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March Madness 2016 Rundown

2016 NCAA Tournament: Rundown for the Clueless Bracket Creators

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I love college basketball season. It’s hands-down my favorite sports season. And Selection Sunday is the Sunday I most look forward to every year (unless Christmas falls on a Sunday). But, if you’re like several of my coworkers, you didn’t start paying attention to college basketball until yesterday.

So if you’ve been too busy working these last few months, here’s what you need to know before you fill out your NCAA Tournament bracket.

Talented, Tough & Scary

Unlike last year, this year several teams have held the AP No. 1 spot—six to be exact—and of the AP top-10 teams, they lost a combined 74 games, the most all-time. And all of that just proves there’s really no true favorite to win, even though KU earned the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, this year’s tournament. But even so, there are quite a few teams that coaches and teams should be afraid to face.

Kansas

Seed: 1
Region: South

If you know me, you know my loyalties lie with the Jayhawks. But that’s not why they made the cut. They’re the No. 1 overall tournament seed. They finished the season as the AP No. 1 seed. Kansas won its 12 consecutive Big 12 Conference Championship as well as the Big 12 Tournament title this year, against a tough conference. The Jayhawks are a hot shooting team, shooting above 42 percent from the 3-point line and shooting an efficient field goal percentage of 56 percent. And in my opinion, there’s no better backcourt in the league—made up of Frank Mason III, Alexander Graham and Wayne Selden Jr.—who can handle the ball and make good choices on the court. Add all that to the likes that KU is on a 14 game winning streak, they’re a balanced team ready to continue their winning streak deep into the tournament (knock on wood). 

North Carolina

Seed: 1
Region: East

Another 1 seed, UNC is very talented. The Tar Heels defeated a very good Virginia to win the ACC Tournament, and they’ve got a handful of players helping lead the way in Brice Johnson, Marcus Paige, Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson to name a few, all of which average double-digit points a game. And if you don’t trust me that they’re a force to be reckoned with, college basketball analysts Jay Bilas and Jay Williams have them going to the Final Four. 

Michigan State

Seed: 2
Region: Midwest

On Sunday, Michigan State won the Big 10 Tournament title. But even before then, several believed they were a for sure a 1 seed. And then the committee shocked most of us by making them a 2 seed. Nonetheless, the Spartans are a well-balanced team who can score and defend. Led by potential Player of the Year candidate Denzel Valentine, Michigan State has made 29 NCAA Tournament appearances and last year made it all the way to the national semifinal game where they lost to Duke that ultimately won the championship game. And many analysts agree with me when I say the Spartans will make it that far if not farther this year. 

West Virginia

Seed: 3
Region: East

If you know nothing about West Virginia, all you need to know is that their nickname for the last two years has been “Press Virginia.” They’ve forced 617 turnovers on the year, averaging 18.15 a game, which is the second most forced in the league. WVU is also second in the NCAA in total steals with 338. Coach Bob Huggins is a tough-love coach, and each of his team players play tough and hard for him all game long. They have a deep bench, are great defenders and rebounders and are much better offensively this year. 

Kentucky

Seed: 4
Region: East

Another shocker was Kentucky getting a 4 seed. Earlier today they defeated a great Texas A&M team to win the SEC Tournament title. They’ve had a tougher season this year compared to last, where they entered the NCAA Tournament undefeated. But even through some losses, they’ve played hard and gotten better and healthier as the season has gone on. When you’ve got guys like Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray, Alex Poythress and Isaiah Briscoe, you can’t help but be good. So, I don’t feel bad for UK getting a 4 seed—I feel bad for Indiana and UNC who are likely to face them in the second round and Sweet 16, respectively.

California

Seed: 4

Region: South

California of the Pac-12 Conference is a talented team. Yes, they’re a young team, but this team is peaking at the right time. Cal is well-coached and arguably the best defensive team in the Pac-12. Ivan Rabb has been great all season long, and Jaylen Brown is a great at attacking the rim. Sure they’re in KU’s region, but the Golden Bears are a hot, frightening team—and teams in the South region should be worried to face them.

Texas

Seed: 6
Region: West

At the beginning of the season, we were all unsure of how Texas and the coaching of new head coach Shaka Smart would mix, but it’s been a good, surprising fit. Notable season wins include defeating then-No. 3 UNC, then-No. 17 Iowa State, then-No. 6 West Virgina, then-No. 15 Baylor and then-No. 10 West Virginia. Isaiah Taylor, Cameron Ridley and Javan Felix are hard-working, talented players. Texas may be in a region with tough higher seeds like Oklahoma and Texas A&M, but Smart isn’t a stranger to making a deep tourney run as the underdog.

The Dependables

Every team has their go-to guy. The guy the coach and the other players know they can count on to take and make that last shot or make that big defensive play. You’ve missed watching their magic on the court thus far, so don’t miss your chance to watch these guys who have style and substance in action these next couple of weeks.

Buddy Hield

School: Oklahoma
Position: Guard
Year: Senior

Hield considered entering the NBA draft last year, and I think everyone has been glad he didn’t. He’s taken his game up a notch, shooting above 50 percent from the 3-point line and scoring an average of 25 points a game. His work ethic, charisma and ability to score from just about anywhere on the court makes for a fun basketball watching experience.

Denzel Valentine

School: Michigan State
Position: Forward
Year: Senior

Along with Hield, Valentine is the other top runner for Naismith Player of the Year. He can score (19.6 ppg), he can rebound (7.5 rpg) and he’s an unselfish player, dishing out 7.6 assists per game. His stat line is great, and as you watch him, you’ll quickly learn his level of play positively affects his whole team.

Brice Johnson

School: North Carolina
Position: Forward
Year: Senior

Johnson has 20 double-doubles this year, averaging 16.6 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game. And his field goal percentage of over 60 percent is quite impressive as well. He plays for a storied program, a team that has a good chance to go far this month, and Johnson is decisive to that happening.

Perry Ellis

School: Kansas
Position: Forward
Year: Senior

Consistent, efficient and humble are three words I’d use to describe Ellis. He’s not a flashy player, but game after game where the KU team has shown some inconsistency Ellis has remained consistent, scoring baskets and being the guy his team and coach Bill Self can always rely on. A good student and athlete who’s having his best season of ball, he’s a super senior you want to make time to watch.

Kris Dunn

School: Providence
Position: Point Guard
Year: Junior

Dunn is a complete college basketball player. He’s a tough defender, a good passer (6.4 apg) and has no problem putting the ball through the hoop (16 ppg). One of the nation’s best point guards also won Big East Player of the Year, so if the Big East respects him, I know you’ll respect his game as well. 

Gary Payton II

School: Oregon State
Position: Point Guard
Year: Senior

Son of a basketball legend, athleticism and talent are just in his genes. Payton II is an unbelievable competitor who can do it on both ends of the floor, grabbing 7.9 rebounds per game, earning the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award and getting 15.9 points per game.

Tyler Ulis

School: Kentucky
Position: Guard
Year: Sophomore

At only 5’9”, Ulis won SEC Player of the Year, SEC Defensive Player of the Year and SEC Tournament MVP. With his smooth shot he’s scoring 16.8 points per game and also helping his teammates with 7.2 assists per game. It’s already been announced he’s entering the NBA draft after this season, so it’s your last chance to see this little, yet very talented giant on the college court.

Tourney Tips

It’s called March Madness for a reason—anything is possible this month. But even so, here are some tips to help you better fill out your bracket, and hopefully help you win your office pool this year.

  • Never pick all four No. 1 seeds to make the Final Four. That’s only ever happened once.
  • Choose at least one 12 seed to defeat a 5 seed. Why? Because in 27 of the last 31 years, a 12 seed has won at least one first round game. Although one didn’t win last season, it’s a highly likely first round upset.
  • In the last 14 years, each national champion was a 1, 2 or 3 seed. The only exception was UConn, which won in 2014 as a 7 seed.
  • The No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed. Upsets happen, but don’t get carried away and choose one of these guys.
  • As the top-2 seed, KU and Villanova have each lost three times before making it to the Sweet 16 since 2010.
  • Duke has been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the first round the last two times when a 3 seed or lower.

So get your dancin’ shoes on y’all, it’s time for the big dance.

3 Reasons Being a Follower Is Alright

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Did you know being a leader in your industry means sometimes sitting back and being a follower?

It’s true.

Being the very best at what you do involves evaluating the competition and seeing what their particular strengths are. If they are doing something better than you, there is no better time than the present to figure out WHY. Then use that information to make sure you are the best going forward.

In this post we analyze three marketing reasons why it’s okay to sometimes sit back and be a follower.

1. To Snag New Email Marketing Ideas

Email marketing is without a doubt one of the most effective marketing channels.

A study conducted in 2013 by Custora found that customer acquisition via email has quadrupled over the last four years.

In addition, the average customer lifetime value (CLV) for customers acquired by email is considerably higher than most other marketing channels.

In other words: email marketing cannot be ignored.

Knowing that you need to send emails to your list is the easy part. Coming up with creative designs, clever copy and click-worthy subject lines is the harder part.

You can cover the basics by sending these types of emails:

  • New product or service announcements

  • Discounts for birthdays, anniversaries or other annual events

  • Share links to new content (blog posts, white papers, ebooks)

  • Transactional emails (new order, shipping notice, thank you email)

  • Follow up to a purchase or download asking for a review

You can also send emails rewarding your list with special discounts and promotions on frequent basis.

When you’re not sure what kind of promotional email to send, it’s time to check out what the competition is doing.

If you aren’t already signed up to receive emails from your competitor’s go ahead and do it today! You can create a new email address for the express purpose of receiving and saving emails from them.

Then anytime you are in need of inspiration, go check the inbox and see what your competitors are up to. You don’t want to copy them word for word (or design for design), but seeing what they’re doing should get your own creative juices flowing again.

Keep in mind, you’re doing this for inspiration, so you don’t need to stick to direct competitors. You can broaden your list and sign up for emails from any company that’s even closely related to your industry.

For example, if I was managing email campaigns for a women’s apparel company, I might sign up to receive emails from Rent the Runway. Even if my products aren’t for rent, I can still get good email ideas.

For instance, if I was looking through my inbox and saw the above email around the holidays I would notice a few things that would help me with my own campaigns:

  • The sub-headline of “Turn heads this holiday season” is catchy

  • Previewing the Hottest New Year’s Eve dresses is probably a good idea to copy in advance of the holiday

  • Offering free shipping is a good promo to help increase sales

  • Using an image of a woman in a party dress ready to hit the town is appropriate for the holiday season

I could then use that list of ideas to come up with my own creative email to send out.

I might even use the sub-head “Turn heads this holiday season” word-for-word in my email (while changing up all the rest) – and I wouldn’t feel guilty about it either!

There’s no doubt that checking out the competition can help you snag a few new email ideas. You don’t want to be a copycat, but looking to others for inspiration is not a bad thing at all.

2. To Increase Your Social Media Engagement

Is your social media engagement stagnant while your competitor’s seem to be having a lot of fun tweeting with customers, hosting Facebook contests and Instagramming pictures from product photo shoots?

Don’t sit back and let that happen any longer! It’s time to shake things up on your social media channels. If you aren’t sure where to begin, just follow what your competitor’s seem to be doing right.

Here are some key things to look for when evaluating the social media channels of the competition:

  • What type of posts get the most comments / likes / shares?

  • How often do they post to each channel?

  • Do posts in the morning / afternoon / night seem to get better responses?

  • How often do they host contests and giveaways?

  • What are the entry requirements for contests and giveaways?

  • What kind of pictures do they post – product shots, stock photos, candids – and which tend to get the best engagement?

  • Do they ask customers and tend to get good answers from followers?

  • How many people are they following on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.?

  • Who are they following? – Look for influential bloggers, reporters, etc. that you should also follow and engage with.

After you complete your evaluation, make a list of what seems to work best for your competitor’s and use that information to fuel your own social media growth.

3. To Speed up Your Link-Building Efforts

If you need to ramp up your link-building efforts, check out who links to the competition. This is a great way to find new inbound link opportunities.

You can pull up a list of sites linking to competitor sites using a tool like Open Site Explorer (OSE).

Simply type in the URL for your competitor’s website and OSE will show you a list of sites that link to them along with the pagerank for those inbound links.

Let’s say you are conducting a link-building campaign for a social media software company. One of your competitors is likely to be Sprout Social, so you would just pop their URL into OSE and would immediately see a list of sites that link to them.

Looking down the list I can see that the following sites link to Sprout Social:

  • Zimbra

  • Behance

  • Moz

  • Social Media Today

  • Avinash Kaushik’s blog

  • TechCrunch

  • Social Media Examiner

  • Mashable

  • Gigaom

  • many more

I can even click to see the actual page that links to my competitor.

Being able to click through on each of these links allows you to:

  • See author information for the post so you can reach out and pitch a new topic

  • See contact info for the publication so you can pitch your own guest post

  • See what others are saying about your competition – perhaps there are features that everyone is raving about that you might consider adding to your product

Once you have a list of the sites that are linking to your competitors – start your outreach program!

You can repeat this same process for all of your competitors thus increasing your chances to not only gain some visibility on sites that had previously only written about the competition – but also to earn those all important backlinks.

What Competitive Intelligence Are You Conducting?

These three ways of following your competition’s moves are certainly not the only ones out there.

What tactics are you tracking in your competitive playbook?

Code of Awesomeness

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In October 2012, inspired by Vishen Lakhiani at Mindvalley, we created the Code of Awesomeness for Fit Marketing. Each member of the Fit team is responsible to internalize and live by the code of awesomeness. The code of awesomeness is a statement about who we are and how we do our work. Everything we do as individuals and as a company reflects the tenets of this code.  Sometimes we catch ourselves falling short of these ideals, but having this in place gives us a high standard to measure ourselves against to know if we are maximizing our awesomeness.

Awesomeness is demonstrated through amazing results for our customers, strong relationships with our co-workers and happiness in our personal lives.

This is the Fit Marketing Code of Awesomeness:

I…

  • dare to dream big
  • love what I do & who I work with
  • am humble & confident
  • practice transparency & candor
  • evolve through curiosity & learning
  • am positive & passionate
  • strive to be my best self
  • help others rock their greatest lives
  • turn customers into raving fans
  • seek first to understand and then to be understood
  • am grateful & celebrate life
  • get the job done right
  • am a problem solver & value creator
  • fight for the right
  • own my successes & failures
  • see the humor in life
  • begin with the end in mind
  • am gritty & tenacious
  • shun mediocrity
  • have the heart of a servant
  • honor my words with action

 

7 Marketing Lessons to Learn from the Bachelorette

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As you might have guessed, our office has taken a special interest in the Bachelorette this season.  Now that Brooks is back in the office, we are enjoying watching the season at his side as he tries to win Des’ heart.  We love Brooks, and we assure you that he’s just as fun and friendly off the screen as he is on it.  Along those lines, make sure to join the Brooks Forester Fan Club we’ve set up for the inside scoop on his background, personality, and hidden talents, as well as numerous “facts” about his hair.

The Bachelorette is about the excitement, tragedy, trust, fear, jealousy, and love that come with dating.  You might be surprised to know it also provides a thought-provoking glimpse into the world of marketing.  Not only does the show do an excellent job at marketing itself, but the contestants are constantly marketing themselves for Des in front of a national audience.

Sometimes, the contestants succeed…

Other times, they don’t…

Here are 7 marketing lessons we’ve learned from the Bachelorette:

1. First impressions are everything

Ben with Kid

You don’t have to be flashy, you don’t have to be funny, but you do have to be you.  As is the case with the limo exits on the Bachelorette, you only have a few seconds to make an impression when you are advertising your product or service.  Recognize who you are at your core, then find a way to portray it as quickly and simply as possible.  That way, you will be remembered, even in our day of short attention spans.  Because we’re huge fans of Brooks, we can’t help but wonder if ABC wanted to set him up as the first date since they, too, wanted to put their best foot forward.  Okay, we know it was Des’ decision—well done, Des!

2. Humor is helpful, but the heart is key

Shirt Off Humor

We all know the power of humor in marketing.  It seems like over half of commercials today involve humor, and there’s a good reason.  Laughter is associated with positive memories and a positive outlook, making you more likely to think positively about whatever product or service is being advertised to you.  However, winning the heart of your customer is always superior.  If you can persuade your customers that you are sincerely looking out for their interests, you will win them for life.

3. Less is more

Less is More

It’s easy to tell when someone is “trying too hard.”  When you try too hard, it’s difficult to come across as genuine.  People want to know that what you are saying is consistent with what you are showing.  Brooks, as frighteningly nervous as he was on the first episode, wasn’t overly scripted.  He was endearing.

4. Put your best foot forward

Best Foot Forward

As marketers, our top priority is to put our customers in the best possible light.  A customer can judge your company in a variety of ways: your landing page, your photos, and especially, your product.  Don’t give your customer an excuse to turn you down.  Make it a painful decision.

5. If you want the rose, ask for it

Want a Rose

In business and in love, you need to make your intentions known.  However, don’t do it in a creepy way like Jonathan did, who sounded desperate and obsessive (fantasy suite on the first meeting?  Yikes).  You should have confidence in your product in the long run.  Overall, the guys on this season of the Bachelorette did a good job letting Des know they thought she was special.  You could tell they all wanted the rose, but did they all want it for the right reasons?  Stay tuned!

6. Appearance matters…a lot

Brooks Looking Good

You might think this is shallow.  We disagree.  The way you present yourself is a reflection of what you think about yourself or the setting you are in.  Zak, who presented his abs as a gift to Des, thought very highly of his abs.  Brooks, who was all spiffed up in his tux with a nervous smile and stutter, thought very highly of Des.  Make sure your company website reflects your enthusiasm about what you have to offer and how you can serve your customer.

7.  Just don’t be a jerk

Dont Be a Jerk

HOW TO: How to be a Master Connector Just like Owen

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By Emily Samek
“The key to becoming a good connector is to be genuinely interested in the individuals you come in contact with.-Owen Fuller, Principle, Fit Marketing”
When you do meet someone of interest, it is critical to ask for some form of business card, or to find your new friend on Facebook or Linkedin. Write a brief email concerning your meeting and then stash that contact information away in a database, business card file or rolodex if you are feeling fresh out of the 1990’s.
According to the article “106 Tips to Becoming a Master Connector,” on the site www.lifeoptimizer.org, the
Top 5 ways to best foster good relationships are:
1. Make other people more successful
2. Work hard to give more than you get
3. Don’t keep score
4. Remember that the key to success is generosity
5. Find your mission in life

As you can see, the biggest factor in becoming a successful people-person revolves around service, passion and sincerity. If you are anything like myself, who at times struggles to see past my own bad hair day and lack of sleep, then here are some more elementary thoughts about developing a charitable attitude from eHow.com’s page,
“How to Develop a Spirit of Charity”:

    1. Be grateful for what you have and try to maintain a positive attitude about life
    2. Remember to be humble and recognize the responsibilities that come with the successes you achieve
    3. Become inspired by people you wish to emulate
    4. Remember that no one is perfect and everyone has bad days

 

Though my new Czech friend Jan says that, “An optimist is only an ignorant pessimist,” strive to look for the good. Cultivating a more optimistic attitude will help you to see past your own hang-ups and look at others with more kindness (even if they are having a bad day). Never let fear stop you from getting to know others. Most people get nervous in new social situations, but be the person to merely ask a question. As Owen says, “People love to talk about themselves.”
For some, being social comes naturally, but for many it takes years of practice and refining. By reading up on current events and leading your own passionate life, there will always be something to discuss. Do not be discouraged, but realize that being sincere and interested are the most important factors to becoming a connector.