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What should be your branding goals ?

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Prioritizing the Goals of Your Business’s Brand

Your business’s brand to-do list of goals must prioritize those brand goals. Determine the priority order of the following brand functions when it comes to what you want to achieve through branding:

  • Build awareness. Awareness leads to marketplace dominance and makes selling easier. After you build awareness for your brand, that awareness acts like a proxy for your business. When you can’t be somewhere in person, your brand goes for you, getting you noticed and conveying your core message and business promise on your behalf.
  • Create an emotional connection. If your customers select your offering based largely on how they feel about owning your product or associating with your business, then creating an emotional connection needs to be an important part of your branding strategy.
  • Differentiate your product. When customers understand why your offering is different and better than all competing products, they have a clear reason to buy from you, and you have a secure market position.
  • Create credibility and trust. In any branding strategy, you absolutely must plan to establish or enhance credibility and trust. Brands, essentially, are reputations that result from promises made and consistently kept. If your brand fails to win on these two counts — if it fails to appear credible or trustworthy — it fails altogether.
  • Motivate purchasing. Brands are like great advance teams in that they establish interest, appeal, confidence, preference, and purchase motivation in a customer’s mind before your product ever enters the arena.

4 Social Media Goals Every Business Should Measure

Goal 1: Raise Awareness of Your Brand

Do you want to increase your brand recognition and online influence?

It’s important to stay relevant. If customers aren’t aware of your brand and what it stands for, your business may be spinning its wheels.

When customers are aware of your brand and interact with it on different social media sites, they are more likely to recommend it to their friends by liking posts on Facebook and retweeting you on Twitter.

Here’s how to measure your brand recognition and influence online.

Klout looks at your various profiles from across the web to assess your influence. Your Klout score is a reflection of your brand’s social influence based on your activity across many social networks and ranges between 10 (low) to 100 (Bieber).

To measure the effectiveness of your PR and branding efforts, record your Klout Score, True Reach, Amplification and Network Impact on a spreadsheet each month. Then, over time, your changes in scores will allow you to understand which efforts improve your score.

In my case, guest blogging and increasing my average daily tweet count from two to five has had the greatest positive impact on my influence score.

It’s important to remember that Klout is simply evaluating your external social media presence. It is not a direct measurement of your revenue or success as a business. It’s an important distinction because people can get easily swept away in trying to increase these social media numbers.

Goal 2: Website Traffic

Have you wanted to drive more traffic to your site or blog?

Traffic is important to all sites, especially if you’re selling online.

While website traffic should never be the end-all, be-all goal of your website, in order to accomplish other website goals, you must have a baseline level of traffic.

If you create the most beautiful, efficient website you can, it won’t matter without traffic.

Don’t get me wrong, there many other factors that can influence conversions, but website traffic is the fuel required to even begin the race.

Besides sales opportunities, the more people you have visiting your site, the more chances people have to engage with your blog content, click your social media widgets, interact with your brand or share your site with friends and followers using your sharing buttons.

Here’s how to measure visits from social media traffic.

Google Analytics makes this process very simple for any website owner.

To understand traffic, use Google Analytics Social Reports, which show site data generated directly from over 400 social sites.

  • Open your Google Analytics account.
  • Select the Traffic Sources tab.
  • From the Social drop down menu, select the Overview page.
  • Record Visits and Visits via Social Referral into your spreadsheet.

Goal 3: Website Visitor Loyalty

Do you want to increase the amount of time spent on your site or blog?

The more time people spend on your page, the more likely they are to buy from you.

If the people visiting your page only do it once, then you’re not executing a long-term web strategy. Ideally, you want to create loyal visitors who frequent your site. Another very important aspect of visitor loyalty is to understand on average how many visits are required for one of your visitors to convert. A conversion could be a visitor purchasing from your site, signing up for an email newsletter or downloading an e-book.

Here’s how to measure visitor loyalty from social media.

This measurement requires a one-time setup step (Part A), but once completed it can be easily reused for future measuring (Part B).

You’ll need to create a custom segment inside Google Analytics specific to your social media traffic.

Visitor loyalty numbers will depend greatly on your site type, your readers and the content you produce. Therefore, it’s important to look at your baseline levels, set a goal and measure your trend over time.

Part A—Setup

  1. Open Google Analytics, and click into your Admin panel.
  2. Click the Advanced Segments link. Click Create + New Segment.
  3. Name this new segment “Social Media Sources.”
  4. Click the green drop down menu and select the green Source. Inside the text input box, enter the URL of one social media site, such as “Facebook.com.”
  5. Click the Add OR Statement, then click Add a Dimension, and again select Source to add another site. Repeat Step #4 to add another social media referring source such as Twitter.
  6. Repeat Step #5 to add all major social media sources, such as Facebook, Twitter, t.co, YouTube, StumbleUpon and Digg. Once these have been added to your Custom Segment, click the Save Segment button.

Part B—Measuring Loyalty

  1. From Google Analytics Standard Reporting, select the Audience tab.
  2. From the Behavior drop down menu, select the Frequency & Recency page.
  3. Click the Advanced Segments tab, check your custom Social Media Sources, and hit the Apply button.
  4. Add the percentage of total Visits (top percent number) for the first three Count of Visits rows (3 visits or fewer) and subtract this percentage from 100% to calculate your Regulars value. Record your Regulars percentage on your spreadsheet. My goal is to increase my Regulars percentage over time.

Goal 4: Conversion Rates

Do you want to increase total conversions from social media?

Most business owners want to understand the direct relationship between social activities and sales.

You should know the traffic source for any important business goal and these goals should be set up in Google Analytics or your software of choice.

For most of you, the most important web goal is a visitor converting to a lead captured by entering personal information into one of your web forms. For businesses that conduct the majority of business online, these goals are the lifeblood of the organization and are key measures of success.

Even if you’re just getting started acquiring customers or leads online, you should make this measurement a primary focus of your efforts.

Here’s how to measure conversions from social media.

Using the Social Reports within Google Analytics, we can understand the specific value of each social network. Of course, you need to have goals set up within Google Analytics for the conversion information to be displayed.

Do the following:

  1. Open your Google Analytics account.
  2. Select the Traffic Sources tab.
  3. From the Social drop down menu, select the Conversions page.
  4. Record Conversions and Conversion Value into your spreadsheet. Consider recording this value more often than monthly.

Conclusion

We recommend you measure your goals on a monthly basis, record these numbers in a Google spreadsheet and monitor the increases or decreases month-to-month. As a bonus, the measurements outlined here can all be done with free software.

Don’t fool yourself into believing that social media is completely free marketing. Your time is valuable, especially if you’re just starting up or you’re a small business. Unfocused efforts spent on social media can quickly become a huge time sink.

By measuring your social media impact, you ensure the best use of your time and resources.

What do you think? What social media metrics are you measuring? What questions do you have about measuring goals? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

Brand Recall Goals –

Aim to make your brand the first name that consumers mention during a recall test. This is important because your brand must also be the first name that consumers recall when they are making a purchasing decision online or in a store. Brands that achieve this position are described as “front of mind” and have a strong competitive advantage. Success in a brand recall test is a measure of the effectiveness of your marketing activities. If your brand achieves a low position in a test, modify your marketing program to focus on activities such as advertising to raise awareness.

Brand Recognition Goals –

Brand recognition tests measure the effectiveness of different marketing decisions you have made, such as choosing one logo design over another or using certain images in your advertising. Researchers show an advertisement, a logo or a brand name and ask consumers if they recognize it or have seen it before. For example, consumers may report that they recognize a brand as one that they saw in an advertisement or a store display. The goal for this test is to achieve high levels of recognition. The results of the test can help you to refine the content or design of your marketing communications so that you improve recognition levels and improve the return on your marketing expenditure.

Social Media Goals – 

Tracking your brand’s following in social media is another useful measure of brand awareness. By measuring the number of your brand’s followers on media such as Twitter or Facebook, you can monitor the growth or decline in levels of interest. An important goal is to increase the level of exposure you achieve in social media.

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Branding strategy

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Q. What is a branding strategy?

A. A branding strategy is a plan devised in advance with the intent to increase a company’s brand visibility in the consumer market place. By doing this a company increases it’s brand equity and consumer trust. Strategies may include integrating brand into letterhead, envelopes, advertisements, and promotional items.

Q. What are the 7 components that comprise of a comprehensive brand strategy?

A. Your brand’s strategy should be based on company goals. And just like James Bond wouldn’t have gotten too far without a plan, your business will eventually hit a wall without a cohesive brand strategy. Sure, maybe you can finagle a big sale or trick a Russian spy or two, but one day you’ll wake up and have no idea how your company got from A-to-Q — it’s supposed to go from A-to-B, remember? And skipping steps is not how a great company that stands the test of time is built.

Brand strategy is the how, what, when, and to whom you plan on communicating your product or service. Having a clear and concise brand strategy leads to stronger overall brand equity — how people feel about or perceive your product, and how much they are willing to pay for it.

It’s the stuff that feels intangible, but it’s that hard-to-pin-down feeling that separates powerhouse and mediocre brands from one another. So to help you rein in what many marketers consider more of an art and less of a science, we’ve broken down seven components of a comprehensive brand strategy that will help keep your company around for ages. So is your company’s brand strategy smooth like Bond? Or will it leave your company shaken harder than Bond’s martini?

  • Tie Your Brand to Your Business Model

Let’s clear up the biggest misconception about brand strategy right now. Your brand is not your product, your logo, your website, or your name. It’s what your customers perceive about you, and how you make them feel. Chances are you’re not the only company out there selling your product or service. Figure out what your company does best beyond what you sell, and make it a part of your brand strategy.

For example, Apple doesn’t just sell computers and music equipment; it sells well-designed products that are easy to use. Are they the best computers on the market? No. (Well, I guess that depends on what side of the Mac-PC debate you’re on.) But Apple sells a lot of them at twice the price because of the way Apple positions its brand in the market. This goes beyond your product itself — it’s about selling the problem you are solving. 

Don’t claim to solve generic problems; your customers have specific problems. Play the word game. Volvo = safe; Coke = refreshing; Disney = magic; HubSpot = All-in-One. What does your brand equal? You always knew Bond was going to get out of a pickle, but you wanted to see howbecause he did it with resourcefulness and flair. Decide which aspect is the most important about your product or service, and make it a part of every aspect of your brand communication.

  • Be Consistent

Now that you have decided your key brand attributes, make sure it is clear and understood through all your communications — especially inside your own company. Don’t talk about things that don’t relate to or enhance your brand. Added a new photo to Facebook? What does it mean for your company? Does it align with your message, or was it just something funny that would, frankly, confuse your audience? If it doesn’t tie back to your brand’s message, you will have trouble differentiating yourself from competitors.

To reinforce the message, in your company meetings, over coffee or lunch, or just chatting at your desk, encourage the feelings you want your brand to evoke in customers and your employees. When employees start to talk the talk and walk the walk — especially those on the front lines — the messaging is consistently reinforced with leads and customers, too.

You might be thinking, “Volvo doesn’t say safety, safety, safety all the time, though.” But listen to how Volvo describes its cars and how long they last, as well as how it describes features. It all ties back to Volvo’s underlying brand theme of safety, and customers know what they will get when they buy that product.

  • Connect Emotionally

Customers can either think rationally about your product or service, or they can think emotionally about it. How else do you explain the person who paid thousands of dollars more for a Harley rather than buying another cheaper, equally well-made bike? There was an emotional voice in there somewhere, whispering “Buy a Harley…open road…tough.” It’s the way the brand makes you feel. You feel like you belong, like you’re part of a larger group that’s more tight-knit than just a bunch of motorcycle riders. Where do you think HOG came from? Harley Owners Group.

Find a way to connect to your customers on a deeper level. Do you give them peace of mind? Make them feel like part of the family? Do you make life easier? Connect with your customers on this point before and after a sale. Answer their questions and concerns on social media. A little goes a long way. Batman doesn’t have any real superpowers, but whenever that signal lights up the sky, people trust that he will be there — because he always is.

  • Reward and Cultivate

If you already have people that love you, your company, and your brand, don’t just sit there! Reward them for that love. These customers have gone out their way to write about you, to tell their friends about you, and to act as your brand ambassadors. Cultivating loyalty from these people early on will yield more returning customers — and more profit for your business.

Sometimes, just a thank you is all that’s needed, but great brands also tend to give more than that. Write them a personalized letter. Do you have some extra special swag? Sent it to them. Ask them to write a review, and feature them prominently on your website. For example, Porsche reached 1 million Facebook fans quicker than any other automotive brand, so to thank its fans, Porsche made a wraparound for its GT3 Hybrid that included all 1 million names. No doubt the car company also received an extra bit of buzz for it. And showing how happy your current customers are with your product certainly helps your sales organization, too, because it shows the positive end result of becoming a customer.

  • Measure

Just because you come up with a campaign to reinforce your brand strategy, doesn’t mean it will work. There have been plenty of schemes and plans that have ended with our beloved heroes in the clutches of an evil foe. How the Penguin catches anyone, I don’t know, but if it can happen to Batman, it can happen to you. Watch your return on investment as you implement new campaigns to strengthen your brand. If your brand isn’t resonating with enough people through the campaign, you have not given them a good enough reason to love you.

At the start of each new campaign, check your marketing analytics for branded and organic search. If it goes up when you launch your campaign, it means people are hearing about your campaign and becoming interested in your brand. They are searching for you — often by name — because you have provided them with enough compelling content that they want to know more. Just don’t get stuck on one tactic or campaign. By staying agile, you can better measure whether your tactics are aligning well with your overall brand strategy, and if they don’t, you haven’t invested so much that you can’t re-evaluate.

  • Be Flexible

Speaking of agile inbound marketing, in this fast-changing world, marketers must remain flexible to stay relevant. On the plus side, this frees you to be creative with your campaigns. Old Spice generated quite the buzz over the last few years because it took its old brand and made it relatable to a new generation. Old Spice still held true to its brand; they just did it in a different, buzz-worthy way that opened them to a new customer market. I’m still talking about them, and that horse left the barn over a year ago.

So if your old tactics aren’t working anymore, don’t be afraid to change them just because it worked in the past. Take the opportunity to engage your followers in fresh, new ways. Are there some out-of-the-box partnerships your brand can make? Are there attributes about your product you never highlighted? Use those to connect with new customers and remind your old ones why they love you.

  • Watch Out for Competitors a Little

You know that part in the movies, just when you think you’re safe? When Indiana Jones gets through all the booby traps only to discover an army of guards waiting there as he turns around? Your competitors are like that. Just as soon as you think you have them figured out, they throw a curve ball. This will never end. And it can seem disheartening until you realize it is helping you improve your brand in the process.

Take the competition as a challenge to improve your own strategy and create greater value in your overall brand. You are in the same business and going after the same customers, right? So watch what they do. Do some of their tactics succeed? Do some fail? Tailor your tactics based on their experience to better your brand and company. For too many years, American car companies ignored their foreign competitors. But they finally realized they needed to change their model for the changing times and tout a more fuel-efficient agenda to keep pace with foreign competitors.

That being said, don’t let your competitors dictate each and every move. I started this blog post talking about why you’re in business. Sure, you probably sell a similar product or service as many other companies. But you’re in business because your brand is unique. By harping on every move your competitor makes, you lose that differentiation. And soon your customers won’t be able to tell you apart, making it even easier for them to leave you. Keep your eye on your competitors when experimenting with your brand strategy — just not a hawk’s eye.

Q. What are the 12 principles of Branding?

A. The twelve principles of marketing are as follows:

  • Define your brand

It starts with your authenticity, the core purpose, vision, mission, position, values and character.  Focus on what you do best and then communicated your inimitable strengths through consistency.

There are many examples of companies acquiring other brands but only to sell them off later because they don’t fit within the brand and its architecture.

Microsoft acquired Razorfish in 2007 when it bought aQuantive, a digital marketing services company, for about US $6 billion then sold it a few years later for $530 million.

Simply put, Razorfish isn’t a good fit with Microsoft’s brand strategy.

  • Your brand is your business model

Supports and challenge your business model to maximize the potential within your brand. Think of personal brands like Oprah, Donald Trump, Martha Stewart and Richard Branson.

These individuals practically built their business right on top of their personal brand; everything they offer is an extension of their brand promise.

  • Consistency

Consistency in your message is the key to differentiate. Own your position on every reference point for everything that you do. President Obama focuses on one message only during his campaign, CHANGE. BMW has always been known as the “ultimate driving machine.

  • Start from the Inside out

Everyone in your company can tell you what they see, think and feel about your brand.  That’s the story you should bring to the customers as well, drive impact beyond just the walls of marketing.

That’s example how Zappos empowers employees to strengthen consumer perception on its brand.

  • Connect on the emotional level.

A brand is not a name, logo, website, ad campaigns or PR; those are only the tools not the brand.  A brand is a desirable idea manifested in products, services, people, places and experiences.

Starbucks created a third space experience that’s desirable and exclusive so people would want to stay and pay for the overpriced coffee.

Sell people something that satisfies not only their physical needs but their emotional needs and their need to identify themselves to your brand.

  • Empower brand champions

Award those that love your brand to help drive the message, facility activities so they can be part of the process.

If your brand advocate doesn’t tell you what you should or should not be doing, it’s time to evaluate your brand promise.

Go and talk to someone that works at the Apple retail store or an iPhone owner and you’ll see just how passionate they are about Apple.  It’s a lifestyle and a culture.

  • Stay relevant and flexible

A well managed brand is always making adjustments.  Branding is a process, not a race, not an event so expect to constantly tweak your message and refresh your image.

Successful brands don’t cling to the old ways just because they worked in the past; instead, they try to re-invent themselves by being flexible which frees them to be more savvy and creative.

Here is an example: when the economy tanked this year automaker Hyundai came out with an assurance program that lets you return your car if you lose your job with no further financial obligation and no damage to your credit.

  • Align tactics with strategy

Convey the brand message on the most appropriate media platform with specific campaign objectives.

Because consumers are bombarded by commercial messages everyday, they’re also actively blocking out the great majority of them.

Invest your branding efforts on the right platform that communicates to the right channels.

Television may be expensive but it has a broader reach, wider demographics and can produce instant impact.  On the other hand, social media may seem cheap but it takes time, resources and may not give you the desire outcome.

  • Measure the effectiveness

Focus on the ROI (return on investment) is the key to measure the effectiveness of your strategies.

Often times it is how well your organization can be inspired to execute the strategies. It could also be reflected in brand valuation or how your customers react to your product and price adjustments.

Ultimately it should resonate with sales and that means profitability.  But don’t just focus increasing sales when you could be getting a profit boost by reducing overheads and expenses as well.

Give yourself options to test different marketing tactics, make sure they fit your brand authenticity and aligns with your strategy.

  • Cultivate your community

Community is a powerful and effective platform on which to engage customers and createloyalty towards the brand.

In an active community, members feel a need to connect with each other in the context of the brand’s consumption.

We all want to be an insider of something, it excites us to tell people which community we’re part of and what knowledge we posses.

In many ways it’s our ego that prides us to be part of a sports team or a professional group.

Guess what car would members of the Porsche club consider first when it’s time to purchase their next vehicle?

Brand communities allow companies to collaborate with customers in all phases of value creation via crowdsourcing such as product design, pricing strategy, availability, and even how to sell.

  • Keep your enemies closer

Even if you have the most innovative, highly desirable product, you can expect new competitors with a superior value proposition to enter your market down the road.

The market is always big enough for new players to improve what you deliver better, faster, cheaper. Call it hyper competition or innovation economics, competition could be good for you believe it or not.

It challenges you brand to elevate the strategy and deliver more value.

Just look at how the Big Three (automobile manufacturers General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) got crushed in the past decade by competitions from Germany and Japanese.

Not only do their competitors make a better product, they’re more efficient doing it and command a higher brand loyalty.

In 2008, Toyota overtook GM while Honda passed Chrysler in US sales.

  • Practice brand strategy thinking

IDEO’s CEO Tim Brown calls design thinking “a process for creating new choices.

Essentially it means to not just settle for the choices currently available but to think outside the box without being limited.

This concept actually applies to your brand strategy creation process that I called brand strategy thinking.

It’s always easier to execute tactics than coming up with a strategy because it implies the possibility of failure.

It’s much faster to emulate what worked for your competitor than to come up with something original and creative.

But the truth is, that’s not you and it violates the first principle of brand strategy.  Brand strategy thinking is about creating the right experience that involve all the stakeholders to foster a better strategy.

Leverage the ecosystem that includes your employees, partners and customers to help you articulate your brand strategy so they sync together.

The take away: Having a brand strategy will bring clarity and meaning to your brand so you can focus on making, creating, and selling things that people actually care about.

If you could do that, your brand would be unique and memorable on its way to become an esteemed brand.

Choosing an Agency: The Checklist

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Choosing an advertising agency

Once you have some names of agencies you need to choose which will be best for your
business. It will help if you are clear about the:

  • target audience you want to address
  • key messages you want to put across
  • key objectives you want to achieve
  • budget you have set

Creating a shortlist

You should ask the agencies to provide you with information about themselves. Tell them
what you want and ask them to give you quotes. Consider:

  • Are they the right size for you? Bigger isn’t necessarily better.
  • Do they have the right expertise for you?
  • What is their reputation?
  • How do they charge and how do they measure effectiveness? Will they negotiate on fees?
  • Are they a full-service agency, capable of handling work other than classical advertising?
  • Do you like them?

You should arrange to meet some of the agencies – ask around three of them to pitch their
ideas to you.

The final selection

The pitch is where an agency competes for your business by presenting prepared work.
Agencies might charge for this.

When you ask an agency to pitch you should provide it with:

  • a clear brief
  • details of your budget
  • the nature of the contractual arrangement you want.

It can be good practice to sign a confidentiality agreement at this stage.

Find out if the team pitching to you will be the team that works on your account. Most businesses find that personality is important. You need to get on well with people in the agency you employ if you’re looking for a fruitful, long-term relationship.

The Right Advertising Agency For You

Finding the advertising agency that’s right for your business depends on a few factors: where you’re located, the industry you’re in, the kind of advertising agency services you need, and the budget you have in mind.

Location

Do you prefer to work with an agency located within driving distance of you? Or are you comfortable with an agency that will make the majority of contact with you via email, phone and fax, with face-to-face meetings set up as needed? If this is the first time you have worked with an advertising agency you may prefer working with a local agency.
If you have worked with an agency before, or if you find an agency that you feel will deliver the best advertising for you regardless of their location, then a longer distance from your agency may work for you. It all depends on your needs and your comfort level.

Industry Experience

Is prior experience with your industry a mandatory for your agency? Probably not. If the advertising agency you choose to work with does not have experience in your industry, they will quickly learn everything they need to know about your particular business and the challenges you face. There are only a few industries, like pharmaceutical for instance, that are required to create advertising in a very specific way, and must work with an agency that specializes in their industry.

The Services You Need

What kind of advertising do you need? Are you looking to do TV, radio, outdoor or print, or a mix of these? Then you want an agency that is capable of creating ads for each of your desired mediums. Do you need an agency to plan and budget your advertising, write and design your ads, buy the media space for your ads to run, and deliver the ads to your media partners? Then you’ll need a full-service agency with all of those capabilities.
Some agencies specialize in just one advertising medium, like creating web sites or designing interactive advertising. Not sure what services you need? Don’t worry. Any of the agencies you connect with through All Advertising Agencies can help you determine the best kind of advertising for your business.

Budget

Having an advertising budget in mind for a project or a set period of time is an important factor in choosing your ad agency. Prospective agencies can evaluate the budget you have and help you determine the best way to create the advertising you need within that budget. Agencies may also have minimum budgets they will work with, so having a ball-park idea will help lead you to the right agency choice. Again though, this is something that an agency can easily help you determine.

Fit

The last part of the equation is fit. You hire an agency for their advertising skills and their ability to listen, understand, and effectively respond to your needs. After your initial contact with the agencies that All Advertising Agencies has provided you, take some time to evaluate their responses. Of all the agencies you spoke to, which one can best do the work you need done? Which one can you see working well with? And which one best fits your overall criteria? When one agency stands out above the others, All Advertising Agencies has found the right advertising agency for you.

Selecting an advertising agency (aka a marketing agency or creative agency)—or, more to the point, the right agency—is a crucial decision for any company. Choosing wisely will lead to visible, positive results for your company. The wrong agency fit, conversely, will not only be a waste of money but also make your marketing life miserable. Too many companies take a haphazard approach to this critical decision; they may get lucky, or they may not. Based on years of experience on both the client and agency sides, here is a structured approach that should lead to the best decision.

Step 1: Develop a long list of agencies to evaluate. The best source in compiling this list is referrals from colleagues. Additional sources are the local Yellow Pages or Internet resources such as agencyfinder.com or All Advertising Agencies. Start with at least six agencies to investigate further, but no more than 12.

Step 2: Conduct your initial research. Use the internet to check out the agencies on your initial list and eliminate any obvious poor fits. Some agencies focus on specific industry niches, while others have a broader focus but are clearly more business-to-business (b2b) or business-to-consumer (b2c) oriented. Most agencies won’t work with two or more clients who are direct competitors, so if you see one of your closest competitors on an agency’s client/reference list, drop them from consideration. Make sure each agency
includes the services you need among their core competencies. The goal in this step is reduce your initial list down to five to ten agencies for further consideration.

Step 3: Develop your request for proposal (RFP). This step in actually somewhat controversial, as there are “experts” out there who will tell you not to use an RFP, but rather to utilize a request for information (RFI), which is largely more a semantical difference than a substantive one; the goal is to collect some specific information from each of the agencies on your list, whatever you want to call this. Other sources will tell you that agencies hate RFPs, when what they really mean is that agencies hate poorly-crafted RFPs; following the outline How to Write an Ad Agency RFP will help avoid this
outcome.

In developing your RFP, remember that you are seeking to establish a business relationship with a marketing agency, so 1) respect their time, and 2) don’t just ask questions, but also give the agency enough information about your industry, your company, and your specific needs to determine if there is a fit from their perspective.

Have all of the individuals on your internal selection team sign off on the RFP before sending it out; there is nothing more frustrating, for you or the agencies involved, than to go through the entire RFP process only to have to do it over – because a key individual on your end wasn’t consulted, you didn’t ask the right questions, you didn’t have the objective(s) identified properly, or due to some other avoidable circumstance.

Step 4: Call each agency on your list. Introduce yourself and your company, and tell them you’d like to include them in your RFP process. This step serves three purposes: first, it allows any agency which doesn’t want to respond to your RFP, for any reason, to opt out of the process right away. Second, it enables you to speak directly to an appropriate individual at the agency and begin establishing a rapport. Third, it assures that you will be sending your RFP to the right person at the agency. You should tell this person how many agencies will be receiving the RFP. You don’t have to volunteer the specific names of the other agencies you’ll be contacting, but should provide this information if asked.

Step 5: Send out the RFPs to the agencies who have agreed to participate. Make yourself available to answer their (inevitable) questions, and let them know that you are available for this. If you have included any out-of-town agencies on your list, be aware that they may expect at least partial reimbursement for their travel expenses if you invite them to give a presentation; get agreement from your internal selection team (specifically those with expense approval authority) beforehand as to how you will handle this.

Step 6: Evaluate the RFP responses, eliminating those agencies which are less than an excellent fit for your needs, in order to get down to your short list of finalists (at least two, but certainly no more than five). In evaluating the responses, ask questions such as: are you comfortable with their experience, size and resources? With their approach to your challenge(s) and objective(s)? Are you confident that your account will be large enough to be important to them? Are you impressed by the quality and tone of their creative work?

And of course, call their references. Specifically, ask about their satisfaction with their agency relationship. Does the agency consistently meet specified timelines? Do they adhere to their quoted prices? Are they easy/pleasant to work with? What results have been achieved?

Step 7: Arrange for presentations from each of your finalist agencies. Ideally, unless you are able to eliminate an agency from consideration after the first presentation, you should schedule two presentations with each agency: one at your facility (to give their personnel some impression of your offices, people and work environment) and a second at their agency, including a tour.

At this step you and your evaluation team will have the opportunity to share with the agency representatives more information about your industry, your company, and your unique strengths, challenges and goals. Each agency has the opportunity to tell you more about their capabilities, approach and practices. While the facts are certainly important, the most critical criterion at this point is chemistry: are you comfortable with the agency’s team, and are they people you look forward to working with and entrusting with your company’s promotional activities?

Step 8: Finally, after reviewing the RFP responses and meeting with your finalist agencies, it’s time to make your final selection. Regardless of the titles involved, your internal selection team should agree to discuss the merits of the competing agencies as peers in a freewheeling discussion. In a perfect world, you would all agree on which agency was the clear winner; in the real world, compromise will likely be necessary on someone’s part, and the final decision may not be yours. That’s why the freewheeling discussion component is critical; if one individual (e.g. your CEO or CMO) ultimately makes the final decision, at least all of the facts and opinions of the team have been aired.

As the last step, you need to inform each of the finalist agencies of your decision. Because the rejections are tougher, I recommend getting these out of the way first. Call each agency and let them know of your decision and, in a positive manner, the reasoning behind it. Follow up with an email thanking them for their participation in your process, praising their strengths, and again briefly stating your rationale for the final selection.

Then, call the winning agency and give them the good news.

Best of luck with your agency selection process!

Checklist: choosing an advertising agency

You can increase your sales by using advertising and promotion as part of your marketing strategy. An advertising agency can help you, but they will charge a fee. Given the broad range of advertising options available, it pays to get good advice from a reputable agency if you want to ensure your campaigns are effective. Before you choose an advertising agency, you should:

  • find out the size of the agency
  • check if they are members of any professional associations
  • ask what media they specialise in and if they have any particular creative strategies they prefer to use
  • examine their past campaigns and find out how successful they were
  • look at their types of clients, past and present
  • ask about the main people who will be working on your account and their track record
  • see if they have any experience of working for your type of business and if they understand the competition in your field
  • check how they assess a campaign’s effectiveness
  • get an estimate of their fees and what’s included – eg whether they would accept a payment-by-results agreement
  • take up references from their clients if possible.

Capabilities

  • 1. What is the size of your firm? Number of clients? Number of permanent employees vs. number of contractors? Where are they located?
  • 2. What is your experience in our market and technology area? Can you provide examples of your ability to understand technology and communicate it in an accessible manner?
  • 3. What are the backgrounds and experience of the team that would work on our account? What other accounts do they work on? What % of time do they devote to each? (3-4 accounts should be maximum for an account executive) WWW.SRFUNDS.COM
  • 4. Team structure. Who, exactly is responsible for what facets of the program activities? Will there be one person who will be our day-to-day contact? When will we meet that person?
  • 5. What is the full range of services your agency provides? Do most clients use all or just some of your services?
  • 6. Provide sample of ad creative and describe case studies of advertising campaigns detailing measurable results.
  • 7. Provide three current or recent client references with requirements similar to ours.

Strategy Development and Planning

  • 1. How do you ensure that a company’s positioning and branding strategies are properly conveyed in the advertising campaign?
  • 2. How does your agency work with our content and messages to develop the creative campaign? Is there a standard ‘creative brief’ that you use? Please provide examples of creative brief documents.
  • 3. How do you involve clients in the creative development process? Timing and steps?
  • 4. How many creative ideas or ‘concepts’ would you submit for our consideration? What is the approval process for a creative campaign?
  • 5. Describe your media planning process. How do you determine the appropriate advertising vehicles and schedules? What does a typical advertising and media plan look like? How long does it take to develop it and what time period does it cover?
  • 6. How will your agency address the issues associated with the fact that our markets may be global, that we have potential customers in several geographies outside of the U.S.?
  • 7. What is your experience in integrated marketing campaigns? How will our creative campaign work in on-line, trade shows, collateral, sales tools, channel promotions, etc? 8. What is your experience with channel and co-op advertising? Have you done templates and ad style guides, for example, for distributors both U.S. and International?9. What is your experience with merchandising funds? How have you best leveraged these types of programs for your clients?
  • 10. What do you think are the key publications, websites, newsletters, etc. that we should be targeting? Have you worked with them in the past? What were the results?
  • 11. How should advertising programs be measured? How will we know we’re successful?

Billing and Fees

  • 1. How do you bill for services? Is there a retainer or will we be billed by project or on an hourly basis? If hourly, what are the rates of the various team members and what will their roles be? If retainer, what if we don’t require any services during the retainer period?
  • 2. How are project fees approved? How are potential overages approved?
  • 3. What do similar companies spend on advertising? Provide a range that includes all variables: agency fees, production, insertion schedules, and any other related expenses.

Get the best out of your copywriter for efficient business!

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                   10 things to know to get the best out of your copywriter!

1. Don’t look at costs without analyzing the possible results

Copywriters’ fees are mainly dependent on their opportunity costs. So if you are comparing the fees of two copywriters without analyzing what value they can add to your business is akin to comparing an apple and a banana. Check out the copywriters past work, his achievements and his marketing savvy. Speak to him/her at length to discover his understanding of your business or industry. Check if he is nimble with ideas and concepts that will appeal. Then compare the possible ROI to his price. To quote an example – if a copywriter is charging 5k for an assignment and his value add is nil, he is more expensive than a copywriter who charges 15k and delivers three times the value. The most expensive copywriter is not the one who charges more, but the person who does not deliver ROI (Return on Investments).

2. How do you calculate the value a copywriter delivers?

A good copywriter will increase your sales response, he will improve your visibility, he will increase the stickiness of your message, he will improve your conversion, he will bring directed, targeted business to you and he will increase your corporate goodwill. Analyze his output on these terms and you will get a fair idea what you are getting for your buck.

3. How to choose a copywriter for your assignment? Is an independent copywriter better or is it advisable to use freelancers who work in large agencies?

There is no gainsaying the fact that copywriters who work in large agencies are talented. But the down side is that they have very little time to devote to your assignment. Secondly, he is not dependent on your fees for his bread and butter. So, at most times they will work on Sundays and deliver your copy. An independent copywriter though is a serious professional; he does not have the luxury of not doing a slap bang job. His bread and butter depend on your fees. Since he gets business only by referrals, chances are that he will go the extra mile to ensure that your ad or promotional material is top of the line. He does not have the same time issues as an agency copywriter and he can devote more time to your assignment. Ultimately though, I would suggest you check the talent and deliverables of each of the copywriters before you take a call.

4. How to get the best out of the copywriter you hire?

The fundamental rule of communication is that the more you tell, the more the copywriter will sell. You know your business well; you know your industry and your target audience. Tell all you know about your target audience, their buying preferences, their choices and their behaviour patterns to the copywriter. Detail him about the product or service you offer, its USP’s, its differentiators etc. Empower him to be in your shoes, and then leave him to do the job.

5. Should the copywriter have experience and knowledge about my industry before I hire him?

It is better if he does have some knowledge, but that should not be a deal breaker. Think of the copywriter as a painter. (I am assuming he/she is experienced and has exposure to various industries having worked in them) You do not expect the painter to have painted in your building as a pre condition to giving him the assignment. You also do not expect him to have painted the same shade before you engage him. Just like a painter knows how to paint, a copywriter comes to you with twin competencies – knowing how to sell to different audiences, and the language competency to communicate. Most copywriters will study your competition, understand your industry, and get familiar with your TG before they attempt to write. So if he is competent, then the particular industry experience will not be an impediment. If he is not competent, then years of similar industry experience will not help.

6. Should I employ a copywriter for his language skills? Will an editor or a journalist do?

I like to say that language skills are the second best competency that any copywriter can have. The first skill is to know how to sell. If a copywriter does not know how to sell, then all the language skills in the world will not help him sell your product or service. Focus on the selling skills of the copywriter first, and then check his linguistic skills.

An editor or a journalist is taught to tell, a copywriter is taught to sell. That is the difference. If you want to tell something, engage a journalist, if you want to sell something, engage a copywriter.

7. Should I employ an experienced copywriter or will a young, aspiring copywriter do as well?

When I was a young copywriter, I wrote a sales letter that said that the best time to buy a Husain painting was when he was unknown and making his mark! Copywriters are similar, if you find a young copywriter who has fire in the belly, ink on his hands and the ability to sell snow to Eskimos, sure, do not let a good thing by. In fact, if you know of such copywriters, I would like to employ them! ☺ But experience tempers talent; it hones ability and seasons one’s capabilities. Tried and tested is almost always better than wanting to be trusted.

8. Should I check the copywriters’ grammar skills and knowledge before I give him an assignment?

I was once approached by one of the leading companies of the world – a 100+ year old venerable US company that believed that unless their language, grammar, and punctuation was perfect, they would not publish the ad.

I famously told them, forget grammar and think about potatoes!

They demanded an explanation and were affronted by my statement. I told them, I am here to sell your product or service – let’s call it potatoes. I believe people will not be prompted to buy the potato just because the copywriter has written the appeal in picture perfect English. Yet if I use Hinglish – a combination of English and Hindi, and maybe invent a word and attract attention, evoke interest, create desire and prompt action they will be motivated to buy. So I told them if you want picture perfect grammar, go to a school teacher. I will bend the rules, invent words where required, but I will sell your potatoes. That does not of course mean that I will not be careful where I need to be. But I need to have the liberty to sell, without grammar and punctuation binding my hands. Most experienced copywriters will offer you the correct grammar and punctuations, unless they wish to break a rule in favour of selling your potato!

9. Isn’t my salesman the best man to write my brochure or ad film? After all he has spent years selling my product and performed par excellence?

A salesman sells person to person. He uses relationship as a tool to sell. Interpersonal selling skills are as different from mass media selling as is a bathroom singer from a playback singer. What works well in one setting will not work in another. A Copywriter is a specialist in selling in mass media. He is an expert in selling sans relationship.

10. How to negotiate timelines when engaging a copywriter?

My positioning statement says – Creative Copy – within Deadlines, without Dead-Lines! Yet, even today I have to sweat it out in the early mornings to meet all my deadlines without the famous – dead- lines! Developing copy is a tricky thing – sometimes I can write a full ten minute film script in an hour, sometimes it takes me a couple of days. Deadlines should almost always be planned with a buffer period. Basically because sometimes there are days when the inspiration is hard to come by. Then there is the dreaded writer’s block during which the copywriter stares at the blank screen without knowing what to write. It is all part of the process. The best way to fix reasonable deadlines is in collaboration with the copywriter. Give him/her his comfort zone so that he/she produces his/her best work. It pays, believe me.

Kettchup Board member: K .K Varma is a renowned copywriter and a communications expert whose work has won him several Indian and Global awards. He has spent over 33 years in the Advertising and mass communications industry and has worked on some of the most prestigious Indian and Multinational brands. He is a consultant and copywriter to some of the leading Agencies in India. He has been an entrepreneur all his life having begun his foray into business at the age of 16.

 

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Welcome the world of Kettchup: The UnAgency

Welcome the world of Kettchup: The UnAgency