Quick Updates

Corporate Email Wants Us To Netflix & Chill?

April 3, 2020

It’s been all of three weeks of quarantine, and companies are telling us to play board games with our families. To take time and reflect. To Netflix & Chill. To BUY NOW.

Companies are going about this email communication in so many different and bizarre ways that there should be a bingo card. And it’s not surprising. Profit-driven enterprises are not typically adept at speaking frankly and openly with customers, even in the best of times. So for every Lyft, which outlined a concise and specific plan for its workforce and the community (bravo)…

Lyft keeps it classy.

…there is a glut and influx of this type of thing – the non-official WordPress theme of COVID-19, on sale NOW.

This is just…yikes.

From B2B to eCommerce to consumer brands, businesses are finding it challenging (if not utterly impossible) to have sincere and open dialogues with their customers and client base. If you want a comprehensive list of these attempts, there is an entertaining roundup of good, bad, and ugly emails over at Slate and Adweek. These approaches, as you’ve likely seen in your own inbox these days, range from thinly veiled sales pitches to opportunistic soapboxes to genuine care and leadership. But there is no playbook for this, which is why so many companies (even great ones) are losing their way at times.

Return to sender.

The truth is that people (yes, including consumers) are seeking assurance and guidance right now. They want to know that companies they love will be around beyond next week and not shuttered forever. They want offers for help that are – get this – actually offers for help, and beneficial services (including paid ones) that provide real value during this time. Companies that communicate often, and with purpose, will build a lot more goodwill than those offering unsolicited advice to Netflix & Chill or spend even more time with family, if that is somehow humanly possible.

Even if there’s no 100% perfect way to navigate this scenario we are in, we’d like to gift companies with a boilerplate version of the letter we’re sending to our network ourselves, to use as-is or adapt. It’s part of a broader communication strategy (happy to share that game plan too) but we want to ensure you’re covering your bases at least once, and showing your customers and clients that you care about them.

Just contact us with your email and we’ll get it out to you tomorrow. ✋✉️

Quick Updates

5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs An External Marketing Company

March 6, 2020

Shameless self-promotion is a necessary evil; it increases brand awareness, fosters brand identity, brings in more customers, and ultimately drives sales. With ever-increasing competition across so many business categories, it is more important than ever that marketing strategies be on target. But without a partner marketing company, how do you survive?

Many business owners set up tiny internal marketing departments, hoping to save time and resources. They throw every initiative at one overburdened person or a small support staff. As a result, their team becomes overwhelmed – putting a strain on resources and morale.

As the owner of a marketing company, I think back on the years of experience working within agencies and in-house teams that got me here, and the lessons learned. Using these insights, I will go through concrete reasons why it makes sense to outsource your marketing efforts to a company like ours. Then, you be the judge!

#1 Stagnating Skill Sets

Unless your budget permits, hiring an experienced team of multi-disciplinary digital marketers full-time isn’t possible. This is why many small to mid sized companies (even large ones) cut their internal teams down to a skeleton crew, or only one person. They hire an individual with the skills needed solve a momentary dilemma, and then proceed to keep that person in the same role for years.

But when the company wants to evolve and grow, it becomes apparent that the many specializations of online marketing are too complex to be fully mastered by one person. Even with a support staff, the in-house team stays locked within the channels and content they’re most comfortable with. Or, they can’t practically accomplish everything being asked of them. This impedes growth, letting competitors take the lead.

#2 Tunnel Vision

It is true that having intimate insider knowledge of your business and industry is a perk of in-house marketing teams. But, only working with one brand – your brand – results in tunnel vision, restricting creativity. This lack of outside stimulus and perspective leads to falling behind in trends, innovation, and a competitive edge. This stagnation is what motivated me to move beyond working within one brand only.

Outsourcing makes available entire teams of specialized cross-domain marketers. This could consist of paid search gurus, content champions, lead funnel fanatics and everything in between. Each expert actively works on multiple brands simultaneously, gaining diverse exposure to trends and ideas. The best part? They adapt their evolving insights to tackle new priorities and situations.

#3 Hidden Costs of Internal Teams

When an internal team hits the breaking point, many companies free up budget to hire another team member. But the real missed opportunity is in bringing on a marketing company at relatively the same cost.

In fact, dollar for dollar, the retainer cost of marketing companies may even be less than hiring a single full-tile employee. This is because there are long-term and up-front costs and resources involved in hiring added full-time employees. You need to factor in recruitment, training, benefits, and attrition costs into your direct-hire budget.

Still not convinced? Well, the average annual salary of an early to early-mid career online marketing manager comes to around $62,560. At some point, this person will need a team to manage – and hiring support staff takes time and money. This doesn’t factor in the relevant tool packages, programs, and technologies they will request to do their work efficiently.

Having run internal marketing departments myself, I know this scenario all too well. In my experience, I’ve found that external marketing companies will cost you less in the long-term, no matter the perceived upfront cost.

#4 Marketing Company Scalability

One other benefit of a marketing company is that services are scalable. Does your business need the dedicated full-time services of experts in AdWords, paid search, developing, fractional CMO, and pay-per-click all at the same time? If so, does your business have the funds to support everything at once? If not, then there’s no advantage to hire internally for these roles.

Don’t get me wrong; you will definitely need these kinds of services for a comprehensive marketing program – just not simultaneously 24/7. However, it will be hard to find an expert that is willing to work a couple hours a week. Enter marketing companies. With our extensive industry connections, we have the ability to tap into valuable experts for hours at a time, even those with full time employment.

For example, a leading expert who may be off the market may offer us an insight over coffee, or be willing to provide guidance under a narrow scope. Even if they don’t work with clients directly, they may be amenable to working with us. The result? Brands that use marketing companies get the services of expert specialists without having to hire them full-time!

#5 Platform Perks

If you are managing your own ad spend, or ordering your own CRM subscription, you could be missing out. This is because platforms often provide features or benefits to marketing companies like ours that are not available to the general public. Simply by managing portals on behalf of our clients, we have access to unreleased beta versions, reps with insider knowledge to ensure success, leverage in negotiation, advanced dashboards, and much faster customer support! These are advantages we are able to pass down to our valued clients, as an added bonus of working together. It is a win-win.

Now that you’ve seen the evidence, reach out to us! Let’s talk and discover whether partnering with our marketing company makes sense for your organization at this moment in time.

Tips

Why Do Marketing Companies Ask For Your Budget?

February 19, 2020
marketing budget

What’s your marketing budget?

“I don’t know.”

These three words drive fear into the hearts of courageous marketing companies. It makes our heads spin, and we need Advil and electrolytes to recover. If there is a fainting couch nearby, we might darn well use it.

Why?

Because knowing your budget is essential to making the best recommendations. It gives us parameters to work within, and tells us how to think and act.

When we hear a budget, we make mental calculations in real time and start gameplanning. If there is no defined budget, this could mean one of two things:

  1. “There is absolutely no money to invest into marketing.”
  2. “You know that one dream strategy you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t justify all that A-list Hollywood talent on the payroll? That’s for us!”

The reality is probably somewhere in between these two scenarios. There is money to put into marketing, and there is (unfortunately) a ceiling into how far the budget will go (you’re off the hook, Clooney).

But here’s the thing – if you don’t know your budget, we don’t know it either. The best we can do is to make assumptions. We could dig deep into your financials, with your permission, but even that may not present the most accurate picture of what to spend. So how do you gauge your marketing budget, to provide an informed and confident answer?

To start, here are a few questions to consider:

“What Would A Highly Skilled Employee Cost?”

Think about what you are asking your potential marketing company to accomplish. Think about the skills and expertise it will require to work on your behalf. Now, take stock of what it would cost to hire an employee each month, with all the talents and skills you are after. What is this amount?

You can validate salary assumptions with job boards like indeed or ZipRecruiter. For equitable comparisons, look at listings for seasoned professionals, not early career postings. Got a rough idea in your head? Great – this is now your starting point for the budgeting conversation.

Keep in mind that a marketing company on a limited engagement will command a higher per-hour rate than an in-house employee. So it will likely be more cost effective to engage your marketing company on a monthly retainer, as opposed to an hourly billable structure.

Also, know that with a marketing company, your budget may stretch much further than hiring only one employee with a specific skill set. With a marketing company, you will have access to a full team of specialists with a diverse set of talents. So don’t look to undercut what you’d pay an internal team member. Instead, think of it as a redistribution of marketing funds to partner with an experienced marketing company, and all the benefits that come with it.

“What Do Our Competitors Spend On Their Marketing Budget?”

Think about your industry leaders, as well as your close competitors. How established are they, and how trusted? Is their website more effective than yours? Are they dominating search engine results? Try to see things as objectively as possible, without championing your own company for a moment.

If your competitors are ahead in one or several areas, then it’s very likely you’ll want to make marketing a top-level priority. This doesn’t mean you have to outspend them, or to carbon-copy their approaches. But it does point to devoting money towards marketing, and to investing a reasonable amount each year into building your presence, market position, and community engagement.

Do a little recon, if possible. How much do competitors spend each year on marketing? If your budget is in the same ballpark, with the right marketing team behind you, then you have a nice chance of going head to head. This is true even if you’re the underdog – marketers love a good fight. But if you’re spending a fraction of what they are, it’s likely you’ll end up with the same fraction of market share, year after year.

“What Does It Take To Become Our Customer?”

We can’t all sell umbrellas in the rain. Purchasing from your company may be a complex and nuanced process. Even if you sell a relatively simple product or service, consumers may agonize over the decision. They may want to read, learn, ask peers, and engage in any number of ways before making the commitment. And what if your product or service actually is complex and nuanced?

Education and behavior change are two of the more challenging types of marketing. Talking people out of what they know and are comfortable with, and into a new solution, takes time and patience. It can be very rewarding, but there is a lot of ramp-up that goes into educating consumers and giving them reason to trust you.

So how much do you spend? If your product or service is a new or revolutionary concept, then you’ll likely want to spend 1.5x or more the typical marketing budget to get the word out. Give your marketing team room to experiment, to prove out the concept, and show you what connects with consumers. This will give you a foundation to build from, and point the direction to next steps.

Once you’ve hit critical mass, and your product or service is virtually selling itself, then consider dialing back the marketing expenditure. But until then, you’re facing an uphill battle. Equip your team accordingly.

So, About That Marketing Budget…

All this is great, but how much should your marketing budget be?

If you go straight according to the numbers, look at spending 5-8% of your total gross revenue to maintain your current marketing position. If you are looking to grow, and take on competitors, then 10-12% of total gross revenue will be more appropriate.

Of course, this estimate varies by industry. It may not account for direct costs like ad spend, or your internal marketing team salaries. But now you have a benchmark to start with, and another way to determine how much to spend on your marketing initiatives. As goals are achieved, don’t make the same mistake that a lot of companies do and cut your spend. Instead, consider budgeting more towards marketing, to experiment, evolve, and gain a larger competitive edge.

Working With Your Budget

No matter your marketing budget, we will apply what you have to work with and use it most effectively. Healthy budgets let us cover more ground, and in many cases work faster. We are able to devote more team members, time, and higher level expertise to your projects.

Slimmer budgets give us a starting point. We may be able to cover one or two areas of your marketing, with the shared understanding that we are working within limitations. To take on your entire marketing program, or work with fewer constraints, the budget would need to be adjusted accordingly. But don’t be afraid to share your budget, and the figure you are able to devote towards marketing each month. We will always provide insights into how to apply this budget most effectively.

Marketing budgets drive business. They create excitement, momentum, and community around your company. They attract, educate, entertain, and inform your desired audience. They set you apart from the competition, and they set the trajectory for the next 5-10 years. They are an essential component of achieving your business and marketing goals.

So, with all this in mind, what’s your marketing budget?

Quick Updates

Double Zebra In Dining Out Magazine

December 31, 2019
restaurant marketing experts

Hungry for better marketing? Catch Double Zebra in the latest issue of Dining Out Magazine highlighting our expertise in the restaurant and marketing industries.

In partnership with Dining Out San Diego, we have the best team in town with longstanding knowledge and experience in marketing and beyond. This includes new restaurant launches, products, restaurant business consulting, and turnarounds for businesses that need revitalization.

From rebranding to interior design to business strategy, and everything in between, we have a specialized team to match. Let’s make it a big year together!

Quick Updates

Double Zebra CEO Featured On SD Voyager

October 21, 2019

We are thrilled to share that our very own CEO Aaron W. has been featured on SD Voyager as part of the San Diego Inspiring Stories series. The interview talks about Double Zebra: our approach, perspective, and everything that distinguishes us from other marketing agencies. It’s great to be recognized in our San Diego, community and to know that the word is getting out about the work we’re doing. Thank you to SD Voyager for reaching out to us!

Check out the article with accompanying photos by the amazing True Photography.

Tips

How to Hire a Dynamite Content Marketer for Your Team

October 18, 2019
dynamite content marketing visual

Creating and executing the perfect content marketing strategy requires more than a goal. It depends on having the right people running your content program. Today’s business landscape demands high-quality content in order to be seen, and to stand out. However, hiring the perfect marketer can be a little challenging. The following list details some of the things to keep in mind when searching for your next content marketer.

Look for These Attributes

Everyone is different, which means you are going to see a variety of personalities when you begin to interview. According to TINYpulse, the best way to hire for the job is to understand which attributes you want in your content marketer. For example, a lot of content marketers and writers are introverts. Because of this, your candidates may not demonstrate leadership qualities in an interview setting.

Is this important? It may not be, unless you are hiring for a management position. Instead, focus on the specific needs of the content role. Seek someone who’s organized, has excellent communication skills, and who is honest. Look for an individual who can write snappy headlines and also long-form content. Narrow down to candidates who can effectively and concisely communicate your brand’s value with creative ideas and energy. This may sound simple, but these are the attributes that make all of the difference for a good long-term hire.

How to Identify Favorable Attributes in a Content Marketer Candidate

Learning about a person’s strengths is often impossible during one 5-minute interview. Therefore, we highly recommend implementing procedures that help you to get to know the potential employee, and vice versa. As The Hire Talent suggests, pre-employment tests can be used to measure a candidate’s behavior, personality, reasoning, competency, integrity, skills, and cognitive ability. These tests enable you to observe the candidate in action. They also ensure that you consider all qualified candidates equally, without inadvertent bias.

Specific Questions for the Content Marketer Position

There is no doubt that you will come across excellent candidates for the job. However, one of the most common mistakes made during the hiring process is choosing someone is not suited for the type of content you produce. Even if they are a strong writer, they may not understand the intricacies of your industry. Or, they may not be able to grasp the needs and pain points of your target audience.

Because of this, it is crucial to ask questions to determine the interest of the candidate. For example, do they like to research? Are they willing to dive into your company and industry to learn about the nuances? These types of questions will help determine their suitability for the position.

Whether you’re seeking to hire one or ten content marketers, the process will no doubt be challenging. However, by simply adhering to the list above, you will begin to lay down a solid foundation for your future interviews. And if you are looking for a high-caliber external marketing agency to take over your content marketing program, please reach out to us for a proposal.

Looking for more marketing tips? We recommend: 5 Tips for Being “Social” on Social Media.

Interviews

Of Likes and Lattes

July 30, 2019

It is a bleary-eyed morning, and far too early to be productive, let alone cognizant of the world around. Yet here we are at Communal Coffee in North Park, which holds the distinction of being both a coffee shop and a floral boutique. It’s the kind of spot that should appeal to the mysterious creator of the @cali_coffee Instagram feed. And of course, she already knows it well.

Thanks to her Instagram profile, @cali_coffee has become somewhat of a local coffee guru, amassing a dedicated and growing following who turn to her for the next “it” coffee shop. Her caffeine-fueled sojourns across San Diego County and beyond are well documented and artistically photographed, catapulting her over other similar feeds. The location we’re in is fitting, given that Communal Coffee’s own popular Instagram feed (36.5k followers to date) is itself a haven for coffee addicts.

Cali_coffee and I are two of the day’s first patrons, and likely the only ones here to chat about social media content. During our conversation, we talk about Instagram trends and the joys of social content creation. We also speculate about why a lovingly curated feed about San Diego coffee is outperforming many small businesses when it comes to likes and engagement. Fortunately, there is great coffee to guide our conversation (salted caramel latte), so we are buzzing in no time about the topics at hand.

Double Zebra: What was the initial inspiration behind your Instagram feed?

Cali_Coffee: Well, it just started in April of this year. Because I like trying a lot of different coffee shops, I would post pictures of them on my personal Instagram. And then, friends began asking me for coffee recommendations. And I realized that it was something cool, to have one place for all the best coffee shops in the area. Because I feel like they are always hard to find. So I started with pictures of coffee. And then I figured I’d put them all in one spot, and make them accessible.

DZ: Why did you select Instagram as your social media platform of choice?

CC: Because it’s so widely used, more than other social media platforms. And it’s easy to search, and it’s centered around pictures. I like photography, with the variety and angles and little elements you can incorporate. I like the artistic side of it.

images courtesy cali_coffee

DZ: You have more than 2k followers today on a relatively new feed. You consistently gain 2-4% more followers every time you post. People are turning to you as a coffee expert. Would you consider yourself an influencer, or micro influencer? Micro-micro influencer? Where does this designation even start?

CC: Oh, that’s a good question. I don’t think of myself like that at all. I never started it with the intention of becoming anything. It was just kind of a hobby of mine that turned into something.

DZ: Who do you tend to follow on Instagram?

CC: Other pages like mine that highlight places around San Diego, celebrities. A variety.

DZ: Has anything unexpected come from your Instagram activity?

CC: I mean, this interview is pretty unexpected (laughs). I think a lot of my posts were getting 40 to 50 likes, maybe like 30 to 40. And then one of them got 190-something one day. You don’t always know what will get attention, or why.

DZ: Have you experienced any negative reactions to something you’ve posted?

CC: Not really, I think everyone likes coffee. It’s one of those non-controversial topics. If you don’t like coffee, you probably wouldn’t be following me.

image courtesy cali_coffee

DZ: Your posts tend to be lighthearted, and you’re not afraid to break out a pun or two. Do you think Instagram, and social media in general, is taken too seriously?

CC: For sure. Social media brings a lot of good, but there are so many negative things that can happen in this age. I believe in putting something out there that is lighthearted and positive. So people remind themselves that life isn’t always so serious.

DZ: Our Double Zebra team works with clients on their social media strategy and impact. What would you say to a company that puts no effort into their social media, or they barely have a presence?

CC: I’d say they’re kind of asking to fail, because that’s where most people find companies and make decisions. Most of the time it’s through social media, looking at pictures that others have tagged. You can only find so much on Google. Usually, the first thing I do is go on Instagram, and look at photos and posts that match what I’m searching for.

DZ: What about companies that are trying their best, but still have low social engagement? What can they learn from your experiences so far?

CC: I think in order to have people engage with you, you have to engage with them. See what they have posted on their own pages. Get to know the content they are putting out. Then you can start creating content of your own that is meaningful and has value.

DZ: Instagram has recently announced fundamental changes, like hiding the number of public likes. What will the platform look like three years from now?

CC: I think Instagram will be different for sure. But it can’t change that much, because it’s already working pretty well, the way it is right now.

image courtesy cali_coffee

DZ: You’re on a self-proclaimed mission to drink all the coffee in California. Does this include bowling alleys and dive bars that have a coffee pot in the corner somewhere?

CC: Probably not my first choice. Maybe when I run out of all the other options. I never turn down a cup of coffee. So if I’m in a bowling alley, and I want coffee, then yes. Though I probably wouldn’t travel to a bowling alley for the coffee, unless it was really good.

DZ: That sounds incredibly hipster, a bowling alley becoming famous for its coffee.

CC: Yeah!

DZ: Is there a “holy grail” of coffee shops that you’re looking forward to visiting?

CC: I’m headed to Seattle soon, so I’d have to say Starbucks #1. That whole city is like a tribute to coffee shops!

Connect with Double Zebra to learn more about our team’s approach to social media engagement and content production for your business. And be sure to look for cali_coffee on her Instagram feed and at a coffee shop near you.