What Pop Culture Taught Us about Marketing in 2014

Pop culture rarely teaches us anything, especially not about business. But because 2014 was a pretty eventful year, we actually took away some valuable marketing lessons from a few celebs.

Make Yourself a Topic of Conversation

Ellen's Oscars selfie
Photo courtesy of ABC News.
At the 2014 Oscars, Ellen DeGeneres took one of the most star-studded selfies of all time, and it crashed Twitter by being the most retweeted photo of all time (over 3 million retweets to date). It’s one of the most epic selfies the Internet has ever seen and it is the epitome of buzz marketing.

To get people talking about your brand, you have to do something that’s going to grab lots of attention (in a good way). Try surprising customers every now and then by going above and beyond with your customer service. You’ll strengthen customer loyalty while also increasing your brand awareness.

Always Know Your Stuff

John Travolta learned the hard way that if you mispronounce something, it’s going to haunt you for the rest of your life. When he accidentally pronounced Idina Menzel’s name as “Adele Dazeem,” he instantly opened himself to a barrage of criticism. You’d think he would be told beforehand who he was introducing, which meant he should have known how to say her name.

If you’re going to talk about a topic (or person) you don’t know very well, experts will recognize blunders and may call you out on them. Be sure to do heavy research on a topic and become proficient before you relay information about it. It will give your consumers a sense of security knowing your brand is competent and will, in turn, enhance the perception of your brand.

Form a Partnership

How cute is this picture of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen (Charles Xavier and Magneto)? Everyone loves seeing two big names do BFF things in real life (especially if they’re on-screen mutant enemies).

A partnership always garners attention. When you pair your brand with another well-liked brand, you promote each other to different but similar consumers and broaden your target audience. Expanding your reach will help grow your consumer base and therefore provide more revenue.

What else happened in 2014 that taught you a lesson about marketing? Let us know in the comments!

[INFOGRAPHIC] 5 Mistakes Your Contact Center Is Making Today

5 Mistakes Your Contact Center Is Making Today
Source: Compare Business Products
Are your customers going insane over your contact center practices?

We don’t mean insane as in they love it. We mean insane as in they want to pull their hair out when they can’t figure out your phone menu options. As in they have to talk to sales agents like the Comcast guy who wouldn’t take no for an answer. As in they have to explain their situation every time they call because your call records aren’t kept up to date.

In a recent infographic, Compare Business Products points out several mistakes contact centers make. Are you guilty of any of them? To find out, download the infographic at the Compare Business Products website.

How Marketing Is Like Yoga

Marketing and yoga are both art forms that you can only improve with practice. You can’t exactly achieve perfection in either, but the more experience you gain, the closer you’ll get.

Near perfection doesn’t come instantly, though. In both marketing and yoga, you have to be patient, persistent and determined to reach the advanced levels. Here are a few other qualities you’ll need to be successful in these professions.

You need to build up your strength.

Eka Hasta Bhujasana
Photo by Samantha Karam
Sure, you might be able to bend your arms and put your legs in the right yoga position, but can you lift your body weight off the ground? It’s harder than it looks, so you have to be patient enough to build up the strength before you can do Eka Hasta Bhujasana (pictured left).

In marketing, you don't instantly start out as the strongest brand. Most brands have to work to build up brand recognition to gain strength over time. But you have to be willing to consistently work hard to strengthen your brand by delivering a steady brand message. Only then will you reach the level of Apple, Microsoft, Google, etc.

You have to find your balance.

Parsva Bakasana
Photo by Samantha Karam

When the majority of your body weight is unevenly distributed in Parsva Bakasana (pictured right), it’s tough to find your balance. But with a few tweaks here and there, you can figure out where to use more strength and find balance in the pose.

When you’re creating a new marketing campaign with a kick of humor, spice or anything different, you have to know how to balance it out with normalcy. If a campaign is too wacky, it’ll end up unsuccessful, like these flopped campaigns.

Eka Pada Koundinyasana
Photo by Samantha Karam

You’ve gotta be flexible.

Have you ever tried doing Eka Pada Koundinyasana (pictured left)? It ain’t easy. If you’re strong, you can probably find the balance to hold up your body weight. But without flexibility, you won’t get those legs straight.

The same is true in your marketing. When new trends come along, you have to be flexible enough to roll with the changes and adjust campaigns to stay current. If you’re not flexible, your campaigns will be stiff, and nobody wants to see a rigid marketing campaign.

So what are you waiting for? Get on your mat and bust out some awesome marketing campaigns!

Are You Missing These Multifamily Marketing Opportunities?

Open door in green field“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”

We love this quote by 20th century actor Milton Berle — especially as it applies to marketing for multifamily properties. Although Milton probably wasn’t thinking about apartment complexes when he made this statement, it fits perfectly.

In the multifamily world, it’s tempting to take a set-it-and-forget-it approach to marketing. Just buy a few ads, let them do their thing and wait for prospective renters to come your way — after all, everyone needs a place to live.

Unfortunately, if you’re not proactive in your marketing efforts, you could be missing out on some valuable opportunities for your properties. We’ve listed a few examples below.

Leveraging Green Features

Is your property feeling a little green? If so, you’re in luck. Whether you’ve opted for a green certification or not, a study by Strata Research [PDF] indicates that 77 percent of renters value eco-friendly apartments.

If you’re not prominently featuring your green living spaces in your advertising, do it now! Only 13 percent of Strata’s survey respondents said they were aware of an environmentally friendly apartment complex in their area, so you have a perfect window of opportunity.

Oh, and by the way, Strata's research also shows that 64 percent are willing to pay $100 more per month for an eco-friendly home sweet home. To see just how much additional revenue your eco-centric ads bring in, make sure you track response rates via pay-per-click conversions and web form submissions. You can use dynamic call tracking to make sure online-to-offline conversions don’t fall out of the attribution funnel.

Email Remarketing

A study published earlier this year reported that most properties aren’t taking full advantage of email remarketing opportunities. Of the 20 percent that had any drip campaign at all, the campaigns were either standardized emails that were part of a regular campaign or identical emails that were sent to the recipient repeatedly.

Don’t miss out on these additional opportunities! To increase conversion rates, stay in touch with prospective tenants by sending them personalized, action-oriented retargeted emails. Keep track of how many leads open and respond to your emails, and be sure to include a Click To Talk button in your emails to capture phone responses as well.

Creating a Brand

An apartment complex without a brand is like store-brand toothpaste: It gets the job done, but there’s nothing unique or memorable about it. With the multifamily construction boom starting to drive occupancy rates down, it’s more important than ever to stand out from the crowd.

Melanie Flaherty, vice president of marketing for Carmel Partners, develops branding concepts around specific themes, such as boutique, location, destination, suburban and Gen Y. Once you have an idea of who — yes, who, not what — your property is going to be, you need to flesh out its personality (Cannonball has some great tips for branding success). Then carry that personality into every aspect of your marketing.

When you make a concerted effort at finding and testing new marketing strategies, you’ll be amazed at the opportunities (aka renters) that come knocking at your door. Just be careful you don’t make any of these multifamily marketing mistakes.

What new marketing ideas have you tried lately?

Save the Giblets This Thanksgiving

We already learned from Phil’s-osophy that Julia Childs always saved the giblets, and we touched on the fact that you should save them, too. After all, you can’t make giblet gravy without giblets, can you? Anyway, we’re not here to talk about turkey giblets, but rather the giblets of your brainstorming sessions. Not sure what we mean? Allow us to explain…

turkey and gravyBrainstorming for a marketing campaign is like prepping a turkey. You end up with one final product, but there are inevitably parts that are taken out, added in or thrown in the trash. Like the giblets! You take them out because they’re not necessary for the turkey, but they are necessary for the giblet gravy. If you throw away the giblets, you won’t have any gravy — and that’s a straight up travesty.

When your team gathers ‘round the conference table to brainstorm for a new campaign, don’t toss out ideas just because they’re not what you’re looking for. You may not need them for this campaign, but you should write them down and save them, because they might make some pretty good gravy later on.

But be careful not to save too many giblets… If your new social media intern suggests you use “Happy Twerky Day” in your Thanksgiving campaign, you can confidently throw that in the trash immediately.

So what do you think? Will you be saving any marketing giblets this year?

Q&A: Joy Pershing on Marketing With Local Numbers

Headshot of Joy Pershing
If your business targets a certain region or has multiple locations, marketing with local numbers is a must.

We could throw a bunch of stats at you to prove why, but instead we decided to have a little Q&A session with Joy Pershing, who knows local numbers like Bobby Flay knows cooking.

Joy gets her local number genius from being an account manager for StandardCall by Who’s Calling, which provides local numbers to businesses like Yellow Pages publishers and ad agencies. StandardCall customers then give the local numbers to their customers to use on advertisements. When people call the numbers in response to those ads, StandardCall customers are able to show their advertisers how profitable their ads are.

So without further ado, here’s what Joy has to say about marketing with local numbers.

Q: You work with a lot of ad agencies and publishers that use toll-free numbers to qualify the success of their clients’ ads. How are local numbers important to them?
A: My clients feel that if they print a local number in their publication or online, it'll give them an edge over other competitors using toll-free numbers, because callers want to know that they're calling a local business. If they see a toll-free number, they get nervous that the business is too far away from them.

Q: What types of businesses benefit most from using local tracking numbers?
A: Local tracking numbers are best used in rural areas where consumers want to know that they're calling a business down the street and not several cities away. They're also important for certain industries, such as multihousing. If you're searching for a new home or apartment, you're more likely to call a number local to the area you're wanting to move to rather than a toll-free number.

Q: Have you seen clients change their advertising strategies based on the response they get from local numbers?
A: Absolutely. If our clients use local tracking numbers, they can take advantage of the proximity reports that we provide them. They can see the area in which most of their leads are coming from and therefore adjust the location of their ads to get more bang for their buck.

Q: What’s the number-one misconception you hear about call tracking?
A: “Call tracking is just an extra expense to add to my advertising budget that I can’t afford.” However, call tracking is one of the most effective ways to save money. With call tracking, you're able to see what campaigns are working and what ones aren't driving leads. Then once you adjust your campaigns you'll be able to save money.

Q: Have you noticed that your perception of a business changes based on whether they use a toll-free number or local number? How so?
A: I think the perception of calling an 800 number is that the business is a faraway, global megacorporation. This turns off consumers that want to buy local and support local businesses. Even if local numbers are attached to the local branch of a multibillion dollar corporation like Walmart, they give customers the impression that they're supporting a neighborhood business.

Local numbers can also be used to track pay-per-click conversion rates and other marketing analytics, raising advertising effectiveness.

Have a question for Joy? Tweet it to us at @whoscalling or contact her on LinkedIn.

Marketing Lessons From Pinterest Fails

Ah, Pinterest.

Land of overachievers and professional photographers that make things look so easy.
Promoter of DIY projects that should really be labeled DEDIY (that’s "don’t ever do it yourself").

Instigator of baking projects that transform this:

Bunch of chocolate cake pops covered in colorful sprinkles

…into this:

Pile of cake balls covered in melted chocolate

Sadly, some of us just aren’t Pinterest pros. But there is a silver lining to our many Pinterest fails (other than plenty of good belly laughs, of course): They show that we want to be inspired and that we’re constantly seeking new ideas.

It's kind of like marketing in that way. Marketers always have to be thinking of new ideas.

How you implement those ideas makes all the difference.

To show you what we mean, let’s take a look at a few failed Pinterest projects.

Pinterest Fail: Melting Minion

The minions from the "Despicable Me" movies are everywhere these days: minion birthday parties, minion pumpkins, minion clothes, minion costumes, minion cakes… What could be cuter than a minion cake? Well, a lot of things if you cook it in the microwave and use watery frosting to attach burned, chunky fondant to the cake.

Minion cake inspiration and final product

Sources: Room 16 UHPS and Pintrosity

Marketing Lesson: Don’t Be Afraid to Turn Your Ideas Over to a Professional

Learning from successful businesses’ marketing campaigns is a great way to discover new ideas for your business, whether it’s a new pay-per-click (PPC) strategy or a phone training program that produces awesome phone agents.

But if you try to copy these ideas and don’t have the expertise (or time) to do so properly, the results could be a little, well… deflating. No matter how easy the idea looks and no matter how excited you are about it, don’t be afraid to let a professional take charge. For example, if you want to ramp up your PPC campaigns, you could hire an online marketing firm. Or if you want to make sure your phone service meshes with the brand image your marketing conveys, you could have a call evaluation specialist personally review your calls for training opportunities.

Pinterest Fail: No-Sew Pillow… Straitjacket?

If you’ve ever been pillow shopping, you know they’re expensive. So it’s easy to understand the appeal of taking a swath of fabric and twisting it into a fashionable pillow cover. But as one pinner found out, using a thick, neutral fabric for this project results in something that more closely resembles a straitjacket than home decor.

No-sew pillow cover before and after
Source: Craft Fail

Marketing Lesson: Use Tried-and-True Tools
Sometimes keeping up with the latest marketing tactics requires resources like marketing automation software, PPC management tools or call management technology. It might be tempting to piece together a solution using a combination of free programs or manual processes, but that can be both inefficient and ineffective (just ask our pal Byron). To get the professional results you want while tracking ROI, stick with a professional product that’s tried and true.

Pinterest Fail: Mini Caramel Apples Caramel Soup

Caramel apples are a staple fall treat. But consuming a whole apple covered in chewy caramel is a challenge, even for the most accomplished sweet tooths (and really, who wants to share?). Bite-sized caramel apples can help cut down on consumption time, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you can cut down on prep time by haphazardly chopping the apple into chunks and then dipping them in store-bought caramel sauce.

Mini caramel apples before and after
Sources: MyLitter and Pinterest Fail

Marketing Lesson: Don’t Cut Corners Where It Counts
Optimizing ROI is — and should be — every marketer’s goal. However, when you start skimping on marketing tools and nixing campaigns without careful evaluation, you can actually end up sabotaging your success.

For example, if your company’s sales are typically completed offline, you definitely want to track phone call conversions to determine which campaigns are most effective. By cutting corners on online-to-offline conversion tracking technology, you’re not doing yourself any favors. (By the way, we know Google AdWords’ free website call conversion tracking feature is really tempting. But there are a few reasons investing in a dynamic call tracking provider is worth it.)

Now here’s the moment of truth: What Pinterest projects have you destroyed?

Our Favorite Halloween Print Ads

We’ve already talked about some of the bestHalloween ads of 2013, but this year we’ve seen even more eye-catching ads. Whether creepy, funny or downright scary, these ads capitalize on the hype surrounding Halloween and teach marketers some valuable advertising lessons.

Sharpie Halloween ad

Sharpies In Disguise

Not only does this ad feature Sharpie permanent markers adorably dressed up with other pen caps as “masks,” but it also gives Sharpie a chance to remind consumers of the array of products it offers.

One marker is wearing a cap from a Sharpie highlighter while another is wearing a Sharpie pen cap. This Halloween ad makes readers laugh and reinforces brand recognition.

Maglite Halloween ad

Maglite Under Eyes

This ad highlights the product while celebrating the spookiness of the holiday. Scary stories are closely associated with Halloween, and what better way to tell a scary story than with a flashlight under your face? Who doesn’t love that creepy, skull-ish look?

Although it’s probably not a flashlight’s intended use, Maglite's cheeky acknowledgement of the product’s potential encourages everyone to get a little spooky for Halloween and gets Maglite’s name consumers to remind them that flashlights have brands, too.

STP Halloween ad

Transportation That Flies

This ad isn’t directly selling a product, and yet it still stands out among Halloween ads. The STP Motor Oil ad cleverly features a witch’s broom left in a parking spot with some oil on the pavement.

This ad is all about celebrating Halloween. The company logo only takes up a small corner of the ad, rather than being the center of attention. This season of advertising is all about standing out and entertaining audiences. If your company can achieve that, you can live in your customers’ minds forever.

This Halloween, whether you’re spooky, humorous or clever, participate in the seasonal marketing to stick out in consumers’ minds.

Do Your Customers Want Automated Phone Menus or Real People?

Businessman-in-a-BoxWell, hello there! Welcome to our blog. Would you like to continue reading?

If yes, press 1. If not, press 2.

OK, so you’re probably asking, "Wait. What’s going on? Am I on the phone right now?"

That, dear reader, er… caller (just go with it), is an example of a scenario in which a simple question can be answered without ever having to speak to a human.

And when these scenarios come up, your customers don’t always want to pick up the phone and talk to a real person to figure out the answer to their simple question, like how much they’re being billed for the 100-count Businessman-in-a-Box order they submitted.

That’s where interactive voice response (IVR) menus come in. Customers get answers quickly, your agents are free to do other things, and everyone’s happy.

But sometimes your customers’ situations aren’t quite so straightforward. Let’s say Michael Scott fat fingers his order without realizing it. When 100,000 businessmen in boxes show up in his office, he’s going to have a few questions — and IVR isn’t going to be much help. In that scenario, Mr. Scott is going to want to talk to a real person.

The question is, when should you use IVR and when should you live agents?

We’ve got an answer for you. Just download our white paper "IVR or Live Agent?"

The Right Way to Use Retargeting

Have Halloween costumes haunted you in every advertisement after you searched for your ideal outfit two weeks ago? That's retargeting! Well, more appropriately, it's bad retargeting if the ads seem like they'll never leave you alone.

When retargeting is done correctly, an online ad casually reminds potential customers of products they viewed previously and may still want to purchase. In fact, it can benefit businesses tremendously. Retargeting advertisements increase response rates by up to 400 percent and, while on the website, retargeted customers are 70 percent more likely to convert.

Man alarmed by hands reaching out of computer screen
To paraphrase Mark Twain, the difference between good retargeting and average retargeting is like the difference between lightning and lightning bugs — the latter isn't bad, but it's nowhere near as powerful as the former. Here are a few tips to help take your retargeting to the next level.

Use Frequency Caps

Nobody wants to see the same advertisement 31 times a day, even if it's for a product they like. One Ad Age writer even described his experience with retargeting as feeling like he was being stalked by a pair of pants. Clearly, this is not the desired effect!

Using frequency caps on retargeted advertisements is a good way to make sure your message doesn't become annoying. Two ads per user per day is typically enough to get the customer's attention. Along the same lines, only one or two ad networks should be used simultaneously to avoid undue frequency increases. By limiting the number of communications, you can mitigate the risk of your retargeting efforts seeming pushy or creepy.

Take Advantage of Email

Retargeting isn't limited to banner ads on websites. The tried and true method of emailing potential customers also works! More direct than website ads, emails have the ability to communicate with potential customers in a more personalized way.

When creating this email, it would help to work with marketing consultants to make sure the ads are tailored to fit the needs of your target market. These experts can help make sure the look and feel of the emails match the brand image you're trying to convey. This is important, because no one wants to see an irrelevant email.

Measure the Impact of Retargeting

Everyone's experience with retargeting is different; what may be a great tip for one company could fizzle for another. The only way to be sure is to measure the results. That way you'll know how well your retargeting ads are working, and you can compare them to each other to see which one is most effective.

Measuring return on investment (ROI) by tracking online-to-offline lead conversions is particularly beneficial. By placing a unique toll-free number (TFN) on different advertisements, you can measure the response from each online ad and determine the highest performing one. With this information, you can make better business decisions, especially as they relate to retargeting campaigns.

Use these tips to avoid the pitfalls of retargeting, and you just might see your company gain the extra edge it needs.

Lessons From a Bad Customer Service Experience

Frustrated and confused customer on phoneSome companies aren't kidding when they say they'll go to any length to retain a customer. But unfortunately, as one former Comcast customer found out, that might not always be a good thing.

The recording he made of a customer service call gone horribly wrong has become an Internet sensation. It's quickly becoming the rallying point for the common man, downtrodden by poor customer service for far too long! OK, so maybe it wasn't that significant, but it did leave Comcast with a PR mess to clean up.

Many growing, midsized businesses may fall victim to similar problems thanks to an underfunded and overworked customer service department. To avoid situations like the one described above, you might need to make a few adjustments to your customer service.

Train Employees Thoroughly

When a business starts growing, the work can become a lot faster paced. Resources may be put towards further expansion and in turn push customer service training to the back burner. It can happy to any company! Efficient solutions are needed to correct this problem while allowing growth to continue.

Call recording systems can be helpful if this starts to happen in your company. Recording your phone calls gives you both good and bad examples of customer service calls to use for training purposes. All your new employees can be trained quickly with real-life examples rather than boring training documents. This scalable process will grow alongside your business and assist you in providing top-notch training.

Listen to Customers

One of the biggest mistakes the Comcast representative made was that he refused to actually listen to the customer. He just said the same thing over and over again. After the 29th time repeating something, you’re probably not going to change the customer’s mind. 

The number one way to create a respectable business is to constantly ask yourself how you can best serve the customer. The only way to find the answer is by listening to each and every complaint carefully. Customer service representatives must be patient enough to hear the client without interrupting, assess the situation and provide a response that fits, rather than launching into a pre-determined script before the customer says one sentence.

Don't Over-emphasize Sales

When a business is just starting out, sales are the priority. After all, if no one buys the product, the risk of failure is pretty high. But when a company starts to become more established, an over-emphasis on sales can actually hurt if it means poor customer service is delivered. The trick is to increase the amount of new customers without losing the ones you already have.

You need to put emphasis on building relationships with your current customers. One way to do this is to use a call management tool that allows you to take notes during phone calls with customers, right beside their personal information. This will help your customer service reps deliver a personal message and make your customers feel valued. 

Follow these tips to avoid a PR nightmare, but just in case the need arises, keep these tips in your back pocket to deal with social media gone amok.

[INFOGRAPHIC] Social Media Image Size Cheat Sheet

So we've already mentioned that 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies are on Facebook (and over 77 percent are on Twitter), but social media accounts are more than just building up a community and a following. They project an image about your company, and if your accounts look sloppy or amateur, your followers will associate those characteristics with your company.

An attractive looking social media page adds credibility to your account and your company. Your profile picture and banner image can be used to great effect if they don't look squished, stretched or cropped. To keep your accounts looking good, follow this handy image size cheat sheet by Mainstreethost to make sure your social media's pictures are top notch.

Social Media Image Size Cheat Sheet

For more social media tips, check out this infographic for some up-and-coming social media marketing trends.

This Autumn, Plan Ahead for Winter Marketing

Fall leaves with winter snow
Fall is here! While for everyone else this time means enjoying the changing leaves, rushing back to school and consuming pumpkin in every way possible, you’re already thinking of jingle bells and cranberry sauce. That’s because, as marketers, we have to plan ahead. Your marketing team should be thinking about the holiday season to come.

The winter season is when the biggest promotions and the most shopping occur. In fact, consumers spend $37.2 billion in online purchases alone during November and December. In order to get some of that money headed toward your business, you need to start preparing now. Here are some ideas for what you can do for your seasonal marketing.

Create a Unique Promotion

We’re all familiar with the Starbucks seasonal items like the Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) or the Peppermint Mocha. People go crazy over those drinks and buy them by the millions. (Last year Starbucks passed the 200 million mark for with its famous PSL.)

Those are some pretty impressive numbers, but is the flavoring really that great? Or are these sales the result of some fantastic marketing? Starbucks is implying scarcity by only offering certain drinks during certain seasons. The “get them while they last” mentality drives customers to the coffee shop in droves.

Drawing from Starbucks’ example, you can use seasonal marketing to increase sales at your business. Even if the product you’re offering doesn’t relate to the winter season itself, you can associate special winter sales with your product so customers will be sure to rush in.

Prepare Your Media

Google is famous for its doodles, illustrated variations of their famous logo that celebrate seasons, holidays, events or people. Whenever a new doodle is introduced, it always makes headlines, even though it only lasts for a day.

Take a page from Google’s book and let doodles inspire your holiday marketing. Decorate your website with some holiday-themed graphics, for example. This could be as simple as adding some snow to the top of your logo.

You might also want to create seasonal imagery on your social media websites. Add a Santa hat to your Twitter avatar or change your Facebook cover photo to a scenic winter wonderland. These small changes can go a long way in your social media marketing.

Send Greeting Cards

Once you have your seasonal promotions set up and your winter graphics are all prepared, let your customers know that you like to get festive. Sending out greeting cards, either physical or virtual, is a tried-and-true way to show your holiday spirit to your customers.

Like other seasonal items, holiday cards need to be planned out ahead of time. From creating the graphics to finding the perfect wording to printing out the actual cards, this process will take some time. And it doesn’t stop there! The best way to personalize those cards is to hand sign them. That way, your customers won’t feel they’re getting a card from a robot corporation but from an individual.

And to track what kind of return on investment you’re getting from these cards, make sure you include a unique toll-free number with your company info. That way, when you get calls from your greeting cards, you’ll know where they came from and know your investment paid off.

The Pirate's Guide to Better Marketing

Avast there, ye landlubbers! Talk Like a Pirate Day is here and it's time to prepare for the upcoming barrage of "arrrrs" that will be coming your way.

Last year, some astute businesses used the holiday to build rapport with buccaneers by offering free items. But talking like a pirate one day of the year and passing out freebies isn't enough. You have to think and act like a pirate all year long to produce great marketing for your company.

Not sure what we mean? Well, we could make you walk the plank, but instead we'll fill you in on a few marketing lessons we've learned from the most renowned pirates in history.

Create a Memorable Reputation

The fierce-looking Blackbeard stands next to a weathered skeleton.
Image courtesy of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean Gallery 

Many considered Blackbeard to be the devil incarnate. Apparently putting lit fuses in your hair has that effect on people. Ships would even surrender without a fight when they faced him. The name Blackbeard has inspired fear for centuries because he knew how to create a strong brand.

Providing great customer service is one way to create a lasting brand — and it's safer than using lit fuses — because it builds brand loyalty. If your employees are steadily on the phones, consider using speech recognition technology to encourage excellent service. It will identify whether or not employees are saying keywords that you specify, so you can address any miscommunication immediately. 

Embrace a Short Life

Bartholomew Roberts, who captured over 400 ships, once said "a merry life and a short one shall be my motto." Make this your motto, too. Well, at least when it comes to your marketing campaigns.

Even the best advertisements run their course. Adding a different toll-free number (TFN) to your campaigns will allow you to track the number of new customers each campaign brings in. When an advertisement becomes stale, the decreasing return on investment (ROI) will be a dead giveaway. End it so something better can take its place.

Find a Treasure Map

Maps have been a huge part of pirate lore since Treasure Island was written. Long John Silver's fictional quest to secure a map and its treasure has inspired countless treasure hunters. Marketers also know the value of a good map, except the treasure they seek is an abundance of new customers.

A map marks the way to buried treasure.Using TFNs to track your campaigns produces a map showing where calls originate. In other words, X marks the customer. By analyzing the map, you can identify locations with the most prospects and increase geographic segmentation in those areas. Advertising to the right locations will increase your ROI and help you avoid losing money in low-performing regions.

Follow the example of these seafaring rogues and your company's marketing will be top-notch. For more tips, check out these marketing philosophies.

[INFOGRAPHIC] 7 Social Media Marketing Trends

Social Media Examiner recently released its 6th annual Social Media Marketing Industry Report, noting a jarring stat: A whopping 92 percent of marketers say that social media is important for their business. Ninety-two percent!

If you've hopped on the social media bandwagon but haven't quite nailed your strategy, throw on your reading glasses and grab a pen. Social Media Examiner has laid out some of the most important upcoming trends in this infographic, so you know what to do to stay successful on social media.

Social Media Examiner marketing trends infographic
Social media marketing trends for 2014 from Social Media Examiner.

Keep your social media efforts aligned with these trends so you're always relevant, and make sure you have a solid plan for using social media as a marketing tool (because it's a big one). For more social media tips, check out our tweet spectrum.

Rumor Has It: Dealing With Social Media Gone Amok

Close-up of panicked womanDid you hear? Louisville, KY went nuts on August 15 after a high school student announced on Twitter that the city would get one day to commit crimes without any consequences.

The student says the post, which was inspired by the film "The Purge: Anarchy," was never meant to be taken seriously. But, unfortunately, it was.

As the rumor quickly circulated across social media, Louisville erupted in violent outbreak. Soon the rumors also spread to other cities, like Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New York.

The "purge" drives home an important point that you, as a marketer, need to remember: Word travels fast on social media. Thankfully, your business probably won’t ever experience anything as severe as what happened in Louisville, but when word of mouth goes wrong, the effects to your business can be detrimental.

So what can you do to take back control of rumors before they get out of hand?

Stay in the Loop

Closely monitor everything people are saying about your business on social media channels so that you can take action as soon as a rumor rears its ugly head. Whether you use a free search alert tool such as Google Alerts or pay an agency to dig up news about what people are saying about your company, you gotta stay in the know.

Bonus tip: If you’ve started seeing some buzz around a particular rumor, you can use intelligent speech-recognition technology to see if your customers and prospects are bringing it up during their phone conversations with your company.

Respond Appropriately

A few years ago, Forbes did a study testing a few different strategies for stopping a rumor:

  • Denial — Simply state the rumor is untrue.
  • Re-association — Focus on the upsides of the rumor.
  • Questioning of Confidence — Ask consumers if they can be confident the rumor is true.

The moral of the story? Don’t just deny a rumor. Redirect it.

Instead of trying to stop people from talking about what’s going on with your brand, encourage them to talk about the right things!

Seek out Some Role Models

If you find yourself faced with a nasty rumor, know that other brands have been in your shoes before. Find some brands that successfully handled rumors and learn from their examples. Here are a few to get you started:
  • Taco Bell — When people started claiming the fast-food chain didn’t use real meat in its tacos in 2011, Taco Bell released a full ingredient list of its tacos. (Spoiler alert: There was no fake meat listed.)
  • Coke — The Coca-Cola Company is no stranger to rumors. People have claimed that Coke used to be green, the aluminum in the drink cans leads to Alzheimer's disease and rat urine on a soda has killed a consumer. To keep on on top of all the rumors, Coke started a Rumors and Facts page on its website, where it reveals the truth behind common myths. 
  • Beneful — Misinformed animal lovers discovered something horrible (but untrue) in 2007 and 2013: Dogs who ate Purina’s Beneful dog food dropped dead! Beneful knew this wasn’t true, so the company had vets run tests on dogs who’d ingested the food and then released the results of the tests to the public.
There’s no doubt that social media rumors can be harmful to your company, but with a little research and a lot of finesse, you can get through it.

What other tips do you have for dealing with social media running amok?

Let Your Marketing Tools Work for You on Labor Day

Labor Day, celebrated the first Monday in September, is a tribute to the contribution workers have made to the prosperity of the country and is joyously welcomed by many with the day off! While some may celebrate with rest and relaxation, others may spend their time shopping. 
Man and dog sleeping in
Here are some tips on how to keep your customers from feeling neglected while you're out of the office.

Leave a Message

If you're going to be closed for Labor Day, give your customers a heads up at least 24 hours in advance. You can send out a friendly reminder email or, if you want to use a more personalized approach, you can use automated voicemail broadcast messages to reach your entire customer base.

Voicemail broadcasting tools are not just handy for informing your customers about your holiday hours. You can also use them to remind customers about appointments and maintenance updates or simply to thank them for their business. It's a convenient, noninvasive way to encourage customer engagement with your company (it'll save you a lot of time too!).

Schedule Your Content

When people have a day off, they're likely to browse the web watching videos, reading blogs or listening to podcasts. Take advantage of your consumers' free time and prepare content ahead of time to release on Labor Day.

Before you leave the office for your long weekend, schedule the exact time you want your content to be released. With a click of a button, you've made a smart marketing move that will keep consumers engaged while you're snoozing away.

Forward Your Calls

In today's world, people expect immediate information and service 24/7. So whether it's a holiday or your lunch break, missing calls is a huge downfall for your business. To avoid neglecting your customers when you're out of the office, try call forwarding. This tool allows you to redirect the calls that come through your business to your cell.

When it's not ideal to route calls directly to your cell, consider sending them to a prerecorded message. This message will inform your callers of why you are out of the office and when you'll be able to return their call. You'll receive an email notification when the caller leaves a voicemail, so you can choose to return urgent calls.

Marketing is a fast-paced industry with consumers who demand information when your resources spark their interest. But if planned for properly, you can enjoy your Labor Day weekend while your marketing tools keep working.

Need something to pass the time on your day off? Check out this post on getting the most out of your marketing budget.

Google AdWords or Call Tracking Vendor? The Best Source for Website Call Conversion Data

Kittens fightingEarlier this week, Google announced that AdWords advertisers now have the option to track website call conversions.

Here’s how it works: You put a bit of code on your website that allows Google to insert a unique forwarding number on your website for each person that clicks through one of your pay-per-click (PPC) ads. When the prospect calls you using the unique number they see on your website, you’ll be able to track the conversion back to the PPC ad that generated it.

Sound familiar? That’s because several call tracking providers — like ClickPath — offer a similar technology, called Dynamic Number Insertion (DNI). You might be tempted to jump on the bandwagon and give AdWords website call conversion tracking a go, but before you do, consider these five reasons for sticking with a call tracking vendor for DNI.

Your Business Is in Canada

If your business is in Canada, Google AdWords call conversions feature is a no-go, because the service isn’t offered in your neck of the woods. Thankfully, you can still get DNI services through a call tracking provider.

You Generate Lots of Traffic From Other Search Networks

AdWords is able to track website call conversions from Google, but what about other search networks? Google owns the majority of the search market, but you might see better results from smaller players like Bing Ads. If you’re only tracking website call conversions from Google, you’re losing out on some important call conversion data generated by ads on other search networks. By using DNI services through a call tracking provider, you can get a complete picture of your PPC call conversion data.

You Want to Tie Web Conversions to Specific Customers

When a person becomes a customer, it’s nice to be able to map out their conversion funnel. If their conversion process includes a phone call generated by a PPC ad, you want to know about it, right? The problem with tracking website call conversions through AdWords is that the caller’s phone number is only displayed when the call comes in. If you want to check specific caller data in your call conversion reports, you’ll only see the caller’s area code, which makes attribution tricky.

You Want to Track Specific Demographics

Again, AdWords call conversions will display the area code, but that’s the closest you’ll get to demographic information. If you want to see specifics on city, state and even ZIP code, you’ll need to stick with a call tracking provider. These important demographics will help you segment your prospects and customers so you can create geo-targeted campaigns.

You Want Access to Call Recordings

Sometimes the conversations that occur during a call tell a different story than call data alone. (To see an example of this, check out the first section of our post “How to Pick the Right Dynamic Call Tracking Provider.”)

But unless you have a freakishly amazing memory and answer every call that comes in to your business, you’re going to need to refer to call recordings for the additional information a conversation provides. And to get call recordings (bet you know what we’re going to say next), you’re going to have to go with a call tracking provider, my friend, because they’re not available in AdWords.

You Want to Access Real-Time Data

Are you the kind of person who obsessively checks conversion data every time you get a new lead to see what source drove the lead? (Don't worry: We've all been there.) If that's you, you're going to have to change your habits if you plan to check website call conversions in AdWords, because new conversion data is only imported on a daily basis. The good news is most call tracking providers do update their data in real time.

Have questions about using a call tracking vendor versus AdWords for website call conversion tracking? Tweet them to us!

Tweet: @whoscalling I have a question about your post on website call conversions via AdWords.

How Long Do Tweets Take to Make?

According to the Huffington Post, 77 percent of Fortune 500 companies are currently active on Twitter. That's probably due to the fact that this social media giant helps businesses engage directly with potential customers and keep their followers up to date on relevant events. To get the most out of your business’s Twitter account, your team will need to invest some time in crafting the perfect tweets.

But how do you know how much time to spend on a single tweet? Take a look at our tweet timeline to see how different types of messages take different amounts of time and bring in varying social engagement.

Who's Calling Tweet Timeline

Planning procedures, depth of content and timeliness will all vary depending on the type of tweet you're crafting. As we break down each tweet on the spectrum, you can better understand how much time to invest in your tweets.

New Campaigns: >1 MonthNew Campaigns

When you’re planning a new Twitter campaign, you can't just spout off the first 140 characters you think of. It'll take some time for you to decide what direction to go, create graphics and choose the perfect wording. From the day you choose the direction of your Twitter campaign to the first day tweets hit your feed, more than a month could pass.

Because of the time you spend on them, these tweets will draw in the most favorites and retweets. Since they're so important, you’ll want to post them at the optimal time (Monday-Thursday, 1 p.m.-3 p.m.). If it's taking longer than you thought, don't worry about it! Work on your campaign until it's exactly what you envisioned or better, like this marketing team that took two months to make their perfect tweet.

Regular Social Marketing: ~1 Week Regular Social Marketing

Social media is beginning to dictate what businesses do. Metrics like favorites, retweets and inbound calls (measured by call tracking) help CEOs decide which campaigns are worth the money. So you want to maintain a social presence and give customers a chance to interact with your business on a personal level. The best way to draw in engagement with customers is to consistently update social media.

Three tweets a day is the optimal rate for connecting with audiences, but that adds up to 90 tweets every month, and we don't expect you to come up with all of them at once. Tackle these tweets on a weekly basis so your team isn't overwhelmed. The amount of time spent on the majority of those tweets should be right around a week, including approvals (give or take a few days).

News Updates: <1 Week News Updates

Whenever industry or company news is released, you need to tweet about it. Your followers clearly have an investment in your industry — otherwise they wouldn't be following you. To help them stay informed, share important news stories or industry updates on your Twitter feed.

Because these tweets are all about relevancy, they need to get out pretty quickly. But don't sacrifice quality for speed. You might be the first source of this news for some of your followers, so you have to make sure you get it right. News tweets could take up to a week, but that's okay. It's better to get it right and be slightly late than to rush and tweet something insensitive that upsets your followers.

#RelevantHashtagging: 1 Day #RelevantHashtagging

By tweeting about  current events and pop culture and using popular hashtags, you're able to reach more people and expose your business to new customers. For example, #ThrowbackThursday is a popular hashtag on Twitter. You can use Thursdays to post a throwback picture, such as your old logo or your first day of business, similar to what Wendy's and BMW did.

Using a relevant hashtag will get your brand in front of more faces and therefore increase brand awareness and recognition. These types of tweets are great because they only require about a day or two but still bring in favorites and retweets from people who search for those hashtags.

Conferences and Events: Instantaneous Conferences and Events

If you're attending an industry convention or hosting a forum of industry leaders, you better be tweeting about it. Of course you’ll post tweets leading up to the event to build up excitement, but the best way to keep followers engaged in the event is by live tweeting it.

Tweet quotes from speakers, pictures of attendees and use the special event hashtag. Make sure you're consistent with the hashtag so your tweets are searchable. Speaking of searchable, search for the event hashtag and see if there are any tweets you can answer or respond to. This is a fun way to engage potential clients and will show them that you're both knowledgeable and responsive.

How much time do you spend crafting the perfect tweets? Let us know in the comments or tweet at us!

Shark Week's Submarine Documentary: Good or Bad Marketing Strategy?

It's the most wonderful time of the year: Shark Week is here. At Who's Calling, we like to celebrate Shark Week by going on a group scuba dive in shark-infested waters.

Fierce great white shark breaking the surfaceJust kidding. But we can find room in the budget for that next year, right?

Actually, we celebrate Shark Week by watching all the shark attacks, documentaries and myth-busting we can handle.

This year, the Discovery Channel kicked off Shark Week with a documentary about a shark called Submarine (given the name because of its submarine-like size). About 13 seconds into the premiere, it was obvious it was a mockumentary (fake documentary).

There's no doubt that the mockumentary has generated tons of buzz. But it's not all good. Some viewers are outraged that the Discovery Channel would pawn it off as a real documentary by including references to real events. These folks are questioning the channel's credibility and are now boycotting it.

Others believe that Submarine is real and refuse to go in the water — even their pools, which are probably shark free. They blame Discovery Channel for informing them of the creatures beneath the surface.

But amid all the mixed reviews, there are the few, the proud, the entertained. Amused by the sheer irony of the Discovery Channel airing a fake documentary, a handful of people are applauding the humorous introduction to Shark Week.

So what do you think of Discovery Channel's decision to air a mockumentary? Generating buzz is a good way to get a lot of people talking about you, but would you risk tarnishing your reputation just to accomplish it? Tweet your answer to @whoscalling and let us know!

How to Pick the Right Dynamic Call Tracking Provider

A few months ago we wrote about how to find your fairy-tale call tracking match, and we still stand by our tips — you deserve someone who notices the little things, listens intently and sweeps you off your feet.

Businessman kissing computer monitorBut if the Match.com and eHarmony commercials are true, sometimes the best matches start online. Same
goes for online-to-offline call tracking.

When your prospect starts their search online, stumbles across your site and gives you a call, you need to know which ad campaign is your match made in marketing heaven. So how do you find a call tracking provider who can tell you that?

Here are our top three pointers, borrowed from our friend Kevin Adams at Wright IMC, on what to look for in an online-to-offline call tracking provider.

They Communicate Details

It’s no secret that it’s easier to remain anonymous online. That’s why MTV’s TV show “Catfish” is so popular. (In case you’re not a reality TV connoisseur, the word “catfish” was coined by the show’s creator to refer to people who hide behind false identities on the web to deceive someone.)

Catfish on white backgroundIs your online lead data a catfish?

Let us explain. We once had a client that was rocking a pay-per-click ad group — at least that’s what it looked like by the volume of phone calls the ads were bringing in. But it turns out things weren’t what they seemed. After listening to the call recordings that were tied to those ads, the client discovered that the callers 1) had misunderstood the nature of the client’s business and 2) had no interest in or need for the client’s services. Way to put a damper on things.

But imagine if the company had continued pouring money into that ad group without delving into all the phone calls it was bringing in. We have three words for that: Waste. Of. Money. This client is the perfect example of why you need to look for a call tracking provider that can show you granular details about your campaigns. Ask potential call tracking providers if they can provide any of the following details:
  • Keyword, source and medium of each call
  • Call details such as date, time and length
  • Caller information, including name, business name, phone number and address
  • Call recordings
Remember: The more detail, the better.

They Don’t Rush You

When it comes to online-to-offline call tracking, the one element that’s crucial to making a connection between your online ads and site visitors is cookie length (we’re talking about the electronic kind, but baked goods are always a plus!).

The minute a user visits your site for the first time, the call tracking software automatically assigns a tracking cookie to that visitor. Your website will then display a number that’s unique to that visitor. Each time they return to your site, they’ll see the same number until the cookie expires.

So if the cookie session expires before the visitor is ready to take the next step and make the first contact, you lose the ability to attribute the call to the keyword that initially brought them to your site. But you can’t rush these things.

So the question is, how long should cookie length be? If you have a lightning-fast sales cycle, you might be able to get away with a couple days, but ideally, your dynamic call tracking provider’s cookie length should be at least two to four weeks.

They’re Not Still Involved With Their Ex

Heart wrapped in chainsWhen working with a dynamic call tracking provider, the last thing you want is to end up with a toll-free number (TFN) equivalent to someone who’s not over their ex — that is, a number that’s still receiving calls for the last business it was with. You need a TFN that’s been scrubbed clean of its past to make sure you won’t receive the previous owner’s phone calls.

There are dynamic call tracking providers that don’t bother with scrubbing in order to pass along cost savings to you, but keep in mind that if you use a line that hasn’t been scrubbed, you could be playing secretary for a few other businesses for a while. As a result, your data might not be 100 percent accurate (refer back to our first point to see why this is an issue).

Ask potential call tracking vendors ahead of time if they provide clean numbers and if so, how long they’ve been out of service before being assigned to you.

Remember that a comprehensive marketing strategy involves tracking the relationship between all marketing mediums — including online-to-offline leads. To make sure you’re getting the best results for your money, follow our tips for selecting the right call tracking vendor.

Simplify Your Work Life With Speech Recognition

Is your work life overly complex? Are you putting in too many hours at the office doing tasks that should take minutes? Do you wish there was a way you could just simplify things? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you need to embrace National Simplify Your Life Week.

It happens during the first week of August, and we can’t think of a more opportune time to get rid of all the bulky, overly complex solutions (more like problems) at work that are a waste of time.

To show you just how simple call management can be, we want to tell you a little story about a businessman whose life is overrun with complicated processes. If his story seems all too familiar, then we have another story that will make you breathe a sigh of relief.

Man peering over cubicle wallByron and the Batty Bedlam

As the manager of inside sales for Billson Brothers Bats, Byron really wanted to know what was happening during his sales team’s phone calls. In order to find out, he started leaning against cubicles to eavesdrop on phone calls. He listened to what the sales reps were saying to make sure they were properly upselling the newest bat and being respectful to callers. But his system was flawed because he couldn’t hear the customers. Plus he broke a cubicle wall, so he needed a new method.

Byron had the bright idea to record his teams' calls. So he set up a tape recorder to catch every call his team made. Even though the recordings were pretty garbled and he could hear every water cooler conversation and key clack in the office, he couldn't think of a better solution. He listened closely to the reps’ conversations, trying to see if he could figure out if customers were saying anything bad about the company or mentioning a competitor.

Soon he began spending his entire workday listening to the recorded phone calls from beginning to end. Sometimes he’d play a recording once, then twice, then again for good measure, listening to every nuance in the rep’s voice.

But there were so many recordings he ended up working through the night just to finish them all. Without a way to figure out which recordings were important, he had to comb through every single one himself.

He started spending so much time at work that his family fell apart, he got robbed because his car was parked at the building so late, and he didn’t get any managerial work done for two months because he spent all his time listening to those phone calls. Don’t want to end up like Byron? Take a look at Sally’s story.

Sally and the Simplified Sales Solution

Sally also manages a sales team at Solomon Sisters Slingshots and wants to make sure everyone is saying all the right things on phone calls. She used to take Byron’s approaches, until she found speech-recognition technology to simplify her work life.

Woman reviewing a reportNow that she uses it, she simply selects the keywords that are important to her business ("thank you," "SlingShot Pro 2000," "helpful," "have a great day"). After picking these special words, the technology takes over. It automatically records all inbound and outbound phone calls and scans the recordings for the selected keywords. If a call contains one of the keywords, the recording is flagged so she knows exactly which calls to give more attention.

When Sally wants to check in on her team’s performance, she just look at the report with all the call recordings and listens to the calls that are flagged with keywords. By using this tool, she can better train employees and improve her team’s customer service.

Hopefully you can learn from Byron’s mistakes and Sally’s simple solution of speech-recognition technology. And if you’re looking for more ways to simplify your business, check out our post on how to fix your call handling mistakes.

Google Tricks and Marketing Tips

"Let me Google that for you." This witty retort is heard in countless offices when someone asks an easily searchable question. However, as we know, some people are just better Googlers than others.

Google has many hidden features that those in the know can use to their advantage. But we don't want anyone to feel left out, so we're sharing the coolest ones. Use these Google tricks to your own benefit and teach those snarky Google experts a thing or two.

You may be surprised to learn that these fun features can also teach you a few things about your outreach marketing. Check out the tips below.

Do the Math

Google's calculator
Did you know Google has a calculator? When you have to start counting fingers and toes, it might be easier to type the problem into the Google search bar. This may be a stretch, but we think this means Google wants you to start doing more math. It's not a bad idea, especially for your marketing. Make the most out of your advertisements by crunching a few numbers.

In business, we're always looking for that critical calculation, return on investment, for promotional efforts. Putting a unique toll-free number (TFN) with each marketing endeavor will help you calculate which one is generating the most business. The best advertisements will stand out and the worst ones can be removed quickly. Marketing dollars will go further when you calculate return and invest your money in the right places.

Do Some Tracking

Google lets you track packages and flights simply by searching a tracking number or flight number. This handy trick means you'll always know what's going on with your packages or flights. Unsurprisingly, tracking lets you know what's going on with your marketing, too.

Once you've linked your campaigns with TFNs, you can pinpoint where most of your calls are coming from by looking at a call map. Tracking each call helps you target the locations with the most calls (and therefore highest return), and voilĂ ! The boss is happy, you're happy, customers are happy. Everybody's happy.

Screenshot of the screen barrel rolling Do a Barrel Roll

Type "do a barrel roll" into the Google search bar. Pretty sweet, right? This unique trick got Google some serious press. Your company should aspire to do the same! That is, be unique. We aren't responsible for any barrel roll damages you might incur.

Make your business stand out by using a vanity number. You can incorporate your name, a slogan or any other letter-number combination you can think of, for instance, 855-BRL-ROLL! By catching customers' attention, you'll stick out in their minds, which will in turn bring you more business.

If you aren't already, use these hidden Google features and put our marketing tips into action. Do you know of any more Google tricks? Let us know in the comments!