Building A Marketing Plan That Makes Sense

coffee and pencils

**As first seen in the Paducah Sun’s Business Journal and


“Where do I start?!” We are well into the new year, but this question stops many from developing their annual marketing plan.

There are very important questions to tackle before you put your plan into motion:

  • What avenues should you explore?
  • What should the timeline look like?
  • How do you choose what to say?
  • Where should you say it, and when should you deliver the message?

But, back to the original question. Where to start?

Think of your marketing plan as a road trip. Surely, the first thing you are going to do is choose a destination. The same should be true for your marketing plan.

First, ask this: “What are my goals?” Before you can execute, or even really develop an effective marketing plan you need to determine your short term and long term goals.

Once you have defined your goals, then the pieces needed to achieve them should begin to fall in place. You have a starting point, and you have determined where the finish line is, all you need is the gas to get there and the route to take along the way.

Rules of the road:

The next step you will need to undertake is determining the best possible path to get to your finish line. Just like a traditional road map, every destination has many possible routes. But some will make more sense than others. When creating your route, follow these rules of the road:

  • Define your audience. Who’s coming along for the ride? More specifically, what area of your business or target demographic are you driving toward that destination? Understanding who you are trying to reach is imperative to a successful marketing campaign. In order to understand your audience, you first have to get to know them. There are many digital metrics at your disposal, especially if you have a social media presence, to help you understand your audience. It might require doing a little digging (and maybe a little math!), but the answers are always out there.
  • Develop your message. Once you’ve defined your audience, you then need to craft a message tailored to them. If you can pinpoint your target audience to a specific location, demographic or platform, then you can gain an advantage through messaging by appealing to a more similarly minded audience.Whether that is through sales by targeting a digital keyword campaign, or the style of posts you craft to speak on your social media platforms, keep your target audience in mind. What type of message are they going to respond to?
  • Determine your vehicle. Think of marketing as a giant garage that houses all kinds of different vehicles, all with different uses depending on the situation. Distance, terrain, weather and passengers would all factor in to which vehicle you chose to make that trip. Much like choosing that vehicle for your trip, you should similarly choose the vehicle for your marketing. Your audience and your message will help to determine if you should go in heavy on social media, spread your budget over traditional print media, or take aim with television.These decisions should be calculated, as there are metrics that measure trends for different platforms, as well as how those platforms are being engaged by demographic. This is why it’s so important to define your audience before you decide how to allocate your marketing budget.
  • Head toward the finish line. Once you’ve set a goal, you will automatically create a benchmark to which you can effectively judge your strategy. While you are on this journey, you can periodically assess the marketing vehicles you chose and the path you ultimately took to see what is working, and more importantly, what isn’t.


Marketing done right never involves doing the same thing forever. Regardless of what your business may be, the landscape is always evolving. It is your job as the business owner to keep an eye on how customers react, as well as how useful those tools were at reaching them.

For this new year, as you begin to dig into your marketing budget, make sure you aren’t just “going for a drive.” Decide what your goals are for the year, then plan out your route from there.

Consistency is Boring, but Vital to Brand


**As first seen in the Paducah Sun’s Business Journal and


Some will say doing the same thing over and over will never get you positive results. And, they may actually be right in some cases. However, when it comes to your brand, consistency is a necessity.

Your brand consists of the image and message which comes to mind when someone thinks of your product, service or company.

You can’t force a brand on anyone. While your logo and tagline operate as supporting pieces, your brand consists of much more.

Your brand is the core of what your organization represents. It’s how and why you serve your customer. When all of your messaging, imagery and actions match what you want to portray, it will be branded into the minds of those who need your services.


One thing many run into, even marketing experts, is boredom. This isn’t talking about laziness or too much time on their hands, but when consistency begins to feel boring. Some may begin thinking they need to change up the message or change up the look of the company.

Your brand may seem boring and too narrow to you, but remember it’s not for you, it’s for your customers. Establish yourself, your main message, product and service in the mind of your customer, then continue supporting it. You support your brand with creative ideas, instead of creatively re-creating your brand.

So how do you remain consistent in brand and creative in marketing?

Don’t forget your roots.

Many businesses forget what they’re good at. They try to expand or move into different markets, which oftentimes results in a watered down brand. Expansion and sub-branding can be done the right way. But, remember to keep coming back to your roots.

Your story is important. Your product or service is valuable. Keep providing what your customers love and be the best at providing it.

Be creative in content, but ensure it supports your established brand’s message.

Here’s what consistency is not: It’s not producing the same picture, same content, on the same platform, over and over.

Here is what consistent marketing should look like: Taking a core message and creatively finding ways to support and communicate it.

For true marketing creatives, this is both frustrating and fun. Creatively communicating the same message over a long period of time can eventually become tiring and feel somewhat redundant. Here are two things to remember: 1. Your customer isn’t thinking about your brand 24/7 like you.

  1. When you feel like you’re in a rut, look outside your bubble for inspiration. Even just taking a walk or talking with a friend can spark new ideas.

The key is not allowing your personal feelings of the brand to drive your marketing. Keep reminding yourself of who you are serving. What package can you put your message in that will resonate with them?

There are times when a company needs to rebrand, but rebranding should only take place when your brand has never been fully established in the mind of your customer. Making that type of decision should involve research and extensive planning.

But, here’s the action you can take right now:

  1.     Define your brand. Who are you at your core and in the minds of others? (You might even ask a few customers!)
  2.     Brainstorm three ways you can creatively communicate that message this month.
  3.     Document the results. What worked well and what didn’t?

Put away your feelings about the brand. Go back to your roots and remember what your brand stands for in the marketplace. Now, consistently be, and communicate who you already are.

Marketing Isn’t a Dirty Word, It’s a Service

Marketing is a service

**As first seen in the Paducah Sun’s Business Journal and at


“The customer is more empowered now.”

In the age of information, this is a commonly heard phrase because information is literally always at your fingertips. But, what’s interesting, is that phrase is sometimes an excuse for businesses not to engage in marketing.

Who Will Empower Your Customer

If you’re a business owner though, wouldn’t you want to be the one empowering your customer? Don’t you want to be the one inspiring them to make the right choice to grow in their personal life or business?

If you don’t, then your competitor will.

It’s time for businesses to stop viewing advertising, marketing and public relations tactics as something dishonest or dirty. If done correctly, it’s actually the exact opposite. It’s time to start looking at marketing as a service, not to your business, but to your customer. Continue reading “Marketing Isn’t a Dirty Word, It’s a Service”

Why You Need to be Posting on LinkedIn

LInkedIn Post Thumbnail

As we continue to explore the many different ways you can get to know your audience with our ongoing series “Getting to Know Your Audience,” (clever, we know) let’s take this opportunity to tackle an often underused social media outlet: LinkedIn. A lot of businesses still aren’t engaging on the often ignored platform, meaning they could be missing out on potential customers. So, let’s talk about why your business needs to be posting on LinkedIn.

If all you know of the platform are the frequent emails clogging your inbox from colleagues (and strangers), then it’s high time you give it another look. While posting on behalf of your company on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram are great practices, you might be surprised to know that your largest target audience just might be those constantly requesting to add you to their professional network.

LinkedIn has long been thought of as a place for individuals to connect to other industry professionals and, hopefully, establish themselves as such in an attempt to gain an edge when seeking out employment.

Now, fifteen years after its launch, LinkedIn has become just as powerful as a source for content as it is for employers looking for qualified talent, and vice-versa.

Social Media Examiner’s study published in 2016 gives us a lot of insight into the usefulness of LinkedIn in marketing.   We outline the key points you need to know.    
LinkedIn ranked as the third most used social media platform for marketers. Ranking behind Facebook and Twitter, companies are using, and subsequently reading, LinkedIn content more than YouTube, Google+, and Instagram.

Commonly Used Platforms
Source: Social Media Examiner

What makes LinkedIn such a desirable platform for businesses, you ask? One reason could be the audience. Once you break down how marketers use social media by the type of business they are, the picture gets a little clearer. If you break those numbers up into B2B businesses and B2C businesses, B2B marketers post to LinkedIn almost as much as they do to Facebook.
Even more telling, when asked to rank the importance of social media platform presence, B2C marketers overwhelming chose Facebook as the most important platform, with Twitter at a VERY distant second.

However, when B2B marketers were polled, the majority said LinkedIn was the MOST important platform to have a presence, with Facebook not too far behind. More than three-quarters of that same B2B marketing group plan to increase their usage of LinkedIn this year.

B2B vs B2C
Source: Social Media Examiner
Platforms used by B2B vs B2C
Source: Social Media Examiner

Sure, LinkedIn does have its issues. There is a tedious character limit for business posts, you can’t upload/embed video, and to take full advantage of the platform, you need a paid membership. However, the pros definitely outweigh the cons in this exercise based on audience alone.

So, if your goals include:

-reach other industry professionals

-recruit talent

-obtain leads

Then you are far more likely to reach your target audience on LinkedIn than you are on Facebook.
If you’ve been putting off joining or even just engaging on LinkedIn, then let this be the statistic that lights the fire beneath you: currently, LinkedIn has more than 500,000,000 registered members that you are currently ignoring. So if you are looking to get your company’s name out there, you might consider adding LinkedIn to your professional network.

Who is Your Audience? Let’s Brainstorm

who are you blog

Fundamental Marketing Question:  Who is your audience?

You probably have a general idea of who your audience is, or at least who you think  your audience is. But, when was the last time you really sat down to define it?

This isn’t something you can do quickly or even in an afternoon. It takes some serious research.  But, you can get the ball rolling and at least start to build a basic understanding of who you are trying to reach for your business.


So, why do you need to know who your audience really is?  Let’s look at this analogy:

Think about how you talk to people throughout the day. Do you talk to your children the same way you talk to your spouse? What about your boss and coworkers? You use the same language, inflection and urgency in all of those conversations right?

Of course not!

You may not vary your voice much, but you do talk differently to different people.  It’s not that you want to treat people differently, it’s just that you know all of these different people really well, and you know HOW to talk to them. Everyone receives and understands information differently, that’s why we vary our communication styles when talking with the different people in our lives.

With marketing, it’s no different!

Once you know your audience, then you can start building the right message. You can talk directly to them in a way they understand and can relate. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We need to start with your audience.  

Easy mistake!

Don’t be like “most businesses.” A common mistake is that they assume their customer feels and experiences things the same way they do. That may not be true.  So, be the oddball out and start making decisions based on your audience and NOT on your own emotions.  
brainstorm with your team on who your audience is


Over the next few months we’ll be exploring practical ways you can determine who your audience is. But first, get with your team and have a brainstorming session.  You may not know the exact answers, but start to think like your customer.

Start with these three questions:  

-Where does your audience go? (physically and online too)

-What do they see everyday?

-What problems are they facing?

Next month we’ll continue exploring ways to understand who your audience is and how to answer some of these questions. 


Life Imitates Art, Imitating Life

Mad Men Heinz Blog Thumb

Where the line between what is and isn’t real on TV, the internet, and especially in advertising, has been blurred beyond recognition, we’ve finally come full circle. It’s hard to believe that it took this long for such an occurrence to take place. But low and behold, it finally has. And in the most glorious of ways.

Last week, the advertising world took an interesting turn when Heinz, the classic condiment connoisseurs, chose to run an ad campaign echoed practically verbatim from a fake ad campaign created for a TV drama. In what seems to be a half marketing/half PR stunt, Heinz proposed their latest marketing effort: a series of ads originally pitched on an episode of the show Mad Men.

While we (of course) have to admit it isn’t really at all that far-fetched, it is indeed, a fantastic example of life imitating art, imitating life. In 2007, AMC introduced us to the world of advertising as it was perceived in the 1960’s. It wasn’t just a drama, it was an in-depth look into what was the burgeoning world of Madison Avenue in its heyday. Though while the companies were real, the ad pitches were merely script.

For those who watched the show, they’re sure to remember the infamous pitch presented by Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce darling Don Draper. He and artist Stan Rizzo boldly suggested a campaign in which the product they’re selling is never shown.

Pass the Heinz Ad
Heinz/David Agency

The spots featured close-ups of french fries, a cheeseburger, and a cut of steak against a simple white background adorned with the phrase “Pass the Heinz.” It was one of many very good ad campaigns the show presented not from the actual history of advertising, but rather from the minds of the show’s writers.

While the fictional Heinz execs from the days of yore initially passed on the campaign, the more open minded real execs of today are finally running with it nearly 50 years after Draper’s initial presentation would’ve taken place.

David Miami, who currently represents Heinz, pitched the idea with a clever marketing ploy – accrediting the original founders of the SCDP advertising firm, as well as Mad Men writers Matthew Weiner and Erin Levy. They can be seen in the campaign credits provided to Adweek (who originally reported the story), cleverly presented in vintage typewritten copy as they might have been in 1968.

The campaign is sure to be a hit with Mad Men fans, who’s premiere will be celebrating its 10 year anniversary this summer.

The ads can currently be seen on billboards in Times Square, Vanity Fair, The New York Post, and, much to the chagrin of Mad Men purists, social media. Your move, art.

Pass the Heinz Cheeseburger
Heinz/David Agency
Pass the Heinz Steak
Heinz/David Agency

Two ROI Definitions in Marketing


In business ROI usually means Return on Investment.  As a business owner, each decision and investment you make for your future, you hope will bring a high return.

In B2B marketing and B2C marketing we look at ROI in a couple of different ways.  

1. Return on Investment:

This is also used in the context of advertising and marketing tactics.  As online and social media tactics change, our methods for measuring ROI also have to change.

This includes looking at clicks to a website, email opens, Facebook engagement statistics, etc.

We are constantly looking at the numbers to help guide us into what we do next for our clients.  This helps us define our target more clearly and the types of tactics we use to reach them.


2. Return on Impression: 

Our Branded Products Specialist defines ROI a little differently. ROI is also Return on Impression, which means how many people will see your logo on your branded product.

Robyn talks with the client and uses research to determine which products will maximize impressions for a brand.

Items such as tote bags or tumblers will be used often, which also means they’ll be seen often.  And, though it’s affordable and simple, a pen still has a high ROI for brands.


ROI, in either sense, is a metric term to help explain the impact marketing tactics have on a brand’s image, exposure and lead generation.

Marketing strategies should always strive for a high return for the brand, whether that be monetarily or through exposure.

Want to learn more about our new Branded Products Specialist? Robyn would love to help you find the right branded products for your next marketing campaign or event! 

Two Most Important Marketing Questions [VIDEO]


So, as the new year begins, here’s some quick marketing tips from Innovations Branding House to you!

There are two main questions you should ask as the new year begins.

Are you ready?

Here they are:

  1. Have you built a marketing foundation?

  2. What’s next?

These two questions are simple to ask, but not always simple to answer. Let’s dive into what we mean.  

Have you built your marketing foundation?

Your marketing foundation includes all the pieces that collectively establish your brand.  

Those pieces include things like the following:

-brand slogan
-business cards

Branding Tools

Yes, creating these items is marketing. But, the purpose of them is to establish your brand in the mind of your customers or potential customers.

Why is this important? Here’s a few scenarios to consider:

-Logo inconsistency

If your logo isn’t the same everywhere, your loyal customers may become confused as to the business they’re buying from.  If the variation is vast enough they may actually think you’re a different company altogether.  

 Not good!

-Poor website design

Did you know that around 65% of all media time is now spent on mobile?  That means people are on their phones or tablets searching for products, watching videos and engaging with friends.

What if your site isn’t mobile friendly, but you have the information they’re looking for.

Do you think they’ll go find you on their desktop or go to the next Google search option?  

I think you know the answer.

There’s many more scenarios that we could go over, but the key point is that you need to have a marketing foundation for your business before you can begin building your marketing campaigns.

That brings us to the second question you should ask in the new year.  

What’s Next?

This is actually the question you should NEVER stop asking. This question will drive your marketing plans for the next month, the next three months, even the next year.

You want to build short and long term marketing goals. Think of it this way, if you’d only built the concrete foundation to your business’s building, you wouldn’t have a business right?

Same with marketing.  The foundation establishes your brand, but now it’s time to let people know you’re ready for business.

How do you do that? By creatively answering these questions and building a strategic plan around it.

-How will you drive traffic to your business?

-How will you nurture current customer relationships?

-How will you invite new customers to work with you?

So, as you build your marketing plans for 2017, remember these key points:

-Marketing never stops.

If you want to continue driving traffic to your business, then you need to continue telling your customers who you are and the benefits you bring to them.  

-Marketing is different for every business

The business next door has a different target market than you, so he may have different tactics to use than you will.  Remember, you want your business to stand out, so get creative!

-With creativity comes a little risk

When you try something that’s never been done before, remember there is a little bit of risk involved. But, there could also be exponential reward for trying something new!

So, whether you need to build your marketing foundation or begin asking “what’s next?”, the new year is a great place to start!

To learn more about marketing like a brand, download our free guide below.  Or check out these other resources! 


Create A Sales & Marketing Relationship That Works


When you’re passionate about the work you do, it can be easy to isolate yourself and your focus to solely your tasks. But, let us present the possibility that your work is fruitless without communicating inside your organization.

How can this be possible? Let’s talk specifically about the sales and marketing relationship within an organization.

The purpose of sales is to create new sales, upsell and nurture current clients. Marketing is focused on supporting the brand image with the right advertising and messaging.

But, these two departments shouldn’t feel like they are competing. They should instead see one as the driving support of the other.

What do sales and marketing teams have in common?

  • Work within a system

Again, sales and marketing are very different in purpose even though they’re both reaching for the goal of increasing awareness and sales for their company. Because their purpose is different, so are the systems they work within. Sales will work within Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. There are many to choose from, but the main purpose is to assist the sales team in tracking potential and current customers. It allows them to easily document who is being contacted and where they are in the sales cycle.

In marketing, we will also work with a system. This is generally linked to the CRM so potential leads made from marketing efforts are funneled straight to the sales team.

The marketing system will track mass engagement from different platforms targeting different customer personas. For example, their system will track how many opened an email and what content they clicked on most.

  • Create plans

Each department creates a plan and then works within that plan to reach their goal. Here’s an example: Sales: As a team, make 50 calls a day, have three conversations which will lead to 1 promising meeting. Marketing: Create messaging that generates leads for sales team to help them fulfill their plan. Marketing plans should always merge with the current sales plan.

  • See communication as key

There has to be communication not just with potential customers, but between both of these departments. Many times sales and marketing teams do not communicate, which can sometimes lead to pointless efforts made by both parties.

So what indicators display a healthy relationship between sales and marketing teams?

  1. They are aware of each other’s efforts.This goes back to that important communication piece! Have you ever heard your sales team say, “I really wish we had a brochure or pamphlet to hand out!”…only to find out one was made but never given to the sales team to use?If you have, you’re not the only one! One of the first things we work on with our clients is helping them understand the need for efforts to match. Communication is key for this to happen! The sales campaigns should always align with the campaigns the marketing team is creating.
  2. They have regular meetings together.The easiest way to keep everyone aware of the efforts being made, is to have regular meetings. This allows for a couple of things:

    -the sales team can communicate their needs (ex. tradeshow materials)

    -the sales team can bring light to the attitudes they’re facing  from potential customers.

    -both teams can talk about results and analytics

    -both teams can work on using all of this information to tweak current campaigns or build new ones.

  3. They regularly analyze results and ask “what worked?”Analysis is a huge component to creating future campaigns that will work for the organization. For sales, they can see which tactics work to close more sales. For marketing, they can see what tactics are driving more qualified leads. Together, they can increase leads and sales with the most effective efforts.

So, are your sales and marketing teams talking to one another? Do you think your marketing needs a little boost? Try evaluating your organization with this information.


How to Stop Using Inferior Photos [VIDEO]

Downtown Nashville

Photography always communicates a message. That’s why social platforms like Instagram and Facebook focus mainly on photos and videos. It’s amazing what 1 image, or a series of images can communicate with a simple glimpse.

But, it’s far beyond social media – think about your every day. How many times a day does your eye glance over pictures?

-Billboards on your drive to work

-As you sit, drink coffee and read your morning news. Whether that’s on paper or on your mobile device, I would argue the pictures are what draw your eye into what you decide to read.

-In emails

-Text messages from your family

-Posters and advertisements as you head to the grocery or your favorite restaurant

-Menu photos at your favorite restaurant (ever ordered something solely because the picture made your mouth water?)

Downtown Nashville

Images bombard us everyday, so now think about the messages your marketing images are conveying.  Many brands settle for sub-par photos which result in two main outcomes: 

1. Image is Ignored: The photo doesn’t grab the attention of the audience and so therefore is ignored.  Think of all the images you scroll past on your phone or drive by everyday, but don’t recall.

2. Image Confuses Audience:  This is just as bad as being ignored. You may actually have a beautiful photo, but if it doesn’t accurately represent your brand, or display the correct message, customers leave confused about the purpose of your photo.


So, how do you stop using inferior photos? With these ingredients:


The right equipment and knowledge

You may have a professional camera, but do you have everything you need to capture the right images?

Remember to always consider the best lighting options and lenses. Your subject will determine your lens selection.  You’ll use one lens for an extreme close up for texture or product shots. Or, if your subject is far away, you’ll use a different lens to get the greatest detail and light exposure.

As for lighting, you want to maximize your natural light if possible using diffusers and reflectors. Or, with the right lighting placement indoors, you can create a setting that looks natural and makes your subject pop.



When taking photos, try to change up your angle.  Don’t shoot from your height at all times, try different angled shots to add variety to the images of your subject.

Also, in post production, some editors get a little too creative.  Some edits are fine, but as you edit the image, continually ask yourself, “does this look natural?”  If you answer no, then reverse that edit.

People may not be able to pinpoint what looks off about the photo, but they’ll notice something and it will distract them from the message you’re trying to send.

Card deck


A beautifully created photo is your goal, but you only get there if you have strategy from the beginning to the end of the process.  Before you begin your photoshoot, think about the message you want to convey with these photos.

What’s the purpose you have for these images? After you’ve shot for a while, take a look back and re-evaluate, does the subject dictate a change in your message? Do you need to rethink or refocus the purpose?

Marketing cannot succeed without strategy. So anytime you pick up a camera, start typing a blog, or filming a tv commercial, there first needs to be a determined strategy.
Remember to use the right equipment and right strategy, for the right job.  You will not always need a professional camera and crew.  If you’re at your company picnic and want to post a few photos on social media, then use your smartphone.  That’s ok!

But, just because you’re using your smartphone, doesn’t mean you should forget the tips above.  Use strategy and creativity to take creative shots for your own social media. Don’t miss my other tips in the video at the top!