How To Use Video Throughout The Buying Journey To Boost Conversions And Engagement

Don’t stop with a simple introductory video. Columnist Michael Litt explains how to create powerful content for every stage of the buying process.

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The play button is quickly becoming the most compelling call-to-action on the Web. Odds are you’ve been drawn in by that shiny triangle just begging you to click it.

While many marketers have started to see the power of video to engage audiences and educate potential customers about their brands, I still see way too many who create a broad introductory video and then call it quits. That, my friends, is a huge missed opportunity.

Yes, a top-of-funnel explainer video is important. Featuring it on your home page gives people a fast, easy and fun way to learn about what your company does and what your culture is like.

But if you’re going to close deals, you need to do more than make a good first impression. Today’s customers go through more than half — and often much more — of the buying process on their own, so it’s imperative that you have a complete video journey on your website to guide prospects along the path.

I’ll go into detail about what type of video content best fits with different points of the buying journey — or the “funnel,” as it’s commonly known — but first a quick word about how much content you need at different points.

As a general rule, you’ll need the smallest amount of content at the top of the funnel — my recommendation is roughly 15 percent. Then, I’d recommend about 25 percent for the educational stage. The bulk of your content — about 40 percent — should address the evaluation stage in the middle of the process. Finally, another 20 percent should help buyers justify the purchase.

Vidyard funnel 1

What Goes At The Top?

To get people’s initial interest, you need to aim wide. Create videos on high-level topics with broad appeal. Be authentic and talk about how you can help viewers reach their goals rather than push your specific products.

  • Fun Content Showcasing Your Company Culture. Show off your quirks. Include shots of a wide variety of your team. Do not, I repeat do not, just feature your CEO standing in front of the camera telling the audience about the company.
  • Thought Leadership Interviews. I know I just said not to feature your CEO standing in front of the camera, but a frank one-on-one chat with the boss, other execs or stars of your industry can be very appealing and help browsing customers understand your company’s vision and expertise. Plus, those types of videos tend to be shared widely on social networks.
  • How-To Content. Here’s another opportunity to showcase your expertise with some deeper content showing how your products or services address a variety of needs for customers.

These videos should be quick and to the point. Optimal length is about 30 to 90 seconds, and I’d encourage you to keep them to a minute unless you really have something important to say that takes more time.

At the top of the funnel, video can also be a great tool for lead generation. You probably don’t want to gate content when you’re trying to make that first impression, but you should definitely use calls to action during and at the end of a video to refer prospects to more in-depth content, which could require them to provide a name and email address for access.

Heading Toward The Middle Of The Funnel

Now that you’ve guided your audience to the point where they’re seriously considering paying for your services, it’s time to help them evaluate what you have to offer.

This is a great time to give them the tools they’ll need to justify a purchase to their bosses, and the way to do that is to show them you know what you’re talking about down to the deepest details and showcase how you’ve done it for others already.

  • Repurposed Webinar Content. Record your webinars and break them down into chapters so people can quickly find the topics they need. It will make you top-of-mind for authoritative content within your industry.
  • Detailed Product Demos. Show them how it all works. Give them a tour of what’s under the hood. Let them see how much effort you’ve put in and how you’ve given attention to detail while building your solution.
  • Client Testimonials And Video Case Studies. Assuming you already have a few satisfied customers, you can feature them here. There’s no better advocate than a satisfied customer. Let them sing your praises for you. Set up what their business problem was, and walk viewers through how you helped them solve it. Bonus points for providing hard metrics on the results.
  • Integration Demos. In this day and age, odds are good that your service works even better when paired up with someone else’s products or services. No doubt there is a key service in your customers’ ecosystem. Show how you can help them get more out of the services they’re already using.

Optimal length ranges from 2 to 10 minutes, depending on the content. It’s probably not realistic to expect someone at this stage to commit to more than that.

Take that hour-long webinar and break it into six different chapters. Keep that customer testimonial to a minute or two.

The middle of the funnel is also a good place to start introducing email gates to collect contact information. Don’t worry about scaring your buyers away. At this point, they’ve already invested time to learn what they can, and they’ll be ready for some direct contact and more targeted content.

Sealing The Deal

Videos can be extremely helpful when prospects get closer to becoming paying customers, and after the fact, videos can reinforce their feeling that they made the right choice.

  • Nurture Campaign Videos. Keep in touch with videos tied to specific campaigns. Know someone is going to attend an event? Create a nurture video to encourage a meet-up, or promote how your service connects to that of the event sponsor.
  • A Good FAQ Video can come in really handy as a follow-up to a conversation with a prospect who’s getting close to a decision. Send a note thanking them for the chat, and refer them to the FAQs to learn more.
  • Check-ins. Use a personalized video to check in with new customers. Ask them how the ramp-up has been. Are they starting to see the benefits? Do they have any questions? Do they need any specialized instruction?
  • Instructional Videos. Getting up and running with a new service often leads to a bunch of new questions that hadn’t come up before. This is a great time to cover specific issues and also to showcase your amazing support team.

Optimal length here can vary quite a bit. Obviously, these viewers are looking for more detailed information and are more likely to consume a 5- or 10-minute video.

As with any content, you need to keep your audience in mind and respect their time. Just because someone wants a deep instructional video doesn’t mean they want it to last 45 minutes when it could be done concisely in 15.

The end of the customer journey is a great time to use calls to action to promote related materials — demos, free trials, FAQs. While you’ll want to make yourself easy to reach for your new customers, there will be times when you’re not available. A good video addressing their needs can serve as a good substitute in the meantime.

Video is powerful and persuasive. Done well, it can help buyers work their way down the path to purchase at their own pace and complement your other sales and marketing efforts.

Just make sure you map your content to that path, build the right mix of content, and be ready to start connecting your video marketing to that all-important bottom line.

Original source – MarketingLand.com

30 Effective Social Media Tactics Worth Testing for Yourself [Infographic]

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You never know for sure which social media tactics are going to deliver for you.

Even the task of defining “effective” is a challenge. Your definition of success may differ from, well, anyone’s. Social media evolves at the speed of screen flicker. There simply are no steadfast rules.

So in order to find what works for you you need to keep experimenting. In this post we will try to provide you with some new ideas to try in your social media engagement efforts.

Based on 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report and additional research conducted by Barry Feldman, here is a an infographic on 30 Effective Social Media Tactics.

We hope you find this information useful!

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Written by Barry Feldman for HubSpot

 

Market Intelligence Is Evolving. Are You Ready?

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A director of market intelligence at a Fortune 50 company called me last week. He wanted my advice about how to recharge the competitive intelligence process in his company. I have been getting more calls like that in the last six months than in the last decade. It seems that competition has intensified for many global companies, yet their available competitive intelligence is no longer sufficient. They erroneously think that it’s a matter of getting more competitor data. They are dead wrong.

The director from that company, a global powerhouse in its industry and a household name around the globe, was tasked with providing competitive intelligence to the marketing organization of two units of his company, and the two units had a completely different view of what constituted competitive intelligence. He was lost.

Dominant Players Accepting Death

One of the units in that Fortune 50’s company was the “cash cow” with a dominant market share and slowly declining but still enormously profitable business. Its marketers considered competitive intelligence to be market “news,” mostly product and technical tidbits about competitors. When the director sent them this “news,” they only occasionally followed up with questions. I call this the “push” model.

Since the users had little actual use for the data and reports, the director’s job performance was assessed by productivity: the number of reports sent per period. This is typical in many marketing organizations in leading (and often complacent) companies. It’s also a complete waste of money. Only data worshippers think that is a good use for scarce corporate resources. My director client knew that it was a waste of time and money, but his audience—the dominant unit’s senior marketers and product managers—were too set in their ways to ask tough questions about the value of such “competitive intelligence.” In short, this gigantic unit accepted its continuous march toward death and basically waited it out. The marketers didn’t see any other use for competitive intelligence aside from cursory monitoring of competitors’ moves.

The SEW Process

The other unit was the “star” of this company and garnered a lot of attention from top management, Wall Street and the press. The unit was in a hotly contested competitive arena, coming from behind, and analysts regarded its success as crucial to the company’s future prospects. The top executive in this unit wanted strategic intelligence, not “news.” As he said it, he can read The Wall Street Journal for news. The director was asked to run a war game known as Landscape to help create the strategy going forward for that unit. The success of the war game established his credibility. With credibility came a willingness to rethink the whole market intelligence paradigm. Instead of a costly competitor data dump, the director started implementing a strategic early warning (SEW) process. The principles behind a SEW are simple and powerful if done correctly: Replace the volume of “reports” with substance and replace a “nice to have” mindset with measurable impact on projects and decisions. This is what I call the “pull” model.

Do you remember Continental Light? No? There’s a reason for it. In the ’90s, as discount airlines started to make an impact, Continental Airlines decided to join the game and operate a low-cost unit, Continental Light. After two short years and a loss of $300 million, the company learned the hard way that it was impossible to run high-quality and low-quality operations under the same roof.

It’s the same for market intelligence, and marketers should heed this lesson: Buying a lot of data, and crawling the Internet and social media for competitor data, doesn’t provide one iota of strategic insight. It provides mostly noise at a high price. If you have money to spare, keep going.

The Abuse of Competitive Intelligence

Close to 60% of competitive intelligence positions are in marketing organizations. The natural tendency of marketers is to consume a large amount of tactical “news”—not because it actually affects their decisions or their ultimate performance, but because this is the nature of work in a large company. Few question the fundamental value of the mountain of information that they receive, despite evidence that it is the lack of big-picture competitive insight, which is a major cause of decline, not the insufficient detailed information on competitors. Sony, Hitachi, P&G and McDonald’s are just a few examples of companies that fell on hard times despite heaps of marketing information available to their management.

The irony is that a strategic early warning process is cheaper—both in human resources required and in budget—than the old “push” model of competitor minutia. CMOs need strategic insight on a macro competitive arena scale. One company’s CMO instructed his analyst to provide data on close to 100 competitors. What type of data can make a difference if you think 100 companies are worthy of close attention as competitors?

What’s Common to Twitter and FAO Schwarz?

The lack of understanding of competitive intelligence by marketing organizations can have consequences far beyond just wasting scarce corporate resources. Take two recent examples: Twitter and FAO Schwarz. Twitter’s marketers achieved a remarkable feat of 90% brand awareness. FAO Schwarz is a brand with a 150-year legacy with unparalleled name recognition in toys. By all traditional measures, marketing has done a tremendous job with both brands. Yet last month, Twitter’s CFO was appointed its CMO because the company hasn’t found a way to monetize its brand power. FAO Schwarz’s iconic store location in New York is closing in July. The owner, Toys “R” Us, admitted that the huge traffic in the store never translated into purchasing.

Here are some questions that an astute CMO reading about Twitter and FAO should ask himself or herself, the kinds of questions that would lead to gathering the right kinds of competitive intelligence:

· Am I responsible for profitability or only for increasing market share/brand awareness? The answer depends on how strategic the marketing function is.

· Do I have an objective perspective on the big-picture competition out there? The answer depends on what CMOs consider “big-picture.” Many mistake it for direct competitors.

· Do I get a reading on early signs of trouble and windows of opportunity? The answer depends on how CMOs define “early” and their tolerance for uncertainty.

· If I knew every detail of my direct competitors’ plans for the next five years, would it make a difference in my strategy? To answer that, think hard: Have any of your five-year plans made it through market changes?

· What is the role of market intelligence in my organization? Is it a glorified Flipboard? A data junkie’s dream? Is it worth the investment?

What’s Next? 

In recent years, I’ve witnessed a re-thinking of competitive intelligence’s role, scope and design, starting with a CFO taking over SEW from the marketing organization as part of enterprise risk management. Maybe this is the solution, though my experience is that some CFOs tend to be too narrowly focused on short-term cash flow risks alone. Given the prevalence of “market intelligence” positions in marketing organizations, a better solution is for more strategic CMOs to redesign the market intelligence process from scratch to venture beyond competitor minutia.

In helping to redesign the intelligence process at the Fortune 50’s company mentioned above, the first advice that I gave the director was to simply stop sending competitors’ tidbits to the marketers at the dominant unit and see what happens. Care to guess how that played out?

Benjamin Gilad is president and CEO of the Boston-based Fuld-Gilad-Herring Academy of Competitive Intelligence and author of Business War Games.

5 Ways Your Blog Can Generate Explosive Growth

Blogging Growth

Everyone says that a blog is essential for business growth, but anyone who’s ever been tasked with running one knows that it can be difficult to keep it going. The need to create new, original, and insightful content on a regular basis can be a hassle, but it’s an important discipline to develop.

If you’re committed to the process, however, having a blog can generate explosive growth for your business through any of the following five ways.

A blog draws customers into your website

In our social media-driven world, getting customers back to “your turf” can be difficult. However, your website is essential to your business – it shares your message in your voice, is covered with your branding, and doesn’t include any outside distractions that could pull readers away from your work.

By filling your blog with great content, you entice readers to visit your site and spend more time there. This, in turn, creates more opportunities to expose them to the exact message you want them to hear, converting more customers and driving more sales.

And just in case you think that sounds overly optimistic, Bill Marriott blogs consistently for the Marriott hotel chain, and the company reports that it has made $4 million in sales from readers clicking through to book rooms from the blog. That’s a huge revenue driver, and it’s one that your business can’t afford to miss out on.

Blogs build trust

People buy from those they know and those they trust, and a blog helps your customers feel like they both know you and can trust you. When your content helps them on a regular basis, shares some bits and pieces of your own journey, and shows your authentic authority on a topic, you’re building the kind of relationship shoppers used to have with their hometown retailers.

This relationship gives customers the chance to move from “Who are you?” and “Why should I trust you?” into a place where they’re happy to spend money on your products and services. Oh, and as an added bonus? You’ll find that customer acquisition through blogging is much cheaper than other methods of prospecting.

Blogging helps you appear in search results

Ranking highly in Google seems to be a never-ending quest for most businesses, but even though it’s more difficult now than ever before, it’s still important. One of the things Google loves most is fresh content, and that’s where your blog comes into play.

When you post regularly to a blog, you’re giving Google that fresh, new content each week (or at whatever frequency you specify on your editorial calendar). As you write, be sure to include specific keywords and topics that are relevant to your industry. This will help Google see your content as helpful and show your site as a top result in search results.

In addition, when you publish great quality content to your blog, other sites will want to link back to you. The influence of all these inbound links raises your credibility in Google’s estimation, potentially leading to higher rankings. If you’re successful, a #1 ranking on the search results page for a relevant industry keyword can lead to a major influx of new business.

Blogging establishes you as a thought leader

Many small businesses find that being featured in a mainstream press article or popular online blog creates huge growth for their business. But how does the press decide who to interview? By looking for thought leaders in a specific industry or area.

You can establish yourself as a leader by consistently creating unique, informative content on your own site. However, you’ve got to do more than this. Plenty of businesses pump out great articles, but few of them can be considered thought leaders.

In addition, you’ve got to actively put yourself in front of others in your industry, whether you do so by responding to questions on sites like LinkedIn or Quora, or by networking directly with other authority figures in your niche to find ways to leverage their audiences.

When you perform these two tasks regularly, you’re setting yourself up for success. Not only will you be seen as an expert in your customers’ eyes, you’ll be more likely to be discovered or to get your brand featured on a mainstream media site.

Blogging gives you a chance to spread your brand

When you create blog posts, you – of course – don’t just leave them on your site. You find ways to share them, and you use things like hashtags and social profiles to extend your reach.

Once your community sees your new blog post, they’ll share it with their followers (as long as it’s good). As a result, a blog allows you to create the helpful, insightful content that’s needed to spread across the internet and introduce yourself to new prospects.

Plenty of consumers discover new businesses in this way. They may not directly seek out a company, but if they see a friend or acquaintance sharing an interesting piece of branded content from your site, they’re going to want to take a closer look. And as long as you’ve structured your site for conversions, these customers will use your site to learn more about your brand and – hopefully – go on to buy.

Most of the time, blogging isn’t some overnight “growth miracle” – it’s a slow and steady process as you share content across your network in order to attract new readers. However, in some cases, blogging can help you secure an interview with a major industry blog, grant you a high-profile guest blogging opportunity, or land you a mainstream media appearance.

Even one viral blog post or major media mention can lead to explosive growth in a short amount of time.

So start your blogging today to get the results tomorrow!

Original resource – uberflip.com

Freemium models and digital services: When do you pull the ladder up?

 

If it wasn’t clear enough already, it’s painfully obvious now: if you’re offering a service you expect users to pay for, you need to give them a freemium option to begin with. But you might be losing out if you can’t upgrade your freemium base.

Recent research from e-commerce provider Avangate, of 1000 consumers, makes the priorities clear. 97% of users prefer flexible purchasing options when selecting premium online services, while six out of 10 will only subscribe to a service if it has a freemium option.

The reason for this spike is generational – and it’s only going to exacerbate in the coming years. Ed Chuang, chief communications officer at Avangate, believes the percentage of post-millennials demanding a free trial option will be near 80%. The question for brands and marketers now is shifting from getting potential customers to buy, to getting them past the first rung of the ladder. As Avangate chief marketing officer Michael Ni puts it, because of easy discoverability, customers have the power now to demand better models – which is why freemium has become fundamental.

“Freemium has become the on-ramp,” Ni tells MarketingTech. “Customers are basically unprofitable until you can actually grow them, or get them to get past that freemium tier. Hence we talk about revenue moments.”

Revenue moments (below) represents every potential opportunity a business loses out on payment. Renew, acquire, activate, upsell, cross-sell, upgrade. It’s a mantra which marketing managers and sales managers ought to repeat to themselves constantly. If a customer uses a product’s freemium push and runs away when that free trial period is over, it’s an obvious revenue moment, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of others.

Picture credit: Avangate

When a credit card payment is bad, it’s a revenue moment. When a consumer wants to upgrade or downgrade, it’s a revenue moment. When a consumer wants to put their subscription on hold as they go on holiday, it’s a revenue moment. For a large organisation, these don’t get mopped up as often as they should, and could result in 10% to 20% revenue leakage – not insignificant numbers.

“The new generations double expectations,” Ni explains. “They won’t buy unless you give them a freemium model. [If] I start, I know there’s five other [services], so I can keep going with this service as I need to.” This is the key. At which point do you stop giving and start taking? Cloud storage provider Dropbox, for example, offers a free version up to 16 GB – but Microsoft offers unlimited free OneDrive storage to Office 365 subscribers.

Avangate advocates the concept of ‘usage qualified leads’ (UQLs); users who are clearly interested in the product and, through data collection, are very likely to upgrade or expand their usage in the future. Yet it’s safe to say that the sliding scale for freemium services varies by business. Ni offers a hypothetical example of an electronic signature company. Five free signatures per month would be more than enough for Joe Bloggs, but for a salesperson sending out many contracts, they will exceed their limitations pretty quickly.

“It’s clearly going to capture that prosumer segment,” Ni says. “That’s really what people are looking for: do you have a big enough prosumer that actually has some business need for [your product], or is it enough that is starts replacing some other tool?”

Freemium is clearly all about getting the user from first value to second value, of recurring value. Yet first value doesn’t have to be a user signing up for a free product. For Avangate, more than 1000 stores got to revenue on its watch. In some cases, ‘first value’ can just be setting up a product catalogue without incurring the wrath – and expenses – of IT. The second value comes when the first cheque arrives. When that starts recurring, then the ideas of where to slide the freemium marker up and down can be examined.

Avangate recommends six strategies for maximising modern digital commerce services: service every moment – acquire, activate, upsell over every touch point; deliver the right model at the right time; iterate at new speeds; recover revenue throughout the commerce lifecycle; go global, or be local in every country; and simplify and scale your operations.

“You have to get to first value,” Ni says. “Be laser focused to get each segment to that first value, then you can move to recurring value, and then start to upsell, cross-sell them. That’s a typical path, and that’s what we see in our customer base as well.”

Written by James Bourne for marketingtechnews.net

3 Simple Steps To Transform Your Website Into A Lead Generation Machine

Let’s face it not many companies have a big budget for website design projects that don’t lead to new revenue. Yet so many companies spend boat loads of money on website redesign projects every 2 – 5 years that net them nothing. Certainly stranger things have happened I know, but I am here to tell you there is a better way!

Traditional website design does not:

  • Convert buyers at all stages of the sales cycle.
  • Highlight your content.
  • Have an easy navigation menu.

Now think of the many ways a prospect can interact with your company: they can inquire about a product or service, they can call you, they can send you a general inquiry, or they can subscribe to your newsletter or download a content offer.

Is your current website converting your unknown website visitors to leads in all the ways a user can interact with your brand? It’s likely your website is not working this hard because many website design projects don’t focus on lead generation.

Keep in mind that most first-time website visitors are not ready to buy. Actually 96% aren’t ready to buy. Therefore, it’s important to focus your online lead generation efforts for buyers at all stages of the sales cycle.

Follow these 3 simple steps to turn your traditional website design into a lead generating machine.

Step #1 – Map Out Your Buyers Personas

Dr. Jane

A deep understanding of who your buyers are is not only important for the foundation of the business but also for effective marketing. Selling a product or service to an unknown buyer is challenging. It’s even more challenging in online marketing if you do not know who your ideal customer is.

Luckily mapping out buyer personas is as easy as determining your most likely to buy customers, use historical data if you have it, and then understand their motivations, goals and challenges. If you are not sure exactly what drives your buyers you can select a handful of past clients to interview to uncover their specific persona.

Step #2 – Build Your Marketing Assets

Owned media is the most important marketing asset a company can have. In addition to owning it, meaning it’s not leased or rented, you have something that never loses value over time. Hence the reason why it’s a valuable asset!

Just like building an art collection, building marketing assets takes time. It’s unlikely you will create your entire brand collateral and then stop. Every campaign you run online and offline will need its own set of assets.

You can lessen the content burden by focusing on content assets that are reusable such as evergreen case studies, newsletters and presentations.

Step #3 – Always Be Iterating

I had thought about making #3 about improving the user experience. But that’s so played out don’t you think? Every website designer will talk up and down about the user experience of your site. However, I rarely (if never actually) heard a website design pitch that involved a reiterative process to improve the actual user experience. I mean after all the user experience is about the user, and designing for the user is not a project but a process.

Unfortunately many companies don’t have in-house resources to iterate, which is almost always why they can’t make adjustments until the next redesign. If this is you, instead of employing a website design company that thinks about your website as a project, on-board a company or a marketer with the ability to iterate until your website has achieved your growth goals.

Original resource – http://www.business2community.com/

Why customers are now your brand’s best salespeople

 

The consumer landscape has changed considerably in recent years, with customer expectations reaching unprecedented heights, pushed along by the uptake of social media.

Businesses and consumers alike have acknowledged this shift. Survey results released last week revealed that 82 per cent of U.S business leaders believe customers have higher expectations compared to three years ago – with 60 percent admitting to facing difficulties pleasing their customers. Similarly, a 2014 study showed that 87 percent of customers have requested help online, with 66 per cent expecting a same-day response to their online request.

This trend shows no signs of abating, with increasing social media uptake and non-traditional web-based apps continuing to bolster the standards of customer service and choice.

More and more customers are using digital channels to find and share information, and to produce their own reviews, recommendations and tips. This rapid growth in user-generated content has elevated the customer’s position as a brand’s most powerful advocate and critic.

The evolution of this “new digital consumer” has necessitated a rethink of the way that brands market and tap into social customer service channels. All businesses are being forced to innovate and adapt their online strategies to keep customers happy, deliver real-time service and cultivate brand loyalty.

Customer-centric tactics are key

With consumer expectations and influence rising, it makes sense for businesses to put customers at the centre of their approach. But how can brands achieve this in ways that are both effective and efficient?

Online communities have become a particularly integral tool and resource for both customer service reps and marketers. A study by Millward Brown Digital showed that customer communities drive almost 12 times more same-session revenue than other social channels including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube and Google+ combined. This is an alarming discrepancy when one considers how much time and resources most businesses today put into these social platforms.

The same survey found that customers who interact with brands through online communities experience greater levels of brand engagement, loyalty and satisfaction. In fact, stats showed that online communities lifted a brand’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) – which measures a customer’s willingness to recommend a company’s product or services – by almost 70 per cent.

But it’s not just brand loyalty and recognition that stands to benefit – it’s sales as well. Sony recently released data showing how its online PlayStation Europe Community is fostering deeper customer engagement and driving online sales.

The PlayStation Community has more than three million unique monthly visitors and acts as digital destination for gamers to connect and share experiences, as well as exchange ideas and communicate with customer service.

Sony examined the top members in this community and found that 82 per cent made purchases from the online Playstation Store. This shows the potential for online communities to function simultaneously as both customer service channels and viable marketing channels for sales growth.

Vodafone UK has employed similar tactics to great effect. The company recently revealed that it has been using gamification in its Vodafone UK eForum to improve online engagement and sales. Results followed in the last financial year, with an average of 800 customers a month visiting Vodafone’s online community on their way to the checkout.

The selling power of social communities

To maximise the selling potential of online communities, businesses need to recognise that consumers are now the most powerful driver in their sales funnel.

The Millward Brown Digital survey showed that online communities impacted more than US$500 million sales over a yearly period, as well as driving 65 per cent of all e-commerce sales. This equated to 7.8 more shoppers than other social channels and 11.8 times more sales than other social channels.

This is not a ‘flash-in-the-pan’ tactic, however, with online communities having the ability to influence consumers over a much longer time-period than some might expect. Statistics show that sales conversion increases by approximately 50 per cent after a visit to an online community, and that 79 per cent of visitors intend to make repeat purchases from the company they’ve engaged with via the community.

Online communities can be a game-changer for businesses, enabling them to build closer connections with customers and influencers who now demand, and matter, more than ever before. The key to unlocking this potential lies in providing consumers with rich content and peer recommendations – to not only boost brand engagement and loyalty, but to turn customers into their most effective salespeople.

 

Original source: http://www.marketingtechnews.net/

Consumers want to buy – but are you prepared to sell?

 

The internet is an unstoppable force. Last year, the U.S. marked a crucial milestone, when e-commerce sales surpassed the $300 billion mark for the first time. In Europe, meanwhile, online sales are predicted to rise by almost a fifth in 2015.

Many factors are behind this continued growth – more reliable internet access, the development of mobile as a channel, the importance of convenience in retail, to name a few examples – and the juggernaut that is online retail shows no signs of slowing. But are retailers prepared?

It may seem strange to ask this question, given that most organizations are running sleek websites, well optimized for multiple devices. Customers clearly feel they’re getting a good front-end experience, otherwise online shopping would not be so popular. However, behind the scenes, operations tell a different story.

There’s a marked difference in the efficiency with which retailers are executing their e-commerce strategy. Recently, RSR released a report into online retail’s winners – i.e. those increasing market share – and laggards, which revealed an interesting contrast between the two groups.

In the winners’ camp, retailers are likely to be focusing on aligning their IT and business goals. This is because they’ve already managed to create consistency between their online and offline channels on basics such as messaging, pricing, brand identity and product ranges. Now, they want to use the strength of this platform to drive revenue.

The laggards, on the other hand, are still trying to unite their e-commerce operations with activity in other channels, and this is predominantly down to one simple reason: technology.

RSR found that those failing to gain online share are far more likely to be trying to innovate with legacy systems, rather than using updated solutions that are better equipped for the demands of today’s international, omnichannel retail industry.

What the winners are smart enough to see already is that technology is no longer the sole domain of the IT department. Entire organizations are powered by data driven insights, and therefore aligning technical objectives with wider business needs is far more likely to secure the buy-in of other senior decision makers.

Not only that, but it’s going to make the insights revealed from their e-commerce platform better utilized, which will in turn will improve the customer experience.

Having everyone on-side is only going to grow more important as online’s dominance increases further. More and more retailers are finding themselves in a position where they are reaching saturation in their domestic market, and need to expand in order to discover new profit opportunities.

But, as those with experience know, launching into new territories is easier said than done. Maintaining operations across several geographies, languages and currencies is a complex challenge, which legacy e-commerce platforms struggle to meet.

To place themselves in the strongest position to capture international e-commerce potential, retailers need a commerce platform that can scale and develop to meet the demands of a growing enterprise. Not only that, but that scalability must be quick, to ‘strike while the iron’s hot’, so to speak, and be able to accommodate wide variations in consumer demands.

What many retailers find is that achieving this doesn’t just rest on putting the right technology in place; it relies on finding the right implementation partner to map software capabilities to business requirements.

By working with a partner who understands how to optimize customer journeys across several markets, retailers can do more than increase clicks and conversions. They can create the kind of personalized online experiences that build long-term customer relationships.

Original source: http://www.marketingtechnews.net/

5 Simple Ways to Optimize Your Website for Lead Generation

Optimizing your website to generate leads is a no-brainer. But it’s not as simple as throwing a “click here” button on your home page and watching the leads pour in. (Unfortunately.)

Instead, marketers and designers need to take a more strategic approach. In this post, we’ll go over some quick ways you can optimize your website for lead generation that actually work.

To understand how to optimize our website, we’ll have to first gain a basic understanding of the lead generation process. What components are at play when a casual website visitor turns into a lead? Here’s a quick overview:

lead_generation_visualization.png

The lead generation process typically starts when a website visitor clicks on a call-to-action (CTA) located on one of your site pages or blog posts. That CTA leads them to a landing page, which includes a form used to collect the visitor’s information. Once the visitor fills out and submits the form, they are then led to a thank-you page.

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of lead generation, we can get down to the dirty details. Here are five simple ways to optimize your site for lead generation.

1) Figure out your current state of lead gen.

It’s important to benchmark your current state of lead generation before you begin so you can track your success and determine the areas where you most need improvement.

A great way to test out where you are is to try a tool like Marketing Grader, which evaluates your lead generation sources (like landing pages and CTAs), and then provides feedback on ways to improve your existing content.

You can also compare landing pages that are doing well with landing pages that aren’t doing as well. For example, let’s say that you get 1,000 visits to Landing Page A, and 10 of those people filled out the form and converted into leads. For Landing Page A, you would have a 1% conversion rate. Let’s say you have another landing page, Landing Page B, that gets 50 visitors to convert into leads for every 1,000 visits. That would be a 5% conversion rate — which is great! Your next steps could be to see how Landing Page A differs from Landing Page B, and optimize Landing Page A accordingly.

Finally, you could try running internal reports. Evaluate landing page visits, CTA clicks, and thank-you page shares to determine which offers are performing the best, and then create more like them.

2) Optimize each step of the lead gen process.

If your visitor searched “lawn care tips” and ended up on a blog post of yours called, “Ten Ways To Improve Your Lawn Care Regimen,” then you’d better not link that blog post to an offer for a snow clearing consultation. Make sure your offers are related to the page they’re on so you can capitalize on visitors’ interest in a particular subject.

As soon as a visitor lands on your website, you can start learning about their conversion path. This path starts when a visitor visits your site, and ends (hopefully) with them filling out a form and becoming a lead. However, sometimes a visitor’s path doesn’t end with the desired goal. In those cases, you can optimize the conversion path.

How? Take a page out of Surety Bonds’ book. They were struggling to convert visitors at the rate they wanted, so they decided to run an A/B split test (two versions of a landing page) with Unbounce to determine which tactics were performing better on each page. In the end, they ended up changing a link to a button, adding a form to their homepage, and asking different questions on their forms. The result? A 27% increase in lead generation.

If you want to run an A/B test on a landing page, be sure to test the three key pieces of the lead gen process:

a) The Calls-to-Action

Use contrasting colors from your site. Keep it simple — and try a tool like Canva to create images easily, quickly, and for free. Read this blog post for ideas for types of CTAs you can test on your blog, like the sliding CTA you see here:

Pop-up_CTA-1.gif

b) The Landing Pages

According to a HubSpot survey, companies with 30+ landing pages on their website generated 7X more leads than companies with 1 to 5 landing pages. 

c) The Thank-You Pages

Oftentimes, it’s the landing pages that get all the love in the lead generation process. But the thank-you page, where the visitor is led to once they submit a form on the landing page and convert into a lead, shouldn’t be overlooked.

Along with saying thank you, be sure to include a link for your new lead to actually download the offer on your thank-you page. You can also include social sharing buttons and even a form for another, related offer, as in the example below:

    • HubSpot landing page

Bonus: Send a Kickback Email

Once a visitor converts into a lead and their information enters your database, you have the opportunity to send them a kickback email, i.e. a “thank-you” email.

In a study HubSpot did on engagement rates of thank you emails versus non thank you emails, kickback emails doubled the engagement rates (opens and clickthroughs) of standard marketing emails. Use kickback emails as opportunities to include super-specific calls-to-action and encourage sharing on email and social media.

3) Personalize your calls-to-action.

Dynamic content lets you cater the experience of visiting your website to each, unique web visitor. People who land on your site will see images, buttons, and product options that are specifically tailored to their interests, the pages they’ve viewed, or items they’ve purchased before.

Better yet, personalized calls-to-action convert 42% more visitors than basic calls-to-action. In other words, dynamic content and on-page personalization helps you generate more leads.

How does it work? Here’s an example of what your homepage may look like to a stranger:

Smart Content

And here’s what it would look like to a customer:

Smart Content

4)  Test, test, test.

We can’t stress this part of the process enough. A/B testing can do wonders for your clickthrough rates.

For example, when friendbuy tried a simple A/B test on their calls-to-action, they found a 211% improvement in clickthroughs on those calls-to-action. Something as simple as testing out the wording of your CTA, the layout of your landing page, or the images you’re using can have a huge impact, like the one friendbuy saw.

5) Nurture your leads.

Remember: No lead is going to magically turn into a customer. Leads are only as good as your nurturing efforts.

Place leads into a workflow once they fill out a form on your landing page so they don’t forget about you, and deliver them valuable content that matches their interest.  Lead nurturing should start with relevant follow up emails that include great content. As you nurture them, learn as much as you can about them — and then tailor all future sends accordingly.

According to Forrester Research, companies that nurture their leads see 50% more sales ready leads than their non-nurturing counterparts at a 33% lower cost. So get emailing!

Tips compiled by Katherine Boyarsky for HubSpot.

BOT Traffic is Out of Control!

Various articles have appeared recently discussing BOT traffic and how this type of traffic is a great danger to the integrity of online advertising.   And it is true that BOT traffic is a real problem with an estimated 10-20% of all traffic being BOT (11% of online and 23% of video according to the WSJ).

This has resulted in a slew of solutions that promise to “clean up” the traffic by measuring and filtering out any BOT traffic. Of course these solutions come at a cost and to make sure you buy most will make you test your traffic and find as much as 60% BOT (especially if you run a small website – You are prime target of these people). However, while these solutions claim to do a good job of identifying and cleaning up BOT traffic, most are vastly over shooting and identify and eliminate what they identify as “suspicious” traffic but that in reality is perfectly legitimate traffic.

Take for example the case of a referrer that is not passed by a source of traffic. Most BOT filters will identify this traffic as BOT but in reality this traffic in many cases is totally legitimate. Many networks for example do not pass referrers and “domain” traffic is more often than not masked but the traffic is legitimate. As a result, we’ve seen very solid conversion traffic labeled as BOT. The reason is that more often than not the algorithm designed to identify BOT traffic is not capable of distinguishing between a source of valid traffic and a source of BOT traffic.

On the other hand we’ve seen so called IAS rated traffic that guarantees 100% human (with the restrictions mentioned above) being tested and proven to be fraudulent. The reason is simple – some traffic providers cheat. And since many web owners do not have the IAS test code on their site, they may be paying for traffic that is BOT and not realizing it, until the advertisers on their site ban them. Additionally, a simple fact is that while some BOT traffic is easy to identify, most people who send BOT traffic are not dumb and are adapting.

So what is the solution?

First and foremost get your traffic from reputable networks or sources that are testing the traffic that they provide and are able to detect BOT or non performing traffic before it comes to you. A CPM for a certain type of traffic or a click have usually known cost brackets so any traffic that is offered at a fraction of what most would sale it for has to be viewed with caution.

Second, understanding what is your traffic type. Is it search, pop, domains, etc.? This will give you the ability to assess the traffic based on referrer being passed or not and as a result if referrer or IPs mismatch are legitimate for example.

Thirdly, finding and implementing simple solutions to test your traffic to insure that it is human. These include simple testing like CAPTCHA on part of the traffic that you get (2-3% is enough with at min 25% passing). Other solutions include blocking traffic from known BOT (published by IAB if you are a paying member), blocking IPs that generate more than one click per day on an ad, implementing honeypot links (click traps – these can even be implemented by yourself via a simple 1 pixel image and link), measuring mouse movement, off-screen clicks, etc. These are great options for rapidly identifying BOT traffic and, often, they are available free by ISPs.

Finally test your traffic continually and no matter what the quality. This is the best way to insure that the traffic that you get is clean day in and day out.

Bottom line is that, in our view, the best solution to addressing and managing BOT is to be aware of where your traffic comes from and test it and continue testing no matter how reputable the source of traffic may be. People who send BOT are smart and they are always going to find a way to fool algorithm no matter how much we think we are in control.

Just as a side note, here is a diagram that I saw from Solvemedia back in 2012 entitled “The BOT Stop Here” (click on the image to enlarge it). It has a great illustration of estimates that show anything from 4% to 31% BOT traffic in advertising depending on who you talk to and some down to earth recommendations. Bottom line it is your $ that is at play so make sure you are careful.

solve-media-infographic-the-bot-stops-here

Additional resources on this issue:

If you have any questions, let us know by contacting one of us via information@onwardclick.com