Archive for ‘General Marketing’

December 18th, 2014

Six Steps You Should Take to Stay Current with the Digital Landscape

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Technology has enabled so many more options for small business marketing.  It can be exciting, but at the same time, overwhelming, for entrepreneurs to focus on their business and in it.  With smaller budgets and staffs, small business owners don’t have a lot of flexibility to experiment with unproven digital marketing strategies, and there is very little room for mistakes.

However in today’s landscape, local consumers research small businesses online just as they do everything else, elevating the need for small business owners to embrace digital marketing to reach customers anytime, anywhere.

Regardless of whether a small business is working towards rapid growth, slow growth or no growth at all, the consumer is constantly changing the way they absorb information, and businesses need to be where consumers are.

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According to Borrell Associates Digital Marketing Services Outlook from September of this year, spending on digital marketing services – a $500 billion market – grew 11% year over year, with 2 out of every 5 dollars spent by small business owners.  It’s clear that entrepreneurs recognize the importance of embracing digital channels but how to do so may be less apparent.

As businesses prepare for 2015, I suggest following six steps to keep up with the evolving digital landscape:

1. Create a mobile-friendly website:  Almost everyone today owns a smartphone.  Yet you would you would be surprised by the number of businesses that have not optimized their web sites for mobile devices.  Mobile responsive sites load faster, are easier to read and give users a better experience.  Businesses that don’t take advantage of this are missing an opportunity to connect with customers.

2. Manage your online presence/listing: Consistency is important. Think of your online presence as your business card.  Your digital, mobile and print presence should always be current and cohesive across a variety of search destinations, such as Google, Facebook, and YP. Many businesses have incorrect or missing information online, which makes it difficult for consumers to find them. Did you know that missing or inaccurate information costs businesses $10 billion every year? (Source: The State of Location Industry Paper)

3. Evaluate the competition: Analyze what your competitors are doing.  How they market themselves through their ads, website and social media will give insight on what they consider important and how you differentiate yourself.  As the saying goes, half the battle is showing up, and you need to understand the competitive landscape in order to attract new customers and retain existing ones. While you’re at, be sure to consider unlikely competitors.  For example, do you sell wide range of products, like electronics, home appliances and furniture?  If you take too narrow a view, you could lose business to a competitor you didn’t know you had.

4. Consider consumer retail trends: Evaluate the technologies that are driving consumers to your business and stay ahead of the curve by anticipating how consumer behavior may change.  For example, the majority of all consumer purchases are either influenced by online research or actually occur online, according to Forrester.  Think carefully about your buyers’ current path to purchase and focus on those channels that they are actively using.

5. Provide options for potential customers: The majority of purchases are planned; most people will not act immediately upon seeing an ad.  Reach people when they are considering their next shopping trip by providing options such as call a store, find a location, or the ability to interact with an offer or coupon.  It all comes down to using a softer sales method by presenting several options that don’t make the consumer feel pressured.

6. Understand the source of leads/new business: Lead tracking programs can show where customers are finding your business, and by leveraging that data, businesses can identify not only the quantity of leads but also the quality. For small businesses, mobile offers an incredible opportunity to understand a consumer beyond their physical location and actually analyze how they behave.  It is becoming common today for consumers to look up a business on a smartphone and then either call directly from the same device, map a store location or visit a physical storefront – all leads that can be tracked.

Businesses today have a myriad of options across screens, devices and channels to reach consumers.  Ultimately, success is defined by the ability to make a connection with the right consumer at the right time.  Advertising is after all an investment, and if you want to grow your business, it’s an investment that will pay strong dividends when done properly.

About the Author: Jeff Federman works at YP (formerly YellowPages.com). He is Senior Vice President/General Manager in YP’s digital region, responsible for online and mobile advertising solutions for small businesses.

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Archive for ‘General Marketing’

December 8th, 2014

The 5 Most Powerful Words You Can Use in Your Next Call-to-Action

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“The World can move, or not, by changing some words.”

– Toby Ziegler, White House Director of Communications, The West Wing.

Toby Ziegler is a creation of Aaron Sorkin; a writer who has spent his whole career crafting screenplays, like The West Wing, The Newsroom, and movies, like The American President and The Social Network.

In his work, every word matters. Every word conveys an important meaning. Change a word or two and the audience will laugh or cry, agree or disagree, shout at the screen or give a standing ovation.

One common thread throughout his work is an appreciation for the craft of writing and a deep respect for the words used, depending on the character and what Sorkin hopes to achieve.

Brands, agencies and e-commerce companies alike need to have the same respect for individual words as award winning screenwriters. A conversion can happen, or not, by changing some words. But unlike Sorkin, copywriters have the chance to test and constantly change the script depending on the impact our words have on a digital audience.

We also have the ability to stop the action with a few words, driving our audiences towards a specific destination: the end of the conversion journey. This means taking time to understand the value of certain words and using them the right way in the content we produce, which is what this article is about.

The Five Most Powerful Words For Calls to Action

There are countless studies online about which words are the most powerful, including dozens on the psychology of language and how that relates to increasing conversions. This is to be expected, given that marketers never stop learning and trying to find new ways to engage with their audience.

One specific group of five words appears again and again, despite some doubt as to the existence of a definitive study which supports their power:

1. Because

Robert Cialdini in his book Influence did tests using language. All of which consistently found that when a “because” was followed by a good reason, people generally respond positively. He demonstrated that:

“ A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.”

2. New

With new comes the irresistible pull of the novelty factor. Especially when it comes to products, we need new features to keep us excited, to make us feel alive. This all happens in the same part of our brains responsible for gambling, drug and alcohol addictions, even the reason we have affairs.

We respond the same way to new products, improved features, even new branding and packaging. Using ‘new’ in copy, providing you aren’t just trying to sell old wine in a new skin, will have a noticeable impact on conversions, every time.

3. You

A 2007 study by Carmody and Lewis found that using a customers name in copy causes a  “unique brain functioning activation” response.

Unfortunately when it comes to general web copy or other digital content, you can’t speak to everyone in your audience on a personal level. Which is where the word you comes in; it is as close as you can get online, and gets a similar response, on a psychological level.

4. Free

Everyone loves the word free. The idea of getting something for nothing, providing what you are getting has actual value. A customer getting something they don’t want for free is unlikely to have the kind of positive impact you would be hoping for, so pick your “free” deals carefully.

In Dan Ariely’s insightful book, Predictably Irrational, he tests this theory on a Hershey’s Kiss and a Lindt truffle.

In the first test the truffle was given a value of 15 cents. The Kiss was 1 cent. Based on pre-existing brand and taste perception amongst his taste audience, 73 percent picked the truffle.

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He repeated the test, except this time the Kiss was free. The truffle cost 1 cent less, down to 14 cents. That one tiny change had a massive difference. The Kiss won, with 69% of the audience choosing that, and only 31% still picking the truffle. img2_free choc

5. Instantly

Humans are terrible at waiting. Delayed gratification might be one of the greatest skills when it comes to being successful, as countless studies have shown, but when it comes to making a purchase, we don’t want it tomorrow, we need it, now!

If we can get something, especially something new or at a discount, or even free, then we want it immediately. Several MRI studies have shown the impact of words like “instantly,” “now,” “immediate” or “fast” have on the human brain.

You will have seen these five words used over and over again, because they work, consistently.

How to integrate them into Calls-to-Action and Web Copy

These five words are load bearing. Like the framework and supporting walls in a physical structure they can carry a lot of weight because of the psychological trust placed on them. However, they themselves must be supported the right way, within the framework of the copy and design.

The use of any one of these words, or any number of other high value words which convert, must make sense within the copy itself.

How you use them also depends on the context. Is it within a headline or call to action? Social or SEO? Within headlines, and for SEO purposes, the word needs to be placed early on or right at the start: “Free Wi-Fi for every Rewards Customer this Holiday Season.”

Depending on your SEO aims it might be useful to sprinkle the word throughout (providing it looks like natural web copy), and in the meta, like seasoning. The same is true when aiming for conversions within email marketing, as repetition is key for re-enforcement of the message. Cement and build trust with your audience using these keywords, which are all supported by numerous studies, and reinforce with repetition and clear calls to action.

What words work well with your audience? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

About the Author: Benjamin Kerry is Head of Marketing for Jigoshop. More than 370,000 stores worldwide empower their e-commerce with Jigoshop, a powerful plugin available for WordPress users around the globe.

 

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December 3rd, 2014

6 Surprising Facts About the Millennial Consumer

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We all think we intuitively “get” the Millennial consumer – hip, digitally savvy 20-somethings who would rather text than talk and who run their lives from their ever-present Smartphones.

But a great deal of misinformation exists about Millennials, even as they continue to grow in consumer power and influence. Has their reliance on technology impacted how they communicate? What influences their purchasing decisions? How do their relationships with friends and family inform other areas of their lives?

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This year, Influence Central set out to get a deeper understanding of Millennials and surveyed more than 1,100 Millennial women born between 1979 and 1993 for their views on everything from technology platforms to purchase habits to privacy in a digital world.

Their responses revealed a complex profile of a rising generation eager to make their own mark in the world around them. Consider these surprising facts about this influential generation:

  1. They Chart Their Own Consumer Journey: Millennials stand out from their Gen X and Boomer predecessors when it comes to their path to purchase. Instead of the linear course of earlier generations, Millennials follow a circuitous approach – filled with fact-gathering, inspiration, browsing, peer education, and more – that all intertwines with one another. Not surprisingly, 58% of Millennials consider themselves very engaged in consumerism.
  1. They Seek Out New Experiences: Millennials – who believe themselves to be intrepid explorers – constantly look for new products, experiences, and adventures that they can spontaneously share. They love to uncover cool new products or trend spot to find their next big adventure. In fact, 53% consider themselves independent thinkers, as well as say they are the first of their peers to try new things.
  1. They Don’t Look for Leadership Opportunities: Despite their quest for adventure, Millennials don’t do it to establish expertise or followers – instead they prefer to stay on more of an equal footing with friends and family as they share information online. Unlike previous generations who sought out leadership opportunities, just 5% of Millennials use social media to be considered an expert, and more than 40% say they don’t measure their personal success against others on social media (28% say they do).
  1. They Proactively Gather Opinions: While Millennials remain independent thinkers, they place considerable value on the opinions of their friends and family members. Before making a purchase, they’ll seek insight from those in the know and query friends, peers, and family members for their thoughts and opinions. In fact, 93% of Millennials have made a purchase after hearing about it from a family member or friend, and 87% trust products after conducting their own research, which typically involves significant crowdsourcing from friends.
  1. They Don’t Share Everything on Social Media: Even though they’ve grown up as the first generation surrounded by social media and technology, Millennials do identify boundaries in what they’ll share publicly. Fifty percent think twice about posting a status update or tweet, and more than 40% say they never check-in on social media. In addition, only 28% of Millennials will post more updates now than they did previously. This online sharing/privacy dichotomy represents an example of the contradictions that exist within this demographic – as well as some of the misinformation that’s out in the marketplace about Millennials.
  1. They Still Value In-Person Connections: This online vs. in-person connection represents another example of how this generation doesn’t fall neatly into buckets. While Millennials may navigate their lives in an online world, they still seek out in-person recommendations, and this feedback does influence their purchasing decisions. For example, nearly 70% seek in-person, word-of-mouth recommendations for food and beverage spends, and more than 65% of Millennials look for personal recommendations when considering vacation options.

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Overall, reaching Millennial consumers can represent a challenge for brands because they differ so significantly from the generations that came before them, and the approaches that worked for Boomers and Gen Xers simply don’t resonate with this cohort. But by gaining a better understanding of how Millennials communicate, make purchasing decisions, and interact with friends and family, brands can go a long way in successfully connecting with them.

To listen to a recent Influence Central Webinar on Millennials, click on this audio link and this SlideShare link.

About the Author: Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of Influence Central, is a social media strategist, attorney, and best-selling author. A frequent national and international speaker, she consults with brands on consumer and social media trends. You can reach her at stacy@influence-central.com.

 

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Archive for ‘General Marketing’

December 1st, 2014

Five Rules of Grammar You Can Ignore (Despite What Your English Teacher Told You)

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One of the nice things about my job is that I receive a lot of free books from well-known marketing authors like Erik Qualman, Dave Kerpen and Lon Safko. Usually, these are shipped to me direct from the publisher in the hopes that I’ll read them and write a review on the 60 Second Marketer. As nice as it is to get the free books, I just don’t have the bandwidth to read each one, let alone write a review.

But a few weeks ago, I received a review copy of Everybody Writes by Ann Handley, who is the Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs. My intent was to sit down, skim a few pages and then put it up on the shelf with all the other review copies I’ve received in the last year.

So, I grabbed a fresh cup of coffee and started reading a few pages. Then I read a few more pages. And a few more pages.

Before long, I realized that Ann’s book is a must read for any businessperson interested in improving their writing. And that means you.

Her book is packed with useful information and helpful tips that even seasoned writers need to re-visit. Better still, Ann’s book is written in a light, engaging style that makes reading it pure joy.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share a short excerpt from her book that you might find helpful. It’s about five grammar rules that your third grade teacher said never to break, but that Ann Handley says are okay to ignore.

Break Some Grammar Rules. (At Least These Five.)

High school composition classes tend to lump a lot of rules into writing – many of them telling writers what not to do. But you’re not writing to please your teachers anymore. Many of those prohibitions refer to the so-called mistakes that occur naturally in speech. I encourage you to safely and fearlessly break those rules and to make those mistakes in writing – but only when doing so lends greater clarity and readability.

  1. Never start a sentence with and, but, or because. And why not put and, but, or because at the beginning of a sentence? Because Ms. Dolan didn’t like it? That’s the way I heard it, anyway. But now that I’m a grown-up I realize that she was wrong. Why? Because all three can add energy and momentum to a piece. They can keep the action moving from sentence to sentence.
  2. Avoid sentence fragments. It’s perfectly fine to sparingly add sentence fragments for emphasis. At least, sometimes. (Like that.) (And that too.) (And this.)
  3. Never split infinitives. There’s supposedly a rule that says you can’t let anything come between to and its verb. Mignon Fogarty (who runs GrammarGirl.com) says this is an imaginary rule. She writes, “Instead of ‘to boldly go where no one has gone before,’ the Star Trek writers could just [as] easily have written, ‘to go boldly where no one has gone before.” But they didn’t. You, too, can split if you wish. But be careful not to change the meaning or create too much ambiguity, as GrammarGirl notes:

Sometimes when you try to avoid splitting an infinitive you can change the meaning of a sentence. Consider this example:

Steve decided to quickly remove Amy’s cats.

The split infinitive is “to quickly remove,” but if you move the adverb quickly before the infinitive, you could imply that Steve made the decision quickly:

Steve decided quickly to remove Amy’s cats.

  1. Don’t end a sentence with a preposition. It has been said that after an editor changed his sentence so it wouldn’t end with a preposition, Winston Churchill quipped, “This is the kind of impertinence up with which I shall not put.” Awkward. “This is the kind of impertinence I will not put up with,” is perfectly fine. One big unless: “You shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition when the sentence would mean the same thing if you left off the preposition,” GrammarGirl notes. “That means ‘Where are you at’ is wrong because ‘Where are you?’ means the same thing.
  1. Never write a paragraph that’s a mere one sentence long. In school, I was taught to write paragraphs with no fewer than three sentences and no more than seven. Modern marketing has pretty much choked this one dead, because white space helps online readability tremendously.

But it bears emphasizing: one sentence, set apart, is a great way to make an important point crystal clear.

I’m not kidding.

Everybody Writes, by Ann Handley, is available at fine bookstores everywhere.

Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley. Copyright (c) 2014 by Ann Handley. All rights reserved. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.

Jamie Turner is CEO of the 60 Second Marketer and 60 Second Communications, a marketing communications agency that works with well-known brands around the globe.

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November 26th, 2014

The Best Business Advice I Ever Got

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 5.58.40 PM I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for tips and techniques to grow my business.

In order to stay up-to-date on new tips and techniques, I read a lot of books from authors like Steven Covey and Tony Robbins (yes, Tony Robbins, who gets pegged as a motivational guy, but who is actually a super-brilliant businessman).

I also read a lot of blogs (Michael Hyatt, Razor Social, Business Insider, etc.) and newspapers (the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times are my favorites, although I don’t always have a subscription).

Long story short — I have a steady flow of ideas coming my way about how to improve my business and how to improve my personal performance. Many of these ideas are delivered by people who have had massive amounts of success, so I listen to them closely.

But the best piece of business advice I ever got was from my brother, who is not a Wall Street icon or a famous blogger, he’s a very humble guy who goes to church every day and works as a piano technician.

From those humble roots came this game changing business advice, which is deceptive in its simplicity, yet revolutionary in its scope.

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Let me explain.

As you know, software works by taking a line of code, executing that line and then moving on to the next line of code.

The best software has millions of lines of code that continuously build upon one another. The result is that the software runs amazing things like space ships, Google, your smartphone, nuclear power plants and other important stuff.

But if the first line of code is wrong in any of that software, then the whole thing goes kaput.

In other words, no matter how well-written and smart lines 2 through infinity are, if the first line of code is wrong, the it doesn’t matter what the rest of the code says to do — it just doesn’t add up.

Many people in business (myself included) need to examine their first line of code. After all, if your business decisions are made with an errant first line of code, then no matter how good the rest of your business decisions are, they won’t do squat for your business.

Let’s take a look at some flawed first lines of code:

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I’m sure there will be a few people who disagree with my point-of-view that these are flawed first lines of code. After all, don’t all successful businesses put their customers first? (The answer is no.) And don’t businesses always succeed when they have happy employees? (Again, the answer is no.) And shouldn’t you always enter in to agreements that are win/win? (No — There are times where I’ve intentionally been the loser in an agreement in the short run, in order to ultimately have a win/win arrangement in the long run.)

That’s not to say that those lines of code shouldn’t be in your mix, it’s just to say that it shouldn’t be your first line of code.

So, what’s your first line of code?

The answer is going to vary depending on your industry, the company you work for  and the job you’ve been assigned to do. But my first line of code — as the CEO of a marketing communications firm — is this.

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This line of code is so important that I have it written on the white board in my office as a reminder. After all, I’m just like you in that I get distracted, side tracked and unfocused at times.

In fact, I probably suffer from that more than you do, which is why I have my first line of code written on a white board 3 feet from the tip of my nose.

Why is this line of code so important for me? Because if I don’t have a relentless focus on revenue generation for my company, then I don’t have customers or employees to worry about tomorrow.

Remember, there are other lines of code that follow this one — millions, in fact. But the first line of code (for me, anyway) has to start with revenue generation. After all, without revenues, your company doesn’t grow, and if your company isn’t growing, it’s dying.

All this begs the question — what’s your first line of code? What, given your role, is the first thing you should be thinking about as you execute your job?

Let me know in the comments below — it’ll be great to read them!

 

Jamie Turner is the CEO of the 60 Second Marketer and 60 Second Communications, a marketing communications agency that works with national and international brands. He is the co-author of “How to Make Money with Social Media” and “Go Mobile” and is a popular marketing speaker at events, trade shows and corporations around the globe.

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