By Heather Clancy MAR 28, 2016
Stop broadcasting and start talking.
This essay originally appeared in Data Sheet, Fortune’sdaily tech newsletter. Sign up here.
It’s tough to find a marketing team that isn’t increasing their social media budget—Forrester Research FORR 1.35% estimates spending for 2016 at $15.5 billion. But very few companies are encouraging two-way dialogues with their followers on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube. They’re too busy broadcasting their own splashy photographs, videos and other “native content.”
New research out last week from Lithium Technologies, which specializes in software running customer support communities, underscores how little companies are listening. Fewer than 2% of the 85 brands studied by Lithium consistently respond to complaints or comments posted on social media about their products or companies, while fewer than 40% are making an attempt to start conversations. (You can find Lithium’s report here; registration is required.)
Which companies are getting things at least partly right? Some of the names on Lithium’s top 10 ranking might surprise you, such as pharmaceutical giants Pfizer PFE 0.86% and Merck MRK 0.32% . Others make lots of sense, like Sephora and Starbucks SBUX -0.46% .
Interestingly, just one business technology company is mentioned, Microsoft MSFT -0.41% . Many tech companies do a good job of broadcasting information ad nauseum but aren’t engaging deeply enough with their social communities, according to Lithium CEO Rob Tarkoff, who spoke with me about the finding last week.
“You need to be responsive across channels,” Tarkoff said. “You need to personalize the brand experience. You have to stop the historical practice of walking away.”
A great anecdotal example of why this matters was shared this week by JetBlue vice president Jamie Perry during a marketing conference hosted by The Economist. When a passenger jokingly griped about being unable to stop for coffee during a tight travel connection—something that wasn’t JetBlue’s fault—the gate personnel in the second airport ran to Starbucks for him. “We cannot control the way customers come to us,” Perry said, adding, “That guy raved about us for weeks.”
The good news is both Facebook FB 1.20% and Twitter@twitter TWTR -2.77% are taking steps to supportcustomer service activities using their social platforms: both with changes to their messaging services. Apple AAPL -0.53% , for one, is taking some steps in the direction Tarkoff suggests by officially designating Twitter as an official support channel. But far more companies—notice that I’m not limiting this responsibility to marketers—need to get far better at listening to social signals rather than just blurting them out.
By AJ Agrawal | Mar 13, 2016
Experienced marketers look back at their careers and wonder what could have happened if they knew then what they did now. There’s nothing more powerful than a few words from an expertwhen you are getting started. To help you get started with business marketing, take a look at some of the best marketing advice everyone should know when they are just starting out.
Your Target Audience Bucks the Trends
You’ve probably already heard the statistics that the general population is now 25% millennials. Look everywhere and people are espousing the need to target millennials. This has left many companies scrambling to target the young. Yet what you have to remember is that the majority of the population isn’t millennials. Are millennials even your target audience?
There’s no doubt that the drive to target millennials has turned into something of a trend in recent years. Marketers should bear in mind that the millennials market isn’t for everybody, nor is it always necessary to transform your entire marketing campaign purely because of this.
Think target audience, not trends.
Money Does Matter
As a novice, it’s easy to think that you can become successful based on how silver your tongue is. This is not the case at all. Many successful companies have made their fortunes or lost everything based on where the money goes.
Before you even start talking to customers, you should allocate a budget. And then after you have allocated your budget you should be constantly updating it as your situation changes. This will ensure that your budget is always as accurate as humanly possible.
Act Like a Friend
The word ‘marketer’ instantly conjures up ideas of salespeople desperately trying to push this product or service. This was how it used to work. Now you may have to speak to someone multiple times before they make a purchase. That’s why marketing in 2016 is all about the quality of the relationship. You should treat a lead as if they are already a customer.
But how do you go about doing that?
Begin by thinking about what their needs are. Many of your initial conversations will make no mention of what you are trying to sell whatsoever. That’s because you will be exclusively talking about what the customer wants. You should be acting like a friend at all times. You are there to help not to make money from them.
Big Data is Here to Stay
Marketing has always had data involving itself in decision-making processes. More companies than ever before are using big data to inform decisions. This is where you track everything from demographics all the way to what time of day your prospects are likely to be active on social media.
Marketers have to become more technological than ever before. Embrace new technology and understand that the majority of your day will be spent poring over facts and figures, rather than hitting the phone lines.
Great Content Wins the Day
You need to figure out a way to get people interested in what you have to offer. An important point to understand now is that your product or service isn’t unique. Everyone has seen it before. You have at least five companies offering exactly the same thing.
This is a hard fact to swallow, but it’s necessary to get past the idea that the merits of your product or service will carry the day for you without any extra help.
Content is king. Content marketing is the here and now. You have to produce great content that’s going to both educate and entertain. Be willing to pay to get great content, and produce it on a consistent basis. This is the best marketing bow you can have. This is what will get people coming to you.
Form an Ongoing Relationship
Once you have made the sale, you may think that the marketing process is over, but it’s not. You need to consider an ongoing relationship in order to bring in repeat business. Most companies survive based on how many loyal followers they can guarantee to make purchases of future products and services.
Using email marketing, for example, is one way to keep your brand front and center in people’s minds.
These pieces of marketing advice will help you to manage your business, hit your target audience, nurture your leads, and keep them interested in the long-term. Continue to tweak your tactics to get the best results.
What is your best piece of marketing advice?
By Annie Pilon On Mar 12, 2016
Today’s businesses need an online marketing strategy to succeed. While every business’s strategy may look a bit different, there are some common threads that hold most of those successful strategies together.
Members of the small business community have plenty of tips to share when it comes to successfully marketing businesses online. Check out their top tips below.
Make Your Way with Social Media
Social media isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You have to determine the strategy that is going to work best for your business, as Rachel Strella of Strella Social Media discusses here. And Strella elaborated on these suggestions in a conversation in BizSugar community here.
Super Charge Your Local Search Results
Even for local businesses, online marketing can make a huge difference. Local search, for example, can help to bring new faces to your store, restaurant or other local business. To make the most of your local search marketing, check out this Inc article by Small Business Trends CEO Anita Campbell.
Think About These Things for Your Website’s Social Sharing Features
Letting customers or followers do some of your online marketing for you can really help out and save you time. But you need to make sharing your content easy for them. So in this article at the Social Media Week, Larry Alton suggests some things you should think about when incorporating social sharing buttons into your website.
Keep Up with Marketing Technology Trends
Thanks to technology, online marketing is constantly changing. That means that you need to keep up with the new trends in order to stay relevant to tech savvy consumers. This article at Docurated by Angela Stringfellow includes some marketing technology trends that are poised to re-shape the world of marketing.
Grow Your Website Traffic
Content creation can be a key part of your online marketing strategy. But you need to build traffic in order for your content to be effective. This post on the official dlvr.it blog by Bill Flitter includes a playbook for growing traffic to your content.
Expect These Things When Joining Social Media
As a small business owner, the idea of joining various social media sites and regularly using them as part of your online marketing plan can seem daunting. But if you know what to expect, the process can be a bit easier. Here on NutsPR, Corina Manea shares some things you should expect when joining social media as a small business owner.
Use These Best Practices for Twitter Polls
Twitter’s polling feature can help you to gain insights and interaction from your followers on the platform. And the microblogging site has now revealed some of the best practices that people should use when running polls, which Matt Southern covers in this Search Engine Journal article. BizSugar members also chime in with their own thoughts here.
Consider Starting Your Own Podcast
Lots of businesses have websites and social media accounts. But starting your own podcast can really help you to stand out in today’s business world. Here, Ileane Smith shares some of the benefits that businesses could realize through starting a podcast.
Create a Content Anchor
When creating content for an online audience, the length and quality of your content can make a big difference in how many people see and interact with it. Inthis post on Blogger Sidekick, Will Blunt discusses the concept of a content anchor and how it could help your online marketing strategy.
Use Influencer Marketing That Works
Influencer marketing is a relatively new concept to a lot of businesses. But it can really jumpstart your online marketing efforts if used correctly. Here, Ann Smarty discusses how small businesses can use influencer marketing in a way that should work both now and in the future.
If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Peter Daisyme On Mar 10, 2016
As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” When it comes to creating and implementing a marketing strategy for small business owners like myself, this couldn’t be any more true. When I first launched my company, I had daily fires to put out, and I found it challenging to find time to develop a marketing strategy. However, with five basic steps, I generated one that was killer.
1. Define Your End Goal
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never started a road trip by just getting in a car and seeing where it would take me. Instead, I’ve picked a destination and determined what I needed to do to get there, using directions and landmarks along the way.
This same idea can apply to a marketing strategy. When I wanted to get publicity for my startup, I decided that I wanted to generate a certain increase in website traffic, add a specific number of followers on social media, and convert a defined number of leads into customers.
Ask yourself what goals you want to accomplish.When do you want these milestones completed? Once you have that end goal, you can start mapping out a course of action, including marketing tactics designed to reach that destination.
2. Determine Your Target Audience
No matter how great of a product, service, or strategy you have in place, you still need customers to make your small business a success. But who are your customers? Obviously, you’re not catering to everyone. You have to define and target the customers that need what you’re offering, and structure your strategy towards them.
While this may seem pretty tough to determine, Tommy Walker offers the following suggestions on the Crazy Egg blog:
When I used these recommendations for my own business, I was able to hone in on exactly who would be interested in my company’s service offering. I discovered that those most interested in website hosting were freelancers and other small business owners, including millennial male and female entrepreneurs in their late 20s and early 30s. These tips also helped me to better understand their needs for reliability and technical support, so I knew that they would respond favorably to my free website hosting and other low-cost services.
3. Assemble Your All-Star Team
Michael Jordan once said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” To launch and maintain an amazing marketing strategy, you need to have the right team, which means people who can add diverse strengths and skills. For me, this meant having a content writer, developer, social media manager, web designer and a customer service professional.
When building your team, my colleague John Rampton recommends you consider the following:
As a small business owner, this may be more challenging since resources are limited, but you can try alternative working arrangements. For example, do you have an intern who’s a social media whiz? Is your partner experienced with coding? Is your spouse an excellent writer? Use those resources until you have the chance to expand your team.
4. Create Value With Content
It’s one thing to be able to explain what your business does, but it’s another to explain your value to customers and how you’re filling a specific need or desire.
Launching a content marketing campaign involves increasing engagement, building a community, becoming a trusted authority figure in your industry, and driving traffic to your website or storefront. You can accomplish this by creating content via blog posts, tutorials or how-to guides, a white paper or eBook, video, podcasts, webinars, etc. These channels will allow you to reach more of your audience in less time.
5. Advertise Your Business on the Cheap
Marketing doesn’t have to cost a fortune. In fact, you may be able to spend as little as $15 per week. I’ve been able to achieve this low-cost marketing strategy throughout my startup’s marketing history, and you can too.
Jason Parks, CEO of the Media Captain, explains how this is feasible inEntrepreneur:
Creating that killer marketing strategy doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but does require your time, effort and focus. Once you make the investment, the return will start coming in quickly and in large measure. Time and again, these steps have proven to ramp up my marketing strategy. Now it’s your turn.
By Tahir Akbar March 7, 2016
Email is a very powerful and affordable lead generation tool that businesses can employ. Given the innovative products and solutions offered by marketing automation companies, email’s ability to deliver famous 44% return on the investment has enhanced further. However, the success of email campaigns depends upon a range of factors, like; content, ESP functionality, sender’s repute, and quality of your mailing list. If the database is of substandard quality, even a perfect set of email and content will serve no purpose.
Yes, it’s true. If you do not have a quality e-mail marketing list, you are reducing the potential you have to drive traffic, generate sales/leads, and build your brand name. This is the single biggest factor that can make or break things for your marketing and lead capturing campaigns. Therefore, companies with decent marketing budgets go for premium data subscriptions, special data acquisition programs, and run active lead generation campaigns to build contacts list.
However not every business enterprise enjoys this much financial freedom to invest hundreds of thousands in database development but this does not mean they can’t do anything. There are some very simple and affordable (some free) ways to build a quality email list for your drip campaigns. Some of those are being explained in the following.
1. Export Your Social Contacts:
The starting point of your database development should be your own social networks. LinkedIn and Facebook provide you the option to export your contacts information as csv file that you can store on your machine that you can import in your email system later on. Given the requirements of your email marketing system, just format the database as first name, second name, job title, email, contact number, and company name. Import the sheet into your email marketing software and use in the campaign.
Given the fact that these people know you or your products, they can be very good prospects and the success rate of your campaigns goes higher further. “Since most of the people in my social network have the basic information about my business, sending them a monthly update or newsletter has been very valuable experience for my business”- says James Alexander, the CEO of The Flooring Artists a wood floor refinishing company in Colorado. He runs a small business with limited marketing budget, so had to use LinkedIn contacts as starting point in email list building. So why can’t you?
2. Bribe Prospects With Engaging Content:
One of the best ways to acquire quality data is to start your own database building campaign. This requires to bribe something in return of data and nothing could be more valuable than quality content. You can design e-guides, how to tips, prepare a study, or share something informational with the prospects. Promote your offer page on the social networking sites and seek opt in. Even if you invest just $1 a day on your list building through content and its promotion, you’ll get very good list within a quarter. This might be a lengthy process but it’s equally rewarding too.
3. Utilize “Pop Up Opt-In” Forms:
From Forbes to Social Media Examiner and Marketo, there are many portals that use this technique effectively. When you land on their post, they’ll show you a push notification with something similar to “Don’t Miss Any Important Update- Subscribe for Weekly Alerts”. If you’ve a blog, make sure you use such pop up opt-in form. Just make sure your words don’t imply daily or frequent emails because people don’t want to be bombarded with frequent updates. Instead, use the words like “Join Our Weekly Alert and Stay Informed about The Hottest Blog Post”. You can ask your copywriter to give you some captivating lines that could attract people’s attention and motivate them to opt-in.
4. Use Short Forms:
This is very important tactic. Being a user myself, I would definitely hesitate to provide every information about me in first place. Make sure that your lead generation campaigns have shorter forms that encourage prospects to avoid bounce. You may follow up for more information if needed but don’t ask contact number something that isn’t of significant importance in the first attempt. Name, job/company and official email should give you a fair idea about the prospect.
5. Host Your Content at 3rd Party Sites:
If your blog or landing pages do not enjoy greater traffic and you want to use a third party channel with good traffic, contact content hosting websites. Business2Community’s whitepapers portal is one example, where you can get your premium content hosted. Since Business2Community enjoys very good traffic, your content will have greater exposure to a wide audience. This is not only a good content marketing channel but also generates good contacts database. Digital Marketing Depot and ClickZIntel are two other portals that offer similar service.
6. Host Online Webinar:
One of the easiest ways to build your list is by hosting online webinars and seek registrations. People participating in would happily provide details provided you are promising something exciting in the webinar. Just make sure the topic is interesting and your guests and speakers offer valuable insight to the audience. Moreover, market your webinar with all available resources because unless people learn about it, they won’t be able to attend and you’ll miss the important data.
7. Use Your YouTube Channel:
I’ve seen a lot of people running their YouTube channel successfully not only for marketing but also for list building. Since they’ve integrated their YouTube marketing with other channels, the results have gone more positive. See, there are some graphic designers who do a brilliant Photoshop tutorial and at the end provide link to the (training) PSD files in the description. When a person clicks on the link, it guides him to an opt-in page he has to submit some details to access the file. Since people are in need of the particular PSD to apply the tutorial tactics, they happily share their information. Why can’t you do the same?
8. Promote Contests:
People love contests and happily participate it. All you need is to make it interesting and challenging. Some questionnaire, interesting quiz, opinion poll, or some interesting call to action (like: make our logo) to invite actions from your audience where they could win something against a particular activity. Your contest not only helps in branding and sales but also in list building. You can promote your Free Giveaway, Free Book or Free Gift Hamper, Promote and have entrants sign up using their email address. You can promote your contests on your website, blog, some guest blogging site, your social media profiles, or all of the above.
9. Engage in Guest Blogging:
Write articles and quality blogs for decent portals with good PR and rich domain authority ranking. Add call to action in your blog posts and invite opt in on your landing page. John Hurry; the founder of Natural Remedy Ideas credits his business’s success to guest blogging. “It not only generates good traffic but also provides decent opportunity to attract opt-ins for our healthcare products”. See if this helps in your niche. At least there’s nothing wrong in trying out new things.
10. Grab Offline Opportunities:
Use every offline opportunity to acquire data. You can use your customers’ database to begin with. Moreover, invite participants for meetups, conferences, and educational seminars to register via online form. You can also use trade-shows and other promotional events to acquire data and import it into your email list.
Bonus Tip: Search for Affordable Data Selling Source:
I do not recommend data buying since there is no guarantee of quality in someone else’s generated list. There are certainly some good companies that offer high quality data but their pricing may not be affordable for a small business. Therefore, make it the last point in your check list for database development and do proper research before making the final decision about paid database.
I hope the given suggestions would help you build your email list through some affordable and free platforms. If you think I’ve missed something, don’t forget to mention in the comment box below.
By Darnelle O'Brien On Mar 7, 2016
From HR to IT, to operations and marketing, one of the biggest challenges small business owners face is not only staying on top of it all but getting ahead of the game. Thanks to technology and seemingly endless innovation, marketing is one area that’s constantly evolving.
Staying on top of marketing trends
If you, like many other small businesses manage your marketing in-house, it’s tough knowing everything that’s going on. But miss a trend and you risk missing out on a huge business opportunity. So this week, we’ve compiled our cheat sheet to help you stay on top (and ahead) of the marketing game.
Subscribe to Google Alerts
By creating a Google Alert, you will receive email notifications any time Google finds new results on a topic that interests you.
Get updates on your competitors, find out when people post something about you on the web and of course, keep up with the latest marketing trends and important updates in your industry.
How to set up a Google Alert:
Subscribe to blogs and news sites
Subscribe to blogs (like this one) that stay ahead of the game for you. Each week you’ll be emailed the latest in small business marketing trends, news and how-tos. Add a few K.I.S.S favourite publications like Mumbrella, Fast Company, Inc and Fast Company and you’ll be all over it in no time. Need to pull all your sources into one manageable feed? Check out another K.I.S.S fav: Pocket.
Stay connected via social media Utilise LinkedIn Groups to ask questions about emerging trends and best practice.
Get active on Twitter and create a list of influential people in your industry to track what they’re talking about. Create a secret list of your competitors, monitor them in real time and learn from what they are or aren’t doing.
Network inside and outside your industry
Join a trade or industry organisation to understand how other businesses in your field address the same challenges you face.
Networking with people outside your industry brings a fresh perspective. You’ll also find these people are more willing to give you unbiased feedback and advice as they don’t see you as a direct threat.
Never stop learning
Sign up for at least 1-2 courses, workshops, online training or webinars every six months. Continuous learning and education expands your business mind and keeps you up to date with the emerging trends you need to know about. Check out our courses here (more dates coming in June).
Catch up on my current posts along with industry articles