Why SEO is Critical to Your Marketing Success

Fort Collins SEOThe age-old question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” has relevance for your website as well. Rephrased for the digital age, the question might be, “If your website is on the internet and nobody knows it’s there, does it help your marketing?” The answer, of course, is an unequivocal “No.”

In fact, with the vast majority of web searchers never going past the first page or two of results, your website really isn’t helping you much if it’s ranked anywhere after that. This is why the concept of search engine optimization (SEO) is so important. As a leading Fort Collins SEO and full-service marketing agency, we tell our clients that by earning a higher ranking, you are effectively earning more business.

Does SEO Still Matter?

The internet and the tools used to organize and navigate it change constantly. Because the concept of SEO has been around as long as there have been search engines, people tend to wonder if it is still relevant. It absolutely is, and here are some of the reasons why:

It still works.

Google and the other search engines continually change the algorithms for ranking websites nearly every day. And while that means more work for you in trying to understand and adapt to what’s changed, it’s work that pays off with a higher position and more site visitors.

Your competitors are investing in it.

You may be tempted to throw up your hands and surrender when new ranking factors are discovered. It’s a common reaction! But if you do, your competitors who are willing to keep working at SEO will leave you behind.

It’s cost-effective.

Compared to the cost of other digital marketing like pay-per-click (PPC) ads, SEO is cheap. It costs you the time and effort you put into creating compelling content for your website, optimizing it for mobile, etc., but it’s money well spent.

It translates to a better user experience.

The steps you take to make your website appealing to the search engines also make it interesting and intuitive to your customers and prospects. So working on SEO produces twice the payoff. You get more eyes on your site and you keep people there longer when they visit. What’s more, your efforts are likely to increase conversions as well.

Helping Organizations Get Noticed

SEO is one of the oldest tricks in the digital marketing book. But it’s still one of the most effective. At A-Train, we’ve got expertise and experience in SEO strategy. Backing up that claim is our Google Partner status, a number of digital certifications, and a long list of satisfied clients who have entrusted us with the task of ensuring their website gets noticed. To learn more about what our Fort Collins SEO experts can do for you, contact us today!

The Top 5 Ways to Turn your Business Anniversary Into a Marketing Dream Come True

Anniversary

Celebrating your business anniversary is like celebrating your wedding anniversary—there’s a lot to gain by going big, while ignoring it could cost you. Dearly.

As A-Train celebrates 20 years in business, we realize now more than ever that reaching milestone anniversaries is like Christmas morning for your marketing department: It creates unique media opportunities and provides your company or organization with a positive theme for posts and collateral you can use all year long.

You don’t need to make a big deal about every month you’re in business—this isn’t a high school relationship. But notable milestones—1, 5, 10 years, etc. provide an excellent opportunity for publicity you won’t want to miss out on. We’ve collected our top marketing recommendations for getting the highest possible value out of your anniversary, and you can trust it’s fresh and effective— as you might have noticed, we practice what we preach.

Create an anniversary logo and use it on everything.

Consider adapting your existing logo to reference the anniversary. You can do this by incorporating text like “Celebrating 20 years of Service Excellence” or “Serving Northern Colorado for 10 Years” around the edge or below your tagline. This becomes a piece of collateral that keeps on giving—you can use the commemorative logo in your email signature, on your website, letterhead and invoices or on swag like stickers to give out at the office or in mailers.

 Host an event.

This is your big night to celebrate the occasion with your best clients, vendor partners, referral sources and employees and their families. Your company is the guest of honor, but really, it’s a way to honor all those who’ve helped get you where you are today. Typically, we recommend three months of planning to select a venue, entertainment, caterers, invitations, etc. As always, A-Train is here to help make your event a success—call us today to find out how.

Interest the media.

It’s time to think beyond the boilerplate anniversary press release that may at best get you a bullet point in the local paper. Make your anniversary truly newsworthy by tying it to the community and/or an opportunity to give back. Consider choosing a local charity to which you will donate a set amount or percentage of every sale for the year. Lead with a line that ties your story to the story of your community—i.e. “Celebrating 10 years on historic Linden Street” or “Fort Collins’ first commercial Realtor celebrates 20 years in business.”

Get the word out. Creatively.

Social media provides endless opportunities to engage with clients and fans to let them know what and why you’re celebrating. Consider an interactive campaign, like trivia with questions from the year you were established, or something more visual, like a word map of your values. Make your next monthly newsletter or mailer something informative and anniversary-themed, like “The Top 5 Values That Have Led Our Company Into 10 Years of Success” or “5 Reasons Why We’ve Loved Serving Northern Colorado For 5 Years.” If you invest in regular advertising or radio underwriting, highlight your anniversary in your next campaign. Consider making the message a “thank you” to the community for the years of support, and assure them you’ll be there to serve for many more years to come.

Honor your history.

Take advantage of Throwback Thursday (#TBT) to post old photos, videos, ads, etc. from your company’s past. These can capture your longevity, demonstrate your growth and instill a sense of loyalty in your clients (think throwback Coke ads), while leveraging the already popular social media theme and hashtag. Now is the time to dig through the photo archives for images of fresh-faced founders, your first office or facility, an old iteration of your product, screenshots from your first website, your CEO’s 90s haircut—the opportunities are endless.

However, you decide to celebrate your anniversary, A-Train can help. Contact us today and we’ll work with you to design and execute the right marketing activities for getting the most out of your milestone.

What is a Creative Brief and Why is It Important?

Image of blueprint to represent creative briefA creative brief (CB) documents key information about a marketing project or campaign. The creative team collaborates with the client to produce a CB. Each of the marketing agencies Denver businesses work with has its own opinion on what should be included in a CB. However, some of the more common elements include:

  • An overview of the client company and its product and/or service
  • Information on the client’s target market and ideal customer
  • An assessment of competing products and/or services
  • The goal of the project or campaign
  • A plan for achieving the goal
  • Success metrics
  • Client design standards
  • Client messaging standards
  • Project timeline

Which items are included in the CB and what emphasis is placed on them will vary from project to project.

The Creative Brief: a Foundation for Success

You would never ask a contractor to build you a house without providing them a plan. Similarly, you should never expect a marketing agency to dive into a project for you without providing them the information they request for developing a brief. So, the CB is the blueprint for the work to come.

Consequently, the time and effort required to create a clear and concise CB pays off in many ways, including that it:

Ensures everyone is (literally) on the same page

When groups agree to details verbally in meetings, those details can become a bit fuzzy as time passes. So, the creative team uses the CB to document what was said in order to help everyone stay focused on the same goals.

Sheds light on missing information

It’s easy to assume you have all your ducks in a row and are ready to dive into a project. However, when you put those “ducks” down on paper, it can reveal that additional information is needed before you can get started.

Brings visuals and verbiage into alignment

Often different individuals or teams are responsible for how deliverables will look and what written copy they will contain. So, the CB helps people understand how the two components will work together to produce a cohesive message.

Provides inspiration

A well-written CB creates a sense of excitement and enthusiasm for the project. It paints a picture of goals that may be aggressive but are definitely attainable, and rallies the troops to take on the challenge.

Serves as a completion checklist

Creative team members and the client keep the CB close at hand as the project gets started. But, they look at it less frequently as they become familiar with their tasks. However, project participants should pull the CB out again as the project nears completion. At that point, they can use it to confirm that all the goals have been achieved.

Remains as a template for future work

Even after a project is complete, the CB has value. For example, the creative team can use it to provide insight on how to tackle future projects for this client, or even for other clients. Therefore, adding a “Project Wrap-Up” section to the document can be very helpful.

Using Creative Briefs to Drive Outstanding Results

A-Train marketing is one of the marketing agencies Denver businesses trust to efficiently take projects from conception to completion. So, we use detailed creative briefs to provide clarity for everyone involved. To learn more about our branding, messaging, marketing strategy, public relations and advertising offerings, contact us today!

Denver Marketing Firm Explains How to Craft Your Social Media Policy

People adhering to a social media policyLooking for a way to establish a strong, genuine connection with your target market? If so, you can’t beat social media. Consumers today want to do business with authentic, approachable organizations. Social media allows you to invite your audience “behind the curtain” to see what your organization is really like. That openness builds trust, and trust can help you turn curious prospects into loyal customers. However, at our Denver marketing firm, we remind clients that social media platforms also have the potential for misuse. That’s why we stress that if you implement a social media strategy, you must also implement a social media use policy.

The Right Amount of Oversight

Part of what makes social media content so effective is that it is fresh and spontaneous. So, it’s important that your social media policy provides framework without being too restrictive. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Address the obvious. You would hope that people on your staff would know not to post anything even remotely offensive, indecent, or inflammatory on your accounts, but it’s important that you spell that out in your policy nevertheless.
  • Cover company and personal aspects. The primary focus of your policy is the use of company accounts. However, you should express your expectations about how/if staff members are to mention the organization on their personal accounts. They are, of course, free to say anything they like through their own accounts, but they should understand the potential ramifications.
  • Be careful about how you mention the “property” of other companies. Your marketing team may want to post about others in your industry (partners, competitors, etc.), and in many instances that’s just fine. However, your staff should steer clear of any mention that might involve intellectual property or copyright issues.
  • Take external regulations into account. In many industries, there are rules on what kinds of information can be made public. For example, at our Denver marketing firm we work with mental health clients. In that industry, there are strict privacy rules to protect patients. So, be sure that your policy makes these kinds of situations very clear.
  • Talk with your lawyer. Ideally, you should have your completed policy reviewed by an attorney who is familiar with the law around corporate communication.
  • Educate your staff and get sign-off. You should explain your social media policy to everyone on your staff, even those who may never have access to your accounts. After giving them a chance to review the policy, you should get a signed form from them saying they understand it.
  • Review the policy regularly. The social media landscape is constantly shifting. Consequently, it’s critical that you review your policy at least annually to ensure it is still accurate.

Leveraging Social Media Wisely

At our full-service Denver marketing firm, we understand the awesome power — and associated responsibility — of social media. If you have questions about how to use social effectively, contact us today!

Don’t Miss This! Denver Marketing Agency Shares the Importance of Urgency

People moving with a sense of urgencyWhen you use a sense of urgency in your marketing and sales materials, it can push your future and current customers to jump to action. But, as we tell the clients of our Denver marketing agency, if you use it too much, you’ll come off as the company that cried wolf.

How to Create a Sense of Urgency

Want to get your prospects to stop dragging their feet and take action? Here are some great ways to do it:

Tell them they’ll miss out. Retailers like Amazon use this tactic often. If the number of items available for purchase is dwindling, they’ll let you know and say, “Only four remaining. Order now!” The person who was on the fence about making the purchase today but sees that message is going to be much more likely to grab one of those items before they lose the opportunity.

Put customers against the clock. Sales pricing can be effective on its own. But as we tell clients at our agency, pair it with a clock that is ticking down the seconds until that great price runs out and you can give customers that extra push to purchase. Even though we all know there will probably be another sale next month (or even next week), seeing the price slip away today is a powerful jolt.

Don’t let them lose the opportunity. You know the emails that companies send out to you when you’ve left items in your cart, but haven’t checked out, urging you to come back? That fear of losing your offers or items motivates you to go back and finish the purchase. You’ll almost surely see a surge in interest and purchase activity if you employ this with your own services or products.

Create a friendly competition. Everybody loves winning. Contests and games that pit prospects against one another encourage the desire to “beat” the competition. This feeling can be easily focused on product research and purchase-related behavior.

Helping You Hurry Your Prospects Along!

Urgency is proven to get prospects moving. So, don’t wait! You may not be using these tactics yet, but your competitors surely are! (Sorry, we couldn’t resist.) Whether your goal is increasing brand awareness or closing more sales, A-Train Marketing is a full-service Denver marketing agency that can help you achieve it. Contact us today!

The Fluffy and Furious: Meet the National Fluffball League’s Top Team

This weekend, Americans will gather around the television to watch one of the country’s most beloved events… the Puppy Bowl. If you’ve never seen Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl, we’ll quickly explain it. Two teams of heart-melting puppies face off on a miniature football field, and by face off we mean they run around, wrestle each other and tug on the toys scattered about. Though much less structured than the Super Bowl, it’s a sight to see.

At A-Train, we got to discussing the Puppy Bowl and then something occurred to us: if we were to round up all our dogs (and a few of our friends’ dogs) we could make a pretty stellar team of doggos. We evaluated our dogs’ strengths and weaknesses, and for extra giggles we imagined them as a literal football team. We are expecting to get a call from the Air Bud franchise any day now.

Although we don’t have our own Puppy Bowl to share with you, we do have a roster breakdown, so you can check out our star-studded squad. Let us know which of our pups is your favorite!

And for anybody who wants to make the Puppy Bowl in Fort Collins a reality, contact us and let’s make it happen.

 

A-Train's squad of dogs

Fort Collins Places Second in National Energy Prize with A-Train Developed Lose-a-Watt Brand

Lose-A-Watt - A-Train Marketing

When the city of Fort Collins announced the brave goal of doubling their energy savings in 2015 and 2016, they knew it would take an innovative approach from all ends. Their efforts paid off with a second-place finish out of 50 communities competing for the prestigious Georgetown University Energy Prize.

To secure the grand prize of $5 million, the city of Fort Collins and FortZED turned to A-Train Marketing to design a creative branding and outreach campaign that would engage citizens through education and friendly competition over a 2-year data collection period.

As a company that is passionate about making a positive impact on our community and our planet, A-Train developed the Lose-a-Watt Energy Prize brand, along with supporting graphics, website and a wide-scale, low-cost digital and traditional advertising campaign to push out these tools.

Through comprehensive monthly reports, it was obvious the campaign was taking hold in Fort Collins, reaching more than 4.7 million people. Nearly half of respondents in a survey of Fort Collins Utilities customers recalled the Lose-a-Watt marketing and found it creative and memorable.

In the first round of the competition, measured solely by energy saved, Fort Collins came in fifth after residents reduced overall energy use by 5.4 percent – enough to power 9,800 homes for one year. The city saved more than 160 billion BTUs of energy and reduced carbon emissions by 34,436 metric tons.

However, it was how well the designed and implemented practices ranked for innovation and ease of replication that pushed the city to its ultimate second-place finish.

The city’s approach to the competition showed that it’s not only great goals, but creative marketing and innovative messaging that create community awareness and impactful action when it matters.

A-Train Marketing Expands Administration Staff

A-Train Marketing - Sarah HirstwoodContinuing its 2017 dedication to staff expansion, A-Train Marketing Communications welcomed Sarah Hirstwood as the company’s office administrator Nov. 27 in their Fort Collins office.

Hirstwood joins the company with more than a decade of administrative experience, including positions both in the U.S. and abroad in the United Kingdom. Most recently, she worked as purchasing agent for Fort Collins-based Express Employment Professionals.

“I believe that my experience working in a variety of organizations in Australia and the UK will bring fresh insight to the administrative systems and processes within A-Train,” Hirstwood said. “The A-Train environment sounded exciting and different to any other I have worked in before.”

Originally from Richmond, New South Wales, Australia, she has attended college and university in both Australia and the UK. Her collegiate education included business administration, information technology and professional management.

“Sarah brings a new perspective to the admin staff at A-Train, giving us valuable insight into new processes and improvements within the company,” said Matt Sattler, director of operations for A-Train. “We’re excited to see her grow in her role and build upon A-Train’s quality reputation in the community.”

When she’s not at A-Train, Hirstwood enjoys hanging out with her family and friends while exploring Fort Collins. She enjoys being active and plans on taking part in the 5K Polar Plunge in 2018. She regularly participates in Pints and Purls, a craft group started by A-Train Account Manager Cathy Jones.

5 Tips for Better Case Studies from a Leading Denver Marketing Company

Leading Denver Marketing Company gives advice on case study publication

Case studies have long been a key component of marketing strategy, and in particular, content marketing strategy. However, while telling a customer’s story and why they selected your product or service may provide important and impactful information, readers faced with a steady stream of case studies are likely to ignore yours if it doesn’t stand out in some way. So, as a leading Denver marketing company, we encourage our clients to rethink the way they approach case studies.

How to Set Your Case Studies Apart

If you’re looking to breathe new life into your case studies, try one or more of these approaches:

Rename them. For some people, the term “case study” has become synonymous with “dry” or “boring,” even if the information the study contains is exciting and engaging. But, if they don’t open it, they’ll never know. What if you started calling them New User Narratives or Customer Stories or Client Chronicles? Odds are your open and engagement rates would increase.

Add some drama. Which of these two opening sentences would grab your attention: 1) XYZ Corporation was struggling to keep up with incoming correspondence from clients. In order to address this issue, they needed to implement an enterprise content management system. Or, 2) Sara could almost hear the clock on the wall ticking as she frantically raced to log the latest client communications. Dropping her head to her desk in exasperation, she came to the realization that she needed help. If her company didn’t start taking advantage of process automation, she’d be burned out in a month.

Put the emphasis on visuals. As any Denver marketing company will tell you (and as your own personal experience tells you), people prefer to learn new information through visuals like charts, graphs and images. Yet, we continue to think of case studies as marketing content that can, and should be, text-heavy. Instead, try creating a case study in two formats and see which one creates more engagement.

Use more engaging headings. Case studies are often broken into sections like client, challenge, solution, and results. If you want to keep a prospect reading, try something new like:

  • Meet [Company Name]
  • Buried in Paperwork
  • Automation to the Rescue
  • Cruise Control

Write studies that are more raw and real. Case studies tend to paint the most positive picture possible of a customer’s purchase and implementation of a product. But we all know that that kind of process rarely goes completely smoothly, and it makes us a little skeptical when we hear one portrayed that way. Tell the story “warts and all,” so to speak. If there were struggles, acknowledge them. Also, if you read the quotes in case studies, they are often very sanitized. Try being more true to what the customer really said, even if it’s not perfect prose.

Making the Case for More Engaging Studies

If you want to create case studies that people will read, it’s important to work with a full-service Denver marketing company like A-Train Marketing that can not only help you create the piece, but also integrate it effectively into your content marketing strategy. Get in touch and let’s talk about your needs.

It’s Time to Share in the Spirit of Colorado Gives Day

 

giving

It’s been said that need knows no season, which is certainly true. However, a donation to a charitable organization around the holidays can have an especially powerful impact on the people within your community. At A-Train, one of our company values is to do all we can to have a positive impact on clients, colleagues, and community, which is why so many of our clients are nonprofit organizations. It’s also why we are advocates for the entities and individuals that support them.

A program of Community First Foundation, ColoradoGives is a way for Colorado nonprofit organizations to share information about their missions, connect with the community and increase donations year-round. For over a decade, the program has provided nonprofits with an online giving platform that encourages supporters to make donations quickly, easily and securely. More than 2,300 organizations are currently listed on the site, and Community First Foundation researches each to ensure adherence to their high standards.

Since 2007, more than $200 million has been raised for Colorado nonprofits through ColoradoGives.org. Many of our clients can continue the vital work they do thanks to donations they receive.

Gifts Go Further on Colorado Gives Day

Colorado Gives Day is an initiative of Community First Foundation and FirstBank that seeks to support the important work of Colorado nonprofits by making charitable gifts go even further. The single day of fundraising has raised more than $145 million since it began in 2010.

This year, Colorado Gives Day is Tuesday, Dec. 5. On that day, every organization that accepts a donation will also receive a portion of a $1 million Incentive Fund. Donors don’t have to take any additional steps to expand the impact of their generous gifts.

If you’ll be donating to a nonprofit organization this holiday season, we encourage you to consider doing so through ColoradoGives.org and to give your gift on Colorado Gives Day, Tuesday, Dec. 5. We also encourage you to learn more about our nonprofit clients that are Colorado Gives Day participants and the amazing work they do:

Aurora Mental Health Center

Community Reach Center

North Range Behavioral Health

Loveland Housing Authority/Green House Homes

Nightlight Christian Adoptions

Audubon Rockies

Crossroads Safehouse

McKee Medical Center Foundation

Early Childhood Council

OpenStage Theatre & Company

Ensight Skills Center

Fort Collins Museum of Discovery

Centennial Mental Health Center 

KUNC/Colorado Sound

It’s easy to donate through ColoradoGives.org, and every gift, no matter how large or small can make a big impact.

“At A-Train, we have always believed that giving is a key component to running a strong business,” says Gretchen Gaede, president of A-Train. “The best way to lead by example, whether leading a team, your family or peers, is to practice generosity. Whenever I am in a position to give, I remember that there is always someone that has needs greater than mine.”

From all of us at A-Train… Happy Holidays!