How to Keep Your Marketing Fresh As The Year Wanes On

Labor Day has passed. Summer vacations are over. And a nap sounds really good. That string of thoughts is playing on repeat in the minds of many office workers this time of year, as summer reaches an end, and no one is ready to tackle the busy fall season.
But now is the time to shake things up, try something different, and set yourself up for a successful Q4. If you’re a marketer, it’s the perfect time to up your competitive edge while your competitors or still mourning the end of summer.
Here’s five easy ways to keep yourself and your marketing fresh, effective and on track.
1. Measure (real) engagement
You’ve heard it before – smartphones and tablets are changing everything when it comes to consumer behavior. The average consumer uses two to three devices within the cycle of making a single purchase. If you’re not tracking engagement across all devices and channels (both online and offline), you’re not getting the full picture. Multichannel attribution lets you measure performance, see what’s working and calculate ROI. It helps you spot trends and problems so you can make a change and finally end the cycle. No more bad investments and useless optimizations.
2. Keep an updated content calendar
You’re probably tracking a lot of activities, from deadlines to blog assets to your coworker’s vacation. Organizing your content assets by date will make your life easier. The goal is to create a calendar that is simple, visible to the rest of your team, and flexible. Being able to easily swap topics and due dates is key in an agile marketing atmosphere. My personal piece of advice – don’t use excel spreadsheets, which tend to be hard to scan and even harder to edit. Try cloud a cloud-based solution instead.
3. A/B test everything
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you know what works. You can make your best bet, but the only way to build a truly successful landing page is to test it — whether it’s the ad copy, images, videos, or headlines. Make sure to test small, isolated elements so you know exactly what works best. You never know when that one small change will be the knockout punch.
4. Create a unique strategy for mobile
We all know mobile is changing everything, and Google brought home the message when it announced it favor mobile-enabled sites in search, AKA Mobilegeddon. Having a one-size-fits-all mobile site is not even close to a mobile strategy; you need to really understand your mobile audience, their unique goals and expectations. When building your strategy, always have a picture in the back of your mind of your target customer searching for your product. They need a mobile solution, meaning you do, too.
5. It’s time to get social
If your marketing strategy doesn’t include social media, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity — and I’m not just talking to B2C marketers. Social media is not only a great communication channel between businesses and their audiences, and also proving to be a successful ad platform. According to, 54 percent of B2B marketers say they’ve generated leads from social media. Your customers expect you to be online as much as they are.
I’m not telling you to sacrifice fun to sit under the AC and work on your marketing tactics. But by following these few easy tips, you can maximize your efforts without getting burnt out.

Pay-for-Performance SEO vs. Monthly SEO Services

SEO is hard.
It can be difficult for seasoned vets, much less some noob hoping to get to Page One on the cheap. SEO takes time. It takes knowledge and a strategy in order to make it to the top.
But here’s where it gets really difficult: choosing the right SEO service.
Beyond the tactics used, the pricing structure of SEO is about as consistent as a contradiction. You can pay by the hour, by the project, monthly or based on results.
Most people pay monthly for SEO services, but a growing number of companies offer customers the ability to pay AFTER their rankings go up.
What Is Pay for Performance SEO?
Pay for performance SEO is exactly how it sounds: you pay for results. If you don’t see an increase in rankings, you don’t pay.
This new pricing model can be a bit intimidating for those in the SEO industry, particularly companies that do not have the capability to scale. The value proposition for consumers is huge, but many an SEO will be quick to tell you:
Pay for performance is BS
Pay for performance is too good to be true
Pay for performance is black hat
You get the point.
Most of the people yelling these battle cries (not surprisingly) offer SEO services that are in direct competition to the model they are speaking out against. Is that to say that one beats out the other? Not entirely.
How Pay for Performance SEO Really Works
Do you know what Moz,, Raven Tools, and Majestic SEO all have in common?
No, they’re not part of a clandestine SEO power circle laughing maniacally in smoke-filled backrooms, cigars in hand, plotting their next Google takeover.
Still can’t figure it out? I’ll give you a hint: data.
They build tools to take search data (keyword traffic, rankings, and fluctuations in the SERPs) and turn it into actionable insights for their customers. By gathering this data over time they are able to make educated inferences into how Google ranks web pages. Do they have a blueprint to Google’s algo? Of course not. Do they have enough data to recognize patterns and signals that contribute to rankings? Without a doubt.
Does your SEO company do that? Probably not.
What Google, Moz, Ahrefs and Raven Tools have in common with real PFP companies — analyzing SERPS and logging data.
As much as SEO is an art, effective pay for performance SEO is data-driven. Google updates its algorithm at least once per day. It’s in constant flux. While pay for performance SEO might not make much sense to an independent consultant or small firm, a company who has been doing SEO for years can always approach things differently.
Here’s how to spot the real PFP companies from fake ones.
They have years of data and experience. Experience is critical, but data even more so. Measuring the correlation between SEO activities and rankings helps build processes that earn higher rankings. In turn, those processes create a more efficient way of getting results.
They have worked with hundreds of customers. A reputable pay for performance SEO provider typically has been in the industry for years and served hundreds, if not thousands of customers. No SEO tool or blog article can ever give you insights like these.
Pay for Performance SEO: Cleaning Up The Misconceptions
#1 – Pay for performance SEO is blackhat.
Invariably, the most common complaint you hear against pay for performance SEO is that rankings are manipulated using shady tactics so the client can be billed.
Are there performance-based companies that will blackhat your rankings and take your money? Absolutely. Are there SEO companies that will charge you every month and still not get you any rankings? You bet.
The pricing model is not the culprit. This is a problem that exists in the SEO industry, just as every industry has its own bad apples. I have a friend that is the most generous person I’ve ever met. Want to know what he does for a living? He sells cars. Generosity is not the the first thing that comes to mind when you’re talking about someone who sells cars now, is it?
#2 – Performance-based companies guarantee rankings.
This has been stated a million times on the internet, but for the sake of consistency I will repeat it one more time: never trust a company that guarantees rankings in Google.
However, this should not be confused with a guarantee that you will not pay unless your rankings increase. If you are using a performance-based service, you absolutely should have a guarantee that you won’t be billed unless your rankings go up!
#3 – Your rankings won’t last.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Success compounds. When you do things right, your site goes up in authority, rankings follow, and so does traffic. Once you rank for a keyword, it’s much easier to sustain those rankings. The real battle is getting there.
Pay for performance companies have a vested interest in maintaining your rankings because they can keep getting paid. If your rankings drop, you pay less or end up paying nothing at all.
So Is Pay For Performance SEO Better?
It depends. For most small businesses or first time SEO investors, performance-based SEO can make a lot of sense. Even more so if you are on a shoestring budget.
On the same token, the scope of work performed under pay for performance SEO is very controlled for obvious reasons — we have to balance getting results for clients and ensuring profitability for the company. Essentially, the “business risk” is transferred from you (as a customer) to us (as your SEO company).
Now, if you can afford to invest thousands of dollars into SEO per month, it makes much more sense to invest in inbound marketing. When you pay upfront and sign a contract this allows the agency you choose to allocate time and resources to give your campaign success. More times than not you’ll also get help with content and social media when taking this route.
That being said, if you are a local business on a shoestring budget, a reputable pay for performance SEO company can help you see ROI from organic search with out you having to pay upfront.
Would you rather pay monthly or for results?
This article was originally published on RankPay.

Does Your Organization Consider Soft Costs When Measuring Content ROI?

As marketers, we often unintentionally discount work done in-house to research, develop, and distribute sales enablement materials. After all, creating content to empower sales to talk to customers and close deals is just part of the job, right?
To a certain extent, yes, that is definitely true, but, lurking in the shadows is something that is often overlooked when determining the true cost and ROI of marketing materials: soft costs stemming from the internal manpower required to produce our one sheets and PowerPoint decks, our case studies and sales training content. Here’s a secret—a big portion of these hidden expenses comes from product managers, who spent up to half of their time working on marketing content, but usually do not have direct reporting status into marketing.
As a profession, we’re pretty good at figuring in external costs—they’re easy and fairly obvious—agencies, contract writers, translators, etc. But, no matter the size of the organization, there is a significant amount of brainpower, and thus, overhead, required to create sales and marketing content.
Recently, SiriusDecisions published a study that looked at the soft costs behind all of our content, and the findings are staggering. As it turns out, the average internal costs for B2B sales enablement content creation are significantly higher than external costs, especially for emerging and mid-sized organizations.
We thought this study was worth sharing to start the dialogue in organizations looking to go deep into their true ROI metrics. To help you digest the study in a shareable fashion, we’ve built an infographic that hits the high notes and boils down the salient points your organization should think about when calculating true marketing costs. If you’d prefer to look at the full SiriusDecisions report, you can see that here.
For what it’s worth, a sales enablement platform is one of the more straightforward ways to start figuring out the true costs of your content because it can close the loop across marketing, sales, and your customers by bringing content and data together to provide actionable information on what works, what doesn’t, and why. You can learn more about Highspot’s industry-leading platform in our short videos.
Does your organization consider soft costs from employee overhead in marketing costs? I’m curious—let me know in the comments below.

Why Your Sales Emails Are Not Selling

How to Make Your Email Marketing Efforts More Successful
Despite the advent of tools like Periscope, Facebook advertising and mobile coupons, email remains a mainstay of digital marketing strategies. Email marketing is still one of the most powerful tools businesses have at their disposal to effectively promote their business and drive revenue.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at these stats:
The total number of worldwide email accounts is expected to increase to over 4.3 billion accounts by year-end 2016. (Radicati Group)
91% of consumers check their email at least one time per day using their smartphone (EmailMonday)
Email is 40 times more successful at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter (McKinsey and Company)
For every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return on investment is $44.25. (ExactTarget)
Small business owners estimate doing their own email marketing gives them an extra hour in their workday–an hour that is worth $273. (Constant Contact)
With those numbers on your side, why would you ignore the power of email? As with most tools, though, the power is only as great as the user. If you are going to use email to market to your customers and prospects, you must know how to use it correctly in order to reap the benefits and capture the ROI.
The Basics of Email Marketing
While there is both science and art to successful email marketing campaigns, the fundamentals are easily mastered. If you are reading this blog, chances are you already have an email account through a service like MailChimp, Constant Contact or even HubSpot.
You have set up email templates and created an email newsletter or product announcement that you send somewhat regularly to your contact list that you have diligently created through online and point-of-sale subscription forms.
From these efforts, you see moderate success and are able to attribute some ROI to your email campaigns. So you continue to send emails to your list, each time hoping for better results that are never quite realized.
You may be on the right track. You are doing the right thing by sending emails, you just may not be sending the right message.
So you have an email list… now what do you do with it?
Oftentimes, clients come to us because they are frustrated by their lack of results from email marketing. They understand enough about marketing to know they should be sending emails, but they don’t understand why they aren’t reaping the same benefits as their colleagues or competitors. Our clients are in the same boat I just described–they are on the right track but are not sending the right messages to their list.
What we see over and over again, especially from our B2C and e-commerce clients, is a lack of nurturing and marketing and an emphasis on sales.
Take this recent client experience, for example:
A retail client recently came to us asking for help. This brick-and-mortar business was looking for ways to leverage their list of several thousand email contacts (collected through online subscription forms and sign-up sheets at the cash register) to increase in-store sales during an upcoming special event.
The client had all the right pieces in place: a sizable list, a paid account with a reputable email service provider giving them access to detailed analytics and reporting, and even a graphic designer who had created beautifully-Photoshopped email headers. All signs pointed to success.
But the problem was the message.
Instead of sending monthly emails of value and substance, such as providing tips on using their products or sharing industry news related to their business, this client only sent emails when there was an in-store sale event or new product to promote. Over time, the open rates and click-through rates were declining, as their customers grew weary of being sold to with each email.
This client is not unique. In fact, this example is rather typical. All too often, businesses just sell, sell, sell through email instead of working to build a relationship of trust and value. If all you do is sell, your audience eventually begins to tune you out, which leads to fewer opens, lower click-through rates, and reduced revenue.
Another potentially harmful side effect of constant selling in your emails is the increased risk of spam. If readers never hear from you except when you are selling something, not only are they more apt to tune you out, but they may be more inclined to mark your email as spam. This can increase your risk of spam rates, which can ultimately hurt your email sender score and make it harder for your emails to get through to the right audiences.
While email is an incredible tool to communicate about a sale or promote a product, it is also an incredible tool to generate conversations with your audience, build relationships and create trust and authority for your brand.
Communicate Value Instead
Unless you have specifically asked your customers and prospects to subscribe to your email list solely to receive promotions and coupons, most likely, people are expecting to receive valuable information from your email communications.
If your subscribers are expecting to receive monthly updates, interesting articles or other educational information, then you can’t just send coupons and product announcements. You must send valuable content if you want to keep your audience engaged.
What, then, defines valuable content?
Well, think about what you like to see as a user.
The irony of life as a marketer can be illustrated with junk mail. As professional marketers is that we spend hours at the office creating beautiful, slick, enticing postcards to mail to our customer lists. We proudly send them off, declaring a successful “direct mail campaign.” When we get home in the evenings, we find our mailboxes teeming with other people’s direct mail campaigns, which we promptly declare to be “junk mail” and throw away.
The same concept applies to your email mailbox.
You likely subscribe to dozens of newsletters, blogs and membership lists, both personally and professionally. Between my two email accounts, I can receive as many as 75 promotional emails in one day. (Maybe I should clean up and focus on the lists that really interest me, but that’s another blog for another time.)
Of these emails, the number I open each day or each week varies depending on:
the amount of time I have to spend reading email newsletters in a given day
whether or not the subject line piques my interest
the company or person sending the email
Of those emails I do open, the ones I spend the most time reading are the ones that continue to provide value. These are the emails I make certain to open and read, regardless of how much time I do or don’t have in my day. In short, the emails I continue to read as a consumer are the emails that continue to prove relevant and interesting in my life.
Your emails should strive to hit this sweet spot for all of your consumers.
In today’s world, nearly 2 out of every 3 customers makes up their mind on what and when to purchase on their own, before they ever pick up the phone or walk into your store. Today’s consumers are dictating the manner in which they want to make a purchase. And they don’t want to be sold to all the time.
Why else are subscription services for radio, television and music streaming so popular? Consumers are willing to fork over their hard-earned income each month to avoid hearing commercials and thereby avoid being sold to.
Some skeptics may wonder how their business is supposed to flourish if you don’t broadcast sales events or promote products. The point is not to quit selling–just quit selling in every. single. email.
Popular social media and marketing expert Gary Vaynerchuk expands upon this topic in his recent book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, in which he suggests that selling online is best done with three soft asks, or jabs, before the sales pitch, or powerful right hook. Although Vaynerchuk’s book is couched in social media, the concept adapts perfectly well to email.
Planning Your Email Communications
So what do those jabs and hooks look like? How can your business ensure that you are delivering value each time you deliver a marketing email?
Start with a content calendar. You don’t need a sophisticated template or tool, just a 12-month calendar and a pen. Plan out the year as a whole, so that you can identify the timing and themes of your messages. No matter how frequently you plan to send out emails (whether it’s monthly, weekly or just a few times a year), mapping out the themes and messages at once will help you stay on track.
Schedule around events or holidays. If you know your business will hold special events or holiday sales throughout the year, put these dates and events on the calendar first.
Fill in with interesting topics. Balance your sales and promotional emails with interesting emails that offer insight into your company without simply announcing a sale. Just as you would showcase your business’s personality in your store, on your website or on your social media channels, you should showcase your personality in your emails as well. You can introduce your staff, showcase how to use your product or service, discuss activities or events taking place in the community or promote partnerships with other businesses.
Schedule these jabs in accordance with the right hooks, building up to the big asks throughout the year. Remember to think about those emails you enjoy reading as well and model your emails in the same fashion, to resonate with your audience.
By telling a story and providing value in your emails, you are priming your audience to really listen to your message. Then, when the time is right to make an actual sales pitch, your customers are ready to come in and make a purchase instead of tuning you out and deleting without reading.
And, isn’t that the point of email after all?

Unlock The Success Of Influencer Marketing Through The 4 ‘A’s

Earth is flat and exists at the centre of our Galaxy…
If someone taught you this in school hundreds of years ago, no one would bat an eye. However, if this was taught today, our smartphones would prove them wrong before the chalk hit the floor.
The four ‘P’s of the Marketing Mix (Product, Price, Promotion, Place) is one of the oldest marketing theories still enforced. It hasn’t faded from our textbooks and acts as the foundation for many marketing plans. Is it wrong? Not necessarily. Is it due to be updated? Absolutely.
As a newer concept, influencer marketing doesn’t fit the traditional marketing mould. With the emergence of social communities there are more factors than ever to consider when evaluating a brand’s ability to sell their product or service.
To keep things simple, I’ve combined old school with new school. Discover the keys to developing a new-age marketing plan. Introducing:
The Four ‘A’s of Influencer Marketing:

Product vs. Answer
Product: A tangible good or intangible service that fulfills a need or want of consumers.
Answer: Why do people buy products? To solve a problem or fulfill a need. Simply put, a product is nothing unless it’s an answer to a consumer’s problem. If you think about it, you don’t buy a car, you buy a way of getting from point A to point B. A campaign’s purpose is to prove that one answer is better than the answer of competitors.

A product fulfills a need or want, but what is that to marketers? At times, advertisers have failed by trying to sell features rather than the solutions that the good or service offers. With content and influencer marketing taking the industry head-on, there is confusion over what that product really is. Why is this so?
Content is the medium for engaging with consumers, and when delivered via an influencer campaign, the content aligns with both the needs and wants of the consumer and the brand. So from this perspective, the content itself is the answer.
A brand will engage in influencer marketing if it can increase profit or revenue. Theoretically, the brand’s good or service doesn’t matter. It’s the content that is used to target, attract, and retain customers that is important. An influencer campaign will be deemed successful if the good or service is shown through content as being the answer to a real problem.
If you spilled red wine on your carpet and used the tips a homecare blog taught you on how to clean it up, the content would be the answer to your problem. You wouldn’t have known what to do otherwise, and whether the blogger suggests Brand A’s product or Brand B’s, it doesn’t matter if the problem is solved.
Sometimes the solution lies outside the framework of the traditional marketing mix. Instead of bending the word product to mean the same as answer, we should think outside the textbook and consider the content as an opportunity to show off the solution over the feature.

Product vs. Agreement
Price: An established value assigned to a product for the purpose of an exchange.
Agreement:Have you ever wanted something but thought the price was higher than you were willing to pay? Most of us have and that’s just an unavoidable factor of capitalism. While quid pro quo won’t get you anywhere when purchasing a computer, it’s the backbone of influencer marketing.

Consider your relationship with the medium. Unlike buying ad space or airtime, influencer marketing establishes a relationship for content creation. A product is traditionally sold for a predetermined price. But with influencer marketing, the exchange is intended to create some type of positive ROI for both sides. To ensure a campaign is successful, the exchange must be treated as a partnership. Both the brand and the influencer must work together to ensure the integrity of both the content and the good/service remains uncompromised. While money may change hands, the mutual benefit does not fit the traditional “price” of the marketing mix.
An “agreement” on the other hand, explains that both sides of an exchange are satisfied with the return they are receiving. The agreement may not be to exchange money, but could be to supply products for reviews, hotel accommodation for event exposure, or to mutually increase the awareness for both the brand and the influencer.

Product vs. Awareness
Promotion: The delivery of marketing messages to target consumers.
Awareness:Do you ever skip commercials on TV or press “Skip Ad” on YouTube? I certainly do. And as a result, I’ve missed the targeted promotional efforts by brands. It may have been for something I would’ve loved, but I never became aware of it.
Promotion is a necessary aspect of marketing, but can only yield results if the targeted consumers are actually reached. Awareness is what promotion is created for. Awareness is the difference between a message sent, and a message received.

The goal of promotion and awareness is to inspire a certain action from consumers. As described through the name, an influencer has influence to generate awareness that inspires action. Sponsored posts and unnatural product endorsements are weak forms of promotion that all consumers can see through, especially Millennials. Awareness shifts the focus away from pushy promotions to the more suggestive word-of-mouth approach. With family and friend recommendations as the number one trusted source for buying decisions, and online reviews as the number two, influencer generated awareness is able to cover more than promotion can account for.

Product vs. Audience
Place:The point of access for a consumer to acquire a good or service.
Audience:Do you enjoy ice cream? Most people do and I apologize to those with lactose intolerance, but it’s delicious. In theory, an ice cream company could target everyone. Ice cream trucks are a proven success, but there’s a reason they don’t roam Manhattan on December mornings. Not only would the traffic and cold weather hurt business, the clientele isn’t going to be influenced by a loud and colourful truck driving down the street.
When? Where? Who? These questions remain unresolved through our first three ‘A’s. In order for a campaign to be successful, there must be an audience to absorb an influencer’s content. When a brand selects an influencer to work with, the location, demographics, and overall identity of that influencer’s audience is analyzed. The location is important, but can be useless if timing and the type of consumer is ignored. All three rely on each other and not just the ‘When’ and ‘Where.’
The ‘Who’ matters as much if not more than the ‘When’ and ‘Where.’ An audience encompasses the current and potential consumers a brand could be trying to reach.
Cereal boxes are located on top shelves in grocery stores because they’re lightweight. On a strategic note, you may have noticed that cereal box characters are always staring down. This is so children will feel connected to the fun tiger or goofy triplets on the box. Is this just clever placement? I like cereal but don’t feel compelled to buy a certain brand based on the cover cartoon. That’s because I’m not the audience that needs to be persuaded. Cereal is strategically placed where it is to accommodate a certain audience. The place adjusts to suit the audience, not the other way around.

Whether you choose to stick to the old school marketing mix of four ‘P’s, or adopt the four ‘A’s is entirely up to you. What matters is that you know not every type of marketing fits traditional theory, and that nothing we’ve been taught is written in stone.
Which marketing mix works best for you? Are there any other dated theories you think need refreshing?

Don’t Ignore the Last Mile of Your Sales Process

The “last mile” is a phrase that can trace its origins to the communications industry, characterizing “the final leg of the telecommunications networks delivering communications connectivity to retail customers, the part that actually reaches the customer.”
It can often be a bandwidth bottleneck as the network tries to deliver communication services to the customer. This last mile wouldn’t be possible without the network in place but ignoring it jeopardizes the customer experience.
How does this apply to a sales process?
In a very similar way, actually.
You may have spent significant time and money building out a process and system to attract prospects, nurture them to a point they are ready for sales interaction, and report on costs, actions, and outcomes, but if you bottleneck in the “last mile” of the sales process – the point at which a salesperson is directly engaging with prospect in order to convert them to a customer – you are creating friction at a critical point in the buying process.
Over the last several years there has been considerable investment and optimization of the lead management process with marketing automation systems. These pieces of technology are designed to optimize the middle part of the funnel and nurture a prospect until they are ready to engage in the sales process. They capture and score online behaviors like web site visits, collateral downloads, and email campaign opens/clicks until they meet a threshold to be considered a “sales ready lead.”
At this point of hand off from marketing to sales, many processes shift gears to the customer relationship management (CRM) system as the focal point of activity where opportunity management, tasks, pipeline status and forecasting are maintained. This also is where the marketing’s role shifts from demand creation to supporting the sales process through sales enablement.
But too often, intentionally or unintentionally, marketing’s effort in sales enablement is akin to the ugly stepchild of lore. Marketing loves to focus on creating Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), but spends much less time ensuring that sales has everything they need to close those leads. Sales representatives, meanwhile, are asking for more content and better tools to help them close sales. (And, yes, sadly, we realize that often the problem exists in the sales representatives not being able to find the great content that marketing creates.) Therein lies the bottleneck of the last mile.
The marketing team should take a “full funnel” view and have a keen interest in everything occurring at every point in the process. This is the promise of the revenue lifecycle marketer.
Similar to the communications network, the amount of time, money, and effort expended to get to this “last mile” interaction is irrelevant if the sales representative is not prepared, doesn’t have the right content available, or is not making the most out of every sales pitch.
Crucial to completing the “last mile” is a sales enablement platform designed to deliver the most effective content to the sales representative for each individual sales opportunity and to engage the prospect via a compelling sales pitch that provides signals when it is viewed or shared. Wrapping all this together is a set of reporting and analytics that constantly informs the marketing team and sales managers of what content works best, where gaps exist, and how sales representatives are actually using the content marketing creates for “last mile” engagement.
Before marketing teams spend hundreds of thousands more dollars for incrementally more leads, they should fix the any bottlenecks they have in the last mile, and make their sales teams more effective closing the leads they spent so much money to obtain. Not only will this improve their conversion rates and ROI across all existing campaigns, but might, just might, garner a “Hey thanks, marketing! Nice work!” from the sales team.
Image via Flickr

5 Critical Steps to Knowing Your Customers

It’s a trap into which marketers of all kinds fall: assuming your customers are just like you in their preferences, desires, and buying characteristics. It can happen because we lack information to figure out what customers are really like or because our own inherent biases cause us to ignore information that would contradict our assumptions.
In a series of studies (published in the AMA Journals), Hattula, Herzog, Dahl and Reinecke found that marketers putting themselves in their “customers’ shoes” were more likely to assume their customer is just like them rather than the generally expected outcome that they would understand their customer’s needs and desires even better.
In an interview with the Harvard Business Review, Hattula noted, “That tendency [toward egocentrism] is so strong that we’re willing to ignore objective data when we make predictions about others.”
You Are Not Your Customers
Yes, he is saying that in our data-driven world, the more empathetic (and maybe more expert) we become, the more likely we are to just ignore the data and use our own intuition to make assumptions about our customers. If you’ve been in a marketing organization for any length of time, this should not surprise you (though it may be hard to admit).
Simply put: The more you assume your customer is just like you, the farther you get from building a relationship with and serving that customer.
In our daily lives, we develop relationships fully realizing that the people with whom we become friends or partners or any other form of relationship are not exactly like us. Success in each relationship requires that we develop an understanding of what drives the other person and how we fit into their lives—and how they fit into ours.
Consider this: You walk into a room, and a man approaches you. He tells you why he is in that room (at that event or party) and then proceeds to tell you he knows you must be there for the same reason. Maybe he harangues you to engage in ways that suit him well or to help him meet the people he wants to meet. You can tell pretty quickly this person had no interest in you or your needs.
When you make the assumption that your customer is just like you, you start off your relationship with that customer on the footing I described in the previous paragraph: you alienate your customer and make them feel like you have no real interest in meeting their needs.
This can be exacerbated by the common marketing practice of developing customer personas. Personas are just descriptions of prototypical customer types. If the egocentricity bias that Hattula describes enters your persona development process, the personas can start to look an awful lot like the people who are developing them (One way to check this is to ask someone who knows you but was not involved in the process to look at the persona and describe how much like you it is—as long as you can trust that person to give an honest answer.).
The Importance of Data
Marketing has become, for the most part, a data-driven endeavor. Marketers work hard to gather and analyze data on the actions of those who engage with the company, on how those actions lead to (or don’t lead to) sales, on the costs and ROI of specific marketing activities, on how customer usage leads to repeat sales, and on so many more things in your everyday activities. One of the things on which marketers have relied for a very long time is market research. Assuming it uses well-designed research, the data gathered can inform many marketing decisions and challenge many assumptions.
But challenging assumptions, especially within an organization, is very hard. When the data clearly contradicts any assumption we make about our customers—from buying habits to feature preferences—Hattula’s study shows we tend to just ignore the data—even when we know the best course of action is to adjust our own assumptions to match the data.
Where Does This Lead?
Hattula’s study suggests that employees who are disengaged from customers are in the best position to understand objectively what the data they receive is telling them.
My own experience says that getting a direct, personal understanding of your customer, including developing empathy (maybe by putting yourself in your customer’s proverbial shoes), gives you insights that data just can’t.
The irony is that in order to truly understand your customer well, you need to do a good job of both getting closer to them and distancing yourself from them. You need to:
Gain direct exposure, understanding and empathy with your typical customer’s needs, preferences and desires.
Ensure you are gathering good, unbiased data on customers’ needs, preferences, and desires
Pay close attention to even the smallest hint of contradiction between your empathetic understanding and what the data is telling you.
Get objective viewpoints that can tell you when your assumptions about your customers are really just a projection of your own needs, preferences, and desires.
Have the courage to challenge organizational assumptions about your customers.
Did I promise this would be easy? It’s not.
But if you want to stay close to your customers and continue to succeed in delivering what they want and need, in the way they want and need it, you will have to make sure you are meeting their needs.
Not yours.

Mobile to Claim 70% of Programmatic Display Market

Programmatic advertising has seen a stellar rise, more than doubling each year for the past two years. This year the share of programmatic will be over half of the total display advertising market. And as display advertising has shifted to mobile very rapidly, programmatic is no exception.
In 2015, mobile will account for 44.1% of all US programmatic display, a market currently worth $10 billion. By 2016, mobile is expected to surpass desktop, claiming an estimated 56.2% of all ad expenditure. After experiencing tremendous growth of 243.4% last year, eMarketer predicts ad spend on mobile programmatic display will nearly double this year to $8.36 billion. Next year, expect mobile programmatic to claim 70%, or the lion’s share of the programmatic display market.
Programmatic is not the same as RTB
Obviously, advertisers see the benefits of allocating their ad spend to electronic ad buying. It’s more efficient, enables better targeting, and provides significantly more transparency down to the single impression level, compared to direct deals. Some publishers on the other hand fear a “race to the bottom”, as they expect Real Time Bidding (RTB) to drive down CPM. However, programmatic entails much more than RTB and therefore these fears are largely ungrounded. In addition, mobile programmatic differs significantly from its desktop counterpart.
Programmatic advertising entails transacting advertising media (static image, rich media, video, etc.) through data-driven auction technologies. The keyword here being data-driven. As discussed a few weeks back in this article, a customer-centric approach is essential to reach modern multi-device consumers and this approach needs a solid foundation of first and third party data.
Providing audience intelligence on the single impression level across different channels will be increasingly in demand, and it will be sink or swim for publishers. Especially on mobile, the world’s most intimate device, being able to deliver the right message to the right consumer at the right time increases both ROI for advertisers and eCPM for publishers. No wonder 33% of marketers (or the majority) see mobile as the channel with the most opportunity for programmatic advertising.

Programmatic direct
Publishers with premium inventory – usually uncomfortable with offloading this inventory to open exchanges – are increasingly using programmatic as well, but with a direct component, called programmatic direct. This combines the efficiency and data from programmatic with the benefits of guaranteed inventory and fixed prices of direct. eMarketer expects that this type of ad buying will soar the coming years as premium publishers adopt it in big numbers, forming 42% of the programmatic market up from 8% today.

Private exchanges
Another way for premium publishers to keep more control of their inventory is through private exchanges. These allow publishers to whitelist appropriate advertisers and set price floors. It provides advertisers with more transparency and sometimes better targeting and measuring capabilities through unique first party data.
With the influx of ad spend in mobile programmatic, data will become the force which drives audience-centered programmatic into the mobile ecosystem. The large-scale and complex execution of enterprise-sized cross-channel campaigns will necessitate data platforms to facilitate this which makes stellar measurement capabilities and data analytics tools indispensable.
In my next article, we will cover 3 key challenges in programmatic today plus predictions around the future of programmatic and how it relates to mobile video.

The Pursuit of Enough – Finding How Much Content Your Team Should Produce

How much content is enough? This is the question most content marketing strategist are asked and one of the most difficult to answer. For Robert Rose, his answer is “the minimal amount of content for the maximum impact.”
Robert is exactly right. If you produce more content than you need, you are spending too much and limiting profit. If you create too little, it will take longer and be harder to get the results you want. So like Goldilocks, we are in the pursuit of finding the amount that is just right.
The problem with just right is its only right, right now. Next month, quarter and year you will see a change to this amount. Your audience will grow and shrink, the industry will pivot and the types of content people consume will adjust. So not only do we need to find our measurement, we need to be able to refresh our calculations over time.
The Groundwork
Several components go into finding this magic number, but some groundwork must be laid. First, you really need to know your audience and what their goals and problems are. Second, you need to limit the scope of your message so you have a better chance of standing out. Third, you need to know what types of content you can produce over time that is highly valuable to the audience. These are all part of the core definition of content marketing.
Side note: If you are not building content over time and for a specific audience, you are probably executing a campaign and not a content marketing effort. Campaigns are fine and every good marketing plan has many forms of marketing within it. However the measurements do not contain the volume of content over time in the equation for a campaign.
What is your team capable of?
Now you have the groundwork, need to know what your team is capable of to get a base measurement. You may find out you are producing far too much content and vice versa, not enough content.
I deploy agile marketing practices of time boxed content development, backlog estimates and a delivery cadence that is sustainable. Imagine my inner soft-spoken Jim Gaffigan voice coming out at this point, “this guy is crazy, what did he say?”
Ok, let me explain that with a little more detail.
Backlog estimates – To be able to measure what is possible, we need a size to what we want to develop. Will this article take us a day or 5 days? Is our team capable of working outside of silos or do we look more like an assembly line? These answers will help show us how big our current workload is. Without this number, we are taking a shot in the dark. We will either get into the habit of missing deadlines when we crank up the heat or start losing people because they can’t handle the pressure and hours.
Time boxed content development – Giving our teams time to pull in content and work on it without disruption will give us a better reading of what is possible as well as make our team happier. I have not heard from one marketer that loves getting non-prioritized requests for content directly. We all want someone else to manage the backlog and protect us while we deliver on what we said we would do. The agile process named Scrum gives you the tools you need to roll out this type of work environment and when the roles are played correctly, results will follow.
Sustainable pace – We need to know what our team is capable of at a pace that will allow us to continue developing content month after month. Consistency of content delivery to a targeted audience is our goal. If we crank up the heat and produce more content to meet the expectations, our team will start to fall apart. Think of it this way, tonight you are going to run a marathon. That is 26.2 miles! To do so, change from your work attire and put on some workout cloths. Go out your front door and start running as fast as you can. If you make it to the end of the block, congrats, but you are still short of your goal. Even the most elite runners in the world can run faster than they do during a marathon, but they don’t because they will run out of energy and fail the goal.
Once you repeat this pattern of estimating and creating content at a pace you can continue in isolation, you will start to see exactly how much content you can produce. Is that 5 articles a week, 2 articles and 1 podcast, or 1 killer video? Whatever your content type is, this is your rate of delivery.
Now, is that the right amount? Only you will know based off of audience research, statistics, and ROI. Those numbers are always different in each organization.
If you find the amount of content needs to be higher to reach the “maximum impact”, look into adding resources from freelancers, agencies or new hires. Make sure they fit well and are part of the agile practices you deploy.
On the other hand, if you feel you are producing too much content for this audience, start asking questions like:
Is there another audience we need to reach?
Can we try alternative content types to prepare for a change in consumption habits?
Can some of our team members participate in other marketing activities on the team?
Can we spend time making content delivery and measurement more effective?
Is our team just too big?
Whatever you find out, remember what is right today might not be right tomorrow.

12 Most Common Mistakes Businesses Make In Social Media (And How To Avoid Them)

Social media is one of the very best ways to get your brand out there and engaged with, but it is so easy to make huge mistakes on social. Do any of the things in this article and you will find that your social media presence suddenly becomes worthless, even harmful to your company.
1. Getting the profile wrong
Missing the chance to make an impact from the outset.
Don’t forget that, especially as a small business, your social media profiles are the very first things that prospects see. If they are not developed carefully enough, and if they don’t present your company in a good light, you have absolutely no excuse when the whole thing comes crashing down about your ears. To combat this potentially serious problem, you need to ensure that all of your data is on the bio. This means your company details and your URL when it comes to your main site. This is vital, but you would be surprised how many companies get it wrong. It is absolutely incredible that some businesses out there have what can only be described as ‘uninspiring’ profiles on all the major social media channels they are a part of. For more tips, go here.

2. Not monitoring the conversation
Ignoring what people say about your business.
If you are an established small business, you will have a presence online. If you have a presence online, then you should be monitoring it. This is another classic mistake that companies make. They ignore the fact that people are talking about them online and basically stick their heads in the sand. Customers actually take this to a new level by expecting you to keep an eye on the mentions and other aspects of your online presence. If you don’t respond to stuff that is being said about your company online you are simply asking for trouble. For more information on companies that don’t monitor conversations about their business, try this.
3. Handling negativity badly
Sticking your head in the sand, or yanking it out and screaming.
If you’re looking for real failure with social media then simply ignore, delete or get angry about negativity. There is going to be some negativity aimed at your company online, and this will only get worse as your company develops and become more successful. If you delete comments that are negative, people will notice and they will just write more. If you ignore them, there is at least a chance that you appear to ‘rise above’ stuff, which works for a while. If you get angry though, then there is an absolute firestorm heading your way. Keep calm and respond in a sensible and focused manner, and people will love you for it.
4. Not being human
Insisting on a dry, corporate voice.
Get the voice right if you want to survive on social. Too many companies sound automated, literally like robots when they respond to people or when they post updates. Bring some humour into it and this way people will genuinely warm to you and see this as being part of your brand. What’s more, they will like you.
5. Making your DMs automated
Not responding personally.
The biggest fail right now for companies on Twitter is the old classic: the automated DM that tells people that you’re super happy to get to know them and to keep looking out for each other’s tweets. This sounds as robotic as you’d expect, and people are starting to switch off from it. Take your time on Twitter when finding new followers anyway (see next point), but most definitely avoid treating them like another number. Respond personally, and watch the engagement rise.
6. Over following on Twitter
Not keeping it targeted.
As another aspect of the previous point, stop following millions of people every year. Twitter is now working better as a social media platform for people who follow genuinely interesting people, or users who would be interested in what you have to offer on the platform. Blanket follow, and the audience will become something you would rather avoid, especially when you see meaningless tweets and messages flashing up that just waste your time. Get connected to people who mean something to you and you can’t go wrong.
7. Ignoring calls to action
A recipe for low ROI.
If you want to ensure that people actually get something out of your social media content and give something back to you (ROI), you need to ensure that there is some call to action at least some of the time. It is easy to just send out a bunch of tweets and write a few blog posts that show great expertise and insight, but not much else. If people like what you do, they should be able to find out more about you and engage with you more. Who knows, they may even buy something at some point. Include a call to action on your social media and you will find that the ROI just grows and grows.
8. Over-automating your presence
Something that Facebook is getting cross about.
Avoid the automated update stuff. Facebook has been known to get rather angry with businesses that automate their updates, because it wants to see more people actually engaging with the audience they’re trying to build up. Spend time talking to customers and your wider audience, and try your best to mix up any automaton with some genuine content that you have created yourself.
9. Using hashtags too much
Even three is too much.
We won’t actually use one in this section, but the overuse of hashtags has made social media a bit of a minefield for the casual observer (i.e. prospects). Hashtags are way overused and people are now switching off when they see them. The worst businesses include more than three hashtags in their tweets for example (and we think that is pretty rich, to be honest). No one wants death by hashtag, so show some mercy. For more insight on hashtags and tracking hashtags, go here.
10. No social plan
You need a social media marketing strategy.
Not having a plan is a pretty big mistake. Too many businesses just build out their Twitter page and their Facebook presence and then sit back, expecting people to rush out there and connect with them. This is not how the world works, and it is most certainly an easy way to fail on social media. You need to get people to come to you through some super-savvy marketing. Publicise your social media channels on your blog, your business card, and even the side of your car if you have to. Whatever you do, don’t just wait for people to come to you. Social media is a funny thing. There are millions of people using it, but it is almost impossible to find an audience unless you talk about your social media in the real world, or on other channels. At the very least, if you’re an established company, send out a press release when you post your very first tweet, for example.
11. Obsessing on follower numbers
It’s all about the quality, not the quantity.
Don’t get hooked on poring over your numbers either. It is very easy to become obsessed with looking at your follower numbers and expecting these to translate into sales. The best thing you can do on social is focus on creating high-quality content that makes people sit up and listen. This is the only way you gain an ROI from your hard work. Having fifty million followers on a platform just means that fifty million people have clicked on your name. They won’t avidly read your content unless it is relevant and valuable to them.
12. Not keeping it fresh
Regular, consistent content is important.
Finally, get fresh content out as often as is reasonable. Don’t be that company that posts 50 times a day and hopes that people come and buy. Instead, focus on creating regular content or sharing content on a very consistent basis. This way, people will know when to expect you to join the conversation, and this knowing will mean that they will welcome you.
So there are the twelve most common mistakes you can make on social media. All of them are easy to make (we all want to deny we did number 12 at least once, for example), but if you can avoid them, your social presence will only grow over time.