Insights from a group of Ann Arbor Marketers that will help you and your business #MOVEahead.

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We hear a lot these days about how we are an image-driven society. Selfies on Facebook, pins on Pinterest, YouTube videos. There’s no question that visuals have attraction. And yes, a picture can be worth more than a thousand words in its ability to imprint an image on the mind. But let’s flip this for a moment. Go counter to current conventional wisdom. What about the power of words to ignite the imagination and stir the heart?

“Government of the people, for the people, by the people shall not perish from the earth.” —Abraham Lincoln

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” —John F Kennedy

“I have a dream…” —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“E = MC2” —Albert Einstein

“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” —Mother Teresa

“You can imprison a man, but not an idea. You can exile a man, but not an idea. You can kill a man, but not an idea.” —Benazir Bhutto

Words can sink deep into the psyche and when they do, they change the course of history by stirring women and men to action. They inspire courage when all around seems hopeless. They paint a vision of what could be. They remind us of what is important and what should be sacrificed for.

Likewise, in business, words can change the playing field by framing an idea.

The world is flat.

Seven Habits of…

From Good to Great.

Lean in.

Start with Why.

And you have access to this power, to the power of words, as you market your business. It is the words of your story and the ideas you communicate that ultimately determine how well you connect in the market. Because words carry your clarion call to action and catapult your brand out of the clutter.

“Just Do It.”

“When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best.”

“Finger Lickin’ Good.”

“Melts In Your Mouth, Not In Your Hand.”

“The World On Time.”

“Zoom Zoom.”

“Think Different.”

What will you ignite in the minds of your customers about you? Sure, show some pictures—especially since they are now part of your searchable content by Google and contribute to your SEO strength—but don’t forget to capture some places in the heart, then go deep into the soul, through the power of words. That’s not just searchable, it will get people talking then returning to your brand.

If you feel you need some word work, consider getting in touch with our wordsmithing team.

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I heard a great story recently. Many of you may have heard it already if you love the outdoors.

It's about REI. Their point of view as a company is that a life well spent is a life spent outdoors. This became real in the lives of its staff and customers in a new way on Black Friday 2015.

We know that Black Friday is traditionally a major shopping day and retailers count on large crowds to help make their sales numbers for the holiday season. REI took a different approach. They decided to close their 143 stores on the day after Thanksgiving and pay their 14,000 employees for the day off so they would get out and enjoy the outdoors…and they encouraged their customers to do the same.

Time outdoors makes you healthier and happier. And there are so many ways to get out. No need to be extreme. Just find a place near you, then open the door and head outside.

Seemed like a risk to go counter to the retail trend. But what happened is that REI customers, when they heard about it through a video announcement and social media, were inspired that this brand was behaving in a fashion that was congruent with its values. And perhaps more powerfully, congruent with the values of these customers—with what was inside them. And that was—to get outside.

Millions of supporters chose to #OptOutside.


“What began as a group of 23 mountain climbing buddies is now the nation's largest consumer cooperative. But no matter how large we grow, our roots remain firmly planted in the outdoors…Our core purpose guides everything we do: we all work to inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.”

What happened? Loyalty grew and along with it, sales. These customers in support of REI came back the next week and the company sales went beyond what they would have on a normal Black Friday. Why? Because it was authentic. It wasn't a trick to fool the customer into coming in later. It was an authentic statement about why REI exists and what they believe in. It gave a unique opportunity for REI’s staff and customers to live into those values in a new and unique way and create their own stories outdoors.

Marketing is about building relationships with people—your customers, your staff and your community. Telling your story is one of the most powerful ways to connect with an audience, draw them into the experience of your brand, and ultimately build relationship with them. As REI did, you can shape the future for good by the stories you tell today. The story doesn’t have to be totally unique. It just has to be true to who you are as a company. It could be a story about a member of your team going beyond what was expected in service to a customer. A story of persistence on the part of a team member to strengthen stability in your organization through an improvement in your IT systems. A story about your company’s involvement in a community cause. A story about a product you're rolling out and how this fulfills your promise in a new way. Whatever the story, let it be authentic to who you are as a firm—something that expresses your values and how you live out your mission.

As a leader in your firm, you have to decide each day how you will allocate your time. At first, telling a story may not seem like a wise use of that time or a critical business function. Try it. You might be surprised. Just like it happened for REI, it could change the narrative of your bottom line for the better. It’s not rocket science. But it can have rocket power to take you places you’ve never been before. Like outside.

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What is Your Brand Story?

If a reporter were to tell the story of your company or organization, what would she say? What vignettes would she include to illustrate what you do, how you do it, and why you do it?

Don’t wait for a reporter. Tell the story yourself!

Stories define who we are--individually, as families, as organizations, as societies. They tell who we are and where we have been. They tell where we are headed, and they determine whether or not we will get there.

Your Story Matters for Brand Engagement

Stories are the best way for people—employees and customers alike—to engage with your brand.

Our brains process stories differently from individual facts and statistics. We forget lists. We forget bullet points. But we remember stories. They create connections and emotions that mere facts often don’t. Your constituents are much more likely to remember you if you present your strengths in the form of stories.

The Best Brand Stories are Human Stories

The best brand stories are stories about people, about how your services, products, or staff have improved their lives.

So, choose a scene from your organization’s story that illustrates who you are and where you are headed. Then tell your story.

Tell it to your staff.

Tell it to prospective employees.

Tell it to customers.

Tell it to prospective customers.

Tell it to yourself.

Tell it to the world.


Let MOVE Communications help you tell your story to increase your brand engagement. Contact us at dhart@movecommunications.com.

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Which numbers matter on social media?

Social media is full of metrics: How many impressions did your advertisement have? How many likes, shares, retweets, and faves did your post generate? How many people clicked through to your website? How many followers do you have?

All of these mean different things depending on the channel you’re on, but the question is, which of these numbers are the most important? The metrics can largely be broken into three groups: audience size, views, and engagement. Here’s a breakdown of what they mean and how you should value them in relation to your sales efforts.

How big is your audience?

On Facebook, your audience size is determined by the number of people who like your page, while on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, your followers are your audience. Different nomenclature, same concept. These are the folk who have asked to hear from you, specifically, and your posts will appear on their feed. You don’t have to pay anything to speak to these people, so the larger you grow this number the lower the cost of getting your message out.

As we said previously, you want to give your fans a lot of love, but don’t push a sale too hard or you’ll push them away.

Who’s seeing your content?

When you make a post, you want to know how far it goes. This is usually measured by the number of impressions the post received, or by how many people the post reached. The difference between the two is that while reach measures the number of people who saw your post, impressions measure how many times it was seen (even if it was seen by the same person multiple times).

The number of impressions can get quite high, particularly if you’re putting money into an advertising campaign. However, their value is limited. Imagine you’ve put up a billboard on the side of the highway: the number of people driving by who see your billboard are equivalent to your impressions. But you don’t know if “seeing your billboard” means if they responded to it, or even if they read it fully.

This doesn’t mean impressions are worthless. They do help build awareness for your brand, meaning that if someone sees your advertising repeatedly they may become more familiar with who you are. It is, however, important not to be too focused on them simply because they are a large number.

What is your engagement rate?

Engagement is measured as your cumulative likes, shares, retweets, clicks, comments, etc. In short, any time someone interacts with your content in a meaningful way, it counts toward engagement. These numbers will always be significantly smaller than your impressions, but they carry much more weight because they express interest. Track your engagement numbers month-to-month and compare them against averages in your industry to get an idea of how you’re doing.

Will these numbers help me build sales?

When you get down to the brass tacks, marketing efforts that don’t lead to sales at a certain point waste your time and money. Selling on social media can be fast for some (online retailers) and slow for others (B2B services), but only dedicated effort will get you there.

With all the excitement and publicity viral videos bring, there can be an illusion that social media is a fast track for success. In the real word, social media is much more like a workout: show up every day, put in your best effort, and over time you’ll build your brand and see the result in sales.

Just don’t expect it to happen overnight.

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Building a fan base for your brand on social media

For decades, traditional advertising appeared as an interruption to daily life. Television and radio, billboards and magazine inserts were all about grabbing your attention during otherwise routine activities: the ad itself was never the destination.

Until the Internet.

Today, social media channels, while not ads per say, have provided a venue for advertising that audiences have voluntarily chosen to be a part of. Consumers have adopted brands as part of their identity. They have become fans.

This is not to say disruptive advertising is a thing of the past: most advertising is still an interruption (and it probably always will be). If you’re new on the scene and trying to get people to know who you are, you have to say “hello” somehow. But once people have shaken your hand (i.e. opted-in to your social media channel), you’re no longer working with a cold audience. You’re speaking to people who have chosen to listen to you.

You have to prove your value to them. And that means NOT treating your social media like an advertising feed.

Avoiding the hard sell on social media

In order to have an effective presence on social media, you must stay focused on your audience. They are not interested in a relentless stream of sales pitches.

Imagine you are a tire company. You could waste a lot of time (and money) on social media pushing a lot of coupons and sales that will get exactly zero people excited. Why? Because no one buys tires on impulse. They are in the market maybe about once a year or so (per vehicle they own), or seasonally depending on your climate. If you’re trying to convince them to go buy tires TODAY, you’re wasting your breath.

Instead, you want to be sure that on the day they choose to go buy tires, you are the first company that comes to mind. And you do this by establishing trust and providing value up front. For instance: You could put out tips for how to check your tire pressure, advice about which tires will work best for your climate, and safety infographics about how keeping your tires in good order will help prevent accidents.

And then, when Fall rolls around and the opportune moment arrives, you can promote a special sale on winter tires. Because by then, not only do you have their trust, you’ve earned it as well.

Respect your audience

Cultivating a fan base is about putting them first. It’s about showing them you’re worth their time by giving them value and not asking too much in return. It’s about the relationship you’ve built with your customer, about dialog, and about being a good listener more than just a good talker.

Because in the end, social media is about people. As in: real human beings on the other end of that Internet connection who will be liking, sharing, and retweeting your brand pro bono, simply because they love you and they want other people to love you as well.

Treat them well.

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