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Advice For Working with a Marketing Agency From a Former Client

Before I worked in a marketing agency setting at Little Jack, I spent almost 4 years working as part of an in-house marketing team for a B2B company. Although we had a team of coordinators, designers and developers we still needed the help of an outside partner from time to time to help us where we lacked knowledge. In that experience, viewing things from a client’s perspective, I learned a lot about what it’s like to work with an outside marketing partner, and the challenges and rewards that come with it. Here’s a rundown of what I learned to help you navigate your own experience. Recognize When You Need Help Marketing changes so rapidly that even just a few months from now, what you know could be woefully out of date. That was the experience my former company had when it came to SEO. For years they had worked with an outside freelancer, reading up on everything they could to keep up. Then one day Google took a huge leap forward, and all their years of SEO strategy were suddenly headed in the wrong direction. We realized it was time to stop trying to do it ourselves, and find an agency that specialized in those tactics. This is all to say don’t be stubborn, and recognize when you’re no longer the expert in your own marketing. It’s ok to need some help. Build a Relationship While some marketing tactics you hire agencies for can be more hands-off, if you’ve brought on an agency to help you with your overall strategy you have to let them in. Much like friendships, your relationship with your agency is a two way street. If you never respond to requests for feedback or to discuss your goals with your partner, you won’t get the tailored strategy you’re looking for. Give Up Some Control If you continue to try to cling to your marketing and never… […]

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Everything You Need to Know About Native Advertising

Has your business invested in any native advertising? Unless you’re a marketing professional you may not be sure exactly what that means, but chances are you’ve already engaged with them as a user. Simply put, native advertising is any advertising that is embedded within editorial content in such a way that it doesn’t look like an ad. This “blending in” characteristic is also what makes native ads so effective. Native advertising’s share of the online marketplace has been growing dramatically in the past few years, closely mirroring the rise of social media. Business Insider estimates that native advertising will comprise 74% of all online ad revenue by 2021. Companies everywhere, including small businesses, are taking note. Here’s what you need to know. Types of Native Ads There are several categories of native advertising, some of which you may be surprised to find you already use: In-Feed Ads – These ads appear within social media feeds and directly mimic the look of surrounding posts. Paid Search Listings – These ads appear above organic search results and look as if they are the top search results. Recommendation Feeds – These widgets provide value by recommending things that are similar to what you’re already looking at, and may include both editorial and native ads. Advertorial Content – This ultimate type of native advertising merges real content with ads by having the writer or artist actually work the product into a full piece of content. Usually, the only way to tell these pieces apart from regular content is by the small badge somewhere on the page that reads “Advertisement” or something similar. So, if you have done any social media or AdWords advertising, you likely already do have some experience with native ads. If you haven’t, here’s why you need to pay attention: by all accounts, native advertising works much better than standard banner ads. A Track Record of Effectiveness One recent study of… […]

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Using Email Automation to Your Advantage

If you run a small to mid-sized business, you probably already have an email list you use to send out offers and possibly a company newsletter. And, like most businesses of this size, you probably send each email blast manually. Recently, a slew of email platforms like MailChimp and Emma have rolled out the kinds of email automation tools that previously only larger companies were able to afford. Small businesses that take advantage of these new tools can dramatically increase customer engagement, and ultimately, their bottom line. What is Email Automation? At all times, your business has potential customers at various stages of the sales funnel. Some people are just finding out about your company and signing up for the email list, while at the same time repeat customers are coming back to do business with you again. In an ideal world, at each of these stages the customer would receive customized marketing emails that help to move that person to the next stage of the buyer’s journey. But trying to manage these lists manually would result in dozens of different messages that you would have to send out every week. Email automation enables you to pre-write a set of emails that are then sent automatically to an individual at predetermined points in the buyer’s journey. For instance, email automation can allow you to send someone: A welcome message immediately after they sign up for your email list A series of emails with more information about your products, once a week for the 4 weeks following their email list signup A message about things they’ve left sitting in their shopping cart in the past 24 hours A survey email 2 weeks after the purchase of a product A monthly email to encourage first-time customers to become repeat customers The beauty of all this is that it would happen automatically. You only have to set up the templates and messaging once,… […]

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The Best Commercials of 2017, So Far

It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through 2017! So far, this year has given us a slew of great advertising, and here are our picks for the best commercials up to this point in the year. In general, we’re seeing a continuation of the trend of socially and environmentally responsible ads—modern consumers care just as much about the quality of their products as they do about where and how these products come about. Consumers are also willing to pay more for products they know are produced in a responsible way and that promote values they agree with. Apple – Earth This commercial from Apple showcases stunning footage of various corners of the planet, shot on an iPhone. The footage is then used to make the point that this planet is the only one we have and it’s up to us to protect it. While making its point about environmental responsibility, the commercial also shows off the quality of the iPhone product by proving that images shot on a common mobile phone are good enough to be featured in a commercial for a multi-billion dollar company. – Declaration of Independence Released in time for July 4th, this spot speaks to the divisive circumstances we’ve found ourselves in as a country as of late. By pointing out that the descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence come from all races, the commercial promotes inclusiveness. It at once speaks for unity and appeals to the viewers’ curiosity about their own ancestry. In all, a perfect tie-in of current events and the brand’s own appeal. Audi – Daughter Using the simple concept of kids participating in a soapbox car race, the commercial draws a parallel between what a dad can tell his young daughter about gender equality, and what she is likely to encounter later on as she enters the workforce. Ultimately, Audi is stating its commitment to equal… […]

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How to Build a Company Culture in a Remote Work Environment

For those of you who don’t know, Little Jack Marketing embraces a workshifting environment—our entire team works remotely, and has since the first day we started. The majority of our team is in Chicago but we have (and have had members) in Budapest, Oregon, Croatia, Washington, Miami, Milwaukee, and Iowa. There are many benefits to working remotely, such as increased flexibility, higher employee satisfaction, and savings on operating expenses that can then be passed on to the customer. One of the challenges of working remotely is you can’t rely as heavily on company culture developing naturally. Company culture is one of the factors that can really improve employee experience, productivity, and retention. When working remotely, developing culture requires a bit more effort and planning, but it’s most definitely doable. For companies that also have employees working remotely, here are some tips on creating and fostering company culture at their organization: 1. Create or refine your company values Company culture frequently develops organically from the interactions between employees. When you’re not in the same place, it can be hard to even pinpoint what your company culture is. Take out a piece of paper and do some brainstorming about your company’s culture. It should include not only what you aspire to be, but also what comes naturally to you (are you inherently casual? irreverent? conservative? trailblazing?) 2. Communicate your culture with your team When you’ve solidified your company culture, it’s time to communicate it to your team. This can happen both explicitly, through sharing things like a mission statement with your staff, and implicitly, in the way you interact with others. You’ll be surprised how quickly others pick up on environmental cues and follow suit, even when communication is entirely remote. 3. Tools allow for collaboration and fun In an office environment, there are natural and spontaneous ways for your staff to collaborate and to have fun together, whether that’s popping into… […]

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What's the best website platform for your business? WordPress vs. SquareSpace, Wix & Weebly

WordPress websites have been the standard for building most websites for years; from the very simple to the more robust. However, lately, we’ve noticed a trend when speaking to a lot of potential clients– a devaluing of the platform because of some fundamental misunderstandings about what WordPress (and working with a professional) can do. A response we get a lot is, “Can’t I just go build that on SquareSpace?” With the saturated market of easy online builders like SquareSpace, Wix and Weebly, many automatically assume these are equal replacements for WordPress. In reality though, that’s like comparing a modular piece of ikea furniture with something custom built. This is not to say one is better than the other, but depending on your needs, knowing the differences could be key to choosing the right approach for your website. To help identify what is the best option for your business, ask yourself a few key questions before getting started: Do you want the website accessible and optimized for phones, tablets, and laptops? Considering that more than half of all website traffic is from a mobile device, your answer should be “Yes.” Not only are responsive websites the new standard, but those optimized for mobile devices (i.e. phones and tablets) will rank better in Google search results compared to non-mobile optimized sites. WordPress If you are looking for the most flexibility and the most control over your mobile layout, WordPress provides full customization. Because the code that controls the layout and design is fully accessible through your server, the smallest adjustments can be made to customize each responsive level. This ensures your layout not only looks good, but is best optimized for your visitors at each level. Online Builder Most online website builder templates are responsive, and adjust accordingly for tablet and mobile, stacking each section for readability. The responsive layout typically follows a standard set of rules the determines how the layout… […]

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SEO in 2017: What You Need to Know

Where do we stand with search engine optimization in 2017? Optimization has always been about tweaking your content to allow search engines to more easily classify it, or, in certain scenarios, to trick the search engine into ranking your website higher than it should appear. But, as we know from the Terminator movies, future generations of robots are always getting smarter and more difficult to defeat. So what does a good SEO strategy look like in 2017? Here are 3 trends you need to know: 1. Lighter HTML for a better mobile experience The continuing dominance of mobile web browsing has had an effect on how search engines rank pages. Google’s AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) Project aims to encourage websites to use a lighter and more nimble version of HTML to load more quickly on mobile. Sites built using these guidelines rank better and have higher clickthrough rates than their competitors. 2. Embracing voice search Voice search already accounts for about 20% of all mobile searches, and some estimates say that up to 50% of all searches will be done by voice by 2020. Businesses need to account for this change in search habits just like they did for the rise of mobile searches. How to prepare for voice search? A lot of the answers for voice search come from the “featured snippet” box you sometimes see at the top of Google search results when you search for something common. To increase your chances of being chosen for one of these featured snippets, optimize your content for them by using structured data markup (also known as schema markup). 3. Simplify keywords, focus on quality of content Google’s Rankbrain and other similar machine-learning based search algorithms are getting better at distinguishing abbreviations, plurals, synonyms and other word derivations. That means content creators should be less worried about using every instance of a relevant keyword in a block of text, and instead… […]

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4 Marketing Trends Going Out of Favor in 2017

We already discussed the online marketing trends that will be big this year. But as some things come into popularity, others go out of favor. Such is the way of the world. Here are 4 trends that are (thankfully) going away this year, and why. 1. Stock images A few years ago, it seemed like stock images were the default for business websites. This was understandable, because stock imagery is a cost-effective way to get some colorful photos on your website without trying to think too hard. However, the 2017 consumer expects more from the brands he or she wants to do business with. Authenticity is the number one virtue, and to pass the test, businesses need to think harder about the brand they’re putting forward. Using genuine images and graphics in “featured” locations is a big part of that. 2. Fake reviews and testimonials If you use any of the popular review sites (Amazon, Yelp), you may have noticed that in the past year or so, genuine users have become increasingly critical of reviews that appear fake, either because they’re too biased or because the reviewer only has that one review (a clear giveaway). We’ve never condoned paying for fake reviews, but it should now be increasingly obvious to any company that has considered them that these reviews can do much more harm than good in the long run. 3. Pop Up Ads Also known by the fancy name “interstitials”, pop up ads were popular for a while because their in-your-face nature was hard for visitors to ignore. But with mobile taking an ever-increasing share of web traffic, users are understandably looking for a more streamlined experience (have you tried to close an oversized pop up on a mobile screen? It’s impossible!). In late 2016, even Google chimed in on the issue, announcing that it will penalize websites that feature pop up ads when ranking them in its mobile… […]

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Should You Do More Content Marketing in 2017? These 5 Signs Point to 'Yes'

When trying to grow your business, coming up with a marketing strategy that actually works is of the utmost importance. As you probably know if you’re a regular reader of the Big Marketing Insider, we’ve been talking about the virtues of content marketing for years. Slowly, even smaller businesses are learning about content marketing and trying it out, and that’s a great thing. Some of the hesitation toward adopting content marketing could stem from the fact that: It’s (relatively) “new.” Anytime a new concept gains popularity, skeptics abound. But though content marketing has only recently gained popularity in the online medium, the truth is that great brands have been using content marketing for as long as there has been marketing. “Word of mouth” is, after all, the original type of content marketing, and it’s still coveted by businesses everywhere. It’s challenging. Content marketing isn’t as simple as paying someone money to run your ad. Instead, businesses have to think creatively about how to make the customers come to them, and some are intimidated by this challenge. It takes time. Content marketing usually doesn’t pay off immediately. Instead, results tend to start slow and then pick up critical mass until they hit a tipping point, when business owners are surprised to find their blogs or social media channels have a life of their own and are growing rapidly. Nonetheless, overcoming these objections and doubling down on your content marketing strategy is worth it. Here are five reasons you should be doing more content marketing next year: 1. It gives you an alternative to running ads. Consumers have learned to ignore ads. One report found that nearly 200 million Internet users are using some kind of ad blocking software. In the future, getting new customers won’t be as simple as flashing a few ads—instead, you’ll have to capture their attention with genuine and interesting content. 2. It has a high return on… […]

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3 Online Marketing Trends to Watch in 2017

Marketing, like many industries, is constantly evolving. Now that we’ve reached the end of the year, it’s time to make some predictions about what trends will stick and continue to grow in 2017. Below are three of our major predictions for which trends you should be keeping an eye on next year. 1. Live Video Streaming Will Finally Take Off Live streaming apps Meerkat and Periscope appeared in 2015, fighting it out until Twitter took over Periscope and Meerkat died off. The live streaming apps caught on until the technology was added to Facebook and renewed interest in YouTube’s live offerings emerged. Still, live streaming was only gaining in popularity in small pockets of the industry. However, that is changing. Live streaming has become more mainstream than ever this year. If like me, you’re one of the no-cable crew, you probably noticed that every major network streamed all the presidential debates. Watching live streams is no longer a foreign concept for getting entertainment and news. Why: Most live streams can be recorded and re-shared, making it an easy way to build video content. Promotes live interaction with your audience to better build relationships. Offers a unique way to share information, show off products or field questions. It doesn’t need to be pro-quality. Just use your phone! On Facebook, your live stream will begin playing on scroll. No user click required! Real Example: Birchbox has been utilizing Facebook live streaming to show how experts use the beauty products they send in their boxes, and to field questions live from viewers. 2. Native Advertising Will Continue to Grow Native advertising is a form of paid media in which the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the site it’s placed on. While this isn’t necessarily a new concept, it is moving toward becoming the new standard for online advertising. Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Google, and most online publications have all taken… […]

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