Why Metrics Matter

How to get started measuring program success and guiding future efforts — by the numbers

Without metrics, there’s no way to measure the performance of a campaign or to create benchmarks that ensure your advertising dollars are being spent properly. Key Performance Indicators aren’t just for sales numbers; they’re also to ensure that time is spent wisely and that campaigns are being successful.

It may be tempting to look at the performance of one ad or one blog post or one email blast, but the trends you can discern from a year’s worth of metrics are much more important than the results you see from one email blast, one product special or even one quarter.

You might be nodding along, but if you’re not sure what you can tell about a marketing or content campaign by analyzing the numbers, keep reading.

When analyzed properly, ad or email performance numbers should help brands understand which methods of advertising are most effective and the types of subject lines that have an impact on your campaigns, just like the amount of time someone spends on a webpage can partially tell you if the content is what they were looking for when they arrived at that page.

There are a host of different ways to track performance, so for the sake of brevity, this post will cover the basic types of metrics you should look at for web-based content, digital ads and email campaigns and some things you can learn from their analysis.

Web-based content

It’s not just pageviews that are important. Consider other factors such as bounce rate, if they continue deeper into your site and the amount of time spent on the page. Compare across your site to find out what visitors find the most valuable. The more pages you have to compare, the more accurate your analysis will be. If the numbers seem low, try tweaking your web copy 

Digital ads

Digital ads are the billboards of the 21st century. They are for brand awareness and to get simple messages to your target audience, but they generally won’t have a high clickthrough rate. When paired with other types of messaging, they can keep your brand front-of-mind.

Most digital ads will have a CTR of 0.5-2%. Low or no clicks on your ad may indicate it has design issues or irrelevant copy.

Email campaigns

While industry averages will vary, most industries expect between 20% to 25% open rate for emails. According to Mail Chimp, an email marketing campaign and automation tool, the average open rate for industries they analyzed was 21.33%.

Open rates don’t tell the whole story, though. They will help you understand the impact of both your brand and subject line, but without digging deeper or watching for trends in that data, you might be missing some key information about your campaigns.

Engagement is something that you’ll see via a clickthrough rate (CTR) or click-to-open rate (CTOR). The CTR measures the rate at which people who received your email actually clicked on something inside of it and the CTOR shows the rate at which those who opened your email clicked through. CTR can show you if your audience is properly targeted, but CTOR can tell you how well your subject line and body content line up. If you see a low CTOR paired with an average open rate, you might need to revisit the pairings of subjects and body copy.

Well-done emails will also have a lower unsubscribe rate. If you’re seeing an increase in unsubscribes, consider both how those folks were added to your lists as well as how well-targeted your emails are 

If you see that your campaign is not having the impact you hoped, use the numbers to guide changes to subjects, body copy or email frequency.

Comparisons over time

Instead of just looking at each component, compare similar components over time. Look for trends in high- or low-performing subject lines and CTOR. Consider layout in your performance analysis and do A/B tests to check how different subject lines resonate with your readership and if they lead to different CTORs when those tests contain the same email bodies. Categorize your emails by offers, newsletters, announcements, events and look for trends in each category that is relevant to your campaigns. Compare different ad layouts, fonts, gifs or static ads for their success. Pay attention to the types of content your audience prefers and adjust your strategy to positively impact the details in your google analytics account.


About the author

Jess Schmidt brings a creative writing degree and over a decade of professional writing experience to the team. As a career marketer with a background in the design world, she works with clients to make their brand stories stand out. Her specialties are thought leadership, compelling descriptive language, technical details and marketing strategy. She writes content for all of the publications under the Great American Media Services umbrella and manages advertiser-driven projects. She’s also the in-house SEO and SEM guru. Learn more about our team here: smartsolutions.media/contact-us.

Strike a balance with tone and style

Part I of “How to use content marketing to your advantage”

One of the major challenges that new content marketers often face is striking the balance between thought leadership and selling. It’s important that any selling being used is earned by the knowledge that’s shared. Your audience can ferret out a hard sell faster than you think, so by saving the sell for the end, you earn the right to mention your offerings. However, it’s still imperative that the vast majority of your content marketing is not about the sell, but rather about topics we discussed in a previous post.

Tone also differs between a hard sell and thought leadership, and if you start an article with a tone that suggests a future hard sell, readers will be less likely to get through the whole article or blog post. By varying your tone and style, your content will remain refreshing and make your customers more excited to work with you — since you’re the experts.

Here are some suggestions for keeping your tone authoritative and informative.


  • Keep things neutral: Rather than using a tone that aggressively pushes sales, focus on the problems the industry faces and how customers can identify solutions to those problems.
  • Stay on topic: Just because you have value propositions does not mean that they belong in every piece of content.
  • Express empathy: Acknowledge the problems that your customers face and the issues that are important and let them know you feel their pain.
  • Interview people outside your company and position them as experts: Rather than just using your sales reps or VPs, choose neutral experts familiar with the topic as your main speakers.
  • Use testimonial properly: When using testimonial language or superlatives, make sure that these are communicated via direct quotations, preferably from third parties
  • Let your customers be the hero: Position your customer as the hero of the story as much as possible; guide them to overcoming obstacles rather than rescuing them with solutions.


  • Ask for agreements: this sales tactic should be left to sales-oriented conversations rather than being the main method of communicating via content marketing.
  • Assume everyone reading the article is your customer: While it might not happen overnight, you will have members of your audience who would not purchase your product right now; by creating brand authority, you become the natural first choice if they’re ever in the position to need your products or services. 
  • Make grandiose claims, such as that your product is the best: allow the experts to speak to your success, if discussing innovations. Let the product speak for itself or stick to testimonials. Content marketing is not an infomercial.
  • Make it all about your company and innovations: While this is incredibly tempting, no one wants to read a sales pitch unless they’re in a buying conversation with a sales rep.
  • Make your company the hero all of the time: allow your readers and customers to make the choices as to their best paths forward instead of spoon-feeding them. The exception, of course, is with recommendations from third party experts.

Within the thought leadership framework, be sure to vary your styles for best results. A few styles we like to use include:

  1. Expository/informative. This style can be dry if not done well. Be sure to share information that your customers and readers can readily use —now (see this post for details about being timely)
  2. Narrative/interview based. Tell a story about a customer, a supplier or a brand you love.
  3. Listicle. Create a list of the top ways that people accomplish something or tips for success, include that number in the headline and limit extraneous text outside of that list. For these to be successful, they need to be able to be skimmed for the lists within the listicle. This section of this blog post could be considered a mini-listicle.
  4. How-to. Engaging tutorial on solving a problem your customers face, with or without using one of your products or services.
  5. Case study. This one is obviously going to be more product- or service-oriented than some of the other styles we’re mentioning. Be sure to provide the problem, the solution and the ROI calculation.
  6. Slightly argumentative. If you are using the other styles, it is ok to have the occasional argumentative piece, as long as other types are your primary styles of content. As we mentioned earlier, keep the testimonials and superlatives in quotes made by third parties.

Stay tuned for the next installment in this series: pitfalls to avoid when creating content. Like this content? Sign up to get notified when we post something new here.

About the author

Jess Schmidt brings a creative writing degree and over a decade of professional writing experience to the team. As a career marketer with a background in the design world, she works with clients to make their brand stories stand out. Her specialties are thought leadership, compelling descriptive language, technical details and marketing strategy. She writes content for all of the publications under the Great American Media Services umbrella and manages advertiser-driven projects. She’s also the in-house SEO and SEM guru. Learn more about our team here: smartsolutions.media/contact-us.

Tell a story: why content must be part of your marketing strategy

Part of creating a comprehensive advertising and marketing strategy includes reaching people in ways that traditionally were not considered “marketing.” Print and digital ads, billboards and commercials play a specific role in brand recognition that you can’t necessarily mimic in another way, but part of marketing in the 21st century is about building trust and authority in your brand.

Simply displaying an ad is a great reminder that your brand is ready and waiting for customers to reach as well as the necessary brand-recognition piece, but if your strategy doesn’t include content, you’re potentially missing out on a huge piece of the pie.

Content marketing involves sharing interesting and thought-provoking pieces that doesn’t necessarily tell people about your products or services. It goes beyond your value props and may not even mention any of them. It’s a strategy devoid of the hard sale and hinges on talking about the issues your industry faces instead.

A blog is a way to show your customers that you understand their needs and what they need to learn. It’s a vehicle that helps your brand become the trusted advisor that future customers will then lean on when they are ready to buy.

Storytelling is the ultimate way to get the conversation going. It can also be a daunting task to get your feet wet in the content marketing world. How and who are the most common questions: who on your team can create the content and how will you share it with your potential customers? On top of that is the problem of getting the buy-in to invest in starting a content marketing campaign.

We’re here to tell you that given the benefits of these programs, it’s an exciting time to begin marketing your brand by telling stories.

Build your reputation as an expert

The worst thing that can happen when someone reaches out as a potential customer is to accidentally alienate them by showing you don’t understand their business. A content marketing campaign can bypass that whole initial conversation by letting your content, well, speak for you. 

Choosing topics that are relevant to your customers and future customers will set you up as an expert in your field. Find out what their points of pain and curiosities about the industry are, and create content that will help them improve their own results. By nurturing content over a period of time, you will start to have more inbound inquiries than ever before simply because everyone wants to work with the best. They want to know you understand them.

This is so important that Google evaluates this practice to measure where you fall in search engine results pages, as a part of a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy under the concept of E-A-T: Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. Tick all these boxes and it won’t just improve your reputation, but will also help improve where your site is ranked on search results. And when your content keeps showing up to answer their big questions, your E-A-T also gets established with your future customers before you even reach out to them.

Consistently direct the narrative about your own brand

Rather than letting your online reputation get away from you via the uncontrollable such as customer reviews and social media conversations, start the conversation by introducing content that showcases what you know about your future customers. When you can easily point to the answers you know they’ll have, it helps to control the narrative rather than letting it control your sales.

It isn’t just about creating one piece of content and then stopping. A content marketing strategy, like any marketing strategy, needs to be consistent to properly work. After all, you need to address more than just one problem your customers might have, and you do more than one thing. This helps you stand out in a super-saturated marketplace in which consumers could see thousands of ads every single day.

An inexpensive addition

Content marketing can have the lowest cost threshold of implementation. In many industries, a trade show or event could easily cost more than the right hire who would handle your content. And if you can’t sell a full-time employee, it’s very cost-effective to outsource content marketing to an agency or a content team in a print or virtual publication where you already advertise.

Get more leads at a lower cost 

At the end of the day and when you’re evaluating your results each quarter and year, the number of leads that initiatives generated is an important KPI in every marketing department. According to the Content Marketing Institute in this post:

  • Content marketing garners about 3x the leads per dollar as paid search (SEM) does.
  • It generates leads at a rate of over 3x that of outbound marketing and costs a whopping 62% less.

Start a conversation without having to do cold calling

Combined with a robust social media strategy, content marketing actually helps replace some of your cold calling efforts, translating to saved time that can be devoted to nurturing repeat business and inbound new business. When you have buzzworthy content, the return is faster than anything requiring a waiting period, such as trade shows or non-digital media advertising, which need to be planned months in advance due to event constraints, printing, and other logistics required to get those efforts implemented.

In the meantime, a robust content marketing strategy can start conversations in days or weeks instead of months or years. For details on how this type of strategy can be used or advertised on social media, check out this post from our sister company, SmartSolutions.

How to get started

Not sure what type of content works best and what platforms you should use? In our next few blog posts, we’ll discuss how you can use content marketing to your advantage. If you’d like to be notified when that post is available, sign up for email notifications here. Read the next part, “Know your audience,” here.

Not sure how to get started with a content marketing strategy? Our teams can help with that, too. Let the experts — us — tell your story to your target audience: our readership. Reach out to your integrated marketing consultant to explore the many content marketing options we can help you implement to start this process now rather than next year.

About the author

Jess Schmidt brings a creative writing degree and over a decade of professional writing experience to the team. As a career marketer with a background in the design world, she works with clients to make their brand stories stand out. Her specialties are thought leadership, compelling descriptive language, technical details and marketing strategy. She writes content for all of the publications under the Great American Media Services umbrella and manages advertiser-driven projects. She’s also the in-house SEO and SEM guru. Learn more about our team here: smartsolutions.media/contact-us.

Maximizing event results with strategic marketing

As we get closer to holding in-person events and trade shows again, it’s important that you’re setting your company up for success. A crucial step in ensuring event success is marketing it to your customers. Without marketing, you’re leaving your meetings up to chance, your foot traffic or attendance may be low and you may be putting on an expensive show instead of getting a return on your big investment.

While most of these suggestions are framed as applying to trade shows, they are just as applicable to other events, such as those you may host at your business, such as open houses, showcases and field days.


As with any successful marketing initiative, planning is the crux. As discussed in a previous post, planning helps ensure that you have the resources for all of the initiatives you need to execute for the trade show or event. Create realistic deadlines ahead of time to help you stay on track and get the best results for your investment.

When you start planning will depend upon the type of event. For trade shows, for example, a good rule of thumb is to check when you have to submit orders for services like electrical or carpet and be prepared with your plan prior to that date.

Consider brand messaging, a new product launch or other initiatives you want your booth to showcase. This means that if you’ve done any rebrands, that your logos are consistent throughout the space, your products featured on signs or banners are current and any freebies are relevant to those in attendance. If you do not have an inventory of booth materials, check what’s in storage and make a list of what you need to redesign or re-order.

Plan each initiative, whether it’s targeted emails, social media marketing, mailers or phone calls to make sure there’s plenty of awareness for your event.

Make a list of customers you’d like to meet with during the event and personally market to them with unique emails to ensure that your key buyers are present and ready to book. “Make sure to let your customers know ahead of time that you’ll be there. In 15 years managing and marketing events, I’ve found that when paired with partnering with the show we are exhibiting at, this is the best way to set yourself up for success, no matter how you measure it,” said Stephanie Leon-Santiago, marketing and events manager at Great American Media Services. Leon-Santiago plans and markets 25-30 programs and events, including trade shows in a normal year, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, a few more virtual events were added for the 17 Great American Media Services brands.

Schedule enough staff to cover your busiest times, but also schedule the right staff. For some companies, this will mean that all sales and marketing team members are in the booth for much of the trade show or are at the event with specific tasks they’re empowered to execute. At trade shows, sales staff will need to schedule customer meetings in blocks so that there is always coverage in the booth.

Choose a look for your staff so that there is cohesiveness throughout the team. This could include logo-wear or a set wardrobe (such as black bottoms, black shoes and white shirts with a branded lanyard). Make sure that anyone walking into the booth or event knows who to talk to based on a quick glance, without making them stare at badges to decide who works for your company.

Decide as a team what your goals are for leads, sales or anything else measurable. Be sure that you consider all staff costs, such as hotels, per diem, travel and time are covered and know what your break-even number is and what will allow a return on the investment.    


In the weeks leading up to the event, finalize any meetings or appointments you need to have with key customers. If you plan any giveaways, get those orders ready on time but be sure to follow any show guidelines regarding what is allowed to be handed out in your booth or showroom.

It seems every exhibitor will offer something free, but it’s imperative that the items you’re giving away are not only on-brand, but relevant. “The top things that attendees want mostly have to do with organization. A high-quality pen or a small notebook is better for you and them than candy with a disposable wrapper or something else that will go right in the trash. Consider something for their badge or a pop socket, a pen that won’t break right away or hand sanitizer. With most shows and in-person events re-opening, I suggest washable branded face masks. If you’re on a small budget, pick something memorable,” Leon-Santiago said. 

Utilize every free marketing option the show offers and consider their paid marketing options such as improved website listings or list rentals. You never know – your biggest customers might not be your customers yet, and they need to know where to find you during the event, too.


We all know trade show food isn’t the best, so if you can get away with it and any restrictions due to COVID-19 allow it, offer lunch to key customers. This does triple duty of keeping your reps in the space, getting your customers to stop by and creating buzz around the busy traffic to your booth.

Offer deals for those who meet with their rep in your booth or on-site, such as a percentage off, better payment terms, free shipping or better minimum order quantities.

If you can, hold a larger giveaway. This is definitely something that should be advertised in advance and will help you build your email marketing lists and give your sales reps a chance to chat with potential customers. The show management may have limits on the value of what you can give away, but consider your top products, a gadget or something related to what you make or sell with your logo on it. Schedule a time for the giveaway and draw the winner’s name live on social media for maximum exposure.

This set of recommendations is, of course, not all-inclusive. For a refresher on lead follow-up, check out this post.

Interested in assistance marketing your event or trade show? Talk to an expert today!

About the author

Jess Schmidt brings a creative writing degree and over a decade of professional writing experience to the team. As a career marketer with a background in the design world, she works with clients to make their brand stories stand out. Her specialties are thought leadership, compelling descriptive language, technical details and marketing strategy. She writes content for all of the publications under the Great American Media Services umbrella and manages advertiser-driven projects. She’s also the in-house SEO and SEM guru. Learn more about our team here: smartsolutions.media/contact-us.

7 tips for great lead follow-up

While generating leads may seem like the most important part of the sales and marketing cycle, knowing that your follow-up game is strong is as important — or in some cases, more important — as getting those leads in the first place. If you’ve struggled to convert leads, the first place to look for improvements is in your lead follow-up.

Greg Sebel
Greg Sebel

“The most important step to follow-up is to understand the importance of actually following up on the leads you receive. These people have expressed interest in what you sell, and following up is the first step to understanding a potential customer’s needs,” said Greg Sebel, associate publisher for Fruit Growers News, Vegetable Growers News and Organic Grower magazines.

 1. Plan ahead

Before you complete any lead generation efforts, or before you attend an event or trade show where you receive many leads at once, it’s important to know how a few facts about your follow-up process:

  • How much time it takes to convert a lead, on average
  • How many reach-outs you normally need to make to convert a lead
  • How many leads you can follow up on in a given period of time.

Besides these basics, you’ll want to plan how you will follow-up. This includes planning scheduled emails or call blocks as well as marketing efforts that your marketing team can do to help you keep the interest of those leads if you or your team know you will get more leads than you can handle.

 2. Hot (or not)?

While it may be tempting to categorize your leads as hot, medium, cool, you may be making assumptions without complete information. The worst thing that can happen when you classify your leads in this way is that you can forget to follow up with non-hot leads.

If you can confidently make the assessment that a lead is hot and you need to prioritize leads because you’re receiving more than you can give quality attention to, make sure you don’t ignore the medium or cool leads. Plan efforts that will keep non-hot leads interested while you work more aggressively towards completing the sales cycle on those you deemed ready to buy.

3. Be timely

Nancy Brooks
Nancy Brooks

When you’re following up after a trade show or event, it is important to do an initial reach-out with thanks to anyone you had a conversation with. Most lead collection systems allow you to add notes, so be sure to make a few after you scan someone’s badge so that your initial note to them can be personal. Once you return from the trade show, set your planned email program or call blocks up to try to set up a conversation within the first week or two after the show. Sometimes getting your foot in the door before any of your competitors do is the reason you’ll get a sale, so letting those leads sit on your desk a month or two might mean that they are no longer convertible.

“With trade show leads, it is imperative that you respond to the lead as soon as possible. To make the connection before the customer may lose interest or forget about your company and your products and services. Once you have connected to the company you can evaluate the level of interest and proceed with the next step. This can be setting up a second call or meeting, sending information by email or mail or setting up a follow up call in the near future when the company has the time to discuss their needs and goals and how your company, products and services can help them achieve to these goals,” said Nancy Brooks, integrated marketing consultant for Gift Shop Plus magazine.

If a prospect initiates a conversation via the web or phone, it’s imperative that you are able to reply within 1-2 business days at the very most with a personal acknowledgement. It’s ok to have a short boilerplate email that you use to reply, but be sure to add a few sentences that are relevant to them so you aren’t just guilty of giving a canned answer.

For processes where you don’t receive leads for a few weeks or months, just reach out as soon as you receive the leads to get the conversation going.

4.  Personalize it, be relevant and be brief

While mass emails seem like a great idea when you have large numbers of leads to follow up on, just keep in mind that they’ll perform best if they look like they’re crafted just for the recipient. Don’t send out a mass email unless you can add personalization.

What you should do instead: create emails that are partially unique, with some boilerplate, and add a couple sentences about your interaction or otherwise let them know you did a bit of research. Also, LinkedIn is a great resource. Do check their LinkedIn job description if you’re not sure what they do, rather than just assuming you understand their job by description alone. In initial reach-out, keep it brief so you can keep their attention.

5. Create a tracking system

Use CRM tools if you have them, but an excel or google sheets grid works well if your company has not invested in a CRM yet. The hardest part is keeping it updated when you’re busy, but those efforts will definitely pay off. You can also utilize automation tools that send out reminder emails to your clients if they don’t open or reply to your previous messages. 

6. Mix your media

Rather than just sticking to one type of email, try creating visually inviting emails — something your marketing team can take care of for you — and combine those with plain-text personal emails, phone calls, LinkedIn messages or contact via retargeting systems. If you have trouble keeping track of where you were in your conversation, utilize your tracking system to note statuses or the location of the last message you sent or received.

7. Be respectful

Andrea Schafer
Andrea Schafer

If someone opts out, be sure to note it and let other reps know so that they aren’t reaching out as well. The last thing you want is to annoy your prospects so that they do not want to work for you.

The bottom line

Leads won’t take care of themselves. Sure, you might have a few people you meet at trade shows reach out to book without any effort on your end. However, expect that you’ll need to do the work, and look forward to that follow-up. Leads are the lifeline of any sales rep, and following up is your bread & butter. “I think it is vital to follow up on leads because you’re ensuring a potential client who already showed an interest in your product

knows how and whom to contact for more information or to book an ad. A lead is someone taking an interest in your product, our job is to make it easy and ‘tempting’ to take the next step,” said Andrea Schafer, integrated marketing consultant for Spudman, Produce Processing, Organic Grower and Hemp Production News magazines.


About the author

Jess Schmidt brings a creative writing degree and over a decade of professional writing experience to the team. As a career marketer with a background in the design world, she works with clients to make their brand stories stand out. Her specialties are thought leadership, compelling descriptive language, technical details and marketing strategy. She writes content for all of the publications under the Great American Media Services umbrella and manages advertiser-driven projects. She’s also the in-house SEO and SEM guru. Learn more about our team here: smartsolutions.media/contact-us.

Pivot: more than just a buzzword

If one word could be used to summarize business during this pandemic, it’s “pivot.” It’s not the usual noun, meaning a pin that allows a turning motion. It’s not a noun describing a position in basketball or roller derby, either. It’s a verb, now. It’s an action that a person or business takes in order to change direction towards survivability and thrive-ability.

In 2020, the whole world pivoted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Retailers developed new systems for curbside pick-up and online ordering; schools switched to virtual learning, whether or not teachers knew how to teach that way; restaurants beefed up their delivery and pick-up options and sometimes retooled their entire menus; manufacturing figured out how to make physical distancing work better. Industries found a way to survive in a world that no longer included crowds of people visiting in-person.

For survival, these changes were necessary, even if they were difficult and scary, leading to uncertainty about whether or not they were worth the investment. For many companies, they were. These fundamental changes to how they do business are now defining businesses instead of helping them scrape by in uncertain times.

As you may be working through this evolution at your business, are you still able to reach all of your customers? Is there a piece to the puzzle that might be missing that could make a big difference in your bottom line?

As a media partner to our advertisers, we’re working hard to ensure that we know where our readers — your customers — are consuming the content they need for their businesses. 

This means we’ve pivoted, too. In the media industry, there used to be those who do print and those who do not. These days, it’s important to do both. To better support our advertisers and readers alike, we’ve added digital-only issues, expanded our interactive digital products like webinars and lead generation efforts and increased availability of market surveys and sponsored digital editorial pieces to build you up as a thought leader. We’ll still have the same print issues our readers rely on, but your marketing options have even more variety with these additions.

In our last blog post, we discussed the things that a marketing campaign needs to include. Part of that is ensuring that you are maximizing your budget in ways that allow you to capture your entire audience. For B2B businesses, this could mean that you need to advertise digitally outside of your own platforms and work with trade publications who are experts in your industry.

No matter what your marketing or lead goals are, we offer solutions to support you. Reach out to your integrated marketing consultant today to see how we can help you meet your customers where they are. If you’re not sure who your rep is, here’s where you can find out:

Coach & A.D.

Fruit Growers News

Gift Shop Plus Magazine

Greenhouse Product News

Hemp Production News

Lawn & Garden Retailer

National Nut Grower

Organic Grower

Produce Processing



Stationery Trends

Training & Conditioning

Vegetable Growers News

Winning Hoops


About the author

Jess Schmidt brings a creative writing degree and over a decade of professional writing experience to the team. As a career marketer with a background in the design world, she works with clients to make their brand stories stand out. Her specialties are thought leadership, compelling descriptive language, technical details and marketing strategy. She writes content for all of the publications under the Great American Media Services umbrella and manages advertiser-driven projects. She’s also the in-house SEO and SEM guru. Learn more about our team here: smartsolutions.media/contact-us.



Why marketing matters

The most successful marketing teams spend much more time planning than those who lose track of the goal mid-year. By creating a marketing plan, you can set yourself up for greater success in reaching your marketing and sales goals. Here are some of the top reasons you need to create a marketing plan every single year.

Save money

Most marketing teams who place ads piecemeal think they’re saving money. But by not knowing exactly what your budget is for the year and not calculating where you are, the end of the fiscal year might be much more painful than anticipated.

The bottom line is that piecemeal marketing will cost you much more than planning your year in advance. Planning ahead will help you stay on budget and know when last-minute initiatives can be added. Often, you can receive discounts for buying repeat advertisements in a publication or with an agency. This allows you to get more impressions and ultimately leads for the same amount of money you’d spend throughout the year.

Consistent scheduling

Planning before the year starts will help create consistency in all aspects of scheduling. It helps to ensure your team has as close to an even workflow through the year, better using your personnel and time resources. Make sure you have plenty of time to create your year’s plan; many teams spend several months preparing for the year. 

By maintaining consistent brand scheduling, you are not just helping out your team, but you are also going to ensure that your audience sees regular messaging, rather than a few flurries of activity during particularly busy times. They’ll remember you even if you aren’t running a special or going to an event because they still see your brand in the less-busy times.

Consistent messaging

Beyond planning timing, the messaging you want to use should also have the same level of consistency. When creating your marketing plan, consider any hashtags or themes you will use. Knowing these ahead of time will help reduce the number of late nights and amount of weekend work your team might need to do before big releases.

By knowing the messaging style of your marketing campaign ahead of time, you can ensure that all team members are creating content and ads that match in tone and design. We all know how big brands have used this consistency — through their logos and jingles — to even get that branding stuck in children’s minds.

While you may not aim for the level of brand awareness of McDonald’s or Target, you can still be front of mind with your target audience by being consistent and planning ahead. Consistency is key.

Setting goals and getting your ROI

If you’re not sure how to set goals or calculate the return on investment (ROI) for your initiatives, learning how to do so is an important piece to proving that you should retain — or even grow — your marketing budget year over year.

Your first year tracking might start from a set of cost estimates based on what you’d like the department to be able to do. Tracking your efforts throughout the sales funnel will help you calculate how much revenue — and ultimately profit — you gained through each initiative. Some efforts may have people costs, materials, lodging, per diem or other inclusions that aren’t hard marketing costs, and some companies prefer to lump that into overhead and others include it in the marketing budget.

Tracking can include using UTMs (tracking links used to monitor campaign progress and behavior related to clicking on the link itself) or landing pages, having specific questions on contact forms about how people found you, tracing trade show contacts through to the end of the sales funnel or just reaching back out after the fact to ask where the conversation started.

Proving that an initiative was more profitable than expected is a great reason to ask for a bigger budget for the same initiative in subsequent years. Without knowing if you are getting that return, it’s hard to prove that the department deserves the money in the next budget.

Be proactive, not reactive

The worst case scenario is being in a place where your marketing efforts are reactive. Planning ahead has benefits, but reactive marketing has steep costs in time and cash. For example, knowing that you want to advertise in a print publication before an industry event means that your team can be prepared to create that ad without feeling rushed or having to drop everything. It all goes back to the planning process; reactive marketers always feel stressed and spread too thin. You’ll keep your team happier and healthier by being predictable. 

About the author

Jess Schmidt brings a creative writing degree and over a decade of professional writing experience to the team. As a career marketer with a background in the design world, she works with clients to make their brand stories stand out. Her specialties are thought leadership, compelling descriptive language, technical details and marketing strategy. She writes content for all of the publications under the Great American Media Services umbrella and manages advertiser-driven projects. She’s also the in-house SEO and SEM guru. Learn more about our team here: smartsolutions.media/contact-us.

Great American Media Services Offering Online Social Media Training

Great American Media Services is pleased to announce it now is offering online social media training for businesses of all sizes.

Drawing on personal experience managing social media accounts for a variety of clients, members of the social media team at Great American Media Services will work directly with you to create a completely customized online learning seminar for your staff — based directly on their needs and current level of experience. Sessions can include:

  • Basic to advanced social media training on the major social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Google+)
  • Social media marketing planning (including monthly or yearly marketing calendars)

Kimberly Baker, director of media services, has spoken at numerous conferences, including the International Fruit Tree Association Conference; Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO; Party Club of America; and International Gift Exposition in the Smokies, among others.

“Kim is always knowledgable; she knows what she is doing,” said an attendee to Kimberly’s recent session at the Great Lakes EXPO.

Members of the Great American Media Services social media team have attended numerous training courses on social media and are up to date on the latest trends and research regarding how businesses can make the most out of social media marketing.

If you’re interested in learning more about online social media training for your team, please contact Kimberly at 616-887-9008, ext. 110, or email her.

2014 Media Kits Available

Great American Media Services is pleased to announce the availability of our 2014 media kits. Whether you’re looking for print or digital marketing solutions, GAMS has something to fit your market and your budget. Click the links below to access the 2014 media kits for our wide array of specialty publications, websites and events.




Nine Rules for Social Media Success

There are a lot of social media do’s and don’ts out there from various sources. But, to boil them all down, here are my top eight rules for social media success for your business:
  1. Don’t post just to post. Make sure what you’re sharing has some value to your fans. And, yes, it’s OK to ask them what they want to see from you on social media.
  2. Invite them, speak to them rather than sell to them. Marketing through social media is more about engagement and conversation than it is about a hard sell.
  3. Use your analytics. Facebook offers built-in analytics that allows you to see who your fans are and, more importantly, who your active fans are. There are a number of tools available to track your analytics across social media sites.
  4. Post often enough to intrigue and engage your customers — but not annoy them. Be respectful of their time and energy. Remember, yours isn’t the only business they’re following on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t clog up their dashboards and feeds with too much information with little value.
  5. Interact with your fans. Just putting information out isn’t enough. You have to be part of the conversation to be successful with social media.
  6. Don’t be afraid to experiment a little. Try different types of posts, different times of days, different days of the week. Posts photos, videos, surveys — the sky’s the limit!
  7. Be human. Show your customers that you’re a person and not just another store wanting their business. Remember: Social media is about being a little more personal than traditional marketing avenues. And it’s OK to be conversational.
  8. Keep it short and sweet. Use conversational language and say it simply in all social media conversations. Fans, followers and friends aren’t looking for 500-word essays from you. They’re looking for easy-to-use and access information.
  9. Have fun. Social media is a fun, interactive tool to have in your belt. It allows you to step outside of the standard marketing box and engage your customers in ways businesses haven’t been able to in the past. Customers — and potential customers — get to see the person behind the store. And it can certainly pay off.