Turning In the Keys

After an amazing two and a half years, the time has come for me to say goodbye to Mustang Marketing. Thanks to my Mustang journey, I’ve learned a lot of rules of the road that I’ll be able to take with me on my next adventure.

It’s not safe to use an outdated AP Stylebook.
The most current AP Stylebook is one of the most important instruments in my marketing toolbox; I’ve discovered the importance of staying up to date on AP Style—because the rules change every year. If a writing project begins in 2013 and finishes in 2014, all the editing regulations from the first half of that project have to be double checked—all bets are off. Even some of the most set-in-stone conventions can (infuriatingly) crumble into ruin (see Danny’s AP Style blog post).

Microsoft Word is not a grammar guru.
Even the most trusted word processing program makes bad recommendations. Don’t depend on it as the proofreading end-all-be-all—it’s not worth the battle with your copy editors. Real-life exhibit A:

Microsoft Fail

True colors come out during staff lunches.
You don’t know the people you’re working with until you dine with them. When the bosses bring in lunch for the creative staff, you might discover the sweetest designer is not above scraping the last of the baked beans onto his plate before you’ve had any. The lesson: don’t let Brett serve himself first. When everyone grabs their own lunches and meets in the conference room, the petite administrative assistant might surprise everyone with a bulging bag of Taco Bell. The lesson: don’t underestimate Nerissa.

Push boundaries with your creative.
In my humble opinion, the best campaign leaves a lasting impression—especially if it’s a toe over the PC line. Earlier in my Mustang career I ended up on a wedding website’s 404-error page, and I took a screen shot of it to keep. It serves as a reminder to make even the dullest messaging fun.
BestErrorPageEver

Leaving your coworkers will probably be harder than you thought.
Before my last few days, I didn’t realize how much I’d miss each of the people I worked alongside for almost three years.

…Scott’s good-natured teasing
…Dianne’s impeccable fashion advice
…Chris’ distinctive laugh
…Brett’s attempted pranks
…Randall’s punny jokes
…Danny’s colorful sarcasm
…Michael’s refreshing cynicism
…Jess’ infectious optimism

These wonderful people have become my second family, and I feel so lucky to have had the experience of exercising my creativity with them for a living. As I look back and wave them on my way out, it won’t be in goodbye—it’ll be in thanks.

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Want What You Need, Not What You Want

As a Web specialist, the most common request I receive from clients is for a flexible website that they can control. The level of control can vary, and the amount of flexibility changes depending on the client’s needs. Determining that optimal level of control to allocate is a crucial consideration for developers.

Based on what clients want to control on their sites, developers try to build tools to make the site management easier for them. However, what the client may not understand is that the more features we add, the more complex a tool becomes. Non-savvy clients requesting intricate tools can often lead to errors or bungled content—and an ineffective site.

Teaching a client how to use the website is a short-term solution, but what can be learned in a few hours can change or be forgotten over the next few years. Written instructions can prove lengthy and impractical for clients to consult every time they want to update their websites.

So what’s the solution? The best way to guide clients is to limit their creative control, which makes the Web tools much simpler to understand and use effectively. This isn’t to say that clients can’t have what they want, but they should first want what they need.

The primary website need is effective communication. Working backwards, developers should create flexible tools that allow clients to explain their brands within their comfort zones. When a client is given just the right amount of flexible control to create usable, well-designed content, they will do just that—and they will do it more often. Clients will not use complicated tools to refresh their content, and their websites will slowly become outdated and dull.

In my experience, initial meetings with clients often revolve around determining their level of knowledge, and thus what Web responsibilities they can handle. With that understanding, I make recommendations for what tools should be built and how a client will be able to use them.

Often, through the development process, I will give clients tutorials of how they will manage and create new content to ensure they will be comfortable managing their new website. That way, it’s easier for clients to actually experience the difference between wanting what they need and wanting what they want.

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Come Enjoy a Day of Cops, Choppers, Canines and Family Fun!

One of our wonderful pro-bono clients, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Foundation, will host a fun, free, family-friendly event on Saturday, July 26–and YOU’RE invited! This event is an opportunity to meet Ventura County’s amazing deputies, get a closer look at their choppers and vehicles, and see their adorable (but tough) K-9 unit. Enjoy free Hot Dog on a Stick for lunch, as well as prizes and giveaways!

If awesome police vehicles, search-and-rescue teams and Ventura County’s finest on horseback interest you—or if your kids enjoy activities such as climbing walls and bounce houses—then this is an event you won’t want to miss.

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5 Essential Email Marketing Tips for 2014

Email is an important marketing vehicle, especially when it is used effectively. Here are a few tips to follow to maximize your results:

1. Optimize for Mobile Devices

If you have ever checked your email on your phone, you will immediately understand the importance of delivering a mobile-friendly email. Pew Internet Project did a study of American adults in January 2014 and found that 90 percent have a cell phone, 58 percent have a smartphone, 32 percent own an e-reader and 42 percent own a tablet computer. They also found that 52 percent of cell phone owners use their phone to access email—not a market share you want to miss.

2. Choose the Right System

In conversations with clients, I am often surprised at the number of businesses that use Outlook to send bulk emails. If you are still using Outlook for this purpose, you are harming your company’s spam score, potentially violating anti-spam laws and not getting the data to evaluate your campaign effectiveness. I have also seen people struggle with Salesforce, which limits the amount of emails per send. There are better approaches.

For example, consider using a company that offers email services. They are relatively inexpensive, and they help with spam, maintaining your email list and tracking data (see below). They also integrate with systems like SalesForce, and can include automated functions, as well.

It is important to evaluate what your needs are, and then find the system that is right for your company.

3. Track the Data

Within your email system, there are statistics about each campaign. You can use this data to see who is opening your emails, who is clicking on links and who might be a good lead to provide with further information or offers. This is an opportunity to follow up with leads who have shown an interest, without burdening the entire email list. The important lesson here is that your email campaign does not end when you click send!

4. Test Something

Do more people open the email if there is a question in the subject? Do more people click a purple button or a gray button? Is it better to send emails at 10 a.m. or 3 p.m.? Every email you send is an opportunity to test something. Be sure to take notes, as this should dictate how you send future emails.

5. Get Permission

It is important to make sure your email communications are in keeping with anti-spam laws. This practice is exemplified by any email that contains some variation of “Confirm below to continue receiving our electronic communications.” More specifically, on July 1, 2014, the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) took effect. The American Bar Association named this the “toughest anti-spam law in the world.” If you’re in Canada or send to Canadian residents, this law applies to you. For more details visit: www.fightspam.gc.ca.

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