Uncategorized

6 Email Marketing Trends You Can’t Miss in 2017

by

Editor's Note: Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org. To celebrate the launch of our new Email Marketing Course, Josh joins us today to discuss the biggest email marketing trends in 2017.

 

We’ve come a long way since “You’ve got mail.”

So far, in fact, that the reason people open emails has completely changed over time.

From its inception in 1971 through the 1990s, email was seen exclusively as an extension to the written memo or business letter. That’s why it was called “electronic mail” or “e-mail” for short: it was an electronic alternative to paper based communication.

email marketing trends

In 2017, email is the dominant platform used by working professionals to communicate with businessesIt comes as a surprise to many that even more than social media, email is still the most popular, private channel for Business-to-Consumer (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B) messages.

Looking at recent and historical trends, total emails sent and total email senders are projected to grow 3% annually through 2019, as email’s sphere of influence continues to expand. This means the audience marketers can reach via email will continue to broaden. And because that audience prefers email to communicate with brands they trust, email’s potential as a marketing channel will only continue to grow.

But there are hurdles to such growth, and marketers have to be prepared:

1. Shorter Attention Spans

email marketing trends 2

A study recently confirmed what we all suspected: most online readers have shorter attention spans than a goldfish. While experts argue about the exact length of that attention span or whether its growing, consensus says that the average online reader has an attention span that does not surpass 9 seconds.

What does this have to do with email marketing? Well suffice to say, it doesn't bode well for your 2,000-word newsletter with no images. If you can't engage your recipients quickly and hold their attention, you're on a one-way-trip to delete-ville.

2. Sensitive Spam Filters

email marketing trends 3

Automatic spam filters are getting much more aggressive to corporate messaging. This trend represents increased interest in cybersecurity that may only climb as government officials and email oversight personnel pay more and more attention to webmail.

Sadly, there's not much you can do about this. But here's a hint: most spam filters are trained on human perceptions. If your email doesn't look like spam to a person, there's a better chance it won't get deleted.

3. Increasingly Complicated Styles

email marketing trends 4

The ever-increasing complexity of web design doesn't end with webpages. Email has moved away from text-only messages that look like newsletters. As a result, it is more difficult to make emails stand out and easier to let them stagnate.

To combat this stagnation, remain on customers’ radars, and hold their attention: businesses should watch all of these trends and learn how to make their emails appeal to customers’ sense of exclusivity, novelty, and personalization.

4. Exclusivity

One of the best ways to maintain a relationship with your subscribers is giving them access to exclusive content. This approach can work with offers of access to a video, a webinar, a study, a free trial, or any other content produced by your brand.

When sending out email offers, condense the most interesting information you have to offer in the email subject line. Make it read like a news headline, but don’t give too much away.

The goal is to give subscribers something not all of your readers can access. Conceal and reveal is how you should approach both your emails and calls-to-action (CTAs); retention and acquisition should be your guiding principles. If your subscribers freely share the information you’ve freely given them, this approach can increase customer acquisition. Keep tabs on open and click-through rates and other metrics to analyze how well your appeals to exclusivity work.

6. Personalization

The best way to remain on a customer’s radar is personalized email. What is personalized email? Let's break it down:

A personalized email knows:

  • What a customer likes
  • And what else they might like based on those preferences
  • And how to deliver it to them via recommendation engine and webmail...
  • ...at the time a customer is most likely to be at their device

While this might seem like a scary level of detail, machine learning makes this level of personalization possible on a large scale. Email template providers like MailChimp can provide detailed insights about reader preferences to businesses.

But when it comes to adding a personal touch, there is no substitute to corresponding one-on-one with actual customers. That’s why it’s a good idea to personalize emails with your own words as much as possible. Including your business’ address, telephone number, your personal signature, and a way to opt out of email from your business goes a long way towards accomplishing this goal. Doing all of this ensures that you’re complying with the CAN SPAM Act of 2003, and makes you appear reachable and human.

Email marketing is a HUGE marketing channel. If you want to know more about email marketing trends to watch in 2017, check out the new email marketing course in our updated class library for free!

 

 


A Simple Guide to A/B Split Testing

by

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

 

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

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

Applications

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

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

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

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

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

A/B Split Testing Tools

1. Content Experiments by Google Analytics

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

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

google a/b split testing

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

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

2. Visual Website Optimizer

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

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

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

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

3. Optimizely

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

Optimizely has a three step process:

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

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

4. SiteSpect's A/B Testing Tool

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

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

5. Unbounce

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

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

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

Going Alone...

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

 

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Testing, Behavioral Analytics & Metrics Best Practices

Strategic User Experience Design

How to Create Personalized Web Experiences That Increase Engagement

 

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

 


3 Ways Facebook Can Help Your Small Business

by

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!

 


How to Boost Your Webinar Signups

by

Webinar Signups

Editor's Note: Joydeep Bhattacharya is a digital marketing evangelist who writes for SEO Sandwitch. Today he joins us to discuss the importance of webinars in online marketing, and how to attract more signups.

 

Webinars are a critical source of knowledge on the web that are increasingly adopted by online marketers for advertisement and promotion. Apart from introducing newcomers to a subject and disseminating organized information, webinars are great for link building, which makes them a power card for SEO experts and digital marketers.

60% of web marketers include webinars in their toolkits, and there’s every reason for you to do the same. All you need to get started is one of many easily accessible tools which can create and deliver your webinar to attendants. However, creating a webinar is half the battle: the other half is getting signups. This is where tricks and tactics can be handy.

In this article, we’ll be going over some of these tips to help you get more webinar signups and increase your impact. Let’s get started -

Invest Due Diligence in Topic Choice

The topic you pick when creating your webinar is one of its most attractive aspects. Don’t even think of moving ahead in your development process until you have a killer topic in hand, because this will play a big part in determining your reach.

Here is some time tested advice that will help you choose a relevant topic that will grasp attention and generate webinar signups:

  1. Analyze your website’s blog or your social media profiles to get a pulse on the interests and opinions of your subscribers, customers, and followers.
  2. Track hashtags used by your social media followers and customers. Social media suites like HootSuite can make this step easier.
  3. Specifically search for your brand mentions on social media to understand the contexts in which they appear.
  4. Conduct a user survey on your website or through your email list to get direct feedback from your audience about the topics they are interested in.
  5. Look for opportunities to address topics that are evergreen, and therefore stand to gain indefinite social attention.
  6. Once you hone in on a few potential topics, evaluate their potential for getting social shares by using BuzzSumo to analyze similar keywords.

Create a Landing Page and Use A/B Testing to Determine the Best Fit

Once you have a high-quality topic for your webinar, you want to get the word out and encourage interested parties to sign up. This is where the design of your landing page becomes very important. Any webinar landing page should, at minimum, contain these basic elements:

  1. Your brand logo, to convey your identity and a sense of professionalism.
  2. If you have relevant certifications and brand mentions from industry influencers, highlight them in a dedicated, conspicuous section.
  3. Use directional cues that point a visitor to the signup form.
  4. Include a professional photograph of yourself or your presenter, ideally in in an educational setting.
  5. Use an A/B testing tool like Optinmonster to compare design schemes, and pick the one which works best. Optinmonster will also automate much of your design process, eliminating the need for a developer. WPForms is another good tool that generates forms with a drag and drop interface, though sadly, it lacks A/B testing features.
  6. Nobody wants to sign up for something if they don’t know what it’s about, so include a ‘what you will learn from this webinar’ section that summarizes the material your webinary will cover. Use numbered bullet points wherever possible (for instance: “5 cheat sheets to organize your influencer research,” or “10 secrets of perfecting your replenishment emails,” etc.)

Learn from the Masters

You should never develop your marketing strategies in a vacuum. Others have paved the way before you, and perfected the most effective techniques along the way. So emulate what the best people in the business are doing: the best digital marketing educators are also the ones investing the most effort into webinar marketing strategies. So identify the top 5 educators in your market, and see how they approach their webinars.

For instance, as a digital marketing educator you might analyze the way big names like KissMetrics and Neil Patel promote their webinars. Here’s an example of a Kissmetrics webinar signup page:

Pay attention to the balanced layout, the designated and easily noticed signup area, professional images of presenters, and the punchy list of topics.

Leverage the Power of A Well Timed SMS Reminder

Once you have a long list of webinar signups, you’ll feel good - but you aren’t done yet. Those signups have to actually become attendees by tuning in when the webinar begins. You have to be proactive in making sure that signups remember your webinar before it happens, so they will also remember to show up.

Most webinar organizers and marketers send an email reminder a few hours before the webinar begins. But remember: skipping the webinar is a low-risk option for your subscribers, so you need a strong push.

This is where SMS reminders come into the picture. In addition to email reminders, send out an SMS reminder to your subscribers half an hour before the webinar before it begins. This is a more immediate option than email, and stands a better chance of being noticed. Here are the key elements of an effective SMS reminder:

  • Address the subscriber by name.
  • Include dial-in options.
  • Include a bit.ly or tinyurl shortened link.

Keep the Webinar Invitation Visible on Social Media

Most marketers will know to share webinar invites on their social media profiles, but there are ways to keep that invitation visible on social media for a longer period of time. Many online marketers are unaware that it is possible to highlight a post so it’s the first thing visitors to your page see.

Twitter offers users the option of ‘pinning’ a tweet on top of their page. This ensures that even if you post often, the webinar invite post remains on top.

Facebook has a similar feature:

Pinning a link to your webinar splash page on social media profiles is a sound way to ensure that it will remain visible to your audience, and maintain the interest of subscribers, so be sure to use this technique!

Conclusion:

Hosting a webinar is a great way to increase your brand’s authority, and the larger your audience, the larger your impact. These tactics are easy ways to improve your webinar signups and drive more conversions every time. Try one today, and let us know how it works for you!

 

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Web Analytics & Testing

Email Marketing Tactics

Social Media Strategy for Business

 

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

 


The Future of Facebook for Digital Marketers

by

the future of facebook

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

 

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

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

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

Mobile Video

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

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

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

Rules of Engagement

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

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

Newsjacking the News Feed

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

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

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

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

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

 


Why Digital Fundamentals Are Essential to Small Business Marketing Strategy

by

Editor’s note: Josh R Jackson is a contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org. To celebrate the launch of our New Digital Fundamentals CertificationJosh joins us this month to discuss how Digital Fundamentals are essential for small business marketing strategy.

 

When Apple was still a small business incubating in the basement of Steve Jobs’ parents, its first computer didn’t even have a keyboard or monitor. Much less did the fledgling startup possess a huge advertising budget or Internet connection in the 1970s. What they did have was an innovative product manufactured by an expert: a vision to simplify the personal computer for a broad audience, as well as an intriguing selling point—its unique price tag of $666.66.

What the business lacked in resources, it made up for in marketing strategy.

Apple knew that to make a solid product, they needed be experts. They knew that in order to sell their product, they needed relevance to the current interests of a specific audience. And they knew that in order to catch that audience’s eye, they needed to package everything into a simple, single price point.

How they accomplished this comes down to a mastery of any great small business marketing strategy’s most essential elements: Expertise, Relevance, and Attraction.

In fact, by communicating their fundamental expertise in computing, their relevance to both computer hobbyists and future computer users, as well as their ability to package everything together with a memorable and attractive price tag, Apple was able to demonstrate not only a fundamental mastery of marketing strategy, but a mastery of their market.

Now, it’s not 1976 anymore. Businesses like Apple have fundamentally changed the technological landscape we must navigate in order to compete (or even participate) in an increasingly digital marketplace of ideas. But while the technology may have changed, principles remain the same. We still have to demonstrate expertise, relevance, and attraction in order to execute a great small business marketing strategy and master our markets.

Today, mastering the digital fundamentals is one of the easiest, best, and most cost-effective ways for a small business to model fundamental mastery of their market.

That’s because amping up a small business marketing strategy by honing and combining skillsets in digital advertising, social media marketing, mobile marketing, and email marketing tends to move users seamlessly through a small business’s marketing funnel.

Enlarging online presence is an essential step in every small business’s digital marketing strategy. The easiest ways of doing this are digital advertising and social media marketing: it can cost as little as $41 to put up a digital ad that will expose your small business to thousands of potential clients. And it costs nothing but time and a little creative energy to maintain social accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat. The more social profiles and the larger a small business’s following, the bigger their online presence will become.

Email and mobile marketing have become, perhaps, the most fundamental digital skillsets for generating leads and conversions. Executing these strategies on a large scale can be expensive, especially for small businesses early in their journey. But one of the best ways of generating leads is simply growing an email list and sending email newsletters to local individuals who care about your business. This step is neither cost-prohibitive nor time consuming, and gives you a big head start for later expansion.

In terms of mobile, continually optimizing your website for mobile viewers by using Google’s guidelines is the best and least expensive way to capture the fastest-growing segment of media users in the world. Creating a free and useful app with purchase options is also a great way to move users down your funnel, creating a seamless buyer’s journey.

Like most things that cost time and effort to develop, the payoff can be huge. But crafting a small business marketing strategy that brings all the digital fundamentals together requires a fair amount of expertise, relevance, and attraction.

The good news is that online education has made learning these skillsets a profoundly manageable task. Moreover, by learning and using them to amplify an online presence, small businesses intrinsically model the expertise, relevance, and attraction necessary to hold attention within their own marketplace, and build a thriving platform in the competitive digital age.

Want to master digital fundamentals? Get certified with OMI 

 


Digital Fundamentals: A Recipe for Success

by

Editor's Note: Tracy Vides is a content strategist and OMI contributor. To celebrate the launch of our new Digital Fundamentals Certification, she joins us today to discuss how small and large businesses can benefit from studying fundamental digital marketing strategy.

 

The beauty of digital marketing is that it gives startups and smaller companies a chance to compete on a stage shared by larger enterprises; it levels the playing field by eliminating the need for a huge budget to reach a vast amount of consumers.

In the old days, a good deal of marketing boiled down to scale: companies threw out wide nets, hoping to gain as many leads as possible. This posed a serious obstacle for small businesses lacking the capital for such an expansive reach.

Now digital marketing has made it possible to pinpoint a target audience, research consumption habits and find the most effective strategy to broadcast your brand messaging and improve ROI without wasting copious amounts of money on experimental campaigns based on guesswork.

Let’s talk about fundamental digital marketing strategies, and key advantages that businesses of all sizes stand to gain from mastering them.

Create an effective SEO strategy

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a cornerstone of digital fundamentals. 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine. With a number like this, omitting SEO causes you to miss out on a lot of benefits. A well-planned strategy can do a lot to improve search rankings, increase web traffic, build leads, and ultimately make sales.

If you want to experience these types of results, it will require more than a one-day effort. SEO is built on five pillars:

  1. Strategy
  2. Conversion
  3. Content
  4. Optimization
  5. Authority and Trust

It might take weeks – or even months – to start seeing the results you want. Stay consistent with your efforts, and in time you will see the fruits of your labor.

Use social media to boost engagement

Currently, there are over 2 billion people using social media worldwide. Opting out of this bandwagon is simply not an option. Social media is an arena where brands have a prime opportunity to let their unique personas shine through while contributing value to the lives of their prospects.

The biggest advantage provided by social media is an opportunity to boost all your other marketing channels. For example, a good SEO strategy is based on producing quality content. One of the best ways to share that material is through social media outlets.

Additionally, it can play a huge role in learning what makes your target audience tick. Tools like Brandwatch give you the ability to monitor what users are talking about within your industry. Backed with actionable-metrics, you can properly gear your approach in a manner that will not only keep viewers engaged, but also maintain positive sentiments about your brand.

Social media marketing remains a mainstay of digital fundamentals. Understanding the ins and outs of how it can affect your business is crucial in building brand trust and exposure to your messaging.

Adapt to an increasingly mobile landscape

Back in 2014, mobile devices became more popular than desktop for digital media consumption.

More recently, global internet traffic in terms of pageviews on mobiles surpassed desktop traffic.

With this in mind, integrating your marketing strategy to fit the mobile landscape is vital. For instance, 71 percent of marketing emails are opened on a mobile device.

Mobile the go-to medium for people on the move. In turn, big e-commerce brands have made it easier than ever to make purchases via a smartphone. The benefits of optimizing for mobile are practically infinite. Here are several of them:

  • Mobile-friendly websites rank higher in search results.
  • Mobile advertising is more cost-effective than desktop advertising.
  • Mobile gives you a broader range of personalization options when marketing to prospects.

Altering your entire strategy towards mobile is an involved process. There are many things to take into consideration, like content format and consumption duration. But given how much it can improve a business, learning how to optimize accordingly is one of the best decisions you can make.

Make your operation efficient with marketing automation

Marketing automation is especially useful for startups and small businesses. Regardless of your goals, you should always strive to maximize efficiency. With automation, you can harness the power of technology to manage a significant portion of your marketing activities without depending on human control. This can do a lot to cut down on labor, and frees up more time to focus on big picture innovations.

According to Gartner Research, by 2020 customers will manage 85% of their brand relationships without talking to a human. Benefits of automated marketing include:

  • Targeted landing pages
  • Effective lead nurturing
  • Complete workflow management
  • Targeted and responsive email marketing
  • Increased productivity
  • Brand presence on multiple channels
  • Detailed customer profiles
  • Quicker and better customer support
  • In-depth tracking and measurement
  • Consistency

There is a whole lot more to gain from marketing automation than you might think. Do yourself a favor and study what it can do for your business. In the long-run, it can save (and earn you) incredible amounts of time and money.

Over to you

It’s no secret that the traditional marketing funnel is going obsolete in favor of digital. Brands everywhere are realizing how this shift in the landscape is putting a big emphasis on customer experience and targeted strategies. The underlying truth is that consumers are more connected than ever. Learning how you can accommodate this trend is crucial in building a brand for the future.

If you’re involved in a startup, small business, or even a large enterprise looking to build its knowledge of digital fundamentals, there’s no time like the present to learn. Get started today!

Want to master digital fundamentals? Get certified with OMI 

 


How to Write SEO Friendly Content

by

Editor's Note: Sarah Robinson is a blogger and SEO enthusiast. She joins us today to explain how SEO friendly content improves your website performance, and how to optimize your content for search engine exposure.

 

Whether you’re writing a landing page for your website, or a blog post, it’s important that all of your content is SEO friendly. SEO friendly content has a tremendous impact on your ranking in search engines (i.e, Google), and the better you follow the conventions of SEO, the higher your content will rank on search engines.

The higher your website is ranked by search engines, the more visible it will be. This also leads to more website traffic and conversions. Your content is also more likely to provoke reader engagement and shares on social media if it is highly visible. Bottom line: you can write amazing content, but unless people see it, there’s no point.

Thankfully, producing SEO friendly content is not as difficult as it may seem. By following the steps outlined below, your content will be more interesting, grab attention and rank higher in search engines without excessive effort. Let’s dive in!

1. Research

Individuals and SEO companies should do at least some research before writing anything. Even if you are an expert on an issue, you should not forego this step. Not only does research provide you with the data you need to make a well-reasoned point, but it also helps you to find the key terms that your audience is looking for. By incorporating these terms into your content, you make it much more SEO friendly for casual browsers.

The research step is especially important for the heading (title) of your content. The heading is the first thing readers encounter, and it therefore determines whether they will click away, or stay on to read more. Your title should be well structured, to-the-point and relevant to common search terms.

A high quality heading will help search engines understand what is on your page, and it will assist in gauging relevancy when a user searches for certain keywords. A headline will also determine whether your newsletter subscribers want to open and read your content.

How do you create a title that engages? To start, it’s a given that you should take a dive into SEO keyword research to find the terms which readers are looking up. But keeping your headlines short and catchy is also important. List articles (‘listicles’) attract attention by outlining the structure of an article in the title, so readers know what to expect before reading.Just take a look at recent BuzzFeed headlines to get a feel for what attracts readers. Here are some examples taken from the website:

2. Unique and original content

It is important that the content you produce is unique and original. This doesn’t mean you have to be a pioneer in your industry and propose something completely new or revolutionary. But if you say the exact same thing as everyone else, in the exact same way, content that is otherwise SEO friendly can still fail. Everyone has a unique spin or view on an issue, and in good content, you must be prepared to offer yours.

While this advice may or may not seem obvious, the point is worth stressing. For SEO-optimized content, it’s vitally important to avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism, in this case, means copying large chunks of text from existing websites or even entire articles without the right permission or HTML attribution. Not only is it unethical to do this, but your website can get penalized for these methods by search engines, which will bring down your site’s ranking considerably.

This doesn’t mean you can’t use sources to back up your argument and make your content more credible. In fact, you should be using other sources - but rather than offering extensive and direct quotes from existing content, summarize, and cite the important facts while providing a link. Being lazy will sink you like a brick - Google knows, and you will never get away with it.

If you are working hard to keep your content original, but have to use quotations, there are many places you can go to find out whether search engines will get suspicious. Copyscape is a great way to quickly check if there are any copies of your website content on other sites, or whether original content will trigger red flags to search engines. When in doubt, check first!

3. Images

Firstly, yes you should absolutely include relevant images with your content. And secondly, they can and should be optimized both for readability, and SEO.

Images are important to your content because they visually establish the context of an article, and give readers’ eyes a rest. Have you ever gone on to a webpage and there was just all text on the page? Was it inviting and enjoyable to read? Probably not: no one likes impenetrable chunks of text, so it is important to break it up with images. Images also help to make your content more shareable on social websites; if you use interesting images, you can quickly attract attention.

Images, like the text in your content, will also impact your search engine rankings. You can add keywords to an image’s file name, and captions, tags and alternative text when relevant. It is also important that you check the size of your image, and compress or resize them when appropriate. Images need to be big enough so they aren’t blurry, but not so big that they slow down the loading time of your webpages.

4. Make the text interesting

Just because you have added lots of images to your content doesn’t mean you are done making it attractive! You can (and should) make the actual text more interesting to read by formatting it elegantly.

There are multiple ways to make content pleasurable for reading, and it’s important to implement these methods whenever possible, because Google has quality guidelines, and it checks to see if sites are following them.

By changing up the size and style of font as well as underlining the right words, or putting them in bold/italics, you can direct a reader’s eye to the most important things; content is more interesting to look at when all words aren’t the same.

HTML subheadings to organize your content are also important. Not only do they help to give your content structure and improve readability, but they also show search engines that your web-pages are detailed and useful.

All this being said, it’s easy to go overboard changing up the look of your text. If you change too much, too often, the results can appear unprofessional and distracting. Remember, you want to draw readers attention to the most important parts of your text. Focus, and retain a balance between the mundane and the stylized.

5. Content length

The right length for content depends on your genre, audience, and how much you have to say. Follow common sense in this regard: a blog post should be long enough to be informative (anywhere between 500 and 2000 words). But depending on the subject, you may need a lot more, or a lot less.

Word count does not factor into SEO as much as people sometimes think. 300 is a good minimum, but beyond that, it is more important that you post content consistently. Realistically, if you make content-writing difficult, it will be difficult to read, and you will probably find excuses not to do it. By sticking to a reasonable word limit,content writing becomes more enjoyable, which increases the likelihood that you will continue to produce content in the future, which will also raise the ranking of your website.

Summary

Making your content SEO friendly is crucial if you want it to be seen. You may have great content but if you haven’t properly optimized it, you won’t get readers or leads. There’s no wrong way to start, so if your content isn’t SEO optimized yet, pick something that stands out, and get your site to the top of Google!

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Convert More Website Visitors into Customers: Best Practices for Usability and Analytics

Fundamentals of Social Media for SEO

Creating and Curating Content People Love

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

 


How to Choose the Perfect Images to Improve Content Engagement

by

Editor's Note: Jane Hurst is a business writer and regular OMI contributor. Today, she joins us to discuss how well-selected images can improve content engagement on your blog or website.

 

While text is the most prominent feature of long-form content, if you don’t use images effectively in your blog posts and marketing, you aren’t attracting nearly as much traffic as you could be. Images grab attention because humans are visual creatures: when they see a lot of text without visual stimuli, they will often click away pretty quickly. People need to see something that is visually appealing to capture their attention, but at the same time, you can’t haphazardly slap some photos on and be done with it. You need to research your target audience, and use visuals that will appeal to them in order to raise your content engagement. Here are some tips that will help you do this:

Use Images in Blogs

Studies show that blogs with featured images get a lot more attention than those without visual content. First, it is a fact that we tend to remember things in terms of visual rather than verbal memory. You must therefore utilize images that are tailored to the content you have prepared for your target audience to build a better connection with them. You want readers to read and digest a post, then comment, so you can interact with them and make conversions.

Bottom line: if you want to be remembered and make an impact on your readers, you need to use images that will really stand out in their minds.

Don’t Forget SEO

Many people don’t realize that images are an important part of search engine optimization. Photographs can be optimized so that search engines deliver your photos when the right keywords are searched. Optimizing your images for search engines is not hard. Basically, you just have to use the right keywords in the:

  • Image title
  • Description
  • File name, and
  • Alt text

It is also important to ensure that the dimensions of the image you upload are the same as the size used on your page, so that image searchers aren’t disappointed when they are forwarded to your website. Because a lot of people don’t realize this, many bloggers miss out on a great marketing opportunity. It only takes a few minutes to make sure that your images are properly sized, and coupled to the right keywords. Take advantage of this, and get more hits on your page.

Match Your Brand

When you are choosing images for anything, you need to think about some key factors, including your brand’s voice, mood, and style. Remember, you are trying to appeal to a specific audience, so you are marketing to them. Don’t choose images just because they appeal to you; they may not appeal to others, and that is what what matters. Be sure to study your target audience to find out what appeals to them most. Then, use imagery that will make them eager to visit your site and buy your products. This may take a bit of trial and error, but if you really pay attention to what your customers are saying and doing, you will get it right.

Use Relevant Images

If you are creating guides, you should use images that are relevant to what you are demonstrating in the guide. For instance, if your guide is about resumes, you don’t want to use photos of books: illustrate successful resume samples, add images of people writing resumes, as Uptowork did in their How to Write a Resume Guide:

Source

Before creating any type of guide, you need to think about the types of images that are going to get your message across most effectively. Pictures say so much, and if you are not using the right pictures, there is no sense in using images at all. Take the time and effort to do it well; you will be much happier with the results, and so will your visitors.

Let Images Stand Alone

Most people don’t like blogs that are heavy on text and low on visual content. In most cases, visual content is easier to understand, because it can be seen and apprehended in seconds, and doesn’t require reading time. Your visual elements should summarize what you are trying to say in the blog or on your selling page. For example, GadgetSalvation used two images to visualize the Sell Your Macbook page: when readers see the photo, they immediately understand the message, and read on to learn more.

Source

Imagery is one of the best ways to get information across quickly, so you can do more with less effort. The fewer characters you write between images in content and on product pages, the more engagement you are likely to receive from your audience.

Use People in Images

People connect with those who have the same tastes, desires, etc. as themselves. You need to build that connection with them, and to do this, you should feature images of human beings. You also need to know how to use people in images. For instance, a candid photo will generally attract more attention than one that is posed. Studies show that the majority of people prefer images that have just one person, and they also prefer to see subjects looking away from (rather than directly at) the camera. There is a reason why these shots are more popular: when all the factors are added together, viewers feel that the image could be of themselves.

Get Authorization before Using Images

It is vitally important that you have full authorization to use any of the images you display with your content. This doesn’t mean you have to produce the images yourself, but, you do need to gain the permission of those who produced the images or own them to use them for marketing purposes. Using stock photos is one popular option, in which you pay websites like Bigstock for the rights to use a particular image but this should not be your go-to for photos since stock images are often widely disseminated and sometimes overused. If you pull random images off the Internet, you will also need permission to share this content. If you share image content to social media, your audience should be able to share and use them, since this is a way of promoting content engagement and gaining exposure across a wide audience. Be sure to spell out the terms of these permissions in the “Terms and Conditions” page of your site or blog so your images can go viral.

Be Careful with Stock Photos

It is okay to use stock photos once in awhile when you need them. But they are not something you should rely on exclusively, since a lot of readers will easily be able to tell the difference between a stock photo and one that has been created or commissioned for a single campaign. While the stock photos may be excellent in quality, they could also end up turn some potential customers off. The more time and effort you put into your imagery, the more it will be noticed, improving your content engagement, and raising your bottom line.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

B2B Social Visual Storytelling on Instagram, Pinterest & Tumblr

Turn Website Visitors into Customers via Conversation Optimization

How to Create a Content Segmentation Plan

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

 


Five Customer Retention Strategies That Really Work

by

Editor's Note: Samantha Prowell is a marketing strategist and educator, who joins us today to explain the importance of customer retention for your business, and how to implement customer retention strategies into a business plan.

 

Customer retention is an element that no online or traditional business can afford to ignore. Unfortunately, many business owners focus exclusively on customer acquisition, ignoring existing clients and reducing the chance of repeat sales. Good customer retention strategies build trust and loyalty, and customers who trust your business will improve your profitability by spreading the word about your brand. This builds in the long-term to a lasting fallback strategy should traditional acquisition methods ever fail. To help you retain customers and gain new ones through word of mouth, we’ve compiled five customer retention strategies that work every time they are tried. Let’s get started!

Know Your Customers

Forbes says that business associates who know their customers well succeed more often than those who treat them like any other client. According to behavioral psychologists, people tend to remember a particular service positively when they are not rushed or ignored. These studies demonstrate that you should get to know your customers better to enhance their loyalty. In a brick-and-mortar setting, ask your customers questions when possible to clarify needs. Let them tell you about what they want to build and accomplish. Tell your customer service representatives to spend a little bit more time with clients in order to understand them better.

It’s equally important not to make assumptions regarding customer preferences and beliefs. The behavior of consumers changes over time, so avoid judging your clients based on previous experiences.

For online businesses, getting to know customers better is more tricky, since it is impractical (but not impossible!) to communicate with all of them one-on-one. That being said, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are excellent ways to interact with your customers and get to know their preferences and personalities better.

Depending on your business, social media is not the only method of customer-interaction. For instance, Regions online mobile banking service invites experts to engage and retain their customers by using emails to touch base with clients on a monthly basis. This strategy has helped them to get quality engagements and build long-term relationships. While not everyone can use this method, it shows that being creative can build opportunities that your customers will appreciate.

Set Customer Expectations

Interacting with customers is a great way to build positive experiences, but it’s also important to avoid creating negative ones. Even if repeat clients have done business with you hundreds of times, one or two bad transactions will stand out in their memory like a sore thumb. It is therefore vital to set expectations for your customers early on so they are fully aware of your processes, and won’t undergo any nasty surprises. Everyone on your team should be aware of what your clients expect, and what you have promised to deliver. Prioritize the fulfillment of these expectations to minimize the chance of accidents or mistakes.

Your business should set expectations at every point in the sales funnel, from marketing, to product descriptions, to shipping terms, etc. A classic and highly effective strategy is to underpromise and overdeliver on the expectations you lay out. This streamlines your business plan by ensuring that customer retention is built into the very fabric of the way you do business, and helps to establish key performance indicators which can be used to judge the success of a particular period or campaign.

Be an Expert in Your Industry

Entrepreneur Magazine claims that nine out of ten customers will switch to competitors if they don’t get the right solution to their problems. Customers want to create long-term engagements with businesses they believe can provide long-term solutions that will last.

While it’s always nice to have a corner in your market, nobody starts there: you will always be competing with other businesses that do the same thing you do. As such, it’s important that you stand out among your competitors to prevent customers from going somewhere else for their needs. One effective way to do this is becoming an expert in your field, thereby giving customers value they cannot get anywhere else.

Become your customers’ most reliable adviser to build loyalty and trust. If you are selling electronic accessories, become the street smart equivalent of an MBA who knows the ins and outs of every electrical gadget in the market. Demonstrate this expertise by publishing content and advice that is relevant to your customers’ interests. Be ready to give your opinions when asked, and always be there when customers need support.

Give Discounts and Promotions

Customers always look for companies that reward them once in awhile. Regular promotions and discounts are primary reasons that people start to follow brands, especially online, and if your competitors don’t have special offers, a promotional program will grant you a tremendous and obvious advantage in the minds of consumers. It doesn’t hurt to occasionally give away free products and samples, or sell at discounted prices. Make sure to use the element of surprise rather than announcing special offers in advance, since this creates a lasting, positive impression on your clients: people will remember when you surprise them in a good way.

While giving away something of value may seem like a net loss for your business, research proves that it’s an investment - consumers are 30% more likely to shop with businesses that offer discounts, so this is a retention strategy you can’t afford to ignore.

Create Trust Through Shared Values

Building shared values entails developing an interest in your clients and their daily occupations. Do research to determine what your clients love to do as a demographic, what causes they support, and the media they consume. Using this information strategically in content, branding, and product development strengthens the image of your business tremendously for existing customers by tying your company with the things they care about.

Conclusion:

Customer retention should be a key goal for your business, whether online or traditional. It is the foundation for expanding sales volume in the long term, and acquiring more clients in the short term. Hopefully the information listed here will help you to create and implement an effective customer retention plan!

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Improve Relationship Marketing Using Social Media

Top of the Funnel Tactics for Inbound Marketing

Content Marketing Implementation: Executing a Winning Content Program

 

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