3 Key Marketing Trends to Add to Your Strategy for the New Year

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3 Key Marketing Trends to Add to Your Strategy for the New Year

Like many business leaders, you realize that digital marketing is here to stay. But you also know the marketing landscape is changing rapidly, which means that 2015 will bring many new ideas and necessities.

As you look back on your past year’s marketing and start developing plans for the year ahead, now is the perfect time to review some of the expected trends for 2015, so you can begin incorporating them into your campaigns. Here are three trends to consider.

The art of personalization

Developing relationships with prospective customers and nudging them closer to conversion is certainly nothing new. We all know that customers appreciate companies who care about them on an individual basis and take the extra time to address their concerns.

In 2015, however, the idea of personalization will go from a ‘nice extra’ to a necessity. Consumers have started realizing they’re in control of more of the buying experience. They’ll continue to seek companies who are willing to give them the more personalized attention they deserve.

Personalization must permeate your entire organization. Customers want to bond with you as individuals, not just as a brand. They appreciate hearing your story, seeing pictures, and learning about the people behind the scenes at your company. While such content shouldn’t consume all of your digital marketing, you should take the time to develop a one-to-one relationship with your customers.

The role of data

This is another area that will quickly move from trend to necessity in the coming year. While many at the forefront have already started collecting hard numbers to measure the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns, it will become increasingly important for all businesses to follow that trend in the year ahead.

Digital marketing provides enormous potential for data collection. You can learn about where your page viewers are coming from, what they’re doing on your website, what engages them the most, what common characteristics they share, and how much money you’re spending for every lead and customer. This information will give you the tools you need to refine your campaigns, pinpoint the weak spots, and find ways to improve your efforts, while reducing costs and increasing the number of customers who convert.

Better internal communication

In 2015, efforts at improved communication will play a big part in planning and implementing digital marketing strategies. When you focus on improving communication between departments, two things happen:

  1. Employees have a better idea of what is expected of them and how their job fits into the larger company picture. This increases their work satisfaction and the way they present the brand to the public.
  2. Leads are better managed internally, as everyone has a clearer understanding of the role each team plays in the process. Departments work together in better harmony, and conversion rates improve.

The upcoming year is sure to bring many changes to the digital marketing world. Keeping these three key areas in mind will help you improve your strategies and standing as the new year begins.

Inbound Marketing From The Buzz – New Blog Content

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The Rise of Big Data and Its Growing Importance in Marketing

Big data has made quite an entrance into the world of marketing. Though it’s largely been the playground of big brand names, many marketing professionals predict it will soon become an important piece of the marketing puzzle for companies of all sizes. Digital marketing has the power to produce an enormous amount of data about consumers and their spending habits, as well as what they seek. Companies that learn how to master this information to improve their marketing campaigns will be far better equipped to meet customer expectations and improve their bottom lines.

What big data can do for your company

With so many customers doing their shopping and research online, a nearly infinite amount of information can now be gathered on each potential lead. These details can provide you with clues to help you market your products more effectively and encourage visitors to convert into paying customers.

Why big data will become so critical

While the Internet has made it possible to work on a global scale and find your own individual niche, it has also produced a marketplace where countless businesses now perpetually vie for the attention of customers. Many people have started tuning out the perpetual marketing messages they encounter on their favorite websites, in their email, on the radio, and even on the buses they see on the way to work. Big data can give you the tools you need to better understand exactly what customers seek, so you can reach the right people at the right time with the right content, rather than broadcasting more general messages to larger audiences. Big data is all about learning to communicate better with customers and figuring out exactly what they seek. It’s bringing personalization back into marketing.

Using data to refine your marketing campaigns

Your company can use big data in a number of different ways. Analyze your sales records over the past few years. Look for seasonal trends and how various outside factors have influenced sales. Use the information to adjust your expectations and prices. You can also use big data to determine a more exact profile of your ideal buyer and how to reach them.

One of the biggest challenges for smaller companies is learning how to use data to adjust marketing campaigns. Many big data service providers focus primarily on larger organizations. If you’re a small business owner looking to capitalize on big data, look for a program that offers flexibility and scalability, so you can pick and choose the features that matter most to you. Only pay for the services you need, rather than all-encompassing packages that can be particularly crippling for small businesses.

Big data has influenced businesses of all sizes to begin transitioning from decision-making based primarily on feelings and perceptions to decisions based on concrete information and data. If you’re interested in taking advantage of what this new technology can offer, look into finding an affordable plan. We’d love to work with you to help you integrate your new insights into your marketing campaigns.

Marketing Lessons from Shel Silverstein

Blog Update #444 – Tuesday, December 16, 2014

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Marketing Lessons from Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein has taught generations of children lessons about life from his books of fun and goofy poems. People of all ages can appreciate his wit and what he has to say. As adults, it’s easy to forget all those valuable words, but Shel Silverstein also has a number of lessons he can teach us about business and life. Here are four quotes from the famous poet that we should never forget as we begin to build and grow our businesses.

"Anything can happen, child. Anything can be."

This lesson can be very hard to remember in daily life. After all, most entrepreneurs have at least one force in their life telling them they’re not going to succeed. Sometimes one of the most important lessons is learning to tune out the naysayers and finding the mental strength to succeed in the face of adversity. Form your dreams, identify your goals, and plot a way to get there.

"If the track is tough and the hill is rough, thinking you can just ain’t enough."

Forging your personal path is never easy. While most people intellectually understand there will be challenges, all too often, when these problems arise, they give up.

In business, you must accept the fact you’ll face problems and that things won’t always go according to plan. Sometimes the challenges will feel like too much. But if you have goals, you need the perseverance and strength to make it past the hurdles. Believing you can do so and determining the steps needed to succeed will give you the tools you need to continue along the path to your goals.

"If there is a book you want to read but isn’t written yet, write it."

This quote applies to more than just books. It also applies to industries and businesses. If no one is fulfilling a particular niche and serving customers in a particular way, use that as your window of opportunity. The marketplace is extremely competitive. The companies that succeed are the ones that identify a need, determine a way to fill that hole, and then get their information in front of the necessary audience.

The idea of writing your own book also speaks to the importance of taking initiative. No matter what your position might be, finding ways to anticipate needs and then addressing those issues instead of waiting for someone else to notice the problem is an excellent way to get ahead and find both personal and company-wide success.

"Just ’cause somethin’ ain’t been done don’t mean it can’t be did."

This quote also speaks to the importance of taking risks and being willing to be the first one to take a chance. This might mean developing a new product or service to fill a certain niche, or taking a conventional industry and finding completely unique ways to deliver your products and services. No matter what might drive you, don’t allow yourself to be limited by what others in the industry have done. Don’t be afraid to blaze your own trail and see where the road takes you.

Shel Silverstein has words of wisdom for all of us. Keep these quotes in mind and use them for the motivation you need to move forward. If you need help developing your marketing plan, contact us. We’ll be happy to offer guidance as you get started.

What We Can Learn From Children Learning to Play Together

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Imagine a preschool classroom filled with three- and four-year-old kids, each eager to play with a certain toy firetruck. The disagreements over whose turn it is quickly draw the attention of the teacher, who is immediately inundated with different versions of the story. According to one student, it’s her turn because one of the little boys in the class has been playing with it "all afternoon." The little boy counters with, "No, I haven’t! And besides, you’ll just break it anyway!"

The teacher sits down and attempts for the hundredth time to teach her students about the virtues of sharing. She explains that by sharing the toys, the children will be able to develop much more elaborate games and have a lot more fun. Playing together will give them a chance to explore new ideas, create new characters, and have all sorts of adventures with the firetruck. She is only partly successful.

In an effort to maintain the peace in the small classroom and reinforce her lesson, the teacher creates a behavior chart for playing with the favorite toy of the day. The chart describes, in preschool language, how the toy will be played with and when it needs to be passed to another student.

The students quickly learn that the teacher is right. When they share the toy together, they end up having much more fun. On those days when the students neglect their newly-found sharing skills, however, the chart provides a handy reference to help them get back on track.

How does this lesson in sharing apply to marketing?

Take the warring students and replace them with the sales and marketing departments at some companies. An estimated 87 percent of the words used by marketing and sales departments to describe each other are negative, yet when these two teams are aligned, they can accomplish so much more. Just like the more elaborate games of childhood, aligned sales and marketing teams can produce up to 20 percent more profit! When the teams are well-aligned, they maximize their lead cultivation and achieve a much higher conversion rate.

Using a written agreement to help align your teams

The teacher in our story discovered that while meetings and lessons helped to encourage the students to play together, the behavior chart gave them something to look back on as a reference when things went wrong. A similar chart (though more elaborate, of course) can help sales and marketing teams coexist more peacefully, too. Such a chart should define terms, behavior, and the steps each team will take in cultivating and contacting leads.

Clearly defining the roles and expectations of sales and marketing teams will help each understand better what role the other plays in generating leads. The teams will also stay on the same page about when a lead is sales ready and when information should be passed along. When the marketing team finds leads, they’ll do a better job of passing along lead intelligence to the sales team, so the sales professionals know what contact the company has already had with this particular person. When salespeople receive a lead, they’ll have clearly defined expectations of the type and amount of contact they should have with the lead.

Working together will enhance communication, improve understanding, and make it easier to stay on the same page. Enforcing this agreement with regular meetings to judge progress can ensure everyone remains satisfied.

Aligning sales and marketing teams can be a fantastic way to improve profits and brand representation. Just like children learning to share, showing employees the value of working together, while also having a common agreement to back up the lesson, can help improve performance for everyone.

What We Can Learn From Writing Holiday Wish Lists

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What We Can Learn From Writing Holiday Wish Lists

As the holiday season approaches, children across the country will sit down with paper and crayon in hand to spell out exactly what they hope to get during the upcoming festivities. This year, Frozen-themed toys are likely to top many lists, as are the latest video games, some popular action figures, and other toys that have been flying off the shelves. Many children will compare notes with their friends at school to get ideas about what to ask for and to see what’s already on other people’s lists.

This sharing of ideas is an example of the psychological phenomenon known as ‘the bandwagon effect.’ From the activity of writing a Christmas list itself, to the toys that appear on it, children are influenced by what their peers are doing. This principle impacts all of us, no matter how old we are or what the subject matter is. Regardless of how independent we’d like to think we are, the truth is we’re all heavily influenced by what our peers are doing.

According to the bandwagon effect, we’re all more likely to do something, buy something, or use something if others are doing it. We all desire to be part of a larger group, which leads us to follow others to the latest trends and fads. People become more willing to try new products or services when they find that others are trying those products and are happy with the results.

For marketing, this can be valuable because it means your products and services can grow organically. Learning how to capitalize on this effect will give you the tools you need to make your products seem appealing to the crowd, which will enhance the bandwagon effect and your potential for word-of-mouth advertising.

How to use the bandwagon effect to your advantage

The bandwagon effect is all about convincing people that using your products and services will make them part of an established group of satisfied customers. There are several ways you can leverage this type of advertising.

  • Use customer reviews prominently on your website to show your page visitors that others have been pleased with your products.
  • Use images of satisfied customers on your website.
  • Encourage followers on social media to post pictures and stories of themselves using your products and services and the successes they have had.

You can also use the bandwagon effect to create feelings of belonging among your users. Start by creating spaces for your customers to speak to each other and compare their use of your products and services. Customers can discuss how to grow their own businesses while taking advantage of what your company has to offer. This will encourage people to feel as though they’re part of a special group, encouraging more feelings of loyalty. Facebook groups, user forums, and even just the comment threads on your company blog are good places to begin these conversations.

Helping your customers feel as though using your products and services introduces them to a special group can improve brand loyalty and encourage people to continue to use your products. Just like children designing their holiday wish lists, customers enjoy comparing notes with their friends and feeling as though they belong to a particular group. Use the above tips to encourage these types of emotions in your customers, and you should see growth in your brand.

Never Underestimate the Importance of Customer Satisfaction

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Never Underestimate the Importance of Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is essential to any company’s growth. When you meet or exceed a customer’s expectations, they can do wondrous things for your reputation and even give you free advertising by recommending you to others. However, if you fail to meet their expectations, you’ll likely never see them again. In fact, they might even complain about their experience on public forums, such as social media.

The value of customer satisfaction

According to Bain & Company, it costs 6 to 7 times more to find a new customer than to keep an existing one. Holding on to old customers and building customer loyalty gives you the chance to improve the bottom line drastically compared to a mindset that focuses exclusively on finding new customers.

Satisfied customers can also be fantastic brand advertisers. In the age of digital media, both complaints and compliments can go viral. A customer who takes to Twitter to speak about a poor customer experience can influence untold numbers of people who are debating whether or not to use your company. Fortunately, the same can be said for those who leave positive reviews.

Individuals who feel satisfied with the customer experience are more likely to tell friends, family, and associates about their positive experience. Since people take reviews from those they trust far more seriously than advertising, the value of customer satisfaction cannot be underestimated.

Keeping your customers happy

Customer service entails more than just what happens when a buyer makes a purchase. It encompasses their entire experience and interaction with your company. With that in mind, here are some pointers to consider:

  • Keep your employees happy. They’re the face of your company. When they’re happy, they’ll make your customers happy, too.
  • Undersell and over deliver. For example, if you tell a customer you’ll call them back by the end of the business day with a suggestion, try to call them back before lunch with two suggestions. Instill this same attitude in your team.
  • Work to ensure customers experience helpfulness at every stage. Make sure your website is helpful and easy to use. Train customer service reps to focus on solving problems, rather than just selling. And don’t forget about customers after the sale. Instead, focus on helping them get the most from your product or service.

When customers find their expectations have been met or exceeded, they’ll often share those experiences with friends, family, and followers on social media. Make customer satisfaction a focus of your organization to help improve the bottom line and make the entire experience more enjoyable for everyone.

How to Fix Your Call To Action

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How to Fix Your Call To Action

Your call to action, or CTA, is easily one of the most important parts of your website. It’s where you find new leads and convince your audience you offer something worth exploring. Whether your CTA invites people to sign up for a newsletter or download your latest ebook, all CTAs are not created the same. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind when developing this critical part of the website.

The words

The words on your CTA are critical. Most people will be skimming it, so it’s important to make your offer’s potential value obvious to everyone who sees it. Use precise, clear language that explains what customers are going to receive. Bullet points are fantastic because they’re particularly easy to skim and tell the audience exactly what they’re going to receive.

The words you use in your CTA should also line up with the text around it. For example, if you offer home cleaning services and are offering a free download on the safest cleaners to use around children, your CTA will probably best fit at the end of blog posts and articles that discuss the dangers of certain cleaners or how to safely secure cleaners away from children. Try to create a tangible link between the content and the CTA. This will help ensure your offer reaches those who are most likely to be interested in what you have to say.

The appearance

While what you say is certainly important, so is the overall appearance of your CTA. Choose contrasting colors to help the CTA pop from the page and attract viewers’ attention. A CTA that just blends in at the bottom of a blog post will be overlooked and have a poor conversion rate. Similarly, make sure the CTA is big and bold, so no one can miss it. Don’t hide the CTA in the corner, using the same font size as the rest of the page. It will be too easy to ignore.

In the same way, use images and other visuals to help consumers get a concrete look at what they’ll be receiving. If that’s an ebook, for example, use a picture of an actual book with the title of your ebook printed on the front. Using images helps people develop a strong association with the product you’re offering and makes it look more appealing.

The importance of testing

When planning your campaign, develop more than one CTA, then test them to see which one resonates more with customers. You might be surprised how much difference a particular word choice or color can make on your conversion rates. Run basic A/B tests on the CTA, and get concrete answers about which offer is getting more conversions.

An A/B test is simple. Say you have one CTA and then develop an alternate page. The A/B test will randomly show some visitors the original and some the alternate page. It will then track how many people convert from each page. You can use this information to see which has a higher conversion rate, so you get the best page on your site.

Developing an efficient CTA will bring you leads and potential customers. Take the time to follow the steps above, and create a CTA that will maximize your potential.

Finding Your Crowd… On Social Media

Imagine you just moved to a new area. It’s a small city with a bustling population. The local college attracts many young adults to the city, especially on the weekends, while local businesses ensure the professional crowd is also well represented.

Being new to the area, you want to find a place to go for dinner where you can meet some locals and start to get to know your new neighbors. Friday afternoon, you head into the first restaurant. It’s bustling with activity and has great music, but at a volume so loud you can barely hear yourself think. You look around and realize that the crowd is mostly college kids. Surely, some of them are great people, but this isn’t really the crowd you’re looking to get to know. You might make a connection or two, but it will likely be significantly harder to form meaningful relationships.

So, you head out to the second restaurant. As you walk in, hardly anyone looks up. Most people seem to already be finishing their dinner, and the average age in the place seems to be older than your father. Sure, there are probably some fantastic people here, too, but again, this really isn’t the crowd you’re looking for.

You try the next place. You see some people in your age range, but it seems to be a much more family-oriented scene. Most people in the restaurant have young children seated with them. While you love your nieces and nephews, you don’t have children yourself yet, so you wonder how well you’d fit in. You decide to wander on.

Finally, you head into the fourth place. You look around and breathe a sigh of relief. This establishment is filled with other professionals in your age range. This will be a great place for you to start to meet people in your new town and hopefully form some meaningful connections that can help you both socially and professionally.

<strong>So what does all of this have to do with marketing your company?</strong>

As the restaurants in our story demonstrate, different places tend to cater to different crowds. They aren’t all interchangeable. The same is true of social media. If you want to increase your odds of connecting with your audience, you have to know what types of social media they like and where they will be found. To accomplish this, you need to know the following:

<strong>A precise definition of your audience</strong>

Before planning a social strategy, you need to know who you’re trying to reach. This isn’t just a general idea of "people who need XYZ." Instead, you need a more precise profile, including age, education, position, challenges, responsibilities, and what your prospects are looking for.

<strong>Who uses each social media platform</strong>

B2B companies tend to put a considerable amount of effort into LinkedIn, because this is the platform for networking professionals and those who are thinking about business. Facebook is dominated by people in a variety of age ranges looking to joke around and chat with friends. Twitter is a continuous conversation. Google+ has the biggest asset for local businesses looking to boost their SEO and odds of being found by local patrons.

Take these two sources of information and combine them to make a social media marketing plan that will help grow your company in ways you never thought possible. When you’re ready to begin a new marketing campaign, contact us. We’re here to help you get started and find success.

Just What the Teacher Ordered: The Business-Building Benefit Marketing Reports Provide

By the time most of us graduated from high school, we were well acquainted with researching, writing, and editing reports. College often meant more of the same.

While few would list report writing as a “highlight” of their academic career, those hours spent compiling reports were not spent in vain. Sure, report writing helped many of us learn how to plan out a project and conduct research, but they also taught us a bit about the topics we were researching, too. By forcing us to look in depth at the various subjects we were studying and analyze them from a number of different angles, we gained a far better comprehension of the subject matter than we might have if we had just read the textbook.

It’s important to remember those benefits, especially when it comes to marketing your company.

How marketing reports are like your old school reports

Like their high school and college counterparts, marketing reports can also feel frustrating. People often view such assignments as time wasters that are only done because they’re demanded by the c-level executives upstairs. In reality, however, marketing reports can offer considerable insight and help everyone better understand the company’s marketing strategies and how they can be improved.

When you sit down and really invest the time needed to complete a thorough marketing report, you’ll walk away with a much better understanding of your company’s current marketing practices, how well each campaign is performing, and how it all relates to your company’s bottom line. Without a well-researched report, it can be easy to gloss over weak spots and overlook opportunities for continued growth.

What a marketing report should exam

There are an infinite number of metrics a marketing report can examine, but some have more appeal and a greater ability to shed light on the success of your marketing strategy. Here are a couple to consider.

How much does it cost the company, on average, to obtain each new customer?

Take a look at your total cost in sales and marketing over a given period of time. Then see how many customers you obtained in that same period. Divide the cost by the number of customers, and you’ll have your average cost of obtaining a single customer.

Determine what percentage of that cost is related directly to marketing, so you can see which campaigns worked and which ones didn’t. Such insights can prove valuable in helping the marketing team improve their regular performance and illustrate the success of any changes made.

How many leads were generated directly from marketing?

Your marketing team should also be able to report how many successful leads were generated specifically from marketing efforts. Begin by calculating the percentage of customers who began as marketing leads. Then look at how many leads started elsewhere (e.g., in sales), but were influenced by the marketing department before making a purchase.

For added benefit, try to break down specifically where these marketing leads are coming from. Are prospects downloading certain ebooks? Do they subscribe to your blog? Did they take an online webinar?

Marketing reports offer valuable information about the state of your company’s marketing programs and what can be improved. Although they might be viewed with the same frustration as the school reports of your youth, they can also offer incredible insight and education. So don’t overlook the opportunity reports provide to regularly analyze the success of your marketing efforts.

Finding Your Next Great Employee

“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” – Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell’s Soup

Great companies need outstanding employees in order to grow. The problem is finding and retaining that caliber employee. Most small businesses don’t fully understand the process of hiring top-notch employees.

“Effective organizational leadership is simple: 1. Have a vision of where you want to get to. 2. Clearly and persuasively communicate that vision to employees. 3. Be consistent in your behaviors as you strive to achieve that vision.” – from A Roadmap for Employee Engagement by Andy Parsley

Many make the mistake of hiring an employee without clearly thinking the process all the way through. They neglect to think about what they actually want from the new hire. Hiring in this way sets the new employee up for failure before they ever walk in for their first day of work. This turns out to be a waste of time and resources for everyone.

To help avoid this, you need to go through the interview process. The first and most critical step is to write an advertisement that attracts great people in the first place — one that encourages the kind of candidates who want to work for your company.

Thinking this through will also make you consider the short-term and long-term responsibilities and tasks required for this position.

The challenge of finding great job candidates starts with the ad itself. Mediocre job ads attract mediocre workers. To improve your placement ad, you should incorporate the following in the description.

    • Make your company sound innovative and interesting. This will help attract more dynamic applicants who want to work for a fascinating company.
    • Let the applicant know with whom they will most likely be working. Candidates will look forward to learning from someone who is the expert in their field.
    • If the location of your company is a plus for applicants, make sure to mention it. The more benefits you can mention in the ad, the more attractive your ad becomes.
    • Make sure to mention that the position offers growth for the right candidate. Everyone wants to know that they can grow with the company. This also implies that they will be able to make more money as they grow.
    • Include the total compensation and benefits in the offer. Paid holidays, flexible hours, and other perks can be very attractive.
    • Mention that the position requires hard work and dedication. This can help filter out the lazy applicants before time is wasted with the interview.
  • The ad should stand out from all the others. If you want creative, superstar applicants, the ad should be creative, too.

Finding and retaining top talent is one of the most important tasks for any growing company. A strong recruitment ad is just the start but one that can’t be overlooked. Include these tips in your next ad, and hopefully you will attract the type of superstar employee you desire.

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