Small Business Finds The Internet… It Only Took Two Decades [Survey]

Where would we be without the Internet? We’d still be using paper maps, calling restaurants to make reservations, listening to CDs and reading newspapers. And Business.com, like millions of other companies, wouldn’t be around.

Clearly, the Internet isn’t going anywhere, but it’s taken quite some time for the mom and pop shops of America to really get their heads (and wallets) around marketing on this juggernaut. Year over year, small business Internet marketing spend increases, and according to the SMB Internet Marketing Survey by BrightLocal and Chamberofcommerce.com, 37% of these SMBs are planning to increase their spend on internet marketing yet again in 2015.

Internet Marketing Spend Increase Plans

Of the 736 SMBs surveyed, 29% allocate more than 70% of their marketing budget to online channels. This stat alone is an indication that Internet marketing has become of increasing importance to the local businesses of America as technology and opportunities improve. In fact, since 2013, “there has been a 16% rise in SMBs that plan to increase their Internet marketing spend over the next 12 months.”

The reasons behind the increased spend can be many, but one of the most important is the increasing effectiveness of Internet marketing. 75% of those surveyed find it to be “effective” or “very effective” at attracting customers. Only 20% said it was not effective, and 4% don’t do any Internet marketing at all. In their analysis, BrightLocal said “it is this increase in trust towards internet marketing that has persuaded 37% of SMBs to up their spending levels over next 12 months.”

Internet Marketing Effectiveness SMBs

So which channels are these SMBs finding the most success on? Next to word of mouth, they said that SEO (20%), online directories (15%), and email marketing (10%) are the most effective marketing channels. In our experience at Business.com, we’d agree that email marketing and SEO are effective channels, but the online directories stat gave us pause upon reading. But, given that the majority of the businesses surveyed in this report are self-taught and not in the business of the internet, it’s not surprising that they’d be a few years behind in their perception of what’s working versus what’s trending in Internet marketing.

Though word of mouth is considered to be an offline channel in this survey, review sites like Yelp are contributing to word of mouth marketing for businesses: “the impact of a great reputation which is shared widely online can earn businesses lots more customers.” The growing importance of online word of mouth will continue to fuel Internet marketing spend for SMBs as they realize the impact it has on their business.

Online Marketing Channel Effectiveness

Though the majority of the SMBs surveyed consider a phone call to their business as the best success metric of their marketing efforts, 40% of respondents said that traffic to their websites and search rankings are the most important. Another 14% said that website inquiries are of the highest value. When compared to the “in-person” success metrics of phone calls and actual customers walking through the door (45%), the online metrics are the clear winner (54%). This is a clear indication that spend will continue on its upward trend as SMBs pursue improvement in these metrics.

Internet Marketing Success Metrics

Of the 18% of SMBs that use a consultant or agency to handle their online marketing efforts, only 11% are not satisfied with the results. Most impressive is the respondents that “love them, think they’re brilliant”—up 30% from last year from 9%! This surprised me. Because small businesses tend to have small budgets for marketing, it could be deduced that when they do empty their pockets on an agency, they have high expectations. For so many SMBs to feel satisfied with their agencies not only indicates that the consultants are not only doing their jobs better, but perhaps that SMBs better understand what value they bring and how they do so. This is great news for Internet marketing agencies.

Marketing consultant performance and sentiment

Similarly, with each passing year SMB owners are becoming more interested in Internet marketing, and are making efforts to learn how they can best apply it to their business. Many SMBs struggle with limited resources including time and money, but the majority of those surveyed are dedicated to taking a DIY-approach to Internet marketing. Only 2% say they’re not interested in Internet marketing for their business.

Attitudes towards internet marketing SMBs

As we get well on our way with 2015, one thing is very clear about Internet marketing for small business: it’s here to stay. This is good news for all of us in the business of making money online, but to me, the most important takeaway from the SMB Internet Marketing Survey is that we continue to see an increased understanding and investment in online marketing efforts across the board from big brands to your favorite family-owned restaurant. With this outlook, the only way to go is up. Here’s to a year full of Internet marketing for ALL!

An Intro to Paid Search by Business.com’s SEM Analyst

Search Engine Marketing SEMSearch engine marketing is an important focus for us at Business.com. In an effort to make sure everyone in the company understands what it really is, I presented an overview of paid search during one of our lunchtime learning sessions. So I figured, why not share it with all of you as well?

This presentation was designed for people who have heard about SEM but do not have direct knowledge about it. We explored the very basics of how search engine marketing works, and all the basic tenants of paid search. Here’s the rundown.

What is paid search?

  • Paid search, or search engine marketing, is the management of ads that show next to organic search engine results. Advertisers can get traffic to their website on a cost-per-click basis.
  • Like anything, paid search takes time and money to run effectively.
  • Typically users that search for a keyword on a search engine have high intent. They either wish to buy an item or wish to learn more about something. This is one of the advantages of paid search compared to other paid advertising channels.

Some facts and figures about paid search:

  • Google owns 2/3 of the US market share for search engine traffic. Bing owns just less than 1/3.
  • There are 40,000 search queries on Google every second.
  • Google’s advertising revenues in 2012 were $42.5 billion.

As you can see, there are a lot of people searching for things, and advertisers are willing to pay real money to get those people to come to their website.

What can you use paid search for?

  • Ecommerce/Retail: Amazon, Macy’s, Nike all use paid search to drive product sales
  • Lead Generation: We use paid search here at Business.com to identity people interested in a product and service. Then we match these people with advertisers that provide that service
  • Website Traffic/Branding: Companies can send paid traffic to their website to increase brand awareness

Others have also used paid search to drive people to special offers on their website, to collect emails for their database or to collect donations. The uses of paid search are only limited by the website that the paid click drives to.

Here’s an example of a paid search ad:

Example of paid search ad

You have undoubtedly seen this screen before. After searching for a keyword (in this instance, “Nike running shoes”) you are shown a screen with a combination of ads and organic search results.

Notice that the paid ad space takes up a majority of the screen. When these ads align with exactly what the user is looking for, that’s when people will click on your ad.

Paid search management is all about matching a compelling ad to the relevant keywords.

If you are a business, you’ll have to balance your costs with your revenue. Each paid search click costs you money. So, you must think about how much you are willing to pay per click. This depends on your average revenue per visitor, or some other performance metric you are trying to optimize for.

When you choose the keywords you wish to advertise on, you can set a maximum CPC (cost per click) for each keyword. We’ll go over that, and some other details about the economics of paid search in the next section.

Basic Terminology

For clarity’s sake, let’s go over some basic terminology:

  • Keyword: the search query that you choose to show ads on.
  • Ad: the ad you write which will be shown for keywords that you bid on.
  • Max CPC: the maximum amount of money you are willing to pay if someone clicks on your ad.
  • CTR: Percentage of the time users click on your ad (as opposed to clicking on organic results or someone else’s ad).
  • Quality Score: the search engine’s 1-10 measure of the relevancy of your ad. This number is calculated mainly from your adcopy’s CTR, but also factors in your landing page experience, and a few other lesser factors.SEM example max CPC

Now that we’ve gotten some definitions out of the way, let’s take a look at what’s going on under the hood.

The Auction

Every time a user searches on a search engine, there is an auction that takes place in a fraction of a second. The advertiser with the highest ad rank gets shown in the number 1 ad spot. The advertiser with the second highest ad rank gets put in position 2, and so on.

Here is the formula for calculating your ad rank for a given keyword you are bidding on:

Max CPC * Quality Score = Ad Rank

This is a simple and elegant system that rewards advertisers for 1) bidding more money or 2) having a more relevant ad.

At the same time that Google calculates your ad rank, they also calculate the ad rank for all the advertisers that are competing with you. At the end, it shows ads in order of their ad rank.

Using The Auction To Your Advantage

This formula has a few implications for the achievement of your goals. As a marketer, your goals are probably something along the lines of this:

1) You want your ad to be seen by and clicked by as many people as possible and;

2) You also want to pay the least amount of money possible for each click.

The interesting thing is that these two objectives are actually contradictory. According to the formula above, if quality score is equal across all competitors, you need to increase your max CPC to get a better ad rank. So, you pay more money per click. Compounding this, the higher ad rank will cause your ads to get more clicks due to being in a higher position, and those additional clicks will cost you even more money.

Consider the opposite situation. If you bid lower, you will pay less money per click. But then your ad will be shown on a lower position on the page so you will also get fewer clicks, which will also decrease your advertising costs. Thus, the decreased CPC and decreased click volume work together to lower your costs.

As a search marketer, you have to strike a balance between price per click and the click volume you get. If you try and earn the number 1 or 2 spot all the time, you will need to bid high and that will cost you.

Can you afford the top ad positions? Often times it is much better to show ads on a lower position, because the price per click lends itself to overall profitability.

Closing Thoughts

We have just scratched the surface of search engine marketing. Search engines are collecting all sorts of data on user behavior and make it available to their advertisers so that they can improve their paid search efforts. Some advanced topics include:

  • Ad copy testing: testing different ad messaging to improve click-through-rate
  • Geographic targeting: analyzing ad performance segmented by geographic region
  • Time of day optimization: analyzing performance based on time of day or day of the week
  • Ad extensions: managing add-ons for your ads that increase its credibility and visibility. These often take the form of modules that convey your company’s Google+ rating, store address, or number of followers on social media next to your basic ad text.

All in all, the data driven nature of paid search and the real-time auctions are what set it apart from traditional media buying. Check back here periodically for future articles on more advanced topics in paid search.

Questions? Feel free to leave one in the comments section.

Future Selling: The Role of Ad Tech and Programmatic in B2B Media

ad tech and digital media convergeTwo weeks ago, I spoke at the Business Information & Media Summit on the impact of ad technology and programmatic buying on B2B media. The title of my talk: “Future Selling in B2B Media: Yes, there is a future.”

To give you a sense of perspective, #BIMS14 brought together 400 senior executives from business media, information, data and software companies ranging from some of the largest in the world, to start ups.

Related Article: B2B Marketing in 2014: The Trends, Successes and More

It was an audience of smart, experienced professionals, many of whom are still struggling with the havoc that the Internet has wrought on their traditional media and information businesses. To create a sense of context, I started with the major milestones that have shaped the digital landscape in which we currently live and do business:

  • 1995: Birth of the commercial web
  • 2000: First phase of the Internet as a platform
  • 2004: Social Networks introduced
  • 2006: Online targeting emerges
  • 2014: The Intention-Based revolution begins

This most recent milestone, the intention-based revolution, is a significant from-to shift. Advancements in digital technology have given us the ability to see users’ behavior in real time, improving both the experience for the audience and also creating more natural engagement with relevant advertising.

The power and potential of the intention-based web is reflected in the sheer number of marketing automation and ad tech companies that exist today. Estimates suggest there over 1,300, with new ones popping up daily. While the capabilities vary widely, the vast majority of these technologies were developed to help marketers leverage intention-based data to drive their digital marketing. Heck, to drive all of their marketing. Period.

The presentation on the future of selling in B2B media pivots on the following two fundamental concepts:

  1. All media today is digital. Regardless of the media you produce, whether it’s live events, data and business information, digital marketing or print, digital is increasingly the way audiences find, engage with and evaluate your offerings.
  2. Digital media and ad tech are converging. As they do so, this convergence is creating the intention-based media era as B2B marketers now have access to real-time data that signal the intentions of their prospects and customers.

For B2B media and marketing professionals, these are both exciting yet challenging times. There are 4 key steps to help start the process:

  1. Understand digital body language: Listen to your audience. Start looking at more than visits and views. Capture, analyze and retain all of the data you can. From initial visit, to content and advertising viewed and engaged with, to time on site, IP address, titles, functions… look at all of the firmographic and demographic data you can.
  1. Leverage targeted content: Start leveraging targeted content that you and your advertising customers produce. Relevant, contextual content is the fuel for intention-based media.
  1. Harness your own data: The data you collect is your best friend. Real-time, first party as well as third party, behavioral analytics data—digging in and understanding your data is an integral part of intention-based media.
  1. Embrace ad tech: In order to take advantage of the intention-based landscape and the future selling that comes along with it, it’s essential that you embrace ad tech. This includes programmatic advertising and media buying, as it’s estimated that by 2017, 83% of all ad buys will be programmatic.

Related Article: Programmatic What? A Comparison of Programmatic Buying & The Stock Market

Historically, B2B media created value for advertisers based on retrospective data; qualification forms, registrations to a trade show or email newsletter subscriptions. Today, B2B media value is based on a publishers ability to use ad tech to act on real-time, intention-based data, and create media inventory that can be sold directly to marketers and/or indirectly through programmatic exchanges.

Publisher to marketer map

Ad tech model diagram and map of content

The Business.com Case Study

We’ve spent the last year rebuilding our platforms, site and business model around this new landscape. Harnessing real time, intention-based data, generated on Business.com, allows us to provide a uniquely contextual experience for our audience of business decision makers. It also allows us to scale digital marketing programs for our advertisers by using this data to intelligently engage these buyers on our site, across our proprietary performance-marketing network and across the broader web. Media, marketing and technology have become inextricably intertwined. To provide value for both reader and marketer however, they need to be engineered to work together, which is the approach we’ve taken with Business.com.

Intention-based media is opening up new opportunities for B2B media and marketing and it’s still in the early stages. We look forward sharing our journey with you and as always look forward to hearing yours. View the entire presentation below.

Future Selling: The Role of Ad Tech & Programmatic in B2B Media from Tony Uphoff

Content Marketing Metrics: Write, Measure, Repeat

Content Marketing Metrics to Measure SuccessContent marketing is all sorts of huge, with only 12% of companies NOT focusing on it. But how do you know if your content is successful? In three words, successful content marketing has to have the following: write, measure, repeat.

The new Business.com is a content-centric approach to our mission: to help people grow their businesses. Every day, we publish multiple pieces of content daily that all have that exact goal, but that’s just where it starts. In order to learn if our efforts are working, it is imperative that we dig into the analytics and to find out. Below are the content marketing metrics that we measure, how we do it, and what comes after.

Related Article: Is Content Marketing the Future of B2B?

Site Traffic

This might seem like an obvious one, but what should you do with the metrics once you record? First, here are the traffic metrics we keep track of:

  • Total visitors: the total number of unique visits (sessions in Google Analytics) to your content and the percent of that organic traffic to total traffic.
  • Organic traffic: visitors that are finding your site through search, link backs on other sites, social channels, etc.
  • Referral traffic: further drill-down of organic traffic, referral traffic comes from social channels and links outside of your own site.

With these, you’ll want to view organic traffic percent to total traffic and have a goal to increase that. By choosing the right keywords and answering the questions in your content that people typing for would find helpful, you’ll start to see organic traffic increase. Referral traffic from social networks should also start going up if the quality and shareability is there.

Total Views by Content Type

Which pieces of content perform best on your site? Based on this, you’ll know what to keep and do more of, and what you shouldn’t waste your energy on. Similarly to site traffic, we look at total views, percentage change and percent of traffic.

We produce the following types of content, so we measure the effectiveness of each:

  • Articles
  • Comparison charts
  • Ebooks
  • Whitepapers
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Blog posts

Top Performing Content Categories

Since Business.com covers quite a few professional disciplines, we want to know which category of content is resonating the most with our readers. This not only tells us what categories of content are performing the best, but also tells us more about our audience’s interest and job function.

Top 10 Performing Pieces of Content

This is a very important metric for us because it indicates which pieces of Business.com content have viral potential. If you look at your top ten pieces daily, you can re-share those articles and keep the engagement snowballing. Since social shares are so important with this metric, be sure to keep track. We use an internal platform as well as SimpleReach to help us identify this content. For performance, we look at the following:

  • Time on site – how long people are staying engaged with your site’s content before going elsewhere. Set goals and measure against them.
  • Bounce rate
  • Traffic by social channel
  • Shares by social channel

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is an important indicator of a few things in terms of content marketing. First and foremost, it shows how good of a job you’re doing (or not doing) with content re-targeting. Are you serving up related content? Trending content? If you’re not, your bounce rate is probably reflecting it. Similarly for time onsite, set goals for yourself and measure your actual bounce rate against them.

Traffic by Social Channel

Utilizing social media as a means of driving traffic to your content is vital. As I once heard it described at a conference, content is the heart and your social media networks are the veins. Measuring traffic by social channels helps you to tailor your strategy depending on where your audience is most engaged, and around which topics. You should track every channel that your brand regularly uses to publicize content.

Shares by Social Channel

If people are not only reading your content, but sharing it, you know you’re doing something right. We place a lot of emphasis on shares by social channel, because we believe it to be an indicator that our audience found a piece of content so valuable that they shared it with their community. SimpleReach has been a huge help in easily tracking this metric.

Once you’ve started tracking these metrics, it’s important to regularly update to track your progress. Set benchmarks for where you’d like to be for each metric, and map out a plan of how you’re going to get there. As you continue tracking your progress, adjust your plan to stay on track towards your goals. Metrics are key to your continued content marketing success.

3 Insights On How Brands Can Create Disruption for a #BrighterFuture

Creating DisruptionI recently attended the iMedia Brand Summit where top brands from around the country come together to share insights, trends and tips. The theme of the conference was “Marketing in an Always-On World,” and couldn’t be a more accurate statement about the landscape brands and marketers are in today.The good news? The scene is set for marketers and brands to really step up.

As marketers, there are a few challenges we are currently facing:

  1. Tackling the content conundrum
  2. How to master the art of storytelling

Great companies not only tell a story, but whenever they can, appeal to the emotions. As Adam Kleinberg, CEO of Traction stated, “companies have to stop treating customers like lab rats thinking, ‘how can we just get a click,’ and then stalking them around the internet endlessly with no shame.”

Related Article: B2B Marketing in 2014: The Trends, Successes and More

Here are a few things to remember:

  1. If you aren’t intelligently retargeting and running advanced targeting through distribution, you should be. But that’s not enough.
  2. If you aren’t tracking your customers and delivering content that’s relevant to them and their behavior, you should be. But that’s not enough.
  3. If you aren’t a player in programmatic, you should be. But that’s not enough.

All the ad tech in the world isn’t going to build a brand. It may drive more revenue. It may allow you to find like audiences to target after and increase your customers and database. It may allow you to automate lead nurturing campaigns and triggered email campaign spends, but what happens once you stop spending money?

Will your brand be remembered?

#1 In order to create disruption today, you have to create emotion.

At the end of the day, we are all humans. We have emotions. Susan Weinschenk, a.k.a. @thebrainlady, said that “good stories make a concept visual, tangible and personal.” Great brands give customers a taste of what they offer and gently remind them to come back for more.

Apple doesn’t have a gigantic button that says BUY NOW throughout their pages because they don’t have to. They create a great experience and tell a great story so you just want to buy. Credit card companies don’t share images of their credit cards, they share images of beautiful travel locations and yachts and fancy cars. They inspire a feeling of desire in their customers. Just take a look at Capital One’s Pinterest board. Their tagline says it all: “Life’s rewards can be pretty sweet. We’re serving up inspiration and #rewards to help you get more!”

Skincare brand Dove’s mission was to reach more women. After conducting a study, they found only 4% of women think they are beautiful. So what did they do about it? Dove decided to create content around this issue by targeting women’s insecurities, and allowing users to displace negative banner images in social with positive messages. Dove’s Facebook mentions increased by 71% and over 50% of the women who visited the app created a message. Dove disrupted the marketplace by creating emotion in women around the world.

#2 In order to create disruption, brands must combine technology and customer insights to deliver a new experience.

Companies need to innovate. Gone are the days of static articles and :30 second videos. If you are a brand, how can you merge technology with customer insights?

Hellmann’s did it by creating a new experience for customers called “recipe receipt.” If Hellmann’s was in a shopping cart, the POS software created a recipe with the other ingredients that was purchased.

The results? With installation in 100 cash registers around the world in 3 months, sales increased 44%. Take a look at this video clip below.

Kelly Moore Paints similarly built an application that allowed a user to choose paint colors from a palate swatch, and then save that color collection as an image that was sharable on Pinterest and Facebook. This not only created a massive content selection for Kelly Moore to use, but it inspired creativity and sharing. Kelly Moore Paints made it personal by combining technology and customer insights to deliver a new experience.

#3 In order to create disruption today, you have to enlist brand ambassadors.

When BuzzFeed started, their goal was (and still is) to create viral content. They are obsessed with entertaining, substantive content and social advertising. According to the CEO Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed hires people who are tapped into the flow of culture on the web and know how to add their own ideas to the mix and create entertaining posts people love.

BuzzFeed understood that if they were going to be a publisher, than every single one of their employees has to publish. They also don’t believe in only driving traffic where good journalists can’t take the time to create robust stories OR creating content for just ad revenue which forces content creators to write new sections just because brands want to sponsor it (or so they say), and it shows.

There’s growing value in sharing your brand’s unique content on secondary platforms like LinkedIn and SlideShare. And the only people who can create distribute content are people, not brands. In order to create disruption, hire brand ambassadors who share and care.

9 Monstrous Copywriting Mistakes, care of Halloween’s Michael Myers

Monstrous Copywriting Mistakes

My favorite things in life are writing and watching the original masterpiece, Halloween. And today I get to combine the two!

Viewing after viewing, I’m consistently impressed by the fact that Michael Myers, the fictional psychopath of the cult classic Halloween, is able to slay so many victims without saying a single word. I’m equally perplexed at how many content marketers persuade customers to buy their product by using terrible copywriting tactics.

We don’t like to shame specific businesses, but if Michael Myers were a copywriter, we’d gladly point out his creepy copywriting mistakes (that marketers are guilty of too). Here are the 9 most horrific copywriting offenses as demonstrated by the monster himself, Michael Myers.

No Value for the Reader

This is big. Copywriters should always be thinking about the customers. Sometimes we marketers get in the habit of thinking, talking, and writing about ourselves and “our” customers. Instead, try switching from third-person to second-person, utilizing “you” and “yours.” Don’t tell your followers why “our customers love the new product”. Tell them “this is why you’ll love it”.

Michael Myers’ Facebook Post: People are scared of me. I’m big, I wear a white-mask, a navy janitor’s uniform, and I murder people for a living.

Crafting Vague Headlines

According to Copyblogger, 80% of people read headline copy but only 20% will finish the article. You can’t blame them either, they’re bombarded with marketing messages each day. It’s your job you craft a headline that’s specific and communicates value to the reader. Pack as much information as you can into a sentence, for example: “If you’re on the hunt for a new office copier, download our new eBook and discover which machine fits your budget and needs” is more direct and descriptive than “Are copiers necessary?”

Michael Myers’ Blog Post Headline: “I’m Michael Myers. Where are you?”

Related Article: 3 Words That Will Instantly Boost Call-to-Action Conversion Rates

Using an Improper Tone

Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it- even when it comes to copywriting. If something is said sarcastically in a serious situation, readers can be offended. Likewise, tone should fit the context. Your CTA button on your home or checkout page should have a persuasive tone, but Twitter and Facebook should remain conversational.

Michael Myers’ Checkout Page CTA: Yo’ @LaurieStrode! Tell me where you’re at kid sis.

Incorrect Punctuation and Spelling

Nothing says “thought leader” like grammatical errors. I’ve seen (and unfortunately created) many social media posts with spelling and/or grammar mistakes. Which is the last thing you want to do with social posts, because for one, you instantly get bombarded with spell-checking remarks, and two, you sound less professional. And if you’re tagging someone in your post, definitely get all the details before you press ‘post’.

Michael Myers’ Tweet: Hey @LooorieStide, I’m leeving you’re friends house and coming for you. Hows babysitting going?

Too Long

Too much text can hurt. Even in cases with no character limit, lengthy language can bore your reader. Our friends at Buffer created a guide listing the ideal copywriting length for everything online. They found that, although the max is 140, the ideal Tweet is 100 characters long. Facebook posts around 40 characters receive 86 percent higher engagement than lengthier posts. And when it comes to crafting the perfect email subject line, stick to 28-39 characters.

Michael Myers’ Email Subject Line: If you’re in the mood for the some Halloween fun, and your name is Laurie, and you’re babysitting kids right now, and you’re eating popcorn, and you’re bummed you’re not hanging out with your rebellious friends, and you’re really brainy, then open this email.

Related Article: 14 Resources to Reference When Writing a Blog Post

Over-Complicated Language

Sometimes B2B marketers, and writers in general, can get too caught up in fancy lingo, using ornate phrases like “at the present time” instead of “now” or “we’re here to facilitate the transformative framework of your intelligence-based business” instead of “we’re here to help.” The reader shouldn’t have to break out a thesaurus or a grammar guide to understand your offering. Do the brainwork for him and simplify your words. Be conversational.

Michael Myers “About” Page: With my distinguishing psychotic characteristic, I envisage a night of titillating consternation, ultimately realizing my intention of annihilating Laurie’s friends, resulting in undiscriminating bloodshed.

Forgetting to Flip Negatives into Positives

You can communicate the value of your product or service with a glass half-full or half-empty language. For example, when you’re promoting a new discount, you have two ways of communication the offer: the customer is told he is “getting 50% off the sales price” or “50% extra with the new promotion” Marketers are quick to communicate the reduction, but sometimes buyers feel more upbeat about getting something for free.

Michael Myers’ Promotional Copy: Special Discount: If you scream, I’ll take 50% of your arms off. For a limited time only.

Using Weak Verbs and Too Many Nouns

Social media scientist and expert, Dan Zarrella, analyzed over 200,000 tweets and found that the ones with less nouns and more verbs or adverbs received higher click-through rates. I hear this from writing gurus all the time: Use strong verbs!

Michael Myers’ Tweet: The dead arm is in my hand.

Never Using Numbers

Research shows that numbers stick, meaning headlines like “10 reasons to click here” resonate with readers more than “Ten reasons to click here”. Don’t underestimate the power of listicles. Takipi analyzed over 100 blogs to determine which headlines were shared the most. They discovered that readers prefer headlines that begin with digits rather than numerical words.

Michael Myers’ Headline: Seventy-five Reasons You Should Stop Running From Me

In Michael Myers’ case, the pen was not mightier than the sword. Maybe he should’ve spent a little time A/B testing.

You, on the other (less creepy) hand, can run a proper A/B test and start to engage potential customers. Don’t let the right ones get away from you.

Now, cue the Halloween music.

The SMB Guide to Mobile Marketing

Mobile Marketing OpportunitiesTo say that mobile marketing is exploding is an understatement. With consumers and businesses alike utilizing their devices for everything from playing a game to making major business purchases, marketers cannot ignore that mobile has to be a part of their plans and budget. Mobile is not only a different animal than traditional forms of marketing, but also than it’s older digital sibling. The game has changed once again, so we’ve created a guide to help you navigate the waters ahead.

Overview

Mobile marketing is advertising via cell phone, smartphone, tablet, or any other such device connected wirelessly to the Internet. Unlike traditional mass marketing, mobile marketing is most likely to be user-initiated; consequently, you are already targeting an audience interested in and predisposed to buy your products and services.

Another unique characteristic of mobile marketing is that it targets consumers based not only on their personal buying patterns and interest profiles, but also their geographic location. Thus, diners interested in Indian cuisine can receive an alert whenever they are near an Indian restaurant when it’s time for lunch or dinner.

Fast Stats on the Mobile Market

The mobile audience will include an estimated 196 million smartphone users in the U.S. by 2016. According to local marketing experts BIA/Kelsey, while most local commerce is conducted offline, it is greatly influenced by online searching and ad messaging.

According to the Google/Nielsen Mobile Search Moments study, only 17 percent of mobile searches are conducted on the go; 77 percent take place at work or at home. While the ability to target users while they are on the go is important — shopping and food-related queries are twice as likely from inside a store than anywhere else — the overriding opportunity is tapping into a sizeable audience that increasingly relies on a mobile device versus a PC to search.

Related Article: 3 Big Shifts in B2B Marketing: How Marketers are Reacting

According to mobiThinking, typical consumer mobile usage averages nearly three hours a day, versus just a little over two hours daily on a PC. (more…)

Up-and-Coming Digital Agency Scenes

mobile apps conceptWhen you think creative hubs, Manhattan, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are some of the long-deemed cities that come to mind, but that is changing. With established, traditional agencies losing business to smaller, more nimble digital agencies, the advertising landscape is being reshaped, as are the cities that they call home.

Portland and Minneapolis are some of the hottest up-and-coming digital scenes. Below are some of the agencies that are putting them on the map, and the incredible work they’re putting out.

Portland

Screenshot of The Real PSL Tumblr by Swift agency

Swift

Winner of the Northwest Gold for Ad Age’s Small Agency of the Year Awards in 2014, this digital creative agency is 70 percent women. Though Swift has the ability to do traditional advertising, their sweet spot is social media and emerging networks, particularly with the millennial crowd.

In order to usher in the season of their most popular drink, the Pumpkin Spice Latte (or PSL to those in the know), Starbucks called on Swift. Knowing their audience, Swift gave PSL its very own Tumblr, called The Real PSL. Fans of PSL can “Ask a Latte” anything their heart desires, and re-blog PSL’s Pinterest/Instagram-worthy pics.

Roundhouse

Another Portland agency receiving honors from Ad Age, Roundhouse recently took home a Gold Award for Agency Culture. That’s not the only thing they’re doing right—Roundhouse has a slate of clients that top traditional agencies would be jealous of, including big brands like Adidas, Red Bull, and Xbox, just to name a few.

In an effort to help msnNOW reach the millenial audience they were hoping to capture, Roundhouse created a series of ads featuring viral video content to roll out on YouTube. According to Roundhouse, “the videos received over 64 million ad views and 130,000 click-throughs while contributing to the more than one billion impressions.”

Minneapolis

screenshot from Olson website of the

Olson

Though it might not seem like a hub for all things cool, Minneapolis’s creative scene is paving the way for a full-blown boutique agency takeover. Just a few years ago in 2009, an article in Ad Age revealed that boutique agencies had all but taken over. In 2013, Olson brought in a staggering $90m in revenue (which is $30M more than any other Minneapolis agency) with massive brand clients Target, General Mills, and GoPro.

Projects like Cereal Wars and The Strudel Düdeler, social media campaigns used to General Mills’ cereal and Toaster Strudel, show Olson’s creativity in creating compelling brand content and using social media avenues to share it with the world.

mono

After years at some of the biggest names in advertising, mono’s founders decided to strike out on their own in 2004 and open an agency “with the belief that simpler is better.” Since then, they’d been pulling in business from some of the country’s most significant brands like Target, Honeywell, Herman Miller, and more.

Modern furniture company Blu Dot and mono created the Real Good Experiment, where they placed 200 of Blu Dot’s Real Good Chairs throughout NYC, free for the taking. What resulted was 130 million media impressions with a grand total of $0 spent on a media buy. Talk about virality.

 

19 Pieces of Great Marketing Advice from the Pros

marketing advice illustrationThe work of a marketer is never done, but with a little advice from the experts, your marketing efforts can be more inspired, effective and engaging. Whether your business is B2B or B2C, these insightful tips from the pros will get you thinking about marketing in a different way.

Here are 19 of our favorite words of wisdom from some of the great minds paving the way, especially in the digital landscape.

“The biggest titles don’t always have the biggest brains. Instead, go after key influencers.” Guy Kawasaki, Chief Evangelist, Canva (Tweet This!)

“A story is at its best when it’s not intrusive, when it brings value to a platform’s consumers, and when it fits in as a natural step along the customer’s path to making a purchase.” Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO, Vayner Media

“On any job, be 100% present until you decide not to be … [and] [n]o moment of anger or frustration is worth the negative long-term impact it can have on your own marketability.” Stephanie Fierman, Global CMO, MediaCom Worldwide

“In the world of B2B, your professional network is everything. Because your business is about business, the potential of you know and who they know is where powerful connections happen.” Amber Naslund, Brass Tack Thinking

Related: Social Ad Spending will Grow to $11 Billion by 2017

“Always be problem solving! Don’t think about how to be a “cool” marketer. Think about how you can help.” Carrie Kerpen, CEO, Likeable Media

“People share, read, and generally engage more with any type of content when it’s surfaced through friends and people they know and trust.” Malorie Lucich, Product Communications, Pinterest

“Branding is not just about being seen as better than the competition. It’s about being seen as the only solution to your audience’s problem.” John Morgan, Author of Brand Against the Machine

“Often, B2B content is written to represent the company. Swell. Except your audience is most likely your customer base and prospects. To that end, write your posts with your customer’s usage in mind. Think about what they will want to know, and how you can be useful.” Chris Brogan, marketing expert & Author of Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust

“Instead of a one-way interruption, web marketing is about delivering useful content at just the precise moment that the buyer needs it.” David Meerman Scott, Marketing Strategist & Author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR 8

“There are no magic wands, no hidden tricks, and no secret handshakes that can bring you immediate success, but with time, energy and determination, you can get there.” Darren Rowse, Founder, Problogger

“The biggest mistake we see companies make when they first hit Twitter is to think about it as a channel to push out information” – Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein, Co-Authors of The Twitter Book

Related: Educate Yourself with Online Marketing Tools and Tips

“Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with your marketing.” Mike Volpe, CMO, Hubspot

“What makes content engaging relevancy. You need to connect the contact information with the content information.” Gail Goodman, President & CEO, Constant Contact

“People shop and learn in a whole new way as compared to just a few years ago, so marketers need to adopt or risk extinction.” Brian Halligan, CEO, Hubspot

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey, Author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People®

“When creating content, be empathetic above all else. Try to live the lives of your audience – think about what influences them, what drives their passions, what makes them want to share, and how they consume content, too.” Rand Fishkin, Co-founder, Moz

“Keep ideas and communication simple. The very best ideas in marketing that convince consumers and ignite passion can often be explained in one word and one picture. Keep it simple!” Stefan Homeister, head of Sales and Marketing for SAB Miller Europe

“Customer Experience Management is on the rise for a simple reason. Happy customers inspire prospects and drive up brand reputation. Fast response to problems does exactly the same.” Axel Schultze, founder and CEO of Society3 Group Inc.

“Data is the new currency. So marketers need to date their IT mates.” Deanie Elsner, CMO, Kraft Foods

How to Make the Most of What You Have: Lead Conversion Optimization Tips from Jim Wang of Microblogger.com

Flat computerWhat is top-of-mind for B2B marketers right now? According to a 2013 survey from The B2B Technology/Marketing Community on LinkedIn, 61% of responders said the biggest challenge they face is generating leads. And not just any old lead, but quality leads that actually convert.

For the B2B marketers who feel held to time-consuming and expensive campaigns, there’s good news: the same study also found that the most effective lead generation tactic used by marketers is the company website, and another survey from MarketingSherpa found that marketers are increasing their spend yearly, with most of the focus on website optimization.

Despite the additional spend, lack of resources in staffing, budgeting, and time makes it difficult for marketers to efficiently optimize business’ web pages. Luckily, there are some simple and inexpensive tactics you can apply to your business website conversion efforts.

Jim Wang from Microblogger.com recently spoke at FinCon ’14, where he offered up some very solid and tactile advice on how to test and improve lead conversions from your company website. In his presentation, “Conversion Optimizaion: How to Make the Most of What You Have”, Wang gave real-life examples of his own tests and actionable takeaways any marketer can apply to their own efforts.

Here are 4 simple tips to optimizing your website for lead conversion:

Determine your buyer personas.

On this 0% credit card balance transfer page, Jim identifies three personas that visit the page: The Arbitrager, The Debtor, and The Planner.

The Arbitrager looks for 0% offers so they can invest the cash, collect the interest, and pay off the card once the deal is over. The Debtor is looking for quick money to bridge the gap until they get on more solid financial ground, and The Planner researches the best credit card offers and uses the card to make a major purchase.

Before:

creidt card offer before

After:

Credit Card Offer Page Final

The original page was already realizing an impressive 10% conversion rate, but when Jim identified his personas and made changes to the page, he saw increased his conversions to a whopping 35%.

Using what he knew about his buyer personas, Jim focused on simple changes: adding emotional appeal in the copy and putting more emphasis on the benefits. Notice how he also simplified the text under the featured product box and also created a sense of urgency in the yellow highlighted text box.

This is an excellent example of how buyer personas are powerful and useful tools that help marketers identify buyers’ needs and pain points so they can make effective and targeted changes.

Takeaway: Test and change the messaging on your company’s web pages based off pre-determined buyer personas. Content Marketing Institute has some excellent advice on how to create buyer personas specifically for B2B solutions, including important questions to ask actual customers, salespeople, and customer service representatives that will help you identify what the buyer is trying to achieve.

Use non-committal CTAs.

Wang also offered some very practical advice regarding CTA copy: “Make it non-committal. ‘Get now’ is better than ‘subscribe now’. By “getting something now”, rather than “subscribing”, the reader doesn’t have to make a commitment or a decision.

Here is an example of a test Wang ran for a meal planning site:

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 1.14.12 PM

Wang tested three variations: no text, “get access to your meal plan instantly”, and “100% risk-free, cancel anytime, no questions asked”. The winner clearly communicates a non-committal message and reassures the reader that they are in control.

Takeaway: Allow your readers to make their own decisions by trying something first. Non-committal CTAs are a digital version of the old “Get it now, pay later” financing model. If you are looking for a range of call-to-action verbs, SmartLab Software has a long list of CTA verbs that don’t include “Click here”. How refreshing!

Capture Lost Clicks

In this example, Wang used Crazy Egg to discover that visitors were consistently trying to click on the coupon code on the product page.

Here’s what the page looks like:

Capture Lost Clicks

Now look at the activity map:

Dealzon Original

Light yellow indicates a high number of clicks, compared to the CTA buttons and text boxes that show in green and red, which indicate fewer clicks. Wang used this behavioral data to add a link to the coupon code, which took buyers to the exact same page the other CTAs and text boxes were pointing them to.

Takeaway: Follow users’ natural behavior instead of trying to get them to follow a path that feels forced or unnatural. The CTA button or hyperlinked text you provide isn’t always the obvious choice for the visitor. Use Crazy Egg or other heat map software to understand where people are trying to click on your company webpage.

Get weird with it.

Wang is a fan of trying weird and random ideas. For example, he had an idea to use a shaking CTA button on one of his sites, Scotch Addict. There were several CTA buttons to choose, from one that gently floated across the page, to one that shook violently like an earthquake. He ended up testing a CTA that had a gentle back-and-forth movement.

Check out the surprising results:

shaking CTA

Of the idea, Wang says, “I had been tweaking this site for years and I thought there was no way this would work, but I decided to just try it.”

Takeaway: No matter what you think you know, or how long you’ve been in the game, testing is a critical part to improving your lead generation optimization efforts.

In an industry full of challenges, conflicting information, fluctuating markets, and limited budgets, sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics and just use what you have to make it work.

What are some of the simple tactics you use to make the most of what you have?