Author: dannypeavey

Storybrand brandscript

Why Every Small Business Needs a StoryBrand Brandscript

Do you know why many small business websites are ineffective?

One of the prime reasons is their messaging. They either fail to convey what they’re about clearly, their message doesn’t “hook” their intended audience, or both. You’ve probably seen this yourself – how many websites do you visit where it’s not immediately clear to you what they do?


A StoryBrand Brandscript is here to be a game-changer for small businesses. Your messaging is important and clarity is key. Let’s take a closer look at how building a Storybrand marketing roadmap can help:

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The problem with most website messaging…

When a website isn’t performing as expected, it’s often not that the products or services are substandard, but that the messaging is not well-communicated. You have to remember that the average person is bombarded with marketing messages daily – that’s a lot of noise to contend with!

You might have the best website design on Earth, but if your messaging is an afterthought, it will rarely be effective. This means you can waste a lot of money on marketing materials and activities for little return on investment. The website itself isn’t what sells your products or services, it’s the words, or copywriting that you use.

As Donald Miller, founder of Storybrand says: “the answer to confusion is always no.” When a customer has to work too hard to understand what you offer, they switch off. On the other hand, if you use a simple communication format, it’s much easier for people to digest.

A second motivator that Miller talks about is things that help your customer to “survive and thrive.” It’s an inbuilt human instinct that our brains will promote first – moving from our most base survival instincts to more advanced techniques once those basics are covered.

One of the most basic forms of communication is the story. It’s a mechanism humans have used for generations to make sense of the world around us and to clearly impart some kind of message. As part of the Storybrand message, Miller highlights the importance of being able to tell your story to engage your customers.

Storybrand brandscript

What is a Storybrand Brandscript?

The Storybrand Brandscript is a framework that helps businesses to better engage with their audiences. It is based upon the philosophy that basically all great stories follow a similar “formula.” You see this within the movies that you find memorable and among the most popular novels.

Here’s how Miller explains the flow of every good story:

“A CHARACTER who wants something encounters a PROBLEM before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a GUIDE steps into their lives, gives them a PLAN, and CALLS THEM TO ACTION. That action helps them avoid FAILURE and ends in a SUCCESS.”

Those seven highlighted elements are in nearly every popular fiction book or movie. The formula works and people are used to engaging in this way. For businesses, this means that the further you stray from this predictable formula, the more difficult it will be for prospects to engage with your brand.

Simple messaging

When you have too much to your messaging, or parts that confuse such as rambling or extra copy, the website visitor can be both confused and overwhelmed. This includes the use of jargon that people may not understand.

Miller gives an example from his own customers. Kyle Schulz runs an online photography school. His first launch netted him $25,000 in sales but he felt he could do better. After taking a Storybrand course he replaced photography jargon (such as f-stop) with simple language such as “take those great pictures where the background is blurry.” When he sent a revised round of emails to the same list, he netted $103,000 in sales.

It’s not that you should never have any longer stories, but you should ensure that first communications are straight to the point (Miller suggests you could use a “read more” button on home pages where you want to tell a larger story).

At a basic level, when a visitor arrives on your website, three questions should be answered very quickly to motivate them to engage further:

  1. What do you offer?
  2. How will it make my life better (or What’s In It For Me)?
  3. What do I need to do to buy it?

This is coming back to that “survive and thrive” mechanism. Being concise helps to communicate that message better.

The framework

Keeping this idea of simplicity in mind, here’s a quick outline of each of the seven key elements of the Storybrand framework:

  1. Character. A key piece for businesses to understand is that the CUSTOMER is the hero of the story, not the brand. Your business needs to define what the customer wants and do so in their words. This helps to implant a story question in their minds.

    When you can successfully engage your audience with a question, they want to resolve the plot. The idea is that there is a gap between the customer and what they want, one that you can help them to resolve.

    Defining the customer ambition is critical because it is the source of the story gap. Having a single focus is important because this in turn ensures the solution is simple and specific. Storybrand themselves are an example with “we help you clarify your message and grow your business.” Growing your business is a “survive and thrive” issue…

  2. The problem. Miller’s philosophy is simple: companies tend to sell solutions to external problems; customers buy solutions to internal problems.

    When you can talk frequently about a customer’s problems in their own language, they grow to trust you and believe that you truly understand them. It comes back to that framework too – every good story has a “villain” that must be overcome and the customer’s problems can be personified as such.

  3. The guide. As Miller puts it, customers aren’t looking for another hero, they’re looking for a guide. Your brand is there to offer the role of a trusted guide that offers them the tools to overcome their problems.

    Your messaging should be focused on your customer’s success rather than your own. When your customer wins, you both do.

  4. Have a plan. The bottom line is that this is about trust. People trust guides who have a plan.

    For example, in your business customers are unlikely to commit to a purchase without a plan. You can lay this out in a clear series of steps that helps to guide them to your solution. This helps to bring the customer to that climactic scene in the story where their problems are resolved.

    The plan helps to avoid confusion. If you don’t clearly answer “what do I need to do to buy it?” the customer will probably disappear.

  5. The call to action. As Miller puts it, customers don’t take action unless they are challenged to do so. The hero in a story is often challenged to take action when they are having doubts – the same goes for that customer story. Put simply, calls to action should be simple, clear and repeated.

  6. Avoidance of failure. As the Storybrand principle goes, every human being is trying to avoid a tragic ending. In fact, psychological studies tell us that humans are more powerfully motivated to avoid pain than to seek pleasure.

    As part of your story, remind customers of the potential consequences if they don’t take action. Emphasize that following your plan helps them to avoid that pain.

  7. Success. Be sure to tell people how your brand can change their lives. When you position success, there are three main psychological desires that may be used as appropriate. People want to:


    • Win some sort of power or position/status.
    • Be unified with somebody or something that makes them whole.
    • Experience some self-realization or transcendence that makes them whole.

These seven areas form the basic template of a Brandscript that any small business can use.

Storybrand brandscript

How a Brandscript benefits small businesses

The basic benefits to small businesses of using a Brandscript include:

  • Better use of marketing spend. As Miller puts it, “marketing shouldn’t be a ripoff.” The bottom line of clarifying your brand message IS your bottom line! People buy when the messaging is clear.

  • Better overall results with or without marketing spend. A clearer journey to the conclusion of a purchase helps more people to make that “buy now” decision (just look at the photography website example we mentioned).

  • An engaged audience. The Brandscript format invites people into your story and encourages them to stay. This is a great opportunity for brands to develop long-term, loyal customer relationships.

  • Develop brand evangelists. When you give customers a great overall experience, they tell others about it.

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Final thoughts

We recommend the Storybrand Brandscript for small businesses because it is genius in its simplicity and it gets results. In our experience with website development, messaging is most often the area that needs work. You can hear more from Donald Miller and Storybrand on their podcast here, their website, or by attending a Storybrand workshop.

When you follow the framework Miller and his Storybrand lay out, you develop a story formula that resonates with people. Storytelling and responding to stories is in our DNA – it engages audiences and it improves their understanding.

Website opt-ins

How to Effectively Use Opt-ins on Your Website

Have you ever felt that you’d like to improve your opt-in rates on your website?

Opt-ins remain an important tool for business websites. They get subscribers onto your email list so that you’re able to stay in touch with them and help to progress them through your marketing funnel.

While email marketing can be super-effective once you have people on your list, the first challenge you face is actually getting them there. How do you entice someone to hand over their email address and opt into your list?

Know your audience first

We know, we’ve said this before! However any marketing activity worth doing needs to start with a thorough knowledge of the audience you are targeting. You need to understand what appeals to them and the problems that seem urgent in their eyes.

In terms of website opt-ins, you need to be able to connect the desire to opt-in with something that matters to them or is part of their character. For example, let’s say you have a target audience that largely consists of busy executives. You decide to create a “lead magnet” – a free giveaway in return for their email address. What should you create? 

Considering the description of your target audience and the fact that they’re always busy, in this case you might choose something that is quick to consume but provides them with value. Something like “10 Quick Tips to Improve …”, may be more likely to get read than a 50-page eBook. Of course this isn’t always the case, but you get the picture – you need to create something with broad appeal for your defined audience.

How to create an enticing lead magnet

According to Marketo, 96% of people who arrive on your website aren’t yet ready to buy. This means that capturing their details on that visit is very important. The exchange of an email address becomes the transaction you are looking for.

To get something of value (the email address), generally you need to give something of value. In most cases, this will be a lead magnet – a free piece of useful content – however if you run an ecommerce business, a quick strategy is to offer a discount in exchange for the email address. Here’s an example of a pop-up form from kid’s clothing retailer, Primary, below:

Website opt-ins

The immediate discount offer might work well for products that tend to be everyday needs or of lower-price, but it’s usually not going to work right away for more complex products or services. For example, if you sell a cloud-based software, consulting or something big-ticket, people often want to do more homework before committing.

In terms of devising an effective lead magnet, it can be anything that you like as long as it provides real value to your target audience. This is why you define them first! In fact, step two is to identify a specific value proposition for your lead magnet. Your value proposition will answer to a need of your audience, such as “how do I fix X problem?” 

The most effective lead magnets tend to aim for a quick solution to a very defined problem. They are ultra-specific which helps the target audience to get results more quickly. For example, if you run a business that sells disaster preparedness kits, you might give away a printable checklist that people can mark off before evacuating. It’s simple and it’s directly related to the products being sold.

A lead magnet can help you to demonstrate commitment to solving and a true understanding of a problem. This helps you to build the trust of the target audience. If you can get them some kind of quick win, they may trust your paid products or services.

We like how Jon Morrow puts it here:

“On an opt in page, you want the copy to be as short as possible. One litmus test is if what you are offering requires more than a headline to explain, it’s too abstract. It’s not familiar enough, it’s not obvious enough!”

Lastly, when we talk about effective lead magnets, we have to talk about format. Yours may take any format that you like, but it’s important that you play to your own strengths, particularly if you’re creating it yourself. If you’re not great at writing but love video, then look at a video format, and vice versa. 

Aiming for rapid consumption tends to also be effective. So if you’re producing a video, keep it short and punchy, serving a clear purpose in a small amount of time. Think about those buyer personas and whether or not they are likely to spend a lot of time consuming a piece of content.

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How to get that email address

You’ve created a lead magnet (or other type of offer), but now you need to actually get your website visitors to sign up for it. This is where presentation is everything.

Think about what entices you when you’re choosing something. The saying goes not to “judge a book by its cover,” but the truth is we do. When a visitor arrives on your website, they usually can’t see the valuable content inside your lead magnet, only the outer packaging which is only unwrapped once they opt-in.

Website visitors will either get to your lead magnet via an opt-in form that could be placed anywhere on your website, or via a dedicated landing page. This second option is usually useful if you’re trying to get opt-ins from paid ads or from social media posts. It makes sense to direct them to a purpose-built page rather than straight to your website where there are all sorts of other distractions.

Whether you have a website, landing page or both, there are some key elements to include that help you to get that email address:

  1. Attention ratio
  2. Enticing copy
  3. Attractive design

Attention ratio

Unbounce defines attention ratio as “the ratio of the number of things you can do on a given page to the number of things you should do.” Any landing page should have a 1:1 ratio, denoting one key goal of the page. When you’re talking about an opt-in form on your home page or anywhere else on your website, your ratio might be more like 10:1.

Your aim is to keep that attention ratio low and guide visitors to taking the action you want – opting in. Too many distractions can impact your opt-in rate negatively because people don’t pay attention to it.

Tips for improving attention ratios include:

  • Having one clear call to action
  • Using elements that draw attention to the sign-up form, such as pictures or an arrow
  • Using pop-ups or top bar forms
  • Reducing the number of elements on your page

Enticing copy

The written copy you produce plays a vital role in enticing people to take the next step. Whether on a landing page or as part of a sign-up form, the place to start is with your headline copy.

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” David Ogilvy

Successful headlines tend to tell the visitor what they’ll get out of taking action, stand out and compel them to take action. Depending on the complexity of what you’re offering (and remember, the idea is not to be too complex), you may include a subheadline as well.

Melanie Duncan’s “4-U” formula provides a simple way to craft compelling headlines. The basic elements are shown in the image (borrowed from her website) below:

  • Useful = it solves a problem the target audience has (“Get More Opt-Ins With 5 Simple Steps”)
  • Urgent = language that indicates time or avoidance of a serious pain (“This Common Household Cleaner May Cause Asthma in Your Children”)
  • Unique = use of words that are interesting or novel
  • Ultra-specific = you hone in on the specifics. For example, instead of just “8 Marketing Tips for Small Businesses,” you might have “8 Killer Email Marketing Tips for Small Businesses.”

Any other copy you use should only be support the “big why” for visitors to opt-in. It comes back to that attention ratio – rambling won’t help you to keep people’s attention. 

Attractive design

Your visual design plays a big role in enticing people to opt-in. To start with, you might use contrasting colors that, while they still go with your overall look, help your opt-in form to stand out. For example, perhaps you use a contrasting border color, or fill color.

Another design element might include directional clues, such as arrows pointing to your form. A person’s eyes will naturally follow to the point of an arrow, drawing them in. Think also about your button design, using contrasting colors and stand-out shapes to make them obvious.

The type and placement of your form is also important. This is something you can test to learn more about what appeals to your audience. “Behavioral marketing” is the term used when you set up marketing strategies based on behavior you have observed (such as with Google Analytics). 

To give you an example, pop-ups can be very effective – they can also be very annoying! Timing tends to be the key. If visitors are hit with a pop-up the second they get to your website, that’s when they tend to get dismissed immediately. Waiting until they’ve had an opportunity to look at what they came for can be a better strategy.

A floating bar is another way to display your opt-in form that can be quite effective. Sidebar forms can work too, however, they’re also prone to people’s “banner blindness.”

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Final thoughts

Opt-ins can form a key part of your lead generation strategy, allowing you to build an email list as well as grow your visibility and trust with your target audience.

The key with any opt-in is that you must be giving people a good reason to subscribe and you must “package” the opt-in enticingly. For example, you should solve a specific problem that they have, giving them a quick win, and making it obvious how they should proceed to get your lead magnet.

Play to your strengths and showcase what makes you wonderful. This way you can make the best use of opt-ins on your website.

Marketing funnels

8 Essential Automations For Effective Marketing Funnels

Automating your marketing funnel can have ongoing benefits for your business.

Wouldn’t it be nice to gather leads, nurture prospects and lead people to buy from you, all with automated processes? 

It might sound a bit robotic for dealing with humans, but the truth is, if it’s done well, marketing automation can be a very effective way of ensuring you keep up engagement with leads and see more sales as a result.

Let’s talk about your marketing funnel and what you can do to simplify it with automation:

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The marketing funnel

Let’s start with the basics of a marketing funnel. You may also hear it called a conversion funnel or sales funnel. It’s core purpose is to nurture potential customers, from lead generation through to making a purchase.

The marketing funnel is depicted with different stages, with marketing activities strategically selected to be the most appropriate for each particular stage. This is an important concept to grasp – you need to ensure that you have each stage of the funnel covered when it comes to marketing strategy. Someone who is very familiar with your product needs something more than basic, “here is what we do” content, for example.

Below is a diagram of the marketing funnel, taken from ActiveTrail. It depicts the basic stages of a marketing funnel. You’ll see slightly modified takes out there, but essentially all of them are outlining how a new customer takes a journey from learning about your business, to making a purchase from it:

Marketing funnels

A marketing funnel that has been well-planned can work like a machine for lead generation and sales, which is where automation is a big help. Your marketing funnel may be very basic to begin with, but as businesses learn more about what works for them, they often want to add more complexity and function to their funnel.

Typical activities for stages of the marketing funnel

The marketing funnel has some clearly defined stages, with different activities suitable for each:

  • Awareness – This is the stage of the funnel that potential customers enter upon lead generation. So for example, they might have clicked on your social media ad, been directed to a landing page and then signed up for some type of content.

    A critical step at the awareness stage is segmentation of leads, ensuring that people get the most appropriate nurturing for their needs. This is especially true if you have multiple “personas” in your target audience, or different products and services.

    At the awareness stage, prospective customers are seeing you for the first time. You need to be able to quickly position your brand as a “preferred” alternative to others. You demonstrate authority and start to build the trust of new customers. Typically, you don’t come on strong with a sales message.

  • Consideration – During this stage, you have the attention of your potential customers. They’re aware of who you are and what you do and they’re interested to know more. You will have lost some leads that came in who may have decided you’re not a good fit. This is why the funnel gets narrower as it progresses: you expect to lose some potential customers along the way.

    Your aim here is to cultivate further interest and lead people to more detailed information about your products or services. Some typical activities might include producing content that talks about how to choose products or services like yours or what to beware of.

  • Decision – This is the “action stage” of the funnel, where the new customer decides whether to buy or not. In marketing terminology, this is where prospects go from being “marketing qualified leads” to “sales qualified leads.” The sales team will usually get involved at this stage (if you have separate teams – otherwise, you switch to sales mode!)

    The prospective customer is likely to be comparing what you offer to what competitors offer. Your job is to make the decision to go with your business as frictionless as possible. Typically, you might do things like incentivize the decision to make a purchase, or make yourself available for consultation.

Why automate your marketing funnel?

We will readily admit that building and fine-tuning an effective sales funnel can take some work, but the core point is that it will save you more work in the long-run.

An automated marketing funnel will:

  1. Allow you or your team to spend less time on menial tasks. There are a lot of small things that soon add up to large amounts of time that can be automated.

  2. Lower your labor costs. You need less people hours spent on menial tasks.

  3. Allow you to focus on more high-value tasks. For example, you could be having sales conversations with prospects instead of manually sending out emails.

  4. Improve your customer service. You can’t get to everyone right away, but an automated system can.

  5. Allow you to generate better leads. As you learn more about what works, you will notice patterns that help indicate how you might attract the right people.

8 automations for marketing funnels

Automation really is a key secret to successful marketing strategy. An important part of this process is that you should be so tuned into who your customers are and what interests them, that your automated processes seem natural to them.

Here are some automations for your marketing funnel, broken down by stages:

Awareness

#1. Social media 

Did you know that 1.47 billion people log into Facebook daily? Social media has a big role to play in building awareness, and while you can’t (and shouldn’t) automate it completely, you can help ensure consistency with automation.

In fact, consistency is one of the keys to getting results with social media. But maintaining a consistent schedule takes time and effort that business owners often don’t have to spare. A solution is to schedule social media posts using a tool such as Buffer, Hootsuite or Sprout Social. There are free versions available for businesses that don’t have a high volume requirement for posting.

The idea is that you can devote a chunk of time to curating and scheduling social media posts, rather than trying to post in-the-moment daily. It’s important to remember that while you can automate posts, you should still stay in touch and be ready to respond to any comments.

Of course, another big part of social media is the ability to use paid advertising. This is another aspect with great automation tools built in, like allowing you to schedule ads and to automatically adjust aspects such as pricing. You should also take the time to carefully target your ads, so that they’re automatically shown to people who are a good fit for your business.

Marketing funnels

#2. Lead generation

Whether it’s via social media, your website or paid advertising, you should always have an efficient method of lead generation. The idea is that you should be able to build an email list of potential customers so that you can engage them through email marketing later.

There are actually multiple ways you might automate lead generation into your marketing funnel. For example you might:

  • Set up gated content or a “lead magnet” on your website. Visitors have the option of filling out a form to access the content, while their form details are automatically added to your email program or CRM system.

  • Set up a specific landing page that you can direct people to from social media or other channels. They fill out the landing page form and it gives them access to content, a webinar or some other type of valuable resource.

  • Use a lead generation tool such as ClickFunnels. Paid programs like this are designed to make setting up your funnel easy.

#3. Lead segmentation

As we mentioned earlier, segmenting your leads into appropriate groups is a critical task. Segmentation allows you to nurture leads in a way that is most relevant to them, rather than simply blasting the same email out to everyone.

Let’s take our One Week Website web packages as an example. The One Week Website package is targeted toward new business owners who need a simple starter website, however the One Month Website package targets small business owners who want a new website built from scratch. Typically, the second group will be more established than the first and may want to go beyond basics on a website.

These are two distinct groups, so it makes sense to identify which group a lead belongs to then send content that will be the most relevant. There are some things that will interest one group, but not the other.

Segmentation can be automated using your email management tool (such as Drip, Mailchimp or AWeber). Most of the simpler email management tools only offer a basic level of segmentation (such as assigning a tag to the lead to designate where they came from). Some of the bigger CRM tools (Ontraport, Zoho etc.) will offer more complex segmentation, allowing you to slice up your list in many different ways.

Here are some basic ways you might segment your list:

  • By how they got there. For example, if they signed up for a particular lead magnet or attended an event.

  • By preferences shown. For example, showing interest in certain topics or products.

  • By actions taken – attending webinars, making a purchase, downloading something…

  • By demographic information. 

The “how to” for setting up segmentation will vary depending on the email provider you use. At a basic level, you set up rules that either add a tag to the person for easy segmentation, or put them on a certain list.

Consideration

#4. Content curation and creation

Content marketing usually forms the backbone of the consideration segment of the marketing funnel. Your aim is to be seen as an expert in your particular area by putting out valuable content on a regular schedule.

Artificial Intelligence and other technologies are getting more and more sophisticated, but we’re not suggesting that you can automate the entire content creation process. While there are some tools out there that will write, in their current incarnation, they can only handle rudimentary pieces like sports recaps.

There are some things you can set up automations for to help with your content curation and creation though, including:

  • Tools that recommend topics and content ideas. For example, BuzzSumo allows you to see the most popular content on any given topic.

  • Tools that allow you to set up automated alerts, which help you to curate content for sharing or gathering ideas. For example, you can set up Google Alerts for topics you are interested in.

  • Tools that assess your content. For example, Headline Analyzer will score how effective your headline is, while Clearscope will scan your post and score you based on your use of keywords for SEO.

  • Content posting and sharing automation. For example, you can schedule blog posts ahead of time in WordPress and set up automations that trigger email and social media once it has published.

#5. Email campaigns

One of your most effective nurturing strategies throughout the marketing funnel will be use of email marketing (that is, if you write good emails!). Like other marketing strategies, consistency is important because it helps to keep you recognized by potential customers.

Email campaign automations are one of the best ways to maintain your consistency while keeping up engagement. Here are some things to automate, using your email service provider (or CRM):

  • Welcome emails. If someone signs up to your list, you should always acknowledge their presence by sending an email. Make the best use of your welcome email by including information of value, such as how to follow you on social media or some suggested content.

  • Email drip sequences. For example, perhaps the potential customer signs up for a lead magnet, which triggers an email sequence being sent to them. Each email should have a clear point and deliver value to the subscriber.

  • Email contingencies. This means the sending of emails based on action (or even inaction). For example, you can set up automated rules that send a certain email to everyone who opened a previous email, and a different email to those who didn’t open the email.

  • Re-engagement emails. If your email system can manage it, you can create a segment of people who haven’t opened any emails within a certain period. You then automatically target them with a few emails designed to get them re-engaged. If you get no response out of that, you can have them automatically removed from your list. This helps to keep your engagement statistics looking healthy and ensure that you focus your energies on those who want to be there. 

Note: You might also send these emails for other stages of the funnel too.

Marketing funnels

Decision

#6. Emails for the Decision stage

We’re giving this its own section, separate to the last one on emails because here we’re talking about emails that are particular to the decision stage. The prospective customer is now at the bottom of the funnel and they’re either going to decide to buy now, to wait until later, or not to buy at all.

Here are some typical emails that you can automate for this stage:

  • Invitations to book a consultation or demonstration
  • Special offers or discounts
  • Abandoned cart emails. These seek to remind the customer that they left something in the cart and encourage them to return to complete their purchase. Some businesses choose to offer an incentive, some don’t.
  • Emails that highlight case studies or testimonials, helping the decision along.
  • The “last chance” email, where you remind the prospect that an offer is about to expire.
  • The “thank you” email after purchase. This might offer additional value such as tips for getting started or links to useful resources.
  • Follow-up surveys to gather feedback.

#7. Upsells

Promoting upsells is a smart way to increase revenue without having to find new customers. In fact, you’re more likely to sell to someone who already bought than one who hasn’t purchased yet. 

If you’ve been on ecommerce sites such as Amazon where you see recommendations like “people who bought this also bought …”, then you’ve seen automated upselling in action. There are a few ways to automate the upsell:

  • Offer the upsell during the checkout sequence. For example, “try our premium service for one month at no extra cost,” “get a second widget at 50% off,” “upgrade to business class for just $500 extra,” “add a two year warranty for $60.” Your cart software should be able to help you to do this.

  • Have an upsell widget in place on your website to make automated recommendations. For example, “people who viewed this product also looked at …” or “frequently bought with this product …”

  • Have an automated email upsell after the sale. For example, Air New Zealand has a program known as “One Up.” This offers passengers the chance to bid on a seat upgrade to the next cabin class up. Emails are automatically sent out offering One Up and customers are alerted a few days before their flight if they’ve made a successful bid.

    Hint: You will tend to have better success if you’re pitching the new customer on an idea that will help them rather than “spend more money now.” For example, if you sell leather belts you might say something like: “keep your new belt in top condition with this quality leather cleaner.”

    Note: Your email upsell or cross-sell offers could lead into new automated email sequences.

#8. Retargeting

Retargeting is the step where you aim to bring back people who have visited your website or viewed your ad. It basically means that you “follow” them around the internet (in a non-stalker way, of course!).

You have probably seen retargeting in action before. Maybe you liked one post for a brand on Facebook then noticed their ads popping up later, or perhaps you visited a website then saw PPC ads for that same website appear elsewhere. Retargeting is about being visible to prospective customers in the hopes that they’ll come back.

Here are some ways to automate your retargeting:

  • Facebook pixel. You input this pixel into your website and set up event tracking so that actions can be triggered by events. You also clearly define the audience you wish to target to guide back to your funnel.

    The Facebook pixel will track all events on your website and show corresponding ads to users who meet your defined profile. You can get quite granular with your targeting, setting up rules such as for people who visited a certain page within a certain number of days and took a certain action.

  • AdWords remarketing ads. These are good to set up for people who abandoned the shopping cart, visited your page or signed up, but then left. If you’re using AdWords remarketing for the first time, you’ll need to set up a remarketing list.

    You can automate the bidding for your ads if you’d like, but anyone who is budget-conscious may want to select manual bidding to avoid any surprises.

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Final thoughts

An effective marketing funnel is an automation machine, yet maintains a balance as a “human” voice to engage with prospective customers. Before getting started on automating a sales funnel, it’s important to set goals for each stage and to have a good understanding of what will appeal to your target audience.

A great place to start is simply by mapping out your funnel on paper. Start with how you will generate leads and what you’ll use to entice them, then look at addressing content interests and needs. Always aim to be able to keep up communication with leads and nurture their trust.

Finally, remember to consider what happens once a customer has been through your marketing funnel and made a purchase. There’s often a good opportunity to continue to nurture them and foster loyalty. This is another great area to use those email automations. The bottom line is that it’s much easier to keep the customers you already have than to gain a new one!

Clutch Names One Week Website Top Georgia Design Agency

For the last 2 years, One Week Marketing has helped small business owners get a website they love so they can spend more time working on their business. We believe that a great website shouldn’t take forever to create, cost a fortune, or stress you out. Recently, Clutch.co recognized our work as they named us as a leading B2B agency in Georgia under the creative and design category!

Clutch is a B2B site that meticulously rates and reviews agencies in various industries. They aim to unite businesses with the best-fit agency or service provider to resolve a specific need. Based on their unique method, they rank thousands of companies by evaluating their client feedback, market leadership and knowledge, project management style, and ability to deliver upon diverse and demanding projects. Based on Clutch’s analysis, we were ranked in their 2019 B2B report, and #2 in their Leaders Matrix out of over 400 other web designers in Georgia.

Along with being ranked highly on the platform, our success extends to Clutch’s sister-sites: The Manifest and Visual Objects. Our work is listed on The Manifest, along with state-of-tech news and how-to guides. Businesses may utilize the platform to simplify their hunt for solutions providers. Likewise, Visual Objects visualizes future projects for buyers. You can see ours here.

It is unquestionably an honor to have received this prestigious award from Clutch! We’d like to thank them, as well as our clients, for taking the time to thoroughly review our innovative web services. If you’d like to learn more about our services, check out our Clutch profile.

Market research

How to Conduct Market Research for Your Business Idea

Great business ideas often hit in the spur of the moment. An idea strikes you while you’re taking a shower, or chatting with a friend at a bar.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and go full-steam ahead, but how do you really know it’s a great business idea?

Market research is one of the first steps you should take, well before you invest a whole lot of time and money into development or manufacturing products. The most successful businesses tend to understand their market very well and position themselves to operate successfully in it.

Here are a few tips for doing your market research:

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Use primary and secondary research

There are two main types of market research businesses can use; primary research and secondary research. Here’s what they comprise of:

  • Primary research – This is all the research activities you can conduct where you gather first-hand information. For example; focus groups, phone interviews and online surveys.

  • Secondary research – This is all the research activities you can conduct where you gather public, commercial or internal data. For example; government records, data from research agencies, market data your organization has gathered in-house (if you already own a business).

Both types of data can be useful for your market research. While primary data can allow you to get more specific, micro-level data, secondary sources are good for analyzing market trends and potential size.

Market research

Clearly define who your buyer is

The best business ideas tend to solve a problem or fulfill a need better than what any other option on the market is offering.  You need to have a clear idea of who your target buyer is that needs that problem solved.

Buyer personas are a great tool for clearly defining who your business idea will be targeting. These fictional “characters” are outlined with as much detail as possible so that you can even make an assessment of any subgroups. You’ll want to define demographic, geographic and psychographic points about your persona/s.

Doing this helps you to visualize your audience and determine who you should be researching and talking to as you continue with your market research.

Determine the size of the market

Determining the size of your market is critical. You and any partners need to understand how much business is potentially out there. If you’re going to pitch investors, this is something they absolutely will want to know. In fact, market size is one of the most basic measures that every VC or individual investor requires.

Market size is determined by the number of potential customers (those you defined in your buyer persona/s) or the number of transactions expected in a year. For example, if you are selling something that almost everyone uses (soap, toothbrushes, sunscreen…), then a forecast of transactions per year is appropriate.

If you’re going to pitch investors, an expectation will be to show projections out to three years. In doing this, account for organic growth and for any expected roll-outs into other geographic areas.

No startup should expect to gain 100% market share, which is why determining your niche or addressable market is important. Expecting to capture somewhere in the range of 1 – 5% of the addressable market usually suggests a realistic outlook. 

Get data on your potential market size from:

  • Census and Labour Bureau
  • Local real estate data
  • Local demographic information
  • Surveys and focus groups.

Importantly, when you gather primary data you really want to understand whether there is demand for a solution like yours. Aim for a mix of participants to engage in market research activities. Ask open-ended questions so that people are free to give their own full answer. (HubSpot gives a great list of examples here).

Market saturation is a situation where the volume of a product or service has reached a maximum in its current state. One way to determine whether a market might be saturated already is to look at its growth. Any market that is fast-growing typically has room for new suppliers, but if it remains steady or has stagnated, it can be a sign that the market has reached saturation (unless your solution is radically different or solves problems that competitor’s solutions do not).

Conduct competitor analysis

A competitive analysis is the process of analyzing and categorizing your competitors’ relative strengths and weaknesses as compared to your own. You need to be able to make an honest determination: can we really compete?

Here are a few steps to go through:

  1. Determine who your competitors are. Remember that these might be direct competitors who offer similar products or services to the same target audience within the same areas, or indirect competitors – companies who are similar but perhaps targeting a different need or purpose.

    You could start by listing any who you already know of, then search Google to find any others. Use specific keywords that describe your proposed company such as “project management software,” “marketing agency in Atlanta,” or “donut shop in Des Moines.” Look for the results that come up on the first two to three pages, as well as any paid ads.

    Other ideas for determining your competitors include; asking target customers, looking at the advertisements in trade publications, checking social media and online forums, looking at member lists for trade associations.

  2. For each competitor look at points such as:

    1. Revenue
    2. Customer numbers
    3. Size and location/s
    4. Products and services
    5. Their USP (Unique Selling Proposition)
    6. Number of employees
    7. Websites and social channels
    8. Company history
    9. Financial reports
    10. Marketing messaging (website, social media, content, advertising, product copy…)
    11. Company reviews
    12. Pricing
    13. The audience they are talking to
    14. SEO – keywords, ranking, links and domains
    15. Brand awareness among target market.

      Determine strengths and weaknesses for each of these points.

  3. Honestly compare with your own product or service and the resources you have available. For example, maybe you have some kind of proprietary technology that will make your offer solve the customer problem better. Maybe you have features that competitors don’t yet have.

    Remember too, just because there are some big players in your market doesn’t mean that there’s no hope for you. Many startups have had success because they were able to be agile, to move quickly and solve a problem more efficiently than a behemoth competitor.
Market research

Test your idea

There are many ways to test a business idea without spending a ton of money on setup, coding or manufacturing. For example, we know of a local donut shop that started out by creating social media pages that showcased their marvelous creations. They got an inexpensive permit for a home kitchen and offered deliveries of their donuts. They also setup at local farmer’s markets and craft fairs. The popularity of their product first lead to renting space at a popular hotel, then moving on to a bigger stand-alone store once their business established a strong following.

With other types of products or services you may be able to setup a landing page to gauge potential interest (remember that handing over an email address doesn’t mean they’ll automatically buy!). Drive targeted traffic to the landing page to gather interest. We know of a monthly subscription box service that did this, converting about 18% of their initial email list into buyers later. Part of their secret was to keep up communication once people signed onto the list. They kept them updated with what was happening so people knew to expect a launch.

If yours is a technology startup, you can invite beta users to give you feedback, right from the first couple of features being coded. This helps you to get good feedback before you’ve gone too far into creating the product.

You may even be able to test inexpensively through an activity that you are going to do anyway. In his book 100 Side Hustles, Chris Guillebeau features Peg Donovan, an operations manager from Portland, Maine who makes at least $2k per month from her side hustle. Where she lives, IKEA is popular but is an almost five-hour round trip. Deliveries are expensive, often costing more than the item ordered.

Peg’s idea was to charge a delivery fee for picking up people’s orders. This way, she makes a profit while they save money on delivery. How did she test this? Simply by telling colleagues at work that she was going to IKEA and asking if they needed anything picked up. Several people did and her business was born.

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Final thoughts

Market research is an essential part of setting up your business for success. It’s important to do and to do thoroughly, but don’t get so caught up in it that you end up with “analysis paralysis.”

Here’s a thought on that from SCORE:

“Once you start researching using free resources online, it’s so easy to get carried away. Set a timer for each research session to keep you on task and prevent you from getting overwhelmed.”

Be thorough and know the key data points, even if you’re not seeking investors. Lastly, if you feel like you’re too close and attached to an idea, seek a third-party mentor to help you sift through the data. It’s often helpful to have that third-party that has no “skin in the game.”

Website user experience

7 Reasons Your Website User Experience Sucks

Do you feel your website could be giving you better results?

If your website really isn’t delivering what you’d expect and you’re getting plenty of traffic, it’s time to cast an eye toward your user experience. Does your website user experience truly suck?

User experience (or UX) refers to the experience a user has when interacting with your website. UX design aims to enhance customer satisfaction, loyalty, usability and ease of use. It is something that often evolves over time through user testing and website updates.

The thing is, if user experience is bad, no amount of marketing will repair your results. People come to your website, they get frustrated and they leave. The bottom line for small businesses is that you can waste a lot of money if a poor user experience isn’t fixed.

So, what should you be on the lookout for? Here are some common user experience issues:

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#1. Missing the point upfront

Have you ever landed on a website then been thoroughly confused over what they’re actually about? Perhaps you make the effort to scroll or click a little further, but many website users will not.

A lot of businesses absolutely flood their websites with text, imagery and multimedia elements, but that’s not necessarily what someone wants to see upfront. They want to know the bare bones. “We build WordPress websites for small businesses,” or “We create Facebook marketing campaigns for B2B companies” – these are examples of getting right to the point.

That other content – the videos, the text and imagery is useful in a supporting role. This means that once people understand what you do, they then look for the how’s and the why’s.

A related UX mistake is when companies try to be a bit too clever with their messaging. Maybe they’re trying to be cute and unique, but this often gets lost in translation. The key to remember here is that a complete stranger should understand what you’re about within seconds. In fact, an assessment of the visual appeal of your website can be made within 50 milliseconds

#2. Confusing layout or site navigation

Every person who lands on your website takes some type of journey with it. For some, it will be to almost immediately click away, while others may try to go further. Importantly, you want people to take the path that achieves the goals you have for the website.

A key tip is that if you want people to take that route, it should be obvious! If we take landing pages as an example, the best pages have one goal and are set up to effectively support it (“sign up here” or something similar).

Your website as a whole will be broader than a landing page, but it should make it clear where people are supposed to go and where they can find the information they need. Confusing site navigation or even too many choices can overwhelm people and lead them away.

This is an area where user testing a website can provide valuable insights. Do random users go exactly where you’d expect them to? Can they find what they’re looking for or do they end up confused?

A second tip is to monitor which pages on your website are the most popular and ensure you optimize those pages. For example, this Hubspot article emphasizes the importance of Home, About, Blog and Contact pages. These represent some of the most popular pages on any website.

#3. Slow load speeds

The load speed of your web pages can have a real impact on users. A decade or more ago, we were used to having to wait for things to load. If there were just a few images on a page it could take a long time, but we waited because that was the norm back then.

These days, expectations of speed are much higher. We know how quickly a high-performing website can load, so we tend to lack patience for slow speeds. Many people will simply give up when a page doesn’t load as quickly as they’d like.

Google Webmasters emphasizes the importance of load speeds as a ranking factor. Google looks at factors that impact user experience because they want to deliver the best results possible to those searching. So if your website is slow, you can be hit with a double-whammy. Not only do people who find you leave, but Google penalizes your site in search results.

Some factors that can impact load speeds include:

  • Use of images that haven’t been appropriately compressed for the web
  • Poor website coding
  • Plugins or add-ons running cumbersome scripts
  • Overloaded servers
  • Website redirects

With regard to mobile page load speeds, Google produced the graphic below which is worth paying attention to:

Website user experience

#4. Poor mobile experience

Not so long ago, having a website optimized for mobile usage was optional – it’s now a necessity. The problem is that there are still a lot of business websites out there that haven’t caught up!

In 2018, mobile share of website visits was at 52.2% globally. In some regions, that figure was even higher, with Asia at 65.1%. You can see from Statista’s graphic below that mobile share shows a pattern of growth year after year:

Website user experience

If a mobile user lands on your website then finds that they can’t easily navigate it, or they have to pinch or expand screens to navigate, that creates a poor experience.

To check your website, Google offers a free mobile-friendly test where you simply enter the URL of the website you’d like to test.

#5. Important information missing or hard to find

Let’s say you’re looking to buy something – what information do you need to know before finally handing over payment? There might be things like warranties, guarantees, information on how the product is constructed, what it includes, whether you can return it…

Where important information is missing or hard to find, it creates a poor user experience. This can be compounded even further by not having good “help” or “contact” functions in place. For example, an ecommerce site might set up a chat system so that people can immediately ask a question as they go.

If we look at potential website goals other than making a sale, such as getting people to opt-in to your email list, they still need key questions answered. Critically, it’s about the benefits to the customer! “What’s in it for me?” should be answered on every business website.

To avoid this situation, take a step back and list the critical questions that a website visitor may need answered. Start with these when you’re piecing together the information required, and consider how you will make it easy to find. As an example, warranties or return policies might be linked on every product page.

#6. Opt-ins not used strategically

Did you know that the majority of first-time visits to a website do not end in a sale? One study found that around 92% of consumers will visit a brand’s website for the first time for reasons other than making a purchase (for example, comparing products or services).

One of the best ways to get that sale in the future is to ensure you can follow up with the visitor. Having an opt-in form so that you can sign them up for email marketing from your company is a good way of doing that, and yet, many business websites don’t have one!

If you don’t have a way of opting people in, quite simply, you’re leaving money on the table. Effective follow-up is a time-honored sales technique and you don’t have that option. From a user’s perspective, people like to be kept updated on things they’re interested in!

The second part of this from a user experience perspective is where opt-ins are used, but they’re either hard to use, hard to find or far too prevalent! For example, barriers to using a sign-up form might include asking for too much information or a form that hasn’t been optimized for mobile use.

Some businesses go overboard with pop-ups all over the place. It’s not that pop-ups never work – they have their place when done right and can convert quite well. User experience falls down when those pop-ups are perceived as too invasive or spammy. There is nothing more irritating when you’re trying to read a piece of content than having a pop-up repeatedly in your face.

#7. Website content fails to engage

There can be any number of reasons for which website content is the culprit behind a poor user experience. Here are some of those:

  • There is so much content on key pages that it is overwhelming. Blog posts and articles are expected to be heavy on content, but on pages such as the Home page and other informational pages, people want to be able to digest information quickly.

  • Content formatting is difficult to read. Big chunks of text are hard to read and tiresome. The point is often lost somewhere in a sea of words. Be careful of layout too – some choppy layouts also make content difficult to follow.

  • The content is boring! One of the best ways to engage your audience through content is to understand who they are and what will appeal to them.

  • Lack of clarity about what to do next. Each page on your website should have a clear purpose. Calls to action should be clear and easy to follow. On landing pages, try to have CTAs “above the fold” so that people don’t have to scroll to find them.

  • The content is spammy. People are turned off by irrelevant ads and poorly written “fluff” content.

The underlying solution is that all content should be purposeful on your site. Consider the goals for your website overall and for each individual page, then craft content to serve those goals.

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Final thoughts

User experience is everything when it comes to having a successful business website. If your website is getting reasonable traffic but still failing to get results, it may be time to take a serious look at your user experience.

A website should be easy for visitors to use and visually appealing. It should serve up information that is clear, formatted well and easy to find. The website should also perform well technically so that the experience is smooth.

User testing is a handy way to figure out any issues with your user experience. It can be very much worth the investment to get better results.

Email marketing best practices 2019

How to Get Results from Email Marketing in 2019

Email has been around for decades. The first email was sent in 1971. By the late 1990’s, adoption of email had soared.

Twenty years later, we’ve seen many incarnations of email marketing as technology has changed and marketers have had to find new ways to reach their audiences. We frequently hear claims that email is a dying channel, yet this doesn’t play out in research.

Email marketing best practices for 2019 are another evolution in the cycle, although there is a crucial element that remains unchanged; effective email content is about your audience.  Here we’re outlining some key challenges and best practices for email marketing strategy in 2019:

The audience for email campaigns

The rumors of the death of email marketing have so far proven to be just that – rumors. There is still a significant audience for email marketing. In fact, take a look at these stats from OptinMonster – the audience is basically anyone over 15-years-old!

Email marketing best practices 2019

One of the important basic steps to take with any sort of marketing strategy is to clearly define who your target audience is first. Email is still relevant and used by most customer types you can think of, but it won’t be the best channel for all of them. Do your own research into your intended target audience to understand their preferences.

OptinMonster further delves into statistics on email marketing and shows that, while email is now an “old” channel, it’s still more likely to reach its intended recipient than social media. With algorithm changes on social channels, reaching your audience organically can be challenging, whereas you can see in the data below, industry averages for email open rates are much higher.

Email marketing best practices 2019

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Biggest problems with email marketing

Once upon a time, emails were something of a novelty. The movie You’ve Got Mail highlighted how everyone used to notice when they got an email and there was some level of excitement over it.

The basis of most challenges that we have with email marketing now is that we don’t notice our emails anymore. The average office worker now receives 121 emails per day. We are so bombarded with emails, texts, pings, tweets and any other form of communication that it can be overwhelming. The biggest challenge for today’s email marketers is finding a way through all the noise.

Here are some of the most common problems that businesses have with email marketing:

  1. Their email list isn’t growing. Ideally, you want a constant flow of new subscribers to communicate with.
  2. Their email open rates are low. This means that few people who receive the email are actually opening it.
  3. Their overall engagement rates are poor. This might include things like a low click-through rate, or low conversion rate from the click-through.

The good news is that all of these issues are fixable with the right email marketing strategy in place.

Before we move onto some tips for getting results from your email marketing, take a peek at these insights from a Litmus poll on the biggest challenges facing email marketers. The answers given by those surveyed provide some clues as to how those issues we’ve highlighted might come about (although some are very specific to larger companies).

Email Marketing Challenges

How many can you identify that could also be an issue in smaller businesses? We see several: low insight into performance, poor tools, lack of quality data, bad strategy…

Get better results from email marketing campaigns

If you’re going to do email marketing in 2019, then you need to approach your email campaigns strategically. Emailing like it’s 1999 won’t work! Here are a few marketing tips for better results:

Establish email marketing goals

One of the first email marketing best practices is quite simple – every good marketing strategy has established goals. Principally, each individual email marketing campaign should establish who you want to reach and what you want them to do.

The goals you have will dictate the type of campaign you should send and the email content to include. Here are a few typical examples of email marketing goals:

  • To build brand loyalty among subscribers.
  • To nurture a relationship with subscribers so that your business is visible to them.
  • To boost engagement with your business. For example, perhaps you want more people to see your content or to follow you on social media.
  • To re-engage customers who have not been active with your business.
  • To sell something or get sign-ups for something you have on offer.

Importantly, having goals to work toward allows you to measure and understand whether your email marketing campaigns are effective. If you send an email with a goal of getting conversions but find that there are less than you had hoped, you can start to drill down on why that is happening. We know that email marketing can work very well, so what’s holding your campaigns back?

Understand the mechanics of an effective email

What makes for an effective email? To begin with, you need to get the mechanics right. Here are a few important points to understand:

  • Email deliverability – This refers to the email successfully arriving in the recipient’s inbox, rather than their spam folder. There are some steps you can take to improve email deliverability:

    • Maintain a good reputation for emails. Most email services will show you how you’re doing in terms of spam reports and unsubscribes – excessive amounts of these indicate a poor reputation.

    • Stick to a consistent send schedule. This can also contribute to your reputation and if your schedule is erratic, your emails may be rejected by the user’s IP. Additionally, a regular schedule helps to ensure that subscribers remember who you are!

    • Clean up your email list regularly. If you keep getting bounces or subscribers who haven’t opened your emails for a while, purge them.

    • Use branding in your “from” field. For example “Danny from One Week Website.” This has been proven to help reduce spam complaints and increase open rates.

  • Have your emails optimized to be read on mobile devices. Emails are now opened more often on mobile devices than desktop. Furthermore, if your email doesn’t display correctly on mobile, it may be deleted within three seconds. Most email service providers now offer email that automatically works with mobile, but it pays to check yours.

  • You need to be good at crafting an email subject line. If you’re past the deliverability hurdle and your email is now sitting in an inbox, whether it gets opened or not may depend on how much your subject line stands out. This is something to A/B test and work on improving over time.

  • Your email content needs to be valuable for the intended audience. One of the quickest ways to end up with a poor reputation score is to send out emails for the sake of it, or with poorly thought-out content.

  • Your “call to action” must be clear. So you have a goal for the email, have you made that obvious to the reader? If you’re hoping to get them to take another step, it needs to be clear to them what that is.

Personalize your email content

According to a survey by DMA Insights, 53% of consumers say that they receive too many irrelevant emails from companies. This often happens when companies take a “spray and pray” approach to email campaigns. They blast out the same email to everyone at once, no matter what their interests are or how they came to be on the email list.

The bottom line is that a more personalized approach where you segment your list (such as by interest, or by stage of the buyer’s journey), will improve open rates, engagement rates and your overall conversion rate.

Personalizing email content is often pegged as one of the hot email marketing trends for 2019, but realistically, it goes beyond a trend. Ensuring that your emails are relevant to the people receiving them is one of the core best practices of any type of marketing.

Here’s where it gets interesting – while we’ve known about list segmentation for years, today’s technology allows us to go even deeper. We’ve got more automations available based on customer behavior, for example. You can set up “rules” that say “if they do this, then send them that email.”

The use of “big data” to gather insights that further help to personalize content is also growing. However, along with that has come a surfeit of data. There is so much available that your average marketer often can’t possibly analyze it all on their own. Artificial intelligence is increasingly being used to sort, analyze and report on data.

What does this mean for email marketing? AI can allow you to go beyond segmentation to get even more personal with your emails. Several modern marketing platforms are enabling this use of AI so that businesses can automate a more personalized approach (because who has time to craft each email personally?)

As Smart Insights puts it:

“People have come to expect retailers to deliver content that recognizes their unique tastes and interests. For marketers, that means segmentation just won’t cut through the clutter: to drive engagement, email content must appeal to the individual on a personal level.”

Grow your email list the right way

When it comes to new subscribers, think quality over quantity. This means building your email list the right way with the right people on it, such as via a landing page with an opt-in, not by buying email lists or importing from dubious sources.

In fact, new data protection laws are often prohibitive of sneaky old ways of building an email list. The EU GDPR is big on “permission based marketing,” meaning that you should have obtained consent from people in order to email them. For businesses in countries outside of the EU, this is important to know – the laws apply to you if you are considered to be storing or processing the data of any EU citizens.

Outside of data protection laws, it just makes good sense to have appropriate permissions to email people. You’re not doing your reputation any favors if you blast out emails to any address you can get your hands on. Besides that, there is definitely a trend pointing to the tightening of data protection laws – we don’t know whether the US or others may follow the EU example.

With GDPR compliance in mind (because let’s face it, you don’t know who might fill out an opt-in form on your website), you need to explicitly get permission to continue to send emails to people. You can’t assume that just because they’ve filled out a form requesting your lead magnet that they can now be subscribed to your newsletter. You need to get their permission without pre-checking any boxes for them, like the example from SuperOffice shown below:

Email marketing best practices 2019

Using some type of “lead magnet” – a giveaway that entices people to sign up with you is still a great strategy for growing your list. The trick is to choose something that is most likely to encourage the right people to sign up, usually something that will be of specific value to your target market.

If you were to say, offer a drawing for a new iPad in return for signing up, then you’d probably get a lot of people who just want an iPad but otherwise aren’t a great fit for your business. When you offer something that answers a specific pain point or really will only be of interest to someone who is a genuine fit, you get a better quality list.

Know your email marketing types

Your email content should vary with the goals of your marketing campaign and the specific stages or needs of the email recipient. OptinMonster describes email types as either promotional emails, relational emails or transactional emails. Each has their own purpose to fulfill:

  • Promotional emails – These talk about new products, sales or offers. For example, you might send an email with a coupon code for a special deal or advertising your Black Friday specials.

  • Relational emails – These deliver what you have promised to the subscriber. For example, your weekly newsletter, an email course, or information that is of value to the subscriber.

  • Transactional emails – These include all those emails that relate to an action that the subscriber took with you. For example, a welcome email for subscribing (always send these!), confirmation emails for purchases, and sign-up or changes to subscriber detail confirmation messages.

An effective email is one that the recipient expects to get and that delivers value to them. Even the welcome email can be used to say more than just “hi.” Think about anything useful you might be able to include to get the subscriber started. Other transactional emails can also offer a bit more value, for example, what if your purchase confirmation included a video about how to use the product?

Promotional emails tend to be more effective if they’re not sent out constantly (unless your business is something like Groupon where people expect to be sent emails on different deals). Otherwise, you don’t want your email list to become immune to receiving offers from you.

As for your relational emails, keep one core principle at their heart – sharing something valuable. If you don’t have a lot to say in your weekly newsletter this week, think about one relevant snippet that your audience may find useful. Engagement rates remain strong when you avoid emailing just for the sake of sending something.

Of note from recent trends in email marketing is the emergence of interactive emails. These emails allow people to take action from within the email, rather than be taken to another site when they click on a call to action. For example, a customer who bought a product may be able to give it a rating from within the email.

Use good email marketing tools

Email marketing strategy is always better if you use good-quality tools to help with the task. The best service providers include professional email design, the ability to create email automation sequences, and a useful analytics function so that you can monitor your campaigns.

If you go looking for an email service, you will find a large number of options available to you. These vary from free (with restrictions on subscriber and email numbers), to hundreds of dollars per month. The difference is generally in the features available. The higher-cost providers tend to offer more ability to segment lists and to automate functions. These are often great for companies with a large list, but a small business with a smaller list may be able to achieve their goals by starting out with a free account from someone like Mailchimp.

One hint for improving your odds of a better response is to use tools that help you to avoid making mistakes. From the client perspective, it’s just not a great look to receive error-laden emails, emails that don’t open properly, or emails with simple mistakes (like calling them “Jenny” instead of “Danny!”). Email tools such as GetResponse allow you to test out your email in different, popular email clients before hitting send. This way you can avoid some of the more elementary mistakes that can wreck your marketing efforts.

When you test out your email, pay attention to how it reads. Is it easily skimmable? Does the formatting change at all for particular email clients? Think about the things that make your email “easy” for the reader.

Here are a few tips for what to consider when choosing an email provider:

  • Does the email software integrate with any other software that you use and need information from? (For example, sales software)
  • Does it offer attractive, mobile-optimized templates?
  • How does the software handle responses? For example, if you have a large list and get a lot of responses, you might want the software to organize responses into support tickets.

Measure your marketing strategy

A major component for getting results from your email marketing strategy is to measure and test your campaigns. You’ve got to have the right metrics defined (dependent on your goals) so that you’re taking action on things that make sense.

For example, it’s unlikely to be worth adjusting your landing page or wherever you’re sending people in the hopes of a conversion if you have poor click-through rates in the first place. If people aren’t clicking where you’d like them to, look more closely at testing things like:

  • The layout of your email – is it confusing or difficult?
  • Your call to action – is it compelling and clear?
  • The content of your email. For example, is there so much going on that people miss the call to action? Are they being torn between multiple calls to action? Is the content really delivering value?

You can also A/B test things like:

  • Different subject lines and their impact on open rates
  • Plain text versus images
  • Short versus long content
  • Placement of any calls to action
  • Landing page text and its impact on conversion rates.

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Final thoughts

Email marketing in 2019 is still a strong, relevant channel to engage with your customers. Of course, the caveat is that you can’t be using old “tactics” with your email campaigns. Today’s audience is more seasoned and savvy – they expect companies to deliver them value in emails, not another addition to their spam folder!

As with websites, software and any other touchpoint with a customer, think about the user experience for your email recipients. The most effective emails tend to be hyper-targeted to them and easy to interact with.

Remember to consider data protection issues and building your email list the right way. The trend for tougher laws on this isn’t going away – in fact there is a lot of consumer demand for it. With some simple planning and tools in place, you can build a quality email list of engaged subscribers.

Content marketing strategy

How to Build a Killer Content Marketing Strategy

A well-planned content marketing strategy is the secret of many successful businesses online.

Whether your target audience is B2B or B2C, there are many great examples of companies that are absolutely killing it with their content. For some, it is their main source of marketing, while for others it forms part of a wider online marketing strategy.

For many smaller business owners, developing a content marketing plan and investing the time and/or money into content creation can seem like a mammoth task. We’ll admit, content strategy isn’t “easy,” but if you approach it with a good plan, you can see the reward for your marketing efforts.

Ready to build your killer content strategy? Let’s dig in…

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What is content marketing strategy?

Content marketing strategy involves the creation and sharing of different types of content online. Generally speaking, this content isn’t directly selling or promoting products or services, but is intended to stimulate the interest of the target audience for the brand in question.

Content Marketing Institute identifies three key benefits to brands that follow a good content strategy:

  1. Increased sales
  2. Cost savings
  3. Better, more loyal customers

There are no set mixes of  “best” content types to use in your content marketing strategy. Each business will have their own mix that works for their business goals and buyer personas. The bottom line is that your content should be interesting and valuable for those you want to see it, and presented in a format that they will consume.

Examples of content types include: blogs, white papers, downloadable e-books, social media posts, video, podcast, infographic, case studies, checklists and interviews. Of these, blogging is definitely one of the most popular content types, although recent survey results from Content Marketing Institute show that audio/visual content is increasingly popular among B2B marketers.

Content marketing strategy

Is content strategy still worth it?

If you were to go back in time about a decade, content marketing was a new and novel approach. It rapidly caught on among businesses of all types, so that there are phenomenal volumes of content being produced and consumed every day. Data from a Donmo infographic shows that the popular content site Buzzfeed generates 50,925.92 video views every minute of every day.

Content marketing strategy

This raises the question for many marketers, is content strategy still worth it? Is there so much content out there already that yours won’t make an impact?

Content marketing does still work, but it’s important that you have realistic expectations before committing to a content strategy. For starters, don’t expect to see results immediately. With consistent content marketing efforts, you can still expect that it will be a “slow burn” with results over time. A common benchmark is that you should be seeing some results after six months, IF you have been consistent and followed a good content marketing plan.

What is content doing for you over that time? For one thing, search engines are crawling your site and indexing your content. As it starts to get more hits over time and send signals of its relevance, your search results improve. Secondly, you’re hopefully building an audience over that time. Part of content marketing strategy is promoting your content – you should be getting people to look for and consume your content over time.

Another important point is that you have to keep up with what works in content marketing, testing and refining for your own target audience. Here’s what Content Marketing Institute says about whether content marketing is still worth it:

“As long as you evolve the way you create and distribute your content and keep pace with trends, content marketing will continue to be an authentic, useful, and engaging method that gets results.”

What makes for an effective content strategy?

There are a few “ingredients” that tend to commonly lead to an effective content marketing strategy. Here’s what we’ve found:

  1. Your content should have clear links to business goals. Why are you doing content in the first place? What is it you are hoping people will do as a result of your content? It’s pretty hard to get results if you don’t know what to measure. Google Analytics might tell you your website got more traffic, but if you were hoping to make more sales and didn’t, then it tells you that you either attracted the wrong type of audience, or there’s something ineffective about your website/content.

    As an example, if you’re thinking strategically, then your content should include a way to gather sign-ups so that you’re able to follow up later. In the scenario above, perhaps there was no way of capturing the details of website visitors. They’re more likely to buy later than the first time they land on your site – in fact around 96% of website visitors are not ready to buy.

  2. Your content should be appealing to your target audience. “Content for content’s sake” is not likely to work. Good content is of value to those you want to attract. Perhaps it teaches them something, helps to solve pain points or entertains them.

    The whole idea is that your content should be relevant and make sense for your brand. You might look at what others do with content for inspiration, but it makes no sense to start doing something simply because it’s trendy. You should be prepared to be flexible with your content strategy. Start creating content and try different things, but be ready to make changes if you’re not engaging your audience.

    [bctt tweet=”Good content is of value to your target audience. “Content for content’s sake” doesn’t work”]

  3. Your content should be of high quality. There is a lot of content out there, but so much of it is garbage. This leads to the question, what does “high quality” mean for content? There are many traits we can come up with, so here are a few basics:

    1. The content is well-written. This means it reads well and doesn’t contain glaring spelling or grammatical errors.
    2. The content has a clear point. No one wants to read 1000 words of waffle – the content should deliver salient points without fluff.
    3. The content is well-targeted as per point #2. Cat memes might be generally popular, but they would be rather odd on a blog about boating.
    4. The content is optimized for SEO without APPEARING to be “SEO content.” Keyword stuffing is not only tiresome to read, it can get you penalized in search results.
    5. The content is persuasive and shareable.

  4. Your content should be consistent. If you’re going to have a content marketing strategy, then you need to be prepared to make the commitment of time and/or resources to get it done consistently. This means developing a schedule or editorial calendar and sticking with the program.

    Again, this schedule won’t look the same for every business. Each industry, platform and target audience is different, so it’s okay to test and adjust your plan. For example, as a general rule, if you’re blogging you should put out a new post at least twice per month. Some businesses will find they need to do much more, while others can get away with one per month. The schedule may look different again for video or podcast episodes.

    Social media platforms have much less longevity to their posts. An individual post might disappear from being shown in news feeds after a couple of hours, especially if it didn’t get much engagement when posted. It’s important to figure out what sort of posting schedule gets you results, then stick to or improve on that. The bottom line is that you should never let your content strategy go dormant, otherwise you have to work harder to bring back engagement.

  5. You’ve got to work on content promotion. Whether that is paid, unpaid or a mixture of both, it’s important to get out there and tell people about your content. It’s a very long shot to think that by putting up a blog post, people will simply show up. They may start to after a while, but during the initial stages of a content marketing strategy, they definitely need to be given direction.

  6. Your content strategy should be measured and revised. You’ve got to have the right metrics for your business goals so that you have a real idea of whether your strategy is working. Look at your results at least monthly and revise your content marketing plan if they’re not headed in the right direction.

How do you create a content marketing strategy?

A documented content marketing plan is always a good idea to ensure that you meet your goals for content. Some statistics from Content Marketing Institute highlight why a documented plan is so important:

  • 62% of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy vs. 16% of the least successful.
  • 72% of content marketers who increased their level of success over the past year credit their strategy as a major contributor.

Content marketing success doesn’t just happen, it is planned for. Here are a few pointers for creating your successful content strategy:

Content for your target audience

As we’ve touched on previously, your content must be appealing to your target audience. This means that your first task is to define who that target audience is. We talked about buyer personas in an article here, but you should also consider the “buyer’s journey.” Different content can be more effective for different stages.

The buyer’s journey is the process that anyone goes through to get from being completely unaware of a product or service, to being a buyer. HubSpot provides a great pictorial representation, shown below:

Content marketing strategy

So when you’re thinking about what content, you also have to consider “for when?” At some point, you will want to end up with a mix of different pieces for the different stages. In the table below, we’ve shown some examples of content for each stage:

Content marketing strategy

While you’re at it, do you already have some content posted? If you’ve had content up for a while, it can be worth conducting a content audit. Look at what you have, the quality of it, whether it has attracted traffic and whether it has served to help with your marketing goals. You may find that you already have great ideas to build on.

Determine your content types

Developing your buyer personas should also help to give you an idea of the types of content you should produce. For example, let’s say you have a B2B audience that includes busy executives. How likely are they to download and consume a 50-page ebook? Some might, but for others this will seem too time-consuming.

This is where you think about the mode of content that will fit best with your target audience. It might be a mixture in the end, but if you’re just beginning, it’s better to start with the most likely type. A busy executive might prefer quick, actionable blog posts, or a podcast they can listen to during their commute, for example.

Demographics will also play a role. Research from HubSpot shows that content preferences can vary greatly along generational lines. For example, you can see in the chart below that a future downturn is expected in email marketing; younger consumers just don’t prefer it.

Content marketing strategy

On the other hand, this research shows that video has consistent appeal across all age groups. For any business whose target audience covers a broad generational range, video would seem to be a great content strategy.

Assess competitor content strategy

Content success generally comes when you’re able to create useful content that helps you to differentiate from what is already out there. Conducting an analysis of competitor content strategy can be very helpful to guide you.

It’s not that you want to copy them directly (you definitely don’t!), but it’s very useful to determine a benchmark of sorts. For example, you can notice trends like “competitor A gets very little interaction on long blog posts, but has a lot of comments on shorter ones.” If competitor A’s target audience looks very much like your own, then this is good to know!

A competitor content analysis begins by taking stock of what they have and where. Note the types of content and the places they post it, on and off their own website. This doesn’t mean that you’ll need to produce content in all the same places, but it can give you an idea of what is working for them.

You’ll also want to note the quality of the content. Look for those overall quality aspects as well as the engagement they are getting. How does the audience receive the content? How many shares? How many comments? You can also use tools such as Buzzsumo to quickly find the most popular content on certain topics.

Analyse quantity and frequency as well as quality. You might notice patterns such as whether the competitor that posts shorter pieces more frequently gets more or less engagement than the one that posts longer pieces less frequently.

Pay attention to any other places your competitors appear online. For example, have they partnered with anyone else? Do they guest post on other blogs or give interviews on podcasts? Are they posting on platforms such as Reddit, Medium or LinkedIn? This all forms part of their wider content marketing strategy.

You’ll start to build an idea of what you can do to be competitive. You might notice areas where they’ve only touched on a subject that seems to be important to the audience. This gives you an immediate starting point with more detailed content.

Know what makes content shareable

A major goal of content marketing is to get your content shared widely. You hope that people read or watch your content, find it interesting, useful or amusing, then share it among their friends and contacts.

What makes content shareable? Psychologists from UCLA found that there are three common motivations for sharing ideas (or content):

  1. The content has utility. The person sharing believes it will be helpful for others. Most humans enjoy being able to help someone, so they share with that in mind.
  2. The content is amusing. We like to laugh and it makes us feel good to share that experience with others.
  3. The content is inspiring. Content that piques interest or stimulates curiosity encourages us to share, hoping that others will feel the same way.

When thinking about your own target audience and the content topics that appeal to them AND relate to your business goals, consider how you can make your content shareable. When Moz and Buzzsumo teamed up a few years ago to analyze 1 million pieces of content, they found that the most shares were earned by a few good outliers. Most content got no shares at all. The suggestion is that you focus more on creating a few outstanding pieces, rather than many mediocre pieces.

Create a content marketing plan

Now that you’ve assessed your target audience, your business goals and your competitor’s strategies, it’s time to formulate a documented content marketing plan for your own business. Let’s look at some steps for getting that done:

  1. Have a good place to document your content marketing plan. If you work with a team or are likely to hire freelancers or external contractors to help, it’s important that you create policies and procedures that are accessible. Cloud-based options for doing so include Google Docs, Zoho Docs or Dropbox Paper.

  2. Include a definition of your target audience in your plan. Creating buyer personas can be a useful way to do this.

  3. Clearly define the business goals for the content. Define the metrics you will use to measure these.

  4. Clearly define what the audience needs to get out of the content.

  5. Include the content formats you will focus on.

  6. Include the channels where your content will be published.

  7. Decide upon your preferred publishing schedule.

  8. Plan how you will manage content creation and publication. The fact is that content marketing done well takes a considerable investment of time and requires a good set of content creation skills. Those who write or design the most popular content tend to be talented creatively and have a good grasp of content marketing overall. Not everyone will have the talent for creating their own content, and most business owners are short on the time!

    If you’re going to do content, it’s worth doing well. If you have good skills yourself and the time to do it, great, but there are other options if you don’t. For example, you could; hire a team member to do content marketing, hire a freelancer that specializes in content or, hire an agency that offers content marketing as part of its services.

  9. Create a plan for promoting your content. Consider any channels you have at your disposal where you’re likely to find your target audience (email marketing, social media…)

It’s also worth creating a set of standards or “rules” for your content so that what you publish will meet a consistent standard. Many businesses choose to create their own content marketing guidelines, including directives on tone, reading level and style. This is especially important if you’re getting other people to create your content.

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Final thoughts

A clear content marketing strategy is important for every business that produces content as part of their marketing mix. If you’re going to do content, it’s worth doing it well. Otherwise you can actually harm rather than help your reputation.

To develop a content marketing strategy, you need to be able to devote time and resources to thorough research. Great content doesn’t just happen, it is planned for by knowing your audience, you competitors and the elements that go into appealing content.

We might be bombarded with online content at this stage, but there is still plenty of room for you to make your mark. Content that is of high quality and is shareable is actually a relative rarity online – take the time to develop a great strategy, pair that with talent to bring your content to life, and you can see success from your content strategy.

Social media marketing

The Small Business Guide to Successful Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing has become a necessity for small businesses.

You may already have a website and a local customer base, but social media helps to further boost brand awareness. In fact, 44% of local businesses rely on social media for brand awareness, while more than one in three internet users say they go to social media to find more information about a brand or product.

Many small business owners hesitate over social media because it’s one more thing to manage in their vast to-do list. However, investing some time and effort into social media can pay off, especially if it helps to draw more customers to your business.

The key is to do social media strategically. As a small business, you don’t have the resources of the big brands and their massive social media operations, but you can take a targeted approach to reach “your” people.

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How to choose the right social media platforms

Start by clearly defining your goals for social media, your target audience and identifying the best platforms to choose that will meet those criteria. You might choose to be on multiple platforms, but as a general rule, don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you find yourself trying to juggle too many social media channels, you can end up doing none of them effectively.

How do you choose the right social media platforms? There are two main factors we would take into account:

  1. Know the purpose of each social media platform
  2. Know which platforms your target audience is most likely to use.

You need to understand the underlying purpose of each social media platform to know how you could use it to meet your business goals. Just because a platform is popular, doesn’t mean it will be a good fit. The graphic below from CNBC gives a short and sweet summary of each platform (although it is a little dated – Google+ was recently taken down).

Social media marketing

You may already have an idea of the types of content you’d like to post to social media, so this can be a consideration for platform choice too. For example, if your content is big on visuals, you’ll want platforms that show visual content well. Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook are all channels where users look for hot visual content.

Another factor is the resources and skills that you have at your disposal. For example, if you aren’t great at video and don’t have the means to have quality videos made, then YouTube probably isn’t the best choice for you.

As far as knowing which platforms will be the best fit for your target audience, there is data widely available to show you who is using each platform. You may not be able to get an exact profile match, but you’ll be able to find key demographics.

For example, take a look at research into social media platform usage and demographics from Pew Research or Smart Insights. You will also find information on social media penetration across different countries and benchmarks for engagement.

Social media marketing

You can see that YouTube and Facebook are the most widely used online platforms among U.S. adults, but here is where it’s important to have your own audience defined. Among millenials and Gen Z, Snapchat and Instagram are more popular.

What to post and when

A universal rule across social media platforms is that businesses shouldn’t be “salesy” all the time. In fact, some of the most effective content for driving business goals doesn’t appear to “sell” at all. For example, content that is designed to provide useful information or to be entertaining. The bottom line? Based on your target audience profile, post the things that are interesting and valuable to them, NOT posts that are primarily based on your business interests. (Although of course you should occasionally post about new products or sales you are having).

Getting to a more granular level, it’s about understanding what is most appropriate for the platform you are using. Facebook is multi-purpose in terms of types of content you can post. You might choose pictures, text-only, text and pictures or videos. The aim is to build up a fan base on your business page and get people liking, sharing and commenting.

Twitter is much more fast-paced with home feeds updating a constant flow of tweets. It’s about sharing quick pieces of information or imagery enticing enough for people to notice and click on in the moment. The audience tends to skew older than platforms like Snapchat.

Below, we’ve put together a table of suggested content types for different social media platforms, along with a recommendation for how often to post on each. This recommendation is taken from research published by CoSchedule, but as always, it’s important to test for your own business to figure out what suits your audience. Mix up your content and frequency until you have found your own rhythm.

Social Platform:Content Type/s:How Often to Post:
FacebookCurated content, videos, photosAt least once per day
TwitterNews, GIFs, snippets from and links to blog posts15 tweets per day
InstagramHigh-quality photos, quotes, stories1 – 2 posts per day
PinterestPhoto guides, infographics, “how to’s”11 pins per day
LinkedInProfessional content, blog posts, company news, jobs1 post per day
SnapchatEngaging stories (video or photo)At least daily (stories last for 24 hours)

There aren’t any hard and fast rules for social media, as long as you use the platform as it is intended. One tip if you’re stuck for ideas on content is to look around at what top business accounts on the platform in question are doing. There are always studies being done into which posts are the most effective that you can do a search for.

Alternatively, try setting up alerts for keywords or topics related to what you do. This will keep you abreast with what is being posted and you will be able to see which content gets good engagement.

How to get engagement on social media

The whole idea of social media is to be “social.” If you can get good engagement on your social media channels, it tends to beget further engagement. Good engagement means that your posts get shown more often to more people and you have the potential to reach new customers.

To begin with, you need to make sure you are delivering content that is worth following. The old post-for-posting’s-sake approach won’t do for the overall profile of your business. Make sure all posts are well-thought out and conducive with the messaging that you want to send as a brand – you’ll confuse people otherwise.

Think about the types of content that get people responding. A simple one is to ask a question. “What was your first car?” is a post that is much more likely to get a response for a car dealer than simply a picture of a car.

Another strategy is to tell interesting stories. Look at Humans of New York on Instagram as an example. They tell the stories of real people and the audience always responds. Why? Because we are wired to pay attention to stories. We’ve used storytelling for thousands of years to form connections with one another.

There’s an obvious strategy that many businesses often mess up – actually being social. This means starting conversations, joining in conversations and responding when people take the time to comment or send a message. If you don’t reply to questions on your posts, for example, people notice and soon lose interest. They figure that you’re not really active on the social media channel anyway.

Furthermore, there is data to show that social media has become a vital platform for customer service. 80% of customers engage via social media while 54% prefer social messaging channels for customer care. If you’re not responding quickly, it just may cost you the customer.

How to effectively use paid social media marketing

Most social media platforms now have their own paid marketing options. This means you can run advertisements that appear “native” to the channel, such as sponsored posts on Instagram.

Effective use of paid social media marketing means having a good understanding of the platform you are using first. You need to understand your audience and know the types of posts that they engage with. You need to have clear calls to action that help drive people toward the end-goal that you have.

Paid social media can have some great advantages over other types of paid advertising. It can be very cost-effective, particularly because the social platforms offer you ways to narrow down your target audience. This means that your ads only get shown to users who meet your criteria, rather than shown to just anyone.

Our best tips for getting the most of your paid social media are:

  1. Go in with a very clear audience definition
  2. Have well-defined goals for your advertising
  3. Take the time to craft engaging ad content
  4. Test, iterate and re-test.

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Final thoughts

Your small business needs a presence on social media if you want to boost awareness of your brand. Increasingly, consumers are turning to social media as they search for products and services, and they’ll often buy from businesses they trust from following on social media.

One of the major challenges for small business owners tends to be the time and resources to do social media well. We suggest that if you are limited on those things, you choose the one or two platforms that are most likely to put you in front of your target audience.

From there, it’s about learning the particulars of your chosen channel. Understand the intent and the desires of the audience using it. Post regularly and do what you can to encourage engagement. Supplement with paid social media campaigns.

It may seem like a lot of work, but social media has become essential for businesses. Don’t let yours be left behind!

Marketing for local business

5 Practical Tips When Marketing for Local Business

Are you a local business that needs marketing strategies to reach new customers?

Around 85% of small business owners say they rely upon word-of-mouth to attract their customer base. Referrals are great and of course you should try to get them, but there are more expedient ways to reach a larger audience.

Online marketing is not just the domain of large or online-only businesses. Online methods can be invaluable when marketing for local business too. You might not have the budget or brand power of the big business titans, but you can use a few practical strategies to reach your local community.

Here are five to get started:

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#1. Optimize for local business search

You’ve probably heard of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), but did you know that local SEO is a thing too? In a nutshell, this means optimizing your website and online presence so that customers looking for a local business can easily find you on search engines.

If you don’t yet have a website, research into local business marketing shows that you’re not alone. In fact, many local businesses still aren’t online, much to the detriment of their visibility. Of local businesses that are online, many have neglected their websites, or have not optimized them for local SEO. Why is this important? A lot of consumers are beginning their search for a local business online. The image below from Social Media Today shows just how many:

Marketing for local business

Here are a few tips for local business optimization to make the most of your website:

  1. Optimize your homepage and meta data. This means ensuring you have clearly stated who you are, what you do and where you are based in key places. Your page title tag, header tags and meta description should contain this information. Using local business schema on your web pages helps to make search engines understand what you do. This is additional code that can be added to your pages to speak to search engines in their own language.

  2. Have complete contact information on your website. You should include key information such as your phone number, business hours and address. A tip here is to ensure that this information is listed on your website exactly as it appears on your Google My Business listing.

  3. Claim your local business listing at different online directories. These tend to show up early in search engine results. Sites such as Yelp, Google My Business and the Yellow Pages are important to be listed on.

  4. Prioritize getting (good) reviews. Word-of-mouth is always going to be important for a local business, but more than that, online reviews have been shown to significantly correlate with search engine rankings. Importantly, it’s not just the number of reviews that matter, but what people are actually saying in those reviews. It has been shown that positive reviews help to enhance your ranking.

#2. Engage on social media

Do you have a presence on social media yet? Many business owners struggle with maintaining their social media accounts and making optimal use of them. As a small business, you’re probably limited on resources, but social media marketing has been proven to be invaluable for local marketing too.

If you want to reach your local community on social media, it’s important to know where they hang out. Do they use Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram? Or does your business suit a younger demographic who may be more frequently on Snapchat?

When you have limited time and resources, you need smart marketing strategies, so start by focusing on the most likely channels to reach your customer base. From there, it’s a matter of being “social.” You need to engage at a local level, rather than worrying about having thousands of “likes’ across the globe. This means being present and active on your chosen channels.

Here are a few tips for doing local social media right:

  1. Build a personal relationship with your audience. Include things like team selfies, behind-the-scenes photos, and content that locals will get.

  2. Keep your audience engaged. Post things like topics of local interest, questions of the day or even local giveaways. As an example, Lake Tahoe Television posts a “question of the day” video on Facebook and gives away a local sponsor prize to a winner.
    Marketing for local business

  3. Provide valuable content on your social media channels. Constant promotional posts tend to turn people off, but if you can give them something to keep them interested, they’ll engage. For example, you could post demonstration videos, ideas for local activities, or helpful resources.

#3. Sponsor local events

Local events can be a great way to boost the profile of your small business, both on and offline. Depending on where you are located, there may be any number of community events needing sponsorship or providing the opportunity to set up a booth. Your Chamber of Commerce, Rotary club or other local organizations are often good sources to find these events.

As a local business, participating in events can bring you face-to-face with your target audience. Sponsorship or participation can also help with local SEO in the form of backlinks. Usually there will be some kind of website for the event with links back to sponsor websites. Depending on how well the organizers market the event, there will often be profiles of sponsors on the event social media pages as well.

Depending on who your target audience is, consider events, conferences or training opportunities that are small and local as well. For example, you might have some expertise that can be shared with locals. Picture a garden center providing tips for planting a vegetable garden, or a marketing agency taking a training session on social media for local business owners.

It’s all about generating good will by giving back to the local community, as well as boosting your business profile in the process. You can make it a “soft” marketing opportunity by giving away branded swag or even signing people up for a free consultation.

Marketing for local business

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#4. Try local content marketing

Content marketing has been shown to be one of the most effective marketing strategies if it is done well. Small business owners often worry about having to compete online with larger companies that have more resources, but the answer is to think about your local market first.

This means identifying what your target audience looks like locally, and what sort of content they’d like to see. As an example, a landscaping or gardening company in a fire-prone community might put out instructional content on defensible space around houses.

If you have some budget to pay for content, using local content creators can be an extra way of boosting your profile locally. Local writers or content creators often have a profile and influence locally that you can leverage. Usually they will share content that they’ve created for you.

Another solid strategy is to get guest content from local contributors. For example, that landscaping company might get some input from the local fire department or Forest Service. They might source content from other businesses that are adjacent to theirs, but not direct competitors. In fact, partnerships with other local businesses can be a fruitful and efficient way of sharing resources and cross-promoting one another.

In a piece for Moz, Mike Ramsey talks about how your content should be both local AND useful. To get you thinking, he lists these ideas:

Ideas of things that are local:

  • Sports teams
  • Local celebrities or heroes
  • Groups and events
  • Local pride points
  • Local pain points

Ideas of things that are useful:

  • Directions
  • Favorite local sports
  • Granular details only “locals” know.

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#5. Try a loyalty program for local customers

What keeps you going back to your favorite coffee shop? For most people, it’s a combination of good coffee, great service and the ambience. The cherry on-the-top that often keeps people returning is the loyalty card. Often it’s the basic punch card – buy 10 cups of coffee and your next one is free.

The fact is we respond to rewards programs and local customers appreciate getting something back for their loyalty. It’s a great local marketing strategy to encourage customers to return.

As far as reward or loyalty programs go, they tend to work best if they are simple for both your small business and your customers to use and understand. The punch card is easy to implement, but the con for the customer is remembering to carry a card, while the downside for your business is that you’re not collecting their details so you can stay in contact.

Apps can be effective as most people carry their phone around everywhere. On the other hand, look at your customer base – would an app be excluding older customers from your rewards program?

Another method is to use rewards software at the point of sale, for example by having people register with a phone number or email address that they then provide at every sale. These can be more costly to implement, but they do allow you to follow-up with customers. On the other hand, not all customers will be comfortable with handing over their contact details.

What will work for you? Make an assessment of your local area and target audience to figure out what people will be most likely to want to use.

Final thoughts

It’s important to take a “local first” approach when marketing for local business. If the majority of your customers are from your immediate local area, then you should gear your online marketing and any offline efforts toward them.

Optimize your website for local search and engage on social media. Deliver content that matters to locals and seek out opportunities for local events. Find ways to reward your customers for their loyalty and keep them coming back.

Local marketing doesn’t have to be at the scale of the big businesses online, it just has to reach its intended audience. Consistency and a genuine local approach will help to lift your business profile.