Best of Online Marketing

How to Establish Credibility With Your Content Marketing Strategy

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Establishing credibility in your industry is an absolute must when it comes to sculpting a successful brand. The more efficiently that you can demonstrate to the public why you are an authority in your field, the more trust you’ll naturally build between your company and potential consumers.

One of the best areas to work on showcasing your worth is through your content marketing strategy. By now, it’s hard to find anyone in the professional sphere who hasn’t heard the infamous saying, “content is king”, and utilizing this crucial marketing element the correct way will help you easily communicate to your readers why your brand is reputable.

All this being said, here’s how to develop your brand’s credibility with your content:

Pay Attention to What Types of Content Work Best for Your Readers

When you’re trying to build trust through content, it’s important to be aware of what formats and topics will resonate best with your target client base. You can discover this simply by paying attention to what blogs seem to attract the heftiest readership, but there are also tools out there (such as this one) that highlight what content performs the best based on social media metrics.

It’s easy; you enter a keyword that relates to your industry, and the database will bring up which articles under that category have the most shares, likes, comments, and retweets. You can use this information to develop an impressive content marketing strategy.

Also, you’ll want to create various pieces of content to attract readers who are in different stages of your buying cycle. For example, those who are just learning about your brand (the awareness stage) will respond better to something that is more informative and straightforward, whereas you can get away with a slightly more salesly approach with a reader who has already invested in what you offer. Ideally, your content strategy will be diverse enough to speak to anyone, no matter where they’re coming from.

Provide Thorough Advice

If you only use your content platforms as outlets to give sales presentations, it will be difficult for you to connect with the public on a beneficial level. While the sales aspect should still be a fundamental part of any marketing strategy, you’ll have a better chance of convincing your audience that you are worth your weight in gold if you showcase your expertise by giving them something useful to work with. After all, any brand out there can say that they are the be-all and end-all, but it’s when you can show off your knowledge and skills that people might start to believe those statements are accurate.

It’s true; over half of business-to-business buyers reported that they would respond better to brands’ content strategies if they eased up on the sales spiels.

So, if you shouldn’t solely brag about how your brand is the best option around, what should you write about?

At the end of the day, you should focus on drafting content that can be called valuable, purposeful, actionable, etc. You want to provide your audience members with tips and tricks that they can aptly put into use, or put together opinion pieces that help them understand an industry topic in a more meaningful way.  

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Opinion pieces (e.g. Do you think a current trend in your niche is overrated?)
  • Reviews of other (non-competitive) products/services that relate to your niche
  • How-to-style video and/or blog tutorials
  • Advice on common issues that pop up in your industry
  • Podcasts where you discuss current news and affairs

Highlight Case Studies and Link to Statistics

Whenever possible, it’s best to back up your statements using statistics or case studies, as doing so allows the public to trust that what you’re saying is valid. Anyone can say anything on the internet these days, and your content will be significantly more impactful if you show visible evidence of why your points hold merit.

While citing any case study or statistic that supports a claim you’re making will do the trick, it’s also immeasurably valuable to have your own case study highlighted on your website so that you can reference it in your blogs, link to it when publishing your videos, etc.

Creating your own breakdown of why your products/services will give prospective clientele what they’re looking for will help you reel in those hard sells much more effectively than if you had no tangible proof of the results you provide.

Guest Post on Authoritative Websites

A simple and free way to help yourself grow into an industry leader is to guest blog on authoritative websites related to your offerings.

An authoritative website can be summed up as any website that embodies most or all of the following characteristics:

  • Ranks highly in search engines
  • Is consistently updated with high quality content
  • Has a large following (many comments on blogs, shares on social media, etc.)
  • Has a favorable domain authority

Getting your article published on a well-known website that clearly relates to your brand is an excellent resource to utilize when you’re trying to gain brand exposure, and additionally, when the public sees that other respected professionals in your niche endorse you, they’ll immediately be more comfortable giving your brand a chance.

Turn Consumer-Engagement Into Content

Customer service is a critical determining factor when evaluating a brand’s level of trustworthiness, and unfortunately, it’s one many brands are quick to brush off.  

When consumers fail to feel appreciated and listened to, their trust for the company-in-question diminishes dramatically, and they are quick to find someone new to conduct business with. On the contrary, in order to build up your clientele’s faith in you, you need to offer top-notch service, and you should reflect this concept back into your content marketing strategy.

You can do this by paying attention to the consumer-engagement that is happening on your published content, whether it be videos, blogs, webinars, etc. You can utilize this information to help steer your content marketing campaign in a successful direction.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Are there any overlapping questions commenters are asking? If so, answer these questions in your next blog post or podcast.
  • Do you have any requests for videos or blogs? Many online users will make suggestions on what topics they’d prefer to see covered next, so take a few minutes per day to get caught up on the new wave of comments.
  • What posts seem to be the most popular? Use the pieces of content with the most comments and shares as a blueprint for future material.

Closing Up

Hopefully the above advice gives you a solid starting point if you’re looking to strengthen your content with credibility. Trust is a delicate, necessary element of effectively marketing your brand to consumers. Without it, no amount of marketing magic will help the conversions take place, so always be sure to prioritize your relationship with the public above all else.

 

 


How to Create an Opt In Funnel

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Hand drawing Lead Generation Business Funnel concept with white chalk on blackboard.

Marketing your business can be overwhelming. As SEO becomes increasingly complex and Social Media becomes increasingly time-consuming, nothing could be more important or effective than spending time mapping out your very own opt-in funnel.

Having a great opt-in funnel can help you easily and effectively build your email list. Email marketing is still the #1 most effective digital marketing method. It should be comforting to know that the easiest marketing activity – creating and sending email – is still the most effective!

Unlike most other marketing activities, building an opt-in funnel is actually a very simple and straightforward process. Together we’ll go through each step so that you can feel confident building your very own.

In the past to accomplish this you would need to

  • Hire a developer to create you a new landing page
  • Embed a form and wire it to a CRM
  • Create a thank you page on your website
  • Create an email make it automatically send when your form is submitted

Thankfully technology has advanced and now anyone can create an opt-in funnel with a few clicks.

To create your opt-in funnel you’ll need 3 items:

  1. A landing page with a form for your traffic to submit to.
  2. A thank you page to thank your new visitor for their interest.
  3. An Automatic responder email to immediately verify validity and deliverability of the new email address.

1. Choose a great landing page

2. Attach a great thank you page.

3. Automatically send your email.

An Automatic responder email will immediately verify validity and deliverability of the new email address, this keeps your email list clean. Immediately contacting your new subscriber is the “how you doing?” to their “hello”. Keep the conversation flowing and your business in their mind.

After you’ve chosen your landing page, your thank you page and your email you’re ready to tie them all together.

That’s it! Now that you know how to create an opt in funnel, head over to buildmytribez.com and make you own. You can create a complete funnel following our easy step by step video tutorials. No credit card required. Click here to check it out.

 


Why Your Next Blog Topic Should Come From Sales

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business, people and technology concept - close up of creative t

When it comes to content ideation, there is often a collective moan and groan. Coming up with topic ideas for your firm’s next blog topic, content piece, or marketing collateral can be draining and exhausting, especially if you’ve been creating content for a while. All ideas can seem tired, have already been done, or seem worthless.

 

This is very common, so don’t fret or lose hope. So where do you turn when you feel like you’ve written about everything and don’t have any more good ideas? It’s not a popular idea in the digital marketing world – but the sales team might have your next great blog topic.

 

Tension Between Sales & Marketing

 

As an experienced marketer, digital marketer, and business development professional, I have witnessed a strange tension between the sales and marketing departments in many companies across a variety of industries. While there may be deeper issues causing the tension – it doesn’t mean that marketing shouldn’t tap the sales team as a great resource for content topics. In fact, there are a variety of reasons why your online marketing team should turn to sales from time to time to get that next great blog or content topic.

 

Why Consult Sales For Your Next Blog Topic?

 

You may be reticent to ask the sales team for your next blog topic, but there is a host of reasons why they can be a great internal resource for material.

 

  • They talk to potential and existing clients every day

 

Whether you have an outside or inside sales team, they are communicating with potential and current clients every single day. As an online marketing professional, you likely have less day-to-day contact with your firm’s prospects and clients. Hence, it’s a good idea to check in with the sales team from time to time to check the health of the leads you are driving, find out what clients are saying, and learn what prospects are saying as well.

 

  • They know common questions

 

Any sales person worth their salt can list 5 – 10 questions they get every day from current and potential clients. Typically, these questions are about pricing, product and service delivery, processes, etc. Asking your sales team about the common questions they receive enables you to build a list of frequently asked questions. Your next blog is now an FAQ about your industry, products, services, or process.

 

  • They know typical objections to overcome

 

Sales people have to overcome objections on a daily basis. Did you know that it takes at least five continuous follow up efforts before a customer says yes? (Source: MarketingDonut) Not only does that require a lot of persistence, it requires overcoming objections. The next blog or digital content piece you create can help your sales team overcome those objections early on and shorten a sales cycle. That’s a win-win.

 

  • They are on the frontlines representing your brand, services, products

 

Prospective and existing clients may only have experience with your sales team and your website. That means your sales team is the representative for your brand, services, or products. Chatting with the sales team enables you to gain insight to how they are representing the brand and gives you the opportunity to help them better represent the brand with the right online marketing tools and blogs.

 

  • They can use content to nurture leads and close deals

 

Typically, sales people have to follow up several times before they can get a prospect on the phone or close a deal. As you likely know, content is a great way to explain benefits, differentiate you from your competitors, and provide solutions for your prospects. Simply asking your sales team what they need to nurture a lead and close a deal could inspire your next blog piece. For example, not all the prospects we work with understand why we build websites in WordPress. Rather than continually explain the benefits, our Creative Director drafted a blog on 4 Reasons to Use WordPress in Your Website Design. This blog is now a useful tool for nurturing and educating potential clients.

 

  • They know what sells

 

Your sales team knows what sells and what doesn’t sell – just ask them. If you are trying to boost sales for a particular product or service, your sales team can provide insight on what sells and more importantly WHY! As an online marketing professional, you can’t develop new products, but you can learn new ways to position existing products or services. This insight can help to determine new angles and topics to discuss on your next blog.

 

Your sales team is a great resource for determining content for your online marketing efforts. While we don’t suggest they lead the online marketing strategy, we have found that sales can offer new, fresh ideas that provide valuable, helpful information for improving ROI of your content strategy.

 

 

 


12 Uncommon Content Marketing Productivity Tools That Save Hours Each Day

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Content marketing can be very exhaustive and time-consuming.

However, with a good plan, you can make it more effective.

Using the right content marketing productivity tools should help you achieve that goal.

Here are 12 of the most uncommon content market productivity toolsthat should help save more time.

#1 – SEMrush.com

You can use this content marketing tool to identify how your competitors are ranking on Google.

Using SEMrush, it’s easy to assess the amount of traffic going to your competitors’ websites as well as the keywords being used to get higher rankings.

What you need to do is enter the web address to your competitor’s website and this tool will reveal the list of keywords used for ranking on Google.

semrush content marketing tool

Steps to get started with SEMrush:
Open a free account on SEMrush and register yourself and you can gain access to the top keywords your competitors are using to drive traffic to their websites. You can begin by entering their web addresses (URLs) and watch for both the organic and paid results, traffic numbers, cost per click and more.

If you’re aware of these keywords, maybe you can use some of them to bring more traffic to your own site.

#2 – BuzzSumo.com

This content marketing tool allows you to discover the type of content that gets shared the most. Naturally, you want to create content on your website that gets shared across numerous social media platforms.

Using Buzzsumo, you can find out the commonly shared content and shape your own content around the same topics.

buzzsumo content marketing tools most popular posts

Steps to get started with BuzzSumo:
Using this tool, you should enter your own address or your competitor’s website address and find out which content is mostly shared across different social media channels.

Also, you can search for keywords and find any content related to these specific keywords that’s shared the most.

You can use Buzzsumo to examine the type of content shared on specific social media channels and produce content to similar to what’s targeted on these channels.

You can use this to get statistics about what’s working, and use it to get new ideas for your own content marketing strategies.

#3 – Canva.com

Canva is a power tool used to prepare any promotional visuals to be used on your website. It might be very expensive to hire graphic designers for every image that’s need to go on your website.

Well, through Canva, you can perform any graphic design features needed on your site without the need for graphic design skills. You can produce professional and impressive images using a streamlined and simple interface.

Even better, you can create similar images to be used on the same content rather than using the same image over and over again.

Figure 1 – Easy designer layouts and editing

canva-graphics-options

Figure 2 – Preset sizes and images + custom dimensions

canva design options

Steps to get started with Canva:
Create a free account, and login via Twitter, Facebook or email. Using the app in your browser is free, and many textual and picture elements can be used for free to start. If you want to upgrade, you’ll get additional images and tools to make it even better. There is a team version, starting at $9.95/month, but the first 30 days is free.

#4 – QuillEngage.com

This tool allows you to monitor your results without the need for using Google Analytics which can be quite exhausting and time consuming.

Steps to get started with QuillEngage:
Create a free started account, and connect with your Google Analytics profile. Pick the template you need, and save. Quill Engage will send a weekly (or daily) email with a complete interpretation of your website’s results which is simple and easy to understand.

#5 – EditFlow.org

Using Edit Flow, you can build your own editorial calendar which is an essential part of content marketing. If you plan your content accordingly, you can become more productive and produce better content for your visitors.

Steps to get started with EditFlow:
This tool is a free WordPress plug-in that allows you to view all the drafted posts to adjust dates accordingly, send messages to all the team members and also set custom status updates that match your workflow. Create an account, and follow the simple instructions.

#6 – Do Share (Google Chrome Web Store)

This is a Google Chrome plug-in that allows you to post content to your personal Google+ profile. Currently, it’s not possible to schedule any posts through Google to your personal profile.

However, by using Do Share you can hold any content until the time for posting it arrives. Of course, your browser must be open when posting time comes around in order for the tool to work properly.

Also, you can pick content from Google+ and send it to the tool for later posting.

#7 – Zapier.com

This is an automation tool that allows you to link 300+ applications and perform automated tasks.

Using Zapier, you can create a triggering task (referred to as Zaps) that automatically initiates different applications.

For instance, you can use this tool to create posts of Facebook and put the rest on queue to post on other social media channels. Check out IFTTT recipes also.

#8 – Buffer.com

Just like Zapier, Buffer offers an automation feature where you can post to numerous social media channels.

Therefore, you don’t have to necessarily log into each one of your social media profiles in order to copy paste your posts.

Let this content marketing tool do all the job for you.

#9 – Momentum (Google Webstore)

Yet another Google Chrome Plugin, Momentum allows you to plan your tasks and provides daily reminders.

Therefore, if you plan on updating your website’s content on any particular day, you can use this tool to keep everything in check and make sure that everything is completed in time.

You can also use this app to monitor the rest of the tools you’re using for your content marketing efforts. Once you confirm your account, you’ll be ready to go.

TIP: combine with calm.com to get more work done with less distractions.

#10 – Self Control App.com

Do you always find yourself distracted every time you are on the internet?

Do you need an app that blocks your access to other distracting websites when you’re working on your site’s content?

Well, thanks to Self Control , you can achieve exactly that.

Specifically for Mac users, the app blocks your access to any distracting websites allowing you to allocate more time to your site.

Basically, you set a period of time and a number of sites to be blocked then your access to these sites will be blocked during that time.

Regardless of whether you delete the app and restart your computer during that time period, nothing changes.

#11 – Slack.com

If you’re working with a content marketing team, you need a platform where communications are easy and effortless between all the team members.

Well, using Slack, you can achieve exactly that. Here, everything is in one place and you can search for it very easily.

It’s the best communication tool for most modern content marketing teams.

#12 – Evernote.com

When creating and marketing content for your website, you’re likely to create notes and comments you need to add or follow-up on.

Keeping track of these notes can be very difficult.

Well, if you’re using an app like Evernote, you can easily get access to these notes whenever you need them.

IMPORTANT!
Don’t forget to include the amazing co-schedule product when discussing calendaring and team work for your content marketing and social media projects.

It fits right into your WordPress CMS, and has a nifty Chrome browser plugin too. It’s our mainstay product.

We also hear great things about hipstersound and defonic, but have not installed/tested them yet.

 

 


 


9 Reasons Every Business Needs a Solid Email Marketing List

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Email is by far the most effective way of directly increasing sales and growing your business.

You’d think because of this data-backed fact that more business owners and more sales professionals would spend more time growing their email list. If you’re on the hunt for the next-best-thing in lead generation, might I remind of you of the tried and true king of commerce communications.

Here are 9 compelling reasons why you need a solid email marketing list:

#1 Return-On-Investment

If you’re a diligent about keeping an address book then you understand the importance of quality book of contacts. Let me re-frame this concept. If you’re throwing a party, your goal is to have a great party with your guests. You have a guest list which you market the party to via invitation. Your guests receive your invite and consequently show up and you reach your goal of having a great party. Keeping a list of your potential guests cost virtually nothing and it has yielded a great ROI - in this case, a good time!

Now imagine you’re having a product launch or a sale. It’s a party (of sorts). You go to send invitations to your would-be guests (marketing list) only you have no guest list. Disaster. Now instead of just inviting your past customers to your sale, you have go buy billboard space, create ads, make flyers to try to get them todiscover that you’re having a sale. This drastically cuts into your budget and it hurts your return. In the context of ad space vs email and social media marketing the costs are minimal.

#2 Zero Learning Curve, For You.

Been sending emails for years? Decades? Just about everyone you know has an email address and uses it. It’s is about as standard as having a cell phone. As a business owner, you don’t have to learn 17 different platforms just to reach your intended recipient, just type in their address and go.

#3 You'll Actually Reach Your Database

Two our own detriment, in the midst of our social media frenzy we've lost sight of some of the basics of marketing. Organic social media is on life support, Facebook is only showing your posts on from your business page to a very small 1-3% of your followers. Email however, has delivery rates of up to 99%. Email services also tell you if your recipient has received your email. Your post? Maybe they saw it maybe they didn't.

Granted, email is only opened by a fraction of subscribers - at Tribez our open rates hover around 30%.  But even if your email is never opened, the message still reaches its destination and then at least your recipient has the option to to read it or not.

#4 Sticking Power

Have you ever see a post on Facebook you you wanted to read and then try to find it again? Yeah… not so easy. That email you got this morning that you flagged to read later on? Well there it is right where you left it! Social Media is noisy and it’s getting noisier! Your social feeds update thousands of times a day, your inbox updates dozens of times a day and for your customer probably even less.

Social media is all scroll and no action. Email is for doing. Opening, reading, and our favorite - clicking. Email never dies. You have to eliminate it. It just sits there in your inbox waiting for you. Even if it’s deleted, it still requires that action. Social media? Scrolling on.

#5 Measure Twice Cut Once

Trying to prove the value of social media is difficult and becoming more so. What’s the value of a Facebook follower? Who knows.

Email on the contrary is very simple. What email did you send, how many inquiries did you get, and how many sales did it generate? Then you can take it from there and figure out the average value of each opt in.

#6 Have an actual conversation

You know the kind of communication where I say something and then you say something back to me?  If you are a small business, next to your phone, your email email is your money maker, the vessel to true 2-way communication. One-on-one conversations with prospects are priceless! Reach out to them first and spark a conversation!

#7 Advertising Approved

Email is perceived differently than social networks. It’s become quite normal to be notified of a sale or a receive a coupon code in your inbox. You won’t be ostracized for doing this, however if you blast your LinkedIn connections with a coupon code, they might have something no-so-nice to say back.

#8 The Inbox Has Gone Mobile

As long as you stay away from using huge images in your emails you can deliver your messages right to the hand of your subscribers!

#9 Personalization

Although there is a logical understanding that every email we receive is not always personal, it still feels like the message is for us, even if it’s sent to a list of thousands. A social post is for anyone who stumbles upon it. Further segmentation of your list allows you to send more specific messages to help nurture your subscriber into desired action.

 

Email is still the only channel that remains private-ish, it provides a direct line to you and your contacts. Most importantly, it has an opt-in process that turns it into the purest form of Permission Marketing.

 


Three Reasons Long-Form Content is King and Everything Else is Ineffective

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Content is king.

That phrase has been around the block a few times, eh?

Once catchy and clever, this proverb demonstrated an important concept in early Digital Marketing: Content was here to stay, and it could lead you down the yellow brick road to online success. Today, it joins the ranks of meaningless words and clichés digital marketers might want to avoid. While we’re at it, let’s agree to stop using “low-hanging fruit,” “bandwidth,” and “ping me.”

So what’s wrong with content?

When this phrase first took hold, content exploded onto the digital scene. Businesses took the "content is king" advice and began implementing it like wildfire. With most people caught in the content marketing rat race, a problem arose:

There's a ton of content out there.

How do you stand out?

Today, customers and website visitors are experiencing content fatigue. Unfortunately, "content is king” is not enough, because everyone's doing it. Sure, distributing and promoting content helps. But it won't create success out of thin air. If your content is lackluster, all the promotion in the world can't save you. You need the right type of content to make an impact.

Enter long-form content. 

Why Long-Form Content Works

Referencing kings and queens seems effective for us Digital Marketing nerds. (Or maybe Game of Thrones has us all fired up.) Either way, let's use an analogy from the Middle Ages.

History books are scattered with epic and tragic stories about kings. There are tales of kings that were benevolent, kind, and revered. There are also stories of dictators who were loathed, some even overthrown or killed.

Some were good leaders and others were bad. Which qualities did each possess? As you might imagine, favored monarchs treated their people with respect and kindness. Laws were fair, commerce boomed, and the common folk under their rule prospered. Dictators, on the other hand, lied, oppressed, harmed, neglected, and treated their people unjustly.

It's the same with content.

You can prove yourself a poor leader by creating short and superficial content, usually for self-centered reasons like improving search engine rankings or bringing in more business. You can create content that doesn't do anything extraordinary for your readers, let alone solve their problems or even entertain them.

Or, you can take the approach of a good leader. A leader that's loved and respected.

How? 

You put the reader first and your benefit secondYou create content only if it provides value, even if that means creating less often. Content that adequately answer's readers questions and is more comprehensive, helpful, or actionable than your competitors.

This is long-form content in action.

What is Long-Form Content?

Opinions differ on the exact definition of long-form content. While there aren't any hard and fast rules, long-form content is - you guessed it- longer than average.

It could be a full-page or multi-page magazine ad, or a TV commercial that runs longer than thirty seconds. When it comes to writing, it may be a 2,000-word blog post or a 4,000-word e-book. One thing that most agree on: long-form content usually exceeds 1,200 words.

And it takes some serious effort.Most people don't bother with long-form content. Maybe they don't have the time, desire, or motivation. But one thing's for certain: Short content goes unnoticed, while long, in-depth, or meatier content soars to the top of SERPs and straight into your reader's hearts.

Don’t get me wrong: quality still counts. Writing 1,200+ words of subpar content just to fill space isn’t going to help anyone. So now let's dissect three important reasons why long-form content is the new standard.

1. It Helps Your Readers

Have you ever been searching for information online, only to find yourself hitting the back button because result after result is inadequate?

Each option offers the same useless content, while the  information you're hunting for remains elusive.

That's super annoying, isn't it? Well, that's how readers feel most of the time. Granted, there are many instances in which queries are short, simple, and easy to answer in a few words. 

But many user queries take the form of long-tail keyword searches and questions. 

In fact, Google has stated that approximately 50% of all searches have never been typed in before. This means most of what's being searched isn't so black and white. While Google is getting better at deciphering these queries, they’re not quite there yet.

Think about this for a moment: what would you rather do?

  1. Land on a webpage that provides almost everything you need to know about your search query,

Or:

  1. Navigate back and forth between ten different webpages to find all the answers to your questions.

The answer is obvious.

You may be asking yourself, “Why are you so sure this works?”

Other than my years of experience working with big brands, small businesses, and everything in between, I’ve seen the power of long-form content first hand.

Let’s take a look at a personal blog I started as a hobby.

A Quick Case Study

SEO - search engine optimization mindmap on napkin with cup of coffee

Primal Pooch is a blog that appeals to the health-conscious dog owner. It’s something I work on in my free time, but my free time is rare these days. To tell the truth, I don't promote the website very much, and it’s far from perfectly optimized. What I do have is lots of positive response and engagement from writing long-form content.

One of my earliest articles, “The Great Debate: Do Dogs Need Fruits & Vegetables?” is 3, 315 words long. You might think that would discourage readers. Just the opposite: it garnered 45 comments and over 1,380 social shares.

What's more, when I didn’t keep up with comments quick enough, readers began demanding answers.

How’s that for engagement?

Another piece of pillar content, “Canine Liver Disease: How a Raw Diet Can Help,” addressed a real problem many dog owners face.  At a whopping 4,142 words, it generated 105 comments and 935 social shares.

That’s not all. This post drove nearly all the traffic to my website for two years, and still brings in boatloads of visitors.

One of my latest articles, “Where to Find Unbiased Raw Feeding Research,” was published after a yearlong hiatus.  That didn’t seem to matter. 1,689 words later, it has 15 comments and 967 social shares.

Now, I understand we’re not talking about hundreds or thousands of social shares here. But I’ve worked with multi-million dollar brands with huge social followings that don’t get that kind of attention or interaction on their blog posts.

Why?

Because their content was short, unhelpful, and probably churned out daily by a bunch of people who don’t care about the bigger picture. What’s more, there are only 28 posts on Primal Pooch to date. Here’s the kicker: it’s been live for four years. The long form content, while infrequent, generates 20,000+ page views per month, and it’s still growing.

So what’s notable about that? This is traffic and engagement for a site that’s not updated regularly and is mostly neglected.

What did I learn?

That well-constructed long-form content can not only do the heavy lifting of drawing traffic to your website – it can also be entirely self-sustaining.

But don’t take my word for it.

Learn from the best like Brian Dean, who shares regular case studies that will blow your mind. He’s a pioneer in the long-form content world.  Bottom line: when you create long-form content that goes above and beyond, you breed satisfied users.  And that should be your number one goal.

Here's what else long-form content can do for you:

2. It Establishes You As An Authority

When a reader is satisfied, something happens. You immediately gain street cred, or as we call it in the Digital Marketing world, authority

Authority comes from two main places:

  1. People
  2. Search Engines

Long-form content not only resonates with search engines (more on that in a minute), it resonates with readers.  When readers are satisfied, they talk. They share information with friends, family, or other like-minded people.

You've probably noticed this Facebook phenomenon: You post a question, ask for advice, or request a recommendation, and people flock to answer it. Asking a question lands in the top five Facebook engagement tactics of all time.

People love to talk and share what they know. When you help someone or solve a problem they have, you can bet they’re willing to recommend you.

What happens next? They feel more connected to you. They behave differently. This can include spending more time reading your content, sharing it with their friends, or linking to it on their own websites.

We call this engagement, my friends.

3. Google Rewards You

At this stage in the game, we know Google's primary goal is to best serve the user

Even their Webmaster Guidelines say:

  • "Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines."
  • "Create a useful, information-rich site"
  • "Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging.
  • “Make your website stand out from others in your field."

So it behooves your business to follow suit, don't you think?

When you do, you get a big old pat on the back from Google, in the form of positive ranking signals.

Remember that “user behavior” we were talking about earlier? Well, it leads to some important factors Google tracks like:

  • Authority - I mean, only an expert would provide a 3000 word blog post on topic X, right?
  • Engagement - helpful content is consumed, not ignored. How do we know? Through engagement metrics like time on site, average page time, dwell time, bounce rates, and so on.​
  • Social signals - A comprehensive, actionable piece of content is more likely to be shared and discovered socially.
  • Backlinks - As content is shared and discovered, people choose to link to it as an additional reference within their own content. 
  • CTR- Engagement, social signals, and backlinks positively influence click through rates (CTR).

From there, it snowballs into better rankings, more traffic, improved visibility and boom! Next thing you know, you're an authority on the subject matter.

How do we know? Testing proves it.

SERPIQ found that longer content is preferred to short articles and that the length of content correlated with SERP position.

SEOs are discovering comprehensive content outperforms shallow content.

Data from SEMRush shows longer content tends to rank higher in SERPs, with the average first page result containing approximately 1,890 words.

BuzzSumo also concluded that longer content generates significantly more social shares.

There’s Only One Thing Left to Do: Put More Effort Into Long-Form Content

Not long ago, content creators believed long-form content was a bad idea in the digital world

No one wants to read long pages of text on the Internet, right

Wrong.

Today, there’s compelling evidence to the contrary. Long-form content ranks and converts. Now, through data, tests, and case studies, many are coming around to the idea that long-form content is here to stay. It’s extremely valuable for users, search engines, and most importantly: your brand.

Long-form content could be the ticket you’ve been waiting for. Use it to stand out from the crowd, grow your authority, improve your rankings, increase traffic, get more referrals, and ultimately more sales.

What are you waiting for?

It’s time to get creative and beef up your content game.

 

 


4 Ways Big Data Analytics Affects Your Customer Service

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Not needing customer service is the best example of customer service.

Big data analytics helps you tune into your customers’ expectations, frustrations and demands, so you can constantly evolve your business platform, providing a superior and smooth experience to your customers.

However there is a giant elephant in the room: the probability of failure of big data analytics. You won’t hear people talking about it for the fear of appearing incompetent or ignorant, but believe me, it is a common occurrence with many problems and roadblocks on the way.

Let’s examine a few reasons why big data analytics fail and some instances where they succeed when it comes to customer service intelligence, so that you can avoid these mistakes and improve your chances of success in retention as well as acquisition.

Data models

Bear with me while I spew some mumbo-jumbo.

The concept of data models is very complex. In a nutshell, it manages its constituent elements and their mutual relationships. A database model, in turn, is a logical data model, which determines the structure of a computerized (usually) database, and specifies how data can be added, stored, organized, accessed and edited. Common database models include hierarchical, relational, and semantic.

In your organization, the decision of which big data or automation tools you’ll adopt and deploy is often dependent on the data model that is on offer, whether you realize it or not.

Suppose you are a retail ecommerce website selling t-shirts and such. Using your analytics tools, you could easily profile shoppers who interested in product X – things like the source of visit, age, location, etc. Let’s say you find that the majority of your customers are millennials.

Now you want to know what kind of t-shirts millennials like. So you decide to do product A/B testing based on the relational model i.e. the relation between a demographic (millennials) and their consumer behavior (t-shirt preferences).

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See where I am going? At the end of the day, unless you make sure your customer service team sounds more authentic, and totally gets the marketing channels favored by millennials, you won’t see any results from either your data analytics or testing.

Again, it all boils down to the data model. Even a business that makes extensive use of analytics data can go wrong. For example, Google Analytics follows the “last Interaction” attribution model by default when it comes to tracking conversions. As per this model, a product purchase is credited to the last channel that your site visitor interacted with before making the purchase.

For instance, Tim finds your website through organic search, sees some cool t-shirts and forgets all about it. His second interaction comes through a tweet about your blog post. During both these visits, he has liked your products and maybe registered and added a couple to his wish-list but hasn’t taken any action. His final purchase comes a few weeks later when he really needs to buy a t-shirt, googles “hip tshirts” again and clicks through the first ad he sees (yours).

Google Analytics will attribute the success of this conversion to paid search, based on its last touch attribution model. Consequently, you might feel compelled to increase your AdWords budget. This is how you can go wrong.

You must use a lot of different data models to make an informed decision. Blindly trusting one data model can prove to be an expensive mistake.

Unavailability

The Columbia Business School and the New York American Marketing Association surveyed over 250 corporate decision-makers in marketing – director-level at large companies. This is what they found:

  • 51% of the respondents said that a lack of sharing customer data within their own organization was a big challenge to overcome.
  • Nearly half weren’t using data to personalize their communications.
  • Almost a third did not know which high-value customers to focus their marketing on.
  • 39% said their company’s data collection methods weren’t well-timed.

There are countless tools – from Hadoop to Kyvos – that help enterprises collect and analyze big data. However, you must remember these are just tools. They will give you valuable insights on your data, but that doesn’t guarantee changes at the ground level.

Most of the times, analysis reports are seen only by the select few in the upper echelons while the team that actually connects with the customers on a regular basis is left out.

For instance, I once ordered a pair of jeans only to find them a size too small. I wanted to get a bigger size, so I left a message on the retailer’s website, for which I got a support ticket. But I didn’t hear from them, so I emailed the whole thing again to the customer care ID and waited another 24 hours before giving them a call. I was told to hang up (my and wait for someone to get in touch with me, which of course never materialized. So I took the jeans to their store (luckily for me, they have one in my city), repeated the whole story to the manager and got my jeans exchanged. To cut a long story short, had the details of my order and issue been available to all employees on the shop floor, warehouse as well as customer service departments, we all would have saved a lot of time.

Although this is my personal experience, I’m sure you will identify with this story. It illustrates how important it is to make real time data analytics more available to everyone, right down to your customer service team.

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Expectations

As with everything, CIOs and managers want everything yesterday! They want to see results from big data in as early as 3 to 6 months. Most CMOs and CIOs go as far as to calculate ROI within the first year.

The truth is that it takes you far longer than three months to even make sense of the overwhelming amount of data analytics today’s tool present you, let alone glean insights from them. Then you go on to draw up plans on which metrics you’d like to monitor and meet, based on your business goals, and proceed to implement it over the next six months to a year depending on the scope of the task at hand.

Even then, you can never be a 100% sure that you have made the right changes, so you keep tweaking your data analytics models; the question of ROI doesn’t arise this early in the game.

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Source: SlideShare

So how do you work around this problem?

  • Find the pain points in your customer service.
  • Define metrics for improvement. The success of measuring ROI in big data analytics depends on how well you pinpoint metrics that precisely gauge its success.
  • Set realistic short and long term goals.
  • Keep updating your big data models as and when you get more relevant data or insights.

For instance, XO Communications’ ultimate aim was to model their customer base and use that data to deduce whether a customer was happy or not. However, this was a long term goal and it would have been impossible to define metrics or determine success based on this goal alone. So, they broke it down into a short term goal of identifying “high risk” customers who could possibly switch to another carrier, contacting them in time and convincing them to stay. (Another win for customer retention!)

XO then converted this goal into KPI form – they aimed at reducing customer query times by up to 90 percent (from 7 to 10 days to less than a day). This was a realistic and measurable objective and they found they saved up to 5 million in revenue in just 30 days by solving this pain point.

They scaled up and changed their models several times after that and their annual savings shot up from $11 million in the first year to $15 million with a subsequent optimized data model.

Disruption

One of the most important ingredients in the recipe for big data success is disruption. If you keep trying to milk the same old data warehouse, team, IT infrastructure and tools, you are headed for big-time big data failure.

To ensure success, you need to be able to do a 360-degree pivot at the snap of a finger – hire experienced data scientists, do not be afraid to use newer tools, encourage disruptive thinking and most importantly, be prepared for implementing changes at all times.

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The biggest case in point here would be Groupon’s failure to capture China’s budding market. Encouraged by their success in Europe, Groupon duplicated the same approach in China – a high volume, low touch, cold-call approach (read, mass email marketing). However they didn’t take market differentiators like Chinese culture into the big data equation and thus failed to please their Chinese customers.

Southwest Airlines, on the other hand, used data intelligence quite wisely. They were always good at data analytics and have a track record of successfully using it to improve customer service several times. Some time back, they announced the deployment of speech analytics in order to extract information out of live-recorded interactions between customers and service personnel, in an effort to dig deeper for customer insights. No surprises that they are amongst the top 3 airlines for excellent customer service.

Tesla too created disruption by using data to understand their vehicles’ security issues and recruited hackers to break into their car’s security control unit, a preventive step ahead of their plans to collect more data from their connected cars. This is a great example of how companies today think inside and outside the box.

Over to You

As you saw, there are several ways you can fumble and fail to achieve results from big data for your customer service. If you’re a business decision maker, here are a few sources of big data learning you must make a habit of revisiting regularly. This will help you to gain industry insights on everything related to big data or customer service.

  • Clickz’s “Analyzing Customer Data” section
  • Inside Big Data’s concise insights on big data strategy
  • This huge list active blogs on big data, data science, data mining, machine learning and analytics
  • This Quora question, where everyone from data novices to entrepreneurs have shared their favorite resources for big data analytics

Have you tried using big data analytics for improving customer service or are planning to in the near future? What are the other business areas you wish to improve with big data analytics?

I’d love to hear about any news, case studies, experiences and insights on everything related to big data that you might have to share. See you

 


Three Emerging Social Channels You Must Keep An Eye On In 2016

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There are few digital realms that captivate more people these days than social. The social space is an evocative one. Social media can be rather personal.  This makes it fundamentally intriguing, allowing people to peek behind the curtains of our lives - or rather, our companies lives. Whether we portray an authentic image is up to us, but -  that notion of transparency is why our customers love to visit us in our ‘social homes.’ They walk through our social doorways to get to know the product more deeply, see how human our organizations are (or aren’t), and interact with whatever useful and free content we’re happily providing. And, as the age old psychological phenomenon reveals, proximity breeds affection and attention, so it behooves us to to build social homes wherever the customer might wander. The same side of that coin a mantra worth repeating: as marketers -  we must always, always watch new and emerging channels. New and emerging channels are likely where our audiences are - or in the least, exploring. Their actions, interactions, engagement, disengagement, can give us incredibly useful information on what our potential customers are - and aren't interested in, and of course, where the eyeballs are, at any given moment. 

With that, here are a few emerging social channels to watch in 2016.

Hyper: Instagram and reddit got married, and had a baby...meet hyper.

With Hyper, user post images directly to areas that interest them.  Others who have previously subscribed to that interest area, will get notified. Users provide instant feedback in the the form of up votes and down votes. Hyper still feels a little shaky where UX is concerned but -  by taking some of the most popular features from other highly successful social media forums (photo heavy, hashtags, voting, and geographic tagging), hyper may be poised for a ton of growth and eyeballs in 2016.

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Blab: Live streaming - that doesn’t suck.

Blab is simple, intuitive, and provides a higher sense of engagement than Google hangouts in that it is outfitted with a panel for live chat on the left, and a panel to tweet on the right. The medium also limits guests to 3 people, with an option for one of those seat to be left open for a “call in” during the blab. This cultivates a sense of exclusivity, unlike Google hangouts, where you can host up to 10 video participants. And unlike Facebook mentions, Meerkat and Periscope, Blab is not limited to mobile only. Further, it’s easy recording feature has made it relatively popular tool for use in podcasts, after shows, interviews etc. Blab’s versatility, simplicity, built in live chat and social integrations, might just be enough to position them as a leader in live streaming in 2016.

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photo cred: https://blab.im/about

Peach: Making social media … more addictive?


Crafted by the creator of Vine, Dan Hoffman, peach is a new app that some are claiming might be ‘the one to take on the giants’, (read:Facebook, Twitter). For those who enjoy social media (most of us) peach is intriguing in that is ups your potential ‘social creativity’ by acting as your social media assistant, pulling images, gifs, songs, moods, emoji etc., based on “magic” words typed by the user. Still, it’s lack of timeline and inability to follow those who aren’t friends, leaves me questioning its’ realistic lifespan.

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The True Price of Weak Customer Service

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“One of the biggest mistakes companies make is that they view the customer’s purchase as a transaction versus an interaction. There is more than a subtle difference here. A transaction has an ending.”

Shep Hyken, top social customer service pro

Customer service is the most neglected aspect of effective marketing. Wait, customer service is marketing?

Yes, in two ways: one, it’s marketing to customers you want to become repeat customers. Two, it’s marketing to leads who watch how you interact with your existing customers.

Any business that isn’t treating customer service as a vital part of its marketing activities is leaving money on the table.

Salesforce reported that bad customer service costs American businesses $84bn every year; worldwide, that figure was $338.5bn. Repeat customers are the lifeblood of any business, yet only 27% of initial-purchase customers become repeats. What if we could use better customer service to hang on to a few more repeat customers? Well, since 78% of customers have walked away from a business due to poor customer service (Source: American Express), there’s a good chance that we can.

Maybe these stats don’t apply to you, though. After all, you hardly ever get a complaint.

Neither does anyone else. Only 4% of dissatisfied customers complain… to you. They tell their friends, though – and they’re twice as likely to pass on a bad experience as a good one. 96% don’t complain; 91% will never come back. In fact, if a 2008 Accenture report can still be believed, the real cause of business churn is poor customer service.

Sounds like a problem that needs fixing, but we need to understand it first. Let’s start with the customer: what do customers want?

What do customers want?

Customers expect prompt customer service from knowledgeable, trained individuals. When they don’t get it, they leave. That’s the clear picture from years of customer research.

On the phone, 75% of customers think they’re using the best channel for them to communicate with a business – but if they don’t get to speak to a real person, right away, 53% get irritated. When they did get through to someone, the result was unsatisfactory: customers said service agents failed to answer their question 50% of the time (Source: Harris Interactive).

Off the phone, the key channel for customer interactions is social media. Here, the gulf between what customers say they expect and what they’re getting is most dramatic. Customers say they want to hear back from brands. On Twitter, 14% of customers expect a response immediately, and 65% expect one in less than 2 hours. And what do they actually get? About 71% of the time they get no response at all (Source: Maritz Research).

Say you were in an industry where you lost 2.27% of your revenue – average monthly customer churn for a US wireless carrier (Source: Statista) – out of holes in your employees’ pockets. I’m guessing you’d start looking into thread. Or say you were in a business where 5% to 7% of your money – average SaaS churn rate (Source: Bessemer Venture Partners) – just blew away because you left the door open. Or what if it was 20% to 25% a – the average rate for retail banks (Source: Pitney Bowes)? You’d shut the door, I guess.

But every business is in the customer business. And customers are walking away – 25% of them every year, in some industries – and it’s overwhelmingly because of service. Not product, not price, but service. So when they’re telling us what they want so clearly, isn’t it time customer service was as much of a priority to us as it is to our customers?

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Measure Your Service

Start by finding out where you are right now. It’s hard to know exactly what to do if you don’t have any idea what your customer service currently looks like. Use customer feedback questionnaires. Try getting ‘mystery shoppers’ to try out customer service. You can take this further and check your Net Promoter Score. (Another good indicator is your churn rate!)

If you want to get a deeper view, try ClientHeartbeat – you’ll get in-depth analytics on customer satisfaction details. Moreover, the creators claim a customer feedback response rate three to five times the average, so you’ll have a clearer idea of where you need to improve.

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  1. Train Your Staff

Once you’re clear on the strengths and weaknesses of your current customer service provision, it’s time to start training your staff. Way too many companies take on customer service staff and just throw them in at the deep end, with poor pay, minimal training, no support, no authority – and they don’t do a great job.

But in those circumstances, it’s not surprising. Staff need to know what to do, and they need to know why. Start by explaining to service staff what good customer service is. Talk to them about how to handle difficult customer situations in an appropriate way – and actually train them; don’t just give them a ten-minute talk about it. One service staff member who reacts badly on a chat or social channel could be the thing your company gets known for worldwide!

  1. Support Customer Service Like You Would Sales and Marketing – Because That’s What They Do

Customer service is sales and marketing to people who have already made a purchase. Treat it that way. High-level training that’s geared towards satisfied customers will produce greater customer satisfaction, lower churn and more repeat purchases.

But it takes more than training on the phone or instructions on how to handle a tricky chat. Staff need technical support too. Teach them how to use social media channels, especially Facebook and Twitter, in an appropriate manner. Teach them how to use a wider range of customer service tools. The phone isn’t enough anymore: specialist social media training is still necessary because although most of your employees know how to use social media, they don’t know how to use it for customer service. Get them the equipment they need to deliver customer service that wows – because for many customers, customer service is the most important thing you do.

Since content forms the core of new age digital marketing, integrate your content marketing with customer service. And there’s no better form of content than video to do it most effectively. Anything that requires significant instruction or is visual can be dealt with by creating a video. Evan Hamilton wrote a great post on the UserVoice blog advocating the use of video in customer service.

You’d do well to invest in a tool like ClickMeeting to run webinars for explaining features of your product, one-on-one private chats for customer service, as well as moderated videoconferences with focus groups or brand advocates.

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  1. Make Customer Service the Center of Your Company Culture

Sales is at the heart of many company’s cultures. But sales is customer service, to customers who haven’t made a purchase yet. Customer service is sales. Put it right in the center of your company culture. Talk about it. Post big signs in the lobby congratulating the most effective customer service team. Consider incentivizing customer satisfaction the way you incentivize sales.

This unity of purpose between marketing, sales and customer services is increasingly recognized in CRM software like the modular Zoho, which offers a Service package, or Sage. Even the mighty, sales-focused Salesforce comes with dedicated service functionality.

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  1. Let Your Team Work

Your staff know what to do. They have the tools. Let them do it. Give them the authority to control how they operate.

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Image (Modified under CC license)

Wrapping Up

Learning to see every part of your business as part of an ongoing interaction with customers is difficult. But the rewards are clear. Happy, satisfied clients will recommend you to their friends, advocate for you on social media (and hopefully in their lives), and leave you positive reviews. They’ll also be back to make more purchases. And customers themselves are saying the way to do it is great customer service.