Your Email Newsletter Has To Have This

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I'm probably much like you... my personal inbox is cluttered with promotional emails from just about everyone under the sun. And, even though I unsubscribe at a rate that should eliminate this, they just keep popping back in.

How do companies and brands inspire one to really open it up, engage and ultimately make a purchase or conversion? It's not really about the subject line anymore. These have been optimized and figured out by now. We've become so accustomed to the pretty much the same three or four subject lines in the past few years, mainly with the tired gist of "Hurry, Julia! Your $5 Bonus at Whole Foods Will Expire" or "Julia, take an extra 25% off at J CREW today!" that we do really just glance over them at this point. #yawn.

If I want to open up something, it's mainly because I am looking to see who it's from - someone who's going to bring value - whether that be my friend, neighbor or Bloomingdale's (yes, for a really good deal!). So, what's a company and brand to do?

Your email has to have personality.

To not just feel like another piece of junk mail, the actual guts of the email has to sparkle, shine, pop and, well, just be engaging. Chatty text, interesting well-designed graphics and a thoughtful layout are just a few things one must utilize. And, a strong voice.

The subject of this post came to me just the other day as I received (have no idea why...) an email from Reese Witherspoon's new company Hello Sunshine, "a media brand anchored in storytelling, creating and discovering content that celebrates women and puts them at the center of the story". Set up in an old fashioned two column layout, images on the left, text on the left (they didn't even alternate the placement!), I don't even think this was a customized layout. The text sounded stale and packaged. It was a total missed opportunity.

Avoid banality, playing it safe and layouts of the past. Risk taking often pays off in digital marketing, and it might well get you some more clicks.

Strategic SEO Tips for Success

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I see this happen all the time - companies get all psyched about their search engine optimization (SEO for short) strategy, implement all the things, watch their organic search traffic grow and then...nothing. In just mere days, weeks and sometimes even months later, it's never touched again. It's almost as if all that optimizing website pages for search has been completely forgotten about. So, here comes a little nugget o' wisdom from yours truly...

you cannot forget that your website is a living, breathing thing

Just like all living organisms that need nutrients and water to ideally just function, your website needs a lot of TLC, especially when it comes to maintaining it to continually receive the optimal amount of traffic from search. Google is *fingers crossed* frequently crawling your site, so, you've gotta give it something to chew on (aka. in fancy web/techy terms "rank").

Updates, tweaks and adjustments need to made at a somewhat regular frequency for all of these reasons above. "But what if I literally have only 10 min a week to devote to SEO?" you say. Well, to that I would say, here are two easy things you MUST do in that brief chunk of time:

Tweak Your Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
This might be a bit more technical than what you're used to, but if you know of a way to edit page titles and meta descriptions in your sites backend (in Wordpress it's super easy if you have the Yoast plug in installed, and in Squarespace you can do this in each pages title and description section) edit them immediately! Adjusting the content to include new keywords or to reflect new offerings, services, products, etc are good places to start. Bonus! If you are looking at Google Analytics on a somewhat regular basis, tweak these titles & descriptions to include queries and information from historical website data.
 

Create and/or Update Your Content
Make some adjustments to your site so that your sites code is changing. This can be anything from new or edited text on the homepage, to finally getting around to making that next blog post. Or, an image switch out in a few key areas on your site (homepage, about page and contact page would be great, as those are usually the most visited subpages on a site). Newness and edits are you best friend!!!

I promise you that if you give your site the time and attention it deserves and needs, you will see growth across the board. Please let me know how this goes! Drop me a line anytime here :)

Neuehouse: The Best Coworking in NYC and How To Find Your Own Spot to Work

 Interiors by The Rockwell group, photo courtsey of the rockwell group

Interiors by The Rockwell group, photo courtsey of the rockwell group

It was 2013 and I was just about to leave my corporate job at The Clinton Foundation to work full-time as a freelancing consultant. I remember going through a mix of emotions then - excited, nervous, scared and totally uncertain of how my new business was actually going to pan out. There was lots to set up and plan, with one of the biggest things being "where was I going to work from!?" Our apartment at the time was spacious but not large enough to house a desk and work space conducive to get much done. Fortuitously enough, I was invited by Live Grey to attend an event at a yet-to-open space named Neuehouse. As soon as I arrived at this event and took one look at the space I knew this was the right spot to get started in.

When it opened in late 2013, I was among the first to receive membership to this five level warm and modern industrial work space. With floors for open coworking, dedicated desks, private offices, a cozy lounge (with fireplaces), screening rooms and more, I opted to sign up for the open coworking or "gallery space" if you will. It was hands down, one of the best decisions I have ever made for my business.

 "boardroom" where I would hold workshops, lessons and clients meetings. photo courtsey of the hollywood reporter.

"boardroom" where I would hold workshops, lessons and clients meetings. photo courtsey of the hollywood reporter.

The beauty of these coworking spaces (other than for Neuehouse's physical interior beauty) is the feeling of being among others as one pursues their entrepreneurial endeavors. I would honestly have gone stir crazy and been a bit bored had I opted to stay at home and work. The constant comings and goings in the space kept me energized and excited about the work and business at hand. It was honestly worth every penny and I highly recommend everyone who is considering getting a space to make the leap, esp. into something as visually inspiring as Neuehouse.

Coworking spaces can now (esp. in NYC) be found on basically every corner. But, not all are considered the same. Neuehouse has a special curated style of events and panels available to their members that I feel is truly unparalleled. This supplemental programming was a bonus to the standard membership that is available for all members. In the two years I was there highlights of some of the programming I attend was Arianna Huffington's book launch for "Thrive", a panel with Milton Glaser on the current state of design and a conversation with Charlie Rose and Alyssa Mastromonaco about working with President Obama and private tours at Frieze Art Fair or Richard Serra installations in Chelsea, for example. If learning and developing is also important to you and your business, do seek out a spot that has some events and lectures that are of specific interest to you and your industry.

 communal tables, meeting spaces and some art installations. photo courtsey of contract design.

communal tables, meeting spaces and some art installations. photo courtsey of contract design.

And finally, the overall vibe was really inspiring to be around as I trodded through work day after day. Designed by The Rockwell Group, this industrial yet cozy interior was something that I always felt excited to be in (I think, step 1 in actually want to come to work!). Make sure that whatever spot you're choosing has the things that are of need for you - these could be reserveable meeting rooms, private phone booths, dedicated desks, lounge space, food/drink, etc. I used Neuehouse as a multi-purpose space (for work and for my own lectures/workshops) as well as for breakfast business meetings. Gotta love a one stop shop!

I have however left the space as I live a bit outside of the city, but do love coming into Neuehouse (which now has a Hollywood outpost for you west-coasters) when I can. Some other coworking spots in NYC that are also up there on the top of my list are Blender Workspace (in Flatiron) and Spring Place (in lower Soho) which are both pictured below. A bit of a smaller and more chill vibe, but nice looking and great to be in, nonetheless. Happy coworking!!!

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Holiday Season E-Commerce Strategies & 2017 Sales Data

 Holiday Ecomm Strategies, Ideas and Tips to Increase Sales

The data is in. According to multiple sources, the holiday 2017 online shopping season was one for the books. Due to a "strengthening economy, high consumer confidence and rebuilding efforts after a season of natural disasters across the country", online sales increased 10.4 percent from last year compared to only 4 percent from brick and mortar stores [source: NYTimes]. Due in part to retailers really ramping up their e-commerce operations and crazy deals for Black Friday/Cyber Monday (upwards of 50%-60% off, is anyone making any profit off of these margins after discounting?!), this growth and climb is the largest since the 2008 recession. It also though falls during a time in which online shopping in general makes up for almost 10% of all retails sales in general. 

As marketers and business owners, what can we learn from these numbers? By looking at some of the strategies that lead to these sales numbers, we can borrow ideas from some of the big online players and weave into our plans and initiatives for 2018. Here's what worked and what you should consider: 

Deals, messaging and low prices should lure buyers before Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The time period from Nov 1 - Thanksgiving should be just as important as the 5 days around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These 20 or so odd days are for the early birds who are out in force. Spending during this time period accounted for 7 times the total spend from just Cyber Monday alone. Getting started on a serious holiday sales and messaging strategy as early as November 1st for the holiday shopping season should now be the new norm.

Connect online to offline.

Wal-Mart did a really aggressive push this season to will play up its vast brick-and-mortar presence and in-store pickup services for online shoppers. Many other mall retailers also pushed their pick-up in store feature as a way to cut down on shipping and close deals and sales before the delivery cut-off hit in late December. Giving customers the option to shop the online deals in person is also another way to drive sales in store. Connecting the dots between online and off is extremely important. 

Don't forget about your mobile shopping strategy.

Shopping from phones was responsible for approximately 21% of just Cyber Monday sales alone so you could only imagine how highly effective and profitable this platform is the month of November, let alone the whole year. Be sure your mobile shopping experience is seamless this year, especially in Q4. Thinking of doing an update to it? Re-design or overhaul? Start now! 

I hate to end this post on a bit of bad news but let's get real: Amazon is really crushing everything. This behemoth player is responsible for 50% of the holiday spending growth in general. After that, we're all just small fish in a very, very, very big pond filled with kois owned by Bezos. 

4 Things No One Tells You About Your Website

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Well, congratulations! You have a website (let's assume for the sake of this post that you do). You didn't think you would just create, it launch it, and forget it, would you? Of course not! :) In order to see real results from your efforts and to get it to do the work, websites actually take a bit more work than sometimes we expect. I can't tell you how many times I need to remind both clients and friends of these below simple basics. Whether it's a freshly minted page or one that has been chugging along for a while, it's best to review these below easy "must haves" and make sure that you're following these effective strategies in order to achieve results!

1. Have a search strategy.

Getting people to your site is a whole beast onto itself. An expertly crafted search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is paramount and necessary in effort to get your page to appear in searches on Google (don't even worry about the other players) and ultimately traffic to your site. Organic search traffic could be a #1 referrer for site traffic! If you only have 5 min a week to ensure things are in tip top shape from a search perspective make sure your meta descriptions include main keywords, your pages actually have body copy with rich text and your images have alt text.

2. Be sure you are tracking conversions.

This one is a bit more technical but if you're selling something on your website, make sure you can track your sales in Google Analytics! You must be able to tell where your traffic that results in sales is coming from. If not, how would you know where to maximize and minimize your efforts? If the word "conversion tracking" sounds foreign to you, call you your web developer or anyone techie and get them to help you out. This is a must!!

3. Tell people!

Ahhhhh the art of self promotion. This one is really hard for me because I hate sounding too salesy or pushy. But, how else would anyone know that I have a website if I don't simply tell them? Occasional posts on social media, emails and word of month does the trick on this front. It just has to be done. And, it works. 

4. Make updates. Update anything!

Stale sites are so boring. If you haven't updated your homepage (at very least!) in over a month, get on it! A subtle visual or text change to the top three most frequently visited pages is what I would recommend. A homepage image switch out is ideal, but even a little content edit would do. When Google crawls your site, it loves to see that your site has had recent code changes so any small switch goes a long way from a search perspective as well.

If you're thinking the above sounds simple, it's because it is. We sometimes do need to be reminded of just the small important things when bogged down in crazy strategies to get ahead in other areas of business. Good luck! 

The Best of 2017

In true year-end fashion and as the final month of 2017 draws to a close, I'm getting a little reflective on this past year by looking back on some of the accomplishments I had for my creative marketing business. From an updated site to some exciting projects, there were times when I thought I would never get through some of them (but of course i did!!)  and now that we're just breaking into 2018, I can't help but highlight some of the "best of's" below with a few tips.

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New Site:

This one was a looooooong time coming. Since going out on my own in 2014, I had been operating with a makeshift website I had on WordPress that I felt never truly reflected the work that I do. One of my goals for this year was to re-design the site highlighting all services, and so I did. I knew that if I didn't craft a very simple one myself on Squarespace (aka. basically something I can put together in a weekend and update quickly here and there), I would never get it done. My first step was to create two boards on Pinterest - one for logo ideas, the other for layout and design ideas. From there I designed the simple identity and overall look and feel of the site. I had a general idea of how I also wanted the navigation and general site structure to operate so then I picked out the closest template in Squarespace to get me the desired user experience and went to town with writing all new copy, listing all workshops and teaching I have done, linking to press, describing my process and also inputting all new photos. I also worked with my fave photographer & friend, Jennifer Lavelle, who took natural light lifestyle head shot images I am very happy with. These can be seen on my homepage and on the about page. All in all, this site didn't take too long to put together! I am a bit surprised I hadn't bit the bullet and done it sooner. For this next year, I wish to blog more often and update the site with some featured work.

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Clients:

Around October of 2016 I was very fortunate to be connected to Billion Dollar Boy, a leading global influencer agency, by my dear friend Lisa (Big shout out to Lisa! Thank you!). At that time, BDB was seeking someone to work with them at the time to help execute a cool creative Coach campaign for the launch of Coach's new mascot, a tyrannosaurus rex named Rexy. I was brought on to help them out for the project which involved sourcing over 35 creatives to create original social media content around this mascot and share it on their channels (focusing on Instagram). I have since been really lucky to have been with them for just over a year now working on additional campaigns for things such as Lab Series for Men MAXCELLENENCE collection premier, Lab Series for Men PRO LS launch, The White Company on their influencer-based US campaign and store openings (both the 5th Ave location and The Short Hills Mall store) and most recently with Bobbi Brown for their Party Ready Holiday collection campaign. The wild west of influencer marketing has been really exciting to be a part of. What's so fascinating to me is how these large brands then use the influencers assets in their own internal and external marketing to truly drive sales. This could be from re-purposing images for an email marketing campaign to sharing content on company blogs - all while linking back to products featured and tracking appropriately. I also am so interested in how these creators are all so unique and individual in how they create and conceptualize content that is true to them while still answering the creative needs of the brand. Billion Dollar Boy is a really progressive and a unique company in this space I am so happy to be a part of (great team! great office! great clients!). Let me know if your business is considering influencer marketing!

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Community:

While I'm no longer living directly in the city, I'm sad to say that gone are the days of working out of Neuehouse or Soho House. It's mainly me, working out of my house :) Working from home can get a little lonely, so I've made it my mission this past year to find some local groups of women in business here in New Jersey to network with and also be a bit social. It took a bit of crazy Googling to find some things that are the right fit. Two local organizations that have been really helpful to be a part of out here in Morris County have been the Tuesdays Together group from Rising Tide Society and the Lady Boss Book Club founded by Mallika Malhotra. Tuesdays Together is once a month meeting for creatives + entrepreneurs gather together for coffee and conversation. Each month there is a topic at hand for discussion (social media, email marketing, etc) and I actually love it because each time I go I always learn something new. The Lady Boss Book Club is unique in the fact that each month or two a new business book is selected and then talked about in a morning get together. I've only been once because of my work schedule, but I really enjoyed it, kept up with most of the readings and do hope to hit up more in 2018 (starting with this month and the selection of Danielle LaPorte's The Fire Starter Sessions. Anyone read it?!).

On another note, this past year I luckily found myself an advisory board (more of less) for my business. Myself, along with two other women, have gotten together to form this group to provide accountability to one another, have monthly check-ins, bounce ideas off of or just keep in touch with. It has been truly amazing to be able to talk to others about our businesses that a) aren't my clients and b) aren't my husband :) and help each other out.

Together with Cody McBurnett of Loki Loki Brand Identity Design and Colleen Star Koch of Rowan Coaching, we've dubbed this group the “Working Title Collective", and Cody has beautifully penned this blog post on how to start one of your own (and also give a bit more detail about what we do in ours). Being a part of this has definitely kept me motivated and moving forward, which is worth it's weight in gold.

It's onward and upward into 2018!!