It’s Called Inbound Marketing

It’s Called Inbound Marketing

When an organization engages people enough to have them seek out information about their products and services, it’s called Inbound Marketing.  The process of pulling prospects and customers toward a business is becoming widely accepted because it is the way that consumers prefer to make their buying decisions — via the Internet which is now the first responder to consumer questions about how to solve their needs and wants.

Inbound Marketing differs from traditional Outbound Marketing methods such as advertising, direct mail, telemarketing, etc. that seeks customers via intrusive, unsolicited messages.  Since consumers are able to omit these intrusions from their lives and use technology to filter the messages they want to receive, the prospect’s real value as a lead is greatly improved.  Inbound Marketing also “sweetens the pot” by offering consumers useful tools and resources that attracts them to the organization’s website and creates a relationship with them.

Inbound Marketing primarily uses social media to drive consumers to their website and to communicate with them creating a relationship.  Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are popular and effective social media methods; although, their effectiveness is influenced by the market a business intends to reach. The leads created from social media and a company’s website are considered to be more valuable than any outbound channel because the prospect has sought out the information about the services or products that they have identified as a need in their life.

With a track record for valuable sales leads and today’s economy, businesses welcome the 60% savings on their cost per lead — from an average of $332 per lead for Outbound Marketing to $134 for Inbound Marketing leads, according to a HubSpot report, “The 2010 State of Inbound Marketing.”  Budget allocations to Inbound Marketing have risen 67% and have been shifted from the traditional Outbound Marketing line items.

The HubSport Report further identified social media and blogs as the fastest growing category in lead generation budgets and they continue to be ranked as the lowest cost lead-generation channel.  Businesses who use these tools cite specific sales results, proving that Inbound  Marketing isn’t just for branding anymore!

How to Construct a Social Media Plan

How to Construct a Social Media Plan

It’s true: those who fail to plan, plan to fail. While social media is often perceived to be random, rudderless and routine (and sometimes is), a well-structured Social Media Strategy can make a significant difference in your communications with prospects and clients.

Your plan must start with a good, interactive website, rich with ways to help people improve whatever they might want to improve. Your website should have an active blog with new posts at least once a week. These two pieces are the hub of your marketing effort and the cornerstone to your Strategic Social Media Plan.
Your website/blog should sport:

• Value to others in many forms: physical, mental, emotional or financial.
• Innovation and Humor.
• Consistency. Make your posts as frequent as possible — at least weekly.
• Media of all sorts from articles, to photos and videos should be easily accessible from your website.
• Your brand on every page: logo, colors, phone numbers, etc.
• A call to action. Free stuff is very, very good!

 

2) Your Plan should identify what social media vehicles, groups and blogs to join. Be selective and strategic about what groups you choose. Then, keep up with them. Participate. Add value to the conversation. Make “offers” to them that will improve something they are interested in. Send them to good links (not just your own).
3) Leverage the communities you are in to publish your informative, helpful and humorous information. It CANNOT be self-promotional.
4) Choose the right networks. YouTube is the best place to host your videos but Facebook is a great way to have a conversation.
5) Build your relationships by being available, trustworthy and helpful in all your interactions. Do NOT sell!
6) Listen to the conversations. If you hear or see something worth sharing, pass it along with a link so the credit goes where it is due.

7) Integrate your traditional marketing into your social media marketing. Cross promote your website and blog with brochures, events, advertising and give-aways.
8) Measure your results. How many new “friends” have you made? How many more subscribers do you have to your newsletter? How times have your comments or content been shared with others?
9) Sign up for free company listings with search engines.
10) Re-evaluate and re-tool when necessary; but remember, it takes a long time to build relationships so give it a year or more to determine if you are being effective with your Strategic Social Media Plan.

Inbound or Outbound Marketing?

Inbound or Outbound Marketing?

Do you want your prospects to look forward to seeing your offers, information and counsel?  You can accomplish that with an Inbound or  “pull” marketing strategy which means your prospects and customers seek information you have to offer based on their needs and interests.  This is contrary to the Outbound or “push” marketing strategy that focuses on your features and repetitive intrusions.

In fact, approximately 40% of marketing budgets will be spent on content marketing in 2011 which exemplifies the Inbound strategy.  Content marketing is characterized by its ability to inform customers and prospects about key industry issues.  This may or may not involve the products or services of the company or organization publishing the content.  This soft sell approach has a far greater market appeal than blasting the features of a company to its customers and prospects without regard for the benefit it brings to the recipient.  Instead of finding ways to block an advertiser’s message, the customers or prospects actually “pull” in the information being delivered.

Content marketing is most commonly provided in print and online newsletters, online magazines, blogs, articles white papers, webcasts, webinars, videos and podcasts.  This style of content is often available via email marketing, events and other forums.

There is one rule with content marketing:  it must be relevant and valuable to create your customer’s and prospects’ desire to learn about you and your products or services.  Think:  what’s in it for them?

Here’s why it’s important to transition to Inbound/content marketing… According to the Customer Publishing Council and Roper Public Affairs:

  • 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information is a series of articles versus an advertisement
  • 70% say content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company
  • 60% say that company content helps them make better product decisions

Inbound content marketing is not a campaign:  it’s a commitment.  It takes 12 to 18 months to see the results of your efforts.  An article published in Communication Strategy by John Buscall, entitled: “How Long Does It Take to Work?” stated that “After three months you might see a glimmer of results, after 9 months, your approach will start to be discovered by more people and at 12 months you’ll know that it’s working [and what adjustments need to be made to improve results].  And that’s if you commit to a plan, regularly create excellent online content for your marketing initiatives and track your metrics to know how you are doing.”

Providence Life Services Realizes Social Media Success

Providence Life Services Realizes Social Media Success

When you have a 90% score on your website that Hubspot grades against all websites in every industry…  over 7,000 people visit your site monthly… and, you use technology resources to distribute your messages to over 100,000 active emails accounts, you are leading the pack in online communications best practices.  Such is the case with Providence Life Services (PLS), a not-for-profit Christian ministry serving seniors and headquartered in south suburban Chicago.

A four person staff designs, writes and manages the marketing for seven communities, four home and community based service groups, four rehabilitation centers as well as the parent organization, PLS.  Along with PLS’  website functionality that is content rich and frequently updated,  the marketing team manages the Facebook pages for the corporation along with their independent and assisted living communities.

“Originally our participation on Facebook was driven by a desire to provide a ministry for the families of residents.  The snippets of daily life caught in photos, stories, videos, etc., are a wonderful way for the families to see what the lives of their loved ones are like,” commented Director of Communications, Melanie Jongsma.  Mary James, Vice President of Communications and Marketing added that it has become a great marketing tool, too!

“Introducing social media into the Providence Life Services marketing and communications strategy is a result of three years spent rebranding our organization which included a name change from Rest Haven to Providence Life Services,”  according to James.  “Credit must be given to our CEO, Rick Scott, for his vision to embrace social media and technology as a significant component of our communications strategy.”

Peggy Hiemer designs and manages the website, Facebook accounts for PLS and its communities along with e-newsletters to various constituent groups.  Ms. Jongsma and Ms. Hiemer led a training class for community marketing directors to teach them how Facebook works.  Their community Facebook pages launched three months ago. “The success of the Facebook pages are directly related to the interest and dedication of the onsite point person.  The more buy-in there is at the local level the more successful  Facebook is as a communication tool for the residents.”

Mary James added, “We consider it critically important for the staff to participate in the online discussion since each community is a ‘family’ of staff and residents.”  PLS never screens the comments that are made on the site or Facebook, however, they  are monitored closely.  “When a not-so- complimentary comment comes into the conversations, we are quick to find something to offset it,” says James.

Traditional marketing methods are still used by PLS since the target market responds to direct mail and events.  However, whenever we feel we can transfer a message via the internet, we will,” exclaimed James.

Online Fundraising The Good, the Bad and the Basics

Online Fundraising The Good, the Bad and the Basics

Haiti after the earthquake. Photo by News Hawker.

The recent disaster in Haiti caused an out-pouring of philanthropy.  According to Philanthropy.com, American groups have raised more than $644-million—marking the first big fund-raising test for collecting charitable gifts via text messaging. More than $37 million so far has been contributed, usually in increments of $5 or $10, using a cellphone.

Does this mark the beginning of fundraising via technology?  We heard from the experts… (Click here to read more)
According to a discussion with Scott Henderson (RallytheCause.com) and hosted by philanthropy.com, social media is a good source of fundraising for a timely project.  It allows donors to see that the organization is providing good stewardship of their contributions and that the donors themselves are appreciated.  Henderson cautions though that social media is a long-term strategy amidst the tried and true personal contact with donors.

There are many instances of fundraising successes in the digital world such as Obama’s campaign, Lance Armstrong, the Humane Society and “Twestival” a campaign to raise money to drill water wells in Africa.  But the actual results of lining the coffers with online donations is yet to show overall success and commonly results in 2 to 3% of the annual giving.  Still, online fundraising has yet to hit its maturity.

How can your organization use online donation and social media?

1)  First, make certain that your website can take donations on a one-time or planned giving basis.  If you don’t accept credit cards, consider other service providers who will likely accept the donations for you at a rate of 5 to 7% and send a check to you when your collected funds meet $25.
2)  Use many photos on your site and Facebook to show that people are benefitting by the donations being made.  Use this venue to thank the donors as well.
3)  Make certain the message for your appeal is timely and has a strategy that combines your website, donor pages, Facebook and Twitter messages.
4)  It’s important to get as many people involved in the campaign as possible:  management, employees, volunteers, board members and special donors.  Ask them to create challenge donations with their “friends.”  Involve your vendors as well.
5)  Remember you cannot control the message.  Word is being spread by your supporters.  While this is unsettling to some organizations, the only way to grow is to let go.  Allowing the message to come from the community’s voice of supporters is by far stronger and ultimately more effective.
6) Use video when you are able.  Or direct people to someone else’s video that is your story, too.  Consider how this video could help raise funds for your art therapy program (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RW-a3SLnj_w)
Small not-for-profits may want to check out the services of Grassroots.org.  This organization donates free technology related to web development to other not-for-profits.  The services are donated by 2,000 volunteers and 10 companies.

Currently, Grassroots has 1,900 not-for-profit clients who are using programs from their menu of 13 services that are valued at the for-profit price of $26,000.

Like all digital communications, the techniques for success fundraising are evolving.  Now is the time to consider if your organization can benefit by exploring the options.

It’s addicting!  The fast-paced, ever changing world of public relations and marketing captures your interest and keeps you charged up to learn more everyday.  I love to find the best ways to tell our client’s stories and man, they have awesome stories!

It’s my job to discover our client’s goals and then match the best processes to achieve them, within their budgets, of course.  I get to explore traditional, digital and every manner of communication to determine which tactics, whether it is direct mail or TV advertising, a new website or PPC (to name just a few) will efficiently and effectively capture the attention of prospects. 

I also get to work with great people at IVY – they’re creative, fun, caring and super smart.  We’ve all been around the industry a while so there is not a novice among us.  Our clients are very cool too and totally passionate about the services they offer.  We’ve been working with most of them for years so we know they truly care about being innovative and responsible to the markets they service.  I have great admiration for all of them and look forward to every day. 

It’s true what “they” say, if you love what you do, you won’t work a day of your life!

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IVY was established in 1990 with a basic premise to offer professional, ethical and highly creative marketing, advertising and public relations services. We have successfully maintained our core values and have been part of many amazing projects, client growth and changes in the world of marketing that continue to happen at lightening speed. Most of our clients serve older adults in some capacity so we keep abreast of the opportunities and challenges they face.   Each day, we keep it real and fun and consistently deliver positive results to our clients and their markets.

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As a hybrid graphic and digital designer/web developer with over 17 years of experience, I am always on the lookout for innovative digital and print visual communications. IVY Marketing Group’s broad range of projects keeps my job challenging and rewarding, as each campaign is a new and exciting opportunity to effectively communicate our clients’ messages and help them achieve their goals. It’s my passion!

My body of work encompasses a diverse design style and wide base of clients, ranging from national associations, small businesses and big name brands like Hyatt and LiftMaster. I firmly believe that form follows function and highly value the communicative power of simplicity. 

Areas of professional expertise include Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Word Press, Responsive Design, CSS3, and HTML5. The industries I’ve served include senior living, health care, hospitality and finance.

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All my life, I have loved writing. As a child, I could often be found in my room “writing a book.” While “novelist” is not (yet) on my resume, I am a storyteller. I believe that everyone and everything has a great story, and it is my joy to find that story and share it with the world.

After earning my bachelor’s degree in journalism and completing my master’s studies in the same field, I joined a small advertising agency with powerhouse clients in the hospitality industry, such as Hyatt, Hilton International and Carnival Cruise Lines. I began as a proofreader and achieved the position of senior copy writer within a year.

After my first son was born, followed by two more, I started a freelance writing business that included (among several others) such clients as Advocate Health Care and Coldwell-Banker Realty. Clients in the education arena included DeVry University’s Becker CPA and Stalla CFA Reviews, DePaul University, and Naperville School District 203, for which I won two state public relations awards.

For nine years, I was employed as Communications Director for a large faith community, where I managed all aspects of internal and external communications. I was writer, editor, designer, web master, and content manager.

As such, I am experienced and comfortable writing multimedia for a broad variety of industries, products and services.

I joined IVY Marketing Group in 2013, when I began writing client press releases on a freelance basis. I loved the work—and my teammates—so much, I was thrilled when I was invited to come on board in a greater capacity.

I have immensely enjoyed getting to know our valued clients in the senior housing industry, the people they serve, and telling the many wonderful stories that come out of content marketing done right—with the love and care our IVY teams puts into everything we do.

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It all starts with one idea. Working with the Ivy creative team for over two decades has always meant taking one great idea and bringing it to life to help our clients meet their goals. We enjoy the challenges offered with every creative opportunity and try to make the design process itself enjoyable for our clients.

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Making certain that the projects IVY produces are word- and picture-perfect is my specialty. But I also love implementing marketing campaigns and programs that bring our clients success. Details are my thing, so it is a pleasure to have worked with IVY twice now, first after college four years ago and, recently, for the past two years.

The IVY Group is a terrific team of creative, positive and talented professionals that I love working with and, judging from the length of stay of our clients, I think they love our team, too!

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Rock-climbing, training for an 80-floor stair climb event, running a 5K…This is just a tiny peek into what people 20 and even 30 years older than I am, are doing on a fairly regular basis at some of the retirement communities that IVY represents.

I’m of the generation that still has reoccurring nightmares about what the next step looked like when my grandmother could no longer live by herself. The very best option at that time was living at a “facility” and  included eating rubbery chicken and playing an occasional game of BINGO. Period. That’s why my parent’s generation begged us not to ever put them into “one of those places.”

I am so proud that IVY’s clients are at the very forefront of an industry that creates opportunities, challenges, and most of all freedom for seniors, allowing them to explore hobbies, interests, passions…the next chapter of their very full lives.

I feel reassured for my own future. Even more, I feel honored to be able to share the impactful stories about this paradigm shift in the world of senior housing. What we hear and see at our clients’ communities is fascinating and inspiring!

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Keeping up to date on new public relations strategies, online engagement tactics, and promotional tools is my passion.

With my hospitality background in marketing top Chicago restaurants and hotels, I was eager to bring fresh concepts and communication strategies to our clients and have really enjoyed learning various industries.

Our clients have such exciting and unique events and programs, which really makes it motivating for me to make the most of their content.  Results like increased sales leads, website visits and social media connections make everyday rewarding and interesting.

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I oversee, plan and implement projects and processes at IVY.  Often,  I am the conduit between our writers and designers, with printers, and other vendors to fulfill the marketing needs for our clients. I also manage media buys and coordinate production of advertisements.

Working for a flexible and fluid company that is constantly growing, changing and evolving is fun and rewarding. There is always something new to learn.

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My bio has a big blank in the beginning—Mom and Dad rescued me in Wisconsin, and no one really knows my origins. They were probably ruff. What matters though is where I am now, running IVY Marketing Group. There are humans here who think they’re in charge. In truth, they do actually have amazing experience in content marketing and public relations, but I’m super important and the center of attention. I mean, look at this face. Right? And I know I’m the top dog because honestly, I’m the only one allowed to sleep through staff meetings and eat things that people drop on the floor.

The fact is though that I truly love staying awake at staff meetings. Everyone talks and laughs and they’re always excited. That surprises me a little because it’s not like anyone has thrown a ball to play fetch or anything. But I guess what gets my pack of peoples’ tails wagging is their work and their clients. I don’t know what a website or a blog is, but I do know that my pack must be good at them because they’ve earned all sorts of awards for these and other things. My bed had to be moved because the framed certificates were taking up so much room. Despite the inconvenience, I’m proud of these awards!

I serve several important purposes at IVY. I always let Mom (and the world) know when the mailman is here. When people come into the office, just one (usually) quick non-invasive (usually) sniff, allows me to determine important characteristics…like if they had anything good for breakfast, own any pets (pet owners are the best!) or if they stepped in anything on the way in. (It’s sort of like me conducting a first job interview.) I generously share my tummy because I know people like to give it a good scratch. I always give kisses, whether one is feeling lonely or not. And I’m always happy to share someone’s meal, especially if they’re trying to lose weight. My pack describes me as being engaging, amusing, and entertaining. (When I hear a siren, I “sing” along and it makes them laugh.) NPR talks about the benefits of having a pet at the workplace. Studies show pets lower stress hormones and improve morale and productivity. I wholeheartedly agree that a dog in the workplace is the best thing since rawhide bones.

As for my pack of people at IVY…they are amazing and always make my tail wag!

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I could not be more thrilled to work alongside the IVY team.

For over 25 years, I have been employed in top executive positions across the Chicago area and have consistently built profitable businesses, generated sales, and developed and launched new product lines.

Strategically positioning companies and commodities for growth is a strong suit I’m eager to bring to ResponderHub™, IVY’s new crisis communications solution. I’m also excited to help expand IVY’s reach in the senior marketing industry.

I believe people are more open than ever to thinking outside the box and looking at new ways to reach their customer base, while at the same time reducing their cost of sale. The senior industry is exploding, and IVY is perfectly positioned to respond to the need for innovative, quality content marketing services and effective crisis communications.

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I love being able to use my skills to help improve other people’s lives, and with a growing elderly population, it’s important to create meaningful and user-friendly digital solutions to aid the senior living industry.I have a wide range of technology and design skills with a deep interest in Human-Computer Interaction– helping IVY provide outstanding web design and print design services. IVY has a long-proven track record of excellence, and I’m proud to be able to help carry on that tradition. 

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