Marketing Insights and Updates

I’m A Great Lover

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People often ask us what the difference is between marketing, branding, graphic design, and public relations.  I find that these panels from Liquid Agency’s Marty Neumeier, More specifically Marty’s book, ZAG: The Number One Strategy of High-Performance Brands, often do the trick.



Building Your Brand through Cereal

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Building Your Brand through Cereal

Nine times out of 10 when a company asks us for “a new brand,” what they mean is a new logo, visual identity, and/or a new name.

While a logo and name are important, they are just a tiny part of what forms your overall brand.

At Port City we define a brand as the psychological construct held in the minds of all those aware of your product, organization or movement. Brand management manages those psychological associations. In other words, a brand is not what you say you are. A brand is what everyone else says you are.

When we say that a brand is more than a name, I often ask people to tell me the first thing that comes to their minds when I say the words “Kaiser” and “Permanente.” Without fail, they mention something associated with health care.

In reality the words “Kaiser Permanente” could be the name of a law firm or an association of CPAs. They’re just two words pushed together. People are often surprised when I tell them that the health organization is named after a business man with no medical training, Henry J. Kaiser, and Permanente Creek in Cupertino. Why is the brand name so strongly associated to health care? It has a lot to do with a solid brand strategy, a $50 million annual marketing budget, and 9 million members who experience the brand on a regular basis.

Since the majority of our clients don’t have $50 million annual budgets, we have to stress avenues outside of advertisements to manage their brand. One extremely important brand avenue is the customer experience.

Take for instance Southwest Airlines. Southwest is well aware that it isn’t a luxury airline, so it emphasizes personable customer service in order to build brand loyalty. There’s no arguing that its approach to managing brand perceptions has worked. Among domestic airlines, Southwest has both the largest market share and highest Net Promoter Score (a customer’s likelihood to recommend a company to others).

In addition, the first thing that people recall about the airline isn’t a logo or a tagline, it’s a personal experience: the flight crew singing a quirky song upon landing or comedic one-liners sprinkled throughout an in-flight safety presentation.

When a marketing staff is charged with creating or invigorating a brand for a client, they often first try to understand the gap between consumers’ gut feelings about an organization (brand perception), and the organization’s promise to the customer (brand promise).

To help clients understand brand perceptions, marketers often conduct an array of research on customers, vendors, and key stakeholders. To define brand promise, they outline an organization’s key differentiators, value proposition, what they stand for and what they can deliver. To achieve this, they lead clients through several exercises. One such exercise is the Brand Box exercise.

The purpose of the Brand Box exercise is to get clients thinking about their key differentiators, the overall value that they bring to a customer and eventually their brand promise. During the exercise participants are asked to envision their brand as if it were a box of cereal competing in a supermarket aisle against similar organizations. It’s a fairly simple exercise that you can try with your own team. The only supplies you’ll need are cereal boxes (blank shirt boxes or actual cereal boxes wrapped in butcher paper) and art supplies (colored markers, magazines, scissors, etc). It’s also best to conduct this exercise with 15 to 20 people formed into groups of five or six.

After you distribute the boxes and art supplies to your participants, specify what should be included on their brand box. The front of the box should include a short description of your offering and one or two exciting features/benefits of your brand.

The back of the box should include more in depth text on your offering; your target audience; details that connect your brand with real customer needs/problems; and any other relevant information that helps describe the value created for the customer.

Participants then have 30 minutes to design and create their brand box. After 30 minutes, each team must present and sell its brand box to the rest of the group. To get the most of the exercise you, as facilitator, should aim to draw out key brand messages and differentiators.

By implementing the Brand Box exercise, you’ll learn more about what your team thinks of your own brand while forcing members to look at the concept of brand from a different context.

This post originally appeared in the Central Valley Business Journal:

Go Central Valley Business Journal!!!

Choose your Funnel

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That darn internet changed everything.  It not only changed WHERE people go to shop, but more importantly HOW people make purchase decisions.

According to the CEB, the average business to business customer has already gone through 60% of the purchase decision-making process prior to engaging a sales representative.  Gone are the days of an uninformed consumer.  With readily available information at the consumers’ fingertips, leads are actively qualifying vendors and comparing products before they’re on your radar. That’s why the role of marketing and your digital brand is increasingly becoming a more integral part of the sales process. As such, it’s vital for sales departments and the cool guys in marketing to not just co-exist, but to gain alignment in messaging, tactics, and process.

Choose your funnel

In order to gain alignment, sales and marketing must use the same terminology and agree on the customer buying journey. If your sales team is regularly complaining about getting bad leads or if they’re secretly creating their own “marketing material”, then most likely you don’t have a well-defined sales and marketing funnel.

The sales and marketing funnel describes a customer’s journey from initial contact to final sale and is different for each organization. At Port City we define our own funnel using the following lead stages: 1. Suspect, 2. Lead Nurture, 3. Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL), 4. Sales Accepted Lead (SAL), 5. Opportunity 6. Customer.  Some corporations add a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) stage before the SAL Stage.

Suspect:  For leads at this stage, most likely we have their name, email address, some demographics and not much else. For these folks, brand awareness is the objective.

Lead Nurture: Leads in this stage have shown some interest in our brand. Either they’ve visited our website, attended a seminar or webinar, or downloaded a white paper. In other words, they’re interested, but they’re not yet “sales ready”.

Marketing Qualified Lead: These are leads who have: 1. engaged heavily with our brand, 2. fit our target market demographic profile (i.e. someone who can benefit from and afford our services), and 3. are ready to make a purchase decision. These people fit our MQL profile and are considered “sales ready”.

Sales Accepted Lead: In midsized and large corporations, the SAL or SQL stage is where the formal handoff from sales to marketing happens. For high volume sales organizations, an inside sales rep will call the lead to further gauge interest and define specific needs. If there’s a fit, the lead will be passed onto a more senior sales executive (i.e. the closer). If there isn’t a fit, the lead gets kicked back to marketing or removed from the funnel. It’s also important at this stage for sales to document why leads aren’t a good fit. This allows marketing to refine the MQL profile.

Opportunity: At this stage our staff has qualified the lead for a specific sales opportunity and is actively working it.  We’ll pursue the opportunity until they become a customer. In some cases a lead automatically become an opportunity, for instance when we receive an RPF out of the blue. If the opportunity turns cold, we may remove them from our sales funnel or kick them back to the Lead Nurture stage.

Customer: If you’ve reached this stage congratulations, now comes the hard part. Ironically the final stage is just the beginning and the real work starts.

Message and Tactics

Defining your funnel not only creates common terminology, it also gives marketing direction on how to segment messaging and tactics to specific audiences.  For instance, we normally shut down drip campaign emails once a lead enters the Opportunity Stage of the funnel. You wouldn’t want an automated email to interfere with a sales rep’s efforts. In regards to messaging, distinct goals such as brand awareness, product differentiation, and relationship building are more appropriate for different parts of your funnel than others.

We hope that by explaining Port City’s funnel, we’ve inspired you to explore your own. How do you keep track of these leads? Well, as mentioned in our previous article, a robust CRM is a good start. If you need help with your funnel, don’t hesitate to call. We might just place you in our Lead Nurture program.

Port City’s Newest Addition – Ahoy it’s a boy

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Meet Dan

In an effort to grow the scope and depth of the services we offer, and to expand our expertise, Port City is proud to announce our new partner, Dan Natividad.

Dan has extensive experience in marketing and corporate strategy with expertise in brand building, marketing plan development & execution, go-to-market strategy, digital marketing, and sales-marketing pipeline process improvement. In other words, Dan’s the new marketing geek that rounds out our team of marketing geeks.

Dan comes to us from Blue Shield of California, where he served as the Marketing Strategist for Integrated Marketing and Client Experience. And yes, he admits it’s a super long and pretentious title. A local boy, Dan is a Pacific Alum, earning an MBA from the Eberhardt School of Business and an undergrad degree from UC Davis. Dan would also like everyone to know that he was an All-Area Wide Receiver at St. Mary’s in “the 90s” and has a combined 11-1 sports record against Lincoln High.

To learn more about Dan, view our Meet the Crew page or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Oh yeah, Kristen also gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Nolan James Dyke on December 16th. We know you’re looking for Nolan pics. To satisfy your lust for cute baby pictures follow this link: Adorable Overload.

Happy Valentine’s Day

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Happy Valentine’s Day from Port City.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, Port City wants to remind you that in love and marketing, sometimes simple and sincere is better than ornate and flowery.

Exhibit 1: Johnny Cash’s letter to June Carter.

johnny cash


Letter text:

Happy Birthday Princess,

We get old and get used to each other. We think alike. We read each others minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.

But once in awhile, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much.

Happy Birthday Princess.



Nolan James Dyke – December 16, 2014

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Close your eyes,
Have no fear.
The monsters gone,
He’s on the run and your daddy’s here.

Beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful Boy.

Before you go to sleep,
Say a little prayer.
Every day in every way,
It’s getting better and better.

Beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful Boy.

Out on the ocean, sailing away
I can hardly wait,
To see you to come of age.
But I guess we’ll both,
Just have to be patient.
Yes it’s a long way to go, a hard roe to hoe.
Yes it’s a long way to go, but in the meantime,

Before you cross the street,
Take my hand.
Life is just what happens to you,
While your busy making other plans.

Beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful Boy,
Darling Nolan.

Beautiful Boy (darling boy)  by John Lennon




The Ever Changing Algorithm: a marketers dilemma

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In January, Facebook updated their news feed algorithm in order to reduce the number of “promotional” posts. While the update is ultimately better for the end user, this update and several others over the past few years have made it increasing difficult for brands to reach Facebook eyeballs. If you’d like a closer look at some of these changes, Kevan Lee at Buffer has a good blog post that you should check out.

For large brands who utilize multiple media channels, have the budget to boost posts, and who employ content writers, these changes might be a minor blip on the screen, but for smaller organizations with limited resources (such as non-profits), the ever changing news feed algorithm can add up to a big problem.

The cool folks at Marketo posted a very interesting infographic (below) that explored the relationships between companies and Facebook.  So what do you think? Is it the end of the Facebook free-for-all?

The End of the Facebook Free-For-All for Brands

Super Bowl Ads That Changed Everything

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If you’ve had the pleasure of watching Super Bowl commercials in the presence of any Port City Marketing geeks, you’d think we were the E! Fashion Police critiquing dresses on the red carpet.

“oh no, they didn’t”
“damn girl, you should NOT. GO. THERE…”

Needless to say, we can’t wait for this Sunday.  We all have our favorites, Erin can’t stop saying Wassup, Kristen has a crush on the Old Spice Guy, and Dan loves all things Bud Bowl. 

The Data Driven Super Bowl Ad

But today we’re not talking about our favorites, we’re talking about how some smart marketers approached the super bowl in cool ways. Take our first example, Google’s Parisian Love:

First of all, it’s just a kick-ass commercial. They took a really boring thing (which happened to be their product) and almost made us cry. But that’s beside the point.  This commercial debuted on television during the 2010 Super Bowl. The curious thing is that the YouTube video we linked to is from November 2009. Google released several of these “search stories” months before the game, collected data on engagement, and ran the best performer on the world’s biggest stage. This is counter intuitive for most marketers since the trend is to use the Super Bowl as a launching pad for annual campaigns, even though its super risky considering the number of viewers and costs of at least $5million to air a spot. Google took a data driven approach by using the real world to test out concepts and showed a sure winner to millions of people.

Social Media Pre-Hype

I bet by now you’ve already viewed this year’s crop of Super Bowl commercials on your laptop. We remember last year, companies were still distributing press releases about leaked Super Bowl spots. Well, it had to start somewhere, and Volkswagen did it with “the Force”.

Volkswagon placed a 60 second video on YouTube a week before it was to debut on the Super Bowl, cultivated the social media buzz and had millions of people saying “have you see that cute Darth Vader Volkswagon commercial” minutes before kickoff.  Ever since, marketers have been trying to recreate that magic.

The one that started it all

Prior to 1984, most Super Bowl commercials were about beer, soda, and food. Apple never purchased additional time for this ad after the Super Bowl. And they didn’t have to. All the major news outlets re-aired the spot for them.

The Super Bowl was important to advertisers, but after 1984, commercials became just as important as the game itself. And that’s super cool for marketing geeks like us.

Go Niners!

23 marketing phrases you probably didn’t know that will blow your mind

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In digital marketing, content is king. And in his kingdom, clicks are his ransom. Which takes us to the concept of linkbait. Linkbait is content that people link, share, or click because they want to, not necessary because you ask them to.  On the surface, linkable and clickable (i.e. compelling) content is what you should strive for as you develop marketing content. The concept of linkbait enters a gray area when you talk about linkbait headlines. These headlines are often purposely provocative, use loaded terminology like “blow your mind”, and pose questions. The concept of linkbait gets downright sketchy when linkbait headlines have nothing to do with the actual article. Which of course is something we discourage our clients from doing. It not only irritates the reader, it degrades your brand over time. (And yes, we realize the irony in posting the most linkbaity headline for a post that cautions against linkbait headlines, but read on, we’ll get to that list in a moment. In other words, “but wait, there’s more”)

There’s a whole science to linkbait articles. For instance, you may have noticed lately that most listicles (posts using a list as its thematic structure) on your Facebook feed contain numbers that aren’t divisible by 5 or 10 (e.g. 6, 13, 17, 23, 29). The idea is to choose a number that sounds like you kept going until you ran out of good ones. Weird numbers also stand out.

Which brings me to the reason why you’re probably reading this post (we want that darn list, Port City).

We ran across a linkable graph from Max Woolf at which outline “3-word phrases with the most Facebook Shares on BuzzFeed Article Titles”. Even though the goal of BuzzFeed linkbait articles is different from that of our typical customers (ad revenue vs. long term engagement), we feel we can gather some insight for clickable headlines and thought it was compelling enough to share.

buzzfeed max woolf

If you love the visualization of cool data, you need to check out Max Woolf’s site at

And yes, I know that Max’s graph has 30 phrases instead of the 23 promised in our title, but how else was I going to get you to click? (I feel so dirty).

Building a Killer Email List

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Some marketers will have you believe that email is no longer a viable marketing tool and they site the emergence of social media as the reason. While I believe social media is an important marketing channel, I also believe that a well thought out email strategy will provide higher ROI than social media alone.

According to McKinsey & Company, email marketing is nearly 40 times more effective in acquiring customers than Facebook and Twitter combined. And it makes sense. Over 90% of consumers check their email daily and there are over 3.6 billion email accounts today.  But more importantly, every single aspect of an email can be controlled by the marketer. The same can’t be said for Facebook. And with email marketing you own 100% of the data.

The first step in email marketing is developing an email address list. As your list grows you need to think about quality, segmentation, and database management.

Quality over quantity

If you’re just starting with your email marketing efforts, it’s ok to start small. And in some cases it’s ok to prune contacts who haven’t engaged in a while. Sending a webinar invitation to one hundred contacts who have agreed to receive your newsletter is much more effective than sending it to thousands who have no need for your services and will more than likely mark it as spam.

Being labeled as a spammer decreases future deliverability of your emails. A focus on quality over quantity improves deliverability of your emails over time and ensures a targeted list of prospects who are more likely to answer your email’s call to action.


The beauty of today’s marketing tools is that they facilitate one to one automated conversations with your customers.  You have the ability to send marketing messages that appeal to specific customer groups, and thus are more likely to illicit positive responses. The first step to achieving this is through list segmentation. In other words, categorizing your contacts by interest, demographics, and purchase behavior. For instance, a clothing store who segments their list by gender and size can send a targeted “buy one shirt, get one free” offer in order to unload an old box of men’s XXL shirts.

There are many ways you can segment your lists. Some common categories include, sales cycle stage, geography, age, industry, and job function. What’s important is to find category segments that best pertain to your organization and how you do business.

Database management

Managing the integrity of your email list is just as important as developing click-inducing emails. Email marketing databases naturally degrade by over 20% annually due to clients moving companies, abandoning old email addresses, or opting out of your email communications. Keeping track of all of this while managing your customer segments can be a daunting task. As such, I recommend investing in a Customer Relationship Management system to serve as your “single source of truth”.

Building Your List

Once you determine how you’ll managing your email contacts, you should start focusing on growing your email database. 5 ways to build your business email list include:

Point of sale – Ask customers to join an email program at point of sale.  This tactic is gaining more traction in the retail industry and is pretty much standard for online businesses. Before asking customers for their information, spell out the frequency and benefits of your email program (e.g. member only special discounts and events).

Gate – Create, promote and gate compelling content. Gating is a digital tactic in which an educational resource, such as a whitepaper or case study, is only accessible through filling out a form. Added benefits of gating include identification of anonymous web visitors and additional insight on a lead’s hot button issues.

Webinars and Seminars – Hold an educational webinars or seminar.  While technically a subset of the gated content tactic, registration forms inherently don’t feel like an email gate. In addition, a well-produced webinar focused more on customer education rather than product marketing will position you as a consultative thought leader as opposed to a sales person.

 Subscribe buttons – If you have a killer blog, take advantage of it. Simply inserting a button to “subscribe to blog posts over email” is an easy way to gather emails. For your top blog posts, offer to email the post in another format like pdf.

Contest or giveaway – Promote a contest or giveaway either offline or digitally. To ensure that you are getting quality leads, make sure to only offer prizes that are consumer targeted. For example, offering an iPad will solicit leads from a wide range of demographics and interests, whereas a high end car detailing kit will encourage automobile enthusiast.

These are some simple things you can start today to increase your email database. Above all, the key is to attack email list-building from as many angles as possible.