- Does your Brand ID Accurately Reflect Your Brand?
- Branding in its Simplest Form is a Promise
- 180 Degree Thinking
- Keep Your Eyes On The Horizon
- Marketing vs. Advertising
- Arrivals & Departures
- Social Media Can’t Be That Hard… right?!
- A View on Videography
- SEO, SEM, and PSA
- User Experience (U/X)
- Online Reviews
- Agile Methodology
- Advocacy Marketing
DOES YOUR BRAND ID. ACCURATELY REFLECT YOUR BRAND?
If not, right now may be the perfect time to reassess, re-evaluate, and revitalize your brand.
Ad agencies and design shops will often approach Brand Revitalization as an opportunity to start from scratch and put their own thumb print on an existing brand, or simply tweak the existing brand ID. to bring it up to date. Too often, marketers are eager to shake things up and allow an agency to walk away from nearly every aspect of their brand ID, for good or bad. New Color scheme, new typography, new look, tone and feel, etc. Sometimes, however, that is genuinely needed, especially if the current Branding doesn’t truly sync up with what is at the core of a brand.
A shining example of this is Pro Contracting Services.
Pro Contracting Services is a privately owned family business with a concentration in Asphalt Resurfacing . Prior to working with us, ownership suspected that the brand ID may not accurately reflect what is at the core of their brand. Digging into the business and educating ourselves on what makes this company tick, we quickly realized that the current ID; the road construction character and the winding highway illustration was problematic at best.
While disarming and kinda cute, the logo really didn’t convey the right message. Neither did the tagline.
PCS is a company who operates on the notion that when you take pride in your job, it shows.
WE WENT TO WORK
First Flight’s crew dug in and created a look, tone of voice, and feel that was centerered around one simple idea; PRIDE. The overall look would be bold, clean, and well organized.
With a new look and new tagline that reflects the brand, new brand communications have been developed. From shirt and truck graphics to a new website, across the board PCS has a new look that they can be proud of.
Your brand is a promise to your customers, that they can count on you to live up to what they understand your business to be. Branding can also be considered the “real” truth – the authentic picture of your business. This real truth is what your customers experience regardless of what your brand communication claims.
Your logo alone is not your brand. True, it is an important visual representation of your brand but it is far from the whole picture of who and what your brand truly is. Your brand’s promise is realized in literally everything attached to it. Are your employees polite and helpful? Are company vehicles displaying your logo clean and in good repair? Are your drivers courteous? Are your public bathrooms well maintained? In short, if the physical properties of your business aren’t clean and well organized, what else might you be missing?
Walt Disney understood a concept that drove the way his employees were trained. He called it Understanding The Moment of Truth. The very moment a guest is confronted with something that either succeeds or fails to deliver on the brand promise. It might be as simple as a stray piece of trash on the ground, or an employee who can’t answer a simple question. If a guest asks “which way to Tomorrowland?” and you can’t say, you have failed to live up to the brand promise.
SOME WORK WE’VE DONE WITH BRANDING
First Flight Agency designed a logo conveying women’s strength and power to create a brighter future for their families and themselves. Through use of the logo, Karimu Tanzania is better able to articulate its mission to potential funders.
Retired attorney and Pinehurst resident Lydia Boesch wished to serve on the Village Council. With several outstanding candidates competing for two slots, Lydia needed a memorable, persuasive campaign based on the color purple and her slogan of “Let’s Believe in Our Best.”
180 Degree Thinking
When faced with solving a problem, sometimes, believe it or not, you may want to consider an
Allow me to explain.
We’ve all heard the phrase “Think outside the box” And that can often lead one to a non-conventional solution or idea. But what if your entire business has been turned upside down?
What if your product or service is no longer accessible to your customers in the way you have marketed in the past, or your office or store has been forced to close?
How can you adapt? Maybe you need to do the complete opposite of what has made you a success.
Imagine you own a fine restaurant and employ a renowned chef. The food, the service, the atmosphere you have created could be considered to be 180 degrees from say, the Fast-Food experience.
Along comes Corona and everything has changed. It took no time at all for fine restaurants to make the leap from fine dining to drive up service.
Another example is The Sunrise Theater in Downtown Southern Pines.
The experience when going to see a movie at The Sunrise is a little different than your average theater. For starters it’s 100 years old and looks nearly identical to how it looked long ago. The theater typically features movies and performances that fall outside of the mainstream. The popcorn is exceptional, the service is too. Faced with mandated closing, The Sunrise didn’t cease operating in the hope that things would turn around and get back to normal. They quickly adapted and now offer tickets to the movies that they would normally show in-theater, to now be available via streaming/internet. Miss real movie popcorn when you enjoy watching your favorite Indy film? No problem, drive up in your car prior to the movie and purchase snacks and drinks from friendly Sunrise employees and volunteers.
How about that, a fine restaurant finds success with a Drive-Up service, a movie theater that encourages it’s patrons to stay home and watch a movie. Now ask yourself, what is the opposite direction for my business that just might work? What offering or model that previously may have been the opposite of a sound strategy actually be the perfect marketing model for you to service and flourish?
THREE BUSINESS TIPS DURING A CRISIS
We find ourselves in unprecedented times. The world has seen crises before, however, this feels different for everyone. With all of the uncertainty, we see many people and businesses of every size asking, “what now?” “what next?” and even “what do I do when this is all over?” First things first, don’t capitalize on the crisis. This is not the time to take advantage of the hardships the country is experiencing. Instead, find a way to help. Now is the time to come together and support the community, while also encouraging individuals to continue to stimulate the economy. In order to do this, we recommend three things:
- Use social media to your advantage and update your customers often.
- Stay relevant and don’t slack on marketing.
- Have a plan, but be able to adapt.
Use social media to your advantage and update your customers often.
Staying in front of your customers at this moment is crucial. Just because people are not shopping, or using your services as much now, doesn’t mean that business won’t pick back up in the future. When thinking long term, you want to remain relevant. One way to do this is to keep a strong social media presence. Update your customers with what’s going on, and offer your help. Since platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are immediate, this is the best way to inform your customers. If you run a promotion, change your hours, or change your business offerings, social media is the best way to get the information out there. We need to come together and use the resources we have to ensure a strong community and economy once life returns to normal.
Stay relevant and don’t slack on marketing.
Next, you don’t want to stop marketing your business. You may, however, need to change the way you do things for the time being. If you are now offering curbside pick-up, that is something that your customers should be aware of. With all of the obstacles we are facing, it is important to portray your business in a way that is thoughtful and helpful. Think about how people can benefit from what your business has to offer, and make that evident to your customers. For example, create special deals and incentives to cater to those affected by loss or reduction of income. Use branded messaging to stay top of mind, and emphasize the values of your business that align with the current mood. Also, take this time to work out small bugs/inconsistencies in your website, or utilize Google analytics and track Facebook metrics. These are all great ways to alter your marketing plan for short and long-term success.
Have a plan, but be able to adapt.
Lastly, it is important to have a plan and look toward the future. It is evident that plans don’t always work as they should, however, proactively thinking about what’s ahead will prepare you for even the most difficult challenge. Never lose the ability to adapt. Thinking outside of the box in times like these is imperative to the success of your business. Ask people what they want to see from you, and your business, and figure out a way to inform the masses on what you have to offer. Possibly the most critical decision you can make when the future is unpredictable, is to take steps to experiment and innovate to find the most effective market strategies. This is especially important when the “tried and true” are no longer feasible. With the measurement tools available, you can quickly adjust your approach to strengthen successful methods. This may include expanding the range of services offered or products available. In today’s world, we are more connected than ever. Ask your clients and customers what they need. Ask your community what they are hoping to find. They can help you focus on what will likely increase revenue. At the least, your market will know you have their interest in mind when you go through the decision making process. This type of relationship will grow lasting clients and customers.
What we are seeing out there.
In light of recent events, we can look towards local business for tips on how to not only cope, but succeed in these trying times. One example is The Country Bookshop. The bookshop has always taken advantage of social media, and used it in a way to inform consumers of new books and events. However, immediately following the news of the severity of the issues at hand, the bookshop adapted in the blink of an eye. If people were no longer going to come into the store to browse, they were going to post videos of book recommendations so they didn’t have to. If kids were going to be stuck at home out of school, they were going to put together book boxes to keep them entertained. And, on top of all these amazing new strategies, they were making SURE that people could find all of this information on social media. Now is not the time to stop marketing, it’s the time to change it.
Our motto here at First Flight Agency is “every business a success,” and we don’t just mean when everything is ideal, we mean always. We are here to help you survive and thrive during these challenging times, and life thereafter.
Simply put, Marketers offer a product or service. Advertisers tell people about what the Marketer offers, and help sell their offerings. The distinction is important because, when a business identifies a problem with sales, they will often look first to what message they are sending to their audience via print and online ads, Facebook posts, Instagram, outdoor advertising, etc. Most Marketers are eager to extol the virtues of their product or service, thinking that if people would just try them once, they’ll have a customer for life. Hence, the need to advertise their product or service to the masses any way they can.
Here’s where it gets sticky.
A good ad agency, when meeting with a client about sales, or lack thereof, will dig in immediately to find out everything they can about the client’s business. The product, the delivery chain, customer feedback, etc. They do this to identify any marketing failures BEFORE they formulate an advertising communication strategy.
Legendary Ad Man Bill Burnbach once said; “Nothing Kills a Bad Product Faster than Good Advertising” We’ve all experienced the disappointment of a product not living up to the claims that the advertising has promised. When that happens, the purchaser decides immediately to never again buy your product or service, and then tells friends about their experience.
So, before you commit to an ad agency to help you with sales, make sure they have as many questions as they do answers.
Business Listings Management and Development
Have you ever searched for a business on Google and couldn’t find it? Or worse, you found it, but the information was incorrect? Imagine you search for a new pizzeria on google and you see that they are open until 7pm. You load your family in the car and you head out, only to arrive and see that they are closed today. Frustrating, right? This is why business listings are so important. The whole experience leaves a bad taste in your mouth, and clearly not the one of pizza.
Business listings are portfolios of your business’s information. Things like your business name, address, and phone number. Listings are how people find you online, and also make your business more searchable online.
The thing about business listings that’s so daunting is that there are more than 200 online listing sites (do a quick scan to see), and, if your listings aren’t accurate and consistent among them all, it will make it harder for customers to find your business online.
This happens because Google only wants to list trustworthy businesses. Your inaccurate information could be detrimental to Google’s business because it makes Google seem untrustworthy and inaccurate. Therefore, Google only wants to show your business if they can trust that all of the information listed online is accurate. Think back to that story about the new pizzeria. If that information listed is not correct, Google will essentially push your listing down in search results. Therefore, if someone just searches for “pizza near me” that pizzeria may not even show up.
To measure all of this info, your business has a listing accuracy score. If all of your information among online listing sites is accurate, your online listing accuracy score will be 100%. The higher your score, the more likely your business is to show up online. This is how search engines rank your website and determine whether or not your customers can find your business online. If you have any sort of competition in your area, a high listings accuracy score is imperative to the success of your business.
Here at First Flight Agency, we can make updating your listings easy. We can provide business listing management, where we keep track of ALL of your listings online and make sure the information is accurate among over 200 websites. This helps people find your business online and, in turn, increases traffic and sales to your business. Finding all of these listing sites on your own, and updating them regularly, would be nearly impossible.
Not sure where your business stands? Use our free scan tool to learn more.
It May Seem Easy, but It’s Certainly Not Simple
When it comes to marketing today, one of the easiest ways to get your brand out in front of the world is through social media, but there are MANY fatal mistakes that a business can make when trying to stay relevant on social media.
There are a few key things that will help you create a strategy that works for you and your business when it comes to social media. First, is your voice. Your voice is how your business speaks as a whole. Many different factors can go into this decision such as who you’re speaking to or who your audience is. Think of your voice as if your business were it’s own person.
Tip: Give your voice a persona. Actually write out a person who is talking. What is their background? How would they dress? Where would they hang out? This way when you are writing you are considering, “what would John Doe have to say about this”?
Next, is your tone. This is how your voice may change depending on the content included in your post, or even what is going on in the world at that time. For example, a photo of your staff on a Friday, excited for the weekend will have a different tone than a post explaining you will have to close the shop for a few days due to unforeseen circumstances. The voice will remain the same, however, the tone will change.
Tip: Always check your scheduled posts. The world is a dynamic place and certain posts that are clever and fun, can come across as insensitive or blunt through the lens of a current event. Don’t be tone deaf.
Your voice and tone may also change based on the channel. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. all serve very different purposes and due to that fact, it is important to alter your message to fit within each channel.
Tip: Study other businesses’ social media accounts and posts. In your opinion, what works? What falls short? Does it seem to align with their message? After all, a consumer will form an opinion on your business the same way you form opinions about theirs.
These things are very important to establish early on when it comes to your business’s social media strategy. Based on a study done by Global Web Index, “97% of digital consumers have used social media in the past month.” Evidently, social media is crucial, and the success of your business may be dependent on what these online consumers are seeing.
With many difficult things going on in the world today, it is important to be aware and cautious when posting on social media. This may not be as difficult as one might think, however. When it comes to social media in a controversial or fragile state of the world, speak in the way you want people to perceive your business and those who make your business what it is. Sometimes, that means not saying anything at all and sometimes it’s making your voice heard. Whichever way you feel is necessary, is probably the best way to move forward with social media. Be aware, be cautious and be human, because at the end of the day, your business is run by individuals who make up your community and it’s important that you show that every once in a while.
A View on Videography
Established for a Reason
Video marketing is not a new phenomenon. Nearly every single social media platform allows for some sort of video, and if you own a business, you should be using those platforms to your advantage. People are spending more and more time watching videos online and today YouTube is the second largest search engine (second to Google). This shows that people love watching videos! Short or long, there is evidently a demand for video marketing.
The success of videos on social media is overwhelming. Video on landing pages is capable of increasing conversion rates by over 80%, and the mere mention of the word “video” in your email subject line increases open rates by 19%. 90% of customers also say videos help them make buying decisions. Video content can be used to tell customers a story. It can make them feel happy, inspired, and even somber depending on the story you are trying to tell. These emotions are going to draw people to your business and help them remember it. Also, they are simply more interesting than a photo or a paragraph. The more engaging the content, the more likely people are to do things such as “liking” or “sharing”. These types of engagement will get your business in front of more people.
Bring the Engagement
There are many different kinds of videos that can be used, and they don’t have to be professionally shot mini films. Engagement on social media comes from authenticity and entertainment. If you can incorporate both of those elements into a video, you’re on the right track, but posting a video of any kind will afford you engagement that you otherwise wouldn’t have. Videos with a short “how to” or highlighting a few new items you have to offer can truly leave a lasting impression.
At the end of the day, videos can portray something that photos and words cannot. Sharing your story in the form of a video will have an immediate impact on your consumers. Check out some of our videos. First Flight Agency offers many different video marketing options. If you need some extra help or want us to work on a plan that works for you, head to our contact us page and let us know!
Thoughts from Our Videographer
Videography is human interest story telling.
Whether you’re covering the local election, highlighting small businesses, or documenting your community, videography should have the intention of expressing authentic experiences.
Ethics and integrity should be key to capturing. Stay true to your character, their voice, and their experience.
Find your angle. What makes your topic unique, special, or interesting? Most often everyone has a story to share. See the fine details of your topic to expand and personalize their story.
Recently First Flight Agency had the wonderful experience of capturing some outstanding leaders in our community. We teamed up with Habitat for Humanity, Sandhills Community College, and Pinckney Academy to share their Construction Pathway story. Going into this project it immediately became clear of our client’s desire for us to honor and share their story genuinely and sincerely. It was our job to capture the emotions and mold their narrative. To take what they had physically created and construct it in a digital format. Habitat directors were energetic and driven to share this program with others. Pinckney faculty was moved by the opportunities presented to their students. Pinckney students were raw and open, willing to share their experiences. And Sandhills professors were driven to keep the success of the program strong. It was a tender story to cover as many hearts were invested. Not just in the program, but in the student’s futures as well. We spent a few weeks filming, interviewing, and editing. View Habitat’s Construction Pathway story here: https://vimeo.com/395606596
First Flight created a beautiful video to tell the story of our unique Habitat build with the Pinckney Academy. Their creativity and professionalism throughout the project was exceptional, and they efficiently captured the essence of our work and partners in a way that allows our supporters to understand this endeavor. We look forward to partnering with First Flight on future projects – thank you!-Amie Fraley, Executive Director Habitat for Humanity of the NC Sandhills
Video Production Manager
Brandi has been in the biz for 10 years, and what a blazing-hot, award-winning decade she’s had. Her career began at one of the top photography programs on the East Coast (Randolph Community College) and has grown into covering American icons such as Tom Wolfe and Ray Lambert. Whether it’s a magazine cover or photography spread, Brandi’s work has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers across the state. Brandi has a heart for people and their stories. She is dedicated to discovering and sharing the authentic experiences and personalities of her community. She believes authenticity is the key to relatable media. From Alaska to Pakistan, Brandi can be found traveling, climbing boulders, studying American Sign Language, and avoiding texts on her flip-phone.
The difference between search engine optimization & search engine marketing
A lot of people are familiar with the term SEO, and to most, those three letters mean “get my website the best spot on the internet.” Ranking highly in search engine results will afford your business greater website traffic and higher conversion rates. In practice, many factors influence the ranking of search engine results. SEO (search engine optimization) is a factor, but it should be a piece of a larger strategy of SEM (search engine marketing).
Search engine marketing is the broader effort of gaining higher visibility for a website, and is typically broken out into two components. Predictably, the two are paid and unpaid methods. SEO is most often unpaid strategies, and is therefore often the label given to the unpaid component. Many will use the term SEM to refer to Paid Search Advertising (PSA), so when conversing on the topic, it can be prudent to establish your acronyms. Do keep in mind that Search Engine Marketing is an accumulation of methods that coalesce into a greater strategy to reach your market.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization
Whether we like it or not, Google is the undisputed leader of search (we won’t get into anything else here), and for that reason, the industry standards of SEO practices follow the criterion created by Google’s search algorithm. Therefore, it is advantageous to keep track of Google’s algorithm update releases once you put an SEO strategy in place.
SEO can be thought of in two parts: onsite SEO and offsite SEO. Onsite SEO should be your first priority. The reason why SEM & SEO are so often confused is, early on, search engines (Google) used a single factor for results ranking. That was keyword mapping on your website. Before diving in, you will need to determine what are called the “pillar pages” of your website. These are the pages that generate the most traffic, have the lowest bounce rate, the longest engagement time, the highest clickthrough rate, and are the hub of a group of related content pages. Even if it is only your homepage for now, that is fine, it’s better to increase meaningful engagement on one page than to spread your strategy thin, and for that reason it’s advisable to start with no more than six.
Your pillar pages are pivotal to the success of your SEO, and your wider search engine marketing efforts. Once you know where the keywords will live, you can generate a list of useful words. Particularly, those that your customers, market, and competitors commonly use to describe the work you do. Initially, you should integrate them into three areas of each page: the title, the section headers, and the meta description. Apart from the obvious placement on the page itself, the title will be the main blue text in the search engine when your website is returned. The meta description, while not given much weight by the search engine itself, is the subtext in the search result under the blue title, and a concise yet robust description of the page contents will increase the likelihood of a click and site visit. The headers on your site are integral in the way a search engine understands the purpose of the page as it indexes your site and the phantasmagoria of the larger internet.
Just throwing keywords around your site isn’t going to be enough. One of the most important things you can do to improve your site’s search engine ranking is to create and house useful and engaging content. Almost equally significant is the user experience (UX). UX is influenced by quite a few factors, but the result is that the pillar pages will be strengthened. Bounce rate, engagement time, and clickthrough rate are all given weight by Google’s search algorithm.
With landing pages set and polished, you can turn your eyes to the greater web. Offsite SEO can be viewed as the management and cultivation of inbound links to your website, commonly referred to as “backlinks.” This process touches on many strategies that you may be implementing in your marketing, but there are a few easy things you can do to start building a collection of backlinks.
You can begin by cleaning up your business listings across the web. Searching your business name, address, or phone number will bring up a number of directory and listing sites. You could also search for directory sites directly, but once you find your listings, you can begin the process to confirm the accuracy or correct those listings. These links already exist, and due to the nature of the sites, Google will reference them each time your business is searched for. If the information doesn’t match between sites, and especially doesn’t match the same information you list on your site, the reference will negatively impact the output of the search algorithm.
Another way to increase links to your site is simply asking for them. Think about people you know with a website. You can ask friends, family, local business organizations, associates, or clients. If you have influence on the placement, it is much better to have the link anchored to text and in content that is related to the page being linked to.
Giving testimonials is a great way to ensure links from high quality sources. Contact one of your vendors or a manufacturer/distributor of a product you utilize, and ask them if they would like a testimonial from a satisfied customer. If they say no, tell them to call First Flight Agency. Oftentimes, they will already be asking for testimonials and there will be a mechanism on their website to contact them.
As with Onsite SEO, content is king. A link from one site of a trusted source, one with engaging useful information, or even one that just gets high traffic, can be worth a hundred links from low ranking sources. You may not have control over every link to your site, but if you find one and open a line of communication, you may be surprised what that can accomplish.
PSA – Paid Search Advertising
The most common way to advertise with search engines is through pay per click (PPC) ads. As the name implies, these are ads that you pay for based on the number of clicks on each ad. If you are going to only use one service, it should definitely be Google Ads (previously Google Adwords). Search engine ads need to be given the same consideration that you would to any advertisement you run, which is to say they should be a part of your brand strategy and adhere to your brand identity.
Google has detailed instructions on how to best use their system, but there are some basic aspects of the tool. This, again, is a place where your keywords list will come in handy. The basic mechanism for placement of your ads begins with choosing keywords that will trigger the retrieval of your ads. When a keyword is searched, Google Ads initiates what is essentially an auction for the ad space. When you create your ad, you will choose a maximum amount to bid for each space, as well as a maximum you are willing to pay each day. Finally you choose what metric will determine the catalyst for the cost: cost per click (CPC), cost per 1,000 impressions (CPM), or cost per engagement (CPE, which is determined by a specific engagement, as opposed to just clicking).
First Flight Agency offers in-depth digital marketing options to accompany our wider agency services. If you need some extra help or want us to develop a plan that works for you, head to our contact us page and let us know!
UX Design Doesn’t Start with Design, It Starts with Research
A couple of decades ago web design consisted of jumping in photoshop and designing something aesthetically pleasing. For a long time, this channel of design approached every new project as an opportunity to show off what could be done on the web. Just because it can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done.
Through the decades there has been a shift from web design being a way to show off capabilities (and maybe share a little information in there), to web design being focused on the user experience. UX design that is truly focused on the user doesn’t start with colors, typography and icons, it starts with people. The “pre-production”, or user research, work you put into designing a website or app will ensure your site meets the needs of its users.
Who are the users?
Designing a school is different than designing an office building. Would an adult be happy to use a toilet designed for the size of a kindergartener? Of course not! We have to approach the web the same way. Start with your users, learn who they are and what they need. In the best case scenario you actually sit down with the past users or potential users of the site and understand more about them. What is the background, why would they be coming to a site like this to begin with?
Example: A dermatologist’s office would need to consider that their users are teens with acne to older people with sunspots.
What journey would they take to get from being a user to a customer?
Once you have a better understanding of your user base, brainstorm different journeys that users would take to become a customer. What scenarios, both positive and negative, would unfold to lead them to that point? Once you map out their journey you can intercept and start providing solutions when and where they need it. In mapping out these journeys, look at different scenarios and consider for each one: the persona, their awareness, their research, their pain points, and what action they would take.
Example: A teen with with acne is
-they are aware that they don’t like the way their skin looks
-they will do research online for solutions and a dermatologist may feel like overkill to them
-they are embarrassed with they way they look, but don’t want to ask for help
-a teen is more likely to engage with top face wash recommendations initially than set an appointment
What functions do they need? What is the one thing you want them to do?
Through studying the user scenarios and journeys, you will establish potential actions those users would take. These actions are what build your site’s functions and are the foundation that converts users into customers. Through your better understanding of what the user scenario is, you can implement UX (user experience) components that ensure you are bringing that customer along to their desired end-state.
Example: The “call-to-action” for this teen user would be to download a list of the best facial cleansers you’ve curated based on skin type, and other factors like environmentally friendly ingredients.
Now that you have established your key function points, you are ready for design. All the design pieces (color, type, icons) get wrapped around the content and functionality of the site. They are there to enhance the users experience. UX design doesn’t start with design, it starts with research.
What is Ecommerce?
It is no surprise that today our shopping possibilities are endless. There are so many different ways to shop and businesses do a great job of making it easy for the consumer to get what they need. A big part of that is ecommerce, or the buying and selling of goods online. In recent years, the amount of digital consumers has increased exponentially and according to BigCommerce, shoppers spend about 36% of their budget online on average. That’s a lot of online sales. But is ecommerce valuable to all businesses? And what businesses benefit from ecommerce the most?
Think about what your business has to offer. Could consumers benefit from ordering your products online? Is there a demand for it? The answer is more than likely yes. Giving people the option to order online is just adding to your customers experience and potentially making it easier for them to get their hands on your product.
We see this a lot of times with local businesses who have amazing products, however, they may not have the resources available to grow their stores physically. A great option for those businesses is ecommerce. A small, local boutique has the opportunity to sell clothes and products in all 50 states with just one website! The possibilities are endless and the demand is most definitely there.
Another great aspect of ecommerce is the link to social media. If you use social media to promote your business, then you have an opportunity. You can send products or samples to individuals on social media with a large following and have them promote your products and brand. This is known as influencer marketing. It can either be paid or unpaid depending on the influencer, but essentially if a big name on social media is advocating for your product, they can link their followers directly to your site. If a social media influencer has 300k followers and they post a quick Instagram story with your product in it, that is essentially 300k people seeing your product in action AND being endorsed. Influencer marketing is extremely effective but ecommerce is an imperative aspect of it.
Recently, ecommerce has become almost essential to the way we buy and sell products. When most of the US going began quarantine and only essential businesses remained open, many retailers relied solely on online sales. People didn’t want to leave the house so they were doing all their shopping online. This was one of very few ways that businesses survived through these uncertain times. Giving people the option to shop at their convenience will never hurt your business. And, if you do it right, online sales can easily exceed in person sales.
If you’re thinking about ecommerce, or think that it might be an option for your business, First Flight Agency can help you get started!
Reviews are a Milestone of One Relationship & The Beginning of Many More
How many times have you bought something on Amazon and looked at the reviews? Have you, wanting to try a new restaurants and not knowing what to expect, taken a quick trip to Yelp to see what others said about it? The answer for most is more than likely, “All the time.”
A recent survey conducted by Dimensional Research showed that 90% of customers consult online reviews before transacting with a business. Not only are consumers looking at these reviews, but they are being influenced by them. These reviews are either helping their decision to buy a product or convincing them not to.
Moreover, not only are the content of the reviews important, but things such as the number of reviews and relevancy of the reviews also play into what leads a customer to your business. Even if a business has a 5-star rating, if there are only one or two reviews, that rating can seem unreliable or invalid. If a similar business has only a 4-star rating but they have 4,000 reviews, that will make the reviews and rating look more reliable and valid.
Another study found that 73% of shoppers rank online reviews as the most influential content that leads to a purchase. That means customers are taking reviews into account more than a business website, marketing materials, and even 3rd party experts. People want to know the quick truth about businesses and the products they offer. They want unbiased opinions from people who have actually interacted with the business or purchased the products.
These reviews are things that business owners cannot control, though offering a genuine product or experience will help. One way to make sure your business has a good reputation online is to respond to negative reviews immediately. If a customer is upset, the sooner you reach out the better they will feel. Also, make sure to own up to your mistakes and offer to fix the problem in any way you can. Another trick is to make sure your response doesn’t sound generic or automated. Use the customer’s name and write to them as if you were speaking to them in person. The last thing an irritated customer wants is an automated response.
On top of responding to negative reviews, you should also be responding to positive reviews. Acknowledge all of your customers, satisfied or not. This will not only help with your reputation, but it will also help with online engagement. Long story short, make sure you are talking to people online how you would if they were in your store or restaurant. Thank them for coming and taking the time to leave feedback, and if they were disappointed, figure out how to solve the issue at hand.
Online reputation management is an area of digital marketing that should be taken seriously. Unfortunately, all it takes is one dissatisfied customer to negatively impact your brand’s online reputation. Reputation management encompasses Public Relations, but it also involves search results, social media, and everything online and in print as they are all a core part of a businesses reputation. How customers perceive you online is important so make sure you are doing all you can to protect it. If you ever need help with reputation management First Flight Agency is here to help, and we have worked up a Consumer Reviews Checklist to get you started. We can respond to all reviews posted online about your business and ensure that your business looks professional and reliable to customers online. We want to engage your consumer in a way that inspires positive feedback, and five-stars across the web.
Business Agility and Agile Methodology
What is Agile?
For many in the business world SCRUM is synonymous with adaptive business practices. This useful framework is actually only one version of an approach to business problems known as Agile Methodology. Developed by a team of software designers in 2001, Agile is a practice of problem solving that relies on a combination of flexible and reliable processes to execute business goals. “Agile” is the term used to reference four core ideals and the mindset one must adopt to navigate with business agility.
Though established with software development in mind, the values encompassed by Agile have broad applicability if adopted as a way of thinking about business challenges, even if they are more easily translated into a product focused result. The four principles of this methodology are as follows:
The Four Principles of Agile Methodology
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working product over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a planAgile Manifesto
You may balk at the thought of, say, not having a contract negotiated and agreed upon, but these principles do not discount the latter part of each point. The aim is to maintain the perspective that the first aspect holds more weight and influence than the second aspect.
Though it is most beneficial to frame Agile Methodology as a mindset to approach all problems through, a framework will help teams and individuals to follow a path of progress. This can be simplified into four basic steps: Planning, Designing/Building, Review/Evaluation, Implementation/Release. Review and Evaluation would more accurately be repeated after Implementation/Release, but that is part of the iterative process associated with the method. The broad application of a “way of thinking” has resulted in branches and sub-methodologies that have been adopted by certain industries over the years. The most common of these is Scrum, Extreme Programming, and Lean Manufacturing/Development, though there are many more.
How is Agile Different?
Traditionally, projects follow a “waterfall” approach. A goal is set, detailed planning occurs, and the execution is the final stage before completion. This process relies on the expectation that factors will remain the same from planning through completion. When adhering to Agile to achieve results, teams will go through an iterative process. These iterations combine individual operation, team collaboration, and client input to constantly improve a product or service through cycles of testing and review.
For example, imagine if your team was tasked with creating a paper airplane that can successfully fly across a room. With Agile methodology in place, your teammates would be assigned different roles—one who would perform quality checks, another who would be responsible for improving the process itself, and everyone would be concentrating on building as many planes as possible. Since agile is an iterative process, you’d agree on constructing and testing variations of paper airplanes in different cycles.
Agile methodology allows your team to test the product frequently and make improvements as you go along. By the final cycle, your team should be faster with improvements and the product should be at its peak success. Moreover, the agile approach is often faster and cheaper than the waterfall methodology. Take a look at an overview of First Flight Agency’s Agile process.
Where did Agile come from?
Many of us remember the growth of personal computing in the 90s, and as more people began to use these amazing ubiquitous tools, more software jobs were created. The demand for new and better software was immense, and the mobilization to fill that need was swift and furiously competitive. With such demands, developers began to realize that established business practices were insufficient to maximize and strengthen production of end user content. So began a shift in development processes. At that time, Agile methods were developed organically by few in the industry and applied in-house by their teams. By the year 2000, our lives had already drastically gravitated towards the technology being created, seeing the creation/release of the first camera phone, the USB flash drive, and bluetooth capability. In 2001 a prescient group(credited as 17 individuals) of software developers gathered to consolidate these new methodologies of production for a burgeoning industry. They distilled what they believed should be the core principles of their market and coined the term “Agile software development”.
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Processes and tools indeed are the actual implements used to perform any task, but a tool is simply that. There is a familiar saying illustrating that “when all you have is a hammer, all your problems become nails”. Most business professionals will understand that growth and even consistency require the ability to overcome obstacles with the appropriate tool or process. The additional facet of Agile in this case is the emphasis on a team approach to problem solving. Fostering collaboration within the group as they formulate solutions will always result in a more robust and durable solution.
The processes and tools used should aid the cooperative efforts of the individuals in your business. Tools should be used to do what they can, while freeing the human element of the process to do what only we can, namely, engage in critical thinking and creative problem-solving. This can also apply to consumer faced interactions. Tools that can automate a retail transaction are convenient and often will improve a customer’s experience of the transaction, but there may be a point where a human interaction will elevate the experience. Emotional intelligence isn’t something we can program yet. An individual’s time is worth it to advance a brand and retain great customers. Internal operations will benefit from face-to-face interactions as well. Think about the ease of talking about complex scenarios over email or text against a phone call or meeting. If there will be something lost by using the tools, engage in human interactions.
Working product over comprehensive documentation
Initially, software development was created through a full series of design rounds and testing with exhaustive documentation throughout the process. Of course, it is not a bad thing to have a record of a project’s stages, but the goal isn’t to have a record, it is to have a marketable product or service. In this context, iteration is the process for success. Once a product is created or a service established, market feedback will allow you to discover its strengths and weaknesses. With that knowledge obtained the next version should be implemented. A continuous cycle of feedback and improvements will allow a business to gain or maintain market share. Think about the Palm Pilot. Their devices were synonymous with PDAs, but as the industry shifted towards the sleek devices we use today, Palm did not innovate and modify. The introduction of a new and improved personal digital assistant, the iPhone, was the final nail in the coffin for Palm. Agile iteration will also inform planning, approvals, and team delegation once fully implemented. The objective being to launch viable products quickly, within reason, and in workable pieces that can be improved upon as needed.
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
The idea with this principle is closely tied to the preceding concept, in that the work you do should be divided into small segments. By working on smaller aspects of a product or service, you are able to include the customer in the process. All industries have an end user, and the goal is to provide them with something that they enjoy using. When you draw on opinions and experiences from actual consumers during the design and development process, the result will be a greater market share, a more reliable product, and a highly loyal and engaged customer base. This technique can also apply to internal organization goals. If a boss, CEO, or board has set a goal or goals, executing their vision while allowing for input from that “customer” will create something that will closely align with the true goal(and therefore give you points with the boss). Both internal and external facing strategies will ultimately result in greater satisfaction and reduced costs.
Responding to change over following a plan
We all respond to change, and we all like to think that we will respond to changing environments to the best effect. On a large scale, this is generally true. We all make the choices that benefit us in the long run, but the theory behind this precept is rapid change in an ever changing environment. This could be the defining principle of Agile. It is almost the definition of the word “agility”. A plan of implementation should be created, but an Agile team will remain aware of changes in the market, economy, source data, and even the weather, shifting direction as needed. Depending on the project there are a number of factors that can affect the timeline and consequently the cost of any process. This factor alone highlights the nature of Agile as almost a mindset more than a set procedure.
Would you like to see how we can use Agile Methodology to help overcome business challenges you are facing? Are you considering expanding or branching into a new market? Contact us and we will gladly take those steps with you.
It is no surprise that a marketing budget can add up fast, and while marketing is an essential part of business, there is one strategy that may give you just what you need on a very low budget.
We have mentioned before the importance of online reviews and the impact they can have on consumer behavior. However, what if you took that a step further? Many in the business world are blissfully unaware of how their existing fans can be leveraged to grow their business, help with content marketing efforts, and generate a huge stream of referral-based leads.
Advocacy marketing is essentially your own customers creating buzz around your brand or products. This could be through word of mouth, reviews, social media posts and so much more. You want your customers to become your brand advocates, spreading the word on how amazing your products and services are. This is so effective due to how much consumers rely on word of mouth recommendations and the retention rate of customer referrals.
Another reason it is so successful is because of its low cost. Tomoson conducted a poll of marketing professionals surrounding their influencer marketing efforts and practices, and they found that, on average, businesses are making $6.50 for every dollar spent on influencer marketing. All you need to do is create a great product, have outstanding customer service AND give people a reason to advocate for you.
Sometimes, businesses will incentivize their customers to advocate for them. This can come in many different forms, for example, a business could ask their customers to post a photo of their product on social media and tag them. The business could then enter that customer into a raffle to win more products. These businesses are not asking their customers to be dishonest, rather, they are simply giving them a reason to go out of their way to advocate for them.
Another way we see this is through referral or loyalty programs. “Refer a friend and get a $10 coupon,” or “get a stamp for each smoothie you buy and after 10 stamps you get one free.” These are all ways that a business can push consumers in the right direction to help them get the word out. What follows is, if you have a great product and matching customer service those new customers you get will turn into advocates as well.
Although these things may sound simple, there are many ways to go about these strategies incorrectly. You don’t want people to think you’re buying reviews or being untrustworthy. At First Flight Agency we have the ability to build first-class customer advocacy, loyalty and ambassador programs for your business and integrate them into centralized business processes. Check out our Advocacy Marketing Checklist for more information.