Month: January 2017

8 Tools for Managing Your Online Presence

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In order to be a digital marketing success, you must understand how to build your online presence. Why does that matter?

Without a good presence, it’s difficult to prepare your prospects for a sales pitch. After putting hours of hard work into building an online business, you want to make a great impression, and convert your leads into customers. But there's no need to go it alone: this list of tools will help increase your online presence, and boost success in your marketing efforts. Let’s get started!

1. Cyfe

Cyfe is an all-in-one dashboard for social media, analytics, marketing, sales, support, infrastructure, and a whole lot more. You can use this app to monitor all of your business data in one convenient location. Features include the ability to monitor individual departments and multiple websites, pre-built widgets, custom data sources, real-time reporting, historical data, data exports and interface customization. Users can set up dashboards from scratch using pre-built and custom widgets. To gain a better sense of how it works, check out this example of a Cyfe-powered web analytics dashboard. This tool will help you not to waste time and energy tracking data, so you can worry about the more important aspects of your business.

2. Brand24

If you want to know what people are saying about your brand, this tool is just what you need. Brand24 will immediately notify you of any online mentions so you can reach out to sales prospects, brand champions and disgruntled customers right away. Learn what people are really saying about your brand and use this information to improve on anything that isn’t working well, so you can improve your bottom line. Brand24 is also a great way to find publicity opportunities, and learn what your competitors are up to.

3. Wisestamp

Wisestamp generates professional email signatures that can help to grow your business. More than 650,000 professionals are using Wisestamp, and there are hundreds of signature templates to choose from. Whatever your field of work, there are enough templates, apps, and designs to find what you need to stand out and represent your business well. This tool can increase your reach across social networks, boost generated leads through the “Schedule A Meeting” app, and draw in more email replies simply by adding a photo: and this is all for free. The PRO version has even more functionality to generate clicks and website visitors

4. ClickMeeting

Webinars are a great way to generate interest for your business, and this tool enables you to create them quickly and easily. Using ClickMeeting, you can customize your webinars, analyze and follow up with attendees, and track the success of every event. These webinars can dramatically increase traffic to your site and boost sales. In conjunction with ClickMeeting, you can use your social media accounts as channels to keep traffic coming to your website, generate leads, and get your business more sales. While you have to pay for indefinite access, there’s also a considerable free trial period without any contracts. You have nothing to lose, and a whole lot to gain, so get started today and get those webinars out there to the world!

5. Brandwatch

Brandwatch is another tool that will give you insight into what your customers are saying about your brand, and what they want from your business. This information is invaluable for building a direct marketing strategy that will speak to your audience and raise conversions. Brandwatch gives you instant access to customer conversations as they occur, so you are always up-to-date on the latest trends. You will also be able to identify threats as they arise, learn how to deal with them, and react smartly to anything that might impact your business. While the service is not cheap (starting at $500), it easily pays for itself depending on the size of your business, and if you aren’t sure, a free demo can help to assess whether it's right for you.

6. Kissmetrics

This tool allows you to segment your audience so you can target visitors by how they got to your site. Using Kissmetrics, you can set triggers to engage with customers based on their actions, and choose the behavior that visitors should display before you bother showing them your campaign. This process helps to identify and target viable prospects while weeding out those who just aren’t interested. Kissmetrics is easy to use, and provides five design templates to jumpstart your optimization. You can visit the site to request a demo and see for yourself how automated segmentation can help your business.

7. OptinMonster

If you want to convert website visitors into email subscribers, you need to start using this tool: OptinMonster allows you to create and A/B test awesome lead capture forms without having to bother with a developer, and the lead generation software will bring big results quickly. Features include the OptinMonster Builder, multiple form types, exit Intent technology, A/B split testing, page level targeting, and built-in analytics just to name a few. This tool works with all major email marketing services, as well as CMS and eCommerce platforms. Everything you need to grow an email list can be found right here, and it will only take you a few minutes to build high converting forms instead of several hours.

8. Mention

Use Mention to monitor your online presence from any location. You will enjoy real-time monitoring of brand mentions from social media and around the web. Track all of the important outlets including social media, blogs, forums, and more, so you can really focus on your brand and learn about your competitors. This tool will help you to attract new customers, build awareness, and improve your overall online reputation while allowing you to engage your audience and react to mentions right away. This tool will help you to handle a crisis when it arises, create reports, study your competition, and a whole lot more. Mention has iPhone and Android apps, and prices start at $29 a month.

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Social Media Marketing Best Practices for SMBsEmail Newsletter Foundations: A Roadmap for SuccessCrisis Management with Social Media

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here!

 


Infographic: Portrait of A Mobile Consumer

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There has never been a better time to optimize your business for mobile consumers. When cell phones were first invented, few people could have anticipated the processing power of the devices we hold in our hands today. With just a few swipes of the finger, we can communicate with our friends in endless ways, capture high-quality photos, shop for products and services, and easily manage every aspect of our personal and professional lives.

The power of this connectivity is changing the world of commerce. Now, product research and buying can be performed wherever consumers are, whether they’re walking in the park, sitting on a train, or taking a lunch break.

This means payment providers and retail giants are changing the way they operate. Brands use social media to reach out to us in a personalized way, and when we do head to brick-and-mortar stores, more and more digital transaction points are available, making it easier and quicker for us to pay at the till.

With the amount of data available online, consumers will be more informed before they choose to buy. And, with e-commerce sales estimated to reach $626 billion by 2018, it’s certainly something all the big players will be investing in.

The portrait of the mobile consumer has certainly changed a lot and is set to evolve further. Online marketers should definitely capitalize by optimizing their platforms for mobile shoppers, and making content easily available to mobile devices.

Check out this great infographic for more information.

voucher_cloud_mobile
This infographic was first published by Maureen Sanford at Vouchercloud

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Building Your Mobile Strategy, Integrating Mobile into Social Media MarketingMobile PR & Content Marketing

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here!

 

 


 


10 Ways to Amplify Content Promotion Strategies

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Generating content is the first step in engaging your audience, but your job isnt quite done once the content is out there. In order to get the most out of your content, you need to understand how to market what you have. Employing content promotion strategies can help boost your reach. Here are 10 ways you can expose your content to more prospects.

1. Ask For Contributions from Top Influencers

By publishing content, you automatically leverage the attention of your existing audience, but tapping into a bigger influencers larger base can open up your content to a wider crowd. How do you do this? Simply cite and link to top influencers when applicable. When you mention these influencers, you have a good chance of getting them to share the content, thereby exposing it to their audience.

Related Class: Finding Influencers to Amplify Social Reach

2. Give Those Influencers Meaningful Incentives

If you hope for an influencer to share your content, you must be prepared to give something in return. Give influencers an incentive, whether its a promotion or a product review, or any other form of mutual exchange. In turn, they are much more likely to help build your audience by sharing content on their platform.

3. Engage Niche Communities

It would be great to achieve mass appeal across a wide range of audiences, but that’s not how you should focus your attention. Instead, focus on the smaller segments that your content appeals to most. You might have content that specifically appeals to online marketers or the tech community; if thats the case, seek out places where these people tend to gravitate, and stay active in those communities.

4. Using the Skyscraper Technique

One way to create content with a built-in audience is to use the skyscraper technique. The idea behind this method is to find the best content thats already published by your competitors and build on it. Any content can be improved on with better design and more in-depth material. This isn’t the same as plagiarism, or spinning: borrowing ideas and making them better isn’t stealing. It’s how all writers, artists, thinkers and innovators thrive.

5. Create Hero Content

Rather than focusing on quantity of content, work on bigger and better content. Concentrate on producing resources that can be marketed and promoted, and spend the effort getting it out to the community.

Related Class: Creating and Curating Content People Love

6. Use Native Advertising

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Native advertising is paid content that fits into the standard structure of a site. Native advertising usually performs better than something like a banner ad, as long as it doesnt come off as pushy, or clash with the tone of your site.

7. Use Broken Links to Your Advantage

When you write powerful content, find other sites that have linked to similar articles, and identify those with broken links. You can use extensions to identify sites with broken links or broken redirects. Then, contact the staff to suggest your article as a replacement for the broken link or redirect. It may sound counter-intuitive, but it works. If they agree, that backlink will help your SEO for that particular page, thus improving the visibility in Google’s organic results for that article.

8. Buy Niche Property

If you are already a large Internet business, buying niche property is a viable option for you. While obviously an expensive prospect, acquiring an existing site that focuses on your market is a great way to quickly expand your platform and get your content out to the right audience.

9. Give Incentives to Sharers

Contests and access to exclusive content are both great ways to increase your audience’s engagement. If you provide them something in exchange for sharing your content, you can gain considerable growth directly from that incentive.

10. Use Snip.ly

Snip.ly is a tool for creating banners on the bottom of your content that links to other articles and resources on your site. This is a great way to keep site visitors around longer, which helps garner clicks and improve usability metrics.

Content promotion strategies can significantly boost your audience reach, which means more clicks, leads and sales. While I’ve touched on a number of these methods, don’t get overwhelmed: dedicating yourself to just one or a few can have a big impact.

Nick Rojas is a self-taught, serial entrepreneur who’s enjoyed success working with and consulting for startups. Using his journalism training, Nick writes for publications such as Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, and Yahoo. He concentrates on teaching small and medium-sized enterprises how best to manage their social media marketing and define their branding objectives.

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Finding Influencers to Amplify Social ReachContent Marketing Strategy for Social MediaCreating and Curating Content People Love

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here!

 


 


Content Strategy: To Outsource or Not to Outsource?

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Over 200 million people use ad blockers, and that number is continuing to rise. This means that traditional online advertising is less visible than ever. In fact, the day may come when old methods fall entirely out of use. On the other hand, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional advertising, generates three times as much traffic, and is still an excellent way to market your brand. But who is going to do all the work?

In some cases, you can execute a content strategy alone or internally. In other cases, outsourcing content writing will definitely serve you well. Take the time to learn when and how to pass content marketing tasks to someone else.

Relevant Class: Introduction to Content Marketing Strategy

First, Discover the Right Time to Outsource

Can you handle your content strategy execution alone? It is a lot of work, and the idea of delegating it to someone else is enticing. But consider carefully before making any decisions. Here are criteria to help assess what’s best for you:

Reasons you should consider outsourcing content writing:

  1. Your internal team is running short on time or simply does not have the necessary skills.
  2. You have the budget to hire a specialized content writer.
  3. You understand the difference between freelancers and agencies.
  4. The project you are working on does not require much personal interaction.
  5. You can find a content writer / marketer specializing in your niche.
  6. You are clear on the process a freelancer or agency will take to complete the required tasks.
  7. You have or will set measurable, attainable content marketing goals.
  8. Content will compliment your other marketing and advertising efforts.

Reasons you should wait to outsource:

  1. You are not clear on your content marketing goals.
  2. You do not have the budget to hire someone.
  3. Someone on your team can handle the workload.
  4. You do not know whether a freelancer or agency would be the best fit for your project.
  5. Your current project requires too much personal interaction to be worth your time.
  6. Content marketing will not work with your current marketing efforts (this is rare).
  7. You cannot find the right person, externally, for the job.
  8. Your team has plenty of time to complete the tasks, and can train for certain aspects.

Relevant Class: Creating and Curating Content People Love

Which of the above scenarios looks more like your current situation? If you have taken stock of the relevant factors and think it’s time to hire help, read on. If not, invest your energy preparing for the time when you will want to outsource: raise the funds, learn about agencies vs. freelancers, and have a plan for securing help when you need it.

Then, Learn How Outsourcing Content Strategy Works

You might think outsourcing your content creation is as easy as a quick google search, contact with a professional, and sending an outline of your parameters. After that, you may expect your content marketing to work miraculously on auto-pilot. Sadly, this is not the case. There is much more that goes into it. This is how to outsource for true success.

Step 1: Set Measurable, Attainable Goals

If you have not already set measurable, attainable goals for your content strategy, this should be done right away. The aim of a new strategy is critical for success. No matter who you choose to hire, there must be a way to know whether or not the plan is working. As you move forward with any content strategy, you should analyze to see what is working, what’s not working, and make adjustments accordingly. When it comes time to interview someone for the position, they should know your goals, so they can judge whether they are right for the job.

Step 2: Create a List of Blog Topics That Can be Written

As the manager of this project, in the beginning at least, it is your job to come up with potential topics to be written. Whether you are posting everything on your own blog or using the content as part of a backlinking strategy - like guest posting on authority blogs - the topics you choose should be relevant to your target audience, or provide SEO value.

Fortunately, there are helpful tools to make this process a breeze. Try these tools and services to come up with topic ideas quickly:

Step 3: Seek Out Specialized Talent

You can’t just hire any writer for your project. You need to have someone on board with experience in your niche. You don't want to hire someone specializing in law to work on an art blog. You don't want a naturopath writing on a blog designed to promote prescription medications. So although writing skills are important, they are secondary to specialized experience. If you're especially concerned about proper style, you can bring an editor to the project as well.

It’s difficult to say where your perfect freelancer or agency is hiding. Try looking on freelancer websites, check out the recommended agencies listed with your marketing platform, consider academic writing services, and/or post an ad on a job website. The more people you interview, the higher your chances of finding the right person for the job.

When it comes time to hire the right person, make sure that your current strategy, goals, topic ideas, and expectations are laid out up front. Choose a freelancer or agency that is experienced and confident in helping you execute your strategy, and check their work. You may want to add your own personal flair, or make changes to the final product until your new employee understands exactly how you want your articles.

Conclusion

Now you know when outsourcing content marketing is appropriate and how it works. If you’re ready, follow the steps above to start your journey towards content marketing success.

Janice Kersh is a freelance writer with vast experience in content marketing. In her spare time, she likes to cook, read sci-fi, and write in her blog - Janice Writing.

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Creating and Curating Content People LoveIntroduction to Content Marketing StrategyContent Marketing Implementation: Executing a Winning Content Program

Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here.

 


8 Ways to Turn a Negative Online Review into a Loyal Client

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In the age of social media, things can turn ugly fast. Small incidents turn into crises, which can become a public relations nightmare spreading bad press about your business to your current users/clients, and even to those who have never even heard of you. Dealing with these situations requires a level head, and a good crisis management plan. But part of avoiding full-blown crisis is responding to individual complaints effectively, whenever they arise.

It’s never fun to find a negative online review about your company. Whether the review is an honest account of a client’s experience, or the result of a partnership gone sour, it can be very discouraging. However, a negative review can also be a great opportunity to create a loyal client.

Remember that leaving a negative review takes effort. The easiest way for a client to handle an issue is to terminate their relationship with your business and go their merry way. The fact that they have taken the time to write and post a review indicates that they would probably like some response from you. Any feedback, positive or negative from a client is an opportunity for your business to grow and improve.

Here are 8 ways to turn a negative online review into a loyal client.

1. Listen

The first way to turn a bad online review into a positive experience is listening to the client’s complaint or story. This means putting ego and defensiveness aside. Read between the lines. For example, if they mention that their account representative didn’t respond in a timely manner, the real issue is that they felt your team wasn’t reliable, or a resource they could turn to in a crisis.

For B2B firms, most phone calls and emails are returned the same day or within 24 hours during the work week. However, when there is a crisis for a client or an urgent request, those need to be prioritized. We’ve all encountered a crisis at work, and we remember the folks who helped and the folks who didn’t. By really listening to the issue that has caused the negative review, you are taking a first step towards resolving the problem and addressing the client’s real concern.

2. Research

Your gut reaction and management’s directive may be responding to a negative review immediately. While quick response time is a priority, you should never act in haste. Research what happened with the client. Talk to the people involved and get the facts. Whether the client is right or wrong isn’t the priority; you want to assess the situation reasonably, and determine the underlying factors.

The priority during your research should be to determine what happened and how to resolve the issue or complaint. If you discover that your team honestly did everything to accommodate the client, then it may be a case where an explanation is needed. Many negative online reviews are caused by misunderstandings or miscommunication. Assemble all the facts, including dates, times, and the people involved so you can draft a coherent, thoughtful reply.

3. Apologize

A great response to a negative online review should start with an apology. It doesn’t have to be an apology about what transpired, but it should take the client's experience seriously - clients are human beings with feelings. If you don’t validate a client’s feelings in any way, they are unlikely to be receptive.

For example, you can start your response with, “We are sorry to hear that you had a negative experience with our customer service team.” Apologizing in this case is not accepting blame for the situation, but shows that you understand their experience was a negative one. Conversely, if you discover in your research that your team was at fault, it’s best to accept blame immediately. This kind of apology could be, “We are sorry that we inadvertently overcharged you for services last month. We accept responsibility for that and are working to reverse the charges immediately.” Whether the issue causing the review is your firm’s fault or not, always begin by acknowledging the negative experience, and apologizing for it.

4. Empathize

The best way to address a negative review is to show empathy. Put yourself in your client’s shoes. We’ve all been frustrated when we can’t access an online account, or forget a password, or experience a product failure. Relate to your client’s frustration and show that you understand their experience.

The main challenge that businesses face here is the temptation to patronize, or express dry sympathy. Saying things like, “I’m sure that is frustrating” or “You must be so frustrated” or “It’s not a big deal” can be insulting. The latter statement is condescending, and the first two are examples of sympathy instead of empathy. The difference between these two states is subtle, but very important: to sympathize with someone is to express regret at their situation. To empathize with them is to show that you relate with their experiences, and know what it's like to be them.

State your empathy in a genuine manner. Really mean what you are saying. Something along the lines of, “We understand how frustrating it can be to have login problems during a meeting with the boss.” In the majority of negative reviews, people just want to be heard and understood. Show that your business listens by empathizing with their situation.

5. Resolve

Don’t bother responding to a review if you don’t have a resolution. Always, always offer a resolution to your reviewer. If you need more information from them to provide a resolution, offer a contact name and number so they can get in touch. Let the negative reviewer know what you need to resolve their issue and how you plan to do it.

In many cases, you may not be able to ferret out enough information during the research phase to resolve the issue. In these situations, the resolution is to give the name and email/phone number of a particular problem solver and ask the reviewer to get in touch at their convenience. A great way to address this is by saying, “We apologize for the error you mentioned in your review. We’d like to work with you to resolve this issue. Please connect with Jeremy by calling 555-5555 at your convenience. Jeremy is aware of your feedback and is ready to help you find a resolution.”

In my experience, half the time the negative reviewer will follow up and work towards a resolution. The other half, the simple act of reaching out resolves the issue by itself. The best part is that responding with a resolution shows other clients and potential clients that your business is responsive, and works to resolve issues issues when they arise.

6. Respond

It’s important that you not only respond to the negative review online, but respond to any questions or requests the client may have afterwards. If they get in touch, make every effort to respond quickly. Everyone who interfaces with that particular client should be aware of the situation so they can work together to repair the relationship. Taking this type of approach often makes clients grateful, which in turn creates loyalty. They know that even when the going gets tough, you’ll work with them. Just like friendships, when things are great, everyone is your “friend,” but when you have an argument, misunderstanding, or make a mistake, the people you really trust work with you towards a resolution.

7. Correct

Once the review has been responded to and the client’s issue has been resolved, you aren’t done. It’s time to correct the issue. Does the internal team need additional training? Is there a bug with your software that needs to be resolved? Do you need a new approach for managing clients? Taking steps to correct the problem and prevent the same issue in the future is essential.

When the issue is corrected, whether it takes days, weeks, or months, it’s important to acknowledge the fix and communicate it to your client base if appropriate. If you followed all the tips above and were able to reverse the negative experience for the client, taking the additional step to incorporate their feedback and fix the issue for all clients shows that you take feedback seriously. Clients become loyal when they know you are listening, and take their input seriously.

8. Follow-up

Following up with the negative reviewer is the final step, regardless of how the situation was resolved. If your team was able to address the issue for the client and has continued working with the client, it’s important to follow-up after time has passed. This can be a quick check-in to see whether they are happy, whether they have any feedback on the process, or if they see anywhere else your firm can improve. This lets them know their feedback is valued.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if the client never responded and ended their relationship with your firm, it’s still important to follow-up in a non-invasive manner. Don’t be pushy, but do send some form of follow-up whether it be an email, a letter, or voicemail. These are delicate communications and should indicate that while you are sorry to lose their business, you found their feedback to be valuable and are always working to improve your products and services. They may not respond, but making an effort to repair the relationship is always worthwhile.

jeremy

Jeremy Durant is Business Principal at Bop Design, a B2B web design and digital marketing firm. Jeremy works closely with businesses in need of a website, marketing and branding strategy, helping them to their unique value proposition and ideal customer profile. Jeremy received his BA from Merrimack College and his MBA from California State University, San Marcos. His writing has been featured in EContent Magazine, PublishThis, Marketing Agency Insider, Visibility Magazine, and Spin Sucks.

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Crisis Management with Social Media, Twitter PR and Crisis Management

Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here.

 


Improve Conversion Rates With Data Democratization

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One of the most critical components of web analytics and conversion rate optimization is interpreting data, analyzing it, and turning it around like a Rubik’s cube. For instance, you can rotate and arrange the traditional 3x3x3 cube in 43 quintillion ways – 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 to be precise. Similarly, you can build billions of models from your data. However, only one of these models will give you the best conversion rate, and this is the elusive Holy Grail you must find to maximize your efforts.

Let me illustrate this with another example. As you can see in the image below, there are 3 expressways you can take to go from Chicago to Wyoming. The shortest route is the 196, but if you take a detour and go via 131, you might end up adding an hour to your journey. There are a couple of other routes to get there too, but both will take longer.

maps

Image Source: Google Maps screenshot

In the same way, any of your conversion tactics can prove lucrative and get you to your goal, but one will get you there faster than the others.

So how do you find the perfect, elusive model to reach the optimum conversion rate? The answer lies in data democratization, data decentralization, and data transparency. Let’s dig a bit further into the whys and hows of revolutionary data processes so you can play around with the data you’ve collected and find your conversion sweet-spot.

Data Democratization

We have more data than ever before, sometimes more than we know what to do with. If you were to narrow down data and scrutinize bounce rates on Google Analytics, you would probably start with entry and exit pages, then move on to user flow, keywords, location, language, device, browser compatibility, site speed, and more.

This is just one issue (bounces) and one data source (Google Analytics). Now imagine you add legacy data, POS transactions, social media conversations, survey results or feedback collected from trade events, and make inferences from the pool of data available: even if you are an insatiable data glutton, you’ll be quickly overwhelmed!

It is inappropriate, impractical, and immature to restrict data to the elite few, whether they are CEOs or domain-specialized data scientists, and expect them to make sense out of it for everyone. This is why 2016 has been heralded as the year of data democratization. Data democratization ensures everyone in an organization has access to data, and is therefore in a better position to make decisions.

Finish Line, an athletic apparel and footwear retailer with nearly 700 physical and online outlets, uses POS data, loyalty data, social streams, and beacon data to improve one-on-one communication and up-sell to customers. The results were impressive: Stephanie Bleymaier, Director of Digital Personalization and Loyalty, reported a 50% increase in email open rates and a 30% rise in return on social media ad spend. Guess where that would have taken conversions?

Related Class: Leverage Social & Customer Data for Email Relevancy

Other departments were able to “increase their efficiency...by tapping into the data pool,” Stephanie said. The first priority for any decent collaboration and data management tool is making data available to all users, ensuring healthy debate, consensus, leading to quicker, more informed decision-making.

The idea of data democratization may cause worries over security. But to protect sensitive data, you can use a sophisticated collaboration tool that offers secure file sharing, access control and group or individual level permissions, ensuring data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. For instance, campaign tracking and project management tool WorkZone allows users to share sensitive data and plans securely with a particular team, giving each person access to just the right amount of information.

workzone

Image Source: WorkZone screenshot

With this tool, users can send emails, comment, make changes or record meeting notes to data resources that are relevant to them. WorkZone also automates the approval workflow, sending requests to managers, tracking responses, and recording access. This way the entire team stays informed, and you have an organized, time-stamped record of all activity.

Data Decentralization

As we saw above, data democratization bought a significant jump in email open rates for Finish Line, but democratizing doesn’t happen on its own. You need to make your data more intelligent and intuitive for any layman to understand. A standard practice of data democratization is to collect data from all touch points and make it available to each and every user. This is known as data centralization.

From the conversion point of view, data centralization is an exercise in profiling every customer, by collecting data on their preferences and behavior from CRM, point of sale, logistics, customer services incident management, and other systems, integrating all of it in one common data bank. When you enter a particular query about the customer, their data is processed, de-duplicated, and cleaned to give you accurate search results in a simple, transparent and aesthetically pleasing format.

This is how data is crunched, in a cost-effective way in large organizations.

This is the way things have been done up until now.

This is a bad way to democratize data.

Data centralization makes your analytics sluggish and its results are unintuitive. Here’s an analogy: say you are a data scientist or a user, your furniture is your data, and your house is a storage unit. Data centralization means you put all your furniture in one single unit or a room so you have a single point of access. Now imagine finding and pulling something out of such a room.

Data decentralization means letting your data stay where it is, so each unit is able to localize, process, and analyze data in an agile manner. This way, you go directly to the kitchen if you need to access the chopping table, and consequently, get the job done quickly.

Telecom major Vodafone successfully kept their decentralized systems in operation and created a unified view of customer data for their customer service agents, while minimizing data replication by using Denodo’s data virtualization platform. Denodo added a data virtualization layer to legacy systems, liberating data by keeping it where it was, but allowing users to get a complete, updated view of customer data, even though it was scattered across disparate sources.

denodo

Image Source: Denodo

Vodafone was able to reduce average service response time from 6 to 2 minutes. They also found better upselling and cross-selling opportunities, retained more customers, and stretched the usability of existing data infrastructure as a result.

Related Class: Drowning in Data: How to Effectively Leverage Web Analytics

Data Transparency

The last piece of the puzzle is to increase the clarity and comprehensibility of data. When I say “data transparency,” I mean inside and outside the organization. In a bold move, Omniconvert (formerly Marketizator) announced a product revamp strategy that allows marketers and customers to decide on the features and capabilities for what they call “the first democratic CRO software.”

Source: Omniconvert screenshot

Perhaps Omniconvert’s strategy is risky. But it is also rewarding. It allows organizations to build products while maintaining close contact with their communities, ensuring customers get what they want. With this master stroke, Omniconvert has banded experts and users together to create a successful product that has the features and agility of an open source platform while maintaining the reliability and robustness of proprietary software.

Valentin Radu, CEO and founder at Omniconvert is optimistic about the move since “everyone can publicly see the priorities of the features as they are voted for.” The whole voting system is completely transparent, as every planned update with new features is publicly shown on the site. There’s also video streaming of all the kick-off meetings, making the whole process more engaging and open-sourced.

Over to You

These are just a few ways you can liberate data and make it more accessible to users, getting you to your goals faster. How does your organization use data in creative and intelligent ways to increase conversions? Let’s hear your stories in the comments below!

Tracy Vides is a content strategist and researcher who gives small business and entrepreneurs marketing and social media advice. Tracy is also a prolific blogger - her posts are featured on Engadget, She Owns It and Usability Geek. Connect with her on Twitter @TracyVides for a chat anytime!

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Leverage Social & Customer Data for Email RelevancyDrowning in Data: How to Effectively Leverage Web AnalyticsHow to Create a Data-Driven Culture

Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here.

 


The Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing

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Although the strict line that professional marketers have drawn between inbound and outbound marketing is disappearing over time, the difference between these strategies can almost be described as the difference between paid content marketing and display banner advertising. That description may be in the right ballpark, but it only lands us on first base.

There are a myriad of differences between inbound and outbound marketing (of which different conversion strategies are only a small part), differences which even celebrated thought leaders sometimes equate with the “old” and “new” dichotomy. This way of thinking rarely moves the ball forward for the rest of the marketing world.

When examined more closely, the relationship between inbound and outbound marketing is a bit more complicated, and that’s why we’ve dedicated this post to explaining the relationship between them in terms that marketers of all stripes are likely familiar with: Conversion Strategies, Target Audiences, and Offers. We recognize the ‘versus’ terminology that we employ to describe this relationship may seem to imply an opposition between them; it’s not meant to do that. It is more intended to set up a spectrum along which any marketer’s inbound or outbound tactics may fall, whether they are deployed for content strategy, an email marketing campaign, or the design of an advertisement—or perhaps most effectively, all three.

1. Conversion Strategy: Attraction versus Promotion

The motivational force behind attraction is a pull. The motivational force behind promotion is a push.

When marketers adopt inbound conversion strategies, such as content publication, they want to gently pull users and consumers in their direction, converting with an attractive offer. When they opt for outbound marketing strategies such as banner advertisements, they want to gently push users and consumers along a predefined path, converting with a promotional offer.

A standard inbound conversion strategy will more often reach for indirect methods of persuasion (like branded infographics or product placement) than a standard outbound conversion strategy, which will more often cut to the chase and make a direct offer. These outbound strategies might include “buy-one-get-one-free” promotions, discounts, and other types of financial incentives. The best marketers are often able to blend these two conversion strategies, perhaps opting first to gently push an outbound promotion to raise awareness of a free offer, and then placing additional, attractive information along the path toward accepting the original offer. This information can be designed to gently pull the user or consumer toward accepting an additional offer, and create enough loyalty to make them a paying customer. In fact, many successful software as a service (SaaS) companies, including LinkedInAncestry, and the popular buzzword search tool BuzzSumo, use this exact conversion funnel strategy to grow their customer bases.

2. Target Audience: Business-to-Business versus Business-to-Consumer

The art of targeted business messaging lies in the science of research. The art of targeted consumer messaging lies in the science of even more research.

Finding the right audience is one of the hardest parts of marketing. Die-hard proponents of inbound marketing strategies would probably tell us that’s why we should allow our ideal audience to find us, while die-hard advocates of outbound marketing strategy would probably tell us that’s why we construct ideal audience personas: to target those we suppose would be most interested in what we have to offer. The assumption underlying both suggestions is that business audiences will naturally gravitate toward subtle, inbound messaging since they are constantly looking to improve their business, whereas consumer audiences require a more robust, outbound message, since they are a more passive bunch.

But strategists who are dogmatic about either approach tend to miss the mark by overlooking the art and science of research—that is, listening rather than pushing new ads and pulling new leads. Some of the best marketing strategies are born from long stints of research and development, which culminate in the creation of the most relevant message reaching its most relevant audience. It’s often easier to research a business than it is to research a consumer. After all, there are fewer businesses on the planet than consumers, and consumers tend to change their preferences more frequently than businesses do. But taking the time to listen to an audience and shape our message around their proven needs and desires offers a much more lucrative payoff than leaving a trail of breadcrumbs or shouting into the void. As market research has shown, marketers for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies can make good use of Facebook analytics to discover and monitor new target markets.

Related Class: Facebook Advertising and Targeting

3. Offers: Education of User versus Sale to Consumer

An offer of educational information is perceived to be more valuable by users of services. A promotional sales offer is perceived to be more valuable by consumers of goods.

Value is more often determined in the eye of the consumer than in the eye of the supplier, at least in a free market. When it comes to goods and services online, the case is no different. But there is a difference in our marketing expectations for service providers and suppliers of goods. The expectation for marketers of services, particularly SaaS, is that they should adopt an inbound marketing strategy by publishing content like blogs and videos, whereas we expect marketers of goods to adopt an outbound marketing strategy by pushing online promotions such as discounts and free shipping.

The problem with these expectations is that they often force young SaaS companies and commercial online vendors to make uninteresting offers to users and consumers who want to see more than another marketing agency infographic or commercial website sign-up coupon. Some of the best and biggest companies have risen to the top because they balance educational information with promotional sales. The increasingly popular massive open online course (MOOC) providers like UdacityCoursera, and edX are excellent examples of what can happen when we hybridize user education with promotional sales, as their business is premised on offering a quality education for 1 percent, and sometimes 0% the cost of taking an equivalent college or university course. Imagine what could happen if more companies started flipping the script, and commercial websites like Amazon began offering courses in web sales, while marketing agencies began offering bundle deals on memberships with their company that included access to all their best content. Content entrepreneurs and educators at Online Marketing Institute are already doing this with the provision of corporate training courses and certifications, the former of which specifically prepare business teams to expand their inbound and outbound online marketing expertise, while the latter helps individuals gain expertise in online marketing on the whole

Such hybridity is the lifeblood of the marketing era we find ourselves in now, an era that demands innovation every day.

A version of this article first appeared on BestMarketingDegrees.org

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Top of the Funnel Tactics for Inbound Marketing, Facebook Advertising and TargetingContent Marketing Implementation: Executing a Winning Content Program

Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here.