Online Marketing

Infographic: How Video Marketing Works

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video marketing

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

 

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

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

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

Sharing Video Content

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

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

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

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

Infographic

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

video marketing infographic

 

Learn more with Video Marketing & YouTube 101

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

 

 


A Simple Guide to A/B Split Testing

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

 

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

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

Applications

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

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

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

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

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

A/B Split Testing Tools

1. Content Experiments by Google Analytics

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

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

google a/b split testing

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

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

2. Visual Website Optimizer

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

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

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

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

3. Optimizely

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

Optimizely has a three step process:

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

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

4. SiteSpect's A/B Testing Tool

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

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

5. Unbounce

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

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

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

Going Alone...

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

 

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Testing, Behavioral Analytics & Metrics Best Practices

Strategic User Experience Design

How to Create Personalized Web Experiences That Increase Engagement

 

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

 


3 Ways Facebook Can Help Your Small Business

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

 

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

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

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

Building Brand Awareness

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

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

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

Providing Customer Service

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

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

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

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

Establishing Expertise

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


3 Most Important Facebook Skills in 2017

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

 

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

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

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

Creating a Sense of Community

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

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

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

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

Developing Actionable Insights

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

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

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

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

Engaging With Paid Advertising

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

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

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

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

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

 


The Future of Facebook for Digital Marketers

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the future of facebook

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

 

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

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

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

Mobile Video

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

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

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

Rules of Engagement

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

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

Newsjacking the News Feed

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

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

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

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

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

 


Why Online Businesses Should Invest in Customer Support

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Editor's Note: Lucy Benton is a marketing specialist and business consultant who contributes to Awriter. Today she joins us to explain how online businesses are passing up major profits by skimping on customer support, and how to avoid that mistake.

 

Every online business has two major goals: sell products or services to customers, and support their continuous use. The first goal increases profits, while the second one works to retain existing clients and attract new ones. Exceptional customer support is a great way to accomplish the second goal because it helps you to meet the expectations of your market, and goes beyond that to building loyalty and improving your reputation.

Surveys have indicated that many online businesses fail to answer 50% of inquiries fielded to them by existing customers, so it’s clear that some companies neglect customer support, perhaps to avoid the costs of maintaining support representatives. But on average, it’s 7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one.

That’s a very big difference, and so are the losses which result from poor customer support.  According to NewVoiceMedia, businesses in the U.S lose out on $41 billion in revenue every year thanks to this systemic oversight.

In this post, we will analyze several reasons why an online business should invest in customer support, and key takeaways that will help you to build a better support team, and avoid an unnecessary dip in profits.

Reason #1: positive customer experience is more valuable than price

Online surveys continue to find that customers regard service and support as more important factors than price. For instance, a 2014 customer experience study by American Express suggested that more than 60 percent of customers were willing to spend more with an organization that provides better service than competitors.

According to the same study, only 5 percent of online shoppers reported that customer support ever exceeded their expectations. It stands to reason that online marketers are losing $41 billion per year as a result.

The statistics don’t lie: when online businesses show customers that they are valued and appreciated, the feelings go both ways. Eventually, people develop loyalty for a company based on good experiences.

The takeaway: customers are willing to pay more if they are valued by a company. Make an active effort to treat customers as people, address needs and concerns, and improve relationships with them.

Reason #2: exceptional customer support builds awareness of your brand

Mark Zuckerberg calls a trusted referral “The Holy Grail of advertising,” and there are good reasons for that. First, word of mouth is one of the most powerful influencers on purchasing decisions. It’s human nature to seek out testimony, and judge based on the experience of others.

Second, more than 80 percent of online customers trust the opinions of their family members and friends about the products and services of particular companies, according to the Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report.

As such, it makes sense that content generated by your clients will always be more effective than advertising. The reason is simple: people trust experiences of previous customers, and as we have already established, good customer support makes happy customers!

The takeaway: People will remember your brand if they see positive feedback and comments about it, along with testimonies of good experiences with your customer service representatives.

Reason #3: excellent customer support appeals to new customers

Not so long ago, many businesses exclusively cared about closing a sale. As long as customers signed under the dotted line, it wasn’t very important how they were persuaded to do so. But things have changed a lot since then.

In the information age, and with hundreds of competitors to choose from, your target demographic has a lot of expectations for online businesses. It wants more than a service; it wants a personalized experience to justify choosing you over anyone else. In the competitive field of online academic writing tutorials, for instance, clients prefer services that emphasize and adapt to personal writing styles over generic by-the-book critiques.

Meeting these expectations by adapting to current and prospective clients goes a long way in improving the position of a company on the market, so excellent customer support is appealing to customers who want something more unique.

The takeaway: Internet customers seek out businesses who will adapt to the needs of individual clients, and to attract leads, your business should make every effort to accommodate unique needs.

Reason #4: effective customer support reduces issues

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to do online business without experiencing problems with customers. No matter how hard you try to make them happy, some problems are always going to arise. But this hard truth of business should not stop you from continuing to raise the bar. Here’s why:

While you can’t guarantee a lack of problems, you can ensure that they never become serious enough to damage the reputation of your company. If customers know that potential issues will be handled properly even before they make a purchase, they will feel more confident and comfortable. And, by mitigating the chance of a social media crisis, you take a solid precaution that bad publicity will not tank your business over a simple mistake.

The takeaway: good customer support is a way to reduce and prevent problems, making potential customers feel more confident. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and your business should be as focused on preventing hard feelings as much as it is on resolving them.

If these reasons have successfully demonstrated the importance of customer support for online businesses, here are some ways your customer support can be improved right now.

  • Go the extra mile. If you want customer support to become a tool for retaining existing customers and getting new ones, you could begin by exceeding their expectations. For example, once in a while, provide a free gift in addition to the effective solution to the customer’s problem. This will make them very happy.
  • Ensure immediate answers. When a customer is experiencing an issue, they are looking for immediate fixes. Because of this reason, they will try to contact support using various ways, such as website inquiry, email, or phone call. To ensure that they are getting what they need, keep your support running 24/7. The problems can occur at any time, so it’s better to be well-prepared.
  • Use the latest technology. There is a wide variety of tools available for companies that want to make their customer support excellent:

Sales Force – all-in-one customer service tool that provides multi-channel support, mobile support, case management, and productivity tools.

FreshDesk – a cloud-based platform that features powerful solutions, including self-service, reporting, and multi-channel support.

Vision Helpdesk – a software package that includes a number of effective customer support tools and allows to manage different channels, such as calls, social media, website forms, and email.

AnswerHub – a great option for creating customer self-service platforms and knowledge bases that allow them to answer their own questions when they need. It utilizes Q&A format, which enables a single place for finding answers.

Final Words

When examined closely, it becomes obvious that the cost of maintaining good customer support is justified and well worth it. Whether you already have a customer service effort that needs improvement, or whether you’ve never created one, there’s no time like the present to start. Dive into one of the tips listed above to start preparing your business for the future!

Lucy Benton is a marketing specialist, a business consultant who finds her passion in expressing own thoughts as a blogger, and currently works at Awriter. She is constantly looking for the ways to improve her skills and expertise. If you’re interested in working with Lucy, you can find her on FaceBook and Twitter.

 

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Developing a Social Media Customer Service Plan

Crisis Management with Social Media

Brand Advocacy Strategies Using Social Media

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

 


Top Email Marketing Strategies for B2B Companies

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Editor's Note: Samantha Prowell is a marketing strategist and educator, who joins us today to explain how and why B2B businesses should employ email marketing strategies.

 

In recent times, B2B marketers have focused on reaching new customers through blogs and social media. While these are excellent strategies, email marketing is still a cost-effective and highly profitable way to generate leads and build long-term relationships with clients. A smartly designed email marketing campaign can help you to engage in sales talk with your promising leads and connect more closely with your most valuable clients.

In this article, we will discuss specific ways in which email marketing can benefit your B2B company, and the best strategies for implementing an email marketing strategy into your workflow. Let’s get started -

How Email Marketing Can Benefit Your B2B Company

Let’s discuss why your organization should focus on implementing effective B2B email marketing strategies.

Take a look at these stats on email marketing to understand our point:

  • According to Experian, if you invest $1 on email marketing you get an average return of $44.25.
  • ExactTarget indicates that 77% of customers will give permission to receive marketing content via email.
  • Earnest Agency states that 72% of B2B purchasers share relevant content using email.

These stats demonstrate that email marketing remains a very effective strategy, and prospects respond well to the personalized nature of promotional emails. A properly executed strategy can help B2B companies:

  • Improve engagement and interest from prospects
  • Get more leads and sign-ups from interested parties
  • Boost the conversion rate of your sales funnel, and finally
  • rake in more dollars.

Put simply, if your B2B company isn’t equipped to manage an email marketing program, there is a lot you’ll miss out on as a result. If you don’t have one already, let’s dive into some practical tips to help you get kickstarted:

Choose a Reliable Email Service Provider (ESP)

A definite first step will be signing up to a high quality ESP. These services will allow you to manage email campaigns and lists from a web-based interface. A good ESP is essential for a successful email marketing campaign, and should enable you to format your email messages with a custom layout, links, images and other features.

The best ESPs also offer personalization, automation, and advanced analytics tools. They may also provide training materials, education programs, and free coaching to help you make effective use of their system.

Leading email service providers include MailChimp, Constant Contact, ExactTarget, Pardot, and HubSpot. You should read about these to assess which is best for you; most have free trials as well, so you can try before committing.

Offer Free Content

If you have a blog or social media page, you’re probably already doing this: the best way to raise engagement and keep the attention of prospects is by offering useful content that matches their interests. Smart companies understand that they need to keep in touch with their prospects and existing customers, so they don’t stop with social media - they also use email.

With an email marketing program, you can and should share white papers, eBooks, blog posts and other content relevant to your marketing goals and initiatives via email. Not only that, but offering free content of this kind is a great way to build your email list: by offering to send content to customers via their email address, they get valuable information, and you get a new prospect.

Nominate an ESP Specialist in Your Team

To make the best use of features and tools offered by the ESP, it is a good idea to designate a member of your team as ESP specialist. This employee should manage all contacts within the ESP, and ensure that the vendor is providing for the needs of your enterprise. By designating someone for this task, you can stay on top of campaigns, utilize features for efficiently, and address problems as soon as they arise.

Build a List of Interested Subscribers

Your email marketing campaign will be more effective if you target it towards an interested audience. For this reason, you should carefully develop your subscriber list, curate, and tag it appropriately. This will help you to prepare and send relevant and useful emails that meet your objectives. Your lists should be specific to your industry or business and designed with your marketing goals in mind.

Segment Your Audience

Segmentation is an important step that helps you to narrow down your subscribers into groups that will respond best to certain messages. For instance, if you want to engage your most loyal and profitable clients, you can segment them into a particular group based on this demographic and send them relevant event announcements, blog posts, and special offers. In the end, segmentation takes a little work that goes a long way in focusing your energies where they count the most.

Automate Your Campaign

Use your ESP’s automation features to communicate with prospects and existing clients in a relevant and timely manner. For example, an auto responder enables you to contact those who download content or fill out a form on your site. You can often create an autoresponder to contact new users and subscribers to your newsletters, and engage them with interesting content or start conversations.

Use of RSS-to-Email

RSS-to-email makes it easy to send out a newsletter whenever you post a new content piece to your blog or website. The advantage of this feature is, however irregular your content schedule may be, your subscribers can receive newsletters only when new content is published.

Nurture Promising Leads

Create an email campaign tailored for “hot” leads that have expressed a certain amount of interest. Pay special attention to those who are apparently sitting on the fence about making a product purchase, and give them a helpful push by providing special offers that can convert them into buyers.

Some leads can take a while to make up their minds, and that’s okay. Be prepared to contact them consistently over weeks or months, though in moderation, and only with relevant content or offers. Keep them interested in your offerings using appropriate blogs posts or other content pieces which relate to the subjects they care about.

Conclusion

Marketing professionals have a responsibility to enhance their company brand with messages over multiple channels and media. They have a further responsibility to aid their sales team in closing deals, generating revenue and boosting company profits. For this reason, email marketing strategies and campaigns are an important part of every B2B lead generation effort. Whether you’ve tried email marketing before or are brand new to the game, try one of the above strategies in your workflow, and learn more in one of our classes.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Email Marketing Tactics

Creating and Curating Content People Love

How to Build a Lead Nurturing Campaign

 


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

 


Future Fundamentals for Digital Marketers

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future of digital marketing

Editor's Note: Teena Thach is Socedo’s social media and marketing specialist. To celebrate the launch of our new Digital Fundamentals Certification, she joins us today to discuss the future of digital marketing, and fundamentals that will guide the industry for the foreseeable future.

 

To be successful, digital marketers must be able to think beyond the present. Not only should they understand the present state of the industry, but they should also have a grasp on what’s coming down the road. While this is no small task in the constantly shifting work of technology and social media, being able to view trends through the proverbial crystal ball will keep you ahead of the curve, ensuring that your strategy will keep both current and future prospects interested. With that in mind, let’s take a look at developments which seem to portend the future of digital marketing.

Social media gets more visual

In 2015, Shareaholic reported that more than 31% of traffic to websites was driven by the top 8 social media platforms that year, up from 23% in 2014. It’s clear that social media will continue to grow and remain an important way of attracting users to your website, though the venues and types of sharing may change. Keeping up with the most popular networks and how people are using them is key to keeping your brand relevant in the future.

The rising popularity of video platforms like YouTube, Vine and Snapchat has inspired other networks like Facebook and Instagram to add video features. If you’re not already using a video as a part of your digital marketing program, you might consider finding ways of integrating it into your strategy. Video content will continue to be a key growth area because of its popularity and potential to convert leads. How much potential? Shoppers exposed to videos are 174% more likely to follow through with a purchase. They’ll also stay on your site twice as long, and look at twice as many pages.

Forbes predicts that more people will want to experience events vicariously, meaning they’ll want to see video to get a feel for scenes they can’t attend in person. What better way to display your company culture than bringing your prospects to the party? Think of other ways you can share your company’s story, help people to learn about your brand, and provide useful content that helps users solve problems and pains.

Aesthetics become more inspiring

Your digital marketing efforts must hold the attention of your prospects while clearly demonstrating who you are. While attractive color schemes and eye-catching font are the basic places to start, aesthetics are moving to a deeper plane in the near future.

Forbes predicts that content will move from the practical to the emotional – what will touch your consumers? Think inspirational, artistic and beautiful. Think about the kinds of videos that go viral – often, they touch people in a deep way. Connect with your prospects on a visceral level, and your content has a better chance of moving them to action while achieving a broader reach.

No matter how your posts change, one constant that will take your digital marketing into the future is authenticity. People can see through rushed, generic content, and will lose interest before you can lure them in with discounts and offers.

Analytics get analyzed

If you only think about analytics in terms of finding out much web traffic you’re getting, you’re missing out. Future analytics will build upon the use of psychology to help drive the success of websites. Already, basic principles of psychology are at the core of most marketing campaigns: think of FOMO, or fear of missing out, and other countless ways that marketing is designed to make people feel positive or negative emotions. More psychology to predict consumer behavior is a natural progression, and will help to improve the results of your digital marketing strategy.

Factors that are increasingly taken into consideration include when and why consumers abandon a sales funnel, how they respond to price changes, and methods that work on certain kinds of visitors, such as “flash” sales which are mainly effective on impulse buyers. Combined with user data, these advanced analytics will benefit your conversions. This brings us back to the idea that inspirational content will become more popular: it’s all about appealing to people’s emotions. In the next generation of content marketing strategy,you’ll be taking the principles of authenticity and compelling content to a new level.

Branding gets fluid

How the public sees and recognizes your brand, can be enhanced by the kind of content you offer on your social media channels and through your website, blogs or direct emails. The fluidity of social media and targeted messages may be fueling another trend: shaping the brand to an audience. Landor says the look and feel of a company’s brand may be shaped by its appeal to particular audiences, and the days of carefully-guarded branding may be over. Moving forward, smart companies will increasingly adapt to the changing tides of audience mood, habits and feedback.

Location will matter for digital marketing

According to The Guardian, when people are ready for information on a product or service, 89% of them turn to search engines first. Search engine optimization (SEO) improves your target audience reach by raising the prominence that search engines give to your content and products. The future of SEO will move far beyond keywords and quality content. Going forward, GPS will start to play a greater role in SEO – even now, Google doesn’t just care what people are searching for, but where they are searching from. Location-based advertising and mobile marketing will be significant areas of growth.

Geolocation is being used now to target advertising customers who are located a certain distance from relevant businesses or venues. Starbucks allows consumers to pre-order when they’re close to a local branch, and some retailers bring purchases out to a customer’s car when they arrive for a pre-ordered pickup. In customizing a marketing campaign to customer needs, it’s clear that geolocation will be another target for optimization and research. 

Not every crystal ball is clear: trends are bound to emerge that were not previously seen or anticipated. But hopefully this article has given you a sense of areas that already promise future relevance to your business. The key fundamental that will take you into the future is a sense of adaptability which allows you to change up your strategy with the times. By reading this article and keeping yourself informed, you’re already a step ahead of competitors who live entirely in the present.

Want to master digital fundamentals? Get certified with OMI 

 


How to Optimize Your Site for Lead Generation

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Editor's Note: Jane Hurst is a business writer and regular OMI contributor. Today, she joins us to discuss how your company's website can be optimized for lead generation.

 

Driving fresh traffic to your website is essential for getting new customers, and nowadays it’s vital for marketers to be strategic and creative when developing ways to build their client base.

As a further challenge, getting traffic is half the battle: afterwards, your site needs to be optimized to capture leads and turn them into sales. Otherwise, your visitors are meaningless statistics that won’t do anything for your business. If you are looking for ways to optimize your site for lead generation, here are some ideas to get you started.

Optimize at Every Step

Let’s say you are selling a rare kind of product. If someone has searched for the type of product you are selling and they end up on a blog post about it on your site, make sure that the post is linked to a relevant sales offer. This way you get to capitalize on the interest of incoming traffic and get more sales.

For instance, if your visitors are reading an article about a type of auto insurance policy, link to an offer for a deal on the auto insurance that you sell. You want to keep your visitors’ attention and get their business. Once they are thinking about a certain kind of item, they are never more likely to buy it: instead of waiting for them to browse your site further, make sure they can act immediately.

The moment someone visits your site, you can start to learn about how your conversion path works. If that path doesn’t take visitors where you want them to be, it is time to optimize that path to turn those leads into sales. The key is to keep giving visitors things to look at that they are interested in. If you can do this, then they are more likely to stay and come back for more down the road. If they really like what they see, they will recommend it to others, generating even more leads.

Use Thank-You Pages

A lot of marketers miss out on a big opportunity to deliver premium content to those who might be interested. Once visitors have submitted the form on your landing page and are taken to a thank-you page, include a link to informational content related to their purchase. This is an opportunity for you to suggest further offers that could be of interest. Never miss out on an opportunity to get more sales.

Send out an automatic thank-you email known as a “kickback email” after a transaction, and include more specific calls to action. Don’t go overboard and send daily emails. After a while, that approach will just land you in the spam folder. A good rule of thumb is not to send out offers more than once a week, and once every two weeks is considered a standard rate. This will keep you in your prospects’ minds without coming across as pushy or over-the-top.

Studies show that by using kickback emails, companies can double their engagement rates when compared with rates that result from traditional marketing emails. Calls-to-action aren’t just about selling to a particular lead, either: you can also include social media links and offers to encourage sharing and social engagement.

Take Advantage of Social Selling

Instead of using email as your main source of lead generation, consider what social selling can do for your company.

A content analytics tool like Leadfeeder can show you what companies your website visitors work for, and exactly what they are doing while on your website. This allows you to qualify your sales leads so that when it’s time to reach out, your sales reps knows the exact interests of each prospective buyer. Content analytics tools can often integrate with your email marketing tools and CRM to further increase lead-flow.

Leadfeeder is free and easy to set up; it can be used to identify new leads, get automatic reports, and output relevant data that will help you to know which leads are most promising.

Personalize Calls to Action

When using calls to action, aim to be personal. For instance, if someone has already visited your return policy page, you can use this information to be more personal with him or her the next time they visit. Let’s say a customer has visited your Father's’ Day Gift Guide page three times in the past two months. It’s time to create a call to action just for her: the next time she visits any page on your site, it can offer discount codes on Father's’ Day gifts.

A stranger obviously won’t see this level of personalization – at least not until until he or she has submitted a form. But the next visit can be tailored specifically for his or her interests. In order to pull this off, all you need is a set of simple tools such as Hubspot’s Content Optimization System. Using this or something similar will help you to serve up the smart content that you need to personalize messages for your leads.

Nurture Leads Individually

Getting a sale is an achievement, but getting repeat sales from the same customer is icing on the cake. Customers are people, and people will only stay interested in your company as long as you are interested in them: so stay interested.

As soon as a lead fills out a form on the landing page, put it right into your workflow. Send them useful content that is relevant to their interests and needs. The more you nurture, the more you are going to learn, and the more your customer will know when the time comes to close a sale.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

How to Get Clients & Generate Leads

Email Marketing Tactics

How to Create the Perfect Landing Page

 

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

 


The 5 Skillsets You Need to Master Digital Fundamentals

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Editor’s note: Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org. To celebrate the launch of our New Digital Fundamentals CertificationJosh joins us this month to discuss the skillsets that marketers need to master the fundamentals of digital marketing.

 

To call ourselves digital marketers, it has become imperative to master the fundamentals of digital marketing. Today, marketers inhabit an educational universe that’s expanding at a rate of 7 new bachelor’s programs every year - but in this competitive educational marketplace, jobs are increasingly based on skills rather than degrees. And despite their growth, marketing degree programs are struggling to teach every skillset we need to legitimately claim we’ve mastered the digital fundamentals.

To be sure we’ve mastered these preliminary areas of a comprehensive digital marketing education, we need both knowledge and skills. We need to know the history and evolution of digital marketing. We need to know the ins and outs of the kinds of online media used for content promotion (like blog posts, white papers, videos, infographics, and press releases), and we need practice placing them in appropriate media moments.

These basic components of a digital marketing campaign allow us to execute marketing strategies with the care, precision, and digital mastery that today’s jobs consistently demand. That’s why we’ve laid out the 5 skillsets necessary to truly master the fundamentals of digital marketing: to help you prepare for the next step in your marketing career, and secure it in a solid foundation. Let's dive in!

1. Digital Advertising

Although email marketing is often considered the staple of every digital marketer’s playbook (see skillset #4), it’s really just a single play with multiple options. A competent digital marketer knows how to assemble a binder of playbooks, each of which might include a list of relevant search engine marketing tools that complement each other. At the same time, masters of digital fundamentals know where they can strategically place ads that reinforce email messaging, and they understand the importance of participating in complex, growing trends like affiliate marketing and programmatic ads.

A quick Google search of these terms and their definitions will show it is no easy task to comprehend these relatively new outreach methods, much less harness them skillfully. But masters of digital fundamentals can balance these skillsets in order to solidify a brand’s place among the rank and file of similar brands competing for the top spot on search engine result pages.

2. Social Marketing

With literally hundreds of social media platforms developing since the late 1990s, social media marketing is essential for conducting digital business successfully. Competent digital marketers know that Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube get our feet in the door. But a master of the digital fundamentals also knows that their brand needs to harness the staying power of more permanent visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, at the same time making ample use of more ephemeral visual platforms like Snapchat, Periscope, and other live streaming services.

In more recent years, LinkedIn has become one of the most authoritative platforms to hatch a professional digital marketing strategy, especially because its social network has the capacity to connect disparate people with shared interests for the express purpose of doing business. And of course, blogging platforms like Tumblr and WordPress always help raise a business’s profile on Google and other search engines. While the skillsets for each of these platforms overlap, masters of digital fundamentals know when and where to use each one to its full potential.

3. Mobile Marketing

Mobile is the fastest-growing marketing skillset on this list, and it is quickly becoming the biggest and best way to spread a message. The core tools and terminology that surround the discipline grow as fast as the research and development, and so does the number of mobile marketing programs. The competent marketer knows they need to optimize their site for mobile users in order to make brand content easily accessible. But a master of digital fundamentals will know that the most popular content medium for mobile is the mobile application, while mobile video and location-based advertising have continued to grow in both popularity and opportunity for expansion. They will know how to do their homework and apply research to place messages at the most opportune moments. They will also know that because two out of every three Americans (and counting) own a smartphone, digital marketers need to exercise each of these skills in order to move forward boldly.

4. Email Marketing

As alluded to in the first skillset, email is one of the most fundamental skillsets to exercise in any digital marketing strategy. Running a direct email marketing campaign is perhaps the most essential skill necessary for executing such a strategy effectively. Competent digital marketers know that outbound campaigns like this can be easily automated, and masters of digital fundamentals know that learning automation tools can be difficult to use without expert training. They also know that the same can be said for learning the practice of small batch email marketing, which includes research, list building, targeting, message drafting, and tailoring to specific audiences with special kinds of content. They know that both learning and practicing all of these approaches is essential to mastering email marketing, and that when push comes to shove, email marketing campaigns can mean the difference between virality and obscurity.

5. The Marketing Funnel

As the structure that surrounds our foundation, the marketing funnel wraps all the digital fundamentals into one package. A competent digital marketer knows they need to direct people down their funnel for conversions. But a master of digital fundamentals knows that certain parts of the funnel are better for certain types of content than others. Assuming they need to market a mobile application, masters of the digital fundamentals might plan a digital advertising and email marketing campaign for the top of their funnel to increase brand awareness, a social marketing campaign with video for the middle of their funnel to pique interest, and a mobile marketing campaign at the bottom of their funnel to set up a free trial that leads to loyalty and a sale.

Above all: a true digital marketer knows that the more they practice these skillsets in conjunction, the more confident they’ll be when they say

they’ve mastered the digital fundamentals. Everything else comes with experience; experience comes by knowing the basics and applying them in everything you do. So what are you waiting for? Get started today!

Want to master digital fundamentals? Get certified with OMI