market research

Can a Sticky Note Increase Your Direct Mail Returns?

One author thinks so. According to a study by Randy Garner at Sam Houston State University, the addition of a sticky note significantly improved the chances of reply. While his research centered on survey results, one could see this finding applied to direct mail, too.
You can read the whole article here.

How Words Shape Corporate Culture


Organizational language shapes its behavior. Can you guess what company is known for these phrases?

“Done is better than perfect.”

“Move fast and break things.”

“The riskiest thing is to take no risks.”

They’re from Facebook, but this kind of official and unofficial lingo is present in all organizations.

Around Enron, you would have heard phrases like “We’re an aggressive culture,” and “Guys with Spikes,” and “Money is the only thing that motivates.”

Ritz-Carlton, on the other hand, is well known for its loftier statement: “We’re ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”

This kind of organizational talk sets the stage—grants the permission—for the behavior that follows. Whether the words are official statements or off-handed comments, what is said by leaders and crafted by professional communicators directly nurtures certain organizational behaviors—intended or not.  

Because of its wide-ranging impact, leadership and official corporate language must be held to a high standard.

Those who shape the message in an organization can elevate, inspire or prohibit certain types of organizational behavior. Especially in a world where words travel with lightning speed, messages need to be developed with great care.

In his Harvard Business Review Blog “How Language Shapes Your Organization,” Kevin Allen suggests that we think about the “legacy phrases” in our own organization and ask whether they need erasing or replacing. His article is an important read—and worthy of reflection.

What legacy phrases does your organization live by?

Reclaim Your Sense of Wonder

Today it may appear that we diverge from business matters, and yet if you think about it, our business work flows from what is within us—so perhaps we are not diverging at all.

If it has been too long since you allowed wonder, discovery and beauty to fill you, then this Ted Talk will give you a 10-minute space in which to reclaim it for yourself.

Allow wonder to become gratitude, and see where it takes you. Namaste.

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Why Your Website Strategy Must Include Video


Video is the communication medium of choice for consumers—as evidenced by the skyrocketing popularity of YouTube as a search engine. Online video viewers will reach 169.3 million this year, according to HubSpot, and 53% of the population and 70% of Internet users will watch online video in 2012.

An internal Facebook study revealed that posts that include video generate 100% more engagement than the average post.

And a study by Forrester Research states that including an online video on your website increases the probability of converting a visitor into a client by sixfold: while 20% of visitors to a website will read the content, 80% will read the same content when paired with video.

It all makes sense, of course, because video steps up the visual, auditory and emotional response of the message by adding motion and sound—and can now be so easily shared. In addition, video increases web traffic, viral sharing and enhances Google rankings.

To play a successful role in your communication strategy, videos must be a part of a larger social media strategy. They must have content that the crowd hungers for and should be distributed through numerous channels. A video's ability to spread depends on the content and the conversations you’re already having with your constituents, of course, so recognize that successes will build as you become more adept in this changing world of communication.

Tips for Writers: Give the Gift of a New Paragraph


William Zinsser writes, “Keep your paragraphs short. Writing is visual—it catches the eye before it has a chance to catch the brain.”

Long paragraphs are visually ugly. Solid, uniform blocks of text, no matter how cleverly phrased, don’t engage readers like short paragraphs do.

You might be tempted to wantonly chop up a paragraph that’s too long. Unfortunately, doing so disrupts flow. So how can you keep your paragraphs short? It’s better to adapt a mindset of forward motion. Paragraphs represent ideas, and a new paragraph is a gift to the reader. It’s a chance to hear something new.

Readers are busy, so don’t expect them to trudge through a long paragraph just because you wrote it. Give them something fresh with each new paragraph, and keep the paragraphs short, so they continue to be drawn in.

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4 Ways to Get Your Online News Release to Rank Higher in Searches

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If you’re trying to increase the ranking for news releases you’re posting on line, consider these simple tips offered by Adam Sherk with

  1. Identify keywords likely to be searched for. You can find out popular words by using tools like Google Adwords Keyword Tool and Google Insights.
  2. Include some key words—but don’t go overboard—in the text, title and quotes if you can.
  3. Include links (3–4 tops).
  4. Keep your release short.

Want more details? Read his full article.

Five Things You Should Know About Advertising With 2D Barcodes


The use of 2D barcodes (which come in varieties like QR Codes or Microsoft Tags) continues to escalate because of the immediacy possibilities they present. Put simply, 2D barcodes let people respond to a call to action at the time they are interested—when they’re more likely to respond. Most of us won’t respond to a call to action if there’s a delay between the impulse and access to your computer. But mobile closes that gap, making now the perfect time to respond.

Here’s what you should know about 2D barcodes:

  1. They can lead to contact entries, calendar items, video, apps, directions, coupons, menus, links to reviews, virtual tours—you name it. But make no mistake—users expect valuable content, entertainment value, or time or money savings (like downloading a coupon, or contact information).

  2. Linking to a Web page is the old way—linking to content devised for mobile is the new way.

  3. They can be customized visually.

  4. Test, test, test before you launch.

  5. Be wary now of malicious QR codes with malware. Criminals can replace the QR code on your Web site or even put a sticker onto existing marketing material, reports PC World.

Don’t overlook the possibilities of using barcodes in your advertising campaign. The possibilities are both endless and promising.

The Overlooked Sign: Increase Your Business With Better Signage

We designed a window graphic for this medical group in Colorado in an effort help differentiate it from its retail neighbors—and promote the clinic. Walk-in business increased by 333% the first two months, and those who set up appointments because they saw the sign while driving by went up by 380%.

If you’re spending money on media buys but not looking at how well your own signage is working, maybe it’s time to take a second look. It could be your most effective—and least expensive—ad ever.

Ad Envy: Uptown Community Clinic

Did this ad make you read the copy clear to the end? It did us.

This ad (click to view larger) from a series created by a Minneapolis-based agency cleverly plays off research findings which revealed that people were more likely to have a sympathetic reaction to images of abused animals than to photos of abused children.

It works on several levels:

  1. The headline and the photo are arresting, and evoke an immediate response—drawing the reader in.
  2. The copy is compellingly written, and does a fine job of telling a story and making a point with limited words.
  3. It’s simple, and pared down to the most necessary elements.

This didn’t require an expensive photo shoot, but just a big idea that was executed well.

Building Physician Practices: Success Stories

For more than two decades we’ve worked with physicians to build their practices, and this experience has helped us create a formula for driving patients to a new practice—which accelerates the revenue stream needed to sustain them. Using our proprietary methods, we’ve been able to track up to 57 new patients per month which can be linked back to a very modest investment in advertising. One practice resulted in a 25% increase in hospital surgical cases—just two months after the campaign was launched. (We know this because this practice was already in business when they hired us, and the volumes went up after the campaign launched.)

It’s good to use a mix of advertising media—and fine-tuning this over the years has helped us devise an optimal mix for launching a physician practice. The best results occur:

  • Where there’s sufficient market demand for the specialty
  • When the physicians have good patient relationships
  • When the physicians and hospital have a strong partnership

Even without this, it’s possible to accelerate patient volumes through marketing—but when all of variables above align, the growth can be stunning.

2011 Web Trends: Part 2

Our last post highlighted some trends in Web design for 2011. We continue that here.

Adventurous Domain Names—The common .com is going out of style. Look for more creative addresses like .me or which is becoming more common for blogs or portfolios or .us for business pages.

Quick Response Codes—You may have noticed these appearing on business cards, ads, billboards, etc. This is one trend that has a multitude of uses and doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon. Here are some cool uses for a QR code: 

  1. Put a QR code on the back of your business card so people can easily visit your website.
  2. Place a QR code on ads or store fronts so that smartphone users can access special offers, coupons or giveaways.
  3. Use QR codes on T-shirts so you can be a walking promotion for whatever it is you are wanting to promote.
  4. QR codes can also be used to make phone calls or send texts when scanned. Think of all the possibilities with this one!

Thumbnail Design—Thanks to Google's new thumbnail browsing you no longer have to click through to see the contents of a website, so expect your site to be judged based on a thumbnail as users become more acquainted with this new way of browsing. This poses a problem for Flash sites because that part of your design will not display in the preview.

Constant Connection / Life Stream—In our quest to make the internet more personable, we have taken to sharing all aspects of our lives online. Expect to see more integrated live feeds on websites such as the site below.

Marketers Continue to Increase Use of Video reports that video will be ubiquitous on the Web—and is a top priority for marketers.  Here’s what they say:

According to a survey by Marketing Sherpa, for the second year in a row video marketing is the top priority for marketers surveyed, ahead of SEO, PPC, social media, email marketing and all other online marketing tactics. Turnhere has also released a study in the fall which revealed the same results—“When asked to rank various online marketing priorities for 2010, video was ranked as the top priority.”

In a recent post conference interview Jeremey Allaire, CEO of Brightcove, summarized the outlook for Web-based video this way:

“Video will become as ubiquitous as text on the Web.... What weʼve seen happening over the last year is this incredible growth in the number of organizations and corporations, of all types, of all industries, of all sectors of societies, embracing video to enhance what they are doing on the Web.”

Reaching the 18- to 29-Year-Old

In John Zogby's fascinating book,

The Way We'll Be

, he offers insights into how 18- to 29-year-olds think:

  • They care about more than just themselves—contrary to how they've been depicted
  • They celebrate diversity—and expect marketers to realize that
  • They think and buy globally, and travel extensively
  • Just about everything in their lives is public, and they're far more comfortable with this lack of privacy than their parents
  • Their space is the Internet—and they're easily accessible through social media

Whatever your business, you'll likely need to be talking with (not to) this demographic. Zogby helps start the interesting and relevant conversation about how best to engage them.

Source: The Way We'll Be, John Zogby. Buy it here.

The American Dream in Transition: What Americans Really Think

In his insightful book, The Way We'll Be , veteran pollster John Zogsby draws on thousands of surveys to reveal four mega trends that are shaping how Americans view the world:

  • Living with limits as consumers and citizens
  • Embracing diversity of views and ways of life
  • Looking inward to find spiritual comfort
  • Demanding authenticity from the media, our leaders and institutions

Led by today's 18-29-year-olds, America's first "global" generation, Americans are becoming more internationalist, consensus-oriented and environmentally conscious—and less willing to identify themselves by what they do or how they spend their money.

Leaders and marketers who want to better understand how Americans think and what they believe will find this a valuable read.

What a Pollster Can Tell You About Reaching Consumers

Are you reaching America's consumers with messages they care about? Consider these four emerging consumer perspectives as you craft your firm's messaging:

1. Individualistic

America has always had a distinctly individualistic view of life, but this characteristic is becoming even more pronounced as consumers find their hopes in institutions dashed.

Choice, independence, and personalized service are messages they warm to.

2. Yet global

Even as their trust in institutions declines, they are not just focused on their own corner of the planet.

Their interests are global, not just local,

and they connect with organizations with similar interests.

3. Interested in sustainability

Consumers, especially the younger ones, want sustainability, and want to do business with companies that share those values. Demonstrating your company's focus on global sustainability—not just national—will resonate with them.

4. Not just young

Retirees are living longer and hold vast resources of discretionary income. But they're looking for more than just relaxation. Talk to them about matters they care about and that contribute meaning to their lives—and tap into their life experiences within your own organization.

Source: The Way We'll Be, John Zogsby, Chapter 3. Buy it here.