Let’s say you just invented something that puts sliced bread to shame. Something that will improve lives by the million.

You have a website and a logo. You even have a few ideas for commercials.

There’s just one problem: Nobody knows you exist… and your industry is stacked with competitors.

32.5 million businesses in the US.

In short, you need a media buying strategy — pronto.

Let’s dig into the whats, whys and benefits, shall we?

Spending Your Media Budget Smartly.

A couple hundred years ago, there was really just one medium: The newspaper. So, anyone could buy space in the local rag for a few pennies.

Not much strategy involved there, right?

But then came magazines. Then billboards. And radio followed by TV and trade magazines. Then the internet and wearable internet. Each of those mediums has hundreds — or hundreds of millions — of advertising placement options.

A graphic of a TV set, outlined in green.

# TV stations:
1,775+

A graphic of a radio tower, outlined in green.

# Radio stations:
15,000+

A graphic of a newspaper, outlined in green.

# Newspapers:
6,000+

A graphic of the world wide web icon set inside a computer screen, outlined in green.

# of US websites:
133 million+

A graphic of a magazine, outlined in green.

# of magazines:
7,400+

And since the general rule of thumb is that you should spend around 7% of your budget on marketing, you need to be mindful of how — and where — you deploy your resources.

That’s a major reason to have a media buying strategy. But not the only one.

Media Buying Strategy Benefit #1: Achieving Communication Goals

What’s one thing that every company has, but is different for every company?

Goals.

Your company might be a shiny new startup that’s scrounging pennies to get your brand out to the masses (or niche).

Your business could be a century old, searching for more leads (not sales) with millions of dollars to spend.

Yes, everyone has a different goal by which they measure success — but success rarely happens without a solid strategy in place.

Media strategy agencies like Stealth Creative move businesses forward by zooming in on your priorities first, then zoom out to generate a plan for desired results. This is an important distinction.

Why?

Because some media is more conducive to certain goals than others.

Digital is Best Suited For:

Specific targeting Generating real-time data Fine-tuning performance

TV Works For:

Creating effective consumer connections Broad reach Telling stories

Radio is Perfect For:

Efficiency Large audiences Driving online brand searches

Out of Home Enhances:

Broad-reach appeal (billboards on highways)
Niche messaging (individual screens at gyms)

Use Social Media For:

Highly-visual elements
Product demonstrations
Engaging with customers

Print is Ideal For:

Making lasting impressions through physical interaction (holding, turning pages) A more “hands-on” interaction

Your media team will help figure out the right mix based on your goals.

Benefit 2: Data-Driven Delivery

Media planners and strategists are nerds — and they aren’t ashamed to embrace it. Excel is to them what water is to fish. They view data in all its forms as the missing element that makes any strategy really sing.

In fact, media teams make every decision by running the numbers ragged. And a
mathematically-based plan of attack is one of the main reasons why you need a media strategy:

Since media planners put data and analytics under a microscope, they shine at:

A graphic of three silhouettes, outlined in green.

Segmenting your audience

A graphic of a money clip and wallet, outlined in green.

Optimizing campaign or spend for constantly improving results

A graphic of a gear in the middle of two arrows in circular form to show the importance of a media buying strategy.

Determining return on ad spend (ROAS) effectiveness

A graphic of a line graph on a computer screen, outlined in green.

Plotting share of voice, brand recall and other key metrics

Stealth Creative’s media team understands the strengths and weaknesses of each medium and knows which best aligns with the results clients want within their budget.

And our media buyers also understand the nuances between different platforms. For example, different OTT vendors can serve “similar” ad experiences, but they vary on who can be targeted, when and how impressions are delivered and other variables that must be weighed.

Everything is factored to create a plan that has the highest likelihood to achieve — or exceed — the stated goals.

Benefit #3: Right Place, Right Time, Right Message

Pretend for a moment that you sell mattresses and your media team has a strategy to run two different spots: One late at night and one early in the morning.

Why would they do that?

Because the messaging can be different. If a commercial is running at 1 am and an insomniac sees your ad (commercial or banner), the takeaway should be about how your mattress is an instant lights out miracle.

But if someone doesn’t get a deep sleep, the messaging they see or hear on their way to work could be about how they’d feel wide awake if they gave your product a try.

Working with a media planning team not only helps ensure your ideal audience receives your message, they help guide the strategy to help make sure the message makes sense in the context it appears. This 360° thinking is more likely to happen with a full-service marketing agency like Stealth Creative.

Benefit 4: More Bang For Your Bucks

In business, just about everything is negotiable — and that includes media pricing.

As we noted in our marketing myths blog, media buyers can leverage their expertise and connections to negotiate buys at lower rates. Why? Because certain mediums can be like the Costco of marketing; when you buy in bulk, you get better rates. And when you plan media for multiple companies, you are more likely buying multiple time slots, issues, etc.

But there are other ways media buyers can sweeten the deal for you:

Graphic of a checkmark in the middle of a ribbon.

Bonus spots

Thumbs up icon, outlined in green.

Better placements

Mockup of banner ad outlines that would appear on a website.

Digital elements like banner ads or site takeovers

These are just some examples of what can be negotiated or included in a well-rounded media buy. And your strategist won’t be afraid to play a little hardball to get the best possible deal to achieve your goals.

Benefit 5: Monitoring Your Marketing

Just like any stock market investor will check their 401(K) balance from time to time, it’s natural for companies to want to know how their media investments are doing. Good media planners hold scheduled meetings with clients to discuss performance, tweaks, reconciliations and recommendations pertaining to the strategy.

During these calls, certain data will also likely be discussed:

  • Ratings
  • Impressions
  • Bonus deliveries
  • Impact on leads/sales

In certain circumstances — especially digital — you might be able to log in to your own dashboard to see the number of views, clicks and other metrics for a more-or-less real time idea of your campaign’s performance.

Here’s the bottom line: You should expect and trust your media team to make the entirety of your relationship turnkey so you can focus on other things. And they should always be available to communicate the status of your strategy.

Benefit 6: Fresh Ideas, New Opportunities

Media evolves. New competitors and technology come to market. Most importantly, though, opportunities arise.

Just because an annual plan is made at the onset, that doesn’t mean your media team will be sitting on their hands.

Not at all.

Instead, they will (or should) be paying close attention to the national and local landscape in search of the latest and greatest developments, eager to bring these to your attention. Similarly, they should be eyeing consumer sentiment shifts and other measures to proactively modify your strategy and set you up for however you define success.

For example, although the NFL broadcast schedule was set during the summer, ABC and Disney made a deal in mid-September to air an additional eight Monday Night Football games on ABC. Your media team is paid to be on top of these breaking opportunities.

Media Buying Strategies Have Even More Benefits

Indeed, there are literal books on this topic. And while we could make this page infinitely long, you’ve got things to do… like maybe finetuning the strategy for your media buy.

Why not get in touch with the Stealth Creative media specialists? You’ll save time, money and give your business the best shot at achieving its marketing goals.

Brian Reinhardt

Brian Reinhardt

Brian Reinhardt is a Senior Copywriter at Stealth Creative whose first unpublished story was penned at the age of eight. Yes, it involved hoverboards, lasers and robots. His days are filled with researching, content creation and SEO strategy. His nights are spent with family, reading and managing too many fantasy sports teams. Nine is his favorite number.

In case you missed the news—you’ve got to adapt or die in this Digital Age. And for brand managers and business owners alike, building a strong online presence is crucial for success.

As we often say at Stealth Creative: Your website IS your brand; it acts as a virtual gateway for customers to discover and engage with your products or services.

So, as long as your website leaves a good first impression, you’re all set. Right?

Turns out, it’s not that simple. Because not all websites are created equal. To ensure your online platform effectively represents your business and reaches your target audience, it’s vital to invest in a website that’s built to best-practice specifications.

Let’s explore the key steps involved in creating a website that not only looks great but serves you exactly how it should.

Step 1: Wireframes and Site Map

The first step for developing your website is building a solid foundation. Wireframes and a site map serve as the blueprint for your website, outlining its structure, navigation and key functionalities. At Stealth, we understand how crucial it is to work closely with clients at this stage to ensure we have clear understanding of YOUR business goals, target audience and desired user experience.

Step 2: Design Phase

Once the wireframes and site map are approved, the design phase begins. Aesthetics play a key role in engaging your website visitors. This is where you get to meet our design team! They love to collaborate with clients, helping to spin their visions into a appealing and cohesive experiences. Logos, color schemes, brand guidelines and any specific design elements that reflect your brand’s personality are developed (or incorporated if already existing). This collaborative process will help create a website design that not only looks stunning but also reinforces your brand’s message and values.

Step 3: Development and Launch Phase

After finalizing the design, the development phase takes center stage. Stealth’s skilled developers will transform the approved design into a functional website, employing best practices for coding, responsiveness and usability. And since more than half of overall web traffic comes from mobile devices, we take a mobile-first approach to design and development. This phase may involve content creation, integration of e-commerce functionalities and customization based on your needs.

Throughout this process, we prioritize regular communication with you, so you can provide timely feedback and we can agilely address you concerns or modifications. Once the website is thoroughly tested and refined, it’s time for the highly anticipated launch.

Step 4: Initial Search Marketing Promotion of New Site

Your newly built website is ready to be unveiled to the world, but its success relies on driving traffic and attracting visitors. Incorporating search marketing strategies is the key to improving your website’s visibility in search engine results.

This is where Stealth’s digital marketing experts work to ensure SEO elements, such as keyword optimization, meta tags and proper site structure, are in place. Depending on your business’s needs, our content team can also help to create engaging and shareable content to attract organic traffic and explore paid advertising options to amplify your website’s reach.

You Get Back What You Put In.

Investing in a well-built website is an investment in your business’s success!  

By partnering with an experienced agency like Stealth Creative, you can be confident that best-practice specifications are followed, and you can ensure your website is optimized for performance, user experience and search engine visibility.

Check out our Web Services page to get a sense of what we can do. Then, drop us a line when you’re ready to start your website build. We can’t wait to be your guide!  

Jack Eschmann

Jack Eschmann is a Senior Copywriter who has worked on both the account service and creative sides of the advertising business. He enjoys crafting messages that are strategically sound, action driving and true-to-brand for each client he serves. He is also a leading member of Stealth’s content team, is an avid musician and production nerd—and can often be found laying down voiceovers in the agency’s production studio.

While there are plenty of tools necessary to build a strong brand presence, there’s one that everyone needs: A brand voice. You might not think about it, but every single brand has one. Even yours.

What is a Brand Voice?

You might be thinking: “I’ve got a solid business plan and a great product. Do people really care if I have a well-crafted brand voice?” In response to this question, we couldn’t answer loudly enough: “YES!”

Benefits of Owning Your Brand’s Voice

Personality:

Your audience wants to learn about you. Consumers want to know that they are engaging with real people, not robots. By cultivating a personable brand voice, you are more likely to create an emotional connection with your consumer’s subconscious mind. How does this help you? According to Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman, 95% of decisions related to purchases occur subconsciously.*

Circle2

Consistency:

If your audience is hearing different voices in email messaging versus social media messaging, they’re going to notice the disconnect. This inconsistency can lead them to look in the wrong place for your product or service. 

Another benefit of maintaining consistency is conditioning. Let’s go on a field trip, shall we?

Picture it now: You’re back in high school in General Psychology. Today’s lesson is on Ivan Pavlov’s classical conditioning theory. When it comes to exposing your test subjects–err, audience–to stimuli, it is most effective when it is consistent and recurring. If you don’t have consistency in each consumer touch point, you’re essentially starting the process of conditioning over… and over… and over again.

Circle3

Retention:

Having a consistent brand voice doesn’t just benefit you externally. When your employees see that you’re not just talking the talk, but walking the walk, they’re more likely to believe in the company’s mission, thus improving loyalty. As we know, internal communication and trust are vital when it comes to building — and strengthening — a brand.

How to Create—AND Maintain—a Brand Voice

The best way to craft a strong brand voice is to go back to square one. What is your company’s mission? What do you hope to achieve—for yourself, your brand and your community?

Once you’ve answered these questions, consider who you want to reach. Who is your target audience? (A bonus to fine-tuning your target audience? Knowing where to find them to ensure that all the hard work that you’re putting into your brand voice is heard!) 

After learning who your target audience is, you can then begin to consider their personas. What does your customer want? What are their personality types? Their dreams? Their goals? Even go as far as knowing their favorite sports teams? (Kidding. Kind of.)

When you’ve identified the mission, the audience and the personas, you can then test different voice variations. What resonates with this group? How would they characterize your brand voice? Here are some adjectives that can help get you started: Ambitious. Charismatic. Extroverted. Intuitive. Passionate. Trustworthy. Understanding. Witty. 

Let’s Get Vocal

Whether you’ve got a start on some ideas for your brand voice or don’t have the first clue where to start, Stealth Creative’s savvy content strategy team is here to lend a hand. 

We can help you define tone, feel and personality and start bringing out the key attributes that will help your audience connect directly to the soul of your brand. 

But it all starts with a conversation! Get in touch with us today.

One huge advantage of digital marketing is that real-time data is available to show you how effectively your campaign is engaging your audience. Another advantage is that you can use that data to make informed decisions about ways to increase that engagement, even mid-campaign.

That’s why it’s important to work with a marketing partner who believes in the power of data and has the experience and discipline to read and respond to the story it tells.

At Stealth Creative, we’re devoted to data. We think being able to identify key metrics, dig into the numbers and communicate results in clear language is table stakes. What we do with those results to fine-tune tactics, placement and frequency is the real difference-maker.

To the person with only a hammer, all problems look like nails.

Because our digital clients represent a wide array of industries, we use an assortment of digital tools and platforms to drive the results they desire. Whether it be ecommerce, ticket sales, form fills or email opens, we never lose sight of our goal to deliver a strong return on investment for our clients.

We may design a programmatic digital display campaign to reach a custom audience, create and optimize an ecommerce search campaign, drive form fills, create segmented content for an email campaign and improve a customer’s Google review ratings—all to ensure our clients’ marketing dollars are being spent efficiently.

Here are some examples:

Shopping cart with cursor click icon

Ecommerce FTW

A recent ecommerce search campaign for one of our national health and beauty clients produced a return on ad spend of 33:1. Not only did we track spend and correlate it with product sales, through access to their ecommerce and Google Analytics, we also were able to identify the users who made purchases from the campaign, which products they purchased, the dollars spent and other identifying characteristics. With this information, the client was able to send personalized messages to folks who made purchases for similar products or routine maintenance.

five star review icon

Reach for the Stars

We all know how important online reviews have become for companies. Some of our clients have asked us to help them develop a strategy to engage with customers so they will leave reviews or contact the company directly if they are not satisfied with the product. By working with one of our clients in the insurance industry, we identified customers who had recent contact with the company and created a personalized email asking them to leave a 5-star review. This approach resulted in a significant increase in the ratings for our clients.

social media network icons

Getting Social

A well-planned and developed social media campaign helped one of our entertainment clients set a record attendance at their event. More than $56,000 in ticket sales resulted from a spend of $3,600.

eyeball icon

Making a Stronger Impression

Our media buying, from traditional to digital, is handled in house, resulting in greater efficiency for our clients. We took the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau’s digital media buying in house and reduced their cpm by 40 percent, which allowed us to buy an additional 1.2 million impressions. For more details, check out this case study.

News that Just Clicks

Madison Mutual Insurance Company wanted to increase the opens and clicks on their policyholder newsletter. Our solution was to segment the newsletter by geography and policyholder type. The result was an increase of 36 percent in opens and 250 percent increase in clicks. For more details, read the full story.

Want to know more?

Spend some time with our other case studies or drop me an email at ckolsky@stealthcreative.com.

About the Author

Charlie Kolsky is a digital and analytics specialist who’s dedicated to delivering results for our clients. He’s also a pretty mean pickleball player.

Stealth just received some exciting news to cap off 2020: We’re an IC100 winner!

So, what exactly is the IC100, and why should you care?

The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) 2020 Inner City 100 (IC100) award recognizes the 100 fastest-growing firms in under-resourced communities across America. The winners were picked based on revenue growth and job creation during the four-year period from 2015 to 2019.

Stealth ranked 64th out of 100, based on our four-year revenue growth rate of 113.26% and job creation of 9. Not too shabby!

This year’s IC100 list had the highest number of women-owned/led companies (which includes Stealth, as a certified Women Business Enterprise). It’s an increase of eight companies from 2019 and 17 since 2015.

And here's why you should care: shared optimism.

As a veteran entrepreneur myself, the stories I heard from some of the other selected firms were the most inspiring I’ve heard in a long time. These leaders have overcome many challenges, brought revolutionary ideas to the forefront of industry, and are proving every day that great things are happening in this country!

“IC100 companies are forces of economic opportunity, optimism and transformation in their communities, and it’s an honor to recognize Stealth Creative’s leadership,” said ICIC CEO Steve Grossman. “Especially during this incredibly challenging time, as small business owners reckon with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, these pioneering entrepreneurs have demonstrated a deep commitment to and passion for their local communities.”

Countless companies and business owners have had to pivot, re-think, transition and find creative ways to thrive in the ever-changing landscape of our modern world.

We’re so proud to be included on the IC100 list. It is incredibly rewarding to be recognized alongside leaders from so many industries across the country, particularly during this really challenging year.

Even as the majority of the Stealth team have been diligently working from their home offices this year, our sense of togetherness and our focus on continuing the positive trends of the past few years is stronger than ever.

As your marketing and advertising force, you can bet that we’ll continue to embrace every challenge that comes our way.

Take a minute to read more inspiring entrepreneurial stories from the list of IC100 recipients here.

The Future Has Never Looked Brighter!
Mindy Jeffries — President and CEO, Stealth Creative

Like most small businesses in the US, Stealth is adjusting to the new normal of social distancing. We’re working from home, taking guitar lessons on zoom and going to church on YouTube. We are finding it’s harder to decline a virtual happy hour. What can the excuse be? I am too busy. That doesn’t seem to work in times like these!

How We're Helping

As a company, we are helping our clients in different ways, depending on the category. We are reducing media for some and increasing for others. Some clients, we’re advising to keep a “heartbeat” of media going, so they can jump in faster once we are on the other side.

We are also looking at short term digital solutions and moving dollars between mediums. Social media is a good alternative! People are engaging more with family and friends and turning to social media for entertainment and news. Social allows us to stay light on our feet as messaging changes daily, sometimes hourly.

To help businesses in this time of need, we are offering a free 60-minute consultation to give you ideas and action plans for your business! Please email info@stealthcreative.com to sign up.

At Stealth, we are thankful for the internet! Right now, we are all one step from being Little House on the Prairie. We plan to take this one day at a time, but now with everyone being able to work remotely, we can take it one month at a time, which is comforting.

Take a Breather

Take a Breather

If you have anxious moments, designate 15-30 minutes each day to write down what you are worried about then cross off everything you can’t control. This exercise can be a great way to refocus on your day and enjoy time with family.

Remember the six basic emotions we all have:

  1. Mad
  2. Sad
  3. Scared
  4. Peace
  5. Joy
  6. Power

Let’s focus on Peace, Joy, Power.

Working Remotely

If you can work from home during these challenging times, remember it’s a luxury that some can’t enjoy. Embrace the back to basics shift!

We aren’t experts yet, but with a few weeks under our belts, we’ve decided to compile some tips from our employees about how they are making their home offices a productive workplace.

Here are our tips so far:

Stealth1080_Blog_Infographic_3.27

Thank You!

We are sending gratitude, love, prayers and support to the essential workers who have been working around the clock to fight COVID-19.

Life is good; you are a blessing! THANK YOU to all the businesses that made the difficult decision to work from home while we fight this virus as a country. You are making a difference.

For me, it truly is the happiest time of the year! Why? I am in the midst of Stealth Creative’s planning cycle for 2020! Wow! New year, new decade, new moleskine! New clients with new needs! Our tried-and-true clients are looking for new ideas! The new year is invigorating. And oh, yes… I love the holidays, and how they give me energy to launch into the new year with vigor!

(more…)

These days, a lot of emphasis is placed on leveraging digital and social media marketing. And while we agree those two disciplines should be part of every company’s marketing mix, there’s one discipline that tends to get overlooked and left behind in today’s tech-focused world: Direct mail.

You read that right. Direct mail.

It’s not your father’s marketing. In fact, using direct mail in an age when everyone’s focused only on digital, can actually give your company a leg up.

Here are six reasons to consider adding direct mail to your marketing mix:

1) 90% of Millennials think direct mail advertising is reliable.

Millennials typically prefer a low-tech marketing approach, and direct mail fits the bill. In fact:

  • 84% of Millennials take time to look through their mail.
  • 64% would rather scan for useful info in the mail than email.
  • 57% have made purchases based on direct mail offers.

2) Personalization makes a difference.

We like hearing and reading our names. There’s something about it that draws us in, and immediately makes the interaction feel more personal.

The same thing holds true with direct mail. Adding a person’s name and using full color in direct mail can increase response rates by 135%!

3) Use a cross-platform approach for better results.

Each of us learn differently, as we just shared in a recent blog post – some are visual learners, others auditory and still others tactile (or kinesthetic) learners.

Why is this important?

It means it’s crucial for your marketing mix to take that into account – and promote on various channels and different types of media to ‘hit’ your audience where they live, and reach them in the way they learn/absorb information.

One way to do this is to combine direct mail (visual and tactile) with digital ads (could be visual, auditory or tactile), which according to the DMA yields a 28% higher conversion rate.

And, according to Merkle, marketing campaigns that used direct mail and at least one form of digital marketing media experienced a 118% lift in response rate compared to using direct mail alone.

4) 18.4% of former customers respond to direct mail.

Interestingly, direct mail is a great way to reconnect with former clients. It helps you stay top of mind, which means when they have a need for your product or service again, they’ll think of you first.

5) Would you like that supersized?

In this case – unlike for fast food – the answer is: Yes! Oversized envelopes, postcards and letters attract 6.6%, 5.7% and 4.3% of household responses, respectively.

Because they’re a larger size than the standard direct mail dimensions, these pieces stand out among the crowd, er…mail. And standing out is the first step to getting noticed – and to getting your recipient to actually read the direct mail piece.

6) Direct mail impacts product trials and website visits.

Nearly 40% of customers try a product or service for the first time because of direct mail advertising, and more than 60% of direct mail advertising recipients were influenced to visit a promoted website with the heaviest influence being on first-time shoppers.

While direct mail may not be the be-all/end-all, it is a key part of any marketing mix. It prompts action. And it drives conversions.

If you’re ready to talk about how direct mail could help your business with your marketing efforts, reach out today. We’d be thrilled to help you determine the best marketing mix strategy for your business objectives.

As always stay tuned until the next time we go Off the Radar.

Did you know that we all learn a little differently? That’s why it’s important to vary your marketing media to ensure all types of learners (and we’re all learners) can understand and process the message.

While we often hear marketers talk about understanding the demographics and generation of their target audience, discussing the various ways people learn isn’t always top of mind.

But it should be.

After all, if you’re sharing your marketing message, and promoting your company’s products and services in a way that doesn’t connect with your audience, it’ll fall on deaf ears.

The Three Learning Styles

There are three different ways people absorb and process information – and typically, we each have various aspects of the three with one that’s dominant:

1) Auditory - 34% of people are auditory learners, which means they:

  • Retain information through hearing, listening and speaking.
  • Often prefer to be told how to do things, summarizing the main points out loud to help with memorization.
  • Notice different aspects of speaking.
  • Often have talents in music, and may concentrate better with soft music playing in the background.
  • Enjoy conversations and podcasts.

2) Visual – 29% of people are visual learners, which means they:

  • Use visual objects, such as graphs, charts, pictures and seeing information.
  • Can read body language well, and have a good perception of aesthetics.
  • Are able to memorize and recall information easily.
  • Tend to remember things that are written down.
  • Learn better by watching.

3) Tactile (kinesthetic) – 37% of people are tactile or kinesthetic learners, which means they:

  • Like to use the hands-on approach to learn new material.
  • Are generally good in math and science.
  • Would rather demonstrate how to do something vs. verbally explaining it.
  • Usually prefers group work more than the other learning styles.
  • Need to physically manipulate something, such as a pen – or be doing something physical while learning (e.g., standing, walking, chewing gum).

To better understand, you may wish to take this self-test to see which type of learner you are.

Putting This Knowledge to Work for Your Marketing Efforts

Once you’ve identified your business and marketing objectives and have your marketing strategy in place, it’s time to define the tactics that will best help you accomplish those goals.

As you start plotting the plan, keep in mind the three different types of learners, and how the various tactics account for each:

Learning Styles Chart

Understanding that your target audience absorbs information in different ways help you better create tactics that will resonate and sink in – ultimately enhancing the outcome and actions taken from the marketing message.

Interested in learning more about how you can enhance your marketing strategy with various tactics that appeal to all types of learners? Reach out today.

As always stay tuned until the next time we go Off the Radar.

The agriculture sector across the U.S. can be described as anemic at best thanks to the muddled political world that anyone working in Ag is well versed in. China used to be the No. 1 buyer of commercially grown soybeans in the U.S.; however, that has changed during the last couple years with a tariff-riddled trade war occurring between the two countries.

But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity for effective marketing. Let’s dive into the current environment before taking a peek at how you can put digital, social media and video marketing to use to promote and feature your grain marketers.

A Volatile Political Environment

Put simply, President Trump and his administration promised on the 2016 campaign trail to hold China accountable for their trade practices. Just last week the White House identified China as a “currency manipulator,” which has been argued by economic analysts on both sides of the coin. The reality is that China is not a direct currency manipulator, but they don’t play by the same rules because they have the demand pull on their side.

The U.S. had mastered the supply push of soybeans to China from both the Pacific Northwest and the Gulf of Mexico until the two countries started slapping tariffs on each other. At first, it sounded like just political rhetoric, but to Trump’s credit, he has dug in and continued to escalate tariffs on imports from China to maximize pressure on the communist country.

China has seen their economy slowdown from these tactics among the current administration, but China tends to strategize over the long-term outlook and is most likely waiting to see how the 2020 elections turn out before proceeding one way or the other.

A Bearish Soybean Outlook

U.S. steel mills were printing money due to the new barrier of entry of Chinese metal until March, when things took a turn for the worse. Exports are what suffer (e.g., soybeans). The only hope for life in the soybean market rests on poor growing conditions or the off chance that China comes back to the table and buys U.S. origin soybeans.

The bad news is the Midwest experienced a wet spring where acreage that usually gets planted with corn was oversaturated, and farmers ended up planting soybeans instead. Not to mention there will be an estimated 1.05 billion (yes, with a “b”) bushel surplus across the United States before soybean harvest starts this year in October.

All of the above supply/demand scenarios make it awfully hard to get bullish soybeans for the next couple years. The good news is the Trump administration has pledged and delivered monetary relief for rural farmers who elected him into office in the first place.

In other words, prices are bad, but the government is cutting a check so life can go on as usual for those making a living off of the land. I’m still not seeing shiny new combines being driven off the lot of the John Deere dealership or land being bought up by producers of every size. Today’s environment feels like 1,000-acre farmers are making it ok, but the 5,000-plus-acre farmers are expanding operations slowly. All signs point to another strong soybean crop again this year with timely summer rains keeping prices depressed.

It appears Agriculture will have to remain in wait-and-see mode and battle with the cards they’ve been dealt as they always have. Large commercial exporters like ADM, BUNGE, CARGILL and LDC are not profitable in the current environment as grain divisions keep weighing down the balance sheets.

The overall outlook is that the industry will continue to constrict despite massive corporate tax cuts being awarded to Ag companies; all that did was allocate money to a rainy-day fund for corporations. Those working in Agriculture will continue to be told to do more for the same amount of money, or find a new career.

The Mississippi River and railroads in the northern plains are ready to get back to business as usual, but the whole value chain appears paralyzed, wearing a lot of temporary Band-Aids. During the next five years, the two major threats to Agriculture will be global warming, creating extreme weather patterns for growing conditions, as well as trade relations with China.

Soybean Infographic

Marketing Your Grain Marketers

Yes, the market is volatile, and recent quarterly earning reports – among publicly traded companies at least – point to more consolidation in the industry. In other words, we should see more company mergers, organizational centralization and cost cutting among major players in the industry.

Keep in mind there is opportunity in that shift.

Farmers will continue to try and eliminate risk amidst the volatility. Grain companies are becoming more vocal with daily market recaps before and after daily trading sessions to establish credibility and provide advice for producers.

Eventually, farmers will sign up record amounts of production towards specialty marketing programs that establish floors and ceilings on yearly prices. Every grain company calls these marketing programs something different. Bunge called it the Alliance Advantage Program; Consolidated Grain and Barge called it their Equalizer family of products. They all take risk off the table.

And all of these major players have invested significant amounts of money training grain marketing specialists on the right marketing plan for each producer. Market factors, farm size, production risk and cash flow can steer a grain marketing specialist towards a specific type of marketing contract each year instead of simply holding town hall meetings every spring and summer across the Midwest to establish credibility.

In fact, the days of the vice president of your grain company spending two weeks holding town hall meetings discussing S&D’s from Fargo, ND, to Lettsworth, LA, are over. Ok, maybe you still have a handful of in-person potlucks with your top customers, but why not work smarter – not harder – by advertising your top marketing specialists?

In a very disciplined manner, you can coordinate a digital and social media marketing plan that drives farmers towards your company and experts. Setting up monthly spend budgets and targeting the right geographic areas stop costs from getting out of control and put less strain on your employees.

Let’s say you have a grain marketing specialist based out of West Memphis, AR, who covers northern Mississippi to Cape Girardeau, IL. Digital and social media marketing requires less in-person attention, and allows you to cover more ground for the same price as paying for monthly travel and entertainment.

If you still had money in the budget, you could supplement digital marketing and social media campaigns with a direct mail campaign that has the same look and feel, and drives the messaging home through multiple media.

You could also create a professional video of each grain marketing specialist that links to a landing page with a form fill to schedule an appointment to learn more.

Interested in learning more about how to put your marketing budget to the best use? Reach out today; we’d love to chat with you more to understand how we can help you do just that.

Did you know that 96% of employees who are happy with their benefits are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs?

So, how do you ensure employees not only know which benefits their employer is offering, but also understand those benefits to make an informed decision about their health and voluntary benefits selection?

As you gear up for your clients’ – or your own employees’ – fourth quarter open enrollment, here’s a few things to keep in mind:

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

And then when you think you’ve communicated too much, communicate again! Remember the Rule of Seven: People need to see or hear your message at least seven times before they take action. And this becomes even more important with benefits communications, when education is crucial.

2. Change it up!

When you’re communicating, change up the way you share your message. Don’t assume everyone will see the table tent on the lunch table or the poster in the hallway. Use email, social media, the intranet, instant messaging, desk drops (yes, the old-fashioned paper kind), direct mailers to the home to engage the spouse, group meetings, manager meetings, one-on-one meetings – and more! The sky’s the limit. Just make sure you change up your media.

3.Mind your audience.

Are you talking to a Baby Boomer? A Gen Xer? A Millennial? Or maybe a Gen Zer? Each is going to need different info – and each will react to your messages differently. It’s imperative to vary your messaging within your media to hit each audience.

4. Who ya gonna call?

No, not Ghostbusters! This time, it’s needs to be your company’s benefits expert: Someone in HR, your broker, the president of your company, etc. Determine who can answer employee questions about their benefit package – and do it in a timely manner. Employees need to know they have someone they can turn to with their questions before open enrollment.

5. This way or that?

Think about how employees would be most inclined to participate in open enrollment. With a dedicated benefits expert on hand to help and answer questions? With their spouse at their side to discuss? Think about how you would want to enroll, and what would make the process seamless and smooth for you. Then consider how you can make it just as easy for employees.

6. How'd we do?

Enrollment isn’t finished when the applications are all submitted. Not by a long stretch. It’s time to follow-up with surveys for all! That includes not only the employees who enrolled, but also the HR and benefits staff, managers, marketers, senior leadership and anyone else who was involved in putting the program and process together.

By putting some extra thought into the planning process and marketing efforts, you can pull off the best open enrollment you’ve had to date!

Want to talk more about how best to communicate, promote, educate and market before, during and after open enrollment? Reach out today – we’d love to chat more.

As always stay tuned until the next time we go Off the Radar.

Understanding your target audience – and more importantly, what they’re looking for from your company is an important first step in any marketing efforts you undertake. Often, people think conducting research entails hundreds of thousands of dollars and months of effort. In reality, research doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming.

While there’s definitely a time and place for extensive research – and we have several clients who have asked us to do just that – every company can take advantage of custom research. With the combination of improvements in technology and research panels, it doesn’t take a significant investment to perform your research and answer your questions.

Case Study

Let’s take a look at just one example where research made a huge difference:

The Challenge

Several years back we were working with a mid-sized manufacturer that had established a very successful product in the RV industry, and they saw a similar opportunity in the boating and marine industry. After a few years of showing their products at the major shows, they struggled with distribution – even after getting positive reviews for product quality.

The Solution

We created a small, targeted mail survey to provide definitive answers that steered the manufacturer back on track. The target audience was significantly influenced by company brands that had served their industry for years.

Rather than investing in building their brand in a new sector, our client discovered they would fare better by partnering with an established name in the industry and becoming their OEM. By pursuing this strategy, the client achieved a ten-fold increase in revenues – something that wouldn’t have been possible with the targeted, cost-effective research we performed.

While we can’t guarantee that a $3,500 mail survey will yield the same results for every company, we take strides to find not only the best research design for your needs but also the best approach to fit your budget.

Research Offers Insights to Focus Your Efforts

We know how tempting it is to want to dive right into tactics to ‘get things rolling’ once you finally have the time and resources to devote to your marketing. But, doing that without solid research and a data-focused strategy developed first is akin to building a house without a foundation – it may hold for a bit, but eventually it will crumble to the ground.

Whether conducting research with something as simple as a mailed (or emailed) survey, or expanding it to include one-on-one telephone interviews or focus groups, the information gleaned from this foundational work will not only unearth unknown insights, but also reinforce certain assumptions about your target audience and their interests you’d already made – both of which are key in developing your marketing strategy.

Once you have that information in hand, then forming a marketing strategy using that data allows you to craft an approach that will support your business objectives and marketing goals, while driving sales by focusing efforts to resonate with your target audience.

This necessary foundation work then enables you to develop tactics that align with what your target audience wants – whether that be with your traditional marketing efforts, such as email, digital, website development, videos, etc., or when developing a social media marketing strategy and accompanying campaigns and editorial calendars. It all starts with understanding your business – and your target audience.

Ready to dive into research that can make a difference for your company? Stealth Insights, our research team, is ready to chat with you today. Just give us a call at 314.480.3606 or shoot us an email, and we’ll put together a research plan that works with your business objectives and budget.

And as always, stay tuned for more tips from Stealth Creative next time we go Off the Radar.

Our leadership team at Stealth often shares thoughts, ideas, encouragement and more with our entire team as a way to keep us focused on ways we can always do our best for our clients. This is one such missive from our Executive Creative Director Dan O’Saben. We thought it worthwhile to share with you, as marketers and business leaders, as not only a reminder that we’re always striving to do better for you – and be the difference – but also as something to keep this in mind as you develop your marketing campaigns and encourage your staff. (Client details genericized to protect the innocent. )

"Am I making a difference?"

I was talking to Pat Nagel (one of our video editors) today about one of his client projects, and we were discussing how much of an impact we can have if we keep moving them toward better work and smarter thinking.

And I think the gist of our conversation should be shared with everyone: Are we making a difference on behalf of our clients? That’s really an important question we should be asking when we think about the work we are creating for them every day.

Another way to express this question is: Am I making the work better? Is it becoming more than it was a month ago, six months ago or a year ago?

Small Changes Matter

And don’t always discount small changes. They can add up to big, cumulative things.

Here’s an example of a client we work with, where lots of little changes have added up to a big difference within a single year:

Digital Marketing

  • One year ago: No focus
  • Today: Significant focus, which has led to more site traffic, more social traffic and more sales – both online and in-store

Creative/Campaign Approach

  • One year ago:
    • Baby Boomer spokesperson appealed to an increasingly aging demographic
    • Product-only images/video didn’t provide a lot of context
    • No consistent digital presence
  • Today:
    • Younger, more relevant brand advocates who resonate with the younger Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z target audiences
    • Modern product images in relatable situations and settings designed to appeal to the target audience
    • A combination of consistent social media and digital advertising engaging with consumers in the environments they frequent

Results

  • One year ago:
    • Decreasing sales
    • Non-engaged audience on social
    • Low website visits
  • Today:
    • Stabilizing and growing store sales
    • More engaged and loyal social media audiences
    • Increased website visits and online sales

No matter which way the winds blow, no one can take away the fact that we have grown that client. And that growth was built on all of the decisions made along the way. 

We have made a difference.

The work is better.

Is there room for improvement?

Well, of course there is! But that brings me back to my point: Are we continuing to look for ways to make the work better? Even if the client says “no” nine out of 10 times, are we continuing to look for ways to push them to be better? Are we continuing to look for ways to push ourselves both individually and as a group to be better?

Here’s another related question: Am I getting better? Am I growing?

I would contend that if you are making a difference and making the work better, then you as an individual – we as a company – are growing.

We as a company are getting better.

What is the opposite of making a difference, of making the work and ourselves better?

Stagnation. Followed by decay.

The Bottom Line

You all make a difference in our client businesses, every single one of you.

BUT – we have to continue to push to be better at what we do, and to be that difference for our clients.

This is not always easy, but keep pushing.

Sometimes the victories will be small, almost imperceptible. Sometimes they will feel like giant seismic shifts.

But we have to continue to grow.

Challenge yourself to get better.

Challenge the people around you to be better.

Be the difference.

Want to talk about how we can be the difference for your marketing efforts? Drop us a line, and let’s start the conversation.

And as always, stay tuned for more tips from Stealth Creative next time we go Off the Radar.

Ah, ROI. It’s the ultimate KPI. And one of the most vexing to figure out.

Sure, the equation is easy: The benefit (or return) of an investment divided by the cost of said investment.

But the definition of the words making up that equation can differ, depending on who you ask.

  • Is the benefit/return equal to hard dollars? A specific action? Or something else?
  • And what about the investment? Is it hours spent? Resources, or hard costs such as printing, media, etc.?

Don’t worry. We’re here to help you figure it all out.

But the first step is determining how your business will define what a successful ROI looks like before you begin your campaign development. Is it calls? Website visits? Purchases? If you don’t know what you want your customers to do, how will you determine your ROI?

Assessing Your ROI

Once you’ve settled on what you’re measuring, the fun begins: Developing your campaign and all of its associated tactics, the latter of which can be difficult to attribute what worked well and what…didn’t so much. 

Here are some tried-and-true ways for determining which tactics were the winners:

1) Tracking

Alright. You’ve written the ads, enhanced your website, or done what was needed to make the desired action easy to complete.

Now it’s time to track everything. And we mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

  • Website visits – including which pages are receiving the most traffic
  • Online purchases or actions
  • Abandoned pages
  • Time on site
  • Phone calls
  • Email statistics, including open, click-through rates, subject lines

2) Developing the Campaign

With insights in-hand, now it’s time to figure out which avenues present the best opportunity for integrating into the actions you want your audience to make. This may include a new section or messaging on your website, an email series, TV or radio ads, press releases/media outreach, direct mail or a social media push – or all of the above.

Remember: The media you use should align with where your customers will most likely see (or hear) the messaging you’ve created.

3) Pre-Market Testing

Before launching your campaign for the masses (or your niche audience), start by understanding what your target market considers valuable.

Email, a poll on your website, or paying attention to what your followers are saying on social media are all relatively low-hanging fruit.

If time or budget allow, more in-depth tactics like focus groups or outbound call surveying can deliver even more nuanced insights.

No matter what method you select, any pre-market testing is better than none because this will serve as the starting-point for all messaging that will resonate with your audience.

4) Post-Market Testing

Once the campaign has run its (smashingly successful) course, it’s time to bust out the abacus (or spreadsheets) to debrief and compare what your initial baseline research indicated vs. how your audience actually responded.

But diving into the numbers isn’t as easy as expecting Google (or Alexa) to give you an answer.

What works for one audience may not work for another, and what one company has found to be their saving grace might take the wind out of another’s sails. It takes testing, trial, and yes, even error, to ultimately find the right marketing mix and message that resonates with your target audience.

5) Adjust Your Tactics

After assessing how your audience responded to your marketing tactics, it’s time to figure out what can be tweaked in the future.
  • Did one type of subject line perform better than another?
  • Did you get all the website traffic you wanted, but not as many sales?
  • Did the video you made not have as many full views as expected?
This type of deep dive will help make sure the messaging, frequency and media used next time are more on point. But…to ensure you’re able to determine if those adjustments work, you’ll need to modify one thing at a time vs. everything at once – otherwise, you’ll be right back where you started.

6) Reassess Your Results

Once you adjust and run another campaign, it’s time to once again reassess (not to be confused with recess, which is admittedly a little more fun) your results – and compare those to your initial results. Because you’re smart and followed our advice, you just modified one thing, making it easy to figure out whether or not that adjustment worked in your favor.

Then it’s time to adjust and assess, and adjust and assess again until you have it mastered.

To effectively execute the steps outlined above takes time and investment. And while tracking should be present in any marketing venture, there are ways to tailor your pre- and post-market testing to fit your company’s budget – and objectives.

Not sure where to start? We do – and how to finish.

Drop us a line today, and as always, stay tuned for more tips from Stealth next time we go Off the Radar.

“You can choose courage, or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both.”

(more…)

Well, it’s that time of year again: Fourth quarter marketing audit time. A time of extra coffee, the pulling of proverbial teeth, and long nights spent compiling four quarters worth of marketing analytics into an investor-friendly report.

(more…)

If you looked up “Marketing Audit” in the dictionary, you may see a description like: “See ‘pulling your hair out.’”

(more…)

You’re great! No really, you are. We know it; you know it; but if people aren’t visiting your website, how will they know it?

(more…)

Google “fatigue,” and you’ll find several meanings for the word: Exhaustion, extreme tiredness, reduced efficiency.

(more…)

During the past several years, the term ‘personas’ has undoubtedly popped up in your marketing- and sales-related conversations. But what in the world are personas? And are they really necessary for successful marketing and sales efforts?

The answer? Yes!

What is a buyer persona?

Let’s start by explaining the term. A buyer persona is simply a way of ‘putting a face – and a personality’ to your primary buyers, customers or clients – to humanize them, make them more ‘real,’ and enable you to create content that will appeal directly to them.

This semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer is based on real data with some educated speculation thrown in to flesh out the persona’s demographics, behavior patterns, motivations and goals.

Why do I need personas for my marketing efforts?

Personas go beyond the squishy, intangible idea of “a customer” or “our customers,” and, instead, give you insight into a specific target customer’s thoughts. This helps you understand the process and criteria that persona uses when weighing options before choosing a solution.

After all, knowledge is power.

And by understanding who, specifically, your ideal customer is (e.g., female, between 40 and 50, mid-level management, 15 years experience, white-collar environment, college-educated, etc.), you begin to see them as an actual person – not just “a customer.” And, you better understand what they’re seeking in terms of solutions for their challenges (e.g., quality, customized products that free-up time, money and resources). Now, you can better create content and tailor all of your marketing and sales efforts to meet your customer where they are in their buying process, or journey.

This enables you to develop content that connects with your ideal customer, which can lead to more conversions from prospect to lead to customer.

Developing your buyer personas

Ready to create your own buyer personas to enhance your marketing efforts? It all starts with research – whether quantitative, online surveys of your current clientele or qualitative, in-person focus groups for a true discussion or both types of research – it’s important to understand your customers in detail before creating your personas.

And, that research is often more in-depth than you may think, forming the perfect intersection between art and science – with an emphasis on the science.

Download our latest whitepaper, by Stealth Insights Director Paul Petersky, to learn more about the transition in the past few years from segmentation to persona development, and the reason for using archetypes vs. grouping customers by a common set of behaviors or attitudes.

And then once you have your customer research analysis in hand, you can complete your persona grid:

Persona grid

From there, you can craft your buyer persona story, fleshing out additional details to truly bring your customer to life: 

Heather HR Director has 15 years experience in HR, understands best practices and trends, and is always seeking ways to improve the HR practices at her company through online and printed thought-leadership articles, HR conferences and networking with other HR professionals – even though she struggles to find the time to do so. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, but her unwillingness to say ‘no’ often causes her to work late into the night and over the weekend.

Additionally, she sees her budget shrinking year after year, and her team being asked to do more with less. Because she hasn’t been able to increase her staff for the past several years, she – and her team – wear many hats and are spread extremely thin. As such, she’s constantly on the lookout for quality, effective, but customized, hiring, compliance, HRIS and benefit solutions that will save her team money and time, and free up resources, while still enabling her to be a part of the process/solution.

Take the time to think through all of your potential target customers. Think about who they typically are, what they enjoy, what they’re tasked with in their work role, what may interfere in that, what challenges they face and what a day in the life of that customer would look like. Then, assign them a name, work through the persona worksheet, and craft your persona story. 

Create your content!

At this point, you’re ready to assess your editorial content calendar to determine if the existing topics actually fit the personas you’ve created – or if it’s time to modify or even start from scratch to develop content that truly resonates with your buyer personas.

Want some help with that process? Stealth is happy to assist you with the research and buyer persona creation. Just shoot us a message or give us a call at 314.480.3606

Every good marketer knows that they must look at industry trends and consumer insights to drive their brand research. However, the process of gathering data to guide your marketing decisions can be pretty intimidating. And while formal focus groups with seasoned moderators can bring enormous insights to your brand positioning strategy, they also bring big price tags.

(more…)