Pokemon Go, A Marketer’s Dream

Remember back in the days of Foursquare when you could build customer loyalty with marketing promises like “the Mayor drinks for free!” or “show us your check-in for a discount on your purchase?” It’s time to gear up for the next round of location-based marketing meets gamification. Except this time, the game part blows pretty much anything else we’ve seen out of the water.

I’m thirty-nine, and when I was growing up, we didn’t have a Nintendo. We had a computer, and a 300 baud modem, so while my friends were playing Nintendo, I was dialing into a local BBS to play Risk. (I know, I’m a nerd.) I tell you that to explain that up until yesterday, Pokemon means nothing to me outside of what I pick up here and there as my sons talk about it.

That changed on Friday when our 22-year-old designer mentioned sadly that she couldn’t find any Pokemon in our office and that her boyfriend was debating about upgrading his phone, simply because his current phone kept crashing while he tried to play the game.

That caught my attention enough to make me run some searches and to get caught up on some of the Pokemon Go related news. I scanned through some of the same stories most people have seen: the one about the Pokemon Go player who found the dead body, the one about the armed robbers who used the game to lure victims to secluded areas, and the many stories about Pokemon Go players who are suddenly finding themselves getting way more exercise than usual.

The one that caught my eye though was a stream of Tweets from someone who lives in what used to be a church, and who quickly figured out that the Augmented Reality game still thought it was still a church and had set his home up as a Gym. The resulting stream of Tweets as he and friends discuss and post pictures of the stream of players outside his home started sparking ideas.

It was shortly after reading that story that I started hunting down some stats and learned that in a matter of days, Pokemon Go had been installed on more Android devices than Tinder has and that it’s just shy of surpassing Twitter usage as well.

 

Pokemon Go to Overtake Twitter

Source: SimilarWeb

Not bad for a few days work.

I ended up downloading the game myself on Sunday morning. The experience was both addicting as a player and inspiring as a marketer. After a day’s worth of playing, I found myself awake at 2 am writing this article as I sorted through the various ways businesses could leverage the game’s popularity as part of their marketing efforts.

I admit that my experience with the game was lukewarm at best from my home. I snagged a few base level Pokemon while wandering around our rural 22-acre farm, but with no Pokestops or Gyms located within walking distance, the gameplay didn’t last long. It was later that day when I picked up a few Pokemon in the sound booth of our church and the parking lot and drink aisle of Walmart that I started to see the potential.

Since we happened to be driving our two nine-year-old sons to summer camp a few hours away that afternoon, I decided to check out the mapping overlay of the Augmented Reality side of the game. As we made the journey, it was fascinating to see what locations were tagged as Pokestops and Gyms while driving through small towns in rural Pennsylvania. Libraries, churches, monuments, and fire halls lit up the screen with Pokestops, which give players the chance to snag extra Pokeballs, eggs, and supplies when they are close. Gas stations, libraries and coffee shops often turned up as gyms, as did a raceway, a ball field and a school playground we passed. Since users need to visit gyms to “train” their Pokemon and join teams to defend local gyms and earn game credits, it’s not unusual for these locations to see a sudden influx of daily visitors.

Since players can take screen shots of the Pokemon they spot and capture in the wild, it should come as no surprise that social media feeds are filling up with pictures of Pidgeottos in the park,  Rattatas on the rail and Krabbys in Woolworths.  It should also come as no surprise that Millenials are cheering brands like Woolworths that have smartly jumped in on the fun with appropriate responses.

Woolworths Pokemon Go

Source: Woolworths’ Facebook Page

It should be playing on the mind of every marketer that Pokemon Go just might bring the world some of the best marketing tie-in potential we’ve seen in ages. Clearly, it’s possible this will turn out to be nothing more than a fad that will run its course in a few weeks or months. Even if that turns out to be the case, it is no less true that businesses who are quick to act can reap the rewards. Savvy business owners who make use of geo-targeting, existing email list segmentation and good old fashioned word of mouth could pick up some excellent foot traffic and loyalty points in short order.

With that in mind, here are ten quick and easy ways to consider getting a marketing boost from Pokemon Go.

First, download the game. Spend a few minutes playing it and check out the area around your business to see if there are Pokestops or Gyms located nearby. Look out the window and watch to see if you notice clusters of people wandering around staring at their phones, turning in all directions. If any of these are the case, you are probably located in a good spot to consider a little Pokemon Go marketing.

IF You Are Lucky Enough To Be a Gym Location

1. Consider taking advantage of the location and putting in the effort to dominate the gym, making sure your trainer name is the business name. I promise, players will notice, and you’ll get cool points.

2. Encourage team spirit by offering a discount or deal to members of the team (Red, Yellow or Blue) currently dominating your location. Maybe a 10% discount, a free appetizer or even a T-Shirt or drawstring bag with the gym location/business name.

3. Set up and advertise a set time for teams to meet and train together. Use your Facebook account or email list to throw a “Pokemon Go Trainer Party” at 7 pm on a slow night. Offer a discount to groups who show up to play, or just set up a reserved space for players to sit, meet and compare notes.

If You Are Lucky Enough to Be a Pokestop

4. A Pokestop can be hit by a player approximately once every five minutes. That makes it a perfect spot to circle back to, or hang around while hunting Pokemon. Consider adding some outdoor seating in good weather, or sun or rain coverage to players who may wish to congregate. Better yet, put up game themed signs inviting them in. Wouldn’t it be a shame if your outdoor patio filled up with customers who could refill their Pokeballs and berries while having lunch?

5. Besides simply inviting players in, consider figuring out a quick and easy way to monetize them. If you are a public library or a public park that has a Pokestop on your premises, set up a bottled water and snack vendor in that location. It won’t take long before enterprising kids recognize a Pokestop across the street from their house and sets up a lemonade stand that does killer business.

6. Look for the opportunity to pay to offer premium items at your location. Currently, players gain access to more advanced items as they level up, but it would make sense for Niantic to allow a Pokestop sponsor to offer a higher volume of premium items.

For Both of the Above and Everyone Else

7. Buy and deplore lures to attract foot traffic. A lure costs about fifty cents to deploy and attracts extra Pokemon to a set spot for thirty minutes. Parents are (rightly) fretting over their kids being drawn to a lure by those with nefarious purposes, but trusted businesses who advertise lures in advance could tie into the idea of player parties or discount options, or just enjoy the potential for extra business.

8. Be on the lookout for in-game Advertising opportunities. It may not be long before the game allows businesses or even individuals to buy the right to be a Pokestop or a Gym. I also wouldn’t expect to wait long before having the option to throw an Augmented Reality billboard into the game. Expect the folks at Niantic to monetize the game further through sponsorships, specially themed game items and other opportunities.

9. Encourage check-ins via Facebook that include pictures of Pokemon being caught in or around your location. Highlight the best catch of the week on your page, or gamify it further and run a leaderboard at your location with prizes given at certain intervals. This idea could work extremely well for libraries, public parks with visitor centers, large retail outlets like malls and cafes in heavily trafficked areas.

10. One of the biggest draws to the game is the increased physical activity that comes from chasing down new Pokemon with friends. Players get notices of nearby Pokemon and must walk, sometimes half a mile or more to get close enough to catch the new character. Another feature, which allows players to incubate eggs received at Pokestops, requires users to walk 2, 5 or 10 KM to trigger an egg hatching. Consider mapping out a walk designed to lead players past Pokestops, Gyms, and locations where you’ve set up a lure, using your business as the final destination. Require a certain number of players to show up together and award the one who scores the highest ranking Pokemon during their walk with a free item or discount.

Have you played around with any other marketing integration for Pokemon Go yet? Have a favorite personal story or experience while playing the game yourself? Share it in the comments below.

We Wish You A Merry Christmas (Infographic)!

Infographic-01Christmas cards in the mail are often a family’s chance to brag about what they’ve done that year and how great they are. Not that we’re bragging…but we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished! We’ve expanded our client base, our employee family and our repertoire. It’s definitely been an exciting year!

Being the creative marketing agency we are, a card just wasn’t enough. So, here’s a fun infographic to showcase some of the serious and silly office moments. To all our clients, colleagues, and friends – thank you for a fantastic 2015! And, here’s to an even better 2016! Read more

Marketing to Millennials: 4 Tips for Your Brand

It’s hard to believe how drastically social networks like Facebook have evolved since their debut. I’m dating myself here, but, when I first created an account on Facebook, it was only designed for college students. In fact, not every college or university was even involved at that time. We all know how the network has transformed itself to include multiple generations today. However, as the demographic gets “grayer,” the youngsters are less involved.

According to eMarketer, the 65+ demographic will increase more than any other demographic on Facebook through 2016. Interestingly, as this trend happens, the 18-24 crowd will decrease on Facebook. Intriguing data, huh? This chart from Sprout Social shares even more insights into Facebook’s demographics:

Sprout Social Chart

What’s happening is the Millennial Generation, also known as Generation Y, is getting their social media desires filled on other networks. Pew Research defines this age group as the 18-34 group. Some of this shift is probably due to the fact that their parents and grandparents haven’t made it to these new channels yet.

Still, these trends pose quite the challenge for marketers, especially since activities of the upper and lower ends of the millennial group are likely very different. Some marketers may think they’re in the clear and that they don’t need to reach this crowd since their products and services are for older age groups. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but in a few years, this millennial crowd will be your target audience, so it’s important to do your homework and be ready to capitalize when the time is right. Otherwise, negativity could be associated with your brand leaving you with even bigger problems.

It’s a competitive game, but connection and engagement are possible. The following tips should help:

1. Think before You Speak

A prominent characteristic of the millennial crowd is its strong ability to be heard. For the past ten years or so, we’ve been hearing how blogs, forums, and social networks are outlets for ALL voices. Marketers have embraced and encouraged a two-way communication channel in order to engage, gather feedback, and ultimately, be better marketers.

But, these voices mean that we, as marketers, have to be on our A game. Hasty doesn’t work. Somewhat relevant content will not do you any favors. And complete misses will be damaging. These reasons are why it is of the utmost importance to take a breath and think through what you’re posting before you hit “Enter.” This doesn’t mean that you can’t piggyback on a relevant newsy trend, but it does mean that you have to apply smart marketing. If you don’t, the voices could come back to haunt you.

2. Don’t Be a Friend Instead of a Parent

Who remembers a parent in school that tried too hard to be a friend? It doesn’t work, does it? You can be a cool parent without crossing over that line. The same logic applies to brands connecting with the millennial crowd on social media. Don’t be the brand that uses “wicked” methodologies to try to connect with your audience, because it won’t work.

A brand can be relevant and current without forcing it. By being true to your brand, you show credibility and consistency. If you do this, the lingo and pop culture reference will happen naturally.

3. Be Short, Sweet, and to the Point

Do you ever wish for a simpler life? I’ll admit that I do. Unfortunately, for the majority, life has us on the fast track. In other words, you have very little time, if any, beyond fulfilling your needs and maybe dabbling into your wants. This means that, even when you have a minute to play on social media, you don’t want to take the time to read a paragraph from a brand or watch a 10-minute video. You want something quick and easy to digest that provides a solution, answers a question, or that is just helpful information.

This is where marketing skills really come into play. If you have a lot of information to share, tease it. Give your audience a reason to dig further, which is what you want anyway.

4. Don’t Lump Millennials Together

This is a serious mistake that marketers tend to make since the millennial age group covers quite the range of ages. At the lower end, this group includes people still college. And at the upper end, it could include people who are married, with children, and with a decade+ experience in their careers. Simply put, you need more in your toolbox than just emojis.

It requires you to do market research and segment within this audience. There will be times that there will be crossover, which will make your job a little easier, but often, the content will need to vary and be customized per segment.

In summary, marketing with social media channels was never easy, but it has definitely gotten more challenging as society, businesses and consumers have evolved. Today, consumers, especially millennials, are complex. Yes, this means marketing is tough, really tough. But, it’s not impossible. Brands like Ford, Pepsi, Doritos and more are doing it wonderfully.

If you think about this evolution, that many of us marketers advocated by the way, the expectations of millennials are not surprising. Millennials want more than a logo, they want human elements, and they want to be part of your brand experience. Isn’t this what marketers preach all the time? Sounds like we need to step up our game to practice what we preach.

Should You Outsource Marketing Services?

In the last 10 years, social media marketing has become a huge opportunity for businesses of all sizes. From mom and pop shops to Fortune 500 companies, marketing strategies are turning more and more to social media. In fact, it was projected that 70 percent of companies would increase their digital marketing budget in 2015. This trend is expected to increase in coming years.

One of the downsides to social media, however, is the amount of time needed to maintain a presence. This means more work for you and your team. The question is, should you keep it in-house or should you outsource marketing services? As with most decisions, there are pros and cons to both sides. At SugarSpun Marketing, we get it – we’ve worked with all types and sizes of companies. No one company is exactly the same as the next. To help you make an informed decision, we’ve put together some facts and tips you’ll want to keep in mind as you plan your marketing strategy and budget.

Outsourcing Infographic-01

4 Ways to Create Buzzworthy Content (Butter Recipes Included!)

I was moonlighting as a server for a friend’s rehearsal dinner, passing around trays of artisan deviled eggs, when I heard, “Oh, this is my childhood, right here,” referring to the bread and butter table. That table was the pride and joy of Jen, SugarSpun’s fearless leader. She had artfully set the table with bread and baskets, Pinterest-worthy (she did write the book after all!), to display the four types of butter she had whipped together for the event. In fact, the butter table became the buzz of the evening.

“Did you try the butter table?”

“You have to try this butter!”

“Oh, this one is my absolute favorite.”

The guest who was marveling over the brown sugar and cranberry butter was also the most ardent proponent to other guests. “Oh, you haven’t tried the bread and butter table? Well, let me take you there.”

Now, I promise there is a point to this story beyond making you hungry. It’s very clear that every business on social media wants their content to be buzzworthy. Everyone wants their content to be shared and talked about on other platforms. So, how is it done? Here are four ways we believe create buzzworthy content:

1. Create a campaign with hashtag

Whether your campaign is for Twitter or Instagram – or both – hashtags can be the way to get buzz. Hashtags, although sometimes annoying, are fun. They also create organization.

Charmin’s #tweetsfromtheseat campaign is one of the most creative (and brave). For more ideas, visit Hubspot’s The Rules of Twitter Hashtags: Hits and Misses from 7 Big Brands.

2. Take advantage of timely events

A few weeks ago, Jen wrote a blog on small businesses geared toward the Firefly crowd. With the 10 year anniversary of the movie Serenity and the recently available internet show, Con Man, it was a timely piece. Yes, we all knew about these events long beforehand and were waiting for the release of the show with excitement. We’re mildly geeky that way.

When we posted the blog post, we boosted it specifically to Firefly fans. The resulting shares and likes were even higher than we anticipated! This is what can happen if you take the time to plan content around an event, season, or any other time-oriented happening. It resonates with a passionate group of people and has the potential of going viral.

3. Discuss a hot button issue

People on social media love to have opinions. Relating your product to a hot button issue can help boost the buzz. Understand that you have to use caution if you decide to take this approach. It’s a spontaneous approach that doesn’t allow time for careful planning and vetting.

Many brands have jumped on a Twitter trend thinking they are making great use of their marketing skills only to have it backfire on them. On the flip side, some brands have been able to have great success. As a general rule, just be smart when executing this idea and try to avoid topics like politics or the Lamar Odom saga.

4. Think outside the box

As in the #tweetsfromtheseat example, Charmin brilliantly used potty humor that was just the right amount of outrageous without stepping over the line. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Toilet paper isn’t sexy, but Charmin has made it fun.

The point is to make your brand more relatable rather than just being another company online. Make use of content that will cause your audience take a second look.

In summary, the main goal with buzzworthy content isn’t to have things go viral, though it’s nice when they do. Instead, it’s to have your target market talking about your business and sharing it with other people. You want people to say “Oh, you haven’t tried (your company here)? Well, let me take you there.” Social media is all about word of mouth marketing. Creating a buzz around your content is the perfect way to do it.

Now to take care of the hunger pains I created…

Buzzworthy Butter

The bread and butter table really was fantastic. You can check out our photo of the table, as well as other photos of SugarSpun happenings, on our Instagram page @SugarSpunMkt

The butter recipes are simple to make, especially if you have a food processor. Bring one pound of butter to room temperature per recipe.

 

Lemon Rosemary Butter

Ingredients:

1 lb of butter (4 sticks), room temperature

Zest from one lemon

Leaves from 1-2 sprigs of rosemary

Directions:

Put all ingredients into processor and pulse until well blended.

 

Chive Butter

Ingredients:

1 lb of butter (4 sticks), room temperature

1 small plastic packet of chives, finely diced

Directions:

Put all ingredients into processor and pulse until well blended.

 

Roasted Garlic Butter

Ingredients:

1 lb of butter (4 sticks), room temperature

2 heads of garlic, roasted

Directions:

Put all ingredients into processor and pulse until well blended.

 

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Cranberry Butter

Ingredients:

1 lb of butter (4 sticks), room temperature

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 Tablespoon brown sugar

3-4 Tablespoons finely chopped dried cranberries

Directions:

Put all ingredients into processor and pulse until well blended.

 

 

 

The FTC Targets Social Media with Updated Guidelines: What Marketers Need to Know

In 2009, the FTC rolled out some guidelines to accommodate the world of new media. The online marketing sector raised many questions and concerns at the time but has learned to work with the recommendations. But, the FTC isn’t done with this area.

The commission recently updated its guidelines and now calls for “clearer” disclosure of influencer/brand relationships. To be fair, the primary message the FTC is trying to send hasn’t changed. The challenge is that, as the commission is being more specific, online marketing, and especially social media marketing, becomes a lot harder.

Understanding the Guidelines

This information can be a lot to digest and is already bringing anxiety to the marketing community. But, it’s important toBrian Clark understand, first of all, that these are guidelines. They aren’t rules or regulations. As Brian Clark, the CEO of Rainmaker Digital and founder of Copyblogger Media explained to us, endorsement guidelines were around even before the Internet existed. Yes, the Web and social media have complicated these areas since the online arena isn’t as clear as mediums such as radio and TV. But, the intent of the FTC to protect human interest still exists:

The Guides, at their core, reflect the basic truth-in-advertising principle that endorsements must be honest and not misleading. An endorsement must reflect the honest opinion of the endorser and can’t be used to make a claim that the product’s marketer couldn’t legally make.

In addition, the Guides say if there’s a connection between an endorser and the marketer that consumers would not expect and it would affect how consumers evaluate the endorsement, that connection should be disclosed. For example, if an ad features an endorser who’s a relative or employee of the marketer, the ad is misleading unless the connection is made clear. The same is usually true if the endorser has been paid or given something of value to tout the product. The reason is obvious: Knowing about the connection is important information for anyone evaluating the endorsement.

Say you’re planning a vacation. You do some research and find a glowing review on someone’s blog that a particular resort is the most luxurious place he has ever stayed. If you knew the hotel had paid the blogger hundreds of dollars to say great things about it or that the blogger had stayed there for several days for free, it could affect how much weight you’d give the blogger’s endorsement. The blogger should, therefore, let his readers know about that relationship.

Another principle in the Guides applies to ads that feature endorsements from people who achieved exceptional, or even above average, results. An example is an endorser who says she lost 20 pounds in two months using the advertised product. If the advertiser doesn’t have proof that the endorser’s experience represents what people will generally achieve using the product as described in the ad (for example, by just taking a pill daily for two months), then an ad featuring that endorser must make clear to the audience what the generally expected results are.

The Enforcement Factor

This is the area that is of the biggest concern for many marketers. How will the FTC enforce these guidelines? Realistically, it would be next to impossible for the commission to monitor all this activity online. Still, this doesn’t mean that they should be ignored. While we may not agree with the guidelines, it is important that marketers take them seriously.

Rebecca Lieb “FTC or no FTC, disclosure is always important. It doesn’t help brands in the long run to be suspected of trying to trick or dupe consumers,” Rebecca Lieb, recognized marketing author, speaker and principal of Conglomotron LLC, explained to us.

“These new FTC guidelines could also be termed “best practices” for marketers to operate effectively, as well as transparently, on social media. Upfront disclosure is always preferable to accusations of intentionally trying to hoodwink an unsuspecting public.”

In the past, entities like the commission would focus on large brands to showcase their authority. Small businesses shouldn’t sit idly by though. Any business could fall under scrutiny.

The Threat to Social Media

Another extremely challenging area for marketers with this update to the guidelines is how the FTC is asking the disclosure take place. Twitter, for instance, has a strict character limit. Still, the guidelines say: “…a disclosure on a profile page isn’t sufficient because many people in your audience probably won’t see it.” As a result, the disclosure would need to happen within the 140-character limit tweet, which may take away from the message.

According to Clark, a corporate Twitter account can freely promote its own products and services. But, disclosure does need to be apparent when the promotion is coming from an employee.

Correct tweet: I’m so proud of all the new features in our <cool product>.

Incorrect tweet: Check out <cool product>.

“When you’re promoting a client, or a company you have an investment in, or a product you’ve been paid to pitch (even as an affiliate), you have to disclose, period,” he went on to explain. “That’s always been the law in earlier mediums, so it’s consistent. It’s just that we’re all the media now.” (Emphasis added.)

Despite the extra effort on the part of marketers, this update is not likely to impact social media adoption by businesses. Social media is simply a natural part of the marketing mix, and its benefits outweigh these additional challenges.

Takeaway

While these guidelines aren’t exactly welcome to the marketing community, the industry needs to be prepared to take these on just as it has other challenges. Lieb reminded us that there were similar outcries when the FTC challenged email marketing and search advertising. The FTC lays out these types of guidelines to encourage the industry to self-regulate. The changes aren’t wanted, but marketers will find a way to continue connecting with their target audience, even if it requires multiple tweets to get a message across.

Most importantly, marketers need to stay educated on these issues. Change often brings new challenges, but by staying informed, it’s possible to turn these challenges into opportunities for you and your client.

SugarSpun: 4 Ways (with Recipes) to Tailor your Content

I met with a friend regarding blog content for her website awhile back over lunch. Part of it was an excuse to talk about content marketing over gastronomical goodness and part of it was to take advantage of one of the very few low-humidity summer days Pittsburgh has to offer. Over delicious burgers and sunlit tables, we talked about her plans for a blog. The further into the conversation we went, it became clearer that she didn’t really have a grasp on her audience. Knowing your audience is an essential building block to content management. While you may understand your product inside and out, it’s relating your product to your customer that will bridge the gap of communication. It’s important to have this down because when you begin planning content, you need to know to whom you’re writing. Where do they live? What are their spending habits? Is your audience one particular type of person, or do you have different segments? What’s more, the audience needs to be broken down very deeply because, beyond identifying who the audience is, you also need to ask yourself, “Why should they care about my content?”

Although today, audience identification is associated with marketing practices, the process actually dates back to the ancient Greek scholars known as Sophists who were paid to teach people how to use speech and persuasive arguments to win their audience over. It might sound simple now, but at the time it was new and even threatening to some.

Don’t confuse me with the facts.” ~ Earl Landgrebe

One of the tenants of Sophistry is to tailor your speech (or writing) to your audience. The same is true today, because, while your content is very important, the way it is delivered is equally important. You wouldn’t write to a customer the same way you would write to a co-worker, and you wouldn’t write to your 13-year-old child the same way you would write to your boss. Similarly, tailoring your content to the different segments of your audience is a way to reach out to these different groups with a personal voice and communicate with them in a way they can understand and relate to.

In my previous blog post that shows the correlation between an ice cream endeavor and content management, the recipe for the perfect homemade ice cream base was explained. Now here are 4 ways (and recipes) to tailor your message to your audience, each one simply building off the base of your message.

By the way, if you haven’t tried the ice cream base yet, I absolutely recommend it. So far, I’ve made 4 different flavors from it! I won’t lie to you. I am in love.

1. Your base message…with a little something extra

When you have content that is as good as the brown butter ice cream, sometimes you can let it shine on its own, with a hint of flavoring to enhance it. For instance, let’s say you’re a small town bank in middle America. You’re proud of your longtime standing in the community. While you have different segments you’re reaching out to through your blog, at heart, your message is good rates through a trusted company. You can incorporate various tactics at different times to sweeten your message and add a little flavor variation, but the base of your blog emphasizes the trusted culture your bank has.

Chocolate Syrup by Alton Brown

As I said, this ice cream stands just fine by its own delicious self. But, I have a soft spot in my heart for plain ice cream and chocolate syrup, thanks to summers at my grandmother’s. She eschewed flavored ice cream, and instead, introduced me to the joys of chocolate flavored high fructose corn syrup.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups Dutch-processed cocoa
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

In a small pot, bring water and sugar to a boil and whisk in cocoa, vanilla, salt, and corn syrup. Whisk until all of the solids have dissolved. Reduce sauce until slightly thickened. Strain and cool to room temperature. Pour into squeeze bottles. Squeeze into cold milk and stir for delicious chocolate milk or serve on your favorite ice cream. And, hey, it’s fat free!

2. Go with what you know

Let’s say you own a vineyard, for instance, and part of your target audience is working mothers who need a break at the end of a long week to get away with their girlfriends for a few hours of laughs. As a mother yourself, you can identify readily with your audience. Instead of trying to be something you’re not, simply blog about what you know. Tell the story about the way a glass of wine after a long day at work can give you a moment of much needed sanity. This is authentic and will resonate with your audience.

Amazing Brown Butter Pecan Ice Cream from A Flexible Life

The original recipe that came with the Brown Butter base was Brown Butter Pecan. I knew, having tasted Jen’s creation before, that it was a sure thing.

Ingredients

1 c pecans

2 T butter

1/2 t sea salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Microwave butter in a bowl, then toss pecans and sea salt to coat. Spread out onto an ungreased cookie sheet or pan and bake in oven for 9-12 minutes, being careful not to burn. Set aside to cool.

Add according to your ice cream maker instructions.

3. Nostalgia is powerful

Nostalgia is a great tool to connect with your intended audience. Look no further than Coca-Cola, who is steeped in nostalgia, from retro glass bottles to Santa Claus. The same can be done for your brand. Well, you may not have the history that Coke has, but the idea is to take your audience back to a place of comfort. Maybe it’s the 80’s, or maybe it’s a memory of going to Grandma’s house. Whatever it is, use your content to play to these emotions. It’s a marketing tactic that’s worked for years, and it will work for you.

Peanut Butter Dough

This is my very own creation, a nod to my past connection with the extraordinarily unhealthy peanut butter dough of my childhood. Picking out the ingredients made me cringe the entire time. Powdered milk? Jif peanut butter? Karo syrup? And yet somehow, the flavors in this base melded and swirled perfectly.

Ingredients

1 cup Jif peanut butter

1 cup powdered milk

1 cup corn syrup

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Directions

Combine in one bowl and mix together. You’ll need to use your hands halfway through. Once everything is mixed, add into ice cream according to your ice cream maker instructions.

4. Go with the seasonal push

For businesses, picking the right season is part of tailoring your message because there is a time and a place for everything, as Solomon and the Byrds describe. A season doesn’t necessarily have to refer to the changing weather patterns. It can also refer to holidays or observed events. If you are a publishing company, for example, celebrating Banned Books Week would be the perfect time to talk about books you have that are similar to those that have been banned in the past. Try to capitalize on news items as well. Any association with a particular trend that will resonate with your audience has the potential to boost your sales.

Berry Crumble from Take a Megabite

I am a sucker for just about anything berry. Strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, and though it took a few years, blueberry too. Berries picked fresh from the (often prickly) bush are the absolute best. Pair the sweet/sour flavor with crunchy, and I am putty on the floor with my foodgasm. Oddly enough, berries in the winter, to me, just don’t taste as good. I still eat them, don’t get me wrong. There’s just something about eating them in season that makes them right.

Ingredients

For berry compote:

  • 1 pint berries (mixture of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 T fresh lemon juice

For crumble:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, chilled

Directions

For berries: Preheat your oven to 375F. Combine berries with sugar in an 8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Gently mix. Roast for 8 minutes. Let cool slightly before pureeing with lemon juice in a food processor. Strain puree into a small bowl through a fine mesh strainer. Chill.

For crumble: Make crumble. Turn your oven down to 350F. Line with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, the remaining 1 cup of sugar, salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon into a medium bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes, or until golden. Cool completely.

Once ice cream has been made, layer in a one-quart container with the leftover berry puree and crumbles. Top ice cream wit plastic wrap and an airtight lid. Freeze for at least 4 hours. You’ll have extra crumbles for serving.

In summary, you have to know your audience before you can tailor your content. From there, be creative and you will likely be impressed with all the sweet results you gain.

 

SugarSpun: Ice Cream and Content Management – What Not to Do

What feelings do the words “summer” and “ice cream” invoke for you? For me, it’s hot summer days traipsing to the ice cream store down the street in the middle of the day, money clutched in my sweaty, little hands. That first feel of the cool ice cream cone on my palm was perhaps my first experience with a foodgasm, even if the taste itself was blah. Those rainbow sprinkles (or jimmies, as they’re known in southwestern Pennsylvania) were just extras to the actual main attraction – the delicious shock of cold on my tongue and down my parched throat as I savored every last lick of summer in a cone. Even the brain freeze it induced wasn’t enough to detract from the amazing feeling of a blazing hot sun on my head and the giggling rush to lick up the cold ice cream before it melted down the sides.

As sprinkles and cones gave way to Haagen Dazs and Ben and Jerry’s, the convenience of ice cream behind those freezer doors in the store were a life saver. Cold goodness at my finger tips with just the flick of a freezer door any time I wanted.

And then I tried Jen’s homemade ice cream.

I was ruined for life.

Suddenly Haagen Dazs meant nothing and Breyers tasted empty. Even Ben and Jerry’s didn’t have the same je ne sais quoi that had once made many a late night gas station runs worth it. I was tainted by the creamy goodness that was laced with whatever homemade fillings Jen got into her head to create. There was, quite simply, no going back to regular life after that. 

Maybe part of the mystique of it was that, with her two hands (and an ice cream maker), she could sprinkle in a few ingredients and wallah! sugary dairy heaven was created. She’d dip a spoon in while the machine was still working, taste-testing as she went, then hand a spoon over for me to sample.

It seemed a relatively simple process. Create the base, let it cool and then throw it into the ice cream maker with a few choice ingredients. I could do that, right?

It’s the end of summer – the last hurrah before temperatures cool, and we break out the sweaters and boots to watch the leaves change colors while we see our breath in the air. But, I was determined to salute the last (ridiculously) humid days of summer with my own homemade ice cream.

To add to my ambitious notion, the last two weeks of work have been particularly crazy with shifting schedules and more projects coming due. In other words, finding time and energy to make ice cream was a challenge. Even more challenging was the fact I decided to take flavor requests from each team member in the office. As I’ve mentioned previously, when it comes to cooking I am excellent at experiencing what not to do. In fact, I have a whole personal website and blog planned around that theme on my someday list. When my work as a content manager and ice cream maker collided, I began to compile a list of what not to do:

1) Skimp on the details

I have this habit of looking over the ingredient list and substituting random things to match what I have in my pantry. I have a 70 percent success rate of maintaining the integrity of the recipe with substitutions, by the way. My mantra “fake it ’til you make it” doesn’t always work when it comes to cooking. Other times, I fail to take into account the prep time needed when scheduling things out, which can mean throwing off the rest of the plans. For instance, those 12 eggs I had to separate when I doubled the ice cream recipe took much longer than planned without the proper utensils. I often forget it’s the prep time that takes longer than the actual cooking.

Creating content calendars requires the same attention to little details. Who is available to write when is just as important as the content. Sometimes, it isn’t feasible to write long, involved blogs back-to-back. Sometimes, strategically placing lighter pieces in between is just plain smart, especially when you’re a smaller company with less resources to rely on.

2) Plan at the last minute

Let’s face it. There are times when planning comes down to the wire. That’s life. It doesn’t have to be like that all the time, however. Proper planning can minimize the last minute rushing around. That’s why evergreen material is so important to have on stand-by just in case someone isn’t able to make a blog deadline – it always serves as a back up.

For me, because I hadn’t counted on how long it would take to prep everything and include the fillings, I ran short on time.

3) Rigid planning

The ice cream (absolutely, amazingly delicious and deserving of it’s own blog and drink recipe) in liquid form was made and cooled in the refrigerator. It was ready to be made into ice cream. What wasn’t ready, however, was the filling, these five different fillings I had so brilliantly thought of. While I had figured in the timing of one type of ice cream filling, I had failed to multiply the time to create such masterpieces by 5. I foolishly pictured something akin to Cold Stone, where the ice cream base is already created. They simply scoop out a specific amount, add one or two fixings, and mix it right there on the counter. Please take note that the key words here are “already created.” As in, what my liquid ice cream and fillings weren’t. And I had no time to finish it. With work commitments and other projects, it simply wasn’t going to happen. I had to come up with a new strategy.

Content calendars are often just as fluid. One of our clients is experiencing a significant amount of fluidity, creating a chance for our team to learn better communication and flexibility. The general rule is to stick as close to the calendar as possible, but there are times when going with the flow will produce far better results than the rigidity of a concrete plan.

4) Accept subpar results

It’s tempting to go with blurred details. Let the little things fall by the wayside and let your customers have less than the best. There is a need for flexibility, absolutely. But not at the expense of your standards. I started out with such a fantastic base for the ice cream and found I wasn’t willing to scrap my plans completely, but I definitely needed more time to develop them.

Instead of rushing things to get subpar results, give yourself time and space to improve what needs to be done. I promise you, you’ll get a better response with higher quality than if you rush to get out mediocrity, much like my ice cream project.

In the end, there is nothing to be gained in rushing homemade ice cream or content management – the wait for both is well worth it!

Stay tuned for more ice cream recipes. In the meantime, here is the recipe for the base – a delicious ice cream all on its own.

Amazing Brown Butter Ice Cream
(Adapted from Jen’s previous blog, A Flexible Life)

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 6 T butter
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • 2 c whole milk
  • 1 t vanilla

In a heat safe bowl, whisk together egg yolks until well blended. Set aside.

In a thick bottomed pan over medium heat, melt butter, stirring, until it begins to brown. As soon as the color shifts to brown, add brown sugar and 1/4 t salt. Stir until sugar begins to dissolve. At first, the brown sugar and butter will mix up, but after awhile, the butter will start to “weep” back out of the brown sugar. Don’t worry, this is totally normal.

Once the butter has started to “weep,” add some of the mixture to the milk, tempering it. Then pour all of the milk into the pan. It will spatter, so watch out. Chances are high that your sugar will turn into big crackly chunks when the cold milk hits it. Don’t worry about it. Just keep stirring until the sugar fully dissolves again.

DO NOT BOIL.

Pour about 1/4 of the milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Once the egg yolks have tempered, pour the eggs into the milk mixture. Continue cooking and stirring over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. The mixture is done when it passes the “back of the spoon” test.

For those of you who don’t know, that just means to take the spoon out of the liquid and quickly run a finger through the coating on the spoon. If the coating stays separated after you run your finger through it, it’s done. If it runs together, it’s not done.

Pour custard into a large bowl containing the cream and add the vanilla. Whisk until well mixed. Pour the mixture into a one gallon Ziplock freezer bag and submerge in an ice water bath until cold. (Generally 30-45 minutes.)

Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to directions.

Mega Content Part 2: Boost Long Term Leads Through Compounding Lead Generation

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It’s a long recognized fact that corporate websites that include active blogs generate higher volumes of traffic, leads and conversions. After all, a steady stream of content provides search engines with more pages to index and provides marketers with more opportunity to focus in on specific areas of interest or on sharing multiple perspectives.

When it comes to a solid Mega Content marketing approach, these benefits quickly become a real and tangible part of moving your marketing efforts forward.

(In part one of this series, the concept of creating and leveraging Mega Content was introduced as part of your content marketing and email marketing initiatives. If you haven’t read this piece, you might want to back up and read it for some background.)

What short-sighted content marketers often miss, however, is the longer term compounding value these content pieces can create. In other words, unlike more standard list building efforts that tend to have a defined start and end point and are quickly and easily measured once the campaign has ended, Mega Content looks at lead generation as a more long term enterprise.

Before we get to the part of this series that explains how to create Mega Content, (that’s coming up, I promise!) let’s take a look at the math behind the method and why it holds so much appeal for companies of all sizes.

The Challenge of Landing Page Traffic

The biggest challenge that comes with promoting landing pages designed to produce email leads is the cost of driving traffic into the page. In general, businesses tend to rely on contests or advertising to push traffic. Both are effective, but they also tend to have a somewhat limited lifespan. Contests eventually end, and advertising dollars usually end up being diverted to the next project.

This means the average landing page tends to pull traffic for the span of 2-6 weeks before seeing a huge drop in traffic; or it requires significant ongoing ad dollars to keep the traffic flowing. As a result, you’ll often see blogs and websites triggering pop-up windows to invite you to download a whitepaper or research report. The cost is infinitely lower, and the life span of the landing page can be extended.

Extending the Lifespan of Landing Pages

One of the primary reasons companies engage in Content Marketing is to drive a continual flow of targeted traffic into their website. The goal of this traffic is to drive incremental sales or lead generation, but for many companies, the link between blog content and conversions is tenuous at best. Sadly, many companies still haven’t figured out what the call to action in their blog posts needs to be. (This is, again, a whole other article…)

By building out a Mega Content package, sites now have a high value offering to exchange for email contacts as well as a wide range of content for social media. Their blog also serves as the perfect place to lead people to the landing page for the content. So, instead of using ad dollars or contest promotion, brands can share an image, article or video content. By generating a few months’ worth of supportive content as part of the Mega Content package, you ensure a steady flow of traffic into the landing page over time.

In addition, the content being passed around social sharing services like Pinterest or being housed on the blog can lead to solid long term traffic.

The Power of Compounding Leads

How are your blog analytics? Chances are, your high quality posts are still pulling traffic months (even years) after you originally published them. What’s more, on the posts you included calls to action, your conversion rate is likely staying reasonably steady over time as well.

Using this as a foundation, let’s give consideration to how a well-placed and promoted Mega Content landing page might perform.

Let’s say the first blog post you put out for your Mega Content pulls in 3,000 visitors in an average month, with 3% of them going on to fill out your lead generation form to download the content. This provides you with 60 solid leads per month that can be tied back to the topic of your Mega Content.gears-01

For most established sites, we regularly pull thousands or even tens of thousands of visitors per month to blog posts on client sites for small to mid-size businesses. That said, 60 leads per month may not appear to be much, but it would truly be a mistake to jump to this conclusion. The goal is not to gain a paltry 720 leads over the course of the year. Instead, as new content is produced, new opportunities to build targeted leads are created and combined with the older opportunities that are likely still performing.

If you release one piece of Mega Content per month, for example, it gives you the opportunity to build targeted email lists around 12 distinctly unique topics over the course of a year. Since these landing pages are relying on content marketing, social sharing and search engines to drive traffic, you should continue to receive leads from one piece of content while launching the next one, and the domino effect begins.

A more realistic portrayal of your math would be:compounding leads-01

While you may only see 60 leads the first month, month two will bring 120 leads when both campaigns are performing. And, month seven could bring 360 leads in as the six prior campaigns work their magic together. In fact, by the end of the year, you are looking at a grand total of 4,680 targeted leads!

If you are the ambitious type, or you have a history of producing strong content, traffic and conversion rates, you can be even bolder. If we rerun those numbers with an average of 10K views per month on the content and a 3.6% conversion rate, we’re looking at 360 leads per month – a compounded outcome of more than 28K leads over the course of one year!

Our own internal numbers show these results are not impossible to achieve. In fact, one of our Mega Content landing pages has consistently converted around 40% of its traffic since we launched it.

compounding leads2-01

Just a Change to Your Current Marketing Strategy

The biggest thing to keep in mind when considering a switch to a Mega Content approach is that it’s not about adding yet another marketing task to your list. It’s about making the work you do now more effective by maximizing its impact. Ultimately, it will get your lead generation team to have conversations with your content marketing team so everyone can work together to produce better content AND better leads.

Coming up in the next part of this series, we’ll look at how Mega Content production actually works. I’ll walk you through the idea of taking a huge piece of existing content and turning it into a Mega Content Package as well as how to take a smaller piece of content and scale it up into a legitimate piece of Mega Content.