More to Come

Independent Schools Need A Strategy for Marketing

I know. Obvious statement, right? But not exactly obvious, if the initial findings of a survey of independent schools on marketing are correct.

Schools seem to be embracing a wide range of communication activities, including digital and social, but the investment in these media looks to be catch-all. There’s no clear trend in investment — as a percentage of overall marketing/communication spend, as many are spending less than 20 percent on digital as are spending more than 50 percent. Digital is starting to, well, dominate isn’t really the right word… But print is not the overwhelming choice any more.

Overall marketing spend? Nearly 60 percent are spending less than $80,000 annually — and compared with earlier research, that’s a fairly large increase. But when the average annual tuition at a boarding school is more than $50,000, and about half that for day, $80,000 is a tiny fraction of revenue, and most schools aren’t spending even that.

Think of it – if your school has 400 students paying say, $30,000 per year (a little over half-pay in boarding school), that’s $12 million in annual revenue. By most measures in other industries, a “maintenance” budget would be more like $1 million a year just to maintain the current enrollment (about 8 percent of revenue). If you’re in growth mode, that number should be closer to 10 percent or 11 percent.

Using the figures above, you’d need just 33 students to break even on that investment. Even if you merely doubled your budget from $80,000, you’d only need, what, six students to earn a small profit on the spend. This is what we mean when we talk about strategic marketing.

It’s all more complicated than that, of course, with net tuition targets changing throughout the budget cycle, and the desire to fill seats/beds in the school affecting financial aid spend, international recruiting, and much else.

Let’s just say, however, that the reason schools don’t spend anywhere near what other organizations do on marketing is that they aren’t articulating what should be done with it. They typically throw dollars at the wall and see what happens. No one will give you $1 million to just try stuff out.

What’s essential is a strategy — what initiatives are going to move the admission needle, by how much and over what time period, at what cost. A comprehensive, integrated plan moves the school forward and answers the questions the business office and board ask. Executing on that plan brings results.

Where’s your plan?

 

3 Alternatives To Working From Home

The last time I wrote a blog post about working from home I discussed my tips for staying productive in your home setting. More than a year and a half later, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss all of the available options when working remotely. When cabin fever sets in while working from home for an extended period of time, it’s challenging to be productive even when a lot of work is coming down the pipeline. Luckily, there are many alternatives to your home office or couch that you can take advantage of.

  1. Starbucks Coffee: I’m assuming everyone who’s anyone already knows Starbucks provides free Wi-Fi to paying patrons. Leave the house for a few days during the week and post-up at a local Starbucks. From personal experience, getting to know my local baristas has been very beneficial; they even know my order when I walk through the door. A drawback to this option is table availability. Most locations are steaming with patrons consistently throughout the day, so you may have to sacrifice a spot next to an outlet for a few hours.
  2. Food establishments: When Starbucks is packed, I’ll sometimes head over to a local Panera and hop on its Wi-Fi. Since Wi-Fi rules the working world, many local eateries around town offer free Internet connection as well. McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, Applebee’s, Bob Evan’s and even Buffalo Wild Wings all offer Wi-Fi. Essentially, you could go to a different restaurant every day of the week to work and eat depending on your preference. Need to pick up some groceries while you’re out? Whole Foods also offers free Wi-Fi to make your day even more convenient. A good rule of thumb, if the establishment sells coffee, they more than likely have Wi-Fi.
  3. Co-Working Spaces: There are many spaces around Columbus that offer a co-working environment for people who work remotely. These spaces have the look and feel of an advertising agency and are made up of remote workers, free-lancers and entrepreneurs. You can choose different monthly plans depending on how many days a week you want to occupy a space. These spaces provide your own desk, conference rooms, ideation spaces and plenty of opportunities to network.

Working remotely does not have to mean working from home. There are plenty of options to get over your cabin fever and get you out into the work force. Find what suits your productivity needs most and switch it up from time-to-time to stay in a good mind-set.

 

Making the Most of Google’s Expanded Ad Format

When Google announced in September that it would extend the deadline for transitioning to its new expanded text ads format to January 31, 2017, advertisers likely breathed a sigh of relief. The original deadline presented a challenge for some advertisers with large accounts and hundreds of ads to update, but don’t let the extra time lull you into a false sense of security. If you haven’t updated your text ads already, we strongly encourage you to do so now, so you can take advantage of the expanded format going into the holiday season.

In case you’re not familiar with the new format, here’s a quick recap:

Standard text ads: 

One 25-character headline

Two 35-character description lines

Display URL

Expanded text ads:

Two 30-character headlines

One 80-character description lines (No more awkward copy breaks!)

Two optional display URL paths

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To make the most of the new format, here are a few best practices to keep in mind:

  1. Create new ads. It will be tempting to just tack a second headline on existing ads and call it good, but don’t do it. Take some time to review what works best in your current ads, and incorporate those elements into brand new ads.
  2. Prioritize ad copy. The first headline is most important, and the first and second headlines need to work together in a way that makes sense to searchers since they are now displayed side by side, separated with a dash.
  3. Test ad variations. Leave your old ads running for a bit for comparison, and plan to add at least two to three expanded ads to each of your ad groups. Monitor clickthrough rates and conversion rates, and optimize as needed before pausing your old ads.
  4. Take advantage of the URL path fields. Include keywords to help make the ad more relevant to searchers based on their query.
  5. Re-visit your ad extensions. If you’ve been using them with the shorter ad format, some of them may become redundant when combined with your expanded ads.

Need help making the switch to expanded text ads? Give us a call or view our search advertising service page.  We’ve got it down to a science.

It’s Time To Take Back Your Lunch Break

 

I was driving to work last week, listening to the Elvis Duran morning show, per usual. As I was sitting in lovely Cleveland traffic, the statement “Workers only take, on average, a 28-minute lunch break,” almost caused me to spit out my coffee. My next thought: 28 minutes? People actually take a 28-minute lunch break?

Most days, whether I’m working from home or at the office, I eat my lunch at my desk. (And it certainly doesn’t take me 28 minutes.) But the more I got to thinking about this, the more it really bothered me. Maybe I’m making assumptions, but why should employees feel like they can’t take time off to eat lunch? Are we really that busy, as a society, that taking just 30 minutes is out of the question?

Let me let you in on a little secret. I’ve actually been stepping away from my computer during lunch breaks ever since I heard this last week. (GASP!) And guess what? Nothing bad has happened. In fact, quite the opposite! Stepping away from my desk has been one of the best things I’ve done! Why? Because the human body needs a break. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re not a super human. You are allowed to give yourself time to not be focused on work during the day. Stepping away from your desk will allow your brain to recharge, essentially making you more creative and productive in the long run and making you happier. Who doesn’t want that?

We can get caught up in the “but I’m so busy” mindset, and yes, I’m guilty of this all the time!  Or we can decide that we owe it to ourselves to make health and wellbeing a priority.

So before you tell me I’m crazy and that you could never not work through your lunch break: Yes, I know you’re busy. We’re all busy. But are you being productive? That is the real question.

Most times, I’ve realized I’m truly not productive at lunch time. And I’m certainly not focusing on the food I’m eating or whether or not I’m full. If we can’t take a few moments to ourselves to enjoy lunch, the fuel we need for the rest of the day, then we have bigger issues.

So please, even if you take just 30 minutes- step away from your desk, get away from your screen and enjoy having a meal where you can recharge and reset for the rest of the day.

SEO and Small Business – How Small Tactics Can Help Your Business

Members of True’s analytics team got the opportunity to speak to small business owners at LaunchHouse, a local co-working space and community for business owners, about paid and organic search to help their business goals. The presentation was about the basics of organic and paid search and how to execute properly. Until we create or talk through one of these presentations, we often forget that when done correctly, small (but not always simple) tactics can make a big impact for small and local business owners. So, what are some of these tactics?

Get Your Website in Order

It’s important that your website showcases what you do and the answer to what problem you solve for your audience (more on that later…) is easily available. Be sure that keyword use is consistent and strategic on all site pages including: title tag, header tag, body text, link text, alt tags and file names. Also, continuing to create fresh content that talks about your services is important for showing up in organic searches.

Pinpoint Your Audience

When done strategically, paid and organic search can drive traffic to your website, increasing business and exposure. But before you begin sending your key messages out through paid search, the first step is to realize who your audience is. Sure, we would all love to think the entire world is our audience – but it’s not. To get the best leads and results, figure out who the right audience or client is that your business needs to target.

Ask yourself “who is my client?” Then, start to narrow it down by demographics: How old are they? What gender? Where are they located? Write down all the qualifiers you know about them and their interests. These questions are all vital to finding the right target audience to bring in the correct qualified people.

Solving a Problem

After figuring out your key demographic, get into more qualitative questions. This can be as easy or difficult as asking, “what problem is my client trying to solve?” Once you find out what problem they are trying to solve, think through how your audience would search to solve the problem. From there, you can position your product or service as the solution to that problem or issue. It’s also important to understand where they are in the process and what words they will be using to search.

Know Your Customer’s Habits

Pay attention to your audience’s purchasing behavior. Do they do a lot of research prior to buying? Are they impulse buyers? Are they one-time buyers or will they make another purchase? When will they do their purchasing? Will they purchase online, or is a phone call or meeting needed? Your target is the group that is ready to buy RIGHT now. Have a leaky pipe? They need a plumber now. Not in a month. They want this and need that, and they don’t want to wait.

Create an Ultimate Strategy

After determining the answers to all those questions, your business can begin to develop a strategy to reach your target audience or client through paid and organic search. A/B testing headlines and copy on ads is important, as well as adjusting your artwork. Using a strong strategy and call to action can create a successful paid ad campaign.

If you get all your ducks in a row and continue understanding how your audience is evolving, it will help you get the help you need from Google!

 

 

 

 

My Experience at the Republican National Convention

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland as a part of my on-campus job as a Marketing Assistant at Kent State University’s College of Communication and Information. When first presented with this opportunity I was hesitant, but I knew this opportunity would be a once in a lifetime experience. I don’t consider myself politically involved, I watch the news and stay informed, but you will not catch me debating with others about immigration or the economy.

CCI partnered with Purple America, an organization focused on bringing forth more civil, respectful conversations about political issues, something that is lacking in the recent election. Some of the great speakers were Matthew Dowd, political analyst for ABC News, Katie Harbath, Global Politics and Government Outreach Director for Facebook, and Dr. Ben Carson, former Republican presidential candidate. The discussions between the wide variety of panelists was eye-opening, specifically the conversation on civility between presidential candidates.

Since I am a public relations major at Kent State, I think back to what we’ve learned in classes about how to address the media, plus what I’ve learned while at True. We’ve seen even more in this election how comments can be made and then magnified on social media. Anything Donald Trump says or tweets are retweeted or posted about millions of times.

Dowd talked about comments Senator Marco Rubio made about Trump having small hands and how Rubio became a trending topic on Twitter. All for making comments about Donald Trump’s hands, nothing politically related. A candidate can make a stupid comment at an event with no research to back it up, and reporters and attendees can instantly tweet it for the world to know. The news cycle is constant now, and we don’t have to wait to hear about it on the nightly news or read about it in the morning paper.

All the panelists agreed the days of being civil with the opposition are over. It’s now a more popular tactic for candidates to focus on tearing each other apart, rather than focusing on what they can do for the country. The media covers candidates attacking each other because it’s “entertainment” verses covering the candidates’ policies or plans for the presidency. It’s the new reality of presidential elections.

No matter your political beliefs and opinions, I think anyone could benefit from attending an event like this, where the diverse panels bring forward good thought-provoking points. It made me curious about how public relations and media relations will change throughout this election with social media being such a big player. It truly opened my eyes to how these political issues captivate our country, and I walked away a more informed citizen. Getting the opportunity to see Cleveland on the “big stage” first hand, gave me an experience I won’t forget!

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Rio Olympics 2016 – How do they beat the bad press?

The countdown is on. Behind the FIFA World Cup, my favorite sporting event is almost here! Leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics, the talk from the media across the world has been about how big of a disaster the outcome of the Olympics could be. We all remember the tweets from the Sochi Olympics in Russia about gross water and rooms falling apart…

It’s always amazing to me how the event draws millions or billions of tweets and viewers, regardless of the background issues. The Olympics are a time that countries get together and cheer with huge amounts of pride – it’s not often whole countries can get behind one team all together. Social media has been abuzz of names we all know when it comes to Olympics time: Michael Phelps, Simone Biles and Kerri Walsh Jennings. The story of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team going for the first ever gold medal as the reigning FIFA World Cup Champion has been a constant on the soccer sites.

The stories of these athletes beat the bad press with a one-two punch. Rewind to 2012, Phelps was at the end of his career, over swimming and clearly unhappy. Four years later he is on the other side of a DUI arrest, rehab stint and the birth of his son, plus he loves swimming again. What a story, right? The Today Show on NBC has been using clips of his one-on-one with Matt Lauer for months leading up to the Olympics. These athletes become role models for people of all ages in sports like gymnastics, track and field, swimming and more.

The advertising dollars spent on product or service advertising goes through the roof. AdWeek has dedicated a whole page to advertising during the Olympics. The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) released the stringent rules for the Olympics’ intellectual property. Businesses and brands need to carefully watch how they use trademarked words or phrases like: Olympic, Team USA, Road to Rio. Even if a company sponsors an athlete but is not an Olympic sponsor, they could be served a cease and desist as soon as that tweet goes out. These brands can’t even wish athletes luck.

This has always been interesting to me since the nature of social media is to use hashtags and retweet things to create buzz, but I suppose the Olympics have plenty of buzz without these brand mentions. The last factor is also the locked down security measures due to the threat of terrorist attacks. It’s sadly become a fact of hosting a huge event, one that Brazil and Rio have taken into account. The New York Times did a good job of covering this issue more in depth.

Regardless of these PR issues, I’m sure in a few weeks we will look back on the event with pride and excitement of what these athletes and teams all accomplished. I’ll be watching as they make history and bring those medals home to the United States!

Benefits of a Summer Internship

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Meet Maggie: True’s summer intern!

It’s really easy for college professors to throw information at you. You sit through two or three classes a day, click through a bunch of power points, take notes and try to internalize everything you hear. You take a quiz or two and get decent grades. But given the opportunity, could you actually apply what you’ve learned?

As a public relations major at Kent State University, I know I am learning a lot. My professors are great and I know they want nothing more than for students to succeed and live up to their potential.

I hear non-stop from my professors about how one day I will have to apply all of this information I was copying down in my notes. One day I was going to have a real job where I would be expected to know all about objectives, strategies, tactics, SEO, media relations and so on. I knew the definitions for those terms, but I don’t think I actually understood them. I was assigned countless projects with scenarios designed to test what I was learning. I struggled, I had no idea where to start. I was just waiting and waiting for the moment when the lightbulb would go off and everything would click. After a while, I knew it was going to take working in a real-world setting to figure it all out.

Doing an internship is so important to me because it presents that real-world opportunity I have been looking for. I can finally apply everything I’ve learned in somewhere other than a classroom or on some made up project. I have come to realize that acing all those PR vocabulary quizzes didn’t matter, taking great notes didn’t matter, none of it matters until that lightbulb goes off and everything clicks.

I am so thankful to have the opportunity to intern at True Digital Communications this summer. I know I will walk away with a better understanding of PR and what it takes to work in an agency setting. I look forward to sharing all the new things I learn along the way!

Tips for Becoming Google Analytics and Adwords Certified: Part 2

In the last blog post, I gave you the run down and tips for taking the Google Analytics certification exam. This post will give you an overview of the Google Adwords exams and my tips for studying and passing them.

As I said in the previous post, before you can take the exams, you are required to sign up for Google Partners. Google Partners is Google’s free program for agencies and other digital professionals designed to give you access to special events, Adwords and Analytics updates and free certification exams. Once you have registered, you will have access to a copious amount of study materials for both the Adwords and Analytics.

The Google Adwords Certification

Overview:

  • Must pass 2 out of 6 exams
  • Exam times span between 90 and 120 minutes
  • Exam questions range from 63 to 100
  • Must have 80% passing score
  • Valid for 12 months

Between the Analytics and Adwords certifications, the Adwords certification is more challenging and time consuming to obtain, but extremely beneficial if you manage PPC accounts. In order to become certified, you have to pass two of the six exams offered. You are required to take the Adwords Fundamentals exam and then you get to choose the other. The other exams include advanced search, display, video, shopping and mobile.

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Since I manage shopping accounts at True, I chose to get Google Shopping certified as my second exam. Like the Analytics exam, once you start, you cannot pause or skip questions so allow yourself enough time for completion.

Each exam includes a study guide with various lessons and videos to prepare. There are many online resources at your disposal, but Google’s study guides proved most effective. What sets apart the Adwords study guides from the Analytics study guides is there are no practice questions associated with the Adwords study material. Going into the Adwords exams, I felt a little less prepared not knowing what the questions were going to be like. However, Google provides so much information for you to read and study so passing is still very achievable. Once I completed the exam, it instantly told me I passed, but Google says it can take up to 48 hours for exam results to appear.

Tips

The Adwords Fundamentals exam is 100 questions in 120 minutes. You will not have enough time to look up every question in the study material as the exam goes on, so I definitely suggest studying as you would in college for an important exam. However, you do have enough time to think about the hard questions, when easier questions become faster to answer.

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The questions span the contents of every lesson, but I would focus on the overall concepts instead of intricate facts and details. Many questions in the exam take a concept you learned and asks you to apply it to a potential client situation

The Google Shopping exam is 63 questions in 90 minutes. Of the two exams that I took to become Adwords certified, this one was definitely the easier of the two. Google provides plenty of information in their study guides for you to adequately prepare for the exam.

The questions primarily focus on the “do’s and don’ts” of the Google Shopping platform. Since there are a lot of requirements and rules to be qualified for Google Shopping, the exam places heavy emphasis on the fundamentals and building high-quality data feeds.

Are You Ready?

Go through all of the reading supplements and videos Google provides for each exam and you should have no problem passing. Remember, the majority of the Fundamentals exam questions are on high-level concepts based on the structure, targeting, bids and budget parameters of Google Adwords. Once you pass your exams, you will have the opportunity to print your certifications and display them loud and proud. Good luck!

Questions on how to prepare?  Visit our search and display advertising pages or contact us today!

 

Tips for Becoming Google Analytics and Adwords Certified: Part 1

*Note: This is part 1 of a 2 part series

Dust off your college pants and put those puppies back on because you are getting ready to take exams to become Google Analytics and Adwords certified. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been in the industry very long, but I thought my days of taking exams ended when college did. However, becoming Google Analytics and Adwords certified is a great solution for brushing up on your digital advertising skill set. Analytics and Adwords certifications denote credibility for yourself as a digital marketer and instill client trust in your agency. In this two-part blog post I will go through an overview of taking both exams and my tips for passing them.

Before you can take the exams, you are required to sign up for Google Partners. Google Partners is Google’s free program for agencies and other digital professionals designed to give you access to special events, Adwords and Analytics updates and free certification exams. Once you have registered, you will have access to a copious amount of study materials for both the Adwords and Analytics exams.

The Google Analytics Certification 

Overview:

  • One exam
  • 90 minutes
  • 70 questions
  • 80% passing score
  • Valid for 18 months

There are plenty of online resources at your disposal for this exam, but I highly recommend following Google’s study guide. Google provides a four-unit study guide called “Analytics Academy” with multiple lessons, videos, practice questions and they even walk you through creating an analytics account. The lessons go through every stage of Google Analytics:

  1. Planning and principles
  2. Implementation and data collection
  3. Configuration and administration
  4. Conversion and attribution
  5. Reports, metrics and dimensions

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Tips

The questions span the five stages, with an emphasis on implementation and analytics reports and metrics. Pay close attention to how to set up different views within your analytics profile and what each report represents and how to analyze the provided metrics. Many question focus on platform principles and learning how each component works together to collect and organize data.

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Once you start the exam, you cannot pause or skip questions. When you’re ready to take the exam, allow yourself the full 90 minutes, in an uninterrupted environment. Take your time on the questions that require it, as some will be easier and faster to answer than others. As I was taking the exam, I found I had more time than I anticipated answering the challenging questions. Once I completed the exam, it instantly told me I passed, but Google says it can take up to 48 hours for exam results to appear.

Are You Ready?

Whether you’re good at taking exams or not, Google provides ample information for you to get certified in important business practices in today’s digital world. Google will not try to trick you on any of the questions so if a guess is absolutely necessary, using common sense will be your best bet. Stay tuned for True’s next blog post on taking the Google Adwords certification exam.

Good luck and stayed tuned for part two of this series on becoming certified in Google Adwords.

Questions on how to prepare?  Visit our search and display advertising pages or contact us today!