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The Allied Group is New England's leading provider of Printing, Kitting, Mailing and Fulfillment services. Our blog authors have backgrounds in Sales, Marketing, IT, Production and Operations and post useful tips, trends, news and opinions in our industry and beyond. We know you'll find something you enjoy. Most of all, be sure to jump into the conversation!

Where'd My Gut Go?

I wish! These days, my gut is serving as a rather nifty iPad shelf...it keeps my wrists at an optimal angle for maximum touch screen typing. But that's another story.

I'm talking about some good ole fashioned marketing and sales support decision making. The kind you made with your gut. Yeah, it was equal parts experience, facts, statistics, luck, talent combined with a little bit of "which way's the wind blowing" today that went into all marketing communication strategies.

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It's Not What You Like, It's the Consumer!


Dang. (Did I say that?). As we're rapidly whistling into the fireworks frenzy of the 2011 4th of July weekend, I was reminded of my friend Joe Dirt and his simple, logical "business advice" for his fireworks dealer. At The Allied Group, we're always experimenting and providing advice in a business development professional services capacity. Always thinking of and trying new technology, tactics and processes to get that desired result.

But if you're having trouble figuring out your fickle funnel, you might want to look at some basics. What about your product/program/service offering? Is it compelling? Is there anything that differentiates you from your competitors? If so, are you telling your prospects about it, or do you just assume they know? Are you providing informational and educational content as part of your corporate marketing services to help nurture your prospects through your selling cycle? Ask yourself two very basic questions: 1. Why would a prospect buy your product or service? and 2. Why would a prospect buy your product or service from you?

As we sit and appreciate some great fireworks demonstrations this weekend and think about our marketing communication strategies as our minds drift, remember, there are duds in every display. A dud doesn't have to kill your performance though. Just stick to the basics...build a fundamentally sound program and try to set realistic expectations.

And if you need a little inspiration, take 2 minutes and listen to Joe!

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5 Simple Steps to Spruce up Your LinkedIn Profile

Part of being a top direct marketing agency is listening to your colleagues, right? Well here are some quick recommendations that I've learned, observed and tried to give your LinkedIn profile a little boost!

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1. Who Cares. Wow. This applies to sooo many fundamentals of marketing. Even though LinkedIn has done a nice job walking you through an easy-to-navigate, simple interface, it doesn't mean you need to follow it to the letter of the law. Go through your profile and ask yourself, "who cares"? If the answer is "nobody", then go back and make sure that what you're writing is compelling, relevant and valuable to your audience.

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Top 4 Reasons Why There is no Magic Bullet in Marketing!

Do you find yourself constantly searching for that little nugget that will make all the difference in your business development efforts? Do you cringe when the topic of marketing communication strategies comes up and you're tired of thinking, you just want results? Does it seem like everyone else gets good results and for some reason you just aren't? Do you have all the hi-tech buzzwords spinning around in your head and are waiting for someone to turn them into something concrete and actionable?

Well, time to wake up and pay attention. Here are 4 reasons why you need to stop searching, stop hoping and start doing:

1. The game has changed. Your audience hasn't. They are still there. And they still buy. And they can and will buy from you. As a matter of fact, it has changed for the better. With technology, you can actually reach your audience with content that is relevant to them much more quickly and cost effectively than ever before!

2. Hope is not a strategy. Acquiring marketing consultancy services may sound a bit lofty. So think of it differently. Pro-active vs. re-active. A pro-active approach, by its nature, eliminates hope as a strategy. Would you rather be the driver, or the passenger way back in the third row?

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What's Trending 11

What's Trending 11

Here we go again. Beginning of June...things are starting to heat up and this one's got a little different flare to it. Here goes according to Yahoo:

Lauryn Hill. Looks like Ms. Hill thought she was tax exempt! But somehow those things seem to have a way of catching up to you!

Drew Brees. Being a sports fan, I was aware of this. Seems to be getting a lot of press. He's in the final year of his contract, but if the Saints don't want to 'disrespect' him, I guess they need to get this done now!

Marco Rubio. I have to say, I didn't even know who he was. And now that I see it has to do with politics, I know why. I guess the Senator from Florida gets Jeb Bush's support as Romney's running mate. The drama.

Why is this one different? Well, for the first time it wasn't dominated by beautiful women! You've got Lauryn (and I went with her picture of course), but Drew and Mr. Rubio throw off the trend.

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Technology for the Technologically Challenged

Technology for the Technologically Challenged

Let's face it, technology has pretty much invaded every aspect of our lives. And as much as you try to "unplug", it has become increasingly impossible to navigate your way through a typical day without encountering technology in some way.

But what about those of us who are technologically challenged? Or even worse, technically technologically challenged!

Well, good news...there's an app for that (just kidding)! But seriously, technology has actually set out to address this very issue. With the introduction of "smart" technology (devices, services, software etc...) the technology itself actually possesses more and more of the intelligence. So in order for the user to have a successful user experience using very sophisticated technology, the user doesn't really need to be all that, well, smart!

As a top direct marketing agency, if I help build an integrated marketing communications campaign for example, I don't necessarily need to understand how it "technically" works. Nor do I need to really understand the technology that makes it work. And that doesn't decrease my value at all.

The bottom line is that the world is predominately populated by relatively unsophisticated people (myself included). For technology to be fully adopted and successful, it needs to penetrate the market beyond the tech savvy and be simple enough to be useful by those who struggle to work their DVR.

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Why Marketing Automation Fails

Why Marketing Automation Fails

Once you peel back the layer of buzzwords and rhetoric that seems to come with this territory, you actually do come to something very legitimate. Marketing automation (both the theory and the technical application) is nothing short of amazing. In a way, it is the heart of any effective integrated marketing communications campaign. Then why isn't everyone convinced? And, more importantly, why does it fail? Here are 4 observations:

It fails because it is not a light switch.
While I guess it's true that you can "turn it on and off" and sort of control your lead flow...my point is that you don't pull it out of the box, turn it on and wait by the faucet. So, essentially, it comes down to unrealistic expectations. Sure the tool is powerful. But only as powerful as the operator, the content, the strategy, the analysis and the output that comes from all of this combined.

It fails because there's often no owner.
Someone has to own it! Live it, breath it, sleep it...it needs to be someone's life. It can't be an "oh by the way", or "let's get Mike or Martha to put a couple of hours a week into it!" You can't dabble. If you can't make the financial and physical resource commitments that it takes then you're better off not going down this road right now.

It fails because most don't really understand what it is.
It's hard to be successful when you do know what the goal is and you do know you have the right tool, but you don't know what to do next. It's one of those scenarios where everyone is philosophically on board and tactically adept, but have no idea how to connect the two. And many time even a top direct marketing agency will have trouble filling this void.

It fails because of a lack of content.
It's all about content. You can never have enough. If you're selling yield programs to colleges and universities, you need everything from tips, trends and how to's, to case studies, white papers and press releases, to webinars, podcasts, videos and virtual events. Escalating levels of informational and educational content that has been crafted specifically for that prospect and where he or she is in the sales/nurture life cycle.

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If it Ain't Multi-Channel, It Ain't Workin!

If it Ain't Multi-Channel, It Ain't Workin!

This ain't Kansas anymore folks. But it really doesn't have to be complicated either. It's just life as we know it now. Can you say you really prefer radio over newspaper? Or maybe TV over the Internet? Or emails vs. texts? Or how about LinkedIn vs. Facebook. Sure, we all have ones that we like, dislike, use more than another etc..., but, for the most part, we are all exposed to multi-media messages, ads, "buzz" and conversations through multiple channels by marketers, bloggers, friends, family, trustworthy, untrustworthy, relevant, irrelevant, clever and not so clever.

But for all marketing communication strategies to be successful, you have to understand that people are being touched, influenced and exposed to all of this throughout their daily lives, everywhere they are and in everything they do. If you are targeting a very specific demographic, sure you might weight one medium over another etc...but you have to be very careful. Did you know that the 35+ demographic on Facebook is growing rapidly and represents over 30% of the entire user base? So while a truly integrated marketing communications campaign would include social media, you may have backed off on Facebook if your target demo was 42 year old females for example. That would be a mistake.

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So in many ways, it has gotten pretty simple. If I told you as recently as 5 years ago that I could reach one in every 12 people on earth, or 81.4% of the US population for FREE, you'd think I was nuts! Well maybe I am a little nuts because it can't be totally free, but, essentially, you don't need a Super Bowl budget to do it, you just need Facebook.

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Your Website Sucks!

b2ap3_thumbnail_this-sucks.jpgHow often do you hear that? Or something along those lines? As opinionated as I am, with age, I find myself reserving judgment more and more often. Why? Because I typically have no basis for making a statement like that. It seems that 9 times out of 10 (and I've been guilty of this too) these kinds of statements are more rooted in ignorance than insight. And it's not that I'm offended by the comment itself or taken aback by the boldness (or rudeness) of the statement. The question is, what are you really saying?

I've been in the creative services industry for almost 20 years. Having founded a top direct marketing agency and now playing a significant role in the development of many marketing communication strategies, I've developed some pretty thick skin. And often times the rule that I go by is this: if I like it, then it's good. Now, ultimately, it's whether the client likes it or not that pays the bills, but many times those two benchmarks are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Just because a client doesn't like it, doesn't mean its not good. Creativity and design are very subjective topics. What one person likes, another does not and vice versa.

So why does my website suck? Because you just don't find it visually appealing? Because you think you could create or do something better? Because you know what I'm trying to accomplish with my website and know it isn't meeting those objectives? Because you know more about my customer than I do and what their expectations of my website are?

When offering marketing consultancy services, you often feel compelled to make statements and judgments like these. Now it's a matter of style and approach as to whether you make them this boldly or not, but after all, you're probably being brought in to offer some sort of a solution or opinion. But be careful not to judge too quickly. In my opinion, it often shows ignorance rather than intellect!

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If a Blog Fell in the Woods...

If a Blog Fell in the Woods...

The answer is yes! So blogging for SEO purposes, as legitimate lead generation methods go, is a good thing, right? Not if you don't do it. For some reason, it has fallen further and further down my radar screen as I get wrapped up and entrenched in the "day-to-day". The cost of not being "heard" is not being "found".

You may get a little overwhelmed with all the new technology and, potentially, face some resistance from those "old school" colleagues of yours who "pound the pavement" and don't rely on those "blueberry's" and "spacebook" stuff. And while I'm not one to completely abandon the tried and true, it is becoming more and more clear that the payoff of some of this new technology is evident. As a marketing communications company, or for any company for that matter, it is imperitive to continue talking. The expression "silence = death" is true!

Remember, the fundamental goal of a business blog is to generate and publish informational/educational/interesting content that is laser focused on strategic key words/phrases enabling you to be found by search engines. Followership is great, but there are millions of people out there looking for your products and services. There are only a handful of people you can personally connect with or are part of your extended network. Sound marketing communication strategies are rooted in the ability to deliver content that motivates an audience to action.

So there's nothing wrong with "pounding the pavement" or even implementing some tried and true tactics as part of your business development plan. But remember, if you don't get with the times, you won't be heard. And if you're not heard, your not what? Exactly.

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