Content Marketing

Content Curation Tools to Make Your Content Rock

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Belgrade - May 07, 2014 Facebook, Twitter And Other Popular Soci

You might have heard that you should write your own posts so to get the attention of your audience and search engines. That it will increase your sales and keep your customers coming back to your website or blog. And yes, this is true. But it doesn’t mean that this strategy is the only one available, as publishing curated content can also help you to achieve the same goals and in a much more practical way.

You can actually write an entirely new article just by listing the best influencers’ ideas in your industry, for example. And your target audience will love it  –  nothing better than a perfectly organized list so that you can get to know what you want without having to go through tons of pages. But where can you find the best content related to your niche so to curate them wisely? This is where these 15 content curation tools below will help you out.

  1. Storify

Storify brings several cool features to your curated content. It will allow you to build a social newsroom so that multiple editors can add content from different locations through real-time collaboration. They also offer a great app with a drag-and-drop option, and you can search for photos and videos, not only texts.

  1. Feedly

If you miss Google Reader, you will love Feedly. You just need to type a couple of keywords to have access to news, blog posts, YouTube channels, and more, using their powerful RSS feed reader. You can also secure private content, organize everything into collections, tag stories and URLs (so you can read them later) and share your content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or by email. And as if it wasn’t enough, Feedly can be integrated with Hootsuite, Buffer, Evernote, Pocket and Instapaper as well.

  1. Triberr

Tribber put together content shared by communities of bloggers and influencers. So if you are in need of fresh ideas, just search their categories, and find out which groups are more related to your industry or to your favourite topics – and you can also share your own content there.

  1. Trap.It

Proud of their over 100,000 sources, Trap.It offers a content library focused on social selling and employee advocacy. The first time that you use it, you will search for whatever you want and storage it to read later. But the best thing comes next: based on your choices, the tool will learn, look for related content, and leave it nicely organized in folders for you.

  1. Quora

Quora is a great option for those who want to hear opinions and insights about any topic. And if you think that is a bit tricky to find out the accuracy of some answers, just check the upvote/downvote ranking. You can also write your own questions there and wait for the best answers.

Digital Marketing Branding Strategy Online Media Concept

  1. Scoop.It

With just one click, the content that you create on Scoop.it can be shared on social media, added to your website or blog, or used on email newsletters - they have partnerships with MailChimp, Hootsuite, WordPress, Wix, and more, so to make it happen. Plus, you can create you own digital magazine there and let other users follow your curated content.

  1. SlideShare

SlideShare is the place for you to go if you are looking for presentations. And quality won’t be a concern as over 70 million professionals, experts included, share their content there. We are talking about over 18 million slides distributed into 40 categories at your disposal -  and you can also upload your own files there.

  1. Quuu

Looking for curated content that you can share it directly on social media? Then you should try Quuu. With this tool, you can select your favourite categories; receive hand-curated content straight to your Buffer account; manually edit it; and share it with you followers. The free version provides you with 2 posts per day while the paid one will deliver 10 posts per day.

  1. Pinterest

Pinterest is a great social network platform to curate content. You just have to search it by keywords or categories and save your pins in your boards – so when you happen to need them, you will have great ideas of content waiting for you.

  1. Trust my Paper

Trust My Paper is a curation tool (and not only for papers!) with which you can ask professional copywriters to curate and create content for you. They also provide proofreading, editing, plagiarism-check and rewriting help for those in need. Their website also has plenty of relevant information about content writing.

  1. Pressly

With Pressly, you can put all your content in one place, share it with your team or community, and even insert call-to-actions. You can also add RSS feeds and social media networks, or simply use their bookmarklet or apps.

  1. Learnist

Search Learnist's categories and create boards, so to get your curated content organized there. It is also possible to use keywords instead, but the best thing here is that their content is always fresh and collected from niche leaders in their industries.

  1. MyCurator for WordPress

WordPress also has its own curated content solution. With this plugin, you will receive content filtered by your chosen keywords, and it will pre-fills the post with an image, attribution link, and an excerpt, so you can customize it as you wish.

 14.  Content Gems

Content Gems allows you to monitor and search through their 200,000+ RSS feeds or your own sources. You will be able to add different kinds of filters, such as keywords or social signals. These two things together will create a stream of curated content for you, so then you can share it on social media, or add it to emails, newsletters, apps, websites, intranets, and more.

   15.  Curata

Thanks to its self-learning software, more often you use Curata, faster it will improve itself and give you better search results back. You will also be able to organize everything you find after just a few clicks, so then you can publish it anywhere anytime.

 

Wrapping it up

Content curation can be a life-saver. It will provide you with fresh ideas related to your industry, so you can quickly write posts just by organizing them and adding your personal touch. But with so much information been published daily on the internet, it is understandable that you will need a powerful tool to make this task easier, such as those mentioned above.
So test each one of them, and see which one is the best fit for your needs. Even though they have the same goal, they will deliver it on their own particular style. So take your time with them, and don’t forget to make the most of any free extra resources that you can put your hands on.

 


The Most Common Mistakes on B2B Websites

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Shaking hands and business team in business a hall ** Note: Shallow depth of field

Marketing in the B2C (Business to Consumer) space is very different than marketing in the B2B (Business to Business) space. B2B marketing is unique for a lot of reasons. In the B2B market, the sales cycle tends to be longer, multiple decision makers are typically involved, the partnerships are often long-term, and the products or services carry a higher price tag than many B2C products and services.

Approaching B2B marketing the same way one would approach B2C marketing is a huge mistake. Organizations need a website and digital strategy geared towards their unique B2B customers. Read on to learn what common mistakes that marketers make when designing websites for a B2B firms.

Going for the Close Right Away

Traditional B2B industries covers a broad range of industries including, but not limited to: medical devices, recruiting services, manufacturing products and financial services. One of the few things most B2B industries have in common is a long sales cycle. These sales cycles tend to be 6 months or longer, often spanning to nearly a year.

A major mistake that marketers make in designing a B2B website is going for the close right away. Asking a prospect for their contact information before they’ve gotten the opportunity to learn more about the product and services a firm is a huge turn off. This is particularly true in our new age of information, where a person’s name and e-mail address are coveted. And generally, B2B companies aren’t offering low value widgets that a consumer can return if they decide they don’t like it. B2B products and services ten to have price points in the tens of thousand, and products and services that require a lot more thought and consideration before a commitment is made.

Instead

Instead of going for the close right away, a B2B website should tell a story, draw the prospect in, and educate him or her on why the firm’s products and services are of value to them. Calls-to-action should be clearly placed and encourage the website visitor to take the next step, such as Read Our Blog, Download Our White Paper, Learn More, etc. A well-designed B2B website nurtures a lead through the sales funnel, often over an extended period of time.

Lack of Helpful Information

A bare bones website works for a variety of B2C companies that offer a quick experience with a service or an inexpensive product. However, in the B2B space a bare bones website lacks credibility and the information a prospect needs to make a decision.

An all-too-common mistake we see with B2B websites is a lack of actionable or educational information about a company’s service or product offerings. Services and products in the B2B space have a tendency to be detailed, customized, and/or complicated. As such, prospects need as much information as possible to make a well-informed decision. Firms that are able to provide helpful information to prospects set themselves apart from their competition and establish themselves as a true resource and authority in their field.

Rather

We often see B2B firms who have a plethora of offline marketing materials but very few materials available online. Rather than keeping all these great, educational materials in only print format, we encourage B2B companies to digitize these materials by adding them as pages on the website, creating case studies online, writing blogs about how to use their products or services, or create other content marketing materials that can be housed on their website.

Content Isn’t Accessible

Accessibility. It has a lot of definitions, but for marketers and those of us in the B2B space, accessibility translates into whether or not out content is available and easy to comprehend for our intended audience. We live in the age of information where everything we want to know ia at our fingertips. To continue to compete in this landscape, it is important to have information that is easy to find and to understand. If you’re not saying it, someone else is, and that someone is likely taking your traffic.

Content For All Decision Makers

A pervasive issue on B2B websites is that content isn’t accessible for all of the decision makers. A firm’s main prospect may be an engineer, but the engineer may have to get the approval of a CTO or a CFO before moving forward with a deal. If all the content on the website is aimed at the engineer, the firm isn’t providing tools that make it easy for the engineer to convince the CTO or CFO that the products or services are necessary.

Alternative

An alternative to creating content just for one client persona is to create content for each of the decision makers in the target organization. This sounds like a lot of extra work, but with the right planning, it’s quite simple to integrate into a website. For example, a CFO may be more interested in the financial costs and benefits of a particular service, whereas the engineer is likely interested in the technical aspects. Creating accessible content for the CFO, such as case studies or cost savings comparison sheets, and for the engineer, like spec sheets or technical guides, that are both hosted on the website worthwhile. While often overlooked, it’s an easy solution to effectively communicate with multiple decision makers.

Few Credibility Elements

In most industries, there are more than a few players. Competition can often be dense. However, most B2B firms have a unique value proposition that sets them apart from their competition. A firm may not be the cheapest or fastest, but there is a lot of value in being the most thorough or the best at something specific.

This issue is that they often don’t clearly communicate their value proposition clearly. Many B2B websites lack the credibility elements that build their case for the value they offer and why prospects should trust them. Long-term partnerships are founded on trust, respect, and added value. In the B2B space, this is true for almost all partnerships. As such, a B2B website and digital presence absolutely must engender trust and build confidence in a firm’s products or services.

Try This

There are so many ways to build credibility with a website. Instead of a firm saying they are better, faster, or more compliant, they should try showing they are better, faster, or more compliant. This can be done through client testimonials, industry awards, before and after demonstrations, a portfolio of work, and case studies. How the website performs (page speed, ease of navigation, imagery, etc.) should also uphold the value proposition and credibility assertion.

There is rhetoric out in the marketing world that there is no B2B or B2C, that it’s all the same type of marketing. However, it’s simply not true. Building and designing a B2B website according to the same principles used in B2C marketing is designing for failure. Having an understanding of what makes the B2B audience different enables a firm to create messaging, content, and a digital presence that accommodates, nurtures, and compels that audience.

 


Promote Your New Blog Post Like a Pro: An 8 Step Checklist for Small Business Owners

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Who’s been here?

Someone – maybe a friend, coworker, or blogger – planted a tiny seed in your mind. That seed:

Wouldn't it be great to start a company blog?

The benefits to your business would be enormous. It would skyrocket traffic, leads, and sales. The idea was so appealing that the seed finally grew into action. You slaved away with what little free time you had. You navigated the complicated blog setup process and settled on a design.

Once everything was in place, you started creating content. It seemed simple enough. Content is king, right?

But there was a problem.

Once you hit publish, nothing happened. Your traffic never took off. Those leads never appeared. Sales haven't changed.

What’s worse, you’re not even sure how to promote your content or where to start.

Sound familiar?

I promise you’re not alone. Many business owners struggle with this same problem.

Today, I’ll share a step-by-step process you can use to promote new blog posts like a seasoned pro.

Why Hitting Publish Is Not Enough

In case you didn’t get the memo , publishing content in 2016 is no longer enough.

There are upwards of 2 million blog posts published every day. Most people are overwhelmed with the sheer volume of content presented to them daily.

Aside from writing long form content and using an arsenal of other tactics to stand out, you still need to promote your content. Otherwise, chances are good no one will see it.

In other words:

You need to promote your content like crazy. But not like a crazy person.

You want to avoid haphazard promotion and a lack of clear planning. Small business owners need to make the most of what little time we have.

Instead, I'll show you how to implement a strategic plan and turn it into a company-wide process to follow. This will help you achieve the success you’ve been hoping for since the beginning.

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Internal Linking

Here's the first step to take after you hit publish:

Link to your new content from other, more powerful pages on your website. Sales pages, product pages, or other blog posts… it doesn't matter.

Why? The reasons are twofold:

  1. Navigational – We’re creating more places website visitors can discover your content.
  2. SEO – Internal linking is a great way to get more traffic to a new post. It’s also a great way to give it a rankings boost. Strategic linking from older, established, and more trusted pages on your website to a new page helps funnel authority.

Just make sure you’re linking from relevant pages. Take a moment to find the places where it makes the most sense to link to your new blog post. Write them down, and add them after reading this article.

Step 2: Social Media Scheduling

Next, you’ll want to share your new blog post on social media channels.

The most productive way to do this is through social media scheduling. For this, consider tools like Buffer or Hootsuite.

How many times should you share a new blog post? Check out this handy visual for some guidelines:

Now, you might think: "This is useless. I have no followers or fans.”

That may be! But if you want to grow your social following, you have to start somewhere. That means sharing content.

You can’t expect other people to share and link to your content if you’re not willing to promote it yourself. Don’t expect others to do the heavy lifting for you. Be a voice for yourself, first. Allow your ambition and enthusiasm to be contagious, and others will follow suit.

Step 3: Find Relevant Social Sharing Sites & Niche Specific Social Networks

Consider options outside of the major social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest and Instagram.

Untapped traffic sources can include social sharing and bookmarking sites, like Reddit and Stumbleupon.

Not sure how to use either? No need to worry. There are tons of online marketing guides that address these platforms, like this one and this one.

Another great idea is a niche-specific social network. While there may not be a specific social network for every industry, these can prove to be a gold mine for your business.

Here's an example:

Pack Dog is a social network for dog owners. If you were in the pet business, joining Pack Dog would be a great move. You could share photos of your dog and links that interest you and other dog owners. Your new blog post about dogs would fit right in!

Perform a few Google searches to see if you can identify any relevant niche-specific social media channels or social sharing sites that could bring you more traffic. Once you've found sites that are a good match, create an account and become a member. This will allow you to share your content with hyper-targeted groups of people.

Just make sure to become an active participant in these communities. Avoid spamming by only sharing content that promotes your business. That is a quick way to lose goodwill (and possibly get banned).

When in doubt, follow the 80/20 rule: 20% promotional content and 80% non promotional.

Step 4: Share With Your Email Subscribers

If you’ve been building and grooming an email list, don’t forget about these super-important people!

Why? They’re your biggest fans!

Anyone who's opted in to receive email, news, and information from you should never be ignored.

Create an email campaign to let subscribers know about new content, and encourage them to check it out. Provide a strong call to action, inviting them to share it with friends or leave a comment.

This is a great way to generate early buzz and engagement on your post.

Step 5: Contact Weak Ties

Despite what you might think, everyone has what’s called “weak ties.” These are people who will happily promote your content.

Who are these people? Brian Dean refers to them as people in your professional network, or even acquaintances. But I think they can go beyond that. Maybe it’s your mom, your partner, close friends or family.

Don’t be afraid to approach them. Now’s not the time to be shy or proud. Ask for a social share.

Weak ties may also be old colleagues, people within your company or department, or even your employees. Chances are you’re both on the same team, or work within the same industry. Most people will want to promote their profession and see their place of business succeed. Many will be more than happy to lend a hand.

Most importantly, don’t view this as begging for help. This is a strategic marketing move to generate buzz.

Don't be afraid to get out there and hustle!

Step 6: Reach out to Previous Linkers

This is one of my top link-building secrets.

When you perform any kind of email outreach or link development campaign, you should keep track of your efforts. This means recording:

  • Whom you contacted
  • When you reached out
  • For what reason
  • Responses

Think of this as your little black book of recurring link prospects. When you’re working on something new, comb through your records for what I like to call “previous linkers.”

These are people who linked to you in the past, and with whom you’ve built up a rapport. Often, you can count on them again for a link or social share.

Be careful not to ruin these relationships by spamming.

Only reach out if you have something they may be interested in or something that's relevant. If so, reach out again.

You'll be surprised at just how effective of a tactic this is.

Step 7: Contact Brands or Influencers Mentioned in the Post

Next, review your content for any mentions of brands or influencers, even if you didn't mention anyone directly. Did you share an idea, tip, tactic, or strategy of theirs?

If you have, contact these people! Shoot them a quick email letting them know they were referenced in your article. Gently ask for, or suggest, a social share.

While you won’t get a response from everyone, this is a valuable tactic. It uses a share trigger called social currency.

People want to share content that proves their position or makes them look good. If you featured their work in a positive light, they'll want to share that with their audience.

Most brands or influencers will likely have a larger social following than you. This type of strategic promotion will send you traffic, increase social shares and engagement, and possibly open the doors to new potential customers.

Give credit where credit is due, and reap the rewards.


Step 8: Conduct an Email Outreach Campaign

By now, we’ve done a good deal of legwork to generate early buzz and acquire quick links.

This is crucial. We've created what's called social proof. We're now going to leverage this in the rest of our outreach efforts. If we can show other people are engaging with our content, it makes other prospects more likely to do the same.

Basically, we have people talking, and now we're going after the big fish.

This is where you begin an email outreach campaign. The type of campaign and tactics you'll employ will depend on the topic and type of content you created.

The ultimate goal is to find other people, blogs, and publications that are likely to share your content, and reach out to them to make them aware of it.

If you're unsure of where to start, I would read Moz's How to Start a Link Building Campaign. Another gem is Neil Patel's The Link Builder's Guide to Email Outreach (complete with email templates and all).

Now, get out there and get started!

Recap

Content promotion takes time and effort. But it’s critical to content marketing success.

Even the busiest of people can find the time to implement at least a few of these suggestions. At the very least, getting organized and following a strategic, step-by-step plan will increase your chances of success.

Again, the 8-step process goes like this:

  1. Add internal links
  2. Schedule social media posts
  3. Utilize social sharing sites and niche-specific social media networks
  4. Share with email subscribers
  5. Ask “weak ties” for help
  6. Reach out to previous linkers
  7. Contact brands or influencers referenced within content
  8. Conduct an email outreach campaign

Give this 8-step content promotion process a try, and leave a comment letting us know how it worked out for your business!

A link to said memo might be great here?

I didn't cut this line, because I was on the fence about it, but I think it's prime for cutting. It doesn't seem strongly implied elsewhere that the reader will immediately take to their new blog post after reading this article.

 


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).

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 1.27.38 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 1.28.28 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 1.30.13 PM

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.