Your Platform Matters: What Email Service Provider Are You Using?

It’s no secret email is one of the top digital marketing strategies across sectors. U.S. office workers spend roughly 5 hours per day on email, between work and personal accounts, and receive an average of almost 100 emails per day. Because of that, it’s no small feat to get an email into your clients’ main inbox, catch their attention, and motivate them to engage with your brand. Choosing the right email distribution software and marketing tools can help.

Email service providers (ESPs) send targeted, personalized emails in bulk and make it easy to track and measure client engagement. Today, many ESPs are packaged as part of broader customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, outfitted with myriad features beyond sending a simple email.

Lenders evaluating ESPs should consider the following features:

  1. Marketing automation, or automatically generated emails like after a client signs up for your mailing list
  2. Analytics and tracking capabilities
  3. Deliverability rates, which indicate how likely an email will end up in inboxes versus spam folders
  4. Software integration
  5. Contact list management
  6. The email editor itself.

So, which ESP is right for you?

HubSpot

HubSpot is an “all-in-one” marketing tool, used for inbound marketing, sales, and customer service. Its focus is CRM, and it offers email marketing software as part of that package. The sprawling platform includes landing page creation, marketing automation, lead management, analytics, social media management, SEO content planning, and more. HubSpot is rated one of the top ESPs by PCMag for its marketing automation capabilities and simple email creation tool that offers users thousands of templates.

In addition, HubSpot offers its product for free for users with up to 1,000 email contacts. Pricing is tiered after that, based on features and number of contacts. The “Starter” edition begins at $50/month for 1,000 contacts. HubSpot’s pricing model makes the platform ideal for small businesses interested in testing CRM features and email marketing software without a major investment.

MailChimp

MailChimp was founded as an email marketing service in 2001, and today is one of the most well-known ESPs in the space.  Because MailChimp is an email distribution software first, it offers an intuitive platform, especially for first-time email marketers, with dozens of templates and the ability to code your own design. Last year, it broadened its offerings to include a full marketing platform geared toward small businesses.

MailChimp includes advanced audience segmentation, marketing automation, social media management, and landing page creation. Like HubSpot, it has a tiered pricing system with a free option for up to 2,000 contacts. Paid tiers start at $9.99/month, $14.99/month and $299/month. The platform was hailed as the best ESP for growing businesses by TechRadar and a great choice for small businesses who want to use automation by PCMag.   

Infusionsoft by Keap

Infusionsoft by Keap is a CRM tool with integrated marketing and sales automation. The company rebranded as Keap in 2019 as part of an effort to appeal to smaller businesses. The original Infusionsoft product starts at $200/month for 500 contacts, making it a more expensive option. However, PCMagrecommends Infusionsoft for small businesses with highly integrated sales and marketing functions, and notes it is among the best for managing contact lists. The platform offers an HTML email builder and fewer templates than most other ESPs, so it is best for companies already comfortable in the email marketing space who want more design flexibility.

Salesforce/Pardot

Pardot is a marketing automation tool created by Salesforce. Pardot comes with a steep price tag compared to other platforms — its lowest tier starts at $1,250/month — but it includes detailed analytics features, list-building, audience segmentation, and automation. Its email builder includes dozens of templates and an HTML option. Pardot fully integrates with other Salesforce products, making it ideal for businesses that already use Salesforce or larger organizations seeking detailed insights on customer behavior, according to a PCMag review.

Constant Contact

Constant Contact’s email marketing software is known for its ease of use, making it an ideal option for lenders who are new to email marketing or simply want to send emails. PCMag recommends it to businesses with small contact lists. Features include automation, an SEO tool, landing page creation, social media management, and integration with a variety of other software systems, including Salesforce and Shopify. Constant Contact offers a 60-day free trial for up to 100 contacts, and pricing tiers start at $20/month or $45/month based on features and contact list size.

If you’re not sure which email service provider is right for you, reach out to Geraci Media to discuss your options.

The Value of Social Media Ads

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, social media has emerged as a critical marketing strategy for private lenders and brokers. Even before the pandemic hit, 70 percent of Americans were on social media, engaging for an average of 2 hours per day, according to the Digital 2020 report from We Are Social and HootSuite. Now with more people at home, inside and online, brands have an even greater opportunity to make an impression.

Many businesses anticipated this shift. Social media budgets have jumped 74 percent since February, according to a May 2020 survey of more than 2,600 marketing professionals across industries. Companies are now spending nearly a quarter (23.2 percent) of their marketing dollars on social media, up from about 13 percent prior to the pandemic.  

But for private lenders who typically rely on face-to-face networking, social media advertising can feel completely foreign. The best place to start is by defining a strategy, starting with goals and a budget. Outlining goals, like awareness, engagement, or lead generation, can help determine spend and narrow focus to a specific message. The best social media ads are consistent in message and identity across platforms. Lenders should also be sure to budget for training, content creation, advertising costs, and analysis.

Armed with goals and a budget, lenders can start to assess which platforms are best suited for the way they want to engage with clients and prospects. Here is a guide to advertising on five social media platforms:

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is considered the gold standard for business-to-business marketing. The professional networking site has more than 160 million users in the U.S., and with each of these users providing detailed professional work history, it’s easy for lenders and brokers to ensure they are targeting the right audience. The platform offers a variety of ways to advertise, including sponsored content, text ads, display ads and an option to directly message target clients. LinkedIn is the best platform for longform, thought leadership-style content. It is ideal for lenders and brokers seeking to establish themselves as trusted advisors in the field.

Facebook

Facebook is a powerhouse platform due to its enormous reach — 180 million Americans — and engagement. The typical Facebook user clicks on 18 advertisements a month, according to the Digital 2020 report. The platform is ideal for lead generation. Facebook’s “lead ads” option pre-populates users’ contact information when they click on your ad, making quality lead generation frictionless. Facebook is the perfect platform for promoting other digital marketing efforts like gated content and virtual events. 

Instagram

Instagram has 120 million users in the U.S., and its reach is growing. The photo-sharing platform attracts a younger user base, with 35 percent of users between ages 25-34 and 30 percent of users ages 35 and up. Instagram users often use the platform to discover and research brands, according to Facebook, its parent company. As a visual platform, image-based content like photos, videos, and graphics are essential to advertising on Instagram. It is an ideal network for sharing your company story, building brand awareness, and driving potential customers to your website. The best performing brand content on Instagram functions almost as a short blog, offering personal insights, inspiration, and/or information for users. 

Twitter

Twitter boasts more than 53 million users in the U.S. With its 280-character limit, the platform is built for conversation. It offers businesses a great way to ask and answer questions, engage with potential clients and industry peers, and generally build greater brand awareness. More than half of Twitter users (54 percent) will visit a brand website or Twitter profile after seeing it mentioned in their feed. Short-form text content with attached photos or graphics performs best on the site. It also offers robust advertising options and requires no minimum spend.

TikTok

TikTok is still a new frontier for B2B advertisers. It has 30 million users in the U.S., most of whom are under age 25, according to AdAge. The short-form video platform was popularized by Gen Z, the generation born between 1995 and 2015. While there’s no set B2B marketing playbook for TikTok, authenticity is key. Weird, funny, inspirational, or personality-driven content gains traction here. Ad captions are limited to 100 characters, so more than any other platform, it’s all about the video. TikTok has recently pledged support for more informational content for users, making it an ideal space for lenders or brokers who want to establish themselves as industry resources. A major perk of TikTok is the app is designed for sharing across other social platforms like Instagram and Twitter, broadening the potential reach of your content. 

If you have any questions about which social media platforms may be right for you, reach out to Geraci Media here.

Branding 101: The Importance of Aligning Your Brand

A general search on the internet of private lenders in the state of California brings up over 5 pages of company names that are all vying for your attention in this niche market. What distinguishes one from the rest of the competition? Is it company name? A unique logo? An experience? A customer or client review? A well-designed website? Heavy social media presence? The answer is all of the above, which can be universally labeled as your company’s branding. People want to do business with a company they are familiar with, that they connect with, and that they can relate to – all of which can be achieved through aligning your brand.

Brand Strategy

A strong brand does not become established on its own. Branding requires a marketing strategy that is well thought out, authentic, and consistent across all channels, websites, emails, and so forth. To create a memorable brand, you must provide a positive, emotional experience to your target audience consistently. The more you can establish rapport with your clients through your specific brand strategy, the more people will trust you, return to your business, refer your business to others, and create loyalty within your industry. The perception of your brand’s attributes cultivates the emotional connection that is vital to its survival.

So, where do you start? A brand strategy’s blueprint consists of three key elements: the brand heart, brand voice, and the brand identity. Once you can identify these elements, you can focus on building your brand.

Brand Heart

When examining the heart of your brand, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What purpose does your business serve?
  • What is at the core of what you do and why you do it?
  • What are your future goals? How are you going to achieve them?

When you can answer these questions honestly, you’ll have the brand heart laid out right before you. These are your core beliefs and should be presented in each facet of your business to create brand consistency and trustworthiness amongst your audience.

Brand Voice

Your brand heart is extremely influential in finding the second key point of building your brand: your brand voice. Your brand voice is the “Just Do It” to Nike’s brand. The voice’s framework includes the following:

  • Unique Tagline
  • #Hashtags (specific to your target audience or specific market)
  • Messaging/content
  • Pillars
  • Tone of voice
  • Sales pitch
  • Goals
  • Values

Your brand voice should be consistent in every piece of content you create. To create a ‘voice’ you must consider your specific angle, your customers’ angle, and your competitors’ angle. This all aids in helping you create a consistent, authentic, recognizable brand for your audience.

Brand Identity

Communicating your voice effectively can affect people’s initial perceptions of your brand and is the basis of your brand identity. Brands are more than their basic identity, and they are most commonly associated with a visual element at first glance, such as a logo, colors, or imagery. How your logo looks and what emotions it immediately evokes in someone is typically your audience’s first impression of your brand. You may not always use your tagline in your content, but your logo, the colors, the typography, imagery, photography, website, social media content, and video content all generate a memorable reference to your brand that continues to shape, grow, and add to the brand identity as a whole. All three of these brand elements are necessary in creating a complete brand image that will lead you to success within your industry.

Now that you have identified the brand elements of heart, voice, and identity, you may ask – How do you create brand awareness and brand loyalty to ensure longevity within your industry? With over 2.1 billion people with social accounts, today’s social media platforms are the frontrunner for building a brand in our modern, technology-influenced society. Therefore, you should use those channels to your advantage when it comes to brand awareness.

Your brand strategy does not stop once you have created these three key elements. Once you have established your brand, how you promote and advertise your brand should align with your vision. This is essential to keep in mind when looking to expand and grow your brand either organically or through a media service.

Tell Your Story

In addition to the key elements of creating a brand comes the act of storytelling. Compelling storytelling in your branding demands attention, calling all who are experiencing your brand to buy in, and take a step further to invest in what you are doing. A strong message, an intense photograph or image, or a bold color and/or design will resonate with your intended audience as long as the messaging and branding is authentic and consistent. The intended message for your brand will have people coming back for more through sharing, liking, commenting, and garnishing the brand awareness.

The Power of Social Media Platforms

You must be specific and intentional when deciding which social media platforms to use in order to tell your story thoughtfully. Knowing your target audience plays an important role in where your brand should be concentrated. As a media firm vested in the private lending industry, we have found  more success on LinkedIn and Instagram, over alternative social platforms like Pinterest or Twitter. We have seen firsthand that when you incorporate your brand heart, voice, and identity genuinely across your brand and platforms, it will entice users to engage and take the conversation a step further, with the hopes of creating a new connection within your specific industry.

Whether you are starting your brand from scratch, or contemplating a rebrand that encompasses these elements, branding starts with a clear vision that can be implemented into every aspect of your business and provides a customer experience worth remembering. From the staff on your team, to the graphic elements found on your website, to your social media presence, it is most important that your brand tells your story.

If you need help achieving your brand goals, establishing a new brand purpose, and/or creating a social media presence that is authentic to your company as a whole, contact us today to see how we can partner together to successfully communicate who you are, and what you have to offer to your audience and industry!

Branding 101: What is Branding and Where Do I Start?

There is a psychology to creating brand awareness that, when executed correctly, will gain your brand loyalty and relatability. But, where do you begin? Establish the heart of your brand first. Determine what it is you stand for, what problems you are solving for consumers, and explain how you accomplish that through creative storytelling across all mediums. Create a plan that allows you to stick to your messaging, and then communicate it through all channels authentically. This authenticity will aid in building trust and creating a relatable brand identity.

Create an Image That Resonates

Creating content and digital assets for your online platforms can seem easy, but if it doesn’t align with your brand’s message, it can cause confusion and distract from the story you’re attempting to tell. Don’t let consumers second-guess what your brand is about. When your brand is consistent, authentic, and reliable, it can positively impact your company’s mission and bottom line.

The Value Appeal

Statistics show consumers buy from brands that share their values. If your brand doesn’t offer value outside of a product, it’s as good as dead in the water.

If you’re familiar with the Toms brand, you know their mission is that for every pair of shoes bought, a pair of shoes is donated to a child in need. Their brand takes on a big-picture approach, and their success shows consumers connect to this positively. If Toms decided they were changing their mission and not donating a pair of shoes because it was too expensive to do so, do you think their brand would have lasted this long? Not likely. It doesn’t matter if the shoes are cute or comfortable; when you buy a pair of Toms, you know the charitable donation comes with your shoes, which makes your purchase feel more meaningful than a typical purchase. Taking that out of the equation would completely change the appeal of the brand.

How Colors Can Help Your Brand

Consumers not only relate to your brand purpose and value proposition, but they also associate colors and imagery with your brand. If you think about any well-known brands that you are loyal to, you can likely picture their logo and brand colors. Lyft, for example, created a memorable color association when they started with a giant, fuzzy pink mustache in their driver’s grill to differentiate from other vehicles. As they grew, they realized that the giant mustache may not be the best ‘look’ when pulling up to a formal event or business meeting. They stuck with the pink in their logo to remain consistent, but now, riders expect to see a bright indicator light in the window of the driver’s car that distinguishes it from a yellow cab, Uber driver, or general traffic. This is an example of how colors and branding make a difference when setting your company apart, but how you may still need to re-evaluate and make changes as your company grows.

Another reason that brand colors are important is for easy recognizability and brand consistency. You want to ensure that your social media pages, email campaigns, and website pages are all aligned with the same colors, fonts, and styles. The color consistency and design will become easily recognizable to your target audience and will convey your brand message to them upon seeing your branding.

Know Your Audience

Online purchasing decisions are regularly made based on the content on your social media platforms. The posts, photos, videos, blogs, articles, Tweets, announcements, advertisements, and information can be easily spread if it’s accumulating engagement from the audience. But if you’re not seeing the likes, shares, comments or clicks, your brand’s message isn’t resonating.

LinkedIn has become the preferred social media site for business enrichment. This platform is ideal for professionals and job seekers and has become an effective marketing tool due to its authenticity and user engagement. Knowing your audience and understanding what their preferred platforms are will help keep your brand consistent.

Numbers indicate it takes 5-7 impressions for someone to remember your brand. Posting quality, relevant content regularly on your preferred social media platforms is important to draw users in. After a while, they will expect to see something new every day, and follow your page. The bonus is, if it appeals to them and causes them to engage with your page, this engagement can be used to help build lookalike and target audiences. This is why it is very important to have brand consistency on your channels, and to make sure you are promoting, posting, and engaging on the correct platform and the appropriate audience. Knowing your audience will allow you to put out the most relevant content and therefore grow your loyal following.

Don’t Sell; Tell Your Story

The final thing to remember when building your brand is to focus on telling your story, rather than just sell to your audience. Consumers are looking for an emotional connection to a brand, whether they get it from the colors, design, images, or content. If your feed is full of self-promotion, users are less likely to connect with your messaging and purpose, and your followers and engagement will drop. Keeping your feed consistent and telling the story that captures your audience will have your audience coming back for more, sharing your content, and referring you to their friends and followers.

Brands that present themselves consistently across the board on average see a 33% growth in revenue, per Lucidpress. Brand consistency is all about trust. People do business with the companies that they know, like, trust, and believe in. To establish a trustworthy brand, consumers have to personally relate to your brand’s heart, voice, and identity in order to know if it is something that they want to invest time in. Your audience needs to recognize and remember your brand through your consistent messaging and authenticity.

If you’re struggling to establish a consistent brand, or would like more information on any of the points we discussed, contact us today to see how we can partner to take your brand to the next level.