Evoke's Word for 2017: Refresh

How did you spend the last week of 2016? That twilight zone between Christmas and New Years that no one plans for and the concept of time is lost. I spent it fussing. Fussing over the previous year, fussing over my clients year, fussing over my plans for what's to come. 2016 was by no means a "bad year," I had seen great success with Evoke! The year was full of exciting projects, new collaborations, and all kinds of lessons.  But after 360+ days of hustling, I was worn down by the daily grind of entrepreneurship. Even still, I sat down and did the work reflecting and refocusing on Evoke's marketing and brand goals. And then I left. That's right, I left! 

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My family and I were fortunate enough to spend the first two weeks of 2017 in Hawaii. I didn't fuss once about the high-level business mumbo jumbo. Using virtual tools, I easily maintained Evoke's work from the comfort of a fluffy hotel bed (more on those tools later). We enjoyed our vacation to the fullest and came home completely rested and rejuvenated. 

re·fresh
/rəˈfreSH/
To give new strength or energy to

I was so excited to get back to work that I started on Sunday! With a clear mind and renewed creativity, it was like a light was suddenly shining on the steps needed to attain my previously set business goals. Evoke has refreshed offerings, a stronger internal system, and new energy behind planting seeds and relationship marketing. 

So what's the point of this blog post, other than an opportunity to use the charming vacation illustration? Simply to share lessons learned.

  • Always reflect before you forget. Evaluating what worked and what didn't is the only way we'll ever learn. So even if you're tired and overwhelmed, sometimes you have to suck it up buttercup.
  • Then give yourself a break! Creative thinking and problem-solving are taxing. Let your mind shut off for a while, do something fun, get lots of sleep, eat some pineapple.
  • When the inspiration strikes, ride the wave and get to work!
  • Think about refreshing your business and marketing. What can you strengthen? What is the best use of your energy? What can be rejuvenated with new eyes?

What is a Brand and Why is it Important?

A brand is the personality of a business

Branding can be a difficult concept to grasp. Us marketing people tend to forget that, while our minds run wild with colour psychology and word associations. So, I wanted to take a moment to explain what a brand is and why it's important. 

What is a brand?
A brand is the personification of an organization. Think of your business like it's a person; it has values, characteristics, a voice and a vision for the future. Maybe your business has a favourite colour, or it hangs out with athletes, or it always answers the phone with a signature hello.

A brand is what marks the difference between competitors. Assuming all else is equal, consumers will buy a product or service from a business that they find more likeable than their competitor. 

“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person.”
— Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com


Creating a clear and authentic brand is just ensuring that you are putting your company's best foot forward in building that reputation.

You need a developed brand because it:

  • Provides direction in business decisions by articulating the organization's mission and vision
  • Introduces your business to the public
  • Communicates a likable personality to consumers
  • Guides your marketing strategy 
  • Makes communications cohesive and clear
  • Builds brand awareness, making it easier for your target audience to find you
  • Develops a relationship with the buyer
  • Gives your business a level of professionalism and credibility

So, that's what a brand is, and that's why it's important! 

An example:
I've had to explain branding to my own Father on a few occasions. As the owner of an Auto Parts store for over 20 years, he didn't see the necessity for a brand. And while part of this was because of his industry and the other part was because of the economy at the time, the truth is: 

To be successful is to have a brand

The Auto Parts Store's brand was about the people behind the counter. The friendly guys that had been working there for literally decades. The type of employees that would spend 2 hours searching for a $7 part, just because they valued good customer service. It was the kind of company that hosted annual barbecue's with show cars and a free meal for all their clients because they appreciated their business so much. My dad was the type of business owner that was a man about town, knew everyone's name, and could talk your ear off about the new local brewery or pizza place.

People did business with the Auto Parts Store because they inherently knew they would receive good customer service, they would be appreciated, and they would be supporting a local business that supported the community. That is a brand. Now, how did people know this? 20 years of hard ass work. The practical reason for developing a focused and genuine brand is that it easily and quickly communicates why your ideal clients should do business with you, as opposed to relying on 20 years worth of chances to prove yourself. My job is to speed up the process by helping you uncover those authentic characteristics, analyze their competitive advantage, and communicate it to your ideal clients.

Client Profile: CF Industries

   
  
 
  
    
  
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    July 22, 1976 – the first shipment of ammonia left the Medicine Hat Nitrogen Complex.

July 22, 1976 – the first shipment of ammonia left the Medicine Hat Nitrogen Complex.

2016 marks the fortieth year that the CF Industries Nitrogen Complex, formally Canadian Fertilizers Limited, has been operating in Medicine Hat. The organization has been quietly chugging along at the edge of town; providing steady jobs and supporting the local community and economy this entire time. It's easy to say that we were honoured when CF Industries approached Evoke to help them celebrate their 40th Anniversary with the public.

The Challenge: Being that the local CF Industries facility is a part of a much larger corporation, we had a few extra checks and balances to go through when it came to communications. The company came with an established logo and specified Public Relations and Branding policies for us to work within. As well, the local complex does not yet have any social media accounts, nor do they have the opportunity to market directly to their end users. The genuine goal of the campaign was to thank their employees, contractors and the city of Medicine Hat for being a part of their successful 40 years. 

The Solution: Evoke crafted a purely PR campaign that not only aligned with CF's communication policies but would also give back to the community that made them. 

We utilized a number of tools to share CF Industries Anniversary message including:

  • An Anniversary Logo (Thank you Sarah-Lynn from Flag5 for the great banner graphic)
  • Signage that included printed banners and decals
  • Custom Thank You cards
  • Their internal Email and Electronic Bulletin Board Systems
  • The 40 FOR 40 donation campaign
  • Staff Events
  • Radio Advertising
  • Newspaper advertisements 
  • And leveraged social media

In the 40 FOR 40 Campaign, CF Industries shares the celebration of their 40th Anniversary by donating 40 widgets to a different charity every quarter. These donations were in addition to their annual donations and sponsorships. CF started the year with a monetary donation of 40 lunches for 40 days to the Brown Bag Lunch Program at the Medicine Hat Food Bank; that is 1,600 lunches! In the second quarter, CF supported the Medicine Hat YMCA Strong Kids Campaign by financing 40 days of summer day camp for deserving children in our community. We will be announcing the Q3 donation at the beginning of August, so stay tuned!

The CF Industries management team wanted the past and present staff to feel how much their time and efforts were appreciated. Moreover, they wanted to recognize the employee's families for being a part of the CF Team, so we were able to have some fun with staff events. The day of the anniversary, an appreciation BBQ lunch was held at the plant site and that evening was suppose to be a CF Industries sponsored event, which was unfortunately postponed due to rain. However, tonight we will see employees and their families at the rescheduled CF Industries sponsored Mavericks baseball game!

This PR approach allowed us to share CF Industries excitement with the public throughout the year. The 40 FOR 40 Champaign provided material for regular press releases and radio advertisements. We were also able to gain social media exposure, as recipient charities would post about the donations on their social media accounts. The custom Thank you cards and internal items gave CF an easy way to include their contractors in the festivities. And finally, sponsoring a Mavericks game and inviting employees and their families was a SUPER fun way to thank them for the dedication to the company.

Most importantly, we were able to customize a public relations campaign that authentically represented an established brand’s principle of valuing their employees, contractors, and the community.

Lessons from Evoke's First Year in Business

Evoke Inspired Marketing celebrated its first year in business back in April. But true to the very chaos that I plan on discussing in this post, three months flew by faster than I could type out a blog entry - apparently. The first year in business is full of many ups and downs, days where you feel like a champion and other days that make you feel like a complete failure. If you're lucky enough to be busy, you'll be so overwhelmed that you forget to work on your own business as much as you are working on your clients' businesses. There is an ebb and flow in working and owning a business. Sometimes you need to focus on your clients' work and buckle down for deadlines, while other times you can relax into creative work and invest in learning something new. Conveniently for Evoke, this current shift in gears aligns nicely with summer time. Currently, we are working on tying up loose ends and taking the opportunity to nourish and grow the business so that we're ready to hustle come September. So, in the spirit of nourishing, I would like to reflect on a few important lessons learnt in the first year of business

1) Treat your business as your client - Let's be completely honest, Evoke hasn't posted a blog entry in almost a year. If that were one of our clients, we would be giving them some pretty tough love! It's easy to get busy with the everyday chaos of client work and monotonous business operations. However, if you're good at marketing, you should probably show it with your own marketing. Yeah yeah yeah, we're workin' on it!

2) Define your brand values and set a Company Vision - Defining your brand values and establishing a Company Vision right off the bat makes decision-making and prioritizing much easier. There are so many opportunities and so little time, building a business is all about making the right decision for the organization and prioritizing what's most important. Having Evoke's detailed brand values from the start has proven incredibly useful and revisiting the original vision makes us excited for how far we've come!

3) Invest in doing it right the first time - Save your time, your money, and your sanity by investing a little into the right systems and processes. Take the time to set up a QuickBooks account, spend the money on business cards that make you proud, hire the marketing agency that focuses more on your awesome stuff than their own.

4) Find your tribe - Productivity exploded once Evoke moved into an office space with other creative businesses (Shout out Flag5 and Tride Media). One of the most valuable tools in business is a sounding board for your crazy ideas so, surround yourself with people who know more and have more experience than you. Oh also - let's just all support each other. Us creatives have to stick together! "The Tide Floats All Boats"

5) Evolve and Fine Tune - The business you have now may look nothing like the business you imaged a year ago. As time goes on, you discover what you really enjoy doing and what makes you want to give up. You're allowed to fine tune your offerings as you gain experience. Learn from others best practices and gain knowledge that will best serve you and your clients. Your vision should be solid, but the path you take there is ever changing.

8 Reasons to Consider Hiring a Marketing Agency

You should consider hiring a marketing agency if:

   You want your marketing activities to reach quality leads

   You want customers to relate to your brand

   You recently paid for sponsorship or advertising because "that's the way you've always done it"

   You feel like you're spending a lot of money on advertising and not seeing results

   You're too busy running your business to focus on marketing

   You have no clue where to start with Facebook or Twitter

   Your business doesn't have a website

   You want to fall in love with your business all over again

 

It might seem a little biased coming from a marketing agency, but ALL businesses should consider outsourcing their marketing activities. Big or small, for or not for profit, in every industry, all organizations could use a little assistance with their communications.    

Marketing is an all encompassing term, it includes your branding, customer service, how your store looks, how your product is packaged, your customers experience, your reputation, knowledge about your target market, your public relations, who you donate money to, your social media accounts and of course advertisements. There are a lot of moving parts in your business's marketing plan, making it even more important that all of these activities promote the same clear message. It can be easy to get lost in all the marketing options, wasting time and money without seeing any results.

 Most owners and managers are busy enough running and maintaining their business, keeping all the balls in the air. When times get busy (which is always) the first thing dropped is marketing and yet it is one of the most important activities to keep your business successful. I grew up in an entrepreneurial family, my parents owned an auto parts store in Canmore for 30 years. My dad specializes in sales and parts management and was incredibly good at what he did. He was, however, not well versed in the world of marketing. My dad was so involved with internal operations and selling enough parts to keep the doors open that he couldn't afford the time or effort needed to create and execute a creative and effective marketing campaign, let alone the time to learn how to use social media or conduct market research to identify his ideal clientele. My dad's problem was my opportunity. Not only did I discover my love for marketing and contribute to the family business, but I was able to create a solution to a problem that all businesses struggle with. Evoke Inspired Marketing was created to provide businesses the opportunity to outsource their marketing activities to a results driven creative network, ensuring campaigns are practical, innovative, and effective. I want to collaborate with businesses, take care of their marketing activities, and connect them directly with the people who need them.