How to Add Real-Time Communication to Your Existing Marketing Stack

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Let’s think back to the early days of social media for a moment, and how it impacted our marketing.

Not only did it bring the potential of massive free exposure, it radically increased transparency as well. Every good or bad customer experience suddenly became a potentially viral story. And thus the relation between business and consumer was changed, forever.

But social media isn’t at the top of the digital food chain anymore. As of 2015, messaging apps have overtaken social networking apps in monthly active users.

messaging-apps-surpassed-socialIn 2015, messaging apps overtook social media platforms in monthly active users. (Image Source)

This balance tip coincided with a few other developments: Facebook’s launch of Messenger for Business, WhatsApp announcing a move into B2C communication, an increasing reliance by businesses on message-based communication tools like Slack, and advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) entering a critical phase. The last point was nicely illustrated by AlphaGo wiping the floor with our human champions in Go.

Chris Messina, the guy who brought us the #hashtag, noticed the interplay between these developments, and concluded in a post on Medium that we’re at the brink of another revolution in B2C relationships.

Where before you would use your messaging apps for simple interactions with friends, the above developments allow them to be used for real-time conversations with businesses as well – whether that’s with a service rep or an intelligent chatbot. He dubbed this new era of B2C relationships ‘conversational commerce’.

So, how can you take advantage of this development? How can you integrate real-time communication into your existing marketing stack?

First, let’s clarify why you’ll want to jump aboard this trend in the first place. Then we’ll share some ideas and company examples that will help you start off today.

The Promise of Real-Time Communication

For years, marketers have known the power of ‘now’. Pay attention to the banners and billboards you’ll run into throughout the rest of the day, and notice how often they’re filled with maxims like ‘instant access’, ‘same day delivery’, and ‘quick checkout’. Immediacy strongly impacts our buying behavior.

amazon-prime-no-patience-required-adAmazon Prime, a prime example of our desire for immediacy. (Image Source)

In The Art of Thinking Clearly, Rolf Dobelli shares an experiment into our weakness for ‘right now’ with two groups of participants.

Group A was asked whether they would rather receive $1,000 in 12 months, or $1,100 in 13 months. Most chose the 13-month option; because where else will you find an investment option with a 10% monthly interest rate?

Group B was offered a slightly different choice. They could choose to receive $1,000 today, or $1,100 in one month. Here, most people choose the $1,000 today option. This is remarkable. The choice is basically the same – except that the $1,000 today targets our weakness for wanting things right now. That’s hyperbolic discounting, our irrational preference for what we can get now over what we can get in the future.

Real-time customer service has a similar effect on our preference for right now. According to a Forrester Research study, 57% of online customers leave a website if they don’t receive a quick answer on their question.

This was confirmed in a case study with Intuit, the company behind the financial products QuickBooks and Mint. By placing live chat for real-time support during its checkout process, Intuit increased its average order value by 43%.

From “Interaction” to “Relation”

A major benefit of communication via messaging apps is that it results in a permanent and low-barrier connection with the customer.

Once a phone call with a customer is over, the connection is broken. That is not the case with email, but email has a high barrier to contact compared to writing a message on Facebook.

A permanent low barrier connection promises a major increase in customer interaction – keeping your business top of mind and always accessible.

Also, when a conversation picks up again, it happens within the context of a messaging thread. This makes it easier for support reps to understand the situation and provide a good answer. While emails and phone calls are mere snapshots, messaging threads represent long-term relationships.

Lower Costs per Interaction

As mentioned above, the existing messaging thread will prevent duplication. Things become more efficient when customers don’t have to repeat their issue with every service handover – not to mention more pleasant.

At the same time, advancements in natural language processing fuel expectations of chatbots soon solving many support questions that humans are tackling at the moment. Not all, of course. But a modest 20% would already represent a huge gain in efficiency.

We’re still some years away from scenes like in the movie Her, in which we’re having natural conversations with smooth sounding chatbots that are indistinguishable from those with humans. What is closer and easier to picture, however, is a sort of ‘chat cyborg’ – a human service rep that uses AI to deliver a superior service.

When a question comes in, AI runs it through the database of customer interactions and offers answer suggestions to its human colleague. The human serves as the last check, and can choose to override the suggestions or adjust them. The AI learns from the answer that is given, as well as the response from the customer (was it the right response?). That way, the chat cyborg is continuously growing in smarts and efficiency.

Now let’s look at how you can start with reaping the fruits of these developments today.

How to Get Started With Real-Time Communication

Live Chat on your Site

Web chat has been around for some years, but is developing fast together with the abovementioned trends. You implement a live chat window on your website, through which visitors can reach out and receive support.

Live chat offers many of the benefits described above, such as the power of instant support and minimizing duplication. What makes it especially powerful is that the chat is available at a critical moment in the buyer’s journey – on the website.

A customer might be ready to buy, but has some small concerns or questions before doing so. With live chat there’s no need to delay the purchase, since questions can be resolved on the spot.

A great example of how to do chat right is Apple’s live chat service.

apple-supportLive chat is an important ingredient in Apple’s service setup.

If you’re an Apple user, I recommend you try it out next time you have a service question. You receive full and detailed answers in no-time, which suggest they make use of an intelligent knowledge base in the backend.

apple-live-chat-suppport

Facebook’s Messenger for Business allows live chat providers to connect to their platform, and tools like Telegram and WeChat are open for this as well. We can expect tighter integrations between website chat and messaging support in the future.

facebook-messenger-for-businessRogers connected its support team with Facebook to help customers via their favorite channel.

Messaging support

Messaging support is very promising, simply because it’s so darn convenient for consumers. They send a question through their favorite messaging app, and receive an answer in their back pockets.

For this to work, you need to hook up your support team to your messaging channels – be it Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat, Telegram, or a combination – and let your customers reach out to you.

One example of a business deploying large scale messaging support is Livecrowd, a Dutch company offering next-level customer service and experience for mass crowd events. Think festivals, football matches, or concerts (see Beyoncé’s concert page below). Such events are major logistical challenges. A quick and easy way to advise visitors about transport or safety is invaluable.

livecrowd-beyonce-world-tour-pageMessaging support is perfect for customers on the go, such as music event visitors.

Another messaging example from the Netherlands is KLM, Royal Dutch Airlines. Since a few weeks, they’ve added Facebook Messenger support to their booking process.

This makes it easy for flyers to check the status on their flights and ask support agents any questions:

klm-messenger-supportManaging your booking with an app you’re already familiar with.

When you’re booking a flight and are logged into your Facebook account, you can select to stay updated about your flight through messenger. When you have a delay, for example, you receive an update on the app. You can also receive your boarding pass through Messenger, or ask questions to the KLM service team directly.

As you can see, part of KLM’s messaging support is automated. Which brings us to the next application.

Chatbots

Chatbots are a hot and exciting area of the tech industry, mainly because they’re fueled by advancements in machine learning.

Slack allows you to connect an existing chatbot to your team or build one with its own logic, while Facebook’s Chatbot API allows you to build a bot for Messenger. There are also plenty of third party apps that allow you to set up a chatbot fairly easily, such as Motion AI.

One example of the extensive use of chatbots is Call of Duty. Players can connect with Lieutenant Reyes chatbot, and solve a not-so-easy-to-solve puzzle. This chatbot sent over six million messages to its gamers in total.

Chatbots will only become more interesting with the continuous advancements in machine learning. The more intelligent the chatbots become, the more customer interactions can be left to them.

How to Get Started

Make a comprehensive communication plan.
To get started with real-time communication, you’ll need to integrate it in a comprehensive communication plan. Ask yourself: What channels make sense for me and my customers?

Set up a dedicated service team.
The fact that conversational commerce is based on text means that compared to phone, more interactions can be done per service agent. But you’ll also have a lower barrier for contact, so you can expect the number of customer interaction to rise. You’ll need a dedicated real-time communication team to support this.

Empower frontline employees.
In real-time communication, speed is king. Zendesk stated that customer satisfaction in live chat dropped after 30 seconds of waiting. Since you’ll be having so many customer inquiries requiring fast responses, it’s essential to empower your frontline employees to resolve issues themselves. The number of cases that require involvement from higher up should be minimized.

Set up communication guidelines.
That doesn’t mean your real-time communication should be a free-for-all. On the contrary, it takes directed effort to maintain a consistent voice across all channels. Like The Economist maintains a style guide for its articles, you should require a style guide for your real-time communication as well. On what level of familiarity will you communicate? If you’ll speak in English, will it be British or American?

Play together with your other channels.
In the world of conversational commerce, one-on-one conversations will cover a much wider area of topics than before. That’s why your frontend employees need to be well aware of all external communications. Whether it’s social media, content, email, or performance marketing – your real-time communication channel needs to be in sync.

Track key metrics.
One key benefit of written communication is that it can easily be tracked. Most live chat solutions, for example, have standard integrations with analytics solutions like Google Analytics and Kissmetrics. With them, it’s easy to measure key indicators of quality communication: first response time, handovers per issue, service ratings, etc.

Conclusion

We really do seem to be at the brink of another revolution in the relationship between businesses and customers.

You can start reaping the benefits of real-time communication today, by taking the first steps with website chat, messaging support, and chatbots. Happy chatting!

About the Author: Pascal van Opzeeland is CMO of Userlike, software for website and messaging support. He and his team share tips about customer communication on the Userlike Blog.



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What Makes B2B Content Remarkable for Buyers?

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It’s no secret. Everyone knows the biggest problem B2B content marketing faces today. Well, actually several give B2B marketers fits.

Which one am I talking about?

Making B2B content engage and actually drive more leads. How bleak does the situation look?

Not good. Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report surveyed 3,714 B2B marketers from around the globe. The report defines “effective” as “accomplishing your overall objectives.” CMI asked B2B marketers to rate themselves. Shockingly, just 30% of B2B marketers rate themselves as “effective”. And that was down 21.05% from 38% in 2014.

And Heinz Marketing quotes IDG Connect as saying “86% of buyers say content is neither useful, relevant, nor aligned with needs of people in the buying decision.” That makes B2B buyers information-rich and knowledge-poor.

The natural question to ask then becomes, “If marketers’ typical approach to B2B content doesn’t work, what does?”

I’ve been on a personal quest to find out over the past several months. Let me explain some of the top elements of lead-generating B2B content.

Show Your Buyer Why They Need to Change Their Behavior

CEB Group research published at Harvard Business Review shows exactly what buyers want. They feel they must learn something new about their business and have a compelling reason to change their present behavior.

This explains why you can craft useful, interesting, and in-depth information, yet still not generate the leads you want. You have to make more of the right content based on your knowledge of your buyer and their industry and problems.

SaleCycle actually had the stomach to admit on Econsultancy that 80% of its B2B content failed.

They were creating lots of content, but most of it wasn’t about topics that interested their prospects. Content that taught prospects facts, stats, and best practices about sales worked. Client stories worked too. However, their content about careers and company culture, though useful, absolutely bombed by comparison.

So, SaleCycle learned that lots of in-depth content doesn’t necessarily work. But they found what did through their analytics.

Include Emotion in Your B2B Content

You hear it all the time: B2B buyers are intelligent, sophisticated people. They only need the facts. True with some aspects of marketing (especially white papers).

But remember, they’re human beings and have emotions too.

What does research say about emotions in the B2B buying process? They play a far larger role than you think. Check it out:

B2B buyers make highly emotional decisions. (Image Source)

In fact, Kapost goes so far as to claim emotions matter more to buyers than logic and reason.

Are they completely outlandish in their claim?

Joint research among CEB Marketing Leadership Council, Motista, and Google also found:

“Not only did the B2B brands drive more emotional connections than B2C brands, but they weren’t even close. Of the hundreds of B2C brands that Motista has studied, most have emotional connections with between 10% and 40% of consumers. Meanwhile, of the nine B2B brands we studied, seven surpassed the 50% mark. On average, B2B customers are significantly more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers than consumers.”

Why would this be?

Think about it, well, logically. With many purchases, B2B buyers find themselves in an intensely emotional situation.

They spend a lot of money on their purchases. At least several other people get in on the decision, so they want to look good. Make a bad decision, and they’ll lose an abundance of credibility and respect, and possibly their job. They want to go with the safe option, the one practically guaranteed to give them good results.

Consumers, on the other hand, generally make small purchases that don’t put a big dent in their budget. If the purchase doesn’t work out, they get angry, and often can get their money back. A few family members might be upset too.

But, it’s just a little money. And they have plenty of competing choices to choose from. So for many consumer purchases, it’s not a big deal to make a bad decision.

Possibly the greatest example of emotional marketing in B2B is IBM’s famous slogan from the 1980s:

“No one ever got fired for buying IBM.”

Why did it work so well? With so much at stake for B2B buyers when buying computer hardware back then, they wanted to make a safe decision. No one wanted to lose their job, or a lot of respect, for going with an unknown competitor.

So, the slogan appealed powerfully to buyers’ desire for safety, security, and predictability. Like Apple today, IBM was the dominant tech company of the 1980s.

And of Course…B2B Buyers Use Logic Too

While buyers use more emotion in their decision than consumers, they also have to line up all the facts. But most B2B content doesn’t give them what they want in this respect either:

“66% of technology buyers feel that digital content needs to be more aligned with organizational objectives and relevant to the decision making process.” – IDG Connect survey

How do you do this? It’s a simple process, but it isn’t easy. Skilled marketers learn the questions B2B buyers ask throughout the sales cycle. They answer those questions with content.

Does that sound anything like what your sales team does? If they’re good at what they do, your sales team should already know these questions and answers. So, it’s just a matter of having a productive conversation with sales.

But, not all marketing and sales teams have positive relationships. If you don’t have access to this data, you have a number of tactics you can use to get it:

  • Ask sales if you can silently observe a few of their phone calls
  • Talk with customers you recently acquired because you know they love you now (you could offer a reward to the customer that’s chosen)
  • Check out B2B software review websites like G2 Crowd
  • Watch your competitors’ content, and especially the pieces that get the most social shares
  • Review your own analytics as you gather data, focusing in particular on how many buyers took your desired next step, which could be done easily with the Kissmetrics funnel report
  • Find and follow industry websites and thought leaders and watch the hot topics
  • Follow your buyers on Twitter and LinkedIn to see what they talk about
  • Do a Twitter advanced search using some of the keywords your buyer might use, and see what questions come up
  • Search and follow the most relevant topics to your buyer on Quora

In my opinion, talking to sales, listening to their conversations, or talking directly with customers gives you the fastest and most useful results. When that’s not possible, you’ll have to research multiple sources online and construct the sales cycle from scratch.

The Amount of Trust Buyers Give Your Content Depends on Its Source

How your buyer comes into contact with your content directly affects the amount of trust they give it. If they stumble across a blog post or get the exact same content from your sales team, they place a far different level of trust in it.

Look at how much buyers trust content, depending on the source it comes from:

trusted-information-sourcesB2B buyers still trust recommendations from their peers more than anything else. (Image Source)

So if you pay any attention, you probably hear non-stop about “influencer marketing.” According to these stats, since buyers trust peer, colleagues, and independent content most, influencer marketing is a worthwhile approach.

It’s not just another fad destined to go away. For what it’s worth, B2B buyers’ minds have worked this way for decades. Count on getting your content into their peers’ hands as a valuable marketing tactic for many years to come.

Buyers, Including Millennials, Want Their Content in a Certain Format

You may have heard about 2016 being “the year of video marketing.” Snapchat, Instagram, and even Pinterest also get touted as the next biggest channels for B2B marketers. Periscope even gets some attention.

The real question: should you even spend any of your time working on channel strategies?

According to research from The Economist, no. Both veteran and young professionals still prefer plain ol’ text:

professionals-prefer-text-articlesMost business professionals still prefer text content over any other format. (Image Source)

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any video in your B2B marketing strategy. I’m not saying that.

But, if you drive yourself mad because you don’t have a podcast, webinar, video, infographic or whatever, relax. B2B buyers don’t need anything fancy schmancy.

Just give them new and compelling information that gives them the business case for change.

Each Content Type Has an Ideal Place in Your Sales Cycle

You have such a massive mix of content to choose from. Blog posts, white papers, case studies, newsletters, videos, infographics…

What should you create, and where should you target it in the buy cycle? Eccolo Media surveyed B2B buyers firsthand to find out. And here’s what they found:

content-types-in-sales-cycleWhere the most common types of content work best in the sales cycle. (Image Source)

Basically, content works well before the sales cycle even begins, and best during the early and middle sales cycle.

To gather the data, Eccolo Media surveyed more than 100 B2B marketers. 33% were influencers while 67% were decision makers ranging in age from 20 to over 60, and holding positions from manager to vice president at all sizes of companies.

And they also give some interesting data you don’t see on the above chart: 80% of survey respondents thought it was “important” or “very important” to get content on an ongoing basis after their purchase.

Eccolo Media found B2B buyers want these types of content post-purchase:

  • 36% want “thought leadership” content
  • 30% would like technical support and updates
  • 25% love new product info
  • 9% find customer stories useful

Define What Content Marketing Success Looks Like

To find out what buyers want, you have to define what success means to you. Once you know that, then you can determine whether you’ve given buyers what they want (or not).

Now, all kinds of debate exists as to how you know you’ve succeeded. Some say MQLs. Others SQLs. Others look at follower counts, likes, and shares.

And then you even hear about brand new metrics like “return visitor rate (RVR).” Which should you trust?

I personally like two indicators:

  1. The number of buyers who take the next step (whatever that is) you ask for in your content gives you a good indicator of what you will see in your final conversion goal (MQLs, SQLs, sales, revenue)
  2. Looking at the correlation between increases in your key metrics and changes in your revenue or profit. For example, when you see an increase in prospects who try a demo following a white paper, you notice a jump in revenue too.

And I like these because it’s so difficult to get B2B buyers to take the “next step,” regardless of what that is. B2B marketing expert Ardath Albee looks at that action as a sign of commitment, which is hard to get from B2B buyers.

Address the Fear of Loss

Should you focus on benefits or fear?

Many B2B marketers today would say you should sell benefits. And it’s not wrong to sprinkle benefits throughout your content marketing.

However, if you want action, you should focus on avoiding pain. Legendary marketer Dan Kennedy says:

“When you understand that people are more likely to act to avoid pain than to get gain, you’ll understand how incredibly powerful this first formula is.”

With this quote, he speaks in relation to his PAS (problem-agitate-solve) marketing formula. If you click the link above, you can learn about the formula in great detail.

The gist is:

  1. Start your copy with the prospect’s problem
  2. Agitate the problem by describing all the emotions they feel
  3. Talk about the solution you have for them

You’ll see more action when you focus on fear of loss instead of only highlighting benefits in your copy and content.

Sales Should Actively Reach Out to Prospects with Case Studies

You’ve heard the stat: 60% – 70% of B2B content just sits around, collecting digital dust. How do you make a cohesive, usable system that produces qualified leads with that?

Well, you can start with case studies. Because out of all content types, 84% of 319 execs surveyed at companies with $1 billion or more in revenues say they would respond positively when vendors initially reach out with sales emails that include case studies (more than any other content type).

You can see the full data below:

exec-response-sales-outreach-content-typeWhat execs trust most when your sales team reaches out to them with content. (Image Source)

With case studies, the closer the focus customer’s success story matches your prospect’s situation, the higher the response rate.

Don’t have case studies matching the prospects you want to attract? Time to write some. Your sales team knows many customers that succeeded. Offer your sales team $1,000 for the customer that you end up profiling. You’ll get more suggestions than you need.

Now You Can Stop Wasting Your Time and Do More of What Works

Over the next few years, I think we’ll see more B2B content marketers finding success. Everyone rushed to join the craze so fast, thinking content would be a quick fix to all their marketing ailments.

But now, with reality becoming clear, many will have to evaluate what works, and what doesn’t. And with this research in hand, you can stop wasting time and money and beat your competitors to high-ROI prospects.

About the Author: Dan Stelter, “The B2B Lead Gen Guy,” crafts persuasive content that makes attracting qualified leads effortless for B2B service, software, and tech companies. Learn how you can avoid 7 humiliating B2B content mistakes that frustrate buyers when you download your free special report.



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The Little-Known Segmentation Issue that’s Directly Affecting Your Brand’s Relevance

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For marketers, the quest for branding that matters to consumers has always been about how to achieve deeper relevance. The more relevant a brand is in a customer’s life, the more they’ll begin to look for ways to integrate it into their lifestyle.

Of course, many point to segmentation as the easiest and fastest way to achieve that kind of relevance.

But what if you could go even further?

According to a cross-site study by Optimove, going beyond simple segmentation – down to pure granularity, causes a distinctive and measurable campaign uplift. Optimove measured this by presenting different offers to smaller groups of consumers who had similar attributes. They found by going more and more granular, they were able to generate greater and greater lift within their respective campaigns.

Luck’s Got Nothing to Do With It

lucky-fish

LuckyFish, a developer of casino games powered by social networking, created over 100 player personas as part of their relevance campaign

In one such campaign for a set of casino games built on the power of social networking, they were able to segment to over 100 individual player personas. Imagine having that kind of deep detail about your customers or players. As a result, they were able to send the right messages to the right players at the right time, through the customers’ preferred channels.

So what were the results? A 65% increase in conversion rates, a 15% increase in the number of paying players and a 40% increase in the volume of player payments to name a few. As part of the larger study, they looked at this kind of granularity with over 30 million customers across 2,000 campaigns – measuring the uplift of the average campaign in groups of all sizes.

group-sizeThe smaller the segment, the higher the value per customer

The results speak for themselves. The smaller the group, the higher the lift. In this case, the smallest-sized group saw an average increase of $3.2 per customer. When you start sending segmented campaigns to targeted groups of 100,000 customer or more, the monetary uplift drops to a measly $0.1.

Many Small Campaigns Perform Better than One Concentrated One

Another note of the study is that, overall, many small campaigns targeted to a group of customers has a much greater effect on revenues than the all-too-common strategy of throwing an ad at the wall and hoping some of it sticks.

segmentation-rowthHyper-focused segmentation yields even greater results

Now the question then becomes, “why don’t more campaigns do this?” and that’s because there’s some risk involved. As with every strategy, there are exceptions to the rules and things to watch out for – namely, volatility.

Because these groups are so small and hyper-focused, there can be a lot of different outcomes for one message no matter what you’re testing. You can account for much of these differences by chalking it up to a small sample size. The revenues and customer relationship building obtained as a result are far too lucrative to not test granularity in your own campaigns.

How Do You Like Your Coffee?

cup-of-coffee-beansWhat customers say they want, and what they really want, are two completely different things

In his famous TED talk on the powers of segmentation, Choice, Happiness and Spaghetti Sauce, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the customer preference of coffee. If you asked most people what kind of coffee they like, they’ll tell you “a dark, rich, hearty roast”. But if you give them that type of coffee, they’d likely rate it as a 60 on a scale from 0-100.

Now, break down that population into their precise coffee preferences and make coffee for them according to their actual tastes – the score would go up to 78/100. Gladwell notes, “the difference between coffee at 60 and coffee at 78 is the difference between coffee that makes you wince and coffee that makes you deliriously happy.”

Is the end result here implying that we shouldn’t trust our customers? Not at all! But it does mean that we shouldn’t hesitate to find out what they really want from our product – and not just rely on what we think they want.

Getting Started with Granular Segmentation

So now that you know the potential of granular segmentation, how do you do it?

The first step is to look at your existing campaign channels – are you running PPC ads? Doing social media marketing?  Blog posts? Landing pages? All of the above? Good. Make a note of where your best traffic is coming from right now — and even if it’s all of those places, that’s perfectly fine.

Next, imagine your prospect has just saw your campaign ad. Map out all the possible ways your prospects can interact with it. For instance, they could:

  • View
  • Click
  • Share
  • Call
  • Add to Favorites/Bookmarks
  • Link
  • Download
  • Comment
  • Buy
  • Rate
  • Review

Now, sort these according to the type of campaign channel. For example, people using social media are more likely to share, view and click, while people on a landing page are more likely to download, click, add to favorites, or even call for more information.

Once you’re sorted, it’s time to organize these labels so that your analytics (and the people behind them) can make sense of it all. UTM identifiers are great for this purpose. Here’s how to set those up in Kissmetrics.  You can use event tracking to see who clicked on buttons on your landing pages or social media campaigns, for instance.  Some of these steps, like calling or adding to bookmarks, need to be handled manually (some stats programs will tell you if someone accessed your page via a bookmark), but the goal here is to see who’s interacting with your pages and how.

If you want to segment your ad campaign, you can build custom audiences in Google Adwords in a few simple steps, including segmenting them by conversions, transactions, time of day, device used and more. Although these are all technical “granularizations” and the ones I mentioned above are more qualitative, having this kind of precision in defining and better understanding your audience is vital to giving them what they truly want, and making them deliriously happy.

Getting to Deliriously Happy

Our goal as marketers is to get customers on the deliriously happy end of the spectrum. Granularity may seem like an awful lot of segmentation just to reach a handful of people. But being able to chunk the process down again and again means you’re reaching those people with the kind of relevance that broader campaigns simply can’t match – and that’s where you’ll come out ahead. If you’ve ever hoped a customer might think “it’s like they KNOW me!” – granular segmentation is your answer.

Remember that by segmenting campaigns with this kind of laser-focused attention, you’re not only increasing conversions but building relationships with your customers using the kind of personalization they crave. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Now It’s Your Turn

Do you micro-segment your customers and your offers to them? What have your results been like so far? Do you find that customers are more receptive to offers, or is it just too much effort for lackluster and volatile results? We want to know what you think, so share your thoughts in the comments below!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!



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The Lazy Marketer’s Guide to Customer Acquisition

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There are a billion emails sent every day by MailChimp alone.

There are over two million blog posts published each day.

Average page length has become a staggering ~2000 words, which based on average writing times, can easily take up to four hours (or half a workday) for a single post.

The sheer volume of marketing activities is rising to a nearly unsustainable point.

Not to mention, your calendar’s already full. Strapped and spread thin.

Today, doing more just isn’t possible.

But being better is.

Here’s how a seemingly lazy approach to the demands of marketers everywhere can help you double down on quality to excel.

Start by Doing the Right Things, Not Doing Things Right

A few years ago, digital agency Seer put together an excellent research Guide to Pinterest.

Towards the bottom, after all the fun tips, tactics and hacks for marketers to use, comes the analytics section.

One of the striking things you’ll see when staring at their work long enough (beyond those impossible-to-see images where you have to cross your eyes to make the foreground picture separate from the background) is a symbiotic relationship.

The more engagement (as in repins, clicks and likes) something gets, the more impressions (reach) it gets too.

This finding, while seemingly basic and obvious at first, appears on other social platforms as well.

Analyzing your top performing content updates on Facebook for example will show the same correlation between the posts with highest Engagement, also have the highest Reach.

reach-engagement-facebook

When you look at how these individual posts stack up over time, you’ll again see that when Engagement (measured by Reactions, Comments and Shares) spikes, so does Reach.

facebook-analytics-reach

This is no accident of course. Social algorithms are specifically designed to reward engagement as a quality signal. More ‘Likes’ on your funny cat meme tells EdgeRank that other people are enjoying what you’re doing, and more should be able to view it too.

Those individual interactions act similar to how quality backlinks act as votes for pages to rank higher in search engines too.

A literal Quality Score used in AdWords dictates what you effectively pay. Which means a higher Quality Score, enables lower CPCs. Which in turn should lower your Cost per Conversion. And raise your ROI.

The principle of leverage is clearly seen in this example, where you can quickly (like in a few days) take popular keyphrases from one Ad Group with notoriously low quality scores…

adwords-cost-converted-click-quality-score

… spin them off into their own dedicated Ad Groups with brand spanking new ads and landing pages to match, and watch how the new results eclipse the previous ones.

adwords-ad-groups

This AdWords example (like the social ones before it) are similar because they all share something in common.

Specifically, an economic principle founded over a century ago.

In the late 1800s, an Italian economist was tending garden when a sudden realization occurred to him.

The yield from his peapods resembled other distribution ratios he was recently studying, including distribution of income and land in his home of Italy.

His Cours d’économie politique paper was published at the University of Lausanne in 1896, going on to inspire what would become known as the Pareto Principle.

The infamous 80/20 principle may have become skewed in recent years (to more like 99/1% in some cases), but the basic theory still holds.

And when applied to digital marketing, it’s clear that certain activities can give you outsized returns.

Drucker said, “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things”.

That means prior to focusing on ways to improve efficiency and scale, start with making sure you’re doing the activities (whether we’re talking the type of social posts, quality backlinks, or AdWords fundamentals) that will provide leverage; generating the most significant returns with the least amount of effort.

Automate to Increase Results While Reducing Costs

86% of people flat out ignore banner ads on most websites.

While the number of people using ad blockers (which eliminates all browser ads altogether) has skyrocketed in the last few years, shooting up to almost 200 million in the last year.

Some companies, like Apple, are trying to bake ad-blocking features into their software from the get-go to help consumers deal with the onslaught of clutter.

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But why?

Why are so many intent on not just turning a blind eye, but going out of their way to make sure they never see another ad?

We could sit here and throw around some statistics about how consumers have never seen more ads in their lifetime than today. And they’d all be true.

But here’s the other reason.

It’s because these ads suck.

Not technically. The creative might be great. They ticked all the boxes. They’re hitting all the popular ad networks. They’re following the checklist of good ad campaigns over the last few years (or longer).

The problem is that in many cases, these ads are completely irrelevant to the people seeing them.

In other words, they’re being efficient but not effective. And unsurprisingly, these ads inevitably fall on deaf ears.

Again, the solution isn’t more ads, but better ones. Through personalization and automation.

Using automated ad platforms that personalize each message not only shaves off some time typically required for creating so many different creative campaigns, but also boost results over the standard junk people are clamoring to avoid.

A perfect, simple example includes Facebook Dynamic Product ads, which works similarly to other popular retargeting or remarketing methods. They target people on their network who recently viewed individual products on your site, with well-timed ads being pulled from a database or product catalog.

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It’s seamless, targeted, and timed to perfection. And the results speak for themselves.

The party line straight from Facebook boasts that The Honest Company saw a “34% increase in click through rates and a 38% reduction in cost per purchase” from these ads.

facebook-sponsored-ad-structureImage Source

Beyond ads, email is another popular channel whose performance continues to decline.

The reason should be obvious now. Too. Many. Damn. Emails.

Mailchimp by themselves sends a billion every single day. Which isn’t necessarily the hard part according to an excellent Wired piece. The hard part is making sure those emails get delivered successfully.

Email service providers like Gmail have begun using sophisticated methods such as machine learning to either redirect your basic email blasts to a separate Promotions inbox (where they go to die a lonely unread death), or quickly flag them as spam (and again, don’t allow them to get through to the people you’ve intended to receive them).

More emails only compounds this problem. Again you need better ones. Specifically the kind only available through automation.

The Aberdeen Group reports that personalized emails improve click through rates 14% and conversion rates 10%. Jupiter Research says more relevant emails results in 18x more revenue.

Not to mention, Gartner says companies using marketing automation can also see a 15% cost savings on creative production.

These, it seems, are good stats. By fairly reputable sources evidently.

Automating key events, whether that’s customer onboarding or client follow up or checkout cart abandonment, is a simple way to get more done with less.

The automated relevancy and timing increases results. While the use of automation helps cut down on required staff or complicated manual methods that barely scratch the surface of potential tools like HubSpot might deliver.

email-drip-campaign-hubspot

Strategically Add Labor to a Well Oiled Machine

There’s a lot of debate around the performance yield of A players vs. B players.

The exact definitions are muddied but the picture is clear: most organizations can’t carry deadweight (no matter which letter grade we’re talking).

Good people, while absolutely necessary and critical to the success of any organization, are (a) hard to come by and (b) expensive.

Beyond the difficulties in hiring them, their compensation (deservedly so) typically follows that same 80/20 (or 99/1) relationship examined earlier.

What exactly makes A players, A players, is tough to define. But they’re essentially alchemists; possessing this rare combination of incredible vision, creative ingenuity and the raw intensity to get a lot of valuable shit done when there’s no map or rulebook to follow.

They blaze their own trail and figure things out on the fly that usually turn out correct.

The ambition is to have a team full of these A players. The reality is that yours probably won’t.

And that’s OK.

The key is to find people who can potentially become A players one day, and help them get there by giving them a clear process to follow.

Franchising sounds like entrepreneurial purgatory for most. However formal processes result in more revenue and innovative companies are still systematic.

So after toiling away for long enough, E-mything your business to work the system is the best approach to create a business built to sell.

Because typically hiring young, relatively inexperienced, or overseas people is the antithesis of quality. The reason this approach typically fails is because they’re thrown in the deepend, expected to figure things out when they lack the context of experience.

For example, many companies hire external writers to help share the workload. But problems quickly happen when you expect them to immediately understand your style, tone, and subject matter.

MailChimp created an entire website devoted to helping writers overcome that challenge.

mailchimp-voice-tone

Even a simple outline of the categories, messaging examples and specific personas each should target is a huge head start over what most people have.

category-messaging-primary-persona

The great news is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel either. You just need to cobble together and amplify based on your preferences.

Start with Unbounce’s step-by-step campaign guide.

Download Headline Hacks and use their ready-made headline templates to create a spreadsheet for writers so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time.

headline-hacks

‘Franchising’ as E-Myth refers to it allows you to document how you want things to look, and employ more, (relatively) inexpensive labor to scale your productivity and results. When done correctly, you can even have people tackle technical subjects even with a complete lack of experience.

For example:

Canonicalization typically refers to duplicate content issues, which can impact SEO by splitting authority across several different domains (instead of consolidating it into a single URL to maximize that page’s potential value).

Simply reading that last sentence probably made your brain hurt. Besides being a mind-numbingly boring topic, fixing canonicalization errors can get slightly technical if you have to edit HTML directly.

canonical-tag-wordpress

yoast-no-index-nofollow

Processing these potential scenarios gives ambitious, diligent people – despite a lack of skill or experience – the ability to help ‘punch above their weight class’. Mindfully adding these people can help you scale results significantly faster.

Conclusion

Marketing output has never been higher.

There’s never been more people, publishing, creating, producing and distributing more things.

It’s evolving at a breakneck pace; one that’s becoming increasingly unsustainable for most who’re already overwhelmed and stretched thin.

One counter intuitive solution to do less, but do it better.

Start by focusing on making sure that you’re doing the right things, and not just ticking boxes off your to-do list.

Once you’re going down the right path, use automation to help increase the yield or results you’ll see from your efforts.

And when ready, then (and only then) add additional labor on top of an already defined process to scale productivity.

About the Author: Brad Smith is a founding partner at Codeless Interactive, a digital agency specializing in creating personalized customer experiences. Brad’s blog also features more marketing thoughts, opinions and the occasional insight.



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How to Localize Your Marketing Campaigns to Increase Conversions

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It’s all local.

Despite living in a global economy, many customers only care about what’s happening in their neighborhoods and cities.

Brands must connect with consumers on their playing fields. And that means understanding people’s languages, cultures, and traditions.

Marketing with location at the forefront offers some remarkable benefits. According to Nieman Journalism Lab, “geo-targeted [social media] posts were 6 times more successful than posts shared globally.”

“Localization goes beyond merely having to translate website content, and it connects with consumers on a personal level, builds your brand image in a way that is both accessible and unique. In short, localization is about building trust,” writes Danyelle C. Overbo, a Smartling contributor.

Let’s explore how your ecommerce business can localize to boost sales.

Why Localize?

Localization enhances the consumer experience and expands your brand reach. It gives your business an opportunity to target a new consumer group.

Research shows that “75% of consumers prefer to buy products in their native language.”

language-and-localizationImage Source

But your team can’t simply copy and paste marketing campaigns. Every region has its own culture-specific behaviors.

Be careful when entering into another market. Perform extensive research. That may involve localizing your taglines and slogans.

Nokia failed miserably when launching its Lumia phone in Spanish-speaking countries. The product name is slang for “prostitute” in Spanish. As a result, the brand received negative publicity.

“Even when dealing with industries or product categories that do not seem to need localization, there is a chance that a certain element of the marketing mix may need adaptation if the product(s) will be marketed internationally,” writes Dr. Nitish Singh, a cross-cultural digital media adviser.

And it’s more than just delivering the right message. Sometimes, the distribution channel may be totally different.

“[I]f you are planning to use social media, you won’t want to market Russian users on Facebook, but you would rather go for VKontakte, which ranks first among the top social network sites in Russia,” says Serena Pasqualetto, an ecommerce marketing specialist.

Let the corporate marketing team establish the overall tone of your brand. They are responsible for ensuring all markets recognize your logo and likeness. Your local marketing teams should lay the foundation to earn consumer trust in the communities.

This strategy is common in the smartphone business. Since 1 in 4 users purchase their devices based on stores in their area, companies increase local mobile ad spending to target these groups.

Localize your marketing. Make the right first impression to convert your target audience.

Work With Localization Specialists

Hire people who understand your consumers’ language, culture, and behaviors. Local experts will know how to effectively sell to your customers.

“Who knows a given culture better than a local? Tap into local experts, whether in the form of staff, agencies, or in-country partners, from each of your target markets. This way your team can ensure the most accurate, localized experience for users,” says Amy Rigby, a freelance writer and world traveler.

Let’s just be straightforward: don’t use Google Translate.

If you’re venturing into another country, don’t rely on language translation tools to create your marketing materials. Their algorithms usually include errors and miss the context of the intended message.

For example, idioms don’t translate well from country to country. In America, when it’s raining heavily, one may say: it’s raining cats and dogs.

its-raining-cats-and-dogs-google-translation

We know animals aren’t falling from the sky. But other cultures may be confused by this expression. So, avoid these types of phrases.

Unbounce hired Ben Harmanus to handle its German, Austrian and Swiss market (DACH). Their customers appreciated interacting with a local brand ambassador. He helped translate Unbounce’s most popular content into the region’s language.

unbounce-content-in-germanImage Source

Also, respect societal norms and create a cultural guide for each market. Explore beyond the general attitude of the area. Your team should analyze consumer behavior.

For instance, marketers in the United States use aggressive, sales-oriented campaigns. However, in Europe, your team may tone down the message.

More importantly, learn the laws of the area. Some regions prohibit words or phrases that are considered lewd.

Don’t localize alone. Hire a specialist to get the job done right.

Diversify Your Product

Studies reveal that “65% of multinational enterprises believe localization is either important or very important for achieving higher company revenues.” Earning more sales might include changing your product.

Inc. contributor Susan Solovic writes, “Tweak your product or service so it appeals to a new group of consumers or users. If you have a ‘high end’ product or service, consider a less-expensive version. You need to be careful that you don’t undercut yourself.”

Restaurant chains are very attentive to how they sell their products in other regions. Not only do they need to worry about the message, restaurants also must take local taste preferences into consideration.

For instance, Yum! Brands, the parent company of KFC, adapted its menu to Chinese customers. The brand offers East Dawning, a quick-service restaurant that provides authentic Chinese food served with tea.

How you package the product matters, too. Packaging often helps with brand identity and brand affinity.

Coca-Cola adapted its cans to attract Chinese buyers. This global beverage leader uses images of local celebrities and significant events to grab people’s attention.

coca-cola-chineseImage Source

Use data to change your product line for different locations. Examine website traffic, pricing patterns, social media engagement, and regional consumer habits.

“VF Corporation combines third-party geodemographic and lifestyle data with daily store-level sales data, extensive consumer research, and competitor analysis to develop localization strategies with retailers, such as Kohl’s.”

Facebook understands that localization means much more than just translating:

Change your product to meet the needs of your consumer. Fit into their lifestyles.

Humanize Your Brand for Local Markets

No matter the location, your company is still marketing to humans. And people understand emotions.

“By positioning the brand behind a core mission to solve important human needs, then fulfilling on that mission with local sensitivity, brands can traverse cultural differences to provide their markets with truths that transcend language barriers,” states Chris Bolman, director of integrated marketing at Percolate.

Work with your team to develop campaigns that touch the hearts of your consumers. You must talk like the locals.

Even within America, vernacular is different from coast to coast. For example, what do you people in Minnesota call a sweetened carbonated beverage? Pop. But in Louisiana, residents normally say “coke.”

term-for-soda-used-around-united-statesImage Source

Imagery is another way to relate to the culture. Displaying photos that speak to a specific area gives customers a sense of comfort with your brand.

But be mindful of how you select your images.

Recently, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr received public backlash after showcasing his campaign ad. Instead of highlighting disadvantaged children in the state, his team used stock video of African children.

richard-burr-working-for-north-carolina

“One way to ensure that your photos are regionally relevant would be to only use photos taken by artists who live in said place,” states Janet Giesen, director of business development and APIs at Shutterstock.

“Localizing images will make you more familiar and relatable to your customers—they’ll be more likely to recognize a bit of themselves (and the “human” aspects) in your brand.”

Sell to humans. Speak their dialect and highlight their culture.

Localize for Conversions

Every customer isn’t experiencing life the same way. They see the world differently based on their location.

Learn how localization can benefit your brand. Hire local specialists to help your team navigate a different audience. And remember to humanize your brand.

Localize to convert.

About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter @shaylaprice.



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4 Ways to Reduce Churn With Email Campaigns

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Churn is your arch nemesis.

And it’s cutting into your profits.

Research shows that “80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers.” So, your team must focus on satisfying customers and ensuring they gain value.

To keep ecommerce consumers in the sales cycle, create email campaigns that engage and educate your audience. The goal is to engulf customers in a worthwhile shopping experience.

Retention emails are “designed to get customers more engaged, whether they are totally inactive or just not taking full advantage of your product.”

Initiate email campaigns to retain customer’s interest in your brand and products. Try these four strategies:

1. Segment Your List

You’ve heard it before: segment your list. But what does that mean? And how will it benefit your customers?

Email segmentation is targeting specific groups based on a certain criteria. The notion is that everyone isn’t the same.

Consumers live in different locations and possess different interests. More importantly, your business customers have different budgets.

Therefore, it wouldn’t be logical to send the same mass email to all your subscribers. It would be useless to the customer.

“Nobody likes generic emails; they’re lazy, unhelpful, and a waste of inbox space. So by segmenting your email sends, you’re saving your customer time and helping them discover products they’ll love,” writes Joe Stych, marketer at Zapier.

Segmentation gives rise to personalization. It lets you inform customers about products that fit their particular circumstances.

By segmenting your email list, your team can provide relevant content to multiple target audiences.

Athletic shoe company Brooks used data to create multiple campaigns based on the weather conditions. The emails below show how their team crafted the copy and inserted photos to fit the consumer.

brooks-campaignsImage Source

The million-dollar question is: How do you segment the email list?

Analyze internal data to learn about the buyer’s habits. For instance, segment the list based on product usage, customer support tickets, or webinar training attendance.

“Identify at-risk customers. Even before a user cancels a subscription, there are several signs to help you identify that they’re in danger of churning. Keep a lookout for engagement flags, such as less frequent website visits than before. For example, customers may go from using the service daily to weekly and then monthly,” says Shane Barker, a digital marketing consultant.

Be proactive. Send targeted emails to stop churn.

2. Offer Educational Content

Combat churn by actually teaching customers the value and functionality of your products. They will gain a deeper understanding of your brand.

Mark Quinn, a Segment VP of Marketing with Leggett & Platt, agrees:

“When you’re educating people, you’re helping them understand the benefit of a solution. Consumers can find information anywhere these days, but when it comes from you, the benefit is twofold: you establish a more knowledgeable customer base while you develop loyalty.”

Stop sending predictable emails; switch things up with gifs, video, and case studies. Educational content includes everything from a detailed guide to a Snapchat story.

And the best content answers questions from customers or concerns they may have.

How can I use your product more efficiently? What features can accomplish X task?

Use email as a launching pad to engage the customer. You don’t have to include every little detail in the email. Your goal is to encourage them to take action.

For instance, write short snippets of the article in the email. Then, hook customers to continue reading. Add a “Read more” call-to-action button that takes the subscriber to your blog for the full article.

That’s how LinkedIn does it. Their team engages with customers via email to boost blog traffic. See the email below.

linkedin-marketing-solutions-blog

If you want email subscribers to act now, create a sense of urgency. Use time limits or add bonus incentives.

“Apply the threat of scarcity to your educational content marketing. This works particularly well when you set up the classic challenge and solution scenario in your content, pinning something like time or money as the motivator to change a behavior,” writes Julie R. Neidlinger, content crafter at CoSchedule.

Keep churn at bay with educational content.

3. Send a Feedback Email

Churn happens for several reasons. And most of the time, it’s preventable.

A good starting point is to collect feedback from your users.

“Target customers who have bought from your business before and ask them for a review or recommendation. Not only is this best practice but, for an eCommerce store, it is a genuine means of bringing customers back to your website to purchase again,” writes Chris Hexton, one of the founders of Vero.

Learn from your customers. The direct approach is to ask them questions like:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you enjoy our product?
  • How can we improve our customer service?
  • Would you recommend us to a colleague?

Compose an email leading consumers to a quick survey. And keep the design simple.

Stay away from unnecessary images or headings in the email. Focus on the message and the call-to-action. The key is to reduce distractions and encourage consumers to take your desired action.

Below is a feedback email by Campaign Monitor.

campaign-monitor-feedback-emailImage Source

Analyzing your email campaign results is an indirect method to gather feedback. Find out if your customers are active.

Monitor your email open rates. Discover which links they click. And evaluate the replies you receive.

“Click-to-open rate can help evaluate the quality of your content and the engagement of your subscribers. It can point to possible ways to improve campaign performance and help compare your subscriber’s expectations to what you are actually delivering,” writes Ben Niolet, former marketing director at Contactology.

Take advantage of customer feedback. Cater to their needs to increase retention.

4. Show Appreciation

Everybody needs a little love. It’s time to show your customers some appreciation.

Use email as a communication tool to express your gratitude. Remind customers how much you value their business.

“These users have become habitualized to not thinking about your brand, and you need to break them out of that pattern with something special. Coupons, promo codes and special offers are the go-to incentives at this stage, and they have proven effective,” states Bob Colner, director of marketing and data science at Boomtrain.

Appreciation takes several forms. It can range from a simple thank you to a discount on a purchase to an all-access pass to an upcoming conference.

otterbox-thank-youImage Source

Work with your team to determine how to distribute your appreciation. A 10-year customer may get free tickets an exclusive event, while someone who bought $50 worth of products may receive a 10% coupon.

Be mindful of your appreciation gifts. Some customers may consider your discount as a promotion, rather than a thank you.

Brian Morris, a writer for PsPrint, says, “You might think offering customers an upgrade or an add-on item at a discounted price qualifies as a customer appreciation strategy, but it’s really an upsell or cross-sell. That’s not a customer-centric strategy; it’s a sales strategy.”

Decide how you will show customer appreciation. And use it as a tool to reel inactive users back to your brand.

Email to Reduce Churn

Existing customers are your best asset. With the right mix of nurturing, your team can fight high churn rates.

Segment your list to deliver customized messages. Send feedback emails to gather customer intelligence. And show appreciation with a simple thank you email.

Upgrade your email campaigns. Reduce churn.

About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter @shaylaprice.



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The One Little Known (but Scientifically Proven) Email Marketing Change You Can Make to Turbo-Charge Open and Click-Through Rates

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When it comes to your email marketing, you likely spend a great deal of time tweaking your message and analyzing how to improve your open and click-through rates. According to joint research by IBM and eConsultancy, fully 90% of marketers agree that personalized, relevant communications with their customers is crucial to their success. But when customers were asked if they felt like the average brand understood them, 80% answered no.

That’s a huge gap – and something needs to be done about it.

Thankfully, there’s a promising solution that’s both cost effective and boasts some pretty significant results.

It’s called “triggered campaigns”

What Are Triggered Campaigns?

You may have already implemented triggered campaigns for certain points in your sales funnel, such as “Welcome” emails for first time customers, or remarketing messages if someone left an item in their cart. But this is only scratching the surface on the potential of triggered campaigns, as a new report from YesMail reveals.

The report segments email communications into two groups: The Business as Usual (BAU) group, which commonly includes:

  • Promotional emails and sales notifications
  • New product launches or brand news
  • Newsletters that customers have opted into
  • Refer-a-friend campaigns

Triggered campaigns, however, are broken down into different segments, including Lifecycle campaigns which include:

  • Welcome messages
  • Onboarding
  • Activation
  • Milestones and
  • Surveys or polls

They can also include the aforementioned Remarketing messages such as abandoned cart notifications. What many marketers don’t realize, however, is that triggered campaigns can also consist of transactional emails, like:

  • Order confirmations
  • Shipping confirmations
  • Backorder notifications
  • Return/Refund requests

As well as real-time notifications from sports, weather or location-tracking.

So as you can see, there’s a great deal of resources to work with. Within YesMail’s report, they spotlight customer Le Creuset’s campaigns. Le Creuset sells cookware of all kinds, and their business as usual emails include things like news, special offers or product ideas:

business-as-usual-emails

While these are well-made foundational emails designed to help keep customers informed about the company’s products and other initiatives, they aren’t designed to elicit an immediate response the way triggered campaigns are. To see just how well triggered emails compare to BAU emails, YesMail looked at 24 billion emails deployed within 2015 using their cross-channel marketing communication platform.

They noted that although triggered campaigns made up only 2% of all emails sent during 2015, those same emails generated 4% of all email opens at 9% of all click-throughs. Compared to BAU emails, the results from triggered mails were very impressive:

triggered-bau

When Should I Use Triggered Emails for Best Results?

This is another common question marketers ask – since triggered campaigns have generated such solid numbers, when is the best time to use them? Of course, to get this information, you’ll need certain details from your customer, and that customer will need to be at a certain point in the buying lifecycle. For instance, you wouldn’t send an order confirmation blast to everyone on your list. Triggered campaigns are best thought of as a way to pounce on opportunities as they present themselves.

And as it turns out, marketers are really, really good at making customers feel welcomed. After that, the push to trigger relevant, personalized campaigns falls off substantially.

triggered-adoption

No wonder customers feel like brands don’t really know them (or make an attempt to get to know them!)

The full YesMail report details the best triggers to take advantage of, including suggestions on how to make the most of them. However there were a couple that stood out to me as highly underutilized – especially in my own experience of conversion optimization for companies. They are:

The Browse Abandon Trigger

“Browse Abandon” isn’t the same thing as getting an abandoned cart remarketing email – although it is similar in nature. The Browse Abandon trigger is a relatively new function which reminds the customer that an item on a page they browsed just went on sale. The Browse Abandon feature uses the same technology as an abandoned cart remarketing reminder, so it’s easy to implement if you already have that reminder functionality in place. Here are examples of a Browse Abandon trigger and an Abandoned Cart trigger respectively:

ba-cart-examples

And here’s the kind of results they got:

abandon-browse-bau

After-Sales Service Trigger

After-sales campaign triggers can include (but are certainly not limited to)

  • Purchase confirmations
  • Shipping notifications
  • Backorder notifications
  • Return and Refund processing

“But Sherice”, I can hear you saying, “Our e-commerce platform already takes care of sending out this information to customers!”

And therein lies the problem.

Because most e-commerce platforms aren’t designed to handle anything but the simplest basics when it comes to sending out emails after orders have been received. Their job is to juggle inventory, promotions, customer lists and a whole host of other features. Triggered email campaigns are general and boring at best.

Now, when you take these kinds of emails and turn them into triggered campaigns with a more rich-media experience that includes greater personalization and recommendations, you end up with a far better response. Just look at these numbers:

ecommerce-messages

This is Not An Excuse to Do a Marketing Blast!

Now, since these types of emails are service-oriented in nature, the last thing you want to do is turn them into a full-scale marketing blast, as in “Now that you’ve bought this, go back and buy this other thing too!” Nothing turns off a customer more than getting inundated with marketing messages right after they feel they made a confident decision to do business with you.

Instead, you can leverage smaller, more one-on-one actions that the customer can take, like sharing their purchase on social media in a pre-formatted, beautifully designed “I just bought [X] at Brand Retailer” message, or encouraging them to update their preferences at your helpful Account Center, where they can tell you what kinds of messages they’d prefer to receive, as well as some other helpful tidbits they may choose to include like date of birth (to receive a coupon on their birthday), gender and so on.

The bottom line is that triggered campaigns simply aren’t being used to their fullest potential – and there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit to be picked here. Customers genuinely want personalized recommendations, fresh ideas and inspirations – otherwise personal shopping services and virtual pinboards like Pinterest would have long withered under a lack of use. Companies who don’t use this information to learn more about their customers’ interests and motivations are telling them that their business isn’t important enough to be worth remembering or acting upon. And if you’re not using campaign triggers yet, you can bet your competition will soon.

Now It’s Your Turn…

Do you use campaign triggers in your email messages to customers? What have your results been so far? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below and let us know how they’ve worked for you!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!



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How to Use Release Notes to Drive Feature Adoption

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Companies are understandably excited to tell the world when they push new features. New developments can take months and they are the hope for more users, greater engagement, and achieving milestones towards success.

So how do teams communicate these big announcements to their users? A blog post, an unread notification, an email, and… that’s it. They sit back and wait for impact, but are disappointed if the anticipated uptick in usage doesn’t arrive.

Here we’ll explain why standard feature announcements are missing the mark, and how to drive new feature adoption amongst your users.

The Standard Feature Announcement

The BJ Fogg behavior model is a big component of our thinking on user experience. It explains that new behaviors form when three elements align:

  • Motivation—the user wants to perform the action.
  • Ability—the user has the capacity to perform the action.
  • Triggers—the user is nudged to perform the action.

You can see how these three elements intersect in this graph:

BJ-Fogg-model-new

When people have high motivation, they are more able to do hard things. When people have low motivation, they will only take action for easy to do behaviors. Triggers will push people into performing the actions, as long as there is sufficient motivation AND ability (above the action line curve).

When trying to change user behavior to adopt a new feature, an announcement serves as the trigger.

However there are three problems with conventional feature announcements:

  1. Users miss them or forget about them because those channels are noisy and are out-of-context.
  2. Announcements focus on HOW to use the feature and emails are a terrible way for this: we learn by doing, but emails are not interactive. We explain more here.
  3. Announcements don’t actually help a user adopt the new behavior, because they don’t improve a user’s ability (they don’t make the new feature “easy to do”).

In these cases, the feature announcement email or notification or blog post is a trigger below the action line, and so it doesn’t cause users to act and adopt the new feature or workflow.

Blog & Email Announcements

Blog and email messaging can help motivate users, but they don’t help them adopt any new behavior. What’s more, when a user is going through their inbox or reading a blog, they are away from the context of the app. Even if they see information about a new feature, it is difficult for them to internalize the new actions just through reading.

Automation tool Zapier has a whole section of their blog devoted to product updates:

zapier-screenshot-resized

They post once a month about new updates to their product. This is great information for new and current customers alike, but it isn’t actionable. They are in the wrong place and the wrong frame of mind, so they don’t have the ability to make any behavioral changes. They are just reading a blog, not thinking about using the product.

Following this up with an email highlighting the feature is also common. This is an email from email marketing tool MailChimp announcing improvements to their A/B testing tool:

mailchimp-email-resizedImage Source

This email does tell you all you need to know about the new features. These types of update emails are great for maximum reach as you can send the update to the thousands of users on your email list. If any currently aren’t finding good use for your product, this might be enough to bring them back.

But this doesn’t help the user actually use the product. The call-to-action at the end of the email is to read more, even though they have just read a very long email about the product. Reading doesn’t help the customer internalize the idea of the new feature. Though they might be giving use cases for the new features, the only way people can really learn is by using the product. MailChimp missed the opportunity here to direct the user into the product and to a tour of the new features.

In-app notifications

Ability is slightly higher with in-app announcements. In this case, the user is in the product and they are familiar with how it works.

But they are still way below the threshold needed to get the new user invested in the product. They are often delivered at the wrong time to the wrong user. Also, they just give the user more to read, instead of guiding the user through actions they need to take to get value from the new feature.

Most in-app notifications have this fatal flaw. For instance, if you’ve ever used project management tool Trello, then you will be familiar with Taco the Husky and his announcements:

trello-notificationImage Source

If you were to click on that link though you would be taken away from the product and to their blog:

trello-blog

This is the opposite of what you want. Users have been moved to a detailed description of your product, possibly raising their motivation, but lowering their ability. Plus, there’s no guarantee users will come back once you send them away from your app. How many times have you clicked through a link thinking you’d just read one blog post or article and get back to what you were doing, only to disappear into a hours-long time sink? This is the fate Trello is tempting with this kind of feature announcement.

Instead showing them what to do in bite sized chunks through tooltips and product tours is much more effective. Users can internalize each new concept and start to use that feature, without being overwhelmed.

Increase Adoption with Targeted Product Tours

In each of the feature announcements we’ve looked at, users are simply told about the new feature and then left to find it themselves. They have low motivation and low ability. You need to get to your users when they have high motivation and high ability. This means teaching users with a product tour within the product.

Some products do this. For instance, Instagram’s new Stories feature comes with a quick in-app tour that is easy to find, and pushes you towards using the feature:

Instagram-Stories

These tours work best when they are in-context of what the user is doing at that very moment. For that, you need to segment users by both time and behavior.

Targeting the Right User

Sharing a new feature with all your users may seem the best way to increase engagement. But the truth is that each of your customer personas will have different use cases for your product. They will favor some features over others. Therefore, they will want to hear updates about some new features more than others.

Using behavioral data you can look at how different subsets of users have used a certain feature before, how engaged they currently are with the feature, or if they have used adjacent features recently.

You are looking for a behavior they have exhibited that demonstrates they are ready to learn about your new update. For instance, you could use Kissmetrics Analyze to identify specific customer journeys through your app and target different features to these different journeys.

Another example is the MailChimp feature above. If MailChimp wants to increase the use of their improved A/B testing they could target a tour towards users who exhibit the following behaviors:

  • Have previously created five regular campaigns — this shows they have the motivation to continually create campaigns, but perhaps not the knowledge of A/B campaigns.
  • Have two or more saved templates — they have the ability to start testing each of these templates immediately with A/B testing.
  • Have 1000+ contacts in their list — they have enough users to make a test statistically useful.
  • Are currently creating their next campaign — they are in the position to start their next campaign.

These are the users that will be ready to use A/B testing in their email campaigns. Users who are just starting out with a single campaign, don’t have templates ready, or only a small readership will not find value in this new feature.

Targeting at the Right Time

Targeting at the right time is as critical as targeting the right person. In the MailChimp example above, pinging that ideal customer just as they start generating their new campaign with “Hey, there’s a better way!” can be just the trigger to move them to the new feature.

This isn’t as simple as targeting someone the moment they sign in or start using a feature. It depends on what the new feature is and how it corresponds to the current feature they are using. Look at this example from survey platform Typeform. They show the announcement at the start of building a new survey:

typeform-tour

This is a lost opportunity. At this point I have a form to build. That is my main motivation. I am going to immediately dismiss this tour and continue with my main task. By the time I’m finished, I’ll have forgotten about these “cool features.”

If instead this was targeted after I had finished my main task then my motivation could be to check the new features out. Once I had successfully completed one task, I would then be ready to learn more.

Conclusion

Emails, blogs, and in-app notifications all have their place when it comes to feature announcements. Each messaging channel can be used at a different point to inform, teach, and highlight features to users.

But the in-app tour is the most powerful tool at your disposal for engaging users with new features:

  • You can target the right people: New features will appeal to a certain segment of your users most. Using behavioral data, you can find out who uses the features you’re upgrading or aligned features and target a brief tour of the release only to them.
  • You can target those people at the right time: in-app tours let you get your new features in front of users at the exact moment when they would find them most useful. This might be just as they finish a task, or just as they start another. But timing an in-app tour allows users to have the context needed for them to find value in the feature, as well as the ability and motivation to learn more.

When you target a tour to the right people at the right time you will have them when both motivation and ability are high. Then it only requires a small trigger to push them into action.

If you get this targeting right, then you have introduced the best customers to the most valuable features to them, meaning you are building success for them and your product.

About the Author: Pulkit Agrawal is cofounder & CEO of Chameleon, a platform for better user onboarding. He believes that first-user experience is a hidden treasure to drive improved user activation and retention. He writes on the Chameleon blog, which contains great resources on the psychology of effective user engagement. You can converse with him on Twitter.



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5 Strategies to Entice Consumers to Binge-Watch Your Product Videos

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Continue watching.

These two words are infamous in the world of video streaming. When consumers are hooked, they want more to watch.

“Content marketers should consider the binging trend a sort of case study. All of the elements that make us binge are lessons,” says Kari Matthews, a content writer for technology companies.

“We can do what these [television] shows do, in our own way, in our own industries, to make the most of our content and build our brands.”

Work with your team to engage customers with binge-worthy product videos. Get them excited about your brand and ecommerce services.

Try these five strategies below to entice your consumers.

1. Cater to Diverse Audiences

Normally, experts suggest creating content to serve a select group of people. But when it comes to product videos, you may want to take a different approach.

You want your content to be shareable. So, it must serve several different audiences. And that includes people who will never purchase your product.

“Remember that not everybody who buys, buys today, not everybody who consumes content shares it, and not everybody who shares content buys,” states Scott Allan, chief marketing officer at AddThis.

“Instead of focusing on capturing leads, create memorable content that customers will draw on when they or their friends are ready to make a purchase.”

So, produce content that people can share with their family and friends. Focus on moments that everyone can relate to, like laughing with friends, hosting a summer barbeque, or attending a college football game.

Below is the noteworthy Dollar Shave Club product video. Not everyone who shared this content bought the shavers, but it did go viral and reached their target audience.

If your company wants avoid vulgar language, think of your product video like a PG-rated film. For instance, most Disney movies are meant for kids to enjoy, but they have enough common themes to engage the parent.

Don’t be afraid to serve more people with your videos. The goal is to spread the word.

2. Develop A Backstory

For product videos to gain your audience’s attention, the content must discuss more than the product. Yes, content must go beyond talking about your company.

In other words: Tell a story that emotionally attaches people. It’s all about showing your audience a new perspective. And giving them a different insight that humanizes your brand.

Studies show that “Americans alone consume over 100,000 digital words every single day, but 92% say they want brands to tell stories amongst all those words.”

The same holds true in the world of video. A written product description isn’t good enough. And a video regurgitating similar information is just awful.

According to For Dummies, a “backstory refers to everything that occurred in your story’s past. A character’s backstory may include family background, job history, psychological condition, and any memories you create for that person from childhood on.”

Instead, bring your videos to life with characters and a plot. Give the actors names and set up an environment where the product is being used, not displayed.

That’s what Amazon did when they introduced its Echo. Rather than giving consumers a run down of the product features, the eCommerce giant showcased the product’s value in a simulated setting.

Get creative. Show, don’t just tell consumers about your products.

3. Create Episodic Content

According to Netflix, the network’s 83 million members watch more than 125 million hours of TV shows and movies every day. That’s a lot of time in front of a screen.

But what keeps viewers coming back for more?

One reason is access to uninterrupted content. Consumers don’t need to worry about commercials. Advertisements don’t get in the way of their favorite shows. Therefore, they can focus on viewing what they love the most.

Another reason is the addicting show plots. A great television show contains episodes that leave the audience wanting more. People constantly want to know what’s going to happen next.

Will the main character finally locate the killer? Or will the antagonist prevail and destroy his enemies?

are-you-still-watching-parks-and-recImage Source

Episodic content has people on the edge of their seats. And that’s how your team should set up product videos.

Shoot multiple videos with cliffhangers. Get consumers intrigued about your brand culture and latest product benefits.

“Episodic content enhances the credibility of your brand as people become more and more familiar with you and what you are about. This builds trust and value with your target audience,” says Kerri Ponder, a writer at Crowd Content.

One product video is fine. But a bunch can get customers hooked on your ecommerce brand.

4. Notify Customers of Updates

Your customers are busy. They have to manage both their work and home schedules.

So, sometimes certain things get forgotten. And that’s perfectly fine.

That’s where are your team steps in. Remind your customers of your new product videos.

There’s an old marketing adage: The Rule of Seven. It says that a “prospect needs to see or hear your marketing message at least seven times before they take action and buy from you.”

Create a special website pop-up telling them about new videos. Keep customers informed by sending notification emails leading up to the launch.

Your business already sends updates about new terms and conditions. Mimic the technique for product videos.

hulu-terms-and-privacy-emails

“Getting people excited about content that is perhaps not yet fully done whets their appetite and keeps them talking about you and your brand, days ahead of when your campaign or content actually is released,” writes Shanna Cook, senior social media manager at Nokia.

Like any marketing tactic, don’t over do it. Reminders can become nuisances if they are sent every single day. Take a look at your internal data and set times best suited for your target audience.

Ask customers to sign up for your email list for product video announcements. There’s power in notifications.

5. Offer an Instant Reward

Everyone enjoys special gifts for their efforts. Reward customers for taking the time to watch or share your video.

Customers want to be delighted. They desire instant rewards that help them today, not tomorrow. So, stay away from mail-in rebates or points that can’t be redeemed today.

For example, at the end of a product video, offer a 10% promo code. And think beyond discounts. Give away exclusive access to a webinar or a free eBook.

Christian Karasiewicz, a social media marketing professional, suggests the following:

“Develop a video to showcase your expertise or further educate your viewers, then include a YouTube card that leads your audience to related material. This can be a transcription, checklist, infographic, SlideShare or downloadable PDF…”

YouTube cards are notifications that appear in your video. It’s a small rectangular box at the top right corner. It gives your viewers a preview of the message. Check out the video below on how to add cards to YouTube videos.

Analyze which rewards consumers like the most. Then, start offering instant rewards for watching your product videos.

Binge-Worthy Content

On-demand video is attracting consumers to brands. The best ones hold the audience’s attention and keep them engaged.

Aim to create product videos for a diverse audience. Give your videos a backstory. And notify customers of new releases.

Produce captivating product videos. Let consumers continue watching.

About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter @shaylaprice.



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How to Turn Online Marketing Leads into Online Marketing Sales

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If you’re doing online marketing right, you should be driving a steady stream of inexpensive, qualified leads to your sales team.

That means tons of sales and profit for your business, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Often, you may be sending all the right leads to your sales team, but they simply aren’t turning into sales.

What’s going on?

Is it a problem with your sales team? A problem with your leads? Maybe, but often, the problem is simply a marketing-sales mismatch.

When Things Go Wrong

A few months back, we were using paid search to drive leads for a client. We thought we were doing a pretty good job, but there was a problem—our leads weren’t turning into sales.

To be honest, this came as a surprise.

We had a lot of experience in this particular industry, so we knew our campaigns were driving a lot of high-quality leads.

In fact, from a marketing perspective, our campaigns were a hands-down success! We were sending hundreds of high-intent leads to their sales team at a great cost-per-lead.

What more could you ask for, right?

In our experience, they should have been closing at least 10% of these leads…but they weren’t. As it turned out, they were only closing 1% of their paid search leads.

wait-what

What were we doing wrong? 

On paper, everything looked great, so I called the client to get his thoughts. His answer was both candid and insightful:

“Jake, the leads are great. We don’t have a lead problem. My sales team just doesn’t know how to close these leads.”

Now, this problem isn’t unique. I’ve seen it before. Great online marketing can get leads in the door, but it can’t make them close.

That job rests on the shoulders of the sales team.

So, if you want your online marketing to yield great results, your job doesn’t end with lead generation. You need to make sure your sales team knows how to get those leads to close.

Turning Leads Into Sales

With online marketing, you control all aspects of the lead generation process: targeting, ads, landing page content and call-to-action.

The problem is, while you may intimately understand your leads, your sales team might not really know where your leads came from, why they reached out and what they are looking for in a business.

And, unfortunately, if your sales team doesn’t really understand their leads, they are going to have a hard time closing them.

In order to successfully close online marketing leads, your sales team needs to understand a couple of key things about their leads:

You’re Not the Only Business After Their Business

When it comes to online marketing, you can’t expect leads to sit still.

If someone is interested enough in what your business has to offer to reach out, there’s a pretty good chance that they’ve reached out to your competition, too.

However, first to call is first to close.

In fact, 50% of leads end up choosing the company that reaches out first

New leads are also 100x more responsive if your sales team reaches out in 5 minutes instead of 30 minutes and several thousand times more responsive if you’re reaching out within 5 minutes vs a day or two later.

Fortunately, most of your competitors wait hours or even days to respond to new leads, so if your sales team is quick on the draw, they have a good chance of being the first to respond, make contact and close the deal.

The Internet is a Distracting Place

When it comes to online leads, you can assume that by the time you reach out, they’ve already moved on to something else.

Maybe it’s a competitor’s site. Maybe it’s social media. Maybe it’s back to whatever they were doing before your ads caught their attention.

Whatever the reason, they usually aren’t sitting around waiting for your call.

That means your leads are probably distracted and might miss (or ignore) your first few contact attempts. So, if you want to get a hold of your leads, your sales team can’t just send one email and call it quits.

In fact, it takes a minimum of 8-12 contact attempts to get a 90% contact rate. Even if you’re only after a 50% contact rate, your sales team will still need to make at least 6 contact attempts.

The only problem is, most reps only make 1-2 contact attempts per lead. As a result, internet leads are only contacted about a quarter of the time.

You fight tooth and nail to get those great leads in the door and sales only contacts 25% of them?

epic-fail

Imagine what would happen if your sales team started reaching out 8-12 times and achieved a contact rate of 90%. That would increase your contact rate by 360%.

If your sales team’s contact-to-close rate stayed the same, contacting 3.6x more leads would result in 3.6x more sales. Can you imagine how that would affect your business?

Getting Marketing and Sales in Alignment

In addition to giving your sales team insights into what tactics work best for online marketing leads, there are a couple of things you can do on the marketing side to improve sales performance.

Talk to Sales!

Online marketing leads convert because they believe that your company has the solution to their problems. Your sales team’s job is to confirm that belief.

However, if your sales team isn’t making good on the promises of your marketing, your customers will feel betrayed and they won’t want to buy.

To avoid this, your sales team’s message needs to match your marketing message.

Yes, that means you’ll have to talk to your sales team about the intent, pain points and goals of your leads, but guess what? The better your sales team understands where their leads are coming from, the more effective they will be at closing sales.

In my experience, getting marketing and sales on the same page will make your online marketing effects far more effective and can drive millions in added revenue for your business.

There is Such a Thing as Too Many Leads

If you’ve got your campaigns set up right, online marketing (especially pay-per-click marketing) is pretty simple.

Insert the money, out come the leads.

Now, you and I both know that there’s a ton of work behind that equation, but if you’re feeding too many coins into the marketing machine, the resulting surplus of leads can make your sales team a little lazy.

As a result, ambitious sales reps might be tempted to sift through your leads to pick the ones that will be easiest to close.

They’ll look like superstar salesmen, but on closer inspection, you’ll notice that their lead-to-close rate is actually terrible.

Even though these “rockstar” reps look like they are closing a lot of deals, they waste a ton of expensive leads. In many cases, companies will end up paying more for those wasted leads than they’ll earn off of that “all star” rep’s closed sales.

So, how can you avoid this?

Easy, just keep your sales team hungry.

If you’re putting less money into the marketing machine, your sales reps will pay more attention to the individual leads they’re getting. 

However, you want to be careful with this tactic. Give your sales team too few leads and you’ll hurt productivity and morale.

So, if your sales team is begging for more leads, up your marketing budget. On the other hand, if you’re not getting any requests for more leads and your close-to-sale rate isn’t doing so hot…you might want to dial back your marketing spend.

Conclusion

It’s hard to make a profit off of online marketing if your sales team doesn’t know how to close your hard-won leads.

But, if you’re willing to work with your sales team, your marketing campaigns will not only produce profitable leads—they’ll produce profitable sales.

And isn’t that what online marketing is all about?

You’ve heard my two cents, now it’s your turn.

In your experience, how have sales short-changed your online marketing efforts (or vice versa)? How have you helped your sales team work more effectively with paid search leads?

About the Author: Jacob Baadsgaard is the CEO and fearless leader of Disruptive Advertising, an online marketing agency dedicated to using PPC advertising and website optimization to drive sales. His face is as big as his heart and he loves to help businesses achieve their online potential. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.



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