ClearVerve Marketing, LLC

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Posts Tagged ‘Clear Verve’

Social media is the great equalizer for nonprofits

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 — 


I recently read an article written from the floor of the Social Media for Associations and Nonprofits Workshop that offered some key social media tips for nonprofit communicators.

The biggest takeaway (beside a few good tips) was that professional communicators working for nonprofit organizations face numerous budget and staffing challenges not seen in the private sector. However, social media can be the great equalizer in these situations, enabling communicators to open new avenues of outreach to donors, volunteers, partners and the media.

What a great point! We all get space on these channels to tell our stories; it just depends how social media saavy you are to make an impact.

Here are four tips to help you do just that:

Listening is key. It helps you learn what is going on in your community and develop content that is relevant. Listening also enables you to form relationships with donors and prospects.

Use content creatively. Content can add context to your work. It can also engage your community and bring them into the conversation. Be proactive about repurposing, altering and crowdsourcing your content to make it go further across different media platforms. Don’t repeat content verbatim, although it is sometimes worth repeating content on Twitter because it is a continuous feed.

Visuals are crucial. Use powerful imagery to engage your community and familiarize yourself with Pinterest and Instagram.

Measure your objectives. Pick relevant metrics to measure and analyze your communications objectives. Use this information to plan your social media strategy and make adjustments where necessary. And, take advantage of the free tools on Facebook, Twitter and Google, for example, to monitor your social media activity.

Jackie Costa is the director of content marketing at Clear Verve. She works with clients to communication more clearly and create smarter, better, channel-appropriate content. Listen for her on Twitter as @JackieMCosta.

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Case study: Two winning projects

Friday, June 6, 2014 — 


Clear Verve worked quite a few direct mail projects this year. One of our most creative and fun projects both BMA and PRSA awards. We also won two other PRSA awards for our recent work. We’re proud of these projects, so we decided to share them as case studies. We hope they inspire some creative thinking.

The client: Skyline Technologies, a consulting and custom technology development firm with a specialty in Business Intelligence (BI).

The challenge: Skyline’s BI services help companies analyze and use the data they collect to make better business decisions. With the boom in electronic medical records, Skyline has helped health care systems use patient data to improve patient care, generate government-required reports, and predict trends. Skyline wanted to introduce itself to major health care systems across Wisconsin and promote this industry solution. However, the decision makers at major health care systems are notoriously hard to reach.

The solution: Clear Verve developed a two part direct mail program. The first part  of the series was a decoder mailer booklet with decoder glasses. (The kind you played with as a kid.)  The mailer illustrated the common challenge for health care – an abundance of data with no context. Each spread in the booklet featured information about the benefits of Skyline’s BI services on the left side. The right side featured a question that related to a random fact that was obscured by red dots. To read the answer, the recipient had to look through the red lens decoder glasses, which were provided with the booklet. After phone and email follow up, individuals received a custom wrapped book that explained that the reader could learn how to better implement BI by reading the book, or they could simply call Skyline.

Breathing new life into a 50-year-old brand

The client: TEC Midwest, an organization that has been dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of CEOs in Wisconsin since 1957.

The challenge: TEC members join groups made up of CEOs in non-competing industries. These groups provide their members with a place to bring their most difficult and confidential problems and get tremendous insight from people with a high level of knowledge who have their best interests at heart. This model has been shown to help businesses greatly increase revenue and grow faster than they ever thought possible. However, the organization was challenged with a reduced level of name recognition and membership.

The solution: Clear Verve conducted a survey to understand why members originally joined TEC and their current perceptions of the organization. This survey revealed a significant disparity between the message TEC thought it was communicating and what prospective members were hearing, leading to the development of a new tagline and ad campaign. In addition, Clear Verve revamped all the organization’s marketing materials to reflect this new theme and deliver a consistent message across all channels.  Results are significant. Membership is at its highest levels in over a decade and meetings are more well-attended.

Jackie Costa is the director of content marketing at Clear Verve. She works with clients to communication more clearly and create smarter, better, channel-appropriate content. Listen for her on Twitter as @JackieMCosta.

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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.

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

When you give, you get!


Clear Verve Marketing was recently featured in a Profile in Philanthropy from BizTimes Milwaukee. These profiles, which appeared in the BizTimes Giving Guide, highlight the services of individuals in the Milwaukee area who have made significant contributions to the nonprofit community. Clear Verve, along with Catral Doyle creative and Welke Group, were highlighted for our Tri-Adathon work. You can view our profile, along with profiles of other generous individuals and some deserving nonprofits, online.

If you’re not familiar with Tri-Adathon, it’s a once a year opportunity for Milwaukee-area nonprofits to receive some really great pro-bono marketing work. Each year, we take applications from local organizations, select a number of projects to work on, and then shut down and complete these projects in a 24-hour work marathon. It’s exhausting and fun. It’s also given us the opportunity to meet some really great people and learn a lot about the many organizations that make our community a better place. The 2012 Tri-Adathon will be held in spring. Be sure to watch for our call for entries coming in March or April.

We don’t do Tri-Adathon specifically to get publicity, but it’s nice when that happens. Many thanks to our friend and client, Gary Ross from Community Health Charities of Wisconsin for nominating us. We’re looking forward to another successful creativity marathon this spring.

Here’s a video of our Tri-Adathon experience last year:

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