Two great agencies have become one! Henry Russell Bruce (HRB) and ME&V Advertising have merged to create a combined company of more than 50 people with offices in Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Quad Cities. The combined agency represents more than 200 clients across 10 states and offers branding, marketing, public relations, and advertising services in healthcare, higher education and banking, corporate communications and nonprofit fundraising. Take a look around →

HRB's previous site can still be accessed below.


Jim Thebeau Jim Thebeau wrote:January 17th, 2014

Three Tips to Boost Your PR Efforts

HRB Public Relations

Photo credit: stockholminnovation

Public Relations Tip 1: Don’t forget offers and calls to action.

It seems as though public relations is most often used to create and send out information such as news releases, articles and media alerts about events. PR pros can use offers and calls to action via social media to enhance engagement with a client’s branded content. Publish a new white paper and promote the offer on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook the website where it’s available for download. Use social media to ask followers to take a product, market or customer satisfaction survey.

Public Relations Tip 2:   Want a little extra free help in being found online?

Create a Wikipedia page for your company or organization and fill it with quality, searchable content.
A Wikipedia page is like a free mini website for your company that shows up in search results and can create traffic and inbound traffic to your website. Many companies don’t claim their company Wikipedia page and overlook this valuable free marketing tool. It’s also a good idea to claim your LinkedIn, Facebook and Manta pages as well, since they are additional sources of information about your company and potentially generators of inbound links to your website.

Public Relations Tip 3:  Get free national publicity by helping a reporter.

HARO is a free service that PR pros can sign up for to receive daily requests from regional and national print and online journalists looking for expert sources to interview or to provide specific information for a story.  Help A Reporter Out (HARO) has been around for years and is an especially good site to monitor if your involved in financial, lifestyle, healthcare, medical, weight loss, pets or any number of other topics and you are an expert or have access to one.

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Jim Thebeau Jim Thebeau wrote:July 16th, 2013

Insider Secrets: How to Work with a Marketing Agency (Part 2)

In Part 1 we wrote about how agencies work and the difference between a good agency and a great one.
In Part 2 we offer five reasons you might want to work with an agency.

As information channels and screens proliferate and attention spans shrink to nanoseconds, marketers find they have to work harder to get and keep the eyes, ears and minds of customers focused on your key message.

Today, it may be all about one-to-one and relationship marketing, but if your messaging is unclear or too long, you risk losing the interest of your customers and prospects. This is the point in marketing where experienced marketing firms or ad agencies can provide a helping hand.

Why, exactly, would you want to work with an agency? Here are a few reasons it might make sense for your company.

1. Serious agencies or marketing firms position themselves as independent, third-party communications experts that are in business to solve marketing problems. Independent means they are not tied to any specific advertising or promotional media like a newspaper, television station or online trade journal. Third-party means they look at your particular marketing challenge objectively and help you solve it by finding the best message and the best way to deliver that message to the target audience. Advertising agencies should always make sure your messages support your brand and your branding position.

2. Agencies tend to think in ways that company marketers don’t. Marketers may struggle to come up with new themes, ideas and concepts to promote their products and services. While the agency staff may have produced many ideas over the years, your project is new to them and they will bring a fresh approach to the marketing problem based on past experiences. Outside insights can be valuable, helpful and shorten your time to roll out the concept or idea – the solution to the problem. Agencies often use research with customers, prospects and former customers to develop new insights.

HRB Advertising Agency

3. After working with dozens of clients in dozens of industries, agency professionals may actually have a very good handle (following some download conversations and insights from you) on how your customers think. These creative teams have not lived with the company day and night. In a sense, they don’t know too much and can bring you tantalizing concepts that cut through the clutter and deliver your precise and powerful message with impact. This can be especially helpful in the areas of creative design and Web design.

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4. Use an agency on a consulting basis to review your ideas, concepts and plans. You don’t have to form a permanent, contractual relationship to get some great new outside thinking. Ask senior members of the agency staff for a few hours of time to discuss or review your approaches to a new marketing theme, the launch of a new product or just putting a fresh face on your marketing messages. You may come away with some valuable new ideas that will more than pay for the agency’s consulting time. In some cases it could benefit you to start your conversation with the head of the public relations department, since those practitioners tend to have the broadest experience in internal and external communications.

5. As the pace of business life accelerates and marketing staffs become leaner, outsourcing certain marketing tasks may actually help you get more work done. Outsourcing opportunities are especially relevant for repetitive tasks such as producing email marketing materials, Web site and search engine optimization, newsletters, direct mail and collateral, Internet marketing and social media activities. Though the agency professionals may never know as much as you do about your company and its products, they can take on recurring tasks and make sure they are done on time and on budget – letting you focus on your larger, primary marketing objectives. Outsourcing your media buying services could certainly save a lot of staff time, and it could even save you money by making your buys more effective.

Don’t be afraid to contact an agency and talk with principles or senior staffers about your marketing challenges. Most agencies or marketing firms do not charge for one or two meetings with your team to get a download on the issues or challenges you face. And, most provide detailed estimates or proposals that marketers must sign before any work begins. Legitimate agencies are always willing to discuss timelines, deliverables and billings at any time. If you don’t see details you want in the estimates or proposals, ask the agency to add them before you sign off. Don’t work with an agency without signed estimates and timelines so you can avoid performance issues later.

Click here to read Part 1, Insider Secrets: How to Work with a Marketing Agency

Jim Thebeau
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Jim Thebeau Jim Thebeau wrote:June 11th, 2013

Insider Secrets: How to Work with a Marketing Agency

Agencies, or at least most agencies, know that they must put the best interest of the client ahead of making money. Of course agencies are in business to make a profit, but not at the expense of harming a relationship with a client. For an agency, it’s all about building a relationship and trust and being liked by the client. It’s really hard to work with someone you don’t like even if they produce the coolest marketing campaigns you’ve ever seen.

HRB Marketing

Photo credit: Flickr user ucouldguess

Most agencies win new business by writing proposals and responding to requests for proposals (RFPs). This consumes a considerable amount of agency time and resources that cannot be devoted to creating great marketing plans and campaigns for clients.

A good agency will give you a standalone proposal at the drop of a hat. This is what usually happens when prospects just want a “bid” for a single project. Sometimes you might even get such a proposal when you ask for something more important, like a major campaign for a product launch, a rebrand for your organization, a dynamic website or a public relations media blitz.

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A great agency typically will spend dozens or hundreds of hours learning about your business and
gaining insights before providing a proposal.
And, the agency team often will offer optional approaches to solving a marketing problem if they think it will generate better results for the client. This is not just an effort to just sell something to the client, but to provide alternative ideas or concepts that can really move the needle further up the chart for the client.

Unless the agency wants to sit down with you and have a healthy exchange of information and a discussion of your sales and marketing processes, customer service, goals and expected results (commonly known as a download meeting), you may not get the proposal or results you are expecting. A great agency will go beyond the surface and dig into the details of your business and offer its own insights and suggestions on how best to proceed – without being asked.

HRB Marketing Business Relations

Photo credit: Flickr user ronnyandre

Don’t be afraid to ask the agency about its relevant experience in your industry. It can be helpful for an agency to have experience in your industry, but don’t rule out one that demonstrates a history of success in various industries. After all, a great agency is very good at ferreting out insights, key messages and brand differentiators then using their communications expertise to deliver that information to key audiences – no matter what the industry.

If you have questions about working with an agency, feel free to call or send me an email. I really do want you to make the right choice when choosing an agency to work with. In Part 2, we’ll offer 5 reasons it might make sense to work with an agency.

Jim Thebeau
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Jim Thebeau Jim Thebeau wrote:April 17th, 2013

When Promoting Your Brand, Think About the Brands You Prefer

Why do you choose to do business with a particular brand? What connection did the brand make to earn your business or your loyalty? Do you borrow those attributes that make you happy and apply them to your business?

Download our whitepaper to learn more about branding strategies >> Branding: How to Brand Your Company for Growth

Here are attributes from a positive brand:

Honesty is the Best Policy

One of the most important things you can do for your brand is to be honest. Communicate your service expectations, as well as your abilities to your customers clearly and honestly. Don’t make commitments or promises that you cannot keep. That can lead to a disappointed customer and that could cost you. Be realistic on target, activity or delivery dates and let the customer know why. Of course, today customer turn times are getting shorter and shorter so you can’t disappoint by missing the customer’s stated deadlines.

Great Customer Service

Business is and always has been a relationship business. Most customers are lost through the actions, words and attitudes of company employees. The experts say that’s how 68 percent of customers are lost.  Allowing employees to go the extra mile for your customers could make all the difference for your business. Have you established customer service boundaries or expectations for your employees? Do they know how far they can go to fix a customer problem or resolve an issue? If they do, they are more likely to do the right thing. Provide customer service training to protect your brand.
[Click here to learn more about turning your employees into brand ambassadors]


Customers want consistency out of their brands. They want to know what experience to expect each time they interact with a brand – just like you do. Basically, it’s about your product or service doing what you say it will do, doing it right the first time and doing it on time. Customers will accept the occasional mistake. But if you make too many or don’t do anything to correct the mistake, you’ve had it. Simply put, providing caring and consistent support are the keys to customer retention and a reliable brand.
[Click here to find more important branding attributes] 


Jim Thebeau
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Jim Thebeau Jim Thebeau wrote:April 16th, 2013

Three Tips to Building a Stronger Brand

#1: Know Your Core Values and Make Sure Your Customer Does, Too.

People are drawn to companies with integrity. Be clear about what your company values and what is important, and make sure your customers are clear about this, too. Communicate your values through your website, employees and products. Commit to adhering to your values in everything your business does – every communication with your customer, every interaction with the public.

Brand Ambassador

Photo credit: Flickr user Jeni Rodger

#2: Use Your Employees as Brand Ambassadors.

Insist that your employees provide a positive experience with every customer interaction. Don’t wait for negative feedback or a customer complaint to address how your employees work with your customers or how they represent your brand. Be proactive. Your employees are your Brand Ambassadors. They are the link between your customer and your product or service. If they aren’t representing your brand and your values properly, you are missing a major opportunity and selling your business short. Provide training in proper customer service and make sure they understand how important they are to the growth of the company. It’s not always easy to get a second chance with a customer.

#3: Communicate With Your Customer.

With all the communications channels available today, there is no excuse for not connecting with your customers. They need to feel as though you value them, not just for their money but as people. Make sure you are going out of your way to communicate your thanks to them and ask for their input or ideas. Create a proper email program for customer communication that is consistent and permission-based. Another approach is to pick up the phone and make a personal call to them.

Jim Thebeau
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Jim Thebeau Jim Thebeau wrote:April 9th, 2013

3 Customer-Focused Marketing Tips

Our mantra typically is to focus on the fundamentals while keeping an eye on the needs of the customer. That means looking at all marketing objectives and content from the perspective of the customer. We’ve included a few more marketing tips that address customer focus and marketing mistakes to avoid.

Marketing Mistake #4: Designing your website for yourself instead of your customer.

Is your website a glowing billboard about your company and its products? Or does your website design create a welcoming place where visitors can be educated, quickly find what they want and convey the impression that they come first? Your website is a 24/7 engagement and sales tool. Engagement means giving them something of value. More than 85% of people looking for information, a product or service begin with a Web search. Does your site have an appealing appearance, easy navigation and helpful content designed for the visitor and provide more than one way to contact you? Do you consistently add fresh content of value?

Avoiding Marketing Mistakes

Photo credit: Flicker user Agaumont

Marketing Mistake #5: Thinking branded content is not important.

This has been proclaimed the Year of Branded Content by numerous online experts. The truth is, most marketers have been producing and promoting branded content for many years, but it was usually called something like marketing content. Given the power and importance of today’s search engines, no marketer can ignore producing informative, educational and optimized content for key audiences. This includes content such as white papers, executive reports, videos that show the benefits of your products or how to information. It enhances your search results and gives readers more insight into your products and services.

Marketing Mistake #6: Not thinking like your customer.

Marketing your company by simply pushing out information to sell what you have may be a sound approach. But is it what your customers want? Think of your marketing from your customers’ point of view. Stay in touch with the needs and wants of your customers. Are they aware of all of the services you offer? Develop a set of five to seven needs-based questions and call several of your clients each month and go through the list. You may find that business would improve if you alter a product or develop a new one, and you also are showing your customers you are thinking about their needs.

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Jim Thebeau Jim Thebeau wrote:March 28th, 2013

Avoiding Shiny Objects and Focusing on Marketing Strategy

There are plenty of shiny objects out there to steal a marketer’s attention.  Focusing on the basics, strategy and assigning responsibility (and accountability) are the keys to keeping marketing efforts on track.Marketing programs are most successful when they begin with a well thought out and creative strategy that is supported by measurable goals and tactics. We’ve put together a list of marketing mistakes to avoid. Learn more by downloading our white paper here – Avoid the 15 Biggest Marketing Mistakes

Marketing Strategy Mistake #1: Ignoring Strategy Development

One of our now-retired partners was famous for saying “All marketing should begin with a tightly crafted strategy.” He was right. Start with a strategy that supports the organization’s overall business goals, one that supports the lead generation process for sales, as well as customer engagement and retention. Just putting together and executing a list of tactics may not help the organization, or your career, enough.

Marketing Strategy Mistake #2: Failing to plan.

If you don’t have a written marketing plan, you will benefit by developing even a simple one. The value of such a plan is 1) the think time you put into planning the content, and 2) that it is written down. At a minimum, you should develop goals and objectives of what you need to accomplish, as well as strategies and tactics to complete each task. It should include a mixture of “push” and “pull” marketing strategies. A plan does not have to be long, but having it in writing and reviewing it on a monthly basis will help keep your efforts on track. A proven approach is to include a timeline that lists all your projects on a quarterly basis so you can track and plan ahead for them throughout the year.

Marketing Strategy Mistake #3: Believing that brand doesn’t matter.

Your brand is what differentiates you from others in the marketplace. Honestly evaluate your brand differentiators and look for room for improvement. Think in terms of the benefits or results you provide to customers, not just a list of features. What do you do really well that others cannot? Clearly spell out the value you offer; even just one that substantially differentiates you from the competition – and promote it.

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Jim Thebeau Jim Thebeau wrote:December 7th, 2012

News About the Best B2B Email Subject Line Character Counts and Keywords a Bit Surprising – 90 Characters or More Work Best

Email Subject Lengths & Open Rates

Photo credit: Flickr user greggoconnell

With all the expert advice on keeping email subject lines creative and snappy, a new study by an email marketing platform provider finds longer works better, with 90 or more characters working best.

It also measured which marketing-related keywords caused more opens, clicks and clicks-to-open, in one case finding the words “app” and “iPad” were above average in opens.

These interesting insights come from Adestra, which analyzed about 1.2 billion B2B emails sent over the past 12 months.

To those businesses sending out electronic newsletters, you may be interested to know that the keyword “newsletter” performed below average in each metric, worse than better performers “news”, “update”, “breaking”, “alert” and “bulletin”.

So if you’re highlighting the word “newsletter” in your B2B email subject lines, you may want to look at this study to get some fresh ideas.

It’s not about either a long subject line or a right keyword; it’s about the right combination of both.

The 102 characters and 21 words in the subject line or title of this post points to why longer is better – it gives you more space to pack in more details so the content is more easily understood. Hopefully, starting the post with an above average keyword like “news” helped pique your interest in reading more.

See more details of the study at

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Jim Thebeau Jim Thebeau wrote:October 9th, 2012

Wanted: Bar Code, RFID and Mobile Computing Clients

Barcode Scanner

Photo credit: Flickr user david roessli

Though many people may not know it, the HRB team has spent more than 20 years promoting industrial mobile computers, bar code and RFID printers and readers and wireless devices for major manufacturers such as Intermec Technologies, Zebra Technologies and MobileDemand.

Our clients placed equipment with small and large companies and organizations alike, including UPS, NASA, Avis, FedEx, Hertz, Coke, InBev, Frito-Lay, NASCAR and many others. We’re looking for supply chain companies that would like to put our comprehensive marketing and public relations experience to work.

We helped introduce and promote industrial 802.11 wireless and wrote and placed many articles, case studies and white papers for the trades and business journals. Today, 802.11, commonly referred to as WiFi, is used every day in countless homes and offices around the world.

Our business revolves around channel partners that sell supply chain hardware or software or both, and systems integrators that make it all work together for the end user.

SAP, Oracle and other enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, along with warehouse management systems and various 2-D and 3-D barcode systems have been part of our everyday language for more than two decades.

Technology marketing and public relations have been a fun part of our business model for many years. We want to keep the fun going.

Jim Thebeau
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Jim Thebeau Jim Thebeau wrote:July 31st, 2012

Hang on to That Customer – And Grow Your Business

What is the biggest reason customers give for leaving one company for another?

Jim Thebeau, CEO, presents during the Expert Edge Seminar Series

I answered that question in a recent presentation on customer loyalty and satisfaction for about two dozen members of the Iowa City/Coralville Chamber of Commerce Expert Edge Seminar Series.

The biggest reason: Feeling neglected or under-appreciated is the number one reason customers leave a supplier. In fact, that’s the reason given by 68% of respondents in a survey about why they depart. That’s a large number.

Other reasons for customers leaving are small, percentage-wise, by comparison:

  • 17% are dissatisfied with the product
  • 11% leave because of competitive reasons
  • 4% die or move away

Dig beneath the numbers and you’ll find that, for the most part, customer satisfaction is directly related to employee happiness and engagement. Meaning our employees play a major role in customer retention. It is management’s responsibility to teach employees appropriate customer service skills BEFORE putting them in front of customers.

Keep in mind that it costs 5 – 7 times as much to gain a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. In that context, every customer contact is a golden opportunity to deliver a positive experience – the ultimate goal of great customer service.

Research shows that loyal customers spend 68% more than a new customer. So, one thing to focus on is the lifetime value of a customer. For example, one study found that the lifetime value of:

  • A local pizza restaurant customer is $8,000
  • A Cadillac customer is $332,000, and
  • A typical supermarket customer is $380,000

It’s quite surprising, really, when you look at a customer that way. And it makes the prospect of keeping that customer ever more appealing.

Bottom line: Do what you say you are going to do for a customer when you say you will do it. And ‘Hang on to That Customer.’

Jim Thebeau
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