Monthly Archives: January 2018

How to Manage Relationships with Your Customers Effectively

Last year Forbes wrote an article titled “Why Is Customer Relationship Management So Important?” It mirrored a question asked by many entrepreneurs who can sometimes get too tied up in the many details they have to consider and so fail to take that one into account until the negative impact is felt.

The article goes into the many ways in which CRM is implemented across multiple sources. It also points out that it isn’t just big businesses that benefit from the use of customer relationship management, but small businesses and even freelancers. It is about controlling the customer experience to ensure their positive involvement with your brand.

The Art of Customer Relationships Management

All of this comes down to managing customers, wholesale. When you take a hand in the way a customer views and interacts with your brand, you are managing their expectations, time, engagement and overall impression from beginning to end. The result is a more complete onboarding and implementation process that builds loyalty and spreads to future customers.

But how can this be done more efficiently? We all know the struggles of customer relationships management and the difficulties with enmeshing yourself in such a high demand task with so many other details needing your consideration and attention.

The answer is simple: adopt solid customer relationships management solution to automate and simplify as much of the process as possible. Here are a few suggestions:

Start Using a CRM Platform to Organize and Analyze Your Lead Generation and Verification Tactics

There are several ways in which a CRM platform can make your business grow and flourish. But the primary reasons leading to most businesses adopting a platform include:

  1. Increasing the rate of conversions from previously generated leads.
  2. Balancing your new customers and retained customers, thereby covering the cost of new sales acquisitions (remember that retaining customers is more profitable than getting new ones, but getting new ones is how your company grows).
  3. Forming strong, long term relationships with customers.
  4. Building brand loyalty in a world of ever widening choices.
  5. Narrowing your marketing strategies in order to cut through the noise of an oversaturated digital landscape.
  6. Giving your sales team the tools they need to boost their productivity and connect more efficiently with your customer base.
  7. Improving customer service by better managing cases, retaining customers and improving customer satisfaction surveys.
  8. Collecting customer testimonials to display on your site

A customer management platform can help with everything above. It gives you the tools you and your team needs to address each issue and so begin to improve sales, customer retention, etc, all of which exponentially grows your brand.

Now you know why you need a CRM platform. So which one should you try? A quick Google search shows that there is no end to the choices you can select from. Many choices have their benefits, but there are also a few drawbacks. How do you choose?

I will admit I haven’t tried every CRM platform on the web, but I have used and loved Salesmate.

Salesmate is a complete CRM program that is very growth minded. It offers solutions for small businesses, nonprofits and startups, as well as role based solutions for sales, service, marketing and IT.

Salesmate has three primary principles: improve your sales, gain better customer relationships and deliver projects to the right people on the right teams.

By visualizing your sales pipeline it lets you see what exactly works for your sales acquisition and who of your team is doing the best job:

 

Strengthen those Relationships with Remarketing

Not all of your site visitors and ad clickers will get into that sales funnel that we want them to go through. In fact, most of them will leave without leaving any traces, i.e. without following your social media accounts or opting in to your email list.

Yet, that doesn’t mean you cannot still get in touch with them again. According to WMEgroup Marketing Agency, Remarketing is a perfect customer relationships building technique because it lets you reach out to both your existing and bounced customers with your custom message.

The two most popular and effective platforms for re-marketing to your customers is Google Adwords and Facebook. Both provide detailed reporting allowing you to craft highly-targeted creatives to achieve better response.

Speaking of creatives, Bannersnack is a great tool to try because it saves an incredible amount of time allowing you to create multiple banners at a time.

 

Putting these together will take about an hour of your time and you can set up your remarketing campaign right away.

Set up a Business Management Dashboard to Monitor EVERYTHING

Finally, CRM involves so much tracking and monitoring that setting up a separate dashboard is a must.

Cyfe is the only solution on the market that I’ve tried because it’s incredibly affordable and feature-rich. You can customize a widget to make a CRM monitoring platform and put everything in one place.

You can use it for CRM monitoring with help of the following widgets:

  • Monitor your customer support team stats with Zendesk widget
  • Monitor your customers’ conversations with Twitter widget
  • Monitor your team progress with Google Calendar app
  • Use world clock for international distributed team management
  • Manage your finances with QuickBooks app
  • Monitor your traffic with Google Analytics app, etc.

 

If you have a platform you have tried, be sure to leave a mention of it in the comments below.

How To Manage Multiple Marketing Channels in Today’s Dynamic Landscape

Marketing managers have two ways to perceive the ever-increasing number of marketing channels available today. Chaos or opportunity.

From video marketing and gamification to in-person events and blog content, not only are there more ways to reach customers, there are more channels that consumers are accustomed to and therefore are willing to engage with.

More recently, the rapid pace of tech has allowed us to add virtual assistant-based platforms like Alexa’s Skills, and more mainstream use of what was once deemed as futuristic, like augmented reality, to their shortlist. The use of wearables is also shifting the way marketers are using SMS notification and push notifications, making it even easier to engage with customers in a subtle, non-invasive way through these channels. As the martech industry keeps offering up more tools, technology drives forward, and AI gets smarter, the list is only going to get longer in the future.

The CMO challenge is to develop strategies that will wield the most relevant channels for a brand, without wasting marketing dollars or overwhelming customers with too much information. Yet, still be equipped to take advantage of this new multi-channel reality to ensure your brand is there for the right audience, with the right content, when they want it.

How to make this happen?

Use Goals to Determine Your Channels – And Budget

Not the other way around. To create an effective strategy with various marketing channels, you need to identify your marketing goals clearly first. Then, determine what channels can be used to reach those goals. And finally, how much money should be allocated for each resource to achieve your objectives.

image source

The mistake some CMOs fall into, or are pressured into by C-suite’s need for a budget first approach, is to create a marketing budget with only a preliminary plan, not a dynamic strategy, for how to leverage each relevant channel. 20 percent to influencer marketing. 30 for live events, 15 for improving the company app, then the remainder for social media, web content and video production. The inherent flaw with this approach is it neglects the actual channel strategy.

  • Which channels are the most relevant for your audience right now?
  • How are your goals changing, for example, if there is a need for enhanced customer retention, more engagement, and higher conversions, how can various channels be better put to use?
  • Does more of the budget need to be allocated to push a powerful video, influencer, or experiential campaign in the short, medium or long term to reach specific short- and long-term objectives?
  • How are market trends shifting regarding social media usage, device preference, podcast subscribers – what story does the data tell about how effective your current channel usage is?
  • Are there any unique factors such as predicted tech changes, consumer expectation changes or other elements that call for edging into a new channel in the next X months or X years to maintain market share?
  • Which channels aren’t working now to reach objectives? Should more or less be allocated as a response?

Having various marketing channels to use means you have more roads to connect with customers. By evaluating which destinations you want to reach, you can better decipher which roads you want to put more money into with the current budget allocation for the individual needs of your organization.

Identify a Head Strategist

Research by Gartner has found that more than 90 percent of marketers have trouble connecting more than three channels in a multi-channel strategy. To get the most out of marketing channel usage and to be able to successfully manage several inroads to your customers, you don’t want too many cooks in the kitchen. One lead strategist should steer the ship and focus on staying on course towards established marketing goals.

Having a social media strategist, a lead for event marketing, email marketing, and other channels will serve to optimize each one. But to operate with a holistic, multi-channel strategy with each channel supporting and being supported by the others, having a designated planner or strategist to oversee each multi-channel campaign is crucial.

This will also help to ensure a targeted, cohesive message is being consistently used across channels. Which is a must to create the seamless experience your customers expect.

Measure and Prioritize

And make your prioritization as real-time as possible. Keep track of which channels are delivering results in both ROI and engagement, and adjust as channel capabilities shift. This is the only way to manage multiple marketing channels effectively. Your organization is better placed to take advantage of opportunities and to eliminate efficiencies when you are constantly watching the data.

As Amanda Nelson, an expert on measurable marketing and Ringlead’s Director of Marketing explains, “…. We always filter channels based on its ability to engage and create action. [Which ensures] every touch point in the ‘journey to customer’ is thoughtful, consistent, and relevant.”

Have your key performance indicators laid out for each channel. Then, don’t just look for when your benchmarks are hit. Pay close attention to how KPIs change over time to track how well each channel is doing with your audience for each period.

Leverage Dynamic Automation

Today, automation can be used for much more than efficient, targeted email campaigns. On-site messaging to help with your lead generation, cleverly timed SMS notifications and even thoughtfully sent direct mail, such as a personalized thank-you card sent out when a customer demos your product or a discount after that first purchase. Automation is what makes multi-channel management possible in the first place. Otherwise, sending personalized, timely, relevant content at scale would be impossible.

So, take advantage of the software that’s out there to support more effective, dynamic marketing. There are your comprehensive software solutions like Marketo, HubSpot, and Eloqua, but there are also more focused, specialized tools to help create, refine, and automate specific channels, such as VIdyard for a more visually focused campaign, Buzzsprout for podcasts and Creator IQ for influencer campaigns.

You don’t necessarily want to head back into the dark ages of marketing technology and juggle multiple platforms. But, if your organization benefits immensely, and your audience resonates immensely, from particular channels, thinking outside the one-platform all-in-one marketing automation box may be a good idea.

Keep Thinking Multi

There are still plenty of barriers to successful multi-channel management from lack of technology to an inability to make sense of the data. This is even more of a problem for mid-level and small organizations who simply don’t have the dynamic teams and technical sophistication, let alone the hundreds of thousands being spent each year at the enterprise level into putting together multi-channel campaigns.

However, by investing in and sticking to a multi-channel mindset, organizations are giving themselves an advantage. Consumers are connected now more than ever before with not just mobile and desktop, but wearables and virtual personal assistants. Multi isn’t just here to stay and what consumers prefer. It’s multiplying. Taking a forward-thinking approach in developing efficient campaigns and smart organizational strategies, measuring, proactively prioritizing, and, of course, staying on top of the technology that’s available, is the only way to create opportunities from the chaos.

Quality and Quantity Content – Can You Really Have it All?

If you’ve read up on content marketing or you’re involved in the “industry” you’ve inevitably heard about this debate that’s been swirling through blogs and Twitter accounts for some time now: quantity versus quality. The idea is that you can’t possibly write quality content if you’re producing it frequently. It might be something you’ve thought long and hard about—especially if you’re planning your content marketing strategy and budget for 2018.

But rather than thinking about quality and quantity as two ideas that are inverse to one another, we’d strongly urge you to step back and think about the issue in the big picture.

What does “quality” mean?

If you Google “What is quality content?” you’ll find that the top hit is an exhaustive blog post that, more than anything else, explains how to use SEO properly. It essentially covers what Google does and doesn’t like, and it does so in over 3,000 words, making it a definitive guide for “quality” content based on the idea that search engines like longer content.

However, I think it’s safe to say that most people who land on that page (me included) did not bother reading the entire post. This blog post uses SEO tactics to lure readers, which is helpful if you’re interested in getting more site traffic because you’re selling ads. But if you’re like most brands you’re not selling ads on your site like a publisher would. You’re trying to assert authority and build new business.

We’re certainly not advocating that you ignore SEO principles, especially now that much of what’s good for SEO is good for your readers. But another way to look at quality content is by replacing it with the word “valuable.”

Substitute “valuable” for “quality”

Your content should always be valuable to your audience. If it’s not, you’re likely wasting your time. Focus on creating valuable content that would be appealing to your audience. Start by defining your audience, do your research to get to know them, and then develop some personas. This will help you define what your audience needs—what they see as valuable.

The folks at Hubspot have figured this out. They’ve gotten to know their audience over the last 10-ish years and have a pretty extensive list of requirements for submitting a guest blog. These guidelines not only ensure the content fits in with Hubspot’s strategy, they ensure that what outsiders submit will be valuable to Hubspot readers. It’s helped the blog grow to 215,000 subscribers and 2 million monthly visits.

Try content pillars

You can make progress with SEO without worshipping long-tail keywords or writing only for robots with content pillars. Content pillars are audience-focused, well-researched themes or “buckets” that can inform your long-term content efforts.

An ideal content pillar is a somewhat broad topic that your brand has a specific opinion about. The form these content pillars take is up to you and your marketing team. One suggestion is to begin building an in-depth library page around that content pillar. The library page is intended to be a definitive resource—it’s a longer-form piece of content that describes your take on the theme and includes links to shorter pieces of content that are related. It’s a page that should be built and updated over time. If it’s done right this valuable library page should boost your SEO around that pillar.

Key to making content pillars work for your brand is sticking to these themes for an extended period of time. Each piece of content your team produces should relate to a pillar or two, whether it’s an eBook or a series of blog posts. The initial research, messages you develop and your brand’s perspective can help you ensure your content is high-quality and valuable to the audience.

How much and how often?

The quality versus quantity debate says that if you create quality content, you can’t possible create enough of it. Of course, just like defining quality, you have to define quantity, too. A high quantity for one brand might be writing one blog post per week and publishing an eBook each month.

But for another brand, high enough quantity might be 1,200 posts a day—that’s what the Washington Post has taken to doing under Jeff Bezos. Their goal is to sell ads on their site, so the more pages, the more space for ads and the more potential for clicks. That’s probably not your goal.

The problem is that many brands don’t step back and think more about their goals. They’re thrown off by what they think they should be doing or what their competitors are doing.

This whole quantity debate sometimes leaves out a hugely important piece of your marketing strategy—distribution. Your distribution strategy can greatly impact your need to keep churning out content. If you have amassed a library of useful content, you should focus on putting it in front of your audience’s eyeballs rather than wracking your brain to produce new content everyday.

Depending on your goals and how you intend to distribute content, you might find that less content is more. If you’re using content effectively, you can get more mileage out of a blog post, article or eBook that you worked hard on. One technique we love is the brick and feathers approach—producing one larger piece of content such as an eBook or a white paper and following up with several smaller pieces such as blog posts, short videos or infographics. It’s an effective way to get the most out of one content topic, your subject matter experts and your big piece of content. It’ll also help you put that distribution plan into place.

Consider blockbuster content

Instead of mimicking the publisher model that so many have worked towards for the last decades, some big brands are getting smart and following Hollywood instead. “Blockbuster Content” takes a cue from movie production houses that devote resources to one big summer movie.

The result is usually that memorable movie that is everywhere for months after it’s released. You see interviews with stars on talk shows, you hear songs from the soundtrack, you see characters from the movie paired with other consumer products. Basically, everywhere you look you see that blockbuster movie.

For B2B brands, blockbuster content could mean:

  • Major brand awareness
  • More leads
  • High engagement rates across content

The key, according to LinkedIn, is to focus on fewer assets, create something repeatable, and extend its use across multiple channels.

But first you have to bet big on it, which is a pretty big drawback for many B2B brands. There’s a lot of danger in sinking all of your resources into blockbuster content. And depending on how you’ve built out your content marketing team, it may be difficult to spend time planning and executing one big piece of content. Your sales team (and your boss) won’t be satisfied with minimal marketing activity while you create your blockbuster. Even worse, if you execute and distribute and it fails to deliver on its promise, you’re in trouble.

So, can you have it all?

Of course you can. But the key is to think big picture without getting tripped up on what’s happening around you and forgetting about your goals. If writing a new blog post every day doesn’t support your goals, don’t do it. If you know your audience hates eBooks and would find an ongoing blog more useful, there’s your answer.

And while you’re considering the cadence, define your minimum standards for quality.

In the end, there is no One Answer. Every organization is different, and needs to figure out the best way to attract the attention of its potential customers, and then build trust over time with that audience. Don’t blindly follow silly rules like “blog every day” or “every blog post must be 1,500 words”—they might be right for whoever is pitching the idea, but they aren’t automatically right for you.

The post Quality and Quantity Content – Can You Really Have it All? appeared first on Scribewise | Philadelphia Content Marketing and Public Relations.

Hit The Ground Running in 2018 with These Growth Tips for Your Business

Well, you did it. You worked hard to make it through the holiday shopping season, and now we’re just a few days away from entering into the new year.

As an ecommerce business owner, you might be taking some time off to reset, but you’re probably also spending some of your down time thinking about what you need to do to really hit the ground running and grow your business in 2018.

If your marketing and growth plans aren’t yet finalized for the new year, or if you’re simply looking for new ideas to test right away in Q1, consider the ten ecommerce business growth tips outlined below:

1. Create a Movement

In 2017 more than ever before, ecommerce brands invested heavily in community and community-building. Why? For two reasons:

Reason 1: Because ecommerce is an increasingly competitive space. Each day there are new entrepreneurs and business owners launching businesses and selling products that serve the same audience. In an effort to differentiate from competition and reach ideal customers faster, ecommerce business owners are now marketing and selling experiences over products. They’re connecting with target audiences by promoting movements, ideals, and a way of life that people can and want to relate to.

Reason 2: Because online consumers want to buy products from the right companies. They’re not just interested in buying from brands that promise the cheapest option or the one that will ship the fastest—they want to buy from companies that genuinely care about people, the world, and the issues that matter most. They also want to be part of something bigger. They want to find community online, and they look to brands to help plug them into groups and movements that align with their beliefs, passions, and motivations.

To understand this concept, it’s helpful to see it in practice. Consider, for example, Patagonia’s mission: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

Or look to this purpose statement that can be found on the Beardbrand website: “we have a mission to do more than deliver excellent products. We also focus on providing a wide variety of tools that men need to invest in themselves. Those tools include education, inspiration, and an incredible community. When a man invests in himself, he then has the power to invest in his family, his friends, his career, and his community.”

Actionable Takeaway: Think about who your customers are and what it is that makes them part of the same community. Then decide how your company can begin supporting the causes or encouraging the way of life that you know the people you serve care most about. It could be as simple as creating a hashtag for people to use when sharing photos of themselves using your products, creating a private Facebook group for people to join, or donating a portion of your proceeds to a nonprofit or case.

2. Hire an Influencer

Another way that ecommerce business owners are reaching their target audience faster is by hiring and working with influencers on social sites like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Influencer marketing was a popular marketing tactic to try in 2017 for a few reasons:

Reason 1: It’s becoming much more difficult to reach people through organic Facebook posting alone, and social advertising is becoming increasingly expensive. As a result, more brands are choosing to invest their advertising dollars in other ways.

Reason 2: Consumers put a lot of trust in other people when it comes to making purchasing decisions. When deciding whether or not to buy a product, they turn to their friends, their family members, strangers who have already purchased the products before them, and the celebrities they follow on social media.

Actionable Takeaway: Find and hire a well-known influencer who can provide you with direct access to the people you need to reach in order to boost sales and build a loyal following. To find the right influencer, reach out manually if you already have someone in mind, or use a tool like Famebit, Tribe, or Open Influence.

3. Build a Video Marketing Strategy

Video was also a popular marketing tactic to invest in throughout 2017, and it’s predicted to be even more valuable in the year ahead. Consider the following facts about the popularity and business case of video from Buffer:

  • Over 8 billion videos or 100 million hours of videos are watched on Facebook every day
  • 10 billion videos are watched on Snapchat every day
  • 55% of people consume videos thoroughly — the highest amount all types of content
  • 4 in 5 millennials consider video content when researching a purchase decision
  • 4X as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than reading about it

The right video can do wonders in helping you differentiate from competitors, boost brand awareness, connect with target customers, and sell more products—it’s all about having the right idea and the right strategy in place.

Actionable Takeaway: Decide how your company will leverage and benefit from video in 2018. Start by reading through this blog post from our blog. It will show you real examples of how other ecommerce brands are using video to grow their businesses, and provide you with a list of different videos you could create for your business in the year ahead.

4. Test New Product Copy

Another simple way to grow your ecommerce business in 2018 is to test new product copy across your website pages, product pages, email campaigns, and advertisements.

If you’ve never taken the time to test product copy before, now is a great time to give it a try. The smallest changes in headlines, body copy, and CTA button text can sometimes have the biggest impact on sales.

If you’re unsure of how to get started when it comes to revising product copy, or writing copy that is more conversion-driven, start by reading through these two blog posts:

Actionable Takeaway: Make a plan to start testing some of the product copy that exists throughout your ecommerce store. A word of caution: START SMALL. Making too many changes all at once will make it hard to understand which copy change had the biggest impact, and could actually end up hurting your sales if you write copy that ends up being less compelling to your audience than what you had before. A good and painless place to start testing is with your Facebook Ads. Create two ads that are virtually identical as far as targeting, schedule, budget, and visuals, but different when it comes to copy and call-to-action. See which ad performs better, then decide how the copy could be incorporated into the corresponding product page or landing page on your website. If you really want to dive in, consider using a testing automation and management tool like VWO or Optimizely to run tests in real-time throughout your store.

5. Optimize Sales & Customer Support with a Messenger Bot

As ecommerce brands look for new ways to communicate directly with customers and ideal customers, many are now turning to a new channel: Facebook Messenger. Here’s why:

  • According to Facebook, there are now 1.3 billion people using Messenger to communicate with friends.
  • In 2017, there were 17 billion realtime video chats on Messenger—twice as many as recorded the year before.
  • On average, there were over 7 billion conversations taking place on Messenger every day in 2017.

As more people adopt Facebook Messenger as a daily communication tool, new software is being introduced that can help brands use the channel to reach and communicate with their audience at scale. Manychat is one such example. It offers tools that make it easy for businesses to create trigger- and conversion-based sales, marketing, and customer support automation bots within Facebook Messenger.

Actionable Takeaway: Look into Manychat and decide if it’s something you can leverage to optimize and scale sales or customer support for your ecommerce business. To get a better idea of how it works, spend some time exploring the tutorials offered in their help section.

6. Collaborate with a Dream Partner

Another way to gain access to more people in your target audience in 2018 is to collaborate on a product with a like-minded partner that shares or aligns with your values, mission, and focus.

You might be thinking to yourself: a product collaboration will take A LOT of time, and you’re right. That’s why it’s important that if you decide it’s a tactic you want to try in 2018 you get started as soon as possible.

To find the right partner to collaborate with, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: make a list of the business owners you know personally or through a connection, and the dream partners you’d love to collaborate with. Compile contact information in a Google spreadsheet. Again, try to think of products that serve a similar audience as you, or sell products that would complement your own.
  • Step 2: think about what kind of collaboration you’d like to propose. Have a few ideas in mind, but don’t worry about making anything too official. The purpose of a collaboration is to actually collaborate! But having a few rough ideas can help get your foot through the door and the person you’re reaching out to interested in talking more.
  • Step 3: Reach out to a few companies from your list, and work to finalize a collaboration partnership. Fecide on an idea, set specific goals and budget, and build your timeline.
  • Step 4: Put a clear launch and marketing plan in place. Make sure that you and your partner are both doing the heavy lifting (and spending) when it comes to promoting the collaboration to your audiences.
  • Step 5: Launch!

Actionable Takeaway: Try to complete steps 1 & 2 from the list above over the next few weeks.

7. Refresh Your Content Strategy

In 2018, content marketing and content creation will continue to be an important part of any ecommerce business owner’s marketing strategy. If you didn’t have a clear strategy in place in 2017, or you didn’t stick to it, consider spending some time reviewing and revising your strategy for the new year.

To get started, read through these two resources:

Actionable Takeaway: Start by making a content marketing strategy for the first 90 days of 2018. Set clear, hard-to-reach goals, determine your budget, figure out who your key players and stakeholders are, then use a tool like Airtable to manage and execute on your plan.

8. Send Gifts to Your Best Customers

To kick sales and product awareness into gear right away in the new year, consider sending small gifts to your best and most loyal customers in the first few weeks of January. The purpose of the gift is to thank your customers for their support. The goal is to get them talking about you and buying from you again.

Types of gifts include:

  • A restock of their favorite product, or one that they order regularly
  • A free sample of a new product that you’re getting ready to release
  • A handwritten thank you letter with a gift card or promo code
  • A customized or small-batch VIP product that no one else will have the opportunity to purchase

As we’ve written about before on this blog, customer delight can be an incredibly powerful and effective way to grow your business. All you need to do is put a plan in place and execute on it as early in the year as possible.

Want to read what we’ve written about on the subject? Explore these blog posts:

Actionable Takeaway: Come up with a gift idea that you can send to a small group of your best customers. Package it and send it out before the end of the first week of January.

9. Validate a New Product Idea

If sales slumped over the last few months of the year, or if sales have never been better, it might be time to consider introducing a new product. Before you invest too much of your time and money, however, it’s important to try to validate your idea. The easiest way to do this is by creating and launching a product page that allows people to pre-order your product. By launching a pre-order product page, you’ll not only find out how interested your audience is in your new product idea, you could also fund much of the production costs with the pre-order sales that come in.

Actionable Takeaway: Think about a new product that you could sell on your store. Create a lean landing page or pre-order product page to send people to. Send traffic to your landing page by creating new content, launching Facebook ads, and sending personalized email campaigns to segments of your audience that you think would be most likely to purchase.

10. Adopt an Always-Testing Mentality

Finally, one of the biggest ways to boost sales and growth in 2018 is to simply adopt an always-testing mentality when it comes to your business and your growth strategies. If you execute on the exact same strategy that you did in 2017, you shouldn’t expect to grow. Instead, you need to be willing and able to test new ideas throughout the year. You can’t be afraid of spending money (within reason) and failing often in order to land on the right tactics (the ones that make you the most money).

Actionable Takeaway: Create a list of tests and tactics that you’d like to try in 2018. Prioritize them based on cost and impact. Figure out which tactics you’d like to try in Q1, then get to work!

 

The post Hit The Ground Running in 2018 with These Ecommerce Business Growth Tips appeared first on Sellbrite.

Tips For Keeping Your Marketing Legal

Everybody, including the FTC, customers, competitors, and random people on the street, are looking to catch your business in a lie. If they do catch your business doing something wrong, especially in your marketing, it can mean a major payday for them, typically in the form of a lawsuit.

As the public face for the company, it’s incredibly important to keep your work in line, legally speaking. Failing to do this could mean getting negative attention, lawsuits, losing consumer trust, and damaging your brand. Here are some tips to avoid common mistakes businesses make in their marketing that could land them in legal hot water.

Just Don’t Lie

To start, a great rule of thumb for all of your marketing is to never lie. If you lie in your marketing, and you get caught, expect major repercussions. The FTC might come looking to fine you or a misled customer might be suing you.

But marketing is more than just truth and lies — it’s how a marketer presents that truth to their audience. What truth do they include and what is left secret? What information is emphasized and what is left in the small print at the bottom?

When making statements, slogans, and opinions, it’s important to make sure you aren’t lying. Even unintentional lies or false statements can land you in a heap of trouble. It happens to everybody, including the largest corporations around.

Here are just a few examples of slogans and ad statements that have gotten companies sued:

  • Red Bull – The slogan “Red Bull Gives You Wings”
  • Kellogg’s – That Rice Krispies boosted the immune system
  • Kellogg’s – That Mini-Wheats could make you smarter
  • Eclipse Gum – That their gum killed germs
  • Papa John’s – The slogan “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza” got them sued by Pizza Hut
  • Listerine – That mouthwash was just as effective as flossing

If your business makes a statement, either make sure it’s an opinion or that you can back it up with facts and data. If you want to convey that your product is better than your competitors, saying something like “The #1 Product on the market” is dangerous. You either need to have proof, like you are #1 in sales or in an independent study, or go with an opinion. Instead of saying “the #1 product,” say “Our Product is the best around.” This is more of an opinion than the first statement.

It not just slogans that can mislead. As you produce content for your company’s blog, writing interesting content can be hard. It might be tempting, in order to get people to read your content, to overhype, exaggerate, and stretch the truth. Be careful, because if you take it too far, you could be on the hook for misleading consumers.  

Be Careful With Your Images

A major part of marketing is the visual element. If your marketing isn’t pleasing to the eye, people won’t look at it. Photos especially are necessary to keeping people interested and engaging with them. Using photos incorrectly, though, can land your business in a heap of trouble.

Copyright

The first major legal problem happens when using photos the company doesn’t own. Unless you have a professional photographer on staff, it’s likely you’ll be utilizing photos you find online. If the photos are going to be used for marketing purposes, you need to own the rights to use them. There are some ways to get free photos through creative commons, but if you want to be completely safe, buy stock photos.

Using a photo you don’t own for business or marketing reasons is a violation of copyright and can get your company sued. Even if you take an existing photo and make significant changes to it, you are still in legal danger. Before you use any image, either in a brochure or on your website, be certain that you own the rights to it.

Misleading Images

Copyright isn’t the only legal slippery slope though. How you make changes to images, especially those used in advertisements or representing your product, can land you in hot water too.

A great example of this are ads for Olay’s Definity eye cream. The ad featured former model Twiggy, (who at the time was in her 60s) looking wrinkle-free and much younger. Turns out, the photos for the ad were photoshopped to completely get rid of her wrinkles. This mislead consumers on the effectiveness of the product based on the photos in the ad, resulting in the ad being banned in many countries.

Even if you don’t alter the photos, but utilize them to mislead consumers, you can get in trouble. Make sure any photos you use, especially around specific products, don’t oversell the actual results.

The Murky Waters of Social Media

The laws of social media are still being created and figured out. Businesses share posts from their followers and others all the time, post links to content they didn’t create, and engage directly with consumers publically. As businesses push to become huge on social media, they often forget to watch their backs legally.

Many marketers assume that businesses can act the same as individuals do on their personal social media accounts. They can’t. While a person can share a picture they don’t own on social media with little fear of getting sued, businesses can’t.

A good rule for posting anything on social media you don’t own is to ask permission first. Posting things like videos, images, quotes, reviews, comments, and more that were created by somebody else should always be preceded by asking for permission. It’s polite, thoughtful, and could make somebody’s day. More importantly, it could help avoid a lawsuit. If somebody doesn’t want something posted, they won’t give you permission and you can move on.

Now, when it comes to creating your own content, follow the same rules as above. Don’t lie, make sure you own the rights to what you are creating, and don’t mislead. If you are making a video with music, use music you have the rights for. Including the newest pop song might really spice up the video, but could also have the artist’s lawyers chasing you down.

Contests and Giveaways

A very popular tactic to improve your social media following and engage with fans is to do a contest and give away fabulous prizes. Doing these kind of giveaways though can be tricky legally. Make sure you check your local area’s laws concerning sweepstakes, giveaways, contests, lotteries, etc.

Make sure the rules for any giveaways are publically available; that way people know exactly their chances for winning. Is the chance random or based on their performance? What information is required in order to be considered? Are there limitations on who can enter, like geographical or age restrictions? This information needs to be available for those interested in entering.

Don’t be afraid to have contest participants sign a contract agreeing to your rules. Thanks to digital and electronic signature software, it’s pretty easy to have a legally binding contract to help cover your business. Have a qualified lawyer look it over, and use it to help prevent a lawsuit.

Stay Up to Date on Legal Changes

The legal landscape changes from year to year, so keep yourself up to date. As other companies and corporations get sued, analyze your business and see if you could be sued for the same reason. If you are worried about something, consult a relevant lawyer to see what kind of risks your marketing might have. Be proactive about finding causes for potential lawsuits and fix them immediately.

Agile Marketing Examples & Case Studies

The theory of Agile marketing sounds great. I mean, of course we all want to be more nimble and responsive; nobody is standing in line to be slower and less adaptive to change.

But the same questions continually come up: if this is so great, where are the Agile marketing examples? Where can I find a good Agile marketing case study?

It turns out they’re scattered all over this thing call “the internet.” Who knew?

For the past several years teams have quietly been accumulating success stories and sharing them in various ways, some more vocally than others.

This page, then, will be our ever-evolving attempt to collect those stories in an easy-to-consume format.

You’ll find case studies from tech and software companies, banks, universities, and more. Hopefully one or more will spark an idea to get you started, or provide the proof you need to convince your boss or team that Agile is right for you.

If you’re on an Agile marketing team that isn’t represented here, please drop our editor an email (andrea AT AgileSherpas DOT com) so we can share your story!

(Or, if you wish you could join these illustrious Agile marketing examples, contact us to set up your own training program.)

Agile Marketing Case Studies by Company Name:

Alberta Motor Association
Aussie bank
CA Technologies
Chemmart
Deakin University
Dell
General Mills
IBM
ING
Mozilla
Northern Arizona University
Santander Bank
SEMRush
SiteStrategics
Sleeknote
Sunlife Financial

Agile Marketing Examples

Company: SEMRush

Category: Technology/Software
Spokesperson: Olga Adrinko, Head of Global Marketing
Case study summary: SEMRush’s marketing department strives to be Agile at all levels. They’ve gotten as close to a purely flat structure as they can, which has allowed them to fully empower their various teams. According to Olga’s presentation, leadership clearly identifies what needs to be done, but the team gets total control over how to do it. To her, she’s like a soccer/football coach who sees the field and understands the opponent, but she’s not the one kicking the ball.

This doesn’t, however, lead to chaos. Their Scrum approach and its daily standup meetings ensure people are staying on track, and the trust placed in the teams make them both highly creative and deeply invested in their work.

Scrum-style sprints also allow the marketing teams to experiment rapidly, testing and learning on an ongoing basis. These small scale tests have paid off in a big way, netting SEMRush 500,000 users in 8 months.

Olga acknowledges that there are challenges too, particularly when it comes to hiring and firing. A mistaken hire, for instance, can take a big toll on the team if they don’t pull their weight. It’s also up to the teams to fire members who aren’t contributing.

Most exciting takeaways: Thanks to Agile marketing, year over year average revenue growth from top 10 new markets was greater than 90%, and SEMRush gained 500,000 users in just 8 months.

Source: Brighton SEO

@SEMRush gained 500,000 users in just 8 months thanks to #AgileMarketing via @AgileSherpas Click to Tweet

Company: Northern Arizona University

Category: University
Spokesperson: Ann Marie deWees, Director of Strategic Marketing
Case study summary: This scrappy four-person team once followed traditional marketing practices, creating an annual budget, creating goals, and designing highly specific projects. With the help of freelancers and agencies, they’d produce around 50 pieces of marketing collateral a year. Then, digital happened.

Despite multiple re-orgs, they couldn’t keep up with client needs and expectations. Then deWees discovered Agile marketing. Instead of individuals taking on an entire project themselves, they now structure work in 2-week Sprints.

They joined forces with IT to create a single in-house design group for support, and phased out their reliance on external contractors. Tara Cobourn, marketing manager, says this new approach allows them to break projects down into smaller pieces, which are in turn given to team members based on skills and availability. Now they can get an entire project done in two weeks instead of waiting months for outsourced work to come back, get edited, get revised, and finally get released.

Now that budget isn’t going to contractors, they’ve been able to hire more writers and designers, increasing the team’s agility even further.

Most exciting takeaways:

  • In their first year as an Agile team, content production increased 400% (50 pieces to 200 pieces)
  • Sprint tasks have nearly 95% completion rate
  • 20% cost savings have been realized
  • Client satisfaction rating increased by over 30% in six months

Source: UniversityBusiness.com


Company: SiteStrategics – SEO firm in Indianapolis, IN

Category: Agency
Spokesperson: Jason Fletcher
Case study summary: Tired of seeing process get in the way of productivity, this SEO agency has recently adopted Agile to manage their work. They use 2-week sprints to constantly iterate on campaigns and adjust their spend on various channels.

They also use Sprint planning to keep a handle on their employees’ availability, which means they can give clients a much more accurate estimation of when work will be done. And when a Sprint is over, “all we have to do is walk back through the Agile Sprint to show them the completed list of all the items promised and paid for.”

Most exciting takeaway: A balance between keeping employees busy and doing high quality work that keeps both clients and employees happy.

Source: SiteStrategics.com


Company: Mozilla

Category: Software/Technology
Spokesperson: Chad Weiner, Senior Director of Marketing Operations
Case study summary: In the true spirit of Agile, Chad and his 100-person team are in the midst of a long-term experiment to test and validate the application of Agile to their marketing practice. Chad has been documenting the journey via a series of posts on Medium, which I strongly recommend reading if you’re looking at a large, enterprise-level Agile transformation.

Like many enterprise teams, they struggled with silos, a deluge of incoming requests, and no objective means of prioritizing their work. Team members tended to hoard information as a means of amassing power, which often negatively affected quality.

This led to what Chad calls Metaprinciple #1: Design the organization to improve the frequency and quality of communication inside the marketing organization.

They were also struggling with the traditional practice of supporting two huge launches each year. In one post Chad recalls that they were “effectively spending twelve months on two big bets. And the cycles were grueling.”

To counteract this problem, they created durable teams of 5-7 people with as many generalists as possible. This style has worked well, but it wasn’t perfect out of the gate. It helped to organize teams based on core KPIs, i.e. improving Firefox retention rates, or important channels, i.e. email. Hiring or growing t-shaped marketers also helps.

They’ve also been employing user stories, a sometimes controversial but still crucial piece of an effective Agile implementation.

Most exciting takeaway: Executive support, a bought-in team, and an educated leader are all key components of a productive Agile marketing experiment.

Sources: Chad’s series of posts on Medium


Company: Deakin University

Spokesperson: Trisca Scott-Branagan, Executive Director of Marketing for the education institution
Case study summary: It wasn’t the lure of Agile that brought Trisca and Deakin to Agile. Instead it was the perfect storm of deadlines. The team had to deliver four programs within a few days of each other, and their existing processes just couldn’t handle it. They made some initial changes, bringing together project-based teams and “chunking down” activities to hit their deadlines.

Then, it was time to embed the Agile way of working across the whole Deakin marketing division. Now all the staff have been trained, and they’re applying Agile to daily tasks as well as project work.

Most exciting takeaways: Increased productivity through staff empowerment, reduced meetings and email, and greater real-time communication

Source: CMO.co.au


Company: Dell

Spokesperson: Greg Davoll, Senior Director of Marketing and Product GM

Case study summary: With nearly 200 people in Dell Software Marketing worldwide, Greg had a lot of ground to cover: SEO, lead generation, channel, web, field marketing, channel marketing, etc. And everybody was doing things a little differently across product lines and portfolios, leading to “disconnect points and gaps” and processes that weren’t repeatable.

To counteract these issues, they reorganized into an Agile marketing formation and combined it with an inbound marketing approach. Over about 7 months they created a worldwide team across all product lines that’s organized into an Agile formation that operates on one-month Sprints.

Most exciting takeaway: Size and complexity aren’t obstacles if the problem is big enough and leadership is committed.

Source: ClearPivot.com


Company: General Mills

Spokesperson: Chris Campbell, Director of Marketing and Sales Solutions
Case study summary: General Mills has founded their Agility in the right place: with their customer and their needs. They’ve then taken three steps to create Agility:

  1. Embrace mobile as the device of choice.
  2. Build a standard set of components that can be deployed across any site.
  3. Invest in “always on” teams.

These teams include marketing, agency, and tech resources that work as a single unit to ensure the customer gets the best possible experience.

Most importantly, everything is founded on hiring amazing people and removing any barriers preventing them from delivering a world-class customer experience.

Most exciting takeaway: Agile is rooted in a desire to deliver for the customer. This holds true for great marketing as well as great software.

Source: ChiefMarTec.com


Company: Santander

Category: Financial
Spokesperson: Keith Moore, Chief Marketing Officer

Case study summary: The traditional marketing cycle of long booking times and lengthy review cycles with agencies wasn’t working for Santander anymore. In their place they adopted a more Agile approach, releasing small, low-risk campaigns in two-week Sprints. Those that were successful got more budget and more attention. Unsuccessful experiments were abandoned.

Now that it’s comfortable experimenting, Santander has expanded its Agile approach. Recent results of an experiment combining its first party CRM data and Facebook data were “staggering,” and the application of those learnings to search, social, and programmatic activity is already delivering amazing results (see takeaways below).

Most exciting takeaways: Their new approach to iterative experiments is delivering measurable results:

  • Loyalty increased 12%
  • NPS (Net Promoter Score) at its highest in 17 years
  • Account satisfaction increased 10%
  • Highest ever positive sentiment at 90%

Sources:
MarketingWeek

Digiday

Thanks to #AgileMarketing, @santanderuk: * Increased loyalty 12% * NPS (Net Promoter Score) highest in 17 years * Account satisfaction increased 10% * Highest ever positive sentiment at 90% Click to Tweet

Company: Sleeknote

Category: Software/Technology
Spokesperson: Sam Thomas Davies, Content Marketing Manager
Case study summary: On the surface, Sam and his team were doing everything right. Shipping content, marketing their product, building links, and generally doing solid marketing. But they knew they weren’t being as efficient as they could be.

So, they turned to Agile marketing and Scrum. They followed four steps:

  1. Choose an application
  2. Plan your Sprint
  3. Add Sprints to your chosen application
  4. Decide on meeting frequency

(Truth be told this sounds more like Scrumban to me…but it’s really a to-may-to to-mah-to situation.)

Sam also gives a detailed walkthrough of their tool of choice, Favro, if you’re looking for guidance on tool selection and implementation.

Most exciting takeaway: “It’s not about getting things done; it’s about getting the right things done and feeling productive rather than busy.”

Source: Sleeknote.com


Company: Alberta Motor Association

Category: Insurance
Spokesperson: Carole Stevenson-Roy
Case study summary: The AMA leadership was looking for a way to kickstart innovation and creativity in their marketing, and so they turned to Agile during a 2017 reorg. With about 40 people spread across multiple interdependent teams, they struggled with dependencies, handoffs, and achieving transparency into their process.

AgileSherpas joined them and helped all the teams redesign their kanban boards, resize the cards being used, and improve their communication across teams (among many other things). We also transitioned the creative services team to a more flow-based Agile approach to try and free them from some of the stress being caused by overloaded sprints.

One of my favorite things we tried with the AMA teams was the creation of Pen column on their boards. This is where all work lives that’s currently outside of the team’s control, and it helps them maintain visibility into its status without the need to stop all work while they’re waiting for feedback.

Most exciting takeaway: The Pen can help mitigate a difficult review process.

Source: Client Engagement


Company: Sunlife Financial

Category: Banking/Financial
Spokesperson: Dave Noyle
Case study summary: Dave and the rest of the marketing team at Sunlife saw the value in Agile marketing, but knew they couldn’t put everything on hold to undergo a huge transformation. Instead they implemented one of the smartest pilot programs I’ve seen, creating a single cross-functional team to work on a finite project as a test case for using Agile.

When that project succeeded they added another Agile team, and then another, incrementally expanding their agility further and further into the department. They’re still early in the process, but Dave (who led the original pilot) and his colleagues have gotten rave reviews from their internal partners. Expect to hear great things from these teams in the near future!

Most exciting takeaway: Pilot teams and projects are excellent proving grounds for Agile marketing’s viability.

Source: Client engagement. See more details in these slides.


Company: ING Netherlands

Category: Banking/Financial
Spokesperson: Nick Jue, CEO
Case study summary: Harried by fintech startups, Nick felt that ING was starting to become an elephant trying to race against greyhounds. He believed it was time for a big change, so he visited some of the world’s most innovative brands: Google, Netflix, Zappos, Spotify, etc. He and his executives then launched 5-6 pilot teams to prove the Agile approach while they simultaneously drew up a whole new structure for the 2,500 employees at the Netherlands headquarters. They modeled themselves on Spotify, creating Squads, Tribes, and Chapters (as illustrated in the video below).

Another big company proving that size isn’t an impediment to Agility, ING is seeing quicker time to market, increased employee engagement, reduced impediments and handoffs, and an improved client experience, even though they’re still early in their transformation.

Most exciting takeaway: The Spotify model can be modified to work outside of software development.

Sources:
BCG.com
McKinsey.com
Frismakers.com
YouTube


Company: Aussie

Category: Banking/Financial
Spokesperson: Richard Burns, general manager of customer experience and technology
Case study summary: This mortgage broker went Agile in a big way, using its $25 million brand relaunch in 2016 to test the approach in its marketing organization. A major catalyst for the transformation was the move to new premises, which were designed to facilitate collaboration within and between all departments.

Equally key was the “comprehensive agile training program” taken by both executive team members and the staff. This provided a solid understanding of the “why” behind the switch as well as the information needed to make it successful.

After 18 months of transformative effort, Aussie now uses 2-week Sprints and combines physical boards with digital project management tools. Each team designs their own board and optimizes their process from Sprint to Sprint, helped along by Scrum masters.

Most exciting takeaway: Building a strong team and culture that’s finally focused on the right priorities.

Source: SimpleHQ


Company: Chemmart

Category: Healthcare/pharmacy
Spokesperson: Darren Gunton, national marketing manager
Case study summary: Darren originally met Agile while working at a national gaming company. So when he joined Chemmart he decided to roll out this alternative process there. His first objective was to tear down silos and reduce hierarchy while also increasing customer focus.

Their marketing activity centers around themed monthly loyalty campaigns designed to drive sales in franchisee-operated pharmacies, as well as loyalty marketing programs that refresh every two weeks. This set up made them an excellent candidate for Scrumban, where they combined two-week sprints with the use of a Kanban board and pull-based work.

Testing and experimentation have become part of the team’s DNA, with A/B tests running constantly and online feedback from customers driving decision making. Chemmart has not, however, sacrificed quality for speed. Their catalogues continue to win awards, and they give each little campaign as much love as they once devoted to their annual big bang campaigns.

Most exciting takeaway: Turnaround times reduced from 2 months to 2 hours, customer satisfaction is up by 50%, and they’ve saved millions by creating an in-house agency.

Source: SimpleHQ


Company: IBM

Category: Technology/Software
Spokesperson: Michelle Peluso, Chief Marketing Officer
Case study summary: In 2016 IBM’s new CMO called the company’s 2600 marketers back into the office only a few years after they’d all been asked to work from home. It was time to trade productivity for innovation, and for Peluso that also meant a focus on Agility. She stated that the newly co-located teams would be going Agile by “creating small empowered teams with the right skills, clear accountability, sprints, and a constant focus on prioritization.” These teams would be cross-functional as well, boasting “a strong mix of creative, process, digital, and data science skills.”

This transition is part of a larger business transformation that has seen IBM spend $380 million on “agile hubs” in Austin, San Francisco, New York, Cambridge, Massachusetts and Raleigh, North Carolina. They’re also investing $1 billion in training and development programs for the US workforce over the next four years.

I heard Michele Peluso speak at DMA’s &Then in 2017, and she was overwhelmingly positive about the success that Agile marketing was having with her team. Hard data on IBM’s transformation remains scarce, but if it surfaces we’ll share it here.

(Incidentally, agility in marketing isn’t new at IBM, as you can see in this 2014 interview with Ben Edwards, then VP of Global Communications and Digital Marketing.)

Most exciting takeaway: With the right budget and level of executive buy-in, you can turn a ship of any size towards great organizational agility.

Sources:
TCV via Medium
Diginomica


Company: CA Technologies

Category: Software/Tech
Spokesperson: Cameron van Orman, Senior VP of Product and Solutions Marketing
Case study summary: The reasons behind CA’s Agile journey were familiar: be faster to market, iterate rapidly, prove their impact on the business, and improve team morale. It’s taken two years and a lot of learning, but CA is now using Agile marketing with over 100 team members across six Delivery Groups, each of which is aligned with a particular Business Unit. Sixty of those team members are full-time and part of the core Agile teams. The rest are leaders, specialists, data scientists, and regional marketers who offer support as needed.

Like many success stories, CA started with a small pilot team. Most members were co-located and worked on a single product: CA Agile Central. They also drew inspiration from the Rally Software marketing team, which they acquired in 2015. Once their pilot proved successful, they expanded steadily over the next 18 months or so.

While pipeline improved, delivery times shrunk, and win-rate tripled, the journey wasn’t without its obstacles. A lack of co-location and marketing work that didn’t lend itself to traditional two-week sprints kept them on their toes, but it was management that had the hardest time. The need to relinquish control and start coaching rather than directing was a tough hurdle in the early days.

Most exciting takeaways:

  • Pipeline improved 20% with a flat budget
  • Campaigns can now be delivered in two weeks rather than 1-2 months
  • Win rate of marketing-sourced opportunities has tripled

Sources:
Cameron’s posts on the CA Blog

The post Agile Marketing Examples & Case Studies appeared first on AgileSherpas.

5 MarTech Trends That Will Evolve Marketing In 2018

If you want to know what will shape marketing in 2018, just look where marketing technology is heading. Today, technology is much more than a dynamic arm of marketing – a sea of martech tools and resources for marketers to pick and choose from and add to their bag of tricks. Martech, the merging of the two disciplines, has become the backbone of everything we do.

What will the trends, triumphs, and the boundary-pushing marketing brilliance of 2018 look like? Here are the primary thrusts in marketing technology that offer clues as to what highlights we should expect over the next 12 months.

And if you are still trying to figure out the basics of platforms, content, conversion, and analytics, contact me here for a free consultation).

Sentiment Analysis with NLP

Natural language processing, or NLP, is being used to judge the sentiment social media users have towards a brand based on text and multimedia data found on social media platforms. When used with demographic information, these insights can lead to better segmenting, making it easier to create a more distinct picture of the ‘who’ in targeted marketing campaigns.

NLP has the power to distinguish those who are likely to make a purchase, abandon a brand, or simply to have a general interest, putting a spotlight on potential leads, prospects, as well as customers that may need some extra effort to maintain brand loyalty.

This type of AI is being used primarily through social media. We’re likely to see marketing managers and CMOs pushing towards more sophisticated social activity – not just to engage customers but to get a clearer picture of buyer sentiment and intent with this technology.

Increasingly Complex Voice Assistants

Gregg Johnson, CEO of call intelligence company, Invoca, relates voice today to what mobile apps were to marketers a decade ago – the next big thing in the way brands communicate with consumers. Johnson predicts that the tech giants behind voice assistants are going to come out with more complex voice platforms – essentially offering not just more ‘stuff,’ but more complex ecosystems for users to engage with. Which means more brands are going to start finding ways to offer high-value content through this still-nascent interface.

When you have Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple experimenting with anything, which means they’re also all competing with each other, you can expect rapid tech developments around the corner. Just look at how fast Amazon’s Skills have developed.

There were more than 25,000 Skills at the end of 2017. This number is going to keep going up as Amazon is making attractive changes, offering developers a new incentive with their recent announcement to offer a paid subscription model for Alexa Skills.

Geolocation with Mobile

The beauty of geolocation is that it allows for real-time engagements – bringing marketers one step closer to the right message, for the right person, at the right time. Geolocation apps allow companies to learn where their customers are when browsing or making purchases. This means, it’s possible to send highly personalized content like discount codes, news, and local offers, precisely when a user enters a certain location.

This will shift marketing in different ways:

  • It’s reopening the debate on consumer privacy – a lot of people don’t want brands to know where they are. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it will push brands to be more sensitive to privacy issues.
  • It’s empowering mobile marketing in profound ways. Geolocation can work on other devices, but its brilliance shines out with mobile. Smartphones, tablets and smartwatches are what people carry on their person – everywhere.
  • It’s raising the bar on the customer experience as consumers become more used to receiving hyper-relevant content – which means content that’s delivered at not quite the right time to not quite the right person is even more likely to go unnoticed.

Augmented Reality as the Norm

Where virtual reality is still a tough area for marketers (it is expensive and, as of 2018, most people aren’t walking around with a VR headset on), a lot of brands are experimenting with AR. Right now this technology is being used in event marketing and by B2C marketing teams who are finding innovative ways for consumers to browse and shop. For example, IKEA’s AR app, which lets customers see how an item will look in their home before they make a purchase.

As more people start seeing what augmented reality is like as more brands develop relevant uses of this technology, consumers will start expecting a more interactive experience to help with their buying decisions.

AI + IoT

AI is connecting the dots, giving marketers revolutionary insights that are helping brands connect with consumers with relevant content. Content that seamlessly seeps into their lives – push notifications, emails, social posts and more, which fit neatly within the way consumers already interact with their digital devices.

This AI martech movement is going to keep heading in the same direction in 2018, at the same exponential pace, creating a more relevant, less disruptive consumer experience. But it’s also going to smash into the rise of the Internet of Things – with a predicted 75 billion connected devices by 2020, devices that are providing more data for computers to learn from – and for marketers to benefit from.

But there is an element of the unpredictable in this clash of the titans. This predicted trajectory is going to put a lot of pressure on marketers to keep pace with evolving consumer expectations. If AI offers marketers too much too quickly, it’s going to give the CMOs who can put this deluge of data and automation to good use a huge advantage over those who can’t handle it.

This means a marked shift in marketing teams as managers will need to bring in more computer science-based skill sets and backgrounds. It also means, every level of marketer will have to get a better grasp on the technology that’s effectively set to take over the industry, and as futurists like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have pointed out, eventually the world. Before AI decides to “take off on its own and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate,” which could “… spell the end of the human race,” we may as well make the most of it and create the best customer experience possible in 2018.

5 Expert Tips to Refine Your Content Marketing Strategy for 2018

Interactive video. Unforgettable live events. Micro-influencers who can pack a trust-building punch.

Are you wondering how you are going to weave all the essential elements of a stellar content marketing strategy for 2018 together to blow your metric marketing goals out of the water and make your customers forget your competition even exists?

With more martech, more boundaries pushed, and more expectations to fulfill, creating successful strategies will probably get, to put it nicely, complicated.

To help stay on the path to forward-thinking, strategic content, here are the tips and insights from today’s greatest minds in content to help you refine your strategy for 2018.

(If you need more in-depth help, contact me today for a free consultation).

Make Your Social Content Better

Want to get more out of your social media content? CEO of Social Media Examiner, Michael Stelzner, interviewed social expert Ian Cleary to discuss the top tools marketers should be using to make their social media marketing more effective in the future.

Here are some of the best resources you can use to refine your social content:

  • Feedly to condense and organize all the blogs and websites you keep up with, such as influencers, industry experts and news. At a glance, you can skim or read to top articles and curate the most relevant content to share with your followers.
  • Lumen5 to quickly and easily create video content out of the text and images in your blog posts. Then, share on your social sites to drive more interest back to your original post.
  • Tack is great if you do live events, or if your brand has a strong Instagram following. It boosts your social proof by making it easy to search for other people’s posts related to your brand, such as your recent event, contests and product launches. It also manages the process of reaching out to see if you can repost their brand advocate content.

Make Your Influencer Content Better

As one of the most potentially potent components of your overall strategy, companies are setting aside tens of thousands a year for their influencer marketing budgets. If you want to get more ‘influence’ for every dollar spent, Lee Odden, marketing veteran and CEO of TopRank Marketing, suggests using micro influencers over those who have mega followings and mass appeal.

Those who have an intimate connection with a smaller group of followers may have a more sustainable and consistent influence over a segment of your company’s market. Odden even recommends going more micro than micro. Thinking outside the box to employees, customers and others, you may be able to develop the most productive influencer relationships.

“Go after a quantity of quality and make sure influencer/brand values align. Go after different niche influencers (community, customer, employees, prospective customers). Not just the big fish in the industry. I think that truth will set free many successful influencer marketing campaigns.”

Make Your Video Content Better

By focusing on the basics. With video marketing, it’s true that fools rush in. With video becoming one of the most essential platforms for engaging with customers, a lot of companies have erred on the side of uncaution, putting energy into creating funny, entertaining videos to capture attention. And maybe even go viral.

Video marketing expert and Executive Creative Director at Supercool Creative, David Murdico warns against this strategy. He suggests focusing on crafting a video campaign that can generate results. One with a clear strategy, measurable goals and a great call to action at the end, not necessarily a great punchline.

“I don’t list ‘developing the creative’ as the first priority because unless you know what you’re trying to achieve with video, who you are trying to reach and what you want to happen when you reach them, you can’t predictively come up with creative that will achieve the goals.”

Make Your Content Team Better

Neil Patel, entrepreneur, author and one of the most recognized minds in marketing, warns of the expanding roles that will be necessary in 2018 and beyond. ‘Content’ has always referred to a broad range of possible offerings, from the traditional text-based blog to gamification, videos and virtual reality. But, the shift we’re seeing is that going forward, a spectrum of content will be the norm, not the exception.

Which means:

“Your company needs to create a broader strategy, with a more diverse group of talent and skills, to meet the demands of your audience.”

Audio and video production and editing, graphic design, campaign management, analytics – more skills equal more potential for dynamism in your content marketing strategy.

Make Your Event Content Better

According to Colleen Bisconti, VP of Global Events for IBM, there’s one word you need to hone in on for event marketing in 2018. Transformation.

“I strongly believe that as event marketers, we need to constantly focus on how we think about, plan and execute events because this industry is moving so fast that those who don’t have a constant focus on transformation are going to be left behind.”

She suggests digging deep into event data, learning:

  • What products or services are people using?
  • What past events have they attended?
  • Do they engage with your brand on social media or in other ways?

And then using this information to create better events, with a focus on an immersive experience.

Technology has changed event marketing by empowering marketers with a wealth of information from data capture, analytics and artificial intelligence. In the future, marketers need to use these insights about what attendees want, to develop customer-focused events – true breakthrough experiences – rather than continuing to create events where the agenda is to tell customers what a brand wants them to hear.

In 2018 and on, in-person events, along with the rest of your content marketing strategy, needs to be about what content the customer is after. What will enhance their lives?

Here’s the thing. There is never one, unified answer. What content the customer values is always evolving. From changing platforms and interfaces (hello Siri) to greater customer sophistication over time, let alone changing market shifts, the data is always going to give us new information. We have to keep up with it to create the best content marketing strategy – at each point in time. And then keeping evolving the strategy.

A Storytelling Approach to Internal Communications

At most companies, internal communications is broken. Emails that no one reads, fliers pinned to bulletin boards no one notices, and all hands meetings in which the entire audience is checking social media on their phones.

Why won’t employees pay attention? Why do they complain about company culture, but never participate in it to make it better?

Almost certainly, it’s because your content is boring.

Internal communications teams and Human Resources must realize they’re competing for attention with everything. EVERYTHING.

Just having video screens by the elevators to broadcast information is not enough.

Just about every company struggles with employee engagement

The numbers from Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workforce study are not pretty. A full 70 percent of American employees are not actively engaged at work. Sixteen percent are so disengaged that they are actively working to undermine the culture of the company; that’s one out of every six employees!

The point is that many employees are not buying what your internal communications team is selling. Too many organizations are stuck in the past when it comes to communications style; today’s workers want company information in the same style they get all of their information—when they want it and how they want it.

That monthly newsletter simply isn’t interesting enough any more.

That methodical, old school style of communication is no longer interesting enough to capture employees’ attention, let alone to grab them by the collar and get them excited about where they work.

In an environment filled with more information that ever before—depending on the study you pay attention to, the amount of content in the world doubles every nine to 24 months—your internal comms content needs to be pretty special to make an impact.

HR is the new marketing

Here’s why it matters. In today’s social media-driven, no-walls world of work, everyone who works at your company is a brand ambassador. No matter what marketing creates, no matter how much money you spend on advertising, what your employees say about the organization carries weight with the outside world.

Storytelling to the rescue

In order to build a connection with your employees, to make them care, you need to be willing to step outside of the established internal communications playbook. You need to have the courage to move beyond facts and reach for their emotions.

You might think that logic will dictate your employees’ actions, and since you, ya know, pay them money, that they’d be on your side. However, that isn’t the way our brains work. In the book Thinking, Fast and Slow, psychologist Daniel Kahneman explains “System 1” and “System 2,” the two types of thinking our brain does. System 1 is the brain’s fast, automatic, emotion-driven decision-making process. System 2 is the slower, harder-working and more logical type of thinking. Guess what? We tend to follow System 1 thinking—it’s just easier.

Studies show that your audience makes purchase decisions based upon emotion rather than logic. And storytelling appeals to this emotion-driven type of decision-making. Stories have the power to get our brains working, get us excited, and get us to feel emotion.

For internal communications, this is a new animal. To create stories that will get your internal folks fired up and excited about where they work, you need a new approach to developing these stories.

Rather than PowerPoint decks with bullet points, you need to create content that has some drama in it—challenges faced and overcome, maybe even winners and losers. It needs to explore the emotional aspects of the subject matter. Your goal should be to make the audience feel something, and make them want to enlist in the cause you’re promoting. Most people are far more likely to remember and believe in something that has an emotion attached to it.

Imagine creating communications that your employees actually look forward to receiving. It’s possible, but it’ll never happen if the communicators don’t change, because the way in which the audience consumes information has already changed. Communicators need to catch up.

Distribution matters

OK, so you’ve bought into the idea that better content will help you create a stronger connection to your employees and make internal communications an organizational strength.

But how do you get the busy people who are your coworkers to actually stop and pay attention to your content?

We once helped a convenience store chain get employees talking about their company values by hiring a wandering minstrel (yes, really) to stroll around a big internal company event with a guitar, signing silly little ditties about their values. Hokey? Maybe. Memorable? Absolutely. Impactful? Definitely. Like any bouncy little tune, it’s hard to get those songs out of your head—even all these years later.

Obviously, the way you choose to transmit your content to the audience has to be in line with the company culture. At a buttoned up accounting firm, the wandering minstrel approach might create the wrong reaction and end up having a negative impact.

However, we believe that “little surprises” go a long way toward the success of any communications campaign. A light-hearted touch here and a splash of humor there, and maybe you start to shake people out of their work-obsessed stupor as they walk down the hall. Maybe you can get them to notice.

For instance, how about Facebook? Yes, everybody is on it, so why not use it? Of course, many people consider Facebook personal, not professional—so you could be crossing a line here; be careful about that. One new solution Facebook is just rolling out is “Groups for Pages,” which allow you to create subgroups on your company’s Facebook page that only internal audiences can access. This is an opportunity to create an open, honest dialogue in the company, create and strengthen bonds, and even gain some insights into what employees care about most.

You could also use internally focused social channels such as Yammer or starting a Wiki. The upside of these types of efforts is that they allow for interactivity and employee participation. However, it may also require that you train employees to embrace a new habit, something that requires extra effort.

Whatever channels you use, how you use them is vitally important—boring content on the coolest platform will fall flat. Always remember that content is the atomic particle of all your communications; it’s what everything is built upon. With that in mind, don’t become a greedy collector of new toys—often you don’t need to pay hefty licensing fees for new technologies, you just need to use the tools you have better.

So, if you have a sleepy intranet or company newsletter, liven them up. There are a couple of ways to do this. One is focusing on immediacy, such as live blogging town hall meetings. Another is giving the rank and file access to the top levels of the company—a weekly internal video or blog post from the CEO. Keep it informal and human. If it’s overly produced or looks like it was written by the entirety of the comms team, it will fall flat.

It’s time to change the way you communicate internally. It’s time to end the days of glazed over eyes pretending to scan the latest memo. It’s time to rally people around your brand and have them embrace what the company is doing.

It’s time for storytelling.

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