The B2B Digital Marketing Rules You Should Know

By | B2B Marketing Communication Strategiesv | No Comments

More and more businesses are beginning to enter the age of digital marketing for their Business-to-Business efforts.  And it is long overdue.  Soon, even every old school law firm in the country will have a website collecting customers instead of relying solely on referrals.  Here are some digital marketing rules you should know to keep your business ahead of the pack and land more customers for yourself.

 

Your website is your most powerful salesperson

Gone are the days of the top salesperson, the storefront with great foot traffic, or the award winning TV advertisement jingle that kids sing the world over.  Enter your website.  Your website is now your most powerful asset and your best salesperson.

Spend the time, money, and care to make sure it is mobile friendly, has clear call to actions, and is generally top of the line.  A great website can take much of the marketing effort out of human hands, attracting customers through search engines, facilitating their acquisition, and closing the sale with little effort at all.

All you have to do is turn around and deliver what the website is promising and your business will flourish.

Focus on analytics that matter, not all of them

 

The amount of analytics, statistics, and data that can be gathered and poured over is enormous.  Unless you have an entire fleet of people assigned to the task, just compiling and understanding this data can take all of your time.

Instead, a better approach is to identify a few key pieces that you want to focus on before you start collecting data.  The rest can be there if you need it, but these few key pieces allow you to easily and quickly understand how you are doing, what to improve or not, and if your strategy is working.  The specific adjustments can take their genesis from the other data, if it fits, but try to avoid drowning yourself in data at first.

Businesses are on social media

As social media sites become more saturated and their users more sophisticated, a key component to any businesses’ social media strategy is to blend genuine interaction and outreach with marketing themselves, and their product and services.

So why not provide them an easy way to perform this genuine interaction?  Reach out to businesses in your industry or closely related to it.  It doesn’t matter whether they are customers, potential customers, suppliers, or competitors, any interaction and social media presence that is not your own personal marketing can help establish trust on that particular platform.

These efforts also can gather new business customers or at least build your brand so that when the business customer arrives at the beginning of your sales funnel they are slightly more familiar with your brand and the path to closing the sale is smooth.

Establish trust and rapport with content marketing

Case studies and other content marketing can not only help your SEO presence and get more customers to your site but can also help you build trust with potential business customers before you ever interact.

A case study about how you helped another business, the results and impact it had, and how you communicated and worked on a personal level with that business to understand their goals can have a positive influence on your corporate image and reputation.

A potential business or business owner can read that study and place himself or herself and their business in the shoes of the business featured in the case study.  This instant connection can be utilized by the rest of your sales funnel by starting the process you described in the case study.

The customer will be more comfortable and let you take them along for the ride since they now know what to expect thanks to the case study.  They now have a bit of trust and knowledge that their B2B experience with your organization will have positive results for all involved.

How anyone can generate PR

By | Business Management and Leadership | No Comments

Generating PR as a small business or new entrepreneur can be tough.  Your budget is tight and nobody has heard of you yet, so here are some ways to get the buzz going without bankrupting your business.

Leverage Your Website

For the small business or entrepreneur starting out without a lot of capital, generating positive PR can be a challenge.  One of the easiest ways to get PR is to leverage an asset that you no doubt have, or should have, your website.  Depending on your product or business, your website might be a few pages or hundreds of pages with forums and content of all types.

Simply getting more traffic to your website can generate a ton of PR.  If an influential person sees your site, or someone who loves what you doing tells a media organization, the PR train can leave the station before you know it.  Make sure your content or blog is updated regularly, optimized for SEO so that it can be found via search, and well designed.

A simple website update or redesign, even if it is not much different can also be an event worth celebrating or boasting about to your network and social contacts to try to generate PR.

Go Directly to the Public

Instead of sitting back passively and running a targeted ad campaign or sending blocks of emails to random people, leverage the customers you have to generate your PR.

There are varieties of ways you can do this. You can have your customers be involved in a new contest or venture you are running, simply asking your existing customer base to tell a friend, organizing a referral program or coupon that can save them money if they bring in new customers, or donating to a local charity or event in your community.

This low level, grass roots type of marketing can generate positive, local, targeted PR for your business that will drive new customers and build trust for your brand.

Do Something That No One Else Is

Generating PR on a budget in a large industry can be tough.  Instead of spending a large chunk of your precious capital to hire a firm, think outside the box and utilize your sweat equity and creativity to do something that nobody else is.

Whether it’s putting a video on YouTube, running a crazy contest, giving every other sale to a charity, or something else equally outrageous, uniqueness can sell and get your product or business noticed in the crowded marketplace.  Good PR can’t occur unless the public knows you exist and knows what your brand is, so do anything you can to get it out there and get your brand name on the public’s lips.

Top Marketing Automation Software

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MailChimp

MailChimp is the leading email marketing and auto responding service.  The service is free for all to use when your list is relatively small, and once it grows there are a variety of affordable monthly payment options.  MailChimp allows you to use A/B testing to split your list, email new subscribers a set series of emails automatically and interfaces with a host of different plugins, systems, and content managements systems such as WordPress.  One of the cheapest, easiest to use, and most popular email services, MailChimp is a strong choice to take your email marketing to the next level.

Hootsuite

Social media marketing can be tricky because of the fast-paced nature and changing preferences of users.  A year of building your presence on one website can go to waste when a cool new site comes out of nowhere capturing more of your target demographic.  Automation in the social media space is important so that individuals and companies can manage their social media presence across a host of different sites with different posting requirements and audiences.  Hootsuite is one of many tools that allow just that type of management all from a central hub.

With Hootsuite you can schedule future social media posts, respond quickly to comments from many networks, and get an overall sense of how your brand is doing and what people are saying about it.  Browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox are also available. These extensions allow you to post to your sites without even opening the Hootsuite program.

Infusionsoft

Infusionsoft is one of many all in one automated marketing tools.  The power and range of options of the tool is amazing.  From lead management, to helping close sales, to auto responding in multiple ways for individuals, to organizing all your content and social media in one central place.  This program also helps with the actual processing of the sale.  A fully functional e-commerce storefront and payment-processing network is part of the package.  This payment system can link with popular players like Paypal and Amazon payments.  While on the higher end of the price spectrum, Infusionsoft is recommend by thousands of users and could be the right fit for your business.

Pardot

Busy marketers that have multiple campaigns across a suite of website also desire a place where they can see how they all these are doing in one central place.  Pardot is a software tool that gives you exactly that.  Pardot allows the user to track their conversions, spending, lead generation, and engagement across all their marketing campaigns whether they are advertising, email, social, or otherwise.  This software is specifically for business-to-business relationship management, however, rather than business to customer.  If you have a large, complicated marketing plan or multiple sites that you manage, consider Pardot to organize your marketing life all in one place.

How to Set Goals for Email Marketing Campaigns

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Goals are important for email marketing campaigns because without them it is hard to know what worked, whether it was worth it, and what to change to improve conversions and optimize in the future.  Here are a few great ways to set realistic and effective goals for your email marketing campaigns.

Be realistic relative to the size of your list

If you have a 100 or 200-person list, do not set a goal for a million dollars in sales.  Unless you are selling something that costs thousands of dollars, it is unlikely for you to meet such a lofty goal.  Remember that your conversion rate from this list might be a low as 2% to 5% of the total, so make your goals achievable to avoid discouraging yourself.  Also, realize that the bigger the list, the lower your conversion rate is likely to be.  A larger list means that some of the customers are likely not your ideal, target customer and might never open or be interested in what you are marketing.

Avoid nebulous goals that are hard to measure

If your goal for your email marketing campaign is to increase the presence or market share of your business, that is great.  But how do you measure that?  Is it the number of sales?  The amount of social media engagement?  Likely your real goal is to increase a bit of everything: sales, traffic, social media likes, word of mouth.  A goal this big and difficult to measure can be a bad thing.

If you make more sales, you will assume it is because of campaign but it will be difficult to see a direct relationship since that is not what you are focused on quantifying.  A better approach is to identify what would benefit your business the most and then custom tailor your campaign towards that goal and that goal only.

If you are focusing on social media and not sales, then don’t send them to your sales funnel in the email.  Establish a base line of where you are before the campaign, research what you think you might achieve, and then follow that progress throughout and at the end.  This clarity and precision of data will help you with future campaigns and strategies rather than just giving a slight business bump that could be from anywhere.

Consider A/B testing

A/B testing is a common technique for marketers.  Mostly used in advertising or lead pages, the idea is that two different pages are shown to customers, randomly, to determine which one converts the best.    You can harness this technique for your email campaign as well.

Instead of sending the same email to everyone on your list, you could have one for customers less than a year old and a different one for everyone else.  It is likely that customers that have been on your list for a while have already seen or purchased your previous product, so their email could focus only on your new stuff.

The email to newer customers could have the new product but also allude to the other great offerings you have which can increase engagement and open rates of your emails.  The more information you (hopefully) collected on your customers about their preferences and what they bought will allow you to do all sorts of other A/B testing based on your brand.

Important Digital Marketing Statistics to Know

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Digital marketing is fast paced but rewarding at the same time.  In the matter of a few weeks, a social media site or popular forum can fall out of favor and your customers are now halfway across the internet.  Here are a few surprising statistics about why you should put the effort in to keep up in this digital track meet.

Posts over 1500 words get 68.1% more tweets and 22.6% more Facebook likes than shorter posts (source).

For a long time the old adage “content is king” was enough.  But in today’s hyper competitive digital marketing environment, the right type, format, and length of content is more important than ever. While a few sentences about your day at the beach or a picture of your new puppy are entertaining, that won’t hold your audience’s attention for more than a few seconds.  Long, detailed, thoroughly researched content is critical to engaging the reader at a deeper level and getting them to share with their friends. If you spend more time writing better and longer content and less on marketing, it could very well happen that your readers take up the marketing task for you.

60% of millennials rely on social media for their news. (source)

The millennial segment of the population is an ever growing and ever changing beast.  With many companies competing for this segment due to their age, growing incomes, and changing tastes, understanding how and where to market to this group is of the utmost importance for digital marketers. If you have a new product, news about your company, or run a company that is related to news in some way, consider bulking up and analyzing your social media usage to find spots to improve. Most millennials are not watching CNN or reading newspapers, but rather want their news in a short viral format in the palm of their hand.  Find a way into those palms, and the rewards could be substantial.

83% believe that companies should support nonprofit and charity organizations (source)

Beyond being a good corporate citizen or doing what’s right, using the results of philanthropic efforts in marketing can help establish credibility and trust among consumers.  Consumers are getting smarter and more savvy by the day so the chances of them shrugging off advertising or reacting negatively to marketing is higher than ever.

Rather than trying to highlight the benefits or advantages of your product or service, marketing the good you are doing in the community can help generate more followers and likes.  This can snowball because your future traditional marketing efforts and posts will have a further reach and be well received due to the trust you established.

Inbound marketing delivers 54% more leads then traditional outbound marketing (source)

Outbound marketing is slowly going the way of the dinosaur as customers get savvier at hiding from or dodging traditional marketing attempts.  The challenge for the digital marketer now is to go where their customers hang out and spend their time, and establish a presence there.

These efforts might not seem like they directly translate into sales like traditional ads or marketing would, but the effect will be seen slowly over time as your inbound leads pick up.  Having your content in the right places and the right time without shoving it down your customers throat is the way to go in 2015 and beyond.

The best part?  Inbound marketing is usually dramatically more affordable than traditional marketing or sales teams.  This is due to harnessing the sharing and “viral” power of the great content you produce and having your customers tackle some of the marketing effort for free.

How to write a great interoffice email

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Interoffice email is a great communication tool that virtually every modern business relies on to function.  Here are some things to consider making sure your emails are professional and make the most of the unique features of this medium.

Understand the limitations of email

Email is a great medium for communication but it is by no means perfect.  Before sending your email, consider the limits of email and how misunderstandings can happen easily.  Sarcasm, exaggeration, and other advanced language devices do not translate through email as they would during face to face or phone conversation.  It is for this reason it is best to stick to short, simple instructions or questions rather then using complicated language that cloaks your true meaning.  Effective communication is about being clear and straightforward.

Air on the side of formality

While you may be friends or close with a good number of your coworkers, at the end of the day they are just that, co-workers.  They are not your friends, family, or social media followers.  When unsure of what the tone of your email should be, air on the side of formality and professionalism.  Without the assistance of facial queues and body language, an email’s meaning is more about the actual words on the screen then other forms of communication.

Understand company hierarchy

An email to your direct report employees should read much differently than an email to the CEO.  Take the time to tailor your email to your intended recipient to ensure your email gets full consideration and isn’t deleted due to unprofessionalism.  Keep in the mind the higher up an individual is in the organization, the more emails they are likely to receive per day.  Consider short and to the point emails for executives, and if they like your idea or value your input, more emails or a meeting can be arranged.

Wait to write the email if you are emotional

Stressed about a deadline or project?  Just got out of a meeting where you vehemently disagreed with everything that was decided?  Before you jump to your email to rant about your boss to your co-workers or tell someone about how much you hate the new marketing plan, take a deep breath and step back from your computer.  Emailing while in an emotional state of mind often has disastrous results.  A simple 5 or 10-minute delay can help you write a more leveled headed and professional email that will likely be more persuasive in the end.

Email is NOT social media

One word responses, links to viral videos, and other content that is typical of social media is not acceptable for an interoffice email.  Email should be used to communicate work and project instructions or questions, transfer documents such as spreadsheets, or other essential business functions.  Do not slouch on using proper sentences and greetings when writing emails and your co-workers are likely to take what you have to say much more seriously.

Proofread, then proofread again

With the amount of email we send out and consume every day, it can be tempting to avoid proofreading as closely as you should in the interest of speed and efficiency.  This can be a grave mistake, however, as you never know who or where your email will be forwarded to.  If a higher up in the organization is forwarded your mistake-filled email about an important topic, that can reflect poorly or your attention to detail and leadership abilities.

The Benefits of Business Marketing Automation

By | B2C Marketing Communication Strategies, Brand Management, Research and Trends | No Comments

Business man pointing to transparent board with text: Automation

While marketing automation is still in its early stages, more and more businesses are opting to use this marketing style. As companies now have to work harder than ever before to keep their brands in the minds of consumers, the optimization of marketing automation can help make the entire process easier. Below are some of the benefits of business marketing automation.

  1. Productivity

One of the primary benefits of marketing automation is the elimination of routine marketing or organizational tasks. By removing them, employees and staff are better able to focus their efforts on projects that require more manpower and monitoring.

  1. Increased revenue

While investing in any new software is never cheap, the increased revenue created by marketing automation can offset – and overcome – the costs. More than 78% of marketers identified automation as the key to their improving revenue. Even B2B businesses see the difference; when compared to nurtured sales, automation increased sales by more than 20%.

  1. Customer retention

Using marketing intelligence, businesses can work to keep the customers they have while continually working on acquiring new ones. By gaining more insight and information on customers, automated marketing can help target products or promotions to the right consumers and the right time.

  1. Monitor campaigns

Although data analytics are an important part of marketing, automation provides the ability to instantly measure and monitor the data collected by a campaign. This, in turn, helps you determine the success or failure faster and adjust future marketing strategies accordingly.

  1. Improve accountability

The data collected by marketing automation creates an impartial picture of your company. This not only improves the accountability of departments such as marketing and sales, but can also identify areas that need improvement. This impartial feedback can help insure that all areas of your business are operating effectively.

Marketing automation can provide businesses with unprecedented amounts of data about their customers, while at the same time increasing productivity and identifying areas that need improvement. Because of these benefits, marketing automation can help businesses improve, grow, and better serve the consumer.

How to Create a Great Email Marketing Template

By | B2C Marketing Communication Strategies, Entrepreneurship | No Comments

Businesswoman checking email

Instead of individually formatting each and every marketing email, creating a great template can help streamline and simplify the process. Likewise, it creates a cohesive look and brand that customers can easily recognize and navigate. Below are some of the best ways to create a great email marketing template.

  1. Use the right software

Creating an eye-catching email marketing template is not the time to utilize Microsoft Word. Instead, programs like HubSpot, Dreamweaver, and even Notepad can be used to help you create code that won’t go wonky in an email.

  1. Manage email width

If you want to allow your emails to be viewed in Outlook’s vertical preview pane, email widths should not exceed 650 pixels. Likewise, limiting width can also ensure users with slower software or connections do not experience issues opening up your content.

  1. Avoid HTML text

While HTML text, such as the pretty bullet points, may seem more exciting and enticing than their plain text counterparts, they can also cause serious issues with spacing and readability for recipients who do not have HTML rich text enabled. Instead, write content in plain text to ensure all readers, including those on mobile devices, can read your text without issue.

  1. Create a plain text version

In addition to minimizing the use of HTML text, emails need to be accompanied by a plain text version. Not only does this mean that everyone can have the option to view your email regardless of the device or platform they use, it also prevents your messages from getting flagged as spam.

  1. Check your photo formats

No matter how great your email’s graphics are, if they can’t be viewed, they take away from your template. While .jpeg and .gif files are generally accepted – and the most widely used – formats like .png may not open up in certain platforms.

  1.  Include an unsubscribe link

Nothing frustrates readers more than not being able to easily unsubscribe from email marketing they no longer want to receive. Including it as a permanent part of your email template – along with the company name and physical address – ensures that you are CAN-SPAM compliant and that these items are never left out of an email.

Why the Customer Experience Matter So Much

By | B2C Marketing Communication Strategies, Business Management and Leadership | No Comments

The Customer Experience is illustrated on a number of sticky not

After the recession in the late 2000’s, consumer spending habits began to drastically change. Gone were the days of purchasing something simply because of convenience; more people are concerned about finding the best value for their money. Likewise, consumers now spend more time reading reviews, doing research, and shopping around for products than ever before.

These factors mean that the customer experience matters more than ever before. Because consumers are more likely to spend their money on a business they are emotionally invested in, companies have been forced to reevaluate how they view, manage, and improve customer experience.

The age of the consumer

While businesses used to control the market, that control now lies firmly in the hands of the consumer. Whereas there used to be a limited local selection of goods and services available, your competition is now a simple Google search away. Because of this, the customer experience is more important than ever. 

Especially for businesses providing consumer goods and services, customer experience can create or cripple the expansion of the business. Online reviews remain one of the primary way consumers select service providers; unfortunately, it seems that only customers who have absolutely fantastic or unbelievably horrible experiences post online feedback. Because of this, one (or more) bad reviews can seriously negatively impact a business.

Improving the customer experience

Although businesses have begun to shift to more consumer-oriented practices, it is often difficult for company leadership to identify with customer experiences. Think of a pilot at the end of a flight; while he considers the trip a success because the flight landed safely, he has no idea the struggles or drama that occurred in the cabin. So too CEOs, CFOs, and other executives are removed from customer experiences.

One way to improve the customer experience is through engagement on social media. Social media provides businesses with unprecedented access to the customers – and their complaints. More and more, disgruntled customers are airing their complaints on social media, sharing their negative stories with their followers. In situations like this, losing one customer can suddenly turn into losing dozens – if not more. Oftentimes, a simple reply to a tweet or post can help consumers feel heard or understood, turning them from bitter and disgruntled into loyal fans.

Another way to improve customer experience is by allowing real consumers to test new software, products, or procedures. Oftentimes, the desire is to have all the kinks ironed out before new solutions are presented to the customers. Unfortunately, this can often backfire, creating situations in which real consumer experiences and input have been disregarded. Instead, green light new services or products in target areas or with selected customers; not only can their feedback help improve your new idea, but customers often appreciate the ability to be trusted to test and review new products.

In the digital age, customer experience can make or break a business. By improving customer experience, you can help ensure that, no matter what happens in the economy, your business will continue to thrive and grow.

How Your Company Can Help in the Community

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multi-ethnic volunteer group hands together showing unity

Being involved in the community is no longer optional; more and more consumers are looking for companies that give back as well as provide quality goods and services. Because of this, being active in the community gives potential customers a reason to use your business. A 2013 study by Cone Communications found that 82% of customers take into account corporate social responsibility when deciding which businesses to patronize. 

While you may think giving back to the community will hurt your bottom line, it can have a surprisingly positive impact on your business. Below are some ways your company can get involved and help in the community.

1.       Support a local sports team
Whether it’s minor league baseball, high school cross country, or a pee wee football squad, sports teams are often the glue that holds a community together. Supporting a local sports team does more than encourage young athletes and healthy exercise – it also creates opportunities for exposure for your business as frequently as every week.

2.       Create a scholarship
Creating a scholarship fund shows that your business is invested in the future of the community. Consider designating the scholarship specifically for students who want to go into your area of study, such as law, food service, or engineering. Don’t be overwhelmed at the idea that a scholarship will cost you tens of thousands each year; as little as $500 can help defray the costs of books, fees, and other expenses.

3.       Join the local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau 
Local organizations such as the Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce help connect you with other business owners in the area. This not only helps you stay informed about issues facing local businesses, but also creates a peer group that can be used as a sounding board for solving difficult problems or brainstorming new ideas. Likewise, membership in these organizations can help improve your business’ image. Studies have found that consumers are 44% more likely to think favorably about a business that is a member of the local Chamber of Commerce and more than 63% more likely to purchase goods and services from them.

4.       Support a local charity
One of the best ways to help the community is by supporting a local charity. In addition to benefiting the community, this also allows you to support a cause you are passionate about or that fits your business. Restaurants may choose to donate day old baked goods to a food pantry, for example, or a pet shop could partner with an animal shelter.

No matter how you choose to get involved in your community, helping others while gaining exposure for your business is a win-win for everyone involved.