How's your non-profit's bottom line? Video can help.

by Beatriz Terrazas, IMI co-owner and visual storyteller

In past posts, we've discussed how businesses can partner with non-profits in ways that benefit both. Your clients and customers like to know that you're involved in your community; they like to know that you care about social causes. This makes them feel good about choosing to do business with you, and can keep them coming back to you. And people who patronize non-profits like to know that businesses in the community value that organization enough to make it part of their charitable giving, whether in volunteer hours or donated services. You can read about this here: Cause Marketing

If you're a non-profit, video can help tell your story in much the same way corporations use it to market themselves. We've already shown you statistics about how much more effective video is in helping people retain information, and about how it can affect your SEO in a positive way. You can read about that here: About Video Marketing.

Here are two video examples we created this summer for North Texas non-profits with the objective of helping them raise funds. 

This was produced for our non-profit partner NatureReach, a nature and science education agency, for North Texas Giving Day.

This video was produced for The Writer's Garret literacy agency in Dallas as part of a grant application. We were able to offer the three different video segments separately for individual appeals throughout North Texas Giving Day.

What are you waiting for? Give us a call and see how we can help you tell your non-profit's story.

Writing: Can typos and poor grammar really hurt my brand?

The value of writing in the success of your business

By Ingrid Scroggins – Writer, Editor, Communications Consultant  

Writing to promote and position your small or midsize company is likely the last thing on your mind as you juggle many demands and wear multiple hats running your business.   

But there’s a powerful argument for moving the use of this skill to a higher place on your priorities list. Poor writing – whether it’s on your website, in blogs, in video content, or even on social media – reflects negatively on your business. And that negative reflection can cost you clients or customers, and ultimately, profits.  

Misspelled words, typos, confusing sentences and grammatical errors represent sloppy work and little or no attention to details. This can raise questions and concerns about your company’s credibility and capabilities.      

Putting more effort into the various forms of communications used for your business will go a long way in helping protect your company’s reputation - and your brand.

Depending on your budget, you may want to take the do-it-yourself approach or hire editorial professionals. Either way, consider the following suggestions to improve what your company is already doing and to plan for future projects.

Focus your message.  Who are your targeted audiences? What do you want them to understand about your business? What actions do you want them to take? What is your business going to do for them? 

These kinds of questions can make your communications meaningful and beneficial for your organization and the people or groups you want to target.

Double-check content. To catch typos, spelling mistakes and anything else that could make a less-than-favorable impression, take the time to read and reread everything you push out for public consumption about your business. Have someone else review content as well to get a different perspective.

Proofing applies to social media posts, too. Just because they’re typically short and sweet doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same careful review.    

Compile a virtual toolkit. Take advantage of the tools available through the internet to help with writing whether you’re at your desk or on the go with your smartphone. Create a “favorites folder” of website links or a section of apps on your computer or smartphone that you can refer to quickly when you want to check a grammar rule or the spelling or meaning of a word.     

Decide to go with a pro. Handling writing in-house may appear to save money, but it can be costly in other ways. If you are writing and posting, that activity is taking up valuable time needed to guide the big-picture operations of the company. If you have an employee who can pick up the duties but whose strengths are not well suited for the responsibilities, quality will suffer.

The best use of money and time may be to hire a professional writer, editor or social media coordinator to create and curate content for your website, social media presence and other needs. If you think this suggestion sounds expensive, planning and research can control the cost.  

Look for candidates through creative talent agencies, websites devoted to freelance workers and organizations like the Editorial Freelancers Association.    

Decide on the level of support you want, the amount you can afford and the skills that will best fit your company. But be realistic about your expectations. If you aim to pay bottom dollar, you’re likely to get bottom-dollar results, not conscientious, value-adding work that will help present your company in a polished, professional light.      

Writing likely is not the core of your business, but it matters in effectively reaching and influencing the key audiences important to the success of your business.  

Content that promotes you!

I'm not sold--why should I use video content for marketing?

I have my marketing collateral and I don't need video.

Maybe you don't, but think about this. Anecdotally, you know that we're a visual society with an increasingly short attention span. You also know that well into the digital age, internet and social media content comprise a big chunk of many a company's marketing efforts. And, consider a few hard statistics:

  • 45 percent of internet users report taking some action as a result of watching a video on a website.-OPA
  • Having video on websites can increase organic traffic from search engines more than 150 percent.-MarketingSherpa
  • 70 percent of marketers say that video converts better than other mediums.-VidYard

Talk about opportunities to reach your audience! (Or missed opportunities if you're not using video.)

But conceptualizing and producing video content is hard, right?

It doesn't have to be. Yes, some projects require bigger budgets, but you need not break the bank for every piece of video content--especially if, like social media content, it's going to have a short shelf-life. 

Here's an example. We're a content creation company, but we also have a beautiful set of studios in Dallas. We're producers, but sometimes other producers want a space in which to work on their own projects. They not only want to rent the studio space, but they also need amenities such as makeup and wardrobe areas, a kitchen or cafe for breakfast or lunch, and quiet spaces where they can take calls or answer emails between takes. So, we created the short video below highlighting one of our studios for use in an email marketing campaign. It's a very brief tour of the facility and the amenities that someone might need for a day's shoot. It took just a few hours to shoot and edit, and it immediately got the attention of clients we'd not heard from in a while.

How can we help you create your next piece of video content?

We went. We experienced. We were inspired.

Inspiration at the NAB Show

by Beatriz Terrazas, IMI co-founder

The recap

The NAB Show was a whirlwind of sights, sounds and every bit of technology we could ever possibly need to help in our content creation and storytelling efforts. It was great fun to see what's new, even if at times we had a bit of sensory overload. Check out the time-lapse video and see what I mean.

 

Our first stop was the Canon area, where reps had demos that included everything from low end still photography cameras to a video camera prototype that shoots in 8k. Doesn't mean anything to you? Don't worry; it's a format way beyond high definition video that for all its sharpness and clarity, isn't yet widely available. Still, it was astounding to see how far digital technology has come. From there, we went on to check out the RED, Black Magic, Arri, Sony and Panasonic booths, and anything else that caught our eye along the way.

What we love

We love the Canon brand because we find its video and still photography equipment integrate together very well. Currently, our choice of storytelling tools for your video content comes from Canon's Cine line, the C100 camera, and occasionally, the higher end C300. For still photography we use the 5dIII, which can easily be a second video camera when we're doing two-camera shoots. The Canon lenses fit both still and video lines, and that synergy is a win-win because many of you ask us to produce video and photos for your projects. 

Skills still matter

One interesting panel we attended featured three documentary filmmakers who talked about the latest Canon tools they use in their work. From watching their clips, however, it was clear that while the technology they use is fantastic, their skills are what hit their projects out of the ballpark. (One of them even said he's having a hard time letting go of an older piece of equipment to make way for the new.) Our core belief about storytelling has always been that if you don't know what you're doing, state-of-the-art technology of any brand isn't going to help you. We are storytellers first and foremost. The gear is simply what we use to do our job.

Still, we had to check out as many exhibits as possible to see if there's anything new that can help us tell your stories. Check out the gallery to see a few scenes from the NAB Show. 

NAB Show--here we come!

What's the NAB Show?

Technology, technology and more technology!

We’re excited to attend the NAB Show again this year. If you’ve never heard of it, the National Association of Broadcasters holds this industry trade show every spring in Las Vegas. It’s the largest electronic media show in the world (Don't believe the hype? We've had the sore legs and foot blisters to prove it.), and exhibitors from all over the planet bring the latest and greatest in technology to help create, manage and deliver content.  

Here are some interesting facts about this year’s show, which takes place April 16-21:

  • NAB expects 103,000 attendees from 166 countries. (Those lunch lines get long.)
  • There will be more than 1,700 exhibitors. (We can't wait to see what's new!)
  • Venue begins with the entire Las Vegas Convention Center (3.2 million square feet) but spreads out to include several hotels and resorts in the vicinity. (Remember the comment above about sore legs and blisters?)

What does technology have to do with storytelling?

Like most of our colleagues in video and content marketing, we enjoy working with new equipment and technology. Cameras, editing software, media storage, media sharing platforms--they're all tools of our trade. New cameras in particular, with their ultra-large files and increasingly sharper definition, can be a lot of fun to play with at the show. It's also interesting to hear Hollywood types discuss how an editing program we have in our own business helps them edit films for the big screen. 

But storytelling remains at the heart of what we do. Technology, no matter how cutting edge or state of the art, is meaningless without the skills that bring your stories to your audiences. When we visit vendors who supply us with equipment and technology, it's always with the intent to better tell your stories and serve your marketing and social media needs. If a new piece of equipment can't help us help you, we don't need it. 

Last year at NAB, we learned more about drone usage in our field, added a couple of pieces to our camera equipment, and have already put our newfound tools and knowledge to use for you. Check out the sizzle reel below for ways we can help tell your stories. And don't forget to watch our social media feeds next week for daily updates about what we’re seeing at the NAB Show!

Call to action: yes, it really does matter!

Importance of a Call to Action

by Heather Fournier, IMI marketing intern

Did you know that 70% of B2B businesses don’t have a call to action (CTA) on their website? That means that 70% of businesses out there are missing an opportunity to get viewers to perform some action that can drive business. It’s crucial to add a CTA every time you communicate with a potential customer, whether it’s through social media, emails, ads, or your website. If you don’t have a CTA, you’re not motivating viewers to call you, to click on a site tab for more information, or to purchase a product or service. This can result in revenue loss.

But how do you create a really good CTA? Here are some tips for creating or refreshing your call to action:

  • Make your CTA simple. Our society moves quickly. Viewers want to easily understand what their next step should be. So you need to explain what you want them to do and how they’ll benefit from it in just a few words. If you want a potential client to sign up or subscribe to something — say, a newsletter — make the process simple and straightforward. People want to give a small amount of information — name and email, for instance — and move on.
  • Use actionable words in your CTA. Start with verbs and phrases such as “download,” “view,” "sign up," and “visit us.” Be sure to also include words that motivate the viewer to act quickly, such as “now,” or “today.” By doing this, you’re prompting viewers into acting before they forget.
  • Do your best to stand out. You want the viewer to remember who you are and how your business can help them. Your business should already differentiate itself from competition, so keep that in mind while creating your CTA. Simply remind viewers of what you do and how your business can solve their problems or fulfill their wants.
  • Add value to your call to action. Consumers need to know how they’ll benefit. For example, if you’re selling a product that makes some process easier for customers, including phrases such as “Click now and be stress-free,” will give them an idea of what they stand to gain.

Here are a couple of examples of calls to action that readers can’t resist:

Free! Everyone loves getting something for free. This can be something as simple as a coupon, an ebook, a template, or a free trial. People enjoy learning for free and they’ll look up to you or your company for supplying them with knowledge.

This is for you. It’s great to use a person’s or a company's name in communications. Personalized call to actions are important because we all want to be spoken to directly. We want to be visible. And social media and email platforms make it easy for you to incorporate a personalization in a CTA when interacting with your target audiences.

In summary, CTAs can inspire your audiences to act. Consider the CTA you currently use or want to create. Is it simple, actionable, and unique? If not, consider these tips and think about how to make it better.

Seven steps to creating a video marketing strategy, third in an occasional series

We know. Creating a video marketing strategy can be confusing and overwhelming. So many things to consider!

 

If you're ready to take the leap into video content marketing we can help. The following seven steps will give you a solid foundation for success with your new video marketing strategy. 

1) Define a purpose

As with any other marketing strategy, video marketing will only succeed if you have a clear purpose. Consider your overall business goals, current marketing strategy, target customer, and what you’d like to accomplish with your video marketing. Write your purpose the way you would a mission statement. Define the intended audience, what you’ll deliver to them, and the intended outcome. That outcome could be familiarizing your audience with a new product, recruiting more qualified employee candidates, or bringing in new clients. But beware of difficult to quantify goals such as “raising awareness about our company.” 

2) Choose topics and types of video content you want to create

If your brand isn't well known, video marketing can be a great way to take control of how it’s received by new people. A well produced brand identity video can show people exactly what they’ll experience when coming to your business. Known companies trying to overcome negative perceptions might find it helpful to mix positive customer testimonials with videos highlighting their charitable work in the community. 

If your video marketing is intended to communicate your brand’s personality you may want to live-stream an event or create a video you can use across all your social media channels. Videos also work well in industries that require in-depth explanations and periodical updates. For instance, an investment banker may create videos to give clients quarterly updates or explain complex investment strategies. 

3) Determine who will create your video content

This area will vary based on your budget and the types of videos you want. In terms of budget, the general rule of thumb is to spend about 10% of your annual gross revenue on marketing. According to The Content Marketing Institute, the average content marketing budget is 28 percent of the total marketing budget, with the most effective marketers allocating about 37 percent. That content marketing allocation includes all your content marketing—blogging, podcasts, social media, apps, etc. So you’ll need to know your overall content strategy when determining your budget.

Depending on your resources, you can use an in-house team or outsource to a professional video marketing company. Obviously, investing marketing dollars with people create videos all the time means your productions will not only look better, but be more effective, too. You may think it’s too costly to use a professional team, but it could actually save you time and money by helping you avoid mistakes that end up costing more than your initial investment. No matter what route you take you’ll still need to determine who’ll be responsible for the creative concepts, scriptwriting, content approval, video production logistics, and content distribution. (Of course, a professional team would handle most of those things for you.) If you’re truly budget conscious, consider hiring a production company for content that will have a bigger impact or longer shelf life, and save the do-it-yourself projects for content that’s more fleeting--social media videos, for instance.

4) Develop a video content calendar

If you already have a content marketing calendar, make sure it includes your video content. If you don’t have a content marketing calendar, create one, as it will help streamline blog posts, social media content, and video content all in one place. The calendar will give you a bird’s eye view of your content strategy. It will also help you identify gaps in it and assign roles and deadlines for each project. Including your video content here will help determine your timeline for planning, writing, and producing each video.

5) Decide where your video content will live

No matter what kind of content you want to create—interviews, how-tos, live event coverage—you still need to determine where your content will live. Selecting the right distribution channels is just as important as the content itself. You can house it on your website, a campaign landing page, or a video hosting site like Vimeo or Youtube. You can distribute it via email campaign, social media outlets, or a blog. 

6) Define what success looks like and how you will track It

This is an important and often overlooked step in marketing strategy. What does success looks like to you? Is it a certain number of new leads? An increase in your organic search ranking? A specific number of views? The best way to narrow this down is to create Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time bound (SMART) goals. Increased awareness may sound good but isn't necessarily measurable or relevant. Sure, awareness means you stay top of mind with potential clients, but how do you measure that? An example of a good SMART goal for a video content strategy is this: Three months after launching our video content strategy we will begin to see at least 10 new qualified leads per month. And you could build onto it: Of these 10 new leads, we will convert at least one per month into new business. See how this SMART goal can be more easily quantified than the one about “raising awareness?”

7) Finally, be ready to adapt

Change is one of the few constants in marketing, so in order to be successful with any new strategy you must be ready to adapt. Be alert to your industry’s trends, news, and changes. If a national tragedy occurs the day you planned to share your latest video, it’s probably not wise or in good taste to do so. Conversely, if you hadn't planned to post new video content for three weeks but something newsworthy happens in your industry, it may be worth your while to quickly put together and post a video in response. Capitalizing on trending topics and reacting quickly to change are trademarks of a smart marketer. Being light on your feet will always work in your favor. 

 

 

Your guide to creating the ultimate email marketing subject lines

By Hannah Sheffield IMI Marketing Coordinator

So you have something to say. You want to use email because it generates revenue. How do you get potential customers to actually look at the information? How do you get people to open the email in the first place?

We know how. Here are five examples of subject lines to help you increase open rates for your email marketing:

Pop-culture references/integrations. Ever heard of DJ Khaled? Popular news service TheSkimm used a saying from this Snapchat-famous entertainer in a marketing email targeting millennials and Gen Z. The subject line was “Major Key Alert.” Because young people in this target audience were more likely to be familiar with DJ Khaled and understand the “major key alert” reference, they were more compelled to open the email message.

Timely conveniences (for the customer). Yes, there are “best practices” for when to send emails. Does your company have to stay within those parameters? No. Companies can generate business by sending emails during off-peak hours. One example of a timely convenience would be a food and beverage magazine sending an email at 5:15 p.m. The subject line could be “Where to Get the Best Beer Right Now." How convenient would that be for the target audience? Even if you’re not sending an email during an optimal time for open rates, that's okay. There are other benefits to sending a creative subject line at off-peak times if you think creatively. You might even see an increased click-through-rate by venturing outside the established parameters. 

Indirect testimonials. Use these to appeal to professionals who want to see results. This type of subject line should showcase benefits of your product or service. One example of an indirect testimonial is “How (target business name) can build a presence on social media." The key with this tactic is to personalize the subject line. Insert the name of the business to which you’re sending the email.

Subject line and preview text working together. This doesn’t mean starting a sentence in the subject line and finishing it in the preview text. Each should be a complete thought that complements the other. One example subject line from Buzzed is: “Not Cool, Guys." The preview text that followed: "Okay, WHO left the passive-aggressive sticky note on my fridge. Honestly, who acts like this?” This authentic, light, conversational tone draws you in. Use appropriate brand voice for your company, though.

Scary/inspiring. All right, maybe not scary. But, you should write a subject line to position your product/service as time-sensitive. Doing so will create a sense of urgency. One example from fashion designer Tory Burch urges readers to open before an upcoming holiday. The subject line reads: “There’s still time: great Valentine’s Day gifts." Another example: Wayfair, a furniture retailer, inspired and complimented in one of its latest subject lines by writing, “Hey there, trendsetter. Save on must-have modern accent furniture."

Check out the other examples in the infographic below:

Remember to keep in mind...

It's important to align your message with the personas for your target audience. As the writer, you don’t want to come up with something that your audience just won’t understand. For instance, yes, a lot of people watch The Bachelor. But if one of your email segments is adult males between the ages of 45-54, you don’t need to make references of what “Sarah” from the Bachelor did last night. Got it?

We want to hear about other clever subject lines! Share your favorites with us in the comment section below.

Finding your brand's voice

By Hannah Sheffield IMI Marketing Coordinator

 

So you’re creating content for your brand. How do you establish credibility? How do you show your customers that your brand has something important to offer them? You can show your company’s value through a uniform tone of voice, language and style. You can also do so through the production and distribution of content. This consistency is otherwise known as brand voice.

Brand voice is essential for customer recognition. Beyond that, your brand voice is a representation of your company’s values, status, employees and service/product offerings. If you're developing a content marketing strategy, begin with these considerations to develop your brand’s voice:

Nail down four characteristics. Ask what sets your brand apart from others. How does your brand share or explain a concept to a client? List each characteristic with one word. For example:
    1    Witty
    2    Realistic
    3    Engaging
    4    Visionary
When deciding on characteristics that define your brand, it will help to review content that the company has already produced. When reviewing, you might be able to spot trends in language or in an overall feeling of the content.

Outline your company’s values. This is important to convey to prospective customers. You want your brand content to “bleed” your values. Everything your company produces should reflect your brand. If done consistently, your brand will have value associated with every piece of content produced or every product sold. Here are examples of companies that have used consistent brand voice. Each is now associated with certain characteristics:
    1    Volvo: Safe
    2    Chanel: Sophisticated
    3    Subaru: Dependable
    4    Ford: American Classic

Keep the customer in mind. How can your brand communicate your business offerings to satisfy customer wants and needs? Keep in mind that your tone should not only reflect your employees and company values, but the customer base as well. Many of your efforts will be to retain or obtain customers. Considering their needs and interests is vital for your brand voice to be heard.

What do you want people to know about you? Develop three concepts about your brand that you want to convey. These concepts should align with your content marketing goals. Keep those in mind when creating content. Consider how you can show your customers what your brand values and who the people behind the brand are. Use your brand voice to deliver value to your target customers day in and day out.

Parting Thoughts

If people are the strength behind your brand, show it. The brand tone of voice should reflect company values, culture, and characteristics. You can build up your brand by using uniform diction and tone. When your company and content creators are able to integrate brand voice into content, your marketing will stop feeling like marketing. Your customers will know your brand without needing a logo or signage. And that’s one thing your company should be aiming for.

Using video as the vehicle to tell your brand's story

By Hannah Sheffield IMI Marketing Coordinator

It's common knowledge that video has taken over the internet. Everyone is either watching video or making it. Companies using video enjoy 41% more web traffic from search than non-users (Aberdeen). With statistics like that, how could your business not want to utilize video?

The question, then, is what type of video do you produce that has a longer shelf life and still serves a purpose for your brand? The solution is a brand identifying video. Something that describes your brand in a short amount of time. What elements should you consider when developing the concept for your brand's video? Here's one example of a brand identity video from Cole Haan.

Here are our top pro tips to creating a video to enhance your brand:

Have a strong, captivating lead-in. This video starts off with soft music and then gradually begins to show the subject. The voice-over starts, and the story begins. Rather than jumping right into the story, viewers are able to understand the tone of the video and the brand’s voice.

Lay out your company's values and thought process. Let your consumers know how you see your brand. In the CMO of Cole Haan’s first sentence, David Maddocks says what he appreciates about what a brand values.  Later on in the video, Maddocks says, “We really don’t consider ourselves a part of a particular industry. We think about ourselves as being a part of a culture.” This statement positions the brand as an essential part of a society’s nature, rather than just another company to be overlooked.

Integrate your company's history to outline its future. Maddocks gives a brief history and talks about how the brand is evolving to accommodate for what its consumers value. Maddocks outlines the future for Cole Haan by describing how the company culture is being built around the company’s convictions.

Talk about what your audience desires and how your brand intersects with those wants and needs. What sets this video apart from other branding videos? David Maddocks recognizes what Cole Haan’s target audience doesn’t care about. Maddocks knows the desires of his target audience (knowing how a brand is relevant to them). He acknowledges that Cole Haan’s target audience calls the shots, and that the brand is there to complement these people as they evolve.

 

To begin the process of creating a branding video you have to ask yourself: How does my brand intersect with my target audience's values? Know your personas and know them cold. In order to make a video that appeals emotionally and logically to your audience, you need to know what that audience values.

If you have any insight you’d like to share about branding video formats please share with me in the comments below!