Content 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.

 

 


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.

 

 

 


The Golden Rules of Neuro-Marketing: What It Is & How It Works

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There was a time when the fact that the Hershey’s Kisses logo had an actual ‘Kiss’ nestled between the ‘K’ and the ‘I’ was cause enough for great speculation. Subliminal influence was a topic of debate and there was a clear divide in the masses. Some believed that slipping in provocative images and connotations beneath the conscious radar resulted in a greater proclivity for certain products while others rubbished the suggestion.

Since then neuro-marketing emerged as a valid science, bolstered by the efforts of prestigious research teams, and marketing as a practice was changed forever.

What is Neuro-Marketing?

It sounds complicated and positively evil. But neuro-marketing is something quite logical and progressive. It simply stands for analyzing the decision making process in human beings and then using the findings to boost the effectiveness of promotional campaigns.

FMRI scans have shown conclusive evidence that different factors influence how and why we choose to espouse particular brands and purchase their products even at a higher price than those of competitors. And unfortunately, logic and rational thinking have little to do with it.

Human beings are visceral creatures and they react to how a particular stimulus makes them “feel.”

Remember the Frito Lays campaign where Chester Cheetah encouraged people to commit subversive “Random Acts of Cheetos” with the snack? Well, that seemingly childish decision was based on hard facts. Neuroimaging of Cheetos fanatics showed that the orange dust from the puffs that smeared their fingers and their clothes caused them to relive childhood memories where they were reprimanded for being messy and simultaneously gave them the satisfaction of knowing that there was no “authority figure” to comment on their clumsiness this time around. The 30-second spots reinforced this independent guilty pleasure capitalizing on an emotion that was already causing sales spikes.

candy animals

And it won the 2009 Grand Ogilvy Award from the Advertising Research Foundation.

While it is not feasible or financially viable for every brand to bring in buyers and prospects for neuro imaging, there are a few ground rules of neuro-marketing that have been spotted as a common thread across multiple experiments. These triggers are known as “cognitive biases” and they pre-dispose us to acting in a certain way when exposed to certain stimuli.

The Biggest Tenet of Neuro-Marketing

Even if businesses disregard everything else neuro-marketing propounds, they need to keep one truth in mind: Emotions trump logic. Especially in today’s fast paced world of information overload.

Buyers and prospects struggle with similar problems of dwindling attention spans. There are too many demands being made on the mental resources of an individual and unable to cope with this onslaught, people delegate more and more decisions to the infinitely powerful subconscious (which, by the way, can process 40 million bits of information in a second compared to the 40 bits that the logical brain supports).

But here’s the catch: the subconscious is not persuaded by statistics or arguments. It has a knee-jerk reaction to inputs and responds strongly to emotions of all kinds. Persuasion marketer Bushra Azhar calls these emotions the “8 Persuasion Switches” and they include Prestige, Urgency, Curiosity, Believability and Relatability among others.

If an advertisement can reach and touch any of these persuasion switches in a way that is direct and simple, yet powerful, then closing a deal or pushing the lead towards conversion becomes child’s play. This hypothesis has been extensively tested and confirmed by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. In fact, emotional campaigns have an effectiveness quotient of 31% while logic centered promotions score a low 16%.

neuro chart

Image attributed to Neuromarketing by Roger Dooley

Shaky About Diving In? Give Personalization a Shot.

Some marketers might be in two minds about diving straight into neuro-marketing. If you’re in this category, a small taste of the benefits can come in the form of personalization. Personalization is the process of tailoring generic content so that it appeals to specific users or user groups and flips the relatability switch for greater interest and engagement.

It can be something as simple and effective as using triggered emails to offer a discount on items in an abandoned shopping cart or as complex as tailoring the whole homepage to visitors’ preferences according to their buyer personas. The former can be done using an email marketing platform like GetResponse that allows for behavior-based list segmentation and the setup of emails auto initiated for particular events/actions while the latter is the specialty of suites like Personyze, which offers customized search, product recommendations, layouts sorted and filtered in real-time, and other advanced options.

Some Obvious-But-Clever Neuro-Marketing Tricks

Both B2B and B2C marketers can see a potentially tremendous difference in their campaign results and content engagement if they can apply the following techniques smartly and ethically:

Video Content

A picture speaks a thousand words; a video, a million. It’s no secret that the human brain processes visual content 60,000 times faster than dry text; if that content is primed to deliver a powerful subliminal message, then it’s a match made in heaven.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaign was a testament to this fact. It showed advertising visuals running backwards and drove home the futility of bringing in recalled governor Gray Davis who would simply regress California to more trying times. There were no numbers screaming the sincerity of Schwarzenegger’s efforts. Nor was there any mudslinging involved. The promotional team simply captured the worry in the hearts of Californians and gave it voice (and eyeballs).

Anchoring Bias

We humans are hardwired to believe and set store by the first bit of information that we encounter. We take it as the foundation to base our future opinions on. This is why it is important to carefully “screen” the thoughts and beliefs that children (and shoppers) develop over their formative years because the inputs they assimilate contribute to their personality in a big way.

Marketers already leverage anchoring bias to price their products. Astute business owners always display their most expensive package first to condition prospects into believing that the other bundles are more affordable! Setting a reference point is essential, because it has the potential to positively affect what comes later by making it seem better, more lucrative, and more efficient than it actually is.

price

In the image above, the monthly option is actually not as cost effective as the yearly payment. But the 9.95 seems insignificant compared to the 95.50, which brings in a 20% saving, yet is disregarded by prospective clients.

Social Proof (with video)

Social proof is everywhere. It has the potential to "drive" the bandwagon effect.

bandwagon

But very few marketers manage to get it right. Social proof is not a Facebook Like button. Although Facebook is an integral part of our lives, it hasn’t yet grown a pull and familiarity that we subconsciously relate to.

The best kind of social proof is a video testimonial. Because humans are unerringly drawn to other human faces. As a matter of fact, WebDAM has found that video testimonials boost conversions by close to 86%. Statistics show that 4 to 7 video snippets can tip the emotions of a buyer strongly in favor of the featured product; their mere presence is a game changer.

Thus, it’s a no-brainer for businesses to ditch phony text testimonials and like-gathering for real video recommendations from actual customers – that’s what lends real credibility and trust.

Marketo does an amazing job of utilizing the bandwagon effect in the form of video proof. In fact, they mix this potent bias with influencer marketing to score a home run.

marketo

Choice-Supportive Bias

When an individual invests a large sum of money (or any personal resource like time or effort) somewhere, he or she often goes to great lengths to uphold the validity of the decision, even at the cost of losing better service or more affordable pricing from other providers.

In persuasion language, the “prestige” switch flipped by the acquisition of the costly product refuses to shut down. It is difficult to look beyond the glamor and the exclusivity of the item and consider practical pros and cons. Under such circumstances, if an iteration of that same product with purportedly better features hits the market, the evangelists are compelled to upgrade, even if their conscious mind is well aware of the limitations of doing so.

Is anyone else reminded of Apple’s strategy and how well it fits this curve? As a marketer, you’d do well to embrace the pro-innovation bias, which Steve Jobs was probably afflicted by.

Over to You

Neuro-marketing will soon be ubiquitous as businesses realize there is a lot to gain by appealing to culturally and societally pre-programmed biases. Are you ready to ace your competition?

 


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.

 

 


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

 


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.

 


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 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.

 

 

 


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!