Making the most of Marketing Trends

Everyone is keen to jump on the latest trends to market their business. Many are game-changers. Some are costly. But is it worth it? Oftentimes, you really get what you pay for. The key is to do your research – or let a knowledgeable marketing firm do the work for you.

Social Media 

A now long-running trend, social media can be a huge boost to your business. But in this case, you do have to spend money to see results unless you are lucky enough to have the kind of business that attracts followers organically. Use tools available in Facebook to target your ad dollars to a specific group. If you are seeking the attention of other businesses – consider LinkedIn as a “business to business” approach. New reports state that if your employees post about your business on LinkedIn, the chances of getting your message out are greatly increased. Incentivize your staff to share your business message.

Artificial Intelligence

Many marketers are currently making use of technology that will allow them to pull data from several sources. This data is used for reporting information, which is then used to create marketing plans and to gauge their success. It is also used in decision-making, optimization and goal setting. Look into different software and service providers, read reviews, and do your research into which best fits your operation. 

Integrated Marking

You can’t really have too many cooks in the marketing kitchen. It takes a savvy team to integrate marketing across multiple platforms. The key to this recipe is consistency across those platforms – adapting to the readers on each but keeping the message the same at its core.

Geofencing

Essentially, geofencing creates a virtual perimeter around a location that allows a business to target a specific group with a specific message. Ads can be served to a group while at a specific location and for quite some time after. 

There are countless other trending options for clients to utilize, but it is important not to forget that face-to-face interaction and a human touch are just as important as all the grandest tools in the kit. In a very digital world, the human connection can be an important key to success. More than a trend, it keeps relationships cultivated and communication at its best.

M3 Group has capabilities in all of the above, and a team with the know-how to help brand your business forward. For details, visit m3group.biz.

Blogs are a Key Piece in the Social Media/Web Puzzle

They not only get your message out, they add to your online presence

Do you wonder why blogs are important to businesses? 

Well, you’re reading this, aren’t you?

While some have declared the demise of the blog as businesses turn to other trendy delivery platforms, consider what Mark Twain said at news that he had died: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

That also applies to the rumored death of blogs. They are alive and well, gaining readership and bringing traffic to your website.

There are several ways to bring attention to your blog.

First, businesses must be proactive. Blogs must be updated frequently to continue to drive readers – who may become customers – to their websites. And the writing must be about a specific subject using a ton of relevant keywords, which will increase your “findability” on major search engines.

“A great way to author a blog is to answer an unanswered industry question from a Google-rich snippet,” said Mark Warner, creative manager at M3 Group. “If you can answer the questions users are seeking and add new content to your website, it’s a win-win.”

Take Google, for example. Google adapts to what shows up in a search based partially on how relevant a business is to its industry. So, even if you don’t pay for a Google Ad (which would put a business at the top of search results), you can still show up prominently in a search if you have timely and relevant content on your website – like a blog.

Blogs also increase search engine optimization or SEO. While it is nearly impossible to show up on the first results of an online search unless you pay for an ad or are one of the big players in an industry, using what are called long-tail keywords can increase the chance that you will be found by searchers looking for a specific niche.

Here’s how that works: An accounting firm might not show up early in a search for “accounting firms near me,” but if someone is searching for “accounting firms near me for nonprofit organizations” and you have written a blog about being an accounting firm that works with local nonprofits, you have a better chance of fitting into that search engine’s algorithm and popping early up in a niche search. 

By publishing a blog, a business can also set itself up as an expert in its industry, regardless of how small the company might be. Give readers some solid expert advice that they can actually use and sharing your expertise will set you up as the go-to source for whatever your blog is about.

A blog that enables readers to comment is a way to get to know your audience and reveal what interests readers, enabling you to continue to target content. By including blogs on your other social media platforms, driving readers to your website, you can identify your audience and build trust with them, which could result in a business relationship.

You can also keep readers on your domain through internal links. Let’s say you are reading the aforementioned accounting firm’s blog about nonprofits. The text mentions changes in the 2017 federal tax act that affects nonprofits, and you refer readers to an earlier blog on your domain that deals with how the new law impacts nonprofits. 

“It’s important to remember that the link should be relevant to the content on the page,” Warner explained. “Internal links and backlinks from external sites all play a major role in SEO rankings. Google’s algorithm tracks a variety of factors, so it is important to try to check off as many of the SEO factors when authoring content, such as placing images, titling the page or selection of tags.” 

Warner said the H1 tag is an HTML tag that indicates a header on a page – a snippet of code that tells your web browser how to display the content. An H2 tag is a subheading and should contain similar keywords to your H1 tag.

Now, how often should you post a blog? Research indicates a minimum of 11 blogs per month is ideal. Post the blog not only to your website but link the writing by including the posting on the other social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. 

If you feel you don’t have the know-how or the time for writing blogs and posting on social media platforms, M3 Group can do the heavy lifting. Not only can we create professional and relevant blogs that hit the mark in terms of SEO optimization, we also can craft effective social media posts and set up a social media schedule, posting at optimal intervals to keep your company in the minds of consumers. 

M3 Group has had success in conducting online surveys, man-on-the-street evaluations and assembling focus groups to better learn what your customers want.

Those are just a few of M3 Group’s proven specialties. Call us at (517) 203-333 to discuss these services and more!

Is it time for a rebrand of your business?

Rebranding is a delicate but very popular decision. A lot of major companies are jumping on the rebranding wagon – from Uber to Dunkin Donuts to Weight Watchers and dozens more. If your company is considering a rebrand it’s helpful to ask the right questions. We sat down with M3 Group Marketing Specialist Zach Krieger for his take on the topic.

Why should a company rebrand? Any organization should take a good look at their brand every five years; that doesn’t mean a HUGE change or overhaul to the look/messaging/culture of the company, but it gives leadership an opportunity to reassess what they’re striving for and what tools are needed to achieve those goals. Sometimes that means tweaks to messaging or a tagline, sometimes that means a new logo, color scheme, website, etc.

What are a few things a company should consider when rebranding? Strategy. Why do we do things the way we do them? How can we do things better? What do people think of when they hear our name or see our materials? A good strategy will put you in a situation to answer these questions and allow you to explore what pieces and parts you might need to ensure your whole team is working towards a singular goal, under a unified message.

Should they develop a logo first or a strategy? Why?  Always a strategy! You might not even need a new logo or name change … if the strategy dictates that this is something to explore, then maybe. But, the most successful brands are never created on a whim.

Why should a company use an agency instead of attempt this in-house? Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can’t see the label from inside the bottle?” Organizations know their businesses very well, they know their customers very well, they know the industry and the products and the peak seasons. Nine out of 10 people don’t know much about branding. Some may think having a social media page and possibly a sharp business card is a great brand. Agencies are brand professionals. Branding is a force that comes from every aspect of the organization, from top to bottom. An agency specializes in giving organizations the tools and direction they need to sustain a look and feeling to associate with their brand in all aspects, internally and externally.

Any other tips for companies considering rebranding? Designate a budget and be on the same page with internal leadership when looking at this process. Don’t just dip your toe in this; branding is a process and takes time. Proper resources and time NEED to be considered when looking at your brand. There also needs to be a trust factor in the people/agency you decide to work with – don’t turn your creative consultants into order takers. Agencies are trying to empower your organization through new ideas and process… don’t restrict them because that is “the way we’ve always done it”. Lastly, HAVE FUN with this … a brand is something that the TEAM needs to buy into; leadership, employees, families, customers, etc. are your “brand ambassadors”. Give them a reason to have good feelings when it comes to your brand.

If your company is considering a rebrand, let the qualified team at M3 Group help. Contact us at 517-203-3333 or visit our webpage at www.M3Group.biz.

Business Survival 101

What steps to take to prevent being a victim of changing market conditions

According to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, about two-thirds of startup businesses survive at least two years and about 50% make it to the five-year mark. After 10 years the survival rate drops to about 35%.

Even if successful at starting a small business, economic and market conditions and changes in trends can cause a temporary downturn and put a business in a precarious position. What’s a small company to do when its profitability is on the ropes?

According to the website Business Know-How, there are steps an entrepreneur can take when market conditions go south. Here are two methods to recharge your presence.

Rebrand your company: Take honest stock of your company’s strengths and weaknesses. What caused the loss of business? Have trends changed? How can you be competitive again by rebranding?

Don’t guess at what customers want and will pay for. Analyze your existing sales and talk to actual customers and prospects. Conduct an online survey to find out which of your products or services are most valued and will bring the greatest profit. 

Another way to gauge your impact on customers is to conduct a focus group. Not only will a focus group tell you what you might be missing, it can also let you know why they are turning to a competitor.

Get social:Are you on all of the social media platforms that your customers use? Social media has become an important tool for all types of industries. The Pew Internet Social Media statistics for 2018 put an exclamation mark on the use of social media.

Facebook and YouTube dominate the social media landscape, as a majority of adults in the United States use each of these sites. At the same time, younger Americans are noted for embracing a variety of platforms and using them frequently. 

About 78% of 18- to 24-year-olds use Snapchat, and a sizeable majority of those users (71%) visit the platform multiple times per day. Similarly, 71% of Americans in this age group now use Instagram and close to half (45%) are Twitter users.

Breaking that down even further, 68% of adults are Facebook users, with a majority of those reporting they access the site on a daily basis. The video-sharing website YouTube, although not a traditional social media platform, is used by nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults and 94% of 18- to 24-year-olds. 

Roughly two-thirds of U.S. adults (68%) now report that they are Facebook users, and roughly three-quarters of those users access Facebook on a daily basis. With the exception of those 65 and older, a majority of Americans across a wide range of demographic groups now use Facebook.

But the social media story extends well beyond Facebook. The video-sharing site YouTube – which contains many social elements, even if it is not a traditional social media platform – is now used by nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults and 94% of 18- to 24-year-olds. And the typical (median) American reports that they use three of the eight major platforms that the Center measured in this survey.

Regularly posting on social media platforms can give your business a boost, but don’t overdo it. Y

It also may be time to look at your current advertising and add in marketing techniques like email blasts, pop-up marketing and guerilla marketing will make you stand out from your competition.

Both of these solutions, from rebranding to short and snappy videos to marketing techniques have been refined by M3 Group. We work on SWOT reports for our clients, analyzing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. 

You don’t have the know-how or the time for social media? M3 Group can create effective social media posts and set up a social media schedule, posting at optimal intervals to keep your company in the minds of consumers. 

M3 Group has had success in conducting online surveys, man-on-the-street evaluations and assembling focus groups to better learn what your customers want.

Those are just a few of M3 Group’s proven specialties. Call us at (517) 203-333 to discuss these services and more!

Employee Education Benefits

…and why you should jump at the chance to offer them!

Learning doesn’t have to stop the day you earn your degree. It is now more important than ever to diversify your skills, and when you work at an especially creative workplace it is imperative to stay at the top of your game.

M3 Group offers this benefit to staff and enjoys seeing them return from seminars and workshops feeling empowered, motivated and armed with new skills.

If you’re an employer who does not make opportunity for growth an option for your staff; here are a few things to consider.

Keeping up to date

If your key staff have been in the workforce for some time, chances are technology has changed. Offering them re-fresher courses and opportunities to learn new skills will help them catch up with the times.

Invest in your staff

Knowledge is power. By continuing to learn and grow – your staff will gain confidence. Show them you are invested in them, and they’ll invest in you in return. Their improved skill set will also help take your business to the next level.

Employee retention

According to schoolofpe.com, 87% of millennials have been reported as listing “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as an important factor when choosing to stay long-term with a company. It is also an attractive benefit to offer potential hires.

Put a few guidelines in place. It’s wise to consider employee tenure and commitment when contemplating more expensive education plans. There are also many valuable and affordable options available that all staff should consider.

M3 Group is proud to be a company that invests in our employees. Just another step in our plans for world domination.

M3 Group Fosters Community Feel Through Events

Here at M3 Group we feel more like a family than a collection of coworkers. Perhaps that’s because, as a fully integrated marketing and advertising firm, we often have graphics artists and copywriters working in tandem with  photographers, videographers and account executives to achieve a single goal.

The entire staff participates in scheduled brainstorming sessions, where we collectively seek creative solutions for our clients to provide them with the very best and newest idea to get their message to their target markets.

We also emphasize that family feeling with internal events. Take our recent potluck for example – it kind of signifies the cohesion and collaboration of our talented and diversified staff.

It was a taco potluck. Some people provided seasoned meat for filling. Another brought a scrumptious guacamole, while another employee provided spicy salsa. Some contributed shredded cheese, while others brought taco shells and tortillas.

Pretty much everything on that list would be tasty on its own, but when the ingredients were placed together in a taco shell or tortilla they became not a collection of individual foods, but rather a cohesive group of flavors that tasted complete and wonderful.

It isn’t just gastronomical collaboration that we exhibit at M3 Group. Any occasion to be creative and fun is game. Take May 4th, for example. It was “Star Wars Day” – may the fourth be with you – and as such we celebrated as a team. One member of our creative team brought in several masks he had picked up on his way into work – some were very “Star Wars” specific, while others were … well, not so much, but still fun. Light sabers were present throughout the day as well.

And now M3 Group has a coed softball team participating in Lansing leagues. Enthusiasm for the team was high even before the first pitch had been thrown in competitive play. The one team practice yielded three participants, but it was still an example of teamwork, as are the discussions of who will play at what position.  At the first game, every team member showed up ready to play. The outcome of the game was not as desired, but the team-building make everyone involved a winner.  Those of us who are not taking part on the field will likely be perched somewhere beside the diamond rooting our teammates on.

That’s the type of collaboration M3 Group practices both on the field and during our brainstorm sessions in conference rooms. It’s that teamwork that enables us to develop a plan that hits it out of the park for our clients.

Did know you know we publish magazines?

Shining the Spotlight on Local Women

M3 Group is proud publisher of Capital Area Women’s LifeStyle Magazine (CAWLM). The magazine features mid-Michigan women in various profiles, including our ‘Local Woman’ column. Beyond the cover, careers for consideration, non-profit or business profiles – the local woman is someone who stands out as a woman who is inspiring in her own way.

The list of people featured in the Local Woman column runs a long and widespread gamut. 

Some of the women we featured, such as Barbara Loyer, the Turner-Dodge House program and events manager, who was in our November 2017 edition. She is among those we shine the spotlight on who tend to work primarily behind the scenes.

Or she might be someone we often see, like Lisa Ballard. She’s a greeter at L.O. Eye Care, and was the subject of a March 2018 feature. Patients know her from her work, but learned even more about her in the Local Woman column.

The subject could be someone you see often and recognize, such as Fox 47 Anchor Sarah Swistak (February 2019) or Twyla Birdsong, a local gospel and blues singer who was the subject of a February 2018 write-up.

The purpose of our Local Woman column is to bring attention to people who have an impact on our community, or maybe they have had a positive affect on one person who took the time to nominate her. The writers at CAWLM are always able to find a story behind the individual and give readers an enjoyable look into their lives, what passions drive them and why they stick in the minds of people who nominate them.

Do you have a woman you think should have her story told in the pages of Capital Area Women’s LifeStyle Magazine? Has someone been spotted performing a random act of kindness? Or perhaps they spend every workday making people feel welcome at a business. We would love to hear about them and share their stories.You can nominate them by email at info@cawlm.com.

The ‘Morale’ of the story

That’s not a typo. Office Morale, or lack thereof, is something all businesses should keep their radar on.

Employees who have to drag themselves to work, consider their jobs more of a chore than an achievement and show a lack of teamwork could be a sign that morale is bottoming out. There are simple ways suggested by Inc.comto boost happiness in the office without breaking the bank.

One of the biggest things that can sink morale is when employees do not feel appreciated. Take time out not to just commend a worker on a job well done, but project that appreciation for that task to the whole office. Make sure people know their efforts are appreciated and recognized.

Often fun is lacking from an office. Here at M3 Group sudden and impromptu Nerf gun battles are not out of the norm of an otherwise ordinary day of business. Have some recreational activities in the break room, like a foosball table or a jigsaw puzzle. Plan a joke contest or go out of your way to tell a funny story that will have everyone chuckling (or, at the very least, rolling their eyes). Breaking the day up with a bit of fun can do wonders for morale.

Community service leave also can-do wonders for an office. Not only will your employees get away from their desks for a few hours, they will be helping a community nonprofit with volunteer time. Go assist Habitat for Humanity with building a home one afternoon. Or go to the local animal shelter and volunteer for the morning. Establish a policy for community time and give workers a set number of hours they can use to help their communities.

A huge morale-buster is having employees get into a rut. Following a routine is sometimes necessary, but if it is the everyday sort of thing, it can drag someone’s morale down. Inc.com recommends switching up lunch breaks, changing the way the office looks – on the exterior as well as the interior – and having impromptu company breaks.

Spread positivity by constantly being positive. Positive attitudes are contagious. Talk up the good work your employees are doing. Greet them with a smile as they arrive at work. Be careful not to overdo the positive outlook until it looks fake. If you are sincere, the positive attitude will spread throughout the workplace.

One last slice of advice: Listen. Nothing puts a damper on morale if employees don’t think they have a voice in the company. You can go from workspace to workspace asking employees what they think about the current workload or project. Team meetings every week, or a morning huddle every day, encourages employees to voice concerns or make suggestions that could benefit the entire office. Making the employees feel like an integral piece of the company does wonders for morale.

BILLBOARDS ARE STILL BREATHING

With all of the high-tech methods to get an advertiser’s product noticed, an old-school method of selling a brand is having its second wind.

Billboards, according to The Hustle, are back in vogue. They are classified as “out of home” ads and make up 66 percent of the out-of-home market, which includes ads on trucks, buses, at bus stops and placards covering a wall.

The Hustle reports there are about 370,000 billboards in active operation in the U.S., with 15,000 new ones added each year.

Billboards, along with digital advertising, is growing, while other traditional media advertising is in a tailspin. Add digital capability to a billboard and you have an easily customizable form of advertising that people pay attention to. Owners of the billboards also pay attention to drivers and can adjust the message accordingly.

An official from Lamar, one of the nation’s largest billboard owners, said if a coffee shop was advertising on a digital billboard and the weather was cold, the billboard would push hot drinks. If the weather was hot, the billboard would be changed to display cold drinks.

M3 Group works with clients to get their products noticed. That includes designing billboards. If you see a billboard featuring one of Gillespie Group’s downtown projects – the Stadium District, The Outfield, Prudden Place and the Marketplace, M3 Group worked with the developer to create these stunning and compelling billboard designs. There’s even one for the 600 Project, which will bring apartments, a new hotel and an urban market to downtown Lansing.

In short, we all notice billboards as we drive in Lansing, East Lansing and the entire Greater Lansing region. If you want your product noticed just give us a call. 

Logo trends for 2019

Your logo is everything. It tells your brand’s story in just a glance through color, design and the statement it makes.

But trends change and keeping up with the times is important. The few companies that can get away with a classic logo usually can use it for years. Others need to make small adjustments with the times.

Those with an entirely too trendy logo, however, may be looking for something new.

Here are a few of the trends you can expect to see in 2019:

Variable logos

Wix.com says many companies are taking their brands a step further by creating a variety of visually diverse logos to be used interchangeably. This idea can work – as long as the logos are cohesive and reside under the umbrella of the same visual language.

Simplification

Creativebloq.com states that simplification has been a popular trend for years now, with no sign of changing. Examples of this are the American Express logo and the Uber rebrand.

Gradients are back

According to medium.com, gradients and vivid and saturated logos are going to be big in 2019.

Overlapping elements

Designers are breaking the rules, and it’s working. “Overlapping styles tend to work best for logos that have a simple mark or lettering and that are contained to s specific part of the logo,” said designshack.net.

You can also expect to see continued use of negative space, vivid colors, illustrative substitutes for a letter, simple geometric shapes and in general, more cheerful designs.

Creating your company’s logo can be a daunting task best left to the professionals. M3 Group is here to help!