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design & marketing blog

Straightforward design, marketing, and technical advice for making your marketing communications more effective.

Annie’s Homegrown – An Example of a Great Blog

April 2nd, 2013

As I continue to peruse the Internet for great blogs, I came across one today which in my opinion epitomizes a successful blogging strategy. Annie’s Homegrown Blog, a clean blog frequently updated with concise posts that focus on the the shared values that unite Annie’s Homegrown and its customer base.

One of my pet peeves is a blog or social media outlet that just pushes the company and its products. The quickest way to alienate a reader is to write about things that don’t interest them … things like how great your company is, how great your products are, your corporate picnic or your strategic initiative for the year. People are not interested in being exposed to more 20th century advertising tactics. What they are interested in are participating within a community that holds their same values. If your blog or social media outlet is not connecting emotionally with your customer base then it’s failing.

This doesn’t mean that your blog is just charity work. Going back to Annie’s Homegrown Blog, pay attention to the content and it’s easy to see how the writer(s) has masterfully leveraged connecting the product to the emotional sensitivities of their target audience. I would venture to say that in 8 of 10 cases, the typical Annie’s shopper relates to this content and most likely visits the site on a regular basis and buy their products.

How long do you want to be in business?

August 14th, 2012

How many business leaders plan on sacrificing so much of their life for a business that sticks around for a decade or two? Assuming the answer to this rhetorical question to be “few if any,” then another question is begged: Why is the shelf life of most companies so short?

The best place to look is on the opposite end of the spectrum, to those companies who have created a legacy. I’ve been fascinated by this topic especially since recently becoming an adoring fan of Fiskars, a company founded in 1649 and on the cutting edge today of customer evangelism marketing utilizing social media.

Weihenstephan Brewery

Founded 1040

So maybe a better question to ask is, “Why  are old companies are still around?” Starting with the extreme relics like Kongo Gumi, (the Japanese construction company who was in continual operation from the year 578 until January of 2006) there is a treasure of insight available that we can directly apply to the business environment today. I’m no business history expert, but I am smart enough to deduce that most of these companies are going to be found very strong in two important suits: 1)Exploiting environmental change, and 2)Exemplifying the marketing concept.  Inversely we can deduce that most companies, the ones with short shelf lives, are probably vulnerable to environmental change and don’t adequately embrace the marketing concept.

Here’s what makes this topic so provocative todayas you may be aware we’ve just stepped into a period of radical revolution that will be destroying the status quo of how business interacts with society through social media and  mobile devices.

So what’s the average business to do? Fight the trend?  Stick to the old ways that have worked (or at least kept one’s head above water) and hope it all goes away? It all depends on how you answered the question of “How long do you want to be in business?”  My brash prediction is that companies, large and small, who do not undergo an extreme
makeover and embrace the paradigm shifts of customer facing social media and mobile marketing platforms will cease to exist, sooner or later within the 21st century. For context to my position please see our perfect storm analogy.

As we continue to progress this new era, it’s a prudent tactic to take some time and study those organizations that have weathered and prospered from these storms of change time and time againa truly fascinating  and timely study.  Here’s a list of the world’s oldest companies for those interested.

Don’t write like an advertising writer

November 13th, 2009

I’m currently reading a book from 1938 entitled, “If You Want to Write” by Brenda Ueland. I was struck by how applicable her observation of business communication still is 70 years later; she writes:

Don’t write like an advertising writer . . . if you feel a thing the more simply you say it the better

Don’t write like an advertising writer…advertising companies hire the very brightest, wittiest young people to write for them. Not one single sentence of it is worth repeating. Why? Because it wasn’t meant. It was all written, not because the writer felt something and then said it (if you feel a thing the more simply you say it the better, the more effective), but because he tried to impress and inveigle people, convince them something is very fine about which he himself does not really care… (p 115)

I sense the anxiety many clients have when they put together the content for their Websites . . . they put themselves under some unrealistic expectation that their writing needs to sound “businesslike.” The problem with business sounding content is that it sounds way too much like a billion other Websites, brochures and magazine ads and is tuned out by the reader.

More than any other medium, the modern interactive Webpage is fertile ground for communication that is authentic. Most business owners and executives are typically much better qualified to provide this type of writing than anyone else . . . the most important to effective content writing is authenticity and passion.

Great Customers Buy From Those They Know and Trust

December 12th, 2008

Do you want to grow your business without relying on expensive advertising? Would you like to utilize an easy strategy to turn your best customers into your best salespeople? Are you tired of attracting poorly qualified prospects that waste your valuable time?

OK, enough of these silly rhetorical questions….any business manager who just read these questions has just gone through a brief period of euphoric fantasy followed by a sick feeling in their gut…knowing that it’s just too good to be true. I’m here to tell you though that they can be true and furthermore they can build businesses of much higher value.

Here’s some reality therapy about Advertising:

  • People don’t believe advertising.
  • Advertising is exceptionally expensive (you knew this already)
  • The customers your advertising brings are often not high-value life time clients. Do you really want your business built on customers who were attracted by a gimmick or low price? Unless you can build loyalty fast they will leave the first time they see a better gimmick or lower price.

We’re all bombarded by thousands of advertising messages each day. How many do you remember from yesterday? A more important question: Of those you remember for how many will you become a customer? For example take Geico insurance, sure their hackneyed ads are embedded in our brains, but how many of us actually buy from them? Not many. About 7 out of every 100 auto insurance buyers. Don’t get me wrong, Geico has a solid business model but is it plausible for your business?  Can you afford to spend $500+ million a year to generate demand through advertising?

In my 15+ year sales career I’ve learned that one principle is by far the powerful: people buy from those they know and trust. Like many of the most profound concepts in life, this truth is simple and intuitive yet ignored by a vast majority of sales and marketing “experts”.

I was told once at a sales training seminar, “If you can’t be a good actor then you can’t be a good salesperson.” No wonder sales people have such a bad reputation! Do I really want to be sold something from someone who is acting (i.e. lying)…why should I expect that my customers want to get an acting job when they read my marketing collateral or meet my salespeople?

Traditional advertising and sales are almost always based on acting. It’s so established that advertiser embellish the truth on a regular basis that we’ve invented the special legal word“puffing”. It doesn’t sound as bad as “lying” but means the same thing. Take a look around at the advertising or packages closest to you this moment and notice how we’ve become desensitized to the “puffing” of advertising…do you really believe that spaghetti on the shelf is “America’s Favorite Pasta“? No you don’t. That’s why you will typically buy it on price or otherwise only when you have credible insight into it having superior quality.

So it’s really no wonder that most people instinctively don’t believe either salespeople or advertising. Valuable life-time clients buy from the exact opposite of the angle presented in most advertising and sales…they buy from sources that they know and trust.

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