- Read more
Recommendations from real people are a powerful influence on consumers’ buying habits. Traditionally, these recommendations came from our friends, family members and work colleagues, but today, we can access so many more opinions from real people online. Research shows that these opinions still play an important part in purchases, despite them generally coming from strangers. A study carried out in 2014 found that 88% of people trust online reviews just as much as they trust personal recommendations.
Online customer reviews are particularly important for local businesses as they are a prominent feature in local search listings. You will probably have seen search listings where a business website appears next to information about it, including a map, opening hours, and contact details. Along with this, if the business has any reviews on Google, it will display a star rating out of five, and the number of reviews given. If you have no reviews or a poor rating, users are much less likely to click through to your website.
Local listings with more customer reviews are also more likely to appear higher up in the search listings because Google ranks them as more appropriate for their users. As well as this, reviews on any other sites are all mentions of your business, making it more likely to be discovered in search results. Google recognizes that people are talking about your business and, therefore, ranks it as more relevant.
At the same time as online reviews acting as free advertisement for your business, they can also damage your reputation if customers are leaving negative reviews. Hopefully, you are selling a good quality product delivered with friendly service, so this shouldn’t be a problem. If you are regularly getting bad reviews, then you should probably take a look at your business to see where the problems lie and how you can improve. If the majority of your reviews are positive, don’t panic if you get a negative one every now and again. Here are a few ways you can turn that negative review into something positive.
People will only trust online reviews if they feel like they are genuine. Most internet users are savvy to the fact that online reviews can be bought or faked. If you see a business with 10,000 5-star reviews and nothing else, you might question the authenticity of these results. Their service may be great, but it is unlikely that every single person will think that it is perfect. The occasional 2 or 3-star rating makes it seem more authentic, because you can’t please everyone. People are more likely to trust your positive reviews if there are some negative ones to counteract them.
You should pay attention to any negative reviews you get, because they might give you an idea of how to improve your business and satisfy more customers in the future. Reviews like “It was rubbish” obviously aren’t going to help, but other customers might pinpoint what they weren’t happy with, highlighting what you need to improve.
With every negative review or comment online, you have the chance to respond to it and turn the situation around. Some unhappy customers won’t post online; they’ll just never buy from you again. The ones that do air their opinions online present an opportunity for you. You could influence these customers by responding swiftly and reasonably to their negative reviews. Apologize for their negative experience with your brand and determine the best way to solve their problem. This will show that you care about them and make them more likely to return in the future. Research shows that 70% of customers who have a complaint resolved in their favour will return for repeat business.
So, both positive and negative reviews can be a powerful tool for marketing your business. But, try to avoid the overly negative ones by delivering the best service you can. Websites such as Yelp and TrustPilot are great platforms for collecting online customer reviews.
- Read more
Websites are vital for businesses of all sizes and from any industry. Yet, many small businesses still do not have a website because they believe that they can’t afford it. In 2015, research suggested that only 51% of small businesses have a website.
While some websites will be so complex and large that they require a massive budget to be professionally built and designed, the majority of small businesses won’t require anything on this kind of scale. Plus, it is becoming easier and easier for people to build their own websites using online tools, even without the technical knowledge and experience usually required to do so.
Free website builders such as WordPress, Wix and Weebly provide you with easy-to-use templates and tools, allowing you to customize your own website without any experience with coding. Most of these website builders also offer some premium options, so you can add more to your website as you get the budget for it. These tools are great options if you want to build a fairly simple website of between 1-5 pages.
There are plenty of other options available to build a website for your business, but here we are going to give you a few tips on how to build a WordPress website or blog.
Firstly, there are two options when signing up for WordPress – the .com and the .org site. WordPress.com is much more suited to beginners because the website provides hosting for you. You would have to pay for hosting to create a WordPress.org site. We’ll take a look at the .com site for now.
When signing up for an account on WordPress.com you can choose between the free and premium versions. The premium version offers a lot more customization for your website, so we do recommend upgrading once you have the budget, but starting off with the free version will be fine for most businesses. WordPress.com will provide you with a free domain name, or you can purchase your own for a small fee from websites such as GoDaddy.
Designing your website
The first thing you need to do is select a theme from WordPress’ premade options. The theme is the template for your site, so it determines how it will look but is also customizable. There is a wide range of free themes available, but you can also choose to pay for a premium one. You can customize the colors and elements of your theme to look the way you want it to. The premium themes do tend to offer greater customization, though.
Once you have selected your theme, you can set the pages you want on your website. You could make a simple website or blog consisting of just a single page. But, you might also want to add multiple pages such as “Home”, “About”, “Contact”, etc. The pages will be different for each business, so make sure it fits what you need.
You then need to think about what content you want on each page. The WordPress template makes it easy to add text and images to your pages and customize them so that they look the way you want them to. There are also a number of plugins available to add extra functionality to your website. Some of these plugins are free while others come at a cost.
Monitor your WordPress website
WordPress also provides free analytics tools for you to access. This means you can keep track of how your website is performing and how many people are visiting it. It is a good idea to monitor this so that you know if you need to make improvements need or if you need to work on driving more traffic to your website from other sources.
For small businesses with not much of a budget, a DIY website from a website builder such as WordPress is a great, low-cost option for getting their brand online.
- Read more
We’ve talked about the difference between user personas for traditional and online marketing means. Now let’s focus on how to create a user persona for your next marketing campaign. After you have a comprehensive understanding of your campaign, you need to be able to create a profile of your target audience. One option is to look up character interviews that writers use for creating fictional characters. These interviews can be hundreds of questions long, all providing intimate details about the character or user. However, there is another, possibly more exciting, way to create a user persona for marketing campaigns.
Let’s Go Gaming
Whether or not you are a fan, you have to admit that an instant success in the world of gaming was the life simulation game, The Sims. You start by building your own character – their name, how they look, what they wear, their likes and dislikes, personality traits, ambitions in life, and their family connections. You can follow a similar method when you are trying to define your target audience. All the same, you don’t have to run out and buy a copy of The Sims to use this concept.
The new way to build a marketing model is to identify one super specific persona, just as if you were building a Sims character. Here are some questions you would hypothetically ask the user when creating a persona:
- What would be your ideal breakfast: eggs and bacon, or quinoa and tofu?
- Rather than the basic “What is your favorite color?” question, what is your favorite shade of your favorite color?
- Are you a T-shirt and jeans type person or would you wear a vintage store dress when out with friends?
- How many real life friends do you have, and how many Facebook friends? How many imaginary friends?
- Will you get married, to whom, when, and where?
- Do you believe women should be socially expected to shave under their arms or on their legs?
Think of the most insane and focused questions you can about a person, related to their character and not to your product/service. The details are what will get you to the point where you can create the “dream consumer” for your business.
Ever Changing Consumer Conscience
The more you know about your target market, the better you will be at planning a marketing strategy and creating specific campaigns that your ideal customers are likely to engage with. Instead of wasting your ad campaign sending banner ads to a blanket group of consumers, you have to aim directly at the one person in the crowd who would be most likely to buy your product and support your brand.
But then, you can’t leave the character stuck in time. You should breathe a breath of fresh air into your user personas at least every three to six months. Your products and services will change and you want your user persona to reflect that. Ideally you will constantly be updating and narrowing in on your company’s target consumer.
Creating a comprehensive user persona for your target audience will help to inform your marketing strategy and all of the marketing activities that you carry out. This will help you to market more effectively to those consumers that are likely to buy from you, helping to boost sales and profits.
- Read more
Step back in time and look at the way marketing was managed in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Consumers experienced marketing mostly through TV, newspapers, magazines, billboards and store fronts. Now that the internet globally connects businesses and customers from any corner of the earth, marketing has also gone the way of the web. Social media, blogging and banner ads continue to replace print and TV advertising.
As businesses embrace online marketing, they are also having to adapt to new best practices. One major difference is that online marketing requires businesses to target a very specific audience, rather than a wider one as with broadcast television, for example. Marketers are having to take a more targeted approach towards their audience, and to treat their customers as individuals.
Human Connections Have Gone Global
The way we’ve grown to connect across the world is through the internet, but more specifically through social media. Facebook, with its more than 1 billion monthly active users, is just the top of the social media pyramid. Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn, along with other smaller platforms, continue to spread the personalization of marketing. When you can see a person on their social media page or watch them on videos they’ve made, it creates an intimate situation and attachment to this random person living in some city you’ve never heard of. Yet, you feel like you are now connected to them because of this online interaction.
At the same time, businesses with an online presence have a greater chance of connecting with their customers, and vice versa. Consumers often show pictures of themselves using a certain product, providing the brand with free and organic marketing. However, when a consumer gets angry about a company they can be just as quick at condemning the brand across their own globally connected online audience.
This connectivity also gives companies the ability to get to know more about their audience. Does the target consumer for Company Y tend to read romance novels, or are they more into modern graphic novels? Where does the target consumer go on vacation, if they take vacations at all? What kind of car does my target consumer drive, and what does this say about their marketing sense? The internet gives marketers the chance to actually find the answers to these questions, and more,about their audience. They can then build user personas based on this information.
With so much choice and control afforded to consumers, marketing to the masses is no longer the most effective option. Consumers want to see marketing that is relevant to them, otherwise they will just switch off or “unfollow”. Now that businesses have access to insights into the likes, dislikes, behaviors, etc., of their audience, it is possible to give their audience exactly what they want. Business can treat their customers as individuals and deliver targeted content that is specific to them.
Build user personas
The more a company understands its product or service, along with the type of consumer who would buy their goods, the easier it is to develop user personas for their customers. You can define the characteristics, interests and behaviors of your customers. Then, the attributes most likely to go with this person’s background, education level, family history, etc. will help companies create funnel-style marketing campaigns. They will be able to directly match the needs of a consumer, all without ever seeing them face to face.
It is not enough anymore to create a single mass marketing campaign and send it out to anyone and everyone. We now have the opportunity to collect valuable information on who our customers are. This can be a very powerful weapon in your marketing arsenal.
- Read more
Getting on the front page of Google can be a real challenge, since hundreds of millions of websites are all trying to do exactly the same thing. You can spend a lot of time optimizing your website for search in the hopes of achieving this, or you can invest money into pay-per-click advertising (PPC) through a tool such as Google Adwords. A PPC ad will appear at the top or down the side of a search listings page on search engines such as Google. They are right there with the organic listings, but it is made clear that they are advertisements or sponsored content.
What are the benefits of PPC advertising?
SEO is a very difficult process to master. You can invest a lot of time into optimizing your website to get it to the top of Google organically, and it might not even stay there. PPC is a much more time-effective and reliable way of getting your website listed on the first couple of pages of Google.
It is also a very targeted form of advertising, because you can define your keywords and location in such a way that your ad only appears to people who are likely to become your customers. Since you only pay when someone clicks on your ad, this makes it a cost-effective way of advertising. The clicks you pay for will, if you have set up your campaign well, be highly qualified leads. Plus, you can set the amount you want to pay for each click and for each day that you run the ad, so you are in control of how much you spend.
Setting up your Google Adwords campaign
Go to Google Adwords and follow the steps on the site to set up your campaign. You will have to give your campaign a name and select the type of advert you want to create; search, display, or both. Search ads will show up in Google’s search listings, whereas display ads appear on the websites of select partners of Google. If you are confused by any of the settings on this page, Google has some useful help bubbles next to each setting to explain what it means.
Select the location you want to target, whether it’s a specific country, region or city. Then, you can set your budget for your campaign. Here, you decide how much you want to pay for each click. You can also set a maximum budget per day that your ad is running. You can pay as little as a few cents per click. If you are targeting a competitive keyword, you may have to increase your bid in order to successfully appear on page one or two of Google. You may be better off choosing a more specific phrase that lots of other businesses might not be competing for.
Creating your AdWords ad
Then, you need to create the ad itself. Write the headline and two lines of description to appear on the ad. You have a limited number of characters for these. Make sure they are descriptive and grab your audience’s attention immediately. Then, set the display and destination URL to determine where the ad will go to when someone clicks. Set the keywords you want to target, determining what search terms your ad will appear for. Google gives you a few tips here to help you choose your keywords effectively.
Now your ad is ready to go. You can manage your ad throughout the campaign. Keep monitoring it so that you can see how well it is performing and how much you are spending.
- Read more
Once you have developed your marketing plan and implemented all of your campaigns, you might think it’s time to sit back and wait for the magic to happen. In reality, this is the time to be as actively involved in your marketing campaigns as ever. You can’t just forget about them and assume they are doing their job properly; instead, you should be constantly monitoring them and measuring their success. Even if they are performing well, monitoring is still an important part of an effective marketing strategy.
Why you must monitor your marketing
Monitoring your marketing helps you to stay in control of all your marketing activities. It lets you know which campaigns are working and which aren’t. This has a number of benefits for your business.
First of all, you know which marketing methods you should be focusing on and which you should forget about, i.e. which are working and which are not. Once you know this, you can spend your time and money more efficiently when running marketing campaigns. You may also be able to identify how you can improve the marketing campaigns you are running so that they are more effective in the future.
Having comprehensive information on all of your marketing activities also adds predictability to your future marketing campaigns. If you know that you get, on average, 10 leads from every 100 sales calls, and you get 1 sale from every 10 leads, then you know that you need to make 100 calls to make a sale, so you know how much time and money needs to go into acquiring that 1 sale. If you also have data on the average profit from a single sale, you can estimate how much return on investment you will get from your sales calls.
What you should be monitoring
There are a number of key metrics you should be monitoring, depending on what marketing activities you are carrying out. Whether it’s social media, emails, blogs, cold calls, direct mail campaigns, online advertisements, there are valuable insights you can gain into your marketing and your customers by monitoring your efforts. Clicks, subscribes, likes, shares, sales, and inquiries are all important evaluators of the performance of your marketing.
Beyond the specific marketing activities you are carrying out, there are also more general areas you can monitor to provide useful insights. Measure your online influence and reputation, for example, to see how your brand is performing online more generally. You can also measure your customer satisfaction levels using customer surveys and feedback forms.
How to monitor your marketing
In order to effectively monitor your marketing campaigns, you first need to set goals in order to measure their success. Define specifically what it is you want each marketing activity to achieve. This allows you to objectively assess whether or not it has been successful.
Social media platforms and email delivery services generally all have monitoring tools built into them at no additional cost. These are really handy for measuring your marketing activity through these channels. Other aspects of your marketing, however, may be slightly more difficult to monitor. Luckily, there are plenty of tools available online to help you do this effectively. Here are a few monitoring tools you can incorporate into your marketing:
Measures your social influence online based on your activity across all social media channels and the level of engagement and interaction you receive.
Provides in-depth analysis of the performance of your website, monitoring and measuring a wide variety of metrics and KPIs. You can also set goals on the platform to define the success of your website. You can install Google Analytics on your website for free.
Know exactly how your Google Adwords campaign is performing with this free online tool. Gives you an insight into how well your campaign is performing and how it can be improved.
Allows you to create customer feedback surveys to monitor your customer service and customer satisfaction.
Use tracking numbers to find out more about the people who are calling you. This tool tells you what channel someone comes from before they call you.
Put all of your marketing analysis into one easy-to-understand report using this tool.
If you don’t already have processes or tools in place for marketing your monitoring, have a look at some of the ones recommended here and start monitoring and measuring today.
- Read more
We’ve already shared some of the key reasons why your business should be blogging, and given you tips on what you can blog about. Now it’s time to delve deeper into your content strategy and answer the question of how often you should write blogs and share them with your audience.
Is more always better for blogging?
If you look for an answer to this question online, you’ll probably find blogging experts telling you the only way to get a decent amount of readers and subscribers to your blog is by posting every day. However, this advice is generally geared more towards dedicated bloggers, rather than businesses who have a blog page on their website that is connected to their business.
Having said that, research from Hubspot found that the more blogs a company publishes each month, the more traffic it gets to its website. This is mostly because publishing blogs to your websites improves the likelihood of people finding it through search engines. The research showed that companies that blogged 11 or more time per month saw 2-3 times more traffic to their website than companies that blogged less than this. These figures did vary depending on the size of the company, though. Both B2C and B2B companies saw a link between more blog posts and higher traffic, although there was much more of an increase for B2C business.
Quality and quanitity – Find your balance
Don’t panic because you don’t have the time to blog every day. It is, generally, a better practice to spend more time writing blogs with really good quality and useful content, rather than writing lots of rushed, poorer quality blogs just so you can update your blog every day. It all depends on how much time you have. Identify the balance between how much you’d like to blog and how much you are able to.
It’s more important that you set a routine that you can stick to. You’ve probably got plenty of other jobs to be worrying about in your business, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself when it comes to blogging. Create a schedule for posting a blog once a week, once every two weeks, or even once a month. It is better to keep a consistent schedule so your readers know when to expect a new blog from you. If your content is good enough, they’ll look forward to it each week or month.
If you can post more often than once a week, then that’s great! Plus, all of the content that you’ve already published will continue to bring in more traffic and new leads. Every post you publish will add to the bank of content on your website that is constantly working at bringing in new leads, with no additional effort on your part.
Find time to write
If you plan to publish a weekly blog, you might find it easier to set aside one day where you write four or five blog posts for the entire month. You can then schedule them and you don’t have to write anymore until next month. If you are not a very confident writer, then this can help to take some of the pressure off, giving you a dedicated time to focus solely on blog writing.
Decide how often you can publish blogs and create a content calendar for the month, six months, or year ahead. Give yourself a detailed plan such as this and you are much more likely to stick to it. This will make your content strategy much more effective. Just remember, quality over quantity.
- Read more
In a previous blog, we explained some of the key benefits of maintaining a blog for your business. Now that we’ve got you convinced, it’s time to overcome the next hurdle; what to write about. It can be difficult to know what to blog about. Maybe you’re new to business blogging and have no idea where to start, or you’ve been blogging for a while and are starting to run out of ideas.
There is, actually, so much scope when it comes to content for your business blog. It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, there are plenty of ideas. Obviously, your blog topics will depend on what your company does, but here are a few general ideas of what your business can blog about.
Now, you don’t want to talk about your business too much, as this can end up feeling a little self-indulgent and might bore your audience. However, a little bit of this is acceptable, and even recommended. Important news about your business is likely to be of interest to your audience. This could be a change in location, a new hire, a new service, or an event you are organizing.
Solve a problem
Think about the problems that your customers regularly come to you with. Each problem you can think of is a perfect topic for a blog. You could also research online to find out what common problems people come up against related to your industry. Answer people’s questions, clarify the meaning or significance of something, take them through a process. Whatever you have expertise on, share it with your audience. This will build more trust with them as they realize that you really know what you are talking about and are willing to help.
Latest industry news
Has something big just happened that affects your industry? Blog about it! Keeping people up-to-date with the latest occurrences in your industry shows that you are a valuable source of information. Whether this news affects people working in your industry or people buying from you will affect the tone in which you write your blog, so keep this in mind.
Show your audience what your company does and how it helps its customers by posting a case study that illustrates a real-life experience. With the customer’s permission, of course, outline a particularly successful experience you have had with a customer, from how or why they came to seek out your services, to what you did for them and what benefits they got out of it. If you can get some positive quotes from the customer to add in there, that’s even better.
When you’re really stuck for ideas, try checking out your competitors’ sites to see what they are blogging about. We’re not saying you should copy their blogs. What you write about should provide unique value to your audience, but you might get some inspiration for the type of topics you could focus on. You can also check out content curation websites, such as Feedly and Buzzsumo, that will gather some of the most popular and recent articles from around the web related to the topic of your choice, so you can see what people are talking about and interested in reading about.
If you’ve been blogging for a while and feel like you’ve dried up all potential topics, try looking back on your old blogs to see if there is any content you could repurpose for new blogs. Take a topic you’ve already covered and put a new spin on it or update it to make it current. If you are really stuck for ideas, there are actually websites out there that will generate blog titles for you based on keywords you input. They are quite generic, but they might just give you some inspiration. Check out HubSpot’s blog topic generator.
- Read more
It feels good when a customer comes back to purchase from you again and again because you know that you have done your job well. Either they were happy with what they bought from you, they liked the customer service you provided, they trust you to keep delivering on your promises, or all of the above. Whatever the situation, they are a satisfied customer and they show this by coming back for more. That’s customer loyalty!
Having loyal customers like this, ones that provide repeat custom, is great for business. Firstly, you reduce the amount spent on the marketing and advertising necessary to acquire new customers. Secondly, returning customers have been shown to spend more on subsequent purchases than new customers do on initial purchases. Finally, loyal customers are more likely to recommend you to their peers, bringing in even more business.
Loyal customers are, clearly, a desired commodity in the business world. So, how do you go about getting them? You don’t want to be relying on lowering your prices in order to win customers over your competitors, so how else can you do it? Here are a few strategies for encouraging customer loyalty.
What sets your business apart from the rest? You should have something about you that no one else in the market has. Think about how you can provide value to your customers so that they feel compelled to come back to you. This could be related directly to what you sell or it could be about how you sell it or where you sell it, for example. You need to have a unique selling point that makes you stand out from your competitors.
Even if the product or service that you are selling is top-notch, if your customer service is poor, then customers are much less likely to return. Greet them with a smile and be willing to help at every step of the way. If a customer has a complaint or a problem, whether they get in touch in person, over the phone or online, make sure that you address their problem politely and effectively. If you hire employees, it’s important that they are also attentive, friendly and helpful at all times.
Make them feel special
No one wants to be just another number in a long list of customers. We want to feel like we actually matter to the business and that they care about us for more than just the cash in our pockets. Go the extra mile to make your customers feel special. Get to know your regular customers and talk to them whenever they visit. If you have access to your customers’ home addresses, you could send a birthday or Christmas card to them each year to show that you care.
If you already have loyal customers that repeatedly buy from you, surprising them with a free gift with their purchase or with a special discount will make them feel really special. You can also create an incentive for customers to buy from you again by creating a loyalty card scheme. For example, a coffee shop could offer a free drink after you purchase five drinks in store. Many businesses implement this with a simple card, stamping it for customers whenever they make a purchase. Make sure that you advertise the loyalty scheme so that people know they will be rewarded if they come back.
The key is to give your customers a reason to come back. Whether it’s because you sell the best quality products, have the friendliest staff, or you offer discounts to loyal customers. You should always be willing to go the extra mile to ensure that your customers want to come back to visit your business again.
- Read more
Marketers have been claiming for years that cold calling is dead, and we wouldn’t blame you for agreeing with them. Just think about how you feel when you receive a cold call? Most would say, annoyed, inconvenienced, and irritated. When you consider this as the default reaction to picking up a cold sales call, you might wonder how they ever actually manage to convert to a sale.
Are marketers really ready to ditch cold calling entirely? Many businesses still see it as an important part of their marketing mix, whereas others dispute its effectiveness. Here are a few pros and cons of cold calling to help you decide.
- More personal – Talking to someone over the phone is more personal than talking to them online. When you can hear someone’s voice, you have the benefit of hearing the tone they are speaking in. This can instantly give you an idea of whether they are interested or not, which can be disguised better when communicating online.
- Less passive – On social media you often have to wait for people to come to you. If someone just isn’t interested, then you can find this out within 10 seconds of them answering the phone. You can then move onto the next lead rather than waiting around for a response that might never come.
- Less competition – Online, everyone is competing for your customers’ attention. When someone answers your call, they have to either pay attention or hang up. In a one-to-one phone call, you don’t have to compete with others for your prospect’s attention.
- Calls go unanswered – People are generally warier of sales calls these days. With the help of caller ID technology, they are also well-trained at spotting them. Many people simply won’t answer the phone to a number they do not recognize.
- Bad reputation – There is a stigma associated with cold calling. Most people just don’t like it, so if they receive a cold call from you with little to no other knowledge about your company, this is a bad first impression to make. This might give them a negative perception of your business.
- Time consuming – With such a low conversion rate, you could spend all day making cold calls and come out with absolutely no positive results. This is time that you could have dedicated to other marketing activities.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be abandoning cold calling altogether. Instead, we should evolve it to fit better in today’s marketing landscape with a technique the experts are calling ‘warm calling’. By using digital platforms and analytics tools, you can identify individuals who have shown an interest in your business by following you on social media, downloading a resource from your website, or subscribing to receive your e-newsletter, for example. If you contact people who already have some knowledge and, hopefully, interest in your business and what it offers, then they are less likely to see it as a nuisance call and more likely to convert.
Ecommerce sites adopt similar principles; if you add an item to your shopping basket on Amazon, for example, but don’t proceed to buy it, then they will send you an email in the next couple of days reminding you of this product, showing you similar suggestions, or even offering you a discount if you continue with your purchase. You could also apply this to sales calls, which is a more direct and personal approach than an email, and is more difficult to ignore.
So, chances are that cold calling is not going to be your secret to overnight success, but with hard work and determination, it could contribute towards achieving results from your marketing strategy and achieving more sales and higher profits. Perhaps it just needs a little innovation to bring it into the modern era.
- Read more
Video is a massive phenomenon on the internet. It seems like you can’t go anywhere online without seeing a video of a cat or someone doing something stupid in the name of entertainment. However, video is not just good for trivial things such as these. It is also an incredibly powerful tool for businesses to promote themselves, raise brand awareness and develop trust with their audience.
Just take a look at some of these impressive stats about video marketing:
- Each day, Americans watch the equivalent of 8,061 years of video on YouTube alone.
- Businesses that use video benefit from 41% more traffic to their website.
- Landing pages containing video experience 80% higher conversion rates.
- 70% of marketers claim video wins more conversions than any other content type.
These stats indicate the undeniable benefit of incorporating video into your marketing mix. Despite this, many small businesses avoid it because they believe they do not have a large enough marketing budget to create high quality videos. Poor quality videos are likely to have a negative effect on a brand’s reputation, but you don’t have to spend the big bucks for a great marketing video.
Here are a few tips on how to create professional-looking videos on a budget.
Prepare your script
Create a clear plan about what your video is going to be about first. It could be an introduction to your company and staff, a video testimonial from customers, a how-to guide or tutorial, a product demonstration, and the list goes on.
If you’ve got a talented writer in your team, you can save money on hiring a professional. Whoever writes it, make sure a few people check the script to confirm that it reads well and delivers the right message.
Prepare your actors
If you have members of your team who are comfortable in front of an actor, then this, again, will save you some money. Make sure they speak clearly and confidently, and that it comes across as natural. Actors should be well-rehearsed going into shooting so that they are more comfortable with the script.
You don’t need expensive equipment to shoot your video. Video cameras are available at fairly reasonable prices if you have the budget for it, but if not, your smartphone or webcam on your computer can do the trick if it’s a recent model with a good quality camera.
The microphone on your smartphone or computer should be enough, but for even better sound quality it is worth investing in a lapel microphone for your actor. If you’re shooting on a smartphone, I would also recommend a tripod to avoid shaky filming.
Try to find a room with plenty of natural lighting to shoot your video in. Overhead lights will cast shadows across the face of your actors, so try to avoid these. If your room isn’t well-lit, you can position desk lamps behind the camera to provide more even lighting for your subject. Use a location where you can shoot against a solid colored background, or else you can hang up a sheet of colored paper behind the subject.
Try to also eliminate any background noise as this can be very distracting. Turn off any heating or air conditioning units and try to prevent any background chatter from people in the building. Shooting in an empty room can also affect the sound quality as it causes an echo. If you face this problem, try hanging blankets on the walls behind the camera to dampen the sound.
Just like your shooting equipment, you don’t need expensive editing software to put your finished product together. There are plenty of free or low-cost options that let you carry out basic editing techniques. You should have iMovie or Windows Movie Maker already installed, depending on whether you’re a Mac or Windows user. Take a look at some other options for free editing software.
And there you have it; a quality video for you to utilize in your marketing. When it comes to platforms for sharing videos, YouTube is obviously the go to for most. However, you should use multiple channels to try to get it seen by as many people as possible. Publish it on your website, share it on all your social media channels, and send it out in your email campaigns. Vine, Instagram and Snapchat all allow you to create your own short videos using your smartphone if you are looking for something a little less formal.
- Read more
Blogs are becoming more and more prolific online; experts, businesses and regular people alike are all starting up their own blog to tell the world their story. The good news is that you don’t have to be an expert writer or lead the most exotic life to get involved; blogging can be a great tool for any business, no matter what industry you are in. To convince you of this, here are our top 7 reasons for having a business blog.
Establish yourself as an expert
Publishing blogs related to your industry will help to establish you as an authority in it. Sharing the latest news, explaining how to do something, sharing information or providing a helpful guide to your customers and prospects will prove to them that you know what you are talking about. This will show them that you are an authority in your industry that they can trust, making them more likely to buy from you.
Willingness to help
By showing your readers that you are willing to help by providing them with useful information, tips and advice, even before they have shown any interest in buying from you, you help to build a good relationship. Your readers will be happy to come to you for advice in the future, and are much more likely to buy from you than a competitor who hasn’t helped them out before.
Google and other search engines love fresh content. By updating your website content or adding new pages to it, Google sees that your website is still relevant and are more likely to point people towards it when they search for keywords found on your site. Having a blog on your website that you update regularly is one of the easiest ways to keep your website content up-to-date.
Another way your blog acts as an SEO tool for your website is through the content you write. It can be difficult to fit all of the necessary keywords in your website content without making it look spammy. Content stuffed with keywords will put your readers and search engines off. If you write blogs about topics related to your business, you can add more naturally occurring keywords to your website. This means your website will be easier to find through search engines.
Sharing interesting and engaging content on your business blog will encourage readers to share it with people they know. If someone shares a link to your blog on their social media profiles or their own blog, then this creates more inbound links to your blog page. This is also good for SEO because Google likes to see that real people are interested in your content and want to share it. If Google sees this, they will be more likely to suggest it to others. This will also help to increase traffic to your website, which is always a good thing.
With more traffic to your website also comes the potential of more leads. When people land on one of your blogs, it’s important that the content is interesting and engaging enough to make them want to continue reading. Include a call to action at the bottom of the blog to increase the likelihood of them converting; a call for them to contact you or a link to download a free eBook, for example.
The final benefit to creating a business blog is that it can be done entirely for free. Blogging platforms such as WordPress and Hubspot allow you to create and maintain your own blog at no cost, and you don’t have to be a tech-whiz to figure it out. Obviously, there will be costs involved if you’d rather hire a professional to design or write you blog for you. If you’re undecided, take a look at some of the pros and cons of hiring a freelancer for your blog.
These are just a few benefits of having a blog for your business, but there are many more advantages to blogging. If we’ve convinced you, then it’s time to take some action and start your own business blog.
- Read more
The key to success in your market is differentiating yourself from your competitors. Many companies may offer the same as you and deliver it in a similar way, so why should someone choose you over them? You need to create a unique selling proposition (USP) or a unique value proposition (UVP) to make yourself stand out in the market and give customers a reason to come to you.
USP vs. UVP – What’s the difference?
Both concepts serve a similar purpose, but what is the difference between them? Your USP is, essentially, something that your business does that no one else does, something your products have that no other products have, something your service is that no one else’s service is. If you offer the cheapest prices, your products are good for the environment, or your customer service is the fastest around, these are all unique selling propositions.
Your UVP, on the other hand, focuses more on the value that your business provides its customers with, rather than focusing on the features of your products or business. Your UVP tells your customers why they should buy your product based on the value they will receive from it. For example, your smartphones may be made with the strongest titanium alloys, but what does this mean for the customer? Your UVP could relate to the fact that you sell smartphones that are tough enough to withstand falling out of your pocket.
How to identify your USP and UVP
Defining your USP and UVP should go hand-in-hand because, for a strong strategy, the two should interlink. Your USP should communicate your UVP to your target market using language they understand and that resonates with them.
Sit down with your team and brainstorm ideas about what is unique about your company, your product or your service. Consider your target market. Hopefully, you already have a clear idea of who you are targeting. Think about who they are, what they want and what motivates them. How does your business satisfy their needs or solve their problems? How will your customers benefit after buying from you? And, how is this different from if they were to buy from a competitor?
Having a deep understanding of your audience will not only help you to determine what is unique about you that they will value, but will also give you a good idea of how you can effectively communicate this concept to them. Think about what language they use and what they will identify with.
A valuable value proposition
When identifying your unique propositions, you should also concentrate on what will benefit you in a sustainable way. For example, selling yourself as the coffee shop with the lowest prices may draw in lots of business at first, but will it ultimately be profitable for you? You may find yourself in a price war with a local competitor, where the two businesses are constantly lowering their prices to compete with the other. At the end of this, both businesses lose out because they are not charging enough to make a worthwhile profit.
Another consequence of this strategy is that it might have a negative effect on how people perceive your value. Cheap prices are often associated with poor quality products. Even if this is not true for you, people may start to wonder why your prices are so low, and make assumptions about the product or service you are offering as a result.
It might be that you and your competitors are extremely similar, so you will need to have a serious think about what your customers value the most about you and what you can offer them that no one else can. MindTools provides a useful process to follow to identify your USP, along with a handy worksheet to download.
A marketing strategy that involves a strong, interrelated USP and UVP can really help you to stand out from the crowd and attract more and more customers to you.
- Read more
Think about how many times you check your phone throughout the day? We live in a time where our smartphones are no longer considered as a luxury, but as a necessity that we can’t get through the day without. Low battery or no signal have become symbols of fear in today’s society, and we rely on our smartphones to provide us with all kinds of information and entertainment. Because many of us have developed this dependency, businesses have are presented with almost limitless potential to tap into with mobile marketing.
SMS marketing, or text message marketing, is one area that more and more businesses are starting to take advantage of, particularly B2C businesses. Here are just a few of the benefits of using SMS marketing when targeting consumers.
Cost and time effective
Unlike other marketing methods, text messages cost pennies, and can be even cheaper when done in bulk. So, you can send an SMS to your entire database for a relatively low cost. When compared to direct mail, you don’t have to spend money on paper, envelopes, ink and postage. SMS campaigns also take you less time to prepare; sure, you might need to do some research initially to determine your best strategy when it comes to SMS marketing, but creating and sending a text message is a fairly quick job.
Delivered within seconds
Not only are text messages quick for you to prepare and send, they’re even quicker to receive. The average time it takes to deliver a text message is just seven seconds after you hit send. Plus, research shows that more than 90% of people read text messages within three minutes of receiving them, so the time from you sending a text message to the recipient reading it is minutes.
Send relevant, current information
The fact that text messages get into the hands of your customers so quickly means you can send up-to-date information to your customers without hardly any delay in them receiving the information. This gives businesses a huge amount of potential with SMS marketing. Most people are never far away from their phone, and this applies to shoppers as well. If you send a text message alerting your customers to a limited time sale you have on and they are shopping near your location, they will be able to respond immediately by visiting your store.
You can also create a degree of exclusivity to your SMS marketing by sending out offers and information that are specific to your mobile database. For example, send a text message with a discount code that only applies if you show the text message to a member of staff in store. This will give your customers an incentive to give their phone number to you and will make them feel special as they are getting access to deals that other customers aren’t.
High open rate
People have almost become desensitized to emails from businesses. We’re used to receiving so much spam on a daily basis that we either ignore or delete it. We’ve become skilled at quickly recognizing what is and is not of interest to us. As a result, open rates go down and unsubscribes go up. Text messages, on the other hand, have a much higher open rate than emails. You also don’t have to worry about battling with spam filters. In fact, figures as high as 98% have been reported when it comes to SMS open rates. Practically everyone you communicate with over text will see your message. That’s a very impressive figure, but how many of those are actually interested in what you have to say? According to Tatango, the average SMS marketing click-through rate is 36%. This puts it way above email marketing which only has a 3.2% click-through rate.
More and more businesses are getting such profitable results from SMS marketing. It’s time to think about how you can incorporate it in your marketing mix. An average of 20 billion text messages are sent each day in 2015. Why not add your marketing messages to this statistic?
- Read more
No matter how good your website looks and how effective the content is at encouraging readers to engage, it’s useless if no one can find it. To make your website a success when it comes to generating leads and making sales, you need people to visit it first.
There are many different ways people can land on your website; one of these routes is through a search engine such as Google or Bing. With so many websites competing for the top spots in the search results, it can be difficult to get your website seen. This is where search engine optimization comes in.
Optimizing your website for search makes it more likely that people will see your website on the first couple of pages of search results when they search for keywords that are relevant to you. Here are a few basic SEO tips to help get your website found online.
Think about keywords and phrases that are most important to your business, and what people are likely to search for if they are looking for your product or service. Incorporate these keywords into your content, especially in the page titles, headings and URLs. Don’t overdo it, though, as Google penalizes web pages for keyword stuffing. Make sure you don’t affect the readability of the content by adding in your keywords excessively and where they don’t make sense.
The more informative and rich content you have on a page, the more you will be rewarded by Google. Guidelines have been suggested in the past of a minimum of 250 or 300 words per page in order for it to be indexed by Google. However, Google employees have also stated that quality is more important than quantity. Don’t just focus on word count; make sure any content you have is high quality.
Avoid duplicating content on your website, as doing this will get that page penalized by Google. Always stick to original content; if you are repurposing an old blog or content from another website, rewrite it enough so that it appears as original content to search engines. This means you shouldn’t publish the same blog word for word on more than one website or copy and paste content from other websites to your own. Tools such as Siteliner identify any duplicate content on your website.
Link building exposes your content to more users, helping to drive traffic to your website. It also puts you in Google’s good books as it shows that other people are interested in your content enough to share it. Focus on adding content to your website that people will find useful or interesting. Your audience is more likely to share interesting content on social media or on their own website, which serves as good quality inbound links.
When you publish a page on your website, you will be able to specify a meta title and meta description. The meta title should be a relevant title for the page and the meta description should provide a summary of the page. These are displayed in the search listing for your page, giving the user an idea of what it is about. Try to include some keywords in there, but natural, readable content is still more important.
Google wants to recommend the best websites to their users, in terms of usability as well as relevance. If your site loads slowly or is difficult to navigate, then you will be penalized for this. This lowers your chances of getting a good spot in search results. There are various tools available that test the speed of your website and give you recommendations on how to improve it. Try Google’s page speed insights for starters.
Google loves fresh content. It proves to them that your website is active and therefore still relevant to their users. This means Google is more likely to recommend your site in their search results. Adding fresh content or updating existing content is a good way to keep your website in the running for search engine results. Having a blog or news page is a simple way to add new content on a regular basis.
SEO best practices are constantly changing, so it can be difficult to retain those top spots in the search results. Starting off by following these SEO tips should see your website traffic start to increase.
- Read more
Digital marketing is fast becoming business’ go-to for generating leads and brand awareness, through avenues such as the company website, social media, emails and online advertisements. Not everything has to be done online, though, and there are still plenty of opportunities for marketing your business and getting your name out there in more traditional ways, such as business networking.
Since more and more business communications are taking place online, meeting someone and talking to them face-to-face can be a novel experience. A face-to-face meeting is often a more memorable and genuine one that will get your voice heard and your message remembered. Business networking is not just about taking an hour off work to drink some coffee and have a chat; it’s a valuable opportunity to grow your business that you should be taking advantage of, and a skill you should learn to master.
Here are 5 steps to get you networking like a pro and bringing more leads into your business.
Find the right networks
The first step is to determine which networking events you want to attend. Some will suit you better than others, so try out as many as you want before settling on the ones you want to join. Some networks will require you to pay for membership, so make sure it’s the right fit before committing to it.
Take frequency of meetings into consideration as well. Some groups meet weekly whereas others meet monthly or quarterly, so take this into consideration when deciding which ones to join. Also pay attention to the types of people who attend and how many people are at the events.
Attending the events on a regular basis will help you to meet lots of new people, and also to build strong relationships with the other regular members of the group. Don’t commit to joining too many groups or you’ll find yourself with not enough time to maintain your attendance at them all. It’s better to focus on one or two groups that you know will bring you quality leads rather than spreading yourself too thin.
Networking is all about meeting new people. Some people might not feel comfortable doing this, but it will get easier the more you attend. Try to talk to as many people as you can within the time of the meeting, especially new people that are visiting. Don’t make it your mission to talk to every person in the room, though. Try to strike a balance so that you talk to a good number of people, but the conversations you have are valuable, rather than introducing yourself and then quickly rushing off to the next person.
If you’ve had a conversation with someone and found that there’s some way you can help each other out, make sure you live up to your promises. Make sure you live up to your word if you’ve said you’ll call them the next day or send them some information by email. If you forget, then they’re likely to forget as well, and nothing will come out of your exchange. Either that, or they’ll be waiting for you to follow up and will think that you’re unreliable for not doing so, discouraging them from working with you. Write down notes during or straight after the event to remind yourself.
It’s not just the people in the room that are potential leads, but also everyone that they know. Referrals are a powerful way of generating leads at little to no cost, so encouraging them is important. Simply building relationships with people and showing them that you’re trustworthy is a good start, but actively giving referrals to other people in your network will also encourage them to return the favor in order to maintain the relationship.
Business networking, when done properly, is a great way of making connections in your industry or the area you work in. Doing this can help you and your business become more successful. Like they say, it’s not what you know, but who you know.
- Read more
Blogs, social media posts, website content, emails, adverts…the list goes on. There is plenty of content that your business might need creating. However, it’s not always easy to find the time or the motivation to do it, and do it well. So, what’s the solution?
Rather than placing extra pressure on yourself or one of your employees to create high class content week in and week out, there is always the option of outsourcing your content writing to a professional. Some business owners might not feel comfortable doing this, however.
If you’re struggling with this decision? Here are a few pros and cons of outsourcing your content writing to a freelance writer.
Save time – There are plenty of things for you to be focusing on without having to worry about writing blogs or social media posts. Outsourcing to a professional gives you and your employees more time to spend on building and running a successful business.
Find someone with better writing skills – Not everyone can write well. If you know that your writing skills aren’t the best, that you’re prone to spelling mistakes or don’t fully understand where apostrophes belong, outsourcing to a professional might be your best option. This way, you know that good quality content is going out that has a positive effect on your reputation.
Get a layman’s insight – You know everything there is to know about your industry; all the ins and outs and every little complexity. Unfortunately, your audience might not. The reader might not understand your blogs if you fill them with technical language. If you hire someone who is less familiar with the subject, they are more likely to be able to communicate the topic in an easily digestible manner that your reader will understand.
Consistency – You start out with the best intentions, but then work starts piling up and the business blog gets put on the back burner. You know that content is regularly being created if you hire someone to write blogs for you. This gives you one less thing to worry about.
No one knows your business as well as you do – Any writer you hire, no matter how high their skill level is, will not know the intricacies of your business as much as you do. Sure, they can do their research, but it’s likely that you as a business owner or employee will still be able to communicate messages from your own business more effectively.
Not developing your own voice – By writing your own content, you will develop your own voice, as an individual or as a business, that you like to communicate in and that your readers become familiar with. If you hire a writer, they may have their own style of writing which is not attuned to yours. If you can find a good writer, however, they may be able to adapt their style of writing to the tone of voice you are looking for.
Cost – Obviously, there is a cost involved with hiring a professional writer. You may be able to find low-cost writers online, but will they be able to deliver the quality of work you are looking for? Trustworthy freelance writers that produce good quality content are likely to come at a higher price. You need to decide whether the return you get from having good quality content is worth the price you pay.
Hard to know who to trust – There are plenty of people out there claiming to be the best writers. How do you know who you can trust? There’s always a chance that you hire someone who doesn’t meet deadlines or provides you with poor quality content. Ask to see samples of their work before choosing who to hire to get an idea of their writing skill.
The best solution will be different for each business. If you don’t think you have the time or the ability to write content that will look good on your website and encourage interaction, then hiring someone to write it for you is probably the best option.
If you are struggling with time but are still determined to do it yourself, try devoting one day out of the month to blog writing. You can write a few at once and schedule them to go out for the rest of the month.
- Read more
When you send an email, only a percentage of the people on your mailing list will open the email, not everyone who opens it will actually read it, and fewer still will click on your calls to action. You need to think about how you can maximize these figures so that you get more people opening, reading and clicking on your emails. This all starts with the subject line.
When you’re flicking through a magazine or browsing a news website online, it is usually the headlines that grab your attention and make you decide whether that particular article is worth reading or not. Your email subject lines serve the same purpose as these headlines, so it is important to put some thought into them.
Here are a few tips on how to write subject lines that will get your emails read.
You first need to give your readers a reason to open the email, and this should be clear in the subject line. Don’t be vague; let them know specifically what they’ll get if they open and read your email. This, of course, means that you actually need to give them something of value within your email; this can be a discount or offer, or even a useful tip or a blog that provides them with helpful advice. Try to use language in the subject line that will pique their curiosity and make them want to find out more. Make sure that the content of the email actually delivers on what you promise in the subject line, or else people will become irritated, and your unsubscribe rates are likely to increase.
When writing sales and marketing emails, people tend to turn into a different person in the way that they write; they start to write like a corporate robot as opposed to a human being. Try to use natural language in your subject lines, as if you are just one person talking to another. Avoid using gimmicks and slogans, as this will appear less natural to the readers and they’re more likely to delete your email and even unsubscribe.
Including aspects of personalization in subject lines can often increase open rates, as the recipient knows that it is relevant to them. If you have information on all of the people on your mailing list, such as their first name or the city they live in, make sure this is recorded in your mailing list on your email service provider. You can then use merge tags such as *|FNAME|* to add this information into the subject line for each individual.
What’s the ideal subject line length?
There has been much debate about the optimum length of an email subject line and if it even matters at all. Some research has shown that a subject line of 6-10 words is ideal for increasing open rates, whereas the team at MailChimp have claimed that it doesn’t mean a thing.
While length might not be the main thing you should worry about when crafting your subject line, it does bear some significance. Email inboxes typically only show around 60 characters of the subject line in the preview of an email, and inboxes on mobile devices display even less. So, keeping your subject line concise will make it more likely that the recipient can actually read it before opening the email. Try to place the most important part of the message at the beginning of the subject line so that it is not cut off.
You’re most likely not going to get it perfect the first time and every time you send an email. This is where testing different variations of your subject lines and monitoring the campaign results comes in. Most email service providers offer A/B testing. This allows you to send two or more variations of the same email to different segments of your mailing list. You can then compare which performs better and send out the most effective one.
When testing, it’s a good idea to focus on just one element. Here are a few examples of different ways you can test your subject lines:
- Subject line personalized with the recipient’s first name vs. without personalization
- Short subject line vs. a longer subject line
- Capitalizing each word vs. only capitalizing the first word of the subject line
- Question vs. statement subject lines
- Spelling out numbers vs. writing them numerically
The people in everyone’s mailing lists aren’t the same, so it’s important to find out what works best for the people you are sending emails to. Follow the tips we have given you here and then test and monitor your email campaigns to see what kind of subject lines get you the best open and click rates.
- Read more
If your primary target market is other businesses, then the way you market your product or service will be different from businesses that target consumers as their main demographic. Businesses make buying decisions differently than consumers, and they look for different things in the businesses that they buy from. Because of this B2B marketing needs to be approached differently than B2C marketing.
Understanding business buyers
Generally speaking, businesses take more time and put more thought into a purchase before they make the final decision. Business buyers want to know as much as possible about your product or service. This allows them to make a well-informed decision about whether it is a good investment for their company. They are looking for someone who is trustworthy and credible, to assure them that your product or service will be high quality and worth the money they will be paying for it.
Professionalism in B2B marketing
When you are marketing towards other businesses, it is important that you come across as professional. A lot of factors can contribute towards creating a professional image. Your branding will probably make the first impression on a potential customer. Many B2B businesses opt for cool, corporate colors such as blues, blacks and greys to come across as more professional, whereas businesses with bright, fun colors like yellows and pinks are more likely to be targeting consumers. When choosing your brand colors, make sure they give off the right impression and match the tone of your business.
The way you write in all of your marketing communications is also very important for building a professional persona. Little things like spelling mistakes or grammatical errors on your website, social media, or any other copy associated with your business will make you seem sloppy and unprofessional. This might make your prospects think that this is reflected in the quality of your service as well. The language you use should remain professional, so avoid talking in slang or using text speak.
Don’t become a robot
All of this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t add some personal touches to your marketing. Although you want to present yourself as a professional business, your customers will still want to feel like they are dealing with a real person. They want to see the face behind the corporation so that they have someone to relate to.
Showing your your personality and addressing your audience as real people will help to build trust amongst your audience. This is just as important for B2B marketing as it is for B2C marketing. Businesses often make large purchases that are a big investment, so they need to be able to feel like they are buying from someone they know and trust. They want a brand they can come back to if they have any problems or other needs to fulfil.
There are simple ways you can make your B2B marketing more personal. Start by actually talking to and engaging with your customers and prospects on social media, rather than simply posting sales messages all of the time. While you shouldn’t let your language become too casual, talking naturally will help build relationships with your customers. Otherwise, they will feel like they are communicating with an automated system employed by your business. Business networking events are a great opportunity to actually meet your target market in person and get to know them, what their job entails and what their business needs are. This give you a better idea of how you are able to meet these needs.
The key to successful B2B marketing is being able to find the perfect balance of both professional and personal elements in your marketing in order to build strong relationships and develop trust with your customers.
- Read more
Chances are, there are a lot of brands in your market that are selling similar products or services to you, and in a similar way. If you all have great products and great customer service, then how do you differentiate yourself? The answer is storytelling!
The way you position your brand and market it to potential customers makes all the difference. When it comes to content marketing, you need to create something that people will remember, and that will make you stand out. You need to create stories that people can engage with.
Research shows that people are much more likely to remember the details of a story than facts, figures and information about a brand. When reading a story, our brain reacts as it would if we were actually experiencing the events. Stories stimulate different parts of the brain, rather than just stimulating the part of the brain necessary to understand the meaning of the words. This means that people are more likely to remember your message and how it made them feel if you construct an engaging story with your content. For consumers, emotions play an important part in the process of deciding what to buy.
Consumers often make purchase decisions based on impulse, so you need to make sure that your brand is the one at the top of their mind when they next need to make a purchase. While this is less the case with B2B marketing, as business purchases generally involve a more in depth decision making process, telling a story and engaging with your audience is still a great way to differentiate yourself from your competitors and create a lasting impression. Here are a few tips for incorporating effective storytelling in your marketing.
Focus on the customer
When you’re advertising a product, don’t simply list all of the features and specifications of it. They might be impressive, but chances are that your potential customers don’t care, and might not even understand what the specifications mean. Create a narrative around how your product will benefit your customer, or tell a story about how it has helped real customers who have already bought from you.
The majority of people won’t care what materials and components go in to making their new smartphone. They care that it will help to connect them to the people they love and make their day-to-day life easier. Emphasizing these benefits in the form of a story is a great way to make them really resonate with your audience.
People can generally tell when they are being sold to as opposed to being talked to in a genuine way. Whether you are communicating with a customer in person, on your website, through social media or in your ad copy, try not to go over the top with sales talk and industry jargon. Simply talk like you would to your friends or family. Take a personable approach and people are much more likely to believe what you are saying.
Trust is an important part of selling, so your prospects need to be able to feel like they are talking to a genuine person who actually wants to help solve their problems, rather than just an employee trying to make a sale. Tell genuine stories based on values that you believe in. Tell stories about real people and the real benefits of your product. This will come across in your marketing and will help to build trust with your customers.
Use characters in your stories, whether real or made up, that your customers will be able to identify with and root for. For example, many businesses have a page on their website dedicated to introducing the team. This is a great chance to highlight the personalities of your members of staff and create a narrative around what they do, why they do it and how they got to where they are today.
People are much more likely to buy from a business when there is a personality that they can identify with. People like to associate the business with a real person, rather than just feeling like they are dealing with a corporate entity.
Whether it’s in your website copy, on social media, in your blogs or in advertisements, storytelling is the most effective way of differentiating yourself from your competitors and creating messages that your customers will remember you for.
- Read more
When it comes to creating or sharing content online, images are a great way to catch people’s attention and draw them in. Posts on social media are much more engaging if they are accompanied with an image. Eye-catching visuals encourage people to click and share. Blog posts with images as well as text are easier and more interesting to read. Getting the right, high quality image to illustrate your website is also important for giving a positive impression about your business.
We may not all have the time, skills or resources to create a unique image for every article or social media post we create, or the budget to hire a professional photographer. Luckily, there are resources online where you can download high quality, royalty-free images. Websites such as Shutter Stock, iStock and Dollar Photo Club all offer vast selections of photos at amazing quality, but they do require you to subscribe to their service or, alternatively, to pay per download.
As the name suggests, Dollar Photo Club costs just $1 per image. Shutter Stock offers a range of packages depending on your needs, starting from a basic package of two images for $29, five for $49 or 25 for $229. Beyond this, they also have professional and team packages, for which you pay a monthly fee. On iStock you can pay per image by purchasing credits, starting from 3 credits for $33. The more credits you purchase, the more you save. You can also subscribe to their essentials subscription for $90 per month, giving you access to 50 images per month.
While the prices are generally reasonable, if you don’t want to spend money on downloading images just yet, there are also a number of websites which offer stock images, free of charge. While they don’t have as wide a range as the premium websites, the images are still great quality and there’s a good selection to meet your needs. Here are our top 5 free image websites:
Pixabay has a huge collection of photos, illustrations, vector graphics, and even videos, all at a professional quality. You can search for an image you are looking for, or browse through their library by using their pre-set categories. Everything is completely free to use, and the majority of files do not require attribution, but make sure you check this for each image before using it for commercial purposes.
MorgueFile has an impressive library of high resolution images, and it’s easy to find what you are looking for with its handy search function. These images are completely free, with no attribution required. If you can’t find what you are looking for within the MorgueFile search results, you can also browse through premium photos from a variety of websites within the same search.
The name says it all! FreeImages has more than 388,277 free images and illustrations, according to its homepage. The images cover a variety of topics and styles. Although you a great deal of choice with this site, the quality of images doesn’t always match some of the other sites on this list, but there are still a lot of gems on there. Make sure you check the permission levels of the images on this site, because some of them may require attribution, but are still completely free.
If you are a food blogger or a restaurant owner, this website is perfect for you. Free, high quality photos of practically all the different types of food you could think of. You can browse through their images using their list of categories, or look for something specific using the search function. This website also offers premium photos, for which you pay a one-off payment to access a wider library of food images.
IM Free is a library of free images composed by the free website building tool, IM Creator. The images are all of amazing quality, rivalling those of premium image websites, and there are images in a range of categories for you to select from. Images you download from this website must be attributed to the original photographer, however.
So, next time you want to spruce up your website or add a little extra to your blog page or social media profile, check out any of these websites to find the perfect image to accompany your content. Make sure you check the permissions of any image you acquire to ensure that you do not breach copyright laws.
- Read more
At first glance, giving something away for free as a strategy for making money seems counter-intuitive; surely a business is only losing themselves money by offering out freebies, yet you see it a lot in the business world. Companies of all shapes and sizes aren’t afraid to give things away for free, and you shouldn’t be either, but, why?
Establishes trust and authority
Let’s take content as an example. As a business providing a service, you would think that you’d want to keep all of the industry secrets and insider knowledge to yourself, rather than trying to educate your audience about what you do. Then why do so many businesses write blogs just like this one to educate their audience about the very service that they provide?
There are many reasons why you should give information and advice away for free on your blog or even in more comprehensive content forms such as a downloadable eBook; most importantly, it establishes you as an expert in your field. If someone reads your blogs all about the intricacies of finance, then they’ll be convinced that you know what you’re talking about and are more likely to trust you to handle their finances. This doesn’t mean that they’re going to go away and do everything themselves; for the most part, people don’t have the time to manage their bookkeeping, market their business and handle their insurance, for example, so they rely on outsourcing these tasks to people and businesses that they trust.
Encourages people to try
Most of us are creatures of habit; we stick to what we are used to and are reluctant to try something new. Offering something for free is a great way to encourage someone to try your product or service, risk-free. Once they’ve tried it once, hopefully, they’ll like it and add you to their list of trusted providers, whether it’s a new breakfast cereal, hair products, or an exercise class.
Take this last one as an example. You’ve decided you want to get fit and are looking for a fun way to do it, but you’re scared to try something new in case you’re bad at it and end up embarrassing yourself and wasting your time and money. A business can take at least one of these factors out of play by offering you your first class for free, giving you a risk-free chance to try it out without committing to it.
Positive word of mouth
You want to spread the word about your business and create a buzz around what you are offering, and giving away freebies is one of the most effective ways of doing this. If someone receives something for free then they are much more likely to tell their friends or take to social media to share it with the world. A study from the Journal of Marketing Research found that people who received a free product talked about it 20% more than people who pay. This will attract more people to visit your shop or your website and will create a more positive reputation for your brand.
How can I make it work?
Obviously, you don’t want to give away your entire stock for free, or else you’ll end up with zero profits. Plus, giving away too much will lessen the perceived value of your brand as it will give the impression that your products aren’t worth very much. The key is to give away just enough to leave people wanting more, to create a perception of exclusivity among its recipients, and that what you are giving away is something valuable.
There are many more benefits other than the ones listed here, including encouraging loyalty in customers, building a strong relationship with them and giving them a sense of obligation to buy from you. So, start thinking about what you can give away for free, whether it’s free content, samples of products or a free consultation or review.
- Read more
Content has been all the rage in marketing over the last few years. Hopefully, you’ve already jumped on board, got yourselves a blog and signed up for various social media accounts so that you can share all the interesting content you create. Some businesses still haven’t been convinced of the benefits of content marketing; others still have been slogging away at it for years but aren’t getting the results they hoped for.
So, how can you make content marketing work for you?
These days, it’s not enough to simply post to Twitter each day promoting your latest products or write a blog post each week with the latest news from your industry. A company’s content marketing strategy needs to be varied and dynamic. There’s a lot of competition out there when it comes to interesting and engaging content online; everyone is trying to be seen or heard, so you need to make sure your content is grabbing the attention of your audience over everything else available to them.
Here are some ideas of different types of content that you should be sharing online:
Gather some interesting information and present it with some bold and attractive graphics; there you have infographics. The human brain processes visual information much faster than text, 600,000 times faster according to this infographic. Infographics present facts and statistics in a visually appealing format and in bite size pieces of text, so they’re much more engaging to the audience and are great for encouraging social shares. They can be difficult to make if you’re not a graphic designer, so you might want to hire a professional. This can cost upwards of $1,000 for the entire process, but you can do the research yourself to save the designer some time and you some money.
Along the same reasoning as infographics, images are a good tool for encouraging engagement on social media and in blogs. Buffer found that of the tweets sent by its users, those that contained images were shared 150% more than those without. Make sure the images are relevant to the content, though, rather than just sharing an image for the sake of it. Adding high-quality images to blog posts and breaking up the text with images is also good for attracting attention and improving the readability of the blog. You can download high-quality images from websites such as Shutterstock and iStock.
If content with images is a good way of attracting your audiences’ attention, moving images are even better. You don’t need a big budget to create quality videos anymore, either. You can now shoot videos from your smartphone and upload them to social media straight away. Try to keep videos reasonably short, though, as we tend to have quite a short attention span on the internet. Most people are looking for something quick and easy to watch.
Mostly due to this short attention span, animated GIFs have become one of the most popular forms of online content in recent years. Animated GIFs are short videos of a few seconds long that play on a loop. They are eye-catching and entertaining, and people share them a lot. Many GIFs are simply entertaining distractions, but if you can use them in a manner that is relevant to your marketing strategy, they could attract a lot of attention. You can even create your own GIFs for free online.
Every day, people take to the internet for advice or to answer a burning question. If you can help them out, your content will be very popular. Think about questions or problems that people commonly have regarding your industry. Once you’ve identified a problem, write a how-to article or create a how-to video to provide people with the answers they are looking for.
Of course, not all of these content types will suit every business or every idea that you have. The best strategy to take when choosing the perfect content type is to let the content guide you to the right form, not the other way around. Don’t start by thinking, “Okay, I want to make a video. What can it be about?” Once you have come up with an idea, you should then think about which form suits it best. Some ideas might not work as videos, but would be better suited to a blog post with a series of images, for example.
Have a think about which of these content types you can incorporate in your marketing strategy, and start creating engaging content that people will want to share.