Marketing Tip of the Week: Grammar for Business

Good grammar is important to the success of a business. Schoolhouse Rock knows it. Sesame Street knows it. Your 3rd grade English teacher knew it as well. Just check out the video below and you’ll see.

But why is it so important? I mean, if you’re writing an English paper for a class, or your job consists of writing for a living (such as an author or journalism job), of course it’s important. But how can the everyday business man/woman use grammar to succeed in their field?

Below are a few tips for optimizing your grammar and how it can help your business in the long run.

Common Grammatical Flubs

Their are tons of examples of words out there that are completely misused by the average person. From homophones, to using the wrong form of “your” or “you’re,” it’s easy to make an embarrassing grammatical mistake. Most of this is probably due to the fact that many words in the English language sound the same when spoken, but are completely different when written out.

As I mentioned before, misusing “your” and “you’re” is one of the most common mistakes, but “their,” “there,” and “they’re” is also a very common mistake. Always make sure you know which words fit together with the sentence you’re constructing.

Other words, such “affect” and “effect,” are homonyms (words that sound the same but have completely different meanings). If you’re unsure of the correct spelling to use, always look it up in the dictionary or search on the Internet to find the correct spelling and usage.

Proper Grammar Can Make You More Professional

Which one of these sentences sounds more professional to you?

  • “During an recent claims adjusting proces, we discovered some concerns with you’re property that must be adressed.”
  • “During a recent claims adjusting process, we discovered some concerns with your property that must be addressed.”

Hopefully, you selected the second sentence. When you have to write up a report for your superior, or present to your team, you need to write with correct and proper grammar. It will be very hard to convince others that you know what your’e doing when your grammar is poor; no matter how much research you’ve done or how much knowledge you have about the project.

Proper grammar lets others see that you are passionate about your business, and presents yourself as a professional in your field. Even when you’re interacting with customers, your grammar needs to be top notch. A lot of people, myself included, will turn their nose up at businesses that have spelling or grammar mistakes on their marketing materials (such as advertisements). These so called “grammar nazis” can make or break your business, so make sure you’re always presenting yourself, and your business, in an intelligent, professional light.

Here are some more tips on how to increase your professionalism in your writing:

  • Use synonyms to spice up your writing. Ex. use “excellent” or “outstanding” instead of “good.” 
  • Try to avoid lame cliches like “we think outside of the box” or “we’re focused on making synergistic decisions.” People get tired of hearing these cliches, and they end up sounding insincere when repeated too often.
  • Work on correct usage of punctuation. For example, the ellipses is a fun punctuation tool to use…but it consists of three periods, not 5 to infinity. And you don’t need multiple exclamation points to bring home the idea that you’re excited about something!!!! One is plenty!
  • Capitalize only important and necessary words. Usually, these are proper nouns and the first word of a sentence. And avoid capitalizing every letter in a word. THIS MAKES IT SEEM LIKE YOU’RE YELLING, and that’s rude.

But, hey, even celebrities make grammar errors (quite frequently, actually) so you’re not alone in this. But it’s good to know that school kids are keeping their grammar straight on Twitter.



Marketing Tip of the Week: How to Design the Perfect Business Card

What’s one of the first things you do (or should do) when you meet a new client who’s interested in starting a partnership with your business or startup?

Shake hands? Yes. Introduce yourself? Yes. Try to remember the other person’s name for when you get to the end of the conversation? Double yes.

But one of the most important things to do in any business exchange is to present your business card to the other person. Why? Because business cards are the perfect way for someone to easily get in touch with you again, and, depending on how your card looks, will leave a lasting impression on the person.

If your business card looks like it was drawn with a crayon on top of a 2″ x 2″ corner of last night’s pizza box, then here are some tips to update it, and get people interested in the services you have to offer them.

Include the Most Vital Info

Your business card is like a mini bio of who you are and what your business is about, but you don’t have to write the next great American novel on it. Sure, you need to include enough info that your business isn’t wildly ambiguous, but typically you only need 4 -5 bits of info. The most important info to include are your name, title (CEO, writer, manager), your company name, and your contact information (which can include phone number, email, and maybe even your mailing address).

Fonts Make a Difference

When selecting the typography for your business card, always make sure it’s easily readable and font is large enough to make an impact. Most of the time, sans serif fonts are the best to use because they’re simple, clear, and easy to read. Use sans serif fonts like Helvetica or Swiss for your contact info. But your company name needs to be a little flashier, so feel free to use any font that’s both flashy, and easy to read. But whatever you do, avoid using Comic Sans. If you’re struggling with Comic Sans addiction, consider visiting this site:

Colors Grab Attention

Colors can be just as important as your typography. Make sure if you use a solid color background that it’s a color that works well with the font style and font color that you choose. Using a yellow background with a white font is typically bad news, but a black background with white font helps to make your font standout much better. And it’s a good idea to stick with CMYK colors when designing, since these colors are better for printing projects. RGB colors are better for websites and screens.

Different Materials Can Impress

Most of the time, business cards are printed on cardstock, with varying thicknesses and quality. But now there are so many options for different materials that you can use to make your business cards pop.

You want the material you use to reflect the business you’re in. For example, a carpenter, woodworker, or construction company owner might get his business info printed on different types of wood. If you’re in the fashion or clothing industry, you might want to get your cards made out of leather or wool. Or, if you’re a DJ, record store owner, or music producer, you can even get your cards printed on vinyl record material. There are so many options out there, but the traditional paper business card is the most reliable and cost efficient if you’re just starting out with your business.

Business cards are great tools, but you gotta know how to use them properly in order to make an impact on your next business partner or customer. I’m gonna say it again: don’t use Comic Sans. Please. I’ll come find you if you do.



Marketing Tip of the Week: Jumping on the Trend Wagon

Participating in social trends is a great way to connect to your customers, and give people the impression that your company’s social media account isn’t just a mindless robot, but a relatable person.

If you’re looking to find ways to engage in fun social media trends, but also get people to notice your brand, check out these three tips on how to jump on the trend wagon.

Jump On It Fast

When trending topics happen, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or some other platform, it comes and goes very quickly. You need to be ready to jump in on the fun right when it’s happening. If you don’t, before you know it everyone else will have already moved on and you’ll be tweeting hashtags with yesterday’s Internet fad. Usually, unless the topic is something that occurs for multiple days (Olympics, festivals, world series, TV shows), most trends happen within a 24 hour period. When you start seeing multiple people using the same hashtag on your feed, that’s when you know you need to jump on the bandwagon.

Use Some Tact

When tweeting trending topics, always remember to us a little tact when coming up with your social message. There are countless examples out there of companies that failed to understand the meaning of a trend, or posted something that was offensive to customers. For example, when the Ray Rice domestic abuse fiasco was happening, the hashtag #WhyIStayed popped up all over social media. DiGiorno Pizza mistakenly tweeted out, “#WhyIStayed You had pizza,” and Twitter immediately unloaded on the company. DiGiorno later apologized for the tweet, saying they didn’t know the meaning of the hashtag, but the company’s error is a great message to other companies to research your hashtag meanings before you use them.

Use It To Bring People To Your Brand

During the #TheDress debate that occurred a few weeks ago, the Internet was up in arms about whether a badly photographed picture of a dress was blue and black, or white and gold (it’s blue and black, by the way). While the debate stirred on through different social media outlets, many companies took notice and began using the debate as a way to promote their brands. Xbox tweeted out a picture of a new blue and black controller design (asking if it looked white and gold), Specsavers asked people who see the dress as white and gold to come in for an eye exam.

And most innovative of all, the Salvation Army used the debate as a way to raise awareness for domestic violence. There’s always a way to use a trend as promotion for your brand or even to show support for certain social causes.

So remember, trending topics aren’t always meaningless Internet fun. They might also have marketing and branding advantages for your company!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Social Media & Customer Service

Social media can be one of the greatest assets for any business to utilize. The Internet has the awesome capability of connecting millions of people from all cultures, backgrounds, and languages, in one place; something that no other form of technology can do!

Learning to use your business’s social media accounts can be advantageous on so many levels. But most importantly, it’s a great customer service tool. Here are just a few ways that you can improve your social media presence and help you connect with your customers on a more personal and direct level.

Designate A Social Media Customer Service Rep

Having a team of customer service reps to answer the phones when a customer has a problem or is upset with their services is a great thing to have. But often times, those phone lines can get tied up with hundreds of calls coming in to your office, and customers can be left waiting one the line for extended periods of time, growing more impatient with every second that ticks by. These days, people are more likely to complain about their service on social media accounts, especially on sites where they are able to address your business directly, such as Twitter. It’s important to have somebody managing your accounts at all times to help mitigate problems that arise, and answer customers’ questions.

Respond Quickly

The beauty of social media is that it’s a very personal piece of tech. Whereas emails, and sometimes phone calls, are a one-way form of communication, social media is very much a two-way form. Customers know that when they tweet at you with your handle tagged, or make a Facebook post with your business page tagged in the message, you see it. So they expect you to respond as quickly as you can. That’s why it’s important to address complaints and questions as soon as they pop up in your notifications. This shows customers you really care about their business and want to help solve their problems.

Deal With Unruly Customers Privately

Undoubtedly, you’re going to encounter customers that are fed up with poor service they’ve received, or frustrations over miscommunication with the company. And they’re going to let you know they’re upset. When a customer tweets at you, or speaks unkindly about your business on Facebook, it can potentially make your company look really bad. When other customers see those angry posts, they might have a different viewpoint of your business. You may lose a lot of potential customers because of one bad post. In these situations, it’s best to send a private direct message to them, to deal with the issue out of the public’s eye.

Respond With Intent To Resolve

This is one of the most important tips I can give about social media customer service. Always make sure you’re responding to complaints with the intent to solve the customer’s problem. This can help cool off a hot-headed customer that’s upset, and also shows your maturity and confidence in your business. A good example of a tweet back to an unruly customer would be “@JohnDoe – we’re sorry that happened to you, John. Is there anyway we can work with you to resolve this issue?”

Social media isn’t just for promoting your business; it’s also a wonderful tool for helping your customers with their problems. When customers see you’re willing to do whatever it takes to keep their business, they’ll remember it, and they’re more likely to recommend you to other potential customers.

Marketing Tip of the Week: Hashtag Etiquette

The humble hashtag has been around a lot longer than social media would lead us to believe. Although adopted and popularized by Twitter in 2007, the hashtag has been around since the late ’90s, used by Internet Relay Chat to categorize images, messages, videos and other items into groups. Since that time, most social media platforms have embraced the hashtag, including Instagram, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest.

And with that intro, a code of ethics was born. Although, like the Internet, these are not set-in-stone rules about what’s proper when using hashtags, following these 5 easy steps will definitely help your business succeed by increasing your social presence, and preventing you from committing mild Internet no-no’s.

Hashtag Only Relevant Tags

Just because you CAN hashtag a word doesn’t mean you HAVE to hashtag it. Hashtagging the word “new” in the sentence, “Check out the beautiful #new floral arrangement from Bill’s Flowers!” won’t help your tweet any, because “new” relates to so many different topics. Hashtagging “floral arrangement” or “Bill’s Flowers,” however, will direct customers exactly where they need to go to find more tweets or posts related to your hashtagged words. Ex: “Check out the beautiful new #FloralArrangement from #BillsFlowers!”

Stay Away From Excessively Long Hashtags

Hashtags are great for tagging one or two words, or even sentences with only a few words, but when you make the mistake of hashtagging an entire paragraph full of words, you just end up confusing customers. DON’T: “#checkoutouronlineexclusivedealsavailableinourwebstore.” DO: “Check out our #OnlineExclusive deals available in our webstore!” And when you do use multiple words in a tweet, capitalize the first letter of every word in your sentence, to make the tag easier to read. 

Use Hashtags For Promotion, But Don’t Spam

No one likes spam, not even the people who make it (we’d like to think). So it’s okay to use hashtags to promote an event, like a #WeeklyNewsletter, but a weekly newsletter means you send it out weekly. Don’t excessively tweet about checking out your business’s newsletter every day. The day before, or day of the newsletter going out is plenty.

#TeamFollowBack #LikeForLike and #RepostForRepost Are Bad

I’m sure we’ve all encountered those random accounts that follow us on Twitter and Instagram for seemingly no reason. Usually, those accounts are spam accounts that are looking only to get the most followers possible and have no interest in what you’re business is actually about. So don’t use your social accounts to follow hundreds or thousands of people that have no relationship to your business. Users get annoyed by this. Make sure to really research those you wish to follow before clicking the button (making sure they’re not spam accounts first, of course).

#Don’t #Hashtag #Every #Word

#Seriously #Don’t #Do #This. It’s unnecessary and makes it almost impossible for tags to be grouped properly. Hashtags aren’t meant to make categorization easier, not more convoluted and infuriating to navigate.

Remember, hashtags are meant to make your use of social media optimal and more efficient. Don’t make it any harder than it needs to be.




Marketing Tip of the Week: The Best Time To Be Creative

Creativity is an extremely important part of running a business. Let’s face it, if you’re continuously rehashing the same old tricks and ideas in the same way that you’ve done it since the ’80s, you’re going to be left behind in the dust by competitors.

Creativity helps your business flourish by  bringing new and innovative ideas to the table; ideas that can give your company the facelift it needs. So here are 3 tips for thinking outside the box and getting those creative juices flowing!

Figure Out If You’re A Morning Person Or A Night Person

Many of us would consider ourselves one of two kinds of people: a morning person or a night person. It’s the time of day when you feel most awake and energized, but that doesn’t always mean it’s the best time to be creative. It’s actually the opposite of what you think. Typically, morning people are better at being creative in the evening, and night people are better at solving problems in the morning. Weird, huh? The reasoning behind this is that when your mind gets tired, your focus actually broadens. When your mind is awake and focused on one task, you actually limit the amount of possibilities and directions that you can take with your business, therefore limiting your potential creativity. It’s kind of like when you’re lying in bed at night, tired from a long day of work, but your brain just won’t shut off. Use that exhaustion to your advantage!

More Distraction Is Better

Seems like a paradox, right? Most of us would assume that being completely distraction free, in our quiet place, would be the best environment for being creative. But according to Harvard University researcher and psychologist Shelley H. Carson, our bodies release much more dopamine, an important neurotransmitter, when we’re doing a distracting mental activity, such as driving, running, showering, or dreaming. And that dopamine aids in many important brain functions, such as memory, attention, and learning. So maybe watching Netflix while brainstorming ways to optimize your social media marketing strategy isn’t such a bad idea.

Find The Best Time Of Day To Write Out Your Ideas

But just because you shouldn’t brainstorm when you’re alert doesn’t mean you can’t write our your ideas during this time. For morning people, like me, writing out ideas in the morning can be efficient because 1) we have the most willpower in the morning, 2) we’re usually in better moods. For the night person reading this, writing out ideas at night can be efficient because 1) it’s the end of the work day and (hopefully) there are no distractions. 2) your experiences from the day might have inspired your or given you a great idea, and 3) deadlines are less apparent in the evening after business hours are over and allow you to be more emotionally involved in your creative thinking. It’s important to make sure you’re using this time solely for writing and NOT for actually brainstorming.

So don’t be afraid to be distracted and a little mentally tired when you start to think of creative endeavors for your company! It might just generate the perfect storm for innovation in your life.


Marketing Tip of the Week: Proper Phone Etiquette

Whether you’re a brand new startup just beginning to get your feet wet in the business world, or an established company with years of experience behind you, good phone etiquette can be one of the most important skills to have in order to connect with your customers. The way you or your employee speaks to customers on the phone can either make or break your business, so check out this week’s marketing tip on five ways to excel in proper phone protocol.

Be Friendly In Your Greeting

Great phone conversations are all about the words you choose and the tone of voice in which your present those words, so what better way to start a conversation off right than with a friendly and informative greeting. Here’s a great formula for the perfect phone greeting: “Good morning/afternoon/evening, this is company name, I’m your name, how may I help you today?” A good greeting starts the conversation off right, and lets your customer know you’re there to serve their needs.

Speak Clearly

No one likes to speak to a mumbler one the phone. Constantly asking “What was that? Can you repeat that please, but slower?” is an instant turnoff for any customer seeking fast and easy help for a problem they have. Try to enunciate your words, and speak slow enough for anyone to understand, but not too slow, or else you’ll end up sounding like Droopy the Dog.

Listen, With No Distractions

Attentiveness to your customers’ needs is a must in a situation where their voice is the only thing you have to pay attention to. In our current world, with smartphones, emails, and Facebook taking up all of our free time, it’s important to put down the distractions and pay close attention to the most important element of your business: the customer. The customer can tell when you’re not paying attention to them.

Try To Be As Helpful As Possible

Let’s face it, your customers are going to ask questions, and sometimes, they’re going to be hard questions. That’s why they called you in the first place. So the best strategy is to try to answer whatever problems they may have with a sincere attitude. And even if you can’t immediately answer their inquiry, let them know that you are going to try to meet whatever needs they have, or at least find someone who can help them.

End It On A High Note

No, I’m not talking about opera here. I mean end the conversation the same way you began it: with a friendly goodbye and a thank you. Customers will love to hear you say, “Thanks so much for calling us. It was a pleasure serving you. Have a good day!” instead of “Okay, bye.” Remember, these are the last words the customer will hear, so make them count. It’s all about a positive attitude.

Marketing Tip of the Week – What Do Consumers Need

Focusing on giving what your customer wants isn’t always as effective as giving them what they need. These are two different things. How do you inform your customers what they actually need? For this week’s marketing tip, lets take a lesson from Seth Godin.

“Or you can dig in, take your time and invest in a process that helps people see what they truly need. When we change our culture in this direction, we’re doing work worth sharing.”

See more about this topic from Seth Godin.

How do you actually show your customers that they actually need a product in your store? The key is relationship marketing. Get to know your consumers. Learn how to market to them and this is how you’ll learn how to inform your customers exactly what they need.

Marketing Tip of the Week: Don’t Forget To Look Up

Unless the name of your business is Wal-Mart, there are probably other companies in your market with higher annual sales. And that’s a good thing! After all, when it comes to marketing techniques and strategies, there’s nothing better than using one that’s already proven itself successful!

Learn From the Leaders

Those businesses that lead the way in your industry are there because they’ve already perfected the marketing techniques required to make money and pique the interest of customers. That makes them perfect models for you. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. You should be able to make a few small tweaks and simply adapt their plan to your own business.

Never be afraid to learn all you can from the leaders.

Identifying Your Models

But what makes a particular businesses marketing model viable for your business? The key is to look for similarities, not just in products you carry but also in markets you’re targeting.

For example: Wal-Mart is a large company that sells a variety of items. You are probably a bit more specific in the products that you carry, so their general marketing plan may not be the best model for your business. Even so, they have departments that most likely coincide with your own business, and seeing how they choose to use signage and marketing materials for those departments can be applied to your model.

You’re going to have to do more than a simple copy and paste, but using your industry leaders as marketing models is always a great idea!

Marketing Tip of the Week: Keep It Positive

When creating marketing content, you want to leave your customer with a good impression of you and your business. After all, a customer who respects the business is a customer ready to buy from that business.

You may believe achieving that result will take some special writing wizadry, but in actuality it’s a simple effect to achieve. Just maintain a positive tone!

The Power of Positive

Customers tend to be more receptive to positive content. Successful content marketers will tell you that negative images, even if directed at the competition, can still cause an association in the customer’s mind with your business. Conversely, positive images also form an association with your business.

That’s why a funny .gif or video is never remiss on your Facebook page or blog. It may not be talking about your company, but the positive feelings it generates will still be associated with your business.

But what about your writing? How do you write content that shows all the ways your business is better than the one down the street without making an explicit comparison?

Keep The Focus On What You Do Well

Write about all the things that you do well. For example: a local florist knows that big online flower stores require customers choose from a set of preselected floral arrangements. But rather than call out the impersonal nature of such a selection, she can comment on how her services allow for personalized customization.

By showing that she can make arrangements which speak directly to the customer’s need or the intended recipient’s tastes, she has effectively set herself apart from the online store without appearing to say anything negative about them in the process.

Staying positive isn’t hard. It just takes a little thought organization. Just remember that for everything negative you want to convey about your competition, it can better be said by focusing on something positive about yourself!