Best of Online Marketing

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.

 


The Need For Speed – Optimize Your Mobile Experience

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“Mobile really is where everything is going and where everything is spent today,” Gary Burnett, former Facebook Advertising Exec and now COO at Flurry, a leading app measurement and ad firm.

In a recent article Top 10 Digital Marketing Trends for 2016, mobile optimization came in amongst the top ten.

Let’s quickly review our mobile discussion from that article. At this point, mobile and responsive websites should be a no brainer. For the past few years, we’ve been sprinting towards mobile dominating desktop, and we’ve passed it. Mobile has officially passed desktop browsing. What does that mean in the broader context for your 2016 marketing strategy? In 2016, a mobile-optimized website should be a default, but not a placeholder for an app. An app can (read: should) do everything your website can do. Not to mention an app is both touch screen (read: less barriers to clicks) and is an advertisement/reminder of your product that goes with your user everywhere they go.

Mobile usage in the purchasing process, from research to checkout, is on an upward trend that is not slowing down anytime soon. A few stats to back that up?

  • 90% of smartphone shoppers use their phone for pre-purchasing activities
  • 86% of time is spent on apps vs. 14% on the mobile web
  • 25% of search queries are now on mobile

Whether you’re working on your app, planning a re-vamp, or already have a fantastic one in place, there’s one thing we recommend testing and optimizing above all else - and that’s speed. Load speed, checkout speed, and how quickly your users can find relevant info. Recent research has found that a staggering 29% of mobile users will immediately switch to another app or website if they are experiencing slowness, or can’t find what they need - quickly.

We’ve all been there. Looking up that great new restaurant but finding the mobile website too slow? Jump to Yelp. Want to make a res. at said restaurant but reservation information isn’t easily accessible, jump to opentable. Opentable isn’t showing available reservation for the time you want - back to Yelp for the phone number to give them a call.

So, how can we optimize our websites or applications to keep as many users inside your brands as possible? Here are a few tips:

  1. Be there in micro moments - especially when it comes to mobile. Below is a great infographic from Forrester to give you a quick snapshot of how to design micro moments. We’ll cover this more in depth in next week’s article.

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  1. Make sure your mobile website is super simple, responsive, with an easy and streamlined checkout process.
  2. Your load time needs to be 3 seconds - or less.
  3. Know what your customers are searching for and optimize your app and website to display calls to action for those specific needs first.
  4. Less is more. Less clicks, less steps. Eliminate any unnecessary actions, assets, or distractions that get in the way of people performing the action you need them to take.

If you’re a small business looking to do some quick catch up in the mobile space, check out this article, How to Optimize Your Small Business for a Mobile World.

We'd love to hear your top tip for optimizing your companies mobile experiences. Just leave a comment below!

 


Over 90% of Companies Lack Digital Skills – And What You Can Do About It

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What is the digital talent gap?

According to a study done by Capgemini Consulting in conjunction with MIT Center for Digital Business, they uncovered some staggering stats that will help us understand the phenomenon.

  • Over 90% of companies lack digital skills
  • 77% of companies considered ‘missing digital skills’ as a key hurdle to digital transformation
  • 87% of companies believe a digital transformation is a competitive opportunity
  • Only 47% of companies are investing in developing digital skills
  • Only 4% of companies are ensuring their training efforts are aligned with their overall digital strategy
  • Companies are spending no more than 20% of their training budget on digital
  • Only 30% of organizations mentioned HR as being actively involved in skills development

Companies across the globe felt the biggest holes in digital skill sets across their organization in the following areas: social media, mobile, internal social networks, process automation and analysis.

According to the same 2013 study, the below skills are most relevant for the digital age:

  • Big data analytics
  • Social media
  • Mobile devices
  • Cloud

To get a bit more granular, skills in this area range from light tech to heavy tech-centric skills. Light tech skills in the digital age include things like social media management, brand building online, online community management, virtual (webinar, presentation, etc.) facilitation, writing for different digital mediums, marketing automation tools management, customer service and public relations. Heavy tech skills in the digital age include things like user interface design, mobile device management, mobile device security, data analysis, app management and design, and much more.

The second half of the puzzle lies in corporations needs to match tech skills with business acumen. The true value of digital skills are born when they are combined with a deep understanding of the business. This is leading to an increased need for employees who have both technical skills plus business and leadership abilities.

So - what can companies do to ‘plug the skills gap?’

Let’s first take a look at what some companies are currently doing. Google partnered with P&G to implement an employee exchange program to help teach their employees how to sell things online. They focused on digital and search marketing to help bring their e-commerce into the 21st century. Nike partnered with Techstars in an incubator program to create new products.

Upskilling employees is an ideal way to empower those who already know your business, with the digital skills needed to close the gap in your organization.

And, this upskilling does not need to be ‘Google-sized.’ Small and medium sized business have options. There are ways to invest in current employees that don’t require you to be P&G or Nike.

Organizations, like ours - offer affordable options for digital and online training for companies of all sizes. We’ve been training teams since 2007 and have supported corporate teams as large as 10,000 employees, and as small as 10. We offer fully customized eLearning programs with the added benefit of leveraging over 400 + hours of existing high quality content taught by Digital Marketing thought leaders, authors, and leading practitioners.

We begin with an assessment to test employee’s digital knowledge to help us build a program to fill your skills gap and augment your employee strengths. We’ll then help design a custom based learning pathway comprised of classes that fit your organization's’ particular skill(s) gap. We also offer LMS integration, marketing support, reporting dashboards, and robust user role access to support any size organization.

We’d love to help you empower your team. Visit our Corporate Training Page or send us an inquiry.

 

 


The App Argument – The One Thing You Can’t Afford to Leave Out of Your Marketing Strategy This Year

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Assuming recent trends continue, by 2019 we should expect to see nearly 75% of digital ad spending spent on mobile. Why? While it’s more complex than just a few statistics, the following make a strong case. In 2015, marketers began to wise up to the fact that people are spending more time on mobile phones than on their laptops/desktops. So, they matched eyeballs for marketing dollars, and, they did this even though mobile conversions are still lower than other devices.

 

So -  in essence, this is a cautionary tale.

 

Here are some statistics to demonstrate why you need to pay attention to this trend right now.

If you haven’t already, you need to start (read: continue - because at this rate of change, it will be hard to play catch up) optimizing your marketing plan for mobile.

In 2014, a report by KPCB showed that marketers were not spending ad dollars relative to the amount of time spent on mobile. In other words  - mobile phones (tied for second place with the internet/desktop), were where people spent most of their screen time (mobile has since surpassed internet/desktop). And yet, advertisers were not spending money to market there.
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It is important not to overlook this very important fact. That this surge of mobile activity could be largely in part due to the fact that 86% of time spent on mobile - is time spent in mobile apps.

Enter 2015 - looks like a very different story. According to a 2015 study by eMarketer, marketers got the hint. The percentage of digital mobile as spending skyrocketed to 49%, nearly mirroring people’s behaviors. The study also made some future projections - that by 2019 nearly 75% of ad budgets will be spent on mobile.

So - these marketers are running after the trend, reactively marketing and playing catch up with buyers behavioral changes. Still, I’d say they caught up pretty quickly.

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So if everyone’s doing it, should you be?

 

Here is one big reason you don’t need to sound the alarm right away.

One, conversions rates on mobile devices are still relatively lower than on desktop and tablets. According to this 2014 Q4 report from monetate desktop, tablets, and Kindle Fire conversions outpace others at about 3% while smartphones and iphones converted at .8% and .85% respectively.

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Here monetate updated this data showing conversion rates by platform further into the future, through Q3 2015. It looks like, while iPhone conversions are still converting a lower rates, conversion rates across desktop, tablets and iphones are coming closer and closer together.

 

(Interesting aside to note iphone conversions increasing at a much faster rate than other smartphones - something to keep in mind when digging deeper into your mobile plan)
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So - what have we learned?

 

People are spending more and more time on mobile (duh!), marketers are catching up and spending money to get these people’s attention, but conversion rates on mobile still have a little catching up to do.

Conversion rates on tablets, desktop and mobile are trending to cross paths. Trends point to conversions on mobile behaving in the same way most mobile trends have gone … up.

Importantly -  of all the time spent on mobile devices, most of this time is spent in mobile applications. So, if you’re poised to do just one thing this quarter (or year, if you’re a small business with limited budget) in regards to your mobile plans - focus on the app. 

If you don’t have the in house resources, check out this post on the 16 best app tools to make your own app - without a bit of code!

 

 


The One Thing Marketers Must Do Before Diving Into Email Marketing

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Image source

Want to know what the Obama pic is all about? You'll have to read to the bottom to find out...

Contrary to what some say, the data over the past few years has continued to demonstrate that email marketing still holds water to many other marketing tactics. Earlier this year I discussed why email marketing is still a front runner for marketers. Below is a quick recap.

According to the most recent Oracle Marketing Cloud Study, email continues to remain in the top three initiatives (2nd) for marketers  - namely because of the huge ROI it continues to offer.

  • Email marketing ROI is about $44 for every $1 spent

Need some more email stats to back up that claim, here you go:

  • 91% of consumers check their email daily
  • On a daily basis consumers interact with 11 brands on email (compared to 9 on Facebook and 8 on Twitter)
  • 48% of consumers say they prefer to communicate with brands via email
  • 44% of consumers made at least one purchase based on a promotional email they received
  • 66% of consumers have made a purchase online as a result of an email marketing message

So let’s get to the point of this post. The above stats help us understand why we need to continue to pay attention to our email marketing. Before you recommit to revamping or revisiting your email marketing do this one thing - check your senders score.

Why it’s important:

Your sender score is an indicator of the trustworthiness of your IP address. So - why is that important? Your IP address is used by email providers to determine how to filter your message (read: whether or not YOU go to spam).

How do you check it? Do the following:

  1. Find an email, newsletter, announcement etc., sent from the email address your want to check
  2. View the full header of that email by
  • In Gmail - click the down arrow on the top right hand corner of the email and scroll down to ‘show original,’ then find the IP address. Go to https://senderscore.org/ , create and account, and plug it in

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How to read the score:

Anything over 95 is good, anything less than 95, and you need to take a deeper look into your deliverability. After all, why spend hours on emails campaigns and strategies if no one is getting them in the first place?

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Image source
This is an image of the top preforming subject lines as researched by Barack Obama’s re-election campaign team. They did a ton of email marketing research and testing. Tailor them to your message and presto! Even better, do an A/B test with these vs. your old subject lines.

 

 

 


Someone please tell me the difference between retargeting and remarketing already!?

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Do you know? If you’re reading this, chances are you’re not sure. While the jury seems to still be out, here is the latest consensus.

Retargeting and remarketing focus on totally different prospects.

Remarketing focuses on people who are incredibly motivated. These people have either added something to their cart, or done something else to express clearly they are interested in buying your product. They’ve made it way down a buying funnel, and fell off somewhere near the end of the buying process. Remarketing efforts take the form of e-mails, and focus on finding out why the person fell off, what else the provider can do or what other information they can offer, to help nudge the individual in the direction of completing their purchase.

According to a survey done by AgilOne on, dedicated to finding out which kinds of marketing initiatives people appreciated most, e-mail came out on top. And, of the e-mail messages, the most well received were 1) an alert to when a product was on sale 2) VIP customer appreciation emails and 3) cart abandonment email reminders. So, if you are considering adding, or testing, to your email strategy, consider framing some new messages to align with one of the above three categories.

Retargeting (read: ad stalking) on the other hand focuses on people who are slightly or moderately interested. We call them slightly or moderately interested because they’ve visited your site, but have not taken any other actions to express their interest in actually purchasing anything. Retargeting efforts focus on keeping your brand top of mind, to help remind people that they visited your site, and that you’re still there. This happens, mainly, in the form of ads served to the visitor. The hope is that, once they’re ready to buy, you’ll be top of mind.

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So  - pro’s of retargeting? Since this is done via a third party like AdBrite, AdRoll and Google google display network, you can set it and forget it. You can reach people anywhere they happen to go on the world wide web. According to an InkSkin Media recent survey of 1600 adults, 53% find online ads useful. That number goes up to 60% when you look at a slightly younger population (ages 20-29) .

Cons? Data shows that consumers will get annoyed by you, especially if the ads are on a site completely unrelated to their search. Rule of thumb, after about the 3rd or 4th, you’ll have more people feeling annoyed, than helped, by your ad.

 

 


5 Digital Trends That Will Define 2016

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1) High Customer Expectations Will Just Keep Getting Higher

Personalization, targeting, retargeting and seamless e-commerce experiences will be exponentially more important in 2016. An average customer experience will no longer fly. The ‘new normal’ in customer experience will trend towards tailoring the experience to each person’s behaviors, interest,  and on, and even off-line, activities. Companies must think about specific customer journeys, personalities and interests of their varied customers. They must seek out the appropriate tools to execute on those initiatives, and empower their employees to work together to bring the experience to life.

 

2) Powerful Tools (Read Data) For All:

Integrative software that felt out of reach for many small businesses will become more affordable. The market has become more saturated with copy cat, yet powerful, tools across numerous parts of any business making them more accessible.

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3) Data, Data, and More Data

With powerful, data driven software accessible to more companies, marketers will begin to focus on the data. You'll see marketers leaning heavily on metrics to help inform strategies and priorities.

 

4) Be Prepared to Spend More

While online ads are still relatively cheap, the increase in competition in the digital world should increase the cost of advertising quite a bit. Small companies with already limited budgets may find themselves struggling to make any sum of money go the distance when it comes to paid advertising.

 

5) Work With Siri, Not Against Her

Search Engine Optimization is going to change dramatically. This is in part due to social media beginning to be indexed by Google (aka your social presence will affect search results). This is also in part thanks to our favorite mobile friend Siri and her counterparts. Siri, the google app, etc., are now woven into our technology of choice - our phone. Now that mobile browsing has surpassed desktop, and these technologies have become less clunky, people will begin trending their way to find what they need. To ensure you don’t get left out of the mix, make sure you’re serving these bots with the information to find you.

 

Meet the real woman behind the voice of Siri 

 

 


Top 10 Digital Marketing Trends For 2016

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Tis’ the season for lists! Christmas lists, lengthy grocery lists for holiday gatherings, itineraries for holiday travel. If you’re a marketer, surely you’re poised for the onslaught of ‘2016 trends to watch,’ lists, popping up all over our favorite blogs, periodicals, and websites; Top digital marketing trends to watch in 2016, 5 Marketing tactics that will make or break your company in 2016, 7 Digital marketing tactics you need to master in 2016. So, to ease your burden, we’ve read most of them for you - and prepared a snap-shot of the most popular from the list of lists. Here are the Top 10 digital trends and tactics to plan for in 2016.

 

1) Social Media - From Ugly Duckling to Swan

With a number of alliances between Google and big social media players (read: Facebook and Twitter) it’s no wonder marketers are starting to head the social call. The product of these marriages will increase the importance of a company's social media presence. Bloomberg was quoted saying, “[tweets] will start to be visible in Google’s search results as soon as they are posted.” It doesn’t seem likely that Google will slow down forging more partnerships with leading social platforms. The result? Allowing social results to influence search engine results!

Next, if you haven’t experienced the upgraded targeting ad features on Facebook, take the time to get acquainted now. The retargeting and integrations within Facebook Ad’s manager are powerful data driven features that have marketers excited. Serve ads based on retargeting, custom lists, actions, behaviors, page visits ... the list goes on.

Lastly, social media has become one of the number one place customers go to thank (or complain). The highly transparent and public nature of social media makes users feel like they’ve ‘cut to the front of the line’. If you’re not hearing their complaints (or accolades) and acting accordingly, you can be certain other people are.

So what should you do? Tweet. Be active, transparent, human and timely across social channels. Allow people to know what you’re up to - build brand trust and intrigue. Invest in your Facebook content and strategies, and get social listening tools so your customer service team can be a part of (and control of) the ‘social goings on’ of your company.

Recommended class: Using Social Media to Create Engagement by Kevin Popovic - Founder of Ideahaus

 

2) Now You See It, Now You Don’t - The Rise of Ephemeral Marketing

Sometimes termed ‘temporary social media’ - Snapchat is leading the way in ephemeral marketing. Snapchat is useful for generating excitement around a new product or feature, or driving specific marketing actions, such as promos or discounts. Many companies (Food Network, Vice, BuzzFeed, Mashable, Cosmo, ESPN, to name a few) are capitalizing on the younger generation, aka millennials, who flock to Snapchat where they can consume content that feels ‘straight to the point’ and, where they can access ‘limited access content’, that is content with an expiration date - read as: exclusive.

 

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Recommended class: Trending Social Apps: Pinterest, Vine and Snapchat  by Kelsey Jones owner of MoxieDot

 

3) Content Remains King

Think content is only used to strengthen SERs? While that is absolutely one of the key reasons you should be creating regular, original, relevant, brand enhancing and engaging quality content, check out these statistics that tell a compelling story about the other important roles content plays.

  • 90% of customers find custom content useful while 78% believe that companies with custom content are interested in building positive relationships
  • Content marketing costs less than traditional marketing, 62% less per lead, to be exact

Content builds brand trust and loyalty, and helps define you as an expert in your field. If you don’t yet have brand advocates upping your credibility, you’ll have to be the one to do that - and one of the best ways you can accomplish this is with content. In 2016, if you don’t have the budget or resources to create a robust brand advocacy strategy, think about getting influencers on board to help tell your story. It comes down to this, if you’re not doing it, your competitors are, and as content and consumption becomes a larger part of the buyer's journey, if you’re not making noise with your content, you’re getting drowned out by the noise of others.

Recommended class: Content Marketing for Social Media by Neal Schaffer, Founder of Maximize Social Business

 

4) Location Based Marketing Technology

Location based marketing is particularly important if your company regularly hosts events. Through the use of fancy tech (Radio Frequency Identification - RFID) marketers can utilize wearables, applications, or even cards with a unique RFID identifier, to amplify social sharing by creating a seamless and integrated consumption and sharing experience.

Although a lot of the freshest and coolest location based marketing is geared towards events, location based marketing isn’t just for event marketers. Other location based services and technologies have been created to locate nearby devices that can detect prospects at the time of engagement with a particular product or retail establishment.

 

Minority Report? Anyone?

 

5) Relationship Marketing

This boils down to creating loyalists (brand advocates) instead of focusing on quick, short-term sales and aquisition. The focus is on long lasting customer relationships. Those companies that do this well are the envy of many, having created an ecosystem where customers are creating brand awareness that feels organic, authentic and credible.

Coca-Cola kills it when it comes to relationship marketing. This is one of my favorites (of hundreds) of relationship campaigns they’ve run all over the world.

Coca-Cola caps as currency - genius. Not to mention, this one’s a real tear jerker.

Recommended class: Improve Relationship Marketing Using Social Media by Brian Basilico, owner of B2B Interactive Marketing, Inc.  

 

6) Marketing Automation

Marketing automation has become increasingly necessary as more and more companies are understanding the importance of content and leveraging content as a leading tactic for led gen. Automation tools make it easier to manage everything from blogging to the customer/prospect lifecycle. Curious about what tools are out there? Check out this list of The Top 50 Marketing Automation Tools and Apps.

Recommended Class: Marketing Automation Best Practices for Success by Carlos Hidalgo


7) Virtual Reality

Virtual reality will emerge, and has the potential to change the way we tell stories. Obviously we expect 3D to take off first in the game industry, however, the benefits this tech add to the customer journey are intriguing. Imagine taking your next car out for a test drive or taking a tour of a potential vacation home, without leaving the comfort of your own living room? As personalization continues to be top priority, savvy marketers will find ways to bring their products and stories to life. Whether this will be a massive game changer remains to be seen, but with billions of dollars of funding around, it surely will be entertaining to watch it all unfold.

 

8) Wearables and the Internet of Things

What has felt like a slow and steady burn for wearable tech popularity in 2015, will likely continue into 2016. What this means for marketers is even more opportunity for targeted marketing, data and behavior driven marketing. It also means you may be making marketing choices based on the day-to-day behaviors of your potential consumers. Wearables will also change the way people share content, so the whole social landscape will shift accordingly, plus more wearable tech means less dependence on RFID’s or ibeacons for geo-location marketing efforts.

 

9) Video or Bust

Did you know that YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google? The number of searches on YouTube tops Bing, Y!, Ask.com, and AOL combined. YouTube also boasts an audience reach of more US adults ages 18-34 than any other cable network. Makes you squirm a little thinking about all the search you’re missing out on - doesn’t it? Live streaming takes video to a new level entirely. With ephemeral marketing gaining popularity, anyone with a smartphone can capture ‘exclusive’ content. In 2016 make sure you’re exploring snapchat, periscope, and Facebook and seeing where you can incorporate live streaming into your marketing strategies as well as planning for a YouTube presence if you don’t already have one. Check out this article for examples of these 8 brands live stream video for innovative marketing.

 

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10) Optimized for Mobile

At this point, mobile and responsive websites should be a no brainer. For the past few years, we’ve been sprinting towards mobile dominating desktop, and we’ve passed it. Mobile has officially passed desktop browsing. What does this mean for you? In 2016, a mobile-optimized site will be an acceptable placeholder for an app, but not for long. An app can (read: should) do everything your website can do, just in a more accessible, intuitive and convenient way. Not to mention, an app is both touch screen (read: less barriers to clicks) and is a advertisement/reminder of your product that goes with your user everywhere they go. Talk about location based marketing 😉 2016 is the year to create a plan and market strategy for your app, get familiar with the latest app indexing best practices, and get an app to market, that for all intents and purposes, could replace your website.

 

Which trends and strategies do you think will dominate 2016? We’d love to hear from you. Don’t forget to share!

 

Happy Holidays!

 

 


Small-Budget Marketing Ideas for the Holiday Season

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Thanksgiving and Christmas will be upon us in no time and every self-respecting business will be sending out letters, greeting cards, emails or logo-stamped gifts. Direct marketing is one of the most fascinating branches of marketing. From the days of yore, it has made people talk, share and take action. With so many messages thrown at people throughout the day, direct marketing provides one of the least risky – and anticipated and accepted, if a bit interruptive – ways to connect with customers. I love creative mailers that come through my door. Some are thoughtful, some are clever, and some are downright cheeky. However, one common point amongst all these mailers is they are all prohibitively expensive for small businesses.

This is where small budget ideas come in. These ideas make it possible for small businesses to connect with their customers in surprisingly affordable and effective ways.

Holiday Vines

Vine set the precedent in making hastily-shot amateur videos all the rage. With Instagram and Periscope only confirming that video-clip marketing is here to stay, small businesses have an amazing opportunity to post a series of Vines leading up to Christmas and New Year. All you have to do is grab your smartphone and look around for cute and quirky opportunities to make a video.

Check out this cute and funny Vine made with zero dollars’ investment:

1 holiday vines

Embed Vine: https://vine.co/v/OgIwBEnLKPv

Take a look at the other videos on Christmas Channel – the channel that hosts the above video for more amazing ideas.

Top Tips

  • Share your Vines on other social platforms, especially Twitter and Facebook.
  • Embed links to your Vines on product pages on your website, blog posts, and email.
  • Make a series of Vines on a particular theme. For instance, think Harvey Nichols’ famous “I Spent it On Myself” commercial, break the idea into smaller videos – and you have a series!
  • Scour the app store for video editing apps that come with tons of effects to make your videos funny, creative and cool. Use these liberally.

Holiday Emails

2 holiday card

Inboxes are invariably flooded with the same old “formulaically creative” emails during holiday times. So the chances of your email being read are infinitely small.

But with a little proactive and out-of-the-box (we desperately need a more out-of-the-box word for out-of-the-box) thinking, you can ensure your holiday emails are read.

Top Tips

  • First things first – stop being stingy when it comes to photos. Say goodbye to the ubiquitous boring vector backgrounds and illustrations, and invest in high quality pictures; or better yet, hire a good photographer. Yes, this still counts as “small-budget.” You can borrow creative “ideas” instead of “images” – Pinterest is an excellent source of inspiration.
  • If you are short on time, try online email creators. They are intuitive and easy to use, and you are done in minutes. Plus they come with a lot of beautiful, seasonal templates and forms, so you can create highly engaging emails with designer-like finesse. Most likely, your email marketing suite has such features too.
  • Don’t leave it for too late – start emailing at least weeks in advance.
  • Include creatively modified photos of your staff for more personalized email greetings. Other than being great for employees’ morale, it also lends a face and identity to your company.

3 merry christmas

Web Banners

Turn the banners on your homepage and category pages into online billboards. The banner or slider on your homepage is the first thing your visitors notice, so it makes sense to create one specifically for holiday season. Personalized card and gift item retailer FunkyPigeon.com is known for putting out banners with timely messages relevant to upcoming events, days or seasons.

4 web banner

More effective than just banners are entire landing pages with customized elements, each of which appeals to customers’ holiday moods. You can do this (without much coding) using DIY ecommerce platforms such as Spaces, which allows you to create product pages or even single-page websites with mobile-optimized, easy-to-A/B-test banners that give you more room for creativity while showcasing your merchandise.

If all your DIY or in-house efforts fail, you can always fall back on community-powered design marketplaces like 99Designs to not only get yourself a customized banner but pick and choose from dozens of entries submitted by the community.

Content

In perfecting your means, don’t forget your message. Content marketing still remains the #1 small-budget marketing medium. Done right on your email and social media, and especially on your blog, content allows you to drive traffic to your business.

However, you need to start early. Create indirect branded content (including infographics) on holiday themes, such as:

  • X Things You Can Fill in That Dog Christmas Stocking (for a pet food company)
  • X Original Setups to Capture Awesome Christmas Selfies (for a camera or smartphone company)
  • Why Santa Is Going To Pay Us an Extended Visit This Year (for anyone to share their annual success stories)

Send teasers through emails and share them on social networks from at least a month before, while there is still ample chance for them to be read.

Smart Gifts

5 success kid meme

Though content and email marketing have proven to be highly effective ways of marketing, it is always a good idea to send out physical gifts during holidays.

But you need to think beyond personalized pens to logo-engraved mugs – there never seems to be a shortfall of such boring “corporate” gifts.

And what’s more, these gifts are just that – gifts. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could take on the festivities with more smart (read eco-friendly) and creative ideas for direct marketing (without the overwhelming expenses, of course)?

So here’s a thoughtful gift idea for which clients and customers will remember you for a long time:

Costing just around $2, plantable paper can make awesome gifts to help your customers stay focused on their goals. Simply send a letter with the plantable or seed paper (with your own custom messages such as “Hope our association grows stronger by the day!”) that explains the concept of your gift and how to use it, and you are done!

Plantable papers are available in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and many other countries, so it shouldn’t be difficult to get hold of it.

6 plantable paper

The best part about such gifts is you can follow up with timely cross-sells or reports and cement your relationship in the process.

Over to You

The new truth of marketing is that no single channel is enough these days. You cannot say with conviction that you’ll be successful just by milking a channel you’re good at, whether it’s email, social or television ads. You need to create a multi-channel marketing mix with all the ingredients perfectly mixed together to create awesome holiday season campaigns.

With mega-sale days just round the corner, don’t waste much time – start experimenting with as many guerilla-budget campaigns as you can. Like, now!

 


The 15 Most Influential Educators In Digital Marketing: 2015

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The digital education landscape is ever-changing and ever-intricate. Teaching marketers, brands and businesses of all sizes how to get more ROI from digital is an exciting and innovative task. Because of that, we’ve seen lots of great marketing coaches, teachers and mentors helping people learn more about all the different niches in digital marketing.

digital marketing

On the half year mark, we’ve measured the most influential educators in the industry. We’ve taken a look at conferences, course engagement, activity and engagement with the audience, and are highlighting the 15 most influential educators in digital marketing for 2015 thus far.

The influencers highlighted in this year’s list are known for the following areas:

  • Concept innovation
  • Marketing relevance
  • Course penetration
  • Course comprehension
  • Practical application

With digital evolving so much in specific niches like social media, cross-platform marketing and agency services training, our education evolves as well. Adapting to change and learning new things is the theme underlying these marketers’ mantras. The leaders on this list show the most advanced, relevant ideas and practical education material in the industry.

Their taught marketing strategies help marketing professionals and brands, globally and at a constant, always-on speed. These leaders are known for their innovation and ease of application, and are a combination of bloggers, brands, teachers, mentors and speakers. Here’s the list of the 15 most influential educators in digital for 2015.

 Digital Marketing Educators 20151.  Neil Patel

Co-Founder | kissmetrics

Neil is one of the top marketers in the world, and walks the talk with 3 major influencer brands in digital. He was one of the leaders who preached the effectiveness of blogging (and content marketing in general) as a tool, long before it was mainstream. As the years have gone by, his personal brand’s blog NeilPatel.com has evolved into one of the best blogs on the internet.

A master of pushing the edge of marketing efforts and measuring their effectiveness, Neil always brings things back to ROI. From testing out lifestyle marketing, social media, and personal branding, Neil has a masterful way of writing that motivates you to market and leaves you feeling like you’ve learned a ton.

Digital Marketing Educators 20152.  Ryan Holiday

 

Speaker, Author & Teacher | RyanHoliday.net @ryanholiday

Ryan’s worked with some of the most successful projects in the industry and is known for launching projects with large success. He understands the media, and knows how to gain loyalty quickly and get users to stick to the brand. He’s also one of the most sought after teachers in the industry.

We’ve been watching his work for years, and in 2015, he’s been teaching fellow marketers how to break through the never-ending content overload, and how to stay focused. He’s got one of the most respected book lists out there, and we LOVE all of the books on it.

Digital Marketing Educators 20153.  Phil Pallen

Brand Strategist | PhilPallen.co

Phil was holding strong on our last marketing strategy ranking because he’s helped many people without digital backgrounds to build their brands. Today he’s on the list again, because of the new strategic direction he’s moving toward on his blog, PhilPallen.co.

His coaching is a masterful combination of teaching personal branding, understanding the audience and motivating each brand to gain media attention, and how to recover from crisis, too. These areas aren’t much of a focus in the general digital population, but Phil understands how critical they are.

Digital Marketing Educators 20154.   Neal Schaffer

President | Maximize Your Social | @nealschaffer

Neal’s a dynamic teacher who works great in front of crowds. It’s a skill set not everyone has and it’s extremely valuable. Noted as the LinkedIn expert, Neal’s 2015 strategies so far are cutting edge. He talks recently, in a post on his curated marketing strategy, about how carefully choosing your LinkedIn network can benefit you in a big way.

Neal moves around a lot, but if he’s ever near you, listen carefully about how to leverage making connections on social networks to extend your real network’s reach. Neal is one of the hardest working leaders this year, and offers podcasts and just about every other form of marketing communication to learn from.

Digital Marketing Educators 20155.  Mari Smith

Speaker, Coach & Author | MariSmith.com

Mari is one of our most inspirational teachers in the business. She’s constantly doing a blog, podcast or coaching session about how to market better on social media. Facebook is her specialty and, coming up in the next few months, Mari will be helping Facebook by teaching at a series of pop up events. What can you expect? It’s all about practical advice.

The last time I heard Mari on a topic, I took a full page of notes. No one matches Mari when it comes to understanding timing, messaging and the technical details needed to get as much ROI as possible out of your social efforts. This year alone she’s been more innovative than anyone else in social, with a series of game-changing author pieces about the new marketing on Facebook – and it’s this that helped secure her spot on our list.

Digital Marketing Educators 20156.  Martin Shervington

Chief Singularity Officer | Plus Your Business      @MartinSherv

Martin’s got a knack for teaching and training at a level that few can operate on. It’s in his delivery and mindset on new marketing strategies that we find the innovation that lands him on this list. In addition to his site MartinShervington.com, he evangelizes at PlusYourBusiness.com and is a dynamic speaker. If you ever get the chance to see him at a conference, listen and take plenty of notes. Until then, check out his many eLearning classes via OMI.

Martin’s the Google+ guy, and in the remaining half of 2015, it will be a more competitive space than ever. Following Martin’s principles on his blog will give you more reach, and teach you how to market with your audience (or create one) on Google+. Too many businesses and marketers are overlooking Google+, and Martin is there to explain why that’s a big problem.

Digital Marketing Educators 20157.  Kevin Popovic

Founder | IdeaHaus | @kevinpopovic

Kevin is hailed as the ‘King of Social Media’ by some heavy hitter brands in the industry, and has been teaching social media to brands relentlessly this year. His recent advanced teaching, about curating your brand before deciding to invest in social media, shows a new trend in an old stigma in the industry. Social media just isn’t for every brand.

Kevin teaches businesses that understanding when and how to achieve your marketing goals is the second part of the digital marketing marathon. The first part, for many, is knowing if social media is for you or not. Kevin’s style of education shows that careful strategy, with thought to brand image and audience, is the only way your business can reach its goals. Watch out for more of this type of teaching in the future from Kevin (and others if they’re smart!).

Digital Marketing Educators 20158.  Jessica Lee

Founder | BizBuzzContent | @BzzContent

Jessica’s eLearning courses with us on content marketing are some of the most informative and actionable pieces out there (and there’s more on the way!). Practical and engaging, Jessica provides the right formula for using great content for inbound marketing. Her Web Content Playbook feels like a practical guide to 2015 content strategy.

Before Jessica started her content boutique, she worked with top expert Bruce Clay. She’s one of the most innovative, forward-thinking strategist today, and has the background to support it. Some of her strategy is even featured in a college textbook, and we’re proud to have her strategy available on the OMI site.

Digital Marketing Educators 20159.  Bernie Borges

CEO and Founder | Find and Convert | @BernieBorges

Bernie has one of the most unique teaching abilities in the industry. He’s recently been teaching about one of the most interesting topics for me in the industry, influencer marketing. There are niche social media stars in every industry on YouTube, Facebook and everywhere. Connecting these influencers with the right brands, in front of the right audiences, is one of the keys to digital success in 2016 and beyond.

If you want to get ahead of this shift, start doing your research and listen to Bernie, because he’s onto something. Renowned as one of the most respected teachers in digital, we’re happy to highlight what Bernie’s taught this year.

Digital Marketing Educators 201510.  Chad Pollitt

Co-founder | Relevance.com | @chadpollitt

Chad’s experiences span both content marketing and social. He’s made the Forbes Top 100 list for Ad Agencies in Social Content, and is an all-around great teacher. We’ve enjoyed our partnership with him, featuring his eLearning classes, and our subscribers have as well.

This year, he’s on our list for teaching fresh strategy on how to make content work to drive traffic quickly, and how to incentivize brand loyalty. You’ll find his authored pieces in numerous large media publications and his courses on our website.

Digital Marketing Educators 201511.  John Lee Dumas

Founder | Entrepreneur On Fire | @johnleedumas

John has been one of the industry’s most active marketers for a long time, and this year, he’s been especially on fire (pun intended). We’ve been following his podcast, where he’s got an incredible knack for discussing practical, relevant teachings that help you achieve your business goals.

As a host, he’s got a ton of knowledge and is one of the best for leading by example in the industry. Anyone can learn valuable takeaways from John, specifically in building a loyal audience that keep coming back for more. His podcast is one of the most popular in the industry, so listen and learn.

Digital Marketing Educators 201512.  Chris Boggs

Chairman | SEMPO.org | @boggles

Chris specializes in design and conversion, as well as both paid and organic marketing. He’s got years of valuable experience in understanding a brand’s audience, and knowing what to recommend for specific goals. It’s something no marketer should miss in his eLearning course – he masters this flawlessly. His 2015 strategy is cutting edge because he teaches cross platform strategy.

Chris serves as a board member on a number of industry-leading search brands. You can hear Chris’s 2015 strategy in his OMI eclasses with your membership, and his All Star summit session (coming soon!).

Digital Marketing Educators 201513.  Courtney Herda

 President | Smarter Searches | @courtneyherda

Courtney helps small businesses by teaching them how to drive traffic to their site. She’s got 8 years of experience in optimizing local businesses for search engines, and doing the same for national brands as well. Her OMI eLearning classes take a deep dive into how to leverage optimized technical and off-page assets to drive traffic.

This specific niche of the industry is the fastest changing, and Courtney’s 2015 principles are some of the most innovative in the industry, probably because she’s worked in some of the most competitive industries online.

Digital Marketing Educators 201514.  Ouali Benmeziane

CEO | WebCongress.com

Ouali runs one of the top conference events in the industry currently, and also takes the time to instruct marketers in an often-neglected area. He’s an expert in all things organization, events, and promotion online. What’s little known is that he often can give more practical advice than many other speakers.

Located in Los Angeles, Ouali is constantly organizing some of the best teachers in the industry for his events. He is easily someone we all can learn more from, particularly when it comes to the exploding niche of virtual and in-person learning and marketing events.

Digital Marketing Educators 201515.  Mary Wallace

VP Marketing Services | Activate.com

Mary teaches some of the most popular courses in the OMI catalogue. For 2015 she’s focusing on business to business marketing campaigns. In this little-covered niche, Mary is a huge help to B2B focused brands, and teaches how to take something boring and drive traffic through storytelling and other strategy.

She’s been in the industry for over 25 years and uses a fresh look at consistent testing and analytics to prove her marketing model. She’s one of the most advanced analytics teachers around.

There it is, your list of innovators in the industry halfway through 2015. Since things change so quickly in our industry, you’ll want to follow these industry leaders and learn as much as you can from the course material. Our instructors are here to help you achieve marketing success.

With so many voices in the industry, we want to give some added direction into niche, leadership, format and dynamic of who we know will benefit you the most. We’d love to hear from you as well, contact us for any questions or sign up now and start getting more out of digital.