21 Books Every Creative Person Should Read

Nothing tells you more about a person than the book they’ve dog-eared the most. To celebrate National Book Lovers Day, we’re sharing the team’s MVBs—most-valuable books—to illustrate the connection between being well-read and being top-notch marketers, designers, and strategists.

Ready? Let’s open to chapter one.

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Social Media Specialist
Shelby Bake is a social media copywriter with a background in web writing, email marketing, and digital content strategy. She has worked with clients in various industries, including insurance, health, and food.

Drafting up Ideas with Element’s New Graphic Designer

Element recently welcomed graphic designer, Ava Gretzinger, to our growing team. Years of design experience in various industries have polished the Wisconsin native’s ability to deliver innovative designs that help our clients stand out amongst competitors.

We sat down with Ava to learn about her heart for art, shrinking bucket list, and upcoming trips on her 2015 Indian Vintage cycle!

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Element Employees Share Their Black Friday Traditions

‘Tis the season for third helpings of stuffing, heated political arguments with extended family, and early morning shopping deals that require a healthy dose of endurance and even more caffeine. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! So what will Element employees be doing when the clock strikes twelve on Black Friday?

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The Importance of an Agency Partnership (and When to Find a New One)

Having an agency partnership is invaluable. You might have an agency on retainer to manage all of your content marketing, or simply use an agency once a year to complete the only thing you don’t handle in house – the annual report.

Either way, you’re a winner! You understand that nobody has 32 hours in a day, and a good agency is a like a secret weapon in your back pocket.

Just like having a nanny who knows where everything is in your house, and is able to care for and know your children almost as well as you do, an agency partner understands your business, takes the time to learn and understand your business goals, and works hard to help you achieve them.

Is that what you’re getting from your agency partnership?

Continue reading The Importance of an Agency Partnership (and When to Find a New One)

Director of Business Development
Lisa Gaupp is Element's road warrior. She's a people person who brings proven tactics and a disciplined organized approach to the free spirited, thought-provoking mixing bowl that is an agency. Lisa and her husband are raising two boys in the Fox Valley, and she still has her Little Kickers championship soccer trophy from 2nd grade.

How Marketing Helps You Recruit the Best Employees

I recently ran into a recruiter for one of the top employers in Northeast Wisconsin and had a conversation about his biggest challenge to fill almost 400 open positions annually. Among other things, I was surprised to learn that they didn’t have a social media strategy as part of their efforts. In fact, he mentioned he wasn’t even quite sure how it worked.

Continue reading How Marketing Helps You Recruit the Best Employees

Director of Account Services
Nikki Peroutka has handled account service duties at Element for more than a decade. She remembers pre-PDF days when every proof required a face-to-face client meeting, and the number of colors in an ad determined its price. This, of course, makes her feel like an old marketing-weary battle-ax. Yet, she brings a youthful, fresh perspective to overseeing all client relationships as well as managing her own accounts. When her daily Director of Account Services duties are done, she enjoys relaxing with a good magazine or book, chasing around her son Oakley, and doing DIY projects around the house.

You Won’t Believe Element’s Mind-Blowing Cyber Monday Deals!

What if we told you we were offering BOGO logo design for Cyber Monday?

What if we gave new clients 73% off website development, or maybe a free video that we guarantee will go viral?

How about a half-priced SEO audit with the purchase of any mobile app?

Well, sorry to disappoint, but we aren’t offering any of that. Here’s why…

We don’t play that game, because we care more about helping you develop effective strategies that grow your business than we care about landing a new account.

This time of year, just about everyone is looking for a deal.

Right after we finish cramming as much turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce down our throats as we possibly can, many of us head to the stores in a pumpkin pie-induced frenzy to snatch up those Black Friday deals and steals. After all, we’d be CRAZY to pass them up!

Honestly, it’s a genius marketing move, and we tip our hats to whoever came up with the ideas for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

What This Has to Do with Us

The idea that an advertising agency would actually offer unbelievable holiday deals is just plain ridiculous. (Although we wouldn’t put it past some places)

Cheaper isn’t always better. In fact, it rarely is. And that’s certainly true when it comes to choosing the right agency.

Because let’s face it…

Maybe your 17 year-old nephew knows a little about building websites and can give you a deal. But unless he’s the next Mark Zuckerberg, you probably shouldn’t put your business in his hands.

Anyone can shoot and edit video with their smartphone for free. But are those the results you want the world to see?

You could hire your teenage babysitter to run your social media campaigns. I mean she’s tweeting all the damn time anyway. She must be an expert, right?

No – you wouldn’t do anything of the sort. You’re smarter than that.

So why would you hire someone online who you’ve never met, who knows next to nothing about your business, and then pay them five bucks to design your logo?

Even if that stranger happens to be talented, do you really think they’re going to put in the effort required for quality results at such a minimal fee?

cheap tattoo design
The pitfalls of cheap design

Here’s the Real Deal

Thankfully, we don’t need to lure anyone in with outlandish promotions and deceptive deals.

We let our work and experience speak for itself.

We believe the things we design for our clients are a worthwhile investment.

When we show off a finished product to you, we want you to feel like a kid at Christmas. You’re opening up a package to find something even better than what you wrote about in your letter to Santa Claus.

We don’t want to be the gift that breaks two days later, the dorky sweater from your lame aunt, or the toy that gets forgotten about after five minutes.

Here in this workshop, we’re turning dreams into reality and helping businesses like yours show the world what it has to offer.

You definitely do have a choice when it comes to choosing who leads your advertising and marketing efforts. At Element, we don’t want to be like a shady retailer handing out false hopes. We want to be a trustworthy partner with the creative chops and groundbreaking ideas that truly make a difference.

Want to get started? We’d love to hear what you’re thinking. Contact us today and let’s talk about what we can do for your advertising and marketing.

Finally, we leave you with a clip from one of the most-beloved holiday specials of all-time. If you think commercialization of Christmas is something new…think again.

Charlie Brown has been lamenting about it for 50 years! But we have to admit, Snoopy really knows how to put on a show.

Is Your Website Ready for Your Content Marketing?

Make no mistake, content marketing is the buzzword of the year. Businesses across the board are jumping on the bandwagon in hopes to revitalize their marketing strategy and continually improve their relationships with consumers.

As information-hungry consumers who are constantly connected, we crave instant answers from Google and habitually search a new product or brand in order to determine its value – What is this product? What does it do? Where can I find it? Who makes it? Can it help me in my daily life? Is it worth buying?

This is where a polished website is crucial and builds the foundation to a successful content marketing program.

Build a Strong Home Base
A strong website will be the groundwork of your content marketing program, acting as the home base for your consumers as they go through their buying process.

Here they can always return to find original, high quality content such as blog posts, e-newsletters, product brochures, and other information about your business on a regular basis.

And since it’s your owned property, you can control your overall messaging, unlike other platforms, which can be confining in terms of creativity or distribution.

But don’t forget that although content is key, your website’s design and usability is just as important.

Guide Consumers Through Your Website
Your website should also be a consistent part of your strategy when creating new content.

Whenever relevant, a call-to-action should appear in blog posts or infographics to drive consumers to your website and even specific web pages for downloadable guides or related content that would be beneficial during their buying process.

This can be for a variety of reasons: to keep tabs on warm leads by collecting their contact information for future outreach; targeting certain consumers for future product deals; or testing the merits of a monthly newsletter.

By staying with consumers throughout their buying process, you’ll be able to reach out to them when appropriate and generate concrete leads for your business.

And when you house your content directly on your site and have multiple web pages with beneficial information, consumers are also more likely to stay on your website to explore instead of leaving after getting the information they need.

Measure, Report, Optimize, Repeat
According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America report, only 21 percent of B2B marketers say they are successful at tracking ROI in content marketing programs. But the number went up to 35 percent when businesses had a documented strategy in place.

In simple terms, those who have a standard process on measuring content performance will more than likely be better equipped to make the right decisions when it comes to content.

CMI also reported that website traffic is the top metric of choice for businesses looking for data to inform future content decisions – 63 percent of businesses say it’s a reliable measurement year-over-year.

By running an analytics program, like Google Analytics, you can easily see data on what content is attracting consumers, how it’s convincing consumers to stay on your website longer, and which consumers will be more receptive to direct contact by your sales team in the future.

Not only can analytics inform your strategy, creating consistent, quality content and distributing through a wide range of communication channels will help improve your overall SEO ranking.

If you take the time to build a solid web presence all directed through your site, next steps in building your content marketing program will be that much easier. So if your business plans to increase your content marketing output in 2016, make sure your home base is ready for your consumers.

Principal/Agency Director

Celebrating 12 Years! 12 Things You Didn’t Know About Element

To celebrate our 12th anniversary as a business, we put together a handful of amusing tidbits about our fun-loving group:

  1. We were originally River North Communications, an agency set up to exclusively serve a traveling trade show to promote lodges and hunting trips in Canada. It wasn’t until 2003 that we changed our name to Element Creative.
  2. Lance and Aldis celebrated this fond occasion earlier in the week with some champagne and award-winning Kringle from Uncle Mike’s Bake Shoppe. If you must know, the cork did hit the ceiling.
  3. Lance has admitted he was wrong at least once. It was an apology to Moose for not giving him an Element hat sooner.Moose-Element-Creative
  4. Lori, a graphic designer, and Molly, our receptionist, swear they have different dogs, Piper (left) and Harvey (right). But many in the office believe they are clones.
  5. Eric (to the right) is our copywriter and associate creative directorEric-Element-Creative, but also holds the title of beerman. He makes sure the fridge is stocked with both old favorites and new brews for when we celebrate birthdays, Packers games, or just need to crack a cold one on Friday afternoon.
  6. We haven’t always been at 2081 Profit Place. We were originally at 2080 Profit Place just next door. Yes, we literally moved about 300 feet.
    An early morning view of Profit Place.

    And before that, we worked out of a basement with just three egress windows for natural light.

  7. Nikki, our director of account services, was originally hired as a designer until it was discovered she “designed big.” It was quickly realized she would be better suited for account work.
  8. Moose loves to give tours. He greets visitors right outside Aldis’ office.
  9. A few of the designers have motorcycle drag races from time to time, and it gets interesting when winter rolls around.
  10. Lance and Derek perform as the karaoke duo, “InVESTed,” at least once a month. They take their karaoke nights pretty seriously.
  11. Sue, our office manager, has processed roughly 15,000 job tickets since she started on Oct. 13, 2003 when Lance and Aldis bought the agency.
  12. We could probably survive the apocalypse with the amount of frozen pizzas we have in our freezer. Plus, both Joel and Mike Thornton are avid The Walking Dead fans – their knowledge would be quite invaluable.

Here’s to the future of Element and many more years of Kringle, drag racing, and matching vests!

How to Implement Content Marketing Software into Your Strategy

Some time ago, a bank president shared with me that his sales team was not using their new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. I asked him why not and he told me that the CRM had over 80 possible fields and was overwhelming to use.

It turns out the sales team simply did not have the time or computer access to use the CRM software correctly. They were only using about 10 percent of the software’s capabilities! Since no one took the time to consult with the team or understand their sales process beforehand, the bank was now locked into a lengthy, expensive CRM contract that was hard to break.

So, how do CRM software and other programs relate to successful content marketing? First, let me take a minute to define content marketing.

Wait… Isn’t Content Marketing Just a Program?
Easy answer? No, but let’s dig a little deeper.

Content marketing is the process of developing and sharing relevant, valuable and engaging content with a target audience in order to acquire new audiences or deepen relationships with existing customers.

It’s the vital link between customer awareness, action and sales conversion.

From the conversations I’ve had, it’s a common misconception that content marketing is simply a software program. Although software is a valuable part of managing and tracking the results of content marketing efforts, it’s only one part of the process.

The key to content marketing is to have an ongoing, consistent strategy. When there’s a solid understanding of what makes your audiences tick, producing and delivering engaging content can easily complement your audiences’ natural buying cycles.

Consider this. A prospect has the potential to interact with your earned media (public relations efforts), owned media (blog, newsletters, videos), shared media (social media), and paid media (display ads, advertorials, Google AdWords). This interaction needs to be positive, consistent and well thought-out.

You also need to think about how you want to position your brand.

  • Who are your target audiences? Where do they look for information?
  • How do you integrate information about your products and services into engaging content?
  • What content format will have the most impact? When do you deliver this content?
  • How will your sales team interact with and leverage the content to amplify your sales process?
  • How will you measure the success of your content marketing efforts?

You get the point.

You need to be smart about the content you’re producing to add value to your prospect’s decision-making process. And, it’s important to understand that great content can also exist in a variety of forms — videos, infographics, slide decks, press releases, product demos, e-books, games, case studies.

There is no shortcut to great content. It takes work, dedication, creativity and expertise. The challenge is to select formats that will resonate with your audiences.

By delivering outstanding, crafted content when your audiences are looking for it, you’re better able to address their needs and wants in a positive way at the right time.

It’s about creating a relationship, not a transaction so align your content to their buying cycle, don’t push your sales cycle on them.

When Does Software Come into Play?
There are hundreds of software programs to choose from that can ensure you receive relevant information to make right, ongoing adjustments to your content strategy.

Once you have your strategy and objectives in-hand, you can determine what software needs can be applied to specific tasks or measurements of an ongoing content marketing program. But before you decide if you even need software, you need to set your content marketing goals.

Similar to my earlier CRM example, you shouldn’t start a program without first planning your strategy. A strategy of any kind with only a software program, and no sense of strategy, will produce mediocre results.

Like selecting a CRM, you need to take the time to understand the situation, determine your goals, and what tactics and tools you need to get there.

Content marketing software can deliver and organize content, optimize conversations and measure results, but cannot take the place of a good strategy, relevant and engaging content, and understanding audience segments.

When you’re looking at content marketing for your business, research and strategy will ultimately help you create a roadmap to results. Have a process to develop meaningful content, use that content to enhance your existing marketing efforts, and then evaluate software programs that can help you deliver content and measure success.

This article originally appeared on page 17 in the Aug. 10, 2015 print issue of The Business News as “How is Buying CRM Software Like Content Marketing?”. This article has been modified for this blog.

Principal/Agency Director

How to Create a Marketing Budget

Let’s talk about the ‘b’ word everyone likes to avoid: Budgets. When it comes to putting together your marketing plan or next project, writing down that number next to each line item can be tricky. While you’re planning out how to create a marketing budget, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Look at previous plans and budgets. Past project costs will shed a lot of light on your budget and is a great place to start when planning.

Don’t forget the details. Make sure you fully understand what all needs to come out of your marketing budget (salaries, agency fees, printing, postage, media, etc.). Next, add as much detail next to each line item as possible. Understanding where expenses come from within each project will help you make a more accurate projection.

Be upfront and honest. If you work with an agency, talk candidly about your objectives and budget. There’s always multiple ways to skin the cat so perhaps they can find ways to shave off dollars without losing the impact. Even if the initial project estimate is out of your ballpark, it’s worth a conversation to explore the possibilities.

Prioritize based on your goals. Which projects will have the most impact and will directly affect your annual objectives? Move these to the top so that if you can’t stretch your budget to accommodate all your activities, you’re at least getting done the ones that will move the needle.

If you’ve got too much on your plate or are looking for a fresh perspective on your marketing plan, remember agencies have experience planning and budgeting for a variety of clients and can add valuable perspective to the budgeting and planning process.

Director of Account Services
Nikki Peroutka has handled account service duties at Element for more than a decade. She remembers pre-PDF days when every proof required a face-to-face client meeting, and the number of colors in an ad determined its price. This, of course, makes her feel like an old marketing-weary battle-ax. Yet, she brings a youthful, fresh perspective to overseeing all client relationships as well as managing her own accounts. When her daily Director of Account Services duties are done, she enjoys relaxing with a good magazine or book, chasing around her son Oakley, and doing DIY projects around the house.