If you’re like us, your inbox and RSS feeds are filled with posts about gratitude. As we approach the official start of the holiday season, it is definitely time to give thanks for what we have.
No, the world (still) isn’t perfect. But if we look within to identify our blessings, we can certainly find good in our own little corner of the planet. We believe this is true no matter what your personal challenges may be.
For those of us who are also blessed with a strong support network, good friends, and thriving businesses, it is even more important to recognize and give thanks to those who have helped us on our journey.
And… let’s be honest. Sometimes it’s nice to be on the receiving end of a heartfelt “thank you,” as well.
No Thanks Needed… But Always Appreciated!
KMB client Joey Kolchinsky of OneVision Resources recently sent KMB’s Chief Strategist Katye (McGregor) Bennett a handwritten thank you note, thanking her for the guidance she’s provided over the last two years. This included helping to navigate a business model pivot, develop a content strategy, and write an interview for the Boston Voyager, a local lifestyle publication that shares stories of successful Bostonians.
During Azione Unlimited’s Fall Conference, panelists discussed the significant benefits they’ve seen from writing thank you cards to clients, partners, and employees. Panelists mentioned more motivated employees, more loyal clients, and better overall relationships as some of the advantages gained.
In this age of digital communications, taking time to write a handwritten thank you card shows you genuinely care. It’s more than just saying the words; it’s articulating and delivering a heartfelt message.
The little things matter. And that’s what we specialize in here at KMB. Our clients share this philosophy, as exemplified in Joey’s note.
In Praise of Cards and Cookies
Admittedly, at KMB Communications we are kind of crazy about cards. Katye typically sends a handwritten thank you inside a whimsical or timely greeting card each month. I look forward to these uplifting notes for a smile (and often a laugh) after closing out yet another intense month with the KMB team.
This month, I got home-baked cookies, too. And let me say: Cookies are also a pretty great way to say thank you. (My six-year-old son thought so, too.)
As we enter into one of the most stressful, intense times of the year, when work commitments, holiday shopping, gatherings, and parties all coincide, many of us will be rushing to write our annual holiday greeting cards. Just another must-do on our holiday to-do list.
But how many other times during the year do you reach out and let the people in your network know how much you really appreciate them? Whether through a phone call, a handwritten card, or a small token of appreciation, it’s smart to share your gratitude in a more personal way.
It feels good. It makes others feel good. And now more than ever, people need just a little more happiness.
#OptOutside And Show Gratitude With Us
In past years, we’ve asked our social network, friends, clients and colleagues to consider skipping the Black Friday crowds, which take time away from family, friends, and loved ones during the holiday weekend. Instead, #OptOutside. An initiative launched several years ago by outdoor retailer REI, #OptOutside has gained momentum as new family traditions are formed. Members of the KMB team will be outdoors hiking, picnicking, and even possibly snowboarding—but definitely relaxing this Black Friday. We hope you’ll join us. (If you do, please tag @KMB_Comm and share your photos using #OptOutside.)
Just one more thing (as Steve Jobs would say). We hope you will take the effort to share your appreciation for someone who means a lot to you. Perhaps it’s a mentor who helped you in your business. A friend who is always there with the perfect adult beverage and a shoulder to cry on. An employee who consistently gets it right.
Or maybe it’s your favorite AV manufacturer, making it easier for you to enjoy the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, football, or your favorite holiday films with superior sound and image fidelity.
Who will you thank this week? Catch us on Twitter let us know using #KMBGratitude.
Are you ready to take on the responsibilities of content marketing for your business?
The KMB Communications team has been seeing increased demand for content marketing and content creation (including photos and video) services in 2016. We’ve been offering social media management as part of our comprehensive marketing strategy retainers for a few years now, but social media efforts require content to produce. (Yes, it’s back to the old “content is king” claim – and it’s still true.)
If you’re a manufacturer or a custom integrator just getting into the inbound marketing game, and all your previous efforts have been through traditional marketing and public relations channels, it might feel overwhelming. Let’s step back, first, and define inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing are marketing efforts that bring leads to you. Rather than intruding on your prospect’s lives (sometimes known as “push” marketing) through commercials and advertisements, you offer information your prospects can use, and they begin to come to you, seeking out more of that information.
Content marketing, a subset of inbound marketing, is, specifically, creating content with the intention of attracting sales leads.
Of course, if you have a website, you want to use it to attract leads. The need for content marketing becomes obvious. The question remains: Do you do it yourself, hire a firm, or form a hybrid relationship that maximizes your budget while alleviating some of the burden on yourself and your team to become content creators?
We won’t go so far as to say you can “fire your PR” (or content marketing or strategic communications) agency. That would be silly, because, obviously, we have some interest in growing the pie of AV integrators and manufacturers who need strategic marketing, communications, PR, and content services.
But it also doesn’t mean your marketing efforts should suffer if you can’t (yet) afford to have an agency handle it all. You certainly can do it yourself – and there are plenty of resources out there to help you learn how. But do you want to spend time writing articles and blog posts, making videos, taking photos, and sharing social media posts?
Or would you rather stick with what you’re good at, and the reason you started your company: Designing and installing quality AV and smart home systems? The choice really is yours, and it comes down to time, budget, and the necessary trade-offs.
Do it yourself or hire someone?
Let’s explore each model to help you make the right decision for your business. That doesn’t mean this model won’t change down the line. Evaluate your business and your budget to determine what is best right now, and, if you decide to hire an agency, find one that can scale their offerings as your needs grow.
Content Marketing DIY
If you have a certain level of marketing savvy, there’s a strong case to be made for managing your content marketing yourself. There’s a wealth of resources out there to help you – from this article by Commercial Integrator’s Tom Leblanc to podcasts, webcasts, and seminars, both within and outside the industry. You know your business and your customers or prospects better than anyone else, so the level of knowledge, personalization, and transparency you’ll bring to your content probably can’t be matched by an outside firm.
But content marketing is more than just writing articles people care about. You also need to:
create a monthly or quarterly content plan with deadlines so the work actually gets done;
have some knowledge of SEO so the search engines will see your posts;
be adept in WordPress or whatever platform you’re using to post your content;
be able to source photos to make your posts more enticing;
have someone on your team willing and able to proofread for you (spellcheck doesn’t catch everything!);
promote your posts after they’re done, or even get them placed on a relevant third-party website.
If this sounds like it may take more time then you’re willing to invest, you can always consider getting some help.
Hire a Firm to Manage Your Content Campaigns
From content writing agencies to strategic communications firms, a number of choices exist for integrators and manufacturers who don’t want to go it alone. With minimal direction, a strategic communications and content creation firm can help you identify the stories worth telling, create articles, blog posts, videos, and social media collateral, and even build your network (even from scratch!) to share your brand’s stories.
With a one-hour touch-base meeting monthly and a quick phone call whenever you have something exciting going on (for instance, a high-profile installation), a strategic communications firm will write an editorial calendar built out of the marketing and PR strategy you devise together, create the content, and execute the plan. All that’s left is for your sales team to follow up on the leads that come in as a result of your increased branding and outreach efforts.
Regardless of the size or scope of your business, whether you’re a commercial or residential integrator or a manufacturer in the industry, hiring a strategic communications firm allows you and your team to focus on what you do best, while allowing the same for those that specialize in making content work for you and your brand.
Share the Love (and Responsibility)
However, we fully recognize that having a full-scale strategic communications and PR agency to do it all may be out of the budget of many integrators or smaller manufacturers. That’s where a hybrid, per-project, or scaled down relationship works well.
By taking over some aspect of the writing or social media outreach, you’ll save money but still enjoy the benefits of a guiding hand to keep you on the right track with your efforts. You may even be able to split the duties between several people in your organization who enjoy writing and have stories to tell.
When you’re looking at cutting costs, though, don’t skimp on strategy. As KMB Communications’ Chief Strategist Katye (McGregor) Bennett says, “We help people identify and articulate their message, then we elevate and amplify it.”
Even if your own employees are producing content, having a strategic communications / PR firm to oversee those efforts ensures a consistent message, voice, and personality across platforms, a critical component of a successful communications strategy.
Writing is (relatively) easy. Strategy, however, takes a unique ability. Even the most marketing savvy CMOs or business owners can benefit from another perspective. Sometimes, these individuals are just “too close” to their company to see the big picture. The benefits of using an outside firm – even for a portion of your inbound marketing efforts – are much greater than just having someone do the legwork to get content written and published. It’s about having a partner by your side to ensure those efforts are moving in the right direction for your brand.
Increase visibility, build trust, and drive leads through strategic communications.
As a public relations and strategic communications firm, we’ve noticed the content marketing trend has been growing in the AV industry. In the past several weeks, we’ve had new clients and existing clients, alike, sign on for assistance with their inbound marketing strategy and content creation to supplement their PR program through KMB Communications.
One of the benefits to using a single firm to manage PR and content marketing (and possibly even social media management, too) is to ensure consistency of messaging and adherence to your company’s overall marketing strategy.
What Is Content Marketing?
Content marketing, sometimes called inbound marketing, uses high-quality content to build trust and establish your company as an information resource for your customers. Content marketing helps:
Drive traffic to your site
Establish your brand as a trusted industry resource
Place your website on or near the top page in Google’s organic search results
Create conversions to increase ROI
When you put a strong content marketing plan together with a strategic PR plan, you’ll see the benefits of increased visibility across all channels – print media, online media, social media, and search. Whether you hire an outside firm or opt to manage your content marketing campaigns yourself, these five steps can help drive your success.
1. Determine the components of your content program.
Content marketing includes blog posts, guest posts placed on other sites, editorial features written for magazines, videos, and even social media posts written to promote it all. (Although this last point often falls into a separate realm of “social media strategy.”)
Decide on the length, frequency, and format of your content. Are you creating weekly, mid-length posts? Weekly posts and some long-form content like case studies or white papers monthly? Do you want to blog daily, providing short news bytes of information with meatier posts presented weekly? Are you producing videos? How often?
Remember, a larger budget allocation allows your company to push out more content and see results faster.
Don’t forget to incorporate photos, videos, and infographics into your overall plan. When information is paired with a relevant graphic, people remember 65 percent of the information three days later, and content with an image gets 94 percent more views than content without a graphic, according to a report by Hubspot. We understand that finding the perfect graphic or creating videos can be a drain on resources — but a full-scale communications agency is here to make content marketing easier for you.
Visuals are important. Get the picture?
Image credit: HubSpot / CMO Council
2. Outline Topics
Before you launch a content marketing initiative consider your overall communications strategy. To ensure consistent messaging, your blog, along with case studies, editorial features, and guest blog posts should be in alignment with your other marketing initiatives.
Build your content around events like trade shows and new product launches to ensure a steady pipeline of newsworthy material.
Ask your sales team what questions their prospects ask most frequently. You’ll find tons of post ideas in their responses. After a few brainstorming sessions between your content writers and your sales team, you should have enough ideas to fill an Excel sheet.
Be open to course corrections based on industry news and trends or posts that did extremely well and may deserve a follow-up post to capitalize on the buzz and keep the Web traffic rolling in.
Since marketing campaigns, strategies, and tactics in many companies change weekly (if not daily or even hourly!) your outline should be an ever-evolving document.
3. Begin publishing content and track your results.
You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Many professional bloggers use Google Analytics for tracking their traffic but there are plenty of ways to measure your hits and, of course, conversions that you can follow back to content creation. Whatever method you use, follow it closely, tracking results weekly.
4. Keep going when the going is good.
There comes a time in the life cycle of inbound marketing when those involved forget what has created such tremendous results. We may get spoiled by the number of leads pouring in and the new business the website generates, and we think we can pull back. The business owner may think, “We’re getting such good traffic, we don’t need to promote anymore.”
Which is, of course, the exact opposite of what they should be thinking, which is: “Wow, look at the results! I wonder how much more the business would grow if we expanded the budget and doubled our efforts?!”
5. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Regular, high-quality content and community interaction generates leads. When you’re in the beginning stages, you may not get much feedback. Keep going. And when it’s going well, consider ramping up those efforts to push out more content and generate even more leads.
Revisit your strategy quarterly (at least) in order to continue creating more of the kinds of content that generates the best results.
A strategic communications firm that knows the ropes and has years of experience with multiple aspects of inbound marketing, along with traditional PR outreach and marketing strategy, can help you make the necessary course corrections and keep you on track to help your business grow through the power of content marketing.
Are you ready to experience the power of content marketing as part of your company’s overall PR and communications strategy? KMB Communications can help.
If you grew up in the 80s (like nearly every one of us on the KMB team) you remember when spring meant riding bikes or playing street hockey with our friends until our moms called us home for dinner. This still happens today – but it’s increasingly rare and hardly ever talked about. (Letting them play outside? They could be kidnapped by a guy in a white van, after all….)
Ironically, (or perhaps understandably), today’s suburban moms face greater challenges with knowing where their children are, who they’re with, and what they’re doing. And – just like back in the day – moms want to have the home where all the children gather for snacks, drinks, and a place to hang out.
While moms in the past could lure the kids to their living room with Pepsi and Pringles, today’s tweens and teens have higher standards. Essentially – it’s all in the technology.
A Stewart Filmscreen user in upscale, suburban Rye Brook, NJ, discovered the secret when technology and design transformed the family’s wide open basement into the ultimate family entertainment room. With a bar area, recessed LED lighting, and comfy couches, the space fits any number of scenarios:
an awesome World Cup, World Series, or Super Bowl party
a place to entertain family and friends during the holidays
an easy way to enjoy at-home date night
a place to bring the family together for movie night
the most amazing game room the family’s three children have ever seen.
The system can be operated via a Control4 touch pad or a mobile device, but the ease-of-use is not the best part. “It’s made our new house the place for the kids to hang out after school every day,” says the homeowner.
With technology systems that fulfill so many vast requirements in a space with high ambient light, it’s no wonder Residential Systems chose to profile the multi-purpose family room recently. You can read more about the technical aspects of the project here.
We’d like to focus, instead, on the benefit the technology systems had to the end user’s lifestyle. After all, we all recognize that technology is advancing rapidly with our standards for excellence increasing almost daily. It’s not often we get to see the very real effect a carefully designed home theater system can have on the family fortunate enough to have one in their home.
Two-Piece Projection Systems: Impactful and Affordable
The two-piece projection system technology provided by Stewart Filmscreen and Epson made the technical aspects of the project easy, revealed Digital Home Systems’ Tom Manna, who worked with Stewart’s New York sales rep, Big Apple Technology, on the project.
“The added value Stewart Filmscreen provides to their dealers is an invaluable tool,” Manna said. “Their expert knowledge of how light reacts with the screen materials is what guarantees success if I listen to the advice,” he states in the article published in Residential Systems.
The challenge, Manna said, was discerning the client’s needs and then settling on a solution that would offer excellent picture quality and flexibility for viewing a myriad of programming options in a variety of environments. “The family didn’t want to sit in the dark to watch television or play video games,” Manna explains, “but did want that immersive experience for movies.”
The Epson projector and Stewart Filmscreen CIMA screen combined to give the client 136 inches of viewing space for less than the cost of a 75-inch LED screen.
“Thanks to the value the client received with the CIMA screen and Epson project, Digital Home Systems decked out the rest of the system with everything a family room needs, including a Totem Tribe in-wall 5.1 surround sound speaker system, AppleTV, and a Control4 system for AV, lighting, and temperature control,” states the Resi Systems article.
The Ultimate Gaming Experience
But what really sets the system apart from an end-user perspective is its gaming capabilities, made possible by an Xbox system and wireless controllers. The Xbox resides in a rack about on the other end of the basement, making it easy to switch games but keeping the clutter that often comes with teenage boys and video games at bay.
The mother revealed she buys snacks and beverages in bulk at the local warehouse club, but it’s worth it. And, in fact, the KMB team happened to be at the home at 3 PM on a weekday connecting with our client’s client, and saw this first-hand, as several teenage boys ransacked the pantry and then stampeded down the stairs to play a sports game on the big screen. “It’s just amazing,” the son commented on the screen, an ear-to-ear grin lighting up his face, before heading to the basement to join his friends.
Disputes over who gets to use the big screen are not as common as you may think, either – perhaps because the home has LED screens in the living room and all the bedrooms, as well. But the basement is where everyone typically chooses to spend their free time – together, as a family.
“We knew we’d watch sports and movies down here, but we find ourselves watching TV and playing video games on the big screen, too,” says the homeowner.
The Game Room’s the Thing
It’s not just suburban families with teenage sons who are embracing “game rooms” – whether as a dedicated space in the house similar to a dedicated home theater or as a component in a multi-purpose family entertainment space.
With the growth of gaming – for all ages, boys and girls, men and women, alike – and the rise of eSports (large-scale video game tournament competitions) home technology consumers may seek out a high-tech room with immersive sound and video, which transitions seamlessly from sports, to movies, to gaming. Women — the primary decision makers when it comes to home technology — make up the majority of the gaming population; 36 percent of all gamers are women over 18. Adult men make up 35 percent, while teenage boys make up 17 percent. Additionally, 180 million people stream or record eSports on YouTube or Twitch, a popular gameplay site. So whether homeowners are installing gamer setups for themselves or their children, to play games or watch them, gaming is big business.
Home technology professionals: Are you tapping into the lucrative (and growing) gaming market? We’d love to hear your stories!
How content marketing can help elevate and amplify a company’s message
KMB Communications is proud to announce that we are now the public relations and strategic communications firm of choice for Chappaqua, NY-based custom integrator, Multimedia Resource Group.
While we have typically focused our sights on manufacturer partnerships, based on KMB Communications’ expertise and industry connections in the custom integration trades it makes sense to expand our efforts to serve integrators in a B-to-C (or B-to-B for commercial integrators) capacity, assisting with trade and mainstream publicity, content marketing, and other strategic communications efforts.
The Story of … A Story
Our relationship with Multimedia Resource Group is a pretty cool story that emphasizes the power of relationships, cross-promotion, and creative collaboration between manufacturers and their dealers.
It started when David Kepke of Multimedia Resource Group mentioned a recent installation his team had completed utilizing a Torus Power product to Kevin Main during CEDIA. Kevin mentioned the installation to our chief strategist, Katye (McGregor) Bennett, and within 60 days KMB was able to get the story published in Electronic House magazine. The eye-catching project won a Home Builders International (HOBI) award and utilized a Torus Power RM-20 isolation transformer as a source of clean power for the Atmos 3D Surround Sound system and other key audio video, lighting and control products.
The integrator, noticing KMB’s social media promotion of his project and the award, approached us to help him elevate and amplify his outreach efforts – which had become more than just a source of “bragging rights” for the integrator, and were driving traffic to his website and generating leads.
Since then, the Greenwich home theater project has been the source of blog posts, social media collateral, additional industry contest entries and more…
Shh… here’s the secret marketing strategists don’t want you to know…
There’s always another angle to any story.
Every audio visual installation project is made up of many stories waiting to be revealed. You’ve heard the phrase “two sides to every story.” Spoiler alert: There are way more than just two sides!
50 Writers, 50 Stories
If you give 50 different AV journalists, podcasters or publicists the same hypothetical photos, scope of work, and equipment list, you will get 50 different stories. Each will focus on different aspects, different unique selling propositions, even different equipment. Every person sees a different “wow factor,” and each project has multiple focal points depending on the writer’s background, interests, and knowledge.
And then (here’s where it gets really cool) the reader brings their own background, interests, and knowledge to the story to create their own perceptions. They might tweet out this hypothetical story focusing on an aspect the writer or integrator brushed over. It’s a different story to every reader. (We say hypothetical because clearly, while the Multimedia Resource Group project got a lot of publicity… it wasn’t quite 50 stories!)
As publicists here at KMB Communications, it’s our job to write any piece in such a way that whatever the reader takes away from the story is in line with our clients’ messaging – that they are reading the story you – our client — want them to see. It’s our job to minimize that discrepancy between the readers’ perceptions and the actual words and photos on the page.
That’s just one reason content marketing shouldn’t be left to just anyone. Content marketing – that is, using written, photographic or video content to elevate and amplify your brand’s story – should be one part of a comprehensive marketing strategy that builds visibility for your brand with consistent messaging.
Journalism and Content Marketing
Content marketing won’t replace traditional journalism because it is the journalist’s unique perspective that adds a different flavor to the piece, amplifies the story’s visibility and gives it even greater legitimacy. It’s one thing for the integrator or their PR firm to say a story is cool. It’s another when an individual journalist validates that by devoting bandwidth – real and figurative — to the project.
However, as much as a PR firm will do its best to ensure consistent messaging we, nor are clients, are in complete control over trade publications and websites.
Content marketing, on the other hand, puts the client and the strategist in complete control. That’s the attraction. Control your story and deliver your message with pinpoint accuracy… over and over again.
A good strategic communications plan should include a blend of traditional PR outreach, content marketing, and social media – all based on a long-term plan that includes Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and ways to measure success.
For integrators and other end-user-facing clients KPI’s are relatively easy – are prospects asking for bids? On the manufacturing side, because so many variables are at play, it’s more difficult to measure success. KMB Communications has developed the right processes to measure and report success to clients on either side of that fence.
Are you ready to take your strategic communications to the next level? We bet there are at least 50 ways we can help.
Why not get started by reaching out now?