Words of Wisdom from Gretchen

Gretchen's wise words

Gretchen had two answers for this question, but for her, they go hand in hand.

The first bit of wisdom she lives by is, “bad deals only get worse”. Meaning, if something is looking bad or going South, jump ship quickly. In a business context, this pertains to walking away from a business opportunity or a deal because you know it’s only going to be a detriment to you and your organization.

The second piece of  wisdom Gretchen tries to live by is, “Don’t do anything just for the money”. This one is true for her in all facets of life because she believes that money is not the root to fulfillment and happiness. This wisdom ties in with the “bad deals only get worse” because if a person commits to a bad deal or unfavorable job solely for the money, that person may have regret or dissatisfaction as a result. These two wise quotes that Gretchen lives by not only guide her personal life, they also transcend into the culture we uphold at A-Train.

Ryan’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Ryan’s answer might not be the expected!

Most people dream about their glorified fifteen minutes of fame. A lot of us want to be recognized for doing a good deed or to just be recognized. But there are those out there who do not seek stardom or to have any minutes of fame. Ryan’s answer falls on the humble side of not seeking it out.

“I’ve been on the cover of the Coloradoan business section a couple times if that counts as “fifteen minutes of fame.” I’m honestly not interested in being famous; I prefer to fly below the radar. I’d be happy if A-Train did a campaign for a client that caught fire and helped propel our client to stardom, and I could count this behind-the-scenes success as my fifteen minutes of fame.”

Let’s Be Friends: Snapchat Installment #1

A-Train Snapchat

 

Snapchat began in 2011 as an app for silly, quick interactions via disappearing photo messages.

In just five years, it has revolutionized social media interactions. Instagram is even following Snapchat’s lead now with the introduction of Instagram Stories. Snapchat is constantly changing the landscape of social media marketing with innovative marketing tools like geo-filters, stories, and sponsored lenses (you might recognize these as the things that make it look like you’re shooting rainbows from your mouth). In addition to creating new ways to advertise, the app allows brands to relate with their followers in a more casual, fun manner than other social platforms. Snapchat is a must for any company looking to enhance its brand and increase loyalty amongst its consumer base. This blog series will guide you through each step of developing a successful Snapchat presence for your business. To start the series off, we’ll go over the initial creation of your profile and how to build a solid base of Snapchat friends.

If you’ve never used Snapchat, it would be wise to experiment with a personal Snapchat account for a few days before creating an account for your brand. When creating your brand’s Snapchat account, you should use the name of your brand or a recognizable variation of it. You should also personalize your snapcode with either a brand logo or a series of photos that are relevant and recognizable to your brand. The snapcode acts as a QR code for your account, allowing other Snapchat users to add you simply by focusing their Snapchat camera on it.

What’s your snapcode?

Adding friends on Snapchat as a company is going to be a little different than adding friends on a personal account. The most commonly used method of adding friends is to add people from your phone’s address book. This method isn’t very helpful unless you want to add Grandma and Uncle Jim to your company’s Snapchat friends. The best way to add friends as a company is to use your existing social media profiles to cross-promote and to add other users who are doing the same. The snapcode you made for your Snapchat profile can be posted as an image on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Your friends and followers can then scan your it to add you as a friend. Additionally, if your customers are often in your business (i.e. a restaurant or retail store) you can create posters, table cards, and other stationary materials with your snapcode on it. You can also share your physical username, but this will most likely be less effective than posting your snapcode.

Cross-promoting your account is obviously an effective way of converting your brand’s followers to Snapchat friends. But, you’ll need to seek out new users to keep your friend-base growing. Once again, you’ll want to use your other social platforms to find new friends. You can start by visiting Facebook and Twitter, and searching for different phrases like “follow me on Snapchat” and “Snapchat add me.” These searches will allow you to find users who are sharing their usernames, which you can then use to request them as a friend. Remember, your profile does represent your brand, so use your best judgment in deciding who to add.

Additional tools

There are a few additional tools that can be used to add more friends on Snapchat. One of those tools is a feature within Snapchat called “add nearby.” This is useful at networking events or any social situation where you will be around other people who you think would like to connect with you on Snapchat. To do this, everyone who wants to become friends on Snapchat needs to open “add nearby,” which is found under the “add friends” page of your account. Then, everyone using this feature will be able to add one another from the list of nearby users that was just generated.

One last way to add friends quickly is through the use of Snapchat discovery apps; the most notable of these apps is called “GhostCodes.” GhostCodes is essentially a Snapchat directory that categorizes users based upon their niche or what their brand identity is. Then, users can select one of many categories and that category will generate a list of the most liked and engaged GhostCode profiles. You can add any of these GhostCode users by taking a screenshot of their snapcodes and then adding their code inside of the Snapchat app. This application takes a little learning. But, when you’ve got it down and you’re regularly utilizing it, it can drive a large number of Snapchat users to your account.

Snapchat is still an unfamiliar territory for many. It can seem scary because it’s relatively new and has a different functionality than most other social media apps. But everything is new and unfamiliar before it becomes mainstream and universally understood. Stay tuned over the next few weeks! We’ll be posting a series of blogs that to teach businesses how to use Snapchat as dynamic marketing and branding tool. Take this opportunity to make your brand an early adopter of Snapchat and get ahead of the curve!

 

A-Train Grows with New Hires

New Hires

A-TRAIN has been very fortunate this year to welcome three new full-time employees and one intern to our ranks. Each new team member has brought value to the company and is helping make A-Train grow as a business. Get to know each of them in this article!

SJ Meyer

At the end of January, we welcomed SJ Meyer as our office manager. SJ wears many hats and balances a wide range of responsibilities. On top of all of her administrative duties, she has a hand in A-Train’s social media and internal marketing. Seeing how invested everyone is in their work has been a major motivator for her own growth and achievement. SJ says, “I love working with such a creative group of people. To be surrounded by people who push you to think outside the box is an exhilarating feeling.”

“A-Train is lucky to have an employee who is so dedicated and driven to the success of the agency,” said Gretchen. “In only 6 months, SJ’s creativity and willingness to jump in and help wherever she’s needed has made her an indispensable, prized member of the A-Train Marketing team, and we look forward to seeing what she does next.”

Austin Underwood

A few months later in June, we started A-Train’s internship program to help students learn about each department in a marketing agency. Wade and SJ designed the program and brought in Austin Underwood. Austin’s connection to the company goes deeper than the internship program though – he knows Gretchen from his time as a member of the Boys and Girls Club of Larimer County (BGCLC).

Shortly after Austin began his internship, he was sorting through some of A-Train’s old marketing samples and found a Boys and Girls Club brochure from 2011. And on the front of the brochure was a photo of him, as young Boys and Girls Club member. “I really feel like A-Train is a great fit for me, and finding myself in the old samples is poetic – it helps really confirm that this is where I should be because it’s a great opportunity to continue learning and plot my career path,” said Austin. Austin is going into his final year at Colorado State University where he is working toward a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a concentration in marketing.

Hannah Hibbs

Following Austin, we brought on Hannah Hibbs, a graphic designer. She had patiently been waiting for a year to get an opportunity that would allow her to jump onboard the A-Train. It’s rare to find a candidate who is so invested in the agency and that has an immediate passion for elevating the quality of work being created. Charlie has high praise for Hannah, saying, “I knew right away that Hannah was going to be a great fit at A-Train. She is out-going and was clearly a team player from day one. Her background and expertise are a great addition to our company.”

“I am excited to expand my knowledge and experience in the graphic design field and to apply my own creative ideas to help expand A-Train,” says Hannah.

Kerry Wicks

Most recently, we added Kerry Wicks to the team as an account manager and copywriter. The human impact of writing is what drives Kerry, and she seeks that same positive human impact in the workplace through team camaraderie and a progressive workplace culture. She had the following to say about working at A-Train, “The A-Train team is comprised of amazingly talented individuals. The company really has a grasp on effective marketing and helping companies tell their stories well”. Kerry is bringing an impressive set of tangible skills to A-Train. In addition to her tangible skillset, she hopes to bring a new perspective, a desire to learn, and her creative spirit.

We are excited to see so much growth at A-Train Marketing with all our recent hires. It’s a fast pace industry filled with creative minds. If you ever stop by the office, be sure to introduce yourself to the new team members.

Meet Kerry, A-Train’s Newest Team Member

Kerry WicksA-Train Marketing Communications, Inc. recently added another team member to its ranks. With a growing workload and a recent staff departure, A-Train was in need of another full-time employee to help manage accounts and create exceptional content. The search was short and easy. Kerry Wicks had already been writing copy and creating content for A-Train on a part-time basis, and her work had impressed the whole team.

Kerry is originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She moved to Fort Collins in the early 90’s to attend school at CSU. She graduated from CSU with a BA in English and a Master of Science in Student Affairs and Higher Education. Her writing skills have not gone unnoticed since arriving at A-Train, she has already written A-Train blogs and copy for multiple clients. So it should come as no surprise that one of her favorite hobbies is writing – or as she calls it – “word chasing and capturing”.

Along with being a fantastic writer, Kerry has also always had a set of keen marketing and sales skills. These skills date back to when she was eight years old and went door-to-door selling the Brushette II toothbrush system. She also applied those skills while working at the Junior League of Fort Collins where she served as the VP of Communication, Marketing Chair, and President. Now working at A-Train, she aims to use her writing and communication skills to thrive as a copywriter and account manager. The human impact of writing is what drives Kerry, and she seeks that same positive human impact in the workplace through team camaraderie and a progressive workplace culture. “The A-Train team is comprised of amazingly talented individuals. The company really has a grasp on effective marketing and helping companies tell their stories well,” says Kerry. In addition to her impressive set of tangible skills, she hopes to bring a new perspective, a desire to learn, and her creative spirit to the A-Train team.

Kerry’s life mantra is: “Happiness is not a destination,” meaning you can’t chase happiness, YOU have to create it. Something that makes Kerry happy is going on adventures with her kids and having a blast with the two of them. She also has a propensity to collect leaf dishes and cutting boards… just because she can. She enjoys being around the people she loves and doing whatever the heart desires – whether it’s dancing, sitting on the patio, or getting sushi. It’s not hard to see why the team at A-Train has already grown quite fond of Kerry as a co-worker and a friend.

Demystifying the Marketing Funnel

Marketing Funnel

Click to see full size

Customer acquisition is a courtship. Brands are constantly challenged with attracting customers, converting them into qualified leads, and then executing sales. In the age of social media and online reviews, the relationship does not grind to a halt after the deal is final. Follow-up emails and relationship marketing tactics are opportunities to create brand evangelists.

Typically, most companies already have the tools to streamline their marketing funnel. The major shift is bringing that marketing funnel online. In the digital world, everything is trackable and measurable, allowing you to make more informed marketing actions.

Show, Don’t Tell

The widest part of the marketing funnel is brand-awareness, where you draw in people who haven’t heard of your brand. Marketing tools to increase awareness are based on education and information, the product, the service, and who you are. SEO strategy, blogs, and posts are where you put your brand’s best foot forward.

Find and engage

Once your top-level digital marketing efforts drive your target audience to your site, there’s a certain self-selection process that begins. Visitors coming to your site will drop off for a number of reasons – price point, not what they need – this is your bounce rate. An acceptable bounce rate will vary based on your industry and the volume of marketing and advertising you’re doing, but it’s important to keep track for your reference.

The next step is to engage your target audience using calls-to-action and lead capture forms, where you start to obtain information about them, their needs, and any actions you want them to take. You may want them to click the ‘make an appointment’ button, or submit their email to get an introductory packet.

It’s important to keep in mind where your customers are in their buying process as you produce content for social media, your blog, and your website.

Closing the Gap

You might find that new leads need a fair amount of nurturing before they convert into clients. In an industry as personal as mental health, this isn’t uncommon. This is where you maintain your circles of influence, and serve up information based on how your leads have interacted with your brand. As your leads move deeper into the funnel with more interest, take additional steps like reaching out with a phone call or offering a tour of your facility. There can be a dialogue to close the gap – you can ask your client what questions they have, and what other information they need to make their decision.

Once you’ve closed the lead, the real work begins. This can be as simple as a follow-up call to the client. If you receive any negative feedback, view it as constructive. Identify pain points in your marketing funnel and make it smoother for your next round of incoming customers. These carefully cultivated relationships are a huge asset – customers provide data for you to improve current and future customer experiences. Acknowledging feedback also shows you listen, and that positive feeling creates brand evangelists that share their positive experience and encourages others to go check you out.

Whitespace is the New Orange

WhitespaceDish soap. Lipstick. Car. We’re inundated with beautiful, intriguing and thought-provoking print ads daily, about 300-700 a day to be more precise.

But, what about a print ad makes it a standout?

Color?  Space?  The hottest Pantone trends of the year? Actually, there IS a science behind it.  Not to get all ‘Gestalt’ with you, but people really do visually digest color and space in beautifully different and impactful ways.

Have you ever been walking along, and suddenly a scent ‘hits’ you?  In seconds, you’re transported to childhood carnival days of fried funnel cake deliciousness.  Suddenly, you have cotton candy and long summer days on your mind…and that one time your brother lost his hat on the roller coaster. Those were the days…

Color is kind of like that. It moves us.  We see it, and we feel it.

Whitespace—what is that all about?

We refer to it as “white” space but it doesn’t even have to be white! It can, in fact, be any other solid color, gradient or pattern. Being that whitespace represents a gap between the positive elements of the page, it’s also called negative space.

What? Whitespace isn’t actually always white?  Mind blown.  But wait, though it may be termed ‘negative space’, it’s actually a positive.  Our brains crave a place to go on the page…a place to wander and rest.  A place to chill and explore. An ad that’s too busy leads to a convoluted, busy brain. Unless you’re intent on finding Waldo on a very cluttered page, ‘whitespace’ provides a much needed visual break.  It’s equally important as graphics and, its buddy, positive space.

So, there’s no need to get all negative about white space. It has many benefits and is a necessary component of design.

Why we should invite whitespace to our design party:

  • Our human eyes much prefer to look at things that are not crowded and busy to us.
  • The use of whitespace carves the path to a clearer communication of ideas and effective graphic designs.
  • It allows room for imagination and creativity—If you have ever stared long and hard at a blank canvas and envisioned a world of possibilities prior to picking up a paintbrush, you can relate.
  • Whitespace attracts the eyes. Google is besties with whitespace.  Consider their landing page: the simplistic design with all that space, and the enticing search bar… the world feels as though it is at your fingertips.  And it is.

White spaceRemember these few tips when designing for people, and your marketing will go to further places because of those white spaces.

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Introducing A-Train’s Newest Designer: Hannah Hibbs

IMG_7282In early July, A-Train Marketing Communications welcomed Hannah Hibbs as the company’s newest graphic designer. In the few short weeks that she’s been with the company, Hannah has proven herself as a well-rounded, talented member of an already elite team.

Hannah moved to Fort Collins from Eagle, Colo. in 2011 to study graphic design at Colorado State University. In the time it took her to earn her degree, she gained years of experience in the field. Over the past three years, she has worked as a designer at Resolution Graphics, a design company in Eagle. Additionally, she’s been actively doing freelance work for companies from Vail to Fort Collins. Notably, she designed work for downtown events held by the Downtown Fort Collins Business Association.

Both Hannah and A-Train are ecstatic about the recent hiring. A-Train is thrilled to have a designer on the team who not only has high-level design skills, but also has the drive to grow as a professional.

“I am excited to expand my knowledge and experience in the graphic design field and to apply my own creative ideas to help expand A-Train,” says Hannah.

Admittedly, she had patiently been waiting for a year to get an opportunity that would allow her to jump on-board the A-Train. It’s rare to find a candidate who is so invested in the agency and that has an immediate passion to elevate the quality of work being created. Charlie Mueller, A-Train’s Lead Designer had high praise for Hannah. “I knew right away that Hannah was going to be a great fit at A-Train. She is out-going and was clearly a team player from day one. Her background and expertise are a great addition to our company.”

When she’s not at A-Train, you may find Hannah at Dungeons and Drafts playing a new game or hiking around the foothills. She also has a strong love for the fine arts – she took piano lessons for over 10 years and has always been passionate about painting and drawing.

Much like learning new skills and art forms, Hannah has quickly learned to thrive in the office. She attributes much of her smooth transition at the agency to the helpfulness and understanding of her co-workers. With each passing day, Hannah has become further acclimated with the way A-Train functions and we are so excited to watch her flourish in her new role.