Online Marketing

The Need For Speed – Optimize Your Mobile Experience

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Group of friends of different ethnics sitting on the street and looking at mobile phone - Young modern hipster people having fun with new technologies - Multiracial group representing the addiction to technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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What is the digital talent gap?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


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

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

 

So -  in essence, this is a cautionary tale.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 


The One Thing Marketers Must Do Before Diving Into Email Marketing

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Image source

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why it’s important:

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

How do you check it? Do the following:

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

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How to read the score:

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

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

 

 

 


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

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

Retargeting and remarketing focus on totally different prospects.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


5 Digital Trends That Will Define 2016

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1) High Customer Expectations Will Just Keep Getting Higher

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

 

2) Powerful Tools (Read Data) For All:

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

Close-up of a modern business team using tablet computer to work with financial data

3) Data, Data, and More Data

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

 

4) Be Prepared to Spend More

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

 

5) Work With Siri, Not Against Her

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

 

Meet the real woman behind the voice of Siri 

 

 


Top 10 Digital Marketing Trends For 2016

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

 

1) Social Media - From Ugly Duckling to Swan

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

3) Content Remains King

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

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

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

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

 

4) Location Based Marketing Technology

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

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

 

Minority Report? Anyone?

 

5) Relationship Marketing

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

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

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

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

 

6) Marketing Automation

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

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


7) Virtual Reality

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

 

8) Wearables and the Internet of Things

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

 

9) Video or Bust

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

 

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10) Optimized for Mobile

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

 

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

 

Happy Holidays!

 

 


US Ad Blocking Grows by 48%

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Ad blocking is on the rise - in a monstrous way. According to The 2015 Ad Blocking Report produced in partnership by Adobe and PageFair, US ad blocking grew by 48% to reach 45 million active users in 12 months up to June 2015, and by 41% globally.

Ad blocking is a technology being employed by consumers to block ads before they are loaded by the web browser. The result is a quickly rendered page and a serene and uninterrupted consumption experience. Proponents of the technology advocate that it enables a more efficient customer experience, pushes marketers to target appropriately, and gives consumers the power they deserve when experiencing the web. In a cyber world saturated with irrelevance, it’s no wonder an overwhelming 73% of consumers are more likely to engage with ads when they are personally relevant.

Opponents, on the other hand, say that supporting ad blockers disrupts the very fabric of the web, a place where we can communicate - for free. Adoption of ad blockers may result in an internet that is less crowded by ads, but also in a cyberspace where only the largest publishers can pay for, and deliver ads uninterrupted, without user consent. Ads fuel a place in which high quality content produced by experts can be published free to the consumer. Without it, publishers are more likely to put their great content behind subscription walls. According to The Ad Blocking Report, $22 Billion dollars will be lost to online publishers in 2015.

While revenue loss will be devastating for publishers and consumers alike, it seems that the current “crisis” is an amalgamation of advertising practices gone stale, one’s that have been in need of serious disruption for some time. The ad status quo (serving as many ads as possible as often as possible to as many people as possible) isn’t acceptable any longer, and ad blocking is a tool that has given consumers a voice.

Speaking on consumer preferences, consumers tend to be more displeased when served ads on mobile that they haven’t subscribed to. The reasons for this are still unclear, but it’s safe to speculate that our mobile devices have far less real estate and therefore ads seem far more intrusive. It’s interesting to note that while 38% of all web browsing happens on mobile, that only a very small percentage of people are using ad blockers on their mobile devices. However, it’s unlikely for those stats to stay the same. More likely, ad blocking on mobile will become mainstream as Apple has recently allowed iOs9 developers to make apps with ad blocking software.

In order to preserve the richness of the web, this trend must be seen as an opportunity for advertisers to reorganize their thinking and embrace targeting technology they’ve been slow to adopt.

 


How to Use Online Marketing to Drive Local Sales

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In the huge community that deals with digital marketing, there is no shortage of advice for business owners and marketers: a million and one ways to engage on social media, 25 things you must do right now to improve your site’s SEO, etc., etc. Heck, that’s what I do! But often when I read marketing tips and how-to’s, I think of those businesses that plenty of online marketing advice just doesn’t apply to – those that operate only within a local community, only in brick-and-mortar spaces, and primarily offline.

But an offline point-of-sale certainly does not make online marketing pointless; brick-and-mortar businesses still need to participate in our online sphere of websites, maps, reviews, social media and networking. That’s because even if you’re offline when you interact with your customers, they could still very well be finding you through social media, searching for your locations, and deciding to visit you based on online reviews. If you haven’t crafted an online presence that checks all the marketing boxes, you’re missing out on a big group of customers who might otherwise be browsing your shop, sitting down at your café counter, or visiting your space. Here’s how to start off your online presence right.

Be Super Findable with Google+

Most people would agree that Google+ has not become the social media Facebook rival we were warned of – but it has absolutely become one of the most important platforms for brick-and-mortar businesses. That’s because the vast majority of people search using Google (just under 70%), and Google uses your business’s Google+ page (essentially a Place page) to populate a preview of sorts at the top of search engine results. Below is an example of the Google search results for a local café/bar I love:

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The box on the right of the screen is generated automatically by Google, using the map listing (address), photos, information and hours the business owner has added to The Foundry’s Google+ page. If you’re the type of marketer who cares about standing out in search results (that’s everyone, right?), this eye-catching box is valuable SERP real estate.

Improve Your Google+ Business Page

This box will be there even if you haven’t created a Google+ page for your business, but it won’t be much: a map showing your location, your address, and a phone number if you’re publicly listed. If you claim your Google+ page, you can upload photos (how tempting does that latte look?), list your business hours, and even link to your menu if you have one – and all of those things will show up in this preview box. Even reviews are previewed in this space!

Related Class: Social Media Strategies & Tactics to Drive Local Digital Marketing

If I’m searching for a place, this little box will give me everything I need to know about your business – if you set it up! Or if I’m searching on my mobile device (which is how we’re all doing it these days), this summary box is the very first thing I see in my results:

Google+

Claim and Customize Your Review Sites

Most review sites function a lot like the above Google search preview – your listing will be there whether or not you claim it, but you really, really should. An unclaimed listing on Yelp or TripAdvisor will still show user reviews and include basic info (address, phone number), but it won’t have much else. Once you claim your business’s page, you can link to your website, list your hours, upload photos (though reviewers can also upload their own), and even write a summary of your business and (on Yelp) a profile of the business owner or manager. People really do make decisions based on what they see here on a review page, so make it as tempting as you can. Here’s the Yelp page of a local market/bakery in my area:

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Between the reviews and the photos, I’m ready to head there now! Think how much more compelling this listing is than a barebones list of reviews with no images, no background info, and no hours to help me plan my visit. Plus, you can respond to reviews, track click-throughs, and much more! It’s quick and easy to claim your review pages, because these sites want you to do it – Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Angie’s List all have step-by-step instructions.

Obviously this is just the beginning of what should be a comprehensive online presence – social media, local listings, and a lot more. But for small businesses and brick-and-mortar companies in search of new customers, these steps will make it easier for those fresh faces to find you, and more favorable for your business when they do.

To find out more about driving local search traffic to your business, check out this class: Google Places and Local Business Marketing Best Practices.

 


Excuse Me, Your Data is Showing

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You don’t want to be caught with your data exposed.

If your organization is still struggling with data management, you are at risk of drowning in it and missing out on critical customer insights. The goal this year for digital marketers should be to make all of that “big data” compact, through an increased investment in analytics.

Excuse Me, Your Data is Showing Digital Marketing

Why? A new year brings new opportunities for digital marketers of all levels to expand their marketing strategies. But to truly be successful in 2015, brands have to adopt a data-driven philosophy, specifically to understand their customers. Forrester Research doesn’t lie, and "The Age of The Customer" is real.

Prioritizing your analytics means prioritizing your customer and that should be the #1 focus for businesses, regardless of size, scale, or scope/maturity.

Related Class: Web Analytics Fundamentals for a Data-Driven World

The year 2014 was plagued with the term “big data.”

The truth is, it doesn’t matter how you label it--big, small or in between. No matter the size, the ability to put it into action is what will differentiate successful brands. Gartner, a leading information technology research company, found that this year alone, “big data demand” will reach 4.4 million jobs globally, but only one-third of those jobs will be filled. These numbers are a reflection of companies recognizing the need for these skills in their organizations to collect and interpret the rich amount of data available, but there is not enough supply in the market to keep pace. Make it a top priority and beat your competitor to the punch.

While it may sound scary, the steps to improving and building your analytics practice can be broken down into two simple categories: infrastructure and insights.

Excuse Me, Your Data is Showing Digital Marketing - Brad Messinger
Infrastructure is pretty self explanatory, you’ve got to invest in the people, process, and technology. Does your organization have a commitment to understanding its customers better?

Have you invested in building your analytics practice?

Is it informing your marketing decisions and creating better experiences for customers?

These skills are not typically native to marketing and there is a big shift taking place from the "Mad Men" of old to the "Math Men" of new. You want to make sure you have “data masters” that are comfortable living and breathing in information, the process to activate against it, and the technology to do it at scale.

Related Class: Big Data Driven Strategies for Analytics

Insights go hand-in-hand with infrastructure.

Now that you have the plumbing in place, you need to be able to take action. Things like testing and conversion rate optimization, cross-functional intelligence, and attribution are all done on the insights side.

This allows you to constantly focus on using the data to guide your marketing investments and continuously optimizing to maximize the impact. With appropriate investments in both areas, digital marketers will be well on their way to a successful, data-driven 2015.