What To Do With Your Christmas Tree After Christmas

Poor Christmas trees: They spend a whole season being decorated and adored; then, when the festivities are over, they’re left out by the curb.

This year, we say enough is enough, and look to answer one of life’s most overlooked questions. What do you do with your tree after Christmas? It’s time to consider the many ways Christmas trees can be used once the holidays are over. We will post a new video every day from Dec 4th-14th highlighting our holiday hijinks.

How People Use Smartphones for Shopping: Infographic

How Smartphones Are Used for Purchasing

From initial discovery to final purchase, smartphones now serve as purchasing tools.
The research below can be used to feed your mobile strategy, and even help you hone in on potential micro-moments that can be a tipping point to either purchase or exit.



Does your mobile marketing deliver an optimal experience to your customers and prospects? Is it giving them what they are looking for? Is content helpful, intuitive, and fast? Do all that, and you will be well on your way to becoming a necessary go-to resource for your customers. That will be bad news for your competitors.

3 Secondary Research Resources for Better Decision Making

The difference between a smart business decision and a disastrous one can come down to whether you have the right information on hand.

Research and data is the lifeblood of great marketing. When conducting marketing research, you can go two ways: Either you gather primary research data, which is new information specifically collected for your immediate research needs, or you avail yourself of secondary research sources, which is data material collected by others and readily available in the public domain or for purchase.

The information you need may already be waiting for you.

While new and tailored to your needs, primary research can be costly and time-consuming. Moreover, you may be collecting data that is very similar or even identical to existing sources, making your efforts redundant. So it’s usually best to start with secondary data sources.

Advantages of secondary data:

  1. Far less expensive than primary data. Other companies may have already collected data that is available at no cost, or sold to you for much less than it would have cost you to.
  2. Fast and easy to obtain. Often, the data is sorted away on websites just a click away.
  3. Useful to design primary data research. With collected secondary research on hand as a basis, you can now build your strategy to collect what you need to complement your existing data.

Secondary data is quite valuable, as it can be used for purposes such as fact finding, model building, and database marketing. Your own company may keep internal records for sales, expenses, and customers which may be useful. To identify market trends, patterns and changes, tap into the many sources already available.

A few useful sites to gather information for all kinds of topics, demographics, and markets are the following:

US Census Bureau – 
The principal agency of the US Federal Statistical System produces all kinds of data about our society and economy. With over 5,500 employees, you have a huge staff that gathers information and the ability to keep it current. Learn about the fastest growing counties or research income and poverty levels. Curious about US retail e-commerce sales as a percent of total quarterly retail sales for the last decade? A nicely compiled PDF will give you a compelling report.

Data.gov – 
Managed and hosted by the US General Services Administration, this site is developed publicly on GitHub, an open source project where you can contribute. Not only will you find data sets, clearly marked with available file formats, but also news and articles that relate to all kinds of topics that pertain to our economy and life in the US. Topics such as manufacturing, health, finance, consumers, energy and many more topics are covered. Data sources are available in csv, html, xml, pdf, or zip format, depending on the kind of information produced. Thousands of data sources can also be narrowed down by state, county or zip code, making data.gov a very flexible search site to narrow down the information relevant to your needs.

Euromonitor International – go.euromonitor.com/passport.html
Euromonitor offers over 115 million standardized statistics from around the world for topics such as consumer goods, healthcare, and travel services. Whether you want to research an industry, consumers, or other economic topics, Euromonitor’s intuitive interface offers objective views into a variety of topics to gain global and local insights. Follow trends that impact business and make your strategic decision-making easier with readily-available data.

If you want to be successful in the marketplace, conducting research is vital.

Secondary research is often a way to begin, and these are just a few of the many sites to find valuable information to conduct marketing and business research. Leverage readily-available information from data sites to make your business more successful.

Concepting: What the heck is it and why should anybody pay for it?

When we describe the process for developing communications for our clients, they sometimes ask, what’s that concepting thing? Here’s an explanation of what it is, and why it’s important.

Concepting is an activity—but it doesn’t always seem like one. The participants are typically sitting—perhaps with their feet propped on a conference room table. At times, they talk. At other times, they seem to be studying the fascinating pattern of pockmarks in the acoustic ceiling tiles—possibly dreaming up new constellations. (“If you squint you can see a bunny rabbit.”)

Is this really necessary? Also, isn’t the term “concepting” hugely pretentious?

Yes and yes. Starting with the second question and moving backwards (just because), the term “concepting” has an unfortunate air of snootiness. (If a client wanted to know what concepting is, we could just show them a desktop-sized reproduction of Rodin’s The Thinker and win gold in the World Insufferable Poser Championship.) We could possibly use “brainstorming,” a term most are familiar with, but a brainstorming meeting, while similar, is not precisely the same thing. It typically involves more people, often from many disciplines within the organization, and it’s a bit more of a free-for-all. A concepting session usually involves two or three people whose primary job is conceiving and executing ideas for strategically planned content. (“Content” is another unfortunate word, but I’m going to stay on task here.)

Why do we need a concepting meeting?

Most projects sound deceptively simple. Our client PrimeSouth Bank once asked us for an ad that would convey the bank’s long history in four south Georgia communities. It wouldn’t have taken us long to bang out an ad that said something like “Serving your communities since 1891.” But our writer/designer team came up with something much more engaging. They proposed a photo of a couple and their daughter, with copy that promised to serve the couple today and the daughter down the road—just as PrimeSouth has been doing for generations. What really gave the ad emotional resonance, though, was its playful reference to a college rivalry everybody in the area is familiar with. It’s the kind of gesture a big national bank would never do—and it’s proof that PrimeSouth truly understands its customers. That kind of idea only comes out of a concepting session. Our team had to come up with—and kill—many lesser ideas before they were inspired to create this one.


The first thing we do is review the creative brief.

Actually, that happens before we even go into a concepting meeting. It’s impossible to have a productive concepting meeting without the brief information not only on hand, but in mind. The creative brief informs the direction of our thinking. It tells us why we’re taking on the project, its aims, its audiences, and how we can measure its success, among other things. In short, it takes a good creative brief to bring about good creative.

Next, we get all obvious ideas out of the way.

Whatever ideas first come to our minds, the things we’ve seen before and are most familiar with, we immediately get that out of our system. If a client tasks us with selling a breath mint, we write every Tic Tac® association we can imagine on the whiteboard, then make every attempt to work outside of those listed associations. This is key to ensure your project is not some reheated version of a competitor’s. Nobody is truly excited about a microwave-ready meal.

Then, we chase down lines of thought.

It’s a game of “What if we did this,” in which a charade ensues and we try to quickly sell our counterpart on the notion. If something clicks, we go down that rabbit hole. If not, we wait for the next one, and pitch it twice as hard.
Each resource—that’s what we call copywriters, designers, illustrators, etc.—functions as a sort of check to the other’s ideas. If all works according to plan, an idea arises in which neither party can poke a hole; the idea floats despite the copywriter’s darts and the designer’s blades. We generally aim to have two, often three of these buoyant concepts before exposing them to a more abrasive rigor.

That next test? Strategy and sandpaper.

Now we ask ourselves: how difficult would it be to produce ideas A, B, and C, respectively? How expensive is each likely to be? Assuming a budget of X and a timeline of Y, we can easily rid ourselves of option B, and so on. If we’re lucky, we’ve got two ideas left standing. We’ll then take those to our Creative Director—the one here to remind us that whole lemons can still float.

We also bring in the Strategic Account Director. (This person doesn’t suddenly appear at this point in the process, but rather, early and often.) Strategic Account Directors understand the client and their target audience better than anyone, so they stand by to confirm that the creative remains in line with the brief, the client’s needs, and most importantly with the brand and its buyers.

We have lift-off.

Eventually, an idea passes our gauntlet, and it’s time to make a mock-up that we can show to our internal team and the client. The mock-up goes to the Creative Director, who puts a smiley-face sticker on it (sometimes right away, other times after some adjustment), and then it goes on to the Strategic Account Director. She has her own set of stickers and once she has applied one, the mock-up is ready for client eyes.

After all that, when the concept is out in the world and proving its worth, we might think back to the time spent bouncing ideas around and remember that this is why we love our jobs. It’s hard to come up with an idea, fall in love with it, and then push it aside when it doesn’t measure up. It’s hard but it’s also the most fun thing ever. And when it solves a problem for an appreciative client, we’re ecstatic.

The Black Hole of Content!

The internet has become a massive black hole of content.

Sadly, huge investments are being made in content that is just not being consumed. Beautifully created content is getting lost in cyberspace—dropped off on the side of the road in the most remote areas of the information superhighway, with no one around for light years. If you are developing content without a plan to promote it, this is exactly what you are doing: dumping your content into a black hole. Here are some tips to help shine a light on your content and avoid feeding the black hole with your wasted time, energy, and money.

Start by developing great content, then promote it.

 That means content that provides value and a unique perspective for your audience. Subpar content will disappear quickly into the black hole even if you promote it. But, having great content can get you only so far. After developing your content, you must take necessary steps to both gain some love from the search engines and to get it in front of the right people by promoting it across multiple channels. With over 88% of B2B marketers in North America cranking out new content as part of their marketing programs (Source: Content Marketing Institute/Marketing Profs), it is essential to have a strong game plan to get your content seen, and avoid getting lost in the informational abyss.

Here are 10 keys to keep your content from getting lost in space:

1. Wave to the Bots! Give yourself a shot with the search engine bots. Conduct keyword research to understand what your audience is searching for related to your topic. Make sure your page is visible and attractive to Googlebot and the other search engine crawlers by setting up on-page SEO with the appropriate title tags, headings, meta descriptions, and image alt attributes for your content. While there are a lot of factors that play into effective, modern SEO, it is still important to have a solid foundation of basic metadata for your content to help you get discovered online and keep the bots happy, so to speak.

2. Sell it in the SERPs. Create compelling, creative, and inviting page titles and meta descriptions to maximize your click-through rate on the search engine results page (SERPs). This is the copy that will show up for the user on the SERPs when the user is trying to decide which search result to click on. Think of the meta description as the ad copy for your page. Describe your page in a way that sells the content to the “customer”—which, in this case, is the search engine user that is looking for information related to your content topic.

3. Don’t be afraid to repeat your tweet. If you are posting a link to your content via Twitter you will want to schedule multiple tweets to promote your content since all of your followers will not be online at the same time. You can vary these posts with a different focus featuring a key quote, statistic, or question addressed in the content. Use the following posting schedule for Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook as a general rule of thumb.

  • LinkedIn:
    • Same day as post
  • Twitter:
    • On publish – Share Title/Topic, Link
    • Same day as post – Provide an interesting quote or stat related to the blog
    • Day after post – Pose a key, teasing question that is answered in the article
    • Week after post
    • Month after post
  • Facebook:
    • On publish
    • Month after Post

4. Pay to play. Unfortunately, the social media landscape is quickly becoming a pay-to-play venue. As algorithms continue to evolve it is increasingly difficult to get a lot of eyeballs on your info without paying to promote a post (even if you have a large following). Invest in boosted posts in a way that will get people to your content AND will also increase your future ORGANIC POWER. In other words, use boosted posts on Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter to drive people to your content but also with a goal of increasing the followers and email subscribers. This is a marathon, not a sprint, but with consistent contributions you can continue to build a following and leverage their individual networks to expand your organic reach.

5. Images = Everything. To increase the “shareability” of your content, be sure to include engaging visual elements. Use quality custom images both in the content pieces as well as the social media posts promoting that content. There is a lot of visual noise in social media feeds, so consider what type of images will stand out and catch the eye of your audience.

6. Use network multipliers. Utilize networks of key team members in your organization as appropriate to expand your reach by sharing your content via social media, especially if your company presence on social media is young and immature. Encourage your team members to like and share your content only if part of their network would fall into your target audience. Also use hashtags (only a couple) in social posts that will help mark the content by relevant topic or event to expand your audience reach beyond your existing followers.

7. Go serial. Leverage the power of “To Be Continued” and create episodic, multi-part content to get return visits. Combine these parts and pieces to build powerful long-form content that will promote referral links from 3rd party sites.

8. Click-to-Tweet. Make your share-worthy content easier to share. Include appropriate/relevant social share buttons on your blog post page, and make it easy for those who want to share tasty bites of content, like a key quote or statistic from your article with in-context click-to-tweet buttons. You can find a number of “Click-to-Tweet” plug-ins available to make this easy to setup.

9. Keep your troops in the loop. Make sure you keep your loyal email subscribers up-to-date with your latest content. This is a group that raised their hand to say they are interested in what you have to say, so don’t leave them hanging. This may seem obvious, but it can get overlooked.

10. Captivate your captive audience. In addition to your email audience, keep your current website audience engaged by cross-linking between related content on your site. Feature new content with links on your home page, and provide cross-links to new content from related blogs, product pages, and service pages. Make this new content easy to discover for your website visitors. Connecting the content dots across your site will help get more views and shares on the new stuff, as well as provide an SEO boost with increased engagement on your site overall.

If you create beautiful, valuable content, give it a chance to survive out in cyberspace.

Strap some jet packs on those blog posts, infographics, and videos to make sure you get that valuable content in front of the audiences that need it, and avoid the black hole.

If you have any questions about how best to strap jet packs to your content, please give us a shout. We keep rocket fuel in the office.

Christmas in July: Why Your Business Should Prepare for the Holidays in Summer

You’re probably familiar with the phrase “Christmas in July”, a phrase used loosely to describe summer indulgences. It holds an actual function for countries in the southern hemisphere, whose seasons are reversed. And though we find ourselves on the top half of the planet, we are thinking about the holidays even in the 90+ degree heat and a longing to be on the beach or by the pool.

A little planning now makes you smarter in December.

At Red Letter Marketing, we start holding meetings and discussing our holiday plans six months ahead of time, and we recommend you do the same. Ideally, it gets you ahead of the game—no competing for holiday resources, no employees out who’re necessary to complete projects, no last minute dashes for this or that. But to be honest, it simply keeps you on track. It keeps that feeling of “we never have enough time around the holidays” away.

Starting early leaves more time for creativity.

Our recommendation comes out of experience. In the early days of our company, we scrambled. That’s not to say things don’t get hectic still, but it helps greatly when you know in what direction to panic. Brainstorming for ideas in July means they’ll be solidified by summer’s end. Then you’ve got fall for execution, when nearly all employees are in the office. Since holiday projects come secondary to actual client work, it’s good to have these projects in queue for when employees have downtime, or simply need to work on something different for a bit. You’ll be surprised how much cooking gets done on the back-burner.

It doesn’t matter what your line of work may be. Marketing or otherwise, you’re likely responsible to clients, partners, friends, or supporters of some kind. Show them your organizational prowess. Plan ahead.

Oh, and Merry Christmas.

— Red Letter Marketing

Nielsen Media Consumption Updates

It’s long been predicted that TV and radio will lose a Darwinian battle to subscription on demand services like Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, etc.

The recent Nielsen Q1 2016 Total Audience Report indicates the media evolution trend is continuing, however broadcast—that’s TV and radio combined—is still the most powerful medium. For now.

TV and radio may not dominate the universe the way they once did, and statistics show they continue to lose share. But the chart below confirms their staying power as a resource to reach an audience. If you’re seeking to build awareness with the Boomer generation — who also have the deepest pockets — live TV still holds a 53% share of time spent. Combine TV and AM/FM radio (not streaming services), and you’re looking at 70% of a Boomer’s daily media consumption. Conversely, if your targets are 18-34, you’d best be paying attention to reaching them digitally and by subscription video on demand (SVOD). In fact, the average time per day spent on digital devices in this age group grew 74% in the last 2 years. But still, live television and radio claim a 46% share for the younger generation.

Somehow, AM/FM radio still hangs in there at 17%, though its audience skews older. 18-34 year olds spend an average of 10:19 minutes per day listening to radio, while 50-64 year olds top the average at 15:09.

So what does this mean for your strategic planning and your media commitments?

Broadcast is still a powerful tool to build awareness.That awareness gets translated to better engagement when customers seek your brand in digital mediums. But it’s more important than ever to be well informed, and to aim carefully before you fire off precious media dollars, because the landscape is shifting constantly.

The Bottom Line

When things get complex, applying the fundamentals of understanding how, when and where to reach your customers and prospects is more important than ever.

Do we ever say no to clients? Yes. Here’s why.

The headline might have brought to mind a familiar scenario.

Client: Shouldn’t the email blast have our logo in it somewhere?

Designer: Your logo is in it. Down there in the corner. Get closer to the screen.

Client: I guess I see it. Could we maybe . . . embiggen it a smidgen?

Designer: No. Next question.

Maybe it’s never happened exactly like that but, most of us in marketing have witnessed exchanges along those lines. The designer in that scenario has taken her advisor role to its extreme, where advice has transmogrified into unyielding command.

We don’t do that here. (If you don’t believe me, here’s what you should do: Become our client. Then you’ll see. I stand ready to receive your call at 336-676-6822.)

But we do say “no” sometimes. And when I tell you about a recent example, your first reaction might be something like “What kind of naïve imbecile would do that?”

There are times when I am a naïve imbecile, but this was not one of those times. What happened was, a client called and said “I’ve got some money here and I’d like to give it to you folks. Please take it and use it to redesign our sales kit.”

So yeah, here’s the part where you go “Did you really say no to that?” And then your next question is “Can I have the phone number of that client please?” (Now I’m saying “No” to you.)

Of course there is more to the story. I didn’t just decline the funds and wish my client a good day. I reviewed her sales kit and agreed that it could stand some grooming. However, I knew that the basket of money she was waving in my face was all she had in her marketing budget for the rest of the fiscal year. Some serious prioritization was in order.

Now, this client wasn’t asking me for financial advice. She wanted design advice. So I was indeed risking a scenario in which she picked up her basket of money and stormed out.

It was a risk worth taking. In our experience, good clients welcome all kinds of advice, even when it is counter to their original request. In a job long ago, in a galaxy far away, I had a client who had built an astonishingly successful logistics company. He was a really smart guy—smart enough to welcome challenges. I once attended a meeting in his company’s stately conference room; also in attendance was my trusted account director, Mike. At a certain point in the meeting, the client held up an ad he had torn out of a magazine. It featured a scantily clad model draped over an outboard engine. My client asked “Why aren’t we doing stuff like this?”

The room got very quiet.

Mike (my hero) blurted “Because that would be the stupidest thing you could possibly do.”

The client smiled. He still liked the scantily clad model but he liked frank advice even more. (Mike and I expanded on that first comment, and the client saw our reasoning.)

Okay, back to my client with the request for a sales kit redesign. When I put the brakes on that idea, she was disappointed. She even kind of whined and begged a bit. (She was half-joking.) But when I told her that there were better uses for her remaining budget—uses more likely to trigger sales—she graciously accepted my advice.

Maybe we’ll get to redesigning the sales kit next year. Meanwhile, our client knows that if we always said “yes” to her suggestions it would only feel good for a while. The occasional “no” may be briefly annoying, but it can be more rewarding for the client in the long run.

Remixing the Marketing Mix

The classic marketing mix is referred to as the 4 P’s; that’s Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. It originated in 1960, and over time marketers added additional P’s, like Packaging, People, and so on. I once worked for a corporation that used 10 P’s. (No, I can’t recite them). Whatever the number, the point was to use them as a tool to plan for successful product development, and the right placement and offerings in the marketplace.

The 4 P model has evolved as marketing has moved from a push model to a pull model.

It’s not easy to comprehend how much the world has changed since the 4 P’s was introduced in 1960. That was the era of a push economy. Manufacturers made things, pushed them into the marketplace, and told consumers what to buy. In the digital age, that model has flipped. Consumers have the power and they tell companies what they want (and when and where they want it). It’s true of B2B and B2C alike.

As a result, the movement evolved from the 4 P’s to the 4 C’s (shown below), but in 2005, Chekitan Dev and Don Schultz introduced an interesting model called SIVA. That is: Solutions, Information, Value, and Access. SIVA more accurately reflects the customer-focused strategy that’s required in today’s marketplace.


“SIVA supports and builds on the true marketing concept—finding customer needs, wants, or desires and fulfilling them at a profit to the marketing organization.”

-Chekitan Dev and Don Schultz, Marketing Management, 2005

When consulting with our clients on their brand strategy and marketing strategies, I’ve found the SIVA model to be a useful tool. It’s important to always be present for customers, and to meet on their terms. The SIVA model helps provide the discipline and structure to do that, whether working to define the brand position, planning an ecommerce site, or crafting an elevator pitch. It reminds us that marketing exists to help find, convert, and keep customers, and we must never stop seeking to understand how we can better connect with them.

(This doesn’t mean we have to throw out the 4 P’s altogether. They’re still useful for internal management, because all that customer focus doesn’t negate the need to manage a business with discipline to ensure profitability.)

If you aren’t familiar with SIVA, play with it as you plan your next marketing project.

Instead of telling customers what service or product you provide, ask yourselves and your team, “What solution are we really delivering?” I know a company that sells foam balls for industrial cleaning purposes, like the insides of boom pipes that are used to pour concrete in construction work. The customers could care less that this company has foam balls. What they care about is not causing down time due to pipes full of dried concrete. That shift in focus makes all the difference.

Those same customers look for Value—what product will do the best job, and at what price. In fact, they chat about it on web forums, where they trade information and seek education. Companies that help them find Solutions, Information, Value, and Access (often in the form of education) will gain their favor.

Need help adding some SIVA power to your marketing? We’re just the folks to help.