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Enjoy the ride

Road Trips, Road Food and Road-Tested Marketing Insights

This blog covers a lot of territory, from practical marketing tips to just-for-fun side trips.

Whether you’re in the SEO fast lane or the R&R slow lane, you can chart your own course, read at your own pace and reach your own destination.

Along the way, you never know what you’ll find – from insights about marketing communications to the inside scoop about the best turtle sundae on Route 66.

Here, you can travel in real or virtual time. Follow the classic cars, the Lincoln trails, Route 66 Scenic Byways, or Interstate and Internet highways. Discover the Mother Road or other attractions in America’s heartland. Watch for mischievous Shelties on the Dog Blog, annual Elvis sightings in Springfield, Ill., or jolly giants and other kitschy roadside art and architecture. Learn about Abraham Lincoln and friends, too.

It’s all here, from Chicago to Springfield to St. Louis along Illinois Route 66, where the Mother Road begins and meanders before turning west under the shadow of the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Continue reading

Better-than-Gold Content

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All that is gold does not glitter. Not all those who wander are lost. The old that is strong does not wither. Deep roots are not reached by the frost. –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring 

Like the powerful One Ring™ in his epic trilogy, Tolkien had the Midas touch. And like the mythical King Midas, the elvenkings, hobbits, dwarves, lords, wizards and warriors of Middle-earth learned the hard way about real gold, fool’s gold and the importance of wielding gilded powers wisely. Some gold, however shiny, must be discarded into a volcanic crater and destroyed. (In editing circles, this fiery chasm is sometimes referred to as File 13.)

Whether it’s great literature, an escapist novel, an iconic image or a momentous marketing campaign, storytelling – and merciless editing – contribute to memorable communications. Every good story shares timeless principles about what really appeals to and endures among humans, hobbits and other sentient creatures.

Whatever the medium, today’s storytellers must break through an increasingly Mordoresque forest of competing communications. Unlike Middle-earth, today’s mediascapes aren’t guarded by black gates, fierce orcs or goblins. But on-track navigation can be a formidable task nonetheless.

One does not simply walk into marketing Mordor.  

In such a context, it can be hard to see the forest for the talking trees or more ominous surprises along the way.

If you’re a fearless communicator in search of real-life, relationship-building partnerships and engaging, enduring, almost-evergreen content, it may be time to turn over a new leaf.

A Goal, a Message, a Map, a Compass and a Guide

This isn’t Middle-earth, but you’ll still need the marketing equivalent of backpack-basics like a map, a wizard-guide who knows the trail and contextual GPS to keep you on course. Perhaps most enchanting are the relationships and value you can forge along the way if you don’t fall under the spell of glittery, flash-in-the-pan shortcuts.

In an era where content – with caveats – is king, the real Midas touch is humanity, not magic. As in stories of old, the shared experiences and long-term relationships that make us human are still the things that most any audience can relate to: “Show me why I should care.”

All that Glitters Isn’t Gold

Defining good content: Creating quality, branded content across all media channels and platforms to deliver engaging relationships, consumer value and measurable success for brands.- Content Marketing Association (CMA)

“All” is the operative word. But “engaging” is important, too. Whether your message is on an ancient scroll or a mobile app, blog post, banner ad or video, knowing your brand, your message, your media and your destination while maintaining cross-media consistency is key. As you create, be mindful of your brand and its unique personality and promises. Make sure that everyone on your team understands it and is following the same guidebook.

Then, when it comes to executing your communications plan, enlist a good storyteller or professional wordsmith to work with a marketing- and media-savvy team. They’ll customize it, make it meaningful and ensure that it matches the media of choice with compass-guided precision.

Always plan ahead and anticipate the inevitable obstacles and opportunities along the way. Allocate enough funding and time to do the job well. The road from Riverdell to Mordor  requires a detailed map, and it’s not a day trip.

In any era, wayfarers who go with the flow while still staying the course will bring home win-win results, value and long-term relationships – worthy goals that are better than gold in the end. … Just ask King Midas, friends of Gollum and a few older-and-wiser, wizard-guided hobbits and humans.

Top 10 Signs You Are Having a MacGyver Christmas

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After Santagate, you developed a more efficient Reindeer-Guided Package-Delivery System

A Public Service Message from the Department of Interior Peace of Mind, Division of Responsible Time Management (DIPM/DRTM)

The hour is late and the dog (allegedly) ate your Christmas-shopping list. Many of your custom-selected gifts remain back-ordered, unpurchased, unwrapped or unmailed. Some are just a bit too big or unwieldy for their assigned Priority Mail envelopes and boxes.

Your gingerbread house needs a paint job, shutters, a new door and sugar-frosted spackling for conspicuous cracks that developed in the foundation. One of the carefully crafted gingerbread children in front is inexplicably missing a leg. You’ve seriously considered creating a ginger-ambulance, a ginger-stretcher and ginger-paramedics, which you would totally do if you just had more … time. And four chocolate Oreos for ambulance wheels.

Continue reading

Are you smarter than a goldfish?

goldfish_cr1kFocusing on the basics, not the bait, still matters

As technology gets smarter our ability to focus has gone for a dive. The average human attention span is now shorter than that of a small orange aquatic vertebrate that swims in, rather than graduates from, a school.

Fish are notoriously flighty. Experts say that a goldfish has an attention span of about 9 seconds. At last count, the average human attention span was just 8 seconds – even shorter than that of a fish and down from its dubious 12-second average in 2000.

Fishing for Metrics

It’s no surprise that – in an era of constant connectivity – attention spans have approached bottom-feeder status.

Orthopedic doctors, chiropractors, optometrists, therapists and other specialists confirm that 24/7 information takes a toll. Experts report a spike in related complaints, ranging from carpel tunnel syndrome and neck pain to eyestrain and anxiety disorders.

By any metric – stiff necks or short attention spans – communicators and consumers alike need the triaged reminder that sometimes less really IS more. Continue reading

Content Is King if Relevance and Quality Reign

king house of cardsThe “content is king” message was used in the 1974 edition of Magazine Editing and Production by Click and Baird, but CBS-Viacom magnate Sumner Redstone and Microsoft founder Bill Gates elevated it to conventional wisdom status.

At its core, the phrase reminds us that — regardless of the medium — there are no shortcuts or substitutes for content with staying-power.

In a Googled world, communicators must optimize digital content for search engines while also making it adaptable across media platforms and devices. But with a few exceptions, it’s still essential to deliver something of relevance and value. Unlike hard-sell approaches of the past, the boundaries of information, entertainment and engagement have blurred. Brand messages are now more organically integrated into professionally produced content.

Content marketing best practices continue to evolve. Conventional wisdom changes with the trends, the tech and the times, but fundamentals still matter. Brands that choose quantity over quality or abandon the plan to chase their 15 minutes of fame risk becoming a flash in the pan at best or, worse yet, the court jester.

Keep Your Eye on the Crown … as Defined by You

The average American makes about 70 conscious decisions a day, according to Columbia University research. Some put the average choices-per-day count as high as 35,000. By any metric, most consumers have decision fatigue. Faced with too much information and too many options, choice offers diminishing returns.

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Sell Your Home Faster: Small Details Make a Big Difference.

white_mailbox1kbOnce you’ve completed basic home-selling preparations – such as inspection, repairs and cleaning – you can add finishing touches to improve the odds of selling your home faster and for more money.

A little TLC and charm can go a long way toward improving your home’s value on the market. Step back and take a look at those extras that can tip the balance for buyers who may be deciding between your home and other similar homes.

Curb Appeal

Realtors often use the phrase “curb appeal” to describe a home’s appeal from the street to potential home buyers driving by. They may be active home buyers responding to an ad, those who saw the yard sign, or those who are considering the neighborhood.

Whatever their motive, home sellers want drive-by home buyers to be impressed enough to stop or come back later for a closer look. Curb appeal starts at the curb, but it doesn’t end there. Everything from the mailbox to the doorbell can send a strong “welcome home” message to buyers. Continue reading

Finding a Realtor to Help Buy or Sell Your Home

3realtors500w7 Tips for Choosing the Right Real Estate Agent

Buying or selling a home is an important investment. Use this guide to find a Realtor with the background, expertise and style that’s “just right.”

Whether buying or selling your home, you can benefit from a good working relationship with a real estate pro. With the right guide, it can be a pleasant and profitable partnership, from the first handshake to the last signature.

Find a convenient condo, a cozy cottage, a meandering mansion or a family-friendly ranch. A good agent can streamline the search, negotiate the terms, save money and manage countless details. This is especially valuable in challenging markets or competitive bidding situations.

1. Know Their Niche

Areas of interest, specialization, price range and focus vary widely. Most real estate agents have a niche. For example, an agent who typically sells executive homes in a golf community may not be familiar with an avant-garde loft near the arts district. Another real estate agent may specialize in starter homes, while yet another may be better at navigating neighborhoods on quiet cul de sacs near A+ schools.

Whether buying or selling a house, find a real estate agent who knows the area and works within a similar range of desired housing styles, price range or neighborhoods.Another good indicator of expertise is membership in the National Association of Realtors. Look for the registered trademark Realtor® designation. This indicates adherence to a specified code of ethics, specialized education and training, and more. Continue reading

16 Smart Tips for Marketing and Life

Times change and marketing “best practices” do, too. But some things remain the same.

Fundamentals still matter. Things like starting with a good product or service, communicating clearly, following through on your promises, and maintaining a positive reputation will always give you an edge. This is true regardless of the latest marketing trend.

The following quotes reflect some of those keep-your-eye-on-the-ball basics that apply to many things, whether it’s marketing, sports … or life. Continue reading