Miscellaneous

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5 Free Project Management Tools for Small Teams (a.k.a. What Keeps Us Sane-ish)

As 2018 comes to a close, many of us are writing out New Year’s resolutions to prepare for a strong start to 2019.

Many small businesses have the same resolution – to improve internal processes and project management. Working on a small team, while offering many benefits, provides some challenges when it comes to managing projects. Team members must wear many hats, and it can be hard to keep track of tasks and details.

We have felt those struggles, and as we continue to grow our processes are refined to keep projects running smoothly. That doesn’t come without some help. Here are some of the free project management tools that we use to help keep us on track, and we hope they can help you achieve your goals for the new year!

Slack

courtesy of Slack.com

Contrary to the name, this app is not for SLACK-ers.

Slack is a place for your entire team to collaborate and communicate effectively. The workspace is set up in channels – dedicated places for organized conversations, integrated file sharing, and even video/voice calls. In addition to internal team members, you can share channels with companies and businesses you regularly work with –  clients, vendors, and partners – to bring all the right people into the same *virtual* room. Slack also integrates with over 1,500 apps, including Google Drive and Salesforce, allowing for seamless integration into your current workflow.

Teamwork Projects

courtesy of Teamwork.com

Juggling a ton of projects at once and having trouble keeping everything organized? Teamwork could be a solution for you.

Teamwork Projects has everything you need to track a project from start to finish. You can assign tasks (or sub-tasks) to different team members, track progress and time spent, and organize your all your projects in one dashboard.

Trello

courtesy of Trello.com

If you want a visually-appealing, fun place to manage your projects, say “Hello” to Trello!

Trello’s boards, lists, and cards allow you to organize and prioritize all your projects in a flexible way. You can dive into all the project details by adding comments, attachments, task checklists, and more. One of the coolest features is the ability to click and drag cards from one list to another, so you can move it through a sales funnel or editorial calendar. The possibilities are endless!

Wunderlist

courtesy of Wunderlist.com

Sometimes you just need a little reminder. Wunderlist houses all your necessary “To-Do” lists, both professional and personal.

With Wunderlist, you can organize related lists into folders, set deadlines and reminders, assign to-dos, and even turn actionable emails into tasks by simply forwarding to Wunderlist. This provides a simple way to keep your entire team on track for specific projects or internal deadlines.

G Suite

This may seem like a no-brainer, but Google provides a great, easy platform for project management and collaboration with G Suite

Utilize Google Sheets to create dynamic project plans and allow team members to update their progress. Create shared Google Calendars to keep everyone up to do date with deadlines and reminders. Securely store and manage your project documents on a Team Drive or collaborate on documents including project proposals or reports in Google Docs.

 

Using one or all of these tools could prove a vital addition to any small team in any industry. For us, these tools allow for more creative brainstorming and production time! Let’s collaborate on one of these platforms soon!

Here’s to better project management and continued business growth in 2019!

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Big Slate Media Team
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A 6 Step Plan to Event Management Social Media Success

Our event clients generally have one thing in common: they have a lot on their plates. Events take time, energy, and there is usually a smorgasbord of moving pieces. Many times, we have filled the role of creating engaging social media content and then managing these social avenues for the duration of the event. Social media is such a useful tool for your events. It affords an exciting build-up, live interaction with customers, a platform for effective promotional deliverability, meaningful follow-up with your audience, and educating insights.

Our events come in all shapes and sizes, but the approach is always the same. No matter the size of your event, here are 6 steps to make sure your social media brings life and money to it. And all of these steps are useful whether you are spending money on social media ads or just running an organic campaign for your event.

(According to 857 event managers)

Oh, wait, before you get there…

Before you ever set foot on the social terrain, till the fields first. Figure out your audience and what social media platforms to use. Your audience is unique, so define it. Then, find out where those customers are. How are you engaging with them now? If you’re not, find out where they are. Possibly research other events similar to yours and explore how those events reach their audience. Once you’ve smoothed out the soil, then you’re ready to strategize.

 

[Pre-event Steps]

STEP 1: Timeline and Budget

A good place to start is with the timeline. We recommend a couple weeks to a month before the event, but honestly, the earlier the better. It’s ok if you are posting before then obviously, this will just be the real diving board that springs your hype train into action. The length and frequency of your event may change this as well.

Then, how much are you willing to spend? Speakers, performers, caterers, venues and staff are all important, but getting people there is how you will make money, so set a budget. When it comes to boosting posts for events – which we always recommend – the more you spend the more you reach. A budget with wiggle room is a healthy budget. In the end, you get what you give.

 

STEP 2: The Set-Up

This step will help you so much in the long run. It’s like leg day. Don’t skip it. Get your social avenues ready. With Facebook and Instagram, make sure you set up Facebook Pixel and Business Manager. These will help you see tracked results. Set up the main page on platforms you will advertise on with fluidity. Each page should look virtually the same unless they have different goals. You want people on LinkedIn to be able to visit the Facebook page and not feel lost. Check ticket and website links, descriptions of events, important details, etc.

Another crucial part of this set-up is getting drafted posts ready for any emergencies you might have. Have a rainout post ready, a time change post ready, any other emergency plans, and definitely, definitely, definitely set up an instant reply in the direct message field. Lead people to your website for the main hub of info. This will cut down on time spent answering mundane “what time are you open” questions. The “Set-Up” step is commonly overlooked, but I promise, it will keep you from ripping hair out later.

 

STEP 3: Generate and Organize Content

This is where you get to use those creativity skills. Make some written content ready to publish. Think of unique ways to interact with users via polls, promotions or a fun video. This is the time to create any content, including pictures and videos that you might need. Make a mark next to the ones you think are exceptional and consider boosting those. When you have all this, put it in one, organized place, like Google Drive, Dropbox or a hard drive.

The written content needs to be kept somewhere safe for STEP 4, but physically creating it is where you make your money. Good, quality content is a must in any marketing effort, but especially in social media. Social media is the pilgrimage of short attention spans, so make your content good and true to your brand. Some of the best content we’ve found builds attention through giveaways. Everyone loves free stuff. Need post ideas?

 

STEP 4: Schedule

Pronounced “shed-jewel,” this is paired nicely with STEP 3. After you have organized photos, videos, gifs, etc. that you will use, schedule the posts you know you will have for your entire campaign. This is optional if you have the manpower necessary to do it on the spot or week-to-week, but we have found that when you can hash it out in a few hours, you are more likely to be creative than if you had to cram three new posts in at 9 AM one morning.

We have created our own Google doc that we put the copy in, a link to the picture or video for that post, a time stamp, and the amount we will boost it for. This is the most streamlined solution we have found. We can copy and paste it over to the platforms in an hour or two. It also allows us to be transparent with clients, getting to show them every post before any take place. This can be mundane work, but it pays off when you don’t have to post day-to-day. Here are some awesome scheduling apps.

 

[During-event Steps]

STEP 5: Engage

There is no such thing as off-time in social media management during events. Interaction with customers during events can be just as important for your brand as anything else. It’s a wonderful avenue for timely updates, news on the event, or calls to a specific part of the event. This can be one of the biggest hassles for an event manager as well.

Every major social platform now has ways to generate live content, which is a huge added bonus for events that use social. You can update people creatively, and it’s a sure-fire way to draw attention to something. Everyone who likes your page or follows you will get a mobile notification about you going live. This is something that is commonly overlooked, but we love offering it to clients as a unique engagement point.

Last, it’s important to be checking the comments on your posts daily and filtering negative comments, responding to poor reviews, and getting excited with people. This type of engagement is what could separate you from the competition. People love when brands interact with them. Wendy’s twitter account is the perfect example. They started interacting with comments often and grew in popularity tremendously. But, you probably shouldn’t roast people as much as them…

STEP 6: Analyze and Correct

We keep an extremely close eye on the accounts we manage. Treat it like your baby. Each day we are looking at interactions and comments, pinpointing hot areas of engagement both with content and geographically. These highly important analytics can help you narrow down the good versus the bad content and also expose under-marketed groups in your strategy. If you use Facebook, integrating Facebook Pixel can be a great way to denote how clicks are getting from Facebook to your site.

From a timeliness standpoint, we operate at a weekly report and then post-event report. This allows Facebook’s algorithm with ads and general posts to take effect each week before we make adjustments and after the event, we can make notes on what to change for the next year. Make notes. If you are like us, you won’t remember all of it without having it written down.

 

SO WHAT? 

Some event managers like to take on the task of social media and feel they have the capability to do it well. That’s awesome. Some understand the value of social media in marketing their event but are simply too busy to give it the attention it deserves. So, they outsource it to an agency or someone on their team. That’s awesome too. Bottom line is that social media can boost an event tremendously. It can be the Big Mac sauce that draws people in, or it can be the thorn in your side that never gets the attention it should.

If you choose to take on the task at hand for your event, recognize the vast opportunity it has to bring valuable customers to you and positively impact your brand. If you feel overwhelmed by the idea, that’s why companies like us exist. We love taking on new challenges and showing event managers what social media can do for them. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s important, and it’s the real “foot-soldier” type work we love to do. Give us a call and we’ll help grow your event! – 865.291.0005

Check out one of our event social media clients – The Charlotte Fair

A story from social media coverage at Brimstone Paragon

Our Social Media Services

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Big Slate Media Team
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Powerful Brainstorming: The Do’s and Don’ts

Generating ideas is the lifeblood of the creative professional. As a content creation agency, we are no strangers to the importance of a good brainstorming session. We understand the necessity of it, the fun of it, and the dangers of it. Every sports team must devise a plan to execute on the field in order to win and often times, allowing players to bring their skills to practices can be where these plans develop. Most games are won and lost on the practice field. Brainstorming sessions for us are a much more fun and much less sweaty version of sports practices. “Brainstorming” shouldn’t be foreign for you either, however, it’s important to make sure you are efficient and successful in your sessions, so let us step in and offer some tips.

What is Brainstorming?

Brainstorming is a popular idea that dates back to 1939, with a guy named Alex F. Osborn. He was an advertising professional that outlined this idea in his book, Your Creative Power, under the chapter title, “How to Organize a Squad to Create Ideas.” What a great word – “Squad.” Brainstorming should definitely feel like a “squad” effort. Everyone contributing, collaborating and creating.

  • Quantity over quality of ideas
  • Withhold criticism
  • Welcome ALL ideas
  • Combine and improve

These are the foundations of Osborn’s formula, and frankly, they haven’t changed much in today’s powerful brands. Take Forbes or Disney for example, who both still preach many of these ideas in their brainstorming processes. Like many things in the creative sphere, brainstorming can look different for every company depending on the situation or problem you’re tackling.

 

Big Slate’s Do’s and Don’ts of Brainstorming

 

Valiant effort Michael Scott, but whatever this monstrosity is (although hilarious!); DON’T allow it to happen. We have appropriately come up with brainstorming guidelines that work for us under the acronym – S.Q.U.A.D. 

 

S – Simplicity

  • DO: Have a meeting leader that sets rules and a time limit on these meetings – (we have found that 30 minutes is a sweet spot for us). People get tired and it’s ok to cut a meeting off and let ideas simmer so you can come back to them later for a more finite meeting.
  • DON’T: Allow people to come in with no idea of the problem at hand. Give them a heads up to prepare ideas so the meeting can offer value.

Q – Quantity

  • DO: Allow any and all ideas. Even if an idea is far off, let it be a casting point for branch ideas that might be awesome.
  • DON’T: Cut the ideas off at just a few. The more the merrier, because once you sit down with the client or upper management to make a decision, it’s better to have a hierarchy of 100 ideas to present than to only have one that you love and watch it get crushed.

U – Understanding

  • DO: Understand each other’s ideas, and if the leader says that your idea is out of scope, understand that it’s ok. You aren’t bad at ideas, you just need to change your approach.
  • DON’T: Be mean. First grade 101. Treat people with respect and have fun creating.

A – Ask and Apply

  • DO: Ask people to extrapolate their ideas so you can start analyzing the ones that will work best and try applying these answers to other ideas.
  • DON’T: Narrow perspective. Let people be creative when you ask questions. [“I don’t see how that works.” – Not constructive or helpful.]

D – DEMOCRACY!

  • DO: We put it up to a voting system for people to pick the best thought-out and creative solutions so that we have a system of choosing the best ideas. It allows for fairness to the approach and it’s AMERICA’s founding principle, so naturally, we like it.
  • DON’T: Allow someone to “iron fist” the session. That should be a rule set at the beginning. It’s about a collaboration of everyone’s ideas, not just one person’s.

 

Above all these guidelines we use, our number one is to HAVE FUN. A brainstorm space should be a safe place for creative people to laugh, build and imagine together to create awesome solutions. When you leave with that feeling of “wanting more,” that’s the good stuff. When it doesn’t feel as powerful, back off the table for a little while and come back later. It’s ok. Plenty of world-famous chefs had to try recipes multiple times to make it perfect. So, get back to the stove and whip up something fresh and new!

Other Sources of Brainstorming Fun

12 Brainstorming Techniques – HubSpot

Brain-Writing

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Big Slate Media Team
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The Tricks of Email Marketing Magic

Alla-Khazam! Welcome to Big Slate Media’s reasons to email market. Since the dawn of the internet age, emails have been part of humanities’ second nature. In fact, 91% of people check email daily. That’s outstanding. In today’s magic show, we will make all your email marketing fears vanish.

For starters, if you are reading this and haven’t ever dabbled in email marketing because you think it’s too hard, or it doesn’t work that well, or “I can’t afford it”, then I’m here to say – FAKE NEWS.

The Escape Artist

Escape the straightjacket of “I can’ts” and “should’ves”. It’s really more simple than you think. For starters, if you aren’t collecting emails, then you need to create an opt-in form for your website or a form in your store for new customers. The people that opt-in are the ones that will buy more from you. Imagine a dating world where every person that was interested in you could give you their number… It’s streamlined dating, and this is streamlined sales. If you don’t have a website or don’t have a way to receive form submissions (you should really fix that), guess what… you still have a list. All of your existing customers! Surely you have their emails and they are a great way to start building a list of people that are already familiar with your brand.

If you have an email submission form already running on your website, go use a free email service, like MailChimp to put that list to use. It is free for up to 2,000 subscribers, has great templates, and you can track all kinds of useful data. MailChimp also has very useful tools to create those opt-ins, as previously talked about, if you still need to do that.

Truth is, after that setup process, the only thing that takes time, is the email creation; and that can be done every week, every month, or even quarterly. Really, whatever you can commit too. So, don’t be afraid. It’s so easy, that there are companies that are entirely built on email lists, like Scott’s Cheap Flights! “Scott’s” uses this as their primary way of communicating about their product (super awesome deals on international flights) to their customers. This is the ONLY way they deliver their product to the customer. That’s how powerful it is. There are 3x more emails accounts in existence than Facebook and Twitter accounts combined, it has the highest ROI of any marketing channel, and it’s not too late or too hard for you to start now.

Email Marketing – Pulling the Rabbit Out of the Hat

Now, once your ready to write your first email blast, use these tools as a means to dazzling the customer.

 

1) You can offer customers something.

If you’ve signed up for an email list at a store somewhere and have received any kind of coupon or special event, then you have been offered something. Once you sign up and receive these offers, you are probably more likely to return to that store because they are offering YOU something unique. This generates quality customers that will come back, but it is also a tool to convince people to opt-in to a list in the first place. “Get a free consultation when you sign up for our newsletter.” “25% off your first online purchase when you subscribe to our email catalog.”

 

2) You can be highly relevant!

We tell clients this all the time. Relevancy is most important to reaching customers. Amazon is a perfect example of this. “Great Christmas gifts under $15”. We all know those categories because usually, they matter to us. When thinking about how to be relevant to your audience in email marketing, think when are we the busiest and why. How can we matter to our customers? Remind them that you have a service or product that they love.

 

3) It can be the Nucleus of your marketing efforts.

Email marketing can glue it all together. Your advertising goals can be email form submissions, or you can track click-through rates. You can even link the form submission page on your Facebook. It simply can be the heartbeat of your marketing efforts, where social media, Google ads, Youtube content, and everything else can come to one main stage. Manage smarter, not harder. If you are worried about people unsubscribing, just remember that you don’t want people in your funnel that don’t have the potential to buy. If they leave, then your list is purer.

The Bow

So, if you aren’t using email lists and marketing to your customers through it, there is no better time than now to add some magic to your marketing efforts. Feel free to call us if you ever need help, but we’ll leave you with some helpful resources that we keep bookmarked.

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Big Slate Media Team
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Schmoozapalooza Spring 2018 Winner

WATCH THE VIDEO TO FIND OUT WHO THE WINNER IS!

Thanks again to everyone who came by the booth and made the event awesome! We had a great time catching up with old friends, making new ones and learning about other businesses in our community. This was our first time with a booth at Schmooza’ and man did we have fun 🙂 See y’all in the fall!

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Big Slate Media Team
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Meet Andrew Ellis!

 

Marketing is Our Business, and Business is Good…

Our team at Big Slate Media has been bringing the roof down lately. We’ve shaken so many hands and signed on so many new projects, we decided it was time to bring another brilliant mind onto the team. Meet Andrew Ellis.

Andrew graduated from ETSU with a degree in criminal justice and philosophy. He’s fascinated with how the human brain operates and, on a much larger scale, how society functions as a whole.

So, why get into sales? Andrew’s always loved entrepreneurial endeavors – and he holds individuals like Elon Musk and Nikola Tesla in high esteem. Communicating and networking with companies and people to analyze a problem and present a solution is something that comes naturally to him.  He came to Big Slate Media with a sense of optimism we couldn’t ignore. Our entire game plan is to provide quality services to the greater Knoxville area and beyond in order to bolster businesses – and that was right up Andrew’s alley.

I could either watch it happen, or be a part of it.

-Elon Musk

We asked Andrew what challenges he foresaw in joining a digital marketing agency:

We need to focus on providing relevant and groundbreaking service. Improve the market and the businesses we encounter and work with. Relationship, Responsiveness and Readiness coupled with a strong work culture is the formula for success.

Outside of work, you’ll probably find Andrew exploring Knoxville with his wife Samantha and his dog, Sherlock (he’s a huge Sherlock fan).

To top things off, here’s an interesting fact about Andrew: In a cross country road trip, he covered 18 states in 14 days. Having spent a bit more time in Las Vegas than he originally planned, he drove from the Grand Canyon to Nashville in a day – that’s a 23-hour drive!

Welcome to the team, Zealous Ellis!

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Big Slate Media Team