Brand Marketing at SXSW: How to Make Your Brand Stand Out

South by Southwest (SXSW) is an annual conglomerate of film, interactive media and music conferences that take place in Austin, Texas. With increasing attendance and new attention-grabbing tech displays each year, brands struggle to get noticed at SXSW. How can your brand bring a unique experience to SXSW that translates into something unforgettable? It’s increasingly difficult to get noticed when every consumer-facing company gives out free swag, throws parties with free beer, and shows off the latest technology.

SXSW is known for helping to launch Foursquare and Twitter, and the conference regularly screens excellent films and television shows, many of which go on to great acclaim. Marketing at SXSW is an increasingly complicated endeavor, as getting noticed above all the buzz is difficult enough. Brands struggle to tie in product releases, navigate consumer trends, and figure out how to draw attendees to their events.

While every SXSW is different, last year some successful brand activations made their mark on attendees and marketers. Creating SXSW marketing that stands out sometimes means doing something a little different than what everyone else is doing (or what you think they’re going to do).

Each of these SXSW brand activations highlights a unique aspect of their product and communicates that to the audience—something every brand needs to do. While you may be successful by just following the current marketing trends– whether that’s virtual reality, make-your-own soda, or just giving out free stuff—doing something that conveys your signature SXSW brand image will likely be more successful.

American Greetings

american greeting sxsw branding

credit: @mullenloweus

It might seem odd for a greeting card company to even come to SXSW, let alone do a brand activation. But American Greetings wanted to disrupt the mold of disruptive digital technology by bringing in the analog. Their three-day 2016 promotion was entitled #Analog and allowed festivalgoers to do DIY printmaking and pop-up cards. They could learn letter-making techniques from an American Greetings artist, fill in a coloring book mural, and even get a selfie stitched with thread. American Greetings’ message is not to say that digital communication is not important or analog can replace digital communication, but rather that they’re complementary. Many people don’t slow down to send paper cards, and American Greetings’ SXSW marketing message is that analog still matters, and we should slow down to appreciate it.

Suicide Squad

Another unique brand activation at SXSW 2016 was Suicide Squad’s tattoo salon. Although the movie didn’t come out until Summer 2016, Warner Brothers started promoted it early through this special Harley Quinn-inspired experiential marketing. Instead of just doing a sneak peek of the film, Warner Bros transformed Affinity Tattoo and Body Piercing into Harley Quinn’s Tattoo Parlor—and offered free real (and temporary) tattoos. This brand activation got people excited about the film, created a unique SXSW marketing angle, and involved artists and fans in an innovative way, without using virtual reality or alternate reality to do so.

Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot, a techie show that launched at the 2015 SXSW festival and won the SXSW Audience Award, wanted to come back in 2016 and make a splash. The show’s marketing team figured there was no better way to do way to do that than to bring their iconic “Wonder Wheel” Ferris wheel to Austin. In one of the largest SXSW brand activations to date, USA Network designed the Ferris wheel to look like the Coney Island Wheel in the show, complete with nearby carnival games. The Mr. Robot cast and crew even visited SXSW to pay homage to the success the festival helped them garner—and of course, see the Wonder Wheel in real life. By creating SXSW branding that directly references the television show and allows the audience to experience a piece of their world—Mr. Robot succeeded in their SXSW marketing.

Mophie

If you have a smartphone, you’ve probably heard of Mophie. They make external batteries and cases to charge your favorite devices. As you can imagine, at SXSW, battery life gets eaten up pretty quickly. Between all the tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming, and interactive brand activations and events, your smartphone may be dead before the day is half over. But Mophie is here to rescue you—with adorable St. Bernards. At 2016’s SXSW, Mophie partnered with the National St. Bernard Foundation, Glympse, and a motorcycle company to bring you a fresh phone battery when festivalgoers needed it. If someone tweeted using the hashtag #mophieRescue, the company would send one of its fleet of St. Bernards straight to them with a Mophie battery pack to charge up. This cute SXSW brand marketing makes Mophie look good, helps people out, and helps a good cause—dog rescues.

The Takeaway

SXSW is a brand marketing war. There are hundreds, if not thousands of different companies competing for attention from festivalgoers and consumers. Many companies try using the tried and true techniques of giving out free swag, throwing parties, and utilizing the latest technology trends. But these aren’t enough to truly make your product or company memorable. Take note of the uniqueness of the SXSW branding campaigns mentioned in this article—they all did something that was integral to their brand identity and helped their core audience in some way. If you can harness this mentality for your SXSW marketing, you can succeed in the crowded marketplace.


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Valentine’s Day Campaigns You’ll Love—and What You Can Learn from Them

Valentine’s Day marketing can be difficult for content creators and marketing companies alike. How can you tap your marketing arsenal into a holiday where the message is all about love? The most successful Valentine’s Day marketing campaigns utilize the “human factor,” connecting with their audience and establishing trust. Building a relationship with potential customers is the best way to go about Valentine’s Day marketing.

However, it’s easy to strike a false note when attempting to create efficacious Valentine’s Day marketing ideas. How do marketers seem genuine when creating their marketing campaigns? We’re going to look at several Valentine’s day marketing campaigns that hit the mark and analyze why they worked for their respective companies.

With an average spend of $142.31 per person, and nine out of 10 people buying a gift for their partner, Valentine’s Day is a big retail holiday. While certainly not in the same league as the winter retail season, over $18.9 billion is spent on Valentine’s Day, more money than Easter or the Super Bowl, and in the same league as Mother’s Day. Let’s take a deeper look into how you can capture a share of that spend with a successful Valentine’ Day marketing campaign.

WestJet Proposal Campaign

The #WestJetLove Valentine’s Day commercial was an exceedingly popular campaign in 2015 with over 1.2 million views, detailing two couples’ surprise proposals on Barbados. Canadian airline WestJet flew two couples out to Barbados with the catch that the men had to propose when WestJet asked them. This situation results in a tear-jerking, beautiful video of two couples’ love stories, watching love come to life on screen. With just the right degree of awkwardness, the video strikes a personal tone, brings the love element of Valentine’s Day, and gives you access into the couples’ lives.

As a Valentine’s Day marketing campaign, #WestJetLove succeeds because it focuses on building a relationship with its customers. The ad isn’t describing how wonderful WestJet’s services are, but rather is a funny and sincere love story—a unique take on proposals that succeeds in showing the quirkiness of the company. Both JP and Stephanie’s and Mike and Heather’s love stories are relatable to the audience, but it’s the fun tone of the videos, complete with anticipatory music each time the host shows up—that push this campaign over the top.

The Takeaway

Try using personal techniques in crafting your own Valentine’s Day marketing ideas. How does your company or product appeal to your customers? Your Valentine’s Day advertising doesn’t have to correlate to your business—as long you’re connecting with your clients and driving traffic (and positive reception) to your site.

Cartier- The Proposal

Cartier’s “The Proposal” advertisement from 2015 is in some ways more insidious than WestJet’s—but tells a beautiful story in the process. Cartier lures you in with a touching three-part love story, telling simultaneous tales of Valentine’s romance (and struggle) between couples. The three couples in Paris are all slightly different ages, but the men’s aims are similar—to proclaim their love for the women in their lives.

The first, set in the Rodin Museum, tells a story of a man sending his wife on a scavenger hunt to find him until she finds the jewelry box (from Cartier) and he proposes. The second is set in the airport, as the wife is going away on a trip for six months. Her husband deftly removes her passport and re-proposes to her with a new ring (from Cartier). The last is set as a man and woman are separated by an elevator, and he desperately runs up the stairs, catching her as the doors open each time, making pleas that he cares for her. Eventually, he proposes—while she’s still stuck in the elevator.

The Takeaway

These intertwining stories of love in the City of Lights follow established rules of a Valentine’s Day marketing campaign. While enhanced by fantastic acting and a great storyline, the primary aim and focus of the advertisement are the Cartier rings. These gorgeous, diamond-studded rings make the audience want Cartier, associating love with the Cartier brand. That red box is instantly associated with love. Cartier has set up a world through these three stories, and at least eight million people have watched. Creating a successful Valentine’s day marketing campaign means associating your product with love, romance, and engagement. Cartier has done this—and you can do it too.

Netflix Binge for Love

Netflix’s 500 Hours Binge for Love video from 2016’s Valentine’s Day campaign capitalizes on Netflix’s successes in reaching out to its customers. The idea of “bingeing” a television show—watching a whole series quickly and viewing many episodes back-to-back– has grown familiar with the streaming service’s growing triumphs in the video space. This advertisement takes that concept and connects it to a blossoming love connection.

The man in the ad, after falling for the young woman shown at the beginning of the commercial, immediately watches all the available series of the Netflix original Orange is the New Black. It takes over his life for the span of the advertisement—he wants to impress the young woman. He is “bingeing for love.” The commercial cuts the tension when she hasn’t watched the season three finale with a singing group reprising the modified I Would Watch 500 Hours to them.

This advertisement succeeds on multiple levels. It capitalizes on Netflix’s new cultural cache and the concept of bingeing television shows. It also modifies an existing popular song for its purposes—successfully (unlike many commercial jingles), and it leaves the audience hanging. We don’t know if this couple will succeed, but the man has gone to absurd lengths to like her interests—and many in the audience can relate. We’ve all be in the situation where we’ve pretending to have an interest or like something as a conversational piece—and it works well here.

The Takeaway

What are your company’s strengths? Netflix has unique advantages in the cultural cache that they can incorporate into a Valentine’s Day marketing campaign, but it’s about founding your company or product’s individual assets—and utilizing them. Use popular culture to your advantage—tap into ideas and concepts that appeal to your target audience (your buyer personas)—and you’ll come up with great Valentine’s Day marketing ideas.


If you need some help creating Valentine’s Day marketing campaigns that will hit the mark, talk to the marketing experts at Leverage Marketing. Contact us today, and we’ll assist you in crafting a Valentine’s Day campaign of your dreams. Our team can help you understand the sophisticated new marketing technologies on the market and how they can work for your business.

SEO Trends and Predictions for 2017

The beginning of 2017 may be a fresh start for you, but for Google, progress in the sphere of optimizing Internet search won’t slow for a second. The preference for mobile Internet consumption, the desire for quicker and denser content, mounting pressure to increase ad revenue, and the unstoppable development of digital assistants and voice search point to a new golden rule for search engine optimization (SEO) trends:

Make it for mobile.

Mobile-First Is Undeniable

chart of hours spent daily on mobile devicesSEO experts have been predicting the latest SEO trends as part of their jobs for years, and there’s one that keeps making an appearance in the latter 2010s: mobile is the future of Internet and search. Major search engines are putting mobile at the forefront as trends in SEO continually point toward the indomitable strength and convenience of mobile consumption.

More Americans are spending more of their free time watching the screens on their smartphones and tablets, according to comScore. If the amount of activity on social networks is any indication, it’s likely that most of those hours are spent scouring Facebook and Twitter feeds for images and videos. Social apps and mobile search are in line to become some of marketing’s biggest targets for paid advertisements and organic efforts. Changes in the way that search will respond to mobile users as well as desktop users point to an almost certain future of mobile takeover.

Mobile-First Indexing

In the latter half of 2016, at the beginning of October, the first iterations of mobile-first indexing became a reality. Mobile-first indexing resets the priority of Google’s indexing bot to read through a site’s mobile version when determining how a site should be indexed. That means Googlebot looks at the relevance, speed, and technical organization of mobile sites over desktop sites when it decides where your page goes on the search engine results page (SERP).

Desktop SERPs Match Mobile

December also saw a UI update for desktop search engine results pages that helped them match the appearance and function of mobile SERPs. Specifically, desktop users see more specialized cards such as featured snippets and maps when they perform searches that trigger those cards. Of course, in such early stages, the desktop experience isn’t quite optimized for desktop searchers:

how long does google take to index serp with mistake

As of 2016, producing cards for desktop searches runs into trouble when wording is ambiguous. In our example, it seems that Google understands our query to be something closer to “How long does it take, Google, to [get to] Index, [WA]?”

Fortunately, development of semantic search promises to inch ever closer to matching the meaning and understanding the context of searches and the searcher’s intent. Consistent improvements in machine learning allow more of your searches in 2017 to reflect the intent of your search rather than the face value of the words you have typed into the engine. While returning relevant search results has long been a goal of Google search, the rise of digital assistants and voice search has lit a new fire in the quest to teach machines to parse language in the same way as humans.

Progressive Web Apps

Google has created a streamlined way for business owners to build progressive web apps, mobile applications that integrate the in-app experience with web capabilities. In many ways, they are web pages that look and act like apps. The intent of progressive web apps is to keep users engaged with apps by:

  • Provided online and offline service
  • Drastically decreasing loading times
  • Eliminating the need for purchase and installation
  • Offering an app experience without the maintenance of an app

Progressive web apps are perhaps the first step toward creating seamless product and service shopping experiences without the need to download apps. Users can keep progressive web apps on the home screens of their mobile devices and load them instantly.

The goal is customer retention. According to Smashing Magazine, users are three times more likely to reopen a mobile application than a website, especially after receiving push notifications. If integrating the app experience with the web experience can make purchasing easier for users, SEO experts will need to focus efforts on driving more customers to those progressive web apps organically.

Video and Images Are Next

The Content Is King mantra is steadfast, but SEOs need to consider more than ever that content has a greater reach than text articles. Major search engines, too, are looking for ways to read and organize all types of content. The term content includes video, animations, and images as well as text. Quality videos and images are proven ways to increase customer engagement and retention, and SEO experts will need to find ways to optimize videos for search in 2017.

Multimedia works in all parts of the marketing funnel and matches the goals of SEO:

  • The intent to purchase of users who enjoy video ads increases by 97%
  • One-third of all online activity is encompassed by watching video
  • 87% of marketers are using video content

These incredible facts from HubSpot make the user preference for video and image content clear. Check out some of the ways marketers are using video content in 2016:

Branded Video Content on Social Networks

titanfall advertisement with video on facebook

Autoplay pushes social videos straight to the brain. When advertisements combine exciting content with beautiful presentation, customers watch – and buy.

Live Streaming

new york times live stream video facebook

Anyone can instantly live stream a video on lots of social networks. Companies can get on-the-spot engagement by sharing stories, information, or just entertaining audiences.

Background Video on Home Pages and Sales Pages

life of pi home page background video

Companies can capture attention instantly with moving backgrounds, then entice users to stay with text overlays or an in-video call to action.

GIFs everywhere

giphy home page with trending gifs

GIFs resonate with young audiences, and marketers are learning how to pull on their heartstrings with simple animations that celebrate their favorite people, movies, shows, and music.

Closer Ties for SEO and PPC

Ad-heavy search results mean that competition for top rankings in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising will likely push advertisers to improve the quality of their paid content. SEO experts must be ready to focus on improving quality scores for ads in 2017 as Google search moves toward a role as a PPC giant as well as an organic search engine giant.

Voice Search and Digital Assistants

The artificial intelligence that governs the functions of voice search and digital assistants is the focus of research for many of the companies developing such technologies, including Google. Digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant use artificial intelligence to attempt to understand natural language and harness that knowledge to produce useful information and resources for live people.

If they weren’t already, SEOs should look to improve relevance, usability, and permanence of content so that digital assistants and voice searchers can utilize the real language contained within the content to find the highest quality information.

What Should We Focus on in 2017?

In anticipation of an even more quickly changing search landscape, SEOs should focus on:

  • Crafting all SEO strategies and making design decisions based on mobile use
  • Building a video strategy that integrates with other marketing solutions
  • Sharpening PPC and paid search knowledge to keep customer rankings high in the paid sphere
  • Optimizing organic content to be found by digital assistants that understand real language

Don’t be afraid of change, be ahead of it, and remember: Make it for mobile.

Leverage Marketing can take you every step of the way through the SEO process – but we also do so much more. If you’re thinking about changing the way you market your business, let us guide you through it. Start by getting your hands on our 2017 Digital Marketing Budget Guide and find out what it will take to pull your marketing into 2017.

Tips for Planning Your Digital Marketing Budget [INFOGRAPHIC]

You know that if you want your business to grow, you need to dedicate a budget to marketing. Otherwise you could have an awesome product or service but no way to tell consumers about it. But how do you determine the amount of money you should be allocating to your marketing budget? And how do you decide on the size of your digital marketing budget compared to your offline marketing budget?

There’s no easy answer to the question, “What should my digital marketing budget be?” However, this infographic and blog post can help you choose a strategy to plan a marketing budget for your business.

Digital Marketing Budget Tips Infographic

Using a Tactic-Based Approach

One way to map out your digital marketing budget is to break down the costs of individual tactics, line by line, and add them up to get your total cost per month and per year. This approach can be good if your business is new and you don’t have a lot of historical data to work with.

It’s straightforward to calculate your internet marketing budget if you outsource your efforts to freelancers or a marketing agency on a per-project basis. However, it gets a little more complicated when you need to calculate the cost of marketing efforts that you keep in-house. You’ll need to start by estimating the number of man-hours for each project and the cost-per-hour for each employee assigned to the project. When calculating cost-per-hour, you’ll need to account for the cost of benefits, training, and vacation days.

Once you’ve determined the cost-per-hour for an employee, multiply that by the number of hours you expect them to work on the project. Repeat that for all employees who will work on the project to get the total cost of labor. In addition to labor costs, you’ll also need to factor in other resources (such as subscription-based software) to get your total cost for a tactic or marketing campaign.

Determining your Budget as a Percentage of Revenue

Most businesses determine their annual marketing budget allocation as a percentage of their revenue. Different sources will give you different estimates for what percentage of your gross annual revenue you should dedicate to marketing, but as a rule of thumb, businesses that are less than five years old should spend about 12-20% and businesses that are more than five years old should spend about 6-12%.

Businesses that are less than a year old and haven’t established their annual revenue can still use the Percentage of Revenue method, but they’ll need to use their projected revenue when crunching the numbers.

One thing to keep in mind with the Percentage of Revenue method is that it can help you determine your overall offline and online marketing budget, but it won’t help you determine how much you should spend on different strategies. You may find it helpful to research how much other comparable businesses in your industry are spending on different strategies (such as SEO and email).

Basing your Marketing Budget on ROI

If you’ve already established an annual marketing budget but are looking for a way to maximize it, consider adjusting the budget throughout the year based on your return on investment (ROI) for different tactics. For example, if you exceed your ROI goals for a paid search campaign one month, you could increase your ad spend the next month. This budgeting method will allow you to grow your revenue quickly and adjust your web marketing budget accordingly, rather than waiting until the next quarter or year to make changes.

The Tied to ROI budgeting method works best with direct-response strategies, such as pay-per-click (PPC) ads and social media ads. This method is more challenging to use with branding strategies, which may be more difficult to measure.


Looking for more advice on planning your online marketing budget? Download our 2017 Guide to Planning Your Digital Marketing Budget to learn how to audit your marketing efforts and determine costs for different internet marketing strategies.

How to Create a Valuable Holiday Gift Guide

 

Why Create a Holiday Gift Guide?

It’s hard to believe, but the holidays are almost upon us. We’re around the corner from Thanksgiving, and the winter holidays are just a stone’s throw away in marketing time. What can you do to get your customers ready for the season? How can you make them aware of what products you or your partners have available for purchase?

With average spending reaching over $800 per consumer this holiday season, digital marketplaces are excellent places for consumers to buy gifts for everyone on their list without driving to multiple stores. 44% of US holiday shoppers bought gifts online in 2014, and for 2016, online sales are forecast to be as much as $117 billion. Making a holiday gift guide can help your company grab a chunk of this revenue.

With holiday shopping now starting as early as the day after Halloween, making a holiday gift guide early can be a great way to highlight best-selling and popular products. By creating a visual representation of your product selection, you can facilitate the holiday shopping processing and make buying easier for your customers.

Holiday gift guides are a way to take marketing and make it creative. Instead of just a boring sales email, you get to take the products you want to sell and present them in a visually enticing format that transports the reader where you want them to go.

Here are a few methods to make holiday gift guides that grab your customers’ attention:

Use a Data-Driven Approach

graph-holiday-gift-guide

Don’t just choose your favorite products to include in your holiday gift guide, use targeted products that are either currently popular or were popular last holiday season. Generate reports on the top sellers in various categories and try to find items that would make good presents. Furthermore, it’s important to get a good mix of products in your gift guide to appeal to a broad range of consumers. You probably don’t have only one type of customer, and your holiday gift guide should reflect that. Look back to your buyer personas and make sure your gift guide reflects the variety inherent in them.

It’s important to get the raw data to find what people are purchasing–use tools like Google Analytics and Hubspot. Track what people are purchasing and what their purchase path is. Use social media and online polls to ask your customers what items they’d like to see. All this data will help you create an approach to your guide that targets a wide swath of customers and reflects the diversity of your business.

Create an Immersive Experience

When creating your holiday gift guide, it is best to curate an experience that submerges the reader in your content. Try segmenting your gift guide into different gift collections by age or gender (if applicable), or by price point. The consumer is then drawn into a selection of items targeted exactly for the people on their gift list. By creating a seamless experience with colorful, high-resolution images of your products, readers are more likely to buy.

Use Pinterest and Other Social Media to Create Holiday Gift Boards

As much as you may segment your holiday gift guide, there is no way to account for every different group and taste. Creating a variety of simple holiday gift boards on Pinterest to augment your existing gift guide is a simple way to help your customers. You can create a specific board for the customer (or buyer persona) you’re trying to target, such as “dog lover” or “stay at home mom.” This strategy works better for some B2C businesses with audiences and demographics more likely to use Pinterest. Tailor your approach to your customers and you’ll have more success. Find out what platforms they use through Google Analytics and online polls and promote through those.

Marketing using Pinterest and other social media sites is incredibly useful in today’s digital age. You can target users who wouldn’t otherwise interact with your content and start new conversations about your products. Remember to continually engage the users from social media and offer them exciting special offers to pique their interest.

pinterest holiday gift guide

Continue Writing About and Promoting Your Holiday Gift Guide

Once your holiday gift guide is out there, don’t just leave it sitting in cyberspace. Write about it using blog posts to provide additional context to the products you’re recommending to your customers. Tell your customers why they should buy this particular item. Explain why your product will make the perfect gift for their friend or family member. Producing blog posts about the products in your gift guide creates additional engagement around your products and adds a framework for your buyers. Do keyword research so that you can incorporate phrases for a higher organic ranking.

Promote the gift guide and your blogs on social media. Don’t let them stagnate on your website waiting for organic hits. Include links in emails, launch a paid campaign, and perhaps even look for promotional opportunities with other blogs or websites in your industry for link sharing. These methods can further enhance the reach of your guide to additional customers.

Your holiday gift guide can be your customers’ entry point into your product offerings. Make sure it is inviting, accessible, immersive, and understandable. If you use these tips to create your gift guide, you’re more likely to succeed this holiday season.

The team at Leverage Marketing has been through many holiday seasons and knows holiday gift guides inside and out. If you have questions about marketing for the holiday season, we are here to help. We are experts in helping our clients meet their needs all year-round. Sign up for our newsletter today to get tips about SEO, social media, marketing, and lots more.

5 Creative Cyber Monday Marketing Ideas

While brick-and-mortar retailers are planning sales to attract droves of shoppers on Black Friday, any business that sells products or services online should be thinking ahead to Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday, which takes place the week after Thanksgiving, has become the largest online shopping day of the year. Last year shoppers spent an estimated $3 billion on Monday, November 30th, setting a new record for the holiday.

Cyber Monday means lots of potential customers for your business, but there are also plenty of competitors trying to win the same customers over with their holiday deals. To convince customers to shop with you, you’ll need more than just a standard discount—you’ll need to get creative with your digital marketing. Here are five out-of-the-box Cyber Monday marketing ideas to help you get started.

Offer More Than Just Free Shipping

Bonus gift card as part of Cyber Monday marketing

Sure, free shipping is a nice incentive, but it’s an incentive that everyone and their mother offers around the holidays. Most customers have come to expect free shipping on their Cyber Monday purchases, and all those marketing emails promising free deliveries aren’t going to make them bat an eye.

To make your business stand out, try offering something unique—like a bonus gift that customers can only get from your online store. For example, you might tell customers that if they spend $x, they can get a pre-selected gift or choose a gift from several options. Make sure you’re offering a gift that will appeal to a wide swath of your target audience; for instance, if you sell at-home beer-brewing supplies, you might offer a free bottle opener with every purchase of $40 or more.

Create Special Interest Gift Guides

gift-box-row

Picking out gifts for friends and family can be challenging, so make it easier on your customers by creating a series of gift guides aimed at different segments of your target audience. Let’s say you run an online store that sells pop culture-inspired apparel and novelty items. You might create guides like “Gifts for the Classic Sci-Fi Fan” or “Gifts for the Netflix Binge-Watcher.” Perform keyword research to come up with copy that will drive organic traffic to these guides (for example, there may not be much search volume around “Gifts for the Netflix Binge-Watcher,” but there will likely be more search volume around relevant phrases like “gifts under $25”).

Once you’ve finalized your copy and images, run the gift guides on your blog and promote them on social media leading up to Cyber Monday. You could also send specific gift guides to email subscribers using lists segmented by demographic.

Ask Customers to Shop for a Cause

donation-canister

In 2012, a coalition of more than 1400 charities launched Giving Tuesday as a follow-up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. On this day, consumers are encouraged to get involved in volunteer projects or donate to charities as a way to give back during the holiday season. As an online retailer, consider kicking off your charitable giving early by tying it in with your Cyber Monday sales. Choose a charity you care about and let shoppers know–through promotional emails, a slider on your website, a notification at the top of a user’s shopping cart, etc.– that you’ll be donating a percentage of your Cyber Monday profits to that charity.

The skin care and beauty company L’Occitane is a good example of a business that did this successfully last year. They ran a promotion from Black Friday through Christmas, telling shoppers that for every gift set purchased, their company would donate $10 to Dress for Success, a nonprofit that provides professional attire and career development resources to women in need. This kind of charitable act makes shoppers feel positive about their purchases and helps build goodwill towards your brand.

Get Humorous

A lot of holiday sales copy sounds the same (e.g. “One Day Only Doorbuster Deals,” “Only 8 Hours Left on Our Sale”), so try standing out by taking a humorous approach to your Cyber Monday email marketing and social media promotions. Rather than just telling customers to visit your site for great deals, you might frame your discounts in the context of a Holiday Shopping Survival Guide or email subscribers a list of the reasons why this is going to be the year they don’t procrastinate on their gift buying.

For inspiration, take a look at Dollar Shave Club’s “The Perfect Gift for Any Guy with a Face” graphic, which they used on social media last year.

dollar-shave-funny-holiday-marketing-example

The graphic is bold, simple, and looks a lot different than holiday sales promotions that just show product images or the words “50% Off” in a huge font.

At a time when people face an onslaught of promotional messages, humor provides a nice change of pace and can make your brand more memorable.

Surprise Customers with an Extended Sale

Who says that Cyber Monday deals can only be available on Cyber Monday? As the day winds down, send out an email to subscribers letting them know that you’ve extended your sale for x amount of time. This email will serve as a reminder for people who may not have shopped with you yet while also creating a sense of urgency—essentially, you’re giving shoppers a second chance to save but setting a deadline for your deals.

Takeaways

Shoppers will have plenty of choices this holiday season, and you need to give them a reason to choose you. By exceeding customer expectations and offering unique incentives, your business can cut through the noise and get increased visibility this Black Friday and Cyber Monday.


Need help planning creative holiday marketing campaigns this year? Get in touch with our team of digital marketing experts– we can take an in-depth look at your brand and your competitors to come up with a strategy that drives sales.

How to Use Facebook in Your Content Marketing Strategy

There’s no doubt that Facebook is a useful tool in any company’s marketing arsenal. With the largest amount of monthly active users at 1.7 billion users, Facebook can provide an incredibly powerful way for your company to reach customers and personalize a message to them. But how can Facebook fit into your content marketing strategy? Your business may be generating content on a weekly or monthly basis to increase SEO rankings or just provide information to your clients, but how is it getting disseminated? Who is reading it? Facebook can be a valuable tool not only in improving your content marketing results but in helping you learn more about your audience.

Audience and Followers

The first step for using Facebook as part of an effective content marketing strategy is realizing that just having lots of likes on your page isn’t good enough. You need a strong audience that interacts with your page on a regular basis. People not only need to see the content but like the blog posts, comment, and share, instead of just scrolling right past. Even if you have fantastic content, if no one reads or posts on it, it might as well not exist. Focus on building a solid audience that is interested in your product or service, and not just buying likes from bots. You’ll find that it gets easier over time, likes will just come organically, and people will share more articles as you reach a critical mass. Just keep trucking!

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Share, Share, Share

It’s important to use Facebook to link to off-Facebook content that helps to promote your site. If you have excellent content on your site, but no one reads it, it doesn’t serve any purpose. Facebook can help enhance and expand your audience. Don’t just share a link to a blog post without any description: make sure to use images, an exciting description, and share at a popular time for your followers. Blog posts on your site can help promote your product and increase SEO and traffic, but only when people actually read them. Facebook is a great way to accomplish this.

If you have a significant post, feel free to post it again on Facebook several days or a week later. With Facebook’s new algorithms, it’s likely people won’t see the post twice and you’ll get more hits on your site.

Pictures and videos are vital for increasing engagement. If pictures are worth a thousand words, videos may be worth even more. An exciting image or YouTube link can surge users commenting and sharing on a post. Facebook algorithms (much like Google’s own) change often, and keeping up with them can increase your reach.

Make use of blog posts, videos, and pictures to engage your followers on Facebook, post frequently but don’t inundate your users– and you’ll likely be successful integrating Facebook into your content marketing strategy.

Facebook Insights

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Facebook Insights is possibly one of the most valuable parts of using Facebook in your content marketing strategy. Audience Insights give you information on just exactly who your audience is, basics like age, gender, and location, as well as more in-depth information like estimated income, interests, and more. You can then use this information to attempt to target the audience you have on Facebook or to fill in gaps you’re missing. Audience Insights is a mirror into who cares about your product or service and what areas you need to improve in demographically.

Page Insights are equally valuable in other ways. They allow you to see how the content you’ve been posting on your page has been performing, including reach and engagement. This information is useful for determining how well your content is performing on Facebook, but you can also use it in conjunction with Google Analytics to decide how to move forward with your content marketing strategy. You can directly ‘Boost Posts’ from within Page Insights, essentially creating ads and boosting engagement with your audience and their friends.

Facebook Ads

Though not always directly related to content, Facebook Ads can have a large impact on how your Page on Facebook performs. It’s a great way for followers to find your page and start reading your content. Facebook Ads can promote your blog posts that your Audience has shared. Remember that you always want to split test for ads to maximize your ad dollars. Use Facebook Ads wisely to increase your impact and reach.


If making Facebook part of your content marketing strategy sounds great, but you aren’t sure where to begin, contact the Leverage Marketing team today. We’re experts in social media and content marketing and help craft an integrated approach that will maximize your content offerings with Facebook’s social media potential. We can answer any questions you have and get you a path to more followers, enhanced content, and success.

3 Essential Online PR Activities for Your Business

Creating a PR plan for your company or organization can help set a solid foundation for current and future marketing efforts. To put things in perspective, you can view your company’s PR plan as a response to internal and external events and a way to keep your audience and other important stakeholders informed. You can either generate brand equity for your company or defend the most important asset: your reputation. Below are three key PR activities that your company can implement over time to help find new opportunities and stay relevant.

News Release Schedule

PR news releases let your business make announcements to the media about events that impact your industry, employees, and stakeholders. This tool can also be used to give news reporters and journalists quick ideas for new stories that impact local communities or larger populations.

You can start building your PR calendar by planning out news releases at the beginning of the year and revising stories as the year progresses. To capture the attention of news reporters, keep your news release relevant to a current event or issue and send it out promptly. Make sure that you write your news releases using the Associated Press Stylebook to make it easier for journalists to extract story headlines and quotes for publication or a news segment.

Never send out news releases on a Monday, since it tends to be the busiest for news, or a Friday when your audience may be focused on the upcoming weekend. Once you have scheduled and written your press release, send it out on to industry specific news wire services or target journalists that specialize in reporting on a particular subject.

Blogging

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Your company’s blog presents the ideal opportunity to establish leadership and expertise on a particular subject. You can start your company’s blog by asking upper management or other employees that may have interests on a topic that is relevant to your audience. A good way to kickstart this effort is by looking at other blogs from similar companies to see what topics they’re covering. However, always remember to write original content. If you want to write about the same subject, find another angle, or include a current industry report or an expert opinion that adds value to your audience.

Just like with your news release schedule, you can keep track of your blog ideas in a calendar to keep a steady flow of fresh topics for your company’s website.

Crisis Management

Social media is an amazing tool to engage your audience with new content and build new relationships. However, it also poses a significant risk for companies as negative news or external factors such as account hacks can tarnish reputations in an instant.

Burger King’s Twitter account was hacked to display the McDonald's logo and included racial comments and references to illicit drugs.

Burger King’s Twitter account was hacked to display the McDonald’s logo and included racial comments and references to illicit drugs.

Establishing a crisis protocol for your company’s social media accounts is essential. Your response to a social media crisis should be thought-out and acted on quickly. Unfortunately for many businesses, using a PR statement to issue an apology is no longer an option. You must address your audience directly and authentically, or you could risk losing control of the conversation on other blogs and forums. However, you should avoid escalating the situation and drawing attention to issues that pose a significant threat to your company’s online presence. Some issues can be resolved by simply providing customer support in a private message or issuing statements that assure the audience that you are investigating the issue internally.


Implementing these three components to your company’s PR plan is an essential step towards establishing and achieving your marketing goals. It is important to keep in mind that your company’s online reputation involves content strategies and social media management that are maintained and monitored over time. Contact our team at Leverage Marketing to find out how to our services can help your company.

Monthly Subscription Boxes May Be the Next Big Business Boom

Our online lives are drawing a curtain over the real world. We’re rapidly moving away from real-life experiences in favor of digital fulfillment, and at our fingertips is a world wide open with uninhibited possibility. But for most of us, that’s an incredible prospect. Having whatever we want available whenever we want it, especially with the help of monthly subscription boxes, can be overwhelming and confusing.

The online business world is feeling the effects of a limitless marketplace. Products and services abound, and even with filters such as internet search and B2C marketing, it’s a challenge to find interesting products that align with consumer interests. In that ether between what we want and how we find it, subscription boxes have come to life.

What Is a Subscription Box?

open orange bulu subscription box with giftsThe subscription box is a regularly scheduled, curated, and specially packaged goods delivery that caters to a specific market or interest. The concept borrows from the business model of the milkman, in which fresh deliveries of milk came to customers’ doorsteps carried by a friendly delivery expert. Customers could touch, taste, smell, and experience the product before them in real life, which contrasts rigidly with the intangible nature of our culture of online consumption.

That delivery model may be on its way back. Already, subscription boxes such as Birchbox, a monthly makeup and beauty product box, and Naturebox, an all-natural organic snack box, are reaching the size of traditionally successful enterprises such as corporations and chain stores. Small-time business owners are finding just-right-sized success with small customer bases and continuously creative offerings. The entire system is still remarkably new, and its shape will be molded just as much by customers as it will by subscription box creators.

What Makes Subscription Boxes Successful?

The pioneers of subscription boxes, including Birchbox co-founders Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna, have made the beginner’s mistakes and grown from them. They and others like them have learned what will stick with customers and what will push them toward the unsubscribe button. Together, these brave business heroes have created a blueprint for a successful subscription box company, and sites such as Cratejoy have built software systems that facilitate building from that blueprint.

cratejoy subscription box logo with lit red letters

Subscription box companies that grow their subscription base, profits, and influence share four characteristics:

  1. Earned Loyalty – Subscription box crafters need to have an honest inclination to curate box contents. Customers want to feel that the products they receive come from a company that shares their love, and the products that company provides have to fulfill actual needs. Boxes based on novelty tend to nosedive after the charm wears away.
  2. Consistent Change – Consumers are likely to scoff at even an item or two that is repeatedly delivered in a box over which they have no control. Duplicate items represent a lack of interest in dazzling the customer and are a concrete way to trim the number of subscribers to your box. Build a box concept around an interest with a wealth of competing products and make sure there’s freshness in every box.
  3. Multiple Revenue Streams – Don’t stop at subscription boxes unless you aren’t looking for growth. The most prolific monthly subscription box companies have set up e-commerce shops on their websites where customers can buy more of the products they love most from their monthly boxes. Storefronts work two-fold for your business: they will market to customers who are less in touch with e-commerce and provide immediate satisfaction to loyal subscribers.
  4. Sustainable Business Models – don’t go overboard with software development and overmanned sales teams. Stick to the script until you find your niche, then focus on growing that specific customer base through multiple channels. Keep overhead low by enticing vendors with free advertising if they provide free or discounted samples and full products for you to include in your boxes.

Consumer Benefits

graze monthly subscription box with fruits nuts chocolates and box art

At the forefront of the subscription box is the consumer – the beloved, fastidious, fickle consumer. The monthly subscription box business model relies on a steady monthly stream of subscriber money to maintain profit, and while the predictable income is a boon to business owners, it also means that customers are in strict control of growth potential.

That’s why clever business owners recognize and worship the benefits of subscription boxes to consumers:

They rekindle the elements of surprise and discovery

You’ve likely heard the comparison to an eternal Christmas with monthly boxes. When you get a new package of surprises every month, the delight of tearing open the package that you may remember as a child returns when your box arrives. Buying things you want is fun, but getting things you didn’t know you wanted is powerful.

They bring to light curiosities that are tough to find in a limitless marketplace

Customers can be blinded quickly by the most influential and well-known brands that cater to their interests. Exploration of new and exciting items is intimidating when products designed to please are available everywhere at all times. Well-curated subscription boxes provide a source for the lesser-known items that may cater to more individual wants and needs to reach target audiences.

They save consumers time when searching for new and interesting products

Streaming music services such as Spotify boast an intensely large library of available music on-demand. But Spotify customers don’t always know what to listen to when faced with such an array of choices, so the company provides playlists, searches, and filters to help guide customers to the music they want to hear. Monthly subscription boxes do the same in the consumer goods market – they provide a preset filter through which customers can discover what’s available without having to make guesses.

Business Benefits

Behind the scenes of the subscription box are the men and women who make each box magical. The monthly subscription box business model is still in its infancy, which allows potential business owners to shape it to their needs and goals without the added pressure of the grow-or-go traditional business model.

Business models are flexible for small and large businesses

Your subscriber limit and the ability to reach it will direct the scope of your subscription box business. Some of Cratejoy’s box curators sell just enough boxes to pay the bills and are not looking for additional growth. On the other hand, Birchbox’s owners are seeking prolific expansion. (Edit: Previously, we had mentioned that Birchbox bought Glossybox from European entrepreneur Charles von Abercon, but a kind reader pointed out that Birchbox had bought Joliebox, not Glossybox, as a part of their global expansion.)  Subscription box businesses can splash in the shallow end or dive into the deep end shame-free.

Structure allows low barriers to entry for hopeful entrepreneurs

Since most box businesses are low-overhead operations with few employees, it only takes the classic characteristics of hard work and dedication to make a subscription success. There’s no golden profit line and relatively few competitors. The landscape is open to creative ideas from just a few go-getters who want to create a business without the hassle of creating a business.

Creates opportunities where they may not exist otherwise

To launch a full-fledged enterprise is a gigantic undertaking. You need a solid business plan, a team of investors, and the will to sacrifice personal time to get things running. Or, you could create a solid product that stands out in its market and let your customers decide whether or not you should succeed by creating a subscription box specifically for your product. The small-scale business opportunity affords a chance of success to those without the startup capital or time to build an empire.

Marketer Benefits

Marketers who work in tandem with monthly subscription box companies receive something of a dream assignment when they sign on for services. Traffic for subscription-based companies tends to outpace funding in almost every scenario, which means marketers have plenty of resources with which they can work.

Target audiences are hand-picked

The success of most subscription boxes depends on the depth of the niche through which it is trying to delight customers. LootCrate has an easily researchable and well-targeted demographic to which it sends boxes. The target audience will be the only consumers of the product, and the marketing practically writes itself.

Subscriber bases are smaller

Even the largest companies in the industry tend to have fewer than 1 million subscribers at a time. Where traditional businesses may deal with millions of unknown customers every year, box companies nurture a loyal base of interested men and women who rotate much more sparingly than customers at a storefront or e-commerce shop. Marketing for these solid, smaller customer bases tends to be much more focused.

bark box with dog treats and dogContent creation is more interesting and personal

Excitement is part of the allure of subscription boxes, and it doesn’t have to begin and end when the package arrives at the door. Getting audiences electrified about the company’s next offering affords magnificent opportunities to wow audiences with creative copy, illustrations, videos, and whatever else your marketing team can dream up.

Organic growth is indispensable

Low-cost production and the need to earn customer support leads naturally into healthy, organic growth. Marketers can take advantage and sharpen their approaches to inbound marketing through showing customers what their clients’ subscription boxes can offer in the realm of new and interesting consumer goods, and will relish the times when business is flourishing organically.

Will the Monthly Subscription Box Model Last?

Numbers look promising for growth in the subscription box industry. When profits began to rise enough for boxes to be a reliable business in the first quarter of 2013, it would have been difficult to guess that growth would explode by nearly 3,000% in the next 3 years. With about 11 million subscribers in 2016 in hundreds of different product categories, the demand is certainly scaling with the supply.

empty blue mailbox transparent backgroundHowever, Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali asserts that these businesses may be at the bursting point of a huge bubble. “The energy has already died down,” she says, and she may be right. Despite the shocking appearance of the growth charts, the entire industry is terrifyingly new. There’s no long-term reference to the possibility of success, and the joy of receiving monthly gifts could wane when something newer arrives.

Large-scale companies already threaten the smaller markets as well. Sephora uses advanced loyalty data analytics to determine what customers want most in a box and send their Play! box monthly to subscribers for $10. Starbucks started the Reserve Roastery that offers artisan coffees to enthusiasts at a paltry $19 a month. Established businesses may well take over the open marketplace before new box services reach their ultimate potential.

Until we see the ultimate rise or fall of monthly subscription boxes, however, the potential still exists to turn classic charm into gold. If subscriptions take off, we could see an unprecedented quake in business, marketing and the way that customers consume goods – perhaps permanently.


TL;DR – Starting with a handful of remarkable successes, subscription box companies have grown exponentially in just a few years. Consumers, business owners, and marketers all get something out of the business model, but consumer benefits may decrease as the novelty of monthly surprises wears off. Major, well-established companies are also eager to take a large share of the market before new business owners have a chance to succeed with ventures from Starbucks and Sephora already in the works.

To some market researchers, the trend seems like just a fad, but the monthly subscription box model is too new to make a sound judgment. Either way, it would be wise for consumers and business owners to heed their current popularity.


The marketing team at Leverage Marketing is adaptable to all kinds of markets. Talk to us about your subscription box service and find out how our marketing experience can help you achieve your dreams. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter for up-to-date marketing news and invaluable tips you won’t get anywhere else!

How Your Healthcare Practice Can Reach New Patients Online

Want to bring new patients to your healthcare practice? You’d better have an online presence. Consumers expect to be able to do just about everything online, and that includes looking up health-related information and making medical appointments.

One of the most important components to consider when reaching new patients online is having a website full of patient-friendly information. In addition to building up your website, it can be valuable to engage with potential patients on the social media networks and review sites they’re most likely to frequent.

Need more tips to get started? Below are five ways your healthcare practice can gain new patients online.

Optimized Health Practice Websites

Medical Center Website on Mobile

According to a recent Pew Research Center report on U.S. smartphone use, 68% of respondents have used a mobile device to search for information about a health condition. Because of this trend, mobile design is an important component to acquiring new patients online. Responsive Web Design (RWD) is a web development process that allows patients to view your medical practice site across desktop, tablet, and mobile devices without lag or disruptive design elements. This approach will enable your medical practice to provide a rich site experience and empower patients with quality information about symptoms and health conditions when they need it most. Another benefit of having responsive web design is that users will be easily able to access one of the most important components of your site: the contact form. Optimized contact forms should be quick to fill out and should only request essential information needed to follow up with the patient.

Health Content

Google reports that around 1% of all search queries they receive are about health symptoms. Searching for illness indicators to self-diagnose is all part of the digital patient journey. However, one of the biggest challenges for some healthcare practices is providing easy-to-understand health information to prospective patients. An easy way to draft and implement content for your medical practice site is by focusing on common health conditions first and then moving upwards into more complex illnesses. A content strategy for your site should include critical information about diagnostic methods, possible outcomes, and ways your medical practice can provide solutions. Having this type of search engine-optimized content will allow your medical practice to gain new patients who are seeking health-related information.

Quality Care through Online Services

A recent 2016 Physician Compensation Report found that most doctors spend around 13 to 16 minutes with each patient. With such limited time, your medical practice can face challenges meeting the new demands of quality care. An effective way to improve efficiency through your website is by enabling online users to submit documents such as patient questionnaires and other intake forms electronically. Adding this feature to your medical practice site can help speed patient wait times and improve overall satisfaction. Another way to improve the quality of care and gain new patients is to provide additional online support after the consultation. Website content about common procedures, chronic illnesses and medication guides can empower patients to make necessary recommendations, support adherence to treatments, and improve outcomes.

Social Media Engagement

Embrace social media and acquire new patients by building relationships and credibility. Many healthcare practices avoid using social media because of the liability of patient information and other legal considerations. However, it is possible to create protocols for social media communication that are compliant with all regulations and state laws. For a full list checklist on how to use social media for your healthcare practice, check out the Forbes guide.

Online Reviews

Doctor on Laptop

Healthcare review sites such as ZocDoc and Yelp are important to patient acquisition. In fact, a Software Advice survey found that 77% of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor. Review sites can provide your practice with a wealth of information regarding patient experiences and overall satisfaction with the services provided by your practice. This valuable feedback can be used to make improvements in quality of care and present to prospective patients the key benefits of choosing your practice over others.

Considering technology use, search trends, and emerging services can help your healthcare practice get new patients and retain existing ones. Your website should serve as a portal with the most reliable and up-to-date health information. You can make that information accessible using proven and reliable web optimization strategies that connect new patients with your services.

For more information on establishing your medical practice website, contact Leverage Marketing and ask about our web design and content creation services.

Key Takeaways:

  • Creating your site using responsive web design will help patients reach your site across all devices. This is especially important for patients who want to book an appointment on mobile devices without any lag or annoying web design problems.
  • Before looking for a doctor, patients first search for health symptoms to self-diagnose. Having easy-to-read content about common health conditions, symptoms, treatments, and potential outcomes will help your site reach those patients.
  • A higher level of service can be achieved by taking advantage of timesaving processes such as electronic patient questionnaires and providing additional patient education sources.
  • Don’t be afraid of using social media for your practice. Establishing proper protocols that comply with regulations and laws can help you establish relationships with new patients.
  • Analyzing patient reviews on sites like ZocDoc and Yelp will help you gain a better perspective of your practice. Use positive and negative reviews to come up with ways to improve the overall patient experience.
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