Yes, We Do That

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!

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!


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.


Why You Could Use a Little Promotion

b2ap3_thumbnail_Mischa20Barton20Promotion1.jpgLet's face it, your product is probably boring as hell. And your competitive advantages are probably just as much of a snoozer. That doesn't mean you don't have a great product or that your competitive advantages are not accurate (though I might challenge you on that one), but we'll go with it for now. These are pretty harsh words. But to truly strategize, deploy and reap the rewards of compelling lead generation methods, you can let me ask the questions, or you can just ask them of yourselves. Who really cares? Why would I pick up the phone or log on to that personalized URL, or take any action that you request of me?

Most of the time the answer is "I wouldn't". And that's OK. Think about what you are trying to do. You're trying to send out a series of direct marketing postcards to see if anyone responds. Let's talk about expectation. What are you expecting them to do? Have you really thought about that? Have you put yourself in that very same position. Try it. But take yourself out of your business/industry and apply it to something more generic. What did you come up with?

See the problem is that most of us are simply too close. We live, breathe, eat, sleep and surround ourselves with our work. And that's natural. Hell, it does occupy probably 75% of our lives. A truly integrated marketing communications campaign includes a promotion or a giveaway or a get the idea. And multiple channels—print, digital (microsites, email, phone etc...), social, mobile, phone etc...need to be activated to reach maximum success. Think OTB (I have to use an acronym for "out-of-the-box" because I can't bring myself to say it) — what are you asking them to do...literally? Pick up the phone? Well how could you pick up the phone for them? How about if you were a puppeteer? Are you trying to get them to listen? That means you need to get their attention. How about a singing telegram? Are you trying to get them to a microsite? Send them an electronic device with your microsite already up on it.


Do You Know your Customers’ and Boss’s Decision Shortcuts?

When you communicate, how do others evaluate what you say? Effectively transmitting ideas is vital in business. Executives with important initiatives need to get buy-in from colleagues, superiors and agents. Marketers need to get the company’s message across to insureds and prospects. 

Whether in one to one communication or a marketing and sales support campaign, you could spend hours putting together a strong, persuasive message. But busy people often don’t take the time to carefully consider all the facts. Instead, research reveals, they use decision shortcuts. You probably do it yourself. Some decision shortcuts will vary from person to person. Do you know which ones your boss or customers use?  Some are universal. Here are two:
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Reducing “No-Shows” at Admissions Events - Part One

Getting students on campus is a well-known key to successful admissions conversion and yield programs. Few marketing communication strategies can match the yield rate for students who visit for a tour and admissions interview.  As a marketing services company that has helped colleges improve both applications and enrollment, The Allied Group is committed to finding new ways to get more students to sign up for campus visits.

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Can Technology Help You Strike while Students’ Irons are Hot?

Have you or your staff ever had an experience like this one? You have a conversation with a high school student who’s appears to be a perfect fit for your institution. He/she is responding with enthusiasm to your message. You’re certain that this student will be a member of your incoming freshman class. And then…you never hear from them again.

What happened? Did you say or do something wrong? Often, the answer is no. Everything you said and did clicked with the student. But in the time between your conversation and the time to inquire, apply or enroll, something or someone else got in the way.

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What's Trending 10

Well I've taken a little break from this deep topic because I wanted to keep everyone on their toes. Looking at beautiful women, scandalous topics and pressing political views of famous celebs is certainly riveting, but it is hard work. So here goes according to Yahoo:

b2ap3_thumbnail_Kelly20Ripa.jpgKelly Ripa: I guess filling Regis's shoes is going to be difficult. And one thing we do know now is that it won't me Mrs. Ripa's husband Mark! I guess Kelly wouldn't be able to handle that. By the way, when did Regis leave? Did anyone else know about this?

Vince Young: So here we go. A little more in my comfort zone. But I'm not actually sure why Vince is trending. The only thing I can tell is that he is set to work out for the Buffalo Bills. Not exactly earth shattering news, but I guess football has become America's game!

Paulina Gretzky: Welcome to the world of social media and celebrity children. I can't say I had ever heard of Paulina Gretzky, but looking at her last name, it didn't take me long to figure out who she was. And I guess everyone else knows who she is too after posting revealing photos of herself on Instagram.

Well, as usual, we see a lot of beautiful celebrities, sports and a little social media mixed in this time. Effective marketing communication strategies tend to include these very tactics. At The Allied Group, we work with our clients to provide the best possible solution for effective lead generation. And implementing lead generation methods that capitalize on what's going on in the world around us enable us and our clients to capitalize and put this to work for them.

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Marketing - Should it Motivate and Educate or Aggravate?

What impels advertisers to repeat the same television commercials over and over again? When you’re searching for information on the Internet, why do online ads take over your screen? Have studies shown that these tactics induce consumers to inquire, sign up, or buy? Does advertising have to be annoying to be effective?  
Researcher David Schumann conducted a study to discover the effect repeating the same commercial had on consumers, reported social psychologists Elliot Aronson and Anthony Pratkanis. Similar to the findings of previous research, Shumann found that repeating an advertisement as subjects watched television increased consumers’ belief in its claims and liking for the product – to a point. Those who saw the ad four times during their viewing period gave the product a higher rating. Viewers who saw it eight times gave it a poorer evaluation. Clearly, they had become annoyed.
Utilizing the Research
To combat this, advertisers began to maintain the essence of the message but vary its presentation. They changed the settings, camera angles and spokespeople. They used multi-channel marketing approaches, deploying everything from television to print to personalized direct mail and customized landing pages along with regular and mobile websites to reach consumers in different ways. It worked!
Upscale discounter Target, for example, employs several top advertising agencies, churning out an endless flow of entertaining commercials and clever print/online ads. All contain the same core messages the retailer wants consumers to remember. And because the ads are done well and varied to avoid wearing out viewers, consumers in one survey said they actually enjoy Target commercials. It must be working – the retailer’s sales continue to increase despite the up and down economy.
Far too few advertisers have learned from Target’s success. It seems like every local evening newscast treats viewers to the same commercials presented twice – not at different times, but in succession. This increases, not belief and liking, but irritation. Popular websites have ads that completely take over the screen.  This can be incredibly annoying for consumers browsing online, especially for mobile users who need an answer on the spot. 
Some bloggers who work hard to produce genuinely enlightening material fall into the trap of emailing their readership several times a week.  Some do it every day.  They seemed to have missed wise King Solomon’s frank advice, “Make your foot rare at the house of your fellowman, that he may not have his sufficiency of you and certainly hate you.” In marketing, this principle helps one realize that bloggers and advertisers always walk a tightrope between getting noticed and becoming notorious.
Effective marketing communication strategies center on the feelings and beliefs of the target audience. As a marketing communications company striving to achieve recognition as a top direct marketing firm, The Allied Group continually considers our clients’ goals/culture and, most importantly, their customer’s communication preferences. This knowledge combined with insight into consumer psychology and effective, tailored design for each chosen communication channel can synergize to produce a fruitful campaign.

Hazing – Why it’s So Hard to get College Fraternities to Stop

The Boston Globe reported on Tuesday that five BU students were found in the basement of a house in Allston occupied by members of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. The students, all men, were taped together, clad only in underwear and covered in condiments like fish sauce, hot sauce and mustard as part of, police believe, a hazing ritual.

This fraternity is not affiliated with Boston University, but, according to the Globe, BU recently suspended the Sigma Delta Tau sorority after underage women were allegedly forced to drink liquor until several required hospitalization. Alpha Epsilon Pi members were also allegedly involved.

Hazing, outlawed in Massachusetts, is by no means confined to BU. Other prestigious institutions continue to wrestle with the problem. Despite the strong anti-hazing stand taken by many institutions this practice just won’t go away.

Why hazing remains so popular

Working at The Allied Group, a higher education marketing firm, I realize that, abuses like hazing aside, fraternities and sororities can play an important role in developing tomorrow’s leaders. Forbes magazine stated, “The social skills that help students gain admittance into the Greek system are the same aptitudes that can later give them a leg-up in corporate climbing. Plus, once they've graduated, they can tap into the network of past fraternity brothers or sisters who litter all tiers of corporate America.” American presidents and many corporate CEOs are fraternity members.

Hazing is the dark site of Greek life, causing cases of physical and emotional injury, even death. So why do fraternities and sororities keep doing it? A classic study by renowned psychology researcher Dr. Elliot Aronson and Judson Mills, PhD reveals the answer.

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The A – B – C’s of Marketing Communications

Unlike accounting, production or other business processes that often have a repeatable right way, successful marketing changes from time-to-time as new technologies, information and tactics become available (see: social media). Marketing your product or service will have some consistent themes that will increase the likelihood of success however. To get the desired results, effective marketing communication strategies will;

Attract the attention of your desired target market
Begin to influence the prospect’s decision-making process
Communicate a low-risk, easy next step action toward buying

A - In love beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but in business attractiveness is in the eyes of the customer. Is the packaging of your product attractive? Is the appearance of your store pleasing to your potential clientele? What perception does your literature and advertising give to your both your prospects and customers? Do prospects know where to find out about you on Facebook, Twitter etc.?

B - Educate people how to make the correct buying decisions. Make sure to give them all the information they request or need to be able to make the purchasing decision for your product or service. There are three primary reasons why business buy things. To increase revenue. To decrease costs. To improve efficiency. You want those things for your business and your prospects want them for theirs’. Consumers may buy for pleasure, ease, status or function. But everyone buys for their own reasons, part emotionally and part logically. Help show them what a good decision looks like.

C – It’s not likely to be possible to fit all the things someone needs to make a buying decision into one ad or direct mail piece. And most items above a certain price point are not an impulse purchase but rather contain an investigative process that leads to a buy / no buy decision. Understanding each prospects unique decision making system is the key to ultimately making a sale. Clues can be found in there responses to your offers – often their ‘digital footprint’.

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