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Power point fail


Recently, I attended a large networking event that featured an out-of-town speaker who had been brought in to share research results on a very important topic. (Vagueness added to protect the not-so-innocent.) I had been looking forward to this presentation and was ready to take notes in hopes of blogging about the insights I gained.

Instead, the speaker committed two of the biggest power point sins – her slides had lots of words on them, and she READ them to us. This was a room full of approximately 600 intelligent, thoughtful people. I’m pretty sure we all knew how to read. After a couple slides, I looked around the room and noticed people were talking to each other, checking their phones, or daydreaming.

Power point has been around for many years and at one time, it was common practice to pack each slide with tons of data. Not anymore. We are a much more visual society. Speakers are competing fiercely with mobile devices for their audience’s attention.  Many times, they lose.

So how can you win? By leaving information OFF your slides! A couple months ago, I delivered a presentation at the Junior Achievement National Empowering Success Conference. My presentation is below. Notice anything? The slides don’t say much. If you want to know what I said, you need to download the presentation so you can read my speaker’s notes. Everything I wanted the audience to know was in my notes, not on the slides.  During this presentation I was not only competing with mobile devices, I was competing with LUNCH. But because the slides didn’t say much, the audience paid attention to what I said, the presentation got great reviews, and everyone stayed awake.

The next time you have to make a presentation, challenge yourself to leave much of the information off your slides. This more visual method will keep your audience engaged.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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Tell us how you use content for marketing


Clear Verve Marketing today launched its third original research project looking at how businesses in a variety of industries across Southeast Wisconsin use content marketing.


Click here to take survey



Playing with Vines


Have you heard of Vine? It’s a fun new app that you can use to make the equivalent of a video “tweet.” You use your smartphone to make a six-second video, which you can then post to Facebook or Twitter. Once your video is posted, you can get an embed code that will allow you embed the video anywhere.

Now I know you’re probably thinking, “How great can a six-second video be anyway?” Well, they can be pretty great! In fact, the Tribeca Film Festival invited people to submit Vines for judging and got some amazing super short videos. Check them out here.

So, what can you do with a vine? Lots! Obviously, vine isn’t great for explaining complicated topics or if you need to impress someone with a high quality video, but it can be used to create a fun, simple message. Check out two we quickly made at Clear Verve.

Professional Service Marketing Mistakes


This week, I had the opportunity to speak at Marquette University Law School. It’s the third year in a row I’ve spoken during this particular course, and I always enjoy sharing a marketing perspective with the future attorneys I meet in the class. Of course, as future attorneys they ask insightful questions, but I did manage to raise a few eyebrows when I explained that if their marketing sounds like everyone else, there is no way for a prospective client to tell them apart from their competitors. And in that case, the prospect will always go with the larger firm, because it’s a safer choice.

Wondering what else I told the class? Here’s the presentation I shared.

Marketing Mistakes Professional Service Providers Make from Clear Verve Marketing, LLC

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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Imitation and innovation


It’s not unusual for businesses, especially businesses in conservative industries, to market by imitation. We are constantly reminding clients and prospects that if they are asking themselves what their competitors are doing in order to make a decision, they may be falling into this trap. Of course, we know that it is important to know what your competitors are doing, but a smart business owner should never make a decision based upon copying someone else.

However, there are times when paying attention to what others are doing is very beneficial, especially when the business or industry you are watching is not a competitor. Futurist David Zach calls this “thinking into other boxes” instead of the tired expression “thinking outside the box.” If you can think about how something that works in another industry could be repurposed for your business, you are likely to come up with something that is innovative and interesting.

Here’s a great example. It’s called Lent Madness. Patterned after March Madness, Lent Madness gets those interested in theology to vote in a celebrity tournament of favorite saints. In the tournament, bloggers nominate saints and the faithful cast their votes online. Participants come from all across the country. The winning saint is awarded the Golden Halo – virtually, of course – and participants get the chance to brush up on their knowledge of the saints while having a little fun during Lent. It’s a nontraditional approach to religion, which is exactly what makes it fun. Last year, someone named Queen Emma of Hawaii (my apologies to anyone who really knows who she is) went all the way to the championship round before losing to Mary Magdeline (believe it or not, I do know who that is). Apparently, the Bishop in Hawaii really got into the game and urged his followers to vote.

The next time you read the newspaper, watch TV, or read a magazine or blog post, pay attention to industries that are completely different from your own. Who would have ever thought that the church could borrow an engagement tactic from college basketball? They could and they did. Don’t be afraid to think into new boxes. Who knows how you might be able to innovate your marketing strategy.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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It’s a new day, and we’re feelin’ good


We spent the weekend writing, planning, concepting and designing like mad men, er, women, as part of this year’s Tri-Adathon, a 24-hour creative marathon, that left us feeling happier, not to mention a little more tired than usual when we finally headed home Monday.

Tri-Adathon is the annual opportunity for Milwaukee-area nonprofits to receive some really great pro-bono marketing work from three participating marketing agencies – Catral Doyle Creative Company, Clear Verve (that’s us) and Johnson Direct. We know not all nonprofits can afford to hire an outside agency to do marketing, so we step up to help them out. We all agree it’s important to give back to the community, and this is one of the best ways we can.

We take applications from local organizations, select a number of projects to work on, and then shut down to complete these projects in a 24-hour work marathon. It gives us the opportunity to be good corporate citizens, socially responsible neighbors, meet some really great people, and learn about the many organizations that make our community a better place. It also gives us a chance to do lots of creative thinking, usually the best part of working at an agency and often the part we don’t get enough time to do.

Unfortunately, not everyone can benefit from Tri-Adathon. This year, between the three agencies, 18 organizations were selected. At Clear Verve, we wrote a number of marketing and PR plans, created a media kit, designed several logos, concepted a brochure and annual report and even planned an event and its timeline.

Bottomless cups of coffee, lots a sweet fruit, pizza and packages of Girl Scout cookies (one of the clients we worked for) sustained us. Each agency presented its work to the grateful clients Monday. It was gratifying and fun to present our clients with new perspectives and ideas. I’ve rarely seen such enthusiasm and joy on the faces of clients.

Visit to see a list of the clients that were selected; and, to see some inspiration check out our Facebook page.

Display of finished work

Jackie Costa, the director of content marketing at Clear Verve, works with clients to create and distribute smarter, better marketing communications materials. Listen for her on Twitter @JackieMCosta.

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Skipping straight to creativity


Often, when we first meet with prospective clients we are asked to spontaneously provide creative ideas. While we could certainly make something up on the spot, I am very against providing marketing suggestions in an initial prospect meeting.

Why, you ask? Because marketing isn’t just about creativity. Being creative is very important, but creativity without strategy is like a medical diagnosis without an exam. Your CPA wouldn’t prepare your taxes without reviewing your financial situation. Your financial planner wouldn’t begin investing without understanding your sources of income and your goals. You plumber wouldn’t start ripping apart your sink without looking to see if the problem is actually in, around, or under that sink.

Marketing should be the same way, but often it is not. As creative people, we are naturally disposed to generating ideas easily. And of course we want to share them. But as smart creative people, we also need to remember that random creative ideas are just that – random. That’s why when we submit proposals, they always include a discovery phase. Discovery helps us develop creative ideas that are much more likely to help you achieve your business goals.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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The Marketing Reality Show


AMC’s new reality show The Pitch is a reality show about ad agencies competing for major accounts. Although it focuses on ad agencies, it shows one of the biggest challenges people who sell ideas face – how to get the client to understand what you can do for them without giving your ideas away.

We’re asked all the time to share our ideas when we meet with prospective clients and we hate doing it. It’s not because we want to charge for these ideas – although it is important to remember that we get paid to generate ideas – that’s how we make our living. And it’s not because we expect our clients to hire us blindly, we know they need to understand what we’re capable of. It’s because when we provide ideas without proper context, it’s really easy to provide bad ideas.

When you go to see your doctor, you don’t stand in front of him or her, fully clothed and ask, “Doc, what should I do to feel better?” Your doctor wouldn’t know what to say. He or she would probably be forced to come back with some general recommendations about taking vitamins, exercising, and eating right. He or she would never be able to treat your ongoing stomach pain without knowing about it.

That’s what happens to us. We can’t make accurate recommendations without learning about your organization. A five (or fifty) minute review of your website won’t cut it. We want to meet your employees, learn about what you’ve done in the past, examine your competition, talk about your goals, and figure out what will realistically fit into your budget.

In marketing, like in medicine, there is no magic bullet. Growing a service-based business (or any business for that matter) is hard work. Help us out. Let us learn about you. Tell us what you’re thinking about and what you want for your business’ future. Then, we might have some good ideas and we can work with you to make them happen.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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Finding the Innovation


Recently, our good friend Alonzo Kelly wrote a great article about looking for leaders “on the perimeter.” He talked about how important it is for us to remember when we were all diamonds in the rough and not the polished, hard, and sometimes boring people we have become.

I loved this article and wanted to share it with you because I think that the same philosophy can be applied to marketing ideas. In order to stand out and be truly different from your competition, you have to get off the beaten path. You have to look beyond the easy solution to find what is really different and what will really work. I recently gave presentations at both Marquette Law School and MATC to college students who are thinking of starting their own businesses. In these presentations, I pointed out that one of the most common mistakes business owners make is marketing by imitation. If you find yourself making marketing decsions by saying, “What would so and so do?” you’re guilty of this problem.

Of course, getting off the beaten path can be scary. It means taking risks. It also means really delving into your business to see what is going on and thinking hard about where you want to go in the future. When I get scared about this, I remind myself of some of the best advice I was given back when I first started my career. I was a Manager Trainee at Kohl’s Department Stores, doing one of my first walk-throughs with my District Manager. If you’ve never had to do this, basically it involves walking your boss’ boss’ boss around your part of the store, telling him or her how everything in your area is doing and answering questions about how you plan to improve. As a totally inexperienced Trainee, I was doing a TERRIBLE job. Luckily, my District Manager was a mentor, not a killer. When I was done, he took me aside, told me how to do it next time, and then said, “And be sure to get off the aisles. If you don’t walk on the carpet, you’ll never see what’s really going on.”

Whether the innovation in your business is on the edges or buried deep in the middle of your company, don’t be afraid of it. If you want to stand out from the competition, you have to get off the beaten path.

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve.

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Get 100 Ways to Build Your Business


Have you ever tried to think up new ways to market, manage, or build your business and found yourself at a complete loss for ideas? I think it happens to everyone. I have to admit, it even happens to us, despite the fact that we’re a marketing company. I’m not sure if it’s because we spend so much time being creative on behalf of others that we just run out of gas for ourselves, or if it’s because we spend so much time dreaming up new ideas that it’s hard to come up with something that feels truly revolutionary for ourselves.

Well, we’ve solved that problem! Last year, we came up with the crazy idea of trying to get 20 of our favorite thought leaders to share five ideas that would help businesses innovate, grow, or manage themselves better. We contacted a few people, who loved the idea, and our big project for 2011, 100 Ways to Build Your Business in 2012 was born.

After several months of hard work, we’re pleased to share these great ideas with you. The book includes thoughts on marketing/PR, web/social media, management, and video/photo, so you are sure to find something that is applicable to your business! Best of all, you can also sign up to receive a monthly tips from the ebook for the next year. (Because seriously, who can remember or implement 100 ideas all at once?)

You can download the free e-book and sign up for the monthly emails at the 100 Ways to Build Your Business website.

Our best wishes for a busy and productive 2012!

Christina Steder is the President of Clear Verve Marketing and works with clients to plan, create and execute marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter as @clearverve