Wednesday, February 7, 2018 by Shayla Price
Monday, December 4, 2017 by Shayla Price
The Ultimate Guide to Building and Using Buyer PersonasEvery customer isn’t the same. Whether you’re running a brick-and-mortar bakery or an online clothing store, all your customers don’t fit the same mold. They possess different needs and interests. And your business must cater to those varying desires. To do so, it’s best that your team develop buyer personas to organize the types of customers entering your shop. “The purpose of creating a buyer persona is to get crystal clear on the individuals who you are marketing to. Until you nail this down, you can’t really be sure that your offerings and your marketing messaging are going to be successful,” states Mary Fernandez, a professional blogger. Let’s make better business decisions. Use the following five steps to build actionable buyer personas.
1. State Your GoalsWith so much happening in your business, it’s easy to forget why you create certain tools. You got a marketing plan, a content strategy, sales sheets, and that random piece of paper on your office floor. So before you jump into creating a much-needed buyer persona, it’s important that you understand how it relates to your company’s goals. That way, you’re not just crafting something that will never help your team. When done correctly, buyer personas give you a 360 degree view about the customer. These insights are critical to closing sales, writing email copy, and revamping brand identity. Actionable buyer personas will align with your overall business strategy. On a granular scale, you may consider mirroring personas based on the sales funnel. For example, it’s possible to divide one persona into multiple layers. Let’s say Customer X buying concerns change throughout the funnel. In the awareness stage, the customer worries about his need for a new product. While in the comparison stage, the same customer focuses on selecting the right vendor. This analysis gives your team accurate information on specific buyers as it relates to their willingness to buy your product today. It empowers you to adjust based on the team’s goals and the customer’s expectations.
2. Research Your AudienceMany companies make the mistake of creating their buyer personas prematurely. They decide the objective and then begin developing the persona. After a few hours (or weeks), teams realize that they don’t know enough about their ideal customers. They understand the basics, like demographics, which only scratches the surface of consumer insights. To avoid this common mistake, the key is to focus on researching your audience. You want to know why they purchase, how they make buying decisions, and what (or who) influences them. You can gather this customer information through your analytics dashboard, surveys, focus groups, and blog comments. Jen Havice, a website copywriter, offers another research tool: “Talking to your existing customers can provide valuable information into their buying habits, what motivates them, and the words they use to describe your product or service. While conducting interviews can be expensive and labor intensive, the answers can be illuminating.” Researching gives your team the opportunity to truly appreciate your customers. So don’t feel unsettled about gathering too much data. More importantly, you should always uphold ethical standards—never share customers’ data to third parties without their consent. Without the proper research, your buyer personas become vague descriptions that correlate to every consumer in the industry. Dig deeper by taking your research to the next level.
3. Create the PersonaWith all your customer data collected, it’s time to actually create the persona. Assembling the information in a concise, yet appealing format will allow your team to easily extract key insights when questions about a specific buyer arises. So remember to develop your persona to fit the many learning styles of your team members. Start by giving your persona a name. By doing so, you make this document real for your team. You may want to add a picture of a real customer. Next, outline the background facts about your buyer, including the age, gender, and job role. Quick bullet points work well here. Following those details, you want to jot down the nitty gritty of your buyers’ interests, motivations, and behaviors. Give your team the reasoning behind your customers’ habits. If all the information won’t fit, you can attach a brief addendum to your buyer persona. You’ll also want to collaborate with your team members about what to add to the persona. Each department has a different perspective on how to serve your customers. Therefore, each team can offer insights on the makeup of the buyer. Ready to get started? For free online persona templates, click here.
4. Integrate the Persona Into Your StrategyFusing your buyer persona into your business strategy is a vital step to turning the document into a practical tool. More often than not, marketers get so bogged down by the persona itself that they forget the true purpose for creating it in the first place. For every department, you can outline how they can benefit from the persona—making it easy for teams to apply the data. For example, customer support reps may use the persona to identify how to best respond to specific customers based on their communication styles. Other teams may see the persona as a guide to update their procedures and refine their current methods for catering to the customer. Copywriter Jessica Mehring provides the following advice to content marketing teams: “Go through all the content you have, and look at it through the eyes of your buyer persona. Set aside or rewrite anything that they won’t connect with. Putting ineffective content in the buyer’s path is going to water down your content strategy as a whole – and worse, it might just confuse your target customers.” Another technique is to design engagement scenarios for your personas. Prepare your team to interact with all your customers in multiple circumstances. No matter the situation, always find innovative ways to use your personas to benefit your business.
5. Evaluate Your PersonaBuyer personas aren’t carved in stone; they are living documents that will adapt to your customers’ lifestyles and behaviors. So make an effort to evaluate your personas once or twice a year. Evaluation can be as simple as updating your customer’s occupation and goals. Or you may need to do a complete overhaul and start from scratch. During your evaluation, it’s advised that you consult with senior management. Learn whether the company will be targeting new personas or if it’s time to remove a persona. You also may discover that the customer journey altered, which greatly reflects the buyer’s purchasing habits. With team input, you can customize the personas in greater detail. Maybe you recently completed customer interviews. You can add these newfound particulars. In the example below, you’ll notice brand names enjoyed by the customer along with the types of technology they use. There’s no wrong or right way to build or evaluate a buyer persona. The main objective is to develop processes that gives you a realistic view of your customer. Accurate information empowers your team to serve your customers better.
Buyer Personas in ActionUnderstanding your customers’ lifestyles and product desires helps your team build competitive strategies. Consumer research at your fingertips refines how you approach your audience. Therefore, work with your team to define your goals and build multiple buyer personas to improve your sales funnel.
Monday, November 27, 2017 by Shayla Price
Chatbots for Small BusinessChatbots are the latest craze in the small business industry. Companies see the value in these interactive platforms to assist their teams and to accelerate the customer experience. Chatbots behave in a human-like manner and can integrate with your websites, live chats, and emails. “While web visitors are tired of seeing another web form and groan at the prospect of having to fill another one out, chatbots offer an engaging alternative. Chatbots are conversationalists and are much more convincing,” says Jeff Cole, the co-founder of ChatPath. Thinking about adding chatbots to your strategy? If so, you’re probably interested in knowing how to effectively use them. Keep reading to learn how your small business can take advantage of chatbots.
Chatbot Do’sJumping head first into new technology can be quite daunting. Your goal is to ensure it benefits your business before you make an initial investment. Chatbots can be valuable for both your customers and team members. Check out what you can do with chatbots below.
1. DO Capture Customer InsightResearch is vital to your business. It helps you learn your consumers’ interests and habits. With those insights, your team can build better products and deliver tailored customer service. Chatbots are paving the way to becoming an extension of your research team. They can gather data by asking consumers simple questions or having customers select a response. Plus, the interaction is less intrusive, as compared to a customer representative who may seem to possess hidden motivations. Craig Cares, a non-medical in home care agency, uses chatbots to quickly assist their website visitors. In the example below, you’ll notice three options: Ask a Question, Book Consultation, and Job Inquiry. Now, their team can filter through requests easily and calculate the types of visitors that land on their site. You require consumer insights to make effective business decisions. Chatbots are a viable solution to gather that much-needed data.
2. DO Communicate Timely MessagesUbisend research found that consumers possess positive sentiments toward companies that use chatbots. Nearly 43% considered these businesses as innovative, while 22% saw the companies as more efficient. That’s good news for your small business. It’s an opportunity to use chatbots as a vehicle to share timely messages to your audience. With so many businesses vying for consumers’ attention, chatbots are a unique way to keep your customers informed about new products and upcoming promotions. Andrew Warner, founder of Mixergy, uses chatbots to remind his webinar registrants of the event date and time. The chatbot vibrates the person’s phone and messages the direct link of the webinar. You’ll also want to experiment with your chatbot’s voice and tone. There’s no requirement to engage in a serious manner. Monitor what messages excite your customers; adding more personality may earn positive reactions.
3. DO Answer Customer QuestionsWhile chatbots are fairly new to customers, the idea of communicating with tech tools isn’t. Consumers already engage with automated phone and email support. So chatbots are a natural next step. Chatbots are especially useful for communicating with your audience. As a business, your team can only handle so many customer requests in a day. “The convenience of a bot is immense. It's working 24/7, easily accessible, it doesn't call in sick or have a bad day, and customers don't have to speak with an actual, real person, if they don't want to,” writes Inc. contributor Gary Golden. When developing a chatbot, you want it to have access to your knowledge database. That way, customers with specific inquiries about your product or service can get helpful information, like a video or step-by-step guide. It’s also wise to have chatbots know frequently asked questions. Immediate responses will please your customers.
4. DO Influence Buying DecisionsIn a competitive market, you’re constantly looking for ways to get more consumers engaged with your product. From soliciting user-generated content to hosting a social media contest, you’ve done it all— except chatbots. Here’s your chance to experiment with chatbots to transform interested buyers into loyal customers. With access to your product catalog, chatbots can issue specific product details to consumers, including price and availability. Brick-and-mortar stores can provide customers with their physical locations and phone numbers. More advanced chatbots also can provide consumers with images of your products. This feature makes it convenient for customers to verify the correct items they want without having to exit the chatbot screen. Chatbots offer your customers the flexibility to shop on their own terms. Employ chatbots to get more revenue into your monthly reports.
Chatbot Don’tsWith all those benefits, what can go wrong? Unfortunately, plenty. Being aware of what you shouldn’t do will only help your team integrate chatbots into your business. Grab a pen and mark the following three don’ts down.
1. DON’T Ignore GlitchesWhen it comes to technology, it’s never perfect. And chatbots aren’t an oddity. These platforms come with their own set of issues that your team will need to solve on a case-by-case basis. When they do arise, it’s your responsibility to not ignore the glitches. So what can really happen? Your chatbot could shut down while assisting several customers. This problem translates into irate customers flooding your other support channels. With an influx of tickets (that you weren’t prepared for), customers will wait longer to get their questions answered. This downward spiral can affect team morale and possibly your sales. Chatbots also can drive more confusion than clarity with their responses. Customers may have to ask multiple questions to get one decent answer. Or your chatbot may totally miss the mark and give inappropriate, irrelevant messages like this one: UX and product designer Jeśus Martin encourages chatbot testing with an objective mindset to observe how chatbots react to specific questions. By working with your tech team or developer, you can spot problems before they even happen.
2. DON’T Use As Your Sole Marketing ChannelBusiness teams use multiple marketing channels to connect with their customers. That’s because no one channel will capture the interest of your entire target audience. So it's not in your best interest to make chatbots your sole marketing channel. Instead, you want to use chatbots to supplement, not supplant, your current efforts. Take advantage of chatbots to drive visitors to a specific page of your site, clarify simple product inquiries, or connect customers to the support team. Consider chatbots as a way to take your operations to the next level. Chatbots are especially effective for enhancing the mobile experience. You can dedicate chatbots to serve as a messaging tool to help customers who need information on the go. Their quick responses will ensure customers receive product details in an efficient manner. And that’s what you desire—more engagement Adding chatbots to your marketing mix is helpful for both your team and customers. But don’t rely on the tool as your only means to execute your plans.
3. DON’T Replace Humans with ChatbotsWhen fresh technologies crop up, some business owners immediately think it can replace their largest expense—human labor. A few vendors will even falsely promise that chatbots don’t need supervision. Laduram Vishnoi, CEO of Tagove, offers his insight, “The biggest chatbot misconception is that they’ll take over services and automate everything so businesses wouldn’t need humans to function. This won’t happen; at least not completely.” Chatbots are only a tool to facilitate your strategy to nurture leads, acquire new customers, and maintain a loyal following. Without humans, you can’t configure the chatbots to achieve specific tasks. More importantly, chatbots can’t replace your talented marketing and sales teams. Chatbots don’t have the ability to brainstorm creative ideas, adapt quickly to complex customer expectations, or hop on an airplane to participate in an impromptu meeting with a client. In other words: you still need humans. Look for opportunities where chatbots can offer value to your team’s needs. Chatbots should assist your staff as they find methods to improve your bottom line.
Chatbots as a StrategyIt’s easy to feel overwhelmed when new technology enters the market. But that’s no reason not to try it. Take the time to learn how chatbots can benefit your small business. They may revolutionize your operations and customer relationships.
Friday, November 17, 2017 by Shayla Price
5 Examples of Inspired Ecommerce Holiday CampaignsThe holiday shopping season is here! From the latest fashion apparel to the hottest tech gadgets, consumers desire the best gifts to celebrate the upcoming festivities. Now is your time to ramp up your marketing campaigns. But before you do, William Harris, content lead at Sellbrite, offers some advice: “The first step in developing any successful marketing campaign for your ecommerce store is to first think about your goals. If you don’t know why you’re launching a campaign or what you’re hoping to get from it, it’s virtually impossible to determine whether your campaign brought your business any sort of value in the end.” With a goal in mind, you can take the next step toward boosting your sales. Here are five holiday campaigns to inspire your audience.
1. Target: Gift GuidesIt’s the season of giving. For the everyday shopper, the holidays are a time to show their loved ones how much they care. Therefore, their shopping will focus on purchasing gifts that bring joy to their humble grandmothers, talkative college friends, and funny spouses. For businesses, this attitude of gratitude should present itself in your campaigns. Tuck away the marketing collateral that spotlights the buyers and bring out the websites emphasizing products for the giftee. Gift guides are an effective way to satisfy your consumers. Categorizing your products makes it easier for buyers to locate the perfect gift, while also ensuring the recipient gets an item that fits their interests. Well-known brand Target implements this strategy for its online store. With a click of a button, shoppers can locate gifts for kids and pets—and items under a specific budget. When creating gift guides, think about who will receive the product. You can offer complementary product recommendations, too. For instance, if you highlight a comfy sweater, give consumers links to your scarves, socks, and gloves. Gift guides are all about convenience for everyone involved. Release the stress from your shoppers and earn sales in the process.
2. Nordstrom: PersonalizationSay goodbye to the days of generic trinkets during the largest shopping season. With customization as a top priority, consumers crave products that will create memories for the special people in their lives. The need of personalization is an advantage for your ecommerce store. It’s your opportunity to distinguish your inventory from competitors and build brand recognition with your target audience. Personalization will vary depending on your consumer base and product offerings. You can provide buyers with the choice to add hand-picked designs to an item, or deliver the gift in a unique manner (maybe a drone!). Michelle Hoang, marketing at Beeketing, gives a suggestion: “Why not allow your shoppers to directly send the products to their loved-ones with an e-Gift card? This way you make the shopping easy for the gift senders because they won’t have to wait for the packages to arrive before they can gift them.” Nordstrom lets its shoppers include a personalized message to their gifts. For a few extra bucks, they also can get products wrapped in a box with tissue paper, a ribbon, and a gift tag. Gifts are an expression of the customers. Let them participate in building the gift through personalization options.
3. REI: Social MovementsYour customers are more than just occasional shoppers who love your products. They are people who live in a world of injustice, struggle with medical issues, and champion ideals bigger than themselves. So it makes sense for your business to join local and national movements with your audience. Work with your team to decide which issue aligns with your company’s values and fits the dialogue of your customers. And it’s not always about being right or wrong when it comes to advocating for a cause. Instead, you can strive to bring a solution to a social movement. That’s exactly what REI did. While brands rushed to compete for Black Friday sales, the outdoor gear chain closed the doors of its retail locations, headquarters, and distribution centers. With its #OptOutside campaign, the company encourages employees, along with communities, to enjoy the outdoors, rather than missing time with family on Thanksgiving to wait in line for a Black Friday doorbuster. Be mindful of how you execute this social movement strategy. It should be a sincere approach to raise awareness about a problem and to contribute your resources to help. What causes matter to your customers? It’s time for you to step up and add your brand’s voice to the conversation.
4. Lenovo: Contests & GiveawaysYou get a car! You get a car! Okay, maybe not a car. While your business may not dish out free vehicles like Oprah Winfrey, your brand can still spread the joy of surprises. Contests and giveaways during the holidays can bring some much-needed attention to your business. Develop amusing contests with relevant themes and cool prizes. This is the perfect time to display your brand personality and build trust with your consumers. Lenovo prepares its customers for a season of winning. Lucky entrants have a chance to win everything from a gaming monitor to a tablet after they fill out a simple form. While you may want to get your contest started today, it’s essential that your team craft rules for the contests and check local laws. Alexandra Sheehan, a freelance writer/editor and content specialist, says: “Before you run a contest or giveaway, remember that there are a number of legalities and guidelines to consider, and these rules depend on the type of promotion you’re running and what platform you use as a host.” Attract new customers to your ecommerce store with contests and giveaways. The influx in traffic will boost your efforts to earn more revenue for the business. Learn more about running a successful Facebook contest here.
5. Old Navy: Email MarketingAs your team gears up for the holiday rush, don’t forget about your existing customers. They still hold value for your brand and possibly will drive more sales than new customers. Email marketing is one of the best channels to nurture your loyal fans during the holidays. Your goal is to send specific messages to different customer segments. Let’s say your ecommerce store sells a variety of shoes. To cater to multiple audiences, you may send basketball shoe recommendations to your athletic consumers and offer limited-edition shoes to your sneakerheads. Email also works well for delivering time-sensitive coupons. In the example below, Old Navy tells its customers about a 40% promotion. (And the email fits mobile devices!) Spice up your holiday email marketing with user-generated content, from photos to testimonials. You want to remind customers of the blissful feeling they get when shopping with your brand. It gives them another reason to visit your website sooner than later. Communication never grows old as a marketing strategy. Take advantage of email to retain your most faithful customers.
Inspire Your AudienceDon’t let your business miss out on holiday revenue. This season, do something different and revamp your marketing campaigns. Try gift guides to direct consumers to specific products that match their needs. Use personalization to turn an ordinary gift into a memorable moment. And it never hurts to host a fun-filled giveaway to pique consumers’ interest. Ignite your audience’s holiday spirit to increase end-of-year sales.
Wednesday, November 8, 2017 by Shayla Price
Stop Bounce Back Emails With These 5 TipsBusiness managers often discuss email list management once it’s too late. It’s easy for teams to get so bogged down with nurturing their customers that they forget to monitor the overall health of their lists. So, they keep sending emails and only focus on their sales. However, bounce rates are another important metric for managers. It represents whether your emails actually get delivered to your subscribers. High bounce rates mean you’re failing to reach your intended audience. But no worries. You can take deliberate actions to fix this problem. Check out these five strategies to reduce your email bounce rates.
1. Avoid Purchasing EmailsIn business, it’s tempting to take the easy route. We see a new tool that promises to deliver 100x results in two days, and our initial reaction is to try it. It’s only later that we learn about the negative effects. This principle holds true for email marketing. There’s a lot of vendors guaranteeing email addresses of qualified leads. Don’t trust them. You’ll soon realize that you bought incomplete and out-of-date information. You’ll be addressing someone in your email as Sam, only to realize the person’s real name is Mary. You ruin the potential customer relationship from the start. Plus, most purchased emails won’t even make it to the subscriber’s inbox. You’ll lose lots of money for buying a fake list of leads. Have you ever thought of purchasing an email list? While experts issue clear warnings to stay away, some businesses continue to try their luck. Below is a job posting on Upwork from a company seeking to buy an email list for a specific industry. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Consider the CAN-SPAM laws you might be violating. Your business is too valuable for a list of fake email subscribers.
2. Set Up an Opt-in FormIf you shouldn't purchase a list, what is your alternative option? Here’s where the hard work begins for your team. You have to roll up your sleeves and start engaging with your audience. To gain people’s trust, you must be open to giving away something of value. This strategy involves responding to fans on Facebook, answering questions on live chat, and creating interesting content that offers useful information. It’s all about developing a genuine customer relationship. After you establish that connection, you want to take the next step and ask customers for their email addresses. Asking for permission is ideal, as “77% of consumers prefer to receive permission-based marketing communications through email.” Capture people’s email addresses by adding an opt-in form to your website. There are several types of opt-in forms, including overlays, widget bars, and scroll mats. Professional blogger Mary Fernandez offers this recommendation: “With a lightbox popup, the rest of the screen becomes darker and the user’s eye automatically goes to read your message and view the email sign-up form. This makes it perfectly clear what the user should do next.” With an opt-in form, you earn more qualified leads because subscribers willingly entered their contact details. For your business, this means a well-deserved drop in your bounce rates.
3. Get Your Own DomainProfessionalism matters in business. Your customers will judge every move you make. That’s why you want to build a good brand perception early. In email marketing, the sender of the message determines whether someone will open and read your email. If the recipient doesn’t recognize the “From” name, your email will remain unopened. To increase your chances, you want to use a combination of your name or an employee’s name and the brand. For example, it’s likely a subscriber will open your email if it says: Tim from HostGator. There’s another big issue hindering subscribers from seeing your emails. And that’s your “From” email address. It’s vital that you avoid using free webmail accounts, like Gmail and Yahoo. Most email service providers don’t give you the option. Email servers deem these free accounts as more suspicious, and email platforms prefer to maintain credible services. So, what’s the solution? Buy a custom domain. It pushes your business toward professionalism, and you get to dodge those high bounce rates. Give your email recipients peace of mind that they’re receiving the right message from the right business. Still looking for the best domain name? Get one right now with HostGator.
4. Clean Your Email ListAround April of every year, people start removing their winter clothes from their closets to make room for the new season. Some folks even donate items and do an extra scrub of their homes. People refer to this annual routine as Spring cleaning. Your business should do something similar. On a yearly or quarterly basis, your team should clean your email list. Cleaning your list is the process of purging invalid email addresses and dormant subscribers and addressing any spam complaints. You want your list populated with only the most responsive subscribers. A quality list ensures you send messages to people who want to receive them. But don’t press delete just yet. Pamela Vaughan, a principal marketing manager at HubSpot, suggests you give subscribers one last chance to show their interest: “Before you remove subscribers, try a re-engagement campaign to regain their interest. You might offer a special incentive to recapture their attention. If that doesn’t work, simply ask them if they wish to remain on your list and include an easy way for them to opt out.” It’s also recommended that you validate your email addresses. With Quick Email Verification, you can check your bounce rates before your next email campaign. You don’t have to wait until Spring to clean your list. Take action right now to get your email marketing in tip-top shape.
5. Manage Your Account ReputationCompany reputation holds significance in every industry. A tainted brand image means less customers and less partners willing to do business with you. For that reason, you’ll see major businesses go to great lengths to protect their brands. While email account reputation isn’t a highly publicized crisis, it still can affect your relationships with customers and your email service provider. In this case, a poor reputation impacts your email deliverability. With a decrease in delivered messages, you can’t earn more sales from your products or advertisers. Your bottom line will take a nosedive and sponsors will seek ads with your competitors. The experts at AddThis agree: “Sending emails to nonexistent addresses or to spam folders dings your IP reputation. It’s a vicious cycle: a lower reputation results in lowered deliverability, and even fewer emails actually reaching your customers.” It’s also key to practice ethical marketing habits. If customers unsubscribe from your mailing list, honor their wishes. And stay away from spammy phrases, like “no strings attached,” “satisfaction guaranteed,” and “no purchase necessary.”
Improve Your Email MarketingThere’s more to email than writing copy and adding cool designs to your messages. It’s also important to refine your email deliverability. If no one is getting your emails, you’re not nurturing any leads. Experiment with different strategies, like opt-in forms and list cleaning, to ensure your emails get received. Check your email bounce rates. It’ll improve your overall email marketing strategy.