits of sponsorship marketing, consider some of these upcoming local opportunities (click on any event for more information):

If you need help developing promotional materials for any sponsorship opportunity you are involved with, or suggestions for more sponsorships, contact the JigSaw team!


Three Ways to Market Your Business Like A School

In the spirit of back to school season, this month Puzzle Pieces is sharing a lesson on marketing the way schools do it. It is the business of alumni relations to keep former students engaged with their alma mater. If they don’t do a good job, they lose potential donors as well as word-of-mouth advertising for the school.  Thinking of your customers as “alumni” can help you to engage them and turn them into promoters and active advocates for your products and services. Here are three ways to do it.

  1. Bring the brand to them. A good alumni relations team tries to bring a bit of the school to graduates to help them remember when they were there. From a business perspective, you can use that tactic by sharing company “swag” at events and in promotions that customers will use in their homes and offices to keep your business name (and contact info!) in frequent view of the original customer, plus any visitors they may have . Some swag ideas: magnets, mugs, mouse pads, t-shirts. Any and all of the above can also be used as prizes for online contests, too.
  2. Help them connect. Thanks to social media, it’s possible to find just about any former classmate or colleague online. But smart universities are leveraging those connections with private groups or pages within a platform so that alumni can connect and network with each other.  Knowing that someone attended the same school as you did is a great icebreaker when looking to make a new business connection.  And there is a pre-established element of trust between parties. You can help your customers build or expand professional relationships with each other by encouraging customers (both commercial and residential) to share testimonials on your social media. Reading these is like getting a recommendation from a friend. Another idea is to host customer events (think Open House) which could lead to forging partnerships and even cost sharing opportunities.
  3. Create nostalgia. An alumni team gets a good number of people to come to a reunion because they want to relive their own memories, and if they do it right, the alumni leave feeling proud of the current university. So even if your brand is only a few years old, invite people to share their memories about their experience with your products or services and it will make the business feel approachable and familiar. One idea to do this is have the first or longest or most recent client tell their story and receive a discount or another incentive.

It’s Time to Spice Up Your Marketing

It is easy to continue working ‘in’ a business, but it’s essential to work ‘on’ your business as well to stay on course for success and growth. An important tool you can use is a marketing audit. Periodically evaluating what is (or is not) working, what’s outdated, etc., will help you get the most of your marketing investment, and keep your message focused and targeted. Things to review include:

Consumers respond to seasonal marketing, and when it comes to the fall, people get very nostalgic. For many it’s back to school time, but autumn also heralds the return of sports like soccer and football, so take advantage of that energy and enthusiasm.  The changing of the leaves and the distinct smells and activities of the season (think bonfires) also evoke positive feelings, so make the most of the mood and spice (as in pumpkin spice!) up your sales. A few ways to work these themes into your marketing:

  • Decorate your website/advertising. Acknowledge fall has arrived and change the background to a fall scene or maybe write a few fall-themed posts for your company blog. This gives your customers something new to look at when they arrive at your URL.  You can also add fall graphics to your print and online ads, or even build a whole promotion around the season.
  • Tailor social media content. Come up with some fun links or promotions for your social media accounts. For example, did you know Customer Service Week is in October? That would be a great time to thank customers and maybe even ask for some feedback.
  • Support a community service project.  Why wait for the busy holiday season to get involved with a worthy cause? Fall is full of opportunities to volunteer. Make a Difference Day is October 26—a perfect time to step up and help out. Enlist employees to join team runs, get involved with home builds, and support fundraisers for local organizations.

What to Review in A Marketing Audit

It is easy to continue working ‘in’ a business, but it’s essential to work ‘on’ your business as well to stay on course for success and growth. An important tool you can use is a marketing audit. Periodically evaluating what is (or is not) working, what’s outdated, etc., will help you get the most of your marketing investment, and keep your message focused and targeted. Things to review include:

1-Taglines and logos. If someone doesn’t know your company, would your tagline and logo accurately explain it? A tagline should quickly highlight your product or service or capture what it is that makes your business different from competitors. Logos can be font-based, image-based or abstract. Keep the design simple but memorable, and consider the impact of color. Remember, it has to work in different sizes and across various mediums.

2-Brochures and ads—Effective brochures and ads have good headlines, clear, concise language and a call to action. In a brochure, use high quality paper with a glossy finish to make it stand out. A firm brochure is the equivalent of a firm handshake; a thin, flimsy brochure will signal that you put little thought and even less effort into developing your marketing materials. In advertising, select a provocative image but leave room for your logo and make sure contact information can be easily found.

3-Website issues.  A website needs to be visually appealing and not too busy. Keep it simple and allow for adequate empty/white space.

  • Design: A color scheme with two to three primary colors is enough. Colors should blend well and create the right mood or tone for your business. They should also reflect or enhance your company logo. Three to four images per page is plenty, and quality photography is crucial. Generally, its best to not select a specific font, rather, define the font to be used as serif or sans serif. Sans serif fonts are usually easier to read on computers.
  • SEO: Be sure you are using the right keywords so customers can easily find you when they do a web search. To find all the keywords you’re already using, get a free BoostSuite account. BoostSuite will crawl all of your pages and show you a list of all of your keywords automatically. Also, if you already have a Google Webmaster Tools account you can export a list of keywords from there. If you do not post regularly in a blog, consider doing so since it also helps boost you in search rankings. Need help? JigSaw can help you develop content and even post it for you.
  • Content: Your audience is looking for information that will help them make a decision, so the text on your website should be informative and relevant. Keep copy short and organized, label topics and break into small paragraphs. Also, be sure to update it regularly. No one wants to read the same thing over and over again!

4- Promotions and special offers. Periodic promotions and special offers go a long way to keep existing customers coming back and new ones arriving. If you haven’t tried one (or it’s been a while since you did), here are a few ideas to consider.

  • Contests- People like to win prizes. Sponsoring contests can bring attention to your product without making your company too overtly salesy. Have a trivia contest about your firm, invite customers to share photos of your products in use, etc. The possibilities are endless!
  • Coupons and discounts-No need to run a direct mail campaign. Print discount offers to give customers a break on their next purchase or service. Another way to achieve this is to have a special code (a certain phrase to be repeated for example) posted on your website or social media which can give them a discount when ordering.
  • Customer referral programs-Create a reward system for other businesses or individuals that refer your company. You can give a discount or even hold a customer appreciation event for the most referrals given.
  • Sponsorships of local causes and charities-For a minimal investment you may be able to secure a partnership at a local event. This gets your company name circulating as well as generates goodwill for your business within the community.
  • Branded promotional items-Giveaways like die-cut magnets, pens, envelope openers, post-its and the like are inexpensive ways to keep your company front and center in the minds of your customers.

5-All of the above. Perhaps most importantly, as part of your marketing audit take a step back and see how all of your marketing materials and tactics look and work together. Are you using consistent messaging? How about colors or typefaces? If your website is green and gold and still has your old logo while your new letterhead shows off your spiffy new branding, there is a disconnect that can confuse consumers and reduce the effectiveness of your marketing. If you’re not sure how cohesive everything is, ask your team, partners or even clients for their input, or remember JigSaw is always here to help as well!

While certainly not comprehensive, these items make a good checklist of what to review during a marketing audit of your business. It may require some time, but in the end it’s worth it to ensure your materials are on point and you are leveraging the latest and best marketing practices.