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How to Win the Online Marketing Battle

30 Jan

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The quest to convert target customers into clients is never-ending. The battle to connect with such clients has moved to the web across the past couple decades. It is no longer enough to advertise on radio, TV, billboards, magazines, and/or newspapers. If you own, manage or advertise for a business, it is imperative you win the online marketing battle. Here’s how to do it:

Tap Into the Power of Inbound Marketing

Today’s competition for business requires exposure those who spend time on the web as well as those who do not use computers or smartphones. Just about every company needs a healthy mix of traditional outbound marketing with inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is all about connecting with clients who already express an interest in your product or service. These are the prospects who are most inclined to transition into loyal customers. Consider adding something like a membership form for your website. This way, new visitors to the site will be able to obtain more information about your offerings. Whether it is a membership for discounts, industry information, product/service updates or anything else to keep target customers in the loop. Regular correspondence with such clients keeps your company at the forefront of their mind. This consistent contact through online channels will prove essential to keeping target clients thoroughly engaged with your business.

If an online membership or club does not jive with your business and what you offer, consider implementing an email marketing campaign in which those who have expressed an interest in your offerings are provided with an electronic newsletter. An email campaign such as a newsletter will establish your business that is worthy of respect as well as prospective clients’ business. Though an email marketing campaign, online membership or other clubs might not generate an immediate impact on the bottom line, it will catalyze business as time progresses. Be patient, make a genuine commitment to inbound marketing and you will enjoy an uptick in business in the ensuing months and years.

Social Media Matters

Business owners and managers who take the time to study their competitors will likely find these groups have a strong presence on social media. If your organization has not yet established a presence on the popular social media sites, it is time to do so. Appoint a social media manager to manage your company’s accounts on these platforms. This professional will ensure prospective clients are engaged on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites. Use these platforms to provide clients with updates regarding products and services, tips from industry insiders, sales updates, and other important information.

Establishing a presence on social media does not mean you have to employ a full-time social media marketing manager who makes a lofty salary with full benefits. Rather, you can start out with a part-time employee and gradually increase the workload as time progresses. In fact, you might find it prudent to lean on a tech-savvy employee to handle social media responsibilities during lulls in work. Above all, your company’s social media presence should be engaging. Provide interesting information that gives prospective clients insight or facts and they will begin to view your company as a trustworthy authority figure worthy of their business.

Content is Still King

It is often said content is king when it comes to the web. This statement was true a decade ago and it is still accurate in 2018. Companies that generate a steady stream of intriguing content that helps customers solve problems or better understand the product or service offering will inevitably enjoy a spike in business. However, any old content will not engage prospective clients. The content must be laden with keywords and key phrases relevant to your industry and possibly even your locale, depending on the type of services and products you provide. The use of such keywords will help your content rank high on search engine results pages. Highly-ranked website pages will lure in target customers, provide them with captivating content and ultimately lead to a considerable bump in conversions.

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Top Digital Marketing Mishaps and How to Solve Them

4 Jan

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Digital marketing has come a long way over the last few years. Big data means businesses have more data-driven insights than ever before, which translates to quality relationships with customers and (hopefully) increased conversions along with a better bottom line.

While digital marketing continues to improve and empower the way businesses interact with their customers online, the process doesn’t come without its challenges.

We’ve compiled a list of marketing mishaps that are most likely to frustrate your customer—along with our proposed solutions:

1. Dead-End Pages

Simply having an informative website presence is no longer enough. These days, it’s all about interaction, and it’s absolutely critical to actively create an ongoing relationship with site visitors in order to get the most out of your website investment. This doesn’t mean that you should hound potential customers with “Buy It Now” pop-ups, but your site should offer a convenient method for customers to act on the information they find—even if only by taking advantage of strategically placed contact forms or opt-ins for special event information, social updates, and discounts.

Offering something of value in exchange for contact information is another great way to build your email list—think in terms of white papers or free eBooks that offer solutions to a common customer problem.

2. Broken Links and 404 Errors

There are few things more frustrating to a consumer who is looking for something specific than “Page Not Found” …especially when that link comes from somewhere on your site. Rather than sending your visitors away frustrated and empty-handed, consider deploying a 404-page template designed to offer a lighthearted explanation for the broken link, along with an actionable response – think links to functional pages, email opt-ins, and even an option to submit a ticket.

3. Inconsistency

Inconsistencies throughout your messaging may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but when it comes to the overall customer experience, they can really add up. For instance, if you refer to a sale price in an email blast—but your website shopping cart displays the original price, and the fine print reveals that the sale price is only applicable if the visitor purchases a year’s worth of services—your potential customer might go from feeling slightly annoyed to completely mislead. And they may not be a potential customer anymore.

Being consistent in your messaging is critical to establishing brand trust. Before starting a new campaign, be sure to outline your core value proposition, your regular and promotional pricing schedule, any relevant taglines, and all potential variations as to how you’ll refer to your product or service throughout the campaign. Keep this master document handy for reference any time you consider launching a new part of your strategy.

4. Outdated Content

Few things make a business look more out of touch than a website full of references to past events, unavailable live webinars, and outdated company news.

Links to your website’s event pages don’t expire when the event is over. Whether your customers find their way via a trade show blast, a colleague’s blog post, or even through organic search—if the page hasn’t been updated or removed, it will leave a not-so-great impression that you aren’t staying on top of things.

Of course, if these pages are generating traffic, you don’t want to delete them. Consider these options instead:

Update the page. Modify the message, change the call to action, and offer something current and of value.

Redirect the page. Point your visitors to your event calendar for the remainder of the year, or to another upcoming event. This way, you don’t lose valuable traffic and you keep your messaging current and useful for your customer.

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Instant Gratification: 5 Ways it Impacts Your Content Marketing Efforts

2 Jan

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It’s been said that the average human attention span has gone down from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to just eight seconds today. With the advent of mobile just-about-everything and the mainstreaming of the internet of things (IoT), this statistic is hardly surprising—these days, it’s all about instant gratification.

But what does this mean for your content marketing efforts? For starters, it means content has to adapt to stay relevant and to even have a chance of being consumed.

Time is of the Essence

Today’s consumers are ultra-connected and always on the go. They have the internet available to them at all times, on screens of all sizes.

When it comes to content, your audience wants it in small, easily digestible portions. Content needs to be concise and easily scanned across all devices…and of course, it needs to be shareable. Consider these tactics to make your content easier to absorb:

  • Add open graph (OG) tags to your site. OG tags operate for social media much in the same way that meta tags operate for search engines: they create a compelling, attractive preview when your content is shared on social. These previews make your content more noticeable and marketable to those devouring their news feed as quickly as possible.

Rapid-Fire Website Loading is Essential

According to Kissmetrics, website visitors expect a site to load in less than three seconds. To make matters worse, visitors frustrated with slow-to-load sites typically abandon ship and head for the competition.

Try out these tips to help your customer’s gain access to your content as fast as possible:

Google AMP: Speeds up the mobile rendering experience during web browsing by offering potential visitors a stripped-down version of your site.

Facebook Instant Articles: Loads a lightweight version of your blog when a visitor clicks on your link from the Facebook app. This allows for instant loading of your website to your Facebook following, offering a faster reading experience for your customers.

 Personalized Content is the New Normal

Customers expect to get the content they need without much effort—and this includes content that is specifically targeted to their needs and preferences. To help personalize the user experience, consider these tools:

  • Google Optimize 360: Free A/B testing is available to all Google Analytics users. For enterprise users, the content personalization tool helps deliver engaging experiences through website variation testing. The testing process is followed by a tailored approach to personalization according to the results that deliver the best experience for the customer.
  • Adobe Target: An optimization solution designed to deliver data-driven results through experimentation and testing. The automated platform helps businesses boost conversions through personalization and by optimizing mobile app performance based mobile context and user behavior.

For businesses looking to stay relevant and informative in today’s competitive content world, consumers’ need for instant gratification may seem a daunting prospect.  By adapting your content strategy to stay in-line with consumer expectations, you can be sure your content delivers brand messaging that gets noticed and—most importantly—consumed and shared across all channels.

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Content Marketing Predictions for 2018

14 Dec

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Content marketing is here to stay. According to a report by Smart Insights, content marketing was rated the most valuable technique for increasing incremental sales throughout 2017—and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

Here are some key content marketing trends to focus on for 2018:

1. Original Content is Still Critical

Relevant, original content will continue to occupy the top spot in the digital marketing toolbox for 2018. Not only does quality content (whether video or print) help grow a business’s following, it keeps current customers engaged and connected. In order to stay relevant and competitive, businesses need to position themselves as thought leaders in their fields—and content helps convey that level of authority to customers in a way that other marketing methods simply can’t compete with.

Keep in mind that it’s never enough just to have good content—if no one is reading it, it won’t make a difference. Consider content syndication to get the word out about your blog, or invest in a white paper as gated content that you can promote through your blog or via social media. Gated content not only increases website traffic, it allows you to collect contact information for your customers that easily translates into leads for your sales team.

2. Brand Transparency is Essential

Today’s consumer is becoming jaded and desensitized with respect to marketing messaging. Millennials—the generation with $200 billion in buying power in 2017—will have the most buying power of any generation by next year. Millennials are particularly affected by brand honesty and authenticity, and they tend to be drawn to businesses that support charitable causes—as long as that support doesn’t seem forced or dishonest.

Because consumers tend to trust their peers more than brands when it comes to authenticity, influencer marketing has really taken off—but keep in mind that it can be a slippery slope with respect to transparency. The FTC, for example, takes serious measures to protect consumers from businesses who aren’t transparent in their marketing tactics: think back to the Machinima case in 2015, where the FTC cracked down on the gaming network for not disclosing paid endorsements for YouTube content producers.

The takeaway here is that brand trust is built on honesty and authenticity. To that end, a high level of transparency should be an integral part of your marketing strategy across all channels for the upcoming year.

3. IoT (The Internet of Things) Makes Off-Screen Content and Voice-Search Mainstream

Even as Google begins prioritizing mobile sites over desktop, content is no longer all about the smartphone. The Internet of Things has made content available to consumers across voice-service technologies like Siri and Alexa, to the point that optimizing content for voice search should be part of every content marketer’s 2018 strategy.

Think the IoT and voice-service tech aren’t major players just yet? Think again. Global organizations have already jumped on board when it comes to voice-service content. The American Heart Association utilizes Alexa voice technology to deliver instructions on performing CPR in a play-by-play format during an emergency, and Purina recently deployed its “Ask Purina” expert pet information service through the voice-service.

According to Gartner, with 8.4 billion connected devices in 2017 (up 31 percent from last year), the IoT brings exciting—and seemingly endless—opportunities for digital marketers to develop innovative content strategies in 2018 and beyond.

6. Pre-Recorded Video Content Takes a Backseat

Live video continues to overshadow pre-recorded content. According to Facebook, viewers engage 10 times more during live videos than when watching the pre-recorded variety.

Think your service or product isn’t particularly suited for live streaming? Consider taking an insider’s look at a business event from behind the scenes, or put together a light-hearted skit based on company culture—the opportunities are endless, and 2018 is right around the corner!

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The 7 Deadly Sins of Branding

5 Dec

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hillmanGuest Contributor: Matt Hillman, Creative Director

You have a great product, great service, great people, great materials—and your brand still sucks. Competitors in the building products marketplace keep racking up sales while you struggle to get by. It feels like you’re trying to scramble up a muddy hill, expending time and resources with little-to-nothing to show for it. How does this happen?

Over the years, despite the emergence of game-changers like mobile devices, social media, and other innovations, most of the issues around branding still seem to fall into seven distinct areas—consider them the 7 Deadly Sins of Branding, and any one of them can sink your brand.

Wrong Message

Too many marketers rely on what they already know to build their messages. This echo-chamber effect reinforces what’s familiar and “safe” and can actually keep you from gaining the ah-ha moments you need. Think of it as trying to steer your car down the highway while looking only in the rear view mirror, more about where you’ve been than where you’re headed. Instead, you need to be continually surveying your customers—and your prospects!—for the fresh insights needed to build a message that’s relevant today, not just yesterday.

Wrong Audience

This might seem like a near-impossibility, but it can happen. Marketing your brand to the wrong audience is most often the result of marketing and sales teams not communicating effectively, with marketing working toward where sales should happen and sales focused on where they can happen. Having a clear, agreed-upon marketing plan is essential to having your brand pointed in the right direction. Yes, these are fundamentals that should be self-evident, but all it takes is for your brand to be strong with architects but being marketed to builders instead, and your brand isn’t going anywhere.

Wrong Tactics

One of the best cautionary tales comes from experience marketing to building products dealers. When offered the option to select their preferred method of receiving marketing communications, what do you think topped the list? Email? Direct? Text? How about…fax. That’s right, in our world of high-speed connectivity and mobile devices, the lowly fax was the leading way dealers wanted to receive information. Why? Because it fits how most small- to mid-sized dealers operate, with the fax machine right next to the main bulletin board. Again, surveying your audience will provide the insights to get the right tactics in play and to avoid wasting effort on the wrong ones.

Wrong Voice

If you’ve followed social media the past few years, you’ve probably heard of (or witnessed) the notorious sass of Wendy’s social media accounts. While some might think this was a bold or daring move, it’s actually highly calculated, the result of Wendy’s assessment of what brand voice would resonate best with their target. Where other fast food companies played the usual safe game, Wendy’s connected with their audience with a salty dialogue that not only aligned with the brand but helped share it more broadly online. Again, research was the key to cracking the code and connecting with customers.

Inconsistency

One way to think of branding is simply a single message delivered consistently and aligned with customer experience. And yet, time and again we see brands shift their message as if chasing sales trends, or worse, repeatedly reinventing the message to push an idea that doesn’t match the customer experience. If your name is One Day Printing and service takes two days, that’s a brand problem. Similarly, if you say your customer service is superior and then leave customers on hold for minutes at a time, that’s a brand problem. Determining what your brand is—and isn’t!—and sticking to that is critical to developing a strong brand over time, and over time is exactly how brands happen.

All About The Product

The brands that see the greatest strength in the marketplace are the ones that offer more than just a product or service—they build relationships with those who select and purchase them. Through content offerings, customer experience design, website functionality, social media strategies, sponsorships, and other interaction-based methods, the strongest brands take on a personality well beyond something being sold to buyers. These brands can have conversations with the public, growing and evolving through the choices made in messaging and positioning—all without changing what’s being produced or delivered.

No Differentiator

In the film Field of Dreams, we hear the iconic line: “Build it and they will come.” Unfortunately, all too many companies have followed this same advice when developing their brand—and have paid a heavy price for it. It is not enough to simply be available for purchase, there has to be a reason your target would take notice, have interest, and be willing to abandon their current relationship to gain one with your brand. And just as it is with products or services, your brand needs a unique selling proposition, too, something to make it different from the others. Is it more innovative, less complicated, focused on quality, easier to do business with? Identifying what sets your brand apart—and staying true to that differentiation—is critical to finding an audience that appreciates it. Trying to be all things to all audiences or simply showing up isn’t enough to get noticed.

Name + Logo = Brand

“We have a brand,” the marketing manager will say, pointing at a logo. “It’s right there.” Actually, no. The worn-down vehicle with your logo on it: that’s your brand. The customer left waiting hours for a delivery with no updates: that’s your brand. The defensive response to a highly critical customer review on Yelp: that’s your brand. The product that arrived dented: that’s your brand. Identity is all about a name and logo; brand, however, is about expectations and experiences. The strongest brands find success in designing and crafting the brand experience for customers, both new and current, and making sure everything aligns with that design. If it doesn’t align, it’s analyzed, adjusted or removed—why spend time and effort on something that only undermines your long-term efforts?

If you recognize any of these 7 Deadly Sins associated with your brand, have hope: Every one of them is escapable and repairable with honesty and effort. The common element to all of these brand issues is to take nothing for granted: conduct research and be willing to accept that your buyer isn’t who you think and may not think of your brand the way you do. But with focus and time, virtually any brand can find its own salvation.

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