Why Product Marketing is the Growth Secret Weapon You Absolutely Must Have
If you’re not investing in product marketing, you’re probably not growing as quickly or as efficiently as you could be. We’ll talk more about that later, but for now, let’s answer this: What is product marketing? Product marketing is basically defined as the process of promoting and selling a product to an audience, to drive […]
If you’re not investing in product marketing, you’re probably not growing as quickly or as efficiently as you could be. We’ll talk more about that later, but for now, let’s answer this: What is product marketing? Product marketing is basically defined as the process of promoting and selling a product to an audience, to drive demand and usage of that product. There’s nothing wrong with that definition, but it massively oversimplifies what a product marketer does. A product marketer’s role revolves around the product, obviously, but the product is as much a tool that helps the marketer to market more effectively, as it is the thing the marketer’s trying to market. Confused yet? Stick with me, and, with the help of this presentation from Hana Abaza, Head of Marketing for Shopify Plus, we’ll show you what product marketing is, and why it’s the growth secret weapon you absolutely must have.
How Does Product Marketing Differ from Marketing-Marketing?
To really understand product marketing, it helps to learn how it differs from more general marketing.
Marketing is concerned with growing a brand as a whole. To do this, your average marketing manager will be involved in everything from brand awareness and website traffic, to brand messaging and public relations. They’re also likely to look at the whole sales funnel and launching campaigns that target potential customers at each stage of it.
Product marketers, on the other hand, use the product as the catalyst for growing the brand. They must have a deep understanding of the markets surrounding the product or products in question (including competitor products). They also need to have an in-depth understanding of their audience – in particular, why they use the product (or products), where the product fails them, and how to talk to them in a voice they understand. Product marketers also, unlike more general marketers, focus predominantly on the bottom of the funnel (although their insights should be fed back up the funnel). They typically think about customers more than they do prospects or leads. These are the sorts of questions a product marketer needs to be answering: “What are we building?” “Who are we building it for?” “How do we talk about it?” “How do we go to market?” They need to know:
What the product does
Who their customers are and why they would use this product
What language their customers will understand
How they get the product in front of the people that will use it
If they can do that, they’re not only in a far stronger position for marketing the product or products they’re assigned to, but they can actually enable the company as a whole to operate more effectively. “Product marketing lives at the intersection of all these functions. It’s probably one of the most cross-functional roles you’ll see in an organization.” – Hana Abaza
But What Does a Product Marketer Actually Do?
We already know that the product is central to the product marketer’s role, and that they assist in growing a brand primarily by developing, improving, and promoting the product. Despite this very specific focus, product marketers really do a bit of everything. All of this: And this: And this: Let’s talk about some of this in more detail. Product marketers:
Position the Product
They figure out where the product sits in the market. “If marketing is about making it easy for people to find, evaluate and buy your products, then positioning is about figuring out what your product is in the first place.” – Hana Abaza To do this, you have to understand the context that frames your product. Do that and you can define all of these things:
That will help you figure out things like this… …which will help you target the right people, at the right price point, with the right messaging. And on that note…
…They Figure Out Messaging
Product marketers figure out the language people use when they talk about the product. They then use this to create messages that are easy for their target audience to understand. In her presentation, Hana used Dropbox as an example – specifically, Dropbox as it looked in 2010: Hana spoke about the fact that her mother uses Dropbox, and that her mother is representative of a not-insignificant segment of Dropbox’s user base. Back in 2010 however, Dropbox alienated that portion of their audience with the language they were using. I’m talking specifically about this phrase: It’s unlikely that Hana’s mother, and others like her, would have understood what it meant to sync files, let alone how to do it. As a result, Dropbox was limiting its target market to people with a certain level of technical knowledge. Dropbox today looks very different. To help target users more effectively, Dropbox split their welcome page in two – one page for businesses, and one page for individuals. Select the ‘individual’ tab, and you’re presented with this – simple, direct, jargon-free copy that describes exactly what Dropbox does and how it will benefit the user, in language anyone can understand: This is the sort of thing a product marketer can help execute.
They Create Spec Sheets
Creating a spec sheet is essentially a data collection exercise, in which information like that shown in the diagram below is collated into a single, easy-to-digest document. Spec sheets might not look that interesting, but they play a key part in enabling a product marketer to perform their role more effectively.
They Consider Internal Communications
When adding a new product to a company’s existing portfolio, product marketers will be responsible for deciding how internal communications will play out – namely, when other departments and staff members will be told about the product, what they will be told, and how it will be told to them (including the method of delivery – i.e. email or in person, who will deliver the message, and the language that will be used).
They Help Plan the Launch
Product marketers will figure out what kind of launch your product necessitates. While I’m generalizing a little here, “types” of launches can typically be placed in one of three tiers:
Tier 1 – tell the world
Tier 2 – tell customers and prospects
Tier 3 – you probably should have had it anyway so just quietly add it in
They’ll then help formulate a plan for executing it.
And They Help Grow the Product Post-Launch
A lot of companies put all of their time, effort, and resources into developing and launching a product, and forget about the growth part afterwards. A product marketer will help bridge that gap. They’ll experiment with how to grow the product’s user base, and how the product itself can be leveraged to drive even more customers.
How Do You Know When You Should Invest in Product Marketing?
So far, we’ve offered up multiple reasons why investing in growth marketing is a good idea. That’s because, generally, it is. But it’s not for everyone – at least right now. In fact, get it wrong, and product marketing could actually do your business more harm than good. “Bad product marketing can kill your company.” – Hana Abaza So how do you know whether product marketing is a fit for you right now, and in what form? You’re probably not quite ready for product marketing if:
People don’t understand what you do
Your employees don’t know how to explain what you do
Your current marketing isn’t working
Thankfully, those are all things you can change pretty easily (once you understand that they’re an issue, anyway). If these things don’t apply to you, then you’re probably ready to adopt product marketing. To what extent, however, depends largely on the circumstances surrounding your product and company. More specifically, the size of your company, the complexity of your product, and the landscape it’s part of.
If your company is still very small, and your product or products are very simple, you probably don’t need to hire someone to work on product marketing specifically, but you should still consider the concept and what elements of it you can adopt using your existing resources.
If you have a really simple product but your company is growing, it’s probably a good idea to hire someone to work specifically on product marketing.
If your company is still really small but your product is really complex, again, it’s probably a good idea to hire a product marketer.
If you’re a big company with a complicated product, product marketing becomes an entire function that necessitates not just hiring a product marketer, but a team of people that can support them.
You also need a product marketer – or at the very least, a knowledge of product marketing – if:
You’re about to launch or start shipping something, but you don’t know how much to charge for it.
Your product’s about to ship but you have no way of telling customers about it.
Your sales team doesn’t understand the product they’re supposed to sell.
Your customer support team is getting calls about a new product on your website but they have no idea what it is.
So, Should You Be Using Product Marketing?
While there are some exceptions, as a general rule, yes, you should be using product marketing. Having someone (or a team of people) who have a deep understanding of your customers and their relationship to your product is, for many businesses, the secret to growth – and not just growth for growth’s sake. A product marketer can assist in driving growth that’s sustainable and that maximizes profit. The key to using product marketing as a growth lever most effectively, however, is to understand that it’s never “done.” Even once your product has become a success, product marketing should be something that remains in the background and that feeds into a culture of continuous learning, improvement, and growth. Do you have any insights to add on why companies should be using product marketing, or how they can use it most effectively? If you have a moment to share your thoughts, you’ll find the comments just below:
How to Drive Bottom-of-Funnel Results From Your Blog
Note: This article was written based on content and ideas shared by James Scherer from Wishpond in a webinar hosted on the Growth Marketing Conference webinar series. Before we make the decision to buy, we all go through a particular process. Marketers call that process the “sales funnel,” and it looks something like this: Image Credit It’s […]
Note: This article was written based on content and ideas shared by James Scherer from Wishpond in a webinar hosted on the Growth Marketing Conference webinar series. Before we make the decision to buy, we all go through a particular process. Marketers call that process the “sales funnel,” and it looks something like this: Image Credit It’s essentially a simplified customer journey: the steps consumers take while deciding what to buy and from whom. At the top of the funnel are people who are yet to be exposed to your brand. At the bottom are people who are ready to buy; they just need convincing that they should buy from you. Every stage of the funnel is important, but it’s towards the bottom of the funnel where things get really interesting. To maximize leads we need to target the top stages of the funnel, but our end goal – generating sales and revenue – only happens when we get those leads to the bottom of the funnel. To do this, we have to nurture those leads. There are a number of ways you could do this but arguably the easiest, most effective, and most cost-effective is email. Email sequences, to be exact. In fact, according to stats reported by HubSpot, leads nurtured with targeted content result in more than a 20% uplift in sales opportunities. In a moment, we’re going to go through a tried-and-tested process for nurturing leads and driving bottom-of-funnel results from your blog; but first, let’s touch on one of the most important factors in creating blog content that converts:
Creating Better Content
Your ability to generate and nurture leads is dependent in large part on the quality of your content. After all, if your readers aren’t getting value from your content, why would they want anything else from you? This means that if your content isn’t up to scratch, improving it is the first step in driving bottom-of-funnel results from your blog. So what constitutes “better content”?
It should be long-form
Long-form content is more detailed than short-form, and, consequently, offers more value to the reader. There’s also more content for search engines to read and analyze, which typically translates to better rankings and more traffic. While there’s no hard-and-fast rule as to what constitutes long-form content, most marketers agree that 1500 words and up is a good figure to aim for.
It should include images
They help illustrate points and break up text, making it easier to read. Use them.
It should feature examples
Simplify difficult processes with screenshots, or, failing that, easy-to-follow bullet point or numbered lists.
It should be actionable
Explain to readers how they can put the suggestions you make into practice.
It should feature new ideas
Be as original as you can. Try to avoid focusing on ideas and strategies that your target audience has heard 1000 times already.
The points it includes should be proven
Legitimize your points and arguments with real-world examples and case studies.
It should be personal and tell a story
Why have you written this content? Why should people listen to what you have to say on this subject? Personalize your content by framing it in the context of your story. Once your content’s ticking all the boxes above, you should be ready to start using it to drive bottom-of-funnel results from your blog. Let’s talk about how.
Using Your Blog as a Lead Generation Tool
Before you can nurture a lead, you have to capture it. Your blog is doing the grunt work for you – it’s either driving people to the site, or engaging those that are already on it. Your next challenge is to learn a little bit more about those visitors by getting them to hand over their details.
This tool is designed specifically to drive leads from bottom-of-funnel blog content. By this I mean content aimed at potential customers that are seriously considering buying from you. To capture those bottom-of-funnel visitors, you need to enhance your content with CTAs (which might sit above, below or in the sidebar of the content, or in a pop-up) that invite the visitor to sign up for a one-on-one VIP product demo. This CTA should take the user to a short form. Exactly what that form contains is up to you but in this context it makes sense to ask for the prospect’s name, email address, and industry. Anyone who completes that form gets placed in a segmented email list which will trigger an email sequence designed to set up a date and time for the demo.
This tool can be used to drive leads at all stages of the funnel, although its effectiveness increases as prospects move down the funnel and become more familiar with your company and content. Simply put, offering blog subscriptions as a lead generation tool works because readers will subscribe to get more of what they want. As with the VIP demo tool, place CTAs above, below, in the sidebar of the content, or in a popup (or a combination of all four). Image Credit A short signup form should be contained within that CTA. All you really need is the subscriber’s email address, but for the purpose of lead nurturing it helps to get their first name, too. That said, if in doubt remember that shorter is always better. “Every field you ask them to fill increases friction. The best thing you can do to improve conversions is to get rid of as many fields as possible.” Peep Laja, ConversionXL Again, once a visitor completes the form they will be placed in a segmented email list and a sequence of targeted emails will follow. 3.Content upgrades Content upgrades are an article-specific lead generation tool. By that I mean that each content upgrade is tied to the article it appears on. It’s especially effective when tied to in-depth content (or 10x content) and listicles. Brian Dean explains in detail what a content upgrade is and how they work here; however, in short, they are a piece of paywall-hidden content that accompanies and enhances the article it’s linked to. The upgrade itself could simply be the article in a downloadable PDF. Alternatively, it might be a downloadable checklist or “bonus” points or tips. Image Source Exactly what the upgrade is doesn’t really matter, so long as it genuinely adds value to the user. What does matter is that it’s being used correctly to capture that user’s details so they can be placed in the relevant email list, and the email sequence can begin. The CTA itself is best placed within the article itself, like so: Alternatively (or additionally) it can be placed below or in the sidebar of the content, or in a pop-up (just make sure to give the user a chance to read a good chunk of the content before pushing the upgrade on them). Once again, limit the barrier to entry by asking only for the prospect’s first name and email address.
Nurturing Leads through Segmented Email Campaigns
Using your blog as a lead-generation tool is only the first step in driving bottom-of-funnel results from it. Very few of those leads will be ready to buy, so you need to nurture them until they’re ready to make a purchase.
We already know that new leads should get placed in segmented email lists. There are lots of ways you might segment your email lists, but there are two we’re going to focus on here. Leads segmented according to interest, and leads segmented according to industry.Leads segmented by interest The majority of leads will be segmented by interest only. How do we know what a lead’s interested in? We could ask them, but we know we need to keep our sign-up forms as short as possible. With this in mind, their “interest” would be dictated by the subject of the content they converted on. For example, we can assume that someone who converted on an article about using Facebook in marketing is interested in social media marketing. They would then be placed in a list that ensures they are exclusively (at least initially) sent emails and content about social media. Leads segmented by industry When a prospect converts on a bottom-of-funnel content piece – like the VIP demo mentioned just above – we’re ideally going to want to segment them according to their industry. This is because you’re going to want to nurture them with emails that align the features of your product with pain points that are typical of their industry. It will also help your sales team understand the prospect’s needs, so they can sell to them more effectively. Unfortunately, to get this information, you’re going to have to ask for it. That probably means adding a third box to the signup form.
Once you’re successfully segmenting leads into appropriate email lists, you’re going to want to create the email sequences that will nurture them, and push them towards converting. Let’s run through the email sequences you might create to nurture leads coming from each of the lead generation tools discussed just above.
VIP demo leads
Anyone who’s filled out a form asking for a product demo is either very near to, or at the bottom of the sales funnel. In this case specifically, the lead has stated outright that they would like a product demo. This means your first email would ask the prospect when they would like the demo to take place (you can see a template for this and all email subject lines in the sequence just below). Bonus tip: you can streamline the booking process by providing a link to a calendar that they book themselves straight into. Needless to say, if the prospect converts as a result of that email, the sequence ends. If they don’t, they should receive a follow-up email a few days later. You may want to personalize the follow up, in accordance with the prospect’s interests or industry. Again, if the prospect converts, the sequence ends. If they don’t, a third and final email should be received, again a few days later. You’ll probably want to personalize this one, too, with the prospect’s interest or industry. Another good trick is to begin the subject line “Re:” as a reminder that they have initiated the conversation by asking to arrange the demo.
Blog subscription leads
The first email a blog subscription lead should receive is a simple “thank you for subscribing” email. That’s all the subject line of this email needs to be, but again, you can see the template for this and subsequent email subject lines in the sequence just below. Bonus tip: ensure whoever sends this email sends all of the emails.The sequence might be automated, but this goes a long way toward personalizing the interaction. Email two sends the subscriber a piece of content that’s relevant to their interest, and that also demonstrates your product’s link to this and how it can help resolve the prospect’s (assumed) pain points. This will subtly help funnel subscribers towards your product. Email three should be a sales email, similar to the first email you might send to a VIP demo lead. You’re simply asking if they have time to talk that week about their subject of interest. If they convert at this point, the sequence ends. If they don’t, they receive a fourth email. Email four should be a case study that highlights the value your business can add to them. Email five is sent regardless of whether or not the lead clicked through to the case study. This email should offer a discount. It should also offer a demo or call of some kind. If the lead converts, then great. If not, they get sent to the general newsletter segment.
Content upgrade leads
The first email a content upgrade lead should receive is the content upgrade itself. This should be delivered the moment they request it (once again, you can see subject line templates for all emails in the sequence just below). Email two should be an example article – similar to what you would send a blog subscription lead. Email three should be a sales email – again similar to what you would send a demo or blog subscriber lead. If they convert at this point, the sequence ends. If not, they receive a fourth email. Email four should be a case study. It needs to demonstrate how your business might add value to the lead. Email five should offer the subscriber free access to an on-demand resource like a webinar, video, or podcast – something with your voice on it, or better yet, your face. The idea here is to further the relationship the lead has with you before they receive the next sales email. Email six should be another resource that helps educate the customer on your product’s link to their interests and pain points – for example, something like “proven strategies for success in [their interest].” Bonus tip: the resource should highlight your product’s features and benefits through product pictures or (if it’s a tool) screenshots of it in action. Email seven is a sales email – a discount or coupon. Add urgency with a time limit (seven days is fair). It’s also a good idea to send a reminder email 24 hours or so before the discount or coupon expires (assuming, of course, that the lead hasn’t converted). Once again, if the lead converts, great. If not, they get sent to the general newsletter segment. Bear in mind that all the suggestions above are just that – suggestions. Use this strategy as a guide for effective email nurturing, but remember that what you include in your email sequences, and how many emails you send, is totally up to you. Do you already nurture leads using email sequences? Does your strategy differ from what we’ve outlined here? It’d be great if you could share your secrets and let us know how effective they’ve been – comments are below:
How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Marketing in 2018
The machines are coming. But far from being an end-of-world scenario, the continued development of sophisticated computers and artificial intelligence is increasing our productivity, safety, and efficiency while making our lives easier. We’ve got ‘smart’ televisions, phones, lights, thermostats, cars, kitchen appliances, cameras … even belts. However, with great power comes great responsibility. We can […]
The machines are coming. But far from being an end-of-world scenario, the continued development of sophisticated computers and artificial intelligence is increasing our productivity, safety, and efficiency while making our lives easier. We’ve got ‘smart’ televisions, phones, lights, thermostats, cars, kitchen appliances, cameras … even belts. However, with great power comes great responsibility. We can embrace AI, but we need to constantly be aware of what it could mean for us. “Everything we love about civilization is a product of intelligence, so amplifying our human intelligence with artificial intelligence has the potential of helping civilization flourish like never before – as long as we manage to keep the technology beneficial.“ ~Max Tegmark, President of the Future of Life Institute Should we be afraid? No – despite what the Terminator films have taught us. Artificial intelligence is not inherently good or bad. It’s all in how we use it. As we move from 2018 into 2019, we’re doing some fascinating and innovative things with it, including Toyota’s $1 billion investment into self-driving cars and AI, AI programs being used to predict the next trends in fashion, and the recent unveiling of the world’s first AI news anchor in China. The reach of AI extends to virtually every profession and industry, and that most definitely includes marketing. In fact, it’s the fastest-growing marketing technology with an anticipated year-over-year growth of 53%.
Will we soon see robots in suits and ties sipping martinis on Madison Avenue? Absolutely not. Marketing and advertising require too much creativity and instinct to be completely taken over by artificial means. But it does present some very intriguing developments and disruptions, many of which we’re already experiencing. Marketing is evolving, and AI is a big part of that.
Before we take a look at some industry-specific use cases, let’s define terms. We hear and read about AI all the time now, but what exactly does it entail? At its most basic, artificial intelligence is simulated intelligence within machines and computer systems. They’re programmed to ‘think’ and make rational decisions based on what they know and other pre-programmed criteria, depending on the task. Alan Turing created the Turing Test in 1950 to assess a machine’s ability to exhibit human-like intelligence. In 2014, a program named Eugene Goostman passed it, marking the first time a machine managed to fool more than 30% of people into believing that it was a real live human. But within the very broad category of AI, you’ll encounter a number of subsections and classifications:
Machine learning – the ability of systems to learn and interpret new data without human intervention
Deep learning – learning based on data representations with or without human involvement
Strong AI – equivalent to human intelligence in virtually every way
Weak AI – AI that is focused on a single or narrow task
Better insights, detailed analyses, and faster and more accurate prospect identification are just three examples. So far, AI is primarily used for data analysis, but it’s increasingly being used for data generation as well. Within marketing, it works best at the moment for clear sets of inputs, well defined texts, and clear outputs. But the sky is truly the limit.
When it comes to modern marketing, personalization is the order of the day. Consumers no longer respond or react to generic ads and messaging. Personalized emails deliver higher open and click-through rates. A personalized consumer experience delivers higher revenue, loyalty, and conversions. One of the most successful examples of AI in marketing is the powerful programs that deliver highly personalized and targeted recommendations from Amazon, Netflix, eBay, Spotify, and every ecommerce site that knows what it’s doing. By gathering data, possibly from your customer relationship management platform, AI algorithms analyze user behavior, past purchases, reviews, ratings, and whatever else is available to them to generate recommendations and make predictions about what users will want or need next. And that creates a very positive, very personal customer experience.
Looking to add a little AI to your ecommerce platform? Try Limespot, Barilliance, Nosto, Vue.ai, or an alternative provider. Ecommerce in 2018 without some sort of AI assistance is needlessly fighting an uphill battle. It doesn’t stop there, though. AI tools can be used for better audience targeting, segmentation tracking, and more. Keeping up to date with ecommerce trends around AI and test what works for your business and customer. “By analyzing customers based on their movement among segments over time, we can achieve dynamic micro-segmentation, and predict future behavior in a very accurate fashion. This approach can take customer segmentation to a whole new level. Using micro-segmentation, brands can communicate ‘personally’ with every customer, optimizing customer experience and increasing loyalty and lifetime value, in today’s highly-competitive direct-to-consumer space.” ~Pini Yakuel, founder and CEO of Optimove
We live in a world of fast, instant, and immediately. Consumers typically expect a response to a question or complaint within 0-4 hours, but the average brand response time is 10 hours. Additionally, imagine being able to engage with, answer questions, and make suggestions to everyone visiting your site or platform, regardless of time or day. Enter chatbots 2.0. Gone are the days of robotic-sounding ‘bots’ limited to canned responses. Modern versions use AI and NLP to engage in genuine conversations in real-time. That’s useful in customer care, sales, and marketing. AI chatbots are revolutionizing prospect and customer interaction with unprecedented personalization and engagement. They can track and predict based on past behavior. Companies like KLM Airlines are using them to tremendous success at every customer touch point.
An artificial intelligence program can do the work of dozens of humans in a fraction of the time. In the age of big data, that means lower costs and better insights. AI allows for a move from reactive to proactive when it comes to monitoring, tracking, analyzing, and optimizing. Tools like Adext, for example, can optimize hundreds of ads on multiple channels to find those that resonate best with an your audience, and then automatically prioritize them with additional funds and resources. How long do you figure it would take your marketing department to do that? “Ad relevancy and timeliness will always be the key to running profitable marketing campaigns. The beauty of AI tools like Adext, Tapcast, or countless other tools is that you can better pinpoint what is working or isn’t quicker and make adjustments. The cost of advertising is skyrocketing due to the amount of advertiser’s leveraging ad platforms so AI is going to keep marketing cost down while hopefully increasing profitability.”
– TJ Welsh, VP of Marketing at STRYDE Email marketing is effective, but it can fail for a wide variety of reasons. AI-enhanced email automation can analyze and uncover individual insights on everything from content topics, subject lines, best times, frequency, and more. Phrasee, for example, can create, test, and optimize subject lines, Facebook ads, and push notifications that outperform those drafted by humans 98% of the time. Likewise Persado, which identifies the exact words, emotions, and visuals that most resonate with your audience to build stories and marketing copy with your brand voice, context, and prospect interests in email and on social. An AI service or tool can analyze and track campaigns in real-time, optimizing for best times, lowest price-per-click, and conversions on the fly. They can generate countless variations and permutations of copy and design with specific input to find the perfect offering for your intended target.
Every marketer understands the importance of proper research on everything from the market to the individual prospects and customers. Artificial intelligence can be used to quickly pull data from multiple sources, organize it, and present it to marketers for consumption. This allows for greater accuracy across the board, but especially in audience and customer insights. Data-driven agencies like Ayzenberg use AI to collect the data you need, and find the influencers most able to help spread your message. They advocate a listen-create-share workflow powered by analytics, data, and AI.
AI solutions can track customer sentiment and buying habits, uncover their motivations, and make better decisions faster. “The knowledge you get from AI technology is akin to the knowledge most sales reps have when they research every single buyer in-depth. Today, many companies are already enabling this hyper-personalization at scale, creating context-rich conversations that help businesses understand, connect and relate to their audiences.” ~Aman Naimat, CTO/Senior Vice President of Engineering & Technology, Demandbase
Yes, even content creation can benefit from an artificial intelligence booster. Most content marketers list creating content and/or identifying suitable topics as their biggest challenges. Finding hot topics is time-consuming but necessary. At the moment, the best solutions utilize a human-AI collaboration model. Take Quill as one example. They produce AI-enhanced ‘primary content’ – product and category descriptions, shoppable how-to guides, and more – that is fast, customer and SEO optimized, and reflective of brand voice. At scale. It’s early days, but possible. Creativity is one of the hallmarks of humanity, and it’s unlikely that AI will ever be able to fully replicate that. That said, it can certainly help us be more productive and make better decisions supported by concrete data. It’s yet another tool in your tool belt. Ultimately, AI is the bridge that connects platforms, datasets, and tools into a meaningful resource for us, the human innovators. The world is changing. Are you ready? How are you using AI in your overall marketing strategy? Share in the comments below:
15 Tips to Increase Your Brand’s Social Media Engagements
A 2018 report published by Hootsuite and We Are Social states that the number of internet users worldwide has passed the 4 billion mark, and roughly 3.2 billion of those are social media users. That means every minute, your brand’s social media content is competing with millions of Facebook posts, hundreds of thousands of tweets, […]
A 2018 report published by Hootsuite and We Are Social states that the number of internet users worldwide has passed the 4 billion mark, and roughly 3.2 billion of those are social media users. That means every minute, your brand’s social media content is competing with millions of Facebook posts, hundreds of thousands of tweets, and tens of thousands of Instagram photos. With those record-breaking numbers, you might be wondering how you can stand out in all that noise.Luckily, it’s very achievable. Here are 15 tips for strengthening your social media prowess and boosting your brand’s social media engagements:
1. Post Value-rich Content
It should be no surprise that posting more valuable content will result in higher engagement. Yet, most brands’ social media pages are filled with countless posts humblebragging about themselves and their products. But that’s the kind of content that pushes people away. Instead, your brand’s social media content should be useful and speak to the intended audience’s wants, needs, desires, fears, and pain points. Constantly focusing on your audience resonates, and shows that your brand is about more than profits. Try sharing surprising statistics, thoughtful quotes, or evergreen blog content. Before posting anything, ask yourself: “If I were the reader, how would this help me?”
2. Research and Emulate Popular Content
So many marketers simply guess at what content they think their audience would like – and then they’re surprised when it doesn’t perform well. Rather than playing guessing games, spend a little time researching what kind of content has worked in the past. Try browsing your competitors’ and industry-adjacent peers’ social media profiles to see what kind of content is working for them and driving the greatest engagement. Tools like Ahrefs and Buzzsumo can also be leveraged to see what kinds of headlines and blog posts perform best when shared via social media. You can find out total engagement, social media channel breakdown, and much more.
3. Use Relevant Hashtags
Hashtags are easy wins for connecting with like-minded people. It’s good practice to piggyback on popular, relevant hashtags in addition to making your own. Opt for hashtags that are on the shorter side with easy-to-spell words or phrases. They should give the intended audience a clear understanding of the topic of conversation, and be memorable as well.
4. Use Giveaways and Contests
It’s no secret that people adore cheap and free stuff. But you’ve got to make your giveaways worthwhile and your contests entertaining and rewarding. Nobody cares about 5% discount codes or free shipping on their next order. They want that 20% discount, free meals, free trips, or exclusive gear. And they also want their rewards now, not next month. Instant-use discount codes and fast and free shipping are win-wins. Lastly, don’t forget to acknowledge the winner publicly so people see that it isn’t a gimmick. Better yet, have the winner create a post or video that you can share so it has a more authentic touch.
5. Host Q&A or AMA Sessions
Question & Answer (Q&A) or Ask Me Anythings (AMAs) have long been a staple of traditional interviews and sites like Reddit, but they’re rapidly becoming more mainstream across social media. For example, Instagram recently released a new story sticker that allows followers to ask questions within their stories, that many are using in an AMA style. Because these formats have a live or recent quality to them, they’re alluring to audiences of all types. Naturally, the more time people spend interacting with your brand, the more trust and rapport you can build – which inevitably will lead to more attention and sales.
6. Share Influencer Content
Blogger and influencer outreach is all about finding relevant influencers to align with your brand. Start by leveraging marketing tools to find what content in your niche is getting the most engagement, and determine who’s creating it. Then, get noticed by sharing their content, engaging with it, or directly reaching out with a short pitch or offer. Once you’ve established an influencer is a fit for your brand and goals, then you can simply invite them to share your content.
7. Ask Questions and Utilize CTAs
If you want action, you’ve got to ask for it. It’s truly that easy. A properly-placed call-to-action (CTA) will encourage readers to engage with you further. First, show prospects how you can make their life better or address a pain point. Speak to their emotions, and you can’t go wrong. Then, hit them with a CTA that’s simple, specific, and a gradual next step. Typically, these steps involve moving them from your social media page to interacting with your content or taking them to a landing page on your site.To build engagement, ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. These questions usually start with “why,” and the best are thought-provoking or slightly controversial to encourage people to share their opinions. Create “fill in the blank” or “caption this photo” prompts to engage your audience on a creative level that makes them feel involved. Futurism, a science and technology news site, famously does this on their popular Instagram stories.
8. Engage With Others
How you interact with your audience is a critical component of how your brand is perceived. A positive perception is typically marked by lots of engagement and a dialogue that’s positive and lighthearted. Thank them, compliment them, or offer assistance in some way.Naturally, there will be some negative comments and engagement, but the best way to handle that is to pick your battles, keep your responses short and sweet, and point them toward an FAQ resource or bring the negative conversation out of the public eye.
9. Utilize Images, GIFs, and Videos
Adding visual elements to your content is one of the best ways to make your post stand out in social media feeds, partly because people are better at remembering visual content. For example, if you hear a piece of information, three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. But if you add a picture to it, it can boost retention up to 65%. Visual storytelling is best served by ditching stock visual content and creating your own instead. People gravitate toward original content, and usually perceive stock imagery as spammy and distasteful. Even just snapping your own photos, adding a light filter, and superimposing text over it can create highly-shareable content.
10. Share Surveys and Polls
Posting surveys and polls on Twitter and Facebook is easy, and it’s a great way to stoke engagement and learn meaningful info about your audience. Plus, with enough of a reach, you can generate original content by surveying your audience (and sharing the results later). Instagram even has a sticker layer that allows users or brands to get near-instant feedback from their audience on ideas for new products and features.
11. Post Frequently and at the Right Times
According to a 2018 industry research report from Sprout Social, the best times to post on Facebook are Wednesdays from 12-2 PM and Thursdays from 1-2 PM. Twitter’s sweet spot is Friday from 9-10 AM or between 10 AM and noon most days. To maximize these guidelines, automate your social media posts using a tool like Buffer, or at the very least schedule them out in advance with a tool like CoSchedule.
12. Ask For Feedback
A fast and easy way to get your followers talking is to simply ask their opinions. People have no shortage of opinions, and are usually quick to share their feedback and suggestions when asked. You can also pair this with giveaways to really get people talking. Free shipping, free dessert, or a hefty discount code can go a long way toward getting people to open up.
13. Don’t Discount Live Video
35% of marketers are now using live video to reach their intended audience, partly because they garner more engagement than non-live videos. On Facebook, live videos have an average engagement rate of 4.3%, compared to non-live video content at 2.2%. That’s nearly twice the engagement – and the best part is you don’t have to do any editing or add any graphics; just point and shoot.
14. Partner Up and Cross-promote
One of the quickest ways to generate more engagement and simultaneously reach a wider audience is to cross-promote by partnering up with another brand. Obviously, you’ll want to find someone who isn’t a direct competitor, but is still industry-adjacent enough to have a similar audience. Once you’ve found a partner, you’ve got a few options:
Post content supplied by your new partner
Co-produce a piece of content that you both share
Create a post on behalf of your new partner
Besides partnering with other companies, you can also cross-promote other social media channels. Tweet a picture of your Snapchat page, or remind people on Instagram to check out your Pinterest page.
15. Utilize Paid Promotion
If you want to reach a larger audience and drive more engagement, it doesn’t get much easier or faster than paid promotion. The hard part is finding the perfect combination of ad copy, landing pages, headlines, and offerings. Luckily, the internet is riddled with “how to” guides on successful paid promotion.While all this social media optimization seems like a lot of work, remember, a whopping 94% of prospects are active on some form of social media, making the juice absolutely worth the squeeze. You can’t afford not to have some form of social media presence – and if you’re going to do it at all, you’ve got to make sure you do it right.How are you winning the war for attention and engagement on social media?Share your story and tactics in the comments below:
6 Ways to Improve Your B2B Marketing Efforts
B2C marketing is, in many ways, pretty straightforward. You have a product. You need to get it in front of a large audience. This is how you plan to do it. All of us have experience in this area. We’ve all made purchases as a consumer. But far fewer of us have experience buying as […]
B2C marketing is, in many ways, pretty straightforward. You have a product. You need to get it in front of a large audience. This is how you plan to do it. All of us have experience in this area. We’ve all made purchases as a consumer. But far fewer of us have experience buying as or for a business. That means that when it comes to marketing (of any type), we tend to fall back on the approaches we’re familiar with and have responded to ourselves. Those at the top tend to do the same. Marketing is for consumers. Business deals are made not through social media or content, but via direct sales approaches. Except they’re not. Not exclusively. Not anymore. Assuming that reaching out to decision makers directly is the only way to make a sale is an archaic way of thinking. While things are changing (39% of the UK’s B2B marketers feel marketing is seen as ‘very important’ by their organization, with 33% saying ‘fairly important’) there are still so many ways B2B marketers could be leveling up their game. Here are 6 things you can start implementing today that will help you generate more leads, more sales, and more revenue – without a direct sales strategy in sight.
1. Establish Your Buying Cycle
A typical buying cycle looks like this: Image Credit But there are many variations of it. Every business, and each of their customers, are a little different. Customers enter the buying cycle at different stages, with varying levels of knowledge. Some purchases are highly considered, while others are made on impulse. While there’s no way to predict the process every customer will go through before buying, you can (and should) determine what your typical buying cycle looks like. So how do you do that? You can start by looking at the time delay between a customer’s first interaction with your site, and when they make a purchase. You can find this data in the Conversions section of Google Analytics. For ecommerce transactions, go to Ecommerce > Time to Purchase. Or for all conversion data (i.e. goal completions as well as ecommerce transactions), go to Multi-Channel Funnels > Time Lag. Next, try analyzing consumption of your online content. Are customers utilizing the resources you provide prior to converting? Which resources specifically are they using? You can find this out in the Top Conversion Paths section of Google Analytics. Most importantly, what interactions (if any) are occuring between you and your customers prior to a transaction taking place? Do they ask a lot of questions, or are they happy to buy without one-on-one assistance? Together, all this information will help you determine the sales cycle your typical customer goes through. You can then use this knowledge to adapt your marketing efforts so that each tactic plays a part in moving customers from their current position in the buying cycle to the next.
2. Match Content to Customer Pain Points
What determines the content you create (assuming you create content, of course)? Is it what you think will appeal to your target audience? Or do you choose ideas based on their perceived virality and potential appeal to publishers? A quality content strategy will often incorporate content designed to drive shares, brand awareness, and links. Unfortunately, viral concepts that appeal to publishers rarely align with the needs of a target audience. The best content strategies (this can apply to both B2B and B2C marketing) help customers and target customers overcome their pain points – at every stage of the buying cycle. Don’t just carry out some brief keyword research and write articles based on industry-specific searches. Figure out what pain points your target audience faces at every stage of the buying cycle, and address these pain points in your content.
3. Push for Referrals
How do you approach customer acquisition? Do you have a sales team sending cold outreach emails and making cold calls? Many B2B companies don’t leverage their existing customer base enough – or at all. They’ll invest heavily in acquisition strategies like cold outreach and on- and-offline advertising, but they won’t make use of one of their strongest connections to new customers – their existing customers. Asking your current customers (your current happy customers) to refer others who they think may have an interest in your product or service is one of the easiest and most reliable ways to generate new business. So how do you push for referrals in a B2B environment? That all depends on your business model. If you’re selling SaaS or a similar product that can be scaled with ease, use an automated referral scheme. This is where customers are automatically rewarded when they succeed in getting someone else to buy your product. Better yet, create a viral referral scheme that rewards customers not just for their first referral, but for every referral after that, too. This is how many of today’s most successful online businesses were built, including Dropbox and PayPal. If you have an agency model or similar – i.e. your business depends on clients – your approach should be a little different. In this context, an automated referral scheme would probably come across as impersonal, and is unlikely to get great results. A better approach is to reach out to happy clients personally, and incentivize them to send others your way.
4. Integrate Marketing Channels
Effective marketing strategies are rarely comprised of different channels working in silos. Marketing is most effective when channels are integrated and teams are working together towards a shared goal. This means ensuring different departments, teams, and staff members are communicating. It also means tying their efforts together for maximum impact. That could entail (but is far from limited to):
Enhancing content with CTAs designed to capture visitors’ details.
Encouraging people who sign up to your email list to follow you on social media.
Promoting content and other marketing tactics (webinars, for example) via other channels, such as email and social media.
Of course, the best ways for you to unify your marketing channels is dependent on the tactics you’re using.
5. Make Mobile a Priority
It’s pretty common knowledge that the majority of internet use now takes place on mobile devices – specifically, phones. Image Source But this isn’t true across the board. Some industries see lower mobile usage than others, particularly those which target a predominantly older market. The same might be said of B2B industries. It seems logical that professionals will be researching and purchasing business materials from the comfort of their office, using a laptop or desktop computer, but in actual fact, this often isn’t the case. Decision makers are just as likely (or more likely) to research on mobile devices while they’re on the go, or during evening or weekend downtime, simply because they don’t have the time to shop during office hours. This means making your website as mobile-friendly as possible is crucial. Even if the majority of your visitors aren’t on mobile, odds are a not-insignificant chunk will be. That said, you can easily find out your exact mobile-to-desktop ratio in Google Analytics. Just go to Audience > Mobile > Overview, and you’ll see a breakdown of the device types being used to access your site.
6. Automate Wherever Possible
One of the quickest and easiest ways to improve B2B marketing efforts (and many other tasks involved in the day-to-day running of a business) is to automate wherever and whenever you can. Unfortunately, a lot of firms, especially those with a long history, are reluctant to move with the times. They’re happy to do things the way they’ve always been done because, well, that’s just how things have always been done. They’re making a big mistake. The right software can help you streamline processes by automating repetitive tasks. You can, for instance, speed up the sales cycle and avoid repetition and unnecessary interactions by storing customer data in a CRM. You can then make these processes even more efficient by linking them together using an integration tool like Zapier. The more processes you can automate, the quicker you can get the grunt work completed, and the better results you should get from your marketing efforts. Do you have any other tips for getting better results with B2B marketing? It’d be great if you could share your ideas in the comments below:
10 Marketing Tools You Need to Have in Your Toolkit
How big a role do tools play in your workday? Anything less than “very big” is the wrong answer. Tools should be playing a prevalent role in pretty much everything we do at work. They help us be more efficient and effective at our jobs so we can make more money in less time. They […]
How big a role do tools play in your workday? Anything less than “very big” is the wrong answer. Tools should be playing a prevalent role in pretty much everything we do at work. They help us be more efficient and effective at our jobs so we can make more money in less time. They just make our lives easier. But we shouldn’t be using just any tools. We should be using the right tools. If you’re relying on tools that don’t fit your needs, are badly supported, or are antiquated, you won’t get the results you could be or should be. While there’s no one perfect set of tools for everyone, here are 10 of the top marketing tools available today that you need to have in your toolkit.
Google Data Studio is up there with the best digital marketing reporting tools, but it’s got an awesome USP: it’s completely free. GDS pulls data from countless sources into one real-time, bespoke dashboard that looks good and is easy to share. Everything from YouTube and Reddit, to SEMrush, Salesforce, and, of course, Google Analytics, is supported. Even Bing Ads can be connected in a few clicks. While there are other reporting studios that pull in and display data in a similarly easy-to-digest format while offering more features and better support … did we mention Google Data Studio is free? What does Google Data Studio cost? We might have said this already, but … it’s free.
Mailshake is an intuitive, user-friendly platform designed to help you simplify, streamline, and scale cold outreach campaigns. Choose from pre-written templates, or write your own personalized messages en-masse, then schedule or send emails in real-time. Mailshake also makes it really easy to create automated follow-up sequences, as well as monitor performance by tracking opens, clicks, and replies. You can even leverage Mailshake’s API, and streamline workflows by connecting the tool to more than 1,000 other apps, including Gmail, Slack, and HubSpot CRM. What does Mailshake cost? Pay annually, and a basic package will set you back $22 per month, per user. It’ll cost you $29 if you pay monthly. Pro accounts (which offer additional features like A/B testing and conversion tracking) are $37 per month per user, paid annually, or $49 paid monthly.
Any organization that relies on its website for even a small portion of its business should be constantly testing and optimizing with the goal of improving UX and increasing conversions. VWO is an enterprise-level A/B testing and CRO platform that’s also suited to small businesses. It boasts state-of-the-art-technology, easy integration with a variety of popular third-party platforms, and the features you’ll need to plan and execute campaigns across whole teams with ease. While there are more affordable A/B testing and optimization tools on the market, VWO stands out thanks to its intuitive interface and industry-leading technology, security, and support. What does Visual Website Optimizer cost? Pricing is bespoke, but you can set up a free trial or request a demo on their site.
Voila Norbert does the hard work of digging deep into the web in order to verify email addresses individually or in bulk. For an extra (nominal) fee, it’ll enrich your email lists en-masse by digging out data like contacts’ locations, job titles, employers, and social profiles. It’s an invaluable tool for prospecting that’ll help you build better lists, faster. Voila Norbert’s email finding tool was elected the most accurate email finder out there according to Ahrefs . Whether you’re trying to reach out to influencers, build marketing connections or reach potential recruits, Norbert’s got you covered. What does Voila Norbert cost? Your first 50 leads are free. After that, you can pay-as-you-go (for $0.10 a lead), or save money and choose a prepaid package starting from $39 per month for 1,000 leads.
With more than 1,000 apps supported, Zapier makes it possible to eliminate repetitive, data-driven tasks from your workload. This can instantly increase productivity and make you more effective at pretty much everything you do. Marketing is no exception. Simply connect the apps you use, create workflows in a few clicks, and tackle your tougher tasks while Zapier automates the grunt work. What does Zapier cost? Absolutely nothing.
Right Inbox does what Gmail doesn’t. This includes scheduling emails, setting reminders so you don’t forget to reply to important messages, and creating recurring emails that will automatically get sent on the dates and times of your choosing. You can even attach private notes to email threads that only you can see (a priceless feature for those of us who struggle to keep organized). What does Right Inbox cost? The free version gives you access to all features, but limits you to 10 emails a month. Unlimited use costs $5.95 per month if you pay annually, or $7.95 paid monthly.
Error-free writing is essential to creating a professional image. Even something as innocent as an isolated grammatical error or a single sentence with sub-par structure can cause a prospect to question your credibility. This is where Grammarly comes in. Just copy and paste a block of text into the tool, and Grammarly highlights spelling mistakes and grammatical mishaps, alongside other simple fixes that will improve the readability of your writing, including repetitive words, missing articles, and misplaced modifiers. What does Grammarly cost? A standard account (which does plenty) is completely free. Premium accounts cost between $11.66 and $29.95 per month, depending on whether you choose to be billed monthly, quarterly, or annually. For paid accounts, Grammarly promises to identify more mistakes and get you better results. You’ll also get access to its plagiarism tool.
Mention lets you listen closely to the entire web. See what’s said about your brand, anywhere online. You can set filters to drown out noise, track how your share of voice and sentiment matches up to your competitors’, and benefit from detailed brand insights that are bespoke to your business. What does Mention cost? From $25 per month. That gets you a solo plan, which lets you create 2 alerts and notifies you of up to 3,000 brand mentions each month. Small business plans start at $83 per month. Larger businesses and agencies will likely require a custom plan with bespoke pricing.
SimilarWeb is a competitive intelligence tool that can assist with everything from competitor research to content promotion. It’s essentially a pared-down version of Google Analytics for all medium- to -high traffic websites that anyone can view. Sure, the data is estimated, but it’s generally not far off the mark (and short of hacking into a competitor’s analytics account, what better option do you have?). The data it offers includes estimated visits, time on site, and bounce rate, as well as traffic source, visitor location, and top referrers. There’s also a free Chrome extension, which is well worth plugging into your browser. What does SimilarWeb Cost? A basic account is free, as is the Chrome plugin. Enterprise plans are available and offer extras like historical data, keyword analysis, and mobile app engagement. Prices are available on request.
Most of us aren’t designers, but many of us will benefit from being able to transform dull data and information into engaging visuals. Easel.ly is a simple, versatile tool that enables pretty much anyone to turn facts and figures into visual content that people actually want to read. What does Easel.ly cost? Limited access is free, and pretty restrictive. Thankfully, a pro account (which gets you access to over 320 infographic templates, 112 fonts, and much more) is just $4 per month. What other marketing tools do you think everyone should have in their toolkit? Let us know in the comments below:
6 Steps to a Successful Product Launch
They say you only get one chance to make a first impression. Whether it’s the first day at your new job, meeting your significant other’s parents, political campaigning, or introducing yourself to new people in general, you want to come across as personable, likeable, and polished. The same is true for a new product. Yes, […]
They say you only get one chance to make a first impression. Whether it’s the first day at your new job, meeting your significant other’s parents, political campaigning, or introducing yourself to new people in general, you want to come across as personable, likeable, and polished. The same is true for a new product. Yes, it’s possible to recover from a disastrous launch, but it takes time, money, and effort. It’s much better to start on the right foot and build from the good vibes you generate from day one … because there’s a lot working against you, even when you launch flawlessly. Scary? Absolutely. And it gets worse:
Somewhere between 80-85% of new consumer-packaged goods (CPG) fail each year.
So even at the “low” end, you’re staring down the barrel of an 80% fail rate. Now, I am not in any way trying to dissuade you from bringing your idea to life and launching your product. But I do want you to know what you’re up against, and to be prepared. “The biggest problem we’ve encountered is lack of preparation: Companies are so focused on designing and manufacturing new products that they postpone the hard work of getting ready to market them until too late in the game.” ~Joan Schneider, CEO at Schneider Associates Do everything you need to do prior to launch, and you can focus on spreading awareness and building momentum after you launch. There’s no catching up or fixing mistakes that take attention off your shiny new product.
Step 1: Mind the Gap
Fill the need. Make absolutely certain your product fills a gap in the market or fixes a problem for people. How does yours stack up? Conduct or outsource some traditional market research. Look at the similar products already out there. Why would someone opt for yours over those? What’s its USP? The best way to test your product idea is to talk to people. Real people. Your target market. Create a quick and easy email or social media survey with a service like SurveyMonkey. What are people looking for, what features do existing products lack, what could they live without, what might they be willing to pay more for? Collect and analyze that data. Talk to friends. Talk to family. Talk to colleagues. If demand and interest is there, it’s time to push forward.
Step 2: Competitive Pricing
If your product has legs in step 1, it’s time to price. And proper pricing is not something you can do quickly, nor should you try. There’s a lot to consider: how much do similar products cost, how much will it cost you to manufacture your product, what are your overhead expenses, and on and on. Your price needs to be competitive, but you also need to make enough profit with each sale to stay in business. It’s a fine line. There are many pricing strategies out there:
Keystone Pricing = cost to produce x 2.
Psychological Pricing (also known as charm pricing) = ending your prices with .95 or .99 for the perceived value. $99.95 feels cheaper than $100.
Premium Pricing – intentionally pricing at round numbers to give the illusion of luxury and status. Also known as prestige pricing.
Then, of course, you can experiment with discounts, fragmented pricing (cost per month versus price per year), bundling, and more. Are you aiming for the budget buyers – where you undercut other products – or the luxury crowd – where you price slightly higher because you’re offering a “premium” product (just make sure you can deliver what you’re promising)? Your price needs to reflect how you’re marketing your product. Budget. Luxury. Volume. Repeat purchases. And don’t forget that price is not a set-it-and-forget-it task. An important part of business is monitoring competitor pricing. Ever notice that prices on Amazon can change multiple times each day? Ditto with Walmart and Target. If, after selling for a while, you determine the current price is leaving you short, you can either increase your price, decrease your costs, or increase your volume. Think carefully before you decide. Your price is like your headline. It deserves the lion’s share of your time and effort.
Step 3: The Right Crowd
Ask yourself: who is my ideal customer? You need to target those people. A great product with the wrong target will fail. Guaranteed. In fact, the top two reasons why new businesses fail are 1) no market need (hence the importance of step 1: mind the gap), and 2) running out of cash. Image Source And why do businesses and brands run out of money? Because they’re wasting time, money, and effort on the wrong people. Target those who would actually benefit from your product, and many will buy it. Target the wrong folks, and you’ll be ignored after throwing buckets of cash in the wrong direction. That’s obviously unsustainable. You need to create detailed buyer personas before you launch. Before you spend a penny on marketing your product. Ask questions. Go looking for answers. Send Emails. Send follow-up emails. Build detailed personas to guide your efforts. Identify your target market and go after them and only them in the places both real and digital where they spend their time.
Step 4: Make a (Marketing) Plan
This is not a “wing it” situation, and far too many new companies and product launches do just that. In their eagerness to get the product “out there,” they give little thought as to how they’ll market it once it is. Big mistake. A marketing plan is as important as the product itself. What are your marketing goals? What channels and tactics will you use? How will you measure success? Be concrete, specific, and write it down. A few things to remember:
Plan for failure, yes, but don’t forget to plan for success, too. If the product takes off, if it resonates with your target market, if it exceeds your wildest expectations, are you ready to scale up and meet that demand? You have to be. Nothing can derail a new product faster than delivery delays and out-of-stock notices. Those issues will generate as much – if not more – word-of-mouth buzz and kill your momentum. Before you launch, put systems and plans in place to scale up and meet the demand you hope is in the mail. Launch before you’re ready, and you’re dead in the water.
Step 6: Gather Feedback
And use it. Have a plan to connect with every customer on some level: email, social media, a phone call, instant messaging, and more. Image Source Ask them questions on everything from marketing and the product itself, to pricing and value-added services. Ask them how you can improve your service. Ask them how you could improve your product once they’ve had a chance to use it for a while. Ask. Analyse. And implement. A product launch is hard enough without making it worse. Take the six steps outlined here to set yourself up for maximum success with minimum stress. Look at good product launches for inspiration. Learn from bad ones and avoid their mistakes. Do your homework. Launch that product the right way: in the right place, at the right price, and at the right time. Anything to add? What tricks did you pick up during your last launch? Leave your comments below:
7 Ways to Improve Your Onboarding Experience to Achieve Substantial Growth
So, you’re trying to grow a business. You’re in a stronger position than you might think. It’s never been easier for companies to acquire new customers, but at the same time, it’s never been easier for your competition to take them away. This means one thing. The primary focus of any business with growth on […]
So, you’re trying to grow a business. You’re in a stronger position than you might think. It’s never been easier for companies to acquire new customers, but at the same time, it’s never been easier for your competition to take them away. This means one thing. The primary focus of any business with growth on its mind shouldn’t be customer acquisition – it should be customer retention. It’s long been said that it costs 5x (or more) to acquire a new customer than keep an existing one, but in a world where a customer could be lost with a Google search and a few clicks, you need to be doing more than ever to ensure that once a customer comes on board, they stay there. This is where onboarding comes into play. As you already know, onboarding is the process of turning new sign-ups or users into devoted customers. It’s about teaching new customers the value of your product, giving them that “aha” moment, and getting them to that point as quickly as possible. Get your onboarding experience right, and you’ll have found the key to substantial growth. Here are 7 ways you can improve your onboarding experience to do just that.
1. Appoint All Users an Account Manager
So you want to maximize the impact of your onboarding experience? Then you should be assigning every single customer their own account manager. It doesn’t matter whether it’s just you and an assistant, or if you have a team of 200 – you need to ensure your customers are communicating with the same person every time they have an interaction with your company. This works for a number of reasons. Customers who interact with the same team member every time they have a question or problem will be more likely to:
Ask for help
Get better results from the product
Develop an emotional affiliation with the brand
Sing your praises and refer other customers, and, most importantly (in this context)…
Remain a customer for longer
2. Involve Account Managers in the Onboarding Process
Assigning customers a dedicated account manager involves much more than handing them the name, email address and direct line of the person they need to contact if they have any questions or queries, and you can probably guess why. In most cases, customers won’t reach out and contact their account manager if they encounter a problem or want help getting to grips with your product. They just won’t do anything. Your account managers have to be taking the initiative when it comes to onboarding new customers. You can (and should) help them do this by supplying them with a list of tasks they need to complete every time they’re assigned a new client. This will probably include things like:
An introductory phone call (this is always better than an email).
Providing the customer with a short questionnaire designed to help the account manager better understand them, their target audience, and their need for the product.
A follow-up call upon receipt of the questionnaire to clarify its contents and ask for further detail if needed.
A further follow-up call 2-4 weeks later to see how the customer is getting on.
Occasional check-ins by email or phone call after this (ideally check with the customer on how they would prefer to be contacted, and how often).
3. Help New Customers Get a Quick Win
The sooner a customer realizes what your product can do for them, the greater the odds that they will stick around for the long haul. Bear in mind what we’re talking about here: quick wins. You don’t need to transform your customer’s business. You just need to get them to do something that helps them realize its value. Take Evernote. The first win a user has with the app will be leaving a note. That’s all it takes to understand the app’s value and greatly boost the odds of new users coming back. Health app My Fitness Pal asks new users to input data about their weight, lifestyle and goals, and immediately offers up instructions and a timeline for achieving those targets. Image Credit These are simple wins, to the point that they might sound insignificant – but imagine what would happen if users downloaded these apps and didn’t immediately use them. Ensuring new customers experience a positive interaction with your product – i.e. a quick win – is essential to any and every onboarding process.
4. When They’ve Had That Quick Win, Ask for Referrals
As essential as customer retention is to growth, you still need to be acquiring new customers on the sidelines. One of the most effective methods of customer acquisition is referrals. Happy customers tell other people. Those other people come on board, get value from your product, and the cycle continues. Or so you hope. The fact is, even happy customers rarely refer others because they simply don’t think about it. According to Texas Tech, although 83% of satisfied customers are willing to refer a product or service, only 29% actually do. The lesson here is, if you want customers to refer new customers, you have to ask them to. That said, timing is key. Asking for a referral the second a customer comes on board will get you nowhere. Wait until they’ve had that quick win. Once a customer understands your product’s value, they’re far more likely to respond positively to a referral request.
5. Create Email Sequences
Between 40% and 60% of new software users open an app once, and never return. Ensuring account managers are following a process along the lines of the one described earlier will help here. So will email sequences. Often, software users don’t return, not because you did something wrong or because there was an issue with your product, but because they simply forgot you were a thing. So remind them. Automated email sequences are really handy for reminding inactive users that your product exists, and that based on their previous interaction with it, is something that may be useful to them. They can also help onboard on-the-fence users by showing them how to use different elements of the product (ideally just one element per email), and remind them that their account manager is there for them when needed. For even better results, segment your email sequences into groups according to users who have signed up and never returned, and those who are interacting with the product, but aren’t yet fully onboarded.
6. Encourage Existing Customers to Share Their Success Stories
It’s probably not news to you that content like reviews, testimonials and case studies has a big impact on conversions, but here’s a stat from a recent BrightLocal study, just in case: In short, consumers trust the opinions and experiences of other consumers. Ask your existing customers to share their success stories, and use them as part of both the pre- and post-sales process (i.e. feature them on your site as a conversion tool for potential new customers, and in onboarding emails as tool to help tempt inactive users to return).
7. Engage Churned Customers
This is one of the most common mistakes I see companies make, and one of the most frustrating mistakes to me personally. Don’t let customers leave silently – get in touch with them and try to find out what made them go. Sure, some of those customers won’t want to hear from you, and that’s fine. But this won’t be the case for all customers. I’ve been one of those customers. They will have left for a very specific reason, and chances are, they’re going to be happy to tell you why – if you just take the time to ask them. They might even be frustrated that your product let them down in some way, they left, and you didn’t bother to follow up and find out why. Make sure you’re following up with every churned customer, asking their reasons for leaving, and adjusting your onboarding processes in response. Do you have any other tips for boosting growth by improving onboarding experiences? Comments are just below – if you’ve got the time, it’d be great to hear your ideas:
To some, marketing and growth marketing are interchangeable. After all, the end goal of all marketing is growth, so surely growth marketing is just “marketing”… right? This isn’t entirely illogical, but it is wrong. Marketing is a broad term that comprises all channels and techniques used to help a business grow – from SEO and […]
To some, marketing and growth marketing are interchangeable. After all, the end goal of all marketing is growth, so surely growth marketing is just “marketing”… right? This isn’t entirely illogical, but it is wrong. Marketing is a broad term that comprises all channels and techniques used to help a business grow – from SEO and PPC, to email marketing, direct mail and much more – including, of course, growth marketing. Most marketers will drive revenue via a group of very specific channels. An SEO, for instance, will optimize a site, assess and fix technical errors, and implement a strategy for driving backlinks. A paid search expert will leverage digital ad platforms to drive qualified traffic to specific pages of a site. A growth marketer, however, might use one – or all – of the channels just mentioned (plus many more). What’s different is that they’re in a constant state of flux. They’re always testing, always trying new channels or figuring out how to leverage existing channels more effectively. In fact, the channel itself is secondary to a growth marketer’s goal: driving fast, sustainable, scalable growth. “A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.” Sean Ellis, Startup Marketing Here are 10 ways successful growth marketers think differently, and how you can start thinking the same way, too.
1.They fail fast
To “fail fast” means to figure out when something isn’t working, to learn from it, and to move on ASAP. It doesn’t mean trying to fail. It’s an ideology that can stop companies from wasting cash propping up a failing venture. Other times, it offers a chance to adjust how and where cash is being spent – potentially preventing a company from going under. Fail fast (or be ready to), and you’ll protect yourself from making a rookie mistake: overinvesting in channels or concepts that aren’t working. Good growth marketers are hardwired to think on their feet and be fluid in their approach. Failing fast should come naturally to them. To mirror this mentality, set aside time, once a week or so, to sit back and take stock of your situation. Be totally honest with yourself about what is and isn’t working and resist the urge to keep plugging away at something you know isn’t delivering – even if it was your idea (great growth marketers never get emotionally attached to ideas).
2.They measure everything
Or pretty much. Not everything can be accurately measured (customer delight, for one) or should be measured. If a metric can help a growth marketer make better decisions, however, they will measure it. After all, if we don’t assign KPIs to our activities and track progress against them, how will we know when we’ve failed? This is inherent to the growth-marketer’s mindset and essential to their success. If you’re not measuring everything you do, don’t worry – it’s not too late to start. Look at all your marketing tactics in isolation and establish what metric or metrics will help you understand how effective each one is at meeting its goals. This might be leads generated, links gained, number of social shares, number of email opt-ins, or any other sensible, actionable metric. Exactly what you measure is unimportant. What matters is that you’re tracking something which lets you assess whether your work is getting results.
3.They focus on the metrics that matter
We already know that not everything which can be measured should be measured. If you do fall into that trap (of trying to measure everything) one of two things is likely to happen.
You waste time worrying about metrics that don’t matter. This is the best-case scenario.
You get sidetracked by trivial data and make poor decisions as a result.
To figure out which metrics matter, you should start by learning the difference between vanity and actionable metrics. “Vanity metrics: Numbers or stats that look good on paper, but don’t really mean anything important. Actionable metrics: Stats that tie to specific and repeatable tasks you can improve and to the goals of your business.” Caleb Wojcik, Fizzle Web traffic is a good example of a vanity metric. It’s also commonly (and incorrectly) used as a KPI. This is because web traffic is just a number. You could have a million unique visitors a month but that’s irrelevant unless those visitors are impacting your bottom line. You have to know where your traffic’s coming from and why, and what it’s doing next. Referral traffic from an unrelated site or organic traffic from an irrelevant keyword is – by and large – going to bounce. Sure, one or two visitors that arrive on your site by chance might actually be interested in what you do and become leads or customers, but most of them will look at the page they landed on, then leave. Mirror the habits of growth marketers by only measuring metrics you can act on.
The best growth marketers know that few campaigns go exactly as planned, and that a channel or strategy working once does not mean it will work again. They understand that every facet of marketing is constantly changing and that to keep up, they have to be changing with it. Agile marketing is the polar opposite of the approach adopted by many seasoned marketers – waterfall marketing. This is a highly organized but rigid approach to marketing that favors very explicit plans and discourages fluidity. Image Credit “Agile methods support rapid adaptation in a strategic, balanced way. Agile teams may be fast, but they aren’t chaotic. Choices are considered; decisions are not reactive.” Andrea Fryrear, writing for CMI Becoming more agile in the workplace usually means:
Testing campaigns in short sprints – around 6 weeks, on average.
Making decisions based on data, not gut instinct.
Tracking the market and the channels you use and reacting fast to any changes that might impact your efforts.
Valuing the input of your whole team.
If you’re afraid of change or just stuck in your ways, you have a lot of work to do. Embracing change is essential for any marketer today.
5.They optimize the full funnel
Before deciding to make a purchase, every single one of us goes through the process of the sales funnel, which usually looks something like this: Image Credit The top of the funnel represents consumers who know they have a need or problem, but they don’t yet know how to fix it. Consumers at the top of the funnel are yet to be exposed to your brand, so your job is to get it in front of them. At the bottom of the funnel are consumers that are nearly ready to buy – you just need to give them a final push before they’ll convert. Good growth marketers know that in order to be successful they have to consider all of this funnel. If they only focus on one or two stages of that funnel, they’re either:
Not doing enough to generate new leads.
Not doing enough to turn those new leads into customers.
Both scenarios limit growth. To counteract this, it’s imperative that you consider the whole funnel and implement strategies designed to drive both customer acquisition and conversions.
6.They prioritize relationships
Many marketers seem to place developing and maintaining relationships at the bottom of their list of priorities. The reason being – in my experience – is that relationships take time to build and are difficult, if not impossible, to scale. It can also take a while to see an ROI on your efforts. I think this is a mistake. Healthy relationships with clients and customers – even competitors – can make a big difference to your business. People don’t just buy from those they trust – they tell others, too. Competitors, on the other hand, can impart wisdom and advice. They might even offer chances to collaborate. Growth marketers know this. Marketers that don’t are missing out.
7.They know brand matters
If you’ve ever visited the supermarket and chosen a product from a well-known brand over a cheaper own brand version, you’ve been influenced by branding. By extension, you probably have an understanding of why this is. There have been numerous studies on how a brand name affects consumers’ perception of the product. The general consensus is that we (consumers) perceive the branded products to be better quality than their unbranded equivalents. “Both brand names and brand packaging do influence the consumers’ quality evaluations.” Influences of Brand Name and Packaging on Perceived Quality In other words, consumers trust names they know (at least, they do if that brand has a history of producing quality products). To incorporate brand-building into your growth strategy, you first have to understand what a brand is. It’s much more than colors, fonts, or a logo. A brand is how your customers perceive you. Unfortunately you can’t control this, but you can guide them in the right direction. To do that, it’s essential your marketing portrays your company in a consistent light. This means only proceeding with campaigns that align with how you want to be seen, and being ready and willing to adjust or drop campaigns that don’t fit.
8.They’re never satisfied
Growth marketers don’t find something that works and hit repeat. They know there is always a way to do things better, and they’re programed to try and find it. This kind of attitude is essential to being successful in growth marketing. Stopping when you do something “good enough” will hinder growth and ensure the brand never achieves its full potential. If this mindset doesn’t come naturally to you, practice. It will eventually become habit. “On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact.” James Clear, “How Long Does it Actually Take to Form a New Habit?” Start each day with an analysis of the day before. Run through everything you did and ask yourself how each thing could be improved – how something could happen faster, with less friction or for less cost. Then, find a way to put those improvements into action.
9.They do more than the competition
Some companies believe that to make their business a success they have to do as much as, or be as good as, their competition. Growth marketers know this is rarely enough. Instead, they strive to do more than the competition. This can mean many different things. These are just a few that come to my mind:
Offering better and more personal service (this is a good goal if you’re up against big brands that are lacking the personal touch).
Targeting a sector of the market your competitor’s overlooked.
Leveraging marketing channels they’re not using.
Building a faster website with a better user experience.
Long-term it’s going to pay to try and outdo your competition on all fronts, but initially, you might want to focus on identifying and targeting their weak spots.
10.They create a ‘Wow” experience for their customers
Measuring metrics and gathering data’s important. Essential, in fact, for any growth marketer. But it’s not the be-all and end-all for successfully growing a business. A customer is not just a number. Their worth to you should not be determined by their lifetime value or monthly spend. They are people, just like you and me. If you don’t recognize that, eventually they will leave you for a company that does. Take this campaign from TD Bank. The bank asked customers to come and test out a new ATM, but instead of an automated teller machine, they were presented with an automated thanking machine. Instead of cash, the machine handed out gifts. The gifts were highly personalized, including tickets to Disneyland for a mother who had never been able to take her kids, and plane tickets for a mother with a sick daughter in Trinidad. Exactly how TD knew what their customers would appreciate I don’t know, but that’s not the takeaway here. This is something that really made customers go “WOW” (and generated plenty of positive publicity alongside it). That said, you don’t have to break your budget to create “WOW” experiences. Something as simple as a handwritten note slipped into an order can go a long way towards making customers feel valued. That said, the best “WOW” experiences are individual to each customer. It’s when you go above and beyond to help a customer in need that you really make an impression on them – as we saw TD do. Thankfully, doing something similar yourself is easy (and again, doesn’t have to be expensive). Just put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Ask yourself what would make you go “WOW” if you were in their position and (within reason) do it.Thinking differently If you understand and enjoy marketing, you probably have what it takes to become a successful growth marketer – you just have to change your mindset. For me, the biggest shift has to be moving away from a waterfall style strategy that favors fixed, long-term plans, to a much more fluid and agile approach. If you can start to measure everything and adapt your strategy in line with the results, you’re well on your way to becoming a successful growth marketer. How do you believe successful growth marketers think differently? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below:
The 3 Elements Needed for Effective Growth Marketing
Whether you work in marketing or you’re just on the lookout for creative ways to grow your business, chances are you’ve come across the term “growth hacking.” You might have even tried out a few “hacks” for yourself. Truth is, the term “hack” is misleading. It suggests we’re using programming skills to “hack” the system […]
Whether you work in marketing or you’re just on the lookout for creative ways to grow your business, chances are you’ve come across the term “growth hacking.” You might have even tried out a few “hacks” for yourself. Truth is, the term “hack” is misleading. It suggests we’re using programming skills to “hack” the system for faster growth, which isn’t quite accurate. I prefer to talk about growth marketing – a facet of marketing that uses scalable tactics and testing to grow a business fast. But how is this different from what any other marketer does? In most cases, the key difference between a “marketer” and a “growth marketer” is the range of their focus. As a general rule, “marketers” concentrate on things like brand awareness, website visibility, and new customer acquisition. “Growth marketers,” however, will look at every aspect of the customer journey – including (critically) what happens after someone buys. Image Credit Growth marketers will also use the product as the catalyst for growth, whereas marketers tend to look at customer acquisition more holistically. “Growth hacking focuses on product to move the needle.” Kate Harvey, Chargify Of course, the disciplines overlap, and the end goal for all marketers is the same – to grow a business – but this doesn’t mean marketers will automatically be effective at growth marketing. For that, you’ll need these three things:
1. Comfort with different channels
Many marketers have their preferred channels for driving traffic or new leads. They’re comfortable using these channels and they’ve gotten good results with them on more than one occasion, so they think, “Why rock the boat?” This is shortsighted, and when it comes to growth, massively limiting. Good growth marketers know they have to diversify the channels they use; that a hunger to keep trying something new is essential. What’s worked before won’t necessarily work again. Your product or audience might be different, or the channel itself could have changed (just think about how Facebook’s organic reach has declined over the years). Image Credit A good growth marketer’s arsenal will include a whole bunch of different channels. This might include everything from email and paid ads to viral referral loops and influencer marketing – and a whole lot more in between. They’ll constantly be exploring and experimenting with new channels, too. First off, they’ll use a mixture of experience and experimentation to establish one scalable channel that moves the needle. Once that’s in place and driving growth, they’ll test out new channels alongside it. If you want to be effective at growth marketing, it’s essential that you too get comfortable using lots of different channels concurrently and are able to keep pace with how those channels are changing (both in terms of the channels themselves, and the impact they’re having on your client or business).
Being able to switch between tasks and react fast to changing landscapes – in other words, to be agile – is essential for growth marketers. “Agile, in the marketing context, means using data and analytics to continuously source promising opportunities or solutions to problems in real time, deploying tests quickly, evaluating the results, and rapidly iterating. At scale, a high-functioning agile marketing organization can run hundreds of campaigns simultaneously and multiple new ideas every week.” Jason Heller, David Edelman and Steven Spittaels for McKinsey This is because growth marketing is a very experimental discipline. Most of the time you’ll be working on a new brand, and you’re not going to know how this brand matches up to different channels and how effective those channels will be at driving that brand’s growth. You can make an educated guess based on past experience and information other marketers have shared, but that’s it. It’s just an educated guess. A growth marketer’s job is to find out what actually works for the brand they’re growing, and to switch it up quickly when something fails to deliver. This means performing tests and trying out new channels in short sprints, while getting comfortable making informed decisions at speed. You have to be prepared to work on different tasks day-to-day and even hour-to-hour. You might be split testing landing page elements one day, working on top-of-the-funnel content the next, and reducing churn the day after that. If you’re not happy working on such a diverse range of tasks and swapping between them as needed, you’re probably not cut out for growth marketing.
3. A focus on the full funnel
A good growth marketer recognizes that not all website visitors or prospects are created equal – that each one has different pain points and is at a different stage of the buying cycle. Of course, we can’t create a strategy that targets each visitor or prospect individually, so we have to find some way of grouping them together. This is where the sales funnel comes in. Image Credit A sales funnel groups prospects according to their position in the sales cycle. At the top of the funnel are those that are aware they have a “problem” but they don’t know how to resolve it. These are also people who have never been exposed to the brand. For myself, a prospect at the top of the sales funnel would be someone who wants to grow their company, but has no idea how. At the bottom of the funnel are qualified leads – someone that is genuinely considering becoming a customer. This generally means they have made an inquiry, or, depending on the product, started a trial. Effective growth marketing considers the whole funnel. Focusing on a single stage is going to hold back a brand’s growth significantly. It either means you’re not working to draw in new potential leads, or you’re not doing enough to convert those leads into customers. That said, there’s a trick to targeting the sales funnel, something that can speed up how quickly you grow. When implementing a growth-based marketing strategy, most marketers start from the top of the sales funnel. That’s logical – get people to your site, and try to convert them later – but it’s wrong. Instead, try starting further down the funnel. Target those who are most likely to buy, and then try to convert them. To do this, you might use:
Paid ads (both in the SERPs and on social media – particularly Facebook).
Only once you have a steady stream of new customers from this strategy should you work your way up the sales funnel and target those at the start of the sales process (i.e. those who know they have a problem, but not how to fix it). To do this, you might use:
Blog content (especially 10x content).
Video content and guides.
Creating content for other industry sites (primarily guest posts).
Will you get results if you start at the top of the funnel? Yeah, probably. After all, the most important thing is to ensure you’re working on the full funnel – but you’ll get better results, faster, if you start from the bottom and work your way up. What do you think are the most important elements needed for effective growth marketing? Let me know what you think in the comments below.