Small Business Marketing

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!

 


Surviving the First 90 Days with a New Client

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New Client Relationship

New Client Relationship

Signing a new client is one of the most thrilling experiences in the business world. But it can also be a dangerous venture.

The first 90 days are crucial to the success of your relationship with your client. This new change is bound to be stressful for your client, especially if they are just coming out of a bad business-vendor relationship. Don’t let that hold you back.

Help your client ease into this new partnership by following these tips.

  • Learn About Your Client’s Previous Supplier
    Understanding how your client worked with its previous vendor will help you gain insight into:

    • What worked and what didn’t in your client’s previous relationship
    • How difficult this transition is for your client
    • How you should modify your style to meet your client’s style

Form your new relationship around these details, and your client will be more inclined to trust and rely on you to fulfill their needs. Build a system based on what has worked not only for your company in the past but what has worked for your new client. Do this, and you’ll build a successful and lasting relationship.

  • Recognize the Difficulty of This Transition for Your Point of Contact
    Your client may be hesitant to invest a large sum of money into your services at first, especially if their previous vendor wasn't what they expected. Try not to push any services on your new client that are outside their budget or that the company is not yet comfortable with.

    Worse yet, this change may have been sprung on your point of contact (POC) without his/her input. As if this alone isn’t stressful enough, your POC’s superiors are breathing down his/her neck about this new commitment - on top of all the other responsibilities your POC juggles on a daily basis.
  • Listen to Your Point of Contact
    In order to properly gauge the status of your client’s transition, pay close attention to the way your POC communicates with you. Each time he/she speaks with you, sends you an email, etc., find out what your POC is really saying.

    • Is he/she stressed?
    • Does your POC trust your company?
    • Does he/she believe in you yet?

Over the first 90 days, communicate with your POC over the phone as much as possible and attempt to understand his/her feelings. Ask lots of questions. Listen to their tone of voice. Stay up to date on company happenings that might be influencing them. Speaking with your POC over the phone also helps build assurance that your new client’s project is in trustworthy hands.

  • Acknowledge and Resolve Any Concerns
    Relationships can get tense with particularly touchy transitions. Always listen closely to your POC and his/her superiors in order to determine the best route for resolving any conflict that may arise. Acknowledge their concerns and develop a strategy that works for your POC’s team and yours to best address them. Present the strategy both verbally and through email, so both sides have documented evidence and your POC has an eased conscience. You can even go so far as to have your management schedule weekly calls with your POC’s management to ensure all is moving well, until everyone is confident in the progress of the project.

The first 90 days with a new client are similar to adjusting to any new constant in your life, new roommate, new job, new pet, new boss. Each side has expectations and perhaps even fears. But it is in weathering these times of stress gracefully and productively that friends are made. Don't underestimate how a healthy business relationship during this initial time can help solidify your status as a trusted vendor.

Want to learn more about any of the topics discussed in this article? Browse over 400 classes in the digital library at OMI. Ready to start learning? Sign up here.

 

Kaye’s work at Web Talent Marketing includes working closely with the client relations team to ensure exceptional service and strategies are provided to our clients.  Additionally, her role includes new business development as she builds channel partnerships and leverages previous business relationships.

 


Top Lead Generation Strategies for Startups & Small Businesses

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lead generation strategies

Let’s face it. Running a business is a lot of work.

You have to deal with long hours, sleepless nights and tight budgets. Tons of things that just suck the life out of you. Stress just keeps on building. But you’re cut out to be an entrepreneur and never give up.

You figure out that digital marketing is the next big thing, your ultimate chance to best the competition. So you launch a website, write several blog posts, and create social media accounts to share stuff. But for some reason it’s just not working.

Why?

Sergey Grybniak, a digital marketing expert and founder of clever-solution.com, knows the answer. He’s sure that owners of small businesses and startups make one very glaring mistake: They focus on driving visitors, not on lead generation.

I am going to interview Sergey to find out more about the best lead generation strategies that bolster conversion rates and are guaranteed to shoot revenue through the roof.

Sergey, what’s the thing with lead generation?

Generating leads is the most important objective for every business owner. And you know why? Because leads mean money.

Let’s have a closer look at how businesses do digital marketing. They are obsessed with getting more visitors, and invest thousands of marketing dollars to drive traffic to their product pages.

While having lots of visitors is vital, it doesn’t make sense if a business lacks the tools to convert and close them. If owners just tried to capture leads, they would turn their marketing into an effective revenue generator. But what they actually do is more like using carpet bombing vs. laser-targeted missiles.

Businesses need money. So, let’s get to the point. What’s your first lead generation strategy?

This strategy is quite hard to master: Learn the mechanics of online lead generation.

Most business owners are bad at lead generation because they know nothing about it. Let’s do some learning together, shall we?

The lead generation process is based on four crucial elements: offer, CTA, landing page and form.

Your product or service is your offer. And your goal is to make it irresistible.

How? Rely on psychological tips and tricks. Use limited-time and limited-quantity offers to show your prospects that they may be missing out on a good offer. The law of scarcity will spur them on to convert.

You can rely on a tried-and-tested tribal effect as well. Convey a message that others love your product and reduce anxiety with social proof. Humans often copy each other – take advantage of it.

Your next element is call-to-action. Ensure that your CTA:

●  Stands out “above the fold”

●  Has a clear copy

●  Is linked to a dedicated landing page

●  Matches with the landing’s title

A landing page is your secret sauce. Use it wisely to reinforce the message about your product's benefits.

How? Well, tweak and test relentlessly until you come up with:

●  A catchy title

●  A subtitle with the offer description

●  Up to five “value” bullet points

●  A visually appealing image

●  A clickable and noticeable CTA

●  User-friendly social buttons

●  A neat form to fill out

The final element is a conversion form. Test it well because users hate long, unfriendly forms. Minimize the number of fields to fill out.

When you master these four elements, your conversion rate will improve. And, moreover, you will have a clear picture of how your funnel with the sales prospects is actually doing.

This strategy isn’t a dark art but still rather complex. What about the second one?

Unfortunately, it’s not too simple either: Rely on multi-channel lead generation strategies. You should promote your product using as many marketing channels as you can.

Blogging, email marketing, social media, organic search – every little thing matters.

Though it takes some time to learn how to capture leads with blog content, emails, social posts, or through organic search, it’ll help you get the right marketing mix to spur your business on.

And what can any business owner do right now? I mean, do you have any kind of a foolproof strategy?

Absolutely! And this one is just a piece of cake: Register on lead generation platforms.

There are dozens of platforms to drive free leads from. As a rule, these are digital marketplaces. Your goal is to find ones that fit the needs of your business.

If you lease cars, search for marketplaces that provide car leasing services (e.g. Carvoy, ZipCar). If you own more of a mixed-bag company, register on jack-of-all- trades marketplaces (e.g. Opporty). Want to make a bigger splash in the travel industry? Get your company noticed on Vericost or Rome2rio. It is a little more difficult than just submitting your company to some directory. You should be connected to information distribution networks. But once it is done you can get get a significant amount of orders absolutely for free.

There’s no shortage of examples.

And it’s not rocket science! Just find a marketplace, register, and bring in leads to your website. Anyone can do it.

Any final thoughts?

I’d like to sum it up. Basically, you have five lead generation strategies with some variance:

  • Learn about online lead generation mechanics
  • Utilize multiple marketing channels
  • Register on lead generation platforms (marketplaces)
  • Build strategic partnerships
  • Hire a professional digital marketing agency

The first four depend on each other in a sense that they require hard work and constant fine tuning on your part. The fifth is a one-size-fits-all strategy.

Thanks for joining me, Sergey. Pleasure talking to you.

Interested in digital classes on the topics discussed above? OMI recommends the below classes to get started:

Increase Lead Generation Quality, Conversion, and Velocity, Creating Content that Converts, How to Build a Lead Nurtuting Campaign, and How to Generate High Quality Leads with Paid Search

Want to learn more about any of the topics discussed in this article? Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here.

 


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.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 12.30.29 PM

  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 

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.

 

 


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!

 


Small-Budget Marketing Ideas for the Holiday Season

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

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

Holiday Vines

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

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

1 holiday vines

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

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

Top Tips

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

Holiday Emails

2 holiday card

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

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

Top Tips

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

3 merry christmas

Web Banners

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

4 web banner

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

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

Content

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

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

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

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

Smart Gifts

5 success kid meme

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 plantable paper

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

Over to You

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

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

 


Popexpert’s Live Coaching Platform: Interview with CEO Aaron Kahlow

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Earlier this week I sat down with OnlineMarketingInstitute.org’s founder and CEO Aaron Kahlow, to catch up on how things are progressing into 2015 for the popexpert and OMI partnership. This is especially interesting since popexpert has offered a more general market approach to training and education online.

In this interview, Aaron gives us some exciting insights into what’s up next for the brand. He also talks about spirituality, mindfulness, and how to better manage your time. Let’s jump in:

popexpert CEO Aaron Kahlow

CW: Back in March, you posted a blog about why popexpert and OMI were going into business together. In that post, you talked a lot about the reasons for joining forces, and how the two complement each other. How’s that vision being realized today?

AK: There are three main ways we’re growing into this exciting relationship – technology, content and branding.

Technology

This is a new version of eLearning in the market. We’re combining digital coaching and the marketing place, matched with OMI’s existing digital eLearning library. There are some new realizations here, and this will be the first time anyone’s hearing about it. We’re excited to launch a new learning space called the Mindfulinstitute.co.

What you’ll find there is the ability to watch a lot of asynchronous classes, but you’ll also have the ability to book a live digital coaching session with experts. The way that we look at this is that you can get more education on something that you’re interested in, and also expand that into a life practice with live coaching. It’s one thing to like what you hear, and another thing to continue to practice it, so helping with that is our goal.

mindful coaching

Content

As we brought these two companies together, we looked at what types of content we were producing and how those can evolve. We concluded that people want more bite-sized pieces of content to remind them of the main points of their lesson. So we’re adding more 2-5 minute podcasts to give people a snippet of what they should be thinking about on a certain topic.

That can translate into video components, blogs and other types of content. Overall we’re focusing on mindfulness and wellness, digital transformation, and marketing, and then entrepreneurial-type topics. You’ll see a lot more coming out from the entrepreneurial category.

Brand

popexpert is the master brand. They can funnel info from there into our institutes to create specific disciplines on overall topics. It’s a nice natural synergy to have a masterbrand that covers all categories, and then area specific classrooms and institutes that help you learn topical focus areas.

We discuss the lifetime value of our customers a lot. Imagine the sheer impact of learning things from entrepreneurship, to digital marketing, to meditation. Our vision is to be the learning outlet for each of the stages in someone’s life, professional and personal. We want all of these things to come together and help people.

popexpert mindful coaching

CW: You mentioned that OMI would expand into some other areas of training. Can you give us some examples of those?

AK: For some of the larger global agencies out there, digital transformation is a big one. This includes all the pieces of the pie. This includes all of the digital elements out there and how to make them a part of daily life.

We’re also focusing a lot on solo-prenuer (1-5 people) and the specific needs that they have (website, building an audience, etc.). We’re spending time building content about how to get a business started alone or with just a few people. This is a big segment of the audience and we want to help them at every stage.

We’re expanding training around agency best practices, which I know you Clayton teach as well. Here’s a group that we’re focusing new attentions on, as well as others:

  1. Digital Transformation
  2. Solo-Prenuer Topics
  3. Website Building
  4. Local Search
  5. Programmatic
  6. Digital Advertising
  7. Big Data

digital training

CW: What are the bigger industries or corporations OMI is getting into now that you’ve partnered with popexpert?

AK: We’ve already got a good segment of clients that have corporate relationships with volume licenses with us. Some of the largest manufacturer and branding agencies in the world are with us and we’ll be expanding into other topics with them and other larger groups.

We want to hit the big issues like turnover, and some of the intricate disciplines that agencies and larger groups face. We want to tackle mindfulness so that it can help reduce turnover for people’s companies. If you don’t address this, they’re going to leave. We want to create solutions that create long-term employees.

 

CW: The industry of digital marketing training: how has it grown over the last few years, and where do you see it going in terms of growth in the next few years?

AK: The training industry serves over 200 billion users per year, so the space is large. No one needs to explain what it is anymore [eLearning]. Investors and large groups are putting in big money because they realize this is the future. We’re also seeing a lot of conversation revolve around education technology, which we’ve been involved in for years.

The digital learning space is getting coverage everywhere now. Then you see things happening like Lynda.com being bought for 1.6 billion dollars. This has really put our industry on the map, and the attraction to it is growing faster by the day.

popexpert mindful institute

CW: Who’s the most popular expert?

AK: It’s pretty distributed, but we’ve got some names that come immediately to mind, like Rohit Bhargava, Lisa Buyer for her digital PR content, Emeric Ernoult for his tactical Facebook strategies, and many more.

 

CW: I noticed you’ve been moving around a lot…for those who don’t know, what have you been doing?

AK: Back when I was running an agency, I was moving around doing thought leadership. Now it’s transformed into me running a conference, the Online Marketing Summit, and doing those around the world. Now it’s more thought leadership around some of the broader stuff. I still talk a lot about digital, but I try to weave into the conversation about mindset and entrepreneurship.

I could teach you about social media marketing all day, but if you’re not ready to run a business, that’s not going to do you any good. You need to understand why you’re doing this in the first place, so I talk about that a lot.

 

CW: I know that you’re big into living a zen life. Are you able to do that while on the road so much? How do you do it?

AK: It starts with before you get on the road. Everyone who isn’t a Buddhist monk is challenged with this. Some of the things that have helped me are reading the things that plant the right subconscious thoughts into your mind, every single morning.

Make time for yourself in the morning. Not reading industry magazines or catching up on Facebook, I’m talking about being at peace inside. This helps you to stay focused during the day and not zone out. You just can’t do that kind of thing. You need to be in the conversation fully, or don’t do it at all.

popexpert live coaching

CW: What’s the next event that OMI has coming up?

AK: We’re doing a Virtual Summit on August 20. It’s a summit about being mindful with your work. Interested folks can email me at Aaron@popexpert.com to get more info. The other next big thing that I’m excited about is the launch of the MindfulInstitute.co, where people can learn more about how to be mindful and get into a proper mental state to reach their goals.

 


The #1 Reason Why Small Businesses Must Utilize Social Media

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Despite the overwhelming move toward social marketing and social businesses, there are still many small businesses that fail to understand the importance of social media, and even refuse to use it as part of their marketing strategy. Plenty of business owners continue to treat social media as if it were a thing just for kids, or at best a waste of time. Perhaps the truth behind those attitudes is really just that they are overwhelmed by the idea of starting a social media presence. But really, the reason why business owners decide to ignore social media is irrelevant. The fact that they choose to avoid it means that they are doing nothing but hurting themselves.

social strategy

More traditional methods of marketing still have their place in the marketing mix, like television and radio ads, print ads, and even pay per click ads. However, what customers and clients are looking for in every business, big or small, is a strong online presence. They want to see the type of content a business shares on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. They want to see how well a business interacts with others. In some cases, they want to see how influential a business owner is within their niche (depending on the niche, of course – this is less of a concern for local businesses).

Building Reputation Through Social

Why do potential clients and customers care about these things? Because that is how trust is built today. If someone notices that a company has a warm online presence, and a great reputation, that individual will be a lot more inclined to do business with that company, over one that only uses PPC ads or traditional methods of marketing.

I will provide a short case study to illustrate this. A local Japanese restaurant invested in print ads, as well as online PPC ads. They did see a moderate ROI, but not as much as they had hoped. The owner of the restaurant wanted to find a way to drive in more business, and sought advice from a marketing consultant. The consultant strongly suggested that the restaurant incorporate social media into its marketing plan. The restaurant owner listened, and hired a social media manager.

Related Class: Demand Generation: Social Media for the Small Business

Once the platforms were set up and ready to go for the restaurant, interactive content was then sent out on a daily basis. Local fans and followers were attracted by the top-shelf content that the restaurant shared. Whenever a fan commented on a post, the owner always made sure to write a public reply. In a very short time, the Japanese restaurant had tripled its sales and developed a great online reputation.

Handling Social Complaints

Negative comments did pop up occasionally, but the restaurant owner immediately replied in a professional and helpful manner. He even offered to give free appetizers. Most social media users will not be turned off if they see an occasional negative comment – what they care about is how these comments are handled. That is a big part of establishing trust between potential customers or clients and the business.

social media for business

Print, radio, television and PPC ads will not create the online presence that a business needs in this day and age. Social media is that crucial piece to the marketing puzzle, providing a place to build reputation, branding and interaction. If businesses continue to neglect social media in 2015 and beyond, they’re choosing to leave a lot of money on the table for their competitors.

Want to learn more about establishing a strong social media presence for your business? Check out OMI's Social Media Marketing Fast Track for a crash course in getting started, and developing the engagement and branding that users want to see from your business.