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Corporate Marketing Writing Tips for Startup CEOs
Startup CEO? You Need These 5 Writing Tips for Corporate Marketing

You’ve got a great idea for a new business. You know you can translate that idea into a product of the highest caliber. But you may not have expertise or experience with marketing, public relations, business plans or grant proposals. Without those, your excellent product is likely to remain a big secret. The common denominator for all those disciplines is good writing.

You don’t have to be Shakespeare to write a press release or website copy, but you do have to adhere to basic good business writing rules. When your company is bigger, you’ll be able to pay someone on staff to listen to your ideas and boil them down succinctly to their essence. But until then, you’re either on your own or you have to pay an outside expert to help. In this blog post, I’ll lay out five tips for good business writing that will help you do it yourself.

  1. Don’t be intimidated. The effort to say something perfectly can obscure the big picture of what it is you want to say. It’s frustrating when you try over and over again to write the same sentences and aren’t satisfied with the results. Good writers generally start by simply putting the essence of what they want to say into words without worrying about writing it to the best of their abilities. Then they go back and improve the writing. You should do the same.
  2. Think carefully about your audience. It’s made up of various groups, and each group has different needs and attitudes. You can’t approach them in the same way. To be persuasive, you need to understand and focus on those needs and attitudes. The arguments you use in your writing to persuade one group could leave another group cold.
  3. Eliminate promotional language. This may sound counter-intuitive if you’re trying to promote yourself, your company or your product/service. However, promotional language turns people off much more than it convinces them. Facts convince readers. Go through what you’ve written and ask yourself, “Can I prove it?” If you’ve made statements that you can’t prove, go back and revise them. Example: “XYZ widget will be the best new widget since the introduction of widgets 10 years ago.” That statement is your opinion, not a persuasive statement. Delete sentences that make that type of general claim and include the facts that differentiate your product from others, such as “Unlike other widgets, XYZ widget is made entirely of steel and holds up to 500 pounds.”
  4. Less is more. You’ll lose most of your audience right away if they’re presented with long and detailed text. Don’t go off into unnecessary tangents. They may be interesting to you, but they cloud the overall picture you need to present. Stick to the main points you want to make and the necessary evidence for each point. After you’ve put your thoughts into writing, go back and delete unnecessary words, sentences and concepts that aren’t central to your point of view. Then do it again.
  5. The process of writing about your company and product will force you to hone in on what’s important about your business and differentiates it from competitors. You’ll learn to tell your story more quickly and more powerfully as a result.

By Lucy Siegel

Lucy Siegel LLC

Andertoons Cartoon
Six Pointers for Creating Successful Marketing Partnerships

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes 17 seconds

Sometimes called “co-marketing,” a marketing partnership is an agreement between two organizations to work together, using resources of both companies, to market in a way that boosts brand visibility, reputation and/or sales for both. In some cases the two organizations are even competitors (“frenemies”). There’s a multitude of different types of partnerships, but the successful ones have one thing in common: both partners get something they want from it.

The advent of the internet made these types of partnerships very common, and they became more accessible to small and midsize companies. Companies use digital partnerships as a way of:

  • Increasing the number of website visitors
  • Quickly increasing prospective customer databases to get more sales leads
  • Economizing on marketing costs
  • Breaking into new product areas or geographic regions
  • Increasing the value each company offers its customers by offering them something additional from the other company via the partnership

Over the years, my former communications agencies’ staff and I developed numerous marketing partnerships for public relations purposes, to build visibility leading to more sales. Some of these have been cause marketing agreements, where a for-profit company partnered with a nonprofit organization. In cause marketing arrangements, the for-profit company contributes a specific amount to the non-profit, up to an agreed-upon limit, for each sale made. The non-profit benefits from receiving the donations. The for-profit positions itself as a good corporate citizen and receives additional visibility from the non-profit’s promotional efforts.

For example, we approached a major diabetes research organization on behalf of a small food company to help launch a no-sugar food product in a market outside the United States where the brand was relatively unknown. The company made a donation to the nonprofit for each sale of the product in grocery stores, up to a set limit. The non- profit not only benefited from these donations, it also used the publicity and promotion to raise its own visibility and to educate diabetics and those who care for them about a new food option. The food company benefited from allying itself with a well-known research organization, which gave its brand an aura of credibility in a market where its products were unknown.

This example shows that startups and small companies are not limited to partnering with other small companies. There have been many instances of small companies partnering successfully with large organizations.

Marketing partnerships are very prevalent among big tech companies to introduce and market new technologies. A good example is the partnership Best Buy and Samsung formed about five years ago. The agreement between the two companies was that Samsung would have its own branded store, the Samsung Experience Shop, within Best Buy. And Best Buy would have the exclusive right to host these shops.

According to an article in the  Star Tribune, Samsung had wanted to develop its own retail shops all over the United States, but company executives felt it would take too long and cost too much. Best Buy, which had an abundance of retail space, made an exclusive deal to be Samsung’s retail parter for the store-within-a-store concept. Best Buy benefited by associating its brand closely with one of the world’s hottest tech companies, and Samsung was able to establish a big presence in the U.S. almost immediately at a much lower cost than opening its own stores.

It worked because both sides won. Samsung wasn’t competing with Best Buy as a retailer and Best Buy wasn’t developing its own line of phones.

Here are six key pointers for successful co-marketing arrangements:

  • The contributions to the alliance from both partners should be well-balanced. If one side puts much more at stake than the other, there’s a danger of ill will resulting in a partnership break-up.
  • When one partner depends on the alliance for success a lot more than the other, an imbalance of power between the partners can easily result.
  • The marketing partnership should be co-managed, with both partners having equal say in the way the joint project is carried out
  • All of the above were summed up in an April 1993 paper in the American Marketing Association’s Journal of Marketing by Louis P. Bucklin, at that time a marketing professor at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, and Sanjit Sengupta, then an assistant professor at the University of Maryland. “The less the conflict between firms in a co-marketing alliance, the greater the effectiveness of the relationship,” wrote the authors. They concluded that for this type of alliance to have a positive outcome, the stakes in the outcome should be equally important to both partners.
  • A marketing partnership will only work if both partners are targeting the same audience and have the same vision of what success should look like.
  • Communication about the partnership to the target audience is one of the biggest benefits for small companies partnering with large and well-known organizations. But poor communications between the partners has been the downfall of many partnerships. I’ve seen situations where the marketing staff at a startup didn’t check with the company’s marketing partner before communicating news about the partnership to the media. When marketing professionals make this kind of gaffe, it may be the last mistake they make at the company because it can easily be cause for firing.

By Lucy Siegel, Lucy Siegel LLC

 

 

 

 

400dpiLogo
Lucy Siegel Offers Marketing Consulting for Entrepreneurs and Agencies

Reading time: 2 minutes 8 seconds

Provincetown Mass.(August 14, 2017) – Lucy Siegel, founder of two New York City public relations agencies, announced today that she has just founded her third company, Lucy Siegel LLC, to offer strategic marketing consulting services to entrepreneurs and PR and marketing communications agencies.

“With 40 years of experience in communications and marketing and 18 years building, managing and then selling two public relations businesses, I’ve learned a thing or two along the way that I can share,” she said.

Siegel sold her first agency, Siegel Associates International, in 1997 to Lobsenz Stevens, which was subsequently acquired by the Publicis Groupe. Siegel spent five years at Publicis as executive vice president, co-heading the New York office of one of its PR subsidiaries at the time she left in 2004 to launch her second agency, Bridge Global Strategies.

In 2015 she sold Bridge Global Strategies to integrated marketing company Didit, and has spent the last two years at Didit as executive vice president in its New York City office.

Siegel will help startups and other entrepreneurs at small- to mid-size companies to build visibility and sales by examining their marketing and public relations needs and developing affordable strategies and plans for meeting them. She has special expertise in helping overseas companies in the U.S. market.

“I can be totally objective in counselling executives about what types of communications services will help them at a given point in time, since there is no conflict of interest – I don’t offer those services myself,” she emphasized. “I can also provide hiring input or conduct searches for internal communications staff, or for external agencies or freelancers, to meet my clients’ ongoing marketing communications needs.”

Siegel will also help executives in the Boston area improve their communications effectiveness with media training to prepare for interviews and with presentation and public speaking coaching.

She added that she will also help public relations and marketing communications agencies meet their goals by providing certain specific services to agency leaders. “I have decades of experience hiring, managing and training people; building positive agency-client relationships; providing communications training to C-suite executives; and selling communications services,” she said. “It’s time for me to share that knowledge.”

Siegel mentioned that some of her services to agencies consist of work typically done in smaller firms only by agency principles. “They can bring me in on a time-limited basis to free themselves up for management and business development.”

A native New Yorker who lived in Manhattan for over 40 years, she has relocated to Provincetown, Mass., on Cape Cod.

For more information on Lucy Siegel LLC and its services, visit www.lucysiegel.com .

startup marketing consultant
Why the World Needs a New Startup Marketing Consultant

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

…an Exclusive Interview with Lucy Siegel by Lucy Siegel

Q: What is Lucy Siegel LLC? Is this your third public relations agency?

A: Lucy Siegel LLC is my third entrepreneurial venture, but it isn’t a PR company. It will provide marketing communications strategy, planning and training services. The clients I’m interested in working with are startups and foreign companiesin the early stages of developing a foothold in the U.S. These are companies that could really use
help from a startup marketing consultant. I’ll also be working with other small to midsize companies.

Q: Aren’t people catching on that consultants merely borrow your watch and then tell you what time it is? And then send hefty bills for their supposed expertise?  

Lucy Siegel, startup marketing consultant

Lucy Siegel, Principal, Lucy Siegel LLC

A: What you’re saying can be true at times. But there are situations where consultants bring expertise that their clients lack. They can also provide independent, neutral input that company insiders can’t. Sometimes it saves money in the long run to spend some upfront to make sure you’re taking the appropriate actions.

Q: How many consultants will you have?

A: Just me. I’m the queen bee and the worker bee both. When you hire Lucy Siegel LLC, you’ll get Lucy Siegel.

Q: What’s the difference between hiring Lucy Siegel LLC and hiring an agency to provide marketing services?

A: Clients will hire me on a project basis to consult on and help plan their marketing communications and PR programs. I am not a day-to-day provider of marketing or PR services, but I’ll help match up a company to the right agency if a client wishes, or find an internal staff member or freelancer, which may be a better solution sometimes than an agency. I look at the circumstances and choose the best fit for each individual situation.

Q: Small and midsize companies don’t have tons of money to spend on marketing and PR in the first place. Why should they hire a startup marketing consultant like you when they’ll also need to hire the resources to do the day-to-day work? Isn’t that just an extra layer of expense? 

A: You’re assuming they know what kind of marketing resources they need. This is not a good assumption. Startup founders may be brilliant experts in some areas, but many of them have little or no experience in marketing or communications. Companies frequently ask marketing agencies for services they think they need but that aren’t a good fit for their needs. It’s up to the agency to advise the client about what will and won’t work for them. As a PR agency owner, when I felt our services weren’t a good fit, I advised potential clients to use the budget on other kinds of marketing activities.

Q: Why are some companies not good candidates for PR?

A: That’s a blog post unto itself. But to answer briefly, it depends on how you define PR.  If corporate leaders are looking for media coverage of their company and/or products, and there’s nothing that differentiates them from competitors, it’s very hard to interest the media in covering them.  They’re not doing anything that’s newsworthy. Sometimes it’s a matter of timing: at times I’ve been asked to arrange media coverage of a product that isn’t yet available – not even to journalists and bloggers. Unless the product will be really revolutionary, or comes from a big company like Apple, consumer media aren’t likely to agree to cover it until it’s available to purchase.

However, the definition of public relations is much broader than media relations. It encompasses social media programs, content marketing, events, speaking engagements, community relations activities and more. But most of the time, when a company is looking for a PR firm, they want media coverage. Many business people think media coverage is the be-all and end-all of PR. Whether or not their companies or brands are of interest to the media, they want to be in the media. Some agencies will try to dissuade a potential client from spending money on something that won’t bring results and will try to sell something else that would be more helpful. But many agencies are too hungry for business to just walk away when a client asks for something that can’t be done. They say they can do it and pray that somehow they’ll find a way to deliver.

This situation isn’t limited to PR, it’s the same with other forms of marketing communications.

Q: Are you saying that agencies can’t be trusted to do what’s right?

A: The problem is, too many agencies will take on clients they can’t help because they need the revenue. The thought process isn’t usually a cynical one; generally they’ll convince themselves that with luck they’ll be able to succeed, even though in their hearts they know it’s very unlikely.

Q: How can company executives protect themselves so they don’t waste their marketing budgets?

A: There are a several ways:

  • Add an experienced, savvy marketing executive to the staff to take charge of marketing and communications. The problem is, many startups that should begin marketing activities aren’t yet in the financial position to hire someone with the proper experience.
  • Go to an “integrated marketing” agency that provides a wide range of services rather than a single-discipline agency that only offers one type of service. Most single-discipline agencies are biased towards the service they offer, whether a potential client needs it or not. But integrated marketing agencies are more discipline-agnostic, since they provide a range of marketing services and can provide a proposal based on the best mix of services for a particular client’s goals.  However, integrated marketing agencies are profit-making businesses, too, and most of them are unlikely to advise a potential client that the time isn’t right to start working with them (and this is sometimes the best advice). There’s also the issue of budget. Most startups and small-to-midsize companies without senior marketing professionals on staff don’t have any idea how much they need to spend to make an impact. There’s just as much to lose by spending too little as spending too much. If the budget is too small, there won’t be enough activity to make an impact and the budget is just wasted.
  • The third option is to hire a marketing consultant to work with the company’s executives to develop a proper marketing strategy based on the budget available, and to recommend the best resources to carry out the strategy.

If I were the CEO of a startup or a new U.S. subsidiary of a overseas-based company, I’d rather spend a relatively modest amount to get help from an unbiased marketing consultant than risk wasting a significant amount of budget on marketing solutions that won’t work. As my website says, there’s no GPS system for reaching a marketing destination, and in many cases there aren’t even maps available. It’s a waste of fuel and of time to get in the car and drive if you don’t really know the way. Hiring a guide to draw a map and give directions is eminently sensible.

By Lucy Siegel, Lucy Siegel LLC

Inflluencer Marketing Trend Is Hot
Payments to Celebrity Influencers Must Be Revealed

FTC Cracks Down on Unethical Marketing Tactics

Reading time: 5 minutes, 9 seconds

Anyone who has read about marketing in recent years is aware that both the amount of, and the influence of traditional advertising, both online and offline, have declined steadily over the last decade. In place of traditional ads, marketers are using numerous new tactics and technologies. One technique that’s hot right now is paying “influencers” to promote products on social media platforms. But unethical marketing tactics may eventually erode the power of paid influencers significantly. Outlined here is the basis for that conclusion.

Inflluencer Marketing is one of the hottest marketing tactics.

Influencer marketing is one of the hottest marketing tactics; influencers can make a real difference with social media audiences.

Social media first began to take hold in the late 1990s/early 2000s and quickly brought about a sea change in the methods marketers used to promote their companies and products. Social media has had a huge impact on the way people communicate with each other, including the increased importance of “word of mouth” in influencing opinions. At the same time, traditional print and broadcast media have lost ground, with continually declining subscription numbers leading to ever-shrinking ad revenues, which in turn have led to less robust reporting and content development infrastructure at all but a small number of the most powerful media.

Recent statistics are startlingly clear in demonstrating this. Last year, eMarketer projected that online ad spending would overtake TV ad spending this year. And no wonder, since the number of hours of TV watched per week by Americans under the age of 50 has been rapidly declining. (According to eMarketer, people 24 and under are watching two less hours of TV per week this year than last year, and 25- to 34-year-olds are watching an hour less per week, year-on-year. This isn’t a new trend; the number of hours of TV consumption has fallen precipitously over the last 5-10 years.)

Online advertising has its own problems. Large numbers of consumers have installed adblocker software to avoid constant advertising interruptions of their time online. According to HubSpot, the most popular adblocking software, Adblocker Plus, has been downloaded 300 million times worldwide, which isn’t too surprising, since 87 percent of people say there are more ads online now than two years ago. HubSpot says this cost publishers $22 billion in 2015 alone.

Most marketers are quite aware of the problems associated with advertising. There has been growing interest in harnessing the power of social media to build brand awareness and loyalty, and to promote products using promotion, public relations and some new forms of digital marketing. For example, the use of marketing analytics tools has been growing to draw more site visitors and increase sales leads using “owned content” (content created by marketers), search engine optimization and social media.

Another example: companies employ public relations staff or agencies to reach out to popular bloggers with free product samples as a lure to bloggers to post positive product reviews. The reviews are then shared by site visitors on social media with their peers. This works especially well when bloggers don’t tell site visitors they were given free product, of course, leaving the impression that their reviews represent unbiased opinions. It took a while, but in 2009 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) flagged unethical marketing tactics such as this one and issued regulations  requiring that bloggers reveal free swag from marketers to their followers or risk being fined up to $11,000. This has had some effect, but because there’s no practical way to enforce the regulations widely, not as big an effect as the FTC might like to have.

Now, let’s get back to influencer targeting mentioned in the beginning of this post, one of the latest trends to influence opinion online.  Over the last few years marketers have become much more sophisticated at using data from sources like Facebook to single out social media participants who have the most influence with their target audiences.

In some cases, these are offline celebrities, such as popular musicians, actors and sports figures. Marketers paid them hefty fees to talk about product on social media. But there are also people without any particular claim to fame who have become experts at building online visibility – online celebrities – and have hundreds of thousands – sometimes millions – of followers and are therefore important influencers. Some of these online celebrities are bloggers who used to review products in exchange for freebees from marketers, but now earn their livings charging substantial fees for blogging about products.

Paying Online Influencers Works Because Consumers Are Unaware

According to FTC regulations, these payments to influencers, both celebrities and online influencers, must be revealed. However, payments are often hidden at the end of the endorsements, soft-pedalled or referred to using terms that are vague and not well-understood by most consumers to mean that monetary payments – paid advertising –were involved.

The FTC is cracking down on this. According to an August 2016 Bloomberg article, “This uptick in celebrities peddling brand messages on their personal accounts, light on explicit disclosure, has not gone unnoticed by the U.S. government. The Federal Trade Commission is planning to get tougher: Users need to be clear when they’re getting paid to promote something, and hashtags like #ad, #sp, #sponsored –common forms of identification– are not always enough.” The article notes that the FTC has said it will make advertisers responsible for following the rules to adequately disclose that these celebrity posts are actually ads, which “could make the posts seem less authentic, reducing their impact.”

Therein lies the key to the future of both paid influencer marketing and the power of online peer influence. When consumers catch on that a lot of celebrity endorsements they see on social media are just paid ads, which will eventually happen if the FTC gets its way, paid endorsements will lose their effectiveness and their usefulness to advertisers. And so will sharing of paid endorsements by peers.

This type of promotion works because it’s deceptive: when consumers are unaware of the payments, they believe that influencers’ comments about products represent genuine enthusiasm. Deceptive marketing may work in the short term, but in the long term it tarnishes the reputation of the marketer and is therefore bad marketing.

By Lucy Siegel, Lucy Siegel LLC