Our Summer Reading List

It’s summer!

Every year I like to provide a summer reading list for you, my loyal reader. I thought I would mix it up this year and ask the women who form the Spring Insight marketing team to share with me a notable read – either that they’ve read or that they plan to – and now I want to share those suggestions for you!  These books are great reads if you ever do get to the beach, or into a particularly humid waiting room somewhere.

The Handmaid’s Tale By: Margaret Atwood

Let’s start with the most zeitgeist-y. This one is as au courant as they come, but hey – our marketing team is in the know, y’all. If you’ve never read the classic Margaret Atwood novel, now’s the time, thanks to a new Hulu original series based on the book, and some certain unsettling parallels with our current political trajectory. But even if you have read it, now’s the time to pick it back up.  Two of our team members, Kate and Sam, reread the book in anticipation of the television series, and both report that its story is as compelling as ever. The political tragedy, of a society in which women wake up to find their rights have been stripped away, is scarier now– less alternate-reality than it once seemed. But also, both of these mothers report, the human tragedy is achingly haunting. No one is going to call The Handmaid’s Tale the feel-good read of the summer, but we can’t recommend it strongly enough. (Also, it’s free on the Kindle for Prime members right now!!)

The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time By: Brooke Gladstone

The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time, by On the Media’s Brooke Gladstone, attempts to answer the million dollar question: How the heck did we end up here?  Like The Handmaid’s Tale, this is not one we’d call uplifting. But it should be required reading (and it is, in a way, for team member Sam’s book club). It used to be that we talked about viewing things from different perspectives. We could disagree, but we could attempt to see things from “where the other person came from,” and that learning about that viewpoint could prove productive and useful. Now, it often seems as if those on either end of the political spectrum aren’t even looking at the same landscape. If that’s the case, how do we ever find common ground? Gladstone delves into the forces that brought us “fake news,” “alternative facts,” and lies disguised as truths. With excerpts from Brave New World and 1984, and a discussion on which one our current reality mirrors more (really!), Sam is finding it to be a fascinating but accessible look into the state of our political discourse.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing By: Maria Kondo

And speaking of the trouble with reality: Your growing pile of unpaired socks (Where do they all come from?!? Where do the other ones go?!?). If The Handmaid’s Tale evokes the terror of having your life taken out of your control, and The Trouble with Reality drives home that feeling of helplessness, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is the antidote. The author, Marie Kondo, is a Japanese wiz-kid in the world of organizational self-help, and her slim book, aimed at helping you take the reins over all the stuff in your life, has taken the frazzled set by storm. If you’ve seen Rachael Ray gushing about her new method of folding clothes, or overheard people thanking their belongings for their service before relegating them to the donation bin, you’ve seen Kondo’s influence. This summer, our own Brittany plans to read the book and give her home a little makeover. Brittany’s expecting her third child, and though she’s pretty disciplined about ditching the clutter, she’s heard the siren call of “magic,” and she’s game for some life-changing doses of it.  Or at least, her nesting hormones have heard that call, and they’re in charge these days. Brittany’s got another nursery to get ready, but even if you’re in a more stable time in your life, we whole-heartedly recommend this book. It’s a short read, and it’s empowering. Kondo writes with a soothing cadence and makes you think that this time, really, you can take control.

Half of a Yellow Sun   By: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

And finally, my own recommendation. This too is an aspirational read – I plan to read it this summer.  I was very moved by the TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story.” In the talk, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian writer, warns against extrapolating from a single person’s story onto an entire culture or experience.  I won’t encapsulate the talk here because I would rather you listen to the full story in her words. The talk convinced me that I should read more books about people in different places — by people in those places. I have not read much by African authors and so am planning to read her book, Half of a Yellow Sun. And bonus points, if you want to take Adichie’s advice and read more about lived experiences: Her more recent novel, Americanah, is a stunning, moving and fascinating read, about a Nigerian immigrant in America, and recently was chosen by NYC readers as the first city-wide book club selection. Do like the cool kids in New York do and read Adichie’s work!

So, with little rhyme or reason, we present to you Spring Insight’s summer reading suggestions. If you’ve read these, have thoughts, or think we missed some big ones, let us know in the comments!

The Business of the Brain on the Internet: Get Tone(d) for Summer

Let’s talk about that most elusive of goals: tone…

Nope, I don’t mean your wobbly upper arms.  If your business has a digital side, you’ve probably seen or heard discussions of tone of voice. In person, tone is a relatively easy thing to suss out, describe, and hit. If you’ve ever gurgled to a baby, deepened your voice and shortened your sentences in salary negotiations, or found yourself using the word “totes” while at dinner with girlfriends, you know that tone changes depending on the context: your audience and your role in a conversation.

But when you take all that context and shove it into the confines of a QWERTY keyboard, you’re suddenly faced with the real problem of communicating your tone, digitally.

Engaged, as I am, in the business of marketing, I’ve been watching tone trends with a keen eye. First things first: there is a ton of toneage out there. In my research for this piece, I saw resources break down tone of voice into the expected – “friendly,” “professional,” – and the less-expected: “salesy.” Let’s just say at the top that I don’t think anyone should strive for a “salesy” tone.

But how should you sound? Tone of voice, like everything else, has changed with the times. Though we still have classics – your black blazer, akin to your professional tone – we now have some trendy tones to consider. Your, ahem, choker. (I can’t believe chokers are back. Again).

As I see it, these are the main tones of voice to consider for your digital side, in descending order of formality:

Expert. You earn your clients’ business because you’re the best in the biz, offering real knowledge and insight. Based on your expertise, your client may choose your dental services, enlist your help in decorating their office suite, or sign up for your monthly newsletter on the latest machinations in Washington. If you are a selling yourself as an expert, you want to write with a tone that conveys authority. Use industry-specific language (always being sure to be clear so that the uninitiated can understand you, of course), write in a straight-forward, direct manner, and use a relatively formal tone. Emojis need not apply for your webpage, and though you use social media to share noteworthy articles or relay your opinion on pertinent news and research, you probably don’t need an Instagram feed. For a great example of an expert tone of voice, check out Spring Insight favorite TalentFront. Recruiting expert Marcia Call makes clear she knows the ins and outs of her business, using industry lingo and clearly communicating with the human resources professionals in her audience. At the same time, she doesn’t make the lay people break out the dictionaries or try to decode spreadsheets.

Trustworthy.  If you stand out from the crowd based on your ethical standards, or your ability to keep you clients’ data safe, or the rigorous background checks you require of your database of childcare providers, you want to exude trustworthiness. You’re still striving for a level of formality, but unlike experts, your number one goal is to make your clients or customers feel comfortable. Don’t make them feel like you’re hiding the ball, or talking at a level above their heads. Provide your information in easy-to-access language, alongside graphics or step-by-step instructions, if needed. You might be the best in the biz, but assuring members you’re the “most trusted” will communicate your reliability. Check out care.com for a good example of a trustworthy tone of voice. From the language, to the photos, to the reassuring checklists, this company has worked hard to let you know that your loved ones are safe with it.

Friendly. A friendly tone is less formal. As the tone suggests, you’re being friendly. You trust your friends — but you also have a relaxed, casual air. Friends are in your in-group, so you use language that is light and casual. Contractions, abbreviations, even well-known internet slang and abbreviations – think “BTW” – are all possibly okay here. I find this tone to be particularly effective when the business or organization is providing something personal to my life. I don’t necessarily mean lingerie, but lingerie certainly falls into this category. These days, we outsource a lot – from dinner prep to handy man services – and a friendly tone sets the stage for a cozy relationship. It says to your customer: I might see your skivvies (when I wash and dry them – get your mind out of the gutter!) but that’s cool: we’re all friends here! A beautiful example of a friendly tone can be found at Letote. This great site curates a monthly wardrobe box for clients, and allows clients to return items they don’t want. To trust that a stylist will be able to put their thumb on the pulse that is my fashion style, I need to think of them as my friend. A bottomless closet I can borrow from, fun banter, and assurances that they won’t demand commitments, unlike your “needy ex” – Letote is a friend I want to have.

On-trend. Friends are great. But if you’re looking for someone to push you to your limits, you’re looking to be on-trend. An on-trend tone stays up on the latest #hashtags, uses the fanciest and newest internet acronyms, and references of-the-moment memes and cultural zeitgeists. An on-trend tone cultivates exclusivity. Selling clothes or trendy shoes? Bingo. Are you a lifestyle blogger convincing readers you’re in the know? On-trend is your #tonegoal. To achieve it, you create a feeling of the cool kids’ table in the cafeteria, and make readers crave an invite to pull up a chair. My favorite example is Thinx, the purveyor of period underwear that’s making it easier to be a woman – and to raise one. They’re talking about a pretty personal topic, and you can tell. It’s all girlfriend chatter, all the way. But I don’t classify it as “friendly,” because it’s also very, very hip and now. This makes sense if you think about what Thinx is selling: an entirely new way of thinking about a period. If you want people to start truly acting differently, you have to get the cool kids to act the way you want. And if you want the cool kids to act the way you want – well, write like Thinx. The site screams that young, hip, in-the-know women are ditching their grandmothers’ pads and not looking back, and it’ll make you want to do the same.

So, which is right for you? Don’t get swept up in the hottest blog language trends. Think about your business. If you’re trying to dispense financial advice, you want to impart that you’re adept at doing so. Opt for an expert tone. If you’re engaged in a more intimate function of your consumer’s life- – offering to cook them dinner or fit them with a bra — your optimal tone is friendly. Of course, these tones shade into one another. You may want to be both chummy and trustworthy, both expert and trendy, and that’s fine, if you do it well.

Need help choosing your tone and infusing it throughout your digital content? I’m here for ya’ baby! Contact me today to make sure you’re saying what you want to say, just how you want to say it.

I can’t help you with your flabby arms. I don’t even particularly want to. But I’m happy to dish about tone over a dish of ice cream. Oh, and if you’re curious, Spring Insight’s voice tends toward friendly, with a healthy sprinkling of sarcasm. Because the best advice on selecting your tone of voice is long tested: To thine own self be true!

I Virtually Never See You…

Often when I describe the work that Spring Insight does with organizations, I talk about how we take small businesses with a strong offline culture and translate it online. Last week, we flipped that formula on its head and took the strong Spring Insight online culture offline. The Spring Insight team was created as a virtual team and for me “seeing” a team member meant looking out through the tiny camera of her computer during a video conference. To be sure, in some ways, that often feels more intimate than a traditional meeting. I always know the countdown taking place in one of my team members kitchens (4 days until grandma & grandpa visit!), I regularly get to see toddlers waddle through meetings in diapers and can keep track of decor changes in dining rooms. But, there are limits to what can happen virtually. We get a lot done for our clients but it never feels like there is time to focus on the growth needs of Spring Insight. So for a couple of years, I have wanted to have an in person Spring Insight meeting. This was the year to make it happen and here is what I learned from the process:

  1. Structuring content in a way that includes others in the conversation is way harder than just presenting and no matter how fluid you want the conversation, you can’t spend too much time planning how it will go. Did I have inside jokes and slide splitting laughter on the agenda? Nope, that wasn’t part of my original plan, but watching my team members connect in a new way and help our company grow by inserting their own ideas into my presentation was incredible (and the jokes were really, really funny!).
  2. Being in person gave us the flexibility to talk more in-depth about all our processes than we would ever have the opportunity to do on a conference call. One of my favorite moments from the meeting came when my web team learned about a tactic my marketing team uses for client engagement and decided to adapt it to their workflow as well.
  3. The company’s goals truly became “our” goals. In order to come to DC from all over the country my team had husbands take off work, dogs boarded, and grandmothers shipped in so that they could join me to plan Spring Insight’s future. The commitment they showed to this company was astounding and I never been prouder of our new goals, knowing that they represent our entire company.
  4. I like my team even more in person than I do over video conference (though I miss the countdown categories.)


P.S. Want to gain some value by hanging out with me in person? I’ll be speaking at the Greater Bethesda Chamber of commerce on May 9th from 8:30-10:30. Free breakfast! Click here to register and I will see you then.

Trend Hype Panic: How to Turn Down the Heat and Plan a Marketing Strategy That’s Right for Your Organization

Is email marketing still relevant in the golden age of social media? Is marketing automation an efficient tool or an impersonal, lazy waste of money?

How do you know when the next hot marketing trend is hype or the very thing you need to take your sales or membership numbers to the next level?

It’s easy to be swept up by experts breathlessly touting “The Top 3 Marketing Trends to Jump On Now or DIE!” Nobody wants to be left in the dust while competitors cozy up to customers and rake in the bucks. If you get swept up in trend hype panic, know there’s an effective antidote: a calm, clear-eyed assessment of what’s right for your organization.

First, ask the million dollar question: Does the marketing trend align with your strategic goals?

What is the strategic vision for your company this year? What are your quarterly/annual goals? Will the marketing trend move you closer to either? Social media, for example, is a perennial hot topic. It’s also an undoubtedly powerful marketing tactic. But you must choose wisely or risk an ineffective, scattershot approach that wastes your time and energy. If your corporate security clients aren’t hanging out on Facebook (the largest social platform) or Instagram (the fastest growing channel), who cares if they’re hot? Posting an article on LinkedIn isn’t as sexy as a viral YouTube video…until that article raises your company’s profile and brings in hot leads that convert to customers.

Next, evaluate the marketing trend with this three-tiered “if not, then” test:

1. How quickly will the marketing tool pay for itself in ROI?

Email and marketing automation are both examples of investments that can have a big pay off…but not necessarily right away. Email is still one of the best ways to deliver customized, relevant content to your list of carefully curated addresses. Don’t be surprised, though, when you need to keep up a steady stream of compelling content over time before your email readers decide to bite.

Marketing automation can help you synchronize your efforts across social media, blogs, email, and more. But it’s not a “set and forget” operation. You need to track audience engagement and possibly adjust your strategy for optimum effect.

With both email and automation, there may be a delay in bottom-line benefits as you tweak your tactics for best results.

2. If there’s not an immediate ROI, how quickly will the marketing tool earn its keep in saved man hours?

If you can’t see the payoff right away, do you save yourself some labor costs? Marketing automation illustrates this point. When you automate the tedious tasks required to reach the right people at the right time, you free yourself and your staff to focus on running your organization.

3. If it doesn’t save time, does the marketing trend make you a better brand? Does it inspire customer loyalty or increase people’s belief in you as a strategic partner?

Video content is the rage right now and for the foreseeable future. Gurus warn that if you don’t ride this trend, your brand will end up alone in the wilderness. But even with technology costs dropping, a well-produced video can be a stretch for a small organization’s budget.

It may be worth the expense if your company is not well known and you want to create a high-impact introduction to the market. Sales may rise if potential customers see a video that explains how to use your product or shows satisfied customers giving positive testimonials. If video is a prime avenue to reach your target demographic, consider becoming part of the trend.

Remember this when you start to sweat over missing out on THE latest and best trend–there is no one-size-fits-all approach to marketing. The best strategy takes into account your product or service, staff and budget, and target market. No matter what is trending now, there are plenty of effective, creative approaches to choose from. With thoughtful analysis, you can always choose the one that works the best for your organization.

Still not sure which tactics are right for your marketing strategy? Contact us to help you hit the sweet spot with a customized plan to attract your target audience. In the meantime, you can cut through the overheated hype for some sane, sage advice on 4 Marketing Trends Your Association Can’t Afford to Ignore.

The Business of the Brain on the Internet: Go Big on a Budget

Production values worthy of Hollywood, celebrity endorsements, sexy shoots in exotic places…the bigger the marketing budget, the better the buzz over your product, right?

Not really.

From Budweiser and Buick to Instant Pot and HelloFlo, the fundamentals of a viral marketing campaign remain the same.

First and foremost–now and forever–it’s all about them not you. “Them” in this case are the potential purchasers of your product. Keep them upmost in your mind at all times:

1. Who wants or needs your product or service? How does it solve a problem or make your target audience’s life better?

2. Where does your audience hang out? Are there particular websites, blogs, publications, or stores (online and/or brick and mortar) favored by your target buyers?

3. Are you fluent in your audience’s “language?” Will you reach them best with words, pictures, videos, or a combination of all three?

Now, about the money. A modest budget should not deter you from developing a kickass marketing campaign. Small businesses with solid products do it all the time.

Exhibit One is Instant Pot. Three months ago, I hadn’t heard of this product. But all of a sudden, it seems like I am seeing references everywhere. Everyone from foodies to the sling-this-hash-and-git-‘er-done crowd is snapping up Instant Pots like hot cakes. The product’s marketing campaign has gone viral without one red cent spent on TV or print advertising.

What made the marketing magic? The Canadian company that created the product gave away 200 Instant Pots to popular food bloggers and cookbook authors who specialize in a variety of cuisines. The product’s claim to fame is its versatile ability to solve a fundamental problem of modern life–how to get yummy, healthy meals on the table ASAP. The company claims that one Instant Pot can replace your slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, sauté/browning pan, steamer, yogurt maker, and stockpot–and cook food significantly faster than a regular slow cooker.

The rest is viral marketing history. Instant Pot now has a cult following among bloggers, authors, and their followers, (plus me!) complete with hundreds of recipes and tips traded fast and furiously among devoted online communities. Cooks see that their trusted sources recommend the product. Blogs give advice on how to make it work in real life. Voilà–not only does the purchase practically make itself, but product information is easy to pass along through cyberspace to uninitiated friends.

What does cultivating brand ambassadors and word of mouth on social media do for company sales? Instant Pot is currently the #1 Best Seller in Amazon’s Kitchen and Dining Department. People bought 215,000 Instant Pots on Amazon Prime Day alone. How did I come to purchase the product? Well… I just kept seeing it appear on friends’ Facebook feeds and the peer pressure got to be too much!

A second example of the power of small business viral marketing is HelloFlo. The company is an ecommerce source of menstrual products and other content and services for women at a variety of life stages. HelloFlo’s hilarious, viral videos (First Moon Party and Camp Gyno) prove that as long as you have the internet, you don’t need no stinkin’ TV ad–big budget or not. You can talk freely to your target audience and keep it real with content that would never fly on TV.

There’s nothing like an entertaining, relatable story line (or whatever tone works for your audience) to draw a crowd. HelloFlo’s videos have a combined 50+ million YouTube views. Their irreverent, snarky take on first periods have an obsessive following among tween and early teen girls.

When customers visit the company’s website blog, they find information about sexuality, mental health, legislation, and other hot topics in a frank, direct way that appeals to the broader demographics for HelloFlo’s complete product line.

Speaking of hot topics…bars and restaurants often try to generate buzz by naming dishes and drinks after celebrities or the headline du jour. Sometimes the offerings become classics–think oysters Rockefeller and peach melba. Sometimes they make a deliciously scandalous temporary splash.

In the case of Community diner in Bethesda, MD (a Washington, DC suburb), the eatery generated a buzz and landed an article in Washingtonian magazine showcasing the Golden Showers Burger. The dish capitalized on January’s controversy over reports of President Trump’s affinity for…well, the burger name says it all. It features self-tanning cheddar, a very small pickle, and lemonade. The buzz may be temporary, but it grabbed a headline for Community in one of DC’s best-read publications.

What’s the moral of these stories? You don’t have to hire a big-name PR firm or ad agency to launch a successful marketing campaign. You need to know your audience, where to find them, and how to speak their language. When a product has a relatable story–in whatever form that takes–it catches legs.

Need some help getting started with your next marketing campaign? Contact us or follow Spring Insight on Twitter, Facebook, and Google +.

Forward Movement is the Antidote for Uncertainty

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

There’s plenty of good advice out there about setting a goal before you take action. At Spring Insight, for example, we wouldn’t dream of launching a marketing campaign without a clear idea of the target audience(s) and the results our client expects. Goal setting is crucial and part of a concrete, familiar process.

A much bigger challenge is to steer a campaign or move a company forward when all you can see is the patch of road directly in front of you. It’s tough to take a next step when you’re not sure where it will lead. In many ways, this business dilemma reflects our national landscape: unprecedented initiatives launched with goals in mind, but anxiety among many Americans over where we’ll end up.

Uncertainty can paralyze a business if it shuts down forward motion. Creativity and progress grind to a halt when doubt freezes your ability to start the trip without a clear pathway to the destination. The thing is, fearful paralysis is guaranteed to derail your project or business. There are practical strategies to break out and get moving:

1. “Make the best use of what is in your power and take the rest as it happens.”

So says Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher familiar with moving forward in uncertainty. You are not clueless about your situation. You’ve gathered the best information you could find to launch your project. You know enough to get started…so get started. Then see what things look like from your new vantage point and calculate your next best move. Repeat until you reach your destination.

2. Open your mind to all input as you take your next steps.

What if you can’t see far into the distance because the path will only become obvious en route to your goal? Perhaps you need to lay a foundation before you can develop the best plan. It might involve actions that you can’t dream up until you gather the results of your first steps. You might even need to tweak your original goal on feedback you gather as you move forward. Keep your eyes, ears, and mind open and adjust accordingly.

3. Keep heading in the right direction–forward.

Once you’ve broken the spell of uncertainty, your actions and feedback will steer you more and more clearly in the right direction. You’ll get confirmation that your actions are moving you toward your goal. The fog will lift and you’ll get a broader view of the best way to proceed.

But none of this is possible until you take that first step. Determine the right direction as best you can and just start walking. There’s no other way to put your uncertainty in check and move forward.

Are your organization’s marketing efforts headed in the right direction? Follow Spring Insight on Twitter, Facebook, or Google + and we can talk about the best route to meet your goals.

The Business of the Brain on the Internet: Single Super Star or a Solid Team to Succeed

Imagine that you must pick between a competent team of marketers or a mediocre team with one or two brilliant standouts. Which would you prefer? This question came to me when I listened to Malcolm Gladwell’s fascinating podcast about strong link/weak link theory. Gladwell applies it to higher education, but I think it has interesting applicability in the business sphere.

The book that launched the strong link/weak link phenomenon analyzes what makes a successful soccer team. A former professional goalkeeper and a behavioral analyst posite that soccer is a “weak link” sport. That means it requires a base of skilled teammates to bust all the right moves that result in a goal. A striker relies on backfielders, midfielders, wingers, and attackers to move the ball into just the right position to score. No matter how good that striker is, he can rarely win a game without a solid team behind him advancing the ball down the field.

By comparison, the authors classify basketball as a “strong link” sport. One LeBron James can blaze down the court and score, score, score. The team can succeed with LeBron even when the rest of the players are mediocre.

So, what kind of marketing strategy works best for your small organization? A strong-link stable of alpha, high-achieving superstars or strategies? Or a weak-link network of competent, interdependent people or approaches that support each other to reach a goal?

There are times when the answer might be a strong link approach. Perhaps you are introducing a new fitness club. In that case, an endorsement from the local NFL team’s star quarter back might be all you need to drive in traffic in droves.

For most small businesses though, a weak link strategy of a competent team and multi-channel marketing will always work better than a single superstar.

How do we promote Spring Insight and the services we offer? We have a solid team that creates content that circulates via our blog (Hi!), our email newsletter, a robust marketing automation program, social media, and networking. Our team members and strategies layer on top of one another to create our irresistible sales approach.

Speaking of our irresistible sales approach, are you a busy entrepreneur with a crazy schedule that leaves no time for you to ponder the right marketing mix for your small organization or business? Contact us and we’ll help you build a marketing strategy that gets the results you’re looking for.

Looking for more great website and marketing tips? Follow Spring Insight on Twitter, Facebook, or Google +.

Cyberpunks Are Cruising Your Neighborhood: Protect Your Website With 3 Simple Steps

Small businesses beware: hackers have you on their radar screen in a big way.

While cyber espionage and high-stakes hacks grab the headlines, internet thieves have turned their attention more and more frequently toward small organizations. The encouraging news is that you can protect your WordPress website with a few simple steps:

1. Recognize that the threat is real…and growing.

Mainstream media shine their spotlight on dramatic hacks that breach high-profile organizations and/or compromise vast amounts of data. Headliners include breaches against the Democratic and Republican National Committees, the White House, and the federal Office of Personnel Management. The OPM hack exposed the personal data of 22 million people.

Meanwhile, 43% of worldwide cyber attacks last year were against small businesses with fewer than 250 employees. That’s a giant leap from 2011, when small companies suffered only 18% of cyber attacks.

If these statistics sound ominous, take heart. The number one reason that small business sites attract cybercriminals is the owners’ lack of awareness. This means that once you recognize the serious threat posed by hackers, you’re well on your way to solving the problem.

2. Understand that it’s nothing personal.

Why would a hacker single you out from the 28 million U.S. small businesses? For the same reason a carload of bored teenagers choose a neighborhood for their destructive game of mailbox baseball: opportunity.

Those kids have nothing against the families–or the mailboxes–that line the road. The players simply cruise for a prime location until they find a quiet, out-of-the-way spot.

Similarly, hackers use bots to crawl the internet, sniffing for vulnerable websites. Since WordPress powers 25% of the internet, those sites make rich hunting grounds.

These aren’t directed website attacks, where cybercriminals handpick a target (the White House, OPM) and set about breaking down its defenses. Small businesses are most often the victims of undirected attacks, where hackers simply wait until an automated script turns up a vulnerable website. Your blog’s popularity matters not a wit. Neither does your site’s traffic volume. If a bot sniffs out a vulnerability, you’re on the hacker’s radar.

If you think your site contains nothing of value to a cyberppunk, please think again. Hackers poke around for treasures such as:

– Banking information to access your account.

– Employees’ personal data.

– An opening for “drive by downloads” that infect your visitors’ computers.

– Login information for your vendors’ sites. Remember that hackers penetrated Target’s system using login information from the retailer’s HVAC vendor.

3. Keep your WordPress plugins up to date.

Internet security experts report that out-of-date plugins are the most common way for hackers to access a WordPress site. A plugin is a piece of software that adds functionality to your site. Developers work constantly to close any vulnerabilities. That’s why keeping plugins and other WordPress files up to date is the best way to deter hackers.

The challenge for many entrepreneurs is their perpetually overloaded to-do list. It’s an ongoing, often weekly task to keep up with plugins and other software updates. Spring Insight is happy to help with our new Maintenance Program. For one affordable monthly fee, we keep your WordPress plugins and files up to date while you take of business. We’ll also serve as your expert resource if things go awry. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

It’s an easy way to deter cruising hackers from vandalizing your mailbox–and all your other precious data.

Join the conversation on social media (TwitterFacebook, or Google+).

A 3-Step Plan to Keep Your Resolutions

New year, clean slate, fresh start.

It’s an optimistic way to welcome 2017. Many businesses and organizations take time to reflect on past achievements, note the lessons learned, and launch the new year with inspiring goals.

Then there’s the dark–some would say realistic–side of New Year’s goals and resolutions: only 8% of people achieve them. That’s one dismal statistic, but please read on before you consider crumpling your organization’s goals and tossing them in the trash.

Luckily, behavioral scientists have zeroed in on why the failure rate is so high. They can also offer guidance for bucking the statistics and sticking to your resolutions. Here are three ideas from James Clear, who studies and writes about the latest research on successful habits and performance:

1. Keep the number of goals in check. If you set too many, you’ll spread your resources too thin to succeed. Prioritize and focus hard on what’s most important.

2. Be realistic about what it will take to achieve a goal. If you want to double your membership, but your organization lacks the staff, money, and/or time to commit to the goal, is it realistic? Does a 25% membership increase make more sense?

3. Design the processes necessary to achieve the goal. What actions must your company take to accomplish your goal of a 10% sales increase? X number of sales calls per day/week? More hours of engagement on social media? Scheduled follow-up interviews for every dropped membership? Lay out a set of concrete processes, measure their effectiveness, and adjust accordingly.

May you reach all of your New Year’s goals and have a successful 2017!

And if your list of 2017 goals includes a strategic, results-oriented marketing plan that turns prospects into clients, contact us. We can help!

Join the conversation on social media (TwitterFacebook, or Google+).

The Business of the Brain on the Internet: Rising Above the Holiday Noise

Quick! How many shopping days are left until Christmas? Or more importantly, how many Amazon holiday deal days are left?

During the holidays, everyone is so distracted by the buying frenzy that it’s hard to get people to Psychology and Holidaysfocus on your business. While money is flying out of everyone’s pockets, it might not be flying into yours. Instead of stressing out over this situation, why not come up with a marketing strategy?

Understanding just a few insights from psychology can help your brand make a lasting impression, even during Amazon-ageddon. Here are some suggestions for helping your business rise above the noise during the holidays and all year long:

1. Repackage Your Products

While we all like to think that customers buy our products and services because of their outstanding quality, psychologists (paging Dr. Pavlov) and retailers (paging Dr. Pepper) know that this is not always the case.

The fact is that when a consumer chooses to try a new product—your fantastic dog grooming kit, say—that buying decision is very likely influenced by packaging. This is also true for customers who have bought your dog brushes in the past and were very satisfied with the purchase. Putting those brushes in a new flashier, prettier package can attract the attention of previous shoppers and remind them that their dogs love your product. Here are some other good tips about the psychology of product packaging.

Repackaging can also mean changing up the way you present your products, to encourage customers to try something new. I love tea and I especially love trying new teas. This (and not my closeted Christianity) explains why I bought an advent calendar from David’s Tea. I’ve been happily enjoying each of my 24 days of tea as I countdown to the start of Hanukah.

A final point about packaging psychology: This advice can be applied to websites too. Think of your website as your brand’s packaging. Is this a good time for a website refresh? If the last time you updated the design of your website, you were still using a flip phone then it’s definitely time for a change. Spring Insight can help.

2. Capitalize on Current Clients

Since you already have a built-in advantage when it comes to capturing the attention of current clients, capitalize on this by offering them a special deal. I really love a particular wall calendar. I buy one every year, hang it on the wall of my home office, and use it to visualize my business goals. So, when the wall calendar company sent me an offer for 30% off, you know I jumped on it.

Consider who you can contact and offer a deal for re-upping by the end of the year. Create an email marketing campaign to target this group of subscribers or better yet, start using marketing automation software to capture relevant information and take your marketing to a new level.

At Spring Insight, we are amazed at the power of marketing automation. If you want to think about marketing about as often as you think about going to the dentist, this is just what you need. It’s like magic and since we’re all about giving our customers a magical experience, look for Spring Insight to roll out this new product offering soon.

3. Rethink Your Marketing Strategy

And speaking of marketing, if all else fails and business continues to be slow for you until after New Years, take this opportunity to organize your marketing strategy. If you play your cards right, you can avoid experiencing the same slump this time next year.

Social Media: If you haven’t already started building a social media following, consider it. Connecting with others by starting the conversation on social media is a great way to expand your brand. But it only makes sense if you create systematic strategy around building a social media presence.

What does an effective social media strategy look like? Think of social media like a room full of people at a holiday mixer where everyone is fighting to be heard. Yelling louder than everyone else is not likely to work. However, if you engage people one-on-one in a meaningful way, you will connect with those who are interested in continuing the conversation with you and others.

So, think hard about where to reach your target audience, then reach out to them in a direct and personal way. Remember that your goal is not to become an Internet sensation; it’s to attract the attention of people who are your end users.

Multichannel Marketing: Don’t aim to reach your audience through just one approach. Make use of all means at your disposal to reach your customers—email marketing, social media, mobile marketing, even good old-fashioned print media. This of course will depend on who you want to reach and what your niche is. The first step in finding a marketing strategy should always be to come up with the clearest possible picture of your ideal client.

Spring Insight has an amazing marketing team and we spend nearly all of our time brainstorming better ways to help our clients standout. If you are tired of spending time and money on marketing that is not giving you the results you want, it might be time for a new perspective. Contact us and let’s talk marketing strategy.

What do you do to make your brand shine during the season of shiny things?

Let me know in the comments below or post to social media (TwitterFacebook, or Google+).