Social Commerce Takes Hold. A study by PwC reports that 78% of consumers are influenced by social media when shopping online. According to Marketing Week, the “social commerce boom” is being fueled by young mobile consumers. Thirty-three percent of 18- to 24-year-olds say they would purchase items directly on Facebook, 27% on Instagram and 20% on Twitter. For 25- to 34-year-olds, the numbers decrease a bit: 30% on Facebook. For 54- to 65-years-olds, it's 10%. MediaPost
Top 100 Social Media Trends for 2018. From Influencer Campaigns to Social Media-Friendly Designs to social media inspired dog toys, these are 100 social media trends for next year. Or are they? IRL social media filters? TrendHunter
Snapchat Looking to Publish Content on Third-Party Websites With 'Stories Everywhere'. The word from Cheddar is that Snap is developing a new program dubbed Stories Everywhere that will allow third-party publishers to embed Snapchat content on their websites. Let's just hope it's not too little, too late. Variety
The Price Of Mobile Ads Will Surge More Than 45% In 2018. Mobile programmatic pricing is about to have its hockey stick moment, set to grow more than 45% by 2019, according to a projection released by programmatic agency Goodway Group. Ad Exchanger
Data Shows Tablets Driving Highest Click-Through Rates. A new report reveals that tablet impressions drove 1.13% click-through rates that were the highest of any device in many categories such as Automotive, Consumer product Goods, Education, Financial, Food & Drink, Government, Home & Garden as well as Retail, Technology, Travel and Utilities. MediaPost
Has Teen Use of Facebook Peaked? According to Forrester Research data, Facebook is the only platform of the 6 major social networks that's experienced a decline in usage among 12-17 year olds. MarketingCharts
Blockchain Pumping New Life Into Old-School Companies Like IBM. Demand for blockchain, best known for supporting bitcoin, is growing so much that it will be one of the largest users of capacity next year at about 60 data centers that IBM rents out to other companies around the globe. The market for blockchain-related products and services will reach $7.7 billion in 2022, up from $242 million last year, according to researcher Markets & Markets. Bloomberg
Love In The Inbox: Americans Are Tied To Email, Study Finds. Email is not dead! 78% of Americans expect to use email as much or more than they now do in five years, according to Inbox Report 2018. MediaPost
On the Lighter Side:
MoonPie is brutally roasting people who insult the snack on Twitter – Business Insider
Wendy's social media team hosted an 'Ask Me Anything' forum on Reddit – LA Times
Jack in the Box Tests Munchie Meals for California Pot Smokers – AdAge
TopRank Marketing In the News:
Lee Odden – 140 of Today's Top SEO Experts to Follow – Search Engine Journal
What was the top digital marketing news story for you this week?
Be sure to stay tuned until next week when we'll be sharing all new marketing news stories. Also check out the full video summary with Tiffani and Josh on our TopRank Marketing TV YouTube Channel.
Happy New Year from the Team at TopRank Marketing!
© Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®, 2017. |
There were a lot of AdWords updates in 2017, and several had a huge impact on PPC. Here are the top 3 useful AdWords updates as PPC moves into 2018.
Read more at PPCHero.com
No matter what type of business you have, you need to be using high quality images as a promotional tool.
You can distribute these pictures across all your marketing channels.
Share them on social media profiles such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Add photos to your website to make it look more professional.
You can even send images to subscribers on your email marketing lists to make your messages more visually appealing.
Incorporate photos into your blog posts to break up the content and make it easier for people to read.
I like to use visuals in my blogs to illustrate what I'm talking about.
High quality images can add credibility to your website.
While there's nothing wrong with using images you find online, nothing speaks to the customer like original photographs.
Taking your own photos means they are unique. Someone won't be able to say,
Ultimately, putting the perfect picture in the right place can help you generate more traffic and leads, which was identified as the top challenge for marketers in 2017.
Here's the problem, however. Professional photographers are not cheap.
Your company has enough expenses to worry about, so you shouldn't be paying for a service you can do yourself.
The other problem I see is original images often look terrible.
That's no good either. You don't want any low quality images to be associated with your brand.
It looks unprofessional and will result in a negative perception by your current and prospective customers.
If you fall into one of the above categories, I can help.
I'll show you the right tools to take and edit photos without spending much or needing to hire a pro.
Get the right equipment
You don't need to spend thousands of dollars on camera equipment.
But you shouldn't be taking pictures on one of those cheap disposable cameras either.
Find a middle ground.
A sufficient camera might just be in your pocket right now.
Currently, 77% of adults in the United States own a smartphone.
As a business owner or marketing expert, you probably have a smartphone.
The cameras on the majority devices are fairly decent.
If you're in the market for a new phone, it makes sense to get one with a great camera.
There are tons of online review websites, such as Tom's Guide, that give you detailed information about various devices depending on what you're looking for.
Here are some of the best devices in 2017 for different categories reviewed by their experts:
These are good places to start looking.
But do some research on your own before making your purchase.
You may even own one of these devices already.
If you'd rather use a camera than a cell phone to take pictures, that's fine too.
Here's a comparison of some cameras ideal for beginner photographers:
As you can see, the prices range from about $400 to $800, which is reasonable.
Professional photographers may be charging you more than that for a day's work.
Brush up on some basic photography skills
Now that you've got a proper camera to take pictures with, you need to master some simple photography concepts.
Learn how to use the various tools and picture modes on your device.
For example, let's say you're using an iPhone to take pictures.
You'll notice an option called “HDR Mode.”
HDR stands for high dynamic range. Here's how you turn it on:
When should you use it? For every picture?
The HDR mode works best for outdoor photographs and landscapes.
That's because both of these usually have some bright as well as dark areas. Without the HDR mode, some details can get lost between the light and dark contrasts.
But it takes your camera longer to process HDR photos.
If you're trying to take images in a rapid succession or photograph a moving object, you'll want to keep the HDR mode off.
You also need to consider where you plan to take photos.
Conditions-whether inside, outdoors, in the sun, or in the dark-will dictate how you take them.
For example, it's tough to capture an image if the sun is directly behind the subject.
Unless you have a professional camera, the picture will come out either super bright or too dark, depending on what you're focusing on.
You also need to learn when it's appropriate to use the flash on your camera.
The composition is important as well.
You need to understand how the subject should appear in your photo.
One of the most common photography concepts of composition is the rule of thirds:
Imagine your camera frame is broken up into nine sections of equal sizes.
Some cameras have these horizontal and vertical guides to help with your composition.
You want to position your subject where those lines meet.
The example above has the subject positioned in the left third of the screen.
But let's say you're taking a picture of a landscape instead of a person or object.
In this case, you'll want to align the horizon with the upper or lower third of the frame as opposed to the left or the right, like in this example:
As you can see, this makes for a much more appealing picture.
Another basic photography tip is natural framing.
Let's say you're taking a picture of a building that has pillars or columns.
It makes more sense to position your subject between two pillars as opposed to in front of one.
Here's an example of a bridge creating a natural frame:
If you see the opportunity to capture a natural frame when you're taking pictures, use it.
In the above example, pretend that the top of the image was cut off. It wouldn't look as natural. But including the entire frame makes it appear more professional.
Something else you need to consider when you're taking pictures is what you're focusing on.
If you are photographing a person or specific subject, it's imperative they are in focus.
Sometimes it's a cool effect to have part of your photo in focus but the background blurry.
Photographs that have symmetry and patterns are visually appealing and professional-looking as well.
Check out this photo of the Taj Mahal:
All the elements are symmetrical, and the building is still positioned in the top third of the picture, so it follows all the rules.
There are tons of other photography rules you can follow to make sure you're taking great pictures, but following these is a good to place to start.
You can do some more research about photography basics or even take a class. Both of these options are considerably less expensive than hiring a professional.
Plus, it's always beneficial to learn a new skill applicable to your business.
Once you've taken the pictures, you'll need to edit them to minimize any imperfections, making them look as professional as possible.
Canva is an image editing tool. It's one of the best options you'll find online.
You can edit pictures directly on their website or download a mobile version of their software for your iPhone or iPad.
I like to use Canva because it's super diverse.
You're able to access many different features all in one place.
Canva has multiple templates for your images, depending on where you want to distribute them.
For example, do you promote your company with paid advertisements on social media or other mediums such as Google AdWords?
Canva ensures your image is sized appropriately depending on the type of advertisement you're running.
If you attempt to do this on your own, the image could be distorted, blurry, or even illegible. So it's best to use professional editing software for this.
One of the best parts of Canva is it's free.
You may encounter a couple of features that cost a few bucks to access, but you can do all your basic edits without having to pay for anything.
For those of you who want access to everything on the Canva platform, I'd recommend upgrading to their Canva for Work package.
It's only $12.95 per month, and you can save over 20% if you pay for the full year upfront.
You can try it free for 30 days to see if it's worth it.
Again, this is way more cost effective than hiring a professional photographer to edit your pictures.
PicMonkey is another one of my favorite editing tools.
It's really easy to use, and uploading your photos is a breeze.
They also have a mobile app in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, so it's perfect for both Apple and Android users.
If you're taking pictures on your smartphone, it's easy to edit them directly from your device without having to upload them to a computer.
PicMonkey has great photography tutorials.
They cover some of the basic concepts I discussed earlier and teach you how to use different functions of their software.
But overall, I think it's pretty easy to use.
These are the top features of PicMonkey:
It's pretty much everything you could need to edit the photos you took on your own.
The collage tool is perfect for showcasing different products or features on your website.
You can create one simple image with a combination of the photos you took.
Here's an example of a really cool collage on the Square website:
You can create something similar for your business with PicMonkey.
Create infographics with Piktochart
Sometimes you don't need to take a photograph to have an original image on your website.
Build an infographic.
It's a great way to increase engagement on your website or blog.
In fact, people are 30 times more likely to read an infographic as opposed to plain text.
Infographics can also increase traffic to your website by 12%.
Visual content gets liked and shared on social media three times more than other types of content.
The Piktochart website has all the tools you need to create customized infographics.
You can even use your own pictures as background images.
Find other ways to incorporate those original photos into your infographic so you're not forced to use those cartoonish designs if that's not your style.
They have a free membership for basic features.
You can also upgrade to a $15 per month or $29 per month plan with extra features.
But try the free version first to make sure you're happy with it.
Unique photos can give your website, blog, emails, and social media pages the final touches that appeal to your customers.
You don't need to hire a professional photographer to take and edit your photos.
That's a waste of money.
You can do all of this on your own without spending much at all. It's easy.
Just make sure you have the right equipment.
Get a smartphone that has a great camera. Or you can start off with an actual camera designed for amateur photographers.
Next, familiarize yourself with some basic concepts of photography.
Refer back to the points I outlined earlier as a guide for composition:
Once you've taken pictures, you can use editing tools on your computer, smartphone, or tablet to touch them up and make them look more professional.
Use tools such as Canva, PicMonkey, or Piktochart to get started.
Follow these tips, and you'll be snapping and editing photos like a pro in no time.
What are some other tools you use to edit your photos like a professional?
Yes. AdWords converts better than most other channels. Anywhere, ever.
But. That doesn't mean it's the only option. Or even the best option.
Two reasons why:
First, your cost per lead tends to be higher than other inbound channels. Chiefly because…
Second, AdWords doesn't scale as well as other options. So you hit a point of diminishing returns. 'Cause only 3.4% of search queries results in an AdWords click.
That ain't a lot. 'Specially on your ~5-10 niche keywords that actually convert.
The trick is to turn your attention from the bottom of the funnel back to the top.
Here's why the top of your funnel is almost always more profitable than the bottom.
Closing and scaling BOFU deals isn't sustainable
AdWords has intent. People search, click, and opt-in or buy.
It's literally trained people to give you money.
It's the 'last touch' so often that it becomes “easy to track ROI.” So like any self-fulfilling prophecy, the more attention it gets, the more “it works.” The more budget and labor and buy-in.
The problem is scale.
Especially when you're paying $25 to $50+ per click. (Or more - I see you insurance and law.)
Conversions might be good on AdWords. But in many cases there's (1) not enough to grow your business past six figures. Or (2) there's not enough margin to reinvest in other areas.
Bottom-of-the-funnel advertising like this works well because you can throw down a few bucks and see a few more bucks come in not long afterward.
But here's where more problems crop up.
High-end CPCs dramatically push up your Cost Per Leads. That, in turn, pushes up your minimum monthly ad budget. So it's not uncommon to see ~$30k/month budgets in competitive niches on the low end (I've worked on a few myself).
You need so many leads to turn into customers. So you need to cast the net wide enough to convert a few measly percentage points.
Here's the additional wrinkle, though.
According to a Salesforce B2B benchmark report, it takes an average of 84 days for a lead to become an opportunity:
And that's not even a final sale.
84 long, hard days to transition from a lead to an opportunity, and 18 more days to close the deal.
Now. What are your payment terms? Net 30 or worse?
You're now looking at not recouping a single dollar from that $30k/month budget until the next quarter (at the earliest).
So in reality, you need like four or five times that budget to sustain you. It's like working capital in finance. You need enough to keep the lights open until the money, eventually, flows back into your bottom line.
Fortunately, all hope isn't lost.
There's a powerful antidote to a sluggish, budget-sabotaging funnel. It goes by the name of: Brand Awareness.
The stuff that big, mega enterprises have invested in for years. But most SMBs and tech geeks shy away because it “doesn't convert.”
Generating brand awareness is a cheap investment
Brand awareness is typically the goal of any top-of-the-funnel campaign.
You want to start positioning your brand favorably within the minds and hearts of consumers.
Unfortunately, it's often overlooked. It's the Great Brand vs. Performance Marketing debate.
On the one hand, 'branding' is like a clichéd buzzword that's lost all meaning. And on the other, it's only seen as viable for large companies with massive budgets. It's a “nice to have,” not a “must have.”
To make matters worse, it's nearly impossible to draw a direct line from brand building activities to sales. So it gets dismissed by all hardcore data geeks (even when data itself lies).
But here's the thing.
When done correctly, brand building is an investment in future sales.
What do you notice?
First off, it's all divided by a typical marketing/sales funnel.
Traffic/reach – TOFU
Now take a look at the daily budgets for each. This is where it gets interesting.
He dedicates the majority of his budget to-top-of-the-funnel marketing activities.
Around $1,500 per month goes to top-of-the-funnel campaigns, and he only sets $300 aside for MOFU and BOFU tactics.
That's a massive difference.
Why on earth would he invest $1,500 a month into campaigns that have zero chance of converting?
Why not dump that money into MOFU and BOFU campaigns with sale-based offers?
Because he's making a future investment. You can't convert sales when there isn't enough built-in demand in the first place.
Let me explain with some data.
Nielsen conducted a massive study on understanding what drives sales, and they found that 59% of people buy products and services from brands that they recognize.
Familiar faces are more likely to get the final deal.
But that's not all.
SurveyMonkey and Search Engine Land found that 70% of consumers look for a known retailer when deciding which search result to click:
That's not surprising at all, really.
Think about it:
When you searched for “inbound marketing” recently, did you click on HubSpot or joeschmoe.net?
I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it wasn't the latter.
Even if joeschmoe.net were ranking #1, you'd probably still click HubSpot at #5.
Cuz: Brand awareness = trust.
Brand recognition is a powerful way to drive sales.
And once you develop a brand reputation within your own space, you end up being able to drive traffic without having to take the normal funnel stage route.
Meaning you don't have to pay to drive traffic anymore.
You don't have to pay for ads and lead magnets.
You just have to focus on closing. You reduce your costs dramatically.
It's time for some good news:
Building brand awareness is cheap.
I'm talking dirt freaking cheap. Pennies to the dollar cheap.
According to Moz, Facebook Ads have the cheapest CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions) of any advertising platform ever.
Except they “don't work,” right?
Maybe, maybe not. But try comparing that cost to the freaking newspaper, magazine, and radio CPMs then:
And guess what?
You only have to spend $1 per day on Facebook as the minimum daily budget. That means you can reach 4,000 more people a day with ads based on brand awareness for a single measly dollar.
Using expert-level mathematician skills, that's 120,000 brand impressions each month for only $30.
That's just about the cheapest brand exposure you'll ever get. Like, ever.
That's 120,000 more people seeing your brand than last month.
Here's how to implement cheap branding on Facebook to keep your top of the funnel profitable and growing like never before.
Create a self-sustaining TOFU campaign on Facebook
Self-sustaining campaigns run and run and run.
It only takes three easy steps that you can complete in just minutes today.
Create a new, medium-sized saved audience based on your target market.
With this, you'll only be spending a few bucks a day while simultaneously creating a campaign that maintains itself.
You just rinse and repeat each time the cycle completes to replenish your audience.
This way, you're generating thousands of new visits and impressions to build brand awareness every single month.
More brand awareness = more recognition/trust = more sales in fewer funnel stages = less money out of your pocket.
To get started, fire up the Facebook Business Manager and head to the audiences section:
From here, select the option to create a new saved audience:
The saved audience is a great starting point to generate a big enough list for brand awareness campaigns.
Start by entering the basic demographic data associated with your target customers:
Next, it's time to narrow it down a bit.
You can't target 200,000,000 people with brand awareness ads. Unfortunately, there aren't that many people who care about your company.
Start adding various interests related to your company. For example, if you sell SEO services, add that as an interest:
Are your services B2B? Narrow it down further:
Lastly, finish it off with some exclusions to avoid targeting users who typically don't respond well to your products or services:
Next, hit save and name your audience so that you can recognize it later.
Now, head to the Ads Manager and create a new campaign based on the brand awareness objective:
Then, scroll down to the audience section and choose the saved audience you just created:
Next, set your budget to just a single dollar per day (or more if you have a larger budget):
Now it's time for the creative.
For brand awareness ads, you don't want to focus on converting someone to sales. Offers like that won't resonate with users who have no clue who you are.
Give them value associated with your brand without asking for anything in return.
For example, take your latest blog post and use that as your creative.
You're done with the first step. Next up, it's time to set up a remarketing audience based on visits to your brand awareness blog post.
First things first, you need to get your Facebook Pixel setup if you haven't already. Head to the Events Manager and select the Pixels option.
Click to create your Pixel and give it a recognizable name for your site:
Next, install your Pixel code by selecting any of the listed options:
From there, simply follow the directions for each based on your choice to get your code installed.
Now, go back to the audience section and create a new custom audience based on website traffic:
Make sure that you select “People who visited specific web pages” as your criteria, and then enter the blog post you drive traffic to for your brand awareness ads:
If you want to get even more specific, narrow down the traffic by refining the frequency to two or more visits:
Still with me?
Next, hit save, and you've generated your second audience.
With this audience, you can bring back users and narrow your list down even further to the most brand-aware visitors.
Lastly, you'll want to take that new custom audience and turn it into a lookalike audience.
That will allow Facebook to wrangle up more users for you to target who have similar interests and tendencies as your best performers in these campaigns.
Head to the audiences section and create a new lookalike audience. Select the second remarketing audience you just saved as the “Source:”
Next, be sure to choose the 1% audience size to keep it targeted and dirt cheap (See: this study).
Hit save, and you've just created a self-sustaining top-of-the-funnel campaign to generate tons of brand awareness.
Phew. You made it.
Now it's time to sit back and reap the rewards of a well-sown crop.
Yes. You should invest in AdWords.
But invest all you've got?
No. Probably not.
Not when you're looking at ~four * $30k/month to start getting your first few customers. Not unless you've got a rich uncle hiding somewhere. Or a private equity firm cutting the checks.
Instead of following the typical playbook, flip the script. Invest in the stuff that's going to make future sales easier and less expensive.
Invest in branding activities, that you have no way of tracking today, in pursuit of an easier tomorrow.
Brand awareness has the power to drive faster, funnel-skipping sales, at scale. And when done correctly, it can even be a cheap investment that will pay off dividends for years to come.
About the Author: Brad Smith is the founder of Codeless, a B2B content creation company. Frequent contributor to Kissmetrics, Unbounce, WordStream, AdEspresso, Search Engine Journal, Autopilot, and more.
The most successful marketers have one thing in common.
They find a way to gain an edge over their competitors.
Marketers who can analyze the trends and prepare for the future have the best chances of setting their companies up for success.
You don't want to be the last one to jump on the bandwagon.
As we head into 2018, I've taken the time to identify the top marketing trends for the year.
I want to share my insights with you so that you can apply these concepts to your business and start the new year on the right track.
Properly applying these trends to your marketing strategy will improve customer engagement.
You'll also be able to acquire more customers this year.
Let's dive right in. These are the top 9 marketing trends for 2018.
1. Live video streaming
Social media platforms paved the way for the live video trend.
Instead of using social media for posting pictures and videos, you now have the ability to stream live content.
Take a look at how marketing experts are expecting live video to rise over the next two years:
If you weren't using live video to interact with your customers in 2017, it needs to be a priority for you in 2018.
Studies suggest 80% of consumers prefer watching a live video from a brand as opposed to reading a blog.
And 67% of people are more likely to purchase a ticket to events like a concert after watching a live stream of a similar event.
Some of the most popular live video platforms include:
I like it when businesses use live videos because it gives them a chance to interact with their audience directly.
You'll be able to communicate and get feedback from customers in real time.
Plus, it's not like your live video is gone forever once you stop streaming.
You can save those videos and repurpose that content in the future.
2. Artificial intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence will continue to rise in 2018.
If you've been to any marketing conferences or events in the last year or so, you've probably seen at least one session on AI.
AI tools are used to analyze consumer behavior.
Once the behavior is analyzed, these robots can make decisions according to how they are programmed.
AI robots can start to take over some basic human roles, which will allow your team to spend more time on assignments that require actual human insight.
An example of AI you may be familiar with is a chatbot.
These computer programs can have conversations with your customers.
I'm sure you've been on a website where a “customer service representative” popped up to start an instant message conversation with you.
That's an example of a chatbot.
With artificial intelligence on the rise, marketing executives feel unprepared for this trend.
Now is the perfect time for you to educate yourself on the use of AI to improve different areas of your business.
It will give you an edge over your competitors who aren't prepared.
3. Micro influencers
I'm sure you're familiar with brand ambassadors and social influencers.
These are people on social media who have relationships with companies and get paid to promote products on their personal profiles.
It's a legitimate marketing strategy.
When it comes to social influencing, to be considered a celebrity, one has to have over 1 million followers.
People with 500k–1 million followers and 100k–500k followers fall into the macro influencer and middle influencer categories, respectively.
Micro influencers have between 1k–100k followers on social media.
Brands are reaching out to these micro influencers because it's easier for people to relate to them.
Let's be honest.
Not many people can connect with celebrities. Plus, it's obvious when they're promoting something on their profiles.
You may even have doubts that those celebrities use the products they're pitching.
But it's much easier for the average person to relate to a micro influencer.
Well, for the most part, these people aren't actually famous. They have normal jobs and live regular lives. But they happen to be popular on social media.
Take a look at how micro influencers are perceived by consumers:
In this case, less is more.
Notice the difference in user engagement between influencers with 1k to 4k followers and influencers with over 100k followers.
Consider finding some micro influencers to represent your company on social media.
Another benefit of this strategy is the cost.
If you want to partner with a celebrity like Beyoncé, it'll cost you $1 million per post.
That's absolutely outrageous.
But a micro influencer will likely cost you only $250 – $500 per post.
Plus, you can also send them some free stuff to keep them happy.
4. Content marketing
If you've had any marketing success over the past few years, I'm sure you've used content marketing strategies.
Well, 2018 isn't the year to take your foot off the gas pedal just yet.
Content marketing is still trending upward.
Compared to other factors, content marketing will have the biggest impact on companies in 2018, according to business executives:
Rather than coming up with new content marketing strategies, refine your existing ones.
Make sure your content is relevant and has a clearly defined audience.
Content marketing is great because it's typically not expensive.
You'll also see more sales and an increase in customer loyalty when you properly execute these strategies.
Don't think you need to focus all your energy on new trends, like artificial intelligence in 2018.
Continue your content marketing efforts.
5. Generation Z
It seems over the past several years, companies have been focusing on Millennials.
There's nothing wrong with that.
It's important to target consumers while they are young so you can try to retain them for as long as possible.
Every generation has different buying habits.
Millennials have helped shape the marketing trends over the last decade or so.
But now it's time to put some more emphasis on younger generations as well.
Generation Z, also known as the iGeneration, Post-Millenials, or the Homeland Generation are people who were born in the late 1990s to mid-2000s.
The oldest people in this generation are entering their early 20s.
As they get ready to graduate from college, they'll enter the workforce, which means their consumption habits will change.
A steady job means they will have more buying power.
Companies need to do more research on this generation and find out how to target them.
It doesn't matter what industry your company is in.
Start to shift your focus toward Generation Z in 2018.
I'm not saying you should abandon your approach with Millennials or Generation X, but just recognize there is a fresh market for you to target.
Find out how they spend their free time. For example, look at how active Generation Z is in sports compared to the general population:
Even if your company doesn't make sporting equipment, you can still use this data for your marketing strategy.
You can focus your Generation Z marketing campaigns around physical activity or athleticism.
That's just one example.
Do your research, and find out what Generation Z wants and how they consume information.
That's the key to acquiring these consumers.
6. Consumer personalization
You need to give your customers a personalized shopping experience.
That's one of the best ways to increase engagement and sales.
It's what your customers want.
In fact, 75% of consumers prefer retailers that use personalization to improve their shopping experience.
Encourage people to create a customer profile on your website or mobile application.
That way, you can monitor their habits and give them special offers based on their browsing pattern or previous purchases.
This is absolutely essential for companies who have an ecommerce website.
Personalization tactics make it easier for you to upsell and cross-sell to your customers.
Ultimately, this means you'll make more money without spending much.
It's cheaper to target your current customers than it is to acquire new ones.
You can also send personalized email messages to your subscribers.
Email personalization can improve your conversion rates by 10% and increase click-through rates by 14%.
If you personalize the subject line of an email, there is a 26% greater chance of the recipient opening it than if you don't.
Numbers like this are too good to ignore.
Those of you who weren't using personalization in 2017 need to start doing so in 2018.
7. Privacy protection is more important than ever
People are worried about their privacy.
Marketers need to start using privacy protection as a selling point.
Let your customers know how you are protecting their information.
Over 143 million Americans were affected by the Equifax breach in 2017.
It's especially scary since the company is a consumer credit reporting agency.
If your information isn't safe with them, where is it safe?
This event has consumers on high alert moving into 2018.
They may be hesitant to do things like entering their credit card information online fearing they could become victims of credit card fraud.
How can you make consumers feel safe?
There are certain things you can do to add credibility to your website.
All of this will make customers feel safe when they're shopping.
If your company appears sketchy or untrustworthy online, it'll be difficult for you to get lots of sales.
8. LinkedIn will continue to lead the way for B2B marketers
While B2C companies will have better luck using social media platforms and email marketing tactics to connect with their clients, B2B marketers have to focus on their LinkedIn presence.
Look at these numbers.
Over 90% of B2B marketers say LinkedIn is the most effective platform for lead generation.
If you're in the market for new customers, LinkedIn should be the first place to look in 2018.
Connecting with a potential client on LinkedIn increases the chances of them buying from you by 50%.
I expect these trends to continue in 2018.
Beef up your LinkedIn presence if your company operates on a B2B revenue model.
In 2018, your company needs to focus on interactivity, especially when it comes to email marketing.
Contrary to popular belief, email marketing is far from dead.
But you can't just keep sending out the same boring emails over and over again and expect to get different results.
Interactive emails improve engagement with your subscribers.
In 2017, interactivity was a top email marketing trend.
But that wasn't a fad.
This trend will continue through 2018 as well.
Here are some of the best ways to incorporate interactivity into your email marketing campaigns:
If you saw success with interactivity tactics in 2017, continue to use them in the new year.
And if you haven't tried them yet, it's not too late to jump on board in 2018.
Staying up to date with the latest marketing trends is a recipe for success.
The best marketers look toward the future to predict consumer behavior.
If you can identify trends and make applicable changes to your marketing strategy, it will give you an edge over your competition.
After extensive research, I came to the conclusion the above trends will have a major impact on the success of your brand in 2018.
If you're struggling to come up with new ideas, start with the topics I've outlined in this post.
What marketing trends has your business identified, analyzed, and implemented for 2018?
Nothing keeps someone on the edge of their seat like a good story.
That's why people love to watch movies, read books, and binge-watch television shows.
I know we all have that one friend or family member who tells the best stories around the dinner table.
But what if there was a way to turn those stories into dollars?
You'll be able to boost your sales if you can get customers to connect with your stories.
Some of you may be thinking, “I'm a terrible storyteller, so this won't work for me.”
And some of you might say, “My life is boring. I don't have any good stories to tell.”
Yes, storytelling is an art.
Not everyone is born with the ability to tell an engaging story.
But luckily for you, I'm very familiar with storytelling.
In fact, I use this strategy all the time as a marketing technique.
If you've been reading my blog for a while, you may remember this article I wrote a couple of years ago where I shared my personal experience:
That blog post has nearly 70 comments on it.
People buy food, but nobody seems to think you can make money off it.
Plus, with numbers so high, readers are bound to be interested.
I'll share with you some of my storytelling secrets that you can implement in your marketing campaigns to squeeze revenue from your customers.
Here's how you can master the art of storytelling.
Identify the target audience of your story
First, recognize to whom you're telling the story.
Make sure it's appropriate for that audience.
Let's use an analogy before we relate it to your business.
A story you might tell to your poker buddies during a card night while having a beer may not be something you'd tell your in-laws during a Thanksgiving dinner.
You know what I mean?
For the most part, I'd recommend keeping your stories suitable to all ages.
I practice what I preach. If you read my blogs, you typically won't see any vulgarity or cuss words.
But depending on your brand and how you market yourself, it may be part of your image.
Something else to consider is where you plan to distribute your story.
If you're posting it on social media, your audience may vary depending on the platform.
Let's say you identify your target audience as baby boomers.
Based on the graph above, it wouldn't be smart to tell that story on Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter because there isn't an active presence of your audience.
But if you were trying to connect with millennials, Instagram or Snapchat would be good channels to promote your story.
Once you figure out the target, you'll be able to use an appropriate tone to tell the story and release it on the right platforms as well.
What goal are you trying to achieve?
You might be able to tell the best story in the world, but that means nothing if you don't have a goal for it.
The story has to be actionable.
That's the only way you're going to get customers to convert and increase your sales.
You need to have some kind of message the customer walks away with.
Let's take a look at an example from the Farmers Insurance website:
How do insurance companies make money?
They have to sell policies.
In a perfect world for them, they sell a policy, and the customer never makes a claim.
This story on their website talks about the disaster from hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas.
The underlying message to a prospective customer could be that they should purchase flood insurance.
Someone may read this story and think something similar could happen to their home if they live in an area below sea level that's susceptible to a natural disaster.
It can entice them to purchase or upgrade their policy.
Try to get an emotional response from the customer
Emotions are a powerful way to drive sales.
Refer back to our last example with Farmers Insurance.
The emotion elicited by that story would be fear.
Consumers may be afraid of a disaster happening to them, and that will prompt them to make a purchase.
Another example could be telling a story about a robbery to get customers to buy a home security system.
While fear is definitely a powerful emotion, it's not the only way to get a response from your audience.
Dopamine gets released from the brain when someone has an emotional connection with a story.
Think about some other strong emotions you can trigger.
According to Dr. Robert Plutchik, a psychologist and professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, there are eight main emotions:
While those are a good place to start, you can try to elicit other emotions as well, such as love, pity, or envy, to connect with your audience.
It all depends on your marketing campaign and how you want your brand to be perceived.
Here's an example from TOMS shoes:
On their website, they include a biography about their company's founder, Blake Mycoskie.
They tell Blake's story.
As you can see from the underlined sentences, Blake was inspired to create TOMS after witnessing firsthand young children growing up without shoes.
Blake came up with a way to help.
For every pair of shoes bought from his company, they would donate a pair to a child in need.
It's a simple plan to help those less fortunate and a great business model for a for-profit organization.
This story can generate all kinds of emotions within a reader.
At first, they may feel sadness for those children without shoes.
But they can also feel joy because something is being done to help these kids.
Remember, we're trying to tell actionable stories.
What kind of response can this story get?
This emotional roller coaster can inspire customers to make a purchase, knowing it will help the cause.
Tell stories your readers can relate to
People connect better with stories and ideas that speak directly to them.
If your story is super unique and isn't relatable to a wide audience, you'll need to find a way to tweak it.
Otherwise, you should probably leave it out of your marketing campaign altogether.
Tony Robbins, an entrepreneur, author, philanthropist, and business strategist, tells stories of triumph that his readers can relate to.
His books and self-help seminars are designed to help people take control of their lives and gain financial freedom.
He tells his personal story and explains that at one point he had only $20 to his name.
That's something people can relate to.
Most people can understand financial struggles because they impact them every day.
Tony says he was in that position too at one point in his life, but there's a way out.
To find out how you can do it too, he wants you to buy his books.
That's the actionable response he's trying to get from you by telling you a story you can relate to.
This is much more effective than telling a story about his current life, when he is worth millions of dollars.
People can't relate to that lifestyle, but they can connect with financial struggles.
Start a blog as the platform to share your stories
Now that you know what it takes to write a story, you need to find a place to share them.
Your website needs a blog.
The benefits of blogging are seemingly endless.
It's a great way to get more traffic to your website.
You'll also get more engagement with your customers through blogging.
When customers read your stories, they will feel a personal connection with you.
This connection can entice them to make a purchase because they know whom they are supporting.
It's not like they're giving money to some faceless and nameless brand.
I could talk all day about why your business needs to have a blog, but we'll save that conversation for another time.
Right now, it's just the most logical place for you to share your content that's a story.
Here are some things to keep in mind for the stories on your blog:
While your blog posts can be long, the stories within them should be somewhat short.
Your customers don't have enough hours in the day to devote 40 minutes to your story.
If you do this, your story won't get read, which is counterproductive and a waste of your time.
Stick to the script, and keep it actionable.
You should also use images within your story to make the content more engaging.
Make sure you have a headline that grabs the reader's attention.
You could have an amazing story, but it's not worth anything if you can't get people to click on it.
Promote your blog posts on other marketing channels, like your social media pages, as well. You can also send them to the subscribers on your email list.
Record videos as another way to get your stories out there
Not everyone wants to read.
In fact, more than four times as many customers prefer watching a video about products as do reading about about them.
That's why I use my YouTube channel to tell stories to my audience.
If you don't have a YouTube channel, you need to make one right away.
Start adding video content, and share it with your customers.
You can even double dip your content here.
Use a story from your blog, and talk about it in a video.
This way you won't have to come up with fresh topics all the time.
Allow your customers to share their own stories with each other
While your story may be great, customers may not find it to be a reliable source.
People aren't stupid (for the most part).
You're running a business.
They realize that anything you tell them will have some sort of bias toward your brand: you won't publish any stories that discourage people from buying your products.
That's why you need to let customers share their stories on your website.
This can be done in the form of:
Take a look at how Lululemon shares stories of other people on their website:
Feel free to take a similar approach and designate a page on your website that's strictly for user-generated content.
Not everyone is born a storyteller.
But if you follow the tips I've outlined above, you can master this art and begin to see the positive impact it has on your sales.
When telling a story, keep your audience in mind.
Make sure it's appropriate and relatable to the customer.
Your stories should be actionable, so make sure you have a goal in mind with each story.
Otherwise, it may just turn out to be rambling content, which is ineffective.
The best stories can trigger an emotional response from the audience.
Eliciting the right emotions can prompt consumers to make a purchase.
Re-use your stories in videos, and distribute your content on various marketing channels.
You should also dedicate a specific section of your website to customer stories.
What types of actions do you want customers to take after hearing your stories?
The secret to juggling is to always have one of your chainsaws in the air. Simple, right? You have one more chainsaw than you have hands, so don't try and hold all three at the same time. Simply, always be throwing and catching at least one.
Ready to rev up your chainsaws and try it? Raise your hand… if you have one left.
As anyone in the industry knows, content marketing is a lot like juggling chainsaws. It's easy, we're told: You just have to consistently produce high-quality, engaging content. But if it were that easy, everyone would already be good at it. Statistics show we're not there yet: 54% of B2B marketers say producing engaging content is their top challenge, and 50% say producing content consistently is.
Fortunately, just as you can learn to juggle chainsaws with practice and instruction (please don't try this at home), you can learn to deliver quality, engaging content with a regular cadence. As you master the process, it will get easier. Eventually it will seem effortless to your audience. It might even feel (mostly) effortless to your content team.
Here's how the team at TopRank Marketing keeps our chainsaws in the air.
A steady content cadence is invaluable for building your audience and serving your existing readership. The goal is to make your blog (or content hub) a habit – a reliable resource for fresh content. Setting that expectation with your readers, and then meeting it consistently, takes planning.
Start by creating your content marketing strategy. This document will help determine what your goals are, who your audience is, what type of content they need, and what types you will create.
Let your audience's needs drive your goals. For example, a goal that states, “we will create fresh, high-quality content on X topics” is better than “We will post to the blog every day this year.” The latter is about deliverables; the former is about purpose, and is more likely to help you find the right cadence to meet needs.
With a strategy in place, you can develop your editorial calendar. This is where you will find the cadence that will allow you to deliver content consistently. Whether it's once a week, every weekday, or twice a month, quality and consistency are far more important than quantity.
Plan your topics and content types at least a month in advance, but leave room in your calendar for timely posts, or random bursts of inspiration. Fill in any remaining gaps with plans for repurposing.
With a strategy in place to guide content creation, and a plan for what you'll create, you can nail the consistency part of the juggling act.
At first glance, “quality” seems like a subjective term. Your listicle on cat juggling might be pure gold for one reader, and pure lead for another. And it's true that quality is dependent on the audience – so make sure your content is valuable to the people you want to reach.
First, make sure your content serves an existing search need. If people aren't looking for help on your topic, you won't have an audience. Use tools like Semrush, Keyword Planner, Google Search and Buzzsumo to explore. You're not just looking for keywords to use: Look to see what type of content is already meeting people's needs. That can help you get an idea of what high-quality content looks like for your audience.
Of course, quality means more than “designed to rank in organic search.” Your content should hit the center of this Venn diagram:
It's vital to create at the intersection of your brand's expertise, your unique insights, and your audience's needs. Without unique insight, your content is indistinguishable from the rest. Without serving the audience's needs, you're irrelevant. And without expertise, your content will lack value.
Your content serves a business goal, naturally – that's why it's content marketing and not just “publishing.” But value is the engine that will get your content to that goal. Quality content is good for your readers and your business.
So now you have a plan for consistent publishing and you've done the research to create high-quality content. The final chainsaw to juggle is making the content engaging. The information in your content can be great, but if it's a chore to read, people won't get to the value.
There's only one way to make content engaging: Write like a person. That means writing from the heart, with warmth and clarity and wit. That kind of writing invites people into a conversation, rather than trapping them in a lecture.
“But Josh,” you say, “I'm not writing about gooshy touch-feely stuff. I'm writing about cloud-based SaaS solutions. How do I write that from the heart?”
Excellent question, rhetorical person I made up. Regardless of what you're writing about, think of who you're writing for. You're not writing to sell a SaaS solution. You're writing to solve a problem for someone who desperately needs your expertise – and if you're not doing that, go back to the planning stage. When you need help, you don't want a lecture. You want someone who will empathize, even entertain, and gently guide you to a solution.
As a writer at an agency, I will admit not every client's product offerings thrill me to the core. Until we have a roster that's exclusively jetpack, hot tub, and nacho companies, I may not emotionally engage with each business. But I can always engage with people.
That's our job as content creators – to think of the person behind the problem we're solving, reach out from the screen, and make a connection.
You May Start Your Chainsaws
Content marketing is a juggling act, and it takes time and practice to keep all the chainsaws in the air. Start with planning and strategy to enable consistency, put in the research to ensure quality, and practice empathy to make your content engaging. It's not simple, but it's possible to learn. Once you get in the rhythm you'll delight your audience without risking life or limb.
Need help juggling your chainsaws? We're here for you.
© Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®, 2017. |
There's no doubting the power of inbound marketing.
It's safe to say that inbound has revolutionized the way marketing works in today's world.
When it works, that is.
Because many times, it doesn't. Or at least, it takes too long.
Crafting an inbound campaign requires audience targeting, multiple forms of content based on funnel stages, and perfect integration between marketing and sales. Which rarely happens in most companies.
And on top of that, inbound marketing tends to pull in a very specific type of buyer.
Hint: It ain't the CEO of a Fortune 500.
Inbound is great for driving certain kinds of leads. But again, many of those are unqualified and can take months to convert.
And you can't risk spending months or years producing content only to see a trickle of unqualified, small deals roll in your door.
Here's why inbound marketing fails and how you can guard against it.
Why Inbound Marketing Often Brings in the Wrong Clients
Inbound marketing is like a box of chocolates. You never know…
Cheesy movie quotes aside, this one rings true.
You really don't know what you're gonna get when you start a new campaign. Especially when it comes to B2B clients.
Think of it this way:
What clients and client types do you want?
Most likely large corporations. The big-time players. The accounts that will take your business to six-figures overnight.
Now… what clients do you usually get through your blog?
Small businesses. Local shops. Cookie-cutter clients.
Sure, your box of chocolates might have one or two big-time clients. But you really don't know and can't always control the outcome.
So why does this happen?
It all comes down to the inbound “funnel.”
Look at the standard funnel stages, and which content/lead magnets are usually associated with them:
Whitepapers, guides, webinars, and demos.
These are all great. They all work to one degree or another. And there's no doubt about that.
But when it comes to bringing in top clients, the typical inbound playbook fails miserably.
The only people sitting on hour-long webinars and downloading whitepapers are lower-level employees or a small business's workers looking to improve their day-to-day, tactical activities.
C-suite executives and decision makers for large corporations aren't anywhere near this type of content. They're too busy.
And topics like “XX conversion rate tactics to increase your growth by YY%” don't appeal to them. Because they don't do tactics. They hire people to do them.
This leads to a long list of unqualified leads. Ones who aren't making a final decision to purchase. Or even have a budget worth discussing.
Don't keep reaching into the chocolate box with your fingers crossed. Unless you have another plan or can supplement it to cover the flaws.
Here's how to take matters into your own hands and prevent the vicious cycle of poor inbound leads.
How Account-Based Marketing Can Help You Land Better Clients
Scaleable marketing activities work at the top of the funnel. Or for companies with extremely low barriers to purchase (read: low-priced, transactional, or free).
But those very same tactics often fail when you move up the food chain.
They aren't personalized enough. They're not customized enough.
And that's exactly what account-based marketing seeks to achieve.
It focuses on identifying and qualifying ideal prospects first, before trying to get them deep into your funnel.
Before you've wasted thousands of dollars A/B testing or sending email campaigns and remarketing ads.
Your typical inbound marketing strategy is like fishing with a net, dragging it across the web and collecting as many leads as possible.
Account-based marketing, on the other hand, is like fishing with spears. You're carefully selecting a target.
A great example comes from WP Engine and Terminus.
Their entire funnel was focused on identifying prospects ahead of time, expanding that research, engaging with them, advocating, and finally measuring success.
Conducting all that account research ahead of time wasn't cheap or easy. But they got engagement from 93% of accounts on their target list.
Open rates jumped from 27% to 43%.
Overall, they increased their sales opportunities by 28%.
And that's not all. The WP Engine team targeted 87 accounts and closed 32 deals.
Instead of casting a wide net, they honed in on specific accounts that were desirable and compatible with their services.
Through detailed, one-on-one customization, they were able to land clients that otherwise were unreachable.
So, how do you put some account-based marketing tactics into practice? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Conduct a Lead Search and Turn Them into an Audience
The first step in any proper account-based marketing game plan is to identify prospects first.
Creating a target list will allow you to get hyper-specific with your marketing messaging.
And we all know that personalization is critical.
Remember that ABM isn't about marketing to 1,000 companies. Weed out prospects that aren't going to convert.
Start by researching companies that could utilize your services and that match your target demographics.
You can do most of this directly on LinkedIn's advanced lead search:
Once you've plugged in your data, you can start to add specific target accounts to your list.
Selecting these accounts will add them to your sales list, giving you constant updates.
Now that you've found accounts that fit your business goals, it's time to do some deep digging.
Locate specific accounts and head to their profiles. Click “See all employees” to generate a list of employees at the company:
You can either scan for gatekeepers or use the keyword search to find them faster:
If you notice any shared connections, you have an even better shot at opening the door to a conversation.
And if you dig even deeper, you can often find the prospect's email and social media accounts:
Start engaging with their content to get yourself out there. Sometimes, that's all you need to start a conversation.
Take it a step further by researching these leads on tools like Socedo that allow you to target specific leads on social media:
Simply enter a few target keywords related to your products and services, and you'll generate a huge list of leads.
Weed through the rest by narrowing your keywords down further.
Then simply repeat the same process of engagement and getting your foot in the door. You'll quickly see which decision makers and buyers from which accounts are in-market.
Keep adding these accounts to a list or a Google Doc that you can keep track of.
The next step is to utilize LinkedIn's Matched Audiences feature to target ads directly to your accounts.
These new audience formats are already proving to be extremely successful.
Advertisers see a 32% increase in post-click conversion rates with account-based targeting and a 37% increase in CTR for contact targeting.
To get started with these, fire up your LinkedIn Campaign Manager and head to the account assets section.
Click “Matched Audiences”:
Next, select the “Upload list audiences” tab and upload your own list of leads that you've collected through Socedo and LinkedIn:
You can upload lists of accounts or direct email contacts:
Be sure to format each with their own template listed in the upload process.
Now you can target high-quality ads their way, driving tons of brand awareness and getting a front row seat to their daily LinkedIn browsing.
Conferences Can Produce High ROIs
Most people think that conferences and conventions are a huge budget waster.
They cost thousands of dollars just to obtain a few tickets.
On top of that, you've gotta pay thousands in hotel and transportation costs.
It seems like an ROI nightmare.
Rand Fishkin from Moz estimates that a typical conference can cost anywhere between $4,630–$10,230. That could be your entire month's marketing budget.
But what if that conference leads to you acquiring a new skill, discovering unique and groundbreaking ideas, or building relationships?
What if it nets you one of your best clients to date?
You could easily double, if not triple, your ROI.
Tons of high-level executives and business owners attend conferences every year. Rand himself has attended dozens over the years and believes they are an amazing investment.
Start by scouting conventions and conferences in your niche, specifically looking at the sponsoring companies of these conventions.
This will give you an idea of whether or not your target accounts are going to be attending.
For example, when you look at Salesforce's Dreamforce conference page, you can see the exact companies sponsoring and attending:
Knowing that they're willing to pay big money to sponsor the event and have their brand featured tells you two things:
Those two elements are critical when it comes to driving a sale.
Conferences are a great place to engage in genuine conversation with current targets and even find new targets for your business.
Sure, it's old school and “lame.” But if lame works, let's all be lame together.
So, what's next? What do you do after you've initiated a relationship?
Go Old School with Direct Mail
Initiating the relationship is the easy part.
The hard part is standing out amongst the dozen other people vying for the same client you are.
Thinking about sending a targeted email offer?
Email alone isn't enough to catch their attention (even if it has en emoji in the subject).
And CMOs don't have time to read your email offer.
Remarketing? Forget it. They see thousands of ads a month.
The goal in this step isn't to get them to convert.
They aren't ready yet. Account-based marketing takes a long time, but it doesn't produce subpar leads like inbound marketing does.
While both take time and money, ABM produces a consistent quality of leads with a higher response rate.
To get the attention of high-level executives and big companies, you need to reach them through uncommon mediums.
For example, direct mail.
One study found that direct mail had the third highest ROI of any marketing tactic.
Another found that direct mail open rates are 42%. That's nearly double email open rates.
One Utah-based marketing company found massive success with a direct mail campaign to land high-ticket clients.
On the back of the piece, they gave each client $20 to use to give back during the holiday season:
They effectively connected their offline efforts with online goals.
On top of that, they connected it to a #20helps hashtag to generate more buzz on social media.
Direct mail is old school, but when combined with online landing pages, it's massively effective.
Why? Direct mail alone isn't enough. You have to connect it back to inbound and digital best practices.
According to a study, marketing campaigns that used direct mail in conjunction with digital landing pages experienced a 118% lift in response rates.
Meaning people are much more likely to go to your site if you connect direct mail to online activities.
Want to reach the leads you really need?
Think outside the box and flip the script:
Go old school with direct mail, and tie it back to modern times with a landing page.
Inbound marketing was a game changer when the concept came to life.
And it still is today.
But it's nowhere near foolproof or all-encompassing.
Results can take months to come to fruition, and the leads you do generate aren't the ones your business really needs.
High-level executives aren't sitting on your webinars during their busy schedules.
Decision makers aren't being swayed by what CTA button color you choose.
In the event that your inbound marketing strategy is failing, you need a backup plan.
Safeguarding by using account-based marketing is a great start.
It can help you reduce the “box of chocolates” effect that you find with typical inbound playbooks.
Seemingly old-school sales methods like direct mail can help you cultivate real, genuine relationships with big-time leads.
The biggest customers don't sign up after a blog post.
They get referrals. They vet. And they build rapport through personalization before ever signing on the dotted line.
About the Author: Brad Smith is the founder of Codeless, a B2B content creation company. Frequent contributor to Kissmetrics, Unbounce, WordStream, AdEspresso, Search Engine Journal, Autopilot, and more.
I know how much time and effort you put into building your email subscriber list.
But growing that list is only half the battle.
Now that you have a way to contact these subscribers, you need to make sure your messages trigger a response.
I've seen many companies having success with adding customers to their email lists but struggling with the content portion of their email marketing strategy.
Simply put, they don't know what to write in their emails or when to send them out.
Each message you send needs to be carefully calculated.
Timing is everything.
That's why I love to use drip campaigns to elicit an action from the recipient.
If you've never heard of a drip campaign or haven't used one, I'll cover the basics before we move forward.
Drip campaigns are sometimes called:
Automation is the key term associated with this technique.
Drip campaigns are a series of emails that get sent to subscribers in a predetermined order.
Although it may sound simple, this email strategy is highly beneficial to your marketing strategy.
Drip campaigns are commonly used to communicate to new subscribers or someone who made a purchase but didn't join your email list yet, but you can use them at any time.
I'll give you some tips about the best uses of drip campaigns and show you how to create one.
Here's what you need to know.
Focus on personalization
Although drip campaigns are automated, you don't want your message to come across that way.
Subscribers want to hear from you, not some computer.
Make sure your emails don't sound like cut-and-paste or cookie-cutter templates (even though they might be).
I'm sure you've received emails that start with
You won't get any actionable response from someone if they don't even finish reading the message because they got bored.
After the message gets sent, the subscriber needs to:
Personalization can help you accomplish these things.
Marketing experts agree this is an effective tactic:
Automating your email responses doesn't mean you should ignore best marketing practices.
A recent study from OneSpot and the Relevancy Group showed personalized emails positively impacted:
Pairing that strategy with your drip campaign is a no brainer.
Use the recipient's first name within the body of the email.
Try personalizing the subject line as well.
You don't have to always use their name to accomplish this.
Here's what I mean.
Which one of these two subject lines sounds more appealing?
The second choice is the clear winner.
It's personalized from the sender (I) as well as the recipient (you).
You should also end each message with a personalized signature.
Here's a great example from Ian Blair at BuildFire:
Ending a message this way will remind the reader it's coming from an actual person-not an automated computer system.
It's more effective than saying
The email sender field should also come from your personal email address as opposed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's what the sender field looks like in that last example:
Implement these personalized touches in each email to get a more actionable response from your drip campaign.
Use a drip strategy to grow your email list
You can actually use a series of automated messages to add subscribers to your email list.
I know what you're thinking.
How is it possible to send someone my drip campaign if they aren't already on my email list?
Well, it's possible.
This method works particularly well for ecommerce sites.
Customers can purchase something from your website without signing up for emails.
It's the perfect opportunity to send them triggered emails so they complete an action.
In this case, the action would be joining your subscriber list.
Here's how you do it.
Take a look at this part of the checkout process from Lululemon:
Entering an email address is required for customers to complete the purchase.
The company wants to send you updates about your order.
If the customer unchecks the box that signs them up for promotional emails, these order updates can double as a drip campaign.
Here's the sequence of messages:
You have four opportunities to get this person to opt in to receive future emails.
Just make sure you execute this drip in a timely fashion.
The order confirmation message should get sent instantaneously.
Have a clear call to action in this message that entices the recipient to join your subscriber list.
Discounts work well.
For example, you could offer them 25% off their next purchase if they join your list.
Even if they don't do this yet, don't worry.
You still have three other opportunities to get them to subscribe.
Stick to the script.
Update them on their order status, and remind them about the benefits of your subscriber list.
Remember, you have their name, so don't be afraid to use it.
As we discussed earlier, adding a personalized touch can help with your conversion rates.
If you're using a service like MailChimp to contact subscribers, you can create a survey directly on their platform.
Take advantage of that resource with the fourth message of this drip series.
Ask for the customer's feedback.
Were they satisfied with the order process?
Was it delivered in a timely fashion?
Are they happy with the performance of the product?
Most importantly, don't forget to pitch your subscriber list.
This is your final chance to get the customer to opt in.
It's also a great way to enhance the customer experience, and it shows you're constantly trying to make improvements.
Send a welcome message to new subscribers
Drips are also effective once you've added subscribers to your list.
In fact, the first messages new subscribers get should be in a drip sequence.
Once someone joins your list, you should automatically send them a welcome message.
Set up your double opt-in landing pages the same way.
You can take your welcome message one step further and increase the personalization of future email content.
Here's what I mean.
Let your subscribers choose what kinds of emails they want to receive.
Do they want promotional messages like flash sales and other discounts?
What about notifications whenever you launch a new product?
Or maybe they just want to receive your newsletter?
Ideally, they want to receive all of the above, but let them decide with your welcome message.
The Drip email marketing service allows you to set this up with a triggered link.
But I'm sure whatever software you're currently using has a similar feature.
Here's an example of what the message would look like:
What the customer clicks on will determine the rest of the drip sequence.
This keeps all their messages relevant, improving your unsubscribe rate.
They won't think they're receiving any irrelevant messages since they are getting exactly what they asked for.
The CTA should still be similar in each drip sequence.
Having consistency will help drive the actionable response you're trying to get from these messages.
Building a drip campaign
Now that you know the basics of drip campaigns, it's time to create one.
You can do this with your current email marketing software.
Although the wording may slightly vary depending on your service provider, these are the basic steps you'll need to take.
I'll use HubSpot's platform in this example since their navigation is user friendly and easy to understand.
Step #1: Go to the “Productivity” tab, and select “Campaigns”:
The “Marketing Dashboard” is basically your homepage from the user side of the platform.
Step #2: Create a new campaign:
Here, you'll see any previous marketing campaigns or pending messages.
Click on “Create a new campaign” in the top right corner of the screen.
Step #3: Select a template:
For our purposes, we'll select the template builder and email options.
Once your template is customized, you can start working on the content of the message.
Remember the points we talked about earlier.
Keep your message short and to the point.
The CTA should be the focal point of this message if you're trying to elicit a specific user action, whatever that may be.
The tone of your message should reflect that goal.
Step #4: Schedule for automation:
Now you can step up the frequency of your message.
For example, you'll want to make sure your welcome message gets sent to a new subscriber right away as opposed to a day or two later.
Setting up a drip campaign isn't difficult.
The process is very similar to how you're currently using your email marketing software.
You're just not going to send out each campaign individually.
Set it up, and let the triggered response drip the sequence depending on the subscriber's preference.
Measure your success
Automated messages don't mean you can just set your campaign and forget about it.
You still need to track your results to see whether each drip campaign was successful or not.
Look at the basics like:
Conversions will be the true measure of the success of each campaign.
While the other factors will help contribute to that number, the conversion has to be your ultimate goal.
Take a look at the possible paths an email can take after you send it out:
Measuring your results can help you determine what factors are preventing the recipient from converting.
For example, your open rates may be high, but click rates could be low.
Make the necessary adjustments.
Try to reposition your CTA or change the wording to entice an action.
This is a great opportunity for you to start A/B testing your email messages.
Drip campaigns are an effective way to improve your existing email marketing strategy.
It's easy for you to set up as well.
Even though your subscribers are getting an automated response, it's important the message doesn't come across as automated.
Use the personalization tips outlined above, like using the subscriber's first name and sending the message from your personal email address.
This will help you get more conversions.
While welcome messages are one of my favorite ways to start a drip campaign, you can also use drip emails for people who haven't subscribed to your email list yet.
Just send them updates when they buy something from your ecommerce store.
Once your campaigns go live, keep track of the results to measure your success.
Make any changes to get optimal results from each campaign.
What kind of personalized CTA will you use in your next drip campaign?
Businesses are at the mercy of their customers.
The customer determines whether a company thrives, survives, or fails.
That's why you're spending so much time, effort, and money on various marketing campaigns.
Targeting new customers.
Trying to retain existing customers.
Figuring out how to squeeze some additional profits from your best customers.
It may be exhausting, but it's absolutely necessary.
All of these efforts can be summarized with two questions:
That's what it all comes down to.
What's the most inexpensive and reliable way to get inside the minds of your customers?
Just ask them.
Asking your customers for feedback directly can allow you to make the necessary adjustments to accommodate their requests.
As a result, you can make more money.
Surveys and interviews are the best tools to help you get accurate comments, concerns, praise, or criticism.
Plus, it shows your customers you care about their opinions.
When customers don't think you care about them, they'll stop buying your products and services.
Based on the study above, we can see it's by far the number one reason on that list.
Surveys and interviews are a great way to kill two birds with one stone.
You get valuable information that can make you more money, and it reinforces the message that you care about your customers.
It's a win-win scenario, and everyone's happy.
If you've never created a customer survey or conducted an interview with one of your clients, don't be intimidated.
Believe it or not, it's actually pretty simple.
I'll tell you exactly what you need to know to get started.
How to create a customer survey
Before we go any further, let's start with the basics.
You can't distribute a survey until you create one first.
Once the survey gets built, you can distribute it on all of your marketing channels and communication networks.
But we'll get to that soon.
For now, I'll show you the best way to make a survey on a platform that is free and easy to use.
Building a survey with SurveyMonkey
SurveyMonkey is one of the most popular platforms to create a survey on the Internet.
The fact that they have a free option makes it easy to try it.
Step #1: Create a new survey
The first thing you need to do is create an account.
It's quick, and you can even sign in with your Facebook or Google profile to make it even easier.
After that, navigate to the “My Surveys” tab at the top of the screen.
Just type in the name of your survey, and click “Create Survey” to continue.
Step #2: Choose a template
SurveyMonkey lets you build a template from scratch.
You can do it, but I think it's way easier to just go with one of their existing templates.
In fact, it's one of the reasons why their platform is my favorite choice.
For our purposes, we'll navigate to the “Customer Feedback” templates.
I've selected the “Customer Satisfaction Survey Template” because it will work well for us.
Feel free to browse the other options to see which one fits best with the kind of information you're trying to gather.
For example, if you're looking for feedback about your website, there's a separate template for that.
Step #3: Add questions
Each template will come preset with a bunch of questions based on the category.
But you can change the order, modify the questions, or create custom ones by using the question bank.
Your questions should be simple and easy to understand.
The questions should also be related to one another.
Find out exactly what kind of results you want to get from this survey.
I'll discuss that in greater detail shortly.
Step #4: Distribute the survey to your customers
Now that the survey is created, you need to get it to your customers.
This is another reason why SurveyMonkey is a great option.
You have many different methods of distribution.
Sure, you can build a survey on Facebook and share it with your friends.
Or use your email marketing software to create a survey and send it to your subscribers.
But why do that when you can build one here, and it's compatible with all your platforms?
This will save you a ton of time and make it way easier to analyze the results.
Step #5: Analyze the results
It's not quite time to make any drastic changes to your business yet.
For now, you need to get organized.
Wait until you think there are enough responses before you do this.
Don't try to figure out what your customers want if it's been only 12 hours since you created the survey.
Give it some time.
While your company is obviously a top priority for you, taking this survey won't be at the top of everyone's to-do lists.
Give your customers an incentive to provide feedback
As I was just saying, this won't be a priority for all your customers.
Can you blame them?
Sure, responding to a survey or interview may ultimately improve their experience, but not everyone will see it that way.
Some customers will see it as a demand on their valuable time that could be spent doing something else.
Sometimes, a little motivation can get them to respond.
Take a look at how Jack Spade does this with a survey distributed to their email subscribers:
Getting a 20% discount for taking a survey is definitely more appealing to a customer than a solo plea “Please take our survey.”
Do you notice anything else about this pitch that's appealing?
As I said before, your customers don't want to waste their time.
Acknowledge their time as valuable, and make sure the incentive is worth their trouble.
For example, offering a 10% discount for an interview that's going to last hours and involve the customer testing out new products isn't something you can reasonably ask.
On the other hand, giving out $100 gift cards for a quick survey that will take only two minutes to finish doesn't make much sense either.
The key is finding that middle ground.
I'd say offer a minimum of a 20% discount for any survey the customer can take online in less than five minutes.
For in-depth interviews that happen in person or over the phone, offer an incentive that's more valuable, like free products or gift cards.
It's worth it to you to give stuff away to get more survey results.
Ensuring you get as many responses as possible will give you the most accurate results.
If only 20 people fill out your survey, they can't speak for your entire customer base.
Set an objective, and stick to it
Let's re-visit the point I was starting to make earlier when discussing the questions on your survey.
Your questions should be related to one another as well as your goal.
What is your survey or interview trying to accomplish?
Here's an example from Barkbox:
This survey is super specific.
It was only sent to customers who ordered the October box.
All the questions will be worded accordingly.
But what's the objective?
Let's say they want to improve the overall quality of future delivery items.
The questions would focus on which products the customer would like to see again and which products they could live without.
Another objective could be about ways to generate more money. The questions could be then about the order frequency.
Is the customer happy with getting a box delivered once per month?
Maybe they would prefer getting weekly deliveries.
Each box would have fewer items and cost less, but the company would make more money over time.
Or they could deliver boxes every three months for even more money and cut down on shipping costs.
Either way, the questions would still center around the specific objective.
If it's a simple survey, you may not even need to send an external link to the customer.
The primary objective for a goal like this could be PR.
They want to be able to say “X” number of customers or “X” percent of people had a good flight.
But at the same time, they're still letting the customer know they value their feedback.
Establish a comfortable rapport with customers during an interview
Interviews can be tricky.
While surveys are often cut and dry with multiple choice responses or something of similar nature, interviews are typically in-depth.
It's best to use interviews when you want to get a response that's more thorough and open-ended.
A simple “satisfied” or “unsatisfied” survey response won't do the trick here.
I recommend interviews for companies who have brick and mortar storefronts.
That way, you can see the customer in person.
It also increases the chances that the customer will be open to the interview.
In fact, a recent study by the Harvard Business Review suggests face-to-face inquiries are 34 times more likely to get a response than email questionnaires.
When a customer is in your store, politely ask them if they have five or ten minutes to get interviewed.
You want the customer to feel as comfortable as possible during the interview.
That way you'll get accurate answers.
One of the main problems with face-to-face interviews is that you may need to take some of the responses with a grain of salt.
I'm referring to the psychological tendency that's referred to as the social desirability bias.
Here's what I mean.
The customer you're interviewing may not be thrilled about every single aspect of your business.
But they're happy enough to continue shopping at your store.
When you ask them questions about their satisfaction, their response may not be 100% truthful.
They are more likely to tell you what you want to hear as opposed to how they really feel.
This customer knows they are going to keep seeing you, and they don't want to make things awkward by saying they think a certain product is bad.
Instead, they could avoid confrontation and just focus on the aspects they're happy with.
This is no good.
You need the interviewee to feel comfortable enough to tell you how they really feel.
That's the only way you'll be able to make the right improvements.
Let them know as soon as the interview starts that you value their opinion and want to hear criticism.
You won't be offended or upset if you hear something negative.
If you can't establish this rapport with your customers, the interview results may be skewed.
If you want to generate more money for your business, you need to figure out what the customers want.
How do you find that out?
Just ask them.
Use tools like surveys and interviews to get constructive feedback from your customers.
You can find out what you're doing well and what you need to improve.
Conducting surveys and interviews regularly will show your customers you care about them, increasing their loyalty to your brand.
To get as many responses as possible, offer your customers an incentive for taking the time out of their day to complete a survey.
Each survey and interview should focus on one particular objective centered around a specific goal for your company.
Any time you're interviewing a customer in person, make them feel as comfortable as possible.
This will help you get the most accurate responses.
Combining these tactics will generate more money for your company.
Does your business prefer to use surveys or interviews to get valuable feedback from your customers?
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