Tuesday, September 19, 2017
How Freedom Gave Way to Multi-Point Marketing
The internet, in particular, has naturally led purchasing decisions to become more complex over time. Because more information is now readily available than at any point in the history of consumerism, people now spend huge volumes of time researching before they make that move towards a purchase. They're also getting their information from many different sources. Dimensional Research conducted a study that revealed 90% of people are influenced by online reviews before making a purchase. Another study revealed that 36% of people use a company website before making a purchase, another 22% rely on face-to-face interaction, and 59% even find out what their friends or family members have to say before they make a decision one way or the other.
You might think that this massive influx of information would make the sales funnel simpler, as it's now easier than ever to find the actionable information you need to make the most informed decision with your hard-earned money. However, it's actually had the reverse effect. Things have gotten significantly more complex as even the average consumer's opinion is now being pulled in a number of different directions.
The 21st Century Sales Funnel
This massive shift in the way that consumers operate has created a ripple effect, changing the way businesses operate at the same time. It requires marketers, in particular, to respond in more diverse ways, starting with not just how they've optimized their sales funnel to take into consideration 21st-century buying practices, but how they've designed the funnel in the first place.
According to a piece that first appeared in Forbes, content marketing is one of the primary keys to helping address these modern day challenges. Essentially, modern businesses need to assume that EVERY point in the sales funnel is a potential purchase point and content needs to be created to match. Content marketing lets businesses created and distribute relevant, valuable, and consistent content to attract their clearly-defined audience. If you're assuming that your audience could be ready to buy at the drop of a hat, naturally how you design that content will have to respond.
In essence, content and your larger marketing efforts must now be ready to address problems earlier in the buying cycle than ever before. The only purchase point in your sales funnel can no longer be the one at the end. Any point can now be a purchase point if you know what you're doing. These types of techniques also give way to an added benefit of allowing marketers to take advantage of more diverse channels to attract the largest audience possible from the outset.
So, not only are you getting consumers who are ready to buy sooner than ever before, but you're also getting a larger number of leads entering into the funnel. It may be trickier to manage, but it's the type of situation that our marketing ancestors would have gladly killed for.
Friday, September 15, 2017
While it's true that your brand's reputation will play a significant role in an essential factor like word-of-mouth, the real power of paying attention to what people are saying about you runs a bit deeper.
The Importance of Reputation Management: Facts and Figures
Consider the following statistics to help paint a vivid picture of the situation you're dealing with:
- According to one study, an incredible 74% of people now consult Yelp or a similar service when looking for some type of business or service provider - even if they plan on carrying on a relationship exclusively in "real life."
- The above statistic may actually be on the conservative side - another study indicated that 97% of consumers say that they read online reviews about local businesses on a regular basis before deciding whether or not to make a purchase.
- Speaking of which, a one-star rating hike on a service such as Yelp often equates to a 5% to 9% rise in overall revenue. Let that sink in for just a second.
- Another study by the World Economic Forum revealed that on average, more than 25% of a company's market value could be tied back directly to its reputation and general perception.
- A massive 86% of people say that they would pay more for services if they could guarantee they were being provided by a company with higher ratings and a larger number of positive reviews.
As these and other statistics indicate, reputation management is a lot more than just doing what you can to control word of mouth. Even people who discover your brand, your products, or your services entirely independently of anyone else could still shy away from that purchase if your reputation isn't what they were expecting.
The most alarming statistic of all, however, is the fact that 50% (!) of business owners say that they have found incorrect information on their business listings. This means that not only is this info damaging your reputation in a potentially harmful way to your bottom line, but it's doing so needlessly as it is incorrect in the first place.
Getting a Grip on Your Reputation
The most important thing to understand about reputation management is that it is NOT something you do once and then forget about. This will require you to look online on a regular basis to see what people are saying about you, what information is getting posted, and taking advantage of any opportunities for course correction as they present themselves.
But even going beyond just correcting false information, there are a number of other essential proactive steps you can take to help strengthen your reputation as much as possible.
Send follow-up surveys to buyers to see what you did properly and, more importantly, what mistakes you made. If someone sends you an email with a legitimate issue, be sure to follow-up on that issue within 24 hours.
Never, under any circumstances, encourage people to leave "fake" or "artificial" reviews about you or a competitor. The consequences far outweigh anything you will gain. This includes offering gifts for good reviews. If you're caught, and you likely will be, there is no telling what damage you might sustain.
In the end, reputation management is something that you will have to do on a regular basis moving forward. It's a large part of why many businesses hire employees with this particular job in mind. But then again, when you're talking about what is arguably the most valuable asset your business has, it makes perfect sense that this amount of effort would be required.
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
At a recent business leader meeting put on by American Express, Jack Ma from the Alibaba Group was the guest celebrity speaker. The reason why was that Mr. Ma was invited to share a bit of his wisdom and advice, particularly to small businesses. American Express has been maintaining a campaign of supporting and driving sales to small businesses to help them grow nationwide.
A Little Bit of History
Jack Ma did not come from well-established roots like, for example, President Trump. Ma was born and raised in mainland China, competed against thousands of others for a rare spot in the Chinese university system, and could not find regular employment many times. Then, with a spare moment of luck, he was exposed to the internet and realized nobody had catered websites to the Chinese. From there, his success took off, most notably with Alibaba.com.
Simple Gems of Advice
In his speech, Mr. Ma focused his advice to small businesses on three points:
- He advised business owners and those considering the venture to find out why businesses fail. Schools typically only teach success stories, but it's critical to know what causes some people not to succeed to avoid the same mistakes.
- Business owners should listen carefully to their next-door neighbors. They are, literally, average consumers who can tell a business owner a library of secrets about what a consumer actually looks for when shopping. The problem is, people tend to avoid their neighbors thinking they're too nosy. It's an opportunity missed.
- Small businesses should "fix the roof when the sun is shining." It's an analogy that essentially means a business owner should be making changes and additions when things are going well. When things are rough, or there's a major challenge, it's not the time to be spending energy and money on fixes. Get to a good point again before thinking about changing operations or adding to costs.
Get Out of the Weeds
A lot of what Mr. Ma provided in his speech may seem like common sense for small business owners, but it's hard to focus on thinking strategically when one's head is buried deep in just trying to make it through the day. This is why his advice is so important; it reminds business owners to take a moment once in a while to get their head out of the weeds and think in terms of running a company again instead of momentary crisis management. In Ma's opinion, smart and successful business owners are looking, learning, and timing their decisions with the best opportunities. And, they are not ignoring the best sources of business lessons when they become available.
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
The typical perspective taught in business class is that one must compete against other similar businesses to obtain, hold onto, and grow a market share. And for that to happen, either the market must be new, or someone has to give up some of their market shares to make room for a new business. However, while this "top dog" approach is treated as the norm in capitalism, it's not always the best approach to business success.
Making Cranberries Successful
The Great Depression of 1929 began because of a stock market crash and a sudden loss of cash liquidity. As a result, both successful and not so successful businesses were destroyed when the crash occurred.
However, in 1930, amidst the worst economic condition the U.S. had seen and with thousands out of work, the Ocean Spray Cooperative was started in Massachusetts. This cooperative venture, started by three separate cranberry farm growers, was the result of a smart and realistic realization that going it alone in the post-crash market was not going to be possible. Rather than fight and compete against each other, the three growers bonded together to combine their resources and success.
It ended up producing one of the few business success stories launched in the midst of the Depression. Today, that same cooperative now includes a membership of over 700 different farm operations in six states and two countries. The key to their major success was partnership and sharing versus competition and "winner takes all" attitudes.
Half a Loaf is Better Than No Loaf
Going it alone in business may mean you're accepting pain and struggle that isn't necessary. Business owners should look around and see if there is any potential to partner up or form an alliance with available competitors, thereby sharing a larger market potential than what their single business is capable of. The results can potentially ensure long-term viability and strength versus suffering from the common "flash in the pan" syndrome so prevalent with new small businesses and startups. This approach can be particularly effective and strategic when a business wants to venture into an unknown, new territory that the potential partner is already present in.
The digital world offers multiple ways for partnerships to be established. Businesses shouldn't limit themselves to just horizontal relationships with other similar businesses. Vertical relationships with suppliers and end users or business clients can lock in additional market share and business not accessible by simply going it alone.
For those who think that partnerships are temporary mutual positions at best, take note of the fact that 1930 was some 87 years ago, and Ocean Spray is still going strong with cranberries as well as other agricultural products for the national food market.
While cooperating with other businesses may not work for everyone, clearly, the synergy of the many can outdo any singular benefit of a lone business acting in a market isolated and against everyone.
Monday, September 4, 2017
Many people fail to realize just how important blogs are to a successful business because they still think about what blogs used to be. In the early days of the internet, many blogs were essentially "live journals." If you wanted to read about what a trendy high school girl was having for lunch with her friends, she probably had a Blogspot blog that would let you do just that.
But today, blogging has become much more powerful and is one of the best ways to connect with your target audience.
The Power of Blogging: Breaking It Down
It's been said that an incredible 79% of shoppers spend half of their shopping time researching products on the internet. While it's true that product pages, technical specifications sheets, and other resources are important, users are also gravitating towards something much more human and valuable - blogs.
Think about the things that the right blog allows you to accomplish. First, it lets you dive deeper into certain topics, products, and services more than you ever could on a traditional product page.
Blogging is also a great way to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry, regardless of what that industry happens to be. It's a chance for you to show that you really can walk the walk in addition to talking the talk, which ultimately helps build brand loyalty over the long-term.
Blogging, in general, also has a number of clear advantages over other forms of communication when it comes to engaging with your audience, as illustrated by these stats:
- According to The West Program, 77% of all internet users said that they actively read blogs on a regular basis.
- Worldwide, an estimated 346 million people read blogs. The fact that your website has one allows you to attract as many of these people as possible.
- Most importantly, a whopping 61% of all online consumers in the United States said that they had made at least one purchase based on information they read on a blog.
An Easy Way to Expand Your Reach
Remember, your blog is not a silo. The content that begins on your blog will ultimately make its way across social media as your users begin to share it, thus bringing more people back to your website over time.
Blogging can also help tremendously with SEO and search engine visibility. One of the factors that Google's algorithm looks for when determining rankings comes down to how often a website is updated. If you publish one high-quality piece of content to your site every day, guess what? That counts.
Nobody is saying that blogging is the ONLY technique you should be using to connect with your audience. In truth, your long-term success will come down to you employing as many techniques as you can in order to further your quest of reaching the right people at the right point in their purchasing journey.
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
You've done it! You researched the young adult market, identified their buying power, and now that "just for millennials" campaign has launched and you're waiting for the leads to roll in. But instead, nothing happens.
What's behind the lack of attention and response from this coveted age group? Adults under the age of 30 make up about 1.4% of the U.S. population and pack about 1.3 trillion in buying power domestically. This massive market is made up of savvy consumers who are digital natives and who are very aware of marketing and advertising.
So, why aren't they paying attention to your marketing? It could be one of these three reasons.
You Treat Them as an Afterthought
It's a common misconception that millennials, particularly young ones, don't have the money to buy things or that they waste their money on the wrong things, like avocado toast and pumpkin spice lattes. The problem with this approach is that brands who see these young adults in this way tend to promote the most heavily discounted or bottom of the line products using cost-conscious gimmicks.
Both entry-level products and marketing gimmicks drive millennials away. These savvy users what the newest, the latest and the best, and they can pay for it. Don't assume your youngest targets can't afford your best or most recent models. If they are truly captivated with your brand, they'll find a way. Offer your best products and your most innovative lineup to this group and if they like what you have to share, they'll keep coming back for more.
You Roll out a "Millennial" Product
You may call it that internally, but labeling your product as a millennial offering is a sure way to drive young adults away from it. Promote it that way on social media and you could get a lot of attention - in a negative way. That innate disapproval of marketing means that millennials are going to be suspicious of any product that announces itself as aimed at them (and could even mock it relentlessly online). You can target millennials with a campaign, approach, or product, but don't overtly mention it in your materials to avoid a backlash.
You're Not Social
If you're dabbling in social media because you are supposed to, but not truly interacting, you're likely driving away the very consumers you want to attract. Millennials are social media savvy and use channels regularly for entertainment, engagement, and social chatter. A steady stream of promotion is going to drive these coveted young adults away. Instead, pull back on the promotions and truly engage.
If you have an employee who already loves social media, this might be the right person to have monitor and post, even if they are not officially on your marketing team. Social media channels that speak to and "get" millennials can lead to huge brand success, while a mismatch in your messaging can cause millennials to see your brand as out of touch or irrelevant.
Harnessing the power of this massive demographic is well worth the effort, but the first step is ensuring that your current messaging isn't driving your young adult targets away from your brand. Taking the time to learn how millennials spend money, what matters to them, and even why they love engagement so much can help you tailor your efforts to resonate with this coveted group.
Friday, August 25, 2017
Have you ever felt as though you're not as productive as you'd like to be, even when it seems as though you're working all the time? Perhaps the problem is not the number of hours that you're working, but instead, the focus that you're bringing to each particular task. Studies have shown that multitasking can be incredibly bad for our brains, and is truly a way of doing more things incompetently instead of getting more done! If you're always checking Facebook, waiting for your email inbox to ding like one of Pavlov's dogs, or getting interrupted by physical visitors at your desk, you're not going to be as effective and efficient as you'd like to be. The outcome? More stress -- and that's something we can all do without!
Your Brain on Multitasking
Did you know that your brain is incapable of multitasking? It's true, and what your brain is doing when you think you're ultra-productive is pinging back and forth between tasks at a high rate of speed. The problem is that things often get lost in translation or fall between the cracks of our mental map, making it tough to figure out where we were in a task we abandoned a few minutes before. This "epidemic of distraction" (as some researchers label multitasking) is incredibly prevalent in modern society and starts at a very young age. The cognitive overload that we suffer as a result of multitasking can cause headaches, poor sleep, a feeling of being overwhelmed, and even depression.
Dangers of Multitasking
It's not too strong of a word to say that multitasking is dangerous to our brain because it is. This negative practice has been shown to decrease creativity and cognitive control, and lead to serious memory problems. The more you include multitasking in your daily work, the more likely you are to become distracted easily over a longer period. Think about it: if you're training your brain to be looking for the next distraction constantly, then are you likely to be able to focus well on one task? Probably not. Even something as seemingly simple as glancing at your phone as you're stepping off a curb can be dangerous to your health for a variety of reasons. If you're fortunate enough to be out of the way of oncoming traffic, your gait may be affected by your distraction causing a serious fall on the unstable or uneven ground.
One of the best ways to overcome a tendency to multitask is to create mental space for yourself to focus on one task at a time, also known as mindfulness. Try stopping yourself when you start to become distracted. Put away everything else on your desk or computer, close programs (don't minimize them!), and create a space for yourself to think and to breathe.
Don't let yourself fall into the trap of feeling like you need to work at double speed -- and multitask -- to get everything done. Instead, take a break and focus on getting the most out of each busy day. When you're able to concentrate on one task at a time, you'll find that you're getting a lot more done and staying calmer in the long run.