Biweekly Bulletin: 5 Compelling Things You Should Know

Every other week, we share 5 timely and valuable articles from our favorite sources that will inspire and educate readers like you.

Here’s what we’re reading this week:

  1. Some businesses’ failures are likely attributable to the fact that many company leaders, including executives, have what’s called “marketing myopia,” a nearsighted focus on selling products and services, rather than seeing the big picture of what consumers really want.
  2. Companies that successfully combine deep customer data sets with new product experiences will be the ones that matter in the future. If someone else understands your customers better than you do, you should be worried.
  3. Millennials are the generation driving the future. Contently maps out 6 different archetypes of millennials, as no two people born within the generation are the same; therefore, they should not be marketed to in an identical fashion.
  4. The major key to meeting (better yet, exceeding) customer expectations is focusing on personalization, treating customers as individuals, and empowering them with the right information at the right place and time.
  5. How does an agency build unyielding loyalty among its hard-working, creative, busy employees? Open communication and transparency are the foundation of creating a culture of confidence and advocacy.

Don’t forget to sign up for our e-newsletter for the latest in industry news, tips and inspiration. To start receiving updates from Laughlin Constable, subscribe here.

Creating Disruption in a Category of Giants

ACUITY_Gen_CPhoto-01
It’s a modern-day David and Goliath story that many brands and marketers can relate to: trying to compete in a landscape of larger-than-life brands with larger-than-life advertising budgets. Few brand categories represent this challenging landscape better than insurance, ranked as the sixth top advertising category by spend. In 2015, the top 10 insurance advertisers in the United States spent between $139 million and $1.1 billion on advertising.

In such a competitive marketplace, how do you create awareness and drive online conversions for an established, yet virtually unknown brand? This was the challenge faced by Acuity Insurance.

Acuity
The best kept secret in insurance.
In business since 1925 and named the #2 best company to work for in America, Acuity provides property and casualty insurance products to consumers and businesses in 25 states (and growing).

The company had never run a consumer-facing brand campaign before, as its insurance products are exclusively sold via an independent agent model. With paradigm shifts in the insurance industry and the ways consumers shop for insurance, Acuity needed to begin to drive online engagement and enable a seamless online purchase experience in order to secure its future.

Here are four general principles we followed to develop a campaign for Acuity which can apply for any brand going up against the Goliaths of its industry.

  1. Identify and understand your specific target audience.
    The Acuity customer makes informed, confident choices in all aspects of life, and places high value on receiving the best insurance coverage along with high-touch service. However, many people have been conditioned by the insurance industry to seek only the lowest price when shopping for insurance, sacrificing the human element of quality service.
  1. Find the compelling creative idea that will resonate with your target audience.
    The difference with Acuity Insurance is its people: they are dedicated to providing customer peace of mind. We rallied around this insight as we developed a campaign illustrating the relief of quality coverage while staying true to the company’s fun-loving culture. This would create awareness while building trust and confidence.

The campaign message is that Acuity allows its customers to free their mind of their insurance worries in order to focus on what they love most in life. It’s a transformative brand statement that captures Acuity’s unique approach to insurance and its relationship with its customers.

  1. Develop unique creative executions that can’t be ignored.
    In the overcrowded insurance landscape, the campaign had to be different to stand out. The message is brought to life through whimsical and eye-catching graphics that illustrate what life can be like when you don’t have to worry about whether you’re covered or not.

Acuity-display-ad-auto

  1. Master the delivery.
    The campaign also needed to be hyper-targeted to Acuity’s best prospects in order to maximize impact and minimize waste. The campaign launched in June 2016 and is being delivered through highly targeted channels. It is carried through on landing pages that allow prospective customers to learn more about the brand and begin an online quote.

So, to create disruption and stand out in a category of fierce competition, a brand must know its target audience, find the idea that will resonate with them, develop creative executions they can’t ignore and then deliver them to the audience via the right channels at the right times.

lc_sept_blog_post_acuity_mockup3

Online Radio: Home


Acuity-social-motorcycle
Acuity-social-renters (1)
Want to learn more about how to take your digital marketing from now to next? Reach out to Mat Lignel at 844.LC.IDEAS and let’s chat.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, for the latest in industry news, tips and inspiration. To start receiving updates from Laughlin Constable, subscribe here.

Biweekly Bulletin: 5 Compelling Things You Should Know

Every other week, we share 5 timely and valuable articles from our favorite sources that will inspire and educate marketers like you.

Here’s what we’re reading this week:

  1. Video may be a visual medium and it continues to grow in engagement and interest on social media. But surprisingly, the most recent growth in its popularity and usage is also great news for writers.
  2. With mid-year reviews on the horizon, here are 8 signs of a truly exceptional employee that you won’t see on a performance evaluation.
  3. There appears to be a science behind when your brand should post on social media. Buffer, a social media tool, analyzed over 4.8 million tweets across 10,000 profiles and found the best times to post on social.
  4. Unlike other social experts, Gary Vaynerchuk thinks the Snapchat “Memories” feature is a smart move. The platform started as a niche social channel and has since grown into a complete distribution channel with zero signs of slowing down anytime soon.
  5. 6 in 10 YouTube subscribers would follow advice on what to buy from their favorite creator over their favorite TV or movie personality. So before you decide on a brand ambassador, you should take these key YouTube statistics into account.

Want to learn more about how to take your digital marketing from now to next? Reach out to Mat Lignel at 844.LC.IDEAS and let’s chat.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, for the latest in industry news, tips and inspiration. To start receiving updates from Laughlin Constable, subscribe here.

Link Building 101: How To Find Unlinked Brand Mentions For Free

Get Started Building Quality Links and Help Increase Organic Visibility

While there are literally hundreds of elements that go into determining a website’s ranking in search results, domain and page-level link signals still top the list as perhaps two of the most influential factors in determining a website’s position in search. Having a solid, white hat link building plan should be an essential part of any search engine optimization (SEO) or content marketing strategy – and one of the most straightforward places to begin link building is with unlinked mentions.


Unlinked Mentions 101

An unlinked mention is exactly what it sounds like: It’s an instance of someone mentioning your brand without providing a link back to your website. Finding these sounds easy right? Just type your brand’s name into your browser’s search bar, check to see if any mentions are missing links, and then email the author to ask them to link back.

It really is that simple. That is, until you consider that a single query can return literally millions of results.

Unlinked Mention Search Results

So how do you comb through all these results more efficiently? There are some paid tools out there you can use, but when budget won’t allow, here’s how to quickly find unlinked mentions of your brand (and build valuable links) for FREE.

How To Find Unlinked Mentions 


What You’ll Need:

  1. Some sort of SERP (search engine results page) scraper, such as MozBar
  2. Unlinked Mention Finder Tool (see link later in this article)
  3. Coffee (optional)


Step 1: Search for Brand Mentions

The first step is to find mentions of your brand. Use advanced search commands or operators to fine tune your results. An example of this would be to avoid searching your own brand’s site or other sites that could potentially dilute your results. See the example below:

Advanced Search Operators

Pro Tips:

  • Avoid searching affiliate sites, press releases and be picky with which social media sites you include in your query – you’ll thank yourself later for doing this.
  • Get creative! Try searching for high-profile employee names associated with your brand. (e.g., “employee name” “brand name” –site:yourwebsite.com)
  • Include promotions, announcements, specials and different content types in your query string to help broaden results. (e.g., “infographic” “title of infographic” –site:yourwebsite.com) 


Step 2: Scrape The SERP

Once you have your search results, you’ll need an efficient way to gather all of the URLs that mention your brand to check to see if they provided a link. It may seem obvious, but you’ll need to use a SERP scraper tool for this. There are some downloadable applications you can use, but depending on which browser you use, there are also several different, highly effective plugins to choose from. MozBar is free, compatible with Firefox and Chrome browsers, easy to use and has great functionality outside of just being a SERP scraper.

Use the scraper to download the list of the search engine’s URLs that mention your brand to an Excel file. At this point, you should have a list of URLs that mention your brand’s name that’s about a mile long.

Pro Tip:

  • Turning off your browser’s instant search feature and setting the results page to return 100 results at a time will allow you to export in bulk and save time.


Step 3: Check for Unlinked Mentions

Head over to RankTank‘s website and download a copy of its Unlinked Mention Finder tool. The tool is completely free, comes with instructions on how to use it, and takes a lot of the heavy lifting out of the discovery process.

Simply copy and paste the list of brand mention URLs from your query into the tool (as well as the original search query string itself) and let the tool work its magic. Here’s what your results will look like:

Rank Tank Unlinked Mention Finder Tool

This tool will automatically check to see if there are any mentions of your brand that do not link back to the brand website you specified. Once you have your list of unlinked mentions, you can begin outreach to these sites to try and get a link built.

Pro Tips:

  • While this tool helps automate the process, vetting the list is highly recommended to ensure accuracy.
  • Be mindful of how you set up the tool. RankTank’s tool is very particular about data entry. Any issues with the query string or referenced site, no matter how small, will return inaccurate results.


Step 4: Outreach or Make a Connection

By now, you’re probably sitting on a whole heap of unlinked mentions. All you have to do is craft an engaging pitch, reach out to each opportunity, and convince them to add a link back to your site. This can be difficult for several reasons. One of the largest being that you’re not always sure to whom you should be reaching out to (and if this person is actually capable of implementing the changes to the site). Another being that sometimes direct contact information isn’t always readily provided or available.

Here are some tips to help get your message into the right hands:

  • To increase your chances of a response, avoid sending requests into general inboxes whenever possible.
  • Leverage tools, such as Email Hunter, to get direct contact information.
  • If all else fails, most companies have a standardized email format (e.g., lastname@company.com) that can be used. Press releases or leadership pages can provide you with that format. Once you have it, searching LinkedIn for relevant names and applying the standardized formatting can help get you an email address even if it is not directly listed on the site.

Even after getting your request into the proper inbox, at a certain point, the link building process can be out of your hands. Having a personalized and relevant pitch can definitely increase your chances of success, though. There are several things to keep in mind when crafting your pitch:

  • Make your message personal. Don’t use canned or template responses. Nothing makes users hit the ‘delete’ button faster than an obviously templated email.
  • Offer some value to the person to whom you are reaching out (after all, you are asking them to do extra work). Offer to share the link via your social channels – or recommend a quick SEO fix for their site. Giving them some incentive to add the link greatly increases your chance of success.
  • Try not to use the word ‘link’ in your message. For some, it can be seen as having a spammy connotation. Use words such as “mention,” “reference” or “adding our web address” instead.

Finally, don’t be afraid to follow up and check to see if any changes have been implemented. Sometimes webmasters will implement a change but not send a response back. So, before you follow up with another email, check to see if a link has been added.

 Pro Tips:

  • When finding unlinked mentions for a client, ask them for a list of any websites they already have a relationship with. Doing so can help you avoid drama and save time.
  • Be picky. Avoid reaching out to publishers with negative brand mentions or spammy websites or content.
  • Start with and give priority to authoritative sources to take advantage of their domain authority.

And that’s how you can find unlinked mentions of your brand for absolutely free!

With organic search driving an average of over 50 percent of traffic to most B2B and B2C websites and over 90 percent of customers performing research online before making a purchasing decision, having a solid SEO strategy in place is more critical than ever.

Want to learn more about how to take your digital marketing from now to next? Reach out to Mat Lignel at 844.LC.IDEAS and let’s chat.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, for the latest in industry news, tips and inspiration. To start receiving updates from Laughlin Constable, subscribe here.

5 Ways to Maximize Your Media Budget at Any Level

The marketing world seems to be getting more challenging and competitive by the day. And the complexity of the business and media landscape has made budgets at every level feel pressurized and stretched thin. Because of this, every marketer knows they must make every marketing dollar count – whether the budget is in the thousands or the millions, the main goal is to deliver disproportionate return on your investment. Here are some key approaches and tips we employ to do just that.

1. Don’t just target. Pinpoint.

Every marketer wants to reach –  and persuade – the largest group of consumers they can. But casting a wide net can be the wrong approach. First, it generates a superficial and homogenized view of your consumer (“Age 18+,” anyone?). Second, it’s hard to do an effective job of reaching such broad swaths of consumers. Instead, we recommend identifying more richly defined target groups inside that comprehensive segment.

One way to do this is to identify traits that span beyond demographics such as age and gender. Hone in on a target audience with a specific frame of mind or interest. This demographic is easier to reach, more interesting to create content for, and far more likely to convert. Even better is if you can really “own” this target vs. who your competition is targeting. For example, for a food brand that mainly targets men, instead of simply targeting the broad “bros” that our competitors focused on, we identified our consumer as craft-beer enthusiasts. This elevated the media plan above generic, resulting in a more precise match between content and context and a number of extremely effective brand integrations we might otherwise never have found.

2. Set the right goal posts.

Almost all marketers and media companies measure their media performance in some way. However, it is key to not just use basic or customary measures. Understand how success looks for you and use the most relevant and specific metrics to track it. Key performance indicators (KPIs) should not be a laundry list, but instead clearly linked to brand objectives. At LC, we use the Consumer Decision Journey (CDJ) model to set KPIs at each phase that correlate to that phase’s main objectives. This ensures that all media performance is measured against its ability to convert the target into loyal, profitable customers.

3. Maximize your owned channels.

Far too often, media companies only consider the brand’s paid audiences. But most should consider their owned channels first. What are some ways to do this? Leverage your website by making sure it’s easy to navigate and clearly defines who you are, what you do, has quality content and is optimized for search. Consider and plan how to use your social platforms to maximize your efforts. Look for ways to leverage your loyal customers to share the message to their friends and family. Consider an email marketing program against your customer relationship management (CRM) system or other database list. In conjunction with paid media, owned channels can turbocharge your efforts.

4. Invest in paid search.

Think paid search is only for e-commerce brands? Think again. Paid search is an opportune way to ensure current campaigns are working to their fullest and are properly optimized. Paid search reaches people at the precise time of interest and need when they are actively searching for your brand, service or category. This means you can be there with the right message at the right time. And if you aren’t, your competitors are sure to be instead.

5. Don’t get too thin. Or too thick.

In today’s fragmented and complex media ecosystem, it can be tantalizing to want to try many different tactics and media types. When planning your media strategy, make sure you are expanding out into new vehicles and platforms judiciously. Concentrate on channels that allow you to be targeted while reaching prospects at an impactful frequency. Don’t rely on just one channel to achieve your objectives — the media landscape is not consumed like this. As far as adding new media and tactics, try testing and experimenting to see what’s working before rolling out and committing bigger dollars. Finally, make sure your message is consistent across all your channels and that all channels align with how your target is engaging with various media on a daily basis.

At the end of the day, media is not just about “spots and dots.” Without the right strategy in place, much of your budget can be under-leveraged to misunderstandings about your target, what channels are best for your audience or how to measure your efforts. This is why it’s important to work with a team that takes the time to understand your brand, your consumer, the media context, and the interaction of those three. Only in this way can you make sure you’re getting the best bang for your marketing buck.

Want to learn more about how to take your digital marketing from now to next? Reach out to Mat Lignel at 844.LC.IDEAS and let’s chat.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, for the latest in industry news, tips and inspiration. To start receiving updates from Laughlin Constable, subscribe here.

What To Bet On

Two years ago, Grantland.com – a site that covers sports and pop culture – was launched. At the time, the site received a good bit of coverage – especially for a website launch. One article from The Atlantic’s title said it all – “Bill Simmons’s Grantland Is Doomed Even Before Launch.” Last week, Grantland celebrated its two year anniversary.

I’m not surprised. Its early detractors believed it would fail for many of the reasons I thought it would succeed – the identifiable personality of the site’s founder and the high-price of the site’s talent, to name just two.

Sure, hindsight is 20/20. It’s easy to pick the winner two years later. But Grantland’s success stems from two core strengths that were evident from the outset:

Fans who care

Bill Simmons – the site’s founder – was probably the most widely read sportswriter in the America. The site’s consulting editors – Malcolm Gladwell, Dave Eggers and Chuck Klosterman – all had rabid, rabid fans. As content begins to look and feel more and more similar and as eyeballs are splintering in more and more directions, why wouldn’t you bet on a core of writers who already have loyal readers?

And why are these readers loyal?

Quality content

That’s the most important thing. Always has been. Always will be. Grantland tells stories. They write in long-form. They experiment with formats. They do things differently. They are focused on not just having a point, but having a point-of-view. And while they don’t take themselves too seriously, there is clearly a pride in craftsmanship. You get the feeling that the product they put out is not just one they stand behind, it’s one they’d read themselves.

We have many choices for where to invest our time, our money, our resources. “Stories well told” and “content people look forward to” are opportunities I would bet on. Every single time.

Interested in more stuff I find interesting? Follow me @casey_flanagan on Twitter.

Is The Future Of Television Walking Dead?

House Of Cards is the new entry from Netflix into the world of original programming. And there has been a good deal of talk lately about how it may just be the future of television. What Netflix is doing is certainly interesting. And, at least in my opinion, good TV.

But what AMC is doing with The Walking Dead is just as interesting. And much less heralded. There are many lessons for marketers to learn from how the show is creating content. Yes they have an app. Yes they have a social game. But it’s what they are doing with their broadcast content that is truly innovative. Three lessons I took in-between watching zombies get their heads smashed in:

  1. Create for the medium. One of the most interesting – and simple – tactics employed by the show is an image that is shown for three-or-so seconds during a commercial break. It is a screen full of copy, usually with an actor’s take on a character. It’s something fans would be interested in seeing. But here’s the thing: it can’t possibly be read in three-or-so seconds. AMC is thinking about its viewer and the pause button on their remote control. Why eat up more time than necessary for something that doesn’t actually need it? Interested in reading? Just pause it. Because that’s how we’re used to watching TV.
  2. Repurpose content in a smart way. Many fans of the show are fans of the original comic books. Others may be fans of the old horror movie genre. And starting this Thursday, AMC is airing the first season of Walking Dead in black and white for both. Starting over from the beginning. Same show. Same episodes. Something new. Great for new fans looking to get into the show. And super-fans looking to consume every last homage morsel.
  3. Let fans take the next step. After every episode of Walking Dead is a live talk show – Talking Dead. Polls are gathered. Hashtags are shared. Questions are taken from fans who just watched the show. Actors are invited to share their take. And fans get to not only extend, but participate in a real-time experience. Bottom line: a community is created. One that viewers see value in participating in. And according to reports citing the success of the format, AMC is considering extending this concept to other shows.

Interested in more stuff I find interesting? Follow me @casey_flanagan on Twitter.

Why We Read What We Read

You’ve heard the term Always On. Our culture has essentially become Always On Demand.

As consumers, we have adopted our On Demand approach in part because we need to – we’re exposed to the equivalent of 34 GB of information a day. And in part because we can – if you like music, Spotify is rather mind-blowing.

And while our changing world must change the approach of marketers, the basic tenants stay the same. As Howard Luck Gossage said – decades ago,  “People don’t read ads, they read what interests them. And sometimes, that happens to be an ad.”

While he was likely referring to a media like print, his words are more relevant today. Howard Luck Gossage, 1960’s social media “rock star.”

With available attention at an all time low, the stakes have been raised. With content as king and social so personal, the bar must be raised. To be kept around, we’ll need to work even harder to earn our likes, our follows, our favorites and – most importantly – our engagement.

Step one? Be readable.

Interested in more stuff I find interesting? Follow me @casey_flanagan on Twitter.

Finding The Extraordinary In The Ordinary.

I had the opportunity this week to attend Iconosphere, Iconoculture’s annual conference. Susan Orlean, a writer for The New Yorker and author of The Orchid Thief, opened the conference with a keynote titled “Finding The Extraordinary In The Ordinary.” Her advice was timely for both researchers and storytellers. And for those of us who consider ourselves both researchers and storytellers, it was timeless.

Ordinary life, examined closely, reveals itself to be exquisite, complicated and exceptional. Somehow managing to be both heroic and plain.

Because there is little built in curiosity, writing about the ordinary puts the onus on the reporter. But readers will like it because it is new, but familiar. They knew it, but never really knew it. That’s a powerful equation.

According to Orlean, the most read stories in The New Yorker are “about the ordinary.” This flies in the face of celebrity culture. But the reader response is compelling: the authentic stories are the ones worth telling. As long as you remember that success depends on truly finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. Otherwise it’s just ordinary.

Or, said another way: Ordinary when authentic is credible. Extraordinary when authentic is compelling.

Interested in more stuff I find interesting? Follow me @casey_flanagan on Twitter.

Something Really Engaging

Whatever Professor Farnsworth is watching isn't all that engaging.

Whatever Professor Farnsworth is watching can't be all that engaging.

I hear this one a lot: “Let’s put some more engaging content on this page, like a video.”

Why do people seem to equate “engaging content” with “video”? Just because it’s a video doesn’t mean it’s engaging (if you ever fell asleep in history class, you know what I’m saying). And likewise, content can be engaging without being a video.

What is engaging content, anyway? First of all, engaging content is relevant – meaning it’s audience-specific. Shoving one-size-fits-all content at your visitors isn’t going to get you anywhere. Engaging content is new or unique – or both. It’s unlike anything your visitors have seen before. And it tells a story – that’s important. Hopefully it’s also informational, educational or entertaining.

Sure, it’s easy to check off all those boxes by making a sweet video. But video isn’t always going to be the best channel for your audience or information. And besides, content should always be available through multiple means; if you make some information only available in a video – especially a long one – it may never be discovered by a chunk of your visitors.

Luckily, video isn’t the only route to engaging content. Images, infographics, audio and interactive elements can all be used. And, of course… good old text! Sure, you can bet that less than half the words on your page are going to be read, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing; users scan chunks of text for the specific parts that interest them. Some marketers have concluded that text is not engaging, period – but that doesn’t have to be the case. We just have to remember to allow our text to be engaging.

Here are a few ways to help your text be more engaging:

  • Increase your line-height and let the text breathe
  • Explore new type treatments
  • Use pull quotes to highlight key phrases
  • Use lists
  • Break your text into short sentences and paragraphs
  • Make sure each paragraph has a clear topic sentence

The rule of content is simple: Video rules, but not always. People long for meaningful content, so don’t be afraid to write it if you can’t show it.