Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Human Connection of Stories

In the movie Ray, Jamie Foxx, playing Ray Charles, is quoted saying the reason people like country music is because of the stories.  How right he was!  The human tradition of storytelling is almost as old as humanity itself.  Stories remind us that we are not alone in the universe; that other people have faults, struggles, and triumphs just like we do.  Good stories can be a powerful connecting force, which is why you may have heard that telling your business' story is an excellent tool to aid you in the acquisition of new members.  But what to include?  How to write it?  Today, I thought we could brush up on the components that go into a good story; a freshman English refresher course if you will.  So be mindful, pay close attention, and expect a quiz first thing tomorrow!

    The three most important elements of story are plot, characters, and narrative point of view.  The plot, or narrative, is the events that make up what happens in a story.  In our context this could mean the events leading up to the opening of your business, milestones in the history of your business, or any combination of the two.  When thinking up your story's plot, be sure to only include events pertinent to the kind of story you are trying to tell.  If you are trying to tell the story of how your business overcame insurmountable odds in it's infancy, talking about the color choices of your advertisement probably isn't the most important information.  On the other hand if you run a fashion line and your story is about two people with a passion for beautiful color, mentioning color choices would be extremely apt.  It all depends on what you are trying to say.  When piecing together the plot of your story my advice would be, take some time and think carefully about what has been the driving force of your business and begin from there.  A good story often writes itself!  Also, be sure your story does not have a finite ending, as you probably want your business to continue on into the future.
   The characters of your story, I think it goes without saying, are you and the people who have helped shape your business into what it is today.  This could include family, employees, financial backers; and be sure to include your customers, since you would hardly have a business without them!  In fact, any chance you have to include your customers, I would be inclined to do so, as any kind of community connection is an invaluable membership acquisition tool.  And remember: a good character is a compelling character.  Everyone on the earth is weird and quirky, and anytime they can be reminded that they are not the only weird, quirky people out there, they feel a connection.  So, any sort of personality traits that apply to your characters (this person had an interesting voice, so-and-so could make everybody laugh, etc.) is going to help make your story more interesting.
  When it comes to narrative point of view we get to the more technical side of writing, but it can be an extremely important tool in the telling of your story.  First-person narrative is a story told by a narrator who is also a character in the story.  If your business is a sole proprietorship this could mean using "I", or if there are many people involved, it could mean "we".  Third-person narrative is a story told by someone on the outside of the events looking in, and since they are not directly involved, you would never hear the words "I" or "you", unless they were in a quote.  Second-person refers directly to the audience and puts them right into the story (you woke up, you checked your mail, you ate breakfast).  While this may work for a segment of your story, you probably won't want to use it for the entire thing.  It wouldn't make any sense!  Also, give careful thought to the narrative voice of your story.  If your company wants to convey a lighthearted image, say for a children's toy line, a fun, whimsical voice would be used.  On the other hand, if you want your story to have a more somber tone, perhaps for a charity organization, a more serious narrative voice would be in order.

    Above all, no matter what your story is or how you want to tell it, be creative!  There's no reason you should feel bound to any kind of formula or format.  The last thing people want or need right now is more of the same thing.  Your business is a unique entity, and you should feel proud to tell your story in a unique way.  To quote a delicious fortune cookie I once read, "your way of doing what other people do their way is what makes you special".  So get to writing, and share your special story with the world!

Elana Pritchard is a representative of Peak Advertising, a nationally recognized performance marketing agency.  You can reach Elana with questions and feedback at

Friday, March 23, 2012

Nothing To Be Scared Of

Elana is a representative of Peak Advertising, a nationally recognized performance marketing agency.  You can reach Elana with questions and feedback at

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Compelling Offer, Likely Response

 Brand awareness and search engine optimization are both important tools of membership acquisition, but they don't necessarily sell anything.  Fancy bells and whistles are nice, but when you boil it down, as a marketer what you are looking for is a concrete response.  Without a response from the customer, you are just throwing empty words or images out into a void, and what good does that do your business?  One of the best ways to get the desired positive response your company seeks (and a possible long-term member), is to make a positive offer, or give the customer a reason to respond.

   As most of us who graduated elementary school know, the scenario of cause and effect takes place when a certain action occurs and triggers a response or reaction (whether it be the desired response or not).  "I wanted to speak to you, so I called you on the phone."  In this scenario, wanting to speak to you is the cause, and making the phone call is the effect.  If I did not want to speak to you, there would be no phone call.  To use the scenario of cause and effect in membership acquisition, you must first have an action, or offer, in order to get a reaction, or sale. Without a cause, the customer is likely to be unsure of exactly how to respond, and may forgo responding at all.

   Think of good offers as an open door, or invitation for the customer to become involved with your company.  Don't make the customer wait outside wondering whether or not it is okay to come in, make the first move.  With a good offer, not only is the customer intrigued to find out more about your program, they feel as though they are making a smart decision.  Instead of simply spending money or making a purchase, they feel as though they are using their money in an intelligent way.  Offers vary from business to business depending on the target clientele, but here are just a few examples of offers that may be helpful:

DISCOUNTS  Discounts are a wonderful way to persuade first time members to join up.  To the customer, the idea of saving money is a wise choice and takes the pressure off of the decision to make a purchase.

BONUSES  Throwing something extra in is fun for the buyer and could be enough of an extra incentive to make a sale.

TWO FOR ONE  If handled properly, this offer can turn one long term member into two.

 FREE TRIAL PERIOD  This can be helpful to get people to initially sign on, but be sure to offer some incentive to stay on.
    Simple and clear offers take the confusion out of the membership acquisition process.  Without it your creatives can have a suspension effect, or the unfocused feeling of drifting through space.  Offers take the guess work out of sales and can be the beginning of a focused dialogue between you and the customer; and as history has proven, a focused and clear dialogue is a good foundation for any relationship. 

Elana is a representative of Peak Advertising, a nationally recognized performance marketing agency.  You can reach Elana with questions and feedback at

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Developing an Online NetWORK

     Quality or quantity?  It's an old question that takes on a new dimension every time we ask it.  When it comes to membership acquisition and social networking, our knee-jerk response may be, "Quantity of course!  The more members I have the more popular I am and the more money I'll make!"  While on the surface this may seem to make sense, if we dig deeper we find that this, like many knee-jerk reactions, is not completely founded in logic or rational thinking.  Let us explore further.
   Say there are two companies who want to switch over from a traditional to a more internet based marketing strategy.  For the sake of humor we'll call them "Online Company Goofus", and "Online Company Gallant", and they each have their own way of measuring online success.  To OC Goofus, online success translates to as many people as possible on their social networking site, sending as many emails out to as many people as possible, and in short as much exposure as possible, by any means possible.  Their marketing strategy is to simply email as many people as they can, pester people to join their Facebook page, and promote the heck out of themselves.  They had moderately good luck with this strategy for a while and convinced a reasonable amount of new members to sign up for their weekly email updates.  After awhile though, everything began to level off.  Sure people knew about their presence online, but they weren't very interested in exploring it further..  People began ignoring their emails, and they began to find it harder and harder to acquire new members..  Frustrated, as a last resort, they tried to intimidate people into joining by bad mouthing other companies.  After awhile they just kind of faded away.
   On the other hand, OC Gallant had a very different way of doing things.  Rather than sending out mass emails to anyone and everyone in an unfocused, thoughtless way, they targeted people they thought would be interested in what they had to offer.  Even though they had fewer members at first, the members they did have were much more active and on average invested more time and money into their company.   Instead of spending all of their efforts promoting themselves, they used their social networking sites to listen to their client base and to take their needs and concerns into account. They developed promotions based on this information and launched a content marketing campaign to give back and allow people to interact on a personal level.   Rather than treating their clients like numbers or dollar signs, they treated them as members of a community and positive word of mouth began to spread.    Eventually, instead of fading away like OC Goofus did, their online presence developed a powerful root system, and a sustainable network.

The Highlights of Gallant's Strategy:

1.  Find your target audience.  Even though they may be smaller in number, they will be more active.

2.  Network= Community.  Networks aren't just numbers, they are people.

3.  Interact on a personal level.  These quality interactions make people feel positive about and supportive of your business.

4.  You work for your community, your community works for you..  Having others promote your business gives you a credibility that you cannot get from self-promotion alone.

   Big numbers fast don't necessarily mean a positive future for your company.  A forward thinking attitude about the big picture is required if you want to thrive in this shifting economy.  Online, your business is not an island, but a potential member of a balanced and intricate root system.  The closer you get to the seed, the better.

You can reach Elana with questions and feedback at

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why Good Creatives Are Important

We live in a highly competitive world.  It seems everywhere you turn someone or something is vying for your attention.  This rings double true for the internet.  In a matter of minutes a person could be exposed to dozens, maybe hundreds of images and messages, all competing for his or her attention.  In this instantaneous point and click world, advertising is given literally a fraction of a second to be effective, .  This is why good creatives are essential to a successful membership acquisition campaign.
  There are several questions we need to ask ourselves.  The first question being, what makes a creative good?  Well, can the reader understand the message in the blink of an eye?  Is the visual inviting and appealing enough to make the audience want to find out more?  These are the marks of a good creative.  The second question is: how do you achieve these goals and really put your creative to work for you?  Answer: a few simple design  principals can go a long way. 
  The most important design principal is visual hierarchy.  Like the hierarchy of a royal court, visual hierarchy gives every element of your creative a logical spot, in ranking order of importance.  Say you run a book club and you want to let people know about a deal you are giving to new members.  What are the most important pieces of information you want the customer to see?  That you are selling books, and they can potentially save money on them.  Any other information is not very relevant at this point in the sale and therefor lower on the visual hierarchy.  Some would say this goes without saying, but you will be surprised how often the wrong piece of information is accentuated visually.
  Visual hierarchy also gives your creative organization, and therefor appeal.    Appeal is what grabs you and makes you want to become a part of the message, and what wins the battle for the all-mighty click.    Good composition, a thoughtful use of color, imagery, and font can all add up to visual appeal.  Appeal is less easy to define than other visual principals, but extremely important in promoting your product.  Nothing will get you tuned-out faster or look less professional than an ugly, jumbled mess. 
     Lastly you must be bold with your creatives.  Boldness says confidence; both in your service and in your company.  As long as thought is given to clarity and visual hierarchy, bold moves only work in a creative's favor.  Contrast big fonts with small fonts and bright colors with dark colors,  Don't be afraid to intersect lines and shapes.  Putting something off to the side or at an angle can say a lot visually.  One example to consider.  An airline wants to encourage people to sign up for its "Golden Miles Program".  It chooses imagery of a plane, their logo and the information about the program to include in their creative. They place them one after the other in a row, giving no thought to hierarchy.  Boring!  Their chances of getting noticed have just gone down.  A unique, attention grabbing creative would do things differently.  Maybe it would have the info in top of  an opaque plane with the logo in the bottom corner.  Or, a plane with the logo on it flying into the information.  To use an apt pun, the sky's the limit!  They are called creatives for a reason, and creativity is fun.  In the end, it is this fun that invites peoples to click on your banner and give you their time and attention.  Remember, you have less than a second to do it!
   If you'd like to delve deeper into visual hierarchy and the world of design I recommend The Non-Designers Design Book, by Robin Williams. 

You can reach Elana with questions and feedback at