Month: June 2017

Build an Informative Customer Profile in Minutes

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Editor's Note: Bruno Delahaye is the CEO of Reach Analytics, where a version of this article first appeared. Today he joins us to review popular strategies for building a customer profile, and a new approach made possible by cloud technology.

 

Having a strong understanding of who your customers are (customer profiling) is a central element in any marketing effort. Marketers may choose to focus on strategic activities like company positioning, and defining target markets. They may also look at more tactical approaches like marketing campaign design and execution; however in all of these cases, the first thing any marketer needs to understand is who their customers are and what they are like.

To obtain a customer profile which provides them with this information, marketers have three traditional options:

  1. Create a segmentation of their existing customer base using internal data
  2. Conduct a market research survey
  3. Append 3rd party data to their customer file as a base for profiling

In what follows, we will briefly survey these strategies and spell out an effective approach to customer profiling.

Segmentation

Segmentation allows companies to sift through company clients and sort them into categories. These categories allow for strategic marketing decisions when it comes to new products and services. Of the traditional choices, segmentation has been the fastest and least expensive customer profiling option until recent times.  Large companies generally have had the resources to run analysis internally, relying on their data infrastructure and the availability of a data science team. This team would typically take between 1 and 6 weeks to report their findings.

The main drawback of this customer profiling method is that the entire analysis is centered on your existing customer base. Although it may seem intuitive that customer profiling should center on your customers, this strategy utterly neglects context: the only way to build a comprehensive understanding of who your customers are is to compare them with non-customers. In other words, you should be asking what differentiates your customers from the general population, and what makes their profile special. For this very reason, market research surveys and use of 3rd party data for customer profiling have become more widely adopted strategies.

Market research

Market research analysis is the most expensive and time consuming technique to build a customer profile. A key advantage is that it focuses on a comprehensive review of customer expectations and personalities outside of your company, allowing you to develop strategies that work broadly and effectively.

...or at least, that's the theory. While hotly debated, market research analysis remains a qualitative technique. Rather than using hard data on customer behavior, it is based on surveys which report customer opinions. While there is probably some value in this, actions tend to speak louder than words, and even moderately skewed survey questions can skew the answers received.

Using third party data

The third approach tends to address the major drawbacks of both segmentation and market research surveys. 3rd party data allows your company to synthesize analysis of both customers and non-customers to build a thorough and balanced customer profile. Yet, an obvious drawback of this approach is that it can be a relatively long process and therefore limits applicability:

  1. Small and medium sized companies cannot manage such processes if they do not have the necessary internal resources, and outsourcing might be cost prohibitive.
  2. Companies typically have more than one product/service on offer, and would like to generate more than a single customer profile analysis.

The Cloud Approach

And now there’s good news that will help marketers to resolve downsides of all the traditional approaches. By leveraging a predictive marketing cloud, we are able to quickly generate a complete customer profile with the following characteristics:

  1. A basic profile for marketers to gain an initial high level understanding of their customers’ demographics: age, marital status, income, and education level.
  2. An advanced version of the same profile which enables marketers to identify characteristics that set their customers apart from the rest of the population.

By removing the largest hurdles in the development of customer profiles using 3rd party data (time & data science expertise), small and medium-sized business as well as large companies are in a position to access a more analytic approach and leverage their customer profile to make more informed marketing decisions.

Learn more with the following classes:

Demand Generation: Defining Your Target Market

How to Perform Segmentation Using Google Analytics

Metrics-Driven Demand Gen in a Multichannel World

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 


Internet Marketing and Traditional Marketing Together

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Editor's Note: Jim Peake is a marketing writer who joins us to share a comprehensive breakdown of the ways that traditional marketing can be useful in today's Internet marketing landscape. Peake is a contributor at addiction-rep, where a version of this article first appeared. 

 

Inbound marketing and internet-based channels have become the preferred method of marketing for many companies across the U.S. – and beyond. In the past, businesses turned to public relations outreach, TV and print ads, outbound calling, etc. to try to build an audience as well as a larger awareness of their brand. These “outbound” tactics make up what is now often referred to as traditional marketing.

Believe it or not, internet marketing and traditional marketing methods are not wholly opposed to each other. Outbound marketing is still alive and well. OK, arguably not well, but it is alive. Many of its primary tactics are still viable by themselves, and in some cases, they’ve morphed into the strategies of internet marketing.

Anyone with a traditional marketing background who understands how traditional principles apply to the Internet will have a significant advantage over someone who came who came up in the digital age. The two parties have much to learn from each other, but there is already is a lot of overlap, and some traditional marketers have even evolved and adapted to the ways of the internet.

Before we get into how traditional marketing can be integrated into internet marketing, it needs to be clear how the two strategies differ. In this essay, we’re going to take a look at four main topics:

  • Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing
  • Traditional vs. Internet Marketing Channels
  • Traditional Marketing Philosophies
  • How Traditional Marketing Can Converge with Internet Marketing

The Difference Inbound and Outbound Marketing

What Is The Difference Between Inbound And Outbound Marketing?

For decades, outbound marketing was the primary method of advertising for businesses all over the world. Outbound marketing involves serving up an advertisement or promotional piece to the masses. Think of television commercials and billboard ads.

Granted, even if companies wanted to reach a wide audience through outbound marketing, they often did research to target certain markets where their message would be received more favorably. Still, outbound marketing consists of blasting out a message and hoping for the best. It’s a very impersonal way of trying to attract consumers’ attention and convert them into a customer.

Inbound marketing, meanwhile, offers the opportunity to make personal connections with potential customers, and it primarily takes place on the internet. It starts with optimizing the company’s website and then using social media, search and other channels to try to lead people to the website. Once on the website, visitors will have a chance to go through a “sales funnel” that leads to money eventually exchanging hands.

Here are some other key points to take away when comparing inbound and outbound marketing:

  • Inbound marketing content, in most cases, is much, much cheaper to produce than outbound marketing material. Thus, many small businesses are left out of the outbound marketing game.
  • Outbound marketing is generally more intrusive than inbound tactics.
  • Outbound marketing is also referred to as interruption marketing, while inbound is sometimes called permission marketing.
  • Consumers are not only learning how to tune out outbound material, but they have easy access to devices that help them do the job. Think of fast-forwarding DVRs, call-blocking features on phones, etc.
  • Half of marketers in the business-to-business, business-to-consumer and nonprofit sectors ranked inbound marketing as their primary lead source, according to a 2014 Hubspot report.

Although businesses in the U.S. and beyond are gravitating more and more toward inbound marketing, companies that have completely pulled up their stakes from outbound marketing have experienced difficulties. In 2010, Pepsi abandoned commercials and other forms of outbound marketing so it could focus its efforts on a large social media campaign. The soda manufacturer reportedly lost millions (perhaps even hundreds of millions) of dollars in sales over this span.

Also, Pepsi-Cola fell from the No. 2 soft drink in the U.S. to No. 3 (behind Coca-Cola and Diet Coke) by the time the campaign was called off. Social media by itself may have not been the downfall of Pepsi back then, but pulling out of the Super Bowl ad race that year did not help.

Traditional or Internet Marketing

Traditional vs. Internet Marketing Channels

Traditional marketing largely concerns outbound methods, while the more modern internet marketing deals mostly with inbound tactics. To clarify which methods fall where, let’s break down the differences in traditional and internet marketing channels.

Traditional channels:

  • Radio and television
  • Billboards
  • Publications (magazines, newspapers, journals)
  • Self-produced printed material (brochures, flyers, etc.)
  • Telephones (telemarketing, cold calling, etc.)
  • Mail
  • Face-to-face (such as conferences, trade shows, etc.)

Internet (new media) channels:

  • Websites and blogs
  • Social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Search engines
  • Email
  • Mobile
  • Videoconferencing and webcasts
  • Podcasts

Looking over those two lists, you should be able to see some crossover between the two disciplines. For example, television commercials easily find their way to the internet now (even showing up when users don’t want them), and audio ads are played between songs on Pandora, Spotify, etc. Press releases have also made an easy tradition.

Traditional Marketing Philosophies

Traditional Marketing Philosophies

At one point, many companies were able to dedicate many resources toward marketing a specific product or product line. In most cases, those marketers aimed their specific product at a specific audience.

This is where the 4 P’s of traditional marketing came in handy. The 4 P’s for a product can be identified either before or after all promotional material has been completed.

Let’s go over what the 4 P’s stand for:

1. Product

With the product in mind that you’re trying to push, you need to try to determine a product-market fit. Basically, how much demand would there be for this type of product or service? Will your featured offering satisfy the demand for it?

The product phase of the 4 P’s usually starts with creation of a minimum viable product (MVP), aka a prototype. Early in the process, you want to gather a focus group that can view and try out the prototype and then give you feedback. What did they like and not like? Are there any features missing? Anything excessive or unnecessary?

If it’s a physical product, this is the point where you can determine if it should come in different color and sizes. This is also where you need to make your value proposition clear: How does your product or service differ and improve on similar offerings?

2. Price

Now that you’re pretty set on what your product or service will be, you have to make sure that you don’t price yourself out of the market – or that you undervalue your item. Are you trying to sell something that almost anyone can afford, or is it a more distinguished product with a high buy-in?

Here are some factors to take into account as you narrow down the price (or price range) of your product:

  • The cost to produce it: It’s obviously not feasible to charge the consumer less than what it costs in parts, labor, manpower, etc.
  • High-end vs. affordability: Are you trying to convey quality with your product, or value?
  • The size of the market: Have you determined if your product is fit for a mass audience, or are you targeting a niche? What’s the potential reach of your product, based on your research during the first stage?
  • The level of competition: How competitive is your market? What are other companies charging for a similar product?
  • Economic level of the market: Even if your target market is niche, your product doesn’t necessarily have to carry an exorbitant price tag. When you’ve figured out the target market for your product, you need to have a rough idea of the economic level of those individuals, and thus tailor your product’s price to that audience.

3. Place

This step doesn’t usually keep marketers up late at night like it used to, but it used to be a make-or-break part of the process. In which physical market are you going to place your product? Which retailers will you use? Or is there alternate way you’re going to try to get your product in consumers’ hands? Do you have to go through a middle man or reseller, rather than direct to consumer?

Place is now often referred to as “distribution” when marketers are using the 4 P’s process. The rise of the internet has made the distribution of products easier, and often faster. Thus, the weight marketers put on place is diminishing in comparison to the other 3 P’s.

4. Promotion

The promotion element of the 4 P’s has three primary objectives:

  • Raise awareness of the product or service (or brand)
  • Generate sales
  • Create brand loyalty

For a particular product, marketers need to have in mind a goal, target audience, and the industry in which it resides. Marketers will give a certain weight to each factor when concocting a plan to promote the item. The ways they can begin raising awareness of the product are infinite, which is why the promotion step of the 4 P’s is the most complex. Which channels can your company afford to go through, and which ones make the most sense for the item you’re promoting?

4a. The Promotion Mix

The promotion (or marketing) mix plays a role in the last element of the 4 P’s, but it contains so many variables that it can an extensive study by itself. Which channels a company is going to use and how many are crucial questions marketers must ask when beginning to promote a product or service.

Marketing experts might disagree on which components make up the promotion mix, especially in the modern era, but the following variables get at the core of what the traditional promotion mix is:

  • Advertising

Advertising is when you have to pay to get your content shown on a mass media format – television, newspapers, magazines, etc. This type of marketing is almost always non-personal.

  • Direct Marketing

Slightly more personal than advertising, direct marketing targets individual consumers with a customized message and tries to build a relationship. Classic direct marketing channels include snail mail, catalogs and telemarketing.

  • Personal Selling

Personal selling takes direct marketing a step further and actually gets you in front of the consumer. This face-to-face type of marketing occurs at trade shows, sales presentations, etc. Like advertising, personal selling can often be a very expensive marketing method, as it usually involves a lot of traveling in order to meet potential buyers face to face.

  • Publicity (or Public Relations)

Public relations is a viable part of the marketing and communications efforts of both digital and traditional marketing agencies. Public relations is not only as about dealing with negative press as it comes out, but it also involves trying to get a company’s products or employees in front of the media. This is a way of getting your products or brand mentioned in the newspaper or on television or radio without having to pay for the spot.

  • Sales Promotion

If you have a new product to sell, are you going to run a certain promotion to entice people to make the purchase, especially if they would be hesitant to do so otherwise? In most cases, it’s better to have somebody buy your product at a discounted price than to not have them make the purchase at all. How will you make consumers aware of the promotion? All of the four methods above could work, but advertising and public relations channels are the most common.

Making Internet and Traditional Marketing Work Together

How Traditional Marketing Can Converge With Internet Marketing

When looking over the components of the promotion mix, it’s easy to see that a company can leverage both digital and traditional marketing methods to achieve their goals. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

For example, any creative image designed for a magazine or newspaper can easily be shrunk to fit as a banner ad on an external website, such as a news website. Also, a television commercial can be uploaded to the web and used on YouTube and other video-streaming sites. Under direct marketing, the classic method of mailing a current or potential customer can now be replicated via email.

Many job positions have been able to cross over from the traditional to the internet marketing world, or they now involve a blend of both disciplines. As mentioned previously, a public relations employee is as relevant for a traditional marketing firm as it is for a digital-based agency. Graphic designers and video marketers also have the ability to bide their time fairly seamlessly between both disciplines.

Integrating Traditional Marketing With Internet Marketing

While most bigger corporations do a mixture of traditional marketing and new media outreach, many are still trying to get out of the habit of keeping the two disciplines isolated. These are the companies where you’d see marketing and communications as two separate departments, and where even sales may be yet another detached area. These departments may even operate on different floors or in different buildings from each other.

If they aren’t already, these types of departments need to be more integrated within companies. Employees who practice traditional methods and those in internet marketing need to be working side by side. They both could be learning significantly from each other. Professional sports organizations, for example, are notorious for keeping their digital, print marketing, communications and public relations teams all fairly segregated from each other.

Also, some employees need to be entrusted with being able to handle both types of responsibilities. If traditional marketers aren’t making their own efforts to get more acquainted with the ways of the web, then companies should be taking the initiative to help them grow as a marketer by modernizing their skill-set to some degree.

Below are a few ways a traditional marketer can work on acquiring a digital skill-set, particularly if they expect to have a hand in web copywriting.

How A Traditional Marketer Can Transition Into An Internet Marketer

If you have a traditional marketing background but are looking to become entrenched in the internet marketing field, either for a new company or a different position with the same company, here are seven tips for preparing yourself:

  • Read Fervently

Your industry is evolving and the internet is constantly changing, so it’s imperative to stay current with the latest news and developments. Therefore, figure out the best news sources and blogs for your industry, and then dedicate at least a half-hour to one hour on reading relevant web-based material daily.

  • Write Frequently

Start a blog, if you haven’t already, and try to compose a new post at least weekly or twice a week. Spill your expertise about your trade, including lessons learned, case studies and more. Also, experiment with different formats of the post and try to incorporate photos, videos, polls, screenshots, etc.

  • Try Your Hand at SEO

SEO is more crucial for some industries than it is for others, but no web marketing department or agency should ignore it nonetheless. Therefore, start experimenting with SEO, such as creating an account on Google AdWords: Keyword Planner. Once you have an idea of what people are searching for, be sure to optimize your blog posts, rather than just writing off the cuff and assuming people will find it.

  • Become Active on Social Media

If you don’t have them already, create accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Try to seek out and follow like-minded individuals. If somebody follows you first, follow them back – as long as they appear to be a real user. Start sharing your blog posts to these channels, and be sure to share other articles relevant to your industry or niche. Don’t forget to interact with your followers as well, such as commenting or liking their posts.

LinkedIn is very important here. It’s been cited as the most effective social media platform for companies that do content marketing, according to recent reports. Be vigilant on this platform.

  • See and Follow What the Experts Do

Figure out who the leading companies and individual “thought leaders” in your industry are, and then closely observe how they operate on social media, blogs, their websites and other online areas. Now that you know what the gold standard is, try your best to replicate the success of those entities.

  • Create a White Paper, Guide, eBook, etc.

Once you have the hang of writing a solid blog post, try your hand at a longer version: a white paper, eBook, etc. This could be brand-new content from scratch, or you could cull from your past blog posts in order to produce a new, longer creation. Be sure to incorporate an ample amount of media into your web-based guide.

  • Build an Email List and Send a Newsletter

Try to coax your blog visitors into subscribing to your blog by email, and also ask any close social media contacts you can add them to your email list. Once you’ve built up a sizeable email list, start experimenting with blasting an eNewsletter either monthly or weekly. This newsletter can contain an all-new message, or it could recap your latest blog content and entice your contacts to click through to your blog.

Brand awareness across all marketing channels

Conclusion

You don’t see many marketers today who solely practice the traditional methods, but they’re still out there. If they want to start adapting their skills to the web, they can follow the seven strategies outlined above. With a willingness to learn, they can quickly leapfrog their younger colleagues who only understand marketing as it relates to the web.

A deeper study of the 4 P’s and promotion mix are just the start to helping an internet marketer become more well-rounded. It also wouldn’t hurt if they pick up an old marketing textbook from the 1980s and 1990s and see what still applies today, as well as gain a few ideas for how to change their methods to a degree.

Whether an internet marketer is struggling or thriving, adding (or at least understanding) the traditional techniques to their repertoire is only going to provide a boost. The companies that employ them will be all the better for it too.

Learn more with the following classes:

Metrics-Driven Demand Gen in a Multichannel World

Top of the Funnel Tactics for Inbound Marketing

Content 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.

 


Infographic: Fundamentals of Facebook Marketing

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Editor’s note: To celebrate the launch of our New Social Media Fundamentals Certification, we've created an infographic to summarize the basic steps of a comprehensive Facebook marketing strategy from advertising, to sharing content and managing a community, to understanding and leveraging Insights.

 

A sixth of the world's population logs into the same website every week to read news, catch up with friends and see the latest content from their favorite online and retail businesses. Let's face it: Facebook is beyond huge, and there are few better places for an online marketer to gain new customers and communicate with old ones.

When getting your feet wet in Facebook marketing, it can be hard to know where to start. But with some simple strategy under your belt, it's very easy to carve out a space for your business where you can attract leads and traffic to your website, field customer inquiries, and establish your team as trusted experts in a field.

To help you get started, we've created an infographic that has all the information you need to get started with Facebook marketing. Here's a breakdown of the main points:

  • Your business page is your 'face' on Facebook, and serves as an introduction for newcomers and fans alike. Follow your branding rules with a consistent visual layout, make sure that links are easily available to your products and resources. Moderate user interaction to ensure that your page is a safe and comfortable place for casual browsers.
  • Over time, your business page should become a community. Start by inviting friends, employees and current customers to like your page and engage with your content. Expand your reach with targeted advertisements which will expose your business to prospects and likely fans, and build relationships with similar business pages by liking and sharing their content.
  • Create your own content to keep your community interested and engaged, and post on a consistent schedule. Social media is becoming increasingly visual, so images and videos are most effective, while text-only posts should be avoided. Maintain an 80/20 balance between useful, entertaining posts, and promotional posts.
  • Facebook has one of the best paid targeted advertisement solutions on the web. First, determine what you want to promote, and who you want to reach. Facebook has versatile targeting features that account for interests, occupations, and highly detailed demographic data which you can easily leverage to get the most bang for your buck.

Without further ado, here is the graphic. Feel free to save this, and share with fellow online marketers who can use the information!

 

facebook marketing infographic

Want to master social media marketing? Get certified with OMI

 


Infographic: How Video Marketing Works

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video marketing

Editor's Note: Megan Arevalo is community director at Websitebuilder, and joins us today to share an original infographic that covers video marketing from A to Z.

 

As online marketing becomes more and more visual over time, video marketing has emerged as a favorite choice for businesses to share a message, promote a product, and entertain customers all at once. The effort has not gone to waste - our research shows that:

  • E-commerce stores which use video content have an 80% higher conversion rate than those which do not
  • 73% of customers are more likely to make a purchase when shown informational video content
  • A 1% budget increase on active video marketing is worth a monthly average of $13,000 for a company

Case studies prove that intelligent video content is a highly effective way to raise consumer interest, leading to higher profits. For instance: Home Depot's online outlet blinds.com experienced a 68% increase in orders and a 92% raise in overall profit after launching a video marketing strategy.

Sharing Video Content

As far as video platforms go, the Internet has come a long way. YouTube retains the top spot; advertising features on the site are versatile, and easily targeted to a segment of millions of users with detailed demographics information collected from Google activities.

However, while YouTube is still a starting point for many marketers, Facebook is gaining ground quickly, and a robust marketing strategy integrates both. Our research shows that:

  • By 2018, 90% of content shared by Facebook users will be video
  • At present, 59% of video shares occur on Facebook
  • 90% of online marketers use both Facebook and YouTube for video marketing

All of this data has a general thrust: video marketing is a strategy that is growing more potent with time, as Internet content becomes increasingly video-based, and case studies show that it is effective for businesses ranging wildly in size, market, and product type.

Infographic

We have collected all of this information and more in the infographic below to help you make informed decisions for an effective video marketing strategy. Feel free to save, and share with experts and novices alike!

video marketing infographic

 

Learn more with Video Marketing & YouTube 101

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 

 


A Simple Guide to A/B Split Testing

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Editor's Note: Elena Tahora is a marketing manager at Web Design Malta. Today, she joins us to discuss how A/B Split Testing can improve the success of your online platforms, and various methods to make it work.

 

Creating a new website, ad, or conversion page can sometimes feel like a shot in the dark, and shooting in the dark is scary for online marketers. However, there is a way to make design choices more smartly: A/B split testing is a marketing technique that compares two separate versions of web content to determine which performs best on your audience.

The basic A/B testing process is easy to understand: after creating an item you want to test, you create small variations, and use trial runs to determine which has a higher conversion rate. The best version wins, and from that point on, further A/B tests can refine your product into something highly effective.

Applications

A/B testing has a diverse range of applications, and all of them can help to make the most of your web traffic. Options include:

  • Headlines and Subheadlines
  • Testimonials
  • Paragraph Text
  • Call to Action (CTA) Text
  • CTA Buttons
  • Links
  • Images
  • Social Proof
  • Content Near the Fold
  • Badges and Awards
  • Media Mentions

Although this list focuses on design features that can be optimized with A/B testing, the method can be used on basic sales copy as well. You can experiment with free trial lengths, pricing structures, sales promotion, delivery fees, and basically anything else that can be changed on your site.

While it's clear that this method can do a lot for your business, A/B split testing is also subject to many regulations which - unless followed carefully - can sink your website quickly. For this reason, it's generally safest to conduct your trials with tools designed specifically for the purpose.

In the following paragraphs, we'll review some of the best commercial A/B Split Testing tools. Let's jump in!

A/B Split Testing Tools

1. Content Experiments by Google Analytics

Google Analytics is such a prominent resource for online marketers that it hardly needs introduction. This suite of analysis tools is a baseline for data analytics across the web, providing users with an opportunity that none can rival: retrieving data directly from the world's largest search engine.

For A/B split testing, Google Analytics provides you with Content Experiments. This feature allows you to split-test page variants for a particular campaign. Advanced reporting options give you a detailed understanding of what worked, and why.

google a/b split testing

The main advantages for Google Analytics are: it's free. And as already mentioned, it taps into the largest source of content information on the web.

The only downside is that Google will not provide you with tools for generating variant pages, and Analytics is a complex tool which can be hard to understand if you're just starting out. For beginners, options with a more visual bent may be helpful.

2. Visual Website Optimizer

Visual Website Optimizer (VWO) is an effective A/B Split Testing tool with a great track record. Prominent case studies range from the car manufacturer Hyundai to computer chip maker AMD.

VWO is also very easy to use, involving the following steps for absolutely any content on your website:

  • Include simple source code from VWO on your webpage to make it active 
  • Developing variations on content using a visual HTML editor.
  • Select goals to optimize for (engagement, revenue, clicks, etc.)
  • Start running your tests and track the test results

VWO has a variety of plans that depend on the size of your business, beginning at $49.00 a month for sites with 10,000 monthly visitors.

3. Optimizely

Optimizely is both well-known and widely used, and specializes in boosting CTA conversion rates. Used by nonprofits such as the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, it's a great place to go if you want to increase your presence and get more people on board.

Optimizely has a three step process:

  1. You must collect data on your current site performance before deciding your goals.
  2. Predict future anticipated progress before creating variants to test.
  3. With variations set, you can start running the experiment and finish by analyzing the results obtained from the A/B split tests.

Optimizely has the big advantage of offering a thirty day free trial period which allows you to see how it works and what it can do before committing to any payment schemes. Pricing after this period is not published on the site, but reviewers indicate that it is mainly affordable for large or mid-range enterprises.

4. SiteSpect's A/B Testing Tool

SiteSpect is a company that offers extensive testing of business ideas, with a designated A/B testing platform that is very easy to use. The provided visual editing tools make it a cinch to brainstorm small adjustments, and generated analytics data will help your company to understand factors that affect conversion rates, reduce costs, drive revenue and mitigate risks.

Like Optimizely, SiteSpect offers a trial period which can help your company to determine if its worth the cost.

5. Unbounce

Not everyone needs the ability to test every font, subtitle, link or button on a website. Some people pursue A/B Testing for one specific goal, and that goal is common enough that Unbounce has one purpose: optimize landing pages.

Whether you are promoting a webinar, a course, or a single product, landing pages are an easy default destination for potential customers. A/B Testing with Unbounce will help you to optimize for the specific goal of gaining more conversions and sign-ups, and also offers more than 80 pre-designed landing page templates to experiment with in case you don't know where to start.

For some users, this tool has everything they need to get started. Through its simplicity and specialization, Unbounce offers a nice contrast to the range of complex features in Google Analytics.

Going Alone...

As mentioned in the beginning of the article, A/B split testing tools help you to avoid pitfalls that could reduce your site rankings. But in case you decide to forego tools and formulate your own code/strategy, bear in mind that Google is watching you, and it has a few things to say:

  1. Avoid cloaking. This means showing one variant of content to your normal site visitors, and another set of content to web crawlers. This is considered extremely fishy, and it's a sure way to get hit with a penalty.
  2. Use rel=“canonical” tags to distinguish a test page from the main version. This is more a matter of sensible practice than a law: unless Google knows which page is your real page and which is the test page, the real page may go down in rankings because visitors won't be able to find it.
  3. Use 302 redirects. When directing users away from a page to a test page, 302 redirects - as opposed to standard 301 redirects - tell Google that this redirection is only temporary. They'll back off and wait for you to finish.
  4. Get it over with. At some point, you have to get on with business and leave A/B split testing behind. So don't test forever, and don't perpetually use the exact same test. This is suspicious, and you'll get in trouble for it.

You can read Google's full list of detailed guidelines here.

Conclusion

Every online marketer wants more visitors, and after getting more visitors, more conversions and sales. A/B split testing is a great multitasking strategy which can boost response rate to a diverse range of prompts.

Whether you pick a tool or develop a strategy on your own, you can't go wrong by trying new things and seeing what works best.

 

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Testing, Behavioral Analytics & Metrics Best Practices

Strategic User Experience Design

How to Create Personalized Web Experiences That Increase Engagement

 

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 


3 Ways Facebook Can Help Your Small Business

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Editor's Note: Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org. To celebrate the launch of our new Facebook Fundamentals CertificationJosh joins us today to discuss how Facebook can help your small business.

 

In the 10 years since Facebook introduced business pages in 2007, the list of reasons to develop both a business page and Facebook marketing strategy has become long. Lead generation, word-of-mouth advertising, a surplus of marketing metrics, and dozens of different ways to stay in touch with clients and customers are just some of the many features that have transformed The Social Network into one of the most essential marketing tools freely available to a small business.

But why is it so essential? Why is it that we champion Facebook as a be-all, end-all of small business marketing strategy, and why will some people even tell you that a small business today can’t function without a Facebook presence?

While it may be an exaggeration to say a small business can't get by without Facebook, the zealot attitude has a lot to do with the fact that Facebook was the first social media platform to reach one billion users. But likely the biggest reason why marketers support the platform so much is because Facebook has structured itself like a glove around many of the most essential principles of good marketing and promotion. So in this post, we have outlined those essential marketing principles to show you how Facebook operates in a way that is most conducive to executing a small business marketing strategy. Let's get started!

Building Brand Awareness

From the planning phase to the pitch, small business owners know it’s important to come up with ways of showing that their brand satisfies consumer needs. This knowledge stems from an understanding of the essential marketing principle that businesses need to build brand awareness in order for potential customers to know they exist.

But almost every small business owner will tell you that it’s difficult to devise cheap and easy ways to amplify their small voices. This is especially true in today’s environment, where so many consumers have learned how to tune out, change the channel, or click out of big expensive ads, even when they communicate something relevant to the customer's needs.

On the other hand, from its early days Facebook has existed as a platform to help amplify the voices of small businesses when they need to telegraph “Hey! I’m here! I exist! And I can help!” Business Pages allow small business owners to blend with private users, and afford them the ability to build a presence without intruding too far into the private user’s experience. At the same time, Facebook provides small businesses with the tools they need to measure and shape their brand’s personality along the way. Historically speaking, there is no other service that could furnish small businesses with that many tools to build brand awareness for free, and this makes Facebook uniquely suited to executing a small business's marketing strategy.

Providing Customer Service

Small business owners also know how important it is to field customer questions and concerns. This knowledge stems from an understanding of the essential marketing principle that businesses need to provide great customer service, because the quality of customer service experiences shapes how customers perceive the value of a business’s marketing message.

At the same time, small business owners know that delivering quality customer service can be difficult to accomplish when they have a million other things to worry about, including inventory, product volume, overhead costs, or perhaps even a family. This is especially true in an online business setting, where communicating customer care across a screen is difficult, and the threat of bad reviews is powerful.

Since Review and Messenger features debuted for Business Pages, Facebook’s potential to function as a venue to conduct customer service has grown immensely. This means that small businesses can even conduct their customer service operations entirely over Facebook, without a formal website, especially if they posses team members with good online communication skills.

Given those skills, Facebook’s engagement features make it much easier than any other platform to get to know customers on a more human level, provide them with a venue for answering questions and troubleshooting problems, as well as make first contact with other companies. That makes Facebook an excellent customer service platform for making a great first impression.

Establishing Expertise

As many web users’ go-to social media platform, Facebook has become somewhat like Google: it is a trusted resource for information. Many users now trust they will be able to find a business’s hours of operation on Facebook, along with a phone number and basic information about what the business offers.

Today’s small business owners know that businesses who lack this basic information will often be skipped for the businesses who have it. This knowledge stems from an understanding of the essential marketing principle that businesses need to be known as experts in their trade, and that being an expert in the digital age means having an online presence with which to communicate that expertise.

As more businesses move online, the tendency for companies to function both as content publishers and providers of expert advice has intensified. This means that small businesses are often expected to contribute a steady stream of information from both public and private spheres of business. Video features like Facebook Live and Messenger Day have made it possible for small businesses to upload the social web’s most popular form of content (video) with seamless ease, opening the window for small business owners to offer tutorials, give brand advice, and reach people that otherwise might not normally enter their store.

Posting engaging content in such immediate formats allows small businesses to build a reputation as experts to a large audience of people who can interact and provide feedback remotely. Driving engagement like this is not something that was possible for small businesses in either our recent or distant past, making Facebook a strategic driver of innovation for the little guy.

Want to know how to devise a Facebook marketing strategy for small business? Take a class in Facebook Fundamentals today.

Want to master Facebook Marketing? Sign up for our new Facebook certification today!

 


3 Most Important Facebook Skills in 2017

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Editor's Note: Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org. To celebrate the launch of our new Facebook Fundamentals CertificationJosh joins us today to discuss the top Facebook skills for online marketers to learn in 2017.

 

We're halfway through the year, and 2017 has already given marketers a treasure trove of new toys, many of them courtesy of the world’s largest social media platform: Facebook. Messenger Day, The Social Network’s answer to Snapchat, has already promised to take video and Messenger platforms to whole new levels of engagement, creating a bigger sense of culture, and producing a closer sense of community among Facebook video users.

Updates to Ad Breaks, Reactions to Messenger, and advanced ad measurement access for users of Facebook Business Manager have also expanded opportunities for small businesses to gain actionable insights about their audiences. All of this comes on top of the fact that paid advertising is getting more competitive and complicated than ever before.

When thinking about these new developments to the most popular social media platform in the world, it's crucial for small businesses to hone the skills that these tools demand. That’s why we’ve applied what we know about Facebook’s future to present you with the three most important Facebook skills to hone in 2017. Let's get started!

Creating a Sense of Community

Since Facebook began, the platform has been famous for its ability to bring people together. That it can foster a sense of community between like-minded (and sometimes different-minded) people is largely what makes it such a popular outlet for public expression. Since 2007, businesses have been able to create Business Pages to tap into this feature, and create a sense of community all their own.

The marketing potential of Facebook’s Business Pages has only grown over the years, and with the advent of each new feature - whether it be engagement ads, targeting tools, or ad placement technology - businesses tend to benefit when the social network opens new doors that encourage users to gather around common ideas and businesses to engage with their audiences.

A great example of community-creation in action is the new Reactions feature; those six emojis we use to tell users how their posts make us feel have helped businesses to gauge how different audiences receive their content on an emotional level. New posting options like these, and especially fan pages and video, have created new forums around which to animate discussion, encourage feedback from fans, and interact directly with potential clients and customers.

These new opportunities for social expression have made lead generation much easier, especially for those who can get in on the ground floor and harness the full power of the latest social technologies. Engagement metrics have also made lead generation more measurable, which brings us to #2 of the most important Facebook skills to hone in 2017.

Developing Actionable Insights

Facebook Insights take the pulse of a business’s social influence. They are the barometer of how far we reach outside our usual circle of friends and followers. But best of all, they offer bits of information that can act as advice about the next steps our business should take. For instance, if we post text-heavy, self-promotional content without supplementary videos or images, we might see our reach numbers decline. Why? Because text-heavy posts from businesses tend to get hidden, reported as spam, or unliked, and Facebook’s ever-changing social ranking algorithm can penalize pages that receive a high volume of negative reactions.

On the other hand, that same algorithm tends to reward higher rankings to posts that earn engagement in the form of likes, comments, and shares, a kind of positive reinforcement that suggests we should keep doing what we’re doing.

Additional insights about user demographics are telling us more and more about the kind of person we’re reaching. Our insights about these people - particularly about those who like our pages and engage with our content - help us to build a sense of who our customers and brand fans are. In fact, studies have shown that the act of liking a page tends to be an expression of both personality and identity among Facebook users.

The key this year is to take what we learn from insights like these and develop a marketing strategy that can help our business lead its best life by marketing to users who personally like us so much that they will amplify our story by word of mouth. Once we know who these users are and how to reach them, it helps to know how and when to boost the posts they’re engaging with to reach other like-minded people. This leads us to #3 of the most important Facebook skills to hone in 2017.

Engaging With Paid Advertising

Knowing how and when to pull the trigger on paid advertising is one of the most important Facebook skills an online marketer can acquire. This is because, while cultivating likes, comments, and shares organically is one of the best ways to guarantee leads through web traffic, a paid ad can make the difference between growing awareness about a brand and increasing that brand’s perceived relevance. While organic engagement might increase awareness within your close network, a paid advertisement often increases how relevant and important a brand is perceived to be by a wide variety of people, including the usual fans and followers.

Engaging with Facebook’s paid advertising features can range from an exercise as simple as choosing to boost a post that’s already doing well in your network, to an exercise as complicated as designing and uploading content to Facebook’s wider network of Carousel Ads and Sponsored Posts. Each of these options can lead to greater control over audience reach, more consistent web traffic through better targeted ads. This year, it’s important for small businesses to know when pulling the trigger on such promotions is a good idea, especially if offers and discounts are involved.

Some small businesses need to check to make sure they’re prepared for the level of attention they might receive after paying for a sponsored post, and they’ll want to ensure they have the infrastructure in place to adequately respond to all inquiries and provide great customer service - and that brings us full circle, through the most important aspects of community creation.

Want to know how you can best develop all these skills? Take a class in Facebook Fundamentals today.

Want to master Facebook Marketing? Sign up for our new Facebook certification today!

 


How to Boost Your Webinar Signups

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Webinar Signups

Editor's Note: Joydeep Bhattacharya is a digital marketing evangelist who writes for SEO Sandwitch. Today he joins us to discuss the importance of webinars in online marketing, and how to attract more signups.

 

Webinars are a critical source of knowledge on the web that are increasingly adopted by online marketers for advertisement and promotion. Apart from introducing newcomers to a subject and disseminating organized information, webinars are great for link building, which makes them a power card for SEO experts and digital marketers.

60% of web marketers include webinars in their toolkits, and there’s every reason for you to do the same. All you need to get started is one of many easily accessible tools which can create and deliver your webinar to attendants. However, creating a webinar is half the battle: the other half is getting signups. This is where tricks and tactics can be handy.

In this article, we’ll be going over some of these tips to help you get more webinar signups and increase your impact. Let’s get started -

Invest Due Diligence in Topic Choice

The topic you pick when creating your webinar is one of its most attractive aspects. Don’t even think of moving ahead in your development process until you have a killer topic in hand, because this will play a big part in determining your reach.

Here is some time tested advice that will help you choose a relevant topic that will grasp attention and generate webinar signups:

  1. Analyze your website’s blog or your social media profiles to get a pulse on the interests and opinions of your subscribers, customers, and followers.
  2. Track hashtags used by your social media followers and customers. Social media suites like HootSuite can make this step easier.
  3. Specifically search for your brand mentions on social media to understand the contexts in which they appear.
  4. Conduct a user survey on your website or through your email list to get direct feedback from your audience about the topics they are interested in.
  5. Look for opportunities to address topics that are evergreen, and therefore stand to gain indefinite social attention.
  6. Once you hone in on a few potential topics, evaluate their potential for getting social shares by using BuzzSumo to analyze similar keywords.

Create a Landing Page and Use A/B Testing to Determine the Best Fit

Once you have a high-quality topic for your webinar, you want to get the word out and encourage interested parties to sign up. This is where the design of your landing page becomes very important. Any webinar landing page should, at minimum, contain these basic elements:

  1. Your brand logo, to convey your identity and a sense of professionalism.
  2. If you have relevant certifications and brand mentions from industry influencers, highlight them in a dedicated, conspicuous section.
  3. Use directional cues that point a visitor to the signup form.
  4. Include a professional photograph of yourself or your presenter, ideally in in an educational setting.
  5. Use an A/B testing tool like Optinmonster to compare design schemes, and pick the one which works best. Optinmonster will also automate much of your design process, eliminating the need for a developer. WPForms is another good tool that generates forms with a drag and drop interface, though sadly, it lacks A/B testing features.
  6. Nobody wants to sign up for something if they don’t know what it’s about, so include a ‘what you will learn from this webinar’ section that summarizes the material your webinary will cover. Use numbered bullet points wherever possible (for instance: “5 cheat sheets to organize your influencer research,” or “10 secrets of perfecting your replenishment emails,” etc.)

Learn from the Masters

You should never develop your marketing strategies in a vacuum. Others have paved the way before you, and perfected the most effective techniques along the way. So emulate what the best people in the business are doing: the best digital marketing educators are also the ones investing the most effort into webinar marketing strategies. So identify the top 5 educators in your market, and see how they approach their webinars.

For instance, as a digital marketing educator you might analyze the way big names like KissMetrics and Neil Patel promote their webinars. Here’s an example of a Kissmetrics webinar signup page:

Pay attention to the balanced layout, the designated and easily noticed signup area, professional images of presenters, and the punchy list of topics.

Leverage the Power of A Well Timed SMS Reminder

Once you have a long list of webinar signups, you’ll feel good - but you aren’t done yet. Those signups have to actually become attendees by tuning in when the webinar begins. You have to be proactive in making sure that signups remember your webinar before it happens, so they will also remember to show up.

Most webinar organizers and marketers send an email reminder a few hours before the webinar begins. But remember: skipping the webinar is a low-risk option for your subscribers, so you need a strong push.

This is where SMS reminders come into the picture. In addition to email reminders, send out an SMS reminder to your subscribers half an hour before the webinar before it begins. This is a more immediate option than email, and stands a better chance of being noticed. Here are the key elements of an effective SMS reminder:

  • Address the subscriber by name.
  • Include dial-in options.
  • Include a bit.ly or tinyurl shortened link.

Keep the Webinar Invitation Visible on Social Media

Most marketers will know to share webinar invites on their social media profiles, but there are ways to keep that invitation visible on social media for a longer period of time. Many online marketers are unaware that it is possible to highlight a post so it’s the first thing visitors to your page see.

Twitter offers users the option of ‘pinning’ a tweet on top of their page. This ensures that even if you post often, the webinar invite post remains on top.

Facebook has a similar feature:

Pinning a link to your webinar splash page on social media profiles is a sound way to ensure that it will remain visible to your audience, and maintain the interest of subscribers, so be sure to use this technique!

Conclusion:

Hosting a webinar is a great way to increase your brand’s authority, and the larger your audience, the larger your impact. These tactics are easy ways to improve your webinar signups and drive more conversions every time. Try one today, and let us know how it works for you!

 

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Web Analytics & Testing

Email Marketing Tactics

Social Media Strategy for Business

 

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 


The Future of Facebook for Digital Marketers

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the future of facebook

Editor's Note: Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org. To celebrate the launch of our new Facebook Fundamentals CertificationJosh joins us today to discuss the future of Facebook, and how digital marketers can begin to prepare for it.

 

Over the years, Facebook has set a trajectory to grow its user base, find new ways to monetize, and expand its investment reach to new tech markets like artificial intelligence and virtual reality. For digital marketers, this direction has ushered in constant connectivity across a broad range of user tools; specifically, ad networks, business pages, and platforms that permit access to Facebook’s social media data.

Generally speaking, it’s impossible to predict the future of Facebook with much accuracy. The Social Network’s ranking algorithms change regularly, and we never know when a new platform might disrupt its momentum. But we do know that Facebook marketers who push quality content over salesy promotion are achieving unprecedented levels of connectivity, which allows for more loyal engagement from friends, fans, and followers.

Our predictions for the future of Facebook is based on its own stated 10-year plan, and because we don’t expect that trajectory to change much in the near future, we’ve come up with three routes that digital marketers might go to enhance connectivity with their Facebook audiences. All three routes were chosen to make the prospect of interacting with audiences more attainable as time goes by. Let's dive in:

Mobile Video

Video is a main staple of Facebook’s marketing menu. Although private video calling has been available since 2011, Facebook’s public video viewing feature became especially popular in 2014 after News Feed started showing users data about people who were viewing the same videos as them.

Since then, the trend has largely moved towards mobile video, as the company develops Facebook Live and Messenger Day so users can easily share video on-the-go. These new tools are designed to provide more outlets for uploading the Internet’s most popular form of content (video) while at the same time encouraging a greater level of intimacy between users, their friends, and their followers.

While mobile video tools have been put to good use by private users, many businesses have not yet taken advantage of them or unleashed their full potential to unlock a deeper sense of connection with their audiences. But the versatility of these tools make it wise for small businesses and entrepreneurs to think about how they might open up the throttle, and rocket to relevance by taking advantage of Facebook mobile video.

Rules of Engagement

Facebook Policy has structured the social web to be as friendly as possible, but that doesn’t always mean Facebook hosts the friendliest platform on Earth. It’s impossible to know when an online troll might comment in poor taste, leave a slanderous review, or inundate your Business Page inbox with junk intended to harm or hack. It’s also difficult to know when your business might be over-promoting. This is why it’s important for businesses and entrepreneurs to develop rules for Facebook engagement. Nominating social media moderators to post quality content and monitor for quality control in messages, reviews, and comments is a great first step in this direction. But those moderators need to be on the same page.

One of the easiest codes of conduct to put into place is the 80/20 rule, which stipulates that we should post content from other sources 80% of the time and content from our own company 20% of the time. That way, we simultaneously draw new customers and avoid pushing old ones away. When we follow them, rules of engagement on Facebook work to establish businesses as principled and credible thought leaders. At a time when the future can seem uncertain and online behavior can seem overly driven by emotion, working to establish credibility and trust works doubletime to foster a deeper sense of connection between businesses and their customers.

Newsjacking the News Feed

Although little more risky than coming up with a code of conduct, newsjacking has become a popular way for businesses to get attention on days when the news won’t let us get a word in edgewise. Newsjacking occurs when a business uses its social presence to ride (not hijack) a news story, by delivering a timely message that is relevant both to the business’s purpose and the story at hand.

Great examples of newsjacking have occurred during live events such as the Super Bowl, the Oscars, or the Olympics, when brands try to inject some comic relief into a topic of conversation. While this tactic often works best for topics in pop culture and entertainment, it’s more difficult when it comes to politics, a topic that enters Facebook conversations more readily than it used to. While this isn't to say that brands cannot successfully involve themselves in a political moment, this is much harder to pull off than the average newsjack, and it can be much safer to stay out of politics altogether.

That being said, with all the political news on Facebook News Feeds, there is ample room for businesses to come out and make a statement. This is especially true in a day and age when businesses are expected to have a social conscience and break their own news. But when it comes to News Feed, the key to successful newsjacking is aiming to address the root reason why customers care about your business at the same time as you address a relevant news story.

If a business can accomplish this in all the right way, the future of Facebook could hold controversial ads that get attention at the same time as they connect to a businesses’ usual customer bases. Such a future might also mean reaching unprecedented levels of new customer loyalty.

Want to master Facebook Marketing? Sign up for our new Facebook certification today!